How Marcio Santos of Stopped Trading Time for Money

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  • Who: Marcio Santos
  • Website:
  • Course Topic: Online Courses
  • Interesting Stats: Did 100K in revenue in 2022

Who are you and what course have you created?

I’m Marcio Santos the founder of Nerd Digital, and creator of the Course Creator Canvas and Courses That Scale.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve tried everything to learn how to earn more without trading more of my time as a Digital Marketer.

You’d think that it would be easy for me because I have experience helping other companies promote and sell their stuff at scale. But I kept on getting in my way or falling back into doing marketing for someone else. It wasn’t until I decided to package what I’d learned into a complete solution did things change for me.

Today, I get paid for my ideas instead of my time, and the Course Creator Canvas has the exact same frameworks I use to help clients like Khe Hy from Radreads, Ted Seides from Capital Allocators, Robbie Crabtree from Performative Speaking, and more, scale their sales beyond 6-figures.

What market does your online course serve?

I help people I call Idea Collectors become Idea Investors.

Idea Collectors are people who have numerous ideas in their heads, are trying to get paid for their ideas instead of their time, and keep getting in their own way. An Idea Investor is someone that gets paid for their ideas and builds a portfolio of idea assets that pays them while they sleep.

The ideal person for this course hates the idea of marketing & selling their ideas, but they know they should. This person is sitting on at least 6-figures of revenue right now, and they can’t see it staring them in the face. This person is their biggest enemy because they overthink about:

  • their niche
  • what other people think of them
  • how to build an audience
  • how to make their ideas stand out online
  • when is the right time to create their own digital product
  • the technical challenges of setting up a website and sales pages

What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?

Create and sell your first course in the next 30 days without spending a dime on Facebook ads.

Marcio Santos site

How did you get into the market?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always traded my time for money doing Graphic & Web Design, SEO, Web Analytics, sales, event management, project management, or anything else to pay the bills.

I’ve worked with huge businesses that do tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in sales per year like BMW, Danone, Kettle & Fire, THE TEN SPOT, Fanexpo, and many more. Working with bigger brands and teams is great because you get to learn from other great professionals, you get paid well, but you have trade all your time for money.

One night, at around 9 pm during a snow storm, I’m stuck at my agency job with a pile of documents to file. I look at the clock, and think to myself “there’s got to be a better way to make money then this.” At the same time, I think about my mom’s Alzheimers diagnoses, and my wife, and how little time I spend with them. It’s in this moment I make a big decision to change the way I make money.

So I leave my agency job, and take on any freelance job I can get my hands on from SEO, Web Design, and whatever else I can learn or know how to do. But a few months after my big decision I catch myself in the same situation. I was right where I started: trading all my time for money.

I realize that I’m staying in my comfort zone by doing the stuff I know how to do, and ignoring the hard things I need to learn to break free from this work-time hamster wheel. - Marcio Santos Click To Tweet

I’m not exactly sure how but one day I see an ad for an online coaching program, and I sign up for the free call.

During the free call I get offered a ten thousand dollar coaching program. Everything I hear on the phone sounds foreign to me. I’m told that the coaching company will help me to attract customers and sell more, and I’ll be able to do that without trading all of my time. I walk over to the small den in our little apartment, put the phone on hold, and tell my wife about it. The 10k price tag was an insane amount of money for us then, so the conversation was naturally very tense, but she told me it was up to me. So I took the leap, relayed my credit card information over the phone, and waited for the next few weeks to get my custom marketing plan.

Over the next few months working with the coaching company I learned a lot of interesting marketing strategies. Stuff I never knew about that helped me to grow my email list and my revenue. But the biggest thing I learned is how to increase my leverage on my time by learning the power of packaging my skills, organizing them, and selling my ideas instead of my time.

It wasn’t until I saw behind the curtain of how the coaching company worked, did I realize that I could operate in a similar way.  A few weeks after this new realization, I lucked into an opportunity to work with Khe Hy from In the next 12 months, I coached him to help him increase his revenue by over 50%.

I kept on improving my processes and decide to focus on serving small creators instead of giant businesses. My passion for packaging and selling ideas and working with creators leads me to another great opportunity at the edutech startup Maven, where I train dozens of instructors to create and launch their courses.

I would later go on to work with Class Growth, an agency that specializes in selling courses, and Classpert, an edutech startup that does the same.

In other words, I’ve become obsessed with this whole game of helping people with a lot of skills and ideas in their heads create their own signature system and sell it.

Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?

I decided to create the course as a way to document what I was learning.

Different course creators start in different positions.

I mean that some are ready to scale, some need to build, and some need to tweak a few things here and there.

Also, different creators have a different feel for how they want to market themselves. Some are really happy to get on video and post them but need help building the systems to convert, measure and monetize.

Others hate to promote themselves, and so I’ve learned there are different strategies to reach the same goal.

Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?

Oh wow, all the time.

One thing I observed is that more obstacles seemed to sprout up from nowhere right before major milestones. Be those from the outside or myself.

A big part is this idea that “my course isn’t good enough” or “I’m not good enough”.

I invest a ton in other courses, and programs.

One of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had in my career was learning to work as a coach. I never really understood what the heck a coach would do.

“why would someone pay to have someone else tell them what to do?”

But that’s not actually the right question.

The question is, “how can I help other people who are struggling to get where my clients are?”

And the answer is: I can help in 3 main ways.

  1. Clarity
  2. Confidence
  3. Accountability

Most people don’t really have trouble figuring out how to make things work. Like, how to post content on social media, or write a blog post, or create an automated email sequence.

But, most people struggle to figure out, what they should be working on, and how to adjust their work to their situation. - Marcio Santos Click To Tweet

If you are just starting out, and are selling a product that’s below $1000 your strategy is going to be completely different to someone that has monthly sales of $100,000.

I learned these things after working with a coach.

It wasn’t until I paid for a coach that I realized why a coach was valuable. I added an extra $30k to my revenue, and decreased my workload by 30% within 12 months of working with a coach.

Marcio Santos site

So that was one of the big things that helped me to turn my head around.

I later invested in more programs to get quick access to better systems and processes and strategies. More technical courses.

These gave me the confidence to be able to speak with virtually any course creator and have a clear idea of what they should be doing to sell their course.

So that was a 2nd critical turning point for me.

The third critical turning point for me was that I realized that all of my investments in training and programs were in very tactical type products/services.

I never invested in something in the “mindset” space.

I’ve always been curious about this. And this was another huge turning point for me.

Most of the mindset stuff out there is bullshit plain and simple.

You can’t chant your way to success.

But you can define what you want, make a plan, get after it, and achieve it if you stick to it.

Funny enough, I realized I had blockers in all of these areas.

Defining what you want is easier said than done. You see, I’ve learned to be the type of person that does not complain. I like that stoic wisdom of “don’t allow anyone, not even yourself, to hear you complain”.

But, like anything, the context matters.

Wisdom is not having knowledge, it’s knowing what knowledge to apply and when.

Complaining can be seen as a bad thing. However, complaining in the context of “defining what you want” is key.

Everything you have today (unless it was given to you) you have because you were probably unhappy with the alternative.

Take something simple like your laptop or phone or running shoes. At some point, you said, “this [product] sucks. “ In other words, you complained. And in this context it was good because it lead you to the next step.

The next thing you did was you said, “I want a better [product].” You defined what you wanted. “I want a better laptop.” Then you got more specific:

You might say, ‘I want a 15” laptop’.

Or, ‘I want a 15” laptop with great battery life’.

Or even better, ‘I want a 15” laptop with great battery life that can withstand shocks & spills, has a touch screen, is foldable into a tablet, and has a 3-year warranty. I want the X1 Carbon Thinkpad.’

Then you got your money together (or you put it on your credit card) and followed through until the laptop was sitting on your desk.

You can save yourself about 50% of the time and money on mindset work you can ever do by learning this process and using it.

You have the mental frameworks to succeed in buying a laptop, shoes, and products. All you need is to learn the mental frameworks to achieve success in whatever other area you want, then get after it.

The Course Creator Canvas has the mental frameworks to take you from a bunch of ideas in your head to launching your course.

Marcio Santos site

What’s your online course like?

I purposely made my course very actionable and created it inside Notion.

It has all of my frameworks organized into 3 phases: Mine Your Niche, Mint Your Course, and Monetize Your Course. It also has templates and a few recorded videos.

The reason why I created the CCC in Notion is because I want to make it easier for you to take action, and not just watch a bunch of videos.

Everything I share with you can integrate with any existing Notion setup.

How long did it take you to create your course?

I created my course in 3 phases.

The first time around was over a year ago when I created the outcome of the course, the roadmap, and the steps needed to achieve the outcome.

During the first time, I did a lot of research and tested the ideas working 1:1 with clients.

I walked each client through my slides and frameworks, and this helped me to refine my lessons.

The second time around, I delivered my course to a small group of course creators in early 2022. This was great because it forced me to nail down all of the details of the course and stress test it.

I really thought everything was perfectly setup and working, but that all came crashing down on the very first day, when my students complained some of the pages and tables in Notion were not working as expected.

The CCC is a streamlined version of the live course I offer called Courses That Scale (you can join the waitlist here) where I offer live training to a small group of creators. In Courses That Scale, I walk you through everything from the Course Creator Canvas, plus I walk you through another module on how to market your course.

Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).

The first time I launched my course, I did it with a partner. Partnering with another agency that offers done-for-you services for course creators was perfect because I didn’t spend any money or time marketing the course. I just showed up, taught my students, and got paid.

It was a great fit and worked well because they already had customers, and a bunch of leads. It was as simple as sending out a few emails and closing our first cohort.

Do you have a lead magnet?

Yes, you can get the Course Creator Canvas for free. It also includes a 10-day email course with it that walks you through each step of the CCC in detail.

Along the way, I offer ways to make it easier and faster for people to create and sell their course. And for those that want to go faster and are ready to scale their marketing efforts, they can join Courses That Scale or book a call with one of our Course Angels to learn how we can help them.

Marcio Santos site

What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?

I used to have a funnel where I’d direct traffic toward a page to book a call. And I generated traffic to that funnel using Facebook ads. It worked well in getting traffic, calls, and some sales. It was also great at locking up my entire calendar. I’m in the process of hiring a sales expert to take over the sales calls for me.

In the meantime, I have a stream of traffic that come from paid, organic, and partnerships to a handful of guides I’ve created.

I used to believe that all traffic should be organic, but I dont’ believe that anymore. You see, time is more valuable than money. This “saying” is usually something I would think about in the realm of my family, my relationships, my health. But for some reasons I never really connected it to my business.

When trying to get online sales, you have to look at that through the lens of time. For example, earning $1mil in sales for your course sounds great. But what if I told you that was over the course of 12 years. That doesn’t sound nearly as great as $1mil in 12 months.

Organic traffic through SEO is awesome, but its unpredictable.

I’ve learned that when it comes to your online sales strategy, you want to execute a predictable and measurable strategy.

Measurable just means that there’s enough data coming in so that you can learn and make adjustments. Your adjustments can be to double down in a channel, remove a channel, or explore similar channels.

Predictable means that there’s a greater certainty for you to influence the outcome. Maybe there’s a better word for this. But I don’t recommend that you depend on activities that rely on things like backlinks, virality, or luck to succeed.

SEO is great, but it depends heavily on backlinks. Organic clicks from social are great, but that depends on virality or a large following. Getting someone else to share your stuff can be a bit hit or miss and can be delayed.

That’s why I create content for SEO, then run ads to get targeted traffic. Then I use remarketing to maximize what my audience is seeing. Finally, I layer on a steady stream of partnerships that kick in every other month with more traffic in the form of backlinks, a podcast interview, or an email promotion.

What online course platform are you using?

I use

Do you like it?

Yes. I like because its easy, cheap and I recommend to people that want to get started. Too much time, effort, and money get wasted on bigger platforms unnecessarily.

Putting your offer together and getting it live fast is important because you can test your assumptions quickly and adapt from there.

Are there any features you wish it had?

I wish it had more robust email features, like better segmentation and automation.

What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?

I used WordPress for years, which was great because of its flexibility. But you pay for that flexibility with your time. Be ruthless with your time. If it takes you more time to execute, you probably won’t follow through on dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s you need to get get your course off the ground.

Signup for an account with or Kajabi and set up your course. Don’t let yourself get stuck fixing your website and tech stack because it can drain time and energy.

What other tools do you use to run your online course business?, Stripe, Google Analytics, FB ads manager, Google Ads, Notion, Canva, Vimeo.

What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?

I’ve spent a lot of money on courses, coaches, and books.

These are my favorites: Aaron Fletcher, Chris Do, Brian Dean, Khe Hy, Derek Halpern, Alex Hormozi, Russel Brunson, Robert Chialdini, Sam Oh, Chris Von Willpert, and Brian Harris.

Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?

My biggest realization is that building an online business is essentially like a financial investment.

When you first create a financial plan (if you haven’t yet, please email me so I can help you or find someone you trust to do this now), you define that you want to save some of your money every month so that you can have more for your future self.

Starting your online business and building your email list is like monthly savings. The sooner you get started, the better.

I waited way too long.

Marcio Santos site

Please share some idea of revenue.

In 2022 I did $100k in revenue, working about 20 hours a week. 40% in passive income through course sales and investments. 60% comes from coaching.

Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.

I’ve been able to work 20 hours per week with almost complete flexibility. This has allowed me to be there daily every step of the way with my two young children. Care for my mother, enjoy time with my wife, help pay for my dad’s nursing care, and care for myself.

What has creating your course done for you personally?

Creating my course has been an outstanding achievement for me. I put it off for so long that I’m relieved to get it done.

It will continue to improve over time.

Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?

Two years ago, I was referred to work with Ted Seides and his team.

They wanted to create a course and knew I helped Khe Hy from

Working with Ted and his team was a real lucky break for me. I say that because he had a small team of people working with him, and all of them showed up and did the work. We made progress every week. And within just nine weeks, they added another 6-figures in revenue to their business.

This was so cool because they previously did not sell any courses. Then they sold well over $100k on their first launch.

It made me feel excited to see my system and advice worked.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

Your course needs to be different. Do this by creating a different outcome or by using a different way to get that outcome. - Marcio Santos Click To Tweet

Learn more about Marcio Santos of

Lisa Parmley
Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of After gaining a Master's degree, she worked in research for about seven years. She started a training company in 2001, offering a course helping people pass a professional exam. That course has earned multiple 7 figures. She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 22+ years of experience in the trenches creating and selling online courses. Get help starting and growing your online course business here.

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