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.
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 consists of 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’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.
Courses that create real transformation get 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!
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:
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 course 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 this course for photographers is to help them get new clients, dig deeper to uncover the real effect of the problem they’re having. Maybe they’re…
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’?
Why it matters: No one will buy from you if they’re not confident in you. The above questions will help you craft messaging that will instill faith in your audience.
Lastly, what does research have to do with your pricing? Everything, actually. Coming up with a price for your course 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.
Why it matters: Pricing a course too low underestimates your value. Pricing a course too high turns great prospects away. The sweet spot of pricing = sold out with your best students inside.
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 course materials (that’s your curriculum, 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).
Get their insight! Once you’ve made your list and nailed down your interview questions (there are more below), 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 developing your course.
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 course 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.