The Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing Online Courses

The Top FIve Mistakes To Avoid When Designing Your Online Course


As some of you know, I recently launched my first online course in partnership with Jenna Gaidusek, the founder of the eDesignTribe community. (FYI: “e design” is the term used to cover any form of interior design related to services that are offered remotely. Many thousands of full service luxury designers are also offering some form of remote design services today, and Jenna runs the industry’s leading platform for these designers).

Our course is called, Design Wealth: How To Set Up, Structure and Market Your Own Online Courses To Maximize Your 24/7 Passive Income . It is a COMPREHENSIVE course, covering every single thing you will need to know in order to be successful at designing your own online courses.

FYI: Jenna is an expert in online courses - in her first launch month of offering her own online courses for her edesignU members, in Sept. of 2018, she made 33,000.00. Yes, 33,000.00 in one month -with no paid advertising. In our course, she shares how she did it with screenshots of her analytics. See: CASE STUDY.

During the months of preparing the content and pre-marketing our course, however, we learned several valuable lessons, lessons that I’m going to share with you today so you don’t make these 5 common mistakes when you start preparing your own online courses.

First, The Backstory. (And if you don’t care about this part, scroll right past this, so you can read about the 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Your Own Online

For many years now, I’ve been asked/prodded/cajoled by many people to offer online courses but, for some reason, I’ve never done it/wanted to do it. I’ve always really enjoyed working 1 on 1 with individual clients.

But, starting 2 years ago, with the launch of my second business with Sam Henderson, Savour Partnership, I started a Facebook Group that was, at first, called: *How To Drive Massive Traffic*.

Why did I start this Group?

Because, in this business, Savour Partnership, Sam and I design, write and help to market the digital products (magazines, email opt in mini magazines, digital downloads, ebooks ) that allow businesses to make money from them, 24/7 ,through the inclusion of affiliate product links as well as direct links back to the products on their own ecomm platforms — exactly what the Hearst magazine group is doing with its titles now, as well as Domino Magazine.

However, I realized that unless people knew how to drive the traffic to their website to help people find those digital products, that they would not be able to make money from the digital products we were designing for them, so I started the Group.

As the Group grew and evolved, I renamed it #DesignWealth because, really, this is what I wanted to help people learn how to do: I wanted to help them learn how to #DesignWealth into their websites, 24/7, in order to be prepared for the shifts that were coming in the interior design and furniture business and to help them compete more effectively with Amazon, etc. on their own websites and social channels.

Design Wealth Facebook Group

Then, beginning in January of 2019, I started speaking about how our industry could make money, 24/7, from their own websites and social channels, starting with this talk at Dallas Market with Sarah Daniele of My Doma Studio in the ZUO MODERN showroom.

Typically called, making money through passive income, there is nothing PASSIVE about passive income. It’s a lot of work -every day- but making money digitally does give you time and place freedom and it doesn’t require you to be the one to deliver 1 on 1 client or customer interaction, face to face, day after day.

Making money via sales of products through magazines as well as through digital downloads, online courses, ebooks, etc. is an additional way you can add streams of revenue to any existing business model you have.

(If you’d like to read how one interior designer with a successful design/build business in Boise, ID is making substantial money through digital downloads, please click to read my post about that, here.

Passive Income For Interior Designers Leslie Carothers Dallas Market

The speaking, while helping sales for my main business, Savour Partnership, wasn’t helping ME #DesignWealth into my own business, 24/7, though, and I realized it. I needed to fill this hole ..but, truth? I was scared because I didn’t know HOW TO DESIGN AN ONLINE COURSE! I was fearful.. I was afraid to make a mistake. Can anyone relate?

I knew I needed to #justdoit, but HOW?

It was shortly after this, in April of this year, that I had the good fortune to meet Jenna Gaidusek through my Facebook Group.

Jenna Gaidusek, founder of the EDesignTribe

I immediately hired Jenna to help me understand how to create my own online course and from this conversation with her, what I realized is that the online course I wanted to create and promote is one that would help everyone know exactly how to do what I, myself, needed to know how to do and had hired Jenna to help me learn to do: I wanted to help everyone learn how to Set Up, Structure and Market their own online courses!

So, I asked Jenna if she would be my partner in this, 50/50, and she agreed. Jenna and I wrote the course together, with Jenna providing all of the content and videos re: how to set up and structure your online course on the world’s #1 learning platform, TEACHABLE.

I provided much of the content on how to MARKET your online course, since online marketing is one of my specialities.

Together, Jenna and I created the comprehensive course that we believed would be most helpful to the greatest number of people who wanted to learn how to use their hard won knowledge and expertise to design their own online courses so they, too, could #DesignWealth into their websites, 24/7.

So, now that you know the full backstory, (and how I faced my fear and found that collaboration was the winning strategy in overcoming it) here are the …



You have to be passionate about the topic of your online course, not only knowledgeable. Why? If you’re not passionate about it, you can’t sell it.

Sales of online courses don’t take off on their own. It’ work. Day in and day out. The people you are marketing it to have to sense and FEEL that you are PASSIONATE about wanting to help them improve or learn.

So, choose a topic for your own online courses that gets you excited, that you feel, in your heart.. that if only people bought your course to help solve their problem or answer their questions, they would be truly helped.



Jenna and I learned this one the hard way. We had agreed to start marketing the course when I spoke in Napa in June of 2019 to Veronika Eagleson’s Design Hounds group about how to design multiples streams of revenue into their businesses. The designers attending this SKS Appliances sponsored event came in from all over North America and three of them, Carla Aston, Veronica Solomon and Claire Jefford were nice enough to give me permission to share with the assembled audience how much money they were making from their digital products and affiliate product links.

Keep in mind, it wasn’t enough for anyone to retire on yet, but it was significant enough that everyone saw the possibilities for their own businesses.

Jenna and I had thought our course would be ready by July 4th, and had told everyone attending that it would be. We were wrong. It wasn’t ready until July 31st, so we had to send out apology emails to all that had pre-ordered it.

Saying, “We’re sorry, we’re late” is not a great way to kick things off - especially when people had already entrusted us with their money!

So, try to have 3/4’s of your course, done, at least, before you start pre-marketing it, and set a VERY realistic timetable. Things WILL emergencies will get in the way, and, of course, family always comes first.

The Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your Online Course
This was what Modenus/DesignHounds created to advertise my presentation in Napa Valley.

This was what Modenus/DesignHounds created to advertise my presentation in Napa Valley.

Image: courtesy of Kandrac & Kole during my Napa Valley presentation. See their video of the entire event,  here.

Image: courtesy of Kandrac & Kole during my Napa Valley presentation. See their video of the entire event, here.

Jenna and I want to thank Arianne Bellizaire, , for being the first interior designer to trust us, pre-launch, and sign up for our course during the Napa Valley event.

Jenna and I want to thank Arianne Bellizaire,, for being the first interior designer to trust us, pre-launch, and sign up for our course during the Napa Valley event.


People learn differently. Some people prefer to watch videos vs. read, and others prefer to read vs. watch videos. Make sure you include both options in your online courses so those who take your course have the best experience possible.

Including videos in your course allows people to watch first, then go back and stop and start them, to make sure they are able to execute perfectly.

In our course, “Design Wealth: How To Set Up, Structure and Market Your Own Online Courses”, Jenna has made videos for every step of the set up process, so you can’t make a mistake.

We recommend using LOOM or HEADLINER to make your videos. Jenna created all of the videos for our course using the free,

Here is an excellent You Tube tutorial on how to use Headliner.

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 9.12.38 AM.png

#4: Have A Plan ( And A Budget ) For Marketing Your Online Course

Before you create your online course, think hard about how you are going to market it -and the available resources you have to insure its success. You don’t want to put the time into the content creation, and then be stuck without a plan when it comes time to market it.

Marketing it well will include many avenues: Pinterest, Facebook Groups, Facebook Ads, Instagram Stories and Instagram Ads, Promoted Pins, Google Adwords, your blog and/or newsletter if you have one, etc. All of these marketing tools can be deployed to help you launch and market your course.

Some of these avenues, like Facebook and Instagram Ads, Promoted Pins and Google Adwords will cost money. Decide in advance if you want to invest in promoting your course, and how much you’re willing to invest.

Please note that Jenna has been successful in marketing her own online courses without any paid advertising, so paid advertising is not a necessity, but it will definitely supercharge your sales, if you’re able to do it.

Our course covers How To Market Your Online Course , in detail, so if you do purchase our course, which you can do here, you will learn everything you need to know about how to be successful in marketing your course.

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing Online Courses

#5: Communicate With The Buyers Of Your Course Through Regular EMails, Especially At First.

Communicating with the buyers of your online course via email, on a regular basis, especially during the first 2 months of going LIVE, is critically important. You want to insure your buyers they know you are thinking of them, and wanting them to have a good experience with your course.

We started an EXCEL spreadsheet master list of the emails people used when they first started signing up for our course, pre-launch, which has made it much easier to now stay in touch with everyone. We recommend you do the same.

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 9.14.36 AM.png


Have a private Facebook Group for the buyers of your course, so they can get their questions answered quickly AND so they can support each other as they complete and launch their online courses.

Having a community of support is so important for any online endeavor and Facebook Groups are a wonderful way to deliver that support.

Be mindful, though: Facebook can change the rules at any time for Groups, so make sure you are collecting your email addresses!


What’s the next step? Whatever you want it to be. For some of you, you will never want to offer any kind of digital product, online course, etc. For others of you, you will see the viability in doing this as a way to add additional revenue to your businesses.

In all cases, you will need to put in the work to make it work for you - make no mistake about that, but, if you’re committed to do that, and do it consistently, within 5 years or so, you CAN be making a six figure income from marketing a combination of different kinds of digital products on your website and through your social channels.


Jenna and I invite you to come and have breakfast with us, and hear us speak together at High Point Market on Sunday, October 20th, at the Bienenstock Furniture Library, starting at the VERY EARLY hour of 7:30 am!

Jenna Gaidusek and Leslie Carothers

Jenna and I will share case studies with you and even more tips about how you can be successful implementing this strategy into your own business models.

With all of the financially disruptive changes that are impacting our industry every day, there IS a way forward, and I believe/we believe that what we are offering together, and what we offer separately through our individual businesses, are answers that, if adopted, will help not only designers, but also retailers and manufacturers, survive and thrive in this age of Amazon.

Come and get your questions answered in person, enjoy the Library (one of High Point’s hidden treasures!) and get a head start on understanding how to make 2020


Leslie Carothers