Before I start - if you're a scroll to the bottom type person and just want the immediate answer - I'll save you the scrolling hassle. Here's the link you need to click to get the help you need to create an online course.
For the rest of you, let's continue:
Earning passive income is the holy grail for many entrepreneurs. Selling what you know as an online course instead of trading your time for money has huge appeal. You can literally earn money while you sleep.
But while there are countless internet marketers out there telling you how you can make 6 figures and live the dream, is it actually true? How hard is it? Are the numbers they're quoting turnover or profit?
I recently launched my online PR course - Publicity for Solopreneurs. It was a HUGE learning curve for me so I thought I would share what I did, what kind of results I got and some tips if you're thinking about doing this too. I am going to be revealing my actual numbers - not just of sales, but what it cost me to make the course - so that you get a very realistic idea of what's involved. SPOILER ALERT! It's not a 6 figure sum.
Why am I sharing all this confidential info?
Because I strive to be the exact opposite of all the fake success stories out there that leave mere mortals feeling like they're failures. Like air brushing photos to get rid of wrinkles, too many people air brush the truth from their launch success stories. So that's not going to happen here.
Ready? Let's do this.
How I got started
I knew that I wanted to earn passive income. I have a deep knowledge of how to do PR. I knew I wanted to create a course using that knowledge. But I didn't have a clue where to start.
In fact, I had created a course once before, hosted it on a rubbish platform and sold exactly one. (Incidentally, the one person who bought it went on to get amazing press coverage reaching half a million people off the back of it - so I knew what I was selling worked. I was just selling it wrong.)
I recognised that to do this properly I needed help from an expert. As chance would have it, I saw an ad for a free cheat sheet on how to create online courses. So I signed up.
That got me into David Siteman Garland's sales funnel for his course Create Awesome Online Courses (CAOC). A course about making a course. Ironic.
After watching his free video series, he seemed to know his stuff so I decided to take the plunge and buy his course even though it cost $997 (£659 at the time). Sometimes you just have to put your hand in your pocket and pay if you want results. Incidentally, the fact that his sales funnel was effective (it worked on me) and it's what he teaches you how to do too when you launch your course, gave me confidence that it was worth investing in.
Laying the foundations
The thing about buying a course, is that you actually have to do it. So I got stuck in because creating a course was my number one priority for 2016. I began in February by doing market research on what people really wanted when it came to publicity and getting in the press. In CAOC David tells you how to test whether your course idea is a good one and then how to name, price and position your course. It also outlines what type of course content works best and how to plan it all out before you get started.
When I had tried to do this on my own in the past, I skipped all three of these steps and just moved straight to step 4: creating the content.
If you are planning on selling a course, you really do need to do this work first to avoid being very sad down the line when no-one buys it.
In my previous course I thought I was ever so snazzy having some downloadable PDFs and even audio of me reading the PDFs. Sigh. That's because I had no idea how to create videos of my course materials. But I learnt how in the course. Here's what I invested in to make it happen:
Building a website
You may think that after creating all that course content that the hard work was done. But no. That is just the beginning. Now I had to figure out how to get the course online so that people can buy it and access it, without the rest of the world seeing it.
Again, CAOC explained exactly how to do that. There are several ways but I chose a platform that David and his team created (a clever upsell from him but one that was worth every penny). It taught me how to build a wordpress based course website including all the complicated bits like payment systems and membership plug ins. (Cost £330 - this is an annual fee).
Marketing and launching it
So now that you have your course finished and online, you think you can sit back and enjoy it right? Wrong. This is where the REALLY hard work starts. Yes seriously. With my previous course, I got to this point. I had made the course and stuck it on someone else's third party platform and then quietly said: 'Hey everyone, I've got a course. Come and buy it.'
And funnily enough, no-one did. Ok. One person did.
The trick is to build a list. In CAOC you are taught how to start building a list by having a freebie. You then need to keep talking to the people on your list to show them that you know what you're talking about (incidentally, you can be doing this in the background while you are doing all the previous steps).
Once you are ready to roll, you have to create a launch sequence with a series of videos, which then opens up the sales page, which then only stays open for a short period. David goes into all of this in his course.
I found this the hardest part. It requires you to automate your newsletter system and create opt in pages. It was at this point that I decided to outsource and get some technical help. It was money very well spent as it took my Virtual Assistant a few hours and it would have taken me weeks. So my costs for this were:
When I started this process I had 350 people on my mailing list that had been grown entirely organically. By the end I had 750 - so I managed to add 400 people. 750 is still a very small list size for a launch.
I was disappointed in my Facebook ad conversion and I think this is a really challenging area - but it's an area that is new to me so I need to keep tweaking and adjusting it moving forward.
Let's recap. So far I had spent £2600 roughly on getting this course live. Some of the costs - like Convertkit, Leadpages, Wistia, Screenflow and the microphone - I use for other elements of my business so it's slightly unfair to say that they are exclusively for this course, but without them, I couldn't have created the course so they are going into my costs.
I sold the course for an early bird price of £379. This was a ridiculously low price given the amount of content in the course but I wanted to ensure I had some sales. (According to CAOC, pricing low is a no no but I was scared to go too high. Notice the word scared - because launching a course is a scary business so you need to put your big girl pants on).
I sold 8. Total sales of £3032. Profit of £432.
Now given I had worked on this for 7 months, making £432 (which is less than what I charge for one day of my time) doesn't seem like a successful endeavour. Right? I felt like a big fat failure. And you might be thinking that creating a course is a stupid idea.
I went onto the private Facebook group for CAOC users and told them my tale and here is what I was told:
Professional online sellers who have been doing this for years typically get (at most) a 2 to 3% conversion from their mailing list. The fact that I sold 8 off my list of 750 means I had slightly more than 1% conversion, which for a first attempt is actually really good. I was also told by countless people in the group that their first launches achieved far lower sales. But they now make 6 and 7 figures, simply by tweaking and adjusting and learning. The trick: Don't give up. This is just the start.
Here's one example of the many, many comments I got in the Facebook group from fellow course creators:
And so that is what I plan on doing. I am continuing to follow the course advice on what to do once I've launched, how to create an evergreen sales funnel and how to provide excellent value to the people who did buy the course - all of which I am doing.
I have done the hard work. Now I have to rinse and repeat.
So if you are considering setting up an online course, here are my top tips:
I know many of my clients have heaps of knowledge, which they could sell as a course but they don't know how to. You could be a cake maker, a soap maker, an HR expert, a yoga instructor, an accountant, an excel expert, a child-care guru, a hypnotherapist, a B&B manager, a writer, a cleaner - whatever you do or know, you could turn that into money. And now you can learn how to do it.
Make 2017 the year you stop selling your time for money. It's time to grow!
If you have any questions at all about my experience of going through this, drop them in the comments below or ask over on my Facebook page.
PS - if you missed my Publicity for Solopreneurs course, hop over here to get my free guide and video series, plus access to the course.
In September I launched my online course - Publicity for Solopreneurs.
Next week I am going to share my actual results from the launch and my learnings from it, but first I want to share why I even bothered to create a course in the first place.
Perhaps creating a course isn't something you've ever considered. Or perhaps you have but thought: 'I don't know how', so didn't take it any further. But I want you to know that you should consider doing it and you can learn how to do it. There are opportunities and course ideas everywhere.
Just last week I was talking to my cleaner who had won a listeners' choice award in our local area. We got to chatting about where they could take the business and we discussed a franchise model. But really, most cleaning franchises (in my experience as a customer) tend to charge customers more and do a job that is less good. And becoming a franchisor is a BIG intimidating step for a sole trader.
So I said, 'If you want to grow your revenue but are limited by how many hours you can physically work in a week and don't want to manage an ever increasing staff contingent, why not create a course and sell it?'
I could see the 'Huh?' in his eyes.
I explained, 'Well you guys do a great job cleaning. And I bet there are loads of people out there who could clean and make some money but don't know how to start finding customers or how to do a good job or manage payment etc. You guys could take all of your knowledge of starting up an award-winning cleaning business and sell it as a course that other potential cleaners could buy. You make passive income without working more hours.'
I could see the cogs start whirring in his brain. I was onto something.
You see as long as you know something and have some experience or knowledge, you can create a course. So why would you want to?
Here are the five top reasons why I created an online course - perhaps they'll inspire you:
Having the freedom to spend my time they way I wish is hugely important to me. If I want to go watch my kids at an all day rugby tournament, I want to be able to do it. If I want to take two weeks to climb Kilimanjaro and go on a safari, then I don't want anyone telling me I can't. Heck, if I wake up and decide I feel like lying in my PJs eating dry cereal out of a box while watching 'Say yes to the dress' on repeat, then try stopping me. I want the freedom to live life on my terms. But I also want to make money. That old chestnut. So making a course was a way for me to earn money while retaining my freedom.
2. Stop trading hours for cash
This links nicely to point one. It's not just about being free. Even if I could care less about being free, I still only have a finite number of hours in any given day. To make more money, I need to either never sleep or I need to charge more and more and more. And eventually I will price myself out of the market. The only way to stop trading your hours for cash is to find an alternative. That alternative for me was a course.
I want to be able to grow. I'm not talking world domination here. But I want my revenue to be greater than it would be if I just sold hours. And I want to reach more people. With an online course, you can sell it to people around the world. They don't have to be local clients.
4. A sense of creating something
I have spent my entire life helping clients grab the limelight. I help them win awards. I get their products and services in the press. They are creators of things and I have always felt like the person who helped them promote their thing, rather than being a creator of things myself. So making a course meant that I was creating something that I could call mine. It is an asset. I've have literally taken the knowledge I have in my head and turned it into something I can sell for money. And that is cool.
5. To help small business owners get publicity
I believe that when small business owners do their own PR, they get the best results because they are building direct relationships with a journalist, rather than going through a middle man. Yet I see many small businesses paying a fortune for PR companies and getting no results, or who just avoid doing PR because they don't know how to do it. I wanted to teach them how they could get amazing publicity really easily if they just learnt the basics. So my course had a 'bigger than me' element to it too.
So there you have it, my top five reasons for creating an online course. Next week - as I said - I will share my actual figures and learnings from doing this, but if you are interested in learning more about this topic, I suggest you sign up for David Siteman Garland's free video series that is out now. It that will take you through some seriously in-depth training on how to create an online course.
I bought David's course on how to create an online course and without it, I couldn't have done it. But for now you don't have to buy anything. You can just get some fabulous free training. I learnt so much from his training and it put a fire in my belly to get this goal of creating a course done. This time last year, I was watching his training. A year later, I have launched my course. Which means this time next year, you could have launched a course too.
Here's the link to the training again. In the comments, why not let me know what course you'd create if you could and what your number one reason for creating it would be.