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How to defeat the blinking cursor and start writing for growth

Although I did just finish writing a book, I don’t actually consider myself a writer. Well, not compared to people who are actually writers. Although I do write a good bit for the different projects I’m juggling, historically, I’ve done it out of necessity rather than the pure joy of it.

However, the more I write and practice writing, the more I understand the deep and hidden value behind being a good writer and communicator. It’s not just about getting better at writing articles that can sell goods. It’s about becoming a better writer that can effectively communicate everything, whether it’s encouraging an audience to buy something, or writing an email that changes the trajectory of your life.

Good writing is good business

Content marketing, email marketing, educational content, social media, and sharp website copy are all table stakes for creative professionals (and virtually every business) these days. You simply can’t opt out if you want to stand out or compete.

You can have the best product, service, or portfolio in the world, but if you’re not able to effectively communicate its value, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone to buy it.

That’s why we absolutely have to step up our writing game! I know, it can feel excruciating opening up a blank page and watching the cursor blink menacingly at you. “Where do I even start? I can’t even get past my first line…” It generates enough anxiety to just call it quits altogether.


You simply can’t opt out if you want to stand out or compete in a crowded space. Spoiler alert, all spaces are crowded.

But if we give up and let the blinking cursor win (like I did for far too many years), we never get better at it, and we put ourselves at a clear disadvantage with every project we launch.

I’m happy to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that hard. It just takes a little rewiring. I’ve picked up enough tips and tricks along the way to take the sting out of writing and I think they can help you too.

Start with bullets

Don’t get overwhelmed by the fact that you haven’t written one word yet. You’re not responsible for a masterpiece here. You just need to get your core ideas down in a bulleted list so you have something to work from. Easy enough, right?

At the top of your page, write out a few short bullets with the core points of the article. Each bullet should just be a few words to capture the point. What’s the purpose of this content and what outcome do you want to drive? We’re trying to find a few anchors that will help us outline the article and guide our writing. You might even consider using The Hulk Summary.

This should help you get a few paragraphs going under each heading. I’ll even create another bulleted list under each new heading to consolidate ideas for the section and expand on the bullets accordingly.

This bulleted list technique can add much needed focus and structure for folks like me who have all. the. ideas. floating around in our heads but have a hard time organizing them on the page.

Starting with bullets is a great way to break away from a blank page. It’s much easier to expand on bullet points than it is to write long-form sentences from the get-go.

Stick to the formula

While working with my editor on the Liftoff book, she gave me a handy outline to keep in mind for each chapter. By sticking to this outline, I was able to keep a consistent structure from chapter to chapter.

After using it on a few chapters, my writing started to speed up because I was struggling a lot less with the arc of each chapter. Instead, I was able to focus more on what I was trying to say.

Although I used this for writing a book, it works just as well for stuff like blog posts, content marketing, and email marketing.

  • A clear problem statement. Near the beginning of the article, set up the problem you’re going to knock down. Hook the reader in and set some expectations about how it’s going to provide them value.
  • Make your points succinctly. No one wants to scan rambling blog posts, hunting for the valuable tips they were promised. Deliver the goods already! Use descriptive headings to break up content into digestible and actionable sections that help the reader consume the content efficiently.
  • A personal anecdote. Adding a personal touch that highlights your experience with the subject matter can add authenticity to your writing. The reader isn’t just there for the content, they’re there because they trust your voice.
  • A clear conclusion. Sum up the highlights of the article and give the reader their call to action. If your content was valuable, it’s a much easier ask to get them to click a CTA button.

Write for value, not clicks

Guess what? Your audience visits a ton of websites every day. And each one is trying to get something from them. We’re no different. So how do we stand out from the sea of CTAs and engage in a more meaningful way to earn their clicks and, hopefully, purchases?

The key is to throw the CTA out the window, for now. Focus on the value you can provide first. Content marketing is a strategy that focuses on creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to grow and retain an engaged audience.

Content marketing zooms in on what makes your audience tick. It focuses on the topics they’re deeply interested in learning about and provides answers to their most common questions.


The key is to throw the CTA out the window, for now. Focus on the value you can provide first. Valuable, relevant, and consistent content wins.

Instead of pitching your products or services up front, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your readers and customers. You’re helping them learn new things and resolving their issues. The reward is a loyal, targeted, action-oriented audience — the holy grail.

By focusing on content that is highly relevant to your audience, you can build trust and authority around your brand and your products while leading readers towards an eventual purchase.

Once your readers associate your brand with value, knowledge, and helpfulness, convincing them that your product is the solution to their problem becomes significantly easier.

The hardest part is getting started

Writing is a skill that few are naturally gifted with — I’m certainly not. It’s something you have to keep doing over and over before you start to hit your stride. There are no shortcuts.

That being said, it’s one of the most universally valuable skills you can add to your toolbox! It can help you sell more, get better jobs, communicate more effectively, and connect more genuinely with your audience. If you’re looking for growth hacks, there are few more effective than sharp writing.

  • Kill the blinking cursor with some bullet points to quickly get some text on the page that you can elaborate on.
  • Stick to a formula! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every piece that you write. Set up the problem, articulate the pain points, introduce the solution, and save the day.
  • Deliver value above all. Keep your content succinct, easily scannable, and goal-oriented. Readers and search engines alike will reward you for it.

I hope that helps you get started on your next piece of writing! As I continue to sharpen my skills as a writer, I’ll share more thoughts and writing tips here.

Until then, you might consider grabbing the full Liftoff Course, where I go deep into building audiences, creating products that people love, automating growth, and so much more.

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Creating my own course platform from scratch

Learn about the apps, services, and tools I used to create my own custom online course for digital products.

It’s been several weeks since I officially launched the Liftoff Creator Course and the results have been incredibly rewarding. The course is buzzing along, creators are starting to launch their own products, and I’m meeting tons of talented folks who are excited about the future of the creator economy.

If you aren’t familiar with my digital product course, I encourage you to check out the landing page to learn more! I created the Liftoff course to teach you step-by-step how to pinpoint your expertise and turn it into digital products like courses, ebooks, memberships, digital goods, design assets, and templates that earn recurring revenue and help you grow an audience.

Since the launch, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the site itself and how I built it. Because I didn’t use a course platform, and instead opted to design and built it from the ground up (crazy, right?), I had to compile some affordable, yet powerful, technologies to make this thing work how I envisioned it. Here’s how I did it.

Why not use a course platform instead?

There are tons of really nice course platforms like Podia out there, and I’m sure you could run a very successful course on there. But I’m a perfectionist, and a tinkerer, and a technologist, and a creator.

I had a very specific vision of how I wanted the Liftoff site to work, and how I wanted users to experience the course itself. In an increasingly busy ecosystem of courses, I also wanted a website that made people go “Wow, this is not just another course.” Unfortunately, I would have never gotten there with an out-of-the-box platform. I needed more control.

Most importantly, I love simply love creating products like this and bringing them to life with design, code, photos, videos, and marketing. It’s what I do. Working with all of these different mediums is also a good way for me to stay in tune with the new code, design, and web tools out there.

Course platforms can get in the way of the content

Something I’ve noticed with many of the course platforms out there is that the course features tend to get in the way of the course content. Progress checkers, end-of-chapter quizzes, gamification, assignments — all of these things can be a burden on the person taking the course. They all have the potential of derailing the reader.

Maybe these things are actually valuable to learning certain types of material, but I didn’t want taking the course to feel like a task, so I kept the experience focused around the content and chucked everything else out the window. Once you’ve logged into the course, you are free to explore the chapters at your own pace, in any order, and without intervention from me.

WordPress as the base

Even with all of the new CMS platforms out there, I still defer to WordPress for sites that are going to be even remotely complicated. It’s hard to beat all the technology you get baked in:

  • Content management
  • User management
  • Blogging
  • Authentication
  • Unlimited extensibility and integrations
  • Over a decade of docs and educational content

It’s insanely flexible and can be bent and shaped into virtually anything you want. It also helps that I have over a decade of experience building WordPress sites and products, so I can build very quickly with it.

The Liftoff Course Dashboard

To manage the content, I used a custom post type to handle the chapters of the course. I also created a front-end dashboard where users can access the chapters, audiobook, and all of the other course extras.

The site is hosted at SpinupWP, where you can spin up a wicked fast WordPress server in minutes. I really like SpinupWP because, as an advanced WordPress developer, it bridges the gap between self-hosting and managed hosting. (If you’re looking for a managed WordPress host, check out WP Engine.) It lets me have all the flexibility I need to customize the server as needed, but handles a lot of the heavy lifting with security updates and overall server management.

I’ve also leaned on a few WordPress plugins to add some more advanced features to the site:

Payments and asset delivery

I used Lemon Squeezy to accept payments on the site and deliver the course extras to customers. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me singing the praises of Lemon Squeezy before. It’s one of my favorite new services out there.

With Lemon Squeezy, you can accept payments with a super-quick, mobile-friendly checkout without worrying about payment gateways, taxes, and file delivery. As the merchant of record, they handle all of the complicated stuff like taxes and let you focus on creating and selling digital goods, subscriptions, etc.

With their API, it’s super easy to integrate into your site or app, but you can also use their built-in store if you want to keep it super simple.

Launch your digital products on Lemon Squeezy. They handle everything!

Using the webhooks feature in Lemon Squeezy, I wired up WordPress to detect when a purchase was made to create an account for the customer. The customer is sent their credentials and they log in just like they would on any other WordPress site. It’s a really seamless experience!

Email marketing

The final bit of notable tech on the Liftoff site is email marketing, which is powered by ConvertKit. Although Lemon Squeezy has recently launched their beta email marketing features, I didn’t have this available when launching, so I had to find an alternative. ConvertKit has been a great choice so far. Their visual automations and overall well-designed experience have been super easy to work with and integrate into the site.

On the landing page, I’m using a ConvertKit form to collect email subscribers who download the Liftoff lead magnet. Using Zapier, I was able to connect Lemon Squeezy and ConvertKit to send customer purchase details to ConvertKit for more complete customer personas and personalized email marketing.

Tying everything together

Implementing all of these different technologies is one thing, but making sure they all work harmoniously can also be a challenge, but it pays dividends.

As I teach in the Liftoff course, automating your operation is going to be critical to your success with any digital business. The more time you spend babysitting every little thing and doing manual tasks, the less time you’re spending on high value priorities like ideation, growth, and creating new stuff. It’s super important to spend time up front getting all of your apps and services talking to each other and working for you so you can focus on more important things.

Build it, own it

Don’t get me wrong, this was a lot of work. I realize that building something like this from scratch is not something that everyone can or should do.

However, the benefit is that I have a platform I can iterate, grow, scale, and replicate for my future projects. It’s mine, inside and out. In an ecosystem where apps and services come and go, change prices on a dime, remove features, and close up APIs, owning as much of your platform as possible may become increasingly more appealing and sustainable in the long run.

The power of people

I wouldn’t have been able to pull this thing off if not for a few extra pair of hands along the way. I want to give special thanks to Phil Johnston, Patrick Posner, Gilbert Pellegrom and the Make Lemonade crew, Sally Kerrigan, Adrian Petriw, Chris Lema, and all the folks who agreed to be interviewed for the course. 🙌

I am very purposeful about trying to spread good vibes, kindness, and just plain helpfulness to those around me. I love putting my skillset to work for someone who can really benefit from it. Helping people level up is an incredible feeling!

It’s also a great privilege to have that good karma come back your way when you need it. That’s the power of a quality network. You don’t need to be professionally connected to a ton of people, just a handful of really good ones.

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Announcing the Liftoff Course Chapter List

The Liftoff Course is almost live! Get a preview of the course content below.

Whew! I’m glad I didn’t really know how much work it was going to be to put together this book and course. It’s always harder to start a project when you know it’s going to be a long haul. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a stone cold perfectionist.

In today’s update, I have the finalized chapter list for the Liftoff digital product course. We’ll also look at how I landed on this chapter list.

  • 00. Preflight
  • 01. You are a Creator
  • 02. Creating Profitable Digital Products
  • 03. Solving the Right Problem
  • 04. Crafting Your Personality
  • 05. Practical Pricing Strategies
  • 06. Education as a Feature
  • 07. Converting Customers With Content
  • 08. Automating Growth
  • 09. Ready For Liftoff

Rethinking WordPress

When I first started writing the Liftoff course, it had a much heavier focus on the WordPress ecosystem. Having spent the past decade making digital products like themes and plugins for WordPress, I just naturally gravitated towards it.

But WordPress and other platform-specific products and tools change all the time. The digital products we buy and use today may not even be relevant next year. Not to mention, there are millions of articles and tutorials about everything WordPress. That’s a lot of noise to cut through.

Pivoting to creators

The more I wrote, the more I realized I was solving the wrong problem. Dang it! It’s not just WordPress product creators that need help growing audiences and recurring revenue (although the DIY nature of the WordPress ecosystem can particularly benefit from it).

Instead, I wanted to cast a wider net and be inclusive of all digital creators that want to branch out and make their own products and services, regardless of the platforms they use. (Fear not, WordPress folks, there is plenty in here that will help you grow your WordPress business!)

After all, topics like email marketing, content marketing, and product launches touch nearly every niche of digital products and services. On top of that, there are highly-valuable and always-relevant topics and skills to dig into like product design and development, problem solving, and crafting human-centered experiences.

These skills usually don’t get a lot of exposure. They’re not as flashy as code snippets or design tips, and can’t be applied in 10 minutes time. And, yet, the best products out there are built on this kind of knowledge. This is what turns half-baked ideas into products that customers rave about.

Unfortunately, creators have to pick up these skills in their spare time as they focus on what they do best: designing, coding, writing, coaching, recording, making, and marketing.

Here’s where I can help

Fear not, fellow creator! I (and a few bright friends I’m bringing along with me) know a few things about all of the above, and I’m bundling it all up in a complete and practical product course with Liftoff.

You don’t need to spend several years and thousands of dollars figuring this stuff out yourself. I’ve already done it, and I’m confident I can show you how in a digestible and actionable way.

Let’s take what you’re good at and turn it into a product or service for mass distribution. Let’s build an engaged audience around it and start making money online. We’ll do it together!

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Liftoff! A course for all the creators and makers

I couldn’t find a course that taught how to create human-centered digital products that solved problems. So I created it.

On October 9th, 2019, I opened up a text document on my MacBook and started typing out a bulleted list. I typed out everything I could think of that was necessary to launch and grow a successful product business — something I had learned myself over the course of a decade.

I knew it was a lot of work, but it wasn’t until I typed it all out that I realized just how much it could take to run a product business, especially for independent creators. It also helped me realize how much I had learned over the years, and how many of those lessons I couldn’t have learned from a quick Google search (and I’m, like, really good at Googling).

As it turns out, creating products is (kind of) the easy part! The hard part is figuring out how to bring it to life with a persona, marketing it genuinely, turning customers into repeat customers, and building a passionate audience along the way. It’s all of these skills that ultimately turn ideas into products and products into platforms.

Why digital products?

If you’re not familiar, a digital product is an intangible product or service that can be sold and distributed online. These products, or “goods,” often come in downloadable or streamable files, such as eBooks, online courses, audio files, fonts, website templates, design tools, and more. These kinds of products end up being some of the most valuable yet affordable tools we use in our day-to-day because of their nature to solve specific problems.

Sometimes digital products are given away for free as a lead magnet to attract subscribers to an email list. Sometimes they are sold for a one-time fee or a recurring fee. Sometimes you are the digital product, and you sell customers access to your expertise. There are just so many niches and different kinds of products within those niches that make for great digital products.

Digital products have many advantages that make them uniquely attractive to digital creators:

  • They are easier to create and distribute than physical goods
  • They are substantially cheaper to produce
  • They have much higher profit margins
  • There is virtually no limit on how many you can sell

And while there are plenty of resources out there teaching creators how to create the many different kinds of digital products, I couldn’t find a dedicated place to learn everything else.

  • How do I find valuable digital product opportunities?
  • How and where do I sell digital products?
  • How do I price it and market it?
  • How can I start generating reliable recurring revenue?

I found a problem to solve

In my conversations with peers and folks in my audience, it was apparent that there wasn’t a go-to resource for these questions, even though every industrious creator will have to tackle these topics on their way to generating money from digital products.

I couldn’t find a course that taught how to think like a designer and create human-centered digital products that solved problems. I couldn’t find a course that showed you how to craft a customer experience that keeps customers around for years. I couldn’t find a course that showed you how to build an intelligent, automated digital operation that lets you scale to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue with a relatively small web footprint.

So, naturally, I created it.

I created the Liftoff Course to help you figure out the hard part. I created it to give you a 10-year head start running a kick-ass product business that people love talking about and sharing with their peers. I’ve documented everything I learned about growing my own digital products business to millions of dollars in revenue.

Course breakdown

Liftoff covers all these topics and more in great detail.

  • Product Design
  • Product Philosophy
  • Email Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Product Pricing
  • Selling Digital Products
  • Recurring Revenue
  • Launching Products
  • WordPress as a Platform
  • The Freemium Model

We’ll also chat with some fantastic and diverse creators who blazed their own trails in the digital product world and learn from their successes, failures, and happy accidents.

And it’s not just a course

The course itself is super valuable and jam-packed full of unique content and actionable advice, but I’m also pairing it with some killer add-ons like an audiobook, video tutorials, a member directory, and curated tools and resources.

Liftoff is shaping up to be one of the most unique and valuable projects I’ve ever taken on and I. can’t. wait. to get it into your hands! As we speak, I’m wrapping up the course’s final chapters before I send it off to an editor. We’re almost there!

While I work on that last 20%, I’ll be sharing the process of writing and launching a book and course project like Liftoff. In the next update, I’ll share some thoughts about writing as a non-writer and explain the thinking behind refining the course from a WordPress-centric course into a more focused digital product course.

Hop on the newsletter below, and I’ll send you an email when the course is almost ready! I’ll also be sharing behind-the-scenes secrets of creating a course like this (if you’re into that kind of thing).

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