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Behind The Scenes of Creating an E-course: Part 1: Find Out What Your Readers Need

So, I’m creating an e-course. Or an ebook, or an email course. The details aren’t decided yet. But I thought it would be fun for me to show you a little behind the scenes action while I’m in the process and it’s fresh in my mind.

I’ve been wanting to start creating some digital products for some time now. I’ve learned so much in the last few years of my Freelance To Freedom journey, and there is nothing I like more than sharing that stuff with others. That is the reason why I created FTFP in the first place.

As much as I love blogging, I know that it doesn’t allow me to go as deep into a topic as I’d like (because honestly, who wants to read a 10,000 word blog post).

So I’ve decided to package up some of the stuff in my head, and put it together in a resource that will help other entrepreneurs on their journey to biz freedom.

I’ve paid close attention to some of my favorite digital products gurus, taken a few courses, and joined a few course-building challenges. And in this series I’ll take you through what I’m doing each step of the way.

Why Knowing What Your Readers/Potential Customers Need is the Most Important Step

Understanding your customers pain points and struggles is the first step in creating any product or any service. It ensures (to some extent) that what you are creating isn’t a complete waste of your time. Sometimes we have great ideas, but if they aren’t what people want or need, they won’t sell!

Whether you want to create a digital product, or you just aren’t sure what kind of services to offer as a freelancer, finding out what people actually need should be top priority.

So how do you find out?

Ask Them Directly!

There are several ways to do this, and here is what I have done over the last month:

  • In the “welcome email” for my newsletter, I ask you guys where you’re at in your freelancing journey and what you need help with. A lot of you respond, and I love it! Not only do I get to know you and get to connect with you further, but I get an insight into what your struggles are and which ones I could potentially help with.
  • Respond to comments via email. When someone leaves a comment that speaks to a topic I may want to create a product or blog post about, I send them an email asking a few more questions.
  • Emailing my most loyal readers or people I think could be a potential customer. I tell them I’m thinking of creating a digital product and ask a few questions about their pain points.
  • Ask on social media. I’ve put a few posts out in the Facebook group and on my Facebook page asking what you struggle with when it comes to X. Although people are a bit shy on my Facebook page (or evil FB isn’t showing you my posts 🙂 ), I’ve still gotten some great insight into specific problems.

Do A Survey

I’ve done a survey for both my web design business in the past, and now for FTF. This was the most insightful thing I’ve done so far to help me decide what kind of product to create. You may have taken it, and I’m so grateful. (It’s still live if you want to check it out here.

Why Surveys Are Great

Giving a survey allows you to ask very specific questions to get to know your audience and the problems you could potentially solve.

Not only did I learn what FTF readers biggest issues are, but I found some surprising things about the male/female ratio and how a lot of you are in the same industry as me.

I had 80 responses, which is much more than I expected. Although that’s definitely not everybody, it still gave me a good idea of what I can at least help 80 of you with.

How To Do A Survey

I used Typeform for mine because I love the look of their forms and the user interface. You can also used Survey Monkey or Google Forms.

The most important thing is that you can export the results in an excel file, for easy filtering and analyzing.

I chose to do a giveaway, to give you a little more incentive to help me out. I chose one winner randomly at the end and sent them my latest favorite book for freelancers. I also took the opportunity to write a blog post about the book, and introduce the giveaway for a little extra exposure. I then posted the survey or the blog post repeatedly on social media and in my newsletter.

My Survey Results

As I said, the survey results were super insightful. And the most amazing part, almost all of the answers had 1 of 2 common threads.

Take a look:

Here is a sampling of the key problems I pulled out from the answers to the question:

What is one of your biggest problems in business that you’d be willing to pay to have a solution to solve?

___________________________________________

“Making my services known to the right audience of potential clients.”

“A system. I’m still working out what software to use for new offerings.There’s so much out there + often not enough time to figure out what’s best or would work for my biz.”

“the skills needed to be an successful freelancer by someone who has been there” 

“Marketing”

“Step by step coaching on what needs to be done to get the business going.”

“I would also be more confident in WHERE I can find my clients”

“I would like to learn more about business administration.”

“More traffic to my site and more business leads.”

“I would like to be able to organize so that I can work on tasks for multiple people simultaneously.”

“How to promote myself/business and also how to find the right clients.”

“Intake Processes”

“gain more clients”

“work even move efficiently”

“Need more consistent revenue”

“direction, processes”

“streamline processes and rethink my pricing and packages.”

“solid client process in place”

“tools to organize my workflow.”

“I would like to have a regular income”

“the logistics”

“Create a better system to have a steady stream of clients”

“client intake”

“Processes! I’m currently struggling all logistical aspects from billing to project tracking to freelancer management.”

“processes, figure out the flow of running a design business.”

“More organization and better system in place for new leads and clients”

“market myself effectively”

“I would LOVE for someone to take me through setting up all the back-end stuff that goes with becoming a web designer”

“getting enough new clients…”

“Have a steady client base”

“Marketing + promotion. Systems: Connecting my offerings with an easy system for my clients, that requires much less leg-work for me.”

“Getting clients”

“Finding great clients.”

“Finding enough work to support myself completely through freelancing.”

“Marketing. I am horrible at it.”

“incoming clients system/process”

___________________________________________

Ok, I could go on, but you get the jist.

What Did I Learn From This

I took all the responses, organized them into an easy to read list, and highlighted the main topics. There were a few random topics, but the two shown above definitely stood out. I highlighted green for anything related to processes or systems, and blue for marketing & getting clients.

So, it’s pretty obvious for me. These are two different topics that you guys would love to learn more about, and they happen to be two topics I’d love to cover.

I no longer have to worry about whether or not what I’m creating will be useful, because my readers have told me themselves.

And not only do I have 1 product idea all ready to go, but I have a second one ready to go for later!

Further Validation

In order to further validate, I looked back at old blog posts that related to these topics. And one of them jumped out at me. I called it From Inquiry To Project Start: How To Set Up A Process To Save Time & Impress Clients.

It is, to-date, my most popular post. It was shared on social media a ton, I got 47 comments and had one of my highest weeks of traffic from that post.

So it’s clear to me that you love this topic (or at least need help with it) and I’m sure I can help improve your business with what I have to share about it.

If you’ve done a survey and still aren’t sure about the results, do a super useful blog post on the topic and see the response!

Recap:

  •  When wanting to build a new product or service, find out what your readers need/want first.
  • Ask them on social media, in comments, or via email.
  • Do a survey and ask very specific questions about what they need help with.
  • Write a blog post, or look through old blog posts to see the response to the topic.
  • Choose your topic!

Next Steps:

It’s great that I have two solid course ideas. But now it’s time to decide which to do first! By next week I’ll have that decided and I’ll be on to putting it all together.

Always Be Learning

Every step of my biz journey I’ve invested in courses and devoured free resources. Here are some of the resources that have been helping me create my first digital product and may help you too:

Now it’s your turn!

To practice what I preach even further, tell me in the comments: Which problem are you ready for me to help you solve and what about it exactly do you need help with:

  1. Process & systems to save time & stress and impresses your clients.
  2. How to marketing yourself online to get out of the feast & famine cycle for good.

Continue reading with the next part in this series: Behind The Scenes of Creating an E-course Part 2: Brain Dump and Outline of my course building adventure!

-Leah

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Without a shadow of a doubt I I would like to read number 2: How to marketing yourself online to get out of the feast & famine cycle for good.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thanks for the insight! Keep your eyes peeled 🙂

  • I started an email list for those in my audience who prefer to work in Spanish, and have started adding the question in their welcome email and damn, it makes such a difference!
    As soon as I revamp my optin and site, I’ll change that for my English peeps, too 🙂
    Awesome tips!
    M.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh I love hearing that! Yes, I was so happy I stumbled on that tip, it’s so great getting to know your readers!

  • Amy

    I love that you’re writing about the course creation process before you have it all “figured out.” I can’t wait to read more! On topics to cover, I recently read a post about asking for testimonials – and loved it. Systems don’t have to be limited to the actual projects, and I love peeking over shoulders to see how my peers manage their tasks.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, I totally agree- we need systems in EVERYTHING. I have some tips for the testimonial side of things as well. And yes, I love sharing things as I do them, makes it more fun and best of all keeps me accountable! Thanks for stopping by Amy!

  • I love the survey technique to find out what your potential customers NEED the most and fulfilling that need. Having clients who achieve their goals with something you create is only going to create much more word of mouth referrals. Can’t wait to see more from you Leah!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes- it’s the only way! The trick is to remember also that it’s not only the 80 I’ll be reaching, and I need to keep my eyes peeled on my market everywhere. But the survey sure does help.

  • I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this and I LOVE the idea of asking a question in my welcome email. I definitely need to hone in on my potential customers’ pain rather than just guessing.

    Thanks!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Set it up once, and it’s good to go! Not everyone responds, but you’ll be surprised by the amount who do!

  • Leah, you are just THE BEST at how-to posts. So much juicy info, useful and detailed. Another one to share with my peeps. Thank you!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh that makes me happy Rebecca! I love doing how-tos so I am glad I do it well in your eyes 🙂 Thank you!

  • Either #1 or #2 Leah! Both I definitely need support with – especially during the busy times where it seems I’m spending 1/2 of my day doing unbillable (non-design) business operations stuff.

  • Loving this series! Surveys can be frustrating because there’s a lot of research to back up the issue of low response rates for survey completion. Loyal followers will often be pleased to respond and ‘help out a friend’, so to speak, but lurkers may just pass over the survey in favour of their time. It’s the unfortunate truth.

    I’m a huge supporter of the lifelong learning movement, and when you say to always keep learning, it’s no joke! In a society where information is at the click of a button, we need to keep absorbing and retaining and learning now more than ever!

  • Loving this series. In the middle of getting ideas out of my head and on paper for a course I WILL launch this summer!! Looking forward to more info on Stress Less and & Impress as well.

  • Glad I found this site as I’ve been seriously pondering ecourse creation after having taken three of them myself. But I want mine to be different. No idea where to start because some of my ideas seem to esoteric. What does one do with that happens?

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