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.