How big does my email list need to be before launching an online course?

Over the years, I’ve been asked time and time again to share insights and lessons learned from building and launching my online courses! And today is the day I’m finally delivering on that!

Yep! Online courses are all the rage right now (and have been for quite some time!)

And while there are many people out there running them super successfully, I’ve also seen the other side of the coin where someone spends months coming up with their idea, building out their course…

Only to launch to find they are launching to an empty room and end up getting exactly zero students.

Major disappointment? I’d say so.

(Especially if you were counting the revenue generated by your first launch to replace some other form of income you said ‘buh-bye’ to so you could go all in on your online course idea!)

So just know that yes, an online course can do great things for your business!

But online courses are not a guaranteed success route!

There’s a lot of really vital aspects that can’t be overlooked in order to launch your course with a bang and bring students in!

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Ok, so of those vital things that can’t be overlooked…which thing will have the biggest impact and pretty much predict your course’s success from day one? The size of your email list.

Now, story time to show you just how vital this is…

Turn back time to when I was first getting started building my online courses. I attended a coaching program and there were a few of us going through the course building and launching process together.

And in terms of audiences sizes, here’s how I measured up to some of my cohorts:

  1. One girl has 25k Instagram followers

  2. Another had quite a few thousand YouTube subscribers

  3. I only had an email list of 2K

Who got the most sales? I did, by farrrrr!

Please, please, please do not make the mistake of assuming because you have a big following somewhere else, that that will make up for a small email list. (It won’t.)

The good news if you’re in that boat, however, is that you already have followers who are likely interested in your topic, so now it’s your job to get them from wherever they’re following you onto your email list!

When launching an online course, you NEED an email list

Let me be super clear, I’m not saying an email list ‘might be beneficial,’ or ‘could help with sales’.

No. You NEED an email list.

If you do not have an email list, legitimately don’t bother yet thinking about building your online course. (Sorry to be blunt, but truly, it’s best you know this. I don’t want you to join the ranks of the many people who have spent months building a course only to launch it and land 0 sales.)

Build the email list first! I cannot, cannot, cannot emphasize enough how absolutely, vital an email list is . . .

K so now you know you need an email list. The next question is…

How big does my email list need to be to have a successful launch?

You can expect 1-2% of your email list to convert into buyers of your course.

So let’s do some math.

Let’s say your course will be $700.

And you’re going to spend 3 months working on building your course and the amount your business needs to bring in to cover your life expenses, business expenses and taxes is $5,000/month. So $5,000/month x 3 months = $15,000 is what the course needs to make.

To make $15,000 on a $700 course, you need 21.5 sales.

Assuming your email list conversion rate (number of subscribers turned students) is 1.5%, you therefore need an email list of 1,400 in order to hit your sales goal.

So, if you don’t have an email list yet, or it’s still a small list and you therefore know you need to do some list building first, you can basically follow that math to figure out how big your email list needs to be in order to make the sales you want to generate.

Thankfully, course prices have gone up quite a bit in the last couple of years alone so it might not take as many sales and you can launch with a slightly smaller email list – especially if you want to just give it a shot (because maybe you’re not looking at bringing in your 3 months business and life expenses with the first launch just yet since you have other sources of income too).

So here’s that math for you again:

  • (Monthly expenses) X (Months needed to build course) = Launch revenue goal

  • (Minimum revenue goal) ÷ (Price of course) = Sales needed to hit minimum goal

  • (Sales needed) ÷ 0.015 (that’s 1.5%) = Email list size needed!

There’s no guarantees with the 1-2% conversion rate rule, btw.

Some people blow way past those numbers, and others convert 0% of their email list. But it’s a general industry standard to have in mind in order to ballpark your sales.

There’s a couple important aspects to ensuring you hit the 1-2% conversion rate from subscriber > paying student.

How can I improve my email list conversion rate from subscriber to actual paying student of my online course?

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How big does my email list need to be before launching an online course?

Tip #1

Give away a very closely related opt-in gift

Let’s pretend you’re a calligrapher and a watercolor artist! You have been building your email list with an opt-in gift sharing exactly the tools you use to create your beautiful calligraphy work. Your course is teaching how to get started with watercolor paintings.

… Did you spot the issue?

Your opt-in gift is attracting people interested in calligraphy, but your course is about watercolor painting.

If you build an email list full of people who are not interested in the topic of your course, you can expect a MUCH lower conversion rate than the industry standard 1-2%.

You need to make sure that your email list is full of people actually interested in your course topic. And you do that by creating an opt-in gift which is the perrrfect first step before what your course teaches.

Suggested reading:

TIP #2:

Provide free, valuable content to your list consistently

The second blunder I see a lot of people running into is that they only show up in subscribers inboxes when they’re ready to sell, sell, sell.

Don’t do that.

We buy from people we know, like and trust. And just getting a sweet opt-in gift is often not enough to build that to the point where someone is ready to buy from you.

So you’ve got to follow up your sweet, closely related opt-in freebie with some sweet, closely related, value-packed emails!

During your list-building time, be sure to send your subscribers an email at least once a week with some more hellah-valuable information on the topic of your course & opt-in gift.

Suggested reading:

If you get these two things right, that’ll significantly increase your chances of hitting a 1-2% conversion rate!

I hope all that info helps you launch that course with a bang (and a whole bunch of new students!)

Psssst! Wish there was someone to hold your hand while you build and launch your online course?

NEW! Course Creator Coaching Program

JOIN THE WAITLIST to be the first to hear when applications for the program open!

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How big does my email list need to be before launching an online course?

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