Behind the Scenes

March 10, 2019

One of my goals of 2018 was to write a year in review. I've always enjoyed reading others. Mostly because it is motivating to see what's possible within a year timeframe.

Long story short; I failed writing it...

Since I have a full-time day job and running a course on the side (more on this below), there just wasn't enough time.

I won't lie. I spend most of my free time on Case Study Club, and I'm lucky to have a wife who supports my passion (and obsession). In terms of hours, I'd say I spend about 20-30 hours per week (give or take).

It hasn't always been like that. For a couple of years, Case Study Club was mostly set on auto-pilot. Only posting new case studies sporadically.

You see, I'm very good at having ideas, building and launching them.

For years I suffered from the new shiny object syndrome. Once I launched something; I already had a new idea I wanted to build. Jumping from the next thing to the other.

Finder Project Screenshot
Just a handfull of projects in the folder. The one you see up there failed (...or I failed it).

My side-project folder count; 58 projects... FIFTY-EIGHT PROJECTS...

Most of them haven't even seen the light of day.

My wife helped me realize how insane it was. I didn't even notice until she pointed it out to me.

From then on I picked one project to focus on. The one I enjoyed the most; Case Study Club.

This was in late 2017, and I made a massive plan to experiment with growth. This meant stepping up my learning game.

I started off with a best of 2017 article on Medium that did moderately well.
Then I moved on to interviews and outreach.

With the interviews, I had something new to "promote" and doing outreach meant connecting with like-minded people (this is key). Everyone I've talked to has been awesome and just fueled my motivation to keep going.

Google Search Console Screenshot
The results from the SEO experimentation. Doubling down in 2019!

However, traffic wise it was really inconsistent. Only bringing people in on waves. After six months of outreach and interviews, I started exploring the world of SEO.

Listening to every SEO related podcast, watching YouTube and of course reading any article I could find within a few months.

SEO has always been a mysterious field to me. But let me tell you, it is surprisingly simple.

However, don't confuse simple with easy. Because it's definitely not easy.

It takes time...

First of all, you need to produce quality content. That means I had to learn to write better copy (the hard part). Especially since English is not my first language (hello from Norway).

Secondly, I needed to learn all the technical stuff (the easy part.)

I'm in no rush, I'll take my time. I kinda like this slow approach; I'm finally playing the long game. It's almost like having another side-project.

Speaking of side-projects...

I never really stopped new side-projects... It's a compulsion of mine. I just can't help myself.

The only difference is that my side-projects are now focused inside of Case Study Club.

3D Printing GIF
3D printing the first batch of UICARD prototypes.

In 2018 I started experimenting with UICARD. A physical UI stencil in credit card format. I 3D printed about 100 prototypes and sold them all through this newsletter (thank you to everyone that bought).

I received a ton of feedback from customers, and I'm working on a second version. This might be a Kickstarter project. Not entirely sure yet, still working on it.

In 2018 I also ran a survey about how to improve CSC and what content you'd like to see more of. 250+ awesome people answered, and I spotted a lot of patterns when analyzing the data.

I also got more and more emails asking me to review someone's portfolios and case studies.

Putting two and two together I spotted an opportunity to provide value; by helping people with their portfolios and case studies...

Screenshot video
Oh hey there. It's me, Jan. A screenshot of a talking head video from UX Portfolio Masterclass.

In late 2018 I decided to validate my idea for a course; UX Portfolio Masterclass. 14 people signed up (and paid) 2 months in advance. BIG success.

But this also meant that I had my work cut out for me. I immediately sat down to think about how to make this awesome!

I felt enormous pressure. I had no idea how to make a course.

But... This is how I learn; learning by doing.

Last week marked the last day of the class, and my students have made amazing progress already!

Their portfolios and case studies are really up there, and I can't wait to feature them on CSC.

My goal now is to listen to all the valuable feedback I've received and make UX Portfolio Masterclass 2.0. (Next opening in mid-april.)

I'm super stoked about 2019! I'll continue to work hard on Case Study Club and take it to the next level.

Learn to write even better, share exciting stories and continue experimenting. And most important of all; add value to your professional (and personal) life.

The nitty-gritty details

The two main tools I use to run Case Study Club is Webflow and Mailchimp.

Webflow →
Case Study Club was my first project using Webflow. That's how I learned to use it, and I've not looked back since. It gives me the freedom to do exactly what I want without being dependant on a developer. If I were to recommend one tool to learn in 2019, Webflow is it.

Monthly cost $25

MailChimp →
I've been using MailChimp for as long as I can remember. Now that I broke their free tier, it is quickly becoming my most expensive tool. I've looked around for others, but haven't found anything worth switching for yet.

Monthly cost $75

In addition to these, I also make use of Zapier and Typeform.

Zapier →
I use this to compile an RSS and to auto post updates on the website to Twitter. I've also used it together with Typeform to update subscriber events. During that time I did pay for more "Zaps," but I'm now back to using the free version, which is fantastic!

Typeform →
This is my number one online survey tool. I've used it for all my surveys on Case Study Club, and I'm currently also using it to collect case study submissions. In addition to this, I also used Typeform to receive payments (+ Stripe) when validating UX Portfolio Masterclass. I can't recommend this product enough.

In 2018 my total expense for these tools was ~$1300.

Here's the breakdown of the income in 2018 from Case Study Club:

UICARD Prototype: $840
Product Book Affiliate: $400
Advertising: $400
UX Portfolio Masterclass: $1386

Total: $3026

In regards to UICARD, with the postage and 3D printing costs, I barely broke even. But I consider it a win. The feedback has been priceless!

I'm not entirely sure if I'll continue with the advertising. I'll only do it if it brings you value and if it's for products/services that I truly recommend. (The same goes for affiliate deals.)

As you can see, we're at a modest ~$800 profit. Nothing to brag about, but I'm super happy with the results.  As it has become an expensive hobby, my goal has been to at least break even. It happened.

2019 might be the year where I can actually bring this hobby to the next level.

I'm not entirely sure what the next level is yet, but... One thing is certain. It means more value for you.

My number one priority!

Thank you so much for being part of this amazing journey. It truly means the world to me!

P.S. If you got any feedback on how to turn CSC into an even better and more valuable site/newsletter, please let me know. I read and respond to every single email!

Portrait of Jan Wennesland

About the Author

Jan is a Norwegian UX Designer working as a consultant by day and making side projects like Case Study Club by night. Read more →