I want to show you exactly how to launch a pilot course fast. Here are the four things you need for a profitable and impactful online course.

4 Steps to Launch an Online Course in 3 Weeks

In my previous post, I outlined the three steps you can use to find out what your audience needs most and launch a new online course (or another online offer) simply, quickly, with low cost and little risk.

A key piece of this process is launching the pilot version of your course first…

  1. Test your idea quickly
  2. Bring cash in the door right away
  3. Get early feedback and testimonials to increase further sales

This gives you the early momentum to build and leads to a successful ongoing income stream.

Today, I want to dig a little deeper and show you exactly how to launch a pilot course fast.

As with most things, I have a framework or this. These are the four things you need for a profitable and impactful online course.

1) Identify the Ideal Student

Who is the specific person you want to reach and help with your course? What are their most pressing pains and goals? What are their current circumstances? What motivates them? What’s holding them back?

The better you know who you want to serve and what their needs are, the easier it is to create a successful course for them.

For a pilot, pick one very specific student that you know has a burning need that you can help with. You can always expand the course to serve other students down the road.

In the last post, I shared the example where Alexandra launched a course for certified movement analysts who want to brush up on fundamentals. Later, she was able to expand this to also cater to dance and other movement practitioners.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to help with this.

  1. Does this student have an urgent need that I can help them with?
  2. Is this student actively looking for a solution?
  3. Have I chosen a student that is specific enough that they will easily be able to see the course is a fit for them?

2) Identify the Promise

What transformation, outcome, or results will you help them achieve? How will you help them overcome challenges and stumbling blocks?

This is “the promise” of your course. A compelling promise is one that fulfills the most important needs of the student and creates clear value.

If there’s one thing that can make or break the success of your course, it’s how compelling the promise is.

In the last post, we talked about how important it is to continually have your ear to the ground, listening for opportunities to meet the needs of your ideal clients/customers/students.

The promise of Alexandra’s course was that students would review six key fundamentals and learn new ways to apply and practice them.

For a pilot, choose one specific, valuable, and clear promise for your course. You can expand on it later.

Look for answers to the following questions when defining the promise of your course.

  1. What outcome(s) will I help them realize?
  2. What pains will I help them relieve?
  3. What gains will I help them achieve?

3) Outline the Process

How do you help them reach the promise of the course? What are the milestones and steps that help them move from where they are now to where they want to be?

For a pilot course, break the process into four key milestones or steps. Think of each of these as one module of your course.

To sell the pilot, you only need a basic outline of what the student will accomplish and learn along the way to achieving the ultimate promise of the course.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to create this simple outline.

  1. What are the common mistakes, challenges, pitfalls, and misconceptions that hinder the student from reaching their desired goals?
  2. How can I help the student overcome or avoid each of these?
  3. What does the student need to understand and learn in order to be able to reach their goals?
  4. What are the key milestones they need to reach on their way to realizing the promise of the course?

Keep in mind that the point of a pilot is to help you refine this process as you collaborate with and guide your first round of students, so it doesn’t need to be perfect.

You just need enough of an outline so that someone can see that you know how to lead them to the desired goal.

4) Outline the Experience

How will the student get information and guidance?

The process consists of the steps they take. The experience determines how they will traverse those steps.

This is where you keep it really simple for the pilot. Here’s what I suggest.

Hold weekly live calls via Zoom. Each call covers one module of the course and gives students an opportunity to ask questions. Record the calls.

Post the recordings and any other supporting material to a Google Drive or Dropbox folder that you share with each student.

There’s no need to record any media in advance. You can create materials as you go. No fancy online course platform. No complicated tech.

Simple. Low cost. Low risk.

After your pilot makes money and you get early feedback, then you can turn it into a “fancier” digital course. Or you can launch it as a live course again. It’s up to you.

The Bottom Line

Here are the big takeaways.

  • Launch a pilot course fast by keeping it simple
  • Outline the course just enough (using the framework above) to let your ideal student know what they will achieve by investing in the course
  • Sell the pilot first, then create it as you go with feedback from your students

In the next post, I’ll outline several ways you can enroll students in your pilot course and bring cash in the door quickly even if you don’t have an email list.

In the meantime, take a few minutes to write down who you would like to create a pilot course for and what the course would help them achieve (ie. the promise).


Launch an Online Course Workshop 3-part series:

How to Find Profitable Opportunities During COVID-19
4 Steps to Launch an Online Course in 3 Weeks
How to Attract Your Ideal Customers Without a List