3 Lessons I Learned Building 🚀 a Personal Investing Course in 60 Days

For anyone who's built a course, don't laugh (just facepalm silently 😏)

Some lessons you have to learn the hard way-- by making the mistakes yourself, and experiencing the outcomes first-hand. I wanted to share what I've learned for anyone that might be thinking of launching their own online course.

Lesson 1: Pre-sell the course before you build 90% of the content.

It seems obvious to test demand first, yet starting out I naively thought I could just build good content in 2 weeks and then launch quickly.

Lesson: building compelling content is extremely hard. Editing down to the key gems is even more time-consuming. If I had to do it all over again, I'd build out 10% of the course to gauge how long it'd take to produce the rest, and then pre-sell it, with an estimated (and conservative) launch date. I wouldn't however, pre-sell the course without having built any content and getting a sense of how long it will take you to produce great material.

Lesson 2: The hardest part is not starting. It's the middle.

Building great content can be a total slog. When I first started, my excitement levels were at an all time high - I had grand visions of how to tell the story, the kind of insights, graphics, themes I wanted to share. Building content piece by piece - designing scripts, visuals, episodes, and stories - all of it takes time and you can't rush it. I had to reset my schedule and expectations multiple times. You can make yourself really unhappy by setting unrealistic timelines and failing your own arbitrary deadlines.

Lesson: in the middle, when I encountered difficulties, when things got rote, I should have recharged more before I felt burnt out. You have to pace yourself.

Lesson 3: Piecing together existing infrastructure isn't as easy as I thought.

It takes time to figure things out, and you have to build in time for troubleshooting the same way you would for marketing and content creation. I used the Teachable platform, yet even with all the existing infrastructure, their site had a lot of bugs and it took me a while to figure out how to customize the look and feel of my course. Loom screen-recording was the same way. I found out too late it's harder to use Loom for PPT vs. Google Slides. I'm about to test the Pro version to see if the video quality improves. All this is to say there's a lot of great tools 🛠️ out there to leverage, but it's doesn't necessarily mean you pull it off the shelf and you're ready to rock 💃.

A few more reflections on my process and goals. Plus an ask of this community.

I decided to build a personal investing course for people in their 20s and 30s to build wealth earlier.

Building this course was fueled by the disparities I was seeing-- in who invests (not surprisingly, it's not enough young people, not enough women, and not enough people of color), and the wealth gap that exists (32 cents on the dollar for women compared to men).

It was also fueled by my personal experiences. I graduated in the 2008 Recession - at the time I was worried about jobs, finances, what my future would look like...I was also worried my worry was going to cause an ulcer...

Learning to invest helped me break that paralysis, but it still took me years of 📚 and research to figure out how to invest the right way. It shouldn't be that hard to learn something that's so essential to your well-being, yet most schools and colleges don't teach it. And a lot of people who are first generation college-students and Americans don't have family to turn to for their investing questions.

My goal was to build the course I wish I'd had back then--for others, today. The course launches on August 8, 2020.

I'd love for anyone in this community to take the course, or share it with those in your circles that would benefit from it. You can sign up at:

10% of all proceeds will go to an educational non-profit I've supported for the past 13 years that has a 50+ year track record of providing college prep and career opportunities to students of color.

🙏 Thanks for any perspectives and ideas.

  1. 1

    Hey Yaya,

    Congratulations on the course launch. I can see that you invested a lot of time in making finance personal -- right down to the italicized text on the page.

    You said that your goal was to build the course you wish you had back then. Whats your goal now? Are you trying to get a certain number of students, graduates, new content, etc.?

    1. 1

      👋@ryanh1, thanks for your kind words and question!

      Funny you said "making finance personal", because that was a big goal of mine: to make personal investing personal. Maybe a future tagline :)

      As to your question, my goals now are:

      1. Reach as many users as I can--I'd like to get to 2000+ users
      2. In terms of new content, the sister course to "Personal Investing" is "Personal Finance "--that's in development, and ideally would help an even younger audience (high school, college, recent grads) vs. personal investing which most people don't do until a life event like 401(k) forces their hand
      3. And then in terms of product roadmap, over time I'd love to meld more nudges (from the ideas of behavioral economics) using tech with bite-sized accessible educational content (that I'm beginning to develop now). Basically, to do for personal finance what zola and turbotax did in their respective areas (make experiences that were previously low-joy more intuitive and painless)

      Still in early days though and I think what I learn from the course takers will help shape future direction a lot.

      Welcome any of your ideas and feedback! Thanks again!

      1. 1

        Hi Yaya,

        I can relate to your goals of "making finance personal" and reaching a younger audience. When I was in high school, a math tutor told me about his investing projects and gave me a biography of Warren Buffet. It impacted my college major and career trajectory, not just because of the content he shared, but also because of the personal touch.

        Yaya, I may be able to help you reach some of those younger users.

        I created a website to help entrepreneurs write effective cold email to attract new customers. It works by providing pre-written messages that can be easily customized and by intelligently recommending sentences that use psychological nudges to provoke action.

        Yaya, since you want to spread your passion for your course to 2000+ users and are a fan of behavioral economics, you seem like a great fit.

        Are you interested in a free trial? You can learn more here: https://www.getsplashpad.com/.

        I'm also happy to do a quick phone call to discuss some strategies for getting those students to your course. If you want to meet, find any time you want here: https://calendly.com/splashpad/15min.

      2. 1

        This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

  2. 1

    Wow @YZhang and thanks for sharing ,am in the process of creating my first course and you have saved me ,I was just about to make the same mistakes.


    1. 1

      @Bettyk so glad you found it helpful! Good luck with launching your first course. Feel free to reach out anytime if I can be helpful!

  3. 1

    Congratulations @YZhang! You should be proud. The slog is real. I'm curious about your experience, which parts did you find took the most time and effort? Did you adjust the scope or anything in order to get across the finish line?

    1. 1

      @brianhsugreen thanks for the kind words! On your questions:

      +the editing took the most time (I workshopped all my content with two test users) so there was a lot of iterating and looping along the way

      +filming content and being onscreen (which is something I wasn't used to) also took a long time--even to film just a 60 sec trailer that felt like it represented me--it took a lot of practice just to feel natural. I reminded me of Steve Martin talking about starting out in comedy and having to practice for so long on the smallest details.

      +an important lesson for me was to really separate the creating vs. editing process (they are two very different modes that leverage different strengths); creating is about inspiration, non-judgment, getting content on screen and editing is pruning down to the gems; basically doing a lot to make it look simple and effortless (even though it was so effort-filled...)

      +I had to adjust my scope SO many times. The main adjustment was I was going to launch two courses for two adjacent demographics because I thought the marketing would be more efficient, but I opted to launch sooner and start just with one course.

      Hope this helps! Happy to answer any other questions if you are building a course!

  4. 1

    Congratulations on finishing👏 and thank you for sharing

    What's the best email to reach you? Your Twitter DM seems to be locked

  5. 1

    Congratulations on finishing! and thank you for sharing :)

    1. 1

      Thanks @bhumi, for the kind words!

  6. 1

    Love this post @YZhang. I definitely resonate with a lot of it. I hope your launch goes well and the best of luck with all of it!

    1. 2

      Hey @gordon, thanks so much for the kind words!

  7. 1

    "Your life feels more like it's your own"

    Nice 😀
    Cool course - agree that this is a huge gap in the education system.

    What made you choose Teachable for your platform?

    1. 2

      Hey @ChristopherGS, it was simply the site that was recommended to me by the most number of people. And then I took their 30-minute intro webinar and it looked easy enough to use.
      I've also heard from another IH'er that Podia is pretty comparable from the student perspective.

  8. 1

    Great lessons, Yaya!

    I'm sharing this in the next issue of my newsletter, Course Creators Weekly.

    And I have a question for you about your course…

    It looks like your course is self-paced, with optional office hours running from August 8 to September 30. Students will still keep their access after September 30, right?

    I think that's not clear (obviously, as I had to ask)

    1. 1

      Thanks @Merott! I signed up for your newsletter--looking forward to hearing your ideas.

      To answer your question, yes students get to keep their access. Sorry that wasn't clear and thanks for your feedback 🙏

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