Soooo, let’s take a deep dive into how to create an email course (correction: an epic email course) that you can use as an opt-in for your email list to grow it wildly and to impress your savvy audience. And don’t worry, there are only 18 steps to creating this epicness that people will go insane for.
Really, Regina? 18 steps. Are they truly necessary?
Yes, my email ninja friend, they are. We don’t make weak email courses around here. Stick with me, and I think you’ll have several solid ideas and clear steps to make them happen.
1. Pick a topic.
There are so many legitimate ways to generate great ideas for what you want to communicate through an information product. I shared 15+ of my top ways in the Monetize and Market Your Mind Workshop for free, but let’s get into seven of the most actionable idea-generating categories.
1. Teach the beginning.
As a freelancer who works on individual projects with clients, you probably have a lot of pre-work, or work you do towards the beginning of your project that can be translated into an information product of some sort—and in this case, perhaps an email course.
For example: When I was freelancing (creating WordPress websites for people), I quickly learned that people needed way more definition and information about their brand and purpose before they started on a website project. In order to save their time, their money, and my time + sanity, people needed so much more clarity at the beginning of a project.
Legit. So, I created a questionnaire, then a workbook, then a little brand discovery process that all my clients went through before really getting started on their project. That workbook was the first digital file I sold (clients got it for free though). It still sells right here. Anyone not willing to go through that process was someone I had to direct elsewhere.
What is it that you need your clients to know, do, discover, create, or understand before they start working with you? What would make your job simpler? Why not create the process as a free email course? You can hit us with videos, worksheets, whatever you want to in an email course. #Epic #MindBlown
Your clients will feel indebted to you since you will be the one who brought such [fun, clarity, organization, direction, etc.] to their very important project.
2. Teach the end.
Can you guess where we’re going here? Create an email course (or perhaps another type of product) that teaches:
- how to maintain the products you create (ex: best ways to maintain your WordPress website)
- how to grow what you make (ex: now that you have a website, how do you get traffic to it?)
- how to get the full benefit out of what you create (ex: now that you have a brand identity, where can you use it? how do you integrate it into your existing platforms? etc.)
3. Show them how to do what you do.
So, if you’re considering creating an email course, chances are you’ve done something epic that you can teach others about, such as:
- starting a business
- getting your first few clients
- letting go of fear and publishing your art portfolio online for the world to see
What have you done in your freelance business that other people ask you about? How about a simple email course or challenge to help them out with it?
Wait. Are the ideas flowing? If so, you may want these completely free worksheets to accompany this blog post as you work through it. You don’t have to sign up for my email list or anything. Just click and download.
4. Structure the madness.
So here’s the reality: the steps required to accomplish ________ (whatever you coach on) are simply not that apparent and are truly overwhelming for some of us. Here’s the other deal: you don’t have enough time to coach tons of people through similar processes individually. There’s a cap on how many clients you can take on.
BUT. There’s not a cap on how many people can benefit from your email course (or other product) that structures the madness for them and takes them through some of the same processes that you would take them through one-on-one.
Bring order and clarity to the process that your potential clients and audience members really want/need to go through. #TheyWillLoveYouForIt
5. One-step wonder.
Yep. Kinda like a one-hit wonder. Except, nothing like it at all. A one-step wonder is an information product (such as an email course or tutorial series) that helps your audience with one simple step. It appeals to your audience because that one simple step is something they’ve been wanting to learn or get past.
Examples: “Learn how to set up your website’s email list sign up form.” “How to set up your new Mac laptop.” “How to configure XYZ plugin in WordPress.”
What’s one step that people want to take that you’re willing to teach for free? What’s a step that could be part of a larger series? What’s a step that could be part of a paid course?
6. Key results.
Have you achieved some key results that you can teach the methods behind? For example, I noted the specific actions I took when I was growing to my first 100 email list subscribers, then my first 1,000, then my first 10,000 friends and beyond. Teaching those methods, though the results will vary, is exactly what I do in my Audience-Building Ninja course. And though I haven’t taken it, I’m sure that teaching actual methods is what my buddy Kory does in her email course too.
Can you think of any key results you can boil down to an email course?
7. Current content.
Sure would be nice if there was a whole blog post on expanding a blog post/series into a book that could also be used to help us expand it into a free email course that we offer as opt-ins to our email lists. Yes?
2. Define the purpose of the course for your audience.
So, after you generate a few epic ideas from everything above, it’s a good idea to plan out the purpose of your course for your audience. What will it help them accomplish? What will it teach them? How do you want them to feel during/after the course? Make sure your planned purpose and goals match something your audience would find interesting, or even better, irresistible.
3. Decide on the purpose of your course for your brand.
Now that we’re solid on what this does for your audience, what will it do for your brand? What are all the things you hope to accomplish with your email course?
Oh, and can I just say this, please? If your one purpose in creating your free email course is to get signups on your list or to sell your paid course, you may miss some other amazing things it can do for your brand—like get more eyes and shares on some of your free content or direct people to some of your other paid products that are a better fit for them than that one course—keep your mind open to the possibilities.
Okay, did you write your course purposes down on page 1 of your worksheet set? Good, because we’re ready to flip to page 2 with the next two steps.
4. Outline your course.
It’s time to outline your course. I’d recommend idea dumping on index cards, sticky notes, or some movable paper product (or app) that will allow you to get all your ideas out and then consolidate and rearrange them. It’s like the process I outline in my guide to creating an epic information product in three days . . . idea dump, then eliminate any cards that don’t make sense for your goals, combine cards that logically go together, then take each remaining card and brainstorm all the topics you want to teach within that step/topic.
When you’re done index-carding your course, outline it on your worksheets that go with this post.
5. Create a course timeline.
Now, let’s create a timeline. You have your free email course divided into logical sections—so it’s time to decide how many days you want your course to last, how often you want to email people, and how many sections should go in each email.
Let’s first figure out how long we want the course to last. I’d recommend anywhere from 3 – 10 days (and 3 – 10 lessons), but if you want to put a day or so in between each email, your course might last 2 – 3 weeks.
What do you think an ideal timeframe is for your audience (needs to sound exciting, but not overwhelming)? For your brand (needs to be enough time to accomplish your goals, but not so much time that people fall off unnecessarily)? For your information (needs to be enough time to present the information, but not so much that each email becomes light on the info/action/helpfulness)?
6. Plan your email course connections.
And by this I mean, plan out what each lesson will connect to within your brand. Will it lead people back to a blog post that expands on the topic? Will all the information be self-contained within the email? Will it lead people to a free 2.5-hour workshop you did? Will it lead people to a paid resource you want the to check out? What will each email work with or promote? Just keep in mind the course purpose you planned on page 1 of your worksheets. Make sure your “course connections” help both your audience and your brand.
Use page 3 of your free worksheet set to plan your course connections.
7. Name your email course.
You want something descriptive + actionable (like “Build Your First Squarespace Blog in 7 Days”) and/or memorable and hashtaggable (like #InfopreneurIn5—that’s one of my free email courses).
But, most importantly, you want something that’s not already a Trademark (you can check U.S. trademarks here), not already a competing product (ask le Google), and is easy to find as a hashtag (it’s not used by 2,011 other people) and a domain (so you can easily reference it in your Periscope broadcasts, social media images, and more).
Use the worksheets that go with this post to brainstorm names, then don’t forget to put them through the test above.
8. Pick your platform.
Will you set up automated emails for free to go out every day for 10 days after someone signs up using MailerLite? Will you set up some beautiful automations in MailChimp? Here’s my post on MailChimp and why I love it, by the way. Will you set up an email course in ConvertKit?
If you are indeed interested in creating courses in MailChimp, I have a quick 13-minute training on how to do it below. The video is a part of my free #GoIndependent course. In the tutorial, I build out an email series for a fictional handbag boutique—the series is called The Field Guide to Being a Lady. Thought I was too cool for that name for some reason.
9. Create your email style guide.
It’s super important to design attractive emails. Ones that are easy to navigate and pleasant to read through. An email style guide will help. It’s kinda like a blog style guide, but for emails.
10. Decide where you’ll host videos.
Will you host your videos on your website? On YouTube? On Vimeo? Using Wistia? On a free course website that goes along with your email course? If I don’t mind everyone having access to the videos, I’ll usually host them on YouTube so that others can access them to. If I want to keep them private, I host them in my business Vimeo account or on a separate course website.
11. Decide where to host docs.
Will you upload your docs (worksheets, eBooks, etc.) that go along with your course on your website and then link your email text or images to the URL your site generates? Will you host the docs on a different course site or in Dropbox? Will all your docs be available in Google Drive or as Google Docs?
12. Decide on a community platform or course site (if applicable).
Will your super epic email course come with a community (where people can interact with each other and/or ask you questions)? Will your course have an accompanying course website people can log in to download and access all the materials at once? Will you only give them access to the site on the last day of the course or so (as to keep them glued into your emails and provide a bonus benefit for people who stay subscribed and open all your emails)? #BrilliantMoveOnYourPart
Use page 5 in your free worksheet set to plan your hosting platforms. And use page 6 to plan out the content of each email in step 13 below.
13. Plan each email.
Take time to plan each email. What is the core thing you’re trying to communicate and accomplish? What type of introduction will get people excited? What extra or surprise are you building into the email? Follow the prompts on page 6 to plan each email (hint: print out as many copies of page 6 as you need to plan all your emails).
14. Create subject lines that inspire action.
You’ll notice that part of the planning page reminds you to create a subject that excites or renews your audience’s desire to reach their goals. In other words, don’t just title your emails, Day 1, Day 2, and so on. What will they learn? What course is this again? Remind people. Entice people.
15. Create your worksheet/video mockups and other course collateral.
Seriously. Creating mockups (like the one below) gets people way more excited about your content. It’s a visual representation of all the work they can do and everything they can accomplish with your materials. Create mockups that help people imagine the experience and see themselves doing the work.
You can use the collateral in your individual emails, social media images, and even on your course landing page.
16. Create your course landing page.
Yes. Even though it’s free. Build a landing page where people can find out more about the 3-day experience or 10-day email course. Here’s my landing page for my 5-day course on becoming an infopreneur. Include an agenda, worksheet mockups, a signup form, and any other necessary information.
Hint: Creating a landing page gives you a specific place to direct people to in Periscope broadcasts or as links in blog posts or social media updates.
17. Create the “perfect paths” to your course landing page.
The what, Regina? There you go making up terms again.
I know. I know, you guys. But for real. Plan out multiple, ideal paths that your audience members can take to get to your free email course landing page. Will they hear about it during your online workshop? Will they see a Facebook ad? Will they get a link to it in an email? Will you write multiple blog posts on the topic and tell your audience to “click here for an email course the goes in depth on this” or something along those lines?
18. Set up your course in your chosen email software.
After you finish creating the content, it’s time to load everything into the software you chose. You’ll want to double check your subject lines, make sure your links are working, preview the emails to check the formatting, and more.
Psssst. Don’t forget my 13-minute tutorial on getting your course content set up in MailChimp. And pssssst, don’t forget that my free course, Launch Your Online Business Already, includes another tutorial on getting set up in ConvertKit too.
Okay, so that was the process my friends. 18 steps wasn’t so bad, eh? Especially with worksheets, right? Everyone loves #AdultHomework.
Soooooo, will you be building an email course to encourage signups to your list? What will the topic be? Do tell (in the comments below).
Photo (c): Sean Locke from Stocksy.com