Living, Learning & Launching - Part 2

 Living, Learning & Launching - Part 2 - 20 lessons learned from creating my 1st online course

In my previous post, I shared the first 10 lessons I've learned from building and launching my first online course, Illustrator Essentials. I knew a post with all 20 would be way too much to digest all at once, so today I'm excited to share the next ten lessons with you!

Without further ado, let's dig in.

11. Be real. Be you.

Throughout the process of building and launching this course, I keep reminding myself not to do things the way I think I'm supposed to do them. I didn't record the course in a dry, intellectual tone even though that's what some might expect. And I refuse to sell things in a high-pressure, hard-sell kind of way even though I'll admit it might get more people to enroll.

Why go against these expected norms? Because they just don't feel right. I know my true audience won't connect with something dry and boring—they'll resonate with a beautiful, engaging course taught from the voice of a friend. And they don't want to be pushed and pressured into buying either, nor would I want to do that to them.

I try to remind myself at every turn to be real and do things in a way I can proudly stand behind. I may not reel in every prospective student this way, but the connections I do make will be even stronger ones with people that share my same values.

Takeaway: Forget what you think you're supposed to do and go with your gut. The folks you'll attract by being the real you are the ones you really want to be around anyway.

12. Something will “go wrong.” So what?

Anytime you're doing something big, something will inevitably go “wrong.” But what does that mean, anyway? It really just means that things didn't play out the way you imagined them and something threw a kink in your plan. So what?

I'll compare this one to coming across a detour on your drive. Sure, the route you planned to take is blocked off, so what are you going to do about it? Kick and curse at the sign, or follow the alternative and maybe discover a beautiful new view you didn't expected in the process?

Planning the biggest launch I've done for the most thorough and involved product I've created was a massive endeavor. And when certain things didn't fall in line with what I had planned, I was tempted to throw a fit and break down. But that wouldn't get me anywhere. So instead, I asked myself, “How can I pivot here? How can I turn something going ‘wrong’ into an exciting opportunity for something different?”

Takeaway: Things will never go exactly as you planned. It's pointless to try bending life to your will, so do your best to roll with the punches, let go of your expectations, and work on turning something unexpected into something amazing.

13. Schedule your breaks.

I knew coming into this hustle time that I really had to buckle down, but also that if I didn't make time for taking care of myself then I'd burn out before I even got close to the finish line. For me this meant getting a good night's sleep. It meant fitting yoga classes into my schedule even though I felt like I didn't have time. It even meant taking a long weekend away to celebrate our anniversary and visit friends in the midst of all the craziness.

At times, these felt like distractions pulling me from what I needed to accomplish. But experiencing burnout before, I knew better. I knew that these were the things actually keeping me afloat.

Takeaway: Make time for yourself. Especially when you're busy. Especially when you think you don't have the time. That's when you need it most.

14. Building is only the beginning.

Throughout the process of building the course, I was under the impression that finishing the content would be the finish line. Little did I know, that was just one checkpoint. As it turns out, launching and selling the thing takes just as much energy as building it in the first place.

I thought that I'd pull back the curtain on launch day and be able to turn my attention to other things. I thought I'd shared enough along the way that the folks who were interested wouldn't need any more convincing. But as it turns out, keeping the excitement and awareness of a launch up is a full-time job in itself.

Takeaway: Building the thing is only half the battle. Save some of your stamina for sharing it with the world afterwards. And however much you think you need to share, it's at least double that.

15. Show up & deliver.

This one seems simple. Have integrity. Whatever you promised people, show up and deliver. Sure, it sounds simple, but the reality is a lot more difficult.

I've found that my people-pleaser tendencies get me in trouble here, overpromising and then driving myself nuts to follow through. It's a fine balance, learning to promise only what you can realistically accomplish, and then delivering on that... consistently. Over and over. Every time.

Takeaway: It's incredible what you can achieve in life and business simply by keeping your word. Show up and deliver consistently, and you'll be amazed at the results.

Whatever you promised people, show up and deliver.

Tweet this.

16. Listen to your people.

On the road to building Illustrator Essentials, I spent quite a bit of time listening to what questions people had. So by the time I was ready to launch, I had a solid idea of what folks were wondering about the course. Is the course just for beginners? Do they have to wait for access to the whole thing? Will I be teaching icons and patterns? And so on and so forth.

I set up all these questions and the answers in an FAQ section on the sales page, I told people to check there first if they had questions, and I thought I was set. Then I noticed those same questions were still coming up. On Facebook, on Instagram, in those creative chats I planned.

What I hadn't counted on is that you can't force your audience to seek out key information in one spot. That's inconvenient. You need to make it as easy for them as you can. You need to bring them what they want to know and need to hear where they spend their time—and most importantly, where they'll actually see it.

Takeaway: Even when you think you've made things perfectly clear, there still might be work to be done. If you pay attention, your audience will tell you exactly what they need.

17. Give. Give. Give.

My entire course and launch have been geared towards giving—teaching folks every trick and shortcut I know in Adobe Illustrator and planning a launch that's focused way more on celebrating and learning than on selling.

To my delight, people really seem to be resonating with this, and I've had more than a few folks thank me for all the work I've put in and the fun things I've planned. I realize this is much more of a long game play and won't result in hundreds of signups today, but I'm okay with that. I'd rather take my time, building something that means more.

Takeaway: When you focus on giving value first, people can't help being attracted to what you're putting out. Plus, karma.

18. Stress is out to get you.

Even though I took special care to take breaks and schedule time for myself, stress and burnout eventually caught up with me. Four days before the end of my 2 week enrollment/launch period, I lost my voice and came down with a cold that knocked me on my butt. As a business of one, this is incredibly frustrating because when I shut down, so does the business.

I had so many things planned that I wanted to schedule and share, but the reality is that I'm only human. And even though I did my best to take care of myself amidst all the hustle, stress still found a way to bring me down. From there, the only thing I could do was take it easy and rest.

I knew how much I had on my to-do list, but I also knew that if I pushed through when I was at my low point, I'd only be worse off in the end. So I slept and relaxed and took the time I needed so I'd be back to finish out the final few days of the launch with the momentum they deserve.

Takeaway: Despite your best efforts, stress and overworking will eventually catch up to you. That's why it's essential to rest and put yourself first when you need it. Pushing through will only make matters worse. You're only human, and often slowing down is the best medicine.

19. You can't do it alone.

I'm only one person, which became especially evident once burnout knocked me on my butt. Luckily, the community-centered launch I'd worked so hard to build showed up to support me.

The creative chats I spent so much energy on keep spreading and students who already bought the course loved it so much that they were sharing it with their own followers. On top of that, when I mentioned I was sick, people sent me encouraging messages telling me to rest up and how great I'd been doing. Seeing this thing take on a life of its own and how people rallied around when I needed them most is more than I could hope for, and I'm so very thankful.

Takeaway: When you build your brand in a way that centers on community and spreading the love, it's amazing how that community will show up for you when you need it.

20. Better together, always.

If I could only take one thing away from this whole experience, it's that community makes everything better. The point of this whole course and launch and over a year of hard work is simple—help people. Help them learn and grow and build beautiful things of their own.

Not only did I get to share something I'm so proud of with the world and watch it make lives better, but I also got to partner with other brands and small businesses I love and have a blast bringing people together in the process.

Takeaway: People make it all worthwhile—helping, hanging, laughing, loving, and learning together. Far beyond the launches and bottom lines, connecting with others is what matters most.

And there you have it—the 20 lessons I've learned (so far) from building and launching Illustrator Essentials! I'm sure there are many more lessons waiting for me on this path and this is only my first launch. Though it's been far from easy, I'm so grateful for this journey and I can't wait to see what's waiting just over the horizon.

Melissa Yeager

West Chester, PA, USA

Logo and brand designer who helps passionate, creative entrepreneurs channel their excitement and all of their ideas to create a visually stunning, cohesive brand that feels right for them while working wonders for their business.