It’s not through ads or sponsorships. A successful blogger earns money through creating and selling digital products (aka an online course).
In this post, I’ll teach you 5 steps to go from a struggling blogger to a successful course creator.
This post is super in depth, so be sure to pin it for later.
New here? I also have the following blogs to help you crush your Pinterest marketing strategy:
- The Secret to Using Keywords on Pinterest
- Pinterest Marketing Strategy: My Top Pinterest Hacks that Increased my Monthly Reach to 700,000 per Month
- The Ultimate Guide to Repurposing Content on Pinterest
- How to Share Instagram Pictures and Facebook Videos on Pinterest to Explode your Traffic on Social Media
- Pinterest Marketing Strategy: Tailwind Tribes
- The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest
- 6 Reasons Why You Should Use Pinterest for your Business (and How to Get Started)
- How to Create Pinterest Images that Convert: 4 Tips to Create Great Graphics for Pinterest (with Before/After Examples!)
- Exactly How I Earned $49,000 in 5 Days with my Online Course Launch
- 7 Essential Reasons Why You Need a Website (Even if Facebook is Free)
And of course, you should def register for my free masterclass where I’ll share my top secret strategies to getting new leads and sales on autopilot with Pinterest!
STEP #1 to Becoming a Successful Course Creator – DO YOUR MARKET RESEARCH
This is the very first step my students in the Impact Blogging Academy complete and it’s what most entrepreneurs skip.
Don’t skip this part.
I didn’t magically come up with a perfect niche & course, for a perfect audience at a perfect time.
I simply listened.
I listened to what people were struggling with, understood the challenges they were facing, and the results they craved so badly and then CREATED a blog and product around that.
Which do you think is better?
- An offer that you ASSUMED your target market needs?
- Or an offer that you KNOW your target market needs?
I sold out my first eBook (Keto(ish): The Simplified Guide to Eating High Fat Low Carb) because I polled my audience and asked them questions every step of the way!
My online course, Pin with Purpose sells crazy well because I talked to my audience and knew what they needed before I ever created the program!
The very first step I took in creating my eBook (which is the most important):
I asked them if they would even want a guide on how to eat high fat low carb.
Why waste time creating a book or course that no one buys?!
The main principle with everything that I do in my business, is: I ask my audience what they need then I give it to them.
Here’s my 3-step target market research method that you can follow right away to understand your clients the right way and create an offer that sells out!
Step 1: The What
First, we will define the objective of the market research. What questions/confusions are you specifically looking to solve through this research? This will help you ask the most relevant questions.
I typically ask questions like:
- What are your current goals?
- Why is this important to you?
- What’s holding you back from achieving them/what are you struggling with right now?
- Questions specific to the program I’m coming out with (ie: How are you currently using social media for your business? Have you ever thought about Pinterest? If not, why not?)
Step 2: The How
Now you are going to develop your research plan. How are you going to conduct this research? 1:1 interviews? In-person coffee chats? An online survey? Testing?
When I was first starting this business I simply asked any and all female entrepreneurs I knew if they would jump on Skype with me for a 15 min interview. I was surprised by how many people said yes!
Here are some ways that you can do market research today:
- Create a poll in your Facebook community (if you have one) and ask what kind of content they would like to see from you!
- Include questions for people to answer when they join your Facebook community
- Create a survey (I’ve used Survey Monkey, TypeForm, or Google Forms) and send it to your email list or post it in your free community.
- See if you can jump on the phone with some of your potential clients and see what they’re struggling with and if they would be interested in your idea. I ended up booking quite a few clients just from these interviews!
Step 3: Collection & Analysis
Then, I take some time to go through the data, see what trends emerge, and change my marketing strategy accordingly.
When I was getting ready to launch Activate, I created a survey that I sent out to my audience. One of the questions was about their goals…and I was blown away that I saw over and over again that my people wanted to learn how to make $5,000 per month with their online business.
I had no idea this was their big goal. When I saw that, you better believe I changed the messaging on my sales copy and within the launch!!
To stay organized, I use Trello and have an entire board titled Market Research where I literally copy and paste my audience’s answers so I can refer back to it at any time.
STEP #2 to Becoming a Successful Course Creator – NICHE IT DOWN
Selecting a niche market is something that a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck on. I hope that I can help you get some more clarity so you can take massive action!
First, let’s start with what a niche market even is. A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focused.
It’s critical to choose a niche market because you can’t be all things to all people. They say, ‘the riches are in the niches’ and it’s true!
At Tony Robbins’ Wealth Mastery Event, Keith Cunningham gave the example of two car companies: Volvo and GM.
Volvo has dominated the niche of car safety, while GM tried to be all things to all people.
Volvo is growing, while GM is bankrupt. Yikes.
Keith asked, ‘what real estate do you own in the consumer’s mind’, meaning, when they think of you and your brand, what comes to mind?
It’s crucial that you select a niche market.
Check out your analytics.
My first business was in the fitness industry and I struggled to get massive traction because I wasn’t niched down enough. I was trying to be all things to all people.
One day, I checked google analytics to see what was going on (you need to install google analytics on your blog stat!) and I realized that 90% of my traffic was coming to blogs I’d written about eating keto (aka high fat low carb).
So I thought to myself…what if I made my entire blog focus about keto? What if that was my niche? Instead of trying to get traction in fitness and overall nutrition, I switched to keto and quickly became known as ‘the keto girl’.
I chose my niche market and LISTENED to what my people wanted. Which led to creating an ebook that sold out the day it launched and crashed my site and STILL SELLS over a year later even though I haven’t touched that blog or business in 9 months.
When I started this business (She’s Making an Impact), I knew I wanted to be niched so I focused on Pinterest. That led me to become an expert in less than a year, being asked to be on podcasts, speak on stages, and creating an online course that’s generated over $100,000 in 9 months. In a BRAND new business.
So if you don’t have google analytics on your blog right now, install it. If you do have it on your blog, go check out your most popular blog posts. Do they have a similar pattern? Could you narrow down your topics a bit more? What topics does your audience really resonate with?
Find Your Sweet Spot.
Your sweet spot is going to be a combo of: what are you good at/know a lot about? What do you ENJOY teaching? What’s the market for it?
So grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down:
- What are you good at?
- What do you love to teach?
- What are some skills that you have?
- What questions do you get asked about often?
- Where do you see a gap in the marketplace/a need for your ideal client?
Your sweet spot is going to be a combo of what you love, what the market needs, and what you know a lot about.
Here’s an example of my business so you can see how I was able to niche down to Pinterest.
I was good at a lot of social media platforms…I have over 300,000 youtube views, 50,000 facebook followers, 20,000 IG followers, and over 20,000 on my email list. I could’ve called myself a social media expert and then dive in.
But social media experts are a dime a dozen. The riches are in the niches!! When I started this business, I did my market research to figure out what my ideal clients were struggling with, how they were using social media, and what gaps I saw.
They told me that they were sick of trying to figure out Instagram and Facebook and just wanted a way to automate lead generation.
I asked them if they’d ever considered using Pinterest for their businesses, and they were intrigued, but hadn’t. When I told them that I used Pinterest to completely automate my lead generation process and it helped me grow my email list to 20,000 for free, they immediately wanted to learn my secrets.
Do you see what I did? I picked the sweet spot. What my people needed, what I loved to teach, and what I was good at.
Clarity comes through action.
Don’t try to think your way to your niche market, just start taking action! Through taking action, you’ll figure out who you LOVE to work with, what you hate to do, and you’ll have even more clarity moving forward.
When I first started this business, I was doing EVERYTHING to help people with their Pinterest accounts, including managing accounts.
It was good money, but I quickly learned that I HATED doing it and it felt like a job for me.
I didn’t become an entrepreneur to have another job. I became an entrepreneur because I value freedom!
So what action do you need to take to get started? Do you need to contact some ideal clients for market research? Start creating content? Create your niched down freebie?
Stop thinking about it and take action.
And then as you’re taking action, you can ask yourself: do I need to niche down even MORE?
To help you get started, I wanted to give you a few examples of niche markets:
- New moms lose the baby weight (my very first niche that exploded! I ran a group called ‘lose the baby weight’ and it was SO good)
- Hockey players with timed nutrition
- Triathlete nutrition and training
- Membership sites
- Instagram stories
- Pinterest ads
- An accountant who specialized in expats who are self-employed (if you know one, send them my way lol)
- Gym for moms who need childcare (and maybe self-care? like massages/nails??)
- Dog training for abused dogs (my poor Zozo needs this, we got him at a shelter and he’s been so skittish/anxious all his life)
Niche Market Mistakes to AVOID:
Trying to be everything to everyone.
You’ve gotta get specific!
I want you to attract and repel. I know that there will be people who come to my blog, read my emails, or watch my facebook lives and think, “she is SO unprofessional.”
Those aren’t my people. I want to work with my business bestie, who could see themselves sitting on the couch drinking a glass of wine in yoga pants with me.
Getting unsubscribes and unfollows is a GOOD THING.
Yup, I said it.
You WANT people to either fall in love with you or run away #kidding #notreally
You can’t be everything to everyone, so don’t try to be.
STEP #3 to Becoming a Successful Course Creator – CREATE RELEVANT CONTENT
Once you know the challenges, struggles and dreams & desires of your target audience, your next focus should be creating relevant content.
In order to be a successful course creator, you’ll have to consistently publish quality content that stands out, solves problems, entertains and attracts an audience that keeps coming back for more.
Your Content Should Be:
- Insanely helpful
- Minimum 1,000 words (ideally 2,000)
- Leaves your reader wanting to learn more from you
Let’s start by generating a list of possible blog topics. We are going to do a massive list here, take pen to paper (or open an Evernote doc) and write down 40-50 potential blog topics.
Answer the following questions:
- What topics do you want to cover?
- What are you interested in writing about?
- How do you want to make a difference?
- What do you see your ideal client struggling with?
- What’s something that your ideal client is confused about?
- What kinds of questions is your audience asking you?
- What’s something that you’ve figured out and you want to teach others?
- What is a topic that your ideal client needs to learn about?
- What kind of results is your ideal client trying to achieve?
Look at your list and narrow it down to the top 10-20 topics that you feel confident writing about.
Write Quality Content
When creating your content, QUALITY matters. You want to WOW your audience!! Instead of writing 5 posts that just skim the surface, try to write 1 post a week that is super in depth.
This increases the trust between you and your audience, and they’ll want to check out more on your blog, opt-in, and potentially buy what you have to offer because they know that you provide great value!
Our goal: over-deliver and make them say WOAH.
So how can you create quality content?
- Write in-depth, lengthy posts. Think along the lines of ‘The Complete Guide to X’.
- Add video, audio, screenshots, or anything that adds value and will help people engage with your audience. For example, I wrote a blog post on how to make Keto Peanut Butter Fat Bombs (which has been shared over 15,000 times btw), and I also made a video of me making the fat bombs to go with it.
- Add content upgrades to your post. What can you offer (for free) to get people to opt-in to your email list, that relates to your content? For example, when people come to my blog for those fat bombs, they see right away that they can opt-in to get my free Keto meal plan. Your money is in your email list! You need to make sure that you have an opt-in on each and every post and they know how they can continue to work with you! Otherwise, they’ll disappear back into the internet and never see you again.
STEP #4 to Becoming a Successful Course Creator – RETAIN YOUR VIEWERSHIP INTO AN EMAIL LIST
Are you actively building your email list?
If not, it’s time to start!
Hear me out.
You don’t own Facebook. You don’t own Instagram. What if one day Zuckerberg shut down your account? How will you reach your audience?
You don’t own those social media platforms, but you DO own your email list.
I can tell you that the bigger my list has grown, the bigger my paychecks. Early into my business,I was able to earn $750 by sending ONE email to my list (I didn’t even have a product yet!).
I was sold.
Let’s into some brainstorming on different ways you can build that email list.
What should you offer?
First, I want you to think of what the end goal is.
What product or service do you want your ideal client to buy?
From there, reverse engineer your strategy so that the freebie is related to the end offer.
- I have a course on how to use Pinterest for your business.
- My opt-in is a cheat-sheet on how you can use Pinterest to grow your business.
I wouldn’t create a freebie about mindset if I wanted to sell a course about Pinterest. Makes sense?
Some questions to help you:
- What exactly is your blog going to focus on? Instead of being a jack of all trades and master of none, FOCUS on one specific thing.
- Which problem are you looking to solve with your course?
Do the above two connect? Is your online course seem like the next logical step of your blog?
What are some different kinds of freebies you can offer?
- Coupon code
Basically, you want to offer anything that’s going to give your ideal client a quick win. They should be able to go through it and think ‘wow, that was SO helpful and just what I needed’.
Don’t overthink the offer…my best performing freebies have been my grocery list and a 5-day challenge, but I’ve done then ALL.
I suggest doing ONE, then you can test, tweak, make it better, create another one and really see what resonates with your audience.
How do you create the freebie?
If you’re doing a video, obviously record your video, or if you’re screen sharing you can use a software like ScreenCast.
In the beginning, especially, keep things as simple as possible! You don’t something super extravagant here.
How do you deliver the freebie?
You can upload it to Google drive, the media portion of your website, or Dropbox. I personally just upload it to my site, then you need to make sure it’s connected to your email provider.
I use the combo of ClickFunnels and Activecampaign right now. ClickFunnels creates the pretty opt-in pages, Active Campaign is where the emails are stored and where I can connect with my new friends! These are fancier programs, but when I was just building my email list I was using LeadPages and AWeber (after using Active Campaign, I def wouldn’t go back though).
Head spinning? Mine was too, but after setting this up once, you’ll be a pro (or at least it gets easier over time!).
Here are some examples of awesome freebies.
Amy Porterfield is a marketing genius and I’ve actually taken her List Builders Lab course. She knows her stuff! Here’s an example of one of her freebies (she has many!!).
Lewis Howes also has a few different freebies on his site, this one is right in the header of his blog.
Some more important notes about your email list:
Stay in touch with your email list (no wam bam thank you mam). You need to email your list on a weekly basis, not just when you have a new offer. Investing in building a relevant list and nurturing it is KEY.
It’s super important to make your course launch a success + generate passive income later on. Unless you have a warm list, you can’t sell. Simple!
If you need help creating a killer freebie, grab this free cheat sheet.
STEP #5 to Becoming a Successful Course Creator – CREATE YOUR COURSE
Before you go and launch your offer with full force, you should first validate the idea by pre-selling it and having hot leads ready to buy as soon as it goes live.
When I was going to launch Pin with Purpose last year, I was able to pre-sell 5 spots of my offer to quickly infuse cash into my business. It also skyrocketed my confidence and proved that my offer was filling the gap in the marketplace and was badly needed.
A key mistake I see most entrepreneurs make is they create the course before someone buys it.
What if no one buys? This is wasting time.
I’m going to share behind the scenes of how I first pre-sold my course, Pin with Purpose, then continued to scale each launch.
First Online Course Launch: September 2017 with a Webinar
I literally just started my new business, She’s Making an Impact, at the end of August 2017. While I had over 100,000 people following me on social media, NONE of them were for business advice (my first business was in the fitness space).
So it was literally like starting from square 1. New blog, new email list, new everything.
I had zero expectations for my first launch, except maybe to get a few people to buy so I could create the course and have some great testimonials.
I pre-sold the course (meaning that the course wasn’t created yet) with a webinar.
I didn’t have an ad budget (new business and I hate debt) so I private messaged anyone I knew was an entrepreneur and invited them to my webinar.
With the pre-sell, I told them that they would get access to me as they learned my Pinterest strategies for 6 weeks, and they would get a discounted rate on the course.
I sold the course for $147 and 7 people bought, earning $1029.
I was insanely happy about that since:
- it was a brand new baby business and
- I didn’t even have the course yet.
It was like I had magically earned money and unlocked a secret code: pre-selling.
After I sold the course, I worked my tail off to over deliver to those first 7 people so they had an amazing experience with me.
Takeaways from my first launch:
- Get scrappy! Even if you don’t have an ad budget, you know people! Ask if they know people they can invite to your launch (webinar/challenge/etc).
- Even if you only have ONE person who buys—treat that person like gold! One person can bring you more people!!
2nd Online Course Launch: December 2017 with a 5 Day Challenge
Since the first launch of Pin with Purpose, I had some amazing testimonials from the course and had built up more belief in the course and in myself.
I decided that I wanted this course to be the best Pinterest course on the market, and I really needed to up my game for this next launch.
So I invested in a copywriter and designer to create my sales page and write copy for the challenge (they did the opt-in page, thank you page, sales page, nurture sequence, challenge sequence, and sales sequence).
Total investment for them was $3,200.
It was a wee bit scary making that big of an investment, but I also was thinking long term and knew that I would be relaunching this course over and over again.
Also, keep in mind that I was making money from other sources, not just my launches. I had private clients, another course that was selling evergreen (on autopilot), I was managing other people’s Pinterest accounts, and my fitness business was still bringing in revenue.
So again, I didn’t go into debt with this investment, but I wasn’t taking much profit from my business either.
For this launch, I was able to get on a few podcasts right before my challenge which helped me get 200 people enrolled in the challenge.
I dabbled a bit in Facebook ads but had NO CLUE what I was doing and didn’t want to waste a ton of money.
With those 200 people, I had 11 people buy at $497, earning $5467.
Conversion rate: 5.5% (11/200 x 100)
(we will talk more about conversion rates below–this is super important)
I was honestly happy with that because typical conversion rates for a challenge are between 1-5%. I didn’t have huge expectations for this launch, I just wanted to make my money back from investing in the copywriter/designer, get more testimonials, and learn from my mistakes (because I was sure to make many lol) so I could have more success moving forward.
3rd Online Course Launch: April 2018 with a 5 Day Challenge
The third time I launched Pin with Purpose, I knew I wanted to step it up and play bigger.
I did the math and figured out what I would make if I hired a Facebook ads strategist and invested more in this challenge.
This was my thought process, so you don’t think I’m insane haha.
Typical cost per lead for a challenge is $3-6. If I spent $10,000 on Facebook ads, I could get about 2,000 people registered for the challenge.
I knew I converted at 5.5% last time, so even if I sucked this time and only converted at 1%, I would still be profitable.
I ended up hiring a Facebook ads strategist (for $2,000/month) and spending $10,000 on ads.
I was offering a 6-week group coaching program for $497 early bird, then $597, and VIP for $997, then $1197.
We ended up getting about 1,800 people in the challenge, at $6/lead.
Again, for this launch, I did a 5-day challenge (I love challenges and how close I feel with my community–def my fave way to launch).
I invested a ton of time and effort into this challenge, even though I had a team supporting me (we have added an executive assistant and social media manager since the last launch).
Every day of the challenge, I engaged as much as humanly possible. I tried to send personal messages to people as they joined (Facebook didn’t like that and blocked me for a bit haha).
I over-delivered on content, and ended up spending about an hour per day on live answering questions and helping the participants.
I really showed UP and gave it my all.
By day two, I had people tell me they didn’t know what I was selling on Friday but they were planning on buying because they were excited to work with me more and learn more from me.
This is a HUGE takeaway—don’t be afraid to give away content for free. It’s how you can build trust a relationship with your audience.
Funny notes about the challenge:
I was at my parent’s house and had FOUR dogs with us (we were about to move to France and we had our two dogs, plus their two dogs.) So I had to hide in their wine cellar because the dogs were barking all the time. I also was in a boot with a stress fracture, AND had just got my brows microbladed—so I looked INSANE the first few days of the challenge.
Oh, and we were moving to France the following week.
There is no good time to launch lol, just do it.
The challenge ended up converting at 5% and we brought in $49,029 in 5 days.
Lessons learned from this challenge:
- Be flexible and listen to your people. While I was on day 5 of the challenge and telling them about the course and what was included, I had a few people say they wanted to do it, but couldn’t afford the payment plan ($197 X 3), so we created a new payment plan on the spot so they only had to pay $97/month.
Some people might say that’s stupid that I did that, but I truly believe in Pin with Purpose and KNOW that it’s going to help people move their business forward. So if I could make it more accessible for them so it’s a no-brainer, I’m gonna do it.
- Think BIGGER. There is so much potential in the online space!! I never in my wildest dreams thought I could more than DOUBLE my 2013 annual income in just 5 days, but I did it.
- INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS. Like I said, I invested a ton back into my business. I lived super simply so I could afford a coach, a copywriter, and then a Facebook ads strategist.
Now, keep in mind that I used to do it ALL myself.
I was telling my mom about how we added a Facebook ads strategist to the team and she was like wait a second—you used to do it all yourself. Now you have some doing your Facebook ads, editing your podcast, responding to emails…what do YOU do?!
I said I have three-hour lunches in France with my friends.
I KID. I still work hard, but I’m able to work smarter AND have a life.
I know that this was a ton of content, so here’s a checklist to help you get started:
- Complete market research
- Narrow down niche
- Create killer blog content
- Complete freebie (grab my cheat sheet to help you)
- Get ready to pre-sell course
Ready to take your biz to the next level? Get free instant access to my online vault of videos, worksheets, and more for female entrepreneurs!
Entrepreneur, Author, Pinterest Strategist
“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” Tony Robbins