The Hardest Part of Building Courses

What’s the Hardest Part About Building Courses Online?

You can spend days on YouTube listening to people who’ll tell you making an online course is easy. And, it’s true. Making the course is super easy.

If you have insider knowledge in just about any topic, you can develop a valuable course.

If you have even minor computer knowledge, you can use Teachable or Thinkific to build a course.

If you need graphics, you can hire someone on Fiverr, or just use templates on Canva.

None of those things are very hard. They are, in fact, very easy.

But, there is one thing that will quite literally have you beating your head against the wall. And, if you can’t overcome it, it’ll have you swearing to anyone who will listen that building online courses doesn’t work.

The Hardest Part of Building an Online Course to Sell

Trust me, building the course and getting it ready to sell is easy. Getting people to buy it, though. Well, that’s another story.

Before you use that as a copout, you need to be aware of some myths you’re trying to convince yourself to believe. First, you don’t need a giant list to make a living selling on online course. In fact, we’re building CourseCoach from ground-zero just to prove that point. And, you don’t need a hugely popular social channel either.

Those are nice, of course. But, you can sell your course without any of those things in the beginning.

But, it’s quite literally the hardest part of the online course business.

The Math of Successful Online Courses

The Math of the Funnel

Whether you can quit your job after launching your course or not is a math problem. There is a degradation of conversion rate over time.

For example:

  • 100 people learn about your course.
  • 50% are interested.
  • 25% are willing/able to buy.
  • 10% actually buy.

How much money did you make?

50% of 100 is 50 potential buyers.

25% of the potential buyers that can actually buy is 12.5 people.

10% actually buy, which means you sold 1.25 courses.

If you sold your course for $47, you just made $58.75.

Does that depress you? Then, you might not want to try making an online course.

Take it from me, it’s not sitting at the beach and throwing together something on Teachable and expecting the cash to roll in. It’s hard work. And if you can sell 1.25 courses out of 100, that’s an amazing conversion rate!

Two Ways to Improve the Math

You can attack that math in two ways: First, you can work with the funnel and try to get higher conversion rates from top to bottom. So, instead of 25% being able to buy, you work on raising that to 30–40%. Instead of 10% actually buying, you work to raise that to 15–20%.

Those small changes make a huge difference. But, this attack requires a lot of a/b testing, which you should always be ready to do.

The second way to improve the math is to work on maximizing the very top. Those degrading conversion rates are what we normally refer to as a funnel. While it’s a lot easier to get someone into the very top of the funnel (100 people), it’s more work and takes more time to get them out the bottom of the funnel (1.25).

But, it is a math equation. If you sell 1.25 for every 100, what happens if you run 10,000 people into the top of the funnel?

You sell 125 courses instead.

If you sell your course for $47, you just made $5,875.00!

Course Math Gets Fun

Let’s say you can both increase Top-of-Funnel (TOFU) attention and improve the conversion rates through the funnel. In this scenario, we’re going to raise the bofu conversion rate from 10% to 15%.

You would sell 187 courses for a profit of $8,789.00.

By increasing your bofu numbers by 10%, you increase your revenue by 50%!

The Secret to Online Course Profitability

The Funnel

The secret to having a successful course is finding a way to push as many people as possible through the top of the funnel. Then, optimizing that funnel so that the degrading conversion rate is good enough to turn a reasonable profit.

The reason big-name marketers can launch a course and make $100,000.00 in one day is because they have a huge list. A few simple emails bring thousands of people into the funnel really quickly.

So what if you don’t have a list?

The Hardest Part of Selling Courses Online

Selling Online Courses

When you don’t have a large community, you have to get scrappy when it comes to filling your funnel.

Some people are rich enough just to pay for ads. They usually do it wrong, though, and they end up wasting a ton of money.

The winners are the ones who roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of pushing people into their funnel. It’s a win/win in this case, because as you bring people into the funnel, even if they don’t buy your course, you are building your list. This means, if you’re doing good marketing, you will get stronger and stronger as you go.

Here’s the bottom line: if you want to build a course, make money, and become your own boss, etc. etc. You have to think about it like a business. It just doesn’t work any other way.

If you opened a brick and mortar store, you would be there every day, on the weekends, etc. etc. With an online business, the idea it’s all automatic because it’s digital is nonsense.

It’s hard work.

Modeling Success Makes It Easier

One of the reasons we’re building CourseCoach is to both sell a course (yay) and to show you what it takes to fill the funnel from scratch.

I have email lists. I’m not using them.

I’m building this completely from scratch.

Whether you ever become my student or not, you can follow along and model our successes and learn from our failures.

Peter Drucker is famous for saying that every business has two basic functions, and only two: innovation and marketing. If you’re going to sell a course online, you’re going to have to innovate something other people will esteem as valuable. Then, you will have to market your face off to get it in front of your target market.

Here’s the truth about marketing: everyone else is doing it too.

Regardless of your “blue ocean” dreams, someone else is going to be competing with you. The sheer amount of marketing messages in front of us hinder the good messages from getting through. Your competitor is not just other course makers. Your competitor is the Carol Burnett Show bloopers on YouTube.

It’s all about attention.

If there’s one thing we’re really good at, it’s earning attention.

I’m sitting outside a Starbucks right now. It’s late in the evening, the sun is going down. And I’m writing.


Because the only way to fill our funnel without a premade list is to put in the human capital. The effort. The elbow grease.

And when you match determination and patience with elbow grease, the only thing you need to be successful is the right strategies. And, we’re going to share with you the right strategies to promote your course like a seasoned professional.

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