This project is marked: meh
I started this experiment on June 13th, 2017. I've decided to change directions with this project. What was once going to be an upsell to an existing product will now become part of it for a higher price. Go to the bottom of this post for a more detailed explanation.
I’m writing and filming a large video course this month for Swim University. And instead of selling it on its own, I’m going to use it as an upsell to a product that’s already doing well.
What I’m Currently Selling
Swim University only has two products for sale. One of them is a 300-page PDF that’s formatted like a book. It’s called “The Art of Pool Care” and it’s basically half of the entire website wrapped up in an illustrated guide.
It sells for $29 through a sales page I built using the Gumroad popup window. I’m using Gumroad because it’s easy and it accepts Paypal, which I assume a lot of my customers use because they’re older.
It’s a lucrative product with an average revenue around $2,000 a month. During the summer months, it does significantly better. For instance, in May of 2017, it grossed $3,595.
I created it two years ago and it’s been consistently selling on my site. I promote it with a sales box at the bottom of every blog post about swimming pool maintenance. It’s also part of my 10-part new subscriber email automation in Mailchimp.
The reason I’m adding another product to my website is that I’m shifting my focus away from affiliate income. I talk about this in my last article about how Amazon fucked my business.
Can I sell more products as an upsell rather than just a standalone product?
I worry about sales pages being too confusing, and giving people too many options which may lead to “analysis paralysis.” According to Wikipedia…
Analysis paralysis or paralysis by analysis is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken.
If you’re a pool owner and you visit SwimUniversity.com, you’re only pitched one paid product. The message is clear. And I fear adding to that message may slow sales. So instead, I’m planning to offer this new video course as an upsell to an existing product people are already buying.
The customer will land on the sales page to buy “The Art of Pool Care” digital PDF guide and have the option to upgrade to the PDF and video course for a higher price.
Now, this might not work as well I as hope. I may find out that video courses sell better than PDFs, which will force me to change the message. But we’ll see how this experiment plays out before I make any changes.
The Course Creation Plan
Before I can test sales, I need to build the product. It’ll involve a more than sitting in front of a computer and recording a screencast. Instead, I have to be outside.
He lives in New Jersey and his brother owns an inground pool. I have to fly there and shack up with my parents who live down the street from the filming location.
I’ve already booked the flight and rental car. I arrive in New Jersey on June 17th, 2017 (the day before Father’s Day) until the 25th. I decided to use it as an opportunity to surprise my dad. I’m a very good boy.
We have five full days to film hoping the weather is nice. This is a monster course with over 35 lessons, so let’s start with writing.
1. Outline the Course and Write the Scripts
I’m writing this on Monday – one week prior to me flying out. I’m planning every single detail of the course since we only have a few days to film. Worse case is I extend my trip to get everything done, but I would hate to do that – it’s New Jersey.
I’ve started with a detailed outline and a list of supplies we’ll need in a Google Doc.
Once I’ve finished the outline, I’ll write scripts for each video lesson. All the bold titles are the lessons.
The scripts will be broken up into two parts: a numbered list of talking points and b-roll footage we need.
With talking points, I’ll be able to riff lines in front of the camera since I already know the information. That’s how I made all my other videos for Swim University’s YouTube Channel.
B-roll will be extra footage needed to illustrate specific points, like close-ups.
2. Flying Out and Filming
The goal is to film all the “talking head” footage (a.k.a me talking to the camera and giving the lesson) in two full days. The rest of the time will be getting all the b-roll.
I arrive in New Jersey on a Saturday night and the following day is Father’s Day. I’ll spend time with family and go shopping at the local pool store for supplies.
I’ve already contacted the pool store to make sure they had what I needed. Fun fact: I’m buying all the supplies from the first pool store I worked at when I was thirteen. So poetic.
I’ve also been calling my current advertisers to see if they’re interested in any product reviews. Might as well sell some advertising while I have a pool at my disposal.
So far I’ve spent $595.96 on a short-notice Southwest flight and $545.13 for a rental car. Traveling is fucking expensive and I hate it!
I hired Matt to film and edit all the videos, but we don’t have the fee worked out yet. We also don’t have a deadline.
Since this is a pool product, by the time he’s finished editing the summer may be over. So I’m in no rush to get this product to market. But as soon as it comes in, it’ll be launched and promoted the following year (2018).
People still buy “The Art of Pool Care” in the winter, but less so. However, I should have an answer to my hypothesis anyway, even during the slow months.
4. Adding The Product To The Website
This product will be too large (file size wise) to put on Gumroad. But I might still use Gumroad as my payment platform and send people to a private area on the website where they can watch the lessons and download the guide.
I haven’t mapped this out workflow out yet, but I have some ideas.
- I could auto-send people a zip file (or public folder) with the entire video course from Google Drive using Gumroad-Zapier-MailChimp integration.
- I could build a private area on SwimU with the entire course without password protecting it. And use a paid version of Gumroad to send people to that page after they pay. However, this would allow anyone to access it without paying if buyer’s share the link.
- I could make people create an account on Swim University so they have to log in to watch after they purchase. Thinking about Product Press to solve this problem.
- Build something totally custom!
I want to stick with Gumroad. I like it because it’s so fucking easy and they handle both Paypal and credit card payments with ease. It’s also already built into my site.
Once the product is up and tested (and the time of year is appropriate), I’ll send an email to everyone who already bought “The Art of Pool Care” over the years with a special discounted price for the course.
These people are more likely to buy since they already bought from me. This will go out to a little over 1,000 people.
I’ll also add it as an upsell on the sales page, which should hopefully increase revenue right away.
On top of that, I’ll add a post-purchase automation in MailChimp for those who only purchased the guide to see if I can get them to also buy the video course.
I’ll also announce the product to the entire list at the beginning of pool season, which is something I do every year with the current digital guide.
This is a long-term game. I always need to remind myself of that. I’m building a product that will continue to pay off for years.
Writing The Script and The “Fuck This!” Moment
I started with a giant outline. There are roughly 40 video lessons. Then, I started writing the scripts.
I got a lot done on the first day, about 6-7 scripts. But then I started procrastinating. Hard. Which is not something I do. It gave me pause.
I think I’m procrastinating because I hate writing. I mean, I like writing when I get to be creative or just telling a story, but writing how-to scripts blows. Hard.
So here I am, one more day before I leave for New Jersey to start filming, and I’ve completed 16 scripts. I want so badly to cancel my flight and say, “fuck this!”
Changing the Script Writing Process
I write in full sentences. Who doesn’t? I mean, I thought I would just going to write bullet points and wing it in front of the camera, but I can’t write that way. I need to get my thoughts down and what I’d like to say. So the writing process is taking a long time. Too long.
I had a talk with Steph and I changed my plan a bit. Instead of doing a lot of “talking head” stuff throughout each lesson, I’m only going to film an intro and outro with me in front of the camera. This will save time during the filming because there won’t be a lot of outtakes to go through. Plus, it’s gonna be fucking hot and humid, so I’ll be a miserable bastard on film, not to mention DROUNCHED in sweat.
I’ve been writing just as much, but I’m more focused on getting all the shots needed to illustrate the steps in each lesson. That way, I can write more detailed scripts and record a voiceover in my air-conditioned office back in Colorado.
And as a bonus, it’ll allow me to fix any mistakes in post without missing a beat. If I wing it, then I’m stuck with what I recorded on location. With this, I can just re-record a voiceover and the problems are solved as long as I have the right b-roll to fill.
I’m Not Really Giving Up, But I Want To. Hard.
Hard. Yes, it’s hard. But really, Matt? It’s not hard. This shit is easy, I’m just making it hard on myself.
This is a note-to-self moment.
Suck it up, write your scripts, fly to New Jersey and crush the shit out of this course. You’re gonna make a lot of pool owners very grateful. Plus, you’ll make money. And you love money. You can buy all the air conditioners and scriptwriters you want.
Flying To New Jersey and a Week of Filming
I’m writing this in my favorite coffee shop in the world. I’m at One Shot in Philadelphia, and I’m about to fly back to Colorado.
I spent seven long days in South Jersey. It was hot and muggy and tiring. This was my daily activities:
- Sunday (Father’s Day): Grilled steaks for my dad and drank beers. Pretty relaxing.
- Monday: Picked up two pool filters from a local distributor and went shopping for pool chemicals at a local pool store. It was 95 degrees and muggy. We filmed at Matt’s older brother’s pool from 10 am to 4 pm. There was a huge storm coming, so we had to work fast. Then, I drove an hour to Atlantic City to visit a friend in the storm.
- Tuesday: Went shopping for more supplies and started filming at 10 am to 5 pm. It was much cooler out after the storm passed. Afterward, I drove two hours to North Jersey to have dinner with the folks from Hayward and thank them for providing the filters I needed to film.
- Wednesday: We changed filming locations to my friend’s pool where I used to do all the old Swim University YouTube videos. We needed footage of his filter and automatic pool cleaner. Then, we drove to Matt’s younger sister’s house to film at her above ground pool, which was green. Then, we got word that Matt’s older brother’s dog got into some red-dyed o-ring lube I accidentally left outside and it stained his new concrete deck. Thankfully, the lube was non-toxic and the dog is fine. We had to run there to clean off the deck before it fully stained. Everything worked out, but it was hectic. Then, I drove to West Philadelphia to visit Travis and Heather (from ExtraPackOfPeanuts.com).
- Thursday: We hired a guy to bring his drone and film some bird’s eye shots of the pool. Those turned out really, REALLY cool. Then, Matt and I finished up the rest of the filming. We worked from 10 am to 7 pm that day. I didn’t travel anywhere that night. Instead, I just passed out at 9 pm.
- Friday: I slept in and went to Matt’s house to grab and copy the footage on multiple drives as a backup. We have all the footage on three different portable hard drives right now. We ended up with 75 gigs of footage. That night, we went out to dinner to celebrate.
- Saturday: I organized and labeled all the footage. Then, I drank lots of beer for the rest of the night and made baby back ribs for dinner. And I slept a lot to catch up.
BTW, here’s a shot from the drone!
Let’s Talk About Money, Shall We?
This was not a cheap project. I spent a lot of money to get this filming done in a short week. Let’s break it down and I’ll also recap when the entire project is over (I’m rounding up for easy math):
- Southwest Flight: $596
- Rental Car: $546
- Gas: $100
- Drone Camera Operator: $250
- 4 Days of Lunch: $275
- Pool Chemicals and Gear: $350
- Gift Card for Pool Use: $200
- Filming and Editing: $5,000
- Total: $7,317
Now that all the filming is done, it’s up to me to get things started. I’ll be spending the next few weeks writing more detailed scripts for each video and recording voiceovers. I’ll send each script and voiceover file to Matt to start editing.
We’re going to rely heavily on animation, which I’m going to do myself – unless anyone knows a graphics animator.
Right now, the plan is to have Matt edit the entire video and leave blank space for animations. I’ll be able to create them and send them back so he can add them to the video and finish it.
I’m also going to write and record all the background music myself. This is not necessary at all, but it’s the part I’m looking forward to the most. I just miss making music since my last album. So this gives me a chance to write.
Also, I plan to sell (or give away) this music so others can use it in their projects. Might be a good way to grow my email list on Money Lab.
Hiring and Animator and Screenwriter
It’s been three months since we finished filming and there’s nothing completed.
I did, however, hire a motion graphics animator to help with the onscreen text and animations we’ll need to flesh out the video lessons.
There are some things we didn’t film including the act of cleaning a cartridge filter, for example. So instead, we’re gonna animate it!
I’m obsessed with Vox videos on YouTube. They’re well scripted and animated. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do videos like this for Swim University, but I’m just not proficient in Adobe After Effects.
Hiring an animator will help bring this course to life and fill in the gaps we failed to film.
I fucking hate writing. Every time I try, I wanna slam my head on the desk. Even worse, I procrastinate. The only other thing I procrastinate on is going to the dentist.
I thought writing scripts would be different; it isn’t.
The workflow is as follows:
- Write the script.
- Record voiceovers.
- Find music. (I mentioned I was writing my own music, but not anymore. Too many things on my plate.)
- Send script, voiceovers, and music to the video editor for a rough edit.
- Approve rough edit and send to the animator.
- Approve animation and send back to the video editor for a final edit and upload.
I’ve written three scripts for this course so far and it took me longer than expected. At first, I was over-directing in the scripts because I was afraid Matt, the video editor, wouldn’t know what clips to grab.
My biggest mental hurdle is thinking that I’m the ONLY person who knows anything about pools. Hard to break that habit.
Here’s a screenshot of the first completed script for the intro lesson. You’ll notice that it’s split into two columns The left side notes what should appear on the screen. And the right side is either my filmed “talking head” or a recorded voiceover script.
Planning a New Workflow
For the rest of the scripts, I’ll be looking for a writer to finish them. I have rough scripts drafted for each lesson, but not laid out in the two-column format.
Here’s what my new workflow will look like:
- The writer will draft a script for my approval.
- I’ll record the voiceovers and find music for the video. I’ll upload all these assets to a Google Drive folder to share with the Video Editor.
- Approve rough edit and send to the animator.
- Approve animation and send back to the video editor for a final edit and upload.
There’s still a lot of work to be done completing these video lessons. Once I get a lesson completely finished, I’ll share it here so you can see part of the final product.
After that, it will take a few months to finish everything. The deadline is early March 2018, but hopefully, we’ll be finished well before then.
Also, once I get all the invoices in from the video editor, animator, and writer, I’ll share the complete spending breakdown. My guess is that this course is going to cost $25,000.
Fuck. Let’s hope it pays off 🙂
This Project Got All Jammed Up
In June of 2017, I flew to New Jersey and hired my friend (and videographer) to film a bunch of footage for this course.
In August, I hired a motion graphics animator that didn’t work out.
That jammed me all up because I thought I was gonna knock it out. But instead, I realized I had incomplete scripts, no animations, and I would probably have to edit everything myself since I knew the material.
I don’t like writing, so I kept procrastinating on the script writing until many months later I asked my Editor to put together the scripts so that I could just read them in a voiceover.
In March 2018 (almost a full fucking year later), we had one script complete and I recorded the voiceover. But once I started trying to put together the footage, I realized I needed way more to fill the space.
Also, I just wasn’t feeling it. A voiceover with a blank screen of text just didn’t feel sexy to me and I didn’t want to put my name on that.
So it’s been held up ever since. I’m writing this in June of 2018 (an actual year later) and nothing has been done to move this project along. We’re also well into the 2018 pool season, so there’s no sense of trying to get it done now.
I want to do it right. In hindsight, I should have filmed myself giving the lessons by the poolside. But I didn’t. Fuck me.
Instead, in the late summer, we’ll finish the scripts. I bought a teleprompter and will be reading them directly into the camera. I’ll use that as my a-roll and all the footage I got in New Jersey as my b-roll. I’ll create any animations myself to fill in the gaps.
Also, after talking with my team, this will no longer be an upsell. Instead, we’re creating a full product called The Art of Pool Care. This product will include the eBook and the video course as one product. Probably for around $49 – $99.
So I’m marking this project as “meh,” or more accurately, “incomplete.” It’s not a failed experiment since I didn’t even try to fail. It’s just a pivot.
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