Building a course can feel overwhelming: you need to build an audience, record the video, write the text, set up a marketing plan, launch, promote…

…when you write it all out, you can start to feel the weight of all of the steps. Especially if you’e never built a course before or you don’t have an audience.

The shortcut? Just start. Start teaching. Start writing. Start small.

Before you build your first course, you need an audience. And the best way to build an audience is to start teaching.

  • First, you pick an audience that you understand.
  • Then, you find (and answer!) the questions that your audience is asking.
  • Next, you produce small pieces of content (articles, screencasts, videos, recordings) that answer your audiences’ questions.
  • After that, you build up a knowledge base about your topic for your audience.

As you keep on teaching, you build up your audience and you assemble content that you can reuse for your future product or course. When it comes time to build your course, you have an audience and dozens of articles and resources that you can draw on.

When you think about it this way, building an audience and launching a course isn’t an all-or-nothing process. It’s a slow, incremental process. You start out teaching people, produce valuable content, and build up an audience.

 

We were curious, what do people who have started and launched successful products and courses say about this process? How do they they recommend getting started with teaching?

We sat down with a group of product creators (Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, Sean Fiorrito, Ruben Gamez, Josh Pigford, and Paul Jarvis) to talk with them about the lessons they’ve learned getting started teaching.

Here’s the question that we asked them:

For someone who is looking to get a jumpstart on launching or marketing a product or course, what’s something you’d recommend they get started with today?

And here’s what they had to say:

Amy Hoy, creator of 30×500

My book, Just Fucking Ship. Natch! But seriously, I wrote and started selling the first version in 24 hours. You can learn a ton from my (free) live blogging on the topic:

  • http://unicornfree.com/2014/24-hour-product-challenge
  • http://unicornfree.com/2014/i-wrote-an-ebook-in-24-hours-now-what
  • http://unicornfree.com/2014/24-hour-book-1-week-later-sales-time-next-steps

Brennan Dunn, creator of Double Your Freelancing Rate

Start pushing out free content, and aggressively encourage people to opt-in for even better, more valuable content. An easy win is a blog post -> email course -> call-to-action for paid course funnel. This has worked incredibly well for my business.

But even if you don’t have a paid course ready to go, or even an email course, writing and encouraging people who read your work to talk to you will teach you a lot about what people are looking for, and the pain points they have.

Sean Fiorrito, creator of Sketching with CSS

Market research. You should have plenty of examples of people struggling with something that you are going to help them fix before you start your course or product. For my Angular course, I have hundreds of clips in Evernote of people struggling with difficult concepts in Angular. I’ve tailored my course to help those people.

Ruben Gamez, creator of Bidsketch

Take one action to see if one of the assumptions you’re making on your product is right. This test should be something small you can do within a day. Keep it simple and make sure you’ll learn something from it, but the key is to take the right type of action. I think people overthink things and end up talking themselves out of making progress.

Josh Pigford, creator of Baremetrics

Talk to potential customers. And I literally mean talk. Like, on the phone. Have a conversation. Listen. Take notes. Don’t sell them. Just learn what pains they have. Figure out what things are getting in their way. Look for things you can help with that solve and completely remove those pains.

You’ll find out quickly exactly what product to create and how to market it.

It’s easy to get nervous and chicken out on doing this, but having real, actual phone calls is essential.

Paul Jarvis, creator of The Creative Class

Audience building. Selling a course or product is great, but regardless of how good it is – people need to know about it and about you. You can’t sell to people that don’t know who you are, don’t trust your expertise or haven’t seen your name before. So outreach, connections, networking and content creation is as important that what it is you’ve built or are building. You can’t wait to do that until after you launch, otherwise you’ll be launching to crickets.

If you’re getting started and don’t already have an audience, you want to:

  • Research your market and talk to your potential customers.
  • Identify the specific pains that your customers are experiencing.
  • Create — and share — free content that helps your audience solve their pains.
  • Build up your audience piece by piece.

And if you already have an audience, you want to:

  • Study your audience
  • Understand the specific pains that they’re experincing
  • Create tiny products that solve their pains
  • Slowly, incrementally build towards a larger product

When you’re building an audience, you’re building a community of people that trust you.

When you have that, launching a new product isn’t an all-or-nothing gamble, it’s a process of slowly building an audience, studying their needs, and launching tiny products that will help them.

Over time, you end up with a community that trusts you, a deep understanding of the pains to solve, and assets that you grow into larger products or courses.

But remember to just focus on the next step:

  • Picking an audience
  • Researching their pains
  • Shipping your first article

That, my friends, makes it a lot easier to get started, to launch your first product, and to build towards your course.

Ready to get the whole collection?

This is just the tip of the iceberg — get all 3 of these interview series as a beautiful ebook.

  • Masters like Amy Hoy, Brennan Dunn, and 20 other course creators
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About the author: You don’t have the time to do outreach yourself. I help consultants and product creators, like you, grow their audience of freelancers and consultants. I help you by taking care of the details: I look after your most valuable relationships and help you build new ones.