You may remember the story Jacques Hopkins first shared on the Side Hustle Show in 2017 about his online piano course.
Over the past decade, he systematically scaled Piano in 21 Days, into a powerhouse brand that generated over $4 million in sales.
Now in 2024, I connected with Jacques again to get an update on his current projects and perspective looking back on his entrepreneurial wins and lessons learned over the past years.
Like all savvy business owners, his approach and focus has evolved quite a bit during that timeframe.
Tune in to Episode 596 of the Side Hustle Show to learn:
- Jacques’ online piano course business after 11 years and over $4 million in sales
- Elements of building a successful online course business
- How Jacques’ passion has shifted after doing this side hustle for over a decade
- What Jacques is focused on next with his coaching program and podcast
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Piano in 21 Days Over the Past Decade
Jacques launched his first version of Piano in 21 Days while still in college after reading Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. The book opened his mind to the possibilities of generating income online.
Teaching piano wasn’t Jacques’ background or passion.
As he puts it, the course he created was actually the 7th project he attempted after graduating. But this one ended up resonating for a few key reasons:
- His beginner-friendly piano learning method was quick and simple
- The name Piano in 21 Days set clear expectations about the speed of the learning system
In the beginning, it was tough because Jacques had to work hard to learn about marketing, sales strategies, and how to grow an online audience.
Jacques weathered the storm and now makes $10k-$30k a month semi-passively from the business after expenses. 2020 was his best year ever at over $145k in one month largely thanks to a pandemic boost.
However, he openly admits his passion for piano itself has waned recently as his interests have shifted to helping others build successful course businesses through theonlinecourseguy.com and his podcast The Online Course Show (which he told me was inspired by the Side Hustle Show).
“Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing from people. And thankfully, because of the hard work I have put in, I don’t have to put in much hard work anymore and can focus on other things that I am more passionate about,” he clarified.
The 2 Core Beliefs For Conversion
When asked about the elements that make his sales funnel so effective, he shared two critical beliefs that any high-converting sequence must instill:
- “I can do this”
The main goal is to make people think they can succeed by joining Jacques’ piano course. His course helps complete beginners learn and makes them say, “I can do this!”
- “This is the course that can help me.”
This will make you believe that his course, in particular, is the best way to reach your goals.
Product Launch Formula
When asked Jacques about the format of his 12-day sales funnel sequence, he explained it closely follows the renowned Product Launch Formula popularized by Jeff Walker.
For those unfamiliar, PLF pioneered the concept of warming up an audience via a structured cascade of value before presenting a paid offer as the next logical step.
When people visit Jacques’ site to learn piano today, they are greeted with a link offering his free ebook, Learn 36 Popular Songs in 5 Days.
This serves as a lead magnet that people can download in exchange for their email address.
Once subscribed, customers enter into his evergreen email funnel spanning the next 12 days. This sequence delivers valuable content to warm up prospects before the paid course offer.
Towards the end, Jacques promotes a limited-time discount off his course to incentivize people to purchase within the 12-day promotional window before it closes.
If previous leads don’t end up buying, Jacques has designed the sequence to automatically re-engage cold subscribers every 100 days.
He says on average 3-4% of newcomers convert during their first pass through the funnel. Around 1% per re-engagement end up purchasing thanks to multiple followup attempts.
This tiered evergreen approach does the selling for him 24/7. And it does it well—having generated millions over the past decade.
Jacques’ $800 course price point today is significantly higher than when he first got started.
He found this resonated much better with students as it was more honest and aligned better against normal consumer shopping behaviors.
He also said that early on, he offered varying levels like a $100 ebook up to a $500 video course.
“What I noticed is that people were not successful with that bottom level package. I didn’t feel like I was serving people very well for including that any further,” he shared.
When he eventually removed the entry-level pricing, he was afraid raising prices would hurt conversions.
But he found after raising his course from $500 to $800 (and keeping it discounted by 20% in the funnel), his revenue actually increased due to larger order values outweighing modestly fewer purchases.
3 Models For Urgency & Increased Conversion
When it comes to marketing an online course, Jacques notes every creator has to solve the urgency equation. After all, most people don’t wake up eagerly to buy your educational offering first thing!
One effective way (that Jacques used early on) is to tell people there are only a limited number of spots available, and they need to sign up quickly before they run out.
The course will only be available until all the spots are filled, and once they are, no more signups will be allowed.
As his business matured, Jacques pivoted to featuring a discount promotion during his funnel sequence instead of pure availability claims.
This works better because people enjoy snagging deals, and it feels more honest than pretending there’s a shortage.
The % encourages people to sign up quickly before the timer runs out and the prices go up.
Another effective strategy Jacques mentioned is offering a time-sensitive bonus. This could be something valuable like a cheat sheet, private coaching, or anything that gives value.
People feel a sense of urgency to sign up before that date to make sure they get the bonus.
While Jacques’ piano course runs passively, his main passion now is coaching fellow course creators through 3 programs:
- Genesis Courses – For people new to online courses and looking for a simple way to start their course business
- Next Level Coaching – For established course creators looking to create their first 5 to 6 figures
- OCG Mastermind – For successful course creators making at least $100K in yearly profit looking to connect and grow with like-minded peers
Tools and Tech
When asked what crucial tech enables his business to run so smoothly year after year, his list was short:
He sung praises for Kajabi in particular. Their all-in-one platform makes launching courses simple because it consolidates the course content, website, and more.
His ActiveCampaign sequences power the evergreen funnel along with automated re-engagement flows for bringing cold leads back to life.
And Deadline Funnel is the glue that makes his discount triggers work like clockwork behind the scenes.
Challenges & Surprises
With nearly a decade under his belt, Jacques admits the past year held some surprises and renewed frustrations:
As someone who was never a professional piano teacher, Jacques feels he got “lucky” in his course success. And after many years, he’s not as excited about it as before.
Now, he’s considering three options: sell it and move on to other projects, hire help to scale it further, or leave it as-is to coast into the future with minimal oversight required.
Looking to the Future With The Online Course Guy
Jacques remains passionate about online education and courses. Right now, he’s mainly working on two connected projects in this field:
The Online Course Guy: This aims to help others design, launch, and grow successful online course businesses.
The Online Course Show: A podcast all about exchanging knowledge and helping course creators succeed.
Jacques’ #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation
2024: “Create content”
2018: “Think about the customer transformation.”
2017: “Have a compelling hook.” “Half the cost of piano lessons and ridiculously more effective.”
- Piano in 21 Days
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- The Online Course Show
- Learn 36 Popular Songs in 5 Days
- Online Course Guy Coaching programs
- Deadline Funnel
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