Escaping the 9-to-5 Grind to Create a $3 Million Business with Joel Hooks of egghead.io

Episode #075

Joel Hooks (@jhooks) never found it easy to spend his life working for other people. So when he came across an inspirational book that told him he could learn to code and build his own company, he embarked on a fateful journey to do just that. Learn how Joel helped start a sustainable business that connects programmers to educators, and how he bootstrapped it to over $3 million in annual revenue.

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    Heyyyyyy peeps! Thanks to Joel for name-checking me repeatedly :D The core guiding principle behind my class, 30x500, is to start with the audience. And Sales Safari is how you figure out that audience so you can offer them things they’ll actually buy.

    Why do we start with the customer? Because you can make things on your own, but you can’t make them a business unless somebody will pay for them. So why not skip all the flailing and “product-market fit” failure, and jump straight to something you already know people will pay for before you even start?

    It really is that simple. (I’m not saying it’s easy, exactly; it takes a fair amount of work, but it’s not complicated. It’s a helluva lot simpler — and more likely to succeed — than lean.)

    You can learn more (free) here:



    And stay tuned cuz Alex and I have a really awesome Black Friday deal coming up that includes our Sales Safari workshop.

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    wow that is very inspiring for me.

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    My Main Takeaways:

    • Egghead is a two-sided market

    • Egghead was bootstrapped by Joel and his co-founder back in 2013. Egghead is now (at the time of this interview, 2018) generating $250k per month, and they have 12 full-time employees

    • Bootstrapping and not raising money can be considered a “slower” way to grow your business.

    • Be patient: Joel worked on his current life (free from the 9-5 grind) for about a decade.

    • You don’t have to be the best programmer, you just need to be creative and proactive: Joel considers himself a mediocre programmer

    • Joel is a laid-back CEO, giving his employees a lot of freedom, they don’t even have deadlines

    • Joel liked reading about business, marketing and entrepreneurship. None of this learning really came together for him, until he took a class called “30x500” by Amy Hoy which was about learning how to bootstrap a business. He took this class for 3 years.

    • Don’t think of big ideas, just find problems that people have and solve them.

    • Joel got his idea for helping developers, in an epiphany moment when he attended a conference. He took Sketchnotes and sold them on his blog for $5 each, he sold a few hundred dollars of this. This was his first product.

    • ***Persist if you believe in it: Joel got the idea for selling courses when he saw his friend's developer tutorial series on YouTube. He asked his friend (John) if he could package his videos into a course and sell them to his John's email list of 6,000 people. John initially rejected, but Joel played the long game and stayed consistent, handling objections over time, until John eventually said “yes”, and then the sales did about $6500 in the first week. They then became co-founders, and this money was used as the seed money for their first year of Egghead.

    • Joel got his first few instructors directly from his network.

    • In his two-sided market place, it was harder to find instructors for his platform, than it was to get paying students.

    • Money is not a great motivator. Joel has even had a hard time getting people to take money in advance for a course, simply because the potential instructor is unsure of the commitment.

    • Joel offers mentoring to help their instructors “graduate” out of Egghead, and into independent instructors with their own followings, which is a great incentive to do well on Egghead.

    • After launching Egghead, it was increasing by $1000 MRR every week in the early stages, but has slowed down as of recent (but not necessarily decreased). Joel was able to quit his job after 4 months of starting Egghead and started doing workshops on the side to augment his income. He stopped the workshops after about 3 years.

    • Joel and John had a small audience when starting that trusted them, which helped them make sales in the beginning.

    • Joel doesn’t focus on competition at all.

    • If you’re a working developer, your company likely has a budget for you to spend on your learning a development.

    • If you make something of quality with consistency, then people will come and watch your stuff.

    • You HAVE to ASK people online for their email/payment/etc despite it feeling like you are “annoying” them.

    • Joel has had many offers to sell his company, but he has declined them all because he does not want to exit.

    • Joel loves working despite the fact he no longer needs to. At the same time, he understands that he sometimes prefers to take days off, or even weeks off.

    • Joel works a lot.

    • Joel says that K through 12 education is a just conversion sales funnel for college debt.

    • Joel invests a lot into his self-development. He pays for mentors and coaches.

    • Advice for beginners: Do something like 30x500, don’t try and learn this on your own. Take things one step at a time.

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      Solid summary!

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        Thanks! And Thanks for the podcast episode!

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    Great interview! Somehow I missed or could not understand the following: "Joel Hooks (@jhooks) never found it easy to spend his life working for other people. So when he came across an inspirational book that told him he could learn to code and build his own company, he embarked on a fateful journey to do just that. "
    Which book was it?

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      There are a lot of them, but Hackers and Painters was what the blurb is referring to IIRC. Rich Dad Poor Dad is what I read 15-20 years ago that got me started thinking about doing my own thing.

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        Thanks! Yes, I heard the references to both books in the podcast. However I didn't connect these to the blurb.

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    Hey, @joelhooks. That was a really interesting interview, especially the part about your new projects.

    I've grown my Elixir-focused screencasting channel on YouTube about 3x since we last chatted on IH and I'm now actually selling enough premium memberships on Alchemist.Camp to cover my rent. So far zero cancellations and overwhelmingly positive feedback on YouTube and Reddit, but slow subscriber growth.

    Is there any mutually beneficial way for budding new screencasters such as myself to work with Egghead or any of your other ventures?

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      Happy Subscriber here! <3

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        Thank you and that is so cool to hear!

        Right now, the vast majority of subscribers are other from places where professional SWEs or students hang out. I think indies will have an especially good upside from both the language's strengths and some of my planned lessons once I've covered all the basics of the ecosystem.

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          I remember that I was drawn in by the game state machine stuff. Processes are great too, and now the channels. Awesome!

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      Have you seen https://howtoegghead.com?

      Congrats on growing to the “pay the rent” level. That’s huge!

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        Thanks! It's been exciting and I eagerly look forward to the day when it covers all my living expenses.

        I hadn't seen that page but it looks very, very similar to https://instructor.egghead.io/guide/, which you linked last time.

        If you wouldn't mind answering, a couple of questions I'd really appreciate it (and submit a sample video depending on the answer).

        1. ~~Can I continue screencasting on my own site if I make tutorials for Egghead? I wouldn't use the same videos of course, but I plan to cover everything and anything Elixir on my site. ~~ (Answer yes, found on your egghead podcast)
        2. Do I have to use my full name on egghead? I prefer to keep a smaller surface area when it comes to online privacy, due to a previous harrowing experience.
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    Great podcast. Both interesting questions and answers.

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    I hope my SaaS helps me some day to be in a similar position to Joel's. He's living the life I want to.

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