If you’ve been following my journey of turning an idea into a digital product and marketing and selling my first online course, you know the steps I’ve taken — from start to finish — to put Your Inner Writer into the world.
Like any creation, the making of an online course is a labor of love. Since this was my very first course I’d ever created, I threw myself head-first into the process, determined to learn the ins and outs of online course creation. Plus, since I felt so passionate about teaching people how to use writing as both a creative and therapeutic tool, I wanted to use all of Thinkific’s features to the best of my ability.
Now that my course has completed (it ran from July 6 – 27), I’ve had some space to reflect on everything I’d do differently for my next launch.
Turns out, this reflection period has been pivotal; While I more than doubled my enrollment goal, if I could turn the clock back I would have done a few things differently. Now, I know exactly what I’ll do differently when it comes time to relaunch the next iteration of Your Inner Writer this fall.
My hope is that you can learn from the mistakes I made so that your process of creating, marketing, and teaching your first online course is as smooth (and successful!) as possible.
Here’s everything I wish I’d done differently:
1. I Wish I’d Upgraded to the Basic Plan — Sooner
Once I’d determined my course’s curriculum, I was excitedly creating content for it. However, I didn’t have any sort of plan about how I’d actually deliver the material to my students.
I started with Thinkific’s free plan, thinking that I’d release all of my lessons at once and let my students go through the content on their own timeline. However, I quickly realized that I wanted to add the Drip Schedule feature so that I could release each lesson week-by-week; I felt that doing a drip content release would help to build anticipation for the lesson and guided writing practice each week, pace my students, and mitigate the temptation for students to skip ahead, since I wanted my students to complete each lesson before moving onto the next.
Plus, releasing content week-by-week rather than all at once would help me to avoid overwhelming my students with too much content at one time, especially since each week they received a total of approximately 45 minutes of videos each Wednesday.
But I didn’t realize that I needed to upgrade my plan to gain access to the Drip Schedule feature. It wasn’t a big deal; I simply had to go into my account settings on the Thinkific dashboard and upgrade my plan.
However, if I’d known earlier on that I’d be releasing content week-by-week, I could have communicated this to my students earlier on in my marketing and sales material. Plus, it would have paced my content creation process. Without the Drip Schedule feature, I felt pressured to create almost all of my online course material before the course officially began on July 6.
2. I Wish I’d Created an Automated Welcome Email
When my first couple of students signed up for my course, I was so excited (and somewhat surprised; at that point, creating an online course that people actually wanted to buy felt like a pipedream) that I didn’t think about sending them an email to officially welcome them into the course.
A couple days after my first students purchased my course, I sent each of them an email — manually through Gmail — to welcome them and give them a run-down of the course’s structure, remind them of the upcoming start date, and let them know my expectations. From that point on, I sent each student who signed up the same manual email. If I could go back, I would have set up an automated welcome email through Thinkific so that I wouldn’t have had to worry about this extra step.
As a student, I would have appreciated getting sent an email right away that walked me through what I could expect out of Your Inner Writer, especially because I kept my landing page vague as I was selling my course before I’d actually created it via the pre-order feature.
Plus, Thinkific makes setting up an automated welcome email simple; all you have to do is go to your Thinkific dashboard, go to Support Your Students, select Notifications, ensure that you’re on the Student Notifications tab, click Edit to the right of Site Welcome, make your desired changes, and then click Save. This step makes for easy, effective, and clear communication between you as the creator and each of your new students.
3. I Wish I’d Used a Different Email System
On the same theme of emails, I sent my 22 students a weekly email once the video lesson and guided writing practice were available each Wednesday. This gave me the chance to connect with my students, tell them the expectations for each week, and provide easy access to the course’s sign-in link.
At first, I formatted these emails through my MailChimp account. After sending myself a test email, I realized it went straight to my promotions folder. I decided to, once again, send emails to my students manually through Gmail instead because I didn’t want to risk my students not seeing my emails.
This definitely added a lot of unnecessary time, but since it was my first course, I really wanted to nail my communication with students. Next time, I’ll send emails to all of my students through Thinkific in order to save time; like the automated email, I didn’t realize that this was an option until halfway through my course.
To send emails to students, I would have had to simply go to my Thinkific dashboard and click Support Your Students, select Users, scroll down or use the search bar to locate the student, click their email address, fill out the subject and body copy of the email, and then click Send.
4. I Wish I’d Understood that I Wouldn’t Get it Right on The First Try
When it came to creating content for my online course, I used the easy, free design tools on Canva to create an aesthetically-cohesive powerpoint presentation for each video lesson and guided writing practice. Then, I used the Loom video messaging tool to record myself speaking overtop of the powerpoint presentation to give it a personal feel.
While I’d narrate the presentation, I’d often have to stop, go back into Canva, and either adjust the content or add in more slides to make it flow better. This happened a number of times for each lesson and guided writing practice that I recorded.
I tried to remember the motto I’d used from the very beginning and that I’d learned from my interviews with high-earning Thinkific creators: Done is better than perfect. When I’d have to go back and make adjustments to my slides before re-recording the video — again — I could feel frustration mounting. Next time I create an online course, I’ll know that this back-and-forth is simply part of my content creation process; it’s rare to get it perfectly right on the first try.
As someone who’s chronically hard on myself, as soon as I got the recording to a point where it was ‘good enough,’ I resisted tinkering and driving myself crazy with edits. Instead, I went ahead and uploaded the videos to Thinkific and tried to trust myself that it was, indeed, good enough. I also tried to remind myself that this was my first online course, and my minimum viable product (MVP). I was simply testing my idea. I learned from other Thinkific creators that it’s better to simply get your MVP out into the world; there’d be time to make adjustments to the content in the future.
5. I Wish I’d Only Offered One Opportunity for Feedback
As I began sharing about my online course with my Instagram followers and email list, I felt self-doubt creeping in. I wondered: Was I offering enough value? Since a habit of mine is to over-give, I decided that I’d add even more value to my course by allowing my students to send me their written work after the guided writing practice each week for feedback.
In hindsight, I was offering way too much extra time for a $29.99 course. If I could go back, I’d only offer the opportunity to get feedback on students’ writing work after the very last guided writing practice. While I loved reading my students’ work each week, it was hard to stay on top of offering feedback to my 22 enrolled students. Plus, only offering feedback after the very last guided writing practice would have been a great way to cap off my and my students’ time together. Lesson learned!
6. I Wish I’d Double-checked my Course’s Expiry Date
Perhaps the biggest mistake I made was that I didn’t change the way my site defaulted, inputting an expiry date for the course.
When I heard from two students that they couldn’t access the course, I did some trouble shooting and realized that their course access had expired. Since I promised everyone year-long access to the content, I updated everyone’s course expiry date by visiting my Thinkific dashboard, clicking Support Your Students, selecting Users, clicking the full name of my students, clicking on my course, clicking Set a Date under Expiry Date, selecting a date from the calendar menu, and then clicking Update.
7. I Wish I’d Created a Private Facebook Community
In hindsight, I wish I’d created a place for my students to connect with one another. I’m glad that I offered my course asynchronously since it was launched in summer and few people have any sense of routine or structure in the warmer, brighter months. However, when I launch Your Inner Writer again, I will make sure that I invite all of my students into a private Facebook community so that they have the opportunity to connect with each other. This will also give my students the opportunity for them to share their writing with each other rather than solely relying on me to share with.
Looking back on my course creation journey has been vital in determining my next steps. Since Your Inner Writer is my MVP, there are four more key things I’ll do before I relaunch it as an evergreen offer that remains on my website:
1. I’ll Get Feedback
Before I relaunch Your Inner Writer, I plan on sending my students a feedback form to fill out. This will include questions like:
- What did you like about this course?
- What did you dislike about this course?
- What do you wish was different?
- What did you learn from this course?
- How did you feel about how the content was delivered?
- What would you like to see changed in the future?
These answers will help me to determine what changes need to be made for the next enrollment of my course.
2. I’ll Get Testimonials
In the feedback form that I’ll send my students, I’m also going to ask them to provide a testimonial if they had a positive experience in Your Inner Writer. This will provide me with social proof that I can add to my landing page and social media content during my next course launch, helping to give my course and I credibility.
3. I’ll Re-record the Content
Once gathering feedback and determining what needs to be changed in my course, I plan on blocking off two days in my calendar to re-record my entire course’s content
— including both video lessons and guided writing practices — to account for the requested changes.
4. I’ll Increase the Price
When it comes time to relaunch Your Inner Writer, I’ll increase the price while making sure it’s still accessible. I’m thinking of pricing my course between $49.99 – $89.99, depending on how many changes need to be made and how much extra time I’ll be putting in.
Get Started with Thinkific Today
I hope that reading my three-part course creation journey, including turning an idea into a digital product and seven ways I marketed and sold my online course, has helped inspire you to step into the ring of online course creation. If I can do it, so can you! Your students — and your business — will thank you. Get started with Thinkific today.