8 Fatal Mistakes to Avoid With Your First Online Course

 

Courses are by far my no. 1 source of income as a blogger. I just calculated my 2017 income and expenses and it turns out I made $50,000 from course sales last year. Like, what!?

However, don't let that big 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... Basically, I spent four whole weeks creating and perfecting the course material and pouring every spare second I had into it. But when I finally opened up the course for enrollment… crickets.

I ended up making 7 or 8 sales over the next two months, totaling $1500 in revenue. When you deduct business expenses (I hired a copywriter and a designer to help me with the course) and a chunk for income taxes, my profit from that launch was basically zero.

What went wrong, you ask? Well, in all honesty I didn't have a clue what I was doing at the time. I’d created a good course, but I didn't know how to sell it. In fact, while I was preparing to write today’s post I realized that I made 7 of the 8 mistakes I'm going to share with you today during my first ever 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 all of my hard-learned knowledge to you, young grasshopper — so that you can avoid my mistakes and make your first course launch a massive success. 

But first, you might be wondering: Why courses?

8 fatal mistakes to avoid with your first online course launch

3 reasons selling courses is the best way to make money as a blogger

Reason #1. online Courses generate passive income.

Courses are a resource you create once and then sell over and over again. Unlike a 1:1 service, you don’t need to spend time every day working on your courses in order for them to continue generating revenue for your business. With the right launch strategy and/or sales funnel in place, your courses will bring in money every single day on autopilot, without you having to lift a finger.

Reason #2. With courses, you remove any and all caps on your income.

When you work with clients 1:1, there are 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 ceilings disappear because there’s no limit to the number of people you can sell your course to. Basically, the sky’s the limit!

Reason #3. Courses are usually sold at a higher price than smaller digital products or ebooks.

In other words, you need to sell less courses vs. ebooks to make the same amount of money. For example, if you have an ebook available for $20 and an ecourse for $200 and you want to earn $5,000, you would need to either 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.

8 Mistakes to Avoid With Your First Online Course Launch

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 your course. You finally make the announcement and open enrollment... and not a single person purchases the course. 

YOUCH. That's the last thing we want to happen!

The no. 1 cause of “no-buyer-syndrome” is not validating your course idea ahead of time. Before you spend your precious time creating the course, you need to know that: 

a) Your audience is excited to learn more about and experience results in relation to the topic of your course

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 cold hard cash?)

how to fix this mistake

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 run 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

3. You should also make sure your audience knows that the course hasn't been created yet, but that it will be ready by X date

During the pre-sale, share the course with your mailing list, highlight it in a blog post, promote it on your social media accounts, and see whether the topic is a good, profitable fit for your audience. If you make sales during the pre-sale period, you're good to go and can start creating the course content for your new students.

Mistake #2. Your course doesn't meet your audience members 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. But if your course isn't created with your existing audience in mind, you'll have a hard time selling it 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 total beginners when it comes to the topic of your course, don't create a super advanced course. 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 at all.

how to fix this mistake

You need to really get to know your audience and what level they're at when it comes to the topic of your course. You can do this by chatting with your readers 1:1, running polls on social media (Instagram polls are my fave!), or sending 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 their wants and needs.

Mistake #3. You haven't established yourself as an expert.

People don't want to buy courses from just anyone. If your audience members are shelling out their hard-earned pennies on your course, it's because they view you as an expert and they trust in your ability to help them achieve results. If nobody's buying, it might be because nobody views you as an expert in your niche (yet).

how to fix this mistake

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:

  • Sending educational emails to your mailing list on a weekly basis

  • Publishing at least 1 informative blog post or tutorial on your blog per week

  • Showcasing your knowledge by sharing tips and strategies on social media

  • Sharing "inspirational" content with your audience where you highlight the results and successes you, your clients, and your readers have had

 When you've successfully built up your status as an expert on the topic, you're ready to announce your course and start pre-selling it.

Mistake #4. Your course doesn't promise/deliver a result.

Here's my golden rule for creating online courses: 

Good courses are actionable and help your students achieve a specific result. 

Your course shouldn't just be knowledge-vomit. In other words, don't 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.

how to fix this mistake

Instead of trying to include every single thing you know about XYZ topic inside your course, start by choosing a clear and concrete result you’ll help your students achieve. Next, come up with a step-by-step process or system that takes 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 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 it has a time limit (in 30 days)? That's course promise 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 or achieve that result.

Mistake #5. Releasing your course with no build-up.

This is a big mistake I 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 up for enrollment. Ummm, what? Not a very smart strategy. 

People need to know about your course long before you open the cart 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!

how to fix this mistake

This is where a detailed pre-launch strategy comes into play.

For at least two weeks prior to opening your course for enrollment, your main goal should be to get people excited and hyped up about your course. I repeat: 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), 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

3. Share success stories and results that you, your readers, and your clients have achieved

For more tips on running a successful pre-launch campaign, check out this post.

Mistake #6. You’re focused on creating the course and don't have a plan for selling 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, I also let myself get so wrapped up in putting together the course material 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 this mistake! 

Putting together a solid sales strategy should be your no. 1 focus when creating and launching your first course. To be honest, I'd argue that selling a course is actually harder than creating a course (but maybe that's just me!)

how to fix this mistake

During your pre-launch phase, create a well-thought-out, in-depth sales plan for your course. Your strategy should include: 

1. A persuasive sales page

2. 4-7 emails to send to your list during the cart open period

3. Social media images and copy you'll share during the launch

4. Any blog posts you'll publish about the course

5. 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 a launch is how you guarantee sales once you 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 for a very long time.

Sales pages are tricky to get just right, and I really do think that practice makes perfect. Each new sales page you create will be 10x better than your last one, trust me! 

When I launched my first course, I 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 it persuasively, and what order to place everything in. Live and learn!

how to fix this mistake

To 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, in this 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 in the offer

5. Showcase any bonuses you've included as extra incentives

6. Introduce yourself in more detail, focusing on your expertise

7. Share testimonials, stats, graphs, and results from clients, readers, or yourself

8. Include a “Frequently Asked Questions” section and use it to overcome common objections people might have about joining your course

9. Emphasize the importance of acting now and not waiting to join the course at a later date

10. Recap everything that's included in the offer (course material, bonuses, etc.)

11. The "buy now" button 

This is 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’re subscribed to 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 weekly blog posts, emails, social media posts, etc. — and now you've just spent weeks (or maybe even months) working on your pre-launch, your sales strategy, and your course. Girl — this is your time to shine!

how to fix this mistake

I suggest sending a minimum of 4-7 emails to your mailing list during your open cart period (which lasts roughly 7-10 days). But 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 (*affiliate link) 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. An email sharing client testimonials and results, or your own

3. Frequently Asked Questions, where you answer 3-5 common questions about the course (like your sales page, use this email to overcome objections)

4. An email introducing a special 24-hour or 48-hour bonus

5. A "last chance" email (or two) before the cart closes

Yes, if you send an email every 1-2 days some people *will* unsubscribe. But people unsubscribe anyways, even if you only email once a week or even once a month. Don't take it personally. All it means is that 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!

 

Have you launched a course before? Did you make any of these mistakes? Let me know what questions you have about creating and launching courses!

 
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