I am releasing my second course today, after I made $2500 in pre-sales since launching the pre-order in June 2020. The course includes a book, 23 videos, and a set of practical exercises (I created a custom solution you can install on your computer and go through the exercises from your browser).
I released my first course in 2019. It started as an e-book, and then I added the videos to it later. I had around $2000 in pre-orders for that course and ended up making around $10,000 in total (I released the course on Gumroad and book on LeanPub). Not too bad, but doing the per-hour and pure profit calculation, it wouldn't make sense.
That said - I have learned a lot. About creating content, marketing, selling, as well as the tech I used. For the first course, I created a custom landing page from scratch. It took a lot of time. There was a lot of tweaking and learning. I am a developer by trade, so I feel like I can pick up tech quickly, however, that's not how it works with design :) I still think I'd be able to spend months changing the design, moving stuff around, and playing with it.
If your goal is to validate the idea as quickly as possible and release as quickly as possible, don't spend time on building your own landing page. I could have just gone with the Gumroad page and it would probably work out the same way. Instead, I added another (unnecessary) step that potential customers have to go through (landing page > Gumroad > Purchase vs. Gumroad > Purchase). Plus, I'd have more time left to spend on creating the content instead.
On the other hand, looking at the sales stats, 50% of sales that I made came from the landing page. In the second place with 32% are the sales from the email list.
I re-purposed the original design and page I had for the latest course as well, so it was less of a time investment this time around.
I have started with an email list of 0 people for the first course. I have created a separate Twitter account where I was sharing my progress, and articles and links related to the content. I didn't get a huge following on that account (~1000 followers), but I got most of my email subscribers from that account that grew to ~400 subscribers by the end of 2019.
About 32% of the sales came from people clicking links in my emails. If you don't have an email list - start building one today.
I have 868 subscribers on my email list today.
This time around I did a better job of sending updates on the course progress, which translated in most of the preorders coming from the email list.
I have also started a YouTube channel and got 202 subscribers at the moment.
In addition to the course updates, I was releasing the bits and pieces from the course as articles on my blog, then creating posts on Reddit, Hackernews, and DevTo. Be careful with Reddit posts - don't just link to the content, as people will not click it at all. Instead, write a post, explain why you did what you did, and then include a link at the bottom. The Reddit crowd can be tough. I got lucky with Hackernews once, received 165 upvotes, and a substantial amount of traffic to my blog. I haven't noticed an uptick in sales from that. However, people signed up for my newsletter/email list or subscribed to my Youtube channel.
If there's one big lesson that I learned from all of this is that whenever I published something (blog post, sent an email, tweet, uploaded a video, etc.), there was always some effect from it. It wasn't necessarily a sale. It was extra visits to my blog, a couple of new email or Youtube subscribers, and in some cases even a sale.
To summarize, tracking the sales, unique visitors, email list size, followers, looking at the graphs and all is nice, but it feels like a lot of time is spent on that. Instead, spend time on creating content and then sharing it - it will always result in something. Perhaps not right away, but doing it consistently will bring you results.
I noticed a lot of people working on books and courses if you're thinking about doing the same - DO IT!
I know I haven't made gazillions in sales as some people did, but I'll gladly answer your questions or provide you feedback. You can get in touch with me through Twitter.