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What I Learned Selling $300,000 In Online Courses My First Year

What I Learned Selling $300,000 In Online Courses My  First Year

I never set out to create and sell courses. It happened organically. As the online courses began to grow, I was thrilled to hit the $300,000 in sales number my first year. In this article, I’ll share my personal experiences, what worked for me (and didn’t), and what I learned on the journey.

Build The Audience, First.

When I was first entering the blogging world, I read Purple Cow, Linchpin, and Tribes by Seth Godin. More than once, Seth said that most entrepreneurs have it backward. 

They create a product or service and then work to build an audience. When, in fact, it should be the other way around. 

Build the audience first, Identify their problems. Then build a product or service that addresses or solves their biggest challenges.

In my case, that’s what I did each time. 

As a real estate agent in 2010, I began sharing my journey. I shared my failures, success, and lessons in real estate through social media groups, blogs, email, and Youtube.

As I learned what worked in digital marketing strategies for real estate agents, I began to teach my methods. 

My mentor Dave Jenks gave my processes a name. He called it: “The Ballen Method.” 

In 2013, I had suddenly realized that I had enough content to write a book! And so, I did. Youtube was also now full of the video tutorials I had published.  

I was then able to use the videos and blogs for course material.

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And The Ballen Method to Marketing course was created. 

It earned $50,000 the first month (with a price of $395 originally), and then continued to make $30,000 per month for the next couple of years.

That same audience then watched me lose 50 pounds on the Keto Diet in 6-months, and many then bought my Keto courses and coaching. 

And then, the same thing happened with Affiliate Marketing

In each case, the audience came before the product. 

The Right Platform Matters

My first course was costly to build. I hired a custom website designer and invested about $20,000 to custom make a membership website. 

We didn’t have the options that we have today. 

Today, we have many ‘out of the box’ e-course software solutions that offer video and text course platforms, WordPress Plugins, and built-in e-commerce solutions for collecting payments. 

There are also websites such as Udemy and Skillshare, where you can build courses on a public platform sharing the earnings.

Some of these options include:

  1. Teachable
  2. Thinkific
  3. Podia
  4. AccessAlly
  5. Ontraport
  6. Kartra
  7. LearnDash
  8. Udemy
  9. Skillshare

I moved platforms several times before settling into Teachable. I found that the courses were easy to build, video courses work well, e-commerce is built-in, the reporting is essential, email is built-in, and even includes a blog/website.

It’s a pain to move platforms, but I’m always willing if the pros outway the cons. 

Monthly Subscription Models

One of the reasons that I chose Teachable for my course platform is that it offers various pricing structures. 

You can offer a one-time purchase, lease to own, and monthly subscriptions. 

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I believe that selling a course for a one-time, flat fee is best for a big launch. When a heavily anticipated course launches, the upfront sales can be incredible.

Time-sensitive courses and limited time availability products often come with hefty price tags earning a bit paycheck for the course creator. 

This urgency creation is why you see many course creators do a big launch and then phase out their course. 

When a course will always be for sale, and mainly when it includes regular updates and social membership groups, a monthly subscription can be a great choice.

Doing timed courses like a 6-week Challenge or 12-week Mastery can bring in higher ticket sales billing monthly.

I learned that online course launches and timed courses and programs create urgency and bring in substantial sales, whereas ongoing monthly systems bring in a smaller, but steady stream of income. 

Some people join and stay for years, spending a lot more than they would have in a one-time purchase.

Teachable also allows me to add coupons and bundle courses as I desire. I can also create free courses for promotions and to generate interest. 

Remove The Ego

When I teach, I take it very seriously. Too seriously, most would say. I care immensely about inspiring my class and empowering my students to take action. 

Most won’t. 

In reviewing my Teachable reports for course sales, I was disappointed repeatedly to see how few students ever logged in more than a time or two. 

No matter how I changed or updated the course, how much I did or didn’t use video, written text, PDF Downloads, and workbooks changed, nothing. 

I tried emailing weekly, creating a social buzz, and even text messaging with updates.

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Still, very few people logged back in. Over time, I learned that most course creators report the same thing, especially with tech-based courses.

Yet, they were willing to pay AGAIN to attend a live webinar. When I first realized that, I was astonished! 

Even though they had paid for the full membership that already had a recently updated lesson with the same content I would teach on the webinar, they would still buy the webinar. 

And this was true even after I reminded them they had the access. 

I’ve made more money selling marketing strategy webinars than I ever did selling courses.

Webinar jam works for selling webinars, and Teachable worked well with GoToWebinar as well. Both have automation processes and Zapier formulas for streamlining processes. 

If you have Infusionsoft or Keap, you can also make simple invoice sales and then add your paid members to the webinar platform. 

The nice thing about selling webinars is that you are finished when you end the stream.

There’s no updating required. 

That said, with webinars, you are trading time for money where courses can be evergreen and earn income while you sleep or vacation!

I like using them all as part of my sales stack. 

Email Marketing is Still Powerful for Course Sales

Building a contact list is essential. Whether you use email, direct mail, text, chatbots, re-targeting, and so forth, a healthy list is very valuable.

The concept is simple. 

  1. Attract your “would-be’ audience to your blog, video, podcast, social channel, etc. 
  2. Offer an item of value for which they subscribe. This item could be a checklist, list, workbook, guide, video, free mini-course, template, etc. 
  3. Follow up with value items, stories, tips, and so forth to build brand awareness with the new contact. 
  4. Offer a time-sensitive discount on your course.
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I use KEAP for my contact list communication. 

When You Lose Interest, So Will They

You always have to be creating buzz around your courses. As soon as you lose interest, so will they. 

My best course sales are when they launch. That’s because I’m most excited about them when they launch. I work hard to create buzz, urgency, make announcements, and tell stories. I’m proud of my course and can’t wait to get the students enrolled. 

And then, when the “newness” wears off, and the course sales become “the normal,” it’s not easy to find the enthusiasm to “sell.” 

For me, I’d often instead build a new course or host the next big webinar than be always creating buzz around an evergreen course. 

The solution for this challenge, however, is pretty simple. Let the systems do the work. 

Going back to the list above on building a contact list, it’s all pretty simple to keep going like a well-oiled machine. 

One of my favorite items of value is a free webinar.  

Adding an Optinmonster pop-up, slide-in, or banner to the main pages on my blog, promoting a webinar can generate hundreds of new leads every month.

The webinar can be live or evergreen using a platform like EverWebinar

When people attend the webinar, which is full of excellent training, they are offered a limited-time promotion for the course.

Free webinars also help increase brand awareness, and people begin to trust and like you. These are the people that become your tribe.

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