Hey now! It’s go time.

Welcome to last blog post in this series on How to Create Your Own Online Course. What a journey we’ve been on over these last months.

Today, we finish up with the last crucial element of a successful course – the launch.

If you’re showing up at the end of the party, definitely follow that link above to catch up on how and why I and my partners at Fair Share Films have created and set up distribution for our first online course:

The Startup Filmmaker: Bootstrapping Your Indie Career From Outside the System.

It’s took a lot of work to get here.

And then hard part began. We had to bring our course to market!

Let’s catalog that process now, so that you can learn from what we did well, as well as where we could have done things better.

First Things First, Set Your KPIs

My first step when marketing a finished product is usually to set some benchmarks and goals.

1 First Things First Set Your KPIs
Personally, my preference here is to use conservative estimates, and to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that feel like they require some stretching but don’t feel impossible to meet.

I could write a whole other blog series outlining the amount of thought, time and effort it takes to execute on a marketing campaign, in pursuit of KPIs.

For now, though, let’s stick to the foundational elements that were needed in this case to at least test outreach strategies.

The goal here was to gather data for planning a bigger and more formal long-term push, when we have a clearer idea of how to find and convert the customers we began targeting way back in the post I wrote on pre-marketing.

Benchmarking Sales and Marketing Projections

For this first MVP version of our course, my first step was to take stock of our available audience:

Number of People
Email List 505
LinkedIn Audience 1634
Instagram Audience 855
Facebook Audience 528

These numbers represent a combination of accounts. The bulk come from my personal brand, since we’re still really just getting started building the followings for Fair Share Films.

It’s not the best start but definitely not the worst either.

While I could also have added in the follower counts for my co-founders, this did not seem prudent, in the name of seeking roughly accurate estimates. I’m the one doing the most teaching online at the moment. I wouldn’t expect their personal audiences to easily convert on something built (for now) more from my own expertise than theirs, and that features only me in the modules.

2 Benchmarking Sales and Marketing Projections
That being said, we do have a very engaged grassroots following here in our home state of Vermont, where we’ve been running small local events for a year. I’ll take smaller lists with much higher engagement metrics anyday, over any that are bigger but convert at a low percentage.

I also cut down my Facebook audience count by 50% in these totals, since it’s made up of a lot of friends and family in addition to filmmaking contacts. The Fair Share Films account has a pretty small following, since we don’t focus much on the channel.

Next, I ran rough conversion estimates based on some benchmark conversion rates I found through some research and by leveraging ChatGPT.

That left the next version of the above chart looking more like this:

Number of People Conversion Rate Estimated Sales
Email List 505 5% 25
LinkedIn Audience 1634 1% 16
Instagram Audience 855 1% 8
Facebook Audience 528 1% 5

These numbers gave me somewhere to start, in terms of setting KPIs.

Except there was a big piece missing in this math that would definitely have a big effect on conversion…

The Pricing Conundrum: Sell More for Less, or Less for More?

Pricing exhausts me, to be honest. I know it’s important.

But I’ve been a part of so many long meetings about pricing, in my marketing work. There’s always a tradeoff, no matter what decisions you make in this regard.

So I wanted to make the process as easy as possible for our course, at least for this first version.

3 The Pricing Conundrum Sell More for Less or Less for More
I decided to offer The Startup Filmmaker: Bootstrapping Your Indie Career From Outside the System for $149. On the one hand, this feels like a lucrative price for prospective buyers, even if the math doesn’t come close to balancing out the sweat equity I’ve put into making the course.

On the other hand, the preceding audience numbers are not robust, in the grand scheme of things. Since we’re focused more on building and testing, this lower price felt like an acceptable move. With more time and money to invest in marketing the course, I think we could definitely sell it for more. And maybe we will, when we have more runway behind us.

All this being done, I was left with one thing to do. Start the actual marketing and selling.

It Takes A Lot of Work, and Multiple Touches, to Convert on Sales

If there’s one hard lesson I’ve learned through nearly two decades as a marketer and as an independent filmmaker raising money for production – it’s that selling is hard.

The truth behind even those conservative conversion rates is that they come from multiple touches to an intended audience.

4 It Takes A Lot of Work and Multiple Touches to Convert on Sales
While email conversion rates can be much higher than my estimate, they can also be lower. It often takes ten or more emails to convert the average customer.

Social media is even harder, especially when you aren’t spending on ads, which we aren’t going to do at this juncture for budgetary reasons. Most people are lucky if 10% of their followers actually see a given post on a given platform. This again makes multiple touches a requirement.

So, even though we were experimenting, we needed a rough plan before we got started.

Set A Timeline, Execute, Gather Your Data, and Adjust

Knowing that it would take a lot of work to get in front of enough people to even have a chance to convert at our target numbers, I made a few specific decisions around our launch strategy.

5 Set A Timeline Execute Gather Your Data and Adjust


5A TimelineSince we’re still in the testing phase with the course overall, I decided I’d work to sell it for 30 days before pausing for analysis. After that, I’d look at sales and other metrics and decide whether it was worth it to continue, whether a shift in strategy was needed, or if the best move would be to stop entirely in favor of redeveloping the next version of the course.


With limited time for marketing and selling but a clear understanding that I’d need to spend a good amount of time on both in order to give our course a good chance at success, I decided to lean on a few core strategies:

Email Marketing – I’d send those ten emails, spread out over a month.

Organic Social – I’d stick with what was working – daily writing on topics from the course.

Testimonials – Few sales tactics work better than social proof. We embedded these into email and social content.

Again, I could write forever on all the work that went into executing on each of these tactics, and what I’d do differently next time.

The data tells most of the story though.

Gather Your Data

5A Gather Your DataAt the end of my thirty day test, results were middling – if also encouraging.

We sold 27 copies of the course, for a total of $4,023.

Compared to the work I’d put in? I don’t want to know the hourly rate.

But for a bootstrapping company looking to validate a product idea via an MVP version of their online course?

Not a bad result, really.

Unsurprisingly, email converted the best for us, if also below the 5% benchmark I was hoping for with my estimates. Instead, we converted at 2%, good for 10 sales.

I did only send eight emails, since conversions stopped after four and I was seeing unsubs. In retrospect, a probable drawback of my thirty day sales window was that I might have pushed too hard, too quickly, in trying to convert sales.

Here’s how the remaining channels converted, based mostly on tracking link data:

Touches Impressions Sales Conversion Rate
Email 8 497 10 2.01%
LinkedIn 6 1045 14 1.3%
Instagram 6 625 3 .48%
Facebook 4 100 0 .00%

LinkedIn was obviously (and unsurprisingly) a solid source of sales, as you can see from these tabulated results. The reason I wasn’t surprised at this is because it has become my go-to channel for organic daily marketing.

For similar reasons, I expected Instagram to convert better. My guess as to why it didn’t might sound cynical, but it’s also related to the goose egg you see above, in terms of Facebook sales.

Meta, the parent company of both channels, wanted me to spend money on ads to convert.

But we don’t have the funds or desire to do that yet.

Goodbye for Now, and Good Luck

Could we have invested some of our receipts from sales into ads for generating more sales?

Yes. And maybe we will.

6 Goodbye for Now and Good Luck
First, though, we need to get back to making films.

We can’t expect to keep teaching and selling courses if we don’t keep learning ourselves.

For this reason, we’re taking the money from course sales and investing it into company operations and into producing new work.

Creating our course and writing this these posts was fun and productive. But I did put a ton of time into both, that took me away from making movies.

After discussing it with my cofounders, we’ve decided to take a breather and come back to the course at a later date. I’ve reverted the Call to Action (CTA) button for the course on our site to a waitlist.

It’s definitely not going away. Feedback from students has been encouraging, and writing for you here has got me thinking that maybe we can convert the material into other formats as well.

In the meantime? We’ll keep experimenting in all areas of our work. Maybe the next version of our course will teach how to integrate generative AI into filmmaking workflows.

It’s been a lot of work. More than I think I realized when i was in the middle of all of it.

But I had fun. I hope you did, too.

Thanks for spending your time learning along with us.

One Last Thing: We’ve Got A Surprise for You!

Do you wish you could go back and reread everything we’ve covered in this blog series, all in one place?

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Grab your copy of the eBook version of this blog series, so that you can take each step on your own, with our successes and failures as your guide.