We have all, at one point in our lives come up with something that seemed brilliant to us but eventually turned out not to be that great (or even a terrible idea in some cases). It’s an unfortunate situation but that’s how we learn and that’s why getting feedback from others is so important.

When it comes to creating online courses, you may have a fantastic idea but it’s still good to test the market and see if there is a genuine interest for it or it’s just something that you are personally passionate about and you should pursue individually. Course creation can be very resource consuming and if you end up with a finished product that you are very proud of but that proves to be of little to no interest to any audience, it will all be in vain.

Benefits of pre-selling your course

The best way to ensure you don’t put in all the work for nothing is to sell your course in advance.

There are several arguments for it:

  • First of all, pre-selling your course will significantly decrease the risk of spending time and making an effort that won’t pay in the end.
  • Furthermore, you’ll actually get some funding before setting off on the creation and this will give you the opportunity to invest more and not spend money out of your own pocket.
  • You’ll also get a good idea of the level of interest in the topic, build a customer list and get valuable feedback on what they expect and what it is worth to them.
  • It will also give you drive to go through with your project, respecting timelines and have the feeling that your work is important and meaningful.

Starting with a pilot

When television studios want to test the waters and see if one show has what it takes to raise interest and be successful, they launch a pilot episode. Mindful of the responses they get from the public, they either continue, adjust or drop the project altogether.

You can create a mini-course or an MVC (minimum viable course) that you can later develop and improve upon in the future, obviously also charging more for it as it becomes more complex. The purpose of this pilot module is to check the level of interest in the topic and gather precious feedback both on the content and on the methods of presentation.

It’s very important to price this reasonably and even offer significant discounts to a limited number of students who will in turn give you very valuable insights about your work and their level of expectation.


INDIE Guide: Selling online courses using INDIE


Going to the market

Another approach is to directly put your course up for sale before you even start working on it. You can do this by hosting a webinar and presenting your project or by setting up a sales page and making your pitch there. It’s important to have a catchy title and a coherent outline of what will be covered in the course.

Setting up a sales goal and price is also a must since you need to figure out the numbers that will make it be worth it for you. The number of enrollments will have to be sufficient to cover your initial investment and leave you with a profit margin.

Needless to say, you have to be very clear about the course not being created yet and commit to a firm deadline for having it ready. It’s also safer to state if a minimum number of subscriptions is not met you will offer refunds.

Putting all eggs in one basket. Or into another

Regardless which option you chose for pre-selling your course, you need to be prepared for two opposite scenarios. If your course is met with enthusiasm, you need to get it done by the date you promised and make sure it checks everything you wrote in the outline. If you fail on either one of those accounts, you will end up with complaints and you certainly won’t be recommended by those who trusted you enough to pay in advance.

The second variant is that you don’t find enough people to be interested in your topic and that’s when it’s important not to be discouraged. First of all, you should pat yourself on the back for having the good sense to put it out there before investing, thus saving a lot of time, sweat and quite possibly money. Then you ought to listen to the feedback and learn what your target audience is interested in. This way you can move towards designing something that will truly be successful.

Closing thoughts

Designing and selling an online course doesn’t have to be a gamble. It’s good to do what you like and to believe in it but it’s safer to test if what you think is of value matters to your target audience as well. Pre-selling is the key to efficiency and success.


INDIE White Paper: How to build a great site for selling online courses


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