Since launching on Teachable in 2018, I’ve netted $677,583 from selling Fat Stacks courses. That’s after refunds and paying out affiliate commissions. That works out to $169,395 per year. The net income progression over the years is as follows:
- 2018: 63,870
- 2019: $116,058
- 2020: $210,242
- 2021: $287,413
It remains to be seen whether I’ll top 2021 in 2022.
Given Fat Stacks is a side thing for me (my main business is my portfolio of websites), that’s not a bad outcome. However, it’s not without its problems.
The million-dollar question is whether the hassles that come along with selling courses is worth it?
For now, it certainly is. The annual revenue is significant. I enjoy running the forum and writing for Fat Stacks. While Fat Stacks affiliate revenue is also decent, the course sales help make Fat Stacks a relatively lucrative enterprise.
Pros of selling courses
Last year I nearly net $300K selling the course. That’s nothing to sneeze at considering I don’t buy traffic or do anything other than promoting it via my small Fat Stacks email list. I’m also fortunate to have some excellent affiliates who promote regularly.
I’ve helped some folks grow a decent niche site publishing business. That’s a great result. Not everyone who buys my course makes it work, but many have. I base this claim on various case study threads, result threads and milestone posts shared in the Fat Stacks forum. Those are my favorite posts because it means I’m not selling garbage.
Running the forum
The forum initially was to serve as a place to provide customer service for course buyers. It’s evolved into a great learning center all about niche sites. I not only get to be the publisher of the forum but also enjoy participating regularly.
Path of least resistance for monetizing Fat Stacks
While earning affiliate commissions with Fat Stacks is easier than selling a course, selling a course is easier than many other options such offering services, developing software and/or selling coaching. Hence, I stick for now with selling a course.
While it might seem selling a course and publishing Fat Stacks is diversifying my business, it’s actually not. Fat Stacks is based entirely off my niche site portfolio. If the portfolio fails, Fat Stacks fails.
Cons of selling courses
Customer service takes time… little slivers here and there. Most individual inquiries don’t take much time but they can add up. It’s a necessity. I can’t sell a course and not deal with inquiries. That’s the deal. Now, I could hire someone to handle this but it wouldn’t be anywhere near a full time job. Fortunately, I don’t get many support requests.
Updating the course
Because online publishing changes over time, the course needs to be updated to reflect the changes I make in publishing my sites. I change themes now and then plus quite a bit more. Sometimes I stop doing something. Sometimes I add new strategies. Because my course is a reflection of what I do to grow niche sites, I have a responsibility to keep the course updated (and I do for the most part).
One problem that’s cropping up about course updates is the course is getting extensive. The biggest gripe people have is it’s not as organized as it could be. I agree with them. It’s not as organized as it could be. On the other hand, I don’t wish to delete any content either. I know if I did that, old timer members might get upset that I removed content.
I think too part of the problem stems from the fact that the course is a bundle of individual courses. That makes it a bit ungainly. When I started selling courses, I sold several shorter courses. I then created the bundle. Now I mostly sell the bundle which is a bundle of smaller courses.
The tech can be frustrating
Teachable is both great and horrible. There are things about it that drives me nuts. There are things about it I love. Same with Convertkit. I use mostly Teachable and Convertkit for selling the course. Teachable is the platform where I provide the course. Convertkit is the email software I use to promote it. The two integrate nicely but I’m not big on having to figure tech out. I know I’m not using either platform to it’s maximum potential.
This is the biggest question in my mind as to whether selling courses is worth it. Being a merchant means I must be available to customers. 95% of the time this is not a problem. However, 5% of the time I’m busy with other things. Also in that 5% of the time are vacations which can be interrupted by customer service requests. I can’t very well force folks to wait two weeks so I end up dealing with this stuff while on vacation. That is not good.
The distraction challenge wouldn’t be an issue if Fat Stacks was my focus. I’d have all the time in the world to focus on selling and providing customer support for the course. Ironically, what makes my course good is that I actually have successful niche sites independent of Fat Stacks. That portfolio of sites takes up a good chunk of my time (I’m constantly added new sites, working on growing sites, etc.). And so I juggle both a niche site portfolio and the Fat Stacks enterprise.
It earns a fraction of what it could
This probably irks me more than anything else (although I still can’t complain much). I’m a publisher at heart, not a marketer. Other course creators sell 10x my total annual income per month. There is so much more I could do that would 10x my course sales. I could buy traffic. I could set up a more sophisticated sales funnel. I could do more on YouTube and my podcast. I could have a far better sales page. The list goes on but I neither have the time nor the inclination. This means I must settle for more of an attraction rather than a promotion marketing strategy.
Lots of competition
Because courses in the SEO/blogging niches can be so lucrative, there’s no shortage of competition. I’m familiar with courses sold by some colleagues and they are excellent courses as well. They are also costly. This means customers are probably often torn as to which course to invest money and time into. They certainly want to avoid having to buy more than one course. I know I would. In fact, I do avoid buying courses because they are so costly.
If you have a successful niche site, should you enter the “how to blog” niche?
That’s a tough one. I did so because I enjoy writing about this business. I made peanuts from Fat Stacks for years. I sold an ebook before I was on Teachable and did some coaching here and there but for the most part Fat Stacks wasn’t a big earner for me in the early years. Moreover, I haven’t exactly lit the world on fire with search traffic to Fat Stacks. I think the only thing I’ve done well is nurturing a quality email newsletter. That’s where I’ve put the lion’s share of my time. I enjoy publishing a quality email newsletter.
It takes time to break into this niche unless you’re really good on YouTube. I’m not that good at making vids so I haven’t done all that great on YouTube. If you are good on YouTube, you could break in pretty fast.
There is quite a bit of competition as well. Income School. Authority Hacker. Morten Storgaard. Pat Flynn. Diggity’s Affiliate Lab. Kyle Roof’s SEO Courses. While some folks buy multiple courses, many choose one and stick with that model. I actually believe folks should pick a model/strategy and stick with it. All of the above courses work as does mine if followed properly, done well and stick with it.
Would I start Fat Stacks today?
Yeah, I probably would because I enjoy it. It’s not the most lucrative thing I have going on but it’s been a hoot to publish over the years. I’ve met some great folks in this business because of Fat Stacks. My mindset is that I don’t expect to rake in the bucks with Fat Stacks so whatever it does earn is gravy. That takes the pressure off of having to work hard at it.
Do I sell courses in other niches? Will I?
No, I don’t sell courses in any other niches. I’m not entirely opposed to it but I have to say earning mostly from programmatic ads is really sweet. It’s totally hands-off revenue other than my efforts to sustain and grow the sites. The fact is I don’t have to do anything on the revenue side. I just focus on growing the traffic.
I suppose there are some digital product options for me to sell in some of my other niches but I’m not really interested. As soon as you start charging people money directly, an obligation to be available is placed upon you. I don’t like that feeling. Moreover, I can command far more per course in the “how to blog” niche than selling courses and/or digital products in other niches. Generally speaking, a business audience will pay far more than a general consumer audience. For example, fitness courses sell for $27 to $97 with a few upsells and that’s a great niche for selling informational products. Contrast that with me being able to sell my course for $499. Some course creators charge 4x what I charge to their business audience.
For now, I have no plans to sell stuff in my other niches. I’ll continue letting programmatic ads do the earning.
Is selling courses worth it overall?
It all depends on how much the course earns. If I was still at $50K per year, I wouldn’t bother. I suspect for some, the amount I earn wouldn’t be worth it for them.
If you decide to sell a course, don’t let your first year determine whether it’s worth it. My first year wasn’t very good. It grew quickly though and if I continue selling courses, I have no doubt it’ll continue growing over the years.
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.