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Embrace an iterative mindset
Embrace an iterative mindset

As you get started, embrace iteration, trust your instincts, and know that there will be ups and downs in the journey

Chelsea Wilson avatar
Written by Chelsea Wilson
Updated over a week ago


  • How to embrace the discomfort of launching a new product

  • Embracing iteration is about embracing the idea of continual improvement and that the initial version of what you build doesn't have to be perfect

One of the most common mistakes first-time instructors make is comparing their first cohort with someone’s 50th cohort. You might take an amazing course and think, “Wow, their content is incredible. Mine could never be as good.”

The truth is your first cohort won't be as good, but you can learn and improve with each cohort. Embracing iteration means acknowledging that your first few cohorts will not be perfect, and every cohort you run will be a new version that improves on the last.

Embracing iteration

At some point in building your course, you’ll probably feel perfectionism or analysis paralysis. Experts like you have high standards for the work you create and put out into the world because you want to honor your students and do right by them.

In general, the instinct to want to create high quality work is good. Your first cohort should be standalone and worth the price. But you should also keep iterating based on what you're learning.

For example, the alpha cohort of the Maven Course Accelerator was five students, who were mainly friends of the team kind enough to go through a 5-day bootcamp and give us a lot of feedback. Then we grew to 10 students, 85 students, then over 120 in the next.

From our alpha cohort (MVN0)

Image from our alpha cohort of the Maven Course Accelerator

From our 3rd cohort (MVN3)

Image from our 3rd cohort of the Maven Course Accelerator

We also iterated on our content and operations. Each time we ran our course, it got easier and easier, and it became more seamless.

As you run more cohorts, the whole process becomes more fun because you have a better sense of what your students want. You'll have a better idea of what makes you feel alive as an instructor so you can double down on that and do more of it.

Trust your instincts

You'll get tons of frameworks, tools, best practices, templates, and guides from Maven. All of this is fodder for you to play around and get a sense of what other people have done and what’s worked so far.

At the end of the day, you know your students best. You know your content best. You know your community best. And you know yourself best, so always use your own judgment and trust your instincts.

If you try something, and it’s not really working, there’s no reason to force it. Even if you’re halfway through running your course and you want to change your content, you can position it as a feature, not a bug. You can say, “Hey I’m seeing this or that is working better for you, so I’m updating the plan to give you more of what you find helpful.” This is awesome and shows that you’re paying attention and putting your students first.

Embracing the creator journey

Building an online course can be an emotional rollercoaster. When you first start, you're motivated to hit the milestones and launch your first cohort. But, you might realize marketing is harder than you thought and begin to feel discouraged—and this is where you should push harder.

If you reach this point, here's what you should do: stop trying to scale your marketing, start selling one-to-one. One-on-one sales means getting on the phone with every interested student, emailing and DMing then, and running webinars.

And guess what? Maven instructors have reported 80-90% conversion after talking to a student on the phone. That’s nuts. If you have fewer than 30 leads, this is the highest ROI tactic to fill your cohort. Within 15 minutes, you can secure an enrollment, so it’s worth your time to take the call.

Once you sell live, you'll understand what the objections are and what's resonating. From there, you can start operationalizing your efforts for the next cohort.

Whenever you launch anything new—whether it’s a course, an ebook, an app, or any other product—you are faced with tension. It’s something anyone who’s ever created something new has faced. It’s the tension between moving forward with what you have but simultaneously staying open to other ideas.

If you only think, plan, strategize, scheme, you never launch. But if you jump straight to launching, you waste a lot of effort cleaning up avoidable mistakes.

There's no way to avoid this tension, except to embrace that this discomfort is a normal part of the creation process.

To summarize, continue to iterate, trust your instincts, and push through the hard parts. As long as you put your students first, you’re on the right track.

Watch the Wes Kao explain the creator mindset

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