From $0 to $50,000 with Online Courses – My Journey, Tips, Mistakes & More
My journey with online courses over the past few years has been a bit... bumpy, to say the least. I've laughed. I've cried. I've struggled. I've grown. I’ve failed and I’ve succeeded.
And overall, I've made a pretty decent chunk of change from selling my online courses! Let's take a quick trip down memory lane and look at my experiences selling online courses since I started my business back in 2016…
My first ever course launch
My first course launch was for my “WordPress in a Weekend” course in June 2016, and if I remember correctly, it brought in around $1500. *Ahem*, my bookkeeping wasn't so stellar back then.
I don't think $1500 is too terrible for a first launch, considering the fact that my blog and email list had only been around for 3 months at the time.
However, I spent over six weeks creating the WordPress in a Weekend course and at least two weeks writing a 10,000-word email course as my pre-launch freebie…
And, well, let's just say my time and energy could definitely have been better spent elsewhere!
My second launch
My next course launch was in October 2016 and was for a Pinterest course, Pageviews from Pinterest. This launch was a bit more advanced as I had a full email sequence, a much better sales page, and a few affiliates who helped spread the word about my course.
This time, I brought in around $3,000. Still, not bad – but it was nowhere near the numbers I was dreaming of, so it was back to the drawing board.
My third launch
Then in January 2017, I struck gold. I ran a super chill, laidback launch for what was my signature course at the time, Profit From Your Passion, and generated $10,000 in revenue.
Looking back, I chalk that number up to a couple big things:
I did an awesome job of building up hype and creating an email list of people interested in the course during my pre-launch phase
When you looked at everything that was included in the course, I offered it for an incredibly low price, which made it a no-brainer for a lot of people
Needless to say, I was thrilled. I felt like I’d cracked some sort of secret code, and my addiction to online courses was official. Since those first three launches, I've created several other courses and launched a total of 8 times (with a sprinkle of other sales and promotions mixed in).
Creating and selling courses has become my absolute favorite business model, and the one that generates 80% of my revenue each and every year. If you're thinking of creating and selling your first course in the near future, all I can say is go for it. Dive in headfirst. A year from now, you'll be so glad you did!
4 reasons online courses are the shizz
Here are some of the many reasons I'm head over heels with selling online courses:
1. Courses are a renewable resource.
In other words, you create your course once and you can then sell it over and over again to an unlimited number of people. This removes any kind of “cap” on your income potential — and if you know what you're doing, it allows you to make the kind of money most people can only dream of.
2. They're a relatively passive form of income.
Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy to create a course in the first place, but once it's created, you can automate your course sales with a good sales funnel (which means you can be bringing in money even while you're out of the office!).
3. They're generally a higher-priced item than things like ebooks, digital kits, etc.
This means you need to sell fewer courses vs. ebooks/digital products to make the same amount of money. In my experience, a course launch will pretty much always lead to higher figures than an ebook launch.
4. Your audience will benefit hugely from your courses.
You likely started your business because you had an important message, talent, or story to share with the world — and creating a digital course lets you do just that.
4 big mistakes I've made as a course creator
Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back there are a LOT of mistakes I made as a rookie course creator. In fact, I still make mistakes!
There's a big learning curve when it comes to creating and launching courses. To help you avoid my rookie moves, here are a couple of big mistakes I made that you should steer clear from:
Mistake #1. Underpricing my course
There have definitely been times when I sold a course for less than what it was worth and also for less than the "going rate" for similar courses on the market.
Underpricing is a problem because:
a) It makes your audience undervalue your course (and possibly not buy it)
b) It "undercuts" the market, which is detrimental to ALL course creators in the long run
c) Obviously, you make less money than you could have made with a higher price tag
Pricing your course can be tricky, but as a general guide, don't go too far below the price of other similar courses in your niche. It might be tempting because you feel like you'll have more people sign up for your course if you price it low, but it can lead to a battle with your competitors over who will have the lowest price – and that's a battle nobody wins!
Mistake #2. Overpricing my course
On the other hand, I've also overpriced my courses. Specifically, with my first course I let outside opinions affect the price I chose. I also didn’t consider my audience's budget and the amount they would be willing to pay for the knowledge and results I was promising in my course.
Overpricing is problematic because it deters people from purchasing your course, and those who do purchase may feel disappointed when they get inside.
Mistake #3. Not segmenting my email list
One of the keys to successful email marketing campaigns is writing emails that are highly targeted at the person you’re speaking to. If you want to have a five- or six-figure course launch, you shouldn't be sending the exact same emails to every single person on your list.
Yet that's exactly what I've done with plenty of my launches in the past – simply because I was new and didn't know what I was doing!
In this blog post, I talk about the "pre-launch" phase of a successful course launch, which includes releasing a signature lead magnet in the weeks leading up to your launch.
This signature lead magnet is a great way to segment your email list so that you can see which of your subscribers are interested in the topic of your course, and you can then focus the bulk of your marketing efforts on those people.
My top 4 tips for new course creators
Since I've been around the block a time or two (or, well, almost 10 times), I want to share my tried-and-true tips for creating and selling online courses. Most of these stem from things I've done wrong in the past, so hopefully they help make your first course launch a crazy success and total breeze!
Tip #1. Verify your course idea by pre-selling the course before you create it.
I'm a huge fan of pre-selling just about anything, but I think it works especially well for courses.
Pre-selling is when you open up sales for your course before you actually create the course. You let potential students know that the course isn't ready quite yet, but it’ll be available on X date and they can sign up now to secure their spot. You then use the number of sales that roll in during your pre-sales to gauge your audience's interest in the course and topic.
If absolutely no one buys when you pre-sell it: No harm, no foul, and now you aren’t going to spend months creating a course only to find out that nobody wants it. If a decent number of people sign up, you’re okay to go ahead and invest time and energy into creating the course material.
I totally get that the idea of “pre-selling” sounds scary at first, but it's become such a big part of how I launch my new courses that I really encourage you to at least try it out.
Tip #2. Start small and get bigger.
The first course you ever create doesn't have to be a massive 10-module signature course. Like I said earlier, there's a learning curve to this stuff. Trying to create a huge course on your first go can be incredibly daunting and challenging — plus, a large course can be tough to sell if you've never sold anything before and don't have an existing customer base.
Start small! Focus on one small, specific topic, and help your students achieve one specific, tangible result within that topic. Once you have your first (smaller) course under your belt, you can either create another, larger course or expand your small course into a larger one.
Tip #3. Pay for help in the right areas.
I've spent a decent chunk of money on contractors and tools to help me create and launch courses, but looking back, I can see that some of the money I spent was misplaced.
For example, for my first course launch I hired a copywriter to help me with my sales page copy. And while she was absolutely amazing, she was basically "polishing a turd". She was taking my (not great, don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-here) words, phrases, and paragraphs, and making them sound more persuasive.
It sounds good in theory, but at the time, a better investment would've been a course or kit to help me understand the theory behind sales pages, so I could see which sections to include on mine and what to say in each section.
Tip #4. Create a sense of scarcity.
If you only take away one tip from this post, let it be this one.
The human mind is wired to think that scarcity = more valuable.
In other words, when something is only available in a limited quantity or for a short period of time, we want it more. It's just one of those weird psychological effects that us marketers can take advantage of!
Either way, creating a sense of scarcity around your course offer is an amazing way to boost sales. In fact, it's my number one strategy!
With a course launch, creating a sense of scarcity can look like…
Only allowing a certain number of people to enroll in the course (limited spots)
Closing enrollment on a specific day (this is an “open/closed cart” launch)
Having an early-bird price or bonus that ends on a certain day
Give some of these a try when you launch your next course and I promise they'll increase your sales!
So there you have it: My experiences, mistakes, and top tips for creating and selling online courses. Have you sold a digital course before? Do you plan to in the next few months? What questions do you have for me? I’m an open book!