In 6 months, I was able to earn nearly $150,000 from my online course, The Six-Figure Blog Academy. In this digital course launch debrief I break down how I did it, my biggest takeaways and lessons learned, what worked really well and what was a total flop, and the resources that helped me reach my goals!
Man, oh man, has it been a wild ride… this whole entrepreneurial journey has been such a rollercoaster with some incredible highs and some REALLY LOW lows. I’m gonna keep it real: yes, our January 2020 launch of my course, the Six-Figure Blog Academy (6FBA) was a six-figure launch–as in I brought in a gross revenue over $100,000 in 2 weeks.
But I also lost money on our first official launch back in October 2019 after a super heavy investment in Facebook ads didn’t work. We did a $1 trial promotion during Black Friday/Cyber Monday that wound up being a huge headache and really made me question my faith in humanity. And it all started with a super soft launch to just a teeny list that brought in nearly $18,000 and gave me the proof of concept I needed to really do this thing.
I’ve been talking about giving y’all the full debrief of these 4 launches/promotions for months now and I’ve finally got all my ducks in a row to share the results with you. If you’re considering launching an online course, I hope this debrief will inspire you, help you to see what’s possible and also how much work, blood, sweat and tears goes into this, and how it’s a constant journey of trial and error and figuring out what works.
In total, I’ve made $142,915 from my online course, 6FBA. Keep reading to see what that really means…
Digital Course Income Report
Soft Launch (July 2019): $17,670 in gross revenue
- 34 students enrolled; 26.5% chose the payment plan vs pay in full
- 1 live webinar on Sponsored Content; 0% conversion rate (see it’s not all rainbows!)
- $0 spent on ads or paid traffic
- 29% of sales came from affiliates
- 5.8% conversion rate on sales page
- 1 email funnel
First Official Launch (October 2019): $14,409 in gross revenue
- 28 students enrolled; 57% chose the payment plan vs pay in full
- 1 live webinar on Affiliate Marketing; 1.7% conversion rate
- $17,879.14 spent on ads or paid traffic
- 21% of sales came from affiliates
- 2.6% conversion rate on sales page
- 1 email funnel
Black Friday Promotion (November 2019): $10,784 in gross revenue
- 15 students enrolled; 80% chose the payment plan vs pay in full
- 0 live webinars; n/a conversion rate
- $0 spent on ads or paid traffic
- 27% of sales came from affiliates
- 8.06% conversion rate on sales page (this is when we switched to Kajabi)
- 0 email funnels, just a few one-off campaigns/newsletters
Second Official Launch (January 2020): $100,052 in gross revenue
- 89 students enrolled; 64% chose the payment plan vs pay in full
- 4 live webinars on Blogging Secrets; 11% conversion rate
- $1,993.01 spent on ads or paid traffic
- 54% of sales came from affiliates
- 7.4% conversion rate on sales page
- 7 different email funnels
The Cost of Creating an Online Course
Now, while this might look like I’m flying high, I want to keep it real, because my net profit was wayyyyy less than my gross revenue. And also, it’s not like you get one big fat check for $100,000 when the launch is over. Most of my students are on payment plans and so I will receive most of that money over the next 6-12 months, broken out monthly.
Also, I had a ton of expenses, including:
- Paying out affiliates a 50% commission on all sales they generated. (Psst…want to be an affiliate? Apply here!)
- Payment processing fees from Stripe and Paypal
- Software expenses, like our online course platform (Kajabi), email service provider (ActiveCampaign), webinar service (Demio) and checkout system (SamCart)
- Facebook Ads and agency fees (we outsourced this for our October launch and I did it myself for our January launch)
- Refund requests and failed payments
- Paying out my other team members, including copywriters, community managers, my Integrator, etc.
You might also be wondering what I did differently for the January launch when I was able to make 5-10 times as much as my other launches. The answer is A LOT. In between our October launch and January launch, I took Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy and it CHANGED EVERYTHING! Specifically, I made the most changes to my webinar strategy, both in what I taught on the webinar and how I followed up with people after they registered.
I’ll get into the specifics below, but I also want to point out that every single launch, we changed something. My philosophy is to always be learning, tweaking and improving: we’ve changed our bonuses, we’ve tried different enrollment lengths, we’ve changed our price and even our offering, we’ve tried different promotion methods ($1 trial for example), we’ve tried different webinar topics. We are always tweaking things and trying to learn from previous launches. So let’s talk about what I’ve learned!
What I Learned From 4 Online Course Launches
In no particular order, here are some of the biggest takeaways after launching my online course over the past 6 months:
Do a beta test period:
I chose to go the route of creating my course before I sold it, though there’s a lot of value in pre-selling your course before you create to ensure you have a market for it. Instead, I got people to sign up for a waitlist for the course (it was free to join) and then I surveyed my audience a ton and had a bunch of course calls where I’d ask them questions about their blogging journey, what they wanted to know, where they were struggling, etc. Then I created the course. And then I did a beta program for just 10 people where they could join for only $197 in exchange for providing tons of feedback throughout and completing the course in 30 days. This was so valuable as I surveyed the beta testers throughout and was able to tweak the course and make improvements based on their suggestions before officially launching it. It also proved that there was a market for the course and I earned $1,970 from the beta test program (which I didn’t include in my gross revenue numbers above), so there was that added bonus, too!
Do a soft launch:
After the beta program, I did a soft launch to my email list. I didn’t run any ads or create any fancy funnels. I just created one email series for my list to go through over the course of a week and let it ride. This was such a Do Less way to dip my toe into launching without totally stressing myself out about all the marketing and shiny objects that are out there. My list had just over 1,000 people on it and we made nearly $18,000 so it converted really well. I learned a lot and then between the soft launch and my first official launch, I was able to tweak and add some more advanced features, like facebook ads and more advanced email funnels and live chat and webinars, and a more official affiliate program (to start it was just some friends and beta testers who promoted as affiliates). I highly recommend easing your way into launching like this and building on each future launch from there.
Price yourself right:
When I first launched 6FBA, I sold it for $497 and offered an early bird discount of $100 off. When I launched it again a few months later, I raised the price to $597 with the same early bird discount. But I quickly realized after these two launches that the course was worth so much more than that and if I wanted to attract serious bloggers into my program, I could make some improvements to the course and raise the price. For my January launch, I doubled my price to $997 and chose not to offer any monetary discounts (instead I opted for time-sensitive bonus freebies) and this worked like gangbusters. We had nearly 3 times as many students join at the much higher price and I felt really good about the value I could then provide to my students at that level.
Offer a payment plan:
Speaking of price, I also learned how important it was to offer a payment plan to make my course more affordable for students who couldn’t afford to come out of pocket one large lump sum upfront. As you can see from my stats above, more than half of my students opted for the payment plan, which is so great to see that it helps get more students into my program and allows me to make a larger impact and reach more people. One caveat: people’s payment plans fail. Credit cards expire. People move or reach their credit limits. People try to get out of paying and go missing. And keeping up with payment plans can be tough. There are some great services out there to help you collect, like Gravy, but it’s another expense to consider and hurdle to cross. Which brings me to my next lesson…
Refine your refund policy:
With every launch, we’d get more clear and specific with our refund policy to avoid confusion later. I’m now very proud of our current refund policy, but I don’t think we could’ve started out with something quite so robust. You have to do to learn and see what works for your people and what feels right to you.
Do a 60-Day Pre-launch runway
One of the biggest, and hardest, lessons I learned was between my July launch and my October launch. I couldn’t understand why I sold 34 courses the first time and only 28 the second time. I thought for sure that the second time around I would double my sales based on tweaking my strategy and adding advanced features like Facebook ads. But what I came to realize, after attending Amy Porterfield’s Entrepreneur Experience live event, was that I didn’t grow my email list at all between launches. So I was essentially selling to the same group of people who I had just sold to 3 months prior. At the EE event, Amy taught us about the concept of a pre-launch runway to grow your email list. Essentially I did weekly Facebook lives for 8 weeks leading up to my January launch where I would talk about a topic that would prepare my audience to buy my course when it launched in January by providing tons of value to them in advance. I also created a handful or course-related freebies to grow my email list, like these two quizzes (What Type of Blogger Are You? and Are You Ready To Be A Profitable Blogger?), and I started running Facebook ads to them. I didn’t put a lot of money into this, but with some simple tricks I picked up from DCA, I was able to get a cost per lead of $0.32! I also created 6 course-related blog posts during this time and expanded our affiliate program and really encouraged our affiliates to start sharing our freebies leading up to the launch. All in all, my pre-launch runway grew my email list by 4,647 people, which I attribute to much of our success in our January six-figure launch. This was also a lesson in making sure your ads are converting well and to the right audience before spending thousands of dollars, which I didn’t do in our October launch and is why I ended up in the black by $3k….ugh!
don’t teach too much on your webinars
One of my biggest takeaways from DCA was to not teach too much on your webinars. In the past, I basically taught an entire module on my webinar, giving people tons of value and lots to do after the webinar to start monetizing their blogs. At first, I thought this was great…but when I saw that these webinars weren’t converting, I realized that I was giving away too much and instead of leaving people thinking “Wow, if her free content is this good, her paid content must be amazing!”, I think people left the webinars thinking “Wow, I have so much to do already, I don’t even need her course right now.” Amy taught me how to provide value in a way that leaves people wanting more and incentivizes them to take the next step with your course. This changed everything and I went from a 0-1% conversion rate to an 11% conversion rate!
Don’t panic when your launch starts off slow.
We always got the bulk of sales during the last 24 hours, and I’ve heard from dozens of other course creators that this is the case. It’s part of why we build in scarcity and urgency into our marketing–it works! People need a deadline to push them to take action. It’s not sleazy or gimmicky–it’s actually taking care of your people and giving them what they need. Point is: wait until your cart has closed before you worry about sales. While we often did early bird specials on Day 1, which meant we got a good number of sales then, some days we wouldn’t get a single sale. It was so easy to start spinning, but then we’d build in a time-sensitive offer or host a live webinar where we offered a fast action bonus for enrolling while live, and we’d get in influx of sales. And then, on the last day, the customers would start pouring in. Trust in the process. Do the work…and it will work!
Listen to what your audience is saying.
After each launch, we’d send an email to all of the people who didn’t buy and ask them why they chose not to enroll. The responses we got were gold! It not only helped us inform our marketing strategy and messaging moving forward (as we were able to address their specific pain points and challenges) but also helped us tweak the course to better suit our audience. Likewise, we listened to what people were saying during the launches, and even what they were doing. For example, we used to sell a VIP package where we’d offer 1:1 coaching. But very few people bought this package; we realized that was likely because we already offer group coaching in our regular course, so people didn’t feel like they needed even more coaching. So we pivoted. We removed the 1:1 offer and added in more group coaching, raised the price of the regular offer and voila! Our revenue skyrocketed and our students were happier.
Online Course Launch: What Worked Really Well
Ok so those were the biggest takeaways from my launches. But I also want to take a quick minute to just talk about what worked really well!
- Scarcity and Urgency: I mentioned this above already so I’ll just leave it at that. But I’ll also add that you don’t want your course to just be available forever for anyone to purchase at any time…people need deadlines.
- Abandoned cart funnels: For our January launch, we added an abandoned cart funnel to our marketing strategy where we sent a short series of 4 emails to people who got to the checkout page and then didn’t buy. This had a 61.4% conversion rate and was super easy to set up thanks to ActiveCampaign and SamCart.
- Discovery Calls: Wow! I offered free, 15-minute discovery calls to people who had questions about the course and wanted to make sure it was the right fit for them. The result: a 72% to 100% conversion rate across the launches.
- Affiliates: You can see from our stats above that over half of our sales came from affiliates, and we’re continuing to build out that program to better serve our affiliates. They already earn a 50% commission on all sales. Plus we built in a leaderboard with fun $$ prizes, we had a private Facebook group to help them strategize, we sent weekly emails with action items they could take to increase conversions and we even offered a personalized strategy session to every affiliate who registered. Yes, it’s hard to give away half of your earnings to affiliates, but you have to remember that these are sales you wouldn’t have had otherwise. So it’s definitely worth it! (Psst…want to be an affiliate for 6BFA? Apply here!)
- Live Chat: We offered a live chat feature on our sales page and though I won’t say it worked SUPER well, it is really nice to have and did result in a handful of sales. For just $9 ActiveCampaign, I think this not-necessary-but-nice-to-have feature is worth it.
- Extending the cart: After our last 2 launches ended, we decided to extend the cart for one extra day (just 24 hours) since we kept hearing from our audience that they had juuuust missed the deadline to enroll and really wanted into the program. This worked like gangbusters! 18% of our sales from the October launch came from this cart extension, while 15% of sales from the January launch did as well. Cost us nothing and got a lot more people into the program!
Alright, that was a lot. I know. Launching is NOT easy and definitely not for the faint of heart. But as you can see, it can be incredible lucrative and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of 2020 as we hone our launch strategy even further. Stay tuned!