Freelance Lessons

Launching An Online Course – My Experience + What I Learned

So first off, let me be honest. I never actually planned on doing an online course. The original idea was just to create some simple presentation templates for designers, something easy that they could download and edit on their own. But the more I worked on them, the more I kept adding on and before I knew it, it was a full blown course. So keep that in mind as you read this post – I went into this whole thing super unprepared and still somehow made it work. If I can do this, anyone can.

Alright, now let’s get into the process and things that I learned from launching my course. First, I’m going to outline all of the main struggles / steps to creating a course, along with the best advice that I received while creating my own. Then, I’m going to walk you through how I’m doing things differently for my big re-launch in July. It’s a lot to cover, but we’ll get through it together!

 

Struggle No. 1 – Deciding What to Teach

Launching a course was on my mind for a long time, but I felt like there was no use in pursuing it until I had some crazy new skill or technique that only I had perfected. Because seriously, who would want to learn from me? I’m still figuring things out myself! But here’s a secret – THE THING that you need to launch a course on is likely something that you’re already doing. Something that is a regular part of your day. Something that comes so naturally to you, but you don’t even realize you’re an expert at it. That’s how it was for me and it didn’t click until I started getting messages from people on Instagram.

I had shared a few videos of the presentations that I’d sent to clients. Just a quick, behind the scenes thing and I honestly didn’t think of my presentations as that special. I had worked really hard to make them organized and clear, but that was all to help my clients. I had never intended on them ever being more than that. BUT then I started getting all these messages from other designers about them. “I love how you set up your presentations! Can I see more?” “Do you sell these as templates?” “Where can I buy these?” I was pretty shocked that people wanted to pay money for something I was just doing for myself. But that’s the secret, right?? YOU ARE ALREADY AN EXPERT AT SOMETHING. Whatever your job is, you’ve likely had to learn to do something really well for it. And that something is your teaching point. This is hands-down the best way to launch a course – turn something that’s already part of your process into a product or something that you can teach to others. You’re confident in talking about it, you likely already have documents or stuff about it, and it’s way easier than building something from scratch.

Now hopefully you’ve already had a lightbulb go off in your head on what your special secret skill is, but just in case you’re still drawing a blank, why not try sharing your process on social media. Whether you’re a designer, photographer, writer, whatever – share some of how you do your job and see if you get any responses of people wanting to know more. That’s what lead me to find my teaching point and chances are it’ll help you too.

Words to Remember
Words to Remember
Words to Remember

“You are already an expert at something. Whatever your job is, you’ve likely had to learn to do something really well for it. And that something is your teaching point.”

Struggle No. 2 – Planning Your Course Content

Now honestly, this is where I struggled the most. I was lucky that I already had these presentations created for myself, so I could easily turn them into templates for other people to edit. But writing out all of the course content to go with them was hard. I basically started out with a rough idea of what the course would be about (helping designers communicate with clients + present their work strategically). Then, I shared that on my Instagram story and simply asked my followers what all they would want to learn from a course like that. I got tons of answers that I outlined most of my course content around addressing them. It’s not the most organized method for creating a course, but it’s what I found to be the easiest. (Like I said, I never even planned on a doing a course in the first place.) And honestly, if I hadn’t collaborated with my target audience like that, my course wouldn’t have had nearly as much value as it did. They were bringing up topics that I never would have thought to cover. It’s one thing to know what you’re the expert in and want to teach, but it’s another thing to know what your audience actually wants to learn. So here are a few questions that I think you need to ask yourself. If you can answer these, you can outline your course content and make sure that it meets the needs of your audience.

 

Struggle No. 3 – Choosing a Platform for Your Course

There are quite a few options out there for hosting your course and I’m not going to say that one is better than the others. I went with Teachable because I had used it before, liked the usability of it and was ok with the cost. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but I want to highlight some alternatives as well. Here are a few other options that I looked at:

Words to Remember
Words to Remember
Words to Remember

“It’s one thing to know what you’re the expert in and want to teach, but it’s another thing to know what your audience actually wants to learn.”

Struggle No. 4 – Advertising Your Course

This one was really difficult for me too. I hate sales-y stuff, so I really dreaded having to sell my course to people. For this first launch, I decided to focus on what I knew best – Instagram. It’s where I do most of my “advertising” anyways, so I knew I would be most comfortable talking about my course there as well. I did a few live Q+As to figure out what my target audience wanted to get out of the course and address any hesitations they had about signing up. I obviously posted a lot about it too. Really, this was where about 90% of my advertising was done.

The other thing that I did was a live webinar, which I HIGHLY recommend! It’s important to show your face, talk about your course, and answer questions. I structured my webinar around the common goal that I knew my target audience had – refining their design process + communicating better with their clients. I promoted it as a webinar where I would share about my own struggles, give some advice and then, at the very end, talk about my course. I offered 2 different webinar times to accommodate people in different timezones and I had over 200 people sign up (which was a shock to me). I used Crowdcast to do the webinar so that I could easily get all of those people on my newsletter list, but you could do a Facebook live or IG live instead and get their emails some other way. No matter what, it’s important to get emails because you want to send them links to your course once it launches. I did my webinar the Friday before my course launched, that way it was fresh in the audience’s mind and they were basically expecting emails from me when the course went live. Overall, the webinar went great and definitely helped me promote my course while also giving my audience something that was valuable and free.

Since we’re on the topic of emails, let me cover that too. Honestly, I’m still figuring out how to market myself through newsletters. I emailed people about my webinar and when my course launched, but that was really it. BUT emails can be a really powerful tool and I’m currently learning to be better at them.

 

Struggle No. 5 – Pricing Your Course

Ugh, pricing. It’s just the worst and deciding on a price for my course was no different. Since it was my first course and I wasn’t feeling too confident on my ability to teach, I was terrified of pricing it too high. I just had no clue what price was appropriate, so I turned to the mastermind group that I’m in to get their opinion. It’s a group of other designers, so they all aligned with my target audience and were able to give me an educated opinion that was super helpful. Some of them had launched their own courses before, so they were able to give me some good insight into how pricing for courses should be approached. I threw around a few price ideas with them, had them vote on what they felt was most appropriate and took that into consideration when deciding on the final number. That was my strategy, but if I had to give you some general advice, this would be it:

If your price is on the higher end (which good for you!), you can always offer a payment plan option to make the cost a little bit easier on your audience. I had 2 options for my course – students could either pay one payment of $600 or 3 monthly payments of $208. Obviously, most people chose the payment plan and it was nice to get those consistent payments for 3 months.

Words to Remember
Words to Remember
Words to Remember

“Trust your gut. List out a few different prices and feel out which one sets well with you. Most of the time, we know deep down which price is the right one, we just make excuses for why we shouldn’t charge that much. Trust your gut and see what happens.”

The Best Advice That I Received

Like I said, I reached out to some of my design community for advice on how to launch this course and they were incredibly helpful. So I wanted to quickly share some final tips that they gave me:

 

Things I’m Doing Differently for Round 2

Overall, my first course went really well. Especially for how little strategy went into it! But for my relaunch in July, I’m going to make a few changes in order to market the course better + attract a broader audience. Here are the things that I’m doing differently:

 

Some Resources You May Want to Check Out

This was A LOT of information, so thanks for those of you who have stuck with me to the end! I’m definitely not an expert on courses yet, but I felt like it was important to share my experience so far. I’m still learning a lot and I wanted to wrap things up by giving you a couple of resources that have really helped me. They’re all by business owners who are way more experience in this stuff than I am, so you’ll definitely want to check them out:

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