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How to pre-sell your online course & start making money ASAP

When you pre-sell courses, you can collect pre-orders and make money before your online course launches -- or even before you finish creating it. Here's how.

Pre-selling your online course does more than let you bring in money sooner. It builds relationships with those early-bird customers that can turn them into loyal customers for life -- and loyal customer advocates are a powerful marketing tool.

Plus, when you collect pre-orders, you can bounce ideas off customers who are already excited about your work. They can help you validate your product ideas and make sure your course is on the right track, so you know you're creating content your audience loves and needs. 

To start accepting pre-orders for your online course, all you need is a landing page and an online course builder. Podia gives you both of those, plus a whole lot more.

Keep reading to see how simple it is to collect pre-orders and pre-sell your online course with Podia -- and why you should do it ASAP. 

How to pre-sell your online course with Podia

Podia makes it easy to create an online course and build a landing page to collect pre-orders. 

When you create and sell an online course through Podia, you can set your course -- or any of your digital products -- to launch on a future date.

Your customers will be charged immediately after they enroll or purchase, but won't get access to your course content until the launch date you set.

Want to follow along, but don't have a Podia account? Sign up for a free 14-day trial.

Otherwise, let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Create a new product

In your Podia dashboard, navigate to the "Products" tab.

To create a new online course, click"Create product," then select"Online course". Name your course and click"Create product".

Step 2: Add content to your course (even if it's just a placeholder)

You don't need to have your course content ready to go to start pre-selling your course, but you do need to have some content added to your course before you can publish your landing page -- even if it's just placeholder content.

Your customers won't be able to see your course content until the course launches, so don't worry about your content being perfect. In our example, we'll add a new section as a placeholder for now. Click "Add section" to add a new section to your course.

Then give your section a name. Again, if your course content isn't ready to launch, this can just be a placeholder -- you can always come back and edit your content later on. 

After you add a section to your course, add content to that section by clicking "Add content," then selecting the type of content you want to upload or create.

We won't dive too deep into content creation in this guide, but here are some resources to help you along the way:

Step 3: Set your course start date

Once you add your placeholder content, click over to the"Settings" tab. Here you can change your course name and URL.

Next, add a start date for your course. Scroll down to "Enrollment" and click "Add a start date".

Choose the date and time you’d like your course to launch. You can also choose whether or not the start date shows up on your course sales page. Click "Add start date" to save.

Step 4: Price your course

Next, click over to the "Pricing" tab.

If you haven't already set up payments in Podia, click "Accept online payments" and connect your Stripe or PayPal account by following the steps in this guide.

Next, set the price for your course. You can change this price later on, so if you want to offer a lower price for pre-orders, it won't be set in stone. You can also set up payment plans that allow your customers to pay in installments over time.

For pricing tips, check out this article on how to price an online course and this guide to pricing and packaging for online courses.

Step 5: Edit your pre-order landing page 

Once you create your online course, it's time to create a landing page that makes people excited to pre-order your course.

Head over to the Podia Editor -- our sales page builder -- to edit your landing page. Click on your site name in the upper right-hand corner of the dashboard, then click "Edit site". Or click here to launch the Podia Editor

Click the arrow next to "Homepage" in the upper left corner, then find your new course under "Products". 

From here, you can edit your sales page to match your brand, add content, and get your audience excited about your upcoming course.

Tell your audience why they should pre-order your online course. How will they benefit from your course? What pain points and obstacles can you help them overcome?

If you're new to writing sales pages, here are some resources to help you create a great landing page for your course: 

You can also add testimonials to your pre-sale page. If you've worked with students on a similar topic before, including their feedback can make potential new students feel more confident pre-ordering your course.

Don't forget to include call-to-action (CTA) buttons throughout your landing page. Clear CTAs make it easy for your audience to sign up for your course in just a few clicks.

Step 6: Publish your course

If you want people to be able to enroll in your course before you launch, you need to publish your online course sales page.

Once you're happy with how your page looks, click "Publish site" on the bottom left of the menu.

And voila, you're pre-selling your course! Click "View Course" to see your pre-sale page live.

These are just a few of the ways you can use the Podia Editor to design landing pages for your online course pre-orders and sales. To learn more about how the editor works, check out this help article

Step 7: Promote your pre-sale

Once your pre-sale page is live, use email marketing and social media to promote pre-orders to your target audience.

Podia's email campaign tools give you the features you need to build your email list and send any kind of email you can think of, from newsletters to drip campaigns. (Check out these product launch email templates for inspiration.)

If you have a following on social media, promote your pre-orders on your social channels, too. 

For example, Coding is for Losers posted a short teaser video to their 6.5k+ YouTube subscribers that outlines what students will gain from their new online course, then linked to their course signup page in the description:

No matter what marketing channels you use, let your audience know that your course is open for pre-orders, share a countdown to your launch date, and give them an inside look into your course creation process.

Share a link to your landing page and build excitement around your course, and the pre-orders will come rolling in.

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Why should you pre-sell your online course?

When you start collecting pre-orders before launching an online course  -- or even finishing one -- it can help you validate your product idea, fund product development, and bring in early customers.

When you bring in those early customers, make sure to give them an amazing experience -- even if they're a small group.

"I sold the course for $147 and 7 people bought, earning $1029. I was insanely happy about that since it was a brand new baby business and I didn’t even have the course yet," business coach Rachel Ngom says about her first course.

"It was like I had magically earned money and unlocked a secret code: pre-selling. After I sold the course, I worked my tail off to over-deliver to those first 7 people so they had an amazing experience with me."

From that experience with her first course launch, Rachel went on to earn $49k in 5 days with her third course launch.

Offer the people who pre-order your course early-bird pricing or a special discount, like Rachel did, and give them an opportunity to offer their input on your course content. 

Ask your pre-sale customers for feedback on your course outline, what they'd like to see in the course, and their biggest challenges they're hoping you'll address.

Customers want to share that feedback with you -- 75% of consumers have said that a brand asking for their feedback on future product ideas would make them more likely to purchase from that business.

Web design expert and online course creator John D Saunders uses a mix of pre-launch and pre-sell techniques to gauge his audience's interest and get their feedback on his course content. 

John’s tweet thread explains how he validates his course idea by pre-launching and collecting pre-orders for his course:

He also offers a discount to those pre-sale students. Those who invest the $7 receive 50-60% off the course on launch day, when John charges the remaining fee.

Pre-selling his course helped John make $10k in course sales his first day on Podia  -- and net $100k selling online courses

You can also drive course enrollment by offering a limited number of pre-order spots. This might sound counterintuitive. After all, don't you want to collect as many signups as you can?

But thanks to our collective FOMO -- the fear of missing out -- a sense of exclusivity makes people more likely to buy, especially when there's a discount on the line: 

  • 60% of people make purchases because of FOMO.

  • 48% say an exclusive offer would make them purchase sooner.

  • 89% of Americans say that an exclusive offer would make them likely to shop with a brand.

Another great incentive for pre-orders is giving away free content related to your course topic. Jay Acunzo's team at Marketing Showrunners offered a free digital download to people who enrolled early in their Showrunner Sessions course:

Pre-selling also helps you commit to a set launch date because you've made a promise to your customers. You have to have something to offer them at your launch date -- they already paid you, after all. 

That's one reason marketing expert and creator Val Geisler recommends pre-selling your online course.

“Sell it before it's built!

If you can think about the outline, map out the content, and build a sketch of what's to come, you can likely pre-sell the course to your inner circle before you even create it.

It's incredible motivation to actually create the course, and you have a little money in the bank to support you in doing the creating." 

Podia makes it easy for creators like Val to pre-sell their online courses and start bringing in money and customers ASAP. See for yourself -- get started with a free 14-day trial.

A portrait of Rachel Burns

About the author

Rachel is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.