How to Start a 7-Figure Online Course Business
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Today, I asked Jessica Larrew from TheCourseCreatorsLounge.com to share her tips about growing an online course business to the 7-figure per year mark. Jessica has been selling courses online (on TheSellingFamily.com) since 2013 and has never done a fancy open-cart-close-cart launch! This post is for those of you who are struggling to get traction with your online course or for those of you who haven’t started yet and want to get off on the right foot.
This post isn’t going to be a step-by-step tutorial on HOW to create an online course. This post's purpose is to show us what to do to get your courses to the highly desired 7-figure mark.
I’ll pass it over to Jessica now.
Thanks, Spencer, for allowing me the opportunity to share these tips with the Niche Pursuits community! I’ve been a big fan of your site for years and am glad to have had the chance to work with you in various ways over the last few years.
Like you mentioned above, this post isn’t specifically for creating your online course. For those readers who have not yet gone through that process, I do have a free worksheet that takes you through the steps of coming up with the perfect course topic. Since that is a perfect place to start!
How I Got Started Selling Online Courses
In 2012 I was running a business from home with my husband. I was getting a TON of questions from people about HOW we were making so much money from home. I enjoyed talking to others about it, but I was having the same conversations repeatedly. I bet some of you can already relate, right?
Around the same time, I had started reading blogs online and thought, “I could blog about my business,” and then the people who were interested could read it, and those who weren’t wouldn’t be bothered by me always talking shop.
I knew if I was going to create a blog, I would want it to be a money maker. I just wasn’t 100% sure how that would happen or what it would look like. I am an entrepreneur at heart! I figure there is always a way to make money; I just have to figure it out.
Luckily, I discovered online teaching quickly and was able to get that blog monetized within the first few months. In fact, my blog generated over $100,000 in its first full year of going live. Almost all of that income came from courses and group coaching.
I know a lot of people wait to monetize their sites, for whatever reason. I just didn’t have the time or desire to run a hobby blog forever. I had a toddler at home and another full-time business to run. Blogging needed to be worth the time I was spending on it.
By using the steps I am about to show you, I quickly scaled my course sales and blog income from six-figures to seven-figures in just three years.
I know there are many ways to reach the 7-figure mark, and some of what I share will go directly against what other industry experts recommend. What I'm sharing is just what worked for me and the lifestyle that I was looking for. It doesn’t mean that different strategies are bad or wrong!
Step #1 – Be An Expert At What You Are Teaching
Ok, I get that this may seem like a weird first step. Or maybe too obvious. But, I’m going to say it anyway. I genuinely believe that to have a really successful online course business, you HAVE TO be an expert.
A lot of people will tell you to just find a profitable niche and jump into it.
I’ve found that people who are making significant money with their courses started by teaching something they knew like the back of their hand! Not to imply that everything you are good at will be profitable. No, I’m just saying that you should be an expert in what you are teaching!
SIDE NOTE: Since Spencer talks a lot about niche sites, I want to add the disclaimer that I am talking specifically about online courses here, my opinion has nothing to do with niche sites. I have a niche site, and I know very little about the topic…But, it’s also not a seven-figure business, and I am not seen as ‘authority’ on the site.
I’ve seen people create online courses around many things that they are experts in—meal prep, dancing, piano, dog training, organizing, accounting, bookkeeping, and more (and we even created a helpful guide on how to start a bookkeeping business if you're interested).
If you have a skill that took time and practice to master, there are people who would love to learn from you!
Step #2 – Carve Out A Specific Niche For Yourself
Once you have narrowed down your topic of expertise, I recommend narrowing down your niche as much as possible. Not to be cliche, but you’ve probably heard the phrase, “The riches are in the niches.” Right?
Well, it’s true!
I’ll give you a few examples.
In my first course business, I helped people sell on Amazon, which is a broad topic. One Spencer has talked a lot about!
Instead of trying to teach all of the things that have to do with selling on Amazon, I focused specifically on one specific sourcing method and beginners.
By having such a narrow focus, I was able to become an industry expert when it came to that specific niche. Sure, I may have missed out on a lot of other profitable aspects of selling on Amazon, but that would be moving into areas where I was not an expert in and make the topic too broad.
As time goes on, you can start to build out your small niche, but I’ll cover that in the final step.
Step #3 – Be Active In Your Niche Community
The number one way to be seen as an expert in your industry is to be active in the online community!
Before I even started selling courses, I was very active in online seller communities. That’s because it was my field! Those were my people, why wouldn’t I be there?
The more active you are in the community, the more people start to recognize you as an expert. People begin to know your name and ask you questions specifically. If you aren’t doing this already, start talking!
At this point, you aren’t doing it for the sake of selling. You are doing it for the purpose of being part of the community. You want the other members of the community to start seeing you as an expert, and you want the community leaders to as well.
That leads right into step # 4!
Step #4 – Work With Industry Leaders To Share Your Course
It’s hard to choose a step that I think is the most important because they all go together, but if I had to choose one thing that I think could stand on its own, it would be this one.
I have found that by working with industry leaders, I can get my courses in front of many new audiences and faster than I could all on my own.
I work with the leaders by having an excellent affiliate program that pays them generously to promote my course(s) to their readers and email lists. A lot of you may already be very familiar with affiliate marketing from the affiliate side of things.
Instead of being the affiliate, I am the affiliate host. Since this side of the process is not talked about as often, I decided to put together a course about it. All about how to work with influencer and industry leaders by having an excellent affiliate program.
You can check out my Course Creator’s Guide To Affiliate Hosting course if you want to know how to get the leaders in your niche to say YES to promoting your online course!
Step #5 – Constantly Be Building Your Email List
Working with affiliates to promote my courses has not only been good for sales, but it’s been useful for building my email list. I’ve found it’s easier to convert sales if the customer goes through my email campaigns, so I create useful opt-ins that I can share right alongside selling my course.
By getting subscribers on your list, you have multiple chances to get your course in front of them. Of course, you can share new blog posts and other courses as well.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to start increasing your sales. Without having an email list, you are always in outreach mode. Eventually, by having your own email list, you get to be in more control over the marketing of your courses.
I often say having an email list is like having a money faucet. If you need to generate quick cash, send a special offer via email and get sales rolling in.
Step #6 – Keeping Your Course Evergreen
Now, this is the step that goes against everything that the ‘big dogs’ tell us! It's all about scarcity and launches if you are familiar with the online course industry.
Personally, that’s never been something I want to do, and I think it worked wonders for my business.
By having an evergreen course, you can have people always promoting your course and sales coming in all the time. I watch big launches all the time, and even I am impressed by the big numbers shared…But, I also see the stress and sometimes even the physical pain/sickness that the launches take on the creator’s physical bodies.
So, for me, I stick with evergreen courses that people can buy at any time.
My customers don’t have to feel pressured to make the purchase, and I don’t have to miss out on sales because of the cart being closed when they make the decision.
And guess what, even without consistently live promoting my courses, I still generate a fairly consistent income. Sometimes I will run sales or do special promotions to increase my numbers. I can go months without adding new emails or promotions, and I will still have sales coming in daily.
Step #7 – Build Another Course
Ok, this final step should come AFTER you have done ALL of the other steps, and your FIRST course is running smoothly and generating constant sales.
Once I have a course on auto-pilot, it’s a great time to create a new course and repeat the process all over again!
For the next courses, I like to see what the logical next step is for my first course customers. That way, I can sell the next course to those customers first. Once someone has bought something from you once, they are more likely to buy from you again.
I just want to emphasize that it is essential not to rush this step. If you do, you could cause your first course to stall, which adds more work for you.
It’s much easier to manage and promote one course than to promote a full library of courses.
Over the years, I have had over 100 products in my shopping cart (not all at once), and I currently have 11 digital courses for sale.
As I am growing my new business, The Course Creator’s Lounge, I will be adding new courses even slower than I did in the past.
When I first started creating courses online, I had no idea how much money it could generate for my family! As I said, I knew it needed to make SOMETHING, but I did not have 7-figures in mind…at first. Eventually, that was my goal because I like a challenge.
Growing an online course business to 7-figures doesn’t happen overnight, and I don’t want you to think that a million dollars should even be your goal. Set a goal that makes sense for you and work towards that.
The steps I shared above will help you reach any financial goal you set in place for your courses.
I know it can be frustrating trying to promote your course when you are just getting started, and you feel like no one knows who the heck you are! Honestly, I am going through all those same growing pains as I build my new business right now. But, I am just taking the steps one at a time!
What you see here is Step #4 in action! I am working with Spencer to get my name and course out there in the world.
If you want to learn how you can get your course in front of new audiences and set up an affiliate program that will have top affiliates willing to promote your course, check out my course, The Course Creator’s Guide To Affiliate Hosting. I’d love to help you get out of the shadows and be seen as the expert you are!
Not ready for the course but want to know some of the biggest mistakes course creators make when setting up their affiliate program? You can opt-in for my free report with 11 Affiliate Hosting Mistakes right here.
Thanks for reading to the end, and I hope this post is beneficial for you as you grow your online course business! Make sure to stop by The Course Creator’s Lounge and say hello.
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