How to use positive thinking to sell more online courses

How to use positive thinking to sell more online courses

I just wrote up a case study of my first course launch (which made 18K in 48hours).

Although I did pretty well, I could have done much better. I actually wrote this post several months before my course launch, because I was already dealing with anxiety and lack of confidence.

For several years I’ve run this blog as a side project, a hobby – it didn’t need to make any money. Now that I’ve finished my PhD, I want to get out of client work and focus all my time on my writing. So I wanted to switch to courses and products that will generate passive income from my traffic.

So I built my first course, which was a series of challenge in itself. Then I needed to get people to buy it, which meant a launch. A real launch. That means I needed to email my list more than I usually do, and I had to ask them to buy something. My list was costing me money, and not earning anything, so I had to make an effort, and that made me uncomfortable.

So, I learned.

I’ve never sold them anything, not really. I’ve passed on some webinars, other people’s stuff, but always casually, not with a “full” email funnel or system. I’ve never used any of the tricks that boost conversions, because I didn’t want to annoy people. I much prefer people to just find my sites with natural search results, read the content on my sales pages, and buy my products or hire me because I have what they’re looking for at the right price.

But I also knew, if I’m going to do it, I should aim high, not low – I needed a goal that would challenge me, so I set it: a 50K launch. That would be enough to prove I knew what I was doing; that I knew how this “make money online” stuff works; that I could grow a profitable audience and get them to buy stuff from me.

I also knew I’ve put in a LOT of “unpaid hours” over the past 5 years. I’ve given free advice to thousands of authors. My free publishing templates and tools are used by hundreds of authors every single day. Even when I’m not personally responding to messages  or providing guidance, my resources are helping people. So my “social karma” was strong (which doesn’t necessarily equal sales: people don’t value free content as much as they do paid stuff. But my free stuff has been good for my traffic and reputation).

I also knew that my course was valuable. Even though it was rough, and I’m not captivating on video, and my organization is lacking, the stuff I know is epic. Every time I’m in a room with seasoned entrepreneurs, I find myself giving them actionable advice on how they can seriously jumpstart their business, book marketing, or writing career. Not only because I have a great deal of knowledge about publishing and marketing, but because I can think up personal, creative ways for YOU to market your business or book, ways nobody else can think of.

I believe in the value of my services, and the value of the information in the course.

But still… I  knew I didn’t believe enough. I didn’t really believe I could hit 50K with my first course launch.

Reading Napoleon Hill’s Conversations With the Devil (for my PhD thesis on Paradise Lost) one line jumped out at me:


This is something I tell authors all the time; never beg, never ask for favors.

You need to know exactly what you want, and you need to “insist” upon it. In other words, you need to justify your prices.

A 2.99 book is only worth 2.99 if you can convince readers to spend that much.

A $2,449 package is no different. It’s worth the price if you’re giving equal or greater value.

I’m comfortable charging $2,449, because I’ve charged more than that for the individual services, and also because I couldn’t do it for less. Even though it’s a lot of money, the things I’m promising will take a lot of work and effort, so they’re actually getting the better end of the deal.

However I’ve also heard you can’t charge a price you’d be unwilling to pay.

Maybe that’s why I felt out of my league: I still see $2,449 as really expensive, even though I know a lot of other competitors offer publishing packages or marketing services for more. I know my course and help is worth that much, but I’ve never bought something that expensive before.

I was seriously looking for magic spells that would help me get my head in the game… when I found a cool exercise: writing an email to yourself, telling you how you did the thing that you want.

This is the one I wrote several months ago:

Subject: Congratulations on your first 6-figure launch

Hey Derek,

Congratulations dude, you did it!!

You made $110,820 in 48 hours.

Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s over now and you managed to pull it off.

You ended up bringing in much more money than you expected. Great job.

In the end it came down to offering a great course and valuable services, at a price that was lower than market average. You solved a crucial and frustrating problem that most authors face, and provided a solution they were willing to pay for.

Then you added some extra bonuses you didn’t even need to.

All you had to do was put it in front of people, and the course sold itself.

100 people paid $149, that’s $14900.

50 people paid $449, that’s $22450.

And 30 people paid $2449, that’s $73470.

Altogether that’s $110, 820.

Holy shit. 

That’s six-figures in 48hours.
Even better, those authors are ecstatic that they get to work with you; you overdelivered on your promises and got them all to #1 bestseller. They’re happy with the results and thrilled with their decision. You’re proud and confident, and feel awesome.

Now take some time off, enjoy your life! Go on a cruise, head to Europe early. Relax, you’ve earned it, and your family deserves it. No excuses. We’ll catch up when you get back from your break.

I should have read that letter every day until I believed it. Instead, I was stressed finishing my PhD, then packing for Europe, and launched my course with a much reduced goal of 20K.

$20,000 was a goal I felt comfortable with, a goal that didn’t make me nervous. A goal I was relaxed about. And I hit it. In fact I hit it almost exactly.


I was a lot more spiritual when I was younger. I believed in the law of attraction, the power of your beliefs, in “manifesting your reality.”

I learned, however, that those things don’t work unless you have something of value that others are willing to pay for. Everyone loves the quote from Napoleon Hill’s more famous book, Think and Grow Rich, which says “What you believe, you can achieve.”

But they forget the part about how you first need to have something of equal or greater value to give or trade. (I published a Think and Grow Rich Coloring Book last year, you should definitely check it out if you need to boost or change your limiting money beliefs).

Your limiting beliefs effect your confidence, which effects how well you present your content.

My lack of confidence meant that my announcement email was kind of sending the wrong tone. It was basically a justification/apology for the fact that I was asking people to buy my course. It wasn’t that bad because I needed to tell the story of “why” I’m launching an online course, and I needed to prepare my audience for what’s coming, and I’m also establishing some vulnerability by opening up about my behind the scenes process, which I think will work better than “Oh Boy, check out my awesome online course!”

However, I didn’t want to come across as whiny or complaining. I wanted to build anticipation and make people want in early.

After some research, I learned to focus on the benefits, not the features.

I also asked people to envision the rewards they were after, not my course or features. (They don’t want to sell more books; they want to write full time, have freedom and flexibility, be in control of their lives… etc.)

I’ve also heard of people asking people to focus on their fears, their problems, the things they are frustrated about or terrified by… really digging into their problems and making them visceral. That made them much more likely to take action when help is offered.

Mainly, while having a good course and being able to put it in front of the right people is important (by premarketing, listbuilding, doing challenges or webinars, etc) when you DO have something of value that people are willing to pay for, the exact amount you set as a goal for yourself will affect your actions, tone, confidence and drive… which WILL result in more sales.


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