As you probably know, I’ve been HARD at work recently, setting up the bones of my new evergreen sales funnel. 

So in this episode, I’m sharing exactly how I did it! The tools, the tech, the total cost – I explain it all!

In this episode you’ll learn

  • Exactly what my funnel looks like behind the scenes.
  • What tools I’m using to make it happen.
  • How much money it cost to set up this funnel.
  • How I hope going evergreen will transform my business (and income).
  • Advice for people interested in creating their own sales funnels.

Episode Show Notes

Mentioned Resources

Some of the following links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Erica Julson: Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income stream. We'll talk all things online business to help you start, grow and scale your own digital empire.
Hey, hey. Today, I'm coming at you with another solo episode, and I was kind of up in the air on what to talk about today. But, then I realized I should just talk about what I'm actually working on in my business at this moment, and as you probably know, that is getting the edits for my SEO course all wrapped up and implementing my new evergreen sales funnel. So, I thought, "Hey, why don't I talk about the tools and the tech that I'm actually using to set that funnel up? That could be a fun, actionable episode to really help flesh out what it looks like to build an evergreen sales funnel, help you understand how everything runs together and also the kind of cost investment that goes along with setting something like this up."
So, before we dive into the super-fine details of all of this, I thought I should take a step back one more time. I know I've talked about this before... And, give you a summary of what an evergreen funnel is. So, it's basically a sales funnel that's always running for you in the background, because what most people do when they start selling online is they create something and then they do a big launch event where the shopping cart opens and people can buy the course or enroll in the program, et cetera. Then, they close the cart, they run the course or the program and then they get ready to launch it again.
And, that's great and it works. It really does. People buy during launches and a lot of that is because there's this built-in excitement and some scarcity that kind of goes along with it. Like, there's this brief window where all you're doing is talking about your program and getting people to sign up. It builds a ton of excitement. And, then, there's an end date to that. There is some built-in FOMO as the cart is about to close. So, some fear of missing out is happening and that deadline really does get people to buy because they know they have to make a decision by XYZ date or else the opportunity to sign up is going away.
So, okay. You're probably like, "Well, that sounds great. What's the problem with launches, then?". And, for some people, there's absolutely nothing wrong with launches. They love the energy and the connection that they get with people during that launch because there's a lot of on time, a lot of interaction, and some people feed off of that. And, also, a lot of people are fine with having a very busy, busy time in their business, which also generally corresponds to a very lucrative time in their business, and then other periods of relative downtime where they might be doing less but also earning less.
So, if you love launching and it's working for you, then by all means, keep going. That's totally fine. But for other people, like myself, launching is actually a super, super draining thing to go through and the energy that goes into all the marketing and the prep and the answering the customer service emails, creating bonuses and deadlines, and then running the actual program afterwards... It's a lot. So, I would say that launching is definitely one of the most draining yet also most rewarding things that I've done so far in my inaudible in business ventures. But, as I've said before, it's just really not sustainable for me. So, rather than having my business be so hot and cold, I'd really rather have a steady temperature and a predictable flow of work and deadlines and income throughout the year. So, I am attempting to test out an evergreen sales funnel to see if that can provide what I'm looking for in my business.
So, in a nutshell, an evergreen funnel tries to replicate a lot of the launch process in an individualized automated fashion. So, rather than having open and closed cart periods or just having your course or your program always available for purchase at any time on your website, it's a bit of a hybrid model. So, here's an example of what it might look like. Rather than having a public sales page on your website, you might have a wait list page or a learn more page, where people who are interested can enter their name and their email at any time. That then adds them to your email list and enters them into an email sequence that you've set up to give more information about what you teach, invite them to check out a webinar that includes a pitch for your offer.
If they watch the webinar, they're then invited to join your course for a limited amount of time. And, this time deadline is usually controlled by a timer that's actually synced up to that person's account. So, the timer automatically starts when they're done watching the webinar. It automatically expires after a set amount of time, usually a few days. And, when the timer expires, it's all set up on the back end so that it automatically removes that person's access to the sales page at the end of the deadline. So, it really is a true deadline. It's not fake. So, each person is only able to access the sign-up page for your course or your program for a set period of time determined by when they entered the funnel and watched the webinar. Then, if the person didn't buy or they didn't watch the webinar, you can set it up so that after a certain period of time, they're somehow invited again, maybe in a different fashion, to join the course or watch the webinar again if they're still interested.
So, essentially, if you're doing things right in your online business, you should have people signing up every single day to get on your email list or specifically to join your wait list, so you'll have a steady stream of people being invited to your course or program every single day. And, since you're using that deadline timer, it still has that element of, "Hey, there's a deadline here, so you actually have to make a decision if you'd like to sign up right now." So, that setup is a great way to still build a connection with your people and invite them to join your course or program on a regular basis, but without doing it live at Level 500,000 a few times a year.
And, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It is a ton of work to set all of this up. I've seriously been working on it for six months. To be fair, off and on. It's not like my full-time focus. But, I've been tweaking it and working on it for the last six months. But then, once it's all set up, it really should help automate my sales and allow for a steady stream of sign-ups and income month to month to month. And then, the best part... Once I know that the funnel is working with my current audience, it's really easy to start dabbling in paid ads and expand your audience even more, because once you know your average conversion rate and your return on ad spend, it becomes a lot easier to make decisions about spending money on ads.
You pretty much know if you put in, say, $1,000 into ads that you'll make, for example, $3,000 back. That's a win. That's a net gain of $2,000 that you wouldn't have made without ads. And, you can see that it would only go up from there the more money you put in. So, if you put in $5,000 with that same return on investment, you would expect to get back 15,000, so a net profit of 10,000 in that case. Et cetera, Et cetera.
And, the part that I personally like best is that once this whole system is in place, it frees up my personal energy to focus on the things that I really love, which is creating content to expand my audience. So, blogging, podcasting, doing guest interviews on other people's podcasts, connecting and serving people in various free or low-cost ways, which I absolutely love to do. So, I'm super-excited about that next chapter of business coming up soon.
So, yeah. So, for today's episode, I thought I'd talk about the specific tools that I'm actually using to set a funnel like this up. And, to be honest, I was actually already using most of these tools in my business already before I decided to go all in on this super-fancy funnel. I had sort of like a baby version of a funnel set up previously. It wasn't connected to a webinar or anything. It was just an automation that went out via my email list and I did use the deadline timer. But, beyond that, there wasn't a ton of incentive to buy because after you went through my little email sequence, you could still sign up for my course, basically at any time on my website. So, slight differences there.
And, this fancier version of the funnel that I just described, the longer, more involved version with the webinar and all that, that is what I'm learning while I'm enrolled in Caitlin Bacher's Scale With Success program. I joined that last summer and I've just kind of slowly been chipping away at it. And, to be honest, the actual structure of the funnel is pretty much what I was always planning on setting up anyway, like, nothing groundbreaking, really, there. But what's been the most helpful for me is the small shifts in my marketing that I've been learning through the program and that I talked about a little bit in previous episodes, like the one where I talked about my sales page. Things like how to tweak the structure of my course to make it stronger. All of that. Writing better email sequences, et cetera.
So, when everything comes together in the next few weeks, I think you're really going to love it. So, I'm excited to share this with the world when it's all done.
So, let's get into the actual tools that I'm using. First up, you are probably going to want a website of some kind. So, I use a self-hosted WordPress website that is hosted on a cloud-ways vultr server. Very fast, very cheap. It starts at $13 a month. It does take a little bit of tech knowledge to set it up. It's not managed, so there's not a ton of great customer service there helping you. You kind of have to DIY it. But, very affordable and very fast server. So, that's what I use for my course website. And, I do have it on a separate website from my blog.
So, generally speaking, if you're going to self-host your courses, which means you're not using a platform like Teachable or Thinkific, you're putting everything on its own website that you own and run and control... If you want to do it that way, it's a good idea to have it on a separate WordPress install from your blog because the tech and the tools and all of that that you need to run the courses are not really super-compatible with the type of website you want for a blog. You want your blog to be lean and fast and super-responsive and easy to use by your readers. And, with the course stuff, you're going to need some bulkier plug-ins that would generally slow things down on your main site. So, I recommend keeping it separate. So, I actually have a separate domain, separate WordPress install, that I keep all my courses on.
And then, to actually create the course structure on my site, I use a plug-in called LearnDash, and that costs $159 a year, and that's how you get it to look like a course platform. So, where there's a course and people can enter it and there's different modules and videos and handouts or whatever. That's all set up with the plug-in LearnDash.
Then, you need a way to take payment, and there's lots of options here. I happen to be using another plug-in called Memberpress that I use to take the payment and protect access to the courses. And, that's partially because I was already using it on another website for a membership site, so I just decided to use it again because I was already familiar with it. And, that costs $149 per year. Then, in terms of the actual credit card processor, I'm using Stripe to handle the payment processing. And, Stripe is free to sign up, but then anytime there is an actual transaction that goes through, they will be taking 2.9% plus 30 cents for every transaction.
Then, you're probably going to need some sort of page-builder plug-in to create a fancy sales page, and for this particular set of courses, I happen to be using the page-builder Divi because I also had it on hand. I scored a lifetime deal to it way back in like, I don't even know, 2010 or something crazy. So, I wouldn't actually use that again today if I had to because it is a little bulky and bloated. Maybe if you need a page-builder, check something out like Elementor. It's slightly better because it doesn't use short codes to build the designs, so it's easier if you ever want to switch away from it. You can do so without having to clean up the page afterwards.
And, it doesn't matter so much in the context of course... Creating the course sales pages, on whether or not these pages load quickly. Speed is a ranking factor for things that you want to rank in Google, but landing pages and sales pages and stuff like that don't usually rank for very much on their own, and all of this stuff is on its own separate domain anyway, not my blog, so it's unlikely. I'm not putting any effort into creating content on this site. It's just like where the courses live and my sales pages. So, it doesn't really matter if it's like a bulkier, slightly slower to load, website. So, I just have been using the Divi theme-builder. That's fine. But if you want to use a different one, like Elementor, they have a free version if you're just getting started or if you want more template options, check out the $49 per year version.
Then, I also... As a part of creating the actual content for the course, I decided to purchase some templates from to make all of my handouts for the course look very pretty and professional. This was a good middle ground between outsourcing it completely or trying to do it myself, but elevated. So, I bought a bundle of handouts that were specifically made for course creators with a ton of different layouts and options, and I would just pick and choose the page designs for each page of my handouts. And, that whole bundle cost $115 and, hands-down, was one of the best things I purchased for myself. I've shared those handouts with a couple people and they're all like, "Oh my gosh. This looks so professional. Who did this?" And, I'm like, "Yours truly, with a template." So, you can make your stuff look like a million dollars for not a million dollars if you use the right template.
And, those templates... Basically, you download them from Creative Market and then you just upload them to Canva and then you can create the handouts in Canva. Canva's like a digital design browser-based program, so it's a website where you go and create an account and log in and you can design stuff and download it to your computer. So, I use Canva Pro, which is the paid version. It costs about $13 a month, but it gives you some extra capability, like you can import custom fonts and have brand colors and resize things without having to start your design over, stuff like that. So, I prefer the Pro account, but they have a free account as well.
And then, the other critical thing that I do on the actual website is I use a plug-in called Wordfence, the premium version, to protect my site from hackers. So, Wordfence is a plug-in that you'll install on your WordPress site and it's basically extra security. If you buy the premium version, it's like the best you can get in terms of being up to date on protecting you from hackers and people trying to get into your site. I decided that that was really important to me since I am taking payments on this site. None of that information... Like, the payment information isn't stored on my site. That's protected on Stripe. But I do have people's email addresses and account names and stuff that I want to protect, so I use the advanced version, WordPress Premium. $99 a year to protect my site even further.
And then, for creating the course content itself, I actually just use PowerPoint. So, I put together some PowerPoint slides. You could also use Canva to create slides or the Mac version of PowerPoint. I forget what it's called right now. Whatever you want to use for slides. There... You shouldn't really need to pay much, if anything, to create the slides. Then, I record myself speaking over the slides with the free tool that comes with my MacBook called QuickTime. You can do screen recording on there, so that's what I do because I don't have my face. If I wanted my face to show as well, I'd probably do it through Zoom. And, audio quality is really important for courses or any professional thing you're doing, so I also use a microphone, the same one I use for podcasting, called Audio-Technica ATR2100. I think the newest version has an X on the end, 2100X. And, you can get it on Amazon and it's like 100 bucks-ish. So, very easy, affordable way to dip your toes into good audio. And, it just plugs into your computer with a USB and you're good to go.
Then, once I've saved the screen share... Or, screen capture video from QuickTime, I then import it into iMovie, which is also free, and that's what I use to edit if needed. So, I used to not really feel confident in my editing skills, so if I messed up, I'd start completely over if I was recording something. Now, I'm like, "Um, heck no." I would never do that. I can definitely go in and just quickly make an edit. So, if I mess up, I just kind of pause like this and then I will notice, because you can see the sound waves when you're editing the movie. So, you can see when you stopped talking for an extended period of time and as you're scrolling through the audio, you can... Without even having to listen to it, you can see that long pause and you're like, "Oh, that's a spot where obviously I messed up and I need to go in and fix it."
So, it's a little bit of... Like, you have to teach yourself this habit because if you stuttered or messed up a word... I have this weird brain fart habit where I mush words together all the time and say some third word that's not a real word. I don't know if any of you can relate. And, that happens to me way more often than I'd like to admit, so when I do something like that in my regular life, I'll just quickly recover it and try to very quickly say the appropriate word. But when I'm recording something to be edited later, I have to remind myself to stop talking and put that pause in there so that when I'm editing later, I know where to go to fix it. So, that's just a little pro tip. Other people do things like they clap or they make a really loud noise so they can see that on the wave form of the audio. But, for me, a pause seems to be the easiest to spot and that works for me. So, that's what I do.
Then, when you're done editing the file, you just export it as an MP4 movie right to your computer, and then upload that video file to a video hosting provider called Vimeo. And, Vimeo is kind of like YouTube, that type of thing, except they let you put videos up on there that are completely private, so... And, I think the problem with YouTube is you can technically do a private video, but then at the end, they'll show other videos at the end of the recording, which doesn't look professional and isn't appropriate for something like an online course.
So, for Vimeo, it's completely private. There's... And, you can say whatever you want to show at the end of the film. I just say show nothing, like, go to a blank screen. And, if you want those features, I believe it starts at $12 a month, which is very reasonable for a product that you're going to be selling. And, you can even control the look of the player, so you can add closed captions. You can adjust the speeds of the playback. Some of these features you might have to upgrade to a slightly pricier plan, but it starts at $12 per month. You can restrict where the video can embedded, so even if someone was able to download it, you can say, "Oh, only allow it to be embedded on my website domain." And then, no one else can embed it anywhere else on the internet. So, it's great. I really like it for protecting my course video content.
Then, when I make the actual course structure in LearnDash on my website... So, LearnDash is the plug-in where I actually say, "Here's Course Number One. Here's Module Number One. Here's Lesson Number One." Then, I go into each of those lessons and embed the videos that are being hosted on Vimeo. So, the videos are never being uploaded to my own website. That's not a good idea. That's a huge waste of space on your server. Horribly slow. Not what you want to do on your site. So, always, always host it elsewhere, like a provider like Vimeo, and then they'll give you a code that you just copy-paste onto the lesson of your course and you can just paste it in there and it will load the video. So, it's actually playing from an external source but shows up like it's on your actual site. So, the same experience if you've ever gone through a course on Teachable or Thinkific. You can do the same thing there. So, it doesn't look any different than if you uploaded the video to your site, but you're saving space on your own server and you have more reliable video provider.
Then, in terms of the marketing, I am using a program called EverWebinar to host my webinar. So, I'm using a webinar as part of my marketing funnel. Same thing. I made the slides and recorded it previously with QuickTime and all of that and uploaded it to Vimeo. And then, EverWebinar controls the webinar sign-ups and it controls the webinar playback and emails related to the webinar specifically. All of that is controlled through this EverWebinar program. And, you might be like, "Why do I need this? Can't I just set up a webinar on Zoom or something?". And, the reason you need this is because it's not a live webinar. This is an evergreen webinar, so you want to set it up so that people can technically sign up at any time for the webinar, depending on when they're joining your funnel and blah, blah, blah.
So, if you use a tool like this, it will show specific times for the person to register based on when they're joining your funnel. So, if someone joins your funnel, they signed up for that wait list, let's say, and then they get invited to the webinar maybe a week later via email. If they click the sign-up link, EverWebinar will know what time zone they're in, what day they clicked the link, and then they'll say, "Okay, let's show them times to sign up for the next few days or an on-demand option." And, that's all customized automatically through the EverWebinar technology. So, it's helpful to get people to actually sign up because the dates are specific to that person. It's not like, "Oh, this webinar already happened," or "Oh, this is happening in two months." It's always going to be right then when they are trying to join it, which is great.
So, that's how you do that and that costs $499 per year. So, it is a little pricey. You don't need something like this to start out, which is why I didn't start out this way. As I said before, I had a little bit of a baby funnel set up prior, where that was just email-based and it didn't have any sort of webinar marketing. So, we'll see if the webinar is more effective than what I had going on previously.
There's another tool that some people use called EasyWebinar that I think the technically recommend in the Scale With Success program that I'm in. But I actually used that before for a live webinar when I first launched the SEO course and I didn't have a good experience. I had some glitches where the program swapped out people's names on my email list, so I was emailing people and using their name in the email copy and it was the wrong name, which was super embarrassing. And then, I also had to go in and manually correct it. It was like 10% of my list at random, which was horrible. And then, it was also having some issues with sound not playing for people who were using Safari browsers, which is a lot of people on Apple devices.
So, anyway, I decided to try this new service called EverWebinar instead for this new round of trying to set up a funnel. And then, for controlling my emails... For email marketing, you probably know that I use and love ConvertKit. Technically, I think this program that I'm in recommended using ActiveCampaign, but I really didn't want to switch everything over at the moment, so I'm staying with ConvertKit. And, at the time that I was starting to set all this up, the reason that ActiveCampaign was recommended over ConvertKit was because ConvertKit at the time did not have a way to send people through the same email sequence multiple times. They could only go through it once unless you do some fancy workarounds, which I was in the middle of trying to set up.
But as of the last few weeks, ConvertKit has actually added the capability of sending people through a funnel more than once. So, that means... Remember how I said earlier in this podcast if someone doesn't sign up or they don't watch the webinar, you can invite them again? Now, I don't have to make 10 billion copies of the same email sequence to re-invite someone. I can just toggle the option on to let people go through more than once and then they're allowed to go through those same emails again. So, it makes your life a lot easier. And so, happy to say that ConvertKit now has that capability and works a lot better with evergreen funnels than they ever have before.
And, ConvertKit does have a free plan, but in order to set up email automations, which you need for an evergreen funnel, you have to be on a paid plan. So, those start at $29 per month and up and the price goes up based on the number of subscribers that you have. So, I have a little over 5,000 subscribers right now on my email list and I pay $79 a month, which is actually really affordable. ActiveCampaign is significantly more experience, so I'm pretty happy with that and I do actually make the majority of my sales.. Whenever I'm selling my own product or doing an affiliate launch, I make most of my sales through email, not social media, so definitely, definitely way more than worth what I pay.
And then, the last tool that you definitely need for a real evergreen funnel that's not fake, that actually has deadlines... You need that tool to set up that real personalized deadline timer. So, I use a tool called Deadline Funnel and that starts at $49 per month, but I am actually on the $99 per month level because I wanted to remove the Deadline Funnel branding off of everything, so that's what I'm using, but there's another cheaper option as well. And, that's the tool that integrates with everything, so it integrates with your ConvertKit email marketing. So, basically, you can say, "Hey, when someone is entered into this funnel, start the timer and then end it seven days later." Or something like that. You can set it up in a million different ways.
But, the point is, it's synced up to their email activity, so you know on what days they're getting sent XYZ emails and how many days they have after entering a funnel to join the program before it closes. So, you just sync the timer up with that and then it will show the correct deadline in their emails, and then also, you end up using special links to your sales pages that are connected to your timer as well. So, those sales pages... If someone clicks on the actual sign-up for your course page, it will also show the same countdown timer with the same deadline.
And then, it's really fancy because if the deadline expires and somebody maybe goes back and they're like, "Oh, I think I still have that email. I wonder if the link would still work." And, they click on the link to your sign-up page, it doesn't work anymore. So, they have now been blocked from that page if they are past the deadline. So, really, it's a true deadline. People can't get around it by going back to their old emails or something like that. So, it's really cool, a very effective tool for people doing evergreen funnels.
And so, the total investment... If you add all that up for everything that I'm doing, every year, I spend about $3,500 plus or minus a few hundred dollars for one-off things like you only need to buy the microphone once if you don't have it. You only need to buy your handout templates once. Things like that. But considering that last year, my courses earned over $180,000, that's definitely a worthy investment. It only is about 2% of my overall earnings and an over 50 times return on my investment for that initial $3,500 I was setting it up.
But, I do want to note that this is not where I started. So, this is where I'm at three years into running these courses. So, it would not have made sense to drop this kind of cash on a brand new offer that hadn't been validated yet. So, I ran this, all of my courses, two or three times at this point before setting up the funnel, so I already know that they're good courses, that my current marketing was already working. My live launches were working. People liked it. I had testimonials. I had feedback. All the bones were in place to set up an evergreen funnel.
So, if you haven't launched something yet, I do recommend doing live launches at least once to get, I don't know, just experience on how a course is run, and also to get some feedback and testimonials because that's really helpful when you're building out your evergreen funnel. If you don't have any feedback from previous students, it's not impossible to do an evergreen funnel, but it's just not as exciting because you don't have any wins to share from current or former students. You know what I mean?
So, don't feel like you need to jump into this right away. But I do think it's helpful for those of you who might be at different stages of your business to know where you might be heading and to what the investment might look like when you are ready to build something like an evergreen funnel. And, just to let you guys know what my ultimate goals are, this is, as I said, a system that I've been learning through Caitlin Bacher's Scale With Success program and most of the people who enter that program, because it is a premium, premiumly-priced program, like, four figures a month type of status. A lot of the people in there are in similar boats as me, where they have a course that was doing okay with live launches, but they're ready to go evergreen.
And, I've been in the group for a while now and got to see some of the awesome success from other people, and it's not unusual, six months in, to having their funnel go live, to have multiple five-figure months, so 20,000, $30,000 recurring revenue months, from this evergreen funnel just set up and running. Obviously, some of this is dependent on your audience size and whether or not you're doing ads and things like that, but that's where I hope to be in the next year or so.
So, very, very excited to let you know how it all goes. I am keeping track of everything. As you know, I'm pretty transparent in how I run my business and what's working or what's not working, so I will definitely be reporting back after everything goes live. But, yeah. I just thought I'd share this behind the scenes info in case any of you are possibly thinking about creating an evergreen funnel in the future, but aren't 100% sure what it would look like or how much it might cost to do so.
So, yeah. This should be coming out... This whole system with the webinar and all of that should be launching sometime in April. That is my goal. So, I'm in the middle of actually recording the new slides and uploading them to the course content as we speak, and then I just need to do a little bit of pre-marketing before it goes live, and then we're good to go. So, very, very excited. I worked really hard on this, so I hope if you do check out any of my materials coming up, that you see the love that went in and the effort that went into it. Yeah. So, thank you.
You're all the best. I seriously love this community and I just appreciate the support and the feedback and all the help that you've given me as well along the way. So, yeah. That's it for today. Just a quick chat about what an evergreen funnel is and what it looks like behind the scenes to actually set it up. If you have any questions about this in particular, happy to answer them in the Facebook group, which is my free Facebook group called The Unconventional RD Community. You can join anytime. Just put a request. If you'd also like to join my email list at the same time and get updates on digital marketing related things, then you can do that as well. Highly recommend. And, other than that, I will catch you next week.

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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.