Selling an online course was supposed to be a way of creating a solid revenue stream. And yet working 16 hour days while barely breaking even wasn’t exactly the dream you started out with, right?
If scaling your course has felt like a sprint through molasses, then you may be running into one (or a few) of the biggest revenue roadblocks that course creators face when scaling their course business.
Let’s put an end to that today, shall we?
You need to understand that these problems are really a symptom of neglecting the 5 foundational pillars that are necessary to successfully scaling an online course business.
If you haven’t heard of these pillars before, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
It’s not uncommon for course creators to spend a lot of time and energy completely focused on just one or two. And frankly, I can’t blame them.
When you’re just starting your online course business, you’re in for a massive growth stage and that means a lot of plate spinning as you try to bring in new leads, lead them through your content, and keep them coming back for more.
The reality is…
Scaling an online course business isn’t just about Sales and Marketing (as you’ve probably figured out by now). And while focusing on those got you to the point you’re at now, they won’t get you to where you want to go.
The 5 Foundational Pillars Of Scaling An Online Course Business
Pillar #1: Product
Scaling to and through 7-figures can only happen when you have your product (and the offer that goes with it) really dialed in. This means packaging your course, your bonuses, and any other add-ons into a specific, irresistible offer that not only overcomes objections but makes hitting the “Buy Now” button a no-brainer for your prospects.
Pillar #2: Marketing
It’s no secret that digital funnels NEED traffic and the typical advice out there is to launch, launch, and launch again. But as anyone knows who’s launched to the same audience over and over, your prospects eventually burn out, or worse, tune you out completely.
Instead, many of the most successful online course businesses use an automated lead generation system that not only grows an audience 24/7, but will nurture them along until they’re ready to buy.
Pillar #3: Sales
Your marketing isn’t the only thing that should be automated and in order to truly scale, you MUST create a highly-effective, automated sales process that converts 24/7.
Because let’s be honest…
…there’s nothing scalable about spending hours in your DMs, dealing with no-show sales calls, or hunting down Facebook groups to post veiled sales pitches for your course (that feel awkward and slimy to both you and the group members).
Pillar #4: Client Success
Successful course creators know how to optimize their client experience for ongoing enrollment, so that both their students and their business can thrive—with or without them.
Because while your desire to help as many students as you can is limitless, your time and energy are not. And unless you’re able to create an experience that enables your client’s success without you as the center of it, your ability to scale will be limited.
Pillar #5: Operations & Finance
If building a 7-figure online course business is pinned to the top of your dream board, you’re going to need a team to do it.
But that doesn’t mean your only option is overpaid contractors. 7-figure course businesses are run by teams who are paid well, have healthy profit margins, AND can implement without constant supervision and micromanagement.
The 5 Biggest Revenue Roadblocks Course Creators Experience As They Scale To & Through 7-Figures
Now that you understand the foundational pillars of scaling an online course business, I want to address the 5 biggest roadblocks that you can expect to face as you scale your online course business.
Revenue Roadblock #1: “I know my course gets results, but people aren’t buying…”
Sound familiar? Log this one under Product.
It’s not uncommon to hear people tell you that your online course sounds great, that they really want it, but they can’t buy—because they believe they’re either too busy to make your course a priority or they aren’t ready to financially invest.
That isn’t to say that you won’t have a portion of your audience who genuinely can’t afford to invest time or money into your program—but, I’m not talking about those people today.
What I am talking about are the people who DO have the time and the funds, but for whatever reason—they don’t feel compelled to enroll.
They may even be struggling with a specific problem that YOUR online course can help them solve—but, they just don’t see it.
When you run into this, it can be tempting to do the following:
Mistake #1: Lower the price of your course so more people will buy.
Unfortunately, competing on price is a losing game. Because no matter how low you price your course, you can guarantee that there will always be another course out there on a similar topic that costs less money.
The essential thing to understand here is that until you can help your audience see the transformation that they’ll experience as a result of taking our course, you’ll continue to struggle no matter how low you price your course.
Mistake #2: Begin adding a bunch of “stuff” to your course in the form of extra lessons, extra calls, and extra ALL THE THINGS.
Trying to win people over with extras, while not accurately communicating the value your course provides, is like serving a fast-food meal with a few sprigs of parsley. Sure, the parsley can fancy it up, but it still doesn’t change the fact that you’re serving McDonald’s.
Adding on all those bells and whistles, while ignoring the real issues, will leave you feeling frustrated, burnt out, and with no results to show for it.
Mistake #3: Fool yourself into thinking that your audience doesn’t have any money or that you need to pick an entirely different niche or course topic!
In most cases, it’s not that your audience doesn’t have the money. It’s that your course offer hasn’t given them a compelling reason to break out their credit cards.
So before you consider focusing your time and energy on creating an entirely new course in an entirely new niche, do some problem solving by digging deeper into the reasons why they don’t buy. (I’ll give some suggestions on how to do this in the action steps below.)
Here’s what I want you to remember:
By packaging your course into a super specific, value-packed offer, you’ll blast through any objections that your prospects may have, connect with them on an emotional level, and make their buying decision as easy as 1-2-3.
How do you do that?
Action Step #1: Streamline your existing content to align with a clear promise and price it to sell—that means anywhere from $497-$1997.
This is the course pricing sweet spot. Let me explain…
When prospects come across your course sales page and see it priced at anything less than $495, your course may not be perceived as transformative because whether you like it or not, things that are more expensive are perceived as “better.”
But you also can’t let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction.
I know it’s easy to say, “Ok! So why not price it as high as possible?”
Well… because when you consider pricing above the $1997 mark, a sales call becomes a necessary part of the sales process. People feel like they need to talk with someone before making that size of an investment and that means your ability to automate and scale, go right out the window.
Automated funnels are scalable. Sales calls are not.
Action Step #2: Take time to uncover the real reason people aren’t buying.
Whether it’s a Zoom or a mid-day phone call, the only way you can understand why your prospects didn’t buy is by TALKING to them. EVEN IF, you have all kinds of thoughts on why they didn’t purchase, you won’t actually KNOW until you hear it from them.
Anything else is just a guess, and I don’t know about you… but I prefer not to guess.
Action Step #3: Overcome their objections inside the offer itself by using the information you’ve learned after talking to your prospects.
When you take time to understand the things standing in the way of your prospect’s ability to buy, you can infuse your offer with the things they need to hear in order to make a confident (and decisive!) buying decision.
Revenue Roadblock #2: “I’m struggling to grow my audience and my current audience is burnt out on my offer…”
When it comes to your Marketing Pillar, this is a big one, isn’t it?
While going all in on just ONE signature course sounds way less stressful than selling multiple courses, it doesn’t come without its share of doubt.
Because in the back of your mind, you know there’s a shelf life to your audience and the more you try to pitch your course to the same people over and over again, the more you risk being tuned out.
So you turn to your trusty “go-to” strategies for building an audience, only now? They’re no longer funneling in new leads like they once did.
And when you’re feeling stuck in a lead-generation rut and it can be tempting to:
Mistake #1: Create a new course to sell alongside your existing one as a means of generating new leads and fresh revenue.
Creating an entirely new course takes a LOT of time and energy. And wouldn’t that time and energy be better spent attracting new leads and getting paid for the course you’ve ALREADY done the work to create?
This doesn’t mean you’ll never have another course or program, but focusing your time and energy into scaling one signature program is the fastest way to scale.
Mistake #2: Start looking for the next “silver bullet” social media tactic.
Hunting for that “silver bullet” social media tactic takes TIME. Whether it’s reading blog after blog looking for the “right one,” or scrambling to implement 20 “right ones” all at once.
You don’t need MORE to do.
You need methods that create consistent leads WITHOUT adding more to your plate.
Mistake #3: Join a bunch of new platforms, launch a podcast, start a YouTube channel, churn out TikToks, Reels, and host a Clubhouse summit.
While yes, those are all valid platforms, doesn’t it make your brain hurt thinking about creating content for all of them?
Your time would be better spent showing up where your audience hangs out and establishing your credibility. (More on that in a minute!)
Unless you create a lead generation system that is always growing your audience and always nurturing them toward the sale…
…launching a new course or dancing for Tiktok is really just a band aid solution that will do nothing to fix the deeper problem.
Give these a try instead:
Action Step #1: Invest resources into a long-term, sustainable system that will improve your lead generation without burnout.
Systems are what give you, the burnt out course realtor, relief. And while you could chase after all the “silver bullet” tactics we’ve talked about already, they’ll never give you what you’re really looking for—a break.
Slowing down to create a lead generation system that’s rooted in long-term strategy will not only create lasting results but it will take the burden off your already-tired shoulders.
Action Step #2: Master and automate one platform before moving onto the next.
Is there an online platform that you love AND it’s where your audience hangs out?
Don’t stress yourself out trying to show up everywhere that you think you’re “supposed to be.”
Focus your time and energy on creating a great presence in your own corner of the internet and then find the appropriate tools to help you automate the process.
Action Step #3: Learn how to create social media content that generates revenue first and then amplify that later with paid advertising.
When you know how to tap into the emotions and frustrations that your prospects are experiencing, you can create messaging that connects on a deeper level and makes your prospects say, “it’s like you’re in my head!”
THOSE are the kinds of comments that will help you know that you’ve nailed it. And once you’ve done that… backing that message up with paid advertising is like adding gas to the fire!
Revenue Roadblock #3: “My cold traffic just doesn’t convert…”
Now let’s talk about your Sales Pillar.
Is it starting to feel like the only people who invest in your program are the ones who’ve been in your audience for-eeeever?
Maybe you’ve even tried dipping your toe in the “cold traffic” water but your conversion rates were about as exciting as a cold shower in January.
If that sums up your experience, it’s totally understandable that you’d struggle to believe that you could convert cold leads quickly and that means you might be doing things like:
Mistake #1: Relying exclusively on live launching methods to sell your course, hoping that the urgency of the launch will close the luke-warm stragglers in your audience.
There’s another way!
You can leverage tools and strategies that will help you create a personalized experience for every single person who comes into your funnel.
This gives them the time they need to make a confident AND decisive buying decision. And you can do it all without the exhausting, up-and-down roller coaster ride of launching.
Mistake #2: Resort to kinda-slimy-but-oh-so-common sales tactics that force people to buy before they’re ready.
Rather than send 10 emails the day of cart close that amp up the FOMO, you can use a different approach by tapping into your prospect’s inner motivation throughout your entire funnel.
When done correctly, your prospects will click through to your course sales page saying, “I’m SO ready for a change and THIS will help me get there.”
Mistake #3: Convince yourself that converting cold traffic “doesn’t work” because your audience needs months of warm-up before they’re ready to buy.
When your messaging is on point and is able to knock out objections or fears your prospects may have, it’s completely possible for your prospects to go from “I just found you on IG…” to “I just bought your course!” in a short amount of time.
Mistake #4: See all the upsells, downsells, and cross-sells in other people’s funnels and convince yourself that a super complex conversion mechanism is required to scale.
This is the tricky thing about online marketing. Just because you SEE someone implementing a certain sales tactic, doesn’t mean it’s ACTUALLY working for them.
It also doesn’t mean it will work FOR YOU.
But when you lay the RIGHT, simple foundation for your funnel, it can create the predictable and sustainable revenue you’ve been looking for.
What does simple look like? It looks like:
Action Step #1: Create an automated sales process so your business is always making money and always closing leads.
This is the key to all those, “I made money in my sleep” stories that you’ve heard so much about.
When your sales process can close leads without you being at the center of it, your revenue is no longer bound by the number of hours you have available in a day.
Action Step #2: Utilize behavior-based automations so that people are presented with the opportunity to buy when THEY are ready.
We’ve all experienced those over-the-top sales people who leave you feeling blindsided as you’re left holding a payment receipt. It’s not a good feeling and it’s one your audience doesn’t have to experience either.
By leveraging behavior-based automation, you can meet your prospects exactly where they are at and move them along—while respecting their journey—to the next stage of the buying process.
Action Step #3: Prioritize connection throughout the entire sales process so your audience makes an informed decision they feel good about.
When you haven’t done the work to create an authentic connection with your audience, jumping right to the sale feels like too much, too soon.
I think of it like meeting a new friend for coffee and asking her to be your Maid of Honor. It would be awkward and weird, right? And she might even say yes NOT because she wanted to, but because she felt pressured to agree to something she wasn’t ready for.
Action Step #4: Build a simple, highly effective, sales process that works predictably again and again to turn prospects (even cold ones) into customers.
When you can count on your funnel to perform predictably, you can count on the revenue you need to truly SCALE and that means hiring the team you’ve been dreaming of, upgrading the tools that make your business flow better, and finding the space to work ON your business, instead of in it.
Revenue Roadblock #4: “I’m maxed out with all that I’m doing in my course already, how could I possibly take on more students?”
This is where we need to address your Client Success Pillar.
Right at this moment, do you have the ability to take on 10, 20, or 100 new students? Or does that send you into instant palm sweats and anxiety?
That is a glaring red flag that you don’t have the kind of Client Success system in place for rolling enrollment that properly supports your students. And at that point, it becomes really easy to overcompensate by working around the clock to provide for the students you do have.
That also might look like:
Mistake #1: Adding complexity to your business by adopting a cohort model and making people wait to start your program at the same time.
Because even if you DO start them all together, eventually someone will work 3 lessons ahead, while another takes 2 weeks off and before you know it, your group is a mess of, “Why didn’t I see that lesson?” and “This isn’t helpful because I’m way ahead of this.”
Mistake #2: Spending all your time answering the same questions over and over again inside your student community.
It can start innocently enough—taking a few minutes here and there to answer “a quick question.”
But those few minutes add up quickly and, if you’re not careful, you’ll be left feeling like you don’t have time to devote to any of the CEO-type activities that your business requires to scale.
Mistake #3: Creating an environment of dependency where people only want to connect with YOU and fail to connect with each other.
Creating a community doesn’t mean having hordes of followers who can’t get enough of YOU. It means making space for people to come together and connect with you and EACH OTHER.
What kind of experience can you create to make that happen?
The truth is, when you can create a diverse community of people, all working toward the same thing, there’s a stronger sense of camaraderie and connection that wouldn’t have been possible if everyone was looking only to you.
Mistake #4: Spreading yourself too thin because you feel like people need more time with YOU to be happy.
As a woman, you’ve probably been socialized to do everything you can to make other people happy—your family, your friends, your partner, the kid’s PTA, and the list keeps going, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, that also means overextending yourself for fear of someone being disappointed or not liking you.
But you and I both know that trying to make all those people happy is NOT sustainable.
And as a course business owner, trying to do the same for your students will put you on the fast track to burn out.
If doing all that is what you think it takes to serve more students, is it a surprise that having more clients feels… impossible?
Your focus should be on optimizing your students’ experience in such a way that it can handle continuous enrollment while helping your students thrive—with or without you.
Here’s what to focus on:
Action Step #1: Create an onboarding experience that can handle rolling enrollment by automating what you can and freeing up your need to “be there”.
Ever had to scramble to get login info to a new client while in the middle of a Sunday afternoon with your family? I can tell you, it’s not fun.
Feeling like you’re torn between two places is miserable. But by automating your onboarding experience, you give yourself the opportunity to be present while also giving your customers excellent service.
Action Step #2: Look for opportunities to create group learning experiences that get your students results and maximize your time.
An hour of your time is an hour of your time.
So whether you’re working 1:1 or working 10:1, it’s still going to take the same time and energy. Why not leverage that hour by working with a larger group of people?
Action Step #3: Create a community that can operate without your presence 24/7.
If the only place that your students can connect is during a live training with you, you’re missing out on the opportunity to leverage connection.
Creating a healthy, strong community is about giving your students the opportunity to have multiple points of connection both with you AND with their fellow community members.
Action Step #4: Create systems that reduce the risk of refunds and failed payments.
Refunds and failed payments are a huge drain on your mental energy. And that’s energy that could be used more effectively elsewhere.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that you can remove yourself from the refunds and failed payment process that will not only free you up mentally, but will give you the space to focus on other aspects of your course business.
Revenue Roadblock #5: “I’ve hired people but I still feel like I can’t catch my breath…”
There’s a difference between hiring a contractor to put out a specific fire…
…and having a team member who’s by your side day in and day out.
I realize that hiring is tricky for a lot of course creators. Whether it’s the fear of bringing in the needed revenue to pay them or the fear of managing a team, too many course creators opt for the overpriced contractor until they “feel ready.”
The problem is, you’re left with leaking profits and a sense of overwhelm that only continues to get worse.
Managing a team can be a major drain on your time and energy if you haven’t taken the time to create repeatable processes and systems for them to follow or if you haven’t grown your own abilities to lead them…
…bringing on a team too soon will leave you feeling more stressed out than stress free.
When it comes to hiring a team and doing it profitably, don’t fall for these mistakes:
Mistake #1: Don’t build a team faster than you know how to manage one.
Leading a team doesn’t always come naturally to most.
And even if it did, there’s always room for improvement. By taking on the management of a team before you’ve equipped yourself to do so, both YOU and your team will be left with a lot of negative experiences and frustrated feelings.
Mistake #2: Don’t hire in the wrong order.
I see this all the time. A course creator will convince themselves that they’ve got to pay top dollar to hire a graphic designer to make their course beautiful, while ignoring the hours and hours of admin work that’s taking them away from doing the more important tasks that only they can do.
There’s an order to hiring a team and if you want to do it profitably, it’s going to require a hard look at your financials and what will actually benefit your business for the stage you’re in.
Mistake #3: Don’t settle for overpaid, underqualified contractors because you’re desperate and then feel like you can’t let them go because now your business “needs” them to operate.
As your business grows, so will the needs of your company. And sometimes being a CEO means making hard decisions, including knowing when to move on and find someone who’s better qualified for the needs of your business.
Instead, build a lean, profitable team that doesn’t require micromanaging in order to get the job done.
This looks like:
Action Step #1: Implement systems that create a company culture of personal responsibility.
Nobody likes being micromanaged.
Fortunately, there are ways you can create a culture of personal responsibility within your company that allows everyone to get things done effectively and efficiently.
From hiring, to day-to-day operations, advocating for your team to own what they say they will do leads to higher satisfaction among employees and for the people who manage them.
Action Step #2: Use a proven process to determine what next hire will have the best chance of increasing your profitability.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. But it does have to consider the type of growth you want to achieve and how it will change as your business grows.
Action Step #3: Build a company structure that isn’t overly reliant on any “one” role..
Do you wish you could hire a VA with loads of graphic design experience? It’s possible.
Or maybe you want to find a copywriter who can also help you build out the tech for your funnel?
That’s possible, too.
By having a clear idea of the strengths you’re looking for when hiring for your business, you’ll no longer find yourself at the mercy of ever-increasing invoices for any one person.
Action Step #4: Track the right metrics so you have a better pulse on the true health of your company and performance of your team.
Leading a team doesn’t mean handing over the reins and never looking back. Both you and your team need to own and take responsibility for the results that you create.
So it’s your job to make sure that there are clear metrics in place. Because when the right metrics are tracked, it’s easier to identify problems EARLY and gives you and your team the opportunity to solve them before it’s too late.
Scaling an online course business to and through 7-figures doesn’t come without its share of obstacles and WORK!
But by identifying the most common obstacles course creators face, and how to overcome them, I’m hoping it will shorten your learning curve.
Want to dive deeper? Head here to register for our free Masterclass on the The Scale Method: How To Generate “Launch Sized” Revenue WITHOUT Launching Ever Again.
Today’s blog post is brought to you by Scale with Success® — a group coaching experience designed to help you generate scalable and predictable revenue month after month. If you want to learn MORE about our proven method for success, click here to watch my free masterclass. See you in there!