If you’re not hitting $50k a month in your online course business yet, I’m about to tell you exactly why.
Remember that Forbes estimates the market cap for online education is set to hit $325 billion in just a few years time. So, the time you might be wasting now trying to “work it out yourself” is going to cost you dearly in the future.
I’m going to share with you the exact framework I use with my own clients to help them scale their online courses so that you can implement it too.
1. SALES – Without Sales, You Don’t Have A Business
Let’s kick things off where the focus should be, Sales. Being able to generate course sales predictably, efficiently and in a scalable way is critical to the success of a thriving online course business. As quickly as you possibly can, you want your MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue) to be steadily growing.
Many of my clients selling courses are also selling additional products and services like coaching and done-for-you packages. But the incredible thing about selling a digital product like a course is that it is leveraged. You’re not trading time-for-money when you sell a course, and if you’re anything like me, having that time and financial freedom is so important.
Traditional course launches are great, but they also have a downside if you’re not careful.
One of the most common ways to sell a course strategically is to “launch it”. Meaning enrollments are closed for a prolonged period until you open the doors for people to purchase. Typically once you’ve grown an audience, you get them a little curious about the course, you send them a campaign to pitch the benefits etc to them, and hopefully, you’ll have a ton of new students enrolling in your course.
The “launch” can be as long as 6-8 weeks or as short as 7 days. There are usually a lot of moving parts and it can be quite stressful. However, if done properly, you can rack up some amazing results. A client of mine made $277,000 in the first 24 hours of his launch (more case studies here). It was insane – and that was with $0 on ads!
The downside of launches is that once the doors are closed, your sales inevitably stop. Businesses that open and close enrollments often report having a feast and famine style revenue stream – big injections of cash and then it dips to nothing.
Additionally, launching can be quite stressful and overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing. This leads to burnout quickly as following a launch-only model, you’re effectively redoing launches over and over again to maintain your MRR.
Evergreen course funnels are infinitely scalable… if they actually work.
The second model of selling courses is what the industry likes to call, evergreen. Meaning that they’re always available to enrol into, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This has a huge upside to it as you don’t necessarily have to show up in person pulling the levers during the launch, everything is automated and the whole process sells itself.
One of the most common evergreen funnels is using webinars to sell your course on the backend. In simple terms, the webinar is generally a free training that people have to opt-in for. The training is highly valuable and positions the course creator as an authority figure while delivering knowledge bombs to the audience watching. The intention of the webinar is to give the course creator enough credibility and authority, that when they pitch the course during the training, the participants are so excited to take the next step – it becomes a no-brainer for them.
From the moment someone sees the opt-in for the webinar, right through to the event and even the entire email sequence is completely automated. It’s a set-and-forget evergreen funnel. And this is exactly where course creators fail. You see, there are always, and I mean always, opportunities to improve conversions and lower acquisition costs in an evergreen webinar funnel. If you set-and-forget it, you’re leaving money on the table.
Unfortunately, some business owners try to move too quickly to an evergreen webinar model and they struggle to get any sales at all. Either the offer isn’t validated (I did a free training on validating your course here), or they hadn’t refined their ideal students, or the messaging is all wrong, or the webinar itself is a rambling hot mess.
Rule of thumb: Unless you can organically host a webinar live and sell off that, there is no way you’ll be able to do so in an evergreen webinar funnel.
Runnings ads are wildly lucrative and the only true way to scale, but if you can’t do it organically first, you’ll waste your money on ads.
There are outliers in the 1% who can come up with a brand new course, under a brand new company, run ads to a cold audience and sell the course to them. But you are not that person.
People buy courses based on how much they want to improve in the subject and how much they trust you as the instructor. 99% of the time I see people running ads to sell their course, it’s just a big waste of money. You’re better off going to buy a lottery ticket or gambling at the casino. The odds are you’ll lose less money that way. Unless you’re consistently hitting $10k/month in revenue from your online courses organically, you do not need to start trying to run ads yet.
The reason being, is you haven’t dialled in your content yet, you don’t have enough experience, you’ll be short on case studies and testimonials too. Your credibility and authority in the area just aren’t where it needs to be to utilise paid traffic yet. So stick to organic selling first.
Now, if you’ve built an audience, you’re courses are getting amazing results, your business has the infrastructure to support students effectively, running ads is really the key to scaling well into the millions and beyond. If you account for your costs accurately, running ads to sell courses is like printing money.
2. SYSTEMS – Without The Right Systems, Your Business Won’t Have The Infrastructure To Support You Scaling.
Trying to scale your online courses on the business systems that you first started out with, is a recipe for disaster. It would be like putting a brick on toothpick legs – completely unstable and inevitably will break under load. The systems in your online course business should be scalable and efficient. Tracking 50 students in your courses is easy. Tracking 500 (a month), is a whole different ballgame.
Find the right learning platform to host your courses early and scale with it.
There are a bunch of tools out there that you can use to deliver your online courses. But by far, without a doubt, the absolute best-in-class is Thinkific. Now, over the years, I’ve worked with clients using close to 40 different tools and apps for hosting courses (including Thinkific), and every single time I keep coming back to this platform. These days, I’m one of only 25 Thinkific Expert Partners in the world and I love having such a close relationship to the team.
Now putting bias aside, Thinkific is so user friendly if you’re just starting out and the features make it a world-class LMS (Learning Management System). But the piece I love most about Thinkific is the scalability. Whether you 10 students or 10,000 enrolled, the platform is designed to support the course creator just as much as it for their student’s success.
If you want a free one-month trial of Thinkific to see for yourself, use my referral link here. Yes, I’ll earn a small kickback if you continue to use the platform after the free trial, but I’m positive if you do, you’ll thank me for it long into the future!
Spark joy in your students and offer incredible customer support.
As you continue to scale, you’ll receive more emails, more refund requests, more questions, more, more, more. Everything from logins issues to tech troubles, you’ll be inundated with emails and you do not want to be stuck in the inbox all day answering those. So creating a great customer support system in your inbox will help with the load. Try using a tool like Helpscout or Zendesk instead of just Gmail. It’s a much better experience for you/your team on the backend.
The other system you need to be able to scale is a CRM, somewhere you can track all of your students, when they enrolled, what they’ve purchased before, who has bonus content, who doesn’t. Track upsells, downsells, freebies and more. The more data you have on your students, the easier it is to make informed decisions in the right direction to help you scale even quicker.
You’re only as good as the people you have on your team. Find the superstars.
In the initial stages of selling courses, you can pretty much do everything on your own. The copy, the funnels, the videos, the emails. If you’re doing it all organically, that shouldn’t be too much trouble at all (head here if you want help starting out). But not many course creators know when it’s the right time to hire a team, or who the right team members are to hire.
In no particular order, here are a few key contributors that you should be looking to retain on your way to $50k+ in MRR:
- Graphic Designer
- Funnel Strategist
- Ads Strategist
- Website Developer or Funnel Builder
- Customer Support Champion
- Online Business Manager or Operations Lead
- Video Production Team
Now I don’t suggest you pull in all of these folks at once, but I am positive that if you try to do too many of these things on your own, you’ll be holding back your growth immensly. Find great people whom you work really well with and they’ll support your business enormously.
3. STUDENTS – Without Supporting Your Students, You’re Failing Them, And You Will Struggle To Scale Because Of It.
Let’s be honest now, without paying students, you wouldn’t have an online course business at all. So doesn’t it make sense that the more support they receive, the faster your business will grow?
Students are the lifeblood of your business and they should be the number one focus aside from sales every single day. You want students to succeed and to go on and evangelise your courses for you. They should be so happy and proud that they don’t shut up about your course! That’s when you know you’ve done student support right.
Increasing the Lifetime Student Value is how you grow exponentially over time.
The secret to scaling your online course business is by increasing the Lifetime Student Value of each purchase. You want a clear pathway of products laid out in front of them, with achievable next steps that students can take as they progress, to work their way up through your product suite.
Now if your students aren’t supported, they’ll be far less likely to buy off you again in the future. I wrote a lot about why it’s important to support your students through their learning process here, and why that’s so important to increase the Lifetime Student Value (LSV).
Your successful students getting great results are where you’ll be finding your social proof, testimonials, case studies etc. You need to have the systems in place to offer all of your student’s tons of support the whole way through your journey.
Consider the learning process and make sure the content inside your course is well developed.
Every single lesson is a chance for you to move your student further along to their goal. If you miss a step, if you skip over anything, you’ll lose the student. Remember that only ~3% of students ever finish an online course, so you need to do everything in your power to retain them. Remember how I mentioned the Lifetime Student Value earlier? We do not want students falling away from your courses at all.
Make your content engaging with a mix of talking-head videos, voice-over slides, and demonstrations. Quizzes are great too, but only really as an engagement gimmick, not so much a learning tool. I would suggest dripping out your content if it’s a high-level course, but I think you can get away with releasing all the lessons at once for a low-tier course.
In terms of lesson design, follow this structure to make sure you tick all the boxes:
- Define: What are you teaching in the lesson?
- Explain: Explain what “it” is.
- Context: Give some context to why it’s important/relevant.
- Example: Give them an example or demonstrate it.
- Actionable: Find the lesson with an actionable task.
If you follow that formula and mix up the modes of delivery, you will be well on your way to a professional online course. Add in re-engagement prompts like emails and group posts and you’ll be scaling like crazy.
Communities are the glue that holds your students in place until they succeed.
I highly recommend building support communities for your courses so that they can share insights and wins, and they’ll have the added benefit of accountability as they see your other students making their way through your course content.
Currently, the most common platform to use to support students as they go through a course is simply Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups are great because they can be moderated, they’re easily accessible, and they have a ton of media formats and collaboration tools as well. You don’t need a fancy community forum tool, just stick with what works.
The more your students are engaged in the community, the more likely they’ll be to get the best results from your content. Make sure you encourage the participation constantly and give them a reason to interact, whether that be through incentives, prizes, points systems, badges etc. When students feel like they belong to a tribe, it builds brand loyalty and again it increases the Lifetime Student Value significantly.
Your Next Steps To $50k/month In Course Sales
I truly believe that now more than ever, it’s possible to run an extremely profitable online course business. I’ve tried to be as generous as I can with outlining the framework I use with clients to help them scale. To recap, all you need to focus on Sales, Systems and Students.
You have the framework for hitting those sales figures, and your next steps are to implement. Go and reflect on your business so far, and see where the gaps are regarding the above.
And if you want my help to scale, book in a free strategy session with me today: https://paulthomson.as.me/strategysession
PS. Let me know what you’re monthly revenue goal is in the comments! ????