Online education is a $23 billion a year industry in the U.S. alone, and growing. And the demand is for people who have the expertise they teach, rather than for traditional institutions of higher learning.
Today we’re chatting with Sean McCabe, a great guy who helps people build their own businesses based on their interests. But if you think that the only people who are succeeding at online business are teaching online business, you need to hear Sean’s story.
Are you aware of the art and business of hand lettering? I wasn’t before this conversation. And who knew there was such demand to learn this skill – and how to make a business of it – that a profitable online course could be developed around the topic?
The Show Notes
How an Obscure Little Niche Led to a Profitable Online Course
Sean McCabe: Hey, my name is Sean McCabe. I’m a writer, speaker, and daily podcaster helping creative people grow their online business. And I am thoroughly unemployable.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one — and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our Free Profit Pillars Course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com, and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hello, Everyone out there, and welcome to Unemployable, the audio program for freelancers and entrepreneurs that helps you take it to the next level. Glad you’re joining me today.
I am excited as always. You can hear it in my voice, right? Yes, because today we’re talking to Sean McCabe, a delightful gentleman. He’s incredibly smart and helpful and a really great guy.
What’s really interesting about this conversation is this kind of obscure niche that Sean fell into and made a lot of money from it. And then, most interestingly I think, people were begging him to teach them how to do it as well, which is how he got into the business of online education in the first place, which is one of our favorite business models as you know if you’ve been listening to the show for a while.
This is really cool, because it’s another example of ways that you can tap into the 15 billion a year market for online education. But it’s not the same old stuff necessarily that you see day in and day out from some of the guru types and all of that, so this is going to be an interesting discussion. Why don’t we just get to it right now?
Sean, good to have you here, man. How’s things in your work?
Sean McCabe: Brian, it’s going great. I’m super excited to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me.
Brian Clark: Pleasure’s all mine. It’s interesting, because Robert Bruce of our company has been a fan of yours for quite a while. And then I remember we did a Q&A in our Digital Commerce Academy and you had a great question about your membership community and hopefully I gave a decent answer.
From there, I went and started digging into your stuff and I’m really impressed. I love your videos. You’ve seen me on Twitter retweet a couple of times here and there. So, good work.
Sean McCabe: Oh, thank you so much. I’m thrilled with what you guys are doing at Rainmaker and Digital Commerce Institute, so I signed up without even skipping a beat just because I’ve received so much value from everyone at Rainmaker and Copyblogger.
I’m excited about the Summit, I’m excited about the Academy. I love the way that you guys do business. So thank you for all the value.
Brian Clark: Well, thank you, but we’re going to talk about you today, despite how much I appreciate that.
All right, a lot of times with these interviews, I just love to explore people’s entrepreneurial journey. Since starting Unemployable, I really spent some time, for the first time I think in a while, reflecting on how things started and the challenges and the triumphs and all that stuff along the way. And it’s even interesting to me, my own story when you start looking back at it.
But I’m really more interested in hearing other people’s, because it’s funny how so many elements are in common. It’s almost like everyone goes through similar steps along the way, even though their approach was radically different, their destination is different, all of that good stuff. I mean, do you kind of feel that?
Sean McCabe: I’ve definitely seen a lot of recurring themes. And I think my story has some unique parts, but it’s still going to follow a similar theme like you’re talking about.
How Did Your Entrepreneurial Journey Begin?
Brian Clark: Yeah. Like many of us, in my case a solo practitioner, but that’s pretty much the same thing as a freelance designer or whatever you may have in comparable trades. Like many, you started out as a freelancer with a couple, I guess, variations on a client-based service business.
Tell us a little bit about when you first started out. You seem to be a relatively young guy. Did you ever have a real job and decide that wasn’t for you or did you just kind of know you were going to blaze your own drill?
Sean McCabe: Well, I’m 27 right now, so the first thing I did was 10 years ago. My first foray into freelancing was starting a computer repair business. I was still in high school. I had only had one other job that was your typical sort of standard job. I say “standard,” but then again, I was washing windows sometimes three stories up in the air.
But that was a little bit too much for me, so I started a computer repair business. Actually right before that, I was traveling around in a band. I’m a real creative, artistic and musical guy, but I’m also very logical. So the computer stuff appealed to me. I really liked IT work. And I just started doing that in high school, started getting a bunch of clients, people were referring me.
That was my first experience with business, working with clients. I learned a ton about marketing myself, about taxes and accounting and running a business. I started getting clients saying, “Hey, do you also do updates to websites?” And I said, “Yes,” so I had to go figure out how to do that.
The nice thing was with my background being in the band, when I got married right around the time that I started this business, I stepped down from the band and I didn’t anticipate the creative void that would be there. As creative people, we crave these outlets and ways for us to create and express ourselves. Design for me ended up being that. I started learning about design in my nights and weekends, and I started getting so many jobs for web design that I couldn’t even handle the computer repair stuff anymore.
I started freelancing in my nights and weekends, but then I decided to take it to the next level and I brought on a partner. We started a partnership web firm. I hired out contractors in the computer repair business and was running both of these at the same time. We started working at the web firm. We were working pretty hard, trying to get traction in the beginning, like 8, 9, 10-hour days.
But then in my nights and weekends, I started practicing hand lettering. I was inspired by another designer who was a friend. He came into town and he met me at a coffee shop and we just got to talking about hand lettering.
What Is Hand Lettering Exactly?
Brian Clark: You’ve got to tell us what hand lettering is for those who don’t know.
Sean McCabe: Hand lettering is the drawing of letters. For some reason, there’s been this resurgent interest in creating letters by hand. I can only imagine it’s just because as everything is getting increasingly automated and digital, we want to be reminded that there’s a human or a person with a soul behind the things that we see, the designs in the world.
By hand lettering, I mean anything from designing a nice quote to creating a custom type logo. Something like Coca-Cola is custom type. It’s not made from a font, but someone designed each of those letters by hand.
Brian Clark: It’s amazing. There’s this burgeoning niche out there that a lot of people have never heard of, yet you did really well in this in addition to becoming a master craftsman, I guess if you will, at the art of lettering.
Sean McCabe: Well, I was practicing it and I used to doodle on my homework. In middle school, I would spend longer writing the lesson name and fancy letters than I would on the actual work. But I didn’t know there was such a thing as typography or lettering until much later. My friend was inspiring me and he said, “Hey, if you enjoy it, just start creating. It doesn’t have to be something that turns into a job or that you have to make money from. Just start doing it.”
We hear this phrase, “Do what you love” a lot and it’s cliché at this point. But for some reason, it clicked for me. It didn’t even occur to me that I could do something just because I enjoyed it.
So, in the nights and weekends of my web firm day job, I started creating hand lettering. And I was just sharing it online on my website and social media, and no one really noticed, no one really cared. I was doing this every day for two years, nobody noticed.
Suddenly, I don’t know what it was, but suddenly, it was as if a light switch turned on. Suddenly, people started noticing, suddenly people started caring right when it was two years in where I was just creating every day for two years. Hardly anyone cared. Suddenly, they were like, “Hey, can I get you to do this design for me? Can you design a logo for me? Can I get prints of your work? Can I get t-shirts of your work?”
I was blown away at this point and I started creating physical products. I started working with clients. But since I had my day job, all the money that I made was just spare money. I didn’t even need the money, so I was just saving up client work money and putting it into products.
By this point, we were shipping out physical products all over the world every single day. I sold the computer repair company after three years of the web firm. It was kind of like a perfect time for both my partner and I to move onto the next thing. And I took the hand lettering business full-time.
I was shipping out products, I was working with huge clients like Rachel Ray Magazine and the City of Las Vegas. I got to the point where I was charging 5-figure rates for jobs. This was about three, four years in of creating lettering. I was actually making six figures a year as a freelance hand letterer.
How Did You Shift to a Digital Business?
Brian Clark: Wow, that is so cool.
Okay, so at this point, you’ve got a hybrid business. You transitioned to the point where you had a very highly specialized and in-demand client-based service business. And then of course, you were turning your art into physical products. So you didn’t do the client-digital hybrid that is fairly common as a transition. You went client-physical. Then, eventually, it seems like you had in your mind that you wanted to shift over more to a digital business model.
Sean McCabe: Yes, because I didn’t even know about digital stuff, because for me everything was so physical. My world was physical designs on paper in front of me, so naturally I thought, “Well, I’ll sell physical items.”
But as well as things were going, I was ignoring the elephant in the room, which was my audience, the vast majority of my audience wanted to learn how to do what I did. Because hand lettering was just this novelty. It was experiencing a resurgence. Let’s see, it was 2007 to 2014, searches for the phrase “hand lettering” increased by 1000%. And I didn’t even know that I was kind of in the middle of this explosion.
I started getting emails, like five emails a day, people saying, “How do I start out with this? How do I make my first piece? How do I work with clients?” And I’m responding to each of these individually. I was like, “Why am I responding to the same questions over and over? I should just make a guide.”
So I just did this 10-step introductory hand lettering guide. I put it up on my site, and within the next year, 200,000 people had read that guide. I was blown away.
I didn’t even know anything about an email list, Brian. So I’m crying now looking back, thinking about if I had a sign-up on that page. But I didn’t know at the time. It was indicated to me that there was clearly interest here, and I had an opportunity to go deeper.
What I did is, I’m doing client work. I just worked my butt off at client work and saved up enough money to live off of for six months. So I quit client work completely, just quit it cold with some money in the bank and I started building this course.
The thing about this course that was different from everyone else was my value proposition was not “Learn how to draw letters,” it was “Make a living as a hand lettering artist.” My background was in business. I did work in the computer industry, in the web industry. I was working with clients, I understood design contracts and licensing and pricing and client communication on top of having at this point, four years in, about 9,000 hours of lettering practice.
Learn Lettering was the course that I launched. It’s the practical lettering techniques mixed with the business knowledge you need to succeed. Because all of these artists, they don’t know anything about pricing and accounting and all of that.
Brian Clark: I like that. The course I’m teaching right now on online education is not How to Create an Online Course, it’s How to Create a Successful Business. Those are two very different things.
Sean McCabe: So different.
Marketing, List Building and Patience
Brian Clark: Interesting. Okay. First of all, don’t feel bad about the, “If only I started building an email list.” You know how many people I’ve heard say that? It’s only because I’ve been in email for so long that I’ve never bought into the “Email is dead” thing. Now all we hear is, “Email is not dead,” like that’s a shocker. But it happens. You made up for it.
I want to talk a little bit about email. Let’s give some chronological perspective here. You made your paid course, which if I’ve read correctly, 10,000 people have taken.
Sean McCabe: It depends on what point in the story we’re at. So, it’s probably about…
Brian Clark: Well, I’m jumping ahead to now, but then I want to jump back to when you actually created that. Was that 2014 or before that?
Sean McCabe: 2014 was the original version, yes.
Brian Clark: And that’s also about the time where you really did focus on your list building coming forward.
Sean McCabe: That’s true. So, at this point, I spent that six months, it was actually primarily working on building the list and marketing this thing. I think I honestly spent two or three weeks before the launch building the course itself. The rest of the six months were on what I call “backwards building” — getting the buzz.
The first three months alone were just on the landing page. I made nice illustrations, I wrote it all out. This was like 8 or 9,000 pixels tall before the sign up. So everyone talking about, “You’ve got to have it above the fold.” I’m sitting here getting a hundred sign-ups a day with a form after 8,000 pixels of just selling essentially.
I’m getting a hundred people to sign up a day. By the time I got to the launch (this was early 2014), there were 15,000 people on the list. And so, my course, where I priced it, was 10 or 20 times the market rate for hand lettering courses. Everything else was like $10, $29. It’s just like a little art class and I’m coming in with this multi-hundred dollar course, but my value proposition supported it. I was offering something different and I was actually offering them the chance to make a living at something.
My course is several hundred dollars. It ended up making $80,000 in the first 24 hours and breaking six figures in three days.
Brian Clark: Amazing. Wow! That’s really cool. It’s interesting though, because now that people hear that, people are going to go maybe check you out for the first time and everything that you’re involved in now with your community and what not.
It’s like, “Oh, Sean is the newest overnight success,” yet we both know that you have been incredibly patient, incredibly consistent and incredibly methodical, I guess going back to you’re a logical person who is also creative. You just stuck in there and kept going step by step by step. And I guess always trying to do the next best thing.
Sean McCabe: Well, it’s the part of the story that I told in this interview, but people glossed over. I showed up every day for two years and didn’t get any results.
That’s the part that you really have to underscore. You’re thinking, “I keep podcasting, I keep blogging, I keep making videos, I keep sharing my art and nobody cares. It’s not going viral. It’s not getting all of the shares,” but it takes showing up every day for years. 9,000 hours doesn’t happen in a year or two. It happens over a long period of time.
The same with the course, it feels like, “Oh, that’s your first big success, everything went super well for you.” But you don’t see all of the years before that. You don’t see the course that I did that wasn’t super successful. Everyone sees the big success and nothing before it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I know. And that’s what we chase after. That’s the story we want to hear. But I actually think the “It took me a long time and a lot of hard work and for a while no one cared” part, as frustrating as it can be, it’s also heartening. There is no difference between whether it be you or me or Tim Ferriss. You’ve got all these stories of people who, if you don’t know the backstory, you don’t know the story.
Sean McCabe: That’s so true. I launched this course, and at the time it was just me. I had a DSLR camera on a tripod and I memorized my scripts, and I cut it all up myself with jump cuts, and it did really well.
A year and a half later, I wanted it to be even better. It was already good, but I wanted it to be super polished. By this point, I had real feedback from people who had gone through the course. I was no longer guessing at what they needed. They were telling me. At this point, 2015 was a crazy year, I went from just me to six full-time people on the team about six or seven months later, which is another story.
I have a full-time video guy on the crew and I’m like, “Let’s reproduce this, add 50% more lessons, reproduce all of the lessons.” Now there are 75 lessons. We’ve got a three-camera shoot. It’s polished. I do charge a lot more than other people in this space with my courses, but the production quality is there, the value is there. And so it makes it worth it.
I produced and launched a second version of the course in about 50 days with the help of my team. This time it made six figures in just 24 hours.
I think that the key here is I did something crazy. I repositioned these three tiers. That was another thing Nathan Barry had told me was on packaging. I was thinking about giving away all of these little piece meal classes on different things. “Here you can learn about business. You can learn about art.” And he’s like, “No, you need to package this up. Have a masterclass, have a starter class, have an intermediate class, and tell people the order they need to go through it.” That changed everything for me.
The second time I launched it, rather than selling that starter class at $99 like I had before, I decided I’m going to give it away. I’d sold the same amount of content for $99 the year before. This time, I made it completely free, and that exploded the growth.
Now, there are 40,000 subscribers just to the learn lettering, because they came and they started telling their friends. Every single person that signed up was telling someone else, because they couldn’t believe how valuable this was.
But to launch the second version, I wrote this 30-day sequence leading up. It was like 45,000 words of writing, not including the 100,000 words in the course. I did this initially for the launch, and then after the launch, I repurposed all of that content as an upsell sequence.
So every person that’s coming in for the free course is also getting this autoresponder. But it’s not selling, it’s literally just providing value. This could actually be a book. It’s teaching people how to find clients, how to think about starting your own workshop, making products, just tons of value.
At the end of the email, there’s this little P.S. line at the end of every email that says, “Ready to upgrade? Join the masterclass.” It’s just a little P.S. line. And towards the end of this 30-day sequence, it goes into a little bit of a stronger pitch. Once I implemented that, we’re now getting an extra $7,000 a month from that autoresponder, just autopilot.
How Did You Create a Membership Community?
Brian Clark: Sweet, sweet. So, okay, you have an incredibly successful course. I think the implication here may be that this guy learned and practiced something for two years and was riding a wave that he didn’t even know about and then it exploded. He had the perfect product at the perfect time, which rarely happens frankly.
Yet you didn’t stop there. Your next thing was to create a membership community with the holy grail of recurring revenue. Tell us a little bit about that. How did that come about?
Sean McCabe: Well, the community came after a podcast. At this point, I had success in client work products and teaching. I was already making six figures, but I decided to just share everything I knew, because I’d learned so much from people like you and other people on podcasts, just sharing everything they knew on blogs. I wanted to just share. I wanted to give back.
I didn’t know anything about podcasting. I figured, “Hey, I’ll do a twice a week podcast. That can’t be so difficult.” It ended up being very difficult, but I stuck with it. I just started sharing everything at the intersection of creativity and business. That’s the focus of the Seanwes Podcast. I just started giving it all away and I was getting all these great emails.
Now the podcast has 7-figure downloads and people just started writing me saying, “This has changed my life. I’ve been able to quit my job. I’ve been able to launch my own course and made $30,000 in the first month. I moved across the world.” I’m getting all of this incredible feedback, but it’s just in email. It’s life-changing conversations, but no one else is able to benefit from them.
So I’m podcasting twice a week. We’re now about 250 episodes in.
But I was getting all these people talking about awesome things that the podcast had done for them. And I said, “Well, we need to bring everyone together. We need to create a place where they can talk to each other and learn from each other.”
But I didn’t want trolls, people that were going to come in and disrupt things and that weren’t invested. I put up a membership with a paywall, so it would be a filtration device. We just put a forum up for people to be able to have conversations.
But it ended up turning into, “Well, you know what, if we’ve got a forum, why don’t we live stream the podcast while we’re at it? And if we’re live streaming the podcast, why don’t we have a place to chat?” And it just kind of blossomed into this full blown community.
How Do Your Podcast and Email List Work Together?
Brian Clark: Very nice. Okay, going back to something you said earlier, which is, “If I would’ve known to build an email list at that time” — I’ve heard John Lee Dumas say that. I’ve heard Pat Flynn say that. These are big podcasting guys. You’ve been able to maintain a pretty rigorous podcast production schedule with never taking your eye off that email list.
Is there congruence or are you really kind of running separate initiatives there?
Sean McCabe: With the podcast and the email, you mean?
Brian Clark: Yeah, I mean, with Unemployable, when I started the podcast, I knew that it was very important that I built a concurrent email list. Now, of course, I’ve added the newsletter function in addition to the podcast to really solidify the value. So, to me, that’s a very cross promotional audio and email kind of approach.
Is that something you’re doing now or do you see iTunes as a new discovery environment? You’re probably posting your videos to YouTube as well, of course.
Sean McCabe: That’s true, although, to me iTunes… I’m kind of weird. I’ve got a little controversial approach to this. My podcast, I actually don’t have the name of my show on the podcast artwork intentionally.
I had this crazy idea, which I then eventually find out was also something that Seth Godin did with his Poke the Box book, which was if you see a book on someone’s desk with no title on it, you’re going to be like, “What’s that?” And the person’s going to tell you about the book and maybe what they read and how it changed their life. You just had a conversation that is free advertising for the author.
That was kind of my idea. I don’t know if it’s going to pay off or not, but I don’t have a bright orange, catchy, podcast artwork that’s like, “Grow your business. Entrepreneurs, learn about email marketing, pricing, professionalism and clients.” It’s almost like this hidden thing, which has resulted in almost everyone finding the podcast coming from word of mouth, which has almost yet again acted as a filtration device.
Everyone who ends up listening to the podcast and then someday going to a meetup or a Seanwes Conference or the community, they’re these really serious people who have come from someone else spreading the word.
I don’t know, it’s kind of a weird idea, but I don’t actually see iTunes as that much of an acquisition channel for me.
Brian Clark: Yeah, interesting. I like the way you’re thinking about it. The fact that you don’t know yet if it’s the correct approach, it just means you’re testing something new. And I like the willingness to kind of go off road a bit.
One of the themes I keep talking about is, “There’s no ‘should’ here.” That applies to marketing techniques too. Everything has the ability to work, especially when you’re zigging against what everyone else is zagging with.
Sean McCabe: Yeah, I think podcasting is still very young. There’s a lot of debate over: is it going to explode? Is it just kind of always going to be this base level thing that doesn’t really become a huge channel for anyone? I think it’s very young still. Even though we’re 10 years in, I think it’s going to continue to get bigger. And I think this is the year for people to start a podcast.
You were asking, “Am I being super purposeful about email and podcasting in tandem?” I do send out newsletters. I do talk about them, a little bit of cross promotion. But I am seeing so much of direct podcast to community sign-up, direct podcast to course purchase, direct podcast to event registration.
Podcasts are just hugely, grossly underrated, and everyone’s worried about downloads. The numbers are just so heavy. The engagement of a podcast is so good. You don’t let anyone else three inches from your ear but your spouse and the podcasters you listen to.
SaaS Platform for Community Driven Chat
Brian Clark: That’s true. It is very intimate, and unless you just completely turn people off, it should be a good thing.
There’s one last thing I want to talk to you about. It’s interesting, because this is just an illustration that you’re trying to take it to the next level again. But I’m actually interested in this product, both for Rainmaker Digital and anything else I’ve got going on. Tell us about this upcoming SaaS platform for community driven chat.
Sean McCabe: Okay. This is exciting for me. When I made the community, I started out with just forums, and it kind of evolved naturally. “We might as well stream the podcast and I guess people will want to talk.”
We had this dinky chat plugin. I’m sure everyone has tried various ad hoc chat systems and this thing was just not cutting it. It was slow, it had a bad refresh rate. It was just an overall poor experience. And I was realizing, members as they come in and they have this poor experience, they’re not really incentivized to stay. They end up leaving, they end up going away. They ended up becoming disenfranchised.
One of my members had shown initiative. He started building these different solutions for people that would incorporate the existing chat into a standalone Mac application. I was like, “I like this guy. I like his initiative.” And I said, “Hey, what do you think about building a chat system for the community?” And he said, “Well, let’s see if something exists out there. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
We did all this research and we spent two months on the project discovery and just nothing. We couldn’t find something that was really built around the needs of community. Everything else was chat first and people were implementing it into a community. It wasn’t a community-driven chat.
So he agreed with all of the things we wanted and needed, it would be best to build something. No, I had no idea what a chat system would cost. I’d spent $17,000 on web development before and that was the most I’d spent, so I thought maybe a chat system is going to cost 25,000. After two months of discovery, he comes back and he has this quote for $50,000. And I’m like, “Oh man, that’s a lot.”
I think at the time I had 80 grand in the bank. That was literally what I had, and he’s saying $50,000. So I’m pacing around the room. I’m on the phone with some of my entrepreneur friends and they’re like, “Well, do you believe in this? Do you believe this community is the future? Do you believe the chat is crucial to this?” And I said, “Yes.” And so they said, “Then do it. Because otherwise, maybe you’re fine now, but if the experience is poor, you’re going to run this thing into the ground four to six months later and it’s all over.”
We decided to do it. I paid him. The reason I paid him that is because he’s good at what he does. And this is the most important part — he was a member in my community. You can’t buy that kind of a thing.
Brian Clark: I know. I was just waiting to point that out, because that’s our story as well. We’re a little bit larger, but everyone has come from the audience, from the community.
There’s just so much less brain damage in trying to get people to understand your values and how you like to treat people and all of this stuff together. So, that’s number one.
The other thing that I love about this is you’re doing product development based on your own needs, which tends to be some of the best market research that you can rely on. It’s not an abstraction, it’s not “How can I make money?” It’s, “I need this, so there’s a good chance other people need this.”
Sean McCabe: It’s so beautiful. I’ve gotten to the point, now we have eight full-time people on the team, I will not hire anyone that is not from my community, because they have the mindset. Like, “Those are the people that get it. Those are the people that I want.” I could maybe hire someone from overseas to build it for half as much, but they’re going to cut corners. And he is incentivized to build something great, because he’s going to use it himself.
It took us about half a year to deploy the first version. Since then, we’ve secretly been building this epic chat system for our community for almost two years now. I ended up hiring him full-time about a year ago, because he’s amazing.
Literally, he calls himself unemployable. He said unless it was Apple or something, he wants to build his own thing. His mantra is there’s always an exception to every rule. And he said, “There’s something unique, there’s something different about what you’re doing here, and I’m on board.” And so I actually got him full-time.
I think you have the same thing there at Rainmaker. It’s like these people with the entrepreneurial spirit, but they’re also employers and it’s the weirdest hybrid, and it’s so hard to explain.
Brian Clark: It’s true. A lot of that has to do with culture, freedom to get your work done without someone hovering over you. It’s the next best thing. For some people, I think it’s not that bad as long as you don’t bring in the stuff they hate, the stereotypes about having a job.
Sean McCabe: We probably don’t have time in this interview, but I also do something I call “small scale sabbaticals” that I started in 2014, where I take off a week every seventh week. Now that I have team members, my first thought when I began hiring was, “Well, how am I going to keep them busy when I’m on my sabbatical?” And I was like, “No, no, no. Do I believe in this concept or do I not?” Long story short, I actually pay everyone on the team to take a week off every seven weeks. So, I’m sure that plays into it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, that doesn’t hurt. That’s cool.
Sean McCabe: So he’s built this chat system. We’re using it with the community, and this thing is the ultimate churn killer. Members simply just stay and don’t leave.
It’s basically a hybrid between real time chat and archived topical discussions. I see our forums going away honestly, because I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s the missing glue for membership site owners that are only using forums or Facebook groups.
If someone streams their podcast live or they’re a webinar host, it’s so perfect, because you’ve got obviously the basic chat stuff, someone’s name and avatar, timestamps. But it’s got profiles, it’s got (this is great) badges of what they’ve bought. So whether they’re going to our conference or they’ve bought a course, it can spark conversations, and video built in for live streams because we have live shows every single day in the community.
It’s got questions features, starring. On the back end, we can sort by stars in the past 15 minutes for today, yesterday. Show only the questions, sort by recency, sort by the number of stars, mark as complete, add a call to action. So, this chat system, we can use this ad hoc for our live events or webinars, but it’s also the backbone of the community.
There’s this seamless membership cross promotion where in an event, we can be like, “Hey, are you enjoying getting to chat with hundreds of other people that are like-minded? This kind of thing happens 24/7 in the community, go join the community.” People come for the community and they stay for the community.
What I see with every other membership site is it’s most commonly built around a training library. People join for the training, they end up binge watching the videos and poking around the forums (which for a lot of people are a ghost town), and then they leave. But if you contrast that with what I have here, this community has no training included. People come and they stay for the community and the live events. And then we sell courses ad hoc.
So, I mean, it’s actually even more profitable for us, but people stay because of the live interaction.
Brian Clark: Wow! I really wish this was done now, because I’ve got about three uses for that. We may have to talk offline.
Sean McCabe: Obviously, I’m seeing the potential for releasing this as an SaaS app and I’m balancing between, “I want to make this really good,” but there’s probably opportunity for a beta sooner than 2017 or 2018.
Brian Clark: Yeah, cool. All right, the ripe old age of 27. Something tells me you’re not done yet.
Sean McCabe: Not even close.
Brian Clark: Good, good.
Sean McCabe: I’m having a great time.
Brian Clark: As you know, I like to say, “Keep going.”
Sean, I appreciate so much you joining us today. It’s a remarkable story and you’re definitely someone to watch and maybe even collaborate in the future. So let’s stay in touch.
Sean McCabe: Thank you so much, Brian. It’s just such a privilege to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
Brian Clark: Thanks, man.
All right, Everyone, that’s it for this week. We will be back next week with more. Until then, as always, keep going.