Why ‘selling before you create’ can be a recipe for disaster

The more clients I speak to, the more stories I hear about business coaches advising their clients to sell a course or program, before they have created it.  Now just to clarify, this is not a rant about dodgy business coaching. It’s an article that will prevent you making the mistakes I’ve seen clients make, after acting on this well meaning (but misinformed) advice without fully understanding the implications.

Read on, for my top 5 tips to helping you navigate that advice properly (because there ARE efficient ways to efficiently test and find out whether there’s a market for your product). But for now, let’s take that advice on face value. The advice usually revolves around putting up a sales page, selling places in the course, then creating it on the hop, as the course is rolling out.

So about that. I have one expression for you. It looks a little like this.

The idea behind the advice, is apparently, so that you can gauge whether there’s any interest in the course so you know whether or not to invest the time into creating it. The other apparent benefit, is that you’ll then have a concrete deadline to work towards and will therefore actually stop procrastinating and get it created; reviewing it, getting feedback and adapting it as you go.

Alriiiiiiighty then….

That is all very well and good for a short, sharp course or program that has little content to create. If the deadline that you’ve set yourself includes enough time for you to plan, structure, write, record, edit, compile and upload all the content, then SPLENDID! You should also be piloting and reviewing the content before you run with it too, but hey, depends how tight that deadline you’ve set yourself is.


The trouble is, that passionate professionals with phenomenal content and the sort of experience that can bring that content to life, are taking this advice, running with it, and subsequently running themselves into the ground.

Their intention is to create a course that can truly change lives, can engage, inspire and motivate their clients to create real change in their worlds, and why wouldn’t that work?

They’re passionate, they’ve got phenomenal experience to share, and they’ve been through what their clients are going through so many times… so being able to help them should be a SHOO-IN! Right? (where the hell did that expression come from anyway? I just went and found out – from jockeys if you believe it? – check it out here.)

selling before you create a disaster

The reality however, is often very different.

What I see, is these passionate professionals spat out at the other end broken; they’re exhausted, overwhelmed, disorganised, disheveled, and generally feeling pretty rotten.

This isn’t always the case, and of course some are driven by the deadlines, set realistic deadlines, and come out smashing it.

Recently though, I’ve heard many more stories about the ones who are coming out feeling less than fabulous.


Because it didn’t really go as planned. The expectations weren’t set up properly from the start and they ended up over promising and under delivering.

Their clients either dropped out, lost motivation half way through, or did actually get to the end but those that did were NOT were certainly not the majority.

The materials weren’t planned properly, things ended up all over the place and they KNOW what they delivered isn’t a patch on what they’re really capable of.

They’re the type of professionals who WANT to over deliver, and actually give a flying funkadoodle about the results that their clients get, so because it wasn’t as good as it could have been, they’re feeling like a bit of a failure. (Probably quite unfounded but you know what us passionate perfectionist professionals can be like!)

They end up feeling like maybe they’re just not cut out for teaching, that possibly their reputation just took a nose dive, and quite frankly they’d much prefer to find a rather large hole and get comfortable at the bottom of it.

My advice?

1. Sell the idea before you start creating the content, for sure.

Float the idea, create an opt-in that summarises the end goals that your course or program will help your clients reach. Then spend the coming months planning, structuring, writing, recording, editing, compiling and uploading all the content.

Spend those months publishing awesome little tips and tricks that you’ve learnt along your journey, that you KNOW will help those on your list – spend that time building trust in you as a professional (with your problem solving magic!) who can help them solve that ‘I can’t work this out by myself’ problem that is driving them up the wall.

2. Take your time. Quality takes time to develop.

Spend that time developing your content so that you can pilot it with a small section of your tribe, who KNOW you’re piloting and so AREN’T expecting all the bells and whistles.

Float different ideas, materials and tasks with them and let them (the customer) tell YOU what they need and how it’s going to help them most effectively. Fancy a template that will show you how to ask your clients to pilot your course for you? The link is down the bottom of this article… but there’s still one last piece of advice for you…

3. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Launch a pilot program first, so you can launch your product with confidence. 

Let your customers help guide the process of course creation because ultimately, they’re the ones who are going to buy that solution from you, and shout from the rooftops about how fabulous you are.

Selling before you create is the curriculum developer’s equivalent to fingernails down a chalkboard. *depending on the size and complexity of the course content of course!

Pilot your program first, so that you can gauge exactly whether the content will be a success, and learn from the people who need it most, what small tweaks and changes you can make that will enhance the learning experience 10 fold.

Pilot your product before you officially launch it, so that you can iron out any issues, and tweak what needs to be adjusted before you sell it en-masse and realise there are core issues that will result in a whole heap of negative feedback and reputation damaging client experiences. No one wants that right?

But is piloting (or beta testing) really worth it?

Short answer. HELL YES!

Many of my clients don’t really think the whole pilot process is worth the time and effort, until I tell them a few horror stories of clients who didn’t pilot their product and lived to regret it.

Nothing quite like putting out a high end product and realising that links aren’t working, worksheets don’t answer critical questions, videos aren’t loading properly, whole areas of content are missing… and before you say – oh no, I’ll be much more prepared and professional than that, my product won’t have any of those issues! It’s not always technical issues that a pilot process picks up.

Here are some other scenarios you might come across…

>>Sometimes, it’s a few questions that are left un-answered, that your clients need so they can really engage with the activities. You can just adjust existing worksheets or activities within minutes – such a quick fix, that can make such a huge difference to the learning process for them.

>>You might find it’s content that is confusing because it’s not in the right order for novices who are new to the subject that you’re teaching. I made this mistake the first time I did my 4 PILLARS course and the pilot revealed it clearly – I created the course from a curriculum developer perspective, not from a creative perspective which is what my clients needed!

>>Other times there’s a whole heap of information missing that you have just assumed they would know. I see this all the time with my clients – creating products based on assumptions of what clients already know and can do. There is simply no way of knowing any of this until you get people who are your ideal clients to test your product out.

Don’t even get me started on the pilot process for my Library of resources or the educational sequence that follows it. My giddy Aunt. So much I simply COULD NOT SEE because I was far far far too close to it.

When you’re preparing for a pilot, there’s a few important things you need to remember:

1. The ‘right’ way to ask people to pilot.

You certainly don’t want to come across as rude, cheap or desperate. Being as authentic as possible is the best way to build rapport and making sure that the offer is structured the correct way so that you get the best feedback possible, is imperative!

2. Don’t make rookie pilot invitation mistakes,

like asking the wrong people to pilot for you, or making the deal too good to be true. The only thing worse than no feedback, is the wrong feedback. Make sure you’re getting it from the right people!

3. Send invitations that have your ideal client beating down your door to be involved,

and it’s not all about sending long, impersonal emails – in fact that’s the worst approach possible! If you know, like and trust someone, would you prefer to get an email clearly intended for the masses or a personal invitation that speaks to you and your life directly?

4. Stage and price your pilot offerings so that you get the best feedback,

from the right people. People don’t value something they get for nothing, or very little, so don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you should be doing it for very low cost because it’s not really ready yet.

5. Get the most valuable feedback,

by having solid questions prepared that will elicit the right sort of information that you need to improve your course or product so that when you DO do your hard launch, it’ll be getting the sort of rave reviews that will have all your ideal clients clambering for a spot in your next live round.


Fancy a 10 page comprehensive guide to effectively piloting your course?

It dedicates at least a page of ideas and recommendations for each of the above questions, and includes a full email template, for inviting your clients to pilot your new content. No point re-inventing the wheel right?

The lesson is available here.

It’s located in the BASICS Level of the Library, in the Small Business Wisdomcourse:

Lesson 7: Launch a successful pilot program

Click on the above link to be taken directly to the Lesson. If you’re already  a member of the Small Business Wisdom course, make sure you’re logged in! If you’re not, you’ll be redirected to the page where you can become a member.

selling before you create

Great content stuck in your head & hard drives?

So much to think about . . .

>> What to put in & leave out, in what order?

>> How to package it? Or deliver it? Online?

>> Will it just be a waste of time & money?

>> Will the content actually help people and help me build my reputation as the go-to-professional in my field?

My quiz can help!

Do this 3 minute quiz, and find out exactly which areas you need help with.

4 thoughts on “Why ‘selling before you create’ can be a recipe for disaster”

  1. Great article Maria! I’ve also been given this advice and while I see the point of it to put a firecracker up my bum to get it done.. It does seem to make more sense to take the time to plan it out and build a quality course as you say!! 🙂 p

    • Thanks Prita!

      It works for some, but not for all! I’m not sure I could cope with the stress either – much happier to slowly build something of quality than to rush out something that is sub-par!

      That’s just me though – different horses for different courses! 🙂

    • Thanks Pia! It can work for some – if they’re realistic about how much work it’s going to be, and have done it all before! Not the best advice for first timers though it would seem! Since publishing this article I’ve had all manner of people approach me with their stories – so sad so many have taken this advice and not had the support to make it work for them! Onwards and upwards, raising awareness is what’s important!


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