We recently avoided becoming co-creators of a fine joint venture course. However, we did create something – two things in fact – with a happy result.
If you’re considering partnering up for a similar project, you might want to read our story and take note of these FOUR important lessons we learned. Get ready for a raw dose of reality and a very happy ending which can help you profit while avoiding common risks.
by April Lewis & Judy Olbrych
1. Realize and accept that there is no such thing as a joint venture in business.
Unless it gets very sticky, very messy, and yes, sometimes very ugly.
Seriously though. The world is a shitty place sometimes. And the legal hoops you have to go through to ensure you’re not financially liable to the greedy is, well, literally unbelievable.
“Hey, Judy! So, we should do a workshop together. We’ll teach people how to make money with the basic affiliate marketing strategy I came up with for myself and started teaching my consulting clients. Their one pain point after our calls is always…. There’s SO MUCH copy to write!?! Our workshop can solve that pain point. It’s a win, win!”
And thus started the best and worst idea ever.
Been in that same situation?
Yeah, we still kind-of are. Because that ONE workshop turned into a whole course. Which spawned a brain dump of future courses and digital products we could sell together.
We weren’t completely naive though. We tested the first workshop idea. Validated it. Got a tremendous response. 25 people signed up. We made $1250. Then PRE-SOLD the full course at the end of the workshop and got a buy rate of 33% and made another $423 in course upgrades at a beta price. Of those that bought the pre-sell, 78% bought an affiliate strategy consulting bundle to go with the course, that earned me another $1,145. Then we finished building out the course. Opened it up to the beta testers, wrote a sales page, built a sales page, and made it live. But we didn’t ‘launch’. We were still testing and learning at this point.
We started receiving feedback from our beta testers. We created a closed Facebook group for them and engaged all the input they could give us. Judy in her infinite wisdom put surveys in each course module of Teachable to get specific anonymous feedback. And we started going through it all. Implementing what we could immediately and strategizing what we had to implement in time.
Even comments with improvement suggestions were still glowingly positive about the course as is.
We were onto something. We validated our idea. Time to really take action, right?
Judy: When April asked me to do the first webinar, just 15 minutes of talking about upgrade bundles together had my head bursting with ideas and my pen scribbling fast.
When we planned our first workshop, we soon filled multiple docs with future course plans and outlines. There was synchronicity – each idea led to a host of new ones.
April networked and promoted, found designers, and kept things moving at a fast pace. I wrote sales copy and gathered content, and we both formatted webinar slides faster than a quad core processor.
The stats were good, we were genuinely helping others, and we were encouraged by the positive feedback.
We even met up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and had a delightful evening cooking, eating, and relaxing by the water … chatting about food, travel, family, and everything in-between. (April had the table set and full of good food when we arrived … and seriously, get her recipe for that pasta salad with the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar).
What could go wrong?
2. Highways aren’t the only things that get jammed.
April: When you start talking about things like the FTC and privacy policies and disclaimers…. Liability issues make people want to CYA, as they should. Like I said before, the world is a messy place on the best of days.
Creating things like partnerships, LLC’s, and legal agreements make for a huge, chaotic mess of things you don’t think about in everyday life. Take me, for example. Up until this point in my business I was a sole proprietor. Granted, I was becoming a fairly successful one. Six months into 2017 and I’d already surpassed my whole annual income of 2016.
It was time.
Time for me to have my OWN LLC to CYA in my own business. And now I’ve created this piece of shared online real estate with my buddy, Judy, and all of a sudden it’s not just my work anymore… it’s hers too. Which means her liability and reputation gets put on the line too.
I never thought about that in my whole ‘Hey Judy, I got a great idea’ creative outburst. All I thought about was the potential to help people. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility.
And being totally responsible is an unbreakable commitment you have to make.
Judy: We were thinking: “Why can’t we simply share things and keep it easy?”
In the meantime, we were warned that the partnership road led to disaster.
Advisors with 100+ years of combined experience told us shared LLCs were not the way to go and content ownership would get messy and usually ended in tears. Breakups were messy too – like splitting a pet fish.
And we had a beautiful course. Now what?
I heard even more business stories – the ones your friends and relatives don’t share until the time is right … with all the Technicolor details of personal loss, tragedy, and triumph in the lives of those who play the game.
Then there were legal hassles. A shared LLC meant looking at all this and more:
- Choosing a state
- Choosing a name
- Choosing a registered agent
- Filing articles of organization
- Drawing up an operating agreement
- Officially deciding on rights and responsibilities of each partner
- Deciding % of business owned by each
- Spelling out the details of managing the business
- Then there’s form 1065, a partnership return of income
- A K-1 for each member showing exactly how much of the income they made
- All itemized deductions and tax credits
But with an Individual LLC, it’s relatively simple. You just report it on a schedule C on your individual tax return. You have to appoint a few people to do things. And I’ve read so many other rules that I’m going to just refer you to your state business website now. Read it all before you even think of doing another thing.
3. If your idea was worth the work, it’s worth the energy it takes to figure it out.
April: Not enough people stick anymore. It’s almost a universal given that people bail. Everything and everyone is disposable.
But have you ever just ONCE felt something on a primal level ‘click’?
That’s all it takes. One time.
And if your idea, course, project, etc. clicks with you and your co-conspirator, then for all that’s holy… STICK IT OUT and find a way to make it work!
So that’s what we did.
Judy: Click ‘n’ stick … I think you have something there.
April, again: I think that’s a free ecourse for the curious course creator….?
4. You must beat the system. Check mate.
April: I’ve seen some things. Since I’ve been in online business, I’ve seen entrepreneurs give up and partners lose everything when a business changes. I’ve seen people leave their unique individuality in the dust when they stop focusing on their big reason for doing it all in the first place.
I don’t want any of those things.
The best way, and the only way we found to work together AND remain smart, sustainable business owners is to do just that…
Our way around the situation was that I create my part of the course content that works and put it in a course all its own. By the time it’s done, it’s going to be even more massive than it was before. And Judy created her part of the course all on her own. Again, she’d be producing an even more epic, value filled course than originally planned.
This solutions accomplishes multiple things…
- Everyone is responsible and protected.
- Our content remains under our control.
- We can both market our pieces however we choose.
- None of the work is wasted.
- Our customers will get two even better courses, more value packed than before.
- And our friendship is as great as ever.
If you want to NOT succeed at creating a course or product with a talented friend, take our advice… do it yourself, then get creative with marketing each other. Because that my friends, there is no limit on.
Judy: Although we’re continually studying, working with coaches, reading books, and talking to advisors …
We’re also continually learning to shift with every new experience in this rapidly changing digital marketing space.
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. – Lee Iacocca”
But bottom line is this…
The customer always comes first.
We hear from people all the time who dream of having recurring income with affiliate marketing …
But they get stuck.
- They’re afraid of alienating readers and destroying trust by sounding salesy.
- They don’t know how to find the best opportunities.
- And they get bogged down in the trenches of the actual content writing.
This is a project we were committed to and we couldn’t give up.
Having two courses that jive would allow us to TOTALLY concentrate on bringing incredible value to the online community, helping others reach amazing success and wealth.
So we took the resources we had already made to help any blogger, freelancer, or digital marketer who wants to get started with affiliate marketing … and expanded them to help all our course participants have greater success.
- So moms supporting families can continually add to their income and have more free time to spend with their children.
- So freelancers can create supplemental income streams allowing them to get more sleep or pick and choose their clients, without facing financial meltdown.
- So digital marketers and bloggers can grow their businesses by getting paid for what they’re already doing to help others.