by Jenna Kutcher
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We’re going back in time to the OG JK days. I want to share some insights about the mechanics and money behind my first course launch in March of 2015. I get asked all the time about how I got started, how I transitioned from full-time photographer to digital marketing educator, podcaster, influencer, and all the other hats I love wearing now.
I’m going to share the decisions I made with my first course that I sorta cringe at now, what I think went well, what techniques I’m STILL using from the course to this day, how I pieced things together for a very haphazard launch, and all the other juicy details about the Jenna Kutcher Course. Yep, that was the name. I mean, embarrassing right? But at least it’s to the point and simple? Oh, if I would have known the things I know now… But at least you can learn from what I know now!
Why I created my first course
At the time when I launched my first-ever course I was “just” a wedding photographer. I use the term just with air quotes, because I had a successful business and a lot on my plate but it’s important for you to be able to visualize my life then and stage of business I was in. I had zero podcast, a tiny email list, no other courses. I had no past experience teaching and didn’t necessarily feel like an “expert,” I just knew what I had done to build my business and I felt this need to share what I had learned and the system I had created that was working.
Back then, I was shooting a ton of weddings and I was realizing as much as I loved photography, I didn’t want to shoot weddings for the rest of my life. I had grown a successful six-figure photography business from scratch and knew how to market myself well, and people were starting to notice and ask questions about my methods.
I had a humble launch of the education side of my business when I started mentoring photographers one on one. I had a handful of female photographers come over to my house for a day and I would show them my process, give them my templates, and answer their biggest questions. I was seeing that MOST people had a lot of the same needs, same questions, and I found myself repeating myself and the systems I used over and over again.
I started to mull over the idea and knew that I wanted to create something that was more scaleable since the one-on-one sessions limited who I could help. The next natural step for me was to create a course around all of that information so I could serve more people in less time, charge what the information was worth, and not drive myself nuts saying the same things again and again.
The Jenna Kutcher Course was a 6 week intensive program that covered everything you need to do to establish your brand, grow your business, market on social media, and work smarter, not harder. Inside my first course, I included every aspect you could possibly need, from marketing tips and strategies to platforms to use to what techniques to follow to organically grow your business with authenticity.
It was basically a first version of a lot of what I teach now, but now I’ve broken the info down into different platforms and strategies to dive even deeper into how to use specific tools like Instagram and your email list to grow your business.
The main buckets for teaching were: What are your dreams? What’s your story? What sets you apart? And then using those to build your online presence in a really natural and strategic way. I taught about pricing yourself for profits, not based on your competition or a number that sounds nice, but through actual equations, not emotions. There were sections on how to really find and connect with your ideal clients and the real way to make your business work for you. And how to set up systems within your business so that it doesn’t take over your life.
The lessons are still really strong and valid today… The production value on the other hand, I get cringe sweats just thinking about it. It was laughable to say the least, but the content was golden so at least I had something going for me.
The JK Course production process
Let’s walk through producing my first course as a human who had zero training on it. I literally sat in bed and recorded the content into a handheld microphone for each lesson. There was zero video, zero slides, just audio recordings coming at you to teach you how to grow your business. Looking back, it was good foreshadowing for my path into podcasting!
On top of the audio modules, I also delivered worksheets to students that were just simple text word documents exported as PDFs. I mean, we are talking low quality here. But hey, you gotta start somewhere right?
I was basically imitating my own experience as a student and I had learned how to set it all up decently well because I had just invested $5000 into my first online course ever. Yes, I said that I spent $5,000 the first time I invested in education EVER and let me explain how I justified that giant expense while bootstrapping my business.
I saw a post on social media for a ‘free coaching call’ put on by the husband of a photographer I followed. I grabbed my spot for a call and the way the way the course creator got people to sign up for his course was he would offer “free coaching consult” calls and then essentially sell his course at the end of the call. I told him if he promised to tell me exactly how he created his course, I’d join.
I essentially took his course to learn what it’s like to take an online course, to see what I loved and hated, and to imitate his process. The biggest thing holding me back at the time was the tech — I didn’t know where to host a course or how to get it recorded and running, and so watching and following his process helped me figure out those nitty gritty details.
I think being a student first and experiencing something similar to what you plan to build is one of the smartest things you can do because you get to experience it as a consumer and learn through that so that you can create the perfect offer without having to learn trial and error style. That $5000 investment shortened my learning curve by years and also gave me all of the information and tools to get my own program up and running — worth every penny.
I literally bought the URL for jennakutchercourse.com and built a sales page on Squarespace that outlined what was inside the course and what people got when they joined.
At the same time I started from zero with my email list and worked on building and growing that as I created my course content. By the time I launched the course, I did have a couple hundred people on my list and I sent out emails about the course to my list to gauge their interest and get some feelers out. This first launch really showed me the power of email marketing. Even though my list was small, it was mighty and it moved the needle. It also made me resent the fact that I started my email list so late in my business.
P.S. If you want to jump start your list, I have an epic and totally free mini-course called the Zero – 250 challenge to get your email list started and growing. Don’t wait like I did!
Launching my first course
At the time, I had a decent social media following, I was mentoring a handful of photographers, and had a small and growing email list, and it was time to launch the Jenna Kutcher Course out into the world.
I followed the same model for selling the course that the guy I took a course from used, which was basically getting on a free coaching call with a prospect, asking them questions like “what does success look like to you?” and “what would it mean to make an extra $1000 a month?”, “what’s holding you back” and then if it felt like the right fit, I would pitch the course on the call.
I kind of laugh because I can literally remember those days having a sales script with the questions written down and I would pace in my little office which was also our guest bedroom and I was so nervous to sell things. I mean, if you know me, this method is kind of the exact opposite of my style, BUT I learned so much from it.
I was in the trenches! I was hustling, posting on all my social platforms every day and doing a ton of the selling one by one, through direct messages, personalized emails and phone calls. I offered free qualifying calls where I would talk to people to make sure the were ready and needed my help, and I think this is the thing that helped me make sales for that first course, especially since it was my first course and I wanted people to connect with me and feel that they could trust the process. So it was a LOT of work, a lot of pushing and posting and having meaningful conversations with potential students.
When you hear about my automated methods and evergreen funnels that are running in my business today, not a shred of that existed for this first launch. This was a one-by-one, intimate, involved process to get this whole thing off the ground.
The course itself was $2500 which is kind of insane when I think about it now because none of my courses cost that much today. The most expensive one I currently offer is $997, but on top of that course I did offer three 1 on 1 calls for each student, which proved to be SO valuable for students to get that personalized coaching and feedback and definitely worth the cost of the course because it took up a lot of my time, too.
My closing rate on those calls was pretty high because when I look at who was getting on the call it was people who had been following my business and watching me grow. They already trusted me and just needed that personalized support and affirmation that they were making a worthy investment.
At the end of the day, I sold 20 Jenna Kutcher Courses for my first round at $2500 each. That meant I made $50,000 which is exactly what my salary had been at Target in my early career days, and that is still mind blowing and absolutely humbling to think about in so many ways. That $50,000 was probably the most game changing amount of money that I’ve ever made in my career, it changed everything for me and helped show me what’s possible.
Now, not all of the $50k was profits. If you think about my investments, I spent $5,000 on the course to teach me how to run my own course, and then countless hours of qualifying calls with prospects, drafting social posts and emails and responding to DMs to try to get the course in front of the right people who could use it and benefit from it most.
All the time it took to write, create, and record the course content, build worksheets, do the 3 coaching calls with each student, and answer questions and respond to feedback along the way… I might’ve just broken even when you add up the time and resources spent to create and launch the course.
The money I made from that first launch when straight back into my learning. After that I took Amy Porterfield’s online course and I decided to hire another coach who helped me put together my next big launch. Spoiler, that launch made me over $100,000. I saw the value in investing in myself and I was serious about putting down thousands of dollars to keep growing, learning, and refining. Those investments that I made 3 years ago have helped fuel the now millions of dollars that we bring in through my education programs.
The Big Picture
I wouldn’t trade the entire experience, even the cringe-y production value and all the phone time, for anything because it has launched me into an entire career focused on helping others build their dream businesses and dream lives. And I never wouldn’t learned the best processes for me to teach without working through some really funky, not-totally-for-me processes first.
It showed the value of just starting with what you have, and how that can lead into so much momentum for growth and greater success. I just took action, I didn’t keep waiting, I didn’t let tech hang me up, I didn’t set an arbitrary number of email subscribers, or need a fancy sales page before I launched — I just created and then sold with my heart. Not a single person refunded, because I was so personally committed to getting them results and invested in their growth.
At the end of my first launch, I had a whole huge list of things I couldn’t wait to explore and implement the next time around. And then I began thinking of ideas for other courses that could benefit entrepreneurs, and it all sort of snowballed into this beautiful business that I run today.
You know when you look back on your life and those metaphorical forks in the road become super clear and obvious and you can see the exact decisions that changed your life? That was 2015 and choosing to first invest in myself and second to believe that I had something to offer the world. Both of which are still beliefs I hold fast to today that have helped me go from a 50k launch to a 7-figure launch while getting people life-changing results.