What Does it Mean to Presell a Course?

What Does It Mean to Presell a Course

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A lot of people will tell you to presell a course before you create it. 

This method isn’t for everyone, but having pre-sold my own course, I’ll give you a bit of background into what it means and how it works. 

What Does it Mean to Presell a Course?

Preselling your course means you’re selling it before it’s created. 

It sounds a little scary. But this method gives you a way of validating your course and making a bit of money before putting time and energy into creating it.

Preselling involves pitching your course idea to your email subscribers and social following. 

Presell a Course

The call to action to this pitch is to have your audience reply to your email (or send you a DM on social), to let you know if they want to buy your course.

From there, you’ll send your audience a payment link so they can purchase the course. 

After that, you’ll create the course and deliver it to them one module at a time (or all at once!) at an agreed-upon date.

Let’s go over each of these steps one by one. 

Presell a Course by Starting With a Partially Validated Course Topic

Before you start preselling your course to your audience, make sure you've got a partially validated course topic.

Meaning, verify that people have the problem your course topic solves. 

You can validate your course topic by having conversations with:

✅Your audience in Facebook groups

✅Current or past colleagues who may be in your audience

✅Friends or family who may be in your audience

✅Your own email subscribers 

Typically, you can say something like this when you’re reaching out to people to validate your course: 

Facebook Groups (via DM): 

Hey there, I saw your post in the [GROUP NAME] group about [the problem you’re solving].

I’m actually working on a course around that exact subject! I’d love to know if I’m on the right track with the content I’m creating. Would you be open for a short 15-minute chat so I can ask a few questions? 

Colleagues (via email): 

Hey there, hope you’re doing well!

I know it’s been a while since we worked together at [company], but I remember you mentioning [insert pain point you’re solving with your course], and I’m actually working on creating a course around that very topic!

I’m not sure if I’m on the right track with my content though. Would you be open for a short chat this week so I can ask you a few quick questions about [course topic]? 

Try using a mix of these messages as you reach out to email subscribers and family as well. 

And don’t be afraid to reach out.

Most people want to help, especially when you frame your request to chat in a way that shows you’re still in the beginning stages of a project. And in a way that shows they can be an important asset to your research! 

But the goal of these chats is to confirm whether the course topic you’ve chosen is a problem that people would pay to solve. 

You want to make sure your solution is the solution they want. If it’s not, conversations with them will help you tweak your topic until you’re confident it's something your subscribers will want for early buy-in. 

Create a Rough Outline of Your Course

Once you’ve validated your course topic, come up with a rough outline of your course. 

This doesn’t have to be official or accurate yet. Just a few rough ideas are enough at this early stage.

But drum up a few ideas about what you would include in the course. For example, if you were teaching people about Pinterest, a few ideas could be: 

✅How to create click-worthy pins

Idea pins that work like magic

How many pins to schedule per day for max reach

Just come up with a few bullets that would give your subscribers and social following a little information about the course you’re creating. Especially, what’s inside of it. 

Usually, 3-4 ideas of what you’d like to include in your course in bullet-point format is enough. You might have way more than this, but to pitch someone, you really just need an idea (course topic) and a few points of what would be inside of the course.

Invite Email Subscribers to Buy with a Presell Email

Once you’ve got your rough outline sketched out, it’s time to invite your email subscribers and social followers to buy your course with a presell email. 

(Note: If you don’t have an email list yet, start with my List-Building Training so you can add 100 subscribers to your email list quickly. 

But you’ll also be sending the presell email content to your social following, too! So if you have a social following and no email list, you can still presell your course.)

Now, this presell email will invite your followers to buy your course. 

At this point, your course is just an idea. It’s a rough outline with a few bullet points. But you’ll invite people to buy it so you can validate it and earn a bit of income while you create it.  

So you might be thinking…you want me to ask people to buy something that hasn’t been created yet? 


And they will buy if you use your audience’s language to describe the problem it solves. And if you include your audience in the creation of it. 

This is why it’s so important to partially validate your course before you presell it. It's so you have an idea of whether your course topic is something your audience wants. 

7 Places to Share Your Lead Magnet

Write Your Presell Email

Writing your presell email is easier than you think, as long as you include a few essential pieces.

Here are a few that your presell email should include: 

✅An introduction, letting your audience know you’ve been chewing on an idea

✅A few short sentences about what the idea is (from your rough course outline)

✅A few short bullet points about what would be inside of the course (from your rough course outline)

✅An invitation to become a founding member at a discounted price

✅A promise to include the founding members in the course creation process (so they know you’re only creating content they want)

✅A closing call to action asking them to ‘hit reply’ if they want in

Now, here’s why this pre-sell email is so effective: 

#1 It invites your audience to get on “the ground floor” of something big that’s about to launch, and that can be enticing. 

Especially if you let them know they’re getting a discounted founding member’s price and that they’ll get access to all future course updates. 

It makes people feel like they’re at the start of something new, and they want to be a part of it before the price goes up or before other people know about it. 

#2 This presell email also invites your audience to collaborate on the creation of this course. 

This is a course you’re creating for them. They get to help you shape it. At the end of the day, their money will be well-spent because they have a say on what gets included.

#3 The other reason this presell email is so effective is that it’s a low-cost, minimal effort buy-in. 

Not only is the cost lower than it will be in the future, but all they have to do is ‘hit reply’ if they want in. 

There’s no ‘buy here’ link just yet, so they feel empowered to ‘hit reply’ and take the next step. Because it’s simple, easy, and minimal effort. 

If you’d like to see an example of my presell email, click here.

Create Your Payment Link 

When people reply to your email with “I’m in!”, just send them a simple payment link to buy your course at the presell price.  

A few services that offer easy payment links are:

✅ Paypal

✅ Stripe

✅ WaveApps (my personal favorite)

I use WaveApps to invoice my proofreading clients, and they also offer easy payment links.

The cool thing about preselling your course is that you don't need to have a fancy sales page.

You've already described the course and the benefits in your email or social post. You've already done all of the selling there.

All this payment link does is offer people a way to buy the course (before it's built).

Here's a screenshot of what my payment link looked like in WaveApps:

Presell Founding Members Payment Link Example

All I did was add the title and the price. Simple!

Send Your Presell Email or Share Your Social Post

After you've got your payment link created, you're ready to send it out to your email subscribers!

I used ConvertKit to send my presell email, and I had about 400 people on my list.

If you don't have an email list, you can put this same post on social media and ask people to DM you if they're “in”, versus replying via email.

In total, I had about 5 people buy my course before I created it: 3 people from email and 2 from social.

For me, this was enough and I was thrilled! And I think you'll find even a handful of new customers just as thrilling.

When people put money down, you know your course is something people want! And that means you're onto something big for the future.

Hoping to Presell a Course? Here's What I Learned.

Before you presell your course, there are a few things to keep in mind. These are a few things I learned before preselling my course in 2020. 

1️⃣ Give yourself plenty of time to create your course.

When people buy your course before you've created it, the pressure is ON! At this point, it's do or die. You either create the course or refund the presell money and walk away in shame.

We don't want the latter.

Give yourself more time than you think you'll need to create the course content. I'd recommend letting your founding members know that your course will be ready anywhere from 3-4 months after they purchase.

Figure out a schedule that works for you, but know one thing:

It's harder to tell people the course isn't ready after you promised it would be…than it is to tell people it'll take a few months after they've handed over their money.

You just don't know how long things are going to take you or what will come up. Give yourself PLENTY of time.

2️⃣ Keep your focus only on the course.

It'll be tempting to try and launch your course after you've presold it.

Some people like to presell their course, then launch it, THEN create it.

But for me, this was too tough. Especially since I was still working a 9 to 5.

When I was creating the course, I didn't want to worry about launching the course.

So I finished the course, delivered it to my founding members, got their feedback, and THEN launched it a few weeks later.

Of course, you'll want to do what works for you. But when you presell a course, you want to put all of your time and energy into getting that course done for your founding members.


To recap, here are the steps to presell your course:  

✅ Partially validate your course topic

✅ Create a rough outline of your course

✅ Write your presell email

✅ Create your payment link

✅ Send your email/share your social post

Preselling a course can be a bit scary, but it's a surefire way to validate your online course.

If you want to learn more about preselling and course creation, be sure to jump into the following resources below:

Free Course Copy Creation Workshop

5-Step Blueprint for Creating and Selling Online Courses

Join the Waitlist for Digital Course Academy

Free Podcast Series for Course Creators


Monique is an online course proofreader from sunny Los Angeles. She creates info products related to writing course copy, like her flagship course, Course Copy Essentials. And she loves helping course creators look good in copy. You can find her curled up with coffee and a good book when she's not proofreading course content and absorbing everything related to online learning.