Year End Review—2017

2017 has ended. I didn’t do a review earlier in the year because I wanted to wait till enrollment for Learn JavaScript closes. Everything that’s going to happen in 2018 depended on the results of the launch.

Now that it’s over, it’s time for a proper review.

I want to begin the review by talking about the projects I’ve worked on.

Projects I created

Mastering Responsive Typography

Mastering Responsive Typography is a course that focuses on web typography. I made this course to explain the aha moments I gained through experimenting with typography in the previous months.

I launched it in April 2017 to 1,600 people on my email list. It made approximately $4,000, which was a decent income.

I didn’t want to launch it to everyone on my email list because I thought it would be impolite to talk about typography when people on my newsletter are more concerned about CSS.

But deep down, I was trying to act smart. I thought I have reached a point where I could try segmenting the list. I didn’t. I had 6,000 subscribers I think. It was way too early. I should have launched it to everyone.

For Mastering Responsive Typography, I tried closing the cart too. I closed off the sales to the course because I wanted to see if I could make more money by releasing it at a later time (with hopefully more testimonials). Unfortunately, Mastering Responsive Typography never saw the light again. I moved on and started teaching JavaScript.

I received requests to open up Mastering Responsive Typography again though, which is nice. I’m going to find some time to open it up; this time, forever.

JavaScript Roadmap

JavaScript Roadmap is a free email course that shows people how to best learn JavaScript. It’s a course I put together after understanding a large number of learners was overwhelmed, afraid and confused about JavaScript. I wanted to help them through the process.

For JavaScript Roadmap, I didn’t focus entirely on JavaScript content. I took a risk with this course and talked about the overcoming the emotions—the feelings of overwhelm, confusion, fear, and paralysis—to learning. It turned out well. Many beginners found hope and felt motivated to learn JavaScript because of these lessons. This was a major turning point in the content I create.

Learn JavaScript

Learn JavaScript is a paid JavaScript course I created to help people learn JavaScript. I called it JavaScript Fundamentals originally.

I kicked off JavaScript Fundamentals in August 2017 by launching a pre-order through my email list. It was 8,000 strong then. I sold it at $75. Approximately 130 students pre-ordered and I earned $10,000. This is a turning point in last year; it’s the largest sum I ever earned from a launch. Plus, I didn’t expect people to pay $75 for something that’s non-existent.

I gathered questions from students when they pre-ordered JavaScript Fundamentals. From the responses, I improved my outline and added more content to the course. It eventually ballooned from an 8-module course to a 17-module one. I knew I had a beast on my hand, and I needed more time and money to make it work.

Early this year, between 4th January and 14th January, I re-branded JavaScript Fundamentals as Learn JavaScript and launched another pre-order. This time round, I charged three price points—$129, $259, and $649.

165 students enrolled in the pre-order. I was hoping for $20,000, expecting $25,000. (It’s kind of weird to hope for $20,000 and expect $25,000, but this just shows how little confidence I had with myself for the launch).

The results blew my mind once more. I earned $42,000—enough for me to dedicate a few months of full time work to Learn JavaScript.

One Million Journey

One Million Journey was a secret project. I wanted to talk about my plans and share my journey to achieving one million in revenue. I wanted to inspire, encourage and aid people who want to come along with the journey (for a fee, of course).

I launched One Million Journey to 900 people who replied to my email that asked if they wanted to hear about non-technical things. Then, I launched it again, later, through a PS in one of my emails.

I was scared to let everyone know about this launch. because the salespage was hilarious (looking back). I’m not going to show it to you, but those who’ve saw it would probably agree. I was so afraid of sharing my story that I used profanity to push people away 🤣.

But four people joined. Two of them were active for a while. The other two were literally ghosts.

For the two active participants, we chatted about our goals and dreams and money making plans through Slack and video calls. I hope I’ve helped them rethink their lives.

In December, one of the active people quit the group because he wanted to focus on something else. In January, the other active person quit the group. I decided to shut down the project on 17th January 2018.

Will I reopen One Million Journey again? Probably, but I’m definitely not going to do it in the next two years. I’ve got grand plans for the next two years.

Other things I’ve started or did

Here’s a list of random things that I started or did. After this list, you’ll see a list of the lessons I learned in the year.

  1. I snowboarded five times while I was hanging out in the States for two months.
  2. I tried to submit CFPs to talks. All of them failed, except for one weird one, which I gave last Friday at JSConf.Asia. It’s the most important talk I gave so far. You’ll hear about this soon.
  3. I wrote 29 articles on my blog even though I tried to write 52. I can’t remember how many guest articles I wrote.
  4. I created 6 videos.
  5. I tried to freelance again (but failed).
  6. I created four designs—a redesign of zellwk.com, the salespage for Mastering Responsive Typography, the landing page for JavaScript Roadmap and the salespage for Learn JavaScript.
  7. I wrote almost everyday. I tried to hit 5,000 words a day, and I managed to hit the target on most days. My highest record so far is 12,600 words in a single day. This was in January.
  8. I taught a frontend development course at General Assembly. The teaching experience was mind blowing for me.
  9. I assembled a small team of four designers to help me design components Learn JavaScript. It was fun and challenging to work with different people from different background with different thought processes.

Surprising things I discovered

  1. I love snowboarding! I love it so much that I want to do it again this year. I wanted to do it last year too, but finances were tight :(
  2. I had no idea what my level of JavaScript was. I always thought I was below average with it. Turns out, I’m not 😎.
  3. I never thought I could sell a pre-order at $259, and people would buy it, and they would thank me for it after going through the materials. It’s a big eye opener.

Lessons I learned

  1. Marketing is complicated. It’s way more complicated than most digital marketers out there think. I had the opportunity to go through Seth Godin’s Marketing Seminar and got mind blown maybe 20 times. Still consolidating lessons from the course to help market my materials. Expect magic in 2018 😎.
  2. It’s important to speak about emotions; it’s important to tell my stories. They’re not boring stories. They connect with people.
  3. Closing launch sequences drive sales for a short time, but I need a good reason to close the launch. If I don’t, I won’t have a reason to open up the product again. It’ll become dead.
  4. It’s worth the effort to write good quality articles. I didn’t see it working out for me financially from 2015 to 2017, but it worked out now with Learn JavaScript.
  5. I won’t be able to live off product creation if I price low. An incredible amount of work that goes into each of my products. If I got no money, I need to find a job; if I find a job, I won’t create as much, and the world doesn’t benefit.
  6. Launch my courses to everyone. It’s still too early to be smart about systems.
  7. Joy doesn’t come from work, it doesn’t come from leisure. It’s a state where you can get into. You need nothing to be joyful.
  8. You’re going to face resistance everyday. What’s important is to sit down and do the work everyday. Do what you can, and let the rest speak for itself.
  9. You are not entitled to the results. If you create meaningful work, the results will come, but you need to be ready for the results to come too. If I didn’t charge a high price for Learn JavaScript, I’d probably be looking for a job right now.
  10. Giving away something for free doesn’t equate to generosity; discounting doesn’t equate to generosity Charging low doesn’t equate to generosity. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned. I need to share more about this in 2018.
  11. It’s useless to keep secrets when I’m creating things. I should share them openly instead, because if nobody knows it, nobody will buy it. The thing will die.
  12. I understood why I didn’t want to freelance as a designer or a developer. Since I run my own business, I know firsthand that design nor code doesn’t make money. They’re aids. Charging for design/code doesn’t help a client. Fixing their products or showing them how to sell does. So, instead of freelancing as a designer/developer, I might want to freelance as a business consultant. Not going to focus on this much, because I want to focus on my own teaching business this year.

I’m not sure how helpful it is to read through a list of lessons like the one you’ve just read above. Some of the lessons I learned cannot be taught through words. You have to experience them.

But I hope it helped somehow.

Plans for 2018

My plan for 2018 is simple. Focus on creating, communicating and delivering value. I’m going to focus on three things.

  1. Blog posts and videos—I’m going to create content every week without fail (except when I’m launching something).
  2. Learn JavaScript—I intend to complete Learn JavaScript by June 2018 and launch the full course by July 2018. This is going to be a tough one.
  3. A free CSS Course—I have grand plans for this CSS course. If the plans succeeds, this will be big. I’m going to keep quiet about the plans until I finish Learn JavaScript. I don’t want to spill the beans when I can’t work on it! If you have any CSS questions, click on this link and leave some questions!

I also have plans for 2019. I’m thinking of creating two more paid courses. If you want me to make these courses, click on the links and leave some questions!

  1. A course on building webapps
  2. A design course for frontend developers

I have plans for 2020 too, but it’s too early to say anything now. I just know the next few years will be exciting 😎.

Aren’t you excited?

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