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I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

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Strategies and Trends for Creating (and Selling) Successful Online Courses in 2024 with Mara Kucirek

Reading Time: 19 minutes

Ready to learn what is really working in online courses in 2024? Whether you're a brand new course creator or you've had lots of success in selling online courses already, this episode has something for you. I'm chatting with Mara Kucirek about all things online courses. Mara is an online course designer, launch strategist and the host of the Create a Better Course podcast.

I've personally known Mara online for quite a few years now actually because she's a long time listener of this podcast and ironically, she's actually been in both of my courses (Booked Out Designer and Podcast Success Blueprint) and even my website template course because she's a website template customer as well. 

Mara really knows all the things about creating quality courses that give your students wins and help you ultimately grow your business. I actually learned a lot from this interview (as someone who's made courses already and has had success with online courses). So let me just say, regardless of where you are in the “courses stage” of your business, you'll get a lot from this conversation as well. 

We talk about things like:

  • Are courses oversaturated? Are there too many? Is there room for yours? 
  • Online course trends for 2024
  • How to help people actually finish your course 
  • Launch strategies for online courses
  • Evergreen selling versus live launching (and which one is right for you!)
  • How to turn around a failed launch
  • Refund policies for online courses
  • Common mistakes people make when selling their courses

And so much more! We really do just do a true deep dive into everything online courses in 2024. So you are going to love this one again, I certainly did.


Subscribe & download the episode to your device:  Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |   YouTube  |  iHeartRadio

Search for episode 261!

Who is Mara Kucirek?

Mara Kucirek is an online course designer, launch strategist and host of the Create a Better Course Podcast. She’s helped over 150+ entrepreneurs launch online courses and digital products. Mara lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, two dogs and brand new baby girl!

online course strategist

First, do you think the online course market is oversaturated? 

So, yes it's absolutely true that there are way more online courses in 2024 than there were five years ago. Five years ago when I was setting up online courses, in the launch materials for courses, we used to have to explain what an online course was and how it worked. You no longer have to explain that to people. People know what online courses are. Buyers understand it a lot more, so you don't have to sell yourself in that way where you're explaining what it is. Instead, you're explaining the benefit and the RESULTS that your course will have. 

Also, you can get way more specific about your niche now. When I think back even three years ago, if you wanted to create a course, your course had to be super long and there was this idea that it has to cover every “single thing about email marketing”, for example,  which is enormous. Now, you could make a course that's about something more like “how do you make fun custom gifs in your email”. So I think it's really cool that people are creating more niche courses now, which leads to much more interesting courses. 

So is the market saturated? Yes, but with saturation comes a lot of opportunities. It's also so much easier to make a course nowadays. The advancements in software and technology are so much better. You don't have to be piecing together a bunch of things. I always tell people “it's kind of like if you were a doctor or a lawyer, no one would ever tell you you can't do that. People are already doing that. There's enough of them”. I don't know why in the online course world we do this weird thing where we're like, “oh, that person has a course that's kind of related to what I want to do, so I'm not allowed to do it”. There's space for so many people out there. 

What are some online course trends you are seeing now?

I'm such a nerd about this stuff. I had a business friend who was making fun of me about my spreadsheets because I always track different launch results and then things I see people doing. I also am always talking to other business owners and I'm like, “What's working in your business? What's not working?”

In general, I think a BIG online courses in 2024 trend is that everything is shorter. We seem to all not have as much of an attention span or maybe we're just all busier. I don't know exactly what it is, but something I've been seeing a trend of is firstly, shorter launches. It used to be that a 10-day launch was really normal, and then I would say for the last couple of years, a seven-day launch was pretty typical and now I'm seeing three to four-day launches. Sometimes even a 48-hour launch performs a lot better than doing that really big launch where people forget what you're talking about and you're adding a bonus every day. 

Then on the flip side of that, shorter courses are more popular. People want the shortcut when you create a course, so while it feels like you should put everything in the course, that honestly overwhelms people. Most people, if you have a course, probably at some point have told you “This looks amazing, but I don't have time to take it”. So you need to address that objection head on. 


For a 48 hour launch, would you let people in if they miss the launch?

I'm glad you're asking this because most people do not think this through. You do need a policy in your business for what you're going to do because on the one hand, people want to join your thing and that's amazing. You want the money, you want to help them. But on the other hand, sometimes it is kind of like your mom saying, “oh, if you don't finish your plate, you're not getting dessert”, and then she held that for you, but then your brother didn't eat dinner and got dessert.

I think you need to have a balance of, “it's not fair sometimes to your other customers.” In general, I say stick to your deadline. BUT, recognize that life happens. I've seen emails where someone was in a car accident and couldn't join or their electricity went out. So there's going to be things that come up and I would decide ahead of time what you want to do. Maybe you let them join but they don't get access to a certain bonus. 

I do think there's an amount of integrity if you say that there's a deadline, you want to stick to it. Otherwise, you become that person where people are like, “oh, well, they never do the deadlines so I don't need to buy their thing anyway.” Deadlines are very powerful for all of us. 

For people who do have courses that are really big (like me!), what are ways that we could help people actually finish it? And then still market the course well and not overwhelm people when it is a bigger course? 

I think all of us feel a little bit of online course burnout. I think every business owner has purchased probably multiple courses that they did not finish. First of all, not finishing a course is fine. You probably got the value you needed out of it with the part that you did. I've been on the backend of so many courses. You don't always need to do every single lesson to get the results that you want. So right now, I am giving you permission to give up the shame of all of the courses you didn't finish. 

But as a course creator, you do want to encourage and empower your students. We all want a little accountability coach and you cannot personally be there for every single student (that’s unrealistic). But you CAN do things that help make the course easier to consume. Plus, a lot of them are really easy.

Here are some ideas:

  • If you have video lessons for everything, add handouts to go with them. 
  • Have a way for them to listen to the lessons. So, if your courses are on Kajabi for example, they have an app where your students can just listen to the lessons on the go.
  • Make sure you have a transcript uploaded because people use that and sometimes don't watch the video. 

You also want to think through accessibility. There might be people joining your course where English, for example, is not their first language, a transcript can be really helpful. 

Basically, having multiple ways for people to consume the same content is really helpful. People learn in really different ways. 

Do you think there is an ideal video length for course lessons? Do you think it's better to do “slides only”, “face to camera”, or “slides with your face down in the corner”? 

I usually tell people 10-15 minutes per video with the caveat that it's okay to have some lessons that are longer, especially if it's something in-depth. If you are doing a screen recording of you literally doing something and saying, “Hey, I'm going to record my screen and I'm going to show you exactly how I do the thing that I am teaching you inside of the course” that can be really powerful. 

But in general, if your video for a lesson is longer than 15 minutes, I would take a look and just make sure everything in it needs to be in that lesson. Because when I say, “Hey, let's watch a 15 minute video”, most people are like, “okay, yeah, I have 15 minutes”. Once you get to 20-25 minutes, that's when all of our brains just shut off and we feel like we don’t have time for it. 

Then, I've looked at research on this and have also seen inside people's actual courses, and have found that people think they need a professional recording studio and that they need to be on camera the entire time and have this amazing set, but the truth is that almost nobody does that. 

People don't really learn the best like that either. It's really distracting to watch someone on camera, honestly, and it's really hard to be on camera as the course creator. So my preference is that you come on camera to introduce yourself, and you come on camera every few modules, but you don't stay on camera. 

Then yes, you have slides, and you speak over them because then people are paying attention to the content. This way, they also feel like they're not missing something if they look away. If you survey your audience, they're going to be doing something else while they're listening to your course. They're washing the dishes or they're doing their bookkeeping because realistically multitasking is how most of us get things done. 

It's also way easier to record when you're not on camera. If you can make a course and you don't need makeup, you don't need to do your hair, you can record any time of the day, it’s going to be easier to get it done. But if you think that you have to look perfect to record a lesson, you're never going to finish your course. 

Should we put the length of the video into the title of the lesson?

I always tell people to put the length of the lesson in the lesson. I like to put that everywhere (like also in the email that talks about it or sometimes on the sales page if it makes sense). You can also remind people that you can watch on two times or three times speed. Sometimes people forget that and then they don't realize it's actually not going to take as long as they think. 

Read more: How to Combat the Overwhelm of Creating an Online Course

What are some other online course trends you are seeing now?

I think accountability is a really big one for online courses in 2024. People want some sort of support. There are multiple ways to do this too: you could have coaching calls, a live cohort where you're doing the lessons together, or you could pair up people in your course and have accountability buddies. That could even just be a Facebook thread in your Facebook group that's like, “Hey, do you need an accountability buddy? Post where you're at and what time zone you're in” and then let people match up themselves. But anything like that, that feels like it's going to help people take action, is definitely a good idea. 


Silent Coworking for Accountability

One thing that we recently added to one of my client's courses, it's so simple, but it's been so effective, is silent coworking sessions. In these sessions, you can come on Zoom, and no one talks. These aren’t the same as a training, because as a course creator, a lot of people do monthly coaching calls, which is great, but they can be really exhausting to actually execute. If you have to show up and teach a bunch of people every month and then answer all of their questions, that's not always realistic. But if you say, I'm going to be on Zoom for an hour, I'm not going to say anything, we're just going to play music and all we're going to do is work on the course, that’s actually really valuable for people.  

It also doesn’t have to be the course creator leading these Zoom calls. It can be a team member. In fact, sometimes that even works better because sometimes your team members are a little more “in the thick of it” than the course creator. You might not remember where every lesson is, but whoever is responding to your customer service emails about your course, probably off the top of their head knows where that template you mentioned is or where something else is. 

It's also kind of cool and fun behind the scenes to see someone else's team. I've done that for some clients where I led the coworking session and people just thought it was fun and different. So either way, again, it's not always sustainable as a course creator to be the one. It's more important to create valuable ways to support your students than be the one doing everything.


Adding DFY Templates to Your Course

Finally, and this one has always been popular but even more so now for online courses in 2024, is including some sort of done-for-you template(s). Ideally, something that is like two clicks of a button and they can use it. For example, think of any software that's related to your course. So maybe if you were a photographer, you have a Dubsado invoice or proposal that comes with your course. That way, people are learning the thing, but then they actually have something tangible to go use and implement. 

A lot of the times when I do “why did you buy” surveys, which are so powerful by the way, people will often say something weirdly specific like one line on the sales page or one bonus. A lot of them will say the Canva templates that came with the course pushed me over the edge or the Dubsado proposal or the scripts that you use to pitch potential sponsors. Anything like that is so valuable to people because it helps them implement it right away. I recommend asking people “why they bought” later on when you are asking them for a testimonial. You don’t want to ask them to fill out a long survey before they’ve even started the course because that could lead to overwhelm.

You talk about the importance of learning WHY they bought, do you recommend sending out those surveys asking people why they did NOT buy?

I am into that although sometimes it extends your launch period, so be careful you're not annoying people. If it's a shorter launch, I think it's better. If you did a 10 day launch and then you have a down sell and then you ask them to fill out the survey and then maybe there's something else, people honestly get annoyed. So at the very least, maybe give them an option at the top of the email saying “hey, this is still about my course, I hope I’m not bothering you but click here if you don’t want to hear about it anymore.” I do think it’s nice because the answers can be really powerful. Most of the time, people say two things: they don’t have the money right now, or they don’t have the time.

updating my website for 2024

Switching to selling now, do you prefer a live launch or evergreen model for selling online courses in 2024?

So in general, I think deadlines are very helpful. Live launches, where there's a cart open and you can't join anytime, seem to perform better. Now that is not to say you have to launch. I have also seen people who do only evergreen funnels because live launching totally stresses them out and they also make very good money (we're talking six figures to a million dollars). So whatever you want to do is totally okay. I think the reason live launches seem to do better is a lot of people who are on evergreen don't remember how to talk about their course. It feels weird to keep talking about your course. It can feel braggy. But remember, people in your audience genuinely do not always know about your course. 

I've had people come to me and be like, “Mara, my course is not selling in evergreen”. Then, I go to their website and I'm like, “what is your course? I don't see anything about it on social media. I don't see a link at the top of your website”. And then they're like, “oh, well it's mentioned one time in the welcome email”. And I'm like, “why did you think anyone was going to buy based off of that?” 

So both live launching and evergreen models work with online courses in 2024, but if you're on evergreen, I just think that you need to be very mindful that novelty is huge. Our brains love new and exciting things. So if you're on evergreen, do things like adding new bonuses and talking about your course regularly (like before you hop on a coaching call or when you’re updating a lesson).

Read more: Behind the Scenes of My Multi-Five Figure Beta Course Launch (that Sold Out in Less Than An Hour!)

One of my hesitations with a live launch model is the idea that someone could find my course at the time they are ready to go “all in” on their design business or start a podcast, and if I’m on a waitlist until the next launch, they might just buy from someone else. Do you have any advice around that?

This is a huge thing you have to think through because it does matter what your course is about. The last thing you want is to have someone find your course and have it not be open so they just go and join someone else’s. So I do think it’s important to ask yourself how people are going to be finding you. If you are on the live launch model, something you can do to prevent this is to create really good freebies So make sure you have ways to help people for free so that when they find you, you have enough content that'll help them. Ideally, that helps them enough to where they can wait for your course. 

Read more: The Ultimate Web Design Course For Business Owners

What other mistakes do you see people make when trying to sell their course?

A big live launch mistake that I see all the time is people changing what they're doing to launch when they're launching. So you'll be in the middle of a launch, you wrote all your emails, you have them scheduled, and then there's this crazy thing that happens where at night your brain is going to go crazy and it's going to tell you to change the price of your course, to add a new bonus, to rewrite all of your emails. I see so many people fall into this trap, and then what happens is they make this crazy Frankenstein launch that starts to not make sense because you added a new bonus or you said something weird in the email that didn't make sense because you wrote it at 12:00 AM. Don't fall into the launch craziness. I think it's better to work your plan and then any fancy stuff you want to do, put it on your shiny object list for the next launch and you can try it. 

I see so many people who mess with their launch during the launch and then they're like, “well, no one bought”. I've seen people change the name of their course in the middle of the launch, which is just wild. How do people know what they're buying? 

I've also seen people who have just made up a bonus and emailed it out. If you think of a bonus and it is genuinely helpful to your audience, add it, that is totally okay, but don't just be making up stuff at 5:00 PM at night and then your team is mad behind the scenes because they got some random email about something that they didn't know was going to exist. 

Next, I've seen people also extend the cart five times. It's okay to let your cart close, take the lessons that you need to take from the launch, and try again. I'm going to tell you, as someone who has launched so many courses, the first launch is kind of painful. I think every course creator has some story at some point in their career, so do not be intimidated by that because having a course is about exponential growth. It compounds over time, but it's really hard to see that when you're in the beginning of the course creation process. 

What are some ways that you could turn a launch around when it’s going poorly? Or even set expectations before a launch so that you're not on that hamster wheel of disappointment and/or excitement? 

It is a total hamster wheel. Launching is kind of crazy, which is why evergreen is a thing, because live launching will drive some people absolutely crazy. If that's your personality type, I'm giving you permission to never live launch. You can still be successful.

But if you are launching and you're like, “okay, we're not seeing sales, we need to do some sort of pivot”, I like to think through small changes you can make. Could you add something around money like a different type of payment plan? That's usually something that's really easy to tweak. 

Another thing you can do, and this depends on the size of your list, but go back to basics. Can you look at who clicked on your sales page? Can you record them a really short loom video that's like, “Hey, Elizabeth, I noticed you clicked. I've got some extra time after dinner. I just wanted to see if you had any questions”. Literally a 30-second video. You don't even have to do that to everyone. You could do that to five people that you randomly picked off of your sales page clickers list. 

It's really powerful. It reminds them that you are a real person, paying attention to them. Then, whatever they say, if they do ask a question, it might be really helpful. They might tell you, “I was going to buy, but then I clicked the checkout button and it was kind of weird and I wasn't sure if this was a real checkout”. 

I see a lot where people are on the fence and they're like, “well, I want to try it, but you didn't say, if I get a refund, if I don't like it”, and you didn't say anything about a refund on the sales page. So little tweaks like that, instead of trying to blow up your entire launch, can be great. You can even just get on Instagram and do an AMA (ask me anything). And then you can just ask questions and be a real human to people. 

Read more: Repurposing Content + Marketing Your Course in 2023 with Angie McPherson

How do we use the refund policy as a selling point for the course if we do have a strong refund policy? 

First of all, you want to think through if you are giving refunds or not in general for a course. I think having a refund period, which usually I say 14 days, is the sweet spot (but it does depend). I've seen a lot of people who do three days but that usually is too short and creates a bunch of customer service issues where people feel like they barely had time to login, nevermind make a decision. Whereas if they haven’t logged in within 14 days, they probably were never going to. Compare that with people who give a month, which feels very long. I think if you want to leverage your refund policy, let people know that this is a trial run. 

I also think that it’s important to think through when someone asks you for a refund, are you going to make them jump through any hoops? I don't know if you've ever been a part of a course where if someone asks for a refund, they have to submit their homework or even record a loom video on why they didn’t like the course. It’s wild.

If you have an online course, getting asked for a refund IS going to happen. I am telling you, if it hasn't happened already, it's going to happen and most likely it will have nothing to do with you or just it wasn't the right time for the person (like they didn’t have time to log in or they’re stressed about money). Don't freak out about it. 

I think it's very important to be very clear on what the refund policy is. Is it truly a “no questions asked” refund policy or is it like you're going to have to show your work (or have watched all of module one). 

And then when they do ask for the refund, just say, absolutely. I am more than happy to give you the refund (if that’s your policy) and say something like, “I'm so sorry it wasn't a good fit. Can you just tell me a little more about what your goals in joining were?” And just be curious. Sometimes responding as a real person or someone on your team is all they need. Or they might have feedback like “I couldn’t find this thing” and when you show them where it is, they might not need a refund. 

Yeah, that's all such great advice. I always like to tell people with digital products in general that if you never get a refund request, it's because you're not reaching enough people who are actually willing to take the risk and buy. So it's a negative thing. If you never have a lot of sales and you've never gotten a refund request, it means you're probably not making as many sales as you could potentially.

Do you think it’s okay to ask people to fill out a form to get a refund?

A form is 100% the way to go because it does streamline the refund process. So what we're talking about here is if someone requests a refund (either there's a way inside of the course or when they email customer service), they just fill out a form that asks a few questions like what their name is and what their experience was because that data is really helpful. So I do think ask questions.

I've just seen people make it so challenging to get a refund. They basically made it impossible and then it made the person really mad, which as a business owner, sometimes the best answer is to let someone go.


Switching gears, you started your podcast in 2023, what made you decide to join Podcast Success Blueprint?

Yes, I already had a podcast when I joined. If Elizabeth had a course about how to start a podcast, when I launched my podcast, I would've purchased it. But you didn't have it quite yet. I wanted to grow my podcast because truly it has been such an amazing thing for my business (I didn't realize all of the benefits of having a podcast that goes beyond just the clout of having a podcast, but when people listen to you, they connect with you). People want to know that you’re a real human and having a podcast and sharing that with people is really helpful.

Back to your question, there are a lot of podcast courses out there, but pretty much all of them are about how to launch your podcast and then they just stop. Your course is not like that at all. It has all of the launching stuff, which is super helpful. I've listened to some of it thinking, “I should have done some of it that way back before, but it's okay”.

But when I decided to join your course, I was thinking about how it really was a long-term decision. Your course walks through all of the kind of messy stuff that happens later on like: how you schedule interviews, how you deal with the 10 million tasks that come with having a podcast, how you promote it on social media, how you write all of the graphics, etc. 

I have a four-month-old. I do not have time to figure this out on my own. So I just wanted a course that I could basically copy and paste (as an example, I completely bootlegged your garage band settings). And the next day I had an episode go live with the new settings, I had someone comment on it. I can’t believe they noticed!

Rapid Questions with Mara Kucirek

What is an unpopular opinion you have about the online course industry?

So I have a lot, but one that came to mind is expiring courses. I don't like them. I personally prefer lifetime access, but there are people out there who really push that when you have a course, you need to give people 3-6 months to do it, and then their access expires and then they need to rebuy it. People say that this pushes people to have more accountability to finish the course. For example, when I bought Podcast Success Blueprint, I think I was like 39 weeks pregnant the first time you launched it. So I did not watch a lot of lessons then, but over Christmas, I went and I binged a bunch of stuff. So I think it's totally normal that when people buy your course, they're not going to do all of the things right away. I think expiring access is overhyped. 

You write really great email subject lines. Do you have a tip for people on how you do that?

I'm going to give one that's really actionable. Sometimes with subject lines, people say something that's confusing or more abstract. Something I actually do is when I am writing the email is I send myself a test email. I “rapid fire style” send myself at least three test emails. All of them are different subject lines. I change maybe what word is capitalized, or the emoji, or say something completely different. Then I go look in my super ridiculously crowded inbox and I see which one of those three I noticed first. Seeing your email in ConvertKit or Active Campaign is totally different than a crowded inbox. So I look and I see, oh, my eye was drawn to that really weird subject line where I had four dots in a row compared to the one with an exploding head emoji.

As for ideas, I have a folder in my Gmail and when I open an email, I move it to that folder. So I have a folder of just interesting things I open. I look in there a lot. If I think of something, I will write it down. Another weird thing I do is sometimes I think about what I wish someone else's subject line would be. I love reading your emails too, Elizabeth, so using you as an example I would think, “what do I wish you would write an email about, and then what would the subject line be?”’

list of strategies for online courses in 2024

Connect with Mara Kucirek 

Yes. So probably the best spot is to subscribe to my podcast. I have a ton of episodes about online course stuff, and I also have done a bunch of episodes about running a business as a service provider who sets up online courses for people. So I do a bunch of money episodes, income reports, and then I've been talking a lot about being a new mom because that's a whole new thing for me this year where I’m learning how to have a business and also have a tiny baby who's super adorable but wants all of my time. You can also find me on my website here

Links Mentioned:

Watch the Episode on Youtube

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Get a Free Trial of Kajabi

Sign up for ConvertKit

Check Out Podcast Success Blueprint

Join me inside Booked Out Designer

Listen to the Create a Better Course Podcast with Mara (here's Elizabeth's episode!)

Connect with Elizabeth on Instagram

Connect with Mara on Instagram

Check Out Mara’s Website

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April 2, 2024

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I'm Elizabeth, and simply put, I design brands and websites. I mix in marketing strategy, personality galore, and tons of fun to create custom brands, custom websites, and website templates. These designs convert lookers into buyers and take the headache out of the design process. I believe your brand should be a knockout. I'll help you create a captivating + profitable online presence! Join me, won't you?!

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