Two years ago, Nathan Liao sold a course that didn’t exist yet — and he sold enough to fund its entire creation.
Nathan passed the Certified Management Accounting Exam when he was 27 years old. He accomplished this while working full-time and running a side business during nights and weekends.
He knew other busy professionals needed help preparing and studying for the CMA exam, with a typical pass rate of only 35%, and he knew he could help them.
As he continued to climb the corporate ladder, he built his course into a thriving business that eventually allowed him the freedom to travel and live as a location independent entrepreneur.
Here’s how Nathan Liao got started.
What do you sell?
We sell premium exam prep courses to professionals looking to get certified in management accounting.
When did you start this business?
October 1, 2014
Where did the business idea come from?
I had been blogging about the CMA Exam for a few years. The natural next step was launching my exam prep company.
However, at the time, I didn't realize it was the natural next step.
A friend of mine gifted me his formula for pre-launching offers. I used it to test the waters and gauge interest for test prep among the subscribers I already had on my blog.
The pre-launch offer was a success, and that gave me the green light to move forward.
Did you have a written business plan?
No. I didn't have a business plan when I launched this business. Business plans can be helpful, but they are all theory.
By pre-launching my offer, I got immediate feedback in the form of sales. Instead of a theoretical plan, I knew for certain that people wanted to buy my product.
The pre-launch also raised enough money to fund the creation of the business.
What business structure did you start with and why?
I started as an LLC because I wanted protection for my personal assets without the headache of incorporating.
What would you do differently if you were starting today?
Instead of creating a new, separate site to host my test prep course, I would have used my existing blog site, where I already had solid SEO and authority.
I also would have kept both sites under the same company name. Instead, I founded a brand new business for the test prep course. I realize now that was an unnecessary complication and expense.
Customers and Revenue
What was your financial runway when you started?
I raised a little more than $5,000 by pre-launching my course offer and used these funds to create the business.
How long until you became profitable?
My business was profitable immediately because my overhead was very low, and I already had an email list to which I could market my course.
How did you get your first customer(s)?
By providing helpful related content on my blog, I was able to collect emails from my visitors.
Then I pre-launched the course to those email subscribers and made my first sales.
How has your customer acquisition evolved?
I’ve paid more attention to improving my SEO ranking to get more traffic to my site.
I've also dived into Facebook ads and webinars.
Ultimately, I still use email marketing once a visitor signs up with their email address.
Name 2 – 3 tools you and your business can’t run without.
- Infusionsoft for marketing and customer management.
- Trello for team and project management.
- Slack for team communication.
What one tool have you discovered that has changed your business, and why?
Infusionsoft has allowed me to provide a much better customer experience through nurturing email campaigns.
It has also allowed me to automate most of my email marketing efforts.
What email marketing software do you use?
Growing your business
What was the first position you hired?
What is your current team size?
Do you use coaches, mentors, or a mastermind group? If so, how did you find them?
I've been a member of a mastermind group for three years, that two of my friends and I began when we met at a business conference in the Philippines.
What books would you credit with helping you start, grow or scale your business or mindset?
What is the best piece of business advice you ever received?
You don't and won't have everything figured out before you start a business. Just do it! You'll learn along the way.
Figure it out as you go
Thanks, Nathan, for this glimpse behind the scenes of CMA Exam Academy.
Nathan’s story is another proof that sharing what you know through helpful, engaging content is an effective way to start finding customers for your new business — even if you haven’t started it yet.
Stay tuned for more How I Started on the blog, and subscribe to the newsletter below to make sure you don’t miss anything.