“The ‘overnight’ part of ‘overnight success’ is the sudden recognition of years of hard work” — Kent Clothier
This quote perfectly describes my journey. A revenue of $10,000 from my very first eBook might seem like I got successful overnight! But nope, it's a result of years of hard work. And it only gets better from here on.
If you’re here for some quick tips or tricks to make huge income for short term, I’m sorry to disappoint you - this blog post is not about that. But if you want to know my story, when I started, how long it took and what it took to reach this stage, read on.
A little information before the story 👇
My First eBook - Complete Guide to CSS Flex and Grid
This is the info product I’m talking about
Nov 5th, 2021
Enabled Pre-sales on
Aug 29th, 2021
Revenue in 1 Month
Net Income in INR
INR 6,30,630 (Approx USD 8,389)
Net income in my bank account after deducting Affiliate fees, Gumroad fees, Paypal fees and conversion from USD to INR
Failure is the Stepping Stone to Success
I was working as a full-stack web developer at a start-up before I took a maternity break. It was July 2018 when my baby boy was about 9 months old. I had decided not to get back to any full-time job until my boy was at least 3 years old. But I had some spare time - about 2 to 3 hours a day and I didn't want to waste that time. I wasn't sure if I could take up any freelancing projects because I didn't know if I could meet deadlines with such less time at hand.
I bought some Udemy courses! I was watching one of those courses and thought, "Hey I can teach better than this!". I felt super motivated to create a course and launch on Udemy. A lot of planning and hard work went in. After about 400 hours of hard work, almost 8 months later I published my first course "HTML & CSS for absolute beginners" on Udemy - 70 lectures of 4.5 hours in total. It was an amazing feeling. And then I waited for enrollments.
You know how many paid students I got in one whole year after I published the course? 12 😭 Yes, just twelve!
Two BIG mistakes:
- I chose a topic that was way too common and had thousands of tutorials everywhere.
- I had ZERO audience on the internet. Nobody knew me. And I didn’t know how to market it.
Mentor to the Rescue
In Jan 2020, I had a meeting with my mentor when he asked me - "So do you plan to create more courses? Is that the direction you're headed in?" After such a failure I said - "No no I was just checking if I could create a course." Such a lie right? I wasn't just lying to him, I was lying to myself! I had assumed my course would sell on its own, because it was of great quality. My mentor obviously knew better.
My Twitter Journey
My mentor ignored my response (May be he knew I was lying) and said, "Start building your network on Twitter. Follow the best people from your field. Talk to them, get to know them. Get to know what's currently happening in Tech." I took this advice very seriously.
It was a slow start. It took me almost 8 months (of inconsistent tweeting) to get to 1,500 followers. But I was following some inspiring people by then, had made some good connections and started feeling I belonged to Tech Twitter. I believed I could grow.
On 22nd August, 2020, I woke up to this tweet of Florin Pop.
50+ pre-sales for a $10 eBook within 10 hours of announcement on Twitter? That was huge! I instantly wanted to be like that AND I could see myself there! Something changed that day and I suddenly “knew” where I’m headed. Though I followed my mentor's advice sincerely of building my network on Twitter, I didn't know why I was doing it. But that moment onward, everything started falling into place slowly.
My YouTube Journey
On the same day I happened to meet my mentor again and this time he advised - "You should start your own YouTube channel too. I'm sure you have a lot of tips to share from your self-taught journey. And since you've created an entire course, short videos should not be hard".
With zero expectations, I started my YouTube channel in Sept 2020. Initially I released two videos per week (5-minute videos) and started receiving good responses. I also did about 6 live-steams in 2 months. People loved them. Slowly the frequency of videos reduced, but the quality and duration increased.
I started getting better visibility on Twitter and more people followed me because they were loving the content on YouTube! I continued creating content on both the platforms consistently. Not the number of tweets or number of videos, but the quality and consistency mattered. Today, I don't just have 18K followers on Twitter, but also 5.4K subscribers on YouTube. And that's like standing firm on both the legs and growing!
From Feb 2021, I started receiving inquiries for training sessions, course creation contracts, sponsored ads on YouTube, podcasts, interviews and so much more!
The eBook Idea
One of those contacts I signed was from Big Binary academy where I was asked to create a course on CSS. All the courses on this academy had a structure where each lesson was followed by an exercise. So the student immediately gets to apply the concept they learnt. I loved this way of teaching. I tried including practical real-world examples for every single CSS concept, otherwise I wouldn’t feel I’m doing justice to the course. It went smooth until I got to the "Flexbox" chapter.
I tried searching on google for real-world examples for CSS flex with all possible keywords - "CSS flexbox use cases", "Real world application for flex grow", "CSS flexbox justify content start example" and so on! I hardly found a tutorial that had a real web page component example. All the tutorials explained concepts with the help of colored blocks. But I had used flexbox myself, so I knew I could "create" these examples myself and compile it into some kind of an eBook.
In June 2021, I had just crossed 9,000 followers on Twitter and I announced this:
"When I touch 10K followers on Twitter, I’m planning to create an eBook on CSS flex and grid with real world examples and code snippets.
Gonna keep it super simple for beginners to master these concepts!"
I got a great response for this tweet - first proof that this content is much needed.
So I did touch 10k followers sooner than I thought and started collecting some examples. Any web page I visited, I started looking for components that used flexbox and grid. Started inspecting elements and tried alternate ways of achieving the same results. Encountered so many things I didn’t know and learnt a lot in the process - a lot more than I already knew about Flex and Grid. This gave me all the more confidence in the product. I was creating content that was so rare.
When I found some examples created by others, I quickly contacted them on Twitter and took permission for including them in the book with credits. Everyone was more than happy to help!
Build in Public
I followed no specific strategy while tweeting about the creation of my book. In fact, I didn't realize for a long time that I was "building in public". I was just happy to share what I was working on, the new things I happened to encounter and ask genuine questions I had along the way.
Some of the tweets that got high engagement and more visibility 👇
All of this got people more curious about the book and many were waiting to grab it. They clearly knew that huge amount of work was going into it. But there needs to be a balance too. Giving away too much or sharing too less won't help much.
Making of the eBook
I used Canva for cover page, Figma for illustrations and Typora software to write in Markdown and export to PDF. I customized one of the themes in Typora to suit my needs. I used inline styles (yes!) for each of the buttons and screenshots in the book.
I haven't exactly tracked the effort, but it has easily taken 150 - 200 hours of dedicated effort to create this book.
There are a lot of details I would love to share with anyone planning to create an eBook, so there will be another blog post dedicated to "the making of my eBook" which will be published next week.
This was probably the hardest part. Pricing your product too high or too low will have a huge impact on sales. My first intuition was to price the book at $5. The typical Indian mindset is to convert USD into INR immediately and so I felt ~350 rupees is a good price for a book. So I specified a minimum price of $5 with an option on Gumorad to allow customers to "pay as they like" and announced pre-sales.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive 40 pre-orders within 24 hours out of which about 10 people paid $10 - double the price. I immediately knew that I had priced it low. But I kept that price as it is for the next 3 days because I wanted to offer a low price for my early adopters. Also, added a Tailwind CSS version of the book for $7 and added a third product with both the eBook at $10.
Three days later, when I saw more people paying $10 without much thought, I knew it was time to slightly increase the price and so I priced them at $8, $12 and $15. I was comfortable marketing at this price and hence didn't increase further for 2 months of pre-sales and through the launch.
Three days after the actual launch on November 5th, I increased the pricing to $10, $17 and $20. This is the standard price now. But I do offer discounts to students and others who cannot afford at this price. I gave away a few free copies and will do more giveaways when I reach special milestones on Twitter. On Black Friday I offered 100 copies at 50% discount and this boosted the sales. Within 3 days, all those copies were sold out.
I'm yet to learn a lot about pricing myself. This was a good experiment for my future products. Also, this blog post from Daniel Vassallo was very insightful - https://www.indiehackers.com/post/how-i-made-210-822-selling-a-pdf-and-a-video-on-the-internet-028d5b0a2c
This is another inspiring post from Adam Wathan for anyone willing to make a living out of info products - https://adamwathan.me/the-book-launch-that-let-me-quit-my-job/
Marketing, Pre-sales & Launch
I had completed about 15% of the book by August last week. It was too early to anticipate a completion date. I was going to be speaking at Laracon on September 1st about "Grid layouts made easy with Tailwind CSS". I knew 4000 people would watch the talk and those who like it would love to place an order for the book immediately. So I wanted to enable pre-sales before that and come up with a release date!
I gave myself 2 months time and selected my son's birthday - November 5th as the day for the release. It had to be special right? 😊
In these two months I continued marketing:
- I kept sharing my progress on Twitter
- I created a sample PDF out of the first 25 pages and uploaded as a separate product on Gumroad for free download. So I sent out a reminder mail (and sometimes a 25% discount code) to these people who have downloaded the free copy but not yet bought my book (Gumroad makes it easy to filter your customers).
- I spoke about my "upcoming book" in interviews & podcasts
- I shamelessly plugged my eBook as a reply to any tweet that said "flexbox is confusing" or "I don't know Grid".
Then came the launch day for which I stayed up until 4am the previous night with burning eyes and aching back! But every minute of hard work paid off.
The marketing continued:
- The launch tweet got many retweets
- Retweeted great reviews.
- Asked a few big accounts on Twitter if they'd like to be an affiliate.
- I'm giving away my book to followers of big accounts on Twitter for more visibility. (This is still in progress)
One of the biggest boost in sales came from this tweet of Adam Wathan without even asking:
I'm very thankful to him 🙏
Can you believe ALL the marketing so far has happened only through Twitter? I haven't touched a single other channel yet! I haven't yet created a YouTube video (to my own 5k subscribers), I haven't launched it on Product Hunt, haven't spoken about it on LinkedIn or Reddit. I don't have a newsletter. I haven't written blog posts. I haven't even approached people personally to collect reviews or testimonials! So you see the potential of Twitter alone?
And this is just my first product. I cannot imagine what's coming...
This is just my story - a journey unique to me. Some of the things that worked for me may or may not work for you. Take all the lessons with a grain of salt.
Thank you so much! I can't believe you read such a huge post and reached the end of it. The reason I shared my entire story is because you never know which part of it might inspire someone. I have received lots of love and support. It's time to pay forward, so I took out time to structure this whole journey into a story. Even if this inspires just one person, I'll be happy.
I believe that when you put your heart and soul into something you're working on, people can see through it and are more than happy to help you succeed! Tech Twitter is full of super supportive people. But it's important to continue to stay humble forever 🙏