Making that first online sale with Teachable is something that happens every day for songwriters, coding gurus, yogis, and soil experts, regardless of their business experience or skill level. Although Teachable creators’ first online sales all look differently, they all stem from the same desire to make money and share knowledge. We tapped real Founders, Innovators, and Leaders straight from our exclusive Teachable:hq community to reflect upon those early days of goals circled on the whiteboard, unexpected setbacks, business lessons learned, and most importantly, the first paycheck they put into their pockets.
In the spirit of creating
Some creators already have an offline business and are just looking for a way to brig it online. Others have the experience and knowledge but are launching a business for the first time ever. But both paths can jumpstart a knowledge business.
“Prior to launching my course on Teachable, I was running a YouTube channel part-time in addition to my other work. I had various clients where I did commercials, corporate tutorials, how-tos, and other filmmaking and video work—it paid very well. The thing that really got my ‘juices going’ was my YouTube channel. I absolutely love helping other people [and] seeing that lightbulb go off when they watch something that helps them make their videos better. For me, there’s just no better feeling. What really surprised me is how popular the channel got and blew up over the years to over 100,000 subscribers, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to peak out anytime soon. I’ve been incredibly blessed with what I consider some of the best viewers and subscribers on YouTube. Just all-around great folks who are very supportive and my appreciation to that audience knows no bounds. About five years ago I decided to take a look at making online courses.”
-Kevin, Basic Filmmaker University, Leader
“I was, and still am, working nine to five in network support in the IT Department of a local utility company. In my IT career, I solve tech issues for people all day long. Besides IT, my favorite thing is helping people—empowering a person to DIY tech. I also had a goal of being the CEO of my own business so that I would have freedom of time as well as the freedom to choose who I work with.”
- Laticia, PaqTeqnology PC Pro, Founder
“I was the owner of a Boston-area yoga studio, called Breathe Joy Yoga. I ran in-person weekend Pretzel Kids teacher training courses as part of my studio offerings. I started getting more interest in my weekend Pretzel Kids trainings from yogis around the U.S. While I was offering some trainings outside my studio—I traveled to teach these in New York, Seattle, and Southern California, I knew there had to be a more efficient and affordable way for moms, yogis, educators, and others to become certified Pretzel Kids yoga teachers. That was my why, and I began working on my online course in 2016. Soon after that, I closed my studio to focus on growing the Pretzel Kids brand, digital teacher training, and online classes.”
-Robyn, Pretzel Kids, Leader
“I have a busy practice and wanted to have a way to support more people than I could with one-on-one sessions. I saw that online learning was the wave of the future and wanted to find creative, dynamic, and deep ways to translate the power of in-person education to a wider audience across the globe.”
-Alexander, EOS Learning Collective, Innovator
Expanding beyond the comfort zone
Regardless of what lights the initial fire, creators who thrive all start with specific goals in mind whether they’re revenue or self-fulfillment based. What’s more, they’re continually looking for ways to set new goals and pivot based on their initial learnings.
“I had never sold an online course, so I knew that any goal I set was not grounded in past history. Given my list was small (300), according to Teachable’s equation, I would have sold six to nine courses. I didn’t like that number, so I decided to dream big instead and knew that my first launch would provide grounded history for future course creation goals. My first course launch sold to 61 people and I made just under $6,000.”
“When launching my first course, what I wanted to do was see if somebody would actually arrive at the course, sign up, pay for it, and get out of it when I was trying to teach them. I learned the course was way too long, included way too much information, but I thought at the time if I could offer five times what they were paying for the course, then they would be satisfied. I did achieve that with the first course but realized making a course only once a year or twice a year was not viable when in fact the members of the University wanted to learn and wanted more content now. It’s not that my courses now are any less effective in my goals for teaching people how to actually do the things they need to do, it’s that over time I gained the experience to be able to deliver the exact things they need in a concise format with a feeling that they were getting one-on-one with me. My business goal now changed this past year. I realized the thing I absolutely love to do is help other people get better at making films and videos.”
“Initially [my goal] was to teach people how to repair computers and become a Computer Technician. And I of course wanted to (and did) do this entirely online. My current business goal is to help new, aspiring, and budding entrepreneurs solve their tech issues so they can focus on making money. The way I currently do this is by helping them build their own website or by solving any tech issues that has them stuck. This could be anything from inception of idea to website strategy, to email lists and sequences, to creating courses and the list goes on.”
Tapping into a hunger to succeed
Behind every streamlined online business, there’s a lot of hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit that won’t quit—no matter the path.
“For me, the biggest hurdle was figuring out how to adapt a weekend, 20-hour training to an online course and platform. I also wasn't comfortable with the technology so that was a hurdle initially. Once I hired a video editor and then an online assistant, things got easier.”
“My biggest hurdle was mindset. Mindset is everything. It has the power to stop you in your tracks or spur you on. I had to learn to overcome negative self-talk, procrastination, imposter syndrome, and more to get to where I am today.”
“I have a YouTube audience, they like what I do, and instead of deep diving using everyone else’s opinions on how I should market my courses, I simply use my YouTube channel to let people know I have a university and if they wish to learn a concentrated subject, to go check it out. That by far has been the most successful thing I’ve done for marketing, and I wish current me could go visit past me, slap me upside the head, and tell past me to quit wasting time listening to all the ‘experts’ when in fact what they were saying did not apply to me, my personality, or my audience. I’m not saying that these people who do this successfully are not to be listened to, I’m just saying for me it was a total waste of time and I was ignoring the obvious audience I already had.”
“One of the greatest surprises was to see that the affiliate partnership I created for my first launch sold 30 courses! That was half of my overall course sales. It really showed me that partnering with people and organizations in the field and a larger list than me, can really pay off. The other ‘surprise’ was how much goes into doing an entire course creation and launch. It is a lot of work and requires dedication, consistency, and a willingness to say, ‘I don’t know’, followed by a commitment to learning.”
That first paycheck feeling and beyond
Sure, there’s the excitement of a payout, but more importantly, that first sale validates creators’ hard work and knowledge.
“For my first launch, I did a presale, to get feedback about the course, work out any glitches and to gather testimonials prior to my launch. I sold five courses for the presale! This was powerful because I had already put in countless hours creating the course with no idea if anyone would buy it. To have a small group of students jump in was a great feeling. It gave me the sense that what I had done was worth it. Especially, after the positive feedback started rolling in about the course.”
“I remember my first online sale and I went out the roof! Although I don’t suggest seeking validation from others, that’s something you should keep close to your chest and use on yourself often, that first sale almost screams, ‘You did it! It worked! This can actually happen!’ My biggest surprise launching online was finding out how many of my fears, apprehensions, weird thoughts, self-doubts—all those nagging mental failures that run through your head—were all absolutely unfounded. The best advice I’ve ever gotten from a friend is look don’t think. I thought this was absurd at the time, but now I get it. If you’re spinning your wheels, knock it off, get to work, and just go make something!”
“If you had told me five years ago that launching an online course and business would be a ton of work, I probably wouldn't have believed you. In fact, during my first couple of years, I didn't work my courses like a full-time business. I also didn't get a ton of sales. Yet, once I shifted my mindset, sold my studio and began working at my online Pretzel Kids business full-time, things began to take off. And, over the past year, I've made major investments in my business including hiring experts, amping my email and social media presence, and scaling my website. This is paying off—our community of Pretzel Kids teachers is growing and so is interest in our flagship teacher training course.”
Transforming growing pains into successes
It’s not in our nature to leave you hanging, and that’s why we launched the exclusive Teachable: hq community full of curated content, on-going chats, and advice from fellow creators. But it’s not just us leading the conversations, it’s our creators who have done the work and played the game.
“Don't quit your day job or shutter your offline business until your course and online business begins to take off (unless, of course, you can afford to do this.) But I do recommend diving in and creating your course! While you're at it, begin building your email list and community on social media. This will help you gain some traction and initial sales. From there, you can create a path to move entirely online, similar to what I did when I sold my brick-and-mortar yoga studio. There is another piece of advice I'd offer up that I wish I did sooner and that's this: Don't launch your course only to let it float out there in cyberspace for several months while you formulate your online business strategy. Create a strategy while you are creating your course as the two projects go hand-in-hand. The hope here is that if you do this, it will speed up your course launch, leading to higher sales.”
“There are over seven billion people in the world. You can rest assured there are a ton of people that don’t know what you know no matter what it is. Offer what you know and love, play the long game, let people know you exist, and you will eventually succeed. Just make the bleepin course! Especially if you’re starting out, who cares? You don’t have an audience? Make the damn course. You’ll learn and you’ll get better at it. And after that, just make the next course!”
“My advice to anyone nervous to take that online step is to work on mindset—educate yourself about the whole process and align yourself with persons that have accomplished what you are trying to do. Being a part of the Teachable community has helped me to see that my goals of moving online were feasible. I got my questions answered and received help and encouragement.”