This post is going to be a DOOZY. People don’t talk about this openly, but I’m here to pull back the curtain. Here’s why you should SELL a course before you CREATE it, and how to do it.
Why (and how) you should SELL a course before you CREATE it
Want to listen to the podcast version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
Launching a course probably feels overwhelming to you
I talk to y’all all the time, so I KNOW that you probably feel like creating a course is overwhelming. There’s the actual creation of the thing, the planning, the selling, the launching, and everything in between.
If you’re going to create the course and work on the launch at the same time, you need to give yourself at LEAST three months to do that. Plus, if you’re building your audience while you’re doing those things (which is totally doable!) then that entire three months is entirely dedicated to this process.
That process feels daunting because you would be working on it almost every day for those three months. It’s a major undertaking!
When I tell you that you should sell a course before you create it, that should alleviate a TON of pressure. But I know your next question is “how?”
Let’s start with the why and move to the how.
Let's talk about WHY you should sell before creating
First – you don’t want to waste time creating something that doesn’t sell
Trust me because I have done it. I’ve created courses that haven’t sold at all, and I’ve also created courses that I was excited about but didn’t sell as well as I expected.
You do NOT want to waste your time creating something that may not sell.
If you spend hours and hours working on a course, but nobody buys it (or only a few people do), that might not have been worth that time and energy.
That is so frustrating! And an experience like that might lead you to swear off courses forever – which you shouldn’t do.
Slight tangent here, but: there are plenty of reasons your course might not sell the first time.
You don’t have the right audience
You could have some audience, but not have the RIGHT audience for your course (see last week’s podcast if you want to hear more about that distinction). Maybe you don’t have a big enough audience to sell either.
Your positioning is wrong
You HAVE to know your positioning to make sure your course actually sells. I’ve realized over the past year that positioning is probably the number one thing that course creators overlook. Knowing who your person is, what their problem is, and how you can help them is KEY to selling a course.
The course structure itself isn’t right for the audience
If my husband wanted to create a course about growing vegetable gardens, he has to keep the audience in mind when structuring the course. The course would be VERY different if the course was for someone with five acres of land versus a rooftop garden space.
If he has his positioning down-pat, he might say “This is for urban dwellers who really want to create their own vegetable garden with limited space.” Then, he could cultivate an audience full of EXACTLY those people. But his messaging could make or break the course for that audience. If he has an outline of the course on a sales page that says “instructions for tilling the land,” that audience will NOT respond. Because that structure doesn’t fit their needs and problems.
When you sell a course before you create it, your students can HELP you build the course based on real-time feedback
It could be that you have the outline of what you want to talk about, teach the course live, and then get asked tons of questions from your students that you never thought about. That happens every time, and it helps you create a better permanent course in the future!
If you create the course before you sell it and realize based on feedback that you missed something important, it’s a LOT of work to go back through and edit every module. Creating the modules in real-time, even if you aren’t teaching it “live,” helps you make sure you get all the questions answered before the final version.
Creating one module per week takes WAY LESS TIME than trying to squeeze in all of the creation
You will save yourself a ton of time and stress doing it this way, promise!
How do you actually sell a course before you create it?
Is this cheating? Or will you not give your best course to people if you sell it before you create it? NO.
If you’ve ever taken a course, odds are that you’re experiencing the third iteration of it yourself because that person has learned what works to make it the best for you.
People do beta launches ALL THE TIME. And that's something you have to communicate that with your students! You tell them that this is a live-run course where they get content weekly and they get a discount on the price that you would charge for when it’s an evergreen course. Give them the opportunity to provide feedback and set those expectations from the beginning!
To sell a course before you create it, you have to know your positioning REALLY well
The entire podcast episode last week was about this, so go give it a listen if you have questions. But in a nutshell, you need to know:
- WHO your course is for, specifically
- WHAT problem they’re facing
- HOW your course is going to solve that problem (in a tangible way!)
If you nail your positioning, selling a course even though it’s not created will not be hard at all.
You need to know the basic structure of the course
Knowing the basic structure of a course is so important when you want to sell a course before you create it. That doesn’t mean the structure is set in stone! It can be a fluid, changing thing based on feedback.
Know that in phase 1, module 3, you’ll talk about X, Y, and Z.
When you know your positioning and the structure, you’ve got it covered!
Remember – to sell a course before you create it, you need to have essentially EVERYTHING in place except for the finalized modules. So you aren’t “cheating” or anything like that to operate it this way.
The basic structure is IMPORTANT when you’re selling the course, but don’t be afraid to get in the course with your first students and realize you need to change it up.
Have the welcome section and either bonuses or the first module done, but do the rest of it LIVE
There are two ways to create a course live. You could actually go live every week, share your screen, teach the things that you would normally teach in a pre-built module and then ask for questions and feedback. Then, you bundle up everything as you were teaching it, add the questions or take out anything that felt off, and then create the final module to film at a later date.
You could also create pre-recorded modules the week before they need to be shared with your students. If you don’t expect that you’ll need to do a lot of editing, then this could be great for you. It still saves you time by creating content weekly!
Either way you decide to work it is totally fine. And having a “Welcome” module, bonuses, or “how to get started” module pre-recorded is ALL that they need going into the course.
Obviously, your student needs to know that that’s what they’re getting. Make it clear that the course will NOT be all available upon purchase, or you will have a lot of disappointment. Set the expectations for the schedule of the course and then drip the content as you go.
Creating a course doesn’t have to be as daunting as you think it is
There are a ton of moving pieces that are wrapped up in the course creation aspect. But it doesn’t have to scare you, because you can do it slow and steady!
Now go out there and sell a course before you create it.