THE EVOLUTION OF A MILLION DOLLAR COURSE (FROM BUDGET BEGINNINGS)
Ever wondered how popular courses start out? Do you dream of creating a million dollar e-course?
Well, guess what – you have to start NOW.
This post is going to chart the VERY HONEST evolution of a million dollar course – the Money Bootcamp from it’s very very humble beginnings.
Remember – there is no such thing as an overnight success. Most people who have created successful courses like mine have gone through MANY false starts and mistakes.
There have been four versions of this course since early 2012. Watching how basic and budget I started out is going to make you feel AWESOME about your course whether it’s in idea stage or you’ve already launched.
- I wasn’t perfect. AT ALL.
- I had a HUGE passion for teaching the topic, even though I didn’t have amazing tech or design skills (as you will see in brutal detail)
- I started. (that’s the key, I actually did it)
The difference between people who have successful courses and people who dream about it is simply ACTION.
To date, we’ve had 2,497 students go through the Money Bootcamp. It’s a hugely successful course by any measure – in the transformation and results of the Lucky Bees, and in monetary results and profits for my company.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Creating a course has been probably the best personal development I’ve ever done in my life. It made me feel extremely vulnerable about my abilities as a teacher, has frustrated me to tears over the technical logistics, has challenged me as a leader of a rapidly growing community and every time I’ve launched I’ve procrastinated like a mofo.
Here’s what I’m sharing
- Why I started the course, my early vision and my vision now
- What it’s cost to create and maintain the course year on year
- Exactly what each version looked like (even though I’m SUPER embarrassed to show you)
- How many people have been through each version
- What price points I’ve tried and why
- What I’ve learned from offering a payment plan
- Why I chose evergreen over timed launches
- What I’ve learn from tracking sales conversions
*Disclaimer. This is just my truth and my evolution. Take everything here through a lens of your own business and common sense. Your business, your rules. Take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.
Why did I start the course?
I had no big vision for this course. I just wanted to share all the lessons I had learned from my Year of Dealing With My Money Blocks.
My coaching practice was going really well, but pretty much all of my clients were dealing with the same money blocks I had been working on. I wanted to share what I was learning with them.
I had no idea it would turn into my calling. I wasn’t thinking of it like a brand.
The lesson here is to just start and teach what you know. It might be the THE ONE course that sustains your business for the next few years, or it might be a practice for future courses.
What does it cost to run an e-course?
There is no perfect answer to this question, because you can go the shoe-string route or you can create something beautiful, shiny and complicated right out the gate.
I’ve done all three. Budget, upgraded and super slick. But if I waited until it was all perfect, I never would have started.
Version 1.0 – completely DIY
Again, I didn’t have a big vision for this and I was pretty new to the whole group coaching model. I was used to coaching people 1:1.
I had created one course the year before – the Inspired Life Transformation Plan with 5 women in it, so I had a sense of what was needed.
I also figured that my coaching clients would buy it – so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself with some of the mindset work we were working on.
So I didn’t think about it too much. I decided to film it myself, have it more as a group coaching program, rather than a super fancy e-course – and just made it happen.
I literally did the graphic design myself on Microsoft Word & Picasa. I chose yellow and green as my color scheme and as you can see, it was HIDEOUS.
The videos were really casual as you can see below:
Set: Hmm – I splashed out on buying a super fabulous wallpaper frieze that was behind me in several of the videos. I think it was maybe $10.
Hosting costs: Zero as it was hosted on YouTube and Typepad ($80 a year but I was already using it for my blog).
Video costs: Zero. I did it on my iPad. No microphone. No lights.
Graphic design: Zero. I DID IT MYSELF. WHY????
Ad costs: Zero. I just promoted it to my list.
Total cost – like $20!
This version lasted for less than six months and had 56 people go through it.
Version 2.0: Upgraded but still affordable
Finally ashamed of my DIY branding, I hired graphic designer Elise McNamara to do the graphics and handouts for me.
The brief was to use the colors of money – basically different shades of green. It was tricky finding the right shades that weren’t too murky – but it was a HUGE upgrade from my DIY yellow and green monstrosity.
I was also going to Fort Lauderdale for a conference and decided to hire a film guy while I was there to update the videos. It was meant to be a two day shoot, but Victoria Gibson and I got really drunk celebrating my birthday, so we had to cut the shoot down to one day while we recovered from our massive hangovers!
We took turns filming with our film guy. I had a basic outline of everything I wanted to say in each video but I had to wing it as we didn’t use a teleprompter.
Here’s what the videos and graphics looked like:
Set: A hotel room I was already paying for
Filming & editing: $800. One guy with a camera, microphone and lights.
Graphic design: $450
Hosting: Still hosted on YouTube and Typepad
Total cost – $1,550
This version lasted about a year and had around 160 people go through it.
Version 3: Brand refresh not a total overhaul
I felt like the “money branding” was a bit dark and really wanted something fresher – so I decided to do a mini refresh of the course.
We used the same videos but just changed the branding of the course, so the only major cost was the cost of the graphic design. I again used Elise McNamara.
The brief was to create something bright and happy – my brand inspiration for this version was Telstra.
Filming: Used the same videos just with new branding, $0
Graphic design: $600
New headshots: $500
Hosting: We moved over the hosting of the membership site from Typepad (where everyone had the same password) to Customer Hub by Infusionsoft. Cost: $80/month.
Total cost: $1,000 fixed costs. $960 ongoing yearly costs.
At first I was reluctant to commit to the ongoing cost for the membership site but I realized that I needed to upgrade to something more secure. The other benefit was that people could login and update their own credit card if their payment failed. This easily saved me the $80 cost as it meant that nobody fell through the cracks.
This version lasted for almost two years and about 2,281 people went through it.
Version 4: Super pro and gorgeous
I knew it was time to make a huge leap and upgrade the course. It’s not like I had course shame or anything but I knew that if I wanted to attract thousands of new students, I really needed to take the course to the next level.
This has taken 7 months from conception to launch and is the simple most thoughtful thing I’ve ever created in my business. For once, I couldn’t fly by the seat of my pants. I couldn’t do it all last minute – mostly because I had other people that I was accountable to.
My design brief for this one was “chillionaire” and my brand crush was Billabong – the Australian surf brand that is simultaneously relaxed, luxe and beachy.
Here’s the new sales video:
Set design: $3,000. This included consulting, props brought and hired, flowers, for both the beach shoot and the actual film days (which is one of the rooms of my house styled to be three different sets.
Photography: $2,000. This included two shoots – the beach one and an in-studio shoot.
Design & development: $10,000
Filming & editing: $12,000
New course site: $1,000 set up and $80 / month ongoing.
Hair, makeup, image consulting: $500
Clothes: I did a special shopping trip for these shoots but they aren’t tax deductible so I won’t include the cost.
Total cost: $28,500, $960 ongoing yearly costs
There is no way that you’d do this for your first course. And you don’t need to!
Graphic design & development: Ellissa Jayne Creative
Course software: Access Ally by Ambition Ally
Photography: Melissa Histon
Set design: Naomi Findlay – Silk Staging & Design
Film crew & editing: Rolling Ball
Image consulting / fashion: Sam Woods of Vibrant Concepts
What should you charge for your e-course?
Here’s what I see in forums all the time,
“Hey guys – I’ve just created a course. It has 6 PDFs, 3 live calls and 6 videos. What do you think I should charge for it?”
WRONG QUESTION. SO WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS.
My biggest pet peeve is when women try and crowd-source their prices to colleagues and strangers – ie. not necessarily their target market.
First of all – the question doesn’t take into consideration target market, or more importantly, what’s the outcome for the participants? What will they transform in their lives?
Why would you let your pricing decision be influenced by other people’s money blocks? You don’t know in that group who has never paid more than $50 for a course in their life. Who thinks that you should give your time away for free.
Stop crowd-sourcing your pricing, okay?
But um – what should I charge then?
I know this hard to hear because you probably want a definitive answer here but honestly… it depends.
It has to come from you. What you feel the result is worth to people. What target market your course is aimed at. What is the right balance between integrity and valuing your work.
Here’s what I charged for all versions of the Bootcamp.
Version 1: This was a completely live course that I ran about 6 times. It had live Q&A calls (I actually had two different time slots per week – talk about over-delivering). The price was $1000 with an early bird of $750.
Version 2: Same price, but I made a CRUCIAL mindset shift. I remember telling myself that nobody would pay the full rate, and in Version 1, 100% of my students got the early bird rate. By V2, I realized that it was a huge money block and this time, 25% of students took up the full rate after they missed the early bird promotion. The only change was doing work on myself and what the transformation was worth for my students.
(Big lesson here – money mindset work is SO IMPORTANT when you’re pricing your course)
Version 3: When I decided to take out the live calls and make it a home study version that ran anytime, I decided to take the price down to $497. YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS.
I thought the value was in the calls, but it wasn’t. I would estimate that 25% of people actually turned up live – the others listened to the recording. The value was in the material and in the live Facebook group.
Version 3.1: I realized my mistake and knew that the course was undervalued. When I made it into a home study course, I honestly thought I wouldn’t spend that much time in the Facebook group. But my Bootcampers know that I’m in there every day. I’ve only skipped days when I was like, in labor with Willow, or on a plane.
I’ve also managed to create a space where it doesn’t feel overwhelming, I don’t resent going in there and the group requires little moderation or trouble shooting (more on that in a bit).
So I decided to take the course up to $797 even though the course was exactly the same. I didn’t feel that the branding (yet) reflected a premium price above the $1-2k level, so I was happy with that increase.
PLUS – and here’s an amazing tip. Rather than discounting your price to attract people, put it up every year and give people the incentive to join at the current price. Nothing gets people off the fence quicker than a looming price increase!
Version 4: today. With the huge investment I was putting into the new Bootcamp, I knew it was time for the price to reflect the positioning I wanted in the market. The new price is $1497.
Yet again – when were announced the price increase and gave people ample time to invest at the $797 level, we had a HUGE influx of new students who had been sitting on the fence for YEARS.
Give people incentives to join now.
Doubling the price was scary, and again, I had to walk my talk and do a lot of money mindset work.
Again – don’t just copy someone else’s prices or think you have to charge what I charged. You might go premium right away because your experience, expertise and branding reflect that. You might want to start out cheaper than mine because that’s where your confidence and energy is right now.
There is no wrong answer – and no price is forever. Just pick a damn price already, launch the sucker and then you can change it whenever you want.
Pricing is just a number.
Should you offer a payment plan for your course?
Yes. I estimate that 30%-50% of my customers take advantage of the payment plan. You’re opening up your market by offering a payment plan, and it’s great for cash flow too.
And I believe it should be more expensive. Why?
Because it takes more admin for you, a small amount of people will default on their payments (I can guarantee this 100%) and you’re giving them the same access as people who paid in full.
I tend to add on 15% for payment plans and then manipulate the amount around a bit, so it’s a nice number like $298, not $297.63 or something.
You could also re-frame this as actually a discounted price for people who pay in full, rather than a penalty for people who pay in installments.
Either way it’s fair. There aren’t too many businesses where you can receive a product in full and pay it off over time, except as a financial arrangement.
Don’t be afraid of clients defaulting. It’s gonna happen and it’s almost a rite of passage in how you deal with it.
Should your course be evergreen?
If you don’t know the lingo – an evergreen course is one that is available all the time. You can go to www.DeniseDT.com/Bootcamp, join today and start working through the course in minutes.
Other people open and close their course for certain times during the year. For example, Marie Forleo’s B-School runs just once a year (and is now a HUGE multi-million dollar launch).
There are pros and cons to each.
- Let’s people make quick decisions based on what they need right now
- Instant gratification for your customers
- Regular cash flow for you if you have a good marketing funnel in place
- Less incentive for people to join where there isn’t a strong deadline
- Potentially miss out on HUGE launches
- Concentrated effort for you. You could launch one or more times a year and chill the rest of the time (ha!)
I’ve personally LOVED doing an evergreen course.
For me, the upsides – not having to launch (I really don’t love launching) and having regular cash flow was totally worth it.
Plus – I’m an instant gratification person. If I want something, I want it NOW – and I didn’t want people to have to wait to deal with their money stuff.
Some topics have their own urgency and if your target market is serious about change – whether it’s their diet, their financial situation, their desire for a soul mate, etc, then I think you can still have a successful evergreen model without huge timed incentives.
Just launch – you can always change your strategy later. Choose what feels good to you.
Your business, your rules.
Here’s what you need to know about sales conversions
This is probably a huge generalization, but I found that a lot of women have a HUGE block around learning about conversions. I don’t know if it sounds scary, or they think it’s super complicated or what.
I’ll be honest – I had a MASSIVE BLOCK around tracking my stats and sales conversions. For some reason, I felt like it was cheating. I also felt like I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out.
But once I realized that it was simple. Just calculate how many people visited the sales page vs. how many people bought. Once you realize it’s not scary, it’s actually fun.
I got REALLY sick of seeing people posting in business forums, saying;
NOBODY bought my course, I feel like such a loser.
So, I ask them – well, what was your sales conversion? How many people saw your sales page? – and they don’t know.
Well – here’s the thing. Don’t make up stories about your ability or self-worth based on totally flawed information.
Did you know that 1-2% is a completely normal conversion? So, if 1000 people see your offer, you can expect 10-20 people to buy. But everyone thinks that they SHOULD be the exception, or they don’t know the truth, so they think they are a super loser if nobody signs up.
But you can’t beat statistics. You can improve them by having better sales pages, more compelling offers, amazing copy, etc – but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have 100% conversion over time. You can fluke 50% conversion one time, but it will average out 1-2%. Trust me on this. Knowledge is power.
That’s why only a handful of people tend to buy your first course. Nobody knows about it. Your list size might be small. You might chicken out of actually promoting it or sending out last minute sales emails.
So seriously – if you got a couple of people in your first course, YOU ARE A HUGE SUCCESS. You overcame resistance, doubt, technology and money blocks to create it and those people basically PAID FOR YOU TO DO IT.
Then you can refine, improve, etc. Don’t throw our your first course because you didn’t get 1000 people the first time around.
Get facts, not stories.
You can always test different things to see if it makes a difference and it doesn’t have to be complicated – there is software to make it easy.
Trust me = you don’t WANT a ton of people in your first course. Make your mistakes when not too many people are watching!
So, how do you set goals if you don’t know how many people will see your offer?
A really good quick and dirty calculation is 1% of your list – and in fact, the first few years of Bootcamp conversions followed exactly that.
Bootcamp conversions over time
Watch these list/conversion numbers for my first few launches…
List size | Sales numbers | Conversion rate
2,466 list size | 14 sales | 0.57%
3,461 list size | 42 sales | 1.21%
4,436 list size | 44 sales | 0.99%
5,275 list size | 42 sales | 0.80%
7,236 list size| 76 sales | 1.05%
Remember – 1% is a GOOD conversion. I didn’t always make it.
After these launches, I went evergreen.
But interestingly, when I announced the price increase to double from $797 to $1497, my list size at that point was around 28,000. I expected 280 people to join and we had 750, a conversion of 2.7% – my best ever conversion. But this was a BIG one off event.
Here’s an interesting thing I tracked recently. I changed the video on sales page from Autoplay to manual play and my sales page conversions went from 1.5% to 0.8%. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s almost HALF the amount of sales I got before.
Does that mean you should autoplay your videos? Not necessarily. Just track it yourself.
Measure, track and improve.
Other lessons from launching
I did a Periscope on this recently…
Should you add a Facebook community to your course?
I did a Periscope recently about how I manage my group with ease!
My biggest lessons from creating this course
Start NOW, start early
It’s never going to be perfect. And it doesn’t need to be. Put all your passion into creating a transformation for your students and the rest can be upgraded as you go.
Give yourself permission to create leveraged income
Creating a course is an amazing way to spread your knowledge AND create leveraged income.
It sucks for everyone
Everyone I know has resistance and fears when they launch a new course. Honestly, it was easy, everyone would do it. The first one is the worst – pop your cherry and the rest will be easier.
Want some help with your mindset?
The biggest lesson I learned from creating this course, is that you have to constantly improve your mindset and manifesting ability.
I’ve got a free manifesting course that will help you take your goals from dream board into reality – without winning the lottery. It comes with a free cheat sheet to help you. Grab it here.
Start now – what are you waiting for?
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