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As a writer for Thinkific, I’ve interviewed powerful and creative online course creators like Sunny Lenarduzzi, Mimi Goodwin, Mina Irfan, Kat Norton, and Tori Swanson.

In each conversation, I’ve asked them to share their best advice for those who want to find success in the world of digital entrepreneurship.

Turns out, each high-earning Thinkific course creator shares a similar mindset:

  1. They embody the principle of ‘done is better than perfect’ and resist overthinking their creative process. 
  2. They create courses from a place of being genuinely excited about what they’re creating; many of them share that they’d do what they’re doing for free because they love it so much.
  3. They encourage people to test their idea and improve content and delivery once gaining feedback from their first students.

After speaking with so many inspiring creators — creators who make a living by doing what they love — I found myself becoming increasingly curious about stepping into the ring of online course creation. But, like many first-time online course creators, I was intimidated by the process. There were many self-doubting thoughts that kept me in a negative loop, such as: What If I fail? What if no one signs up for my course? What if I can’t figure out how to use the technology? What if people don’t take me seriously? Or worse… Who am I to be an online course creator?

However, I knew what I wanted to teach, and I had a clear vision of the impact I wanted to make. Similar to many creators I spoke to who found success through monetizing their most natural skills, the thing I wanted to teach felt 100% authentic to me: Writing! 

Teaching from my own experience

My passion for writing started at a young age. From the time I learned how to write, you’d find me with a pen and notebook in hand, immersing myself in stories, poetry, and other forms of imagination. 

But it wasn’t until my early twenties that I returned to writing as both a self care and creative practice. Through times of joy, loss, heartbreak, love, and confusion, I would use writing as a way to put language to my own experience. To gain a deeper understanding of my emotions. And to release the heaviness of life onto the page.

Naturally, this love of writing resulted in me creating a freelance content writing business in my mid twenties, as well as two published books – Liquid State, a poetry collection, and All Of You Is Welcome Here, a children’s book. Although I was nervous about creating an online course, I felt that my professional and personal experiences with writing gave me the credibility needed to help others.

But I wasn’t about to teach lessons on spelling and grammar (that stuff is important, it’s just not my jam). Instead, I wanted to teach people how to use writing as a creative outlet and therapeutic tool — and I wanted to teach from my own experience.

Stepping into my power

In June 2022, the idea for my four-week course, Your Inner Writer, came to me. 

Through pre-recorded lessons and guided writing exercises, I was going to help people to deepen their relationship with creativity, access the storyteller within, and share their writing with me for an opportunity to gain feedback and improve their craft. 

While the self-doubt and fear-driven thoughts ran rampant in my mind, I decided that if others could create and sell online courses, then surely I could, too; in my experience, the best things in life happen when I get a little uncomfortable, push myself to my edges, and then leap into the unknown, trusting that my life has my back. I figured that none of the consequences of a failed online course launch resulted in life or death, so why not go for it? It was time to step into my power and share my gift with others. 

Turns out, those successful Thinkific course creators were right; when you share something you’re genuinely passionate about – and something that can help others — your online course success is inevitable. 

Creating this course felt completely aligned with my freelance content writing business, my heart, and my soul. But, I had no idea if people would even see the value in it. To my surprise, I was wrong; while my original goal was to have 10 people purchase my course, I ended up enrolling 22 students. 

Here’s how I did it:

1. I created a course outline

Upon deciding to just go for it, I opened a Google Doc and brain-dumped all of my ideas for an online course. I tried my best to get out of my analytical mind during this process, and instead focused on just jotting down everything that I wanted to teach people.

The next day, I returned to the Google Doc with a fresh set of eyes. I looked through my original ideas, found an overarching theme, removed whatever didn’t fit with this theme, and organized everything into four sections, which would later become the four, weekly modules of my course.

This process of reviewing my ideas also led me to find the name for my course, which I’d been humming and hawing about. To me, the title Your Inner Writer felt like it summed up the essence of what I was teaching; I believe that we are all storytellers, and to access this gift we simply have to turn our attention inwards and nurture our creative side.

2. I made a landing page

Once my course outline was created, I applied the advice I heard from other Thinkific creators: I didn’t overthink it. 

I went onto the Thinkific course builder and set up a landing page using the easy, drag-and-drop features. I included a headline to grab people’s attention, a bullet-point list that spoke to what they’d learn about in the course, a countdown to when enrolment closed to create a sense of urgency, and images that aligned with my brand to break up the text. I didn’t get any new photos taken for this landing page; I simply used photos from my website and social media.

I was careful to not spend too much time on building my landing page. Sometimes, perfectionism can cause me to edit my work at nauseum. I simply made this landing page functional and  ‘good enough.’ Then, I hit ‘publish’ and linked the course landing page to my website and Instagram bio. 

3. I chose an affordable price

Next, it was time to price my course. I chose to price it for $29.99 CAD for a few reasons:

  • I believe in making learning accessible. Pricing my course affordably helped get it in the hands of as many people as possible.
  • This was my first course, and I wanted to test my idea. My plan was to gain feedback from my students who went through the program, re-create the course in hopes of improving it, and then slightly increase the price while still keeping it accessible to as many people as possible.
  • It was low enough to encourage a spontaneous purchase. The $29.99 price tag helped those who were on the fence join the experience, allowing more people to get in the door.
  • Pricing my course affordably helped to keep my students’ expectations in check. This was helpful, since I didn’t want to be even more intimidated by creating my first digital product.
  • Since the price tag was low, this meant I could ask for a one-time payment, which I preferred as opposed to a payment plan.

Read more: How to Price Your Online Course

4. I made the course available for pre-order

I decided to sell my course before I actually created content for it. 

After creating my landing page and choosing the right price, I made the course available for pre-order. Making it available for pre-order meant that students would get access to the content on the first day of the course: July 6. 

I used the pre-order option because I was testing my idea; if I spent hours creating the content only to have no one purchase my course, I would have wasted my time. Plus, seeing who purchased my course would help me to cater my content towards their needs before I started recording each lesson.

5. I shared my course on social media

Now that my landing page was complete and the course was available for pre-order, it was time to promote it.

As an introvert, this part of my online course creation process was the most difficult. Those same self-doubting thoughts I’d experienced when I originally had the idea for Your Inner Writer reared their heads again. But since I felt so clear on what I was sharing and the impact I wanted to have, I was able to get over myself and push forward. 

I found it helpful to remember that I was creating this course because I genuinely wanted to help others; it wasn’t really about me, but rather the impact I was providing. It became easier to show up on social media knowing that each time I put myself out there, I had the chance to support someone in connecting more deeply with their creativity.

I had a small Instagram following and email list that I’d developed through my business and two published books. I began posting about my course on my Instagram account three weeks before the start date. I mainly used Instagram stories to promote it, and I added the landing page link directly into each story so that people could easily purchase the course. I posted one post each week for three weeks on my feed, but I gained more traction from the use of Instagram stories. 

As well as speaking about my course on Instagram, I shared it with my email list, too, which has a slightly different audience. While I was able to convert some email subscribers to customers, I still had the most purchasers come from Instagram. 

6. I used the Drip Schedule feature

While I was originally using the free plan, I decided to upgrade to the Monthly Basic plan so that I could use the Drip Schedule feature. 

I wanted to use this feature so that my content was released week-by-week rather than all at once. To me, this helped to avoid overwhelming my students with giving all four weeks of content in one go. Providing one week’s worth of content at a time also helped to build mystery and excitement about the release of each week’s lesson and guided writing practice. Plus, the Drip Schedule feature helped to give me a way to engage and keep in touch with my students, since my plan was to send students an email when each week’s content was available.

7. I created the first couple of weeks’ content

Instead of creating all of the content before launching the course, I decided I would create the course content in increments.

Not only did this help me pace my process and avoid burnout, it also gave me the opportunity to listen to any student feedback and questions along the way so that I could cater my weekly lessons accordingly.

My content creation process was simple: I created a powerpoint presentation for each lesson and writing practice on Canva, a free design tool. Next, I used Loom, a video messaging platform, to narrate the slides and speak to my students. 

When I launched my course, I only had the first two weeks of content ready. For me, I knew I’d benefit from remaining flexible and receptive to my students throughout the content creation process. Only creating the first two weeks of content helped me to feel into what they needed in week three and four, rather than doing too much upfront work and having to re-record videos if I needed to shift or pivot my teaching.

As I created the content, again I tried to let perfectionism take a back seat. After all, this was my first course and I needed to be gentle with myself throughout the process. 

8. I hit publish!

Perhaps the most exciting step of the journey, one day before the official release of Your Inner Writer, I hit ‘publish!’

… And then immediately proceeded to pop some bubbly and celebrate this little milestone that meant so much to me.

But before hitting ‘publish,’ I went through the first week’s content, which included a welcome video, a pre-recorded lesson, and a guided writing practice. I made sure that everything was in the right place, wrote text underneath each video to describe what I was teaching, and ensured that nothing was saved as a ‘draft.’ I also made sure to preview the course as an enrolled student would.

I chose to publish the course one day early so that I could triple check that everything was working properly. That same day, I wrote an email to my students that welcomed them to the first week and gave an overview of what they’d be learning. I scheduled the email for the official release day: July 6.

Now that my course is live, I’m overjoyed that I followed my curiosity and created something to help others. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my passion with those who want to discover the healing power of writing. 

Read more: The Ultimate Online Course Launch Checklist

If I can create an online course, so can you

It’s a privilege to document and share my first-ever online course creation process with you. Stay tuned for My Online Course Creation Journey, Part 2, where I dive deeper into my marketing and sales approach!

And remember: I am just like you — someone who is passionate about something with a deep desire to help others. If I can create an online course, so can you. Get started with Thinkific today.

Riley’s journey continues! Read part 2 here.

Interested in more creator stories? Check them out here. 

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Create and sell online courses | Thinkific online course platform