How I went from zero to $29,624.76 in 8 months – without spending a dollar on ads

by John McIntyre

This is a guest post by Mirna Bacun. Mirna is the founder of Creative Office, a company that helps business owners and coaches get free, high-quality leads with LinkedIn.

I was starting from scratch again.

After founding a successful startup software company in January 2014. I realized that creating software was not what I wanted to do, so I decided to shut my startup down at the beginning of 2016.

And so it was that in February 2016, I had no money, no e-mail list, no website, no company and nobody knew who I was. I had no product. No team. No partners. No positioning whatsoever.

To be honest, I NEEDED to launch my business as soon as possible and make money because my bills were long overdue and I was a couple of months behind on my rent.

I was in debt and I needed the money – FAST.

Like many other new business owners, I faced the same problems as most of them.

I asked myself questions like:

  • How do I start a business if I have nothing to sell yet?
  • What product should I create?
  • How do I create that product?
  • How do I launch it and to whom?
  • How do I make money?

At that time, my situation was pretty bad.

I was almost living at my sister’s place because I couldn’t afford to turn the heat on in my apartment (and winters are pretty cold here in Zagreb, where I live).

Going back to my parent’s house was the last option, but I didn’t even consider it.

Everywhere I looked, it seemed that the odds were against me.

But despite all of this, I went from zero to $30k with a 1300 e-mail list in 8 months – without spending a dollar on ads.

How did I go from zero to building my email list to 1300 highly engaged subscribers, making almost $30k and positioning myself as the LinkedIn expert in just about eight months – without spending a dollar on ads?

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you exactly how I did it.

3 Huge Stumbling Blocks On My Path (Chances Are, You’ve Got Them Too)

Like many of you, I didn’t only have a lot of questions.

I had a lot of problems.

Problems I had no idea how to solve.

Problem No. 1 – I had no product

The biggest problem was that I didn’t have a product.

I’d made almost $50k for my previous business with LinkedIn in just about a year without spending a dollar on ads, so I had an idea of what I could teach people – but I didn’t know what kind of product to create.

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if people needed LinkedIn coaching in the first place – and I was a “nobody” in the LinkedIn consulting space.

With time not being an ally, I knew that I didn’t have the luxury to re-invent the wheel or make mistakes.

I was in debt, and I had only one chance to make a product or a service that would:

  1. Explain how to use LinkedIn to get high-quality leads
  2. Present the massive opportunity that LinkedIn offers for B2B businesses when it comes to lead generation

But as far as I knew – nobody cared about or liked LinkedIn.

Problem No. 2 – I had no e-mail list and no lead magnet

I had no e-mail list, like so many entrepreneurs today.

I also had no lead magnet to start building my list.

I didn’t even know who was my target market at the time.

So how was I supposed to create a great lead magnet? What was I supposed to write about and how was I supposed to structure everything?

It almost seemed like Mission Impossible to me.

Problem No. 3 – I had no sales funnel

As I didn’t have a product or an e-mail list – I had no sales funnel either.

I didn’t have a website. I also had no idea what to offer on the front-end of my sales funnel.  

I had some experience with my previous company, but just because something worked in one niche – didn’t mean it would work for another target market.

At least I knew that much.

Getting your ass out of bed

The situation was pretty discouraging.

I was 34, sleeping in the apartment that I couldn’t afford, afraid to turn on the heat and get warm because I couldn’t pay the bills. I felt like a massive failure – like everything I did in my life came down to this one moment.

And then it hit me. I had to do SOMETHING.

ANYTHING was better than where I was in that moment.

Next morning, I decided to just get my ass out of bed and start.

I realized I DO HAVE some resources.

I had a laptop. I had an Internet connection. I knew how to record a video. I knew how to talk (I haven’t forgotten that, yet). I had experience with LinkedIn.

So I woke up, opened my computer, and I went to LinkedIn.

I decided to record a small but powerful LinkedIn video tip and explain how to put a clickable lead magnet on your LinkedIn Profile.

I got my ass out of bed. Now what?

I knew the video tip needed to show a step-by-step process of creating a clickable lead magnet directly on the LinkedIn Profile, without any fluff.

The video wasn’t fancy; I recorded it using Quick Time (screen recording option), and it turned out to be 6 minutes long.

Then, I went on Facebook.

Why did I go on Facebook if I was talking about LinkedIn?

Because the LinkedIn connections I had at the time were not my target market and I needed time to change my positioning and connections there.

Since I didn’t want to waste time and start to procrastinate, I decided to go on Facebook and start from somewhere.

I invested my last $200 and bought a Wistia account so I could upload the video there.

Once I uploaded the video, I went on Facebook and looked for groups that might have members interested in using LinkedIn for their business.

I joined groups like Clickfunnels, Smart Passive Income and a bunch of entrepreneur and marketing groups. I was looking for groups where I saw real activity and was avoiding SPAM groups.

I needed real people to see this video.

There was no pitching or selling in the video; I just wanted people to see the opportunity that LinkedIn offered.

I posted the video in about 15 groups and waited.

Soon, people started to engage, comment and share the video!

LinkedIn FB post

After a day or two, the video got traction. I got noticed as a person that knows LinkedIn, and I’ve been able to present LinkedIn as a great opportunity for business owners and coaches.

LinkedIn FB post shared

The crucial thing to remember here is that the trick I revealed in the video was something most LinkedIn marketers never mentioned before – but this little trick was a HUGE eye-opener for business owners.

Also, the video provided an enormous amount of value PLUS – it was easy to follow and to REPLICATE.

People that watched the video started to send me friend requests on Facebook.

I had no idea what to do next, but it was a start.

The reaction to the video got me thinking that an online LinkedIn course might be the way to go.

In the next couple of days, I booked Skype calls with the people that reached out to me about the video and tried to pre-sell the LinkedIn course I decided to create.

I still had no website, no email list, no company and no way for me to collect money. So I sold the computer I’ve used for video editing (the LAST resource I had on this planet) to open up a company, set up a payment gateway and hire an accountant.

At this point, I had no resources left. I had no money to my name, but this small video got my hopes up, and I decided to go all in.

The only other option I had was to get a 9-5 job, which seemed (and still does) like death to me.

In the next couple weeks, I focused on booking calls, pre-selling my course and publishing more LinkedIn video tips on Facebook.

That got me going while I was still freezing my ass off in the apartment.

I put up a simple landing page with a button that went to the payment gateway and officially opened the “pre-sell” cart.

The pre-sell price for the course was $997.

I notified people I’d talked to that the pre-launch cart was open and that they can buy the course while I am finishing it.

I was recording like crazy.

I literally closed myself in the apartment and recorded the whole course in a week. I edited it a bit, but just focused on teaching, step-by-step, what I did to make $50k with LinkedIn in a year without spending a dollar on ads.

Now, the pre-sell cart was open, and I waited.

First day – no sales.

Second day – no sales.

Third, fourth, seventh day – no sales.

I closed the pre-sell cart with ZERO sales.

I was devastated.

And I was again – back at square one.

Learning form your mistakes will get you far

Figuring out what I did wrong wasn’t easy, but it was necessary.

I asked people I offered the pre-sell cart to for feedback about why they didn’t buy the course.

And then I learned one of the most valuable sales lessons to date.

Just because someone says they “like” your idea or product “and are interested in buying” – doesn’t mean they will pull out their wallet and give you money.

I always think of this when I ask for somebody’s opinion about my product (and you should, too).

But, this was a process that I needed to do, and it gave me excellent information about what I was doing wrong.

LinkedIn Pre-Sell Feedback

Then, I realized a couple of things:

1) I was still a nobody

2) People didn’t trust me enough to buy my product

3) I needed to communicate the opportunity better if I wanted them to buy

4) The price point for this course was (at that time) too high

So, I decided to give it one more shot. I figured the best thing to do was to focus on building a small email list and pre-launch the course.

At this point, I had the course almost ready, but still no lead magnet or an email list.

The lead magnet can make or break your business

To start an email list you need a lead magnet, right?

But, I didn’t want to create just any lead magnet.

I wanted to make a piece of remarkable content that wouldn’t be some fluff everybody else was writing about – but for that, I needed an example. A blueprint. A strategy.

The problem was that the Internet was (and still is) full of low-quality content that nobody reads, let alone implements, and I wanted to be different.

I wanted to position myself as a LinkedIn expert. I wanted my leads to like me, trust me and to show them the real opportunity with LinkedIn. They needed to see what they were missing out on if they weren’t using LinkedIn for lead generation.

I also wanted to create an evergreen lead magnet that would still be relevant six months or two years from now – and generate leads for my business.

So, the question was – how do I create a lead magnet like that?

What do I need to write about (and how) if I want to meet all of these goals with a single lead magnet?

At that time, someone mentioned Brendon Burchard to me, so I signed up for one of his free video courses. In one of the videos, he explained the structure of writing content that could be used for any kind of content.

My light bulb turned on.

That was exactly what I needed.

Brendon Template

I used his structure to write my lead magnet. I followed it to the teeth.

While I wrote my LinkedIn Case Study (took me about a week), I kept posting valuable, step-by-step LinkedIn video tips to Facebook groups and on LinkedIn to keep myself visible.

I ended up with a 40-page Case Study.

It gave away the whole LinkedIn strategy that I used to make $50k with LinkedIn in just about a year for my previous company, without spending a dollar on ads. I shared some of my best advice in it for free, and I enabled people to replicate what I did on LinkedIn if they wanted to.

Enabling people to replicate what you did with a piece of great content is the key.

A lot of people are afraid to give away their best strategies for free, thinking that nobody will buy their stuff if they do. It’s a big mindset issue, because if you give your best advice for free, people will KNOW that once they decide to invest in your services or products – you’ll blow their mind.

My lead magnet wasn’t perfect, but I knew I just needed to get it out there and get feedback. Many people suffer from “making it perfect before getting it out” syndrome, and I can now confidently say – just get it out there. The only way to make it “perfect” is to get feedback from the readers.

There is NO other way.

So, I finally made a landing page in Clickfunnels and created a MailChimp list, but I didn’t get subscribers right away because I realized that nobody would give me the permission to put a lead magnet in their Facebook group.

After some thought, I decided to give the LinkedIn Case Study away for free, without asking for an e-mail address in return.


Because I knew that most people don’t have a problem with WHAT they need to do, but HOW to do it. Even if you explain the process to the smallest detail, most of them will still need help with actually implementing that process.

People need guidance. People need accountability. People need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it.

And that’s what they’ll pay you in the end.

So, I posted my LinkedIn Case Study in the Facebook groups and gave them the link to my Dropbox where they could just download it.

I also sent the Case Study in the messages to all the people I talked to on the phone; that didn’t buy my course in the pre-sell phase.

And I was waiting to see what would happen.


How I made my first $3,481.92 in 12 days and validated my idea

Even though I didn’t ask for anybody’s email address, the LinkedIn video tips I published once per week alongside with the LinkedIn Case Study started to create a buzz around my name on Facebook.

The problem was – I still had no subscribers.

So I finally focused on building my subscribers list.

I put the lead magnet on my Facebook and LinkedIn Profile with the link to the landing page.

I asked the people who liked my Case Study to share it if they think it’s valuable but to include the link to the landing page if they do. Some of them were happy to do it.

After that, I published a blog post on LinkedIn. I copy-pasted the first two pages of my LinkedIn Case Study and put a link in the blog that directed the readers to the landing page where they could download the full version.

I continued to share LinkedIn video tips once a week in the Facebook groups and on LinkedIn, but this time I would direct them to my Wistia page, where I asked them to download the Case Study in the comment.

This is where they landed once they clicked the link on Facebook to watch the video:

Wistia Linkedin Pic

I also created a tripwire for $7 to offer in the front-end of my sales funnel to see which of these people were “warm” leads when it comes to LinkedIn lead generation.

It was now the end of February/beginning of March 2016. and I started to get my first subscribers.

But then I realized I have another problem.

I had no e-mail sequence prepared in Mailchimp, and I needed to come up with something to keep the subscribers engaged until I pre-launch the course.

I wrote a five-email sequence to start with, and kept sharing awesome LinkedIn video tips.

This was the structure of the e-mails:

DAY 0 – Welcome email, that went out as soon as they signed up. I gave them the link to the Case Study and asked them to whitelist my email

DAY 1 – Email with the link to the Blog post 1

DAY 2 – Email with the link to the Blog post 2

DAY 3 – Email with the link to the Video tip 1

DAY 4 – Email with the link to the Video tip 2

DAY 5 – Email with the link to the Video tip 3

I set the emails to go out on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, so I could have the time to write and send out fresh content to my list on Tuesday and Thursday. This schedule enabled me to extend the auto-responder until I offer the online course.

It was HUGELY important to send my subscribers quality, no-fluff, no-sales emails while keeping them engaged, building trust and nurturing them.

Let me just say something here, before I continue.

Unlike what most people think – you don’t need a massive email list. You need an engaged list, and you should aim for QUALITY instead of QUANTITY.

After about a month I had an e-mail list of about 300 people, all while spending zero dollars on ads. These subscribers were my potential clients, and they wanted to use LinkedIn for their business. They weren’t lurkers or people that accidentally stumbled on my website. They weren’t cold traffic, they knew who I was and they downloaded my lead magnet on purpose.

So, since I needed the money BADLY at this point, I decided to pre-launch the course to that small list of only 300 people.

I didn’t want to wait, and you shouldn’t, either  – just launch the damn thing! 🙂

I made a simple webinar registration page in Clickfunnels and used a free trial of Anymeeting to do the webinar. I sent the webinar invite to my list and posted it daily on Facebook and LinkedIn until the day of the webinar.

I didn’t run any ads for this.

About 120 people registered for the Webinar, and around 55 showed up.

In the live Webinar, I gave them the outline of what I was teaching in my online course and focused on providing REAL value. The focus was giving them clear instructions so they can replicate the process in LinkedIn after the Webinar, even if they DON’T buy my course.

I gave them a step-by-step strategy how to make five figures with LinkedIn without spending a dollar on ads, and showed them exactly what they needed to do.

At the end of the webinar I told them I was pre-launching my LinkedIn online course and offered them:

  • The Link Lead Generation Formula (the online course),
  • Access to the Facebook group,
  • One hour of free 1:1 coaching with me,
  • One monthly Live Q and A session

The price for the whole enchilada was $497, and I had a payment option of 2x$297 to make it easier for them to make the purchasing decision.

I closed the cart just three days after the Webinar.

I made 2,283.96 in sales in those three days.

Then, I re-open the cart again two days later, giving them another payment option – only $99 per month for six months. This time, the cart was opened for 24 hours only.

I also sold a couple of courses on the side – and all of these efforts resulted in $3,481.92 total in just 12 days.

FS LinkedIn

That might not sound like a lot to someone, but this gave me the good indication that:

1) I have validated my product

2) I actually have (started) a business

3) If I can make $3k in 12 days, I can make five figures in the next couple of months

All the hard work paid off. I was able to pay my rent and my bills.

It was easier to breathe after that.

I’d validate my idea and made my first $$$. Now what?

I decided to keep doing more of what worked (and that’s the only thing you need to do in your business as well).

In the next month I:

  • Kept posting LinkedIn video tips once a week in Facebook and LinkedIn groups (with the link to my LinkedIn Case Study in the comment box of Wistia)
  • Started my own LinkedIn group to get more subscribers without paying for ads,
  • Created the full version of my website and blog,
  • Kept nurturing my existing list with awesome content,
  • Created another, smaller version of my $497 course

The focus of the smaller course was to test it out and grab the people who were on the verge of buying the $497 course but weren’t ready to make such a big commitment.

I took one part of the $497 course that focused on the LinkedIn Profile, recorded a couple more video lessons and created a “new,” smaller online course. I priced it at $297.

The $297 course also helped me to build my value ladder and test out which of the two courses worked better.

Again, I did a live Webinar (my list was now at around 450 people) and offered that “new,” smaller version of the course. I made $3,779.26 that month and increased my revenue 8,5% from the previous month.

In less than three months I went from absolute “nobody,” with no product and no e-mail list – to being recognized as the LinkedIn expert on Facebook and LinkedIn, having a small but highly engaged email list, and making over $7,000 in sales.

And I can tell you one thing.

If I did it – you can do it, too.

How I went from zero to $29,624.76 in 8 months, without spending a dollar on ads

Again, I kept doing what was already working – LinkedIn video tips, nurturing and slowly building my list while focusing on quality instead of quantity. I was also growing my revenue stream and testing out my new services.

A couple entrepreneurs invited me as a guest on their podcasts and I was happy to do it. They weren’t big players so this didn’t result in a lot of leads, but it positioned me as a LinkedIn expert even more.

I also used these podcasts as great content that I shared with my list.

Then in June 2016, something really cool happened.

I only had online courses at the time, but people were asking me if I do personalized 1:1 LinkedIn coaching. It was a good problem to have, and I had a demand that I needed to fulfill – so I went with it.

This high-end service was the result of my positioning – the quality and the value I kept providing to my target market with every single email or a blog post I shared.

Because of my “quality beats quantity” philosophy, I still don’t (need to) spend money on ads – instead, people were starting paying me four figures to teach them how to use LinkedIn to get leads.

Pretty cool, right?

But, there was one more thing I did, and I suggest you try it as well.

You can contact LinkedIn or Facebook group owners and administrators and ask them if you could share your amazing content with their group. Some of them will go through your content, and if they see a potential, they might ask you to do an affiliate or a JV webinar with them.

That happened to me with one of the groups on LinkedIn. The owner of a LinkedIn group with over 50,000 members contacted me and wanted to do an affiliate Webinar with me.

This affiliate webinar call came just four months after I opened my company, and alongside with my 1:1 coaching service – in August 2016 I broke the $5000/month revenue milestone.

I am not saying this to brag, but to remind you that everything is possible if you just focus on quality in  your business.

The results?

By the time I’m writing this (November 2, 2016.): 

1. I am at $29,624.76 in sales (and counting).

FS LinkedIn full

2. I have a 1300 list of highly engaged subscribers that love what I write about.


3. I have a 785 member LinkedIn group (and growing), with very targeted leads I can market to for free.


I have 2 online courses, a high-end LinkedIn coaching service and I just launched my group coaching service. I have positioned myself as a LinkedIn expert in the space, and people are eager to work with me.

Also, I have been invited to be a contributor in a book that will come out in 2017, alongside big names like Marshall Goldsmith, Mark Thompson, Jack Canfield and other huge names in the coaching space.

I did this without putting a single dollar in ads, by focusing on creating great content and giving value before asking people to buy my “stuff”.

The trick was – I was disciplined and I didn’t try to “make it” overnight.

What can you do right now to have similar results?

A lot of  coaches and business owners struggle with getting their business off ground and I hope this post gave you a great blueprint of what you can do.

As you can see, everything I did in the last eight months focused on providing a huge amount of value to my target market. And if I needed to do it all over again – I wouldn’t change a thing.

In case you are still wondering what to do, here are the steps to get you started:

1) Identify your target market and the social media that they use most. Start engaging there.

2) Create an amazing lead magnet. Focus on giving away your best advice for free in there.

3) Create and share valuable content. There is so much fluff around that people instantly recognise real value.

4) Create a product they want to buy. If you don’t know WHAT you need to create – research your target market. They have all the answers you’ll ever need.

5) Focus on “Them” instead of “You”. It’s never about you or your product anyway, so get over yourself – it’s good for business.

6) Test and create different products and services. Figure out what’s working and don’t be afraid to “fail”. It’s the only way to fix what’s not working and “succeed”.

7) Find partners in the space. Everybody is looking for great content and reliable partners.

8) Just launch the damn thing! As Ramit Sethi says: you have a “special snowflake syndrome”, and it’s not helping your business.

If you enjoyed this blog post, all I can say is – get your ass out of bed.

Many people want and need your services; you just need to start.

Focus on your positioning and build trust among your target market slowly.

And, whatever you do – focus on QUALITY instead of QUANTITY.

This is a guest post by Mirna Bacun. Mirna is the founder of Creative Office, a company that helps business owners and coaches get free, high-quality leads with LinkedIn.

If you want to a step-by-step guide how to use LinkedIn to get free, high-quality leads for your business – then download my LinkedIn Case Study: “How I made $47,070.46 of recurring revenue and got over 10,000 high-quality leads by using LinkedIn, without paying a dollar for ads”It will blow your mind. I promise:)

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