Should You Assign ‘Homework’ in Your Email Course?

The other day I read a news story about a teacher who banned homework in her classroom.

She sent the students home with a note that said, “Studies have failed to prove that homework improves performance. Spend time together as a family and go to bed early instead.”

So what about email courses?

Does homework improve your sales—or hurt them?

Subscriber and life coach Ed makes a good case for including homework:

Interesting. So you’re suggesting a “pure info” course with no homework?

On the one hand, I definitely agree that most people won’t do the homework. On the other hand, I wonder if the value of homework depends on what you want people to buy. In my case, I want premium coaching clients. So if I have 50-100 people sign up for my course a month, and 1-2 of them become premium clients, that’s perfect! Basically, I’m looking for the few “diamonds in a rough” that are actually ready to dive in and do some hard work. The people who don’t do the work in the free course, probably wouldn’t be good coaching clients anyway.

Seems logical, doesn’t it?

Assigning homework weeds out the people who aren’t all that interested.

And in Ed’s case, since he’s selling a high-end coaching service, the subscribers that do the homework will get great results—and then they’ll be hungry for more.


It’s great in theory, but most of the time it doesn’t work that way.

Here’s what actually happens:

Someone signs up for your email course.

They’re so excited they’re hitting Refresh on their Gmail inbox waiting for the first lesson to arrive.

And when it hits, they rip open the “envelope” (digitally speaking) and start devouring the lesson.

They’re nodding along, tracking you the whole way. They get to the end, and they see their assignment.

Great, this is EXACTLY what I need to do, they think. I don’t have time right this second, but I’ll just flag it and come back to it when I have a few minutes.

Guess when “a few minutes” is?

Yep, never.

They never actually DO the exercise, it just sits there in the back of their mind nagging them for the next couple of days.

Then a few days later, WHOMP, Lesson 2 hits their inbox.

They read it and flag it for “later.”

And so on.

Pretty soon, every time they see your name they feel this little stab of guilt over all that WORK they’ve let pile up…

By the time they’re halfway through your course, they’re not only not seeing any positive changes in their life…

Their life is actually *worse* because now on top of everything else they FEEL GUILTY!

And guess who’s responsible for bringing that guilt into their lives?

One of the core principles of marketing is to make each step in your funnel JUST BIG ENOUGH to get people to take the next step.

Let’s be honest here:

Most people’s problems are way, way bigger than you can hope to solve in a free, unsupervised email course.

My rule of thumb with email courses is, don’t assign homework.

98% of your subscribers won’t do ANY of it.

Instead make your email “lessons” fast and fun to read.

And nudge your subscribers toward an appropriately sized “next step,” like a product purchase or initial consultation.

Want to see how this works?

This week I’m running a 90-minute class where I’m dissecting a live, wriggling email course funnel for your edification.

School is in session here (there will NOT be a quiz):