Soooo, let’s take a deep dive into how to create an email course or challenge (correction: an epic email course or challenge) that you can use as an opt-in for your email list to grow it wildly and to impress your savvy audience all the while nurturing them and adding tons of value! Now that’s what we call a win-win. And don’t worry, there are only 18 steps to creating this epicness that help turn your audience into customers.
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. We walk through some of these ideas in our 8-day email course 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. You might then offer a more in-depth group training event or your one to one services.
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? Your frequently asked questions are exactly the things your audience wants you to teach them.
4. Structure the madness.
So here’s the reality: the steps required to accomplish ________ (vegan ketogenic diets, custom ConvertKit coding, or whatever cool thing 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. This is a smart and efficient way to build the content for your larger online coaching event too.
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.”
They get a taste of what it’s like working with you and they get a quick hit in the form of immediate results. 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.
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/challenge 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.
In fancy Instructional Design terms, this is their learning objective. What will it help them accomplish? What will it teach them? How do you want them to feel during/after the challenge? Emotion is powerful and if you set them up to feel like a winner, they’ll love you for it.
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.
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 . . . 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.
5. Create a course timeline.
Now, let’s create a timeline. You have your free email course or challenge 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 challenge 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 challenge might last 2 – 3 weeks. Keep in mind that short is sweet. You don’t want to lose their interest or use too much of your content that would fit better in a paid program.
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 we mean, plan out what each lesson will connect to within your brand. Internal connections is a step that many people miss. 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 paid resource you want the to check out? What will each email work with or promote? Just keep in mind the challenge purpose you planned on page 1 of your worksheets. Make sure your “challenge connections” help both your audience and your brand.
Just keep in mind the course purpose and that your “course connections” help both your audience and your brand.
7. Name your email course.
You want something descriptive + actionable (like “Build Your First Squarespace Blog in 7 Days”) and/or memorable and hashtaggable.
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 el Google), and is easy to find as a hashtag (it’s not already being used by 2,011 other people) and a domain (so you can easily reference it in your Periscope broadcasts, social media images, and more). If a domain isn’t available for your challenge or you’re not quite ready to take it to that level, use the free tool Bitly to create branded, customized links.
And speaking of naming and brainstorming, you might love our 3-Year Content Planner that guides you through our top-performing formulas for coming up with topics, live stream titles, email subject lines, and blog posts.
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? Will you set up an email course in ConvertKit and create custom tags for your users?
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. Being the attractive email in the crowded inbox will encourage your audience to open and save your emails, rather than being destined for the trash.
10. Decide where you’ll host videos.
Will you host your videos on your website? On YouTube? On Vimeo? Using Wistia? On a free challenge website that goes along with your email challenge? 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 (not available to the general public), I host them in my business Vimeo account or on a separate program website.
11. Decide where to host docs.
If you’ll be including documents, checklists or worksheets in your challenge, will you send them as attachments in your email or will you upload your docs (worksheets, eBooks, etc.)? You can host the separately your website and then link your email text or images to the URL your site generates. Will you host the docs on a different site or in Dropbox? Will all your docs be available in Google Drive or as Google Docs? #SoManyOptions
12. Decide on a community platform or course site (if applicable).
Will your super epic email challenge come with a community (such as a Facebook group where people can interact with each other and/or ask you questions)? Will your challenge have an accompanying challenge website people can login to download and access all the materials at once? Will you only give them access to the site on the last day of the challenge 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
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).
If you’re stumped on what to write, look back through your inbox. Which challenges have you take that enticed you to read all the way through? Any challenges (or other email promo) that struck you as particularly blah or boring? Take note of what worked for you and what didn’t work for you.
14. Create subject lines that inspire action.
How can you create a subject line that not only gets them to actually open your email, but 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. (And as a reminder, we have an epic plug-and-play template for you to create over 150 email subject lines.)
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 challenge 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 challenge. Consider including 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 Facebook posts, Instagram Live 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 challenge 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 challenge 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. Send drafts to yourself before going live so you can triple check everything one last time.
Psssst. Don’t forget our free 8-day email course on creating, launching, and selling an info product.
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 or challenge to encourage signups to your list? What will the topic be? Do tell (in the comments below).
Photo (c): Sean Locke from Stocksy.com