Billy Broas is an online entrepreneur who runs a successful copywriting business and teaches online courses on home brewing. Once a consultant in the clean energy field, Billy eventually realized he wanted to work to create his own dream and his beer brewing blog was born. (Say that 5x fast!)
Since then, Billy's business has evolved covering online courses and writing high-converting sales copy for other online course creators.
Here's what he has to say...
Tell us what you do in 2 sentences:
I write high-converting sales letters for online courses. I've also been teaching my own online courses in the home beer brewing niche since 2010.
At what point did you decide the traditional 9-5 office job wasn’t for you?
I've had an entrepreneurial fire burning inside me since I was a kid, but I set that flame aside to follow the typical path.
I got good grades in school. Went to a great college and graduated near the top of my class. Got an MBA. And then landed a high-paying consulting job in the clean energy field.
Sounds perfect, right? Yea, not so much...That entrepreneurial flame started burning brighter and brighter. It was fueled by new business ideas (which raced through my mind while I sat at work) and the drudgery of a 9-5 grind. I couldn't work for someone else any longer. I couldn't sweat for someone else's dreams while ignoring my own. And I damn sure couldn't look at another spreadsheet ;-)
What did you do next?
I quit! Here's how it happened...
For some reason -- and this is atypical for me because I'm not a super techy guy -- I joined Twitter in its early days. And I quickly discovered a tight-knit community of fellow Twitterers who shared a similar interest: beer brewing.
My tweets evolved into blogging. My blogging evolved into selling an online course. And now I have multiple online courses and a successful side business.
What drew you to creating online courses?
As I mentioned earlier, I did well in school. I love learning. And teaching. And business. And brewing.
So creating online courses allowed me to weave these passions together.
What did that course creation process look like for you?
Sorry, I'm just thinking of how differently I approach course creation now compared to those early attempts.
This could easily be a 3-hour conversation, but I'll sum it up best I can.
Early on, I went into course creation with a very rigid idea of what I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach it. Essentially, I was selling what I wanted to teach instead of what people wanted to buy.
Today, I still only teach topics I enjoy, but I'm much more neutral about the topics I choose to turn into a course. My #1 goal is to validate my idea before scaling it up. So I listen to the market. Not just listening on the web, but actually jumping on the phone with prospects.
I learned that you need to focus on validating your idea from the very beginning. And all those other decisions? Like building a membership site vs a one-time thing, launch vs evergreen, pre-recorded videos vs webinars, etc? All that comes later.
Start small. Be flexible. And above all else, validate your idea before building the final product.
You’ve cornered a very specific niche - how did you go about growing your audience and promoting your course?
What worked for me back then is not how I would do it now, but to answer the question, my early traffic primarily came from my Twitter followers. Then, once I had been blogging for a year or so and had all that content, I started getting a ton of Google search traffic.
So my traffic situation was pretty solid. Except the business graveyard is filled with websites that had plenty of traffic, but no revenue.
The big breakthrough in my revenue came when I began to study (learning, yet again!) direct-response marketing, and especially copywriting.
Getting good at copywriting is what really changed my business. It's what allowed me to call my boss that June morning and put in my two weeks. And it’s now my primary way of making a living.
There are so many course creators (like many of the clients I work with) who have the subject matter expertise, have people in the world who could use their help, but they don’t have the marketing chops. And the sad part is that without solid marketing, nothing else matters. You can’t help your market unless you convince them to join your course.
When it comes to course creation, “If you build it, they will come” does not apply. That’d be nice, right? If you could slap a simple page on your site and everyone would find it and buy from it? But that’s not how the world works (as I so painfully discovered).
This might sound strange, but the best thing you can do for your prospects is improve your marketing. Because only then can they experience the transformation you provide in your paid material.
What has been the best part of running your own business?
Everyone has heard of the blank page as it applies to writing. Well, there's another blank page: Your daily schedule. The best part of running my own business is that blank page.
(For me, this is literally a paper notebook. Old school, baby.)
I love that whatever I write on that page determines my future. I try to fill it with tasks that move me closer to my goals. Sometimes I miss the mark. But the freedom to choose what goes onto that page is a feeling that will never grow old.
What has been your biggest struggle in your online business? What have you done to overcome it?
How do we choose which tasks are important, and which are just shiny objects that will drag me down a bottomless rabbit hole?
As course creators, there are a million things we COULD do to grow our business. Every time we log in to Facebook, we see a new ad hyping a new thingamajig which promises new riches.
I, like many others, have fallen prey to waaaay too many of these distractions.
Not to mention all the "housekeeping" we do that makes us feel like we're making progress, but actually does little to move the needle. You know what I mean: Fiddling with websites, making business cards, designing logos, etc.
So how did I overcome it?
Well, I don't think any entrepreneur ever gets this area perfect. But a smart business leader once said: "Nothing happens until somebody sells something."
When I'm stuck, I think of that saying. Then I get laser focused on the tasks that will bring in new students, while ignoring all the noise.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are looking to go full-time in their online business?
Build a house made of bricks, not a house made of sticks. By that, I mean take the time to understand your market at a deep level. I know this sounds like a pile of extra work, but it's actually a huge time saver in the long run.
See, I like simplicity. I don't like super complicated sales funnels and fancy automation and all that jazz. And what I’ve learned is that your core messaging is far more important than all those bells and whistles.
That's why you see some very profitable websites that look like garbage. You think, "How could this business possibly be making so much money?"
It's because that website owner has message & market match. It’s like a lock and key. When you find that perfect match, you can afford to slack off in other areas.
Finally, don't believe anyone who tells you this is easy. It's not. If it were, everyone would do it. But it's not impossible either. If you play the long game, listen to your market, and stay focused -- it's tough to fail.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on a new oatmeal stout recipe at the moment and can’t wait to brew it up!
But I think you mean my future related to business...
I’m involved in some very interesting projects with clients and their online course businesses. These clients are top in their field and they have so much they could teach their market.
Overall, I’m very bullish on the future of online courses, and there has never been a better time to start one (hat tip to the Teachable crew). The work I do is fun, interesting, and it makes a positive difference in the world. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.