planning a course

Why You Shouldn’t Create a Course Before Considering This

For those who have written a business or life advice book, you may be starting to get excited about the idea of creating a course. You could capitalise on your new concepts. You could make 10x the profit of the book itself. But slow down there, the Lone Ranger is galloping off way too fast.

The thing is, when offering a higher level product like a course, we need to think about getting multiple sales leads, systematically, and promoting the course. 

Before you do a mini freak-out, let’s delve into what that might involve if you’re committed to NOT making Meta and Google any richer. Okay?

Most businesses selling goods online advertise on Facebook or Google, then use retargeting ads relevant to the content the person was looking at. (These are ads that follow the web visitor around the Internet). But what if we did our own retargeting, except with multiple automatic emails?  

The key is to have valuable website content, an email marketing system and a honed lead magnet offer. (I know that my ‘incredible free gift’ is not online ATM, but I have tested a dozen different lead magnets in the past.)

For email autoresponders, I use and recommend GetResponse, which I have loved for six years. Join at the $19 pm level to get a $30 credit through this link.

What does it take to sell courses organically?

Step One: Set your Niche

If you’re going to do free marketing, then you need to make it easier.  First, it’s important to sell courses in a niche space with ‘rarefied’ air.

This means one of a few options, for example:

You could be coming at the PROBLEM with a specific angle, as Penny Sansevieri did with her 5-Minute Book Marketing tips.

You could be in a vocation, e.g., wedding celebrant (crowded) though teaching bride-to-be’s how to write beautiful vows and create harmony in the reception (rare air).

Step Two: Create a Variety of Targeted Content

To sell courses down the track, it usually means both writing online content and designing images. It is a lot of work to create blog posts, web pages and lead offers online. Other viable alternatives are to create an organic community in Facebook (yet this lacks control) or host webinars or live events… Simply posting on social media is not going to cut it.

However, there is the option of growing a YouTube channel. This takes many success factors as well, with a good majority failing shortly after starting!

What does it take to be a course creator who ranks on YouTube? It takes a lot of persistence and experimentation, says Ali Abdaal on his very popular productivity channel. If you are interested in being in the top 5%, watch Ali Abdaal’s video on If I started a YouTube Channel in 2024.

For starters, you might use iMovie editor and use the camera in your high-level phone, including using a tripod so videos are not wobbly. I am just starting out with YouTube myself, although I am a better writer. (Please do subscribe and learn).

So, which would you prefer to do?

Do you enjoy writing or posting tips? Or perhaps you’d enjoy creating videos?  Do you have some budget for a website VA for a better website? You may need someone if you use WordPress.org.

Advice: Build the Lead Generation System First

Most online course platforms want you to jump into a trial and get started with planning and creating your course. Tempting as it is, take a moment to think about your current likelihood of course sales.

Meaning, do you have a process to take a vaguely interested visitor through to a highly engaged prospect who is about to trust you with their debit card?

To most authors, the answer would be no. So you could start by reading a couple of these books, to get you in the right head space:

Sell Like Crazy – Sabri Suby (King Kong). You can get this through Facebook ads for just the postage. Just tell the algorithm you are interested in online selling. It will teach you why and how to have a two-step advertising system, if you are actually interested in advertising.

Five Figure Funnels – Mike Killen. This is an eBook that runs you through the niching idea and building out a funnel in a very practical way. It is more designed for agencies but I just love Mike’s honesty. Take a lot of notes.

My Personal Brand – by me, Jennifer Lancaster. While this focuses on setting up your personal brand, there is a chapter on the Personalised Funnel. Plus, I give many viable ideas for making money in the chapter ‘Turning Your Brand into an Income Stream’. It’s a short and sweet book of 23,000 words.

Don’t Listen to ‘Make a Tonne of Money’ Webinars

You see, some solo authors are listening to advice designed for businesses with teams of three+ and $20K monthly revenue area. An example of that advice is:

Test lead magnets of different types, try multiple evergreen webinars which link to a group, target those attendees with testimonials and other creative ads.

That is obviously too many operational tasks for most soloists! 

You need to spend time researching and considering your target audience’s needs. Obsessing with this is okay! They are who you are making the course for, after all, and you’ll want it to resonate with them.

When you hit the hard obstacles, always remember your purpose.

Front of mind for me is this quote: 

“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” – Stephen R. Covey

You can make a course and sell it with tips like those provided in the Building Your Content Empire course based at Thinkific, hosted by an experienced content expert.

Is your Life 100% Busy? Then Don’t Make a Course

If you have a baby, some major health issues, or a full-time job and you’re a woman looking after a family, then I would advise you to not make a sales system and a course right now. Unless of course, you happen to be a whizz at systems and technical stuff and you enjoy learning new things in the quiet hours.

The time it needs at the beginning is huge (four weeks for me), and not only because you are planning and building a full training course. Although you can get help in planning with my Mega Book and Course Planning Workbook, which now comes with Book Creation Self-Publish course, you will still need diligent production over several weeks.

This will be preceded or followed by building out an online sales system so that people are continually finding your content and opting into your lead magnets, webinar or discovery calls.

At least the course platform finding and course building takes only one time, right?  Well, I’m onto my third rendition of the book creation course and there are usually a couple of updates pending to keep the videos current.

As well, you might encounter a steep drop-off of learners, so engagement with them early on is key to success. Overall, expect to spend around 2-3 hours a week in video and group maintenance.

There is the possibility that you already have an engaged social group. In this case, hooray! It will be easier to show what kind of things they can learn in the course or achieve. It will be important to get some beta testers who are willing to share their experiences and results.

Another book about this journey is “Entrepreneurial You” by Dorie Clark, although if you tend towards imposter syndrome, don’t bother as you will definitely be getting it!

Summary for Considerations for Authors Planning a Course

Here, I gave you some typical hurdles in selling a course, potential choices for your content marketing, and books to read to support your thinking on this topic.  You also learned that creating the sales system first is important, so that you don’t invest in a heap of course-building work just to make a few lousy sales.

It almost sounds like I’m against anyone building a course but I just wanted to be clear that creation is just one part of a multiple step online strategy. For more info, please see my Mega Book & Course Planning workbook.  

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