7 lessons learned launching my first online course
The launch week for my first online course has ended, and I can officially report that launch week is just as everyone says it is; a freaking exhausting rollercoaster.
(Note: 'Launch week' for me was actually 2 weeks. A pre-launch week and an actual launch week.)
By the end of the weeks I felt like crawling into my bed and taking a never-ending nap. In fact, I was dreaming of the launch being over and sleeping only on the second day of the launch. 😂
I should say, in an effort to be authentic, I'm sharing the not-so-pretty behind the scenes of my launch. There were many things that went extremely well and overall I'm really super pleased.
I held some super valuable chats with subscribers, I have an amazing group of students, and I'm so looking forward to them jumping into the course!
But it definitely wasn't all sparkles and rainbows. Here's the lessons I learned.
1. Avoid being half-way around the world from the people you're launching to if at all possible
I was in Bali for my launch and the vast majority of my audience is in the USA. Therefore, I was literally on the other side of the world, and the time change did indeed suck on many occasions.
I was up at 6 AM daily (I'm not a morning person, this was painful) to do Facebook lives on 9 different days. I also held a webinar from midnight - 2 AM, and was on live chat answering questions from 11 PM - 2 AM a couple times.
I was launching and trying to live on the schedule of my audience 12 hours away.
I do have to say, it is totally possible to launch this way, but it just means you're going to be more tired on an already tiring week and your schedule is going to get all kinds of crazy.
In the future, I'm going to make a serious effort to be in either North America or Europe whenever I launch to minimize timezone problems and help me stick to a normal sleeping pattern.
2. Tell friends and family personal issues are going to need to wait
The biggest issue during my launch which had some pretty serious domino effects throughout the whole thing had nothing to do with my business.
Someone very important to me who I'm very close with and I had a major, potentially life-altering 'discussion' on the second day of my launch.
I proceeded to spend the rest of the week stressed AF and having a proper emotional meltdown that dragged on for days. I straight up could not focus on work, get anything done and felt completely useless. Then I felt guilty for my tasks piling up and skipping some launch things all together because I just couldn't function.
This without a doubt had the biggest impact of anything on my launch and it wasn't business-related at all. But the fact is as an entrepreneur, life and business are pretty closely tied.
In the future I absolutely plan to tell family and friends to hold discussing any problems with me until after the launch is over. (I know that sounds harsh, but I'm legit not joking about that.) I will not go through what I did emotionally this launch ever again if I can help it.
3. Preparing content in advance will be a life saver
All the topics of my Facebook lives and webinar were decided on in advance. I also had all 12 launch emails written and ready to go. The week of I just had to implement, there wasn't any thinking involved in any of those things.
This was without a doubt the best thing I did and I 100% intend to do this again in the future, in fact I'll be sure to work next time to prepare even more bits and pieces in advance too.
4. State you give 'lifetime course access' not access for 'as long as the course exists'
The cost common question and concern we heard was how long the course content would be available for.
I always felt that 'lifetime access' is a rather nonsense term. Whose life exactly are we counting by? The student that dies first? However long the instructor lives? The longest living student? It feels pretty ambiguous and is thrown around so much in the online world, I just don't trust it.
I chatted with Mariah Coz, the expert on building online courses about this. She let me know that when people give 'lifetime access' that means that if they ever decide to stop running the course or stop paying for their course hosting platform, they would then make all the content available for download to students for a set period of time, and then fully close the thing down. Therefore, technically people have lifetime access, as they get to download and keep the content.
My plan was always to do the same, but with my hate for the term 'lifetime access,' I decided to say 'access to the course for as long as it existed.' Which then raised the obvious question, how long would the course exist for? Which then led to some long discussion about how I intended to run the course for the next few years and then at that point if people still wanted the content when I stopped the course, they could still get access to it, so they would always really have access if they wanted it and not to worry.
My 'access to the course for as long as it exists' statement was just confusing and raised justified but unneeded questions and concerns.
I decided for the next launch I'll get over myself and my hate for the term 'lifetime access' and just make things clear and simple in the future by stating students have 'lifetime access,' which honestly was what I intended to do all along, just in different words.
5. Limit the length of time your Facebook group is available for
First, I should say that not all courses need Facebook groups. But for this specific course, I really wanted there to be one available for the students.
Though I heard from two other designers who run Facebook groups that go along with their courses that they absolutely regret it and wish they had never started it. So honestly, this lesson comes from them, I thankfully took their advice and learned that lesson before I even made the mistake in the first place. (Thanks ladies!)
My goal is to get students to launch their sites in 4 weeks. A totally possible and doable timeline, if you set aside time to actually do the work. I had heard of another course where the Facebook group was limited to a few weeks, and one of the students told me because of they they felt they had a true fire under them to get the work done and therefore worked faster than they otherwise would have.
Having heard never-ending Facebook groups is a never-ending nightmare for the moderator and that limiting a group is a good way to motivate people, that's exactly what I did and I'm super pleased with this decision.
6. Don't make your life harder with a shotty course platform
Building my course and launching was straight-up a LOT of work. I committed 3 months to it, worked 7 days a week for those 3 months and then also hired a VA during my launch weeks.
I had so many balls in the air at the same time and so much going on, I am so so thankful I made my life easier by going with one of the most comprehensive, best course platforms out there, Teachable.
Everything I needed to do, Teachable offered. Dripping content is easy. Adding content is easy. Sending students emails is easy. Connecting to your email marketing platform is easy. It's all just done well for you, making your course launch soooo much easier.
I could only imagine the stress I'd have been under if I was trying to DIY my course platform or trying to get a cheaper one to do what I wanted it to with hacks. I know tech-wise I'm savvy enough to do anything, but it was such a relief to not hack to hack things together.
Teachable just works, which is exactly what I needed when launching my first course.
7. Avoid PayPal if you can
Good ol' PayPal could apparently really use Elon Musk back, because they're really falling behind Stripe in terms of being the best payment provider out there.
On multiple occasions students tried to make payment through PayPal and it gave them error message after error message and just didn't work, for no good reason. From every PayPal sale I also made less than sales through Stripe because PayPal has higher fees, and PayPal takes weeks, not days like Stripe, to actually send you the money.
I normally avoid PayPal in my business all-together, but unfortunately Teachable does required you to link both PayPal and Stripe up, so I just had to deal with more emails with issues because of it.
There we have it, 7 lessons learned from my course launch!
I hope if you ever go to launch one too you take these tips to heart and learn from my successes & failures so you can skip along the learning curve faster.