This Is What Online Teaching Success Looks Like (Pie Charts and all)

Dear Grumosapiens,

I’ve spent all last week crunching numbers for you HERE.

That spreadsheet contains a very detailed breakdown of all the resources required to create and market your first online course.

The contents are based on 6 years of experience selling online courses and on thousands of hours of research.

I created this resource to help you gain a clear understanding of what it takes to become a successful online teacher today.

What “successful” means is relative, but for practical purposes, I define success as the ability to derive enough income from selling online courses to replace a 9-5 full-time job.

In North America, that baseline would be about $50K a year or anything above the US median household income.


It depends on several variables but mainly on your skills and the size of your existing audience.

If you already have a huge audience, making $50K can take literally seconds.

How? just imagine Justin Bieber tweeting a link to one an online course titled “How To Sing like Justin Bieber” to his 90+ million followers.

Whether you like Bieber nor not, he has it all in spades – the skills and the audience – to make millions at the drop of a dime… or tweet?

But you and I are not Justin Bieber, so we need to work on growing our skills and audience to be able to make the big bucks or the enough-to-survive bucks.

The spreadsheet contains a realistic breakdown of what will it take for someone starting with basic Internet skills and no audience to get to the “success” level in one year.

Here is the spreadsheet summarized in a pie chart:

Do you notice something standing out?

When all is said and done, it turns out that creating the course represents only 7% of the total labor you’ll have to invest your first year teaching online.

Most of the time you’ll need to spend doing marketing related activities such as; creating content, writing articles, publishing videos, promoting on social media, building your email list, writing copy, etc.

Why so? because in order to sell anything you need to build an audience, and to build and audience, you need to do lots of marketing.

If you love doing marketing then you’ll love that pie chart because you’ll get the biggest piece for you to chomp on. But if you are a regular happy-go-lucky creator that enjoys teaching on the side for fun, then the prospect of having to spend 9 out of 10 hours doing anything but creating your online course, can be a little bit disheartening.

But you came here to hear the truth, the yes-almighty Grumo truth. And the truth is that you better get good at marketing or your chances of succeeding online will be as low as the odds of catching a neutrino with your fingers.


As you can see in the pie, by investing a zillion hours in it. Learn about marketing, read about it, breath it, dream it, do it. (I wrote an article describing some of the best marketing strategies HERE.)

If you value your work-hour at a conservative $25/hr my estimate is that you’ll need to spend around $20K a year of your time doing all the marketing stuff.

Ultimately, if you have the budget, you could outsource some or most of it. In fact, anytime you see yourself spending too much time doing something you don’t enjoy much, you should consider outsourcing it. That’s one of the golden rules of business growth as explained in the book E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.


There are two costs associated with any tool. 1. The monetary costs to acquire it and 2. The labor time costs to learn how to use it, set it up, and maintain it.

Most people overlook or fail to estimate the second cost. I’ve found out that the labor time cost can be orders of magnitude more expensive than the actual monetary cost of the tool.

On the online course resource master list I’ve made a point to sum the labor costs associated with all the tools you’ll need to run a small sized ($50K/year) online business.

As you can see in the pie chart above, that labor cost represents the second largest segment after marketing. It’s safe to say that for every tool you employ to run your business you’ll spend minimum 1 hour setting it up properly and 1 hour a month using it and/or maintaining it.

Tool-associated labor adds up quickly. You can expect at least 10 hours of labor per tool per year and you’ll need close 30 tools or more to run your business. That’s 300 hours a year to deal with tools alone!

Tools include items like your web host, email automation, analytics software, bookkeeping software, course hosting software, social media accounts, etc.

Of course, on top of the labor cost, you have to account for the monetary cost which between software, tools, and equipment can easily add to $8 to $10K a year.

Here is a breakdown of those costs.

If you are not technically inclined, this is another area you may want to consider to outsource to one or several contractors. Most likely you’ll need help setting up and maintaining your website, building your sales funnel, setting up email automation, setting up your social media accounts properly, and doing your bookkeeping.


If you account for both your monetary and labor costs (and you should), you are looking at a minimum investment of $50K a year to get to the baseline “success” level selling online courses.

Do you see a problem with that? I’m sure you do. I’m telling you need to invest $50K worth of time and money to “hopefully” make $50K on your first year teaching online.

If you already have a full-time job pulling this off will prove to be quite a challenge. A typical full-time job takes 2,000 hours a year and my estimate adds up to about 1,500 hours of work to start making some meaningful income selling online courses.

But that’s is true for starting any business. The first year is the hardest and that’s why most people fail. Transitioning from a full-time job and a steady paycheck to an uncertain source of income, is not something most people are willing or capable of doing.

That’s why entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It sounds good on paper, that’s what all the gurus sell you – the money, the freedom. No one tells you about the hard work because that part doesn’t sell.


Yes and No. If you put in the hours, create a great course, get good at marketing, and build the basic infrastructure on your first year, the second year should be economically more favorable.

Remember what I said before. The two main variables to succeed are your skills and your audience. By the second year, you will have gained an amazing amount of new skills and your audience will inevitably be larger.

Your audience is your livelihood. That’s why all marketers focus on growing their email list. A common rule of thumb is the $1 per subscriber per month. So in order to make $50K a year you would need an email list of about 4,000 subscribers (50,000 / 12).

If you don’t count your labor, to break even based on the expenses I estimated on the spreadsheet, you’d need a list of just over 1,000 subscribers.


Lots of people! Bryan Harris of VideoFruit has hundreds of case studies of regular folks building large email lists and making tens of thousands in sales selling online products.

Bryan is smart, he realized that the key to success online was audience building first and product creation next. Most people focus on creating products and have no one to sell them too!

Not surprisingly, none of those case studies tell you exactly how much time and money they invested to achieve¬†some success, but based on what you’ve learned today you can bet it was the result of a ton of work.

So lots of work, work, work! What’s new pussycat?

Let me know if you enjoyed this breakdown and I’ll keep sharing the fruit of my research and exploration on the world of online teaching and digital marketing.

Peace, love, and Bieber cookies.


P.S: This week’s winner of an official Grumo t-shirt is… Brent Rivera! (please reply to this email with your shirt size and address)

P.2: Did you miss last week’s email? No problem you can read it HERE.

P.3: This message took about 6 hours to manufacture in Vancouver, Canada.

Do you want to win a FREE Grumo t-shirt? To enter the contest just click HERE. Thanks to our awesome sponsor ShirtBattle.

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