More than ever, creative freelancers can’t wait to start making passive income online. After all, you can’t help everyone who needs you by working 1:1 with clients, and you have to scale your business somehow!
Sometimes inspiration just comes out of nowhere: you have the best idea for an online course that’s going to make you thousands of dollars the second you release it to your audience.
You just know it, it’s that good.
Set up your ring light, hit record, teach all the things, and in no time, you’ll be rich, rich, rich!
Wait a second, though.
Before you start doing all that work, ask yourself this:
Are you sure your offer is strong enough for your audience?
Do you have solid data-driven proof that you’re the real deal? How would you even get proof?
The answer is research. But not the kind you need a microscope for.
It’s actually pretty in-depth, personal – and dare I say, a little fun!
Let’s talk about the work you need to do before you ever launch an online course.
SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF WORK – WHY BOTHER?
Research allows you to gather information on your target’s pain points, the solutions they’ve tried before, what they’re really looking for in a course from you, and will help you create an online course your clients want and need (and help you craft the messaging to promote it to the right buyers!)
Ideal client research involves polling or interviewing your target audience, and organizing the data to perfect your offer. Instead of guessing what they want, you’ll know for a fact because they told you, and you listened!
By doing the research (the right way) before you put all the time and energy into launching your course, you’ll know:
- You’re launching the right offer for your audience
- Your curriculum will be a real solution to your audience’s problem
- Your messaging resonates with your audience and laying their money down will be a no-brainer
You’ll go into your launch with rock-solid confidence that your odds of it being a success are as high as possible – and that you don’t have to resort to those gross, sleazy sales tactics everyone hates just to up your sales.
Giving your buyers real transformation gets better testimonials and social proof because they’re genuine, which will solidify your expertise and build trust in your community. As a result, people will be eager to buy from you in the future, too!
WHAT SHOULD YOUR RESEARCH UNCOVER?
You probably already have an idea of what you need to know for a successful launch. You know you have to have a target audience and solve a problem. But how do you even start?
I always say to begin with the end in mind.
Research is meant to confirm or clarify who your target audience really is, what their biggest problems are, why you’re best suited to help them, and what price point they’re comfortable with. If you don’t have a solid understanding of these points, your messaging will be off, and your launch will suffer. So let’s go through each point one by one.
Let’s say your target audience is photographers. To find your real target audience, dig deeper:
- What kind of photographer are they?
- Who are the people they serve?
- What do they do in their spare time?
- What do they love/hate/want/worry about?
- What’s the biggest problem they’re having – the one that really keeps them up at night?
- What’s getting in the way of getting what they want?
- What have they tried before – that worked and didn’t work?
Why it matters: A wedding photographer’s answers will be very different from a landscape photographer’s. Narrow your audience by asking questions and getting to know them. General advice doesn’t work in most industries so it’s important to hone in on who you’re serving.
Let’s say that you learn that the big problem they’re having is that they’re not getting clients.
To create truly effective messaging that positions your offer as a real solution and compels people to actually buy from you, you have to go deeper. Buyers need to know you truly understand them. How is their problem affecting their lives? What would it look like if that problem was gone? <— this transformation is gold in your messaging!
So, if you’re designing a course for photographers to help them get new clients, dig deeper to uncover the real effect of the problem they’re having. Maybe they’re…
- Not making the income to live the lifestyle they want.
- Still working a full-time job they hate and doing photography as a passion project until they can tell their boss to get stuffed and run away into the sunset.
- Tired of people treating their passion like it’s just a hobby and nothing more.
- Constantly asked to trade their time and energy to create beautiful memories in exchange for peanuts and “exposure”.
- Struggling to market their business because the lack of paying clients erodes their confidence.
Why it matters: Everyone needs clients. It’s finding out how this lack of clients affects their life and business that opens the door for your solution.
Now that you know what your buyers need, how can you make them confident enough in you to hit ‘buy’?
- Have you been in their shoes and really understand how they feel?
- Have you helped people just like them grow their business with their testimonials to prove it?
- What processes have you created and perfected (that you can teach) that will solve their problem?
- Can you clearly articulate them?
- Are you positioned for the niche or hoping to use broad strategies that apply to anyone?
Why it matters: No one will buy from you if they’re not confident in you. The above questions will help you craft messaging to instill faith in your audience.
Lastly, what does research have to do with your pricing? Everything, actually. Coming up with a price for your offer can cause anxiety in even the most rock-steady business owners, so here’s what to ask your clients and yourself to get it right.
- How much do they bring in per job?
- How much are they making per year?
- What’s the ideal return on investment from buying your course?
- What are competitor programs going for?
- What have your clients felt comfortable with so far?
- How many people do you plan to serve with this course?
Why it matters: Pricing too low underplays your value. Pricing too high turns great prospects away. The sweet spot of pricing = sold out with your ideals buyers.
HOW CAN YOU CONDUCT RESEARCH AND ORGANIZE IT IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE?
Start with organizing. It could be as simple as a document, spreadsheet, chart, or visual map. Whatever is easiest for you to keep everything all in one place! The important thing is that it makes sense to you when you’re creating your launch materials (that’s your deliverables, your sales pages, and your promo content) and that you can easily refer to it when needed.
Make your list of ideal clients. They can be friends, entrepreneurs, influencers, LinkedIn connections, people in Facebook groups – even if you’ve never met them.
Create a list of questions. Keep them with you as you take the next steps. Here are just a few examples (take some inspiration from the ones I gave you above, too).
- What’s their title – aka what do they call themselves?
- How do they serve others?
- What are their biggest struggles?
- What do they worry about at 3am?
- How is that problem/struggle affecting their business/life?
- When you picture the perfect outcome, what do you see?
- Can you tell me what you think a course that solves your problem should cost?
- What would you need to hear to make buying a “hell yes“, and what would stop you from buying?
- What would make you want to buy my course from me instead of a competitor?
- How would you describe what we do?
Get their insight! Once you’ve made your list and nailed down your interview questions, reach out to your list on social media and via email (use both for maximum impact) and ask for a few minutes of their time (schedule a meeting via phone or Zoom – or create a Google Form or Typeform as a backup if your schedules don’t align).
If you don’t get a response, follow up a few days later. Steer clear of being too wordy in your request as a giant block of text may turn busy people away. Some people will say no, and that’s okay! The ones who say yes will be great assets to nailing your research.
Record your meetings if possible so you can listen in the moment instead of typing frantically during your interview.
Distill what you’ve learned. Set time after the interview to review what they said and enter their answers and “gold nuggets” into your spreadsheet. Do this with every interview, and your research will be complete!
Be prepared for some surprises. Along the way, you might find that you need to adjust your price and offer because your initial assumptions about your target buyers might be wrong.
But heck, you know what? You don’t have to do any of this on your own.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in my contact form to book a No Bull Launch Blueprint intensive if you’d like to get help with your client research.