How I Started A $17K/Month Business Selling Project Management Ebooks And Courses
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, Pat and everyone else.
My name is Praveen Malik. I am a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) with rich 23+ years of rich professional experience. I am a computer science engineer by education and have a good working experience of managing large multi-geography projects and programs.
Today, I manage a successful eponymous blog (Project Management by Praveen Malik). It is one of the top 3 global blogs in its niche.
In the year 2016, we had negligible revenue from the blog but the blog has grown substantially since then. Our average revenue is about $17K per month. Our gross profit margin is about 80% since we maintain a very small team and there are no physical products. Our target is to achieve 100% revenue growth by the end of next year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I had an entrepreneurial bug right from my college days. I dabbled into a few businesses while working as an employee but did not see much success.
Before venturing into my current business, I worked in diverse business environments viz. product development, services & support, product-oriented services, and software as a service. I traveled extensively and was exposed to many different cultures. I worked and interacted with clients from different geographies viz. USA, Europe, and India.
I gained expertise in project management through my work.
I took a mid-career shift in the year 2008 and started doing freelance project management activities. In the process, I conducted a few project management workshops.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I believe one should recognize their weak points and work on them. It is never a good idea to brush something under the carpet.
I think I have a natural inclination for training and coaching, so I started concentrating only on the training. Over the years, I mentored & formally trained many successful individuals in the finer aspects of practical project management.
I started writing my blog in the year 2014. I wanted to enhance my reputation in the professional training world. The blog certainly helped my training business but it did much more than that. In about a year, the blog started attracting visitors from all over the Globe.
From here on, I started learning about blog monetization and Internet marketing. This transformed my classroom training into an online business. Today, I sell my own eBooks and market third-party project management training programs through my blog.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My first product was an eBook. I created it while I was still learning the ropes of Internet marketing.
My eBook was based on one of my popular blog posts. I practically locked myself inside a room for three days and wrote the first draft of this eBook. I put it on the blog and kept it free for a few days. I refined it later after receiving some feedback from the readers.
After refining the eBook, I formally published it with an initial price tag of $3.99. I was not sure how much would people pay. As the eBook became more popular, I increased the price. The current version of the eBook sells for $9.99.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I am a risk-averse person. I evaluate and analyze the situation before taking any big step. Back in the year 2008, I wanted to have some income stream before quitting my job.
To generate some regular income, I decided to become a freelance Project Management consultant. Before leaving my job, I approached a number of PM consulting organizations for giving me some work. I got a one year contract for working 5 days in a month with one such firm. This gave me an initial momentum to leave my job.
Initially, my freelance income was only through consulting assignments but later on, I started taking on training assignments. My training assignments were more lucrative and less strenuous so I concentrated only on the training.
In 2014, I started writing PM blogs to support my students and enhance my reputation in the PM training world. I didn’t have a clue about blog monetization at that time.
In late 2015, I was earning handsomely from my freelance training work so there was no real need to look elsewhere but around this time I realized that blogs can generate a healthy income. I started reading about ways to monetize a blog.
At the beginning of 2016, my blog had become quite popular. I started to implement some monetization strategies around this time. Initially, the pickup was very slow. I still remember that I earned about $20 in March 2016, I earned about $800 December 2016.
By the end of 2017, my blog was earning about $3000. It is a very good income to live a good life in India. I stopped taking training classes in November 2017.
Since my business was all online and I did not have only digital products, I did not need any capital to start the business. It was all self-funded.
Moving on in the year 2016, I thought of monetizing the blog. I was already earning handsomely from the freelance training work and my blog was popular. I stopped training classes only in the year 2017. I did not need any capital to start the online business.
Till today, we have kept our operations very small. I think we could have grown faster if we had employed more people but my philosophy has always been to create a revenue source before taking the next step.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Unlike many other businesses, which require a physical presence, we have an online business. Internet marketing worked favorably for us. We get most of our traffic from Google search and social media platforms.
We get about 60000+ page views every month. Here is a screen-shot of Google Analytics that shows overall traffic stats.
I have a good understanding of SEO. A number of my articles that rank well in Google. One of my most popular articles is on PMP practice exams. It ranks in Top 3 for keywords like best PMP simulator, top PMP practice exams.
In addition to SEO, I think our blog and social media content is very good. The PMP exam aspirants are knowledgeable and discerning people. Most of them have a graduate degree with an industry experience of more than 10 years.
We provide some free guides for the PMP exam prep on the website. Many professionals download these guides and become blog subscribers. We provide more free content through our initial email sequence and tell the benefits of our paid eBooks. Many people go on to buy our products.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are doing quite well. Our website is on autopilot but we are planning to increase the revenue by creating more information products.
Our website traffic continues to grow organically but we have also started spending on Google ads and Facebook ads. Currently, our ad spend is very small but it is likely to grow by next year.
Our expenses should remain the same as we do not need more staff members to grow traffic and revenue.
Since I have learned many things about Internet marketing while making my blog successful, we have started providing digital marketing services. We have a couple of clients and our operation is very small. At the moment, the revenue is negligible and it is not generating any profit since we are outsourcing this work to another agency. In the future, this is likely to grow.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have learned many things over the course of doing business but I would like to point out one particular thing.
One should not run after too many things or ideas. One should concentrate on a few goals and make your effort count.
I have learned this the hard way. I get too many ideas and I have wasted a lot of time chasing these ideas. Some of these ideas have been successful but a lot of them have been a wasted effort. The ideas were not bad. In fact, most of them were good but each idea needs time and effort for fruition, which requires a concerted effort.
Over a period of time, I have realized all ideas are not worthy and many of them cannot be practically executed. Nowadays, whenever I get a new idea, I make a small note and move on. I try not to get distracted by the new idea. Later, I ponder over the ideas, validate them with the team, shortlist them, and them execute them.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I use the following tools for my business:
- WPX for hosting
- Thrivethemes for WordPress
- Mailchimp for email marketing
- Gumroad for payments
- SERanking for SEO
- Buffer for social media
- VidIQ for Youtube
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am an avid reader but if I have to make a choice between all the books that I have read so far, I would recommend the following two books for entrepreneurs:
Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
The book is a must for every small business owner. It explains why most small businesses fail and what should business owners do about them. The book is written as a long story in a simple and lucid language. There is absolutely no business jargon. It can be understood by anyone. The book painstakingly explains why small business owners should work on their business and not in it. It talks about the virtues of implementing systems and processes to run the business.
Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson
This is a highly motivational and inspirational book. Dr. Ericsson has assimilated his years of research and written this book in a very simple manner. The book talks about the power of the mind and explains how one can achieve almost anything by doing purposeful and goal-oriented practice. Dr. Ericsson calls it "Deliberate Practice". The book refers to many case studies to prove how Deliberate Practice outscores natural talent.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Be honest with yourself. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. I believe one should recognize their weak points and work on them. It is never a good idea to brush something under the carpet.
In addition, I would like to give the following suggestions to other entrepreneurs:
- Use early morning time to plan for the day and getting things organized.
- Don’t run after too many ideas or opportunities. Just focus on your core strengths and business will come.
- Read and read more.
- Believe in yourself.
- Trust your team and give them space & flexibility to work.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking for freelancers designer who can help us with web design and social media creative work. This role includes the following tasks:
- Create infographics
- Create content for social media posting
- Web page design
- Prepare and maintain a calendar for social media posts
- Promote our website and blogs on various social media platforms
- Design images for social media posts
If someone is interested in working with me, she/he can contact me directly through Linkedin or send me an email at [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
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