How I made $9K before I even created a course

Creating an online course can be a lot of work. I know because I’ve done it. Twice.

My first one has been successful, earning over $20K in just 4 months. But before I made a single dollar from it, I spent 100+ hours creating the course content.

When I was ready to build my second course, I decided that I wanted to get paid before creating it. I knew having that cash on hand would let me dedicate the time to deliver an even better product.

I’d heard about pre-selling, but I was confused.

  • How do I sell something that doesn’t exist yet?
  • What do I do without any testimonials?
  • How do I show everyone how great the course will be?

But I managed to figure it all out, and in one week, I made $9,000.

You need to do 3 things during a pre-sell:

  • Earn your audience’s trust
  • Deliver loads of value
  • Give them a reason to buy

It takes time to accomplish all of this, so I opted for a two-week launch. Week one focused on gaining trust and providing value, and week two was about selling.

Here are the exact steps you can follow to make money before you create your course.

Build trust with your audience

People won’t buy from someone they don’t trust. This is especially true with products that don’t yet exist. And that’s why the first goal of pre-selling is to make sure your audience trusts you.

You can do this by being humble, making yourself vulnerable, and sharing personal stories. This all makes you relatable. It shows people you understand what they are going through.

To ensure my audience could relate to and trust me, I used the first email in my launch to share an embarrassing story.

I’m a professional fashion designer, but I don’t know how to draw by hand. Ask any fashionista, and they’ll tell you this is an expected skill. Without it, I sometimes feel like a total fraud.

And the thought of admitting this made my heart skip a beat.

Which is why I knew this was the perfect story to tell. I set aside my nerves and sent an email describing one of my most nerve-wracking moments as a designer: When I was put on the spot and asked to hand sketch.

I shared that I can’t draw by hand, which is a required skill for fashion designers.

My audience loved it. In their replies to my email, they opened up to me in ways they never had before to share their own stories, struggles, and goals.

They were also relieved to know that professionals like me don’t know how to do everything! Realizing that they, too, could get ahead in their career without knowing it all was a huge weight off their shoulders.

When you show your audience you’re just like them, they’ll start to trust you.

By sharing my vulnerable story, I connected with my readers in a way that allowed them to trust me.

To do this with your audience, tell a personal story that’s relevant to the course you’ll be pre-selling. Think about a time when you were most embarrassed, frustrated, or discouraged. Whatever the emotion, make sure it’s extra juicy. This is not the time to be shy!

If you’re nervous or uncomfortable about the thought of exposing yourself, remember that many of your readers are going through the same exact thing. They won’t see you as a fraud — rather they’ll be grateful that you opened up to them.

It can also help to pretend you’re writing the email to a close friend or family member.

At the end of your email, add a call to action. Want engagement? Ask readers to tell you their story. Want more traffic? Ask them to forward the message to a friend.

Whatever it is, keep it simple and include only one action. Here’s how I asked readers to share their stories with me:

When I asked to hear my readers’ stories, I got a flood of engagement.

Give your best stuff away

Now that you’ve built trust, it’s time to give your audience your absolute best solutions to their problems.

Make sure these solutions are immediately actionable so they have a quick win. They’ll need to see instant results.

Also keep your solutions relevant to both the story you told and the course you’ll be pre-selling. Otherwise, none of this will make sense to them when you’re ready to sell.

Most importantly, remember that this is not the time to skimp! Don’t worry that you’re giving away your best secrets. The better and quicker the win, the more likely they’ll buy.

To do this during my launch, I sent 2 value emails with tutorials. Each one taught simple skills that are required for every fashion job, but that most schools don’t teach.

As a bonus, I included a free download of the file I used in the tutorials so readers could follow along. Just like I did with my embarrassing story email, I added a clear call to action at the end:

This quick video taught my audience a skill they could use right away.

You can do this by teaching your audience how you overcame the embarrassment, frustration, discouragement, or other emotion from the vulnerable story you shared.

Package the solution up in an easy-to-understand way. This may be a video, a written guide, a checklist, or a cheat sheet. It can be in any format, as long as it gives your best solution to their problem.

Keep it short and simple. If you overwhelm your audience with too much info, they won’t take action and won’t see results. A 3-minute video or 5-page PDF is perfect.

Interact face-to-face with your audience

It’s easy to hide behind an email address and be somewhat anonymous. But if you let your readers connect with you in real time, they’ll feel like they really know you. This builds more trust, boosts engagement, and makes them love you even more.

You can do this with a live or interactive webinar. I chose Leadpages and Google Hangouts to run mine.

I saved my best sketching tricks for the live event. Since everyone knew this was a crucial skill for their success, they were extra excited to tune in.

Showing your face on a webinar builds more trust and boosts engagement.

After I shared my best content, I introduced my upcoming course and gave attendees every incentive to buy right there:

  • A special pre-sell price that would soon double
  • A bonus 30-minute session with me

At this point, no one cared that the course wasn’t yet available. I had built tons of trust. I made the offer irresistible, and I showed them exactly why they would benefit from the content.

The minute I ended the presentation, I kept refreshing my inbox. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In just 14 minutes, I made $1,670.

My first batch of preorders!

If you want to do a webinar, follow this simple five-step formula:

  1. Introduce yourself (5 minutes): Tell your audience who you are and why you’re credible. This can be professional licenses, years of experience, or trial and error.
  2. Engage them (10 minutes): Remind them why they are here and how the solution you are sharing benefits them.
  3. Deliver free content (20 minutes): Give them the best solution to their problem.
  4. Pre-sell your course (2 minutes): Introduce the course and what it will include. Also emphasize any bonuses or reasons to buy now.
  5. Answer questions (5 minutes): Invite them to ask questions about your free content or the course.

It’s time to sell more

Once the webinar is finished, you’re not done selling yet. While I did great and made $1,837 the night of the webinar, I was able to bring in another $7,268 over the next 6 days through my email funnel.

The email funnel after the webinar is important because people may have missed the live event, have last-minute hesitations, or need more time to decide.

Give them another opportunity to buy.

I structured week two of my email funnel like this:






Email #1: Send out the webinar recording so people who missed it can watch.Email #2: Introduce your course and outline what it will include. Give them the offer to pre-register. Email #3: Sell your course and tell them why they should buy. Email #4: (AM) Remind them to pre-enroll and offer to answer any last-minute questions.

Email #5:
(PM) Send one last reminder to pre-enroll and answer any common questions.

You can follow the same schedule or adjust it for your needs. Just make sure you’re clear about two things:

Be 100% transparent about when the course content will be available. Give readers an exact date that you’re confident you can meet. You’ve worked hard to earn your audience’s trust. You don’t want to lose it now by misleading them about the date.

In every email, remind people of any deadlines, price increases, or bonuses they will miss out on. Tell them when and why they should to take action.

You’ve been paid, now get to work

With $9K in the bank, I was able to confidently dedicate 80+ hours to creating my course.

2 weeks after closing the cart, I emailed all of my students to let them know the course was live and remind them how to access it.

I’ve gotten great feedback from my students about why they love the course. They’re learning new tricks to help speed up their career progress.

Your turn: What fears do you have about launching? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll give you the best way overcome them with a pre-sell.

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