The development of the internet sure has changed a lot of things. People have become faster and more mobile. Even the way people learn has changed, from the advent of online colleges, online training, and now thanks to email we can even learn through an email course. You may have wondered about whether or not you should create an email course of your own. My answer to this question would be: if you have something you can teach to others, then yes, you should definitely create an email course. And here's why…
- An email course is something you create once and can use over and over again.
- An email course offers you a way to give potential clients prolonged engagement so they can develop trust in you.
- An email course is easily scalable, whereas your time to teach individual clients is not.
- There are people all over the world who are trying to learn what you already know. Even if you're not yet at the top of your industry, there is always someone else behind you admiring your progress.
So, are you onboard and ready to start creating your email course? Whether you plan on selling the course for money or giving the course away for free, creating an email course isn't difficult, and we can get started right away.
A quick note about affiliate links. I love trying out new things: services, software, and various programs designed to make my life easier. And I’m more than happy to pass on my experience to you. Your trust means everything to me. I would never recommend anything I didn’t use and love myself. GetResponse and PicMonkey are two such services. Because I am an affiliate, should you choose to follow any of the links on this page and sign up to use GetResponse or PicMonkey, they will pay me a small commission. It won’t cost you anything extra, but it will help me tremendously.
Come up with a topic.
It probably goes without saying, but before you can put together an email course, you need to have an idea of what you want to teach. For some people, coming up with a topic might seem easy: knitters might teach a trick about knitting, marketing experts will probably choose a course related to marketing. Others might need to do a bit more soul searching before they can settle on a topic to teach. If you're having trouble coming up with an idea, try starting with a look at your ideal clients: what are they looking to learn? Write all the ideas you come up with in a list.
Next, cross reference your list of potential topics with your skillset. What do you know well enough to teach? Cross off anything that requires too much research. If you are still having a hard time settling on a topic, try asking your followers what they would like to learn from you. I guarantee you, there's something.
Determine the real demand.
Having a great idea for an email course means nothing if there are few people actually looking to learn what you want to teach. You'll end up spending hours, even days, developing your course only to watch it sit empty and do nothing for you or your business.
So how do you determine demand for your course? Research, of course. When I started developing my idea for Build Your Author Platform, I set to work asking all the authors I knew. I went into every Facebook group, discussion forum, and Twitter chat I knew of and asked everyone if it was something they would be interested in. I created surveys and polls and waited for the answers. What I found was that out of 829 authors who responded to the surveys, 674 said they were interested in the course, and 117 said they would pay for such a course based on the information I shared. That meant 81% of the authors I surveyed wanted the course, but only 14% would be willing to pay for the course.
If you aren't in many groups or aren't able to survey members of your audience, or if your audience is still too small to give you a good sampling, you can also try to write out a blog post to test the waters. Write the blog post following good search engine optimization, share it to your social media channels, and watch the interaction. It will take longer to glean an answer using this method, but you will be able to get one. Study the post's statistics: traffic, search phrases, time spent on the page, and engagement. You won't be able to determine precise percentages of how many people want your course, but you will be able to determine whether or not enough people are searching for your course to make it worth your while to create it.
Once I knew how many authors showed initial interest in my email course, my next step was to create an email list for which I mention an upcoming course and ask people to sign up to be notified when it's ready. In truth, I hadn't even started writing the course yet. But I had already determined that once the list reached 100 emails, then I would start writing the course.
It took a couple of weeks of checking every morning, but one day I woke up to see 102 emails signed up and ready for updates about the course. Then I knew it was time to get started.
Determine the length of your course.
One of the brilliant things about an email course is it gives you a chance to have prolonged engagement with your clients. And you can make it as long as you like. The most popular seem to be either three, five, or seven; I rarely see email courses that are longer than seven days, but it happens. With shorter courses, there is a higher chance that your readers will open and read each email. The longer the course, the more chances for the reader to get busy or distracted between lessons, and they may drop before getting the chance to read through everything.
Start outlining your course.
Once you've got your topic in mind, and you've determined the overall demand for that topic, it's time to start planning. And for me, planning means outlining. You'll want each of the installments to be roughly the same length, so be sure to divide up your topics and subtopics into days to help you monitor the length of each lesson.
Length is especially important for an email course. You want each email to be longer than your average blog post so that it fits in more information, but not so long that it starts to get boring. So, topics that can be covered in one or two short paragraphs can be paired together to balance out with a longer topic that needs to be emailed on its own.
If you need to, you can adjust the length of your course to accommodate your topics.
Gather your equipment.
It goes without saying that you will need some equipment to build your course. So let's take a moment to cover those:
- Computer – probably goes without saying, you need a computer to work from. Preferably one with a word processor so you can write and save copies of your course.
- Website – I prefer to use WordPress with a Genesis Framework theme, on a self-hosted domain. I like this combination because it gives me complete control over the design and function of the site. You can use any site platform or host that you like, the key being that you must be able to control the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so you can make sure people can find your course.
- Payment System (if selling the course) – I really like PayPal because it's easy to use and the fees are pretty low. Obviously, this is only really necessary if you're selling your email course. If you plan on giving your course away for free or using it as a lead magnet, you can skip this.
- Email Service – you may have guessed that I use GetResponse for this. To be honest, it doesn't matter which service you use, as long as they offer the ability to create autoresponders. GetResponse offers a 30-Day free trial with access to all their features, which is the best trial I've seen. I searched and searched for a free option, but could not find a free email service that offered autoresponders. Wherever you sign up, make sure your plan includes autoresponders. Because I use GetResponse, the rest of this tutorial will feature screenshots from them, but can be recreated using any service. You'll just need to find where the buttons and links are yourself.
- Graphics editing software. For this, I really like PicMonkey. Canva would also work, but I have found that I tend to use Canva more for my primary blog graphics and PicMonkey for tutorial-like graphics and walkthroughs. Both programs are free. Of course, this is only important if your email course will be including graphics.
Start writing your course.
Write. Write, write, write. I have found there are two times in this process during which a person will lose most of his or her motivation: the writing and the editing. So, the faster you can get it written out, the more likely you will finish without having to struggle.
For the most part, it's like writing a short book — you're just trying to get it written. Don't worry about choosing the exact right words; don't worry about all the rules or whether or not the writing is of the highest quality. Just get it written. Write out every lesson, leaving placeholders where you need to leave reminders for any graphics or pictures. If you need to rearrange your topics into a new order to accommodate for the length, now is the time to do so.
I have found that for an email course, the sweet spot as far as length goes is somewhere between 800 and 1200 words per email broken up into sections. Any shorter than that, and you won't be including all the information; any longer than that and you risk losing your readers. Remember, people are mobile and live faster than ever. Chances are they are going to be reading your email over their phone or tablet rather than at a computer. So our end goal is to make your email course mobile-friendly.
Editing your course.
This is when you really get into the nitty-gritty bits and pieces of your course. This is when you check for grammar and spelling, passive voice indicators, clarity, and word flow. During editing, your focus turns away from creativity and ideas and centers on systematically finding and correcting mistakes.
It's no wonder so many people can lose motivation during this phase.
Sign into GetResponse and create a new campaign.
Time to start putting everything together. Sign into GetResponse (or your preferred email platform). Before you can create your email course, you'll need to create a campaign:
I like to keep my email course campaigns separate from my main campaign. Which, of course, means maintaining separate email lists. But this way I can make sure that people are only receiving the emails they have signed up for. And that way, they are less likely to mark my emails as unwanted.
When choosing a campaign name, choose something that will let you know exactly what the course is about. There's no reason to try to be clever with this. And make sure your name includes small letters, numbers, and underscores only: no fancy characters and no spaces:
Awesome! You're ready to go!!
Create your autoresponder.
Once you click on “Create Autoresponder”, you'll be brought to a page where you can begin the process. By default, it will be set to Day 0 (the same day a person has signed up) and to be sent immediately. This is not the confirmation message or a secondary opt-in message; those are both handled when you set up the forms and confirmation later. This message will be the first message your subscribers receive after confirming their subscription to your email course.
You can use this to send a welcome message explaining the course they've just signed up for and telling your subscribers when the course will begin. Or you can use this to send the first session of your course. The choice is up to you.
Personally, I like to send the first installment of my email course right away. I like giving my subscribers the information they've signed up for right away so they don't feel as though I'm stretching anything out. I also like to keep mine to send out on any day of the week; so if someone happens to sign up late on a Friday night, they don't have to wait until Monday to receive the first course.
Create your email.
Now it's time to really create the heart of your course: the email itself. Click on “Create new email.”
On the next page, type in your information. The Message name is for your reference only, so fill it out with something that will help you remember what's in that email.
The subject will be the subject of the email that your subscribers receive. You can click on “Personalize” to choose something that will help make your emails personable. I like to use [[firstname]], as it seems to catch people's attention a bit better.
You want to make sure your subject is catchy so your subscribers will see it amongst the dozens of other newsletters and emails they receive everyday, but in a good way. Use the subject to remind them they signed up for this course. Using a question also works very well for this purpose.
When you're happy with your settings, click on Next step:
Choose your template.
GetResponse has dozens of predesigned templates covering several categories:
You're free to choose any starting template you like for this step. But remember, this is an email course we are creating. It's not a sales brochure. The information you are aiming to teach should be easy to read and not covered up in all kinds of graphics. Additionally, a lot of email carriers nowadays block most images out of emails unless a recipient specifies to allow them through. So you probably don't want to waste a lot of time choosing a flashy template filled with tons of images.
I like keeping things simple. In fact, most of my newsletters contain no images at all, and the few that do only include two or three images with no backgrounds. You can change the colors, fonts, and images in the next step, so pick a template you're happy with:
Building your email.
When you choose a new template, you will be brought to a screen showing the editor along with a preview of your email in mobile format:
Now, as you may have guessed, it's time to go ahead and start editing the template and plugging in your information. You can move each element around, insert a duplicate element, or even trash the element all together. Clicking on either of the “Plus” signs will create a new row or a new column, in which you can plug in a new element.
Editing the text is similar to working in your favorite word processor on your computer. Highlight the text you want to change, and type in your changes. You can also change the font styles and colors to match your branding (and I recommend that you do just that!)
If the template you chose comes with any images, you can use them. GetResponse has made a deal with several resources to allow you to use those images in your emails, even for commercial purposes. However, I still prefer original photographs and graphics whenever possible. Thankfully, changing out one of their stock images for one of your own is simple enough. All you have to do is click on the photo, then click on edit and you can upload one of your own images to put in its place:
The center column gives you several elements in a drag-and-drop interface for adding more to your email. You can choose from text, image plus text, just images, a PayPal button, social media icons — just about anything you can think of. To use this feature, simply click and hold your mouse over the element you want to add:
And drag it over onto the editor where you would like to place it.
As you make these changes in the editor, the mobile preview will update to show you how they will look in your email.
Save this email as a template.
Once you've finished getting everything set up just right, you want to make sure that you save this email as a template. That way, when you start building the subsequent emails for your course, you can choose this one as the template. You won't lose your changes, and nothing on your email will change at all. It's just a good way to ensure that your emails will all look like they belong together without having to make a lot of changes for each of them.
After you've saved your new template, click on Next step:
The next screen brings you right back to the Autoresponder settings we were looking through earlier, only this time a miniature screenshot of your message is shown and your information has been filled in at the bottom:
If you want to go in and edit the message further, you can. If you click on create new, you will scrap the message (it will still be in your templates though! So it won't be completely lost) and you'll need to start over.
From here, double check your settings and then click on Save.
If you click on Save and publish, you'll be setting the email live. This isn't necessarily a bad thing to do, because you don't have any contacts in your list yet. But I like to keep all the messages simply saved until I've written out the entire course.
Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
You're going to repeat these steps for each email in your course. Make sure for each one you adjust the settings so that the second installment will go out when you want it to. If lesson one went out on Day 0, then lesson two should go out on Day 1, etc. You can decide whether to send them out at a specific time each day, delay the send by a certain number of hours or days, or send it out at the same time as the subscriber signed up each day. I use the same time signed up option and have not had any troubles. I just figured that there were pretty good chances they signed up at a time they were normally active online without being busy. You can always adjust this later if you find that people aren't reading your emails.
Add one last email.
After your last email of a course, I like to include one last email that will remind the subscribers the course is over, offer another chance to download the free gifts that came with the course, and invite them to join my other newsletters. This last email can be used for just about anything: bonus offers on sales you're having on related products, download links, social media links. Anything you want.
I like to use a last email for this because it gives me a chance to finalize the course with my subscribers and remind them it's over, and it gives me a chance to place any sales information I might want to include without taking up room in the course itself. Nothing annoys me more than signing up for a course that is supposed to be of a certain length only to have part of that course be all about selling me on something else.
Refine, get feedback, and publish.
With all your emails written, now you can go in to each autoresponder and do one final read-through to make sure everything is as you want it. Because I always seem to do my best proofreading after hitting the send button, I like to this step in the online preview. I don't know why it is, but mistakes and typos always seem to jump out a little bit more when I'm outside of the editor.
After that, it's time for some feedback. Find your best friend or favorite guinea pig (or both) and ask them if they have time to read through this. You'll get bonus points if it's something they would normally be interested in learning about. One by one, send out a test message to as many guinea pigs as you can gather, and wait for their feedback.
Depending on the feedback you receive, make your changes and send out more tests. This might take a few run-throughs, but trust me, the final result will be totally worth it. Once you and your guinea pigs are completely happy with your course, go ahead and publish each email.
Create your signup form.
Okay, your emails are written and perfect, your reviews so far are glowing. Time to set them free and start allowing people to sign up. And that means creating a signup form.
Just as with the emails, GetResponse also offers dozens of templates for your signup form over several different categories. I like to use the Plain HTML creator for some things (they are easier to place in some plugins for WordPress, for example). But there is nothing wrong with their List Builder Wizard and I have used their Wizard with really good results so far.
The form editor is a little different from the email editor. And I have to admit, it took me a little bit to get used to it. But once you know your way around, you'll find that it's fairly simple to edit the form to match your exact needs and branding.
The control panel is along the right-hand side of your screen. By default, it loads to the field options, which allows you to pick and choose the information you want your subscribers to provide when signing up for your course.
To make any changes on the form itself, double click on the words or photos you want to change and make the changes you want.
Changing the default fields for the template you chose is easy, too. Click to select the field, then click on the small trash can icon that appears:
From the control panel, you can just select a new field and drag it over onto the form wherever you want. The editor will show guides to help you line up the new field with any other element on the form.
Changing the font and button colors is as easy as selecting the font or button and making your changes in the control panel.
When you're happy with your form, click on Save & Publish in the top right side of your screen.
GetResponse will save your form, so you can make changes to it later. The next page allows you to install the form or send it to someone who will be installing it for you (should you employ a website administrator to take care of those tasks for you). Just copy the script provided and paste it directly into your website where you want the form to appear.
Get the word out.
The last step is to get the word out about your course so people will sign up for it. If you built an interest list of email addresses, you can start by sending out an announcement that your course is ready and invite them to signup using your new form. Get the forms up on your website and posted on social media inviting people to come and learn from you.
My favorite outlet for things like this is Pinterest. Are you really surprised? It's my favorite for just so many things. But really, the page for my 5-Day Crash Course on Building an Author Platform is the highest shared and highest pinned post on my entire site. And it didn't take long for it to grab that title.
For an extra bump in sharing and exposure, you can also look into Tailwind to help get the word out on Pinterest with scheduled pins and Tribes.