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AP 0921: Should I Create My Course or Build My List First?

AP 0921: Should I Create My Course or Build My List First?

By Pat Flynn on

AskPat 921 Episode Transcript

Pat Flynn: Hey, what’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 921 of AskPat. Thank you so much for joining me today. As always, I’m here to help you by answering your online business questions five days a week.

We have a great question today from Amy, but before we get to her question, I do want to thank today’s sponsor, which is ZipRecruiter. If you’re hiring anybody, it can be very difficult to find the right candidates and also kind of time consuming and just frustrating because there are so many different job sites out there that you can post your job description at. What ZipRecruiter does is it just gives you one place to put a job description, and then it does the hunting for you. With a single click, you can have your job description be sent to over a hundred different job sites, including social media sites, and you can find and screen the best candidates. You can use their interface, so that you don’t have to worry about emails or cold calls coming in, none of that stuff. It’s all right there within ZipRecruiter. What’s really cool is for AskPat listeners, you can try it out for free. Check it out for free today by going to

All right, now here’s today’s question from Amy.

Amy: Hi Pat. This is Amy with Reveal My Voice. I’m a classically trained singer, voice teacher, and speaking coach who has been helping singers and speakers reveal their true voices for over seventeen years. A few years ago, after becoming weary of the unsteady stream of income and having three children to take care of, I hung up my hat as a voice teacher because I just couldn’t find a way to make the one-on-one private voice lesson business model work for me and my family.

However, over the past few months of listening to your podcast as well as a few others about building an online business, I am now taking a wonderful course about creating online courses, and I’ve been faithfully getting up at 4:00 a.m. every day of the week to work on creating my own online vocal course for adult singers. I was just about near completion of writing out my course content when I listened to your podcast with Clay Collins of LeadPages a couple of weeks ago. He talked about doing the one thing and really just focusing on building the following of 2,000 fans first and foremost. This resonated with me because even though I’ve been teaching for a number of years here locally where I live, I do not have a huge online following and I’m just now really learning the nuts and bolts of list-building and email-sequencing and all the ins and outs of building a business. But I am really confused about what comes first.

If I try to build the following but have no content, how are people going to care enough to follow me? If you were me and you really wanted to get this course out but you realized you also really needed a list to sell it to, what would you focus on first? Would you stop in your tracks in the course creation process and just start focusing on list building, even though I don’t really have any content yet? Or would you finish creating the course all the way to slide X and filming videos and hosting the course on a platform, and then try to spend a couple of months drumming up a list and teasing the course content before I actually launch?

I’m only one person with one budget and three small children, and summer is approaching, which means I only have a few short weeks left before kids are out of school for me to focus on what matters most. I just really want to be headed down the right path now and not spinning wheels unnecessarily.

The other option I have recently thought of is just finishing up the written content, using it in blog posts or doing consistent YouTube submissions once or twice a week, and start to build a following that way. And then and only then, after I start to know my audience, I can go back into my course creation and begin tweaking and editing and really adjusting it to fit the needs of my list based on my correspondence with them. What do you think? I know this is a long and loaded question, but I really, really just would appreciate if you could attempt to answer it. I know I can’t be the only one out there wondering what in the world to do first.

Pat Flynn: Hey Amy. Thank you so much for the question today. I appreciate so much, and it’s not a loaded question. It’s a legit question. A little bit long—but no, I’m just kidding. Very, very great question and I think it’s going to help a lot of people. You’ve got to start with your course outline, I think that’s important to know about, and I would actually continue with that specifically before you move on to the next step since you’ve started it.

I always tell my son, “Hey, if you start something, and you could see the end of the finish line, just finish it so that you can move ahead.” Why I say that for you, Amy, is because that course outline essentially becomes your prototype that you can then use in discussions that you have with the correspondents and the email list that you begin to build to make sure that it is something that they’re interested in. If not, well, it’s very easy to tweak versus okay, taking that outline, building out a course, creating a host and platform and creating videos and all these things, and then finding an audience to go through it. First of all, it’s going to be a lot more difficult. You’re going to be tired and what if they want something different, or they have some suggestions on how you can make the course better? Instead of building the course first, I would say build the course with your initial set of students. But use the course outline to get people interested in the course that you have to offer.

You said it perfectly there close to the end, Amy. That is, take what you have now, finish the outline, but don’t build out the course yet. Focus on generating content, potentially lightly touching on those subjects and really providing a lot of value through the topics that are already going to be in your course, but putting them freely on YouTube, and putting them on blogs, using them as guest posts on other sites or perhaps starting a podcast or going and becoming a guest on other people’s podcasts. Start to build that audience and start to build interest from there. You can utilize some of that information even more to start building an email list and start actually collecting those names so that you can then, like you said, have those conversations with people. Some of those conversations can be, “Hey, you know, what do you need the most help with?” So maybe this course that you have in your head is actually too much; maybe most people who tend to follow you are going to follow you because they just have pitch problems.

I’m just thinking of the singing lessons that I have taken in the past, and that was one thing I had, is I had a pitch problem. Randy Johnson, “Hey, you’re kind of pitchy.” That’s from American Idol. But anyway, maybe it’s just that. There could be a course specifically for that that you could offer, which hones in on a very specific pain versus creating this much more grand course that covers a bunch of different topics, which might be harder to convince people to go into. It’s going to depend on who it is that tends to follow you. What’s really cool about that and going about that way first—you don’t have to get to 2,000. I think a lot of people were excited about that episode with Clay Collins, that was Episode 263 of the SPI Podcast, but a lot of people were confused too because they were like, “Well, what should I do in the meantime while I’m building those 2,000 emails?” Now, I think, Will It Fly? and the validation process, kind of the things that I’ve just mentioned, is sort of like the ground before you step on that first ladder rung, like he talks about. That first ladder rung is okay, build those 2,000 contacts and start to build like a $1,000 a month business. Then the second rung is okay, get into five figures and build your email list even more, and just focus on one step on the ladder at a time. I feel like you need a ground or a foundation to put that ladder on, and that is what this whole validation sequence is, is just those initial conversations with just those initial subscribers or those initial contacts, that’s what that becomes. So that’s what I would recommend.

To sum it all up, Amy, finish your course outline just so it’s in your head and that it’s done and it becomes a thing that you could offer as a point of conversation. Something you could send to people who seem to have interest in what you have to offer.

Now, you don’t even need blog content to gain interest, by the way. You don’t even need to put things out there. You could essentially use the network you have to just say, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to be doing this. I’m going to be talking a lot more about these things online, and if you’re interested in hearing more about these things as I create them, let me know what your email address is and I’ll make sure to send you this information as it comes up.” This is a very, very manual, very real way to build an email list, which doesn’t even utilize an email service provider at first. If you want a little bit more information on how to do that, the manual reach out, what to say, and email scripts and those sorts of things, you can go to, any of you, and you can sign up for my 72-Hour, 100 Email List Building Challenge. So you can go there,, you can go through that challenge. I’m going to send you one email per day to help you through the process of building up to 100. You can use even that list, Amy, to start to reach out and say, “Hey, you know what? I’m thinking of creating this course. Here’s the outline. Which parts of it seem to be most interesting to you or does it seem like something that would be right up your alley?” There’s a lot of conversations you can have just around that.

Anyway, that’s what I would say, Amy. Let me know if you need more clarification on that. Reach out to me via email and I just want to thank you for this question; I really appreciate it. Amy, I also want to send you an AskPat teeshirt for having a question featured here on the show. For those of you listening, if you have a question that you’d like potentially featured here on this show as well, just head on over to and you can ask right there on that page.

Thanks so much. I appreciate you, and here’s a quote to finish off the day by Henry Ford. That is, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” I love that. Always keep learning, guys. But I would say keep learning about the things that are relevant to you, that are about the next task that you need help finishing. That’s a Pat Flynn quote, inspired by Jeremy Fransen. Anyway, thank you guys. I appreciate you, and I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye for now.

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