Daily Writing #28: How Justin Welsh crossed $500k in course sales on gumroad after 22 months without any paid advertisement

Justin Welsh is one of the most successful content creators on Gumroad. He recently achieved the milestone of generating $500k sales on gumroad in around 22 months.

He did all that without a single paid advertisement.

To celebrate the achievement he did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Twitter where he wanted to give his perspective to people.

And people responded by asking a lot of curious, and useful questions. I counted around 55 questions in total.

I compiled all those questions into a list as going through every single tweet sometimes becomes tiring. I have shared the link to the original tweet below. If you want to read the Q/As on Twitter you can do it from there too.

All credit here goes to Justin for his amazing accomplishment and the equally amazing insights that he gave while answering different questions.

Here’s a little info about Justin:

Building a diverse portfolio of one-person businesses to $5M in revenue. LP @GTMFund • Previously CRO @patientpop

This was the original tweet:


Let us begin: 55 questions in total

The answers contain valuable advice and definitely can help anyone who is looking to achieve the same.

How much did it cost you?

$19/yr for the Carrd website, 2.9% for Gumroad, and $70/mo for http://Testimonial.to

which I use for testimonials. I’m sure there are some other small costs in there (Zapier, etc.) but all-in-all, less than $3k. I don’t do any advertising at all, so no marketing costs.

How much did it cost in terms of hours worked and years of experience necessary to be successful?

I’m not sure about years of experience to be successful. That’s awfully tough to measure, but likely no more or less than the years put in to be successful in most careers. In terms of hours, I spend about 1-2 hours per day on LinkedIn/Twitter.

if you have to start it all over again. How you would do it?

Probably the same way. I guess I don’t really know a different way. I think I would have grown on Twitter simultaneously, but that’s why I’m here now.

  • How do you find ideas for tweets?
    • My daily life
    • Things I’m asked by other people
    • Perusing Twitter and other places for inspiration

How big should your audience be before launching a course?

I don’t think there’s a “right” answer to that question. I built my first course after receiving the same questions over and over again in my DM inbox. To me, it’s more about signals than sheer numbers.

What’s your #1 advice for a complete beginner who has knowledge & product but didn’t know anything about sales & marketing?

Jot your wins/losses/learnings down each day. Then share them. Sharing your story in public as it relates to what you’re working on is great marketing.

What do you feel is the best “tripwire” product to start with on Gumroad? An ebook, or is there another small bet that makes sense?

I started with a $50 short video course that packed a punch. It was affordable so 1,500 people bought it, got a 100x return, and I built a ton of trust.

  • Did you have a following at that point or how did the initial steps of marketing it go? Estimate how much time was invested into creating the content for that first course?
    • I had 20k followers on LinkedIn when I launched and a few thousand here on Twitter (but inactive). Each course took about 21 days to build. Maybe 30-90 hours depending on which one.

Why did you choose not to run any advertisements? Most course creators run a ton of ads. Do you believe you stood out in this way?

I was never interested, honestly. I probably could, I just don’t know anything about it, and haven’t ever spent the time. I  wish I had a better answer than that.

What does your course teach?

I have 2 that are currently active:

– One teaches you how to use LinkedIn more meaningfully

– The second one teaches you the systems and processes for setting up your first online service and product business

How long are your courses?

The shortest was 60. The longest was 3.5 hours. The shorter, the better I’ve learned.

What events/promos led to the big spikes if not running ads? Viral tweets? Launches?

Launches and promotions mostly. I don’t really talk about it on Twitter because I’m just growing here and not focused on making any money.

How did you decide on the price? Have you done any testing for different prices?

My thought is to price it how I would feel most comfortable buying it.

My first course was $50.

My second course was $99.

My third course is currently $150.

I’ve found lower prices and larger quantities of students mean more word-of-mouth.

Has your content changed from 0-20k followers to your content today at 150k? A lot of your posts are about how others can do what you did. I’m interested to know what you were posting about when you had 0-10k followers yourself?

I started by talking about SaaS sales because that’s what I was doing with my life. Over time, I just listened to what my audience most commonly asked for. Now I talk about social growth and solopreneurship.

If you had to start from zero today would you focus more on LinkedIn or Twitter?

LinkedIn. Twitter is very noisy, while LinkedIn is wide open.

  • Can you expand on this, please?
    • There are lots of people selling on Twitter, but very few on LinkedIn. It’s just more wide open.

How can one translate this into a consultancy business that has no product whatsoever??

Consultancy is tougher to scale because you need more time. But you could always build a team of consultants and deliver them into accounts to scale.

Do you do any coaching? Is there a natural evolution of students in your course(s) to a 1:1 or group coaching experience?

I do coaching, yes, but try not to do too much. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in meetings.

What caused the daily spikes if they aren’t from paid advertising, social media activity?

Correct. Course launches and big promotions. For example, the last big spike you see is a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.

What is your Writing Process? Any suggestions for beginners?

Here’s just one example: https://t.co/fXZRhfzvZi

What percentage of your sales come from your 24/7 funnel, and what percentage comes from sales events?

That’s a great question. I don’t actually have a “24/7 funnel” in the typical fashion (email automation). If I were to make an educated guess, I’d say 30% of my sales come from sale events, and the other 70% come from regular visits.

  • At what point did you start monetizing your audience? I assume you gave out a LOT of free value beforehand, so (if you remember), how many followers did you have when launching?
    • I wrote for about 8 months before monetizing. I was at 21k followers on LinkedIn. Now I’m around 151k.
  • In that 8 months, how many hours of writing per week did you average?
    • I write 1.5 hours on Monday and 1 hour per day on other days.

How do you keep up (or grow) the sales volume after the launch?

I feature the course on my LinkedIn featured section and I do about 120k impressions daily on my content. That just drives consistent purchases.

Have you tried selling high ticket/coaching offers? Is that in the plans?

I haven’t, and I don’t think so. I don’t want to really trade time for money.

Could you please elaborate on how you achieved massive distribution on linked in?

Sure. Just wrote every day for 2.5+ years and gained a really big following. That’s basically it.

What tools did you use to build your course?

Just used Loom and Google slides. I keep everything simple.

I believe I have created the best self-paced course on the Internet for asking better questions. I am not the best on the Internet at selling this course. What are one or two actions that will change the game?

Talk about the benefits of asking better questions every single day online. Every post.

How did you decide which topics to cover in your first course?

I just compiled all of the questions I was most commonly asked by people. That’s the easiest way.

Did you build up your LinkedIn following before you listed your course or vice versa?

I built a small following on LinkedIn first. Then went to market. Always build an audience first, IMO.

Would you recommend building a course in my native language & going niche with an audience or going English & global?

Without much context, it’s hard to say, but you could build in your native language to learn about the process and collect a bunch of feedback. Then, go global?

How much time did you invest to make it work, every week on avg? Are you spending less time on it now than you did in the beginning or more?

Definitely less now. I work probably 40 hours per week on my business, like most people. It’s just really enjoyable.

Is your course just one video then? I tend to over-engineer mine and think it needs to be a certain size before charging.

It’s about 20 videos, all very short, between 3-6 minutes.

Do you use Teachable to sell courses too?

No. They have way too many fields to convert well. I just use Gumroad and pipe people into Teachable using Zapier for a better student experience.

What is the course completion rate?

First course was 60%

Second was only 35% (too long!)

Current is 55%

How much did you invest in Marketing? 

I only market it organically. I haven’t ever spent money (just time) marketing it in any way.

What is your view on offering parity pricing? Or do you currently provide parity pricing for your courses?

I would love to offer it. Gumroad doesn’t offer it now, which kinda stinks.

Less bigger sales or more lower sales? (In volume)

Mostly low-cost sales. Overall ARPU (average revenue per user) is about $77. Last 4 months, ARPU has been $116 though.

Other than the lecture videos what else does your course package offer? (consultations, etc) and how do you prevent people from disclosing the contents of your course with other people?

It had videos and resources. I don’t know much about piracy, nor do I care.

What are these peaks in sales?

Either promotions/sales like Black Friday/Cyber Monday or product launches.

Maybe I missed it, but w/out ads how did you do lead generation and target paying customers?

I talk about the same topic on LinkedIn every single day and generate nearly all my leads through LinkedIn.

Did you collect email addresses prior to releasing your first course, or did you do this on a pre-sale basis via Gumroad for example or both?

I presold and had a few emails (2k) but not many.

What is the format of your courses? Why did you choose that one?

Video lessons. I chose it bc it’s how I like to learn.

  • So it’s “only” a video uploaded to Gumroad, nothing fancy?
    • Multiple short videos and a few downloadable resources made in Gdrive. Nothing fancy at all. Not even a fancy webcam.

Do you ever plan to launch a higher-priced offer or are you sticking with the low-ticket high volume model?

Not sure, to be honest. I like high-upside, low-effort stuff.  My whole focus in scaling lifestyle vs. scaling earnings.

What does your LinkedIn posting strategy/cadence look like now?

2x per day usually. The strategy is to continue entertaining and educating for the most part.

Your ultimate advice to someone who’s building a personal brand on Linkedin?

Focus on one very specific thing and become well known for it.

Where to start?

Start sharing experiences in an industry/with a skillset you have knowledge in. See who you attract.

How did you handle refunds if any?  Especially for the long course.

Gave them without asking any questions usually.

How do you select topics for your courses?

I address the most common questions people ask me.

How many followers/email do you have in total on all platforms?

I have 190k followers and 15k email subscribers.

How long did it take you to make the product?

Usually between 21-30 days. About 1-2 hours per day.

How do you price with affiliates?

35% to make it worthwhile.

Did you sell your own course or someone else’s course?

Only my own.

How many sales has your largest affiliate helped you get?

My largest affiliate has done 19 sales. In total, I’ve only sold 8k through affiliates.

Where did you get traffic in the first 12 months? Mostly / with most sales.

LinkedIn and my email list only.

How did people find your daily posts on Linkedin when you started? Hashtags? Posting to groups?

Literally just posting stuff about the same topics, people found it organically.

  • LinkedIn has launched new features and likely changes the algorithm any specific tips on generating organic growth today?
  • Honestly, it’s the simple:
    • Choose a specific topic
    • Learn effective copywriting
    • Write about it daily

I never play for the algorithm. I just assume good content bubbles up.

How much from referrals (that you can track)?


How do you plan to sustain this YoY?  This is 100% digital business?  have you other kind of busineses? What are you current business concerns (if any)?

I have a few other ideas that I’ll test in 2022. I also advise SaaS companies, angel invest, run a private community, do a little coaching, I’m part of an accelerator, etc. Lots of rev streams.

I write daily here on my blog. There is no limit to the word count. I am not focusing on any topic here. I want to build a daily writing habit. This is Day 28 of the Daily Writing Challenge in 2022.

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