How to Create and Launch an Online Course in Just 48 Hours

On a hot weekend in June, I met up with two entrepreneurs from my mastermind group to collaborate an on online course called Project LAUNCH. The challenge was… we only had 48 hours.

At 10 AM on Friday June 3rd, 2016 the countdown began.

Craig JarrowWes Wages, and I had committed to a very public challenge to create and launch an online course in just 48 hours.

That weekend was full of nothing but hustle, and there were moments we all doubted our ability to finish in time.

But we did it―we successfully created and launched an online course in exactly 48 hours!

While the experience is still fresh, I wanted to do a write-up for three specific reasons:

  1. You need to know this kind of speed is possible,
  2. I want you to learn from our experience, and
  3. The challenge was incredible―I can still feel the energy today!

What Went Well In Our Online Course Challenge?

Set an Audacious Goal―Then Pursue it Relentlessly

This one’s worth celebrating on so many levels.

We set a goal to create and launch an online course in just 48 hours… and we did it!

If you’ve ever thought about or talked about creating your own online course, let that sink in for a minute.

We just finished in two days what you’ve been putting off for months (go ahead, tweet that).

Yes, that means way-to-go-us but more importantly it means you-can-do-this-too.

That’s why this challenge was public from the start (including a live video feed).

If our goal had been “work on a course” or “create something new” it would have been easier to give up or settle when the deadline got tight.

Create Truly Transformational Content

It’s one thing to throw together a couple of half-hearted videos and call that a course.

That is not what we did.

We got crystal clear on the transformation we wanted to create for our students before we recorded a single video.

The result? Project LAUNCH is the highest quality content I’ve ever helped to produce.

If you have even the slightest interest in starting an online business from scratch, this course provides the tried-and-true framework you will need to (nearly) guarantee your success.

This course was designed for students who want to:

  • Teach what they love,
  • Work when they want, and
  • Make money online.

If I had access to this course three years ago, I’d be massively more successful than I am today.

I’m confident (and proud) that we created something truly transformational.

Set Clear Guidelines for Each Collaborative Project

I’m not gonna lie, creating and launching an online course in 48 hours was (and is) an audacious goal.

That's especially true when you introduce three very different personalities into the mix.

The project could have been derailed very quickly, but we didn't have time to deal with that kind of delay.

So we set clear guidelines upfront, which we referred back to throughout our launch challenge:

Project LAUNCH Challenge Guidelines

  1. MVP (Minimum Viable Product) First
  2. Any ideas is worth 5 minutes
  3. Every video should be less than 10 minutes
  4. Make decisions fast
  5. Value > Profit

Enjoy The Experience of Creating Something New

As an entrepreneur, you have the responsibility and privilege to create.

That’s the most exciting and terrifying aspect of being an entrepreneur!

As an entrepreneur you have the terrifying ability (and responsibility) to create something new!Click To Tweet

Throughout the challenge, we stopped periodically to remind each other that we were creating an amazing new product.

Celebrating progress made the experience loads of fun! And truly, that made it much easier to stay focused long after the sun went down each day.

Always Be Ready to Adapt and Change Course

This one is actually the hardest for me, because I’m a fairly structured individual who loves sticking to plans once they're already set.

But the reality is, life is messy and unpredictable. Situations change.

Unless you have access to some crystal ball I'm unaware of, you have no idea how any project will actually turn out. You need to be ready and willing to alter your plan (if necessary) when obstacles arrise.

In our case, that meant killing the live video feed halfway into our challenge.

We liked the idea of sharing live video, but it quickly became a distraction from our real focus―which was creating course content.

On day two, we switched to providing hourly video updates to keep our audience engaged:

Project LAUNCH Challenge Updates (Video)

(Believe me, I had nothing to do with video clip #3)

What Did Not Go Well In Our Online Course Challenge?

Nobody Cares About Your Pretty Website

I like beautiful web design as much as the next guy (heck, I co-founded Notable Themes) but you don't need a perfect website for the first version of your new product.

Despite that fact… we got sidetracked.

For three precious hours of our 48-hour challenge, we did nothing but update website design.

That's not counting the time we spent creating course functionality to actually make the finished product work!

People like pretty content, but that’s not why your content exists.Click To Tweet

If you’re creating something transformational, you need to focus on high quality content first and get a simple, functional website live before you worry about fancy design.

Don't Simultaneously Focus on Marketing AND Education

This one is tough (and it’s exactly why I closed a course last fall).

Throughout the entire challenge, we were creating an online course… but we were also trying to sell it.

All three of us are online marketers, so we got excited about selling early course access.

But we struggled to balance marketing the course and creating the course throughout our 48-hour challenge.

Because of that, throughout that initial Project LAUNCH weekend, we did not make a single sale.

Ouch!

We walked away with a finished product (launching later this year), but lost momentum with our half-hearted promotion.

Watch Out For a Lack of Clear Milestones

A full 24 hours into our 48-hour course-creation challenge… we hadn't even started recording.

I was getting nervous (we all were) that we wouldn’t finish in time.

How did this happen? How did we let a day go by without recording a single minute of film?

We failed to create milestones from our goal (and set deadlines).

Sure, we had a long list of everything we had to do to finish the course―but without milestones attached to a deadline, we didn't know we were behind until the end of that first day.

Make Time to Play―Or Burn Out

At the end of our 48-hour challenge, we were all physically and mentally exhausted.

Every moment we weren’t sleeping or eating, we had spent working on some aspect of our course challenge―barely stopping to chat.

We had access to arcade machines, a pool, good friends we rarely spent time with… and every waking moment was focused on work.

While we got the results we were shooting for, we missed out on the opportunity to recharge periodically―whether that meant a power nap or breaking to goof off, we did not make time to play.

Because of that, much of the work we were doing took longer than it had to―we forced our way through it instead of stopping to breathe.

Beware the “Everyone Do Something!” Mentality

Honestly, we did a really poor job of clarifying responsibilities leading into our challenge.

Each of us has our own unique set of talents and experience to bring to the project, but rather than acknowledge that…

We made a super long task list and said:

Okay, now pick something and go!

The Project LAUNCH Challenge Team

Here's a quick summary of who was involved and our respective strengths, so you get an idea of what our delegation strategy should have looked like:

  • John Meese (me) – Blogger with a focus on online courses and business fundamentals.
  • Craig Jarrow – Popular productivity blogger with corporate leadership experience.
  • Wes Wages – Highly talented videographer, editor, and designer (ninja Photoshop skills).
  • Kelly Combs– Writer, speaker, and experienced virtual assistant
  • Robby Miles – Teacher, productivity blogger, and online education specialist
  • Daniel Goldak – Technology development expert (and marketing apprentice)

Any questions about this challenge? Planning to try something similar yourself? Join the discussion in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “How to Create and Launch an Online Course in Just 48 Hours

  1. Wow John, my heart is definitely pumping just reading your recap! I’ve heard of entrepreneurs doing a minimum viable product from scratch in a week – I think Chalene Johnson tackled the subject on a video in Platform U. But 2 days! You’ve got to set some kind of record! Great inspiration and lessons for me. I love my pretty website! Haha

    So who among the three of your core members came up with the idea and convinced you to go for it?

    1. Glad this inspired you, Mike! That’s exactly why I wrote this thorough recap.

      Wes was the one to first suggest that we build something instead of spend our retreat on strategic planning. At first I was resistant, but I let him and Craig talk me into it once we discussed options and decided to collaborate rather than each do our own thing.

  2. Inspirational framework to push folks(including me!) to ‘just launch’/’just ship’. 48 hours was really, really pushing it in terms of delivering a high-value course, congratulations there! Read the post, watched all the videos and now figuring out, very specifically, how I can do something similar(though, maybe in a timeframe of a week since I’d be going solo) here very soon!

    A few things to ask/clarify, if you don’t mind:

    1. For someone doing this solo, any recommendations, based upon your experiences here, with how to go forth and conquer. From what you’ve said in the videos above, really spending time w/ the outline and clarity on the outcome is very important. And…focus on great content: don’t worry ’bout that pretty looking site that we all tend to fall into! ;-P

    2. This is a fairly high-priced purchase, arguably. I noticed this feeling which turned into an objection when looking at the sales page: “48 hours to create a $500 program? How truly great could it be for that investment?” Even not knowing about its creation, though, i was surprised by the price with the info presented.

    Though I’m not your target(well, I might be but I’m not sure from the sales page who the target is now that I think about it – or did I miss that entirely like a bonehead? NO, don’t answer that! ;-P ), I would think many, if not most of your prospects would want to know more than the information you provide presently on your sales page. Or maybe not. Did you do any heat map and conversion analysis?

    3. Curious, related to some of the above: you launched this more than six weeks ago(when I’m posting this), why is the sales page so..well, ‘austere’? It feels like this is the sales page that you created when you finished the challenge. To me, I would think it would feel compelled to give more details into each modules’ content, what the outcomes of each module would accomplish for the buyer, address objections, frame the value, make clearer who is this for/who it’s not for, give short examples of the teaching(so a prospect could bond a bit w/ the teacher) and/or PDFs, etc..so I”m guessing there was a reason you wanted to keep it this way. If so, what is that reason as it does go somewhat against established thinking with mid-level priced products in the IM World. (well, actually most worlds…)

    Not a criticism..but really just curious as, at least to me again, it’s lacking muscle to convince the prospect to buy. I”m not saying it needs a long form sales page but it might be the shortest sales page I’ve seen for a $500 product. You all wanted to keep it short like this, I gather? (that said, if this was, say, $97 I would have just purchased it on the fly out of curiosity just to investigate what a 48 hour course looks like after knowing its story…)

    4. How many total hours with the whole team did it take? (assuming that you tracked them all) Oh, what platform did you put the course on, in the end?

    5. Last thing: how did it sell the first week? Were you all happy w/ the results relative to the effort? How have sales been since? Are you happy w/ those results relative to the effort?

    Sorry, lots of questions but this was so good, it really got my mind churning away!

    Finally, circling back to the beginning…thank you for doing this publicly and sharing this post. Really, it’s pushed me today to get down ‘n dirty and push harder. I have a new course I’m getting ready to shift into gear w/ its creation but I’m kind of dragging my feet on…this is a great manner to hack it forward so…THANK YOU! 🙂

    1. Wow, Bruce, you just won the prize for longest comment on my blog to date! Thank you for taking the time to chime in with such focus.

      It’s true, the current sales page is extremely minimal because we’re actually in the process of finalizing the copy now for the finished sales page and free preview content that we’ll be building into the website in the coming weeks.

      Keep in mind, this is a fun side-project for all three of us, so we can’t justify a whole lot of post-challenge time during the week to work on the project at this point.

      We used Zippy Courses to create the course functionality, and everything was built on WordPress.

      If you’re doing this yourself, much of my recommendations are in the above blog post but the most important I would emphasize is that you must get clear on the transformation you want to create before anything else. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.