6 Lessons Learned from My Recent Course Launch

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6 lessons learned from my latest course launch
In case you didn’t know, last month I launched my brand new course — Side Income with Canva Templates.

In today’s post, I want to talk about my experiences with this course launch and the 6 important lessons I learned through the entire process.

I have been entertaining the idea of creating a course on how I sell Canva templates since last year, but it was around late March this year when I finally felt ready to share what I had learned about this particular side-hustle. It was also around the time when US cities were beginning to close down. Every day COVID-19 cases were piling up, and the nation was in a state of shock and chaos because of the unknown virus that has since ravaged the entire world.

People are not ready to invest in yet another online course, not right now — I thought.

By mid-April, things were looking worse. Unemployment was going through the roof, and businesses were closing down — some for good.

In a nutshell, things were bad.

But because things were bad, I was also rather desperate. I need to make a couple of thousand bucks so I have three months’ worth of rent in hand — I thought. That would give me the peace of mind I needed to think through what I’d do in the foreseeable future to secure my livelihood and lifestyle in a now-unrecognizable world.

So, to me, at the beginning of the creation process, a successful course launch meant making two grands.  I made over 8K. 

And yet, this feels like a “failed” launch even though I made over 300% my initial goal. Why? Because now that it’s over and done with, I know I could have made more, way more than that.

So, what happened? And what have I learned from this?

Good questions. Let’s dive in!

In this post:

Do Not Let Your Doubts Dictate Your Actions

Mindset is everything. The actions that make you successful require care, planning, and careful execution. None of that happens if you doubt your actions every step of the way. That is what happened to me. I doubted myself, and I questioned the validity of the product I was about to design and create.

Around late April, when I was still unsure of whether to take the chance and make the course, I decided to do a pre-launch. At that time, I had nothing, no content for the course, not even a rough outline. But that wasn’t an issue because I knew the subject matter well. All I needed was some kind of assurance that I’d make two grands from this course right away.

So, I figured pre-launch was the way to go.

As I crafted the first email to be sent to my email list — a list of roughly 3.5K subscribers — in my heart, I was quite sure that nobody would bother to buy a course on such a niche topic during a pandemic. I was ready to issue refunds for the handful of sales I might end up making.

In a limp attempt to defend myself, I’d say this: I had reasons for doubts, even without the Coronavirus crisis.

First of all, I’m a blogger who writes about blogging and making money from blogging. The course I was getting ready to create was about selling Canva templates online — something I started doing on the side a little over a year prior. As you can guess, they’re completely unrelated, and I was about to promote this unrelated course to an unrelated audience who subscribed to my email list because they wanted to learn how to blog — not how to sell Canva templates.

This made me doubt what I was about to do, and that doubt dictated every action, or rather, inaction on my part. In short, all the subsequent mistakes I made during this launch stemmed from this doubt.

Lesson learned?

We may not be able to control our doubts, but we do have control over our actions. And once we have decided to do something, doubtful or not, we have to give the task at hand our 120%.

Always Prime Your Audience for What to Come

As I mentioned earlier, my email list consists of people who want to learn how to blog. What I hadn’t said is how the idea of creating this unrelated course came about in the first place.

You see, last year, when my Canva template sales started to take off, I wrote a blog post about how I was making money selling Canva templates.

That post was an overnight hit. If you search the term “sell Canva templates,” my blog post is the second link you see on Google’s SERP. Because it is one of the posts that brought so much traffic to my site, I thought, well, maybe there’s an opportunity here.

That said, I still doubted myself because that was a one-off blog post on that topic. Everything else in my blog has to do with blogging, and not selling Canva templates.

Now, if I were thinking things through and weren’t constantly questioning the legitimacy of creating such a course, I would have revamped that post before I pre-launched, with an opt-in freebie as a content upgrade for that blog post right away. You see, I’m quite good at attracting subscribers. I know exactly how to create the right kind of content upgrades that give you momentum. I have built an email list of over 3K subscribers with a brand new blog in just a year, after all.

But no, I was so sure that my course idea was a total flopper that I didn’t even bother to capitalize on my blog post that was already doing pretty good in terms of driving traffic.

Had I been proactive about my marketing strategies from day-1, I would have seen this opportunity and started building a sub-section of my email list that would have been full of subscribers specifically interested in learning how to sell Canva templates.

One month… just one month of awareness-building activities would have been sufficient to perhaps double or even triple my sales, pushing it well over the coveted 5-figure course launch.

After I pre-launched my course and the sales started to roll in, hindsight kicked in, and as always, it’s a bitch!

But well, I had learned my lesson:

Prime your audience before you start building your course. (Re)write a blog post, create a free offer, start collecting email list subscribers who are interested in learning the thing you’re planning to teach.

Be Clear About What It Is You’re Teaching

The next big mistake was the email sequence I set up for the pre-launch.

I had no landing page, no details, just a short note that I’m planning on creating a course, and if they [my subscribers] bought the course now, they’d be saving over 50% of the original price.

That’s it. That’s all I said in the first email, and just like that, I kicked off the pre-sale period (lasting about ten days).

Every other day I sent out a new email reminding my subscribers of the pre-sale, with some filler, feel-good type of words like:

  • you can make over $1K per month with this side-hustle
  • you only need to work a few hours a week
  • if not now, then when? (Referring to the COVID-19 crisis)

It was honest, but it didn’t have enough details about the course itself. I made a few sales here and there but nothing that gave me the peace of mind I needed.

Finally, two or three days before the end of the pre-sale period, I received an email from a subscriber asking me a very basic question:

“Can you tell me exactly what you’ll be covering in this course? Will you teach us how to use Canva (I don’t really need that, I’m already pretty good at using Canva), or will you teach us how to market our products as well?”

That question was the life-saver and eye-opener I didn’t know I needed.

That day, I sat down and drafted my very first course-outline. Then I re-wrote the emails I had scheduled to send out, to include the modules and lessons I was planning to create.

Those last couple of days, thanks to this subscriber and my now edited emails, changed the fate of the pre-launch. By the end of the pre-sale period, I ended up selling to over 50 people on my email list!

Here’s the lesson learned from my pre-sales:

Your course title isn’t enough to sell it. Your buyers need details. Always be clear about your offerings and everything you plan on teaching as well as the benefits for your students if they are to enroll in it.

But wait, that wasn’t the end to my mistakes.

Refine Your Marketing Tactics Between Pre-sale and Launch

So, now that I had sold to over 50 people and the pre-sale window was closed, and I had already made more than what I thought I’d make, I sat down, relaxed, and started creating my course.

I was sure that I had sold the course to all of those who were meant to purchase it.

Will anyone else bother to buy it now that the pre-sale is over and the course is more expensive? — I thought. And thus, I doubted myself again and made yet another huge mistake.

You see, I thought the launch was a success, and that was it.

I finished the course in time and made it available to everyone who had purchased it. And then I officially launched it to the mass.

And just for the heck of it, I decided to run another special when I launched the course. I offered the course at a discounted price (but it was more expensive than the pre-sale price) for ten days and promoted it as a launch-special discount.

I figured I might just make a couple more sales at that discounted rate.

And BAM!

Another 50 something whopping sales! And this time, I even had a proper landing page, so naturally, people were more convinced and sure of what they were investing in.

The mistake, however, was in my thinking that I couldn’t sell any more to my existing audience (aka, my subscribers.) I had over a month during pre-sale and launch, and I still hadn’t done a thing to get more people in my email list specifically primed to buy the course.

As in, I still hadn’t updated my old blog post on how I was selling Canva templates, I still didn’t have a content upgrade or an opt-in freebie to funnel targeted traffic to my course.

I was selling it to my existing list (which, just to make sure, had grown to over 4K by this time) that still consisted mostly of those interested in learning how to blog, and not necessarily how to sell Canva templates.

Lesson learned?

Do not waste the time between pre-sale and launch. Continue to prime your audience by (re)writing blog posts on the topic, offering freebies or webinars, to build-up anticipation for the course, as well as new audience and subscribers who may be interested in buying your course.

I mean, who would have thought? This second wave of sales pushed my total earning from the course launch to over 8K, and while this may seem like a major success compared to the 2K I had hoped to make before the pre-sale period, it didn’t feel like it.

Looking back at all the obvious mistakes I made and the lost opportunities, this feels like a major failure!

Again, damn hindsight!

Always Have a Landing Page for Your Course

After the launch special, I did a bit of digging to see how come I made another 50 something sales during the launch, and why I didn’t make those sales during the pre-sale period, even though it was cheaper back then.

At first, I thought maybe it was the new subscribers who were purchasing the course, but on closer inspection, it turned out that most of those sales came from subscribers who were already in my list during the pre-sale.

I was baffled.

After thinking through everything I had done during the pre-sale and the launch-special, I realized there was just one thing that could have made all the difference — a landing page.

You see, during the pre-sale period, even though I edited my emails with more details of the course, I still didn’t have a landing page — I just shared a link to the checkout page for the course.

Sure, I updated the emails with more information, but if you look at the bazillion online courses out there, they all have very detailed landing pages with stellar copy that’s polished to bring in more sales. Had I created a landing page with the right messaging and more details of the course, the chances are that I’d have made way more sales than I did with just the emails.

So, lesson learned?

You need a landing page for your course with attention to details such as your sales copy, proof of success, and anything else that may convince your potential buyers to go over the edge of doubt into conviction required to make the purchase.

With that, it’s time to address my final mistake and the lesson I learned from it (but fortunately, there’s time for me to address it yet.)

Continue to Bring New Audience to Your Course

By the time the launch-period was over, I already knew what mistakes I’d made. And the biggest of them all was that I never bothered to gather an audience specifically interested in learning how to sell Canva templates.

I knew what I had to do, and yet, I didn’t.

In my defense, I was going through a lot during that month between pre-sale and launch. Not only was there a rampaging virus outside, taking lives and killing livelihoods, I was also struggling with the fact that my father was severely ill, and thanks to the Coronavirus crisis, I couldn’t be there with him.

Soon after the launch ended, my father passed away.

So, while this feels like a mistake, I also know that as human beings, it’s impossible to always do what we’re supposed to do.

In short, I should be revamping my blog post and making freebies and webinars to drive more traffic to my course. I know this course has the potential to be evergreen, especially since I have continued to make sales (at its full price too!) even after the special launch period. Now’s the time to double down on growing an audience that is interested in learning what I teach in my course.

But well, instead of that, I’m taking a break. Giving myself time to mourne my recent loss and then heal from it. And I think that’s OK. But for those of you new to course launches, here’s your last lesson:

The end of your course launch isn’t the end of your course sales. There are people out there that are willing to pay to learn the thing you’re teaching. Continue to grow your audience with these people, and continue to market your course, and continue to refine your marketing tactics as well as your message.

This was a good launch, sure. I made way more than I had anticipated during the launch, and yet, it felt like I missed something. So, I’ve had some time to sit down and go over what I did and what I could have done, and after analyzing everything, if I do another course launch in the future, I now know what I would do differently.

And hopefully, now you know that too!

Questions or comments? Feel free to share below.

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6 lessons learned from my latest course launch

13 thoughts on “6 Lessons Learned from My Recent Course Launch”
  1. Natalie Quinn

    Such a great tips.. We leave to learn everyday, Some of your tips i have applied some i haven’t but will be taking it one after the other. Keep up the good job in helping us become pro bloggers.

  2. Maliha,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I am also amazed how much you’ve done and how clear eyed you are about the results and processes, especially considering your father’s illness and the rest (that we’ve all been dealing with.) I am sure most of us wouldn’t have been able to pre-sale, launch, assess launch, create course and all the rest – which you did and then reflected on!
    You deserve the break! Thanks for all you do, and for your transparency through it all. Sharing Love,

    1. I’ve been taking things slower than usual, but the work also helps me cope, so there’s that. Thank you for your kind words Diane, appreciate it.

  3. Hi Maliha,
    I have been following you from the beginning of “The Side Blogger”.
    Thank you for this post on your lessons learned. It is a great guide on what to do and how to make a bigger impact.
    I would also like to extend my condolences to you. My father died a couple of years ago and it was very hard time for me. Good on you for taking some time to process his death before jumping back into work. We will all be here even if you don’t post for few weeks 🙂
    To your dad.

    1. I know, Natalie, and thank you so much for being a part of my journey from the start, and your kind words. I really appreciate your support 🙂

  4. Donna Egan-Hillis

    Thanks for sharing your challenges. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad a couple years ago and it’s been challenging to get back into life. I left a toxic job and have struggled to find my way for the past couple years. I find your blog and your story inspiring. I wish you the best of luck and hope you find comfort in all the great memories with your dad.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Appreciate the kind words. Sorry to hear about the job situation. But hopefully, all this will weave a path towards something better for you. And for me too 🙂

  5. First of all, my condolences for your loss. You’re strong if you managed to get up so quick and continue working.
    And second, I want to thank you for another informative post. I always find them useful and this one isn’t different. I’m still thinking of making a course but it’s way too early for me. But I think it’s good to think about it earlier and gather ideas.

    1. Thank you Almante; appreciate the kind words. And for sure, the earlier you start to think and prep, the better results you’ll have. Good luck!

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