We could have never predicted the success of this course. There are a few fundamentals we should have observed with more foresight, however.
Today we're sharing exactly what "could have been" to help existing or aspiring content creators everywhere.
Hideko and I produced this course while traveling in Madeira, Portugal, a small island off the coast of Africa.
As such we did not have our [high resolution] dSLR camera, [low noise] RODE microphone, or an [aesthetically pleasing] environment in which to record lectures.
To be resourceful we rented our own private office on the 5th floor of a coworking space, filmed privately in shared meeting rooms late at night, and used our iPhones (1080p camera) for some of the "talking heads" style footage.
While we're very proud of the content itself, some of the lectures have a bit of "echo" and the lighting between different rooms is not always even.
We also didn't have expertise in post-production techniques like color correction or noise reduction, which was exasperated by our tight (self imposed) timeline to deliver just ~10 days after the pre-sale announcement.
How we fixed this: we now have better cameras, professional microphones, video editing software, and have taken online training to improve the quality of future real-life footage.
The Micro Acquisitions student body is increasingly global, and not every student speaks English as a first language.
Thus, we should have produced English captions to make it easier to follow along to our speech. This is especially important in the technical lectures on financial modeling and managing developers.
How we're fixing this: I'm investigating "captions as a service" providers – written by real people and not machines – and soon every lecture will include an option to enable English subtitles.
But one mistake we did make was charging students an extra fee to access our micro PE forum, Rainmakers.
First we tried $9 /month, then $50 /year, then $99 /year, and each experiment flopped. Students willing to pay were disappointed by the modest ~70 member community, and students unwilling to pay blamed the small community for their lack of interest. Classic chicken or egg situation.
While it's possible to overcome this 2-sided marketplace dilemma, we instead chose to stop nickel-and-diming students and simply provide the community free of charge, for everyone.
How we fixed this: after making Rainmakers free, we refunded and cancelled all paid member accounts.
Besides not having a master plan, which we don't regret, a few basics could have been handled much more intelligently.
For example, after deciding to use Podia (referral link) to host the content, we failed to investigate how to hook up a custom domain until launch day.
I assumed it would be a quick "paste this DNS record and click save" process, but unfortunately the Podia team needs a few hours to manually hook up domains on a creator's behalf.
Because we neglected to consider this detail, we launched our course using a temporary domain, "micrope.podia.com," which in my opinion is less professional and might have cost us a few sales.
Another mistake we made was not setting up any systems or automations until over 100 students enrolled. Welcome emails, newsletter subscription confirmations, and a process to share materials like legal doc templates were all figured out on-the-fly for at least a week or two.
How we're fixing this: you can only launch once. That said, we've significantly improved the student experience with self-service forum invites, graduate certificates, and a monthly newsletter.
We're grateful to be able to reflect on the faux pas described above, because it means at least something we're doing is right.
Courses and communities, like any platform or piece of software, are never "finished." We're always tinkering, questioning, and hopefully improving the Micro Acquisitions ecosystem, in spite of silly mishaps we'll laugh about later.
Perhaps even, in anticipation of. Game on.