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I tried to write a 7-day email course in 7 days. Here’s what happened.

Early in December I took some time off from my job at Ghost to recover from shingles. In case you haven’t heard about shingles, it’s basically an adult version of chicken pox, and usually affects older people with compromised immune systems. It comes with a rash, and severe nerve pain that can last for weeks, or even months. For the first week I had shingles I spent most of my time lying immobile on my side, as that was the only position I could find that didn’t leave me in agonising pain. I could only be upright for 15 minutes or so before the pain set in, and after that it would just build and build until I could lie on my side again and wait for it to pass.

Needless to say, I wasn’t able to get much work done. So I took two weeks off. Although Ghost is flexible in terms of time off, I worried about not being able to work for a couple of weeks, as I’d been working on a new audacious content project and didn’t want to get behind in my preparations for the launch.

Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Just before my second sick week was up, and as I was starting to ease back into my Ghost workload, I got fired. It came as a complete shock, and probably couldn’t have been worse timing—not many people are looking to hire new employees right before Christmas. I was fired effective immediately, and my new content project died that day.

But I didn’t want to let it go. I’d completed one article for the new project, and Ghost CEO John had told me it was one of, if not the, best things I’d ever written. I was proud of what I’d come up with, and I believed it was interesting. I still believed in the project itself, and was sad to see it die.

So I took the idea with me, and it became this magazine. I’ve adjusted the concept ever so slightly, but essentially it’s the magazine I had planned to create for Ghost, and one that I think will be fun to work on and fun for you to read.

Although I was keen to keep working on my magazine idea and get it set up for a launch, I knew it was unlikely I’d make much money from this project, at least early on. I had just under two months before my Ghost salary stopped, so while I hustled to find some freelance work and kept looking for full-time jobs, I was starting to worry about where my income would come from in the future.

I’d been toying with the idea of putting together a course for a while. I’d previously started working on a writing course, twice, before abandoning it because I got bored. I knew working on a big course made it difficult to maintain momentum and enthusiasm for the project, but I still thought selling a course could be a good way to diversify my income and take away some of my reliance on client work or full-time employment.

To avoid running out of steam like I had with my writing course, I decided to create something much smaller in scope. A 7-day course, delivered by email. And I decided to write it in 7 days. What better way to build momentum and not let it fizzle out than to go hard for just a week? I decided to start working on the course on Dec 17th. One week later, on the 23rd, I was booked to go away for a couple of days over Christmas, so I had a hard deadline. Nothing was stopping me from working on the course again after Christmas, of course, but I really wanted to push myself to get it done in that first week.

Here’s how that week went down.

Day 1

Last night my partner and co-founder Josh agreed with me that working on this course for a week and making it the subject of my first magazine article made sense. I went to bed excited about starting work today.

That excitement hasn’t dissipated, but I’m so tired today. I’ve been sleeping badly since I started taking strong painkillers for my shingles, and sleeping even worse since I was fired. I sit at my desk for about five minutes before giving up and lying down on the couch. A couple of hours later Josh gets up and I wake from a light doze. I don’t feel like I’ve slept much, but I do seem to have a little more energy, so I get to work.

The first thing I want to do is research what a 7-day email course might look like. I’ve never written a course before, and I have no idea what I’m doing. I do have an idea of what I want the course to be about, at least. Two things I’m really interested in: productivity and habits. I tend to write about these a lot, so I’m going to aim to combine them in this course. Thus, I’m giving it a working title of “my productive habits course”. My plan is to cover how I build new habits that stick, and how to apply this process to habits that will help you stay organised, calm, and get things done.

So I know what content I want to write, and I have a rough idea of what each of the seven days will cover, but I’m totally lost in terms of how to structure it and what kind of interactive elements to include so I can get away with calling it a “course”.

So I start googling. I sign up for 10 free email courses. I’m guessing the quality won’t be as good as in paid courses, which is what mine will be, but hey, I just lost my job. I can’t afford to pay for a bunch of email courses I don’t even want. When I suggested this idea for research to Josh, he worried I’d steal content ideas from other courses, and suggested I stick to courses that don’t overlap with what mine will be about. I take his advice under advisement and sign up for courses covering personal finance, freelancing, online marketing, creative branding, learning esperanto, and hand lettering.

Most of the courses send me the first lesson immediately, so I start scouring the emails to see what kind of structure they take. There’s a mixture of approaches, with most falling into one of these categories:

  • written lesson only, nothing interactive
  • ending with a question: user is sometimes expected to reply to the email with an answer, sometimes just expected to think about the answer
  • online form (often billed as a “worksheet”): user is expected to fill it out and submit
  • downloadable “homework” to complete: usually a worksheet or survey

Until this point I’d been thinking homework was a good way to make my course feel valuable. After all, the point of purchasing a course is to get something out of it. Including homework would let me show the user how to put each lesson into practice, making them feel like they were getting value out of the course beyond just reading the content.

Now that I’m looking through all these first lessons, I’m surprised to find I’m turned off by anything called “homework”. On the other hand, I’m also turned off by lessons on the other end of the scale that leave me to ponder a question like “Who is your dream client?” or “What do you want to get out of this course?”. This approach seems half-arsed, and makes the creator look lazy in my eyes. The content-only approach, with nothing interactive, however, comes off looking okay. I wonder if these courses will add interactive elements as the course goes on, or if content-only is a feasible approach for an entire course.

Day 2

Remember how I was so tired I couldn’t focus yesterday? I went to the doctor to get some sleeping pills in the afternoon. Last night I took one, and started feeling very sleepy about half an hour later. I had high hopes for my first good night’s sleep in weeks, but alas, it wasn’t to be. I slept no better than the night before, and today I’m struggling again.

The doctor said I could take two sleeping pills if I needed to, so I’m looking forward to zonking out tonight. In the meantime, my deadline is ever approaching and I need to get cracking on the content for my course. I’ve made a start on four of the seven days, but there’s a lot of work left to do.

After lunch a few “Day 2” emails come in from the various courses I signed up for yesterday. Some of them space the emails out with a couple of days in-between, so I only hear from four out of the ten today.

There’s not much to see today that didn’t come up yesterday. It seems most of the courses set the tone with the first lesson, and things aren’t going to change wildly from here on in. One of them sticks with its idea of the user replying to each email with their answers to the homework questions. Another sticks to its no homework policy, but includes a link to an optional worksheet to download—a change from yesterday’s content only approach.

All in all, day two is pretty dull. Each of the courses sticks to the expectations it set up on day one, and doesn’t do anything surprising. I wonder if I’d be more enamoured with these courses if I cared more about what they wanted to teach me. I’ve invested very little beyond mild curiosity, so perhaps that’s affecting my judgement.

I have a little think about what kind of email course I would like to do, but I can’t think of any. Even if I paid for a course, I’m not sure there are any I’d be interested in enough to see them through. Something about the set schedule, the homework, and the expectations of the course creator turn me off. It’s like going to school and having everything decided for you.

This makes me think maybe email isn’t the best way to deliver this course. Maybe I should make it a self-paced course, and just make all the materials available at once. I’m sure that’ll be more effort than drip-feeding each participant the lessons via email, but it might just make the course more attractive and more valuable, too. I do want people to get something out of my course, so if I can find a way to make it easier and more enjoyable to work through all the material, it’s definitely worth it.

I’ll keep thinking about this throughout the week. For now, I need to get some more writing done.

Day 3

Very little to report today. I continue working on the content for my course, and continue finding little inspiration in the emails I get every day. I think signing up for courses in areas I’m not interested in was a mistake. These courses might be insanely helpful for people who want to know about setting a budget or getting started with social media, but I feel I’m giving them an unfairly bad rap.

It’s making me start to wonder whether my course is useful and interesting, too. I’m worried I might be waffling and wasting people’s time. With a paid course, I can’t afford to do that. This has to be useful, and it has to be interesting. I think I might beta test it like I would a software product. I’ll send it out for free to some people who agree to offer feedback, and improve it based on their experiences before launching the paid version.

In fact, I might start calling for beta testers now, so I can figure out what interests them in a course like this, and where they need help. Why didn’t I think to do this earlier?

Day 4

I’m feeling a bit better about the content of my course today. I worked on the section about organisation today, and felt good about having small, practical techniques to share that have made a huge difference to my own work. I went through some ways to structure your to do list, how to organise tasks based on how long they’ll take, and how to use checklists to save time when doing the same tasks over and over.

With only three days to go, I probably should be at the editing stage now. I’m going a bit slow in terms of writing the content, but my absolute deadline is to have a rough draft of the entire course by the end of 7 days. If I have an edited version ready to launch—even better.

I’ll try to pick up the pace tomorrow so I have two full days to get the editing done.

Day 5

I’ve had a surprisingly good reaction to my ask for beta testers. I sent a single tweet at night in Australia, and thought the timing would probably be bad, since most of my followers are in earlier timezones. Turns out that didn’t really matter—I got a few responses immediately, and this morning they’re still coming in.

I hope this many people will actually want to buy the course… maybe people just like free stuff?

Day 6

Yesterday I didn’t get much writing done, so today I really need to buckle down. I’ve started emailing beta testers with a short blurb about the course and some questions to get a better idea of who they are and why the course is interesting to them. I’m hoping that will help me make it more valuable as I keep working on the content, but so far the answers haven’t been very helpful. Perhaps I’m asking the wrong questions.

I’m still aiming to have a full first draft of the course content done by tomorrow, but I think waiting until after Christmas to get any beta tester feedback is a good idea. I won’t be ready to send them anything anyway, but they’ll all be busy with holiday/family stuff regardless.

Before I can get feedback on the course I’ll need to edit the content, make sure I have all the screenshots and images I want to use, get the mailing list set up, and format all the content into emails. I’ll also need to put together the self-paced version, where you get all the content at once and do it at your leisure. At least one beta tester has already asked for that, so I need to figure out how to format it and package it up for him.

I’m feeling a lot of urgency to get this done, but if I think about it honestly, early-mid January is probably the best time to be launching a course like this. First week of Jan people will still be on holidays, but by the second or third week they might be ready to take on a new challenge in view of having a more productive year ahead. That gives me next week (last week of December) to edit the content and pull it all together into a beta version, then just 1-2 weeks max for beta testers to try it and give me feedback. Launching mid-week seems like a good idea, to make sure it’s a weekday for everyone around the world (Monday here is still the weekend for everyone in earlier timezones—i.e. most of the world). I’d like to get it out by Wed, Jan 13th, but I think that’s pushing it too much. I’ll aim for the following Wednesday: January 20th.

Day 7

It turns out many of the courses I signed up for last more than 7 days. I forgot to limit myself to 7-day courses. I unsubscribed from one today that has a couple of weeks to go until it’s done. Another one is a 9-day course, so I’ll stick with it to see how it ends. Three of the courses did end today, which I’d been hanging out for—each day they were pretty much the same, but I thought they might go out with a bang. I wanted to see if there were extra downloads, freebies, or different formatting for the last lesson.

One of the three does have a free “kit” available for download. The final lesson came with a big blue button in the email, making the download the focus. The other two, disappointingly, don’t seem any different to any other day. The fact that this is the last lesson barely registers in the email content. While it’s disappointing, it makes me think I can easily do better—then I remember these courses are free, so I’d want to do better if I’m going to charge for mine.

It’s December 23rd, so Christmas is really creeping up now. Josh and I are going to see his parents tomorrow, which is a 3-4 hour train trip. We’re going for a few days so today is a bit of a mad scramble to get things done. I spend some time making rum balls to take with us, tidying up in the kitchen, and packing for the trip. I also have a Skype call in the afternoon with a potential new freelance client, so there’s a lot going on.

Finally, late-afternoon I find some time to sit in our recliner with my laptop and get stuck into my course content. I have a few hours before dinner, and I know I can get this done if I hustle.

When I stop for dinner, I’m really close to being done with the first draft. Close enough to call the experiment a success, I decide. A week should be plenty of time to tidy up my draft and add finishing touches before I test out the course on beta testers. Speaking of which, I’m still getting emails and tweets from people who want to try the course. So far I have about five or six people who’ve taken the time to reply to my questions, so they’ll be getting a free copy of the course when it’s done.

I discuss my launch-day plans with Josh, and he agrees that mid-January would be good timing. He likes January 13th best as a launch date, as do I, but we both agree more time for feedback on the beta version is a good idea.

I decide to aim to get a landing page and mailing list for the course set up next week, when we’re back from our Christmas trip. Now that I’ve got a full draft of the course, I know that I can get it finished without running out of steam, so I want to start marketing it and drumming up interest before the launch date.

I guess that means I need a name, too! I’m terrible at naming things, but Josh is good at it. He came up with Field Trip, so I’ll task him with naming the course, too. Something to-the-point that explains what you’re getting, I think. Maybe just “Productive Habits course by Belle Beth Cooper”? No, I shouldn’t even try naming it. I’ll leave it to Josh.


Christmas week

I finished up my 7-day sprint to draft the course on December 23rd. My plan was to have a few days off for Christmas (I travelled a few hours away and spent time with family and without WiFi, so it shouldn’t have been hard), and start a week of editing the course the following Monday.

It didn’t turn out that way. I’ve been receiving email responses to my beta tester questions at around 1/day on average, since I started sending them out. I’ve received more back than I expected, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign for the feedback I’ll get about the actual course content.

However, one of the things that’s come up a few times was a worry (sometimes based on previous email course experience) about finding time to read or complete the course. I realised I was trying to pack a lot into 7 days, in the hope of providing lots of value, but sometimes there’s just as much value in the time and effort it takes to pack in only the most valuable content, in the way it’ll be most helpful.

So I decided to expand the course and cut down how much time was required for reading and homework per day. Josh suggested giving people weekends off, so each week would only have 5 lessons in it. This seems like a good idea. As we set off on our 4-hour train journey on Christmas Eve, I take out my laptop and start playing with the structure of the course. I work out how many days the existing material will expand to, and what kind of order would make the most sense.

I’m also keeping in mind other themes in the feedback. For instance, I asked everyone what tasks they would assign to a personal assistant if they had one for free for one week. Almost everyone chose minutiae—invoicing, emails, filing, organising. The small things that take time away from “real” work. This makes me think working in some techniques for automating small tasks (or parts of them) to speed them up could be helpful.

Another common problem seems to be feeling overwhelmed or stressed about not getting enough done, so I decide to include a section about health—looking after yourself and understanding how taking time to care for yourself will improve your productivity.

It takes a lot of rearranging and thinking, but eventually I come up with a 20-lesson plan. That’s 4 weeks of lessons each weekday. I’m thinking the final lesson will include some goodies to download and use, as a fun end to the course, and the penultimate lesson will be a final “well done” conclusion letter from me. Other than that, each lesson will focus on a specific, practical technique or approach to building habits, productivity and organisation, or looking after your health. I’m excited about the plan, and I think the course will be a lot more well-rounded and valuable in this format.

But wow, I’ve set myself up for a lot more work during editing week. Time for some Christmas cheer.

Editing week

Tuesday

I don’t know where Monday went. Somehow, in the middle of writing a course about being productive, I lost most of a workday to fiddling with my organisation methods. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the areas of responsibility I have to take care of: admin and business tasks for Hello Code, bug fixes and new features for Exist‘s iOS app, getting this email course finished so I can launch it, and following up with clients so I can get some income flowing in again. Not to mention my other side projects that are languishing because I’m too busy to work on them right now.

I spent about half of yesterday researching and testing different approaches for organising my workload so nothing would fall through the cracks, everything would be done in a timely fashion, and I would consistently make progress on these different areas of responsibility. I went to bed thinking I’d finally figured it out. Good ol’ pen and paper seemed to be the answer, since nothing else fit what I was looking for.

This morning I realised how wrong I was. I love using pen and paper, but analogue organisation just doesn’t work for me anymore, even when I try really hard. I spent another hour or two today looking into other methods, before deciding I needed to just get some work done and stop worrying about the work I’m not doing right now.

So, the good news: I’ve just finished editing the first week of the course! This one was the closest to being finished already, but it’s good to start with easy tasks. It builds momentum. I have 6 new sections that aren’t drafted, since I expanded the course, but I also have lots of old material I can reference to get the drafts done quickly. If I concentrate, I think I can get this edited by the end of the week.

Since each of my beta testers agreed to test a 7-day course, I thought it would make sense to give them one of the four weeks to test (spreading them out, so I get a few testers for each week). But Josh disagrees. He thinks I need them to test the full course. Which, of course, I do—I just don’t have time for that long a testing period if I’m launching mid-January. We haven’t figured out a good compromise yet.

As far as the writing goes, I’m feeling really good about the course content. Editing the introduction of Day 1 today, I felt like I’d be excited to receive that, and would really look forward to completing each day of the course. I haven’t included any homework, but have set up each day to include a specific technique (or two) to help with productivity. In the intro I suggested that it’s fine to skip days that aren’t interesting or relevant, and to come back to skipped or favourite days after the course is over. I imagine it’ll feel more like a reference book than a course with homework, but I’m hoping that’ll prove to be valuable and interesting.

Wednesday

Josh and I sit down to discuss how I should approach beta testing the course today. He’s convinced (rightly so, if previous beta experiences are any indication) that of the people I send the course to, few will bother to offer feedback. So he’s worried I’ll not get enough feedback on each section if I try to split the testers up among the four weeks of the course. I really need to test the whole course, he says, but when I counter with the fact that I’d have to push back the release date if I did that, he’s not convinced that’s the answer either.

Eventually we find a compromise: all the beta testers get the full course, but I ask for their feedback at the end of each week. I release the course on January 20th as we’d planned, which gives me a week to act on the testers’ feedback for each week before the public get to it. I’m basically going to do live adjustments to the course’s email just before they get sent. I don’t love this plan, but it lets me keep my launch date and test the course on about 25 people, so I agree.

Time to email the testers. I tell them how I’ve changed the course and what it consists of now. I ask that they reply to my email if they want to test the four-week version. Hopefully I haven’t turned them all off!

Wednesday, Thursday, Weekend, I don’t know what day it is anymore…

The rest of this week has been a bit of a blur. I’m starting to feel stressed about the impending beta tester launch on Monday, and all the other work I’m not attending to right now. I mean, I don’t have a job. It’s not like anyone’s expecting me to show up to work, or anything. But I do have projects giving me the hairy eyeball from the corner as they gather dust while I stress about this course.

The good news is, I’m getting close to being ready for the beta testers. I’ve finally finished all the various lessons, edited them, and handed them over for Josh to check. He’s picked up a few typos here and there, and we’ve debated a few points that he doesn’t agree with, but he’s not the target audience so mostly I’ve taken his general advice under advisement until I see what the beta testers say.

I’ve written copy for the landing page, so Josh can put that together for me next week while the beta testing is happening. As soon as it’s live I can start taking pre-orders, but it probably won’t be live for long before launch anyway. Though I could take pre-orders and put off the launch for a bit longer, if the pre-order approach works to drum up some attention. I’ll have to think on that.

I’m really stressing about Day 20, which is the last day of the course. I wanted to fill it up with downloadable goodies as a celebration of finishing the course—”no more homework or learning today, just relax and have some free stuff” kinda thing. Except I don’t know what free stuff to include. I thought some wallpapers including some of the advice I’ve shared throughout the course might be useful and fun, but I’m no designer so I’m not sure that’ll turn out well. Other than that, I’m really stuck, and it’s stressing me out.

I’m actually really keen to have this over and done with, now. I originally designed the course to be 7 days long, and drafted in 7 days, because I knew I’d get sick of it. Writing courses isn’t my favourite thing to do. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and it’s a very good way to make you second guess everything you think you know. So I’m looking forward to getting it out there. I really hope people find it useful, and that it makes me some money, but I’m also really looking forward to not thinking about it for a while (I’m thinking about updating it down the track with an eBook copy of the course available as a download in the last email).

Beta testing

Day 1

This thing is killing me.

I’m doing all the fiddly work of moving content into emails, setting up the email subjects and sending times, and checking content formatting. It’s so boring. And so fiddly. I’m dying.

Day 2

Got some feedback about day one already. I’m going to send out emails to beta testers at the end of each week to ask what they thought, but a couple have been proactive enough to send me some feedback already.

One person said day one is too long, which is totally fair. I need to think about how I can cut it down or split it up.

Someone else found a typo, and had some ideas about changing specifics like some of the wording, and the timing of the emails. I’m not convinced he’s the target audience, so I want to get some more feedback before I act on what he’s said. It’s possible the people who would pay for it will like it as-is.

Day 5

Very little feedback so far. I emailed all the testers today to see what they thought of week one and only two replied. One said that maybe I should add homework/exercises. The other said the short length of each email is good.

Other than waiting for feedback, I’ve been trying to drum up some pre-orders. So far I haven’t had a single bite. I didn’t think the course would take the world by storm, but I did think I’d get a little trickle of people interested, at least. The page itself hasn’t had a lot of visits, so I’m hoping it’s more a problem of getting people to find out about the course than people not converting once they’re there.

I’ve been making a list of things I can do to drive more traffic to the page. I’ve tweeted about it a few times already. I added a note about it (with a link) to the bottom of the last post I republished on Medium. I’m going to publish one lesson from the course on my blog as a kind of “excerpt” with a link to the course page for people to find out more about it.

I’m also thinking about emailing anyone I’ve worked with who’s interested in this kind of thing, to see if they want to share it, and trying to get some guest posts landed on a couple of habit/productivity-focused blogs.

Day 10

More feedback is flowing in now. Most of the changes requested have been quite small—things like adjusting a sentence here and there, or adding some more detail to a particular lesson.

Overall, the response has been really positive. I’ve had people tell me they’re actually using the lessons to get organised and get things done, which is really exciting. That’s what I wanted most of all, so it’s great to hear.

Josh and I have continued to discuss different options for the launch roll-out and the course structure as the feedback comes in. We pushed out the launch date to Feb 1st when we opened up pre-orders (which are now up to 15—much better than zero!), so I have almost two weeks left before launch.

I’ve organised a guest post that should help draw some more attention, and I’ve planned to post the course on Product Hunt a few days before launch.

Day 12

Today Josh and I discuss whether I should make the course run every day, rather than giving participants weekends off. This would make sending out the lessons much simpler, because I wouldn’t have to calculate which days to skip, and anyone who signs up for the course on/after launch day won’t have to wait until the following Monday to get started. At the end of each week I’ve included some links to related reading and recommended products, which I can easily split out into two more emails for days 6 and 7 of each week. We agree this makes sense, so I’ll need to get started on the new email set-up soon.

I also have an idea for some worksheets to include in the final email as free downloads:

  • 1 monthly review worksheet
  • 1 weekly review worksheet
  • 1 daily planning worksheet
  • 1 habit building worksheet

I cover my weekly and monthly reviews in the course, so this would make it easier for participants to follow my process or adapt it to suit their needs. The habit building worksheet will put the habit building strategies from the course to practical use, by showing how to apply each one to a particular habit when you start building it. And the daily planning sheet will cover the few steps I go through every day to stay organised.

Josh agrees these sound useful, and will be a good way to help participants understand the theories I’ve shared throughout the course in a more practical way.

Day 23

I have just one week left until launch day.

I haven’t had any feedback on week 3 from beta testers yet, so hopefully that’ll start coming in over the next week.

I’ve created the PDF worksheets and written up the final email of the course for the beta testers. I’ve also started the arduous process of creating a whole new version of the course that runs for 7 days/week instead of 5. I’m halfway through, but it’s a tedious task.

Pre-orders are going well. I’ve been blogging a couple of times a week on my blog, which seems to be helping drive course signups. I’m up to 23 pre-orders now. I’ve also finished writing up a guest blog post that should drive some more interest when it gets published next week.

I’m feeling a bit stressed about everything that needs to be done before I can launch the course:

  • re-write landing page/sign up page/confirmation page copy
  • re-write welcome email
  • finish creating new 7-day course email workflow
  • re-write all mentions of pre-orders on my website and blog
  • send final feedback email to beta testers
  • add testimonials from beta testers to landing page

There’s a lot to do! Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly, and then I can just worry about promoting the course, rather than all the extra admin that goes along with creating and launching it.

Day 28

3 days ’til launch! It’s getting really close now. Thankfully, I’m pretty much on top of everything that needed to be done prior to launch. I’m glad I ended up pushing back the launch date so I wasn’t overworked or super stressed about getting everything finished.

When I wake up today, my guest post on the Buffer Open blog has been published. The post explores some of my favourite habit-building methods and seems to be going down well with the Buffer audience. I jump into the comments throughout the day, which are almost all positive. Everyone seems to be enjoying the post.

When I check my analytics, though, only 18 people have visited my course page from the link in the bottom of the post. A couple of people signed up, but I had expected a lot more people to be curious enough to click through and find out more about the course. The link isn’t super prominent, so it’s possible it was too easy to overlook.

In the evening the beta testers receive their last email from me. I’ll follow it up tomorrow with a final feedback request, asking whether they’d recommend the course to friend and what they thought overall.

The feedback so far has ended up being quite helpful. Beta testers have made some good suggestions, and I’ve definitely improved the course with their help.

I also list the course on Product Hunt this evening, hoping to build on the momentum from the Buffer post. By now I’ve had about 30 visits to the course page from Buffer, so I’m hoping Product Hunt will send a lot more people clicking through.

I’m able to post the course directly to the Product Hunt front page, since I was an early user, but after a few minutes it gets pushed below the fold. Product Hunt users now have to click “View 1 more product” to make my post visible. It seems to be a result of moderation, because there aren’t many products listed yet and I’m the only one being pushed below the fold. My course is also gathering more upvotes and comments than the next 3 or 4 products posted above mine (and above the fold).

After about an hour I’m disheartened by what seems to be invisible moderation for no good reason. I get a couple of course sign ups but try not to be disappointed that neither of my big marketing pushes today worked out well.

Day 29

Overnight the rest of the world woke up and looked at Product Hunt, which worked out well for me. I wake up today to see my course, while still listed below products with fewer comments and upvotes, is at least above the fold now. It has over 70 votes and a couple of new comments. I’ve also had enough sign ups overnight to kick my total pre-order income over $1800.

I didn’t really have a goal in mind for the course’s launch. Ongoing I’d like to bring in $250+ per month from the course, but I know that will require ongoing marketing efforts. $1800 for my first month seems good, even if I don’t have any goal to measure it against.

I send a final feedback and thank you email to beta testers today, and remind them the pre-order discount price only lasts for a couple more days—if they want to recommend the course to friends, now would be the time.

I have a couple of things to get done on Monday, ready for the launch:

  • Final update to landing page copy to update pricing and remove mentions of pre-orders and launch date
  • Update welcome email that gets sent immediately after purchase. Right now it says you’ll receive the first course lesson on Feb 1st, but once I launch the lesson will come 15 minutes later.

I haven’t planned any marketing for launch week, as my main two ideas were the Buffer guest post and posting the course on Product Hunt. Today I’ll write a draft blog post for Monday to announce the launch. And I better get thinking about what else I can do to keep the current momentum going throughout next week.

Launch day

It’s finally here! We’re launching tonight at 9pm, so people in other timezones around the world will all get their first lesson sometime on Monday. It’ll be before most people in the U.S. wake up, late morning or afternoon for Europeans, and nighttime here in Australia. After today, anyone who purchases the course will get their first lesson straight away, and every other lesson at the same time each day following.

I write out a list of everything Josh and I need to coördinate for the launch. There’s quite a bit to get done all at once, but we can’t start until tonight so I’ll have to try to focus on other things for now.


It’s almost 9pm. About half an hour ago we were in the middle of an episode of House of Cards when Josh suddenly shouted, “9pm!” and we both realised we’d forgotten about the launch. Yep, that’s how professional I am. I set an all-day event in my calendar for launch day, so I had no reminders to get it launched. I’m not lying when I say nighttime isn’t my best time to work: I can’t even remember there’s work to be done. My brain is so switched off by dinner time.

Anyway, we’re both trying to coördinate everything now so we can launch in the next 5-10 minutes. I’m running back and forth between Josh’s office, checking copy and pricing changes, and my room, where I’m making final changes to the email workflow.


Well, we launched. We got it done. I only made one huge, stupid mistake. I guess it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, but I’m pretty embarrassed about it.

I’ve created a brand new email workflow that runs every day instead of taking two-day breaks for weekends. I finished it off tonight and turned it on, ready for Josh to move all the pre-order subscribers over to the main email list. But I forgot to turn off the old email workflow. So everyone got two copies of lesson 1, each slightly different.

What a disappointing way to start. Of course, someone emailed immediately to let me know I’d sent out the first email twice, but by then I’d turned it off so it won’t happen again.

Anyway, besides that fumble it all went smoothly. The price has changed from $29 USD pre-order price to $39 USD. People who purchase the course now get to start it immediately, rather than subscribing to a waiting list as pre-orderers did.


The day after launch. I’m still bummed about sending out that first email twice, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. Josh keeps saying not to worry about it, so I’m doing my best to let it go.

3 or 4 people posted nice tweets about the course overnight, and I got four signups. I’m feeling good about the stress of launch being over, but I’m already thinking about how much I have to do this month to get Field Trip launched! Onwards and upwards.

So far the course has made a little over $3,500. Considering all the time I put into it (not even counting the time and effort Josh put in to setting up all the code-related stuff to process payments and handle sign-ups), I’ve just about broken even. Anything from here on, I’ll consider entirely profit.

Best of all, I’ve had some really great feedback from beta testers. Some of them have been implementing the techniques already, and I’ve even had someone say it’s the most useful email course they’ve been a part of.

I laugh when I look back at the start of this article: to think I planned to bang out a first draft of the course in 7 days seems funny now. The extra time, effort, and decisions I’ve made have turned this into a much bigger project than I’d expected. But now that it’s done, I’m proud of what I created.

You can view the Productive Habits email course here.

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