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Issue #7 • July 2017

How to Create Your First Email Course in a Single Weekend

Business Models

Have you ever been in that spot where you’ve decided that you’re ready to teach an online course, but then you realize how much work you have to do? There’s choosing and learning an online course creating platform, setting up high-quality video tutorials, creating the lesson plan, branding and design work– suddenly you’re second guessing your readiness.

If you’re not as ready as you originally thought or just don’t have time for that kind of deep dive into online course creation, your next best bet is creating an email course. And guess what? You can do all the work to create your whole email course this weekend! That means you can have a new product to pitch to potential students, show your authority, and gain their trust ready to go in a just a few days. It doesn’t get any better than that.

What is an email course?

An email course is simply a series of emails sent out over a period of time that teach on a specific topic. Each email contains one lesson and all those emails/lessons together create your course. It’s basically a stripped down online course without all the shiny bells and whistles of online course creating platforms. It’s still a channel to teach on your topic and grow your audience, and it’s actually much easier to create and send out the door.

While email courses are often used as a free opt-in incentive to grow your email list or easy entry points to later pitch big products, you shouldn’t narrow them all into that freebie corner. You can absolutely add email courses to your for-purchase products shop.

Why create a paid email course?

Any time you’re able to teach your audience something real and valuable, you’re creating an opportunity to earn your living online. Creating a paid email course is the perfect, low-key channel to introduce yourself to new subscribers and gain trust and authority.

As you know, it’s difficult to sell your products to someone who doesn’t know you at all. They don’t know who you are, if they can trust you, if you actually are an authority on your topic, or if you can even deliver valuable content. Instead of investing a lot of their time and budget in a full-blown online course, an email course can be a small step for a new subscriber to check you out. Here’s a few other reasons why email courses are sometimes better that full-blown online courses:

Email courses are personal and convert well

Sometimes you just don’t need to use a lot of your valuable time on design, creating high-quality video tutorials, or uploading your course content into an actual course creating platform. Sometimes all you need is a minimum viable product to initially validate yourself to a new reader.

By using simple, plain-text emails, you’re also creating a more personal feel to your course that actually converts really well. So many spam filters are weeding out HTML-based emails these days, so plain-text emails are the way to go to make sure you reach your reader’s inbox and get opened.

Email courses can show off your personality and knowledge

Because email has that personal feel, you can really give your readers a solid introduction to you and how you work. Your email course shows off your teaching style, your personality, and your authority on the subject. By the time your student has finished your email course, they should be able to trust you as a teacher and a person and will most likely keep coming back to you as their source of information.

Email courses are a great way to start collecting subscribers

Speaking of enrolling students, all those students signing up for your email course are also additions to your overall email list. And as you know, your email list is your biggest asset as an online creator. The bigger your list gets, the more people you have to pitch new products and courses to in the future.

Email courses are low risk

Because email courses are a minimum viable product, they are the best way to test new content. If you’re not spending your time or your budget on those high-quality assets and features, that means you’re not losing too much if your email course doesn’t do as well as you had hoped it would.

If that’s the case, you can take a step back to figure out what didn’t work, how to make a more valuable course for your audience, and try again without making a dent in your calendar or wallet.

Email courses are delivered at a dripped out pace

Everyone is different and that’s why it is smart to create content that can be consumed in different ways by those different types of people. Email courses are great for people who might be overwhelmed by getting a whole course all at once. Rather than putting all your lessons out at the same time, email courses allow you to drip each lesson out over a period of time. This gives your students more time to digest each lesson at their own pace.

You can finish your content gradually 

If writing a handful of really valuable lessons right now sounds overwhelming, email courses are definitely going to make you a happy creator. Since your email course is released gradually, that means you don’t have to have all your emails written and ready to go before you offer it to your audience.

You can set up your course sales page to start enrolling students before you even write your first lesson. But you can’t put it off for too long. There will come a time when you have to sit down and create that valuable content.

How to write content for your email course

While creating content for your email course is similar to creating content for an online course, there are some major differences. But before you start writing, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • How does my course benefit my reader?
  • How does my course benefit my business?
  • How many lessons does my topic break into?
  • What are the key points of each lesson?
  • What type of action does my audience like to take after a lesson?
  • How long is my audience’s attention span?

In general, email course content is much shorter than online course content. When you sit down to read through an email, you don’t expect it to take 10 minutes, right? That’s why each lesson should be easily digestible, take only a few minutes to read through, and end with a solid, actionable step your students can take (a writing prompt, a personal challenge, a worksheet to fill out, etc).

There’s no hard and fast rule about how many emails should be included in an email course or even how long each of those emails can be. It really depends on you and what you think it will take to get your point across to your reader.

Use pre-exiting content

If you already have a blog, creating your email course just got a little easier. You can actually reuse your old blog posts to create your email course. Just find specific blog posts that have done well and pull them together to create a course. It’s very similar to creating an eBook in this aspect. This process can even help you decide what topic to focus on for your email course.

If you don’t have a blog or content ready to pull from, we’ve created a series of email templates for you to model your email course off of. These are very generic, but should give you a good idea of what type of emails and content you should included in your for-purchase email course.

Download email course templates

A couple quick tips for writing your email course:

  • Really put in the time to create engaging subject lines. A catchy subject line can be the difference between your students participating and having super low open rates.
  • Include the lesson number and explain the lesson content in your subject line. This will help you reader organize their inbox if they miss a few days.
  • Don’t be salesy. Your email course should not be self-promotional at all….until the very end. By then you know that the reader has made it all the way through your course and has a certain level of interest in your topic. At that point, you can direct them to another of your products that you think they would be interested in. But before that, your main action is to provide value on top of value.
  • Stick with simple sentences, short paragraphs, and use headings to break up text. Doing this will help your student skim through your lesson to see how much is expected of them that day. It will also help them stay focused as they read and work through it.

How to create a ConvertKit email course

Since an email course is essentially a series of emails, you’ll start building your course by creating a new sequence in ConvertKit.

Step 1- Create a sequence

 

 

  • Select Sequences from the top navigation menu
  • Click the Create Sequence button
  • Name your sequence and click the blue button
  • Paste your course content into the sequence builder
    • Click +Add Email to create more emails for each lesson as you go
    • You can easily rearrange the emails by dragging them to the right order if you change your mind later.
  • Time out the content for your email course

The first thing to realize when timing your email course is that an email course is delivered based on the subscription date of each student as they opt-in. That means that if Student A signed up today and Student B signed up tomorrow, they would receive all the same content, but will be one day apart. So no matter when a student opts in, they will still receive your full email course, just on their own timeline.

Next, a good rule of thumb is to set the first email of your course to send immediately after the subscriber opt-ins. Getting them the first lesson or at least a welcoming email helps the subscriber know that know their confirmation has gone through and is a great way to start delivering value from the very beginning.

Finally, when planning your email course, it’s important to take into consideration how long it will take your students to read through, digest, and take action on the information you teach.

Most email courses are sent over a period of one to two weeks, but again, there’s nothing to say yours can’t be longer or shorter than that. It’s all up to you. You could do a lesson a week, a lesson every three days, or if you’re simply giving information, one lesson a day will work.

  • Select Save All
  • Choose your Settings
    • The Settings tab is where you can:
      • Change the name of your email course
      • Set which days you want/don’t want your emails to send
      • Set your timezone
      • Choose an email template
      • exclude subscribers from your email course
  • Click Update Sequence

Step 2 – Create a form to connect to your email course

 

 

Okay, now that your email course is setup, it’s time to create a form where your subscribers can opt-in it. Here's how you do that:

  • On your homepage dashboard, select Create Form
  • Choose a either a form or landing page
  • Select a style
  • Click Settings
    • In the Main Settings tab:
      • Give your form a title that corresponds with your email course
      • Create a success message that will immediately send to your new student to check their email for confirm of their enrollment.
      • Under Sequence Settings, click the drop down to find your email course to connect it to your form.
  • Click Save Form

Step 3: Connecting ConvertKit and Gumroad

Now that you have everything set up in ConvertKit for your email course, it’s time to create a simple way for your students to pay you for their enrollment. We always recommend using a solution like Gumroad.

  • Set up your email course as a product inside Gumroad
    • Set your cover image
    • Be specific in your description of your product to let you customer know it is an email course.
  • Back in your ConvertKit app, go to the Automations tab and click Add Rule
  • Under Trigger, choose Purchases a product
    • Choose Purchase on Gumroad from the Provider dropdown
    • Choose your email course from the Product dropdown
  • Under Action, choose Subscribe to a sequence
    • Choose your email course sequence from the dropdown
    • Optional- Add a tag as “Purchased email course” to help you further segment your list
  • Click Save and you’re all set!

Create your email course this weekend

I know this seems like a lot of work, but once you get started, you’ll be surprised how quickly your email course can come together. Just remember, you don’t have to be an expert on your topic as long as you can create a course that someone else can find value in. So take the pressure off yourself and have fun with it. It’s exciting to start building a new stream of income for your online business.

What will you create an email course about? Take this weekend to create a new email course for your subscribers and let us know how it goes in the comments once you’re done. We’d love to see what you’ve created!

Dani Stewart

As a daughter of an entrepreneur, the wife of an entrepreneur, and an entrepreneur herself, Dani has lived and learned all sides of creating and growing businesses. She is excited to bring all that life experience as well as a decade of crafting content to the ConvertKit community. She is a part-time baker, dinner-party planner, and lover of good bourbon living the simple life in Nashville with her husband, Sean.

Experience this issue your way

Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.

  • Can you recommend any other online services to collect payment for an email course other than gumroad?

    • Sam Nordberg

      Monica, you could try PayHip if you don’t want to pay monthly fees for Gumroad.

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