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AP 0966: How Do I Start Online Courses or a Coaching Business?

AP 0966: How Do I Start Online Courses or a Coaching Business?

By Pat Flynn on

AskPat 966 Episode Transcript

Pat Flynn: Hey, what’s up everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to Episode 966 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.

And we have a great question today coming in from JT, but before we get to that I just want to mention that, hey, coming soon is the new relaunch of Smart From Scratch, my course that I built that’s helped hundreds of students, helped them figure out, “Well, what should I be doing next? And is it actually something worth moving forward with?” I run you through a series of tests; it’s very similar to Will It Fly? except you get more detailed information about you and your specific idea, and some access to a community, and me as well. So, if you want to check that out, go to You can sign up for the waitlist there, and you’ll hear about it the next time enrollment is open.

All right, thanks so much, and here’s today’s question from JT.

JT Weatherford: Hi Pat, this is JT Weatherford. Thanks for all that you do, for answering business questions for us, and keeping us in the loop with everything that you do for us. It’s been a huge help for me and my business, and just getting things started. I own a business here in Colorado, I do handyman business—it’s called Colorado’s Best Handyman.

I’m looking at doing either coaching, or doing some sort of online course, and just kinda need some guidance, some brainstorming ideas, any thoughts that you have, on a process of going about doing an online course versus coaching. How do I get the business, or to . . . I’m not even sure what kind of process I should go about with getting an online course started. Like, do I focus on one area of, like maintenance stuff, or do I go broad and general, kind of thing? So, any thoughts that you have would be great. Thanks, and have a great day.

Pat Flynn: Hey JT, thank you so much for the question. So, should you do coaching, should you do an online course, where do you start? Big, big questions here. And I cannot answer that for you; you have to answer that yourself, based on what it is that A, you want to do, because coaching and creating an online course are completely separate things. And then also, what would make sense for your specific audience?

Building something and then trying to force people into it, or force yourself to enjoy that, maybe building it just because you hear that that’s what you should be doing, without actually paying attention to, “Well, is this something that fits into my life, to my personality, to my strengths?” You’re setting yourself up for dangerous things there. So I’m glad that you asked this question so we could talk about this really quick.

And I think the most important thing for you to do is, actually, imagine what your life would be like, let’s say a year from now, if you were a successful coach. What would that mean to you? How many times would you be coaching? How many clients would you have? How much would you want to be paid to consider that a success? And working backwards from there actually helps you understand, well, is this something that actually makes sense for you?

I love these sort of thought experiments of looking ahead. If you’ve read the book Will It Fly? you know I have an experiment called The Airport Test that looks five years ahead, but you can even look a year ahead, JT. If you were able to snap your fingers and have your coaching career in this space be exactly the way you would want it to be, what would that look like? And I don’t know if you know that answer yet. How many clients would you have? How often would you do it? How long would you speak to these people? Is that something that fires you up? Or is that something that scares you? Also, with creating an online course, I would actually think ahead and snap your fingers—boom, you have an online course. How much is it being sold for? How many students do you have? Does that excite you? Are you missing anything if you were to go down that route? Could you perhaps have a combination of each? I want you to think ahead and ask yourself, well, what would make sense for you and your business, but also consider the shoes that are being filled by your audience; how would they, as students of your coaching program, or your course, actually benefit from it? Is that actually the best way to serve them? So that’s the first exercise; thinking ahead, even just a year ahead of time—what would that be like?

Now let’s rewind a little bit, and then let’s go to, okay, well, what are the first steps? Let’s say you want to do coaching—and this is very easy, if you want to do coaching don’t worry about the website, don’t worry about the name of your coaching program, or any of that stuff yet. Find one person who you can coach. Reach out to them, have conversations, offer this service to one person. And what that’s going to do, it’s going to help you one, just work on getting one person, because if you were to create a coaching program and create landing pages and a whole business around this coaching thing, and you can’t even get one person to work with you, well then you would have kind of done it backwards. You want to do it the other way. Try to find just one person who you can coach. And you can maybe do it at a very inexpensive price compared to what you might imagine you would charge mainly, and you could do it within a specific time period too; one month, two months of coaching for X amount of dollars. Why? To, one, see if you can even get anybody to bite on that, but B, to experience what that is like to actually go out there and find people to coach, and to actually coach, and to have that be a part of your life. Focus on just one person—can you find one person to do that?—and just work on that.

In terms of creating an online course, there are other ways to go about doing that in a very similar vein. You might want to actually see if you can start to validate this idea of an online course that you might have, by perhaps getting people to register for a webinar about that topic, a free webinar. If you can’t get registrants, then what would make you think that you can get people to actually buy that online course? Is it a failure if you don’t get registrants? No. You’re learning though, as you go, you’re learning that maybe that’s not a topic that people want more information about, or the way that you framed it, or the groups of people that you’ve been reaching out to aren’t the right ones for that, and that’s going to give you some great information. Just starting in a very small Petri dish of a test to see if that’s actually worth moving forward with. And then, okay, let’s say you get registrants—great. You know that people are interested in this topic, let’s see if they’re interested in learning more in a deeper fashion, by paying something. And then, even before you create your online course—this is the whole thing about pre-selling and validation, this is really the theme of Will It Fly?—will people actually pay for that idea up front? Not everybody will, but there will be a small percentage of people who will pay to get access to you, to get access to this content early even before it comes out, knowing that they’re going to get it from you directly.

And essentially, what’s going to happen is you’re going to build this course with your first set of students, your beta group . . . Don’t call it a beta group to them though, they don’t . . . Beta—I think it was James Schramko at an event, from SuperFastBusiness, he said that, “Yeah, don’t say beta, ’cause beta version means just like the crap version of something.” Right? So it’s not a beta group, it’s a founding group, it’s a pre-launch group, it’s a champion group, it’s a charter membership, you know, those kinds of things. I call it—for my students, when I come out with a new course—a founding group; they’re the founders, and it makes them feel special. And they are, and you want to treat them like gold, that’s for sure.

So, you’re going to build the course with them, step by step. You might want to have just, like, a module ready for them up front, but then, over time . . . And this is exactly what I did with my course, Smart From Scratch, it’s exactly what I did with; you work with those students to build the course in a way that makes sense for them. You’re not adding anything extra, because you are getting direct feedback from them as you are building it. And then, once it’s done, guess what? You’ve had people who have succeeded through it, hopefully. If not, well then you know not to sell it. Well, if you have people succeed through it, guess what? They’re likely going to give you testimonials that you can use to then launch this thing. So again, creating a small group of even five to ten people—depends on what it is you’re selling and for how much—but even a group of that quantity, which on the surface might not seem like a lot, it’s a huge deal because you can work closely with them, you can work them through the process, and work yourself through the process of creating a course that actually makes sense.

So, just some ideas for you, and I would highly recommend, JT, that you check out Will It Fly? if you haven’t already; there’s a lot of case studies specifically, at the end as well, that walk you through and give you examples of how people have validated their coaching program, or their online course, or even their physical product, before actually spending a lot of time, effort, and money to actually build that thing, by first making sure that people wanted it, and that’s what you need to do.

So, JT, thank you so much for the question, I appreciate you, I want to send you an AskPat teeshirt for having your question featured here on the show. And for those of you listening, if you have a question that you’d like potentially featured here on the show as well, just head on over to, and you can ask right there on that page.

Thanks so much, I appreciate it, and here’s a quote to finish off the day by Samuel Johnson, and that is: “Knowledge is of two kinds; we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information about it.” Yup.

And also, you know that you can go to if you have yet to get started and you’re fearful of just choosing that idea, making sure that it’s the right one or not. That’s the place to go——and we’ll see you there soon. We’ll see you in the next episode too. Thanks so much. Bye.

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