How Big Does My Email List Need To Be Before Launching An Online Course?

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Have you had an idea for an online course in the back of your mind for a while? You might’ve seen other people launch their online courses and now you’re thinking that you’d like to do that too and start earning passive income for years to come.

However, this business model may be new to you, and you probably have a bunch of questions. For example, where do you start? How big does your audience have to be? Is it enough to have followers on social media? Do you need an email list?

In this post, I’m sharing why it’s essential to have an email list as part of your online course launch, and how big your audience needs to be.

I may be stating the obvious here, but to answer the most pressing question first, in order to sell an online course successfully, you need to have an audience to sell it to. Not just any audience though – don’t make the mistake of assuming that because you have a big following somewhere else, it will make up for not having an email list.

Do you need an email list?

When launching an online course, you need an email list. This is not me insinuating that an email list ‘might be beneficial,’ or ‘could help with sales’ – I’m saying firmly that you NEED an email list.

If you do not have an email list, it’s not worth even thinking about building your online course just yet. I recommend building your email list first! I cannot emphasize enough how absolutely vital your email list is.

Having a big following on social media will help you and definitely give you a head start – you might be able to have a successful launch if you have 20000 followers on Instagram for example, but let’s face it, most of us who don’t have an email list don’t have more than a few hundred followers on social media as well.

What you need to do here, before launching your online course, is to get those followers to sign up to your email list. You can do this by offering them a freebie/lead magnet where they’re getting something in exchange for giving you their email address.

How big does your email list need to be before you launch?

Let’s do the math. You can expect 1-2% of your email list to convert into buyers of your course. Let’s say your course will be $500, and you’d like to make $5000 with your first launch. To make $5,000 on a $500 course, you need 10 sales.

Assuming your email list conversion rate (the number of subscribers turned students) is 1.5%, you therefore need an email list of 666 in order to hit your sales goal. If your conversion rate is 2%, you need 500 people on your email list.

If you plan to sell your course for a lower price, you need a bigger list to reach your income goal. You might expect your conversion rate to be higher when you ask for a lower price, but that’s not always the case and really difficult to predict.

No matter your price, for your first launch I recommend to calculate with 1-2%. There are no guarantees with the 1-2% conversion rate rule, just so you’re prepared for that too.

After your first couple of launches, you’ll want to compare your own results, that’s what you measure up against, the results that you achieved in your past launches. But 1 to 2% is a general industry standard to have in mind in order to ballpark your sales.

Quality over Quantity

If you build an email list full of people who are not interested in the topic of your course, you can expect a much lower conversion rate than the industry standard of 1-2%.

You need to make sure that your email list is full of people actually interested in your course topic. You do this by creating an opt-in gift which is the perfect first step before what your course teaches.

Never buy an email list or social media followers. It’s not going to serve you and can actually destroy your business.

More tips for building your email list

Start small

If you have an email list of 250 people, sell a $500 course and get 2-5 students. It’s going to be your beta launch, where you test it out. Create a stellar experience, finetune your program, collect feedback and testimonials, all whilst continuing to grow your list. You can then use this experience and results/testimonials and then launch it again to a bigger audience and get better results.

Paid advertising

I run ads in my business when I’m doing a launch. Using ads is a proven conversion method – I know that it works and that it converts in my business. When I first started launching online courses, I would spend maybe $500 on ads, then $1000, and I slowly built my way up (probably too slowly if anything!).

Build a relationship

We’ve discussed numbers (which are an important part of running a successful business), but when you think about it, it’s really the relationship that you have with your subscribers that is going to have the biggest influence on your results. I have seen people with lists of less than 200 people, but those subscribers are diehards that they have a really good relationship with, and their conversion rates are through the roof.

Instead of stressing out over how many people you have on your email list, start thinking about how you can build relationships with the individuals who are part of your list already. Show them that you are a real person and that you’re going to provide them with quality content and deliver consistently to them.

You can do this by reaching out with personal videos or voice messages for each of your subscribers. You can use a tool like BombBomb to record short videos, and send them through Gmail.

Next, make sure you’re replying to every question and DM that you’re receiving from people. Take the time to read through the question, check out their profile and tailor your response so that they know you’re not just copying and pasting answers to them.

You can also offer to jump on a call to answer questions! This is something you can’t or wouldn’t want to do if you have a couple of thousand people on your email list because you wouldn’t have the bandwidth to actually do all those calls, but with a small list you can offer it and it makes such a huge difference.

High Ticket Offers

Another strategy is to focus more on higher-ticket offers – this is what I’m doing. I have my Blissful Websites course that I sell mostly on evergreen and it makes me money, but it’s not the most profitable thing in my business. So I sell higher-ticket offers like the Blissful Biz Incubator, which is a mix of online trainings and 1:1 support. I also offer 1:1 coaching on Zoom and make a customized experience for each student that they’re not getting anywhere else.

I hope that this has helped you understand the importance of an email list and given you some information on how to grow and nurture your list so that you can have a successful launch of your online course.



Hi, I'm Susanne.

I’m here to help you turn your passion into profits and build a successful online business.

I went from working in digital advertising to become a yoga teacher, move to Bali and build my online business that allows me to work from anywhere in the world. Now, my mission is to help you do the same. I want to empower you to embrace the transformative potential of midlife and menopause, build a purposeful online business and create your unique legacy.

I’m also obsessed with my little terrier Luna, love traveling in my campervan, and am happiest when I can wear yoga pants all day long. 

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