Everyone keeps telling you that to launch an online course you need to build an email list. You have heard it from me and I imagine every other online entrepreneur you follow. Well, that’s cool… you have awesome ideas and plenty of expertise to share but how do you get started? What tools do you use and how do you get said content into the mitts of your future course members?
Here are the tools I use (and trust!)
I love me some Canva action. It boggles my mind that you don’t need to use expensive and hefty graphic design programs to create your freebies anymore. I feel like my age is showing every time I loudly exclaim to my empty office (Ziggy the Poochon is here of course) “well isn’t that just amazing”. I am like a pensioner being shown how to use a smartphone for the first time. Full of excitement and wonder.
Back in MY day (6 years ago when I started creating online content) I used Photoshop because it was all I knew how to use. Every blog image and freebie creation was long and tiresome. Now I have my templates all set up in Canva and it takes no time at all.
I have the paid version but the freebie level is still fantastic value. I like being able to save templates and colour palettes so it’s worth the $12.95 monthly subscription.
I have raved about Active Campaign on many occasions. It does have a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hang of the basics it’s super easy. Price wise it is on the lower to mid end. You might think it’s expensive until you deep dive into the apples vs oranges pricing of different platforms. Some look super cheap until you send over X number of emails then they become expensive.
If you’re setting up awesome email responder series that warm your audience with 3 to 4 emails in a row it takes no time to use up the number of “sends” they allow. Active Campaign is transparent in this regard. The automation is mind-blowing! I use around 30% of the functions offered which I love. That means I can do so much more than I am today.
Another great option I have recently discovered is Get Response. I haven’t used it myself but I was researching different platforms for the new Create Your First Online Course content and it stands out as a winner. Both Active Campaign and Get Response offer a free trial so if you’re looking for a great budget friendly platform or you want to upgrade from other limited services then try them out!
Now you have all that lovely free content and email system to send it out to your subscribers what do you do next? You need somewhere to store or “host” your free downloads. Many people when they’re first starting out upload to their WordPress website or try to include as an attachment in their emails. Neither is a great solution in my opinion. Uploading big files to an email can be frustrating for your subscribers. There is nothing worse than trying to download a massive file when you’re using mobile or slow data. Hosting on WordPress isn’t terrible but I don’t want to bloat my website unnecessarily.
Amazon S3 is so stupidly cheap it isn’t funny. I get a bill each month for around $0.26c. I have all my site content backed up to Amazon S3 and literally all of my course content including video. I wanted one secure place to house everything so even though I use a video host (more about that in a moment) I still have a separate copy stored on Amazon S3.
Now, I will caution you. It’s a big ol ugly beast of a site. It looks super intimidating and overwhelming to start with. Honestly, once you get in there it’s easy. The great thing is you can upload massive big freebies and then simply copy the link and paste into your emails. Your subscriber can then click the link and voila! Your freebie opens easily on whatever browser they’re using.
Google Drive and DropBox and great options too, not as cheap as Amazon S3 but super easy to use. Just make sure you change the download settings on your freebies to “public” so people can easily access them.
It takes some effort and planning to create video content but you’re going to need to do it for your course anyway so why not hone your skills on your freebie offerings? Video allows your tribe to hear your voice and if you’re really wanting to create connection let them see your face. I honestly believe that a big part of the reason my small list of subscribers are so loyal is that I jump on live and pre-recorded video quite a bit. If you can see me and hear me you can feel my authenticity. You know I haven’t just ripped off someone else. It builds great trust and emotion into our relationship. If you want some to buy your course you need to build know, like and trust with your tribe. Video archives that outcome.
Creating video can be a little daunting for sure. For a quick video of you talking directly to the camera use your smartphone. It’s easy and fast. If you have a good built-in camera on your laptop or desktop then that is a great option too. If you’re looking to record your screen (a presentation or on-screen demo) Loom is a great starter option. I use it for Facebook and Insta videos and to explain stuff to clients and course members. It’s an awesome tool and free, what more could you want! If you’re happy to shell out some coins Screenflow (Mac) or Camtasia (PC or Mac) do an amazing job of both recording and editing.
Once you have a fancy video to share you will need to host it somewhere so people can see it. You can’t currently (although I am sure this will change soon) embed a video into an email. What you can do is take a screenshot of the video and use the still picture with a link to encourage people to click through to watch your video over on your blog. For free content, Youtube will work just fine. If you don’t want people to see your content until you have their email address (you don’t want people to be able to search for your video) make sure it’s unlisted.
For a more exclusive feel for your video content choose a platform like Wistia or Vimeo. The free plans have become quite limited over the past few years but they’re enough to get you started. You can host your video on Amazon S3 but it is a little more technical and I personally have experienced some glitches so I stick to Vimeo.
Can you just link directly to YouTube or do you really need to embed your video on your website?
I personally am always driving traffic back to MY site. My email subscribers are then more likely to discover more of MY content. If you send your subscribers to YouTube they’re going to be shown recommended video based on their demographics and the content they’re viewing. So essentially, you’re sending them to other peoples content. Not the best idea!
It isn’t the most attractive user experience. Once again, I want people to discover more of my content. Sending them directly to a video host page doesn’t make sense. Take the time to create a blog post or special landing page for your content and pimp it out! Don’t cut corners, you will risk losing that valuable subscriber.
Ok, so now over to you! What content are you going to create and share? Don’t forget to make in AWESOME! It’s the first impression that you will be putting out there to your tribe so show them how generous and clever you are! Be creative, engaging and give them your best stuff. They will be excited to learn from you and ready to buy when you launch your course.