How Lori DeMilto Built a 6-Figure Freelance Business in 18 Months, Then Created a Course to Help Other Freelancers do the Same

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  • Who: Lori DeMilto
  • Website: themightymarketer.com
  • Course Topic: Freelancing
  • Interesting Stats: $15,000 a year from the course

Who are you and what course have you created?

I’m Lori De Milto, a freelance writer. My online course, Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, gives freelancers a proven, step-by-step process to grow their freelance businesses.

What market does your online course serve?

Most freelancers never have a chance to learn about marketing, because they’re focused on building their expertise in writing or editing (or another type of freelancing).

They don’t know what to do to market their freelance businesses or how to do it. And they don’t realize that the right marketing can make it much easier to build a stable, successful business.

Instead of getting steady, high-paying clients, most freelancers struggle. They end up taking whatever work comes along. This is usually low-paying work for clients who don’t treat them right.

My course helps freelancers learn how to market their freelance businesses and get the steady, high-paying clients they deserve. I love helping freelancers who want to succeed but just need some help with marketing.

What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?

Freelancers who take my course get two big benefits. They develop client-focused marketing and they boost their confidence.

Maimonides said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” My course teaches freelancers how to do great marketing so they can apply what they learn throughout their freelance careers.

By the end of the course, freelancers have most of their marketing message and tools in place. This helps them get more clients and better clients.

Helping freelancers boost their confidence was a surprise to me. When I started the course, I thought that other freelancers only needed to know how to market their business. But as I coached my students, I learned that most of them had little confidence in their ability to do marketing.

Sometimes, freelancers also had little confidence in their writing or editing skills.  When I learned about their background and experience, these freelancers always had what it took to succeed. They just didn’t know how to show this to clients.

Lori DeMilto's site

How did you get into the market?

When I started out as a freelancer, I did a lot of marketing and build a 6-figure freelance business in 18 months. As I met other freelancers, I noticed that they didn’t know much about marketing. They didn’t know what to do and they seemed uncomfortable doing it.

Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?

I started out helping other freelancers market their businesses through articles, presentations, one-on-one conversations, and my first book, “The Mighty Marketer: Your Guide to Making More Money as a Freelance Medical Writer.” When I published the book, I launched my Mighty Marketer website and started a blog. I knew that I wanted to do more but wasn’t sure what.

One of the speakers at a conference for freelancers presented online courses. It was like a big light bulb lit up over my head. I knew that developing an online course was my next step.

Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?

I probably should have had some doubts when I was developing my course but I didn’t. I thought that if I did the right things and worked hard, I would succeed.

What’s your online course like?

Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve is a 7-week online course with 7 modules, delivered primarily through video lessons. Most of the videos are narrated with PowerPoint slides. I’m on camera in a few of the videos. Students also get:

  • Downloadable videos and transcripts of each lesson
  • Examples, templates, and tips
  • Assignments to help them apply what they learn.

I offer coaching and self-study versions of the course.

In the coaching version, which most freelancers prefer, students get personal guidance from me, based on their freelance business, goals, challenges, etc. Students complete a survey at the beginning of the course to tell me about:

  • Their current freelance business (or plans to launch their business)
  • What they’d like their business to be like in a year
  • Background and experience
  • Biggest marketing challenges and specific topics they want coaching on.

The coaching course includes:

  • 2 marketing reviews
  • Written review of 4 key assignments
  • 2 coaching sessions by Zoom
  • Answers to questions about marketing via email.

Near the beginning of the course, I do the first marketing review based on the survey answers and any marketing they’ve already done.  I hold onto this until after the first sessions, where we discuss the first assignment, the student’s specific marketing needs, and the draft marketing review.

During the course, I review the 4 key assignments. Through these assignments, students identify or refine their specialty, develop their marketing messages and their LinkedIn profile, and start to work on other marketing tools.

The second coaching session focuses on the progress the student has made in the course, what they still need to do, and plans for ongoing marketing. Afterward, I send the second marketing review, which summarizes their progress in the course and provides suggestions for the next steps.

How long did it take you to create your course?

It took me about 6 months to develop and launch my course. I took a course on developing an online course.  This was incredibly helpful. I modeled the format and types of content on that course but used a much simpler technology. I turned the content from my first book into PowerPoint slides and scripts for videos. Then I taught myself how to create videos, using Camtasia.

Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).

I already had a small email list from my blog and I used this to promote my course. I developed a promotional email series based on what I learned in the course I took about course development.

With the help of my designer, I developed a course page on my website and a lead page for the email promotions. Also, I wrote a series of onboarding emails for students, another thing I learned in the course I took.

I started with a pilot course, as recommended in the course I took. The pilot allowed me to offer a good course that wasn’t fully developed with coaching for a very low price in exchange for feedback I could use to improve the course.

Lori DeMilto's site

Do you have a lead magnet?

I have several lead magnets that I use to build my email list and give freelancers a taste of how I can help them. My main lead magnet, on my home page, is 10 Steps to Getting the Steady, High-Paying Clients You Deserve. This is a brief overview of what the course covers, with a course promo at the end.

Once people are on my email list, I build trust with them through my blog and free marketing tools. Since I don’t use my lead magnets directly in course promotions, I don’t have any metrics on how they help me sell my course.

But selling courses is about much more than lead magnets and other promotions.

People need to trust you before they buy something from you. And a lead magnet is rarely enough to make people want to buy something from you. -Lori DeMilto Click To Tweet

People need to get useful content over time before they’re ready to buy an online course or anything else.

What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?

My email list is by far the best source of students for my course. Mostly, I build this through my activity in professional associations (presenting and writing), LinkedIn, and some SEO.

When I’m actively promoting my course, testimonials, and case studies show freelancers how my course has helped other freelancers.

What online course platform are you using?

I use my WordPress website for my course.

Do you like it?

Yep! It’s easy for me and students to use.

Are there any features you wish it had?

No. I’ve taken courses with a more advanced tech platform and that can be great. But it’s not necessary for my course.

What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?

When I was starting my course, I looked into online course platforms. Then I talked to my designer and learned that I could do everything that I needed to do on WordPress.

My designer helped me set the course up and now I make updates and changes on my own. While it’s probably a bit more work than using an online course platform, it works for me. And it’s much less expensive than sites like Teachable.

What other tools do you use to run your online course business?

AWeber for my email list and email marketing, Canva for graphics, Ubersuggest for SEO, Camtasia from TechSmith to produce videos, Zoom for coaching sessions, PayPal for sales, and SurveyMonkey to survey students.

What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?

I took a course from Mirasee called Course Builders Laboratory. They no longer offer this course but they have a Free Course Builder’s Bootcamp and other programs.

Also, Mirasee has a free guide: HOW TO Create An Online Course: The Ultimate Guide for 2022, and a blog and podcast with lots of great content about courses. They also have several books on building courses.

HubSpot and NeilPatel.com are great resources on content marketing, SEO, and more. Patel runs Ubersuggest, a free tool for SEO.

Lori DeMilto's site

Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?

I’m always willing to share my mistakes because that’s how we learn. When I started my course, I thought that marketing would be similar to marketing my freelance business. But building my email to sell my course has been harder than I thought it would be. What I’ve learned from this is to be persistent and to keep learning about how to better run an online course (list building, SEO, developing content, social media, etc.).

Please share some idea of revenue.

A lot of people are making a lot of money selling online courses. I’m not one of them—yet. Right now, I make about $15,000 a year from my course. Most of my income comes from freelance writing. But I’ll make more from my course as I build my email list.

Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.

My course hasn’t directly helped me much financially because I was already making a lot of money as a freelance medical writer. But I have gotten more freelance work through referrals from students and other people on my email list. And teaching my own course has led to other opportunities, including teaching a course in freelancing for a leading university and a professional association. I’ve also had more opportunities to present and write articles for professional associations.

What has creating your course done for you personally?

I love sharing what I’ve learned with other freelancers. Also, teaching and coaching have made me more comfortable and better at talking with potential clients for my freelance business.

Do you have a story of a transformation from any of your clients?

I have many stories of transformation from my students, including some I share in case studies.

It makes me very happy to hear about how my course is helping my students and to see them go from struggle to success.

Here are a couple of brief stories …

After leaving a university teaching position, one freelancer launched a freelance writing business. But she wasn’t able to make a living. Within a few months of finishing Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve—during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic—she got four new clients and was growing her freelance business.

One student doubled her income after taking my course. She had been freelancing for about 10 years and wanted to transition into a more profitable type of freelance writing. During the course, she learned how to present her skills and experience to attract her new target clients and developed marketing that helped her do this. Also, she developed the confidence to turn down low-paying clients.

What advice do you have for people just starting out?

First, research your target audience. Do surveys and have one-on-one conversations to find their pain points related to your topic and how you can help them. Know what your target audience needs—not what you think they need—before you start working on your course. This helps you develop the right course and also develop marketing that will appeal to your target audience.

Second, invest time and money in learning how to develop and market your online course. Take a course in online courses. Your course will be much better and it will be easier to market it if you do this.

Third, never stop learning.

Read/watch content on online courses, content marketing, email marketing, etc. Get inspiration and ideas from successful courses. Look at their descriptions and their marketing. -Lori DeMilto Click To Tweet

Learn more about Lori DeMilto of themightymarketer.com:

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Lisa Parmley

Lisa Parmley is the founder of CourseMethod.com. After gaining a Master's degree in Biology, she worked in research for about 7 years.

Lisa decided to start her own training company in 2001, helping people pass a professional exam. In that time, she created online courses as well as books, DVD's, CD's, and testing software. That course has earned multiple 7-figures throughout the years.

She created SEO and authority site building training around 2007 which went on to earn well into the 6-figure mark.

She has 21+ years of experience in the trenches doing both creating and selling online courses. Download her 7-figure Online Course Success Blueprint here.

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