Insights on Creating Your First Online Course: Part 1 (with Sally Miller)

"Creating your first course: part 1" "with insights from Sally Miller"
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Creating online courses is more than just creating lessons and releasing it to the world. But even experienced course creators learn lessons along the way, starting with his or her very first course offering.

In Part 2 of this interview series on first course launch experiences is Sally Miller of Sally Ann Miller.

Who is Sally Miller?

Image of Sally Miller

Bio from here.

Sally is an author, coach, and founder of Home Business School.

Sally is a mom on a mission. She is passionate about answering the question, “Can modern moms have it all?” In a previous life, Sally worked for nineteen years as a project manager and business analyst in London and Silicon Valley. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

When her daughter was born, she discovered a new purpose. Sally left her corporate career to be a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to be a full-time mom to her kids. However, she missed the freedom and purpose that came from working. So Sally made a decision: she’d find a way to stay home with her kids and earn an income (without feeling torn between the two).

Sally is a self-confessed research geek and compulsive planner. She loves learning how stuff works, mastering new skills, and sharing her knowledge with others. Since leaving her nine-to-five, Sally has published eight bestselling books on Amazon (and counting).

Check out her books:

  1. The Essential Habits Of 6-Figure Bloggers: Secrets of 17 Successful Bloggers You Can Use to Build a Six-Figure Online Business
  2. Make Money As A Life Coach: How to Become a Life Coach and Attract Your First Paying Client
  3. Write and Grow Rich: Secrets of Successful Authors and Publishers (Exclusive Tips from Publishing Experts)
  4. Make Money From Blogging: How To Start A Blog While Raising A Family
  5. Make Money On Airbnb: How To Quickly And Easily Earn $2,500 A Month From Your Home
  6. Make Money As A Freelance Writer: 7 Simple Steps to Start Your Freelance Writing Business and Earn Your First $1,000
  7. Make Money From Kindle Self-Publishing: Four-Step System To Triple Your Income From Nonfiction Books
  8. Make Money As A Ghostwriter: How to Level Up Your Freelancing Writing Business and Land Clients You Love
  9. Make Money As A Personal Trainer: How To Become A Personal Trainer And Find Your First Five Clients

How did you come up with your course idea? 

My first course, Author Success Blueprint, came about after receiving lots of questions from people who wanted to publish a nonfiction book.

The same questions kept coming up – how do I write a book and how do I get it published. The process can feel overwhelming when you’ve never written a book before. But since I’d already published five books, I knew that it didn’t have to be complex. So, I wanted to teach what I knew to other people.

Did you have a plan in place before you started creating your course content? 

Yes. In fact, I planned the course content in the same way that I plan my books. I start by getting clear on what outcome my students can expect from taking the course. This needs to be a tangible result that’s highly desirable to your prospective students.

Then I do a brain dump of all my ideas onto paper – I use a mindmap to do this.

Once I have my ideas out of my head, I organize them into groups – these are the course modules. I also ditch any ideas that are not essential to helping the student achieve the outcome.

It’s important not to overwhelm your students with information. The best courses provide a clear step-by-step process to go from where your student is starting to where they will be when they achieve the desired outcome.

Which platform did you choose to host your course? Why? Was it a good decision? 

I use Podia which is an all-in-one platform. Podia takes care of video hosting, sales page creation, payments, etc.

I even use Podia for my email marketing. This has been a good choice for me because I don’t have to bother with integrating lots of technical pieces. I prefer to focus on content creation and not messing around with technology.

How did you market your first course? 

I marketed the course to my email list.

I also held a free 5-day Facebook challenge for people who wanted to write a book.

I advertised the challenge using Facebook Ads to reach a wider audience. Then, at the end of the free challenge, I promoted my course for people who wanted to continue working with me to get their book finished and published.

What did you learn from your first course launch? What worked and didn’t work? 

I discovered that Facebook Ads are much harder than they used to be. You can spend a lot of money and get minimal results.

I also learned the importance of embracing failure along with the successes. If you’re not prepared to fail a lot – and to keep testing your ideas – then you won’t succeed. Almost nobody succeeds on their first course launch.

I had about 300 people inside my challenge and only 3 people purchased the course. So exactly 1%. This is an okay conversion rate for an email list but it’s not a great conversion for a challenge.

One of my biggest mistakes was that the targeting for my challenge was too broad. I had a lot of people who wanted to write a FICTION book but my course was for people who wanted to write a NONFICTION book. This was a huge mistake and seems so obvious in hindsight. But I didn’t realize the error until after the challenge had started and by then it was too late.

Having said that, there were many things in this launch that did work. For example, I mastered the technology to create the course, I had great engagement during the challenge, and the three people who purchased my course loved it!

What have you changed based on your experience? 

I am more focused with my marketing – both in terms of who I target and my messaging. I won’t repeat the mistake of targeting too broad an audience – this was a waste of advertising dollars and time!

Also, I’ve now moved to a membership model (Home Business School). In delivering this course, I discovered how much I missed coaching people over a longer time period.

By having all my courses inside a membership, I can now offer ongoing support and coaching to members. They get the step-by-step training plus ongoing access to coaching with me.

Having said that, I don’t recommend that new bloggers go create a membership. Running a membership is a much bigger commitment and you need to get clear on your audience and what you want to offer them before moving in this direction.

But for me, having a membership is amazing because I love working with the same students over a longer period. And seeing them create bigger and bigger results for themselves!

Do you have any tools, resources, or equipment you recommend for creating courses? 

I like to keep things simple – it means I have less to learn and fewer things that can go wrong. I know how easily tech can break when you have too many moving parts. So:

  • I recommend an all-in-one solution like Podia (which I use) or Kajabi.
  • Then, I create all my workbooks in Microsft Word and save as PDF files.
  • I record my videos using Screencast-O-Matic. This is an affordable solution for people starting out. And I still haven’t found a reason to upgrade to a more complex video creation tool!
  • Finally, my community is a closed Facebook Group.
  • And I use Zoom for all my live coaching and Q&A calls.

Do you have any advice for others who are considering creating their first course? 

My first advice would be to get something out there as quickly as possible. The best way to test whether your idea will work is to ask people to buy it!

I usually launch in a beta mode – which means the first version is a “rougher” version of the final version. People who buy in beta get a steep discount and more time with me. And I get to test my product before I’ve invested too much time and money into it. It’s a win-win!

Another way to test your idea, is to do a pre-launch. This means you put a sales page up and collect email addresses for people who want to hear more about your course. You do this before you create it and so can assess the level of interest early on.

My point is, you want to get your course out there fast. It probably won’t sell as well as you hope first time around. And this is okay. You learn from the experience, improve your course and marketing, and try again. Keep testing and improving. If you’re prepared to do this then success is inevitable!

Want more insight for your course? Check out the experiences of other course creators:

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