Build and Sell a BIG Online Course in 7 Days
Why is this project marked: pass?
I finished this massive course in 7 days with time to spare. And it's been the most profitable course I've made so far. This was a smashing success and I had a lot of fun selling it on launch day!
If this is your first time here, I recommend reading the about page. You should also read the first version of this online course challenge here.
I’ve been putting off this project because I’m scared shitless.
Since 2004, I’ve studied SEO like a hawk. I watched countless videos, followed forums, joined membership sites, and developed my own strategy. It just took a little over 10 years to finally get it right.
The last online course I made was two years ago. It’s called Asana for Bloggers. And it continues to sell by word-of-mouth only! I challenged myself to build it in just seven days. And I actually built it in six.
However, this will be different, bigger, and a lot fucking harder!
I’m going to take everything I know about SEO and building high-traffic websites, and put it into a massive online video course. And I’m going to do it seven days.
Actually, I have to do it in six because I already made plans for Saturday. And I’m starting late today (Wednesday). So like five and a half.
I want to launch the course on February 14th, 2018. That’s Valentine’s Day. And this wasn’t part of the plan. In fact, I just had a chat with my girlfriend and she convinced me to do it.
Actually, she said, “stop complaining and just fucking do it already!” I’m paraphrasing of course, but not much 😉
What I’m Selling and Why
To fit with the theme from my previous course, I’m calling it SEO for Bloggers.
- It’ll be priced higher than my last course. Probably $99. (Some of my friends still think that’s cheap).
- It’ll be formatted just like my last course, Asana for Bloggers. Meaning, it’ll be a series of short videos.
- It’ll be entertaining. Or, not boring. Something you love watching. Same as last time.
- It’ll be easy to buy. You click a button, you enter your credit card, and you get the videos.
- It’ll always be available for sale with updates.
NOTE: My last course was sold using Gumroad. But I’ve been secretly working on my own custom platform here on Money Lab. So you’ll be able to buy the course, and immediately start streaming it on this site. You’ll get a username and password where you can log in and watch this course, Asana for Bloggers, and any new course/product I create in the future.
This is only the second course I’ve made. And like before, I’m building the course that I wish existed when I started learning SEO over 10 years ago. I know there’s a bunch of SEO courses already out there, but I don’t care.
This course is going to be fun, honest, and proven. I’ve taken three websites and grown them strictly with SEO. In fact, my flagship site (Swim University) attracts over 450,000 unique visitors a month on average.
I got this.
1. Create a Course Outline
I’m going to do a quick round of research and talk to some people I know. I’ll make sure to get their questions so I can answer them in the course.
I’ll send an email out to the Money Lab list to get their feedback as well.
I need to do a bunch of Google Searches to make sure I’m covering the burning questions. I plan to look at some of the top pages on the topic and scan through the comments too.
Once I’ve collected everything, I’ll create a massive outline in Google Docs.
I’ll do this on the first half-day (today after I’m done writing this).
2. Film and Edit The Course
I’ll use Screenflow to film my screen and create zoom animations like my last course. Screenflow has a pretty easy editing platform and motion blur. You can see some animations here.
For audio, I’ll use my Mackie ProFX8 mixing board and SM7B Mic.
Once I have the screen recordings finished and edited, I’ll film “talking head” intros to each lesson. Then, move those files to Adobe Premiere and complete the final edit.
I’ll use Adobe After Effects to make animations for the beginning and I’ll create “lower third” animations to help explain details as the lesson progresses.
I can use the same effects I made for the Asana For Bloggers course to save time.
This will probably take up 3-4 days. I’m hoping I can get all the screen recordings done in 1-2 days. And then I should only take a half-day to do the talking head shots.
Editing will take the longest, probably 2-3 days.
3. Upload The Course to Wistia and Money Lab
I already have a paid Wistia account to host these video lessons. I paid for the year upfront ($950.40). This will take hours to do, but I’ll be able to create the streamable course pages on Money Lab at the same time.
I’ve already built the payment system for selling this course and my other products. So getting it up for sale should take less than an hour.
I can do all this in a half-day.
4. Create A Sales Page on Money Lab
Once the product is ready for sale, I’ll make a custom sales page on Money Lab like I did for Asana for Bloggers.
I’m going to make a carbon-copy of that sales page and change what I need to change. So this should make things much quicker this time around. Probably a half-day.
I will hand code the sales page myself using Coda for Mac. Money Lab is on WP Engine, so I use WordPress. I will create a custom page template to make the page and I’m using CSS Bootstrap for fast coding.
5. Promote The Course
I’m going to send an email to all my friends who have ever asked me about SEO. I know a bunch of people who will buy, so I’m happy about that.
I have a little over 1,700 email addresses on the Money Lab list in MailChimp. Everyone on that email list will get updates about this challenge. They’ll know when it goes up for sale a week from now. I hope a few people from that list might buy, too.
I’ll also send a few tweets and Facebook posts about it. Nothing crazy. Nothing pushy.
I have some other ideas, and if you have any ideas it would be cool if you shared them via email or Twitter.
Half-Day 01: Outline The Course in Google Docs
After sending out my announcement email about this challenge, I got back exactly 20 responses. I asked in the email if my readers had questions about SEO, and they sure did. I was crafting the outline as the emails came pouring in and it really helped me flesh things out.
BTW, “flesh things out” sounds really dirty 🍆
The outline is seven pages long. I took a screenshot of each page and strung them together since it was too big to copy and paste.
That’s it for the official first day of the challenge. Tomorrow, I will start recording the screencasts. I have a dentist appoint right smack in the middle of my day, so that’ll suck.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish recording every lesson. Right now there are 15 lessons with three bonus videos. If I have time, I might do some video interviews with friends.
Day 02: Recording The Screencasts
It’s only been a few hours since I started working, but I’ve recorded two lessons. Both of which ended up being around 30 minutes long. Holy shit!
Unfortunately, I scheduled a dentist appointment at 1:30 PM MST, so I have to take a long break to do that.
My goal is to finish recording all the screencasts today. That’s a lot of talking! But if I can do that, I’ll be way ahead of the game, and I’m willing to go all night if need be.
The good news is that I feel pretty confident. This is a topic I know a lot about, and the outline is making it really easy to stay on track and not stutter. And even better news, there’s going to be a LOT of material. Probably over six hours at this rate.
Everyone who sent me their SEO questions via yesterdays’ challenge announcement email really made this thing beefy. I can’t thank them enough 🙂
Day 03: STILL Recording The Screencasts
I spent the entire day recording the rest of the screencasts and I’m finished. Here are all the videos that I recorded, in order, with length.
NOTE: These are the rough screen recordings with no editing or animations or lower thirds. These are just me talking and showing my screen.
- The Must-Have SEO Plugins and Software (30:47)
- The Perfect SEO Site Structure (36:49)
- Keyword and Competition Research (29:55)
- How to Research and Make Content That Ranks (34:01)
- How to Format and Optimize Content That Ranks (37:00)
- Link Building and Off-Page SEO Strategies (28:42)
- How to Track Your SEO Growth (21:03)
- Optimizing Existing Content with Google Search Console (13:03)
- How to Perform a Content Audit (12:54)
- Checking for Broken Links and 404 Pages (13:40)
- How to Perform a Sitewide SEO Audit (8:34)
- An SEO Checklist Sorted by Priority and Simplicity (16:40)
- SEO Strategies to Avoid Like All Hell (10:22)
- Additional SEO Resources (8:47)
- BONUS: 10 Years of SEO – Behind-The-Scenes of SwimUniversity.com (28:07)
- BONUS: 3 Years of SEO – Behind-The-Scenes of RoastyCoffee.com (20:23)
- BONUS: 4 Months of SEO – Behind-The-Scenes of BrewCabin.com (19:47)
Wow! That’s over six hours of content, not including the bonus interviews I planned and the main intro video. Would be awesome to get this over eight hours total, but I won’t push it.
Here’s a shot of all the recording files still in ScreenFlow.
Tomorrow I’ll be doing a photoshoot all day for Roasty and Brew Cabin, so I may not have time to work on the course.
Tonight, I’m going to start putting together the overall theme: creating intro music, designing the intro screens, and creating the lower thirds animations.
Day 05: Fucking Up The “Talking Head” Videos
Ok, on day four, I spent the morning doing a photoshoot with my friend, Alex, for Brew Cabin and Roasty.
When we were done, I spent the afternoon writing theme music for the course. Here’s a screenshot of Logic Pro X (the program I create music in).
Also, this was my third attempt at the theme music.
Afterward, I set up my office to film the “talking head” portion of my course videos. These are personal intros to each lesson. I did this with Asana for Bloggers too.
I’m using two softboxes, my Canon 70D with a 24mm fixed lens, and an Audio Technica AT875R shotgun mic connected to my Tascam DR-40 digital field recorder.
But, right before I started filming, I ate some Cajun food: Jumbalya. And while I was recording, I got “hot face.” If you don’t know what that is, I don’t either 🤬
My face and ears got really red and I looked like a tomato. Maybe it was a mixture of the hot lights, the hot food, and my hot bod. Either way, I was tired and I decided to do a re-shoot.
That was supposed to be today.
I had an in-person mastermind meeting in the morning, so I didn’t get started until about 1 pm. But after the meeting, I was tired, so I watched some speed skating at the Winter Olympics and took a nap.
Naps are something I don’t normally take.
When I woke up hours later, I ate dinner and decided to film the “talking heads” again. But after watching the footage, I realized the room was too bright and the camera kept going in and out of focus.
So instead of reshooting (again), I decided to work on the intro animation for the lessons
At this point, I’m behind schedule. For the next two days, I’ll be focused on filming the final version of the “talking head” videos, editing the lessons, and uploading them to Wistia.
I’ll probably have to work late into the night, the day before launch, to finish the sales page for the course.
This challenge was not as easy as my first one. I think it’s because I have a lot more course material and more interruptions during my work days.
I know I’ll get it done, but it’s gonna be quite the effort. Wish me luck!
Day 06: Finally Filming The “Talking Heads,” Editing, and Uploading Every Lesson Video
Today was a big day of progress. So I got up early.
I mean, I always get up early (around 7 am), but I usually lay in bed, read, and watch videos until about 9 am. Then, I get up, make breakfast, and before you know it, it’s like 11 am before I even start working.
Today was different.
- I started the day with a workout (not something I EVER do).
- Took a shower.
- Had a Skype meeting.
- Filmed all the “talking head” videos.
- Broke down all the filming equipment.
- Imported all the footage and audio.
- Created the lower third animations.
- Exported all the screencasts.
- Edited all the “talking head” shots and screencasts together.
- Exported them and uploaded all the videos to Wistia.
All this took me about twelve hours. Most of the time was spent waiting for all the exporting and uploading. These are super long and large video files.
Once I’ve exported all the final edits, I had to upload each video to Wistia. This step took the longest. Like, really fucking long!
Day 07: Putting It All Together
Last night I was able to upload all the videos to Wistia. Today, I’ll be adding them to the new Money Lab digital e-commerce store. That just means creating a page for each video and putting them in order.
Then, I’m going to finish the sales page. It’ll be a carbon copy of my Asana for Bloggers page with new content.
I didn’t think I was going to be able to edit all the videos yesterday, but it turned out to be easier than I thought. Everything ran smoothly and most of the time was spent exporting and uploading.
I’m going to update Day 7 in real-time as I finish things, so keep checking back.
11:26 AM: Created The Course on Money Lab
I created a course page on this website. When you buy the course, you’ll log into Money Lab and see a dashboard with the courses or products you own. When you click them, you can view the course.
Here’s a screenshot of what the course looks like withing WordPress. I create a parent page called SEO for Bloggers Course and all the lessons are child pages underneath.
When you visit the main course page, all the child pages are listed on a sidebar, so you can jump to any lesson.
Here’s what the actual course looks like on Money Lab:
Each lesson will have a video, some description text with links, and a list of all the other lessons you can jump to.
For the next hour or so, I’m going to add the description text to each page. Afterwards, I start work on the sales page.
12:17 PM: Added All The Course Descriptions
This means that the course is officially done and ready to be taken. I even created some spreadsheet templates I mentioned in some of the videos and linked to them.
Now, I’m going to be in code more. I moved Money Lab into a staging platform because I’m going to start building the sales page.
I made a copy of the Asana for Bloggers sales page and I’ll be making content and color changes. Because I’m not building something from scratch, this should only take me a few hours to hook up.
5:18 PM: Finished Designing And Writing Sales Copy for Landing Page
After five hours of designing and writing, I’ve finally finished the sales page. I need to thank Steph (my GF) for helping me do all the copy editing. Here are shots of the page on the staging platform.
This page feels good to me. It may not be a typical sales page, but it was really fun to make.
I officially finished the challenge!
I’m gonna reward myself tonight with a beer. Tomorrow, I will promote the launch and share the numbers right here when it’s all over.
Here goes nothing.
Launch Day in 24 Hours
It’s 10:44 am MST and I just sent the launch email to my list. As always, I’m nervous. My leg is shaking under my desk. I have no idea what to expect.
This is the highest priced product I’ve ever made. It’s also the most intense product I’ve ever made. I really hope people like it.
Here’s a quick recap of everything I did to promote the course:
- Sent an email to 1,639 subscribers. This is an interesting number, because two years ago when I launched Asana for Bloggers, I sent an email to 1,666 subscribers. So my list hasn’t grown, but I keep it clean.
- Posted on Twitter and Facebook. Not really much, but it did get some traffic to my sales page. 15 visitors from Twitter, and 14 visitors from Facebook.
- Answered emails from people who got the launch email. Pretty straightforward.
Yup, that’s it. No Facebook ads, no other promotional techniques.
My strongest factor was the funny sales page. I got this kind of feedback.
The best feedback on my course launch today…
"…the fake testimonials were the difference maker in getting the sale. That and the picture of your Dad from the 80’s. Love the sarcasm in this hilarious world of same-old repetitive marketing tactics."https://t.co/tamcEZKCxz
— Matt Giovanisci (@MattGiovanisci) February 14, 2018
The Final Recap
This challenge was easy and fun. I did stress out in the middle, but that was my own fault. I didn’t trust myself and follow my own advice. I looked at the elephant and thought, “how the hell am I supposed to eat that in one bite.”
But once I just sat down and focused, I knocked shit out. Like I always do.
I love having another product to sell too. It turns out, when you make something useful and fun, you feel good. I felt really good after this challenge because I got to make the course I want and sell it the way I want.
How Much Money Did I Make?
I kept the expenses pretty low on this challenge. Most of the tools I used I already owned. But I’ll break them down anyway:
- Hosting With WP Engine: $29/month
- All Access Pass to Easy Digitial Downloads to Sell The Course: $899/year
- ScreenFlow 7 for Mac: $129
- MailChimp: Technically free since I’m under 2,000 subscribers
- Wistia: $950.40/year
- Logic Pro X: $199
- Adobe Creative Cloud: $49/month
I ended up selling 17 courses grossing $1,683. After processing fees from PayPal and Stripe it’s about $1,629.09.
All of those sales came from just one launch email. Here’s what it said:
I plan to continue promoting this course through my list and website content along with other courses I’m making in the future.
What I Learned From This Challenge
Making products is fun and rewarding. For years I rejected making my own products. I don’t know why. Maybe fear?
But every time I make a product, I feel great. Even if I only sell one, it feels worth it. And I know the first day is not an indication of how well something will sell in the future.
Asana For Bloggers has been selling consistently for two years with zero promotion. That’s because the course is good and people tell their friends. I know this for a fact and it’s an unbelievable feeling.
Why I didn’t capitalize on this fact is a mystery, but I’m finally doubling down on what I know I’m good at.
I struggle with being just another “online entrepreneur who had mild success and then spends the rest of his/her life teaching people how to have the same mild success.” I don’t wanna be a blogger who blogs about blogging.
But the truth is, I am. Maybe not in those exact words, but I am. And that’s okay. Mainly because I get to do it the way I want. I get to say “fuck” and make fun of myself and show people all the behind-the-scenes details. Even the unsexy stuff. Mostly the unsexy stuff.
This makes it fun. It also makes it possible for me to live with myself. I don’t puff up my chest and preach how to make money online. My goal is to shut up, do it, document, and share. That’s it.
However, I know that I have some special talents that give me a competitive advantage. But those were not God-given gifts, except the warring chinchillas that are my luscious eyebrows. I worked at those talents for years and continue to do so.
I’m glad I made this course, I’m proud of my work, and this is one of my favorite things to do in life. So bully for me!
I want to thank all my friends who’ve watched me struggle and succeed in getting traffic to my websites. They told me to make this course.
I want to thank everyone who subscribed to Money Lab for providing me SEO questions helping me come up with great ideas to include in the course.
Thanks to Steph, my beautiful and supportive girlfriend for the big push I needed to tackle this challenge. Yes, she made me do it. She’s the greatest person in the world. Not just to me, to the entire fucking world.
Finally, thanks to everyone who bought the course! You made this challenge complete and it’s a success because of you. Thank you for helping me prove it’s possible to make money in this world by making something useful, entertaining, and on your own goddamn terms!
Also, you can buy the course here 🙂
I had comments for a while because it was a "best practice." However, fuck that! I prefer to have personal conversations via email or Twitter. So, let’s do that instead.