Not an Overnight Success: How I made $103k While Traveling Europe

It all started in 2003, when I was working for an online university called American Inter-Continental University. I was an admissions officer and hating my “working for the man” lifestyle. I remember loathing my cubicle, bouncing up and down on my yoga ball office chair, and banging my head against my desk… hoping to die.

I was 23, freshly graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Multimedia Design, (unable to get a job as a designer) and wondering if this was going to be the rest of my life, two weeks of vacation and a cubicle…FOREVER.

I would call my boyfriend everyday after work to just unload all of the horrible things about my day. I gained tons of weight. I drank copious amounts of wine. My boyfriend broke up with me because I was miserable (and apparently with a bit of a drinking problem.)

Little did I know that this stupid-mind-numbing-hell-hole of a job, was going to give me a million dollar idea.

At the time, this particular online university was making millions of government funded student loans, and I was helping them do it. A light bulb went off that we indeed were on the verge of a digital gold rush, and that I needed to somehow be a part of it, but that I certainly was not going to be able to do it working for a set salary job with a glass ceiling over my head.

I saw university professors from Harvard that worked for AIU, and other traditional universities working poolside while traveling, and I thought to myself “I want to get an MBA, so I too can travel while I work.”

So, that’s exactly what I did, I paid $33,000 in student loans for an MBA from an online university to teach for online universities. My first gig? Teaching 400 students at a university in Tokyo in person. My second gig? Teaching online for my alma mater the University of Oregon.

I fell in love with teaching. I fell even more in love with being location independent. I wanted to find a way to combine it with my other talent (and education) graphic design and branding with teaching.

There was a little problem with this online teaching thing. I was only getting paid $800 to $2000 a course and was managing hundreds of students. In addition to that my twenty some odd graphic design clients, that were ruling my life with endless corrections and time sucking projects.

I found myself again, happy to be mobile, but miserable as a slave to now tons of bosses instead of one. I really wanted a way to stop trading dollars for hours. I didn’t know what to do.

Then one day in 2009, my boyfriend at the time, forwarded me a book on how to make money online with Zig Ziglar. And a light bulb moment came to me, “What if I had my own graphic design and branding school?”

Suddenly my career had a direction, and life started to have more meaning. What I didn’t realize was that I was going to have a slew of a million mental blocks, confidence issues, distractions and personal issues to get through, along with five more years of preparation before I could launch it. Not to mention, technology in 2009 was no where near where it is now, in regards to online marketing and course development.

So instead of instantly creating my own school, I started teaching branding and design classes for the University of Oregon online, and decided to use the experience there as a complete testing grounds to discover how a ‘non-designer’ could learn how to design like a professional in the fastest way possible.

I developed a solid teaching philosophy. I then took a job as a Senior Designer, designing for one of the biggest brands in the world, Nike. I took extensive notes to apply to my teaching philosophy on branding and design.

I joined Marie Forleo’s B-School, and discovered the power of Facebook marketing on a social level with over 15,000 other entrepreneurial women, I got a lot of exposure and networking to launch my school.

I used my experience at the University of Oregon and Nike, to create a teaching philosophy that was so effective that when I finally did launch my school in 2014, I had so many hugely successful beta testers who had taken my methods and were designing like professionals in a matter of weeks.

Then “Launch Your Brand” my signature program was born.

Launch Your Brand (My first Signature Course)

My beta testers ended up designing for famous rock bands, and leading to lucrative design careers working for themselves by creating sold out mini design agencies. I was thrilled. My students were elated. My career was finally as satisfying as it was lucrative. I couldn’t get enough.

Now instead of making $1500–2000 per class, I was making $1000–2000 per student! My first launch with only an email list of 1500 people brought in $33,000. The next launch a few months later, $27,000. I proceeded to launch 4x during the year, to bring in well over $100,000 my first official year in business.

Then a beautiful thing happened in 2015… technology got really awesome. Course platforms like Teachable*, email marketing systems like Convertkit*, and lead generation platforms like Leadpages*, finally made my business jump from these $33k and below launches to my first $64k launch in November of 2015.

(Which mind you, I had this $64,000 launch while traveling Europe, with nothing more than 8 emails, 2 blog entries and 1 FAQ webinar to a list of only 2500 people.)

I thank the improvement in technology for this first big win, along with a tested and successful program. I was ready to take that $64,000 and go to the next level in my business.

As the universe would have it, two big things were sent my way. One was a woman name of Jenny Taylor, had contacted me about doing a branding video. I was very hesitant! My first thoughts were “What is a branding video going to do for my business?” It just felt like a gamble.

Everything was working in my business, and I didn’t know how this was going to help me. I had a new product coming out called “The Course Launcher” to teach entrepreneurs how to have their own course.

My Second Signature Course “The Course Launcher”

Jenny had helped Kimra Luna with a brand video that had lead to a $700,000+ launch, and I was familiar with the credibility that it had brought her. So I thought, why not give it a try?

I had done some research and found out that Facebook ads with videos were highly converting and not very expensive. I dove in and made the investment and was very happy with the results.

Here is the video Jenny wrote and directed for “The Course Launcher.”

The second big thing that happened, was I made the decision to invest in a high level $25,000 a year mastermind with James Wedmore (the You Tube, and marketing genius.) and this also propelled me into the next level in my business.

To put it bluntly while my business was pulling in six figures I invested almost $90,000 of it back into the business.

What preceded to happen completely and totally blew my mind. I finally broke through my upper limit issues, in April of 2015, I had a $127,000 launch, with “The Course Launcher.” This came with only $24,000 in expenses: (branding video, Facebook ads, launch management, and affiliate payouts). I had made my first six figure profit!

Then I thought, “How can I prove this wasn’t a fluke?” and I proceeded to follow the same exact method for the next launch. (FYI back to back launches are not recommended!)

I hired Jenny again to do the next brand video, to do my launch management and her Facebook Ads person. This time we were going to try it with my signature program “Launch Your Brand”. The only issue was that we were going to be launching during summer, which in previous experience was the WORST time to launch.

Here was the video for “Launch Your Brand” my signature course:

So I decided to take a lesson from my previous $64,000 launch in Europe and go back to Europe. I figured I could either be stressed and tied to my computer in Portland, Oregon (where I lived), or I could be devouring cappuccinos and fruit tarts, kissing handsome men in Italy while working. So, I booked a trip to Florence, Italy and got an Airbnb* for a month.

There is something absolutely amazing about launching while traveling, especially when you have a home base. The important things to figure out are “will the place have fast enough internet?” (especially in Italy) and will you be in a stable, quiet and dependable environment to focus on work while still having fun in your off time?

One thing that’s awesome about booking Airbnb’s* is that if you book a month you generally get a discount, and in my case I rented an architectural dream called “The Box House,” and got a 33% discount which ended up being less than $70 a day.

Airbnb “The Box House” in Florence Italy

I ended up not having affiliates for this launch, but did spend $24,000 on launch management and a brand video with an ad budget of $9,000. The total revenues ended up being $103,000, with a profit of $79,000. Not too bad, considering I did this while vacation. I did this without a VA, or a complicated team.

Here are the takeaways from this experience! If you want to do something like this, here is what I recommend:

  1. Come up with a course idea (something related to your professional expertise that you could really blow people away with your knowledge.)
  2. Test this course idea, by surveying people who suffer from the problem your course is trying to solve. You can find these people in Facebook groups, Linkedin Groups, Meetup Groups, and of course previous clients.
  3. Beta test your course idea for FREE, before you officially launch it. If you can’t get people interested in your course when it’s free they certainly are not going to pay for it. I did 2 beta tests with my signature course before I found material that worked. You need to do this to collect testimonials. You need to test your material. Also truly commit to your students success. If they’re successful, you’ll be successful.
  4. Wait to launch until you have an engaged list of at least 1500 email subscribers.
  5. When you do launch OVER-DELIVER… do webinars (free online trainings) to show people your talents for free first. They need a taste of why working with you is awesome.

As you can see it was quite a journey to get here. I am definitely not an overnight success (it only took me 13 years) but I’m well on my way. I’m happy to announce that my Course Launcher students have experienced amazing 5 figure launches for their very first course, and with the over 100 students that signed up for The Course Launcher, 66% of them launched within 3 weeks!

I highly recommend joining the online course band wagon as now that it’s been proven to be a sustainable and lucrative opportunity for you to quit your day job and start living a lifestyle of freedom, helping others, and become the expert you’ve always dreamed of being.


Jenna Soard, MBA, BS, Branding & Design Expert, Course Creation Ninja and Founder of You Can Brand

You can email her at jenna@youcanbrand.com or join her Free Facebook Group Here!

*Anything with an asterix is an affiliate link, and I only recommend businesses that I personally have used and have had success with!