This year, my business has reached a milestone where I’m bringing in more revenue with products than services. Note to self: the whole transition period from one to the other is DEFINITELY a topic I’d love to discuss in a future blog post.
I’m not done offering services, but I will be changing things up in the immediate future, which is very exciting!
Today’s blog is all about the 8 steps I recommend taking to have your first successful online course launch.
Warning: If you are a brand new business owner and have never worked with a client, this is not for you. Focus on getting clients first and then come back to this once you’re making at least $2-5K per month.
There are SO many benefits to launching a digital program. I’m sure you’re familiar with most of them, but here are my favorites:
- Adding products to your business model gives you more diverse streams of revenue.
- You can serve people who can’t afford to work with you one-on-one.
- You can add more value to your services by adding a product element to the mix (for example, as a photographer you could create a “Guide to Taking Gorgeous Headshots” to give to your clients that you also offer for sale on your website).
However, launching your first online course can be overwhelming. How do you know where to start?
How do you know when you’re ready to hit “publish” on the sales page? How do you get people to visit your sales page? What are all of the steps involved in launching an online course?
The way I see it, there are 8 basic steps. And you can download my Definitive Launch Checklist here:
Step 1 – Define your online course topic… with a twist.
The online course market has exploded over the past five years. It’s now a $107 billion dollar industry.
In order to make your mark and stand out from the crowd, you have to do something DIFFERENT than what everyone else is doing. There are always new ways of solving problems!
So you’re a great photographer? Business manager? Social media strategist? Spiritual healer? Jewelry maker? Accountant? Coffee bean roaster?
What is it that makes you different from every other bean roaster out there?
What do you have to teach people that isn’t already being taught in every other program?
HOW will you teach your topic differently to get your target students better results? Are you more focused on smaller steps? Do you have a unique approach?
For example: You could be a bookkeeper who likes helping her clients tackle money blocks to take control of their money or a photographer who teaches moms how to take kick-ass iPhone photos of their kids. When I see your online course topic, I should immediately know that it’s for me (or recommend it to a friend!).
Step 2 – Get the right numbers (or else)
Don’t go off making unicorn goals just yet! Your numbers are the BIGGEST thing that I want you to pay attention to off the bat.
Don’t want to think about numbers? Totally not your thing?
Too. Damn. Bad.
This is part of running a business. I promise that you will get better at it (and even learn to enjoy it!) over time.
So what numbers do I want you to pay attention to?
Here’s the magical equation that tells you (roughly) how many people will buy your program:
# of Subscribers on Email List x 0.01 = Number of buyers!
1,000 people on my list x 0.01 = 10 buyers
Want to know how much money you can expect to make with your course?
Here’s the magical equation that tells you (roughly) how much money you will make:
# of Subscribers on Email List x .01 x Price of Course = Amount of Money You Will Make!
1,000 people on my list x .01 x $97 price of course = $970 Total Revenue!
I want you to know these formulas because they are the TRUTH.
So many people launch online courses, sell 2-3 spots and feel shitty about it. But they only had 100 people on their list! In that case, 2 or 3 sales is MORE than average. This is true across industries.
Need to build your list to make money with your online course? You need to grab one (or more) of Melyssa Griffin’s programs (affiliate link). I’ve taken and LOVE List Surge and Pinfinite Growth (affiliate links). She’s got the best strategies for list building that work today (that don’t include Facebook Ads or guest posting). By using Melyssa’s strategies, I’ve turned Pinterest into my number one source of traffic and am adding about 75 contacts to my list each week (and counting!).
Step 3 – Create a project plan (sounds boring but will keep you sane!)
Every time you put something you’ve created out into the world, you will feel incredibly vulnerable. The first time I launched the Sales Page Kit, I crawled into my bed for 24 hours out of fear that the people who did buy it would start emailing me telling me how terrible it was.
Some tips for planning your launch:
- Plan a couple of months ahead.
- Everything will take 2x as long as you think.
- Hire out 1-2 couple of key roles. This will hold you accountable! (For my first online course launch, I hired a sales page graphic designer so that I KNEW the sales page would get done!)
Want to steal my entire Launch Project Plan? This is the checklist that I use as a base for every single one of my promotions:
Step 4 – Decide on the exact launch offer
In other words – what exactly are your customers paying for? What will be included?
If you haven’t created your course yet…
- Create a mindmap of EVERYTHING you want to talk about in your online course
- Organize the topics into modules or categories
- Make an outline of each module and the specific lessons you’ll teach in each one
- What actual content will need to be included? Videos, worksheets, audio lessons, live calls? Decide on the features.
Once you’ve created your course…
- What else will be included in the offer? Are there any bonuses (limited time or otherwise)?
- Are there open and close cart dates? What are the dates and times?
Step 5 – Show your best stuff in your pre-launch hoopla
Most people plop a course on their website and send out an email (or set up some Facebook ads) to send people DIRECTLY to the sales page.
This is not going to lead to any sales (it wouldn’t work for me either, don’t worry).
Instead, what you need to do is create some excitement about your course before you open the cart or start the promotion.
Here are some ideas for what you can do for a pre-launch “hoopla”:
- A 5-day social media challenge — like the style challenge that Yay for Clients student Jodi Belden of Polishing Up did on Instagram.
- A live webinar — here’s how to pick the right topic
- A free “bootcamp” — like Natalie MacNeil’s annual promotion for The Conquer Club
Step 6 – Add a limited-time bonus (but keep it simple!)
If your course enrollment period is 7 days, you’ll notice that 80% (or more) of your sales will come in during days 6 and 7.
By adding a limited-time bonus, you give people an incentive to enroll in your course earlier.
I like adding fast-action bonuses for two reasons:
- It gets people excited about the offer before the last day
- It protects my sanity by getting sales rolling in before the last day (which gives many entrepreneurs a panic attack!)
In order to come up with a great limited-time bonus, ask yourself “What done-for-you tool would help people get more out of this program?”
Step 7 – Create a sales page that makes people drool
This is where I recommend investing some money (and it’s not because I specialize in sales pages! It’s actually the REASON I decided to specialize in sales pages — they’re really important for enrollments).
I already have TONS of free (and paid) tools to help you work on your sales pages. Here are the ones that I recommend using first:
- The 1-hour Outline Your Sales Page workshop
- The Sales Page Headline Cheat Sheet
- My YouTube playlist all about writing sales page copy
- The Sales Page Kit
Step 8 – Face your fears about putting yourself out there
Oooh! I caught you with some mindset ninja work!
Here’s the deal: The number one thing holding you back from having a successful launch is your lizard brain.
The bad news? You can’t turn it off.
The good news? You can manage it.
Take out a piece of scrap paper and answer this question: What are your biggest fears about launching your first online course?
First things first: those thoughts are complete B.S. coated with a pinch of the truth. However, these are the lizard brain thoughts that you’re going to need to face as you launch your program.
The bottom line? Be kind to yourself. Be prepared for chaos. When shit hits the fan and your tech breaks down, I want you to say, “That’s a part of launching!” not “I’m a complete failure!”