Sell Your Smarts! Build a Thriving Online Education Business with John Meese #079

Show Notes:

Are you a smart professional who’s worked in the same industry for years, only to find yourself banging your head against an income ceiling? Does the phrase “death by calendar” hit too close to home? Don’t fall into the trap of selling your time for money, which can only lead you down the road to burnout and unfulfilled potential. In this episode, we delve into the keys to breaking that cycle and transforming your wealth of knowledge into a thriving online education business.

Today’s guest is John Meese, a mastermind at helping experts monetize their wisdom. As an award-winning author of “Survive and Thrive,” John specializes in guiding professionals from diverse industries to unlock exponential growth. His unique approach goes beyond just raising your hourly rate or crafting a low-priced product. John reveals how to escape the common pitfalls of “death by 1000 ebooks” and why focusing on “gateway products” can be a massive mistake.

In this episode of Dealing with Goliath Podcast, you’ll also discover why you should sell “a promise for a price” instead of your time, and how to position your offerings for maximum impact. From finance executives to therapists, anyone who has hit an income ceiling can benefit from John’s expert strategies. He even leaves us with actionable tips for believing in the transformation you can bring to your clients’ lives and understanding the “tragedy you’re trying to prevent.”

Don’t spend another moment trapped in the cycle of limited income and dwindling freedom. Tune in now to discover how to build a six-figure online education business without giving up your day job. This episode is not just a game-changer; it could be a life-changer.

Listen now!

Guest Bio:

John Meese helps experts turn their wisdom into wealth by building a thriving online education business! He is the author of the award-winning bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One) as well as Always Be Teaching, and he writes the Sell Your Smarts newsletter at

John love helping smart professionals create a profitable product strategy based on their knowledge and expertise. I teach a Gateway, Membership, and Flagship product strategy that together creates a Seven Figure School.

Topics explored:

  • The limit to how much they can earn by selling their time.
  • Shift focus from linear growth tied to time, towards exponential growth that isn’t.
  • Raising rates or creating low-cost gateway products like ebooks can seem logical but often lead to a work and income ceiling.
  • Start with high-value “flagship” products, like group coaching programs, that require fewer sales to generate significant revenue.
  • Transitioning from selling a service to selling a product often involves selling a promise or transformation instead of hours worked.
  • Reframe what you’re selling from an hourly basis to a solution-based promise
  • Avoiding acting like a ‘bank’  as it ties up your time and resources
  • Genuinely believe in the transformation your product can bring
  • What is the ‘tragedy’ you’re trying to prevent by offering your service


Al McBride 0:02
Welcome to the dealing with Goliath podcast. The mission of dealing with Goliath is to sharpen the psychological edge, negotiation, ethical influence and high impact conversations for business leaders who want to be more effective under pressure, uncover hidden value, and build greater connection all while increasing profitability. This is the short form espresso shot of insight podcast interview to boost business performance using our five questions in around about 15 minutes format.

My guest today is John Meese, John helps experts turn their wisdom into wealth by building a thriving online education business. He’s the author of the award winning Best Seller survive and thrive how to build a profitable business in any economy, including this one, as well as always be teaching. And he writes to sell your smarts newsletter at John John loves helping smart professionals create a profitable product strategy based on their knowledge and expertise. John, welcome to the show.

John Meese 1:05
Thank you so much for having me. And I’m excited to be here.

Al McBride 1:07
Great. I’m looking forward to diving into some of the stuff with you, John. So let’s kick off. So who’s is your height your who is your ideal client? Now what’s the biggest challenge that they face?

John Meese 1:18
Yeah, my ideal client are smart professionals who’ve worked full time in the same industry for years, typically five or 10 years, sometimes decades, though. And where people, they’ve hit a ceiling of some kind where the charge of selling time for money was that was through one on one services, where like a therapist or an attorney, or whether that was through a full time job, like a finance executive, but people who’ve like worked in the same industry, and they think and they’re they’ve hit some sort of ceiling in terms of that they’re trying to sell selling time for money, the biggest challenge they face is the fact there’s typically some sort of ceiling to their income growth. And it leads them to death by calendar, which is that like, the only way they can be financially successful is to give away their freedom. And they end up feeling kind of trapped. And so that’s the biggest challenge they face. And that’s what I’m here to help with.

Al McBride 2:03
Very good because it sounds like they’re falling into the kind of dollars for our trip, even if they’re renewing very well, there’s still as you say, the only way to increase it is there’s a little bit more in the hourly rate, or you just spend more hours, right, but neither are particularly optimal. So,

John Meese 2:19
exactly, we, we all have about 2000 working hours in the year, if you think on average, you work 40 hours a week, if you take a total of two weeks off a year, you know, then that’s only so many hours. And so even if you’re selling and you can’t sell every single hour, because you’ve got other things you can do that you can’t charge for. And so no matter what your hourly rate is, or whether you take on a full time salary, there’s just a built in limit and cap to what you can do. And so, you know, that’s that’s linear growth that has a very fine ceiling on it. And so that’s I’m more focused on exponential growth, that’s not tied to the same limits.

Al McBride 2:51
Alright, so what are some of those common mistakes that people make when they’re trying to solve this problem? And the reason I ask this is that maybe they’re, maybe they’re in the weeds, you know, and they don’t even realize that they’re in the weeds if you follow me. So what might be some of those symptoms that are coming up? Again, some of those common mistakes?

John Meese 3:09
I think one of the first common mistakes people do make sense, he works Alinea a little bit. It’s just not a long term solution. But he’s raising their rates. And so whether you’re again, like it’s whether you’re sometimes raising your rates means like, you’re actually looking for a job that pays better. And sometimes it means you’re raising your hourly rate with clients or your project fee. But the reality is, it seems like a good way to grow your income, right? You’re like, I just need a raise, raise my prices, you know, and it works to a point.

But you start running into increasingly just silly capacity issues don’t go away. And then so you hit a ceiling. The second mistake that I see people make as regulators that is as soon as they get into the interest, the idea of an online education business where it’s like, Hey, let me take what I’ve done. And let me create a product out of that, which is what I focus on. Most people go okay, well, let me start, like with a book, or a $7, ebook, or a $10 course, or maybe $100 course, or maybe $50 workshop. And they start with what I would call a gateway product. And this is the low price products.

This is it’s a very common mistake, everyone thinks, of course, I’m going to start selling digital products, I should start with the cheapest one makes sense. The only problem is, it takes a massive amount of work to sell a gateway product, and to do it, and even though it’s a low priced product, what that means is that you have to build a big audience around it. And so you end up suffering what I call death by 1000 ebooks, which is where you spend all this time and energy selling these $7 ebook, and at the end of three years, you look around and realize you just made $7,000 over three years, you’re exhausted and you give up the same story. I just see it over and over again. And that’s the that’s the most common mistake people make.

Al McBride 4:42
And that’s a huge counterintuitive, because you think oh yeah, I’ll just, I’ll just create that little thing. That will be the as you said the tripwire product. Exactly. Yes. But and are you suggesting that the better thing to do is create maybe even just draft one or a prototype of a much bigger thing for $1,000 Yeah.

John Meese 5:02
Well, yeah, I mean, I think it’s important to think about who we’re talking to here, we’re not talking about like 17 year old, tick tock influencers who are launching an online business. I’m talking about a smart professionals who have already worked in their industry and have built up a massive treasure trove, a wealth of knowledge, he will tell you, you have a wealth of knowledge, they don’t tell you how to cash it in, it doesn’t pay the bills.

But that’s what this whole model is, is to say, No, you should build a flagship product first, which is a high price transformational product. That’s all like, often looks like a group coaching program, or a mastermind, there’s different forms of that. But you should go straight to that, because there’s a lot of reasons. But one of the most obvious ones is the fact that you only need a handful of clients, a few dozen clients buying a flagship program, and you have a six figure online education business.

Versus it takes you 1000s and 1000s of customers buying gateway products to reach that same level. And so you could do this while you’re working a full time job, you can sell a gateway product, I’m sorry, you can sell a flagship product, while you’re still working a full time job, and very quickly build up a six figure income that then allows you to transition to full time focusing on your online education business, if you wish, which is what I did.

Al McBride 6:04
Excellent, excellent. And so as I said, if people are, are interested in this, what might be one valuable free action, but the audience could take that, implement that one, maybe solve that problem, but least steer them in the right direction. So you’re already gave us one main steer there, which is you know, to start thinking, don’t think the small think of the flagship. What other advice would you have? Yeah, when

John Meese 6:29
you’re selling a product, the biggest difference when selling a product and selling a service is that you’re essentially selling a promise for a price. And so I would say even if you’re still a service based business, I the first change you can make the first free action you can do is start repositioning what you’re selling is not selling time, make sure nowhere in any of your sales language, do you talk about selling time, hours, invested, hours logged any of that and focus on selling a promise. Now that promise has to be some sort of outcome or transformation that’s important to your clients.

Now, just to give a real life example, I had someone who emailed me this past week, his name is Jamie. And he was asking about this because he has a full time Web Development Agency. And so he charges a fee to design a website, you know, tracks his hours, and then an invoice gets paid decent money, but he knows it doesn’t work, he wants to get out of that trap, he doesn’t scale. And so my advice to him was even while you’re still selling, still designing websites, reframe it as saying, hey, I want to help you replace your boring website with an automated sales system. That promise is really taking the skills that you have and putting them into an outcome that’s valuable.

And so all of a sudden, your clients not buying you playing around with technology in the background, sorry, playing around, it’s probably a little dismissive. I mean, there’s real hard work involved. But still, the customer is not buying you, you know, punching buttons and playing with widgets in the back end, they’re intended again. Instead, what they’re buying instead is the outcome is the idea of them having this automated sales machine. And so now all of a sudden, the work you do is just how you get there.

But it’s a selling an outcome. And so I think the first just it would be just recognize that if you want to get to selling products, you can’t sell the same personalized service, you can with a one on one service. And so if you ever want to get a product, you’re gonna be selling a promise for a price. Well, you can make that shift immediately by just repositioning what you’re already doing, as attached to a promise rather than your hourly time.

Al McBride 8:20
I mean, I’d also I love that perspective, by the way, because it sounds like you’re also maybe it’s just within that example. But I imagined it echoes out, you’re able to be charged, you’re able to charge up front when he moved from a service. Oh, yeah, it’s 90 days, usually right here, then sort of it’s the product to buy almost not quite in the box, but not far off. You know, what are we used to doing? We go on a site and we buy a product and we pay before exactly arrives. So

John Meese 8:47
that is one of the chapters, one of the chapters of my book survive and thrive is called build a business, not a bank. And that’s part of my core philosophy of charging up front with services as well, is that like, you want to, you know, when you’re when you’re sending somebody an invoice, you know, if you’re doing all the work and then sending someone an invoice and saying it’s due in like 30 days, you’re essentially loaning them the value of your time for like, two months, ultimately, sometimes longer. And I’m just I’m not in that business. I’m not a bank, banks, Loan Banks do loans. I don’t. And so, yeah,

Al McBride 9:19
I couldn’t agree more. I couldn’t agree more. And again, that’s just changing perception. You know, I’m all about reframing or being able to see how you can possibly reframe So just again, to double down on that, you’re also having the reframe, as something that needs doing versus something that’s much more closely related to an ROI. Where if you’re, as you say, creating a selling selling machine, then that’s much more index. So potentially the the price to do it is much higher. Right. So

John Meese 9:48
yes, yeah, in that example, I mean, I will say, My only caveat I’ll say what that because I get this a lot as if I share an example like that. So it’ll say like, Well, yeah, but I’m in an industry where people don’t make money, so it’s easy for you guys to put it out. ROI attached to it. But I always say like, there’s always things that your customer, there’s real problems, painful problems they have that you’re solving and that you can solve. And regardless of whether that’s like, you know, helping people become healthier, wealthier, happier, you have to get clear on like, what’s the painful problem they have?

And how can you solve it. And that’s just a matter of it takes a little extra effort, you know, to do that positioning work. But it means that it’s a lot easier to sell, it’s more enjoyable, instead of people asking you like, Well, hey, instead of people nitpicking the time you spent or what widgets you’re using, or whatever it might be, they’re just you’re just, you’re both aligned on the same outcome for them. And then that causes them to see you as an ally, rather than an expense line. And it’s just boring labor work. Yes.

Al McBride 10:41
And more lucrative. Yes. Yes, exactly. So. So if people are very open to moving further in this direction, what what would be one valuable free resource that you could direct people to? That would help with that?

John Meese 10:57
Yeah, I just created this actually. So it’s a free Crash Course. If you go to sell your smarts, then you will get a week long daily series of lessons for me where I break down this in more detail that we can get into today in terms of what to sell how to sell it. And so if you’re interested in specifically selling your smarts, you know, turning your wisdom into wealth, as I say, that’s the first place I would, I would start so go to sell your smarts And it’s completely free.

Al McBride 11:23
Excellent stuff. And of course, this will be linked beneath the video and indeed, great, the podcast. Excellent. So what would be your number one insight or principle on how to negotiate build rapport or connection? Or uncover hidden value with clients customers or with counterparts?

John Meese 11:42
The answer that question of asking question first, which is, Have you watched Ted lasso?

Al McBride 11:45
But Ted Lasso? Yes, okay. Well, the first.

John Meese 11:52
So you remember the little, it’s like a card cardstock piece of paper that they keep above the athletes. The leave? That is the first tip, I would say and the principle that thing is important. Well, I’ve had I’ve actually actually talked about recreating that. I mean, it’s just like blue paper and yellow tape, I think. But so I just having that by our door, too, as well. But just the whole idea is like, everyone’s just leaning into that belief. So much of in my experience selling, you know, yes, I’m gonna say the things like everybody said, everybody always says, which are things like you need to care about them, you just serve them and to be curious and to be kind and to be empathetic.

That’s all that is true. But I also think you need to believe you need to believe in the transformation that’s possible for your target customer, when you’re selling to them, whether that’s selling to them on a call or for email. The reality is that so much of why people buy for me is because they’re inspired by my belief in them, and it helps them take action. And I think that’s something that’s often overlooked is how important it is for you to just believe in what’s possible. And so many people are not just buying your help and helping them accomplish that, but they’re really buying a piece of your belief in them.

Al McBride 12:57
So I love that I have to say, that was a very nicely unique point of view, as you said, that wraps in and takes in. So many of those don’t sell serve and all that good stuff that we’re talking about. But fundamentally, it’s like when I get those questions, you know, oh, how do I deal with this objection? And how do I deal with a fear that a client might have when I’m trying to close a deal? You kind of go, you have to change your whole way of being you have to believe they’re actually useful and fundamentally going to make their situation better. Right. Yeah. And then use a lot less persuading needed. You know, because then you’re talking from that place.

John Meese 13:40
Exactly. I know, you asked for just one insight, but can I share one? That’s my belief. I think the flip side of that is I also think it’s important to spend some time and it’s something I actually coach my clients, it was actually like, take some time to reflect on, what is the tragedy that you’re trying to prevent?

Al McBride 13:56
Oh, because great question. It’s the

John Meese 14:00
flip side of belief, really, it’s like, if someone does not work with you, and they don’t buy your product, they don’t learn from you. What’s the tragedy? And if the answer is nothing, right, if the answer is like, well, nothing very bad happens, okay, we’ll go build a better product, because that’s the like, there are plenty of tragedies in the world for us to prevent. But if you just take some time to like, if you reflect on that, that can help just that can help you really build that belief. So for me, I already talked about the tragedy today. The tragedy is that there’s incredibly smart people who have their their slaving away, they’re selling their time.

They’re just indentured servants. They’ve given away their talent in return for some sort of money. And they’re incredibly smart wise to people. That not only I mean, we talked about some of them, the first direct part of that tragedy, which is the fact that like, their income is stuck because they’re in you know, in there and they’ve lost their freedom. But there’s a deeper impact that I care about, that I don’t always lead with, which is the fact that like, if someone’s spending, I know there’s probably some marriage therapist out there who’s spent 30 years behind closed doors working with couples, and is discovered Some secret to happiness in marriage that we probably all need to hear.

But they’re exhausted from 30 years of back to backclient appointments, that next year, they’re going to retire, never talked about again. And they’re going to take those secrets with them to their grave. And then tomorrow, we’re going to start over from scratch trying to figure out the solution, the same problem they already solved. That’s a tragedy. And so when I’m trying to help someone turn their wisdom and wealth as much as they can make a bunch of money.

I mean, yeah, I want you to get paid. But I want to make the world wiser and smarter. I want to, I want us to stop reinventing the wheel behind closed doors. I want us to share this wisdom with the world. And so that’s the tragedy that I fight, you can hear me get fired up about it. And so when I talk about belief, yes, that’s good. Do that. But it’s also helpful to know what exactly do you believe, you know, and the flip side of that is that I believe someone’s making a mistake if they’re not building an online education, business, but they build expertise as a teacher, as an educator, as a coach and their industry, because they’re keeping it to themselves.

Al McBride 15:56
That’s it’s an a brilliant way, because it’s a fantastic question. To prompt that sense of mission, which again, then ties in, as you said, with the flip side, which is the belief? Yeah, fantastic stuff. Fantastic stuff. So, John, where can people reach out to you and find out more about you or connect with you?

John Meese 16:15
Yeah, well, you’re always welcome, of course, to just email me or that my email address is just hey, at Johnny’s dot com, it’s very simple. Or even like I mentioned earlier, if you go to that sell your smarts, that crash course. You get those emails from me, you could apply to any of those. And I have prompted them to to ask you questions or give you exercises to do some of these things that I’m talking about today and get feedback on them. But yeah, I’d love to hear from you. I mean, obviously I care about this. That’s why I’m doing this. You hear me. I’m trying to I believe, and I’m fighting the tragedy. So join me.

Al McBride 16:46
And I believe that you believe we believe together. Yes. Excellent stuff, John. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much.

John Meese 16:55
That’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. Thank you.

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