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July 16, 2024

How to Launch Your Online Course in 8 Steps (+Make Early Sales)

Kevon Cheung

Founder & Head Teacher


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Are you planning to create and launch your online course?

Great! It is one of the best ways to productize your knowledge and create a new revenue stream for you. 

But, yes there is a big “but”, you want to make sure your course can actually make sales instead of sitting on the shelf collecting dust. You also want to know this as early as possible before you put in 100+ hours into it (this is why you should focus on creating Small Courses).

I’ll be honest with you. Even though I’m running a school and have been selling courses for many years, I still don’t know what my audience wants 100% of the time! Yes, I can use existing data to help me make the best decisions, but the truth is - I can never know for sure until I start selling it.

So today, I’ll be showing you how to test your course idea and make those early sales.

What brings you recurring course sales?

What you’re reading now is so important because it is not just about testing ideas. If you do it well, you will be gearing yourself up for a buzzing course launch and recurring course sales.

Wait what, how?

Let me tell you a little secret. When it comes to selling (anything really), it is never about being the best product. 

It is about being the product everyone wants.

And how do you make something everyone wants? By showing them that there are a lot of other people similar to them buying and enjoying the product. This is what I cover in Momentum Marketing.

I’m telling you now because I want you to see these 8 steps I’m sharing with you beyond testing and validation, they will help you generate momentum to create a buzzing launch. You should pay close attention.

Are you ready to dive in? 

Let’s say you have a course idea ready. This is how you launch an online course for it and make early sales:

  1. Test your course idea quickly
  2. Run a live workshop
  3. Sell the live seats
  4. Create a WOW experience
  5. Decide if this idea can scale
  6. Move forward or move on
  7. Sell early before creating the course
  8. Launch your course

1. Test your course idea quickly

Students often ask me, “Kevon, how do you find an idea worth building?”

In short, there’s only one way to source initial ideas — you listen to what people are saying. 

In companies, this is what the Product team does when they run user research and interviews. They want to get raw data and understand the behavior of their target customers.

But you don’t need a whole Product team to get course ideas. Here are some of the things I have done and they work extremely well:

  • Based on your hypothesis, come up with open-ended questions and post them (one by one) on social media to see how people react
  • If have an audience (social media or email), send out a short survey (2 questions max) and award 2 winners a gift
  • Chatting people up in private messages. You’ll learn so much about what they are doing, how they are behaving, what they care about, etc.

When I first had the idea of Easy Content Magic, I ran through 400+ data points across a full year to see that my audience had the same pain points:

But now you might be saying “What if I don’t have a community or audience yet?”

I intentionally put “chatting people up” on the list above because I want you to know that no matter how big of an audience you have, this is still the best way to get data to validate your idea.

Big creators with a 6-fig or 7-fig business still have to understand their customer’s behavior before they build a new product. So this means it is a must-learn skill and you might as well start early.

When you see patterns of the same questions, frustrations, or complaints, you know enough people are interested in getting “this thing” fixed.

Of course, it is always nice to have an audience you can quickly reach out to. If you want to create an asset that can attract people into your world on autopilot, you can take a look at using a free email course as a word-of-mouth engine.

2. Run a live workshop

If you’re itching to jump into building your course now, don’t! This is another big mistake new course creators make and I just have to stop you now.

The reason is that you might have some ideas about what to teach to solve this problem for people, but you haven’t really proved that you’re on the right track.

The next step is not to spend 100 hours building the course, it is figuring out the one thing that requires your minimal effort to validate that people indeed need this.

Now let me ask you a question. A video course is about you showing up on video to teach people, so what do you think people care about before they buy a course?

Okay, giving you 3 seconds here. 3-2-1.

They would want to know whether you know how to teach, whether your delivery is easy to understand, whether you’re an interesting teacher to listen to, etc.

And what’s the fastest way to get proof that you can do these nicely?

For me, it is a 60-minute live workshop where you teach a small group face-to-face. In the digital world we live in, this means a virtual classroom. 

If people leave the workshop screaming “This is AMAZING!” You know you have what it takes to create a course that will generate terrific sales.

You can also find out immediately what parts people find boring so you can either take it out from your course or move it to the back. You always want to front-load the best value so you hook people in to finish the rest of the course. If you don’t, a lot of people would give up and move on with their lives.

But if you now go “Kevon, alright! Let me design a workshop now!”

Don’t! Not yet. 

Remember about the “minimal effort to validate that people indeed need this”? You don’t know if people want this workshop yet, so this is what you’re going to do.

3. Sell the live seats

You’ll design a workshop sales page to pitch how you’re going to solve this struggle for them. You want to get 10-15 people to this live workshop.

Should you make this a free workshop? No.

If you’re doing a workshop to build your audience, you can absolutely do it for free! 

But in this case, you’re trying to validate the idea for a paid course you’ll build and you cannot do it for free.

Free means you attract a lot of people who won’t pay later. Free means their feedback is not as relevant. Free means people care less and the word-of-mouth effect is weakened.

Only when you make it paid then you can get a sense of how many people are willing to pay and how much they will pay.

Let’s say you are not sure where you can find people (including reaching out directly) to sign up for this live workshop. I have bad news for you: you are likely not ready to build this into a course.

If you don’t know who the student should be or where to find them, you can’t validate your course idea and you don’t have a way to sell the course later on. A lot of people would go “Let me build it first. I’m sure they will show up later!” 

Well, it doesn’t work that way! If you want to sell courses, you need a marketing strategy.

Now if you are ready, I have one more tip for you. I love being generous to create traction quickly. I often tell these live workshop signups that they would get my full course later without paying more. But there is a condition: if they are happy to share honest feedback with me. This made the offer to join the live workshop super attractive.

4. Create a WOW experience

It is show time!

No matter how many signups you get, you run the workshop. Yes, even if there is only 1 student. This is your chance to practice showing up on camera to teach - an important skill if you want to have a super successful video course.

Your one job here is to delight your attendees so much.

What I did was that I was honest and upfront that the workshop was a beta version. This way my attendees adjusted their expectations and were more willing to share their feedback. If I didn’t mention it, most people would take the workshop, make a quick judgment call on their investment, and move on.

If you deliver a mediocre experience, you leave a dent in people’s minds. You don’t want that.

There’s something you should know. I sold 22 seats to this live workshop and 15 people showed up. Obviously, you have to expect no-shows. Some people want to get in early for a good deal. Some prefer to watch the replay. Everyone has different needs and learning styles. It is all good. Use what you have.

5. Decide if this idea can scale

After the live workshop, most new course creators evaluate how it goes by feelings. “I think I did a good job! I should build this into a course” You don’t want this.

There are a few ways that give you a clear signal on whether it is a job well done:

  1. Did the attendees show enthusiasm and reactions throughout the workshop?
  2. Did they stay behind to ask you questions?
  3. Did they share positive & constructive feedback with you after the workshop?

If these are the signals you want to gauge, you have to design them.

This is what I usually do at live workshops:

  • I tell them at the start that I am happy to stay behind for 10 minutes to answer any questions
  • I have a short survey and clearly say that there are only 2 questions which should only take 1 minute. I send this form to them right after the workshop on the same day.

I got 11 responses from the 15 live attendees. You want to hear from them when they’re still feeling the “high” from your workshop.

And if you want to increase the response rate, offer a small reward. 

Once they complete the survey, you can send them a link to <one of your valuable creations>. It can be a paid thing or simply a link to a free thing. It doesn’t matter as much because people love to win something or get rewarded.

6. Move forward or move on

After the workshop, it is time to be honest with yourself. If you don’t, it is only going to waste all your effort in building a course that no one wants.

  • Did you run a workshop where people scream “AMAZING”?
  • Do you feel that you’ve won a new raving fan?
  • Which parts can you improve to make the workshop better?

If you feel that you can do a better job, it is a smart move to run a 2nd workshop to fine-tune this with a new group of people. Why is this smart? Because with each workshop you run, you are showcasing yourself and your ability to more people. These people give you feedback. They become your community. They are the source of your testimonials. It means you have more of everything!

These days, people want non-fluffy, straight-to-the-point learning. So you want to take out all the boring and fluffy parts that don’t help them take action right now. Embracing the Small School’s philosophy, I purposely made Easy Content Magic less than an hour long because I want my students to spend more time executing the framework, not learning the framework.

In this case, I had enough data that I didn’t need to run the 2nd workshop. But if you’re new to teaching and sharing on a live call, it might be a good idea to improve the teaching and, most importantly, connect with your audience.

7. Sell early before creating the course

Whenever you feel ready, you should start planning a pre-sale. At this point, you don’t even need to have your course fully built yet.

All you need is a clear direction and a few killer selling points.

If you think you need another 4 weeks to finish the course, then set the launch date to be 4 weeks later. Work backward and now you have 2 weeks of pre-sale.

The best thing about having run the live workshop is that now you have a relationship with all attendees. You can use their feedback from the survey as testimonials. You can even ask them to write a few new lines. 

Another clear signal for you: if you do a good job, they should say yes easily.

Here’s a tip from Momentum Marketing: when you launch the course later, you want to ask them to help spread the word.

So far from steps 1 to 7, if you have been building the course in public (see the full guide here), you just need to bring up pre-sale and people will sign up for it. You don’t feel like selling and this is the beauty of it.

When you have pre-sale numbers, you can then use them to create even more momentum for the big launch.

8. Launch your course

Finally, you can go ahead to build this course for your audience.

If you want tips on how to create a course that make people tell all their friends and even send you a thank you email, this can help:

Once you've finished creating the course that people are dying to buy, it is time to use Momentum Marketing to make sure you have a buzzing launch.

Through this process, you can use all the exact words that you hear from workshop attendees and your audience to improve your copy on the sales page. If you speak their language, they resonate. If they feel you understand them, they’ll take your course. They won’t even consider someone else.

When you’re close to your big launch, you can ask all the people whom you’ve interacted with, especially the workshop attendees, for help. If you give them a ton of value, they’ll be happy to help you even though they had to pay to attend the workshop.

If you are new to the course world, you can’t see your course as a tool to make passive income. Instead, it is a way for you to add value to people’s lives. It is you helping them. This is a perfect place to kick-start relationships. They might want more of your help in the future. They will also help you spread the word for all your future creations.

That’s the beauty of building in public with your community.

Launching a course with success doesn’t need luck

What you need is:

  1. You use data to gauge what people really need
  2. You build in public to create a storyline on building your course
  3. You generate momentum so “people want what others have”

A successful course doesn’t need luck.

Please don’t ever put your head down and spend dozens of hours creating and launching a course. What you should be doing is understanding the process, focusing on the small steps, and iterating them as you go.

So now, what course will you be launching?

Actually, what Small Course will you be launching?