How I Made $2,100 from an Online Course before Creating It (Part 1: What you Need)

A few months ago, I sold an online course to 22 individuals.

The price each person paid for it was $97, so I made a little over $2,100.

There was a little catch though – I sold the course before spending a single dime or minute on creating the course content.

In this series of posts, I’m going to tell you exactly how I did it.

But first, let’s talk about why you should sell something before you create it.

Pic of me working hard on creating my course :)

Validation, Validation, Validation 

The main reason I sold the course before creating it was not about the money (even though I must admit $2,100 is a pretty good sum).

It was about validation.

Validation means making sure people are actually willing to pay for your product before you spend months building it.

If you’ve ever been through an entrepreneurship venture, then you probably went through something like this:

  • Step 1: Come up with an idea
  • Step 2: Convince yourself it’s going to make you a million dollars
  • Step 3: Spend an enormous amount of time and money creating it
  • Step 4: Spend even more time and money before finishing it
  • Step 5: Try to sell it
  • Step 6: Find out that people don’t want it
  • Step 7: Go into a depressive state and start all over again

I know this cycle because I’ve been through it a few times.

The problem is, selling something is hard (really, really hard).

This is a core reason why nearly 9 out of every 10 startups fail.

There are just way too many factors that convince people to buy something, and you have no control over any of those factors.

The idea behind validation is that you ensure that people really want something before you create it. In other words, you do step 6 (finding out if people really want your idea) before doing step 3 (spending an enormous amount of time and money creating it).

Now some people might think that validation is simply asking others if they’re willing to pay you for something upfront.

But there’s another huge problem with that approach: people will lie to you.

Asking someone if they’ll pay you for your future product or service is not the same as having them actually pay you for it. You’ll get a lot more “Yes’s” in the former compared to the latter.

So technically, the only way to be 100% sure that someone wants something is to have them literally open up their wallet and hand you some money. Otherwise, you’ll be taking a huge risk.

But how do you make someone pay you for something you haven’t created yet (particularly someone you don’t know)?

It’s not easy, and it will take some hard work on your end, but it can be done using a straightforward, methodical process.

It’s a process that will save you thousands of dollars and months of frustration if you do it right.

It will also guarantee that you’ll make more money after you’ve finished creating the product.

I will explain to you exactly what those process steps are, and how you can implement them.

In this first post, I’ll discuss what you need before you get started. And in my upcoming posts, I will talk more about the step-by-step details of how to create your own course.


What you’ll Need

There are two main things you need before you get started: a blog and an email marketing program.

You need a blog for so many reasons, but the main one is to establish a platform where people can find you, connect with you, and trust that you’re a real person. You will also use the blog to host your landing pages for opt-ins and sales letters (more about those later).

The email marketing program is used to collect email addresses of individuals who are interested in what you have to sell. It’ll provide you with a way to email them and interact with them on a personal level.

You can create a blog for free in less than 60 seconds on, and use a free email marketing program like MailChimp (note: MailChimp is free up to the first 2,000 subscribers)

However, if you’re really serious about this, then I recommend paying a little bit for a blog and email marketing program because you’ll have much more control over everything.


What I Used for Blogging

I used Bluehost (aff link) to host my blog, which cost me around $4 or $5 per month. The great thing about Bluehost is that they give you a free domain name and install WordPress for you in 1 click. They also have amazing customer service, and a great turnaround time in answering any questions you may have.

In fact, that’s a huge reason why I host all my blogs with them. Simply go to Bluehost and sign up by walking through their simple process.


What I Used for Email Marketing

For my email marketing program, I used AWeber (aff link), which cost me $1 for the first month, and then $19 per month afterwards. This is not a cheap expense, and I actually kept avoiding it for a long time before finally deciding to go for it.

I now wish I had started using AWeber way before I actually did. That’s because in the online world, your email list is what counts, and building it early on is key to having more subscribers. I personally think AWeber is the king of email marketing software compared to other software services (most top-notch bloggers use it for a reason).

However, don’t sign up to AWeber at this point. Wait until you’re comfortable playing around with your blog’s features and until you actually need to collect email addresses (I’ll tell you when).


Do you Really Need a Blog?

You might be asking whether you really need a blog to sell a course.

My personal opinion is yes, mainly because it’ll make it a lot easier for you once you get into the future steps.

However, having said that, you can technically use other simpler platforms (like Kickstarter) instead of a blog to sell something before you create it, but those platforms will give you a lot less control than a blog would.

Also keep in mind that such platforms might require a bit more pre-work (and possibly even more money) on your end.

Most importantly, a blog has so many other advantages that will help you out in the long run.

I’ll go into more detail about how to choose the right topic for your blog (and how to set it up) in a future post, but for now, keep in mind that you should choose a blog topic that focuses on the same area of the course you’re going to create.


My own Blog

The blog I started, The Couch Manager, was about working from home.

This was actually my first serious blog, and my objective was to help other remote workers increase their productivity and save time while working from their couch. The course I eventually created was about managing and influencing virtual teams, which as you can tell is about the same domain that my blog focuses on.

As a quick side note, you’ll notice that my blog’s design is not that fancy at all. I didn’t spend much time perfecting the look before I published it. In fact, I just used one of the free WordPress templates, and created the logo and the header images myself.

If you’re new to blogging, don’t worry so much about creating a perfect-looking blog before launching it. Just pick a topic and design and go with it – you’ll make updates as you go along.

You’ll also want to spend a couple of weeks playing around with your blog’s features and publishing a few posts. In addition, create an “About” page that tells readers who you are and what the blog is about.


The Next Step

The next step after launching your blog is to pick an idea for your online course. Click to read Part 2: Pick an Idea.