Courses are my #1 source of income as a blogger.
I just calculated my 2017 income and expenses and was blown away to see that I made nearly $50,000 from course sales last year. Like, WHAT!? That’s crazy talk!
However, don’t let that number fool you: I wasn’t always a “pro” when it comes to creating and launching courses. In fact, my first ever course launch didn’t exactly go to plan…
I spent four weeks creating and perfecting the course material and poured every spare second I had into it. But when I finally opened up the course for enrollment… nothing but crickets. I ended up making 7 or 8 sales over the next TWO MONTHS (not all at once or anything like that), totaling around $1500 in revenue.
When you deduct business expenses (I hired a copywriter and a designer to help with the course) and income taxes, my profit margin from this course was basically minuscule (a few hundred dollars, maybe).
What went wrong, you ask? Well, in all honesty I didn’t have a CLUE what I was doing at the time. I had created a good course, but I didn’t know how to sell it. In fact, while I was preparing to write this post I realized that I made 7 of the 8 mistakes I’m going to share with you today during my first ever course launch. Yikes!
Thankfully I’ve learned a lot since then, and my launches now regularly bring in five figures. Today I want to pass on my knowledge and wisdom to you, young grasshopper — so you can avoid my mistakes and make your first course launch a massive success!
But first, you might be wondering: Why courses?
3 Reasons Selling Courses is the Best Way to Make Money as a Blogger
Reason #1. Courses can generate passive income.
Your course will be a resource that you create once and can then sell over and over again to an unlimited number of people. Speaking of…
Reason #2. With courses, you remove any incomes caps you would have with a 1:1 service-based model.
When you work with customers or clients 1:1, there are obviously only so many people you can work with at a given time (because, hello, there are only 24 hours in a day!) But as a course creator, those time and income restraints disappear because you can sell your course to an unlimited amount of people.
Reason #3. Courses are usually sold at a higher price than smaller digital products like ebooks.
This means that you need to sell less courses than you would need to sell ebooks to make the same amount of money. For example, if you sell an ebook for $20 and an ecourse for $200 and you want to earn $5,000, you would need to sell 250 ebooks OR 25 courses. Which do you think would be easier?
So, do I have you convinced yet? Courses are seriously amazing! Let’s dive into the 8 fatal mistakes to avoid when creating and launching your first online course. You may want to grab a pen and paper because I have a feeling you’ll be getting lots of ideas brain downloads while you read!
8 Mistakes to Avoid With Your First Online Course
Mistake #1. Not validating your course idea.
Picture this. You spend months creating beautiful, valuable, actionable content to go inside your first ever online course. You create a gorgeous sales page. You schedule emails and social media to promote the course. You finally make the announcement and open enrollment… and not a single person purchases the course.
That’s the last thing we want to happen! And the #1 cause of no-one-buying is that you didn’t take time to validate your course idea ahead of time. Before you spend your precious time creating the course, you need to know that:
a) Your audience is keen to learn more about whatever the topic of your course is, and
b) Your audience is willing to PAY for this knowledge (because it’s one thing for them to say they’re interested, BUT are they actually willing to shell out the cash?)
Before creating your online course, validate your idea by pre-selling the course to your audience. Yep, I want you to open up enrollment and start taking in sales BEFORE you’ve actually put the course together.
Essentially, pre-selling gets your audience to “put their money where their mouth is” and ensures it’s worth your time to move forward and create the course.
To host a successful pre-sale, all you need are:
1. A killer sales page (more on that in a bit!)
2. An outline of what you’ll teach in the course
Just make sure your audience knows the course hasn’t been created yet, and that it will be ready by X date. During the pre-sale, share the course with your mailing list, share it in a blog post, promote it on social media, and see whether the topic is a good match for your audience. When you make sales during the pre-sale, you’re good to go and can set out to create the course content for your new students.
Mistake #2. Your course doesn’t meet your audience where they’re at.
Here’s the thing. A lot of the time we want to create a course on a topic WE’RE passionate about, which is totally fair. Buuut if your course isn’t created with your existing audience in mind, you’ll have a hard time selling the course and your students might not achieve the results they’re hoping for.
What exactly do I mean by “meet your audience where they’re at”? I mean that if your audience is full of complete beginners when it comes to the topic of your course, don’t create a super advanced course because that would be super confusing for them. And vice versa! If a large portion of your audience is already at an intermediate or advanced level, a beginner-friendly course won’t serve them well.
Really get to know your audience and what level they’re at when it comes to the course you want to create. You can do this by chatting with your readers 1-on-1, running polls on social media (Instagram polls are my fave!) or sending out a questionnaire to your mailing list. Once you know where your audience is currently at AND where they want to get to, you can create a course that meets those needs (and will sell like hotcakes)!
Mistake #3. You haven’t established yourself as an expert before launching your first course.
People don’t want to buy courses from amateurs. If your audience members are shelling out their hard-earned pennies on your course, it’s because they view you as an expert and trust your ability to educate them and help them achieve results. But if nobody’s buying, it might be because nobody views you as an expert in your niche… yet.
Before opening your course for enrollment, spend at least 3-4 weeks establishing yourself as an expert on the topic of your course. This can be done through:
When you’ve successfully built up your status as an expert on the topic, you’re ready to announce your course and open up pre-sales.
Mistake #4. Your course doesn’t deliver a result.
Here’s my golden rule for creating online courses:
Good courses are actionable and help students achieve a specific result.
Your course shouldn’t just be knowledge-vomit. In other words, don’t just cram everything you know into a bunch of lessons and expect people to wade through and pick out the information that’s relevant to them. No bueno.
Instead of trying to share every single thing you know about the topic inside your course, choose a clear and concrete result you want to help your students achieve. Then come up with a step-by-step process or system that will take students from Point A (where they are now) to Point B (the result you’re promising).
For example, instead of creating a course called “Yoga for Beginners” — which is pretty vague and could include a million and one different things — why not create a course called “Mastering Yoga Headstands in 30 Days”?
See how the latter promises a specific result (that you’ll be able to master yoga headstands), AND has a time limit (in 30 days)? That’s course perfection right there.
For your first course, I suggest focusing on ONE specific result you want to help your students achieve. Don’t promise the world and then fail to deliver. Hone in on the one big thing your audience is dying to learn or accomplish, and then center your course around helping them achieve that goal.
Mistake #5. Releasing your course with no build-up.
Oooo this one’s a biggie, and it’s a mistake I definitely made with my first course launch. For some reason, I had it in my head that I had to keep my course a “surprise” and do this “big reveal” on the day I opened it for enrollment. Ummm, what? NOT a very smart strategy.
People need to know about your course long before you open it up for enrollment. In a perfect world, you want your audience to be marking the date on their calendars and counting down the days until they can join your course. So don’t keep your readers in the dark!
This is where a detailed pre-launch strategy comes into play. For at least 2 weeks prior to opening your course for enrollment, your main goal should be to get people excited and hyped up about your course. DON’T KEEP IT A SECRET!
You don’t need to reveal ALL the details just yet (you can keep things like the curriculum and price under wraps at this point) but you should give your audience enough information to pique their interest and get them thinking about purchasing when you open the course for enrollment.
Here are a few ways to build hype during your pre-launch phase:
1. Start a countdown on social media 7 days prior to the course opening
2. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of you working on the course or designing the course materials (this works well in emails to your mailing list or on Instagram)
3. Share success stories and results that you, your readers, and your clients have achieved (share these on social media, in emails, on your blog, etc.)
Mistake #6. Your main focus is on CREATING the course but you don’t have a plan for how you’ll sell it.
*Ahem* guilty as charged with this one! When I created my first course, not only did I not pre-sell it ahead of time but I also let myself get so wrapped up in putting together the course materials that I barely stopped to think about my sales strategy. I had a sales page and a blog post ready to go, and that was about it.
DON’T MAKE MY MISTAKE!
Putting together your sales strategy should be the #1 focus when you create and launch your first course. And to be honest, I’d actually argue that selling a course is actually harder than creating a course (but maybe that’s just me!)
During your pre-launch phase, create a well thought out and in-depth sales plan for your course. This includes:
1. A persuasive sales page
2. 4-7 emails that you’ll send to your list during the launch period
3. Social media images and copy that you’ll share during the launch
4. Any blog posts you’ll publish about the course
5. (Optional) A lead magnet and/or sales funnel to drive people toward the course
Don’t overlook what happens BEFORE you open your course for enrollment. Building up excitement before launching is the best way to ensure sales when you actually open the cart.
Mistake #7. Your sales page isn’t persuasive OR it doesn’t hit on the right points.
Ahhhh, sales pages — the bane of my existence (at least, they were for a long time!) Sales pages are tricky to get just right, and I really believe that practice makes perfect. Each new sales page you create will be 10x better than the last one — promise!
When I launched my first course, I actually hired a copywriter to edit and polish my sales page copy for me. This was a mistake. Instead of paying someone to tidy up MY words, I should have invested in a resource that would teach me the key elements to include on my sales page, how to write persuasively, and what order to place everything in. Oops!
To help you avoid my mistake and ensure your sales page is primed to get people buying, here’s a brief overview of the key sections I recommend including on your sales page, and in what order:
1. Introduce the problem your course solves, or the goal it helps people achieve
2. Explain why this problem/goal is so important to your target audience
3. Highlight your expertise on the topic (what results have you achieved?)
4. Introduce your course and break down what’s included
5. Showcase any bonuses you’re offering as extra incentives
6. Introduce yourself in more detail, focusing on your expertise
7. Share testimonials, stats, graphs, and results — your own and/or your readers’/clients’
8. Include a Frequently Asked Questions section and use it to overcome common objections about joining your course
9. Emphasize the importance of acting NOW and not waiting to join the course later
10. Recap everything that’s included in your offer (course material, bonuses, etc.)
11. The “buy now” button
This is literally how I craft my own sales pages, and let me tell you: this formula works!
Mistake #8. You don’t send enough emails about your course.
Look, I get it. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a bajillion emails when someone we follow launches a new course or product. And yes, it can be a bit annoying if you’re not interested in the topic of the course. But don’t let this deter you, and please don’t think you should only send 1 or 2 emails to your mailing list during your launch.
Think of it this way: You deliver so much FREE value to your subscribers through your regular blog posts, emails, social media posts, etc. And now you’ve just spent weeks (or even months) working on your pre-launch, your sales strategy, and your course. Girl — this is your time to shine!!
Send a minimum of 4-7 emails to your mailing list during your launch period (which lasts roughly 7-10 days).
Don’t let that number scare you! Focus on delivering value with each email and share your course with pride. You can even give your subscribers a clickable link to opt out of hearing about the course at the end of each email (ConvertKit makes this super easy with their “link triggers” feature).
Some ideas for emails you can send your list during your course launch include:
1. An email introducing the course and explaining who it’s a good fit for
2. A email sharing testimonials and results
3. Frequently Asked Questions, where you answer 3-5 common questions about the course (again, use this to overcome objections!)
4. An email introducing a special 24-hour or 48-hour bonus
5. A “last chance” email before you close enrollment
Yes, if you send an email every 1-2 days to your list some people *will* unsubscribe. But people unsubscribe anyways, even if you only email once a week or once a month.
Don’t take it personally, because it really has nothing to do with you. It just means that person wasn’t a good fit for you and your offerings, and in that case, you’re better off without them on your list anyways!
Are you ready to create your first online course?
I really hope you took away tons of valuable information from this post, and that you’re equipped to avoid these beginner mistakes when creating and selling your first online course! Let me know down below which course you’ll be creating and launching first, and if you have any questions about courses that I can answer for you 🙂
If you’re ready to dive deeper into course creation and launching, be sure to check out my brand new program, “Your First Course Launch”. In this mega affordable course, you’ll learn how to plan, schedule, and execute your first profitable (and NOT crazy stressful course launch) using my signature launch strategies. Click here to check out the course and learn more!