What I Learned From Launching My First Online Course

What the gurus don’t tell you

Listen, I don’t think of myself as a guru, but I am a successful and profitable writer, editor, and book coach. It’s what I do and a huge part of who I am.

I’ve spoken before about how I dislike when it seems like every “writer” is just trying to sell you something, and it’s something I still firmly stand by. The vast majority of my income still comes from freelance writing, book editing, one-on-one book coaching, blogging, and my books.

But as I have stated — there is a TON of information out there and one of the top questions I receive from friends and strangers is “But how do I actually start AND finish a book?!”

Well, I know how to do it. And I teach writers how to write nonfiction books. I do it every day and now I do it in a group setting in an online course.

And it is freaking fun as heck!

Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a crazy “Buy my course! Buy my book! I don’t even have to write anymore!” people — Scout’s honor.

I know a lot of people love online courses that actually teach them something and are not yet another thing created to “funnel” you or upsell you.

My course teaches how to write a book from start to finish and the info you need for after the manuscript is complete. And that’s it. I don’t try to make you choose me as an editor, in fact, I happily introduce my writers to other editors all the time! People I love and respect and know are awesome. I offer them my books for free if they feel like reading them — and they are not required to read them!

Anyway, yeah, I have an online course. Now that I have completed the first class of it, let’s talk about some major lessons I learned.

The Easy Part

Developing, creating, and actually making the course was the easy part!

Of course, it was.

This is my wheelhouse. I am teaching people how to write nonfiction books. It’s a big part of my business — literally part of my job every single day.

The hard was part was EVERYTHING ELSE.

Level of Difficulty: 3

I filmed my course in my living room from my desk in my work nook. I filmed it using the webcam already on my laptop. Filming was actually pretty fun. I mapped out the entire course week by week, then I took each week’s topics and wrote a list of bullet points I wanted to make sure to hit in that video.

Then, I winged it. I turned on my potato-quality laptop camera and just talked. See, words are my thing and this is a topic I know well.

I had to restart a few times, especially at the beginning, because I would flub something or misspeak and I didn’t know how to edit video.

I did have to buy some makeup and actually wear it and put on decent clothing (at least a top!) for filming, as I quickly learned that no makeup at all and a t-shirt made me look like a college kid talking on camera.

Not exactly the vibe I was going for.

Level of Difficulty: 5

At first, I attempted to edit the videos in the built-in movie editing software in my computer. I don’t even know what it’s called, it’s just what comes up when you film on the camera and it shows you the finished video.

That was okay but clunky and not very easy to add a logo or title or anything.

Then I had to research video editing software, learn about it, pick one (I chose Movavi), install it, and play with it until I figured out how to use it — at least enough to add a title, logo, and edited things out.

This all took time.

Then I started a YouTube channel and uploaded the videos individually onto the platform, marking them as “unlisted” so they are only mine. Figuring out YouTube was fun, but also just another thing I had to accomplish.

Next was combing through the videos one by one, minute by minute, to make sure they each said what I wanted them to say and creating handouts to go along with them without repeating what was in the videos.

While I don’t think this was necessary DIFFICULT, per se, it was time-consuming and labor-intensive. I needed to be focused the entire time and make sure it was representing me and the material in the right manner.

Also, once the videos are finished, it seemed like I should be able to just be done and that was not the case. Darn it.

Level of Difficulty: 8


Pricing was a huge pain in the tuchus.

I wanted it to be fair and competitive with other online writing courses, but it is different and more comprehensive than most of the other courses I could find, as well as being the content level of a mastermind but designed for first-time authors.

It was very hard to find the balance of making it worth my time and effort and making it worth it for the people I was marketing to.

Which brings me to…

Level of Difficulty: 10+

Marketing and filling the darn course!

This was the single hardest part. And it’s something I have still not mastered.

I did everything I could think of.

I sent campaigns out to my email lists, I spoke about it on social media, I tried doing Facebook ads, I messaged people directly, and I even hired a marketing person to help. I even straight up asked for help in a post on Medium!

Here’s the thing: I didn’t do what 100% of online course creators suggest doing, which is to create a short free webinar to draw people in, teach them something smaller, and have warm leads.

I didn’t then use that free webinar as a funnel to sell people something small, like a book or a 2-hour webinar, then use THAT as a lead generator to upsell them to the bigger course.

I get why people do it. It gives you exposure, generates leads, gives times for the consumer to build trust in you, etc.

Here’s the thing. I can’t teach someone how to write a book in a 45-minute or 2-hour webinar. And if I did a shorter webinar, it would be with information that is ALREADY in the course, which makes me feel like I would be ripping off the ones who DID sign up for the course after all that.

I also just didn’t wanna.

I didn’t want to do a sales funnel. I didn’t want to sell all my random things piecemeal. I give out a TON of free information on writing, freelancing, entrepreneurship, books, business, and more here on Medium and now on my fancy new YouTube channel (it’s not fancy. It’s basically an extended blog and I love it.).

I give out a lot of free information already. On purpose. Because starting out as a freelancer or a writer is tough and there is a lot of conflicting information out there, interspersed with a lot of people trying to sell you something to tell you their “secrets.” It’s not a secret, there are things you can do to be successful at it, and I want to share them with you in a straightforward way.

But marketing a course is SUPER DIFFERENT and much more difficult (for me) than marketing myself as a writer and editor to people and companies and getting new clients.

It just is.

The marketer I hired was very nice and cool but didn’t end up getting me any results, which is unfortunate, but it was a lesson learned. I saw how she did ads and learned things from her I have used moving forward.

So, I didn’t do what everyone said I “should” do to get class members. I didn’t see the results I wanted from hiring someone.

In the end, it was really a lot of things. Probably a combination of everything I did on my own and the marketer did, really. I ended up mostly filling the first class with people I found through social media and approaching directly and talking about it a lot. Learning about their writing goals and how I could help them. Offering a discount, since it was the very first class.

More Lessons Later

After the first successful class of my How to Write a Book in 3 Months course, I learned even more. I spoke to each member individually to get their feedback on what worked and what could be improved. It was amazing and I loved the entire class a lot.

I am extremely excited to put on the second class, except for the fact that I had to start over with marketing! It doesn’t really get easier after the first time! This course marketing is very much a work in progress!

And I hope to continue to learn more every single day, with every class, with each person’s feedback.

Just because I did it once doesn’t mean I know everything — not even close!

But maybe my experience will help YOU if you ever put together a course. Where I stumbled, perhaps you can learn from it and sail right through. If so, I wish you tons of good luck and a gentle plea for help if you get it all figured out!

If you are ready to write your book and learn everything you need to know to get it done with an awesome group of supportive people, then let’s jump on a call to see if How to Write a Book in 3 Months is a good fit for you! Next class starting soon!

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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