When I created my first online course I tried just about every "guru" tactic I could find, from SEO to Pinterest to posting on Instagram and Twitter multiple times a day.
I did ALL THE THINGS that I thought other people were doing to get people to sign up for their courses, but I ended up with low course sales and income that was wildly unpredictable.
That's when I decided to try something different.
Within four months I was able to take one $97 course and scale it up to over $12,000 a month in revenue using an automated process.
(Disclaimer: I mention several tools that I have used personally to create my online course business throughout this post. Some of those links are my affiliate links.)
Here are screenshots from my SamCart account for each month so you can see the progression.
Month 1: November 2017
Month 2: December 2017
Month 3: January 2018
Month 4: February 2018
Month 5: March 2018
Okay, for some people, $10k-$12k a month might not be that big of a deal. But I know that when I was just starting out and trying to replace my full time income, $10k a month would have been a REALLY BIG DEAL. So I want to share exactly what I did in the hopes that it might help you in some way.
The 4 Tools I used to set this up
Before I get into what I did, here are the list of tools that I used to set all of this up.
There are only four. The total cost for all of them combined is $184 per month (which is pretty low overhead.)
1. Teachable ($99/mo) - for hosting my course & promotional challenge.
2. ConvertKit ($29/mo) - for collecting email addresses and sending automated emails.
3. Samcart ($19/mo) - for creating professional checkout pages and accepting payments from students.
4. Deadline Funnel ($37/mo) - for creating evergreen funnels with countdown timers, expiring links, and page redirects.
Recommended Free Trainings
There are two free trainings I highly recommend that helped really me figure out how to replace my full time income with one online course.
1. Teachable's 7 Steps to Launch Your Own Profitable Course
2. The Fletcher Method "Perfect Funnel Masterclass."
Also, if you're thinking about using Teachable to host your courses, you'll want to check out their Quick Start Tutorial as well.
Not let's get into what I did (and didn't do.)
1. Stop doing ALL THE THINGS
Blogging, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook Groups, SEO, Snap Chat... AHHRGH! The list goes on.
This is what we are told we NEED to do to "grow our audience." And those things can help. Maybe you get a lot of traffic from ONE of these sources, and if so, that's fine.
But the best thing that I did, was to STOP doing all of these things and focus on creating JUST ONE traffic source that actually worked. For me, that was Google ads.
2. Build the Relationship
Sending people DIRECTLY to your sales page DOES NOT work. At least not very well.
People need to get to know you BEFORE you ask for a sale.
It's like dating before you get married. You have to build a relationship with your prospective students first.
Formats that work well for this are:
- Free mini courses,
- Workshops, and
- Educational video series
These formats give people a chance to see you (and your teaching) in action. Potential students can get a feel for your personality and teaching style before they buy (which reduces your refund rate). And you get a chance to show people what you actually know, which boosts your credibility as an instructor.
3. Create an "Educational Journey"
Your customer journey should do these 3 things:
- Tell people who you are and why you are qualified to teach your subject.
- Educate people on the BIG problem that your premium course solves.
- Solve a SMALL problem in your mini course that gets them one step closer to resolving the big problem that your full course solves.
I use a free 5-Day Challenge to achieve all three of these steps.
The great thing about a challenge or a mini course is that it also serves as a lead magnet. So there's no need to create a dozen different PDF's, ebooks, or other giveaways. Just focus on creating one really high value piece of content and promote it heavily.
Automating as many things as you can will save you time so that you can work on other things like improving your course, interacting with your students, or relaxing (self-care is important!)
Personally, I can't recommend these two resources enough. However, you could use any other email automation provider/course platform that you like.
5. deadlines = More sales
If there are no deadlines, people have little incentive to consume your content or buy buy your course.
When I first started offering my 5-Day Challenge, there was no deadline. Guess what happened? People didn't consume it. They assumed that it would always be there, so there was no sense of urgency. They let it sit untouched in their inbox.
Since people weren't consuming the content, they weren't ready to buy my course during the promotion period and this really hurt my sales.
Once I put a deadline on the free content, the consumption rates increased dramatically because people didn't want to miss out.
I was able to automate all of this using Deadline Funnel.
Now I'm able to run my 5-Day Challenge every single week. The whole thing is automated. At the end of the week the links expire and Deadline Funnel redirects people to my course sales page for the remainder of the promotion period.
I keep my cart open for four days each week and at the end of the four day sales period, Deadline Funnel turns off access to the sales page. This let's me imitate a live launch even though my entire process is fully automated.
Bottom line: FOMO = more sales.
6. Don't be afraid of paid ads
The entire first year I was in business I REFUSED to use paid ads. I was determined to get all of my traffic FOR FREE because I had a VERY limited budget.
Here's why that mindset is bad for your business...
Paid advertising makes your monthly income more PREDICTABLE.
Relying on social media, SEO, and "word of mouth" will keep your income in flux, which will keep you struggling month after month.
If you want to see profits faster, start experimenting with paid advertising.
I know it can be scary to pay for advertising, especially when you have a limited budget. That's why it's important to start SMALL and SLOWLY scale up so that you can collect data along the way.
Here's how I use ads...
I did some research to find out what my potential students were searching for online. Then I created one blog post on a topic I knew they would be interested in. Next, I used Google Ads to target keyword phrases that were related to the topic of my blog post.
Note: I started by spending just $5-$10 a days on Google Adwords. Once I saw that my funnel was working (i.e. I was earning more than I was spending) then I started to increase my daily ad spend a little bit each week.
Within the blog post I included a signup form so that people could sign up for my free Challenge which led into a sales sequence for my full course at the end.
This worked well because I wasn't trying to pressure people into signing up for something. I simply gave them an opportunity to sign up while they were reading the post.
I was really skeptical that this would work because this approach is so indirect and non-pushy, but 62% of people who viewed the blog post signed up for the 5-Day Challenge.
7. Know Your Numbers
This is REALLY important. In fact, it's almost impossible to become profitable without this piece.
I track all of my numbers and metrics on a weekly basis. Here's an example of how I set up my tracking spreadsheet.
4 numbers that are CRITICAL to your success:
1. Sales Conversion Rate (find it by dividing leads by sales -- then multiply by 100.)
For example, if I get 100 people to sign up for my Challenge and I end up selling 6 courses, my conversion rate is 6%.
2. Revenue Per Lead (find it by dividing total sales revenue by total number of leads.)
For example, if 100 people sign up for my lead magnet and I end up earning $5000 in total sales, my revenue per lead is $50 per person.
3. Cost per Lead (find by dividing total amount spent on advertising by total number of leads.)
For example, if I spend $1000 on ads to get 500 leads, my cost per lead is $2.
4. Profit per Lead (find by subtracting cost per lead from revenue per lead.)
For example, if my revenue per lead is $50 and my cost per lead is $2, then my PROFIT per lead is $48.
Your revenue per lead will tell you how much you can spend on advertising without losing money. That's why it's so important to track your numbers. I track all of my numbers on a weekly basis so I can closely monitor how my ads are performing.
Once you start collecting data you'll quickly see that becoming profitable is just a simple math equation.