How Julia McCoy Productized Her Expertise into a
7-Figure Acquisition

📈 See how she did it...

🌲 Welcome to Passive Profits! The mission here is to help current & aspiring founders win back time & freedom by productizing your expertise into offers you build once and sell forever.

Read Time: 7 mins (or listen to this issue)

Hey founder,

In the very first edition of the Passive Profits newsletter, I shared my own story of productizing my consulting services into courses and toolkits.

Since then, I’ve been wanting to bring you more founder stories, to help you learn and become galvanized by fellow founders a few (or many) steps down the road from you.

Because, being able to see the path they took, learn about pitfalls they overcame, and witness the success they achieved, offers you a north star to guide your journey.

And so today I’m thrilled to bring you the inspiring Founder-Creator story of Julia McCoy.

You’ll learn how she transformed her content marketing consultancy into an online course business that she eventually exited for seven figures.

💡 If you know any founders, like Julia, that you’d like me to feature in an upcoming Founder-Creator Story, reply and let me know who they are!

Humble beginnings and hard work

In 2011, with a personal investment of $75, Julia started a content agency called Express Writers.

Like most service-based businesses, Julia spent a lot of time hustling to build her book of business. Growth came slowly, at first, mostly by word-of-mouth.

But given Julia’s writing abilities, she decided to start blogging. Julia knew she was playing the long game with this route, but she was much more interested in sustainable growth on her owned realty (i.e. content on her domain) vs “sexy” marketing (i.e. a viral TikTok video).

Julia devoted ~3 hours per month researching lead-generating topics. She would then write and publish four 1,000 to 3,000-word blogs per month.

Once she systematized her blogging process, she delegated it so that she could focus on her clients, team, and cultivating new growth levers.

Over time of delivering great work and creating valuable content, the growth of her business compounded. By 2017, Julia had assembled a 40-person team that had delivered $4M in consulting.

But she was also growing wearing of the grind of selling hers and her team’s time for money. Most days were 12+ hours.

"Running an agency, selling 100% human-led services, isn’t for the faint of heart."

Julia McCoy

Then, in 2018, she took her first steps toward productizing her skills and services by acting on an internal company problem…

Scratching her own (growing) itch

As Julia’s team grew, she spent less time delivering all of the work, and more time managing and coaching her people.

The team would continually ask her where to go to learn how to put together a content strategy. Additionally, her clients and prospective clients also needed to understand what good content strategy looked like.

Julia researched various courses she found on the internet, none of which impressed her. This gap signaled an unmet need.

At the same time, Julia had developed an informed hunch that the content marketing industry was only set to grow over the coming years.

She was right. In 2017, the content marketing industry was at $300B in global revenue. In 2023 it eclipsed $600B!

Seeing the problems her team and clients faced, and eyeing a growing market, Julia decided to seize the opportunity…

Path to productization

In 2017, Julia capitalized on all of the content strategy content she and her team had been blogging about, and procured a 400-page book.

While she had built up loads of expertise about content marketing and content strategy by fulfilling client projects, writing a book deepened her mastery further.

The book forced her to package and refine her ideas into easily understood theory and practical frameworks.

The book additionally provided Julia with market feedback. As people read it, they’d ask questions, share how they were applying her methods, and mention areas that were still confusing or challenging.

Readers also shared how helpful the book was. Even seven years later, Julia still has people reach out to share positive feedback.

Those feedback loops provided Julia with the evidence that people were hungry for more. Julia’s book widened the gap between learning about content strategy and putting the methods to work. This gap represented Julia’s next opportunity to develop her book into a hands-on course.

“Create something that bridges a gap, rather than building a course just because you can.”

Julia McCoy

Julia launched The Content Strategy & Marketing Course in May, 2019.

The Content Strategy & Marketing Course, circa 2019

She originally launched the course as one master certification program, packed with 75 instructional videos.

Creating the program was a major effort, taking her about 8.5 months to build, while also running her agency.

Over time, Julia eventually broke the course into six modules. She also brought in industry leaders as guest instructors.

Additionally, the original program was 100% online and self-paced. As she collected feedback and iterated, she added interactivity in the form of a private student group that met together, and with Julia and her instructors.

Julia also packaged previously included assets (guides, templates, etc) and reframed them as bonuses worth an additional $1,200 in value. And who doesn’t love bonuses?!

Today, Julia’s program includes:

  • The foundational 6-module course (75 videos)

  • A copy of her book

  • Access to a private community

  • 10 Brand Strategy exercises

Julia originally launched the course for $997 (or 12 payments of $99). Today, those same pricing tiers exist.

Content Strategy Certification Program (2024) - Passive Profits

The CS&M course in 2024

The CS&M course was a massive effort for Julia. But the payoff of new, passive revenue, plus her newly acquired creator skills, enabled the next chapter of her business.

Starting small and building trust

Before the CS&M course, Julia had no background or experience in productizing her skills and services into digital assets, aka digitizing.

One major lesson Julia learned was the importance of building trust with your prospective customers. As Julia experienced, it was initially difficult to sell a $1,000 program. That’s a good chunk of change for most people.

But like many who are building their first product, Julia wanted to provide her customers with everything they could possibly need to know about content marketing and strategy.

Today, when Julia counsels founders looking to productize and build online businesses, she recommends laying out all of the components of your grand master course in a spreadsheet. Then, instead of building the entire thing, build the first component and sell it for a small fee; e.g. $9.

A $9 course is something many prospective customers are willing to try, even before they know, like, and trust you.

When that first course delivers on its promise, your customers will trust you enough to buy your next $9 course. After that, your $45 advanced course. Eventually, they trust you enough to buy your $1,000 master program.

As Julia says, her long-term goal was to:

Earn sales from people that had never met me before. On autopilot.

The launch of Content Hackers

With the success of the CS&M program, Julia continued to double down on building up the online side of her business.

In October of 2019, Julia officially launched Content Hackers, where she sold a growing array of content creation, marketing, and strategy courses.

The courses range in pricing. Many courses are available for one-time costs of $27 to $2,500. She also offers at least one subscription-based product — her Content Accelerator that goes for $1,500/mo.

Content Hacker - Course Library

Today, the Content Hacker site serves a different purpose, but Julia continues to sell all of her courses through her Teachable-hosted site.

Now that we understand Julia’s backstory and her path to productization, let’s look over all that she accomplished.

Tallying the results

Based on my independent research, here are the publicly shared milestones Julia has reached since launching her first course in 2019:

Julia has now created at least 15 courses and memberships within the Content Hacker ecosystem.

Along the way, she’s built up an enviable audience of 60,000 followers: IG (14k), LinkedIn (23k), YouTube (11k), and X (12k).

Something important to note and an interesting insight: Because Julia was always single-focused on growing within her owned channels (website, blog, course sales pages), much of her social media growth (rented channels) came later.

And while followers are sometimes snubbed as a vanity metric, Julia has also earned 1,500+ paying students, yielding a payout of approximately $500,000+ in online sales.

Julia has also published nine books, many of which she offers for $0
(Remember her mindset about building trust?)

One personal milestone that Julia has shared, is how her journey enabled her to buy her dream home.

But the icing on the cake?

With all of Julia’s hard-earned success, in late 2023, she sold Content Hacker to Content at Scale for more than $1,000,000.

Since the acquisition from Content at Scale, where Julia is now the President, she’s launched a new mission with uncapped potential. Julia is now using Content Hacker as a destination to teach content marketers how to (actually) leverage AI within their creation process.

She’s launched a series of courses, content, and a $20/month membership to join her Content Hacker community.

What an amazing, inspiring set of accomplishments!

Meaningful pursuits are never easy

As we start to wrap up Julia’s founder story, your thoughts may turn to your own journey. You may start to compare your current results with Julia’s.

It’s important to internalize that Julia’s success hardly materialized overnight.

Same goes for all of the influencer’s worth following. There was always a long slog — way before the world came to celebrate them.

Over the weekend, I shared a clip of a talk Kara Lawson, Head Coach of Duke Basketball, gave to her student-athletes. She challenged them to become a person that handles hard well.

That’s the mindset you need to develop to become a founder-creator like Julia. Because, as Lawson says:

If you have a meaningful pursuit in life, it will never be easy.

Kara Lawson

And so as you reflect on Julia’s story and consider your road ahead, it can feel like you’re staring up Mt. Everest. You tell yourself, “I’ll never get there!” Or, “It’s going to be too expensive.”

But imagine if Julia treated her journey the same way, when she was just starting her agency back in 2011 for a personal investment of $75. Or when she poured months into writing her blogs and first book. And when she followed that up with months of work to launch her first course.

No one told her to do any of this. No one gave her a playbook. She decided.

She paid attention to the gaps in her industry. She found one worth pursuing, experimented with solutions that delivered value and earned trust, and committed to action.

And as her hard work compounded over time, it all paid off.

Putting Julia’s story to work for you

While Julia devoted a decade plus to mount the wins that eventually spurred her acquisition, there are some clear steps you can apply to your pursuits.

Here are the top insights I took away from Julia’s story:

  • Listen for problems to solve (they’re everywhere)

    • Challenges you face

    • Challenges your team shares

    • Challenges your clients get stuck with

  • Research solutions to the problems you’re drawn to

    • Are those solutions missing altogether?

    • Do existing solutions work well?

    • Is there a gap you can fill?

  • Choose solution formats you enjoy creating

    • For Julia it was writing, first blogging prolifically

    • Then assembling that content into her first book

  • Don’t boil the ocean on your first go

    • Break out components of your solutions

    • Offer them in low-cost, high-value assets

  • Treat every asset, piece of content, and course as a prototype

    • Ask for feedback

    • Continually iterate

    • Find the next gap to solve

  • Think in terms of committed, sustained growth

    • Remain unattached from daily and weekly metrics

    • At the same time, celebrate your small wins

    • Remain in it for the long haul

What about you? How are you feeling after reading Julia’s story today?

💬 DID YOU KNOW? You can add comments below.

I’ll keep a lookout for your ideas and questions!

Founder-Creator Corner

🌲 Feeling juiced from Julia’s story? Start building your product with my free playbook. Share the newsletter and unlock your free copy.

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🧑‍🏫 Host and sell your online courses on Teachable

⚙️ My friend Dave Wilkins packaged up sales strategies he’s used to win $50,000,000 in business deals with Amazon, BMW, and Google.

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🏀 My fam and I went to see the NY Knicks vs Miami Heat last Saturday, with a nice perk after the game.

🪴 Passive Profits community

Howdy to Cara, Vasile, MC, Rick, and 16 more founder-creators who joined us this week. Our little community has grown to 183

Our biggest growth week yet!

🎯 Help me hit my goal of 1,000 subscribers by Feb 29 (Leap Day!)

Jay Melone
Founder, Passive Profits
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