Today I’m going to show you how to make an online course, that makes money and an impact. Right now our ability to deliver high quality education to anyone with an internet connection has never been better, and with student loan debt and college tuition, rising to disturbingly high levels, alternative learning pathways have never been more important.

According to Forbes, the e-learning industry will be worth $331 billion by 2025. Even back in 2017, e-learning made $46 billion in a single year and throw in the fact that people are beginning to realize the benefits of learning from the comfort of their own home, at their own pace and convenience, and you’ll recognize the time to make an online course is right now. But let’s face it. The thought of actually making an online course can feel absolutely overwhelming. 

The truth is most would-be course creators never get past the dreaming stage, and that’s exactly why we’re making this article, to show you how to make an online course, the right way, with a simple step by step process that will set you up for success. 

Online Course Basics

One of the major benefits of online courses is that you create them once and can sell them endless amounts of times. So after you’ve made back your initial investment, you’ll be enjoying high margins because your only ongoing costs are marketing and customers support.

Now, no matter what type of course you’re creating, right from the beginning, it’s important that you understand this, all successful online courses, help students solve a valuable problem and offer them a transformation. Your ultimate goal is to arm people with the process, habits and knowledge. They need to improve a particular area of their life and overcome an obstacle.

One of the most common things that aspiring course creators struggle with is believing there are already a lot of courses out there in their area of expertise. But the reality is what makes a course unique, isn’t the topic. It’s the methodologies and the perspective that the instructor brings, and that’s a motivating thought because your experience and your approach are your greatest advantages. Two different fitness instructors will create entirely different courses. So don’t worry about other people’s expertise. Just dig into your own. 

Types You Could Sell

Another crucial thing to understand is that all online courses at their core follow the same five step sales cycle, and this is so important to internalize because when each step is executed properly, you can create a sustainable growth engine. 

-First, you have your course, which is your digital product, where you offer the value of your expertise. 

-Then we have the registration and this is the actual sale where your marketing efforts have attracted people to enroll in your course. 

-Next, we have the transformation where your students become better than they were when they started, and when they’ve gained new knowledge and skills that are going to benefit their future. 

-After that we have testimonials where past students rave about the quality of your course and the benefits it gave them, thereby inspiring and influencing others. 

-Lastly, we have referrals, where people have seen and heard those inspiring testimonials from either their friends or strangers ultimately decide it’s time to enroll in your course. 

Now before getting into the specifics of how to make your own online course let’s first talk about the basic types of courses that you could sell

-Firstly, we have mini-courses and these are beginner level, often taking a learner an hour or two to complete. Sometimes these mini courses are given away for free, but if they are sold, they’re generally done so at a lower price point or if given away for free, these mini courses often become a marketing tool, taking the form of an email course that is used as a lead magnet to drum up business for other digital products or services. 

-Next we have multi-day courses and these are intermediate level and multi-day courses often use prerecorded video and other supplementary materials like checklists, these often fall in the price range of $250 to $2,000

-Lastly, we have a masterclass and these are advanced level multi-week courses that offer learners a complete system for success. These are generally sold to professionals and as a result, they have higher price point between the range of $500 to $3,000. If this is your first time creating an online course, you probably don’t want to start with a masterclass. Just like most directors start off with the short films before moving on to features you maybe don’t want to begin with your Magnum Opus. Start off small. Test the market. Walk, then run. 

How To Choosing A Topic For Your Digital Course

The first step of making your online course is choosing a topic, make sure your topic meets these three criteria

-Your topic must be something that you are an expert in. People are more than turning than ever when it comes to investing in digital informational products, so make sure you can offer your students something of genuine value.

-It must be something that you’re passionate about, making a course is definitely a commitment, and your passion for the topic is what’s going to motivate you to keep going. 

-It must be a topic that’s in high demand and to be clear, validated by data and objective strangers. Asking your friends and family if your idea’s good, just doesn’t count. The biggest risks that entrepreneurs face is creating something that no one wants. 

Understanding Your Audience

So while you might be tempted to jump right into course creation, that’s not the best approach. There are a few things you should do first to set yourself up for success, and the first is conduct user research. Our goal in conducting user research is understand our ideal customer’s pain points and gaining insight into the end state. 

They would like to achieve after the transformation. To do this, start by searching up your topic on Google trends, this will give you insight into whether your topic is increasing in interest or declining. 

Next go to Uber suggest and type in your topic, this will give you good insight into how many people are searching for the term, what the age range is of the searchers and also how much competition there is in the space. 

You can also go to Quora and take a look for a question that relates to your topic, this will give you a better idea of what people are looking for in a course why they need it and what problems they’re trying to solve. 

Email Template For User Research

After that, look for a few hashtags in your niche on social media, to find a few people who might be your ideal learner, once you’ve done that, reach out to them and ask them if they’d be willing to participate in a user research meeting. 

You can say something like, “Hi, I’m creating a course on blank and want to make sure it’s incredibly valuable for learners. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to give me 15 minutes of your time for a short video call, where I can find out how my course might be able to help people, just like you reach their goals. If you’re interested, I’d love to give you the course for free. Once I’m done to show you my appreciation.”

Once you’ve set up a few video calls, make sure to take the time to study these ideal learners’ social media profiles, to learn more about them in preparation for the meeting, make sure to ask these questions and to document their answers. What are the problems that I can help you solve? What are the challenges that you encounter in the learning process that I can help you overcome? What would your goals be in taking this course? If you were to complete the course, what is the how come you’d hope to get? What is your ideal end state? You can learn a lot from that natural interaction of interviewing someone and sometimes gain a lot of information that they wouldn’t really think about writing down. Make sure to conduct interviews with at least 10 people. Once you’re done this, creating a quick Google survey with the same questions is a really good idea. That way you can widen your sample size to make sure it’s significant between interviewing people and sending out surveys, you’ll want to make sure that you have answers from at least 30 people. 

How To Ensure Your Course Has High Market Demand

Now that you have insight into what your learners problems, goals, and challenges are. It’s time to ensure that they’ll actually buy your course. This is what the author of the lean startup would call building your minimum viable product

An MVP is a product with just enough features that you release to the public to validate your assumptions. I’m going to discuss two minimum viable product ideas that will help establish you as an authority and make you profit in the process. 

-The first strategy is creating a mini-course, and as we spoke about before these courses take less than two hours to complete. As a result, they’re on hyper specific topics, much narrower than the larger course you’ll eventually create. For example, if you were looking to eventually create a course that would show learners how to speak Spanish fluently, a great mini course idea would be phrases and vocabulary for ordering food at a restaurant. Sometimes packaged as an email course, mini courses are a great way to establish your authority and build an audience for a topic. If someone actually invests in your mini course, it’s a pretty good sign that they might be willing to invest in your multi-day course later down the line. 

-Alternatively, you can offer your mini course for free as a lead magnet, capturing the emails of people you’ll sell your online course too later, if you’re doing this, these people should be entered into email sales sequence, where they’re directed to the presale page for your actual online course. We’ll talk more about pre-selling in the next section. To create a mini course, you can simply repurpose your old content, or choose a bite size topic that you know like the back of your hand. 

The Webinar Sales Funnel

The second strategy is creating a free webinar with an upsell, and this is an incredibly powerful strategy. Basically, this live streamed RSVP only digital event will allow you to do five things. 

Test your topic, gain feedback on your value proposition to perfect it, prototype your course in a condensed format, learn about your audience, and of course, make some sales from your high margin upsells. Webinars can be incredibly effective with the average conversion rate hovering around 20%, so after you spend the first 80% of your webinar, delivering free value, want to ask them these questions? 

-One, did you find this valuable? 

-Two, do you want to learn something else? 

This is where you start selling one-to-one consulting or a one day live stream course. If the attendees act now or in the next set number of days, they’ll gain access to a special promotional price using this urgency can really help to drive conversions, and if people start buying, well, that’s a good indication that there’s a market for your course, whether you do a mini course or run a webinar, make sure to take note of the people who actually convert. Are they different than the people you thought would buy? If so you may want to consider framing your marketing differently. 

How To Pre-Sell Your Course

The next thing I want to talk about might surprise you, but you can actually sell the course before it’s finished. It’s called pre-selling. Of course you need to actually finish the course to deliver on the promise you made your learners, but pre-selling is a powerful strategy for a few reasons. 

– It helps you stress test your concept. 

– It allows you to tailor, make the content to learners as they’re going through it, allowing you to create a better quality course. 

– It helps with cashflow, this is a strategy that software companies have been using for decades called a beta release. 

The goal of pre-selling your course is to get that course in the hands of customers earlier. Thus receiving feedback and validating market demand faster. You do this by offering the first round of learners, a significantly reduced price to get them in the door. Start by creating a landing page that sells based on the curriculum and transformation that your course will provide. As a copywriting pro tip use the challenges, goals, and language that you gathered from your ideal customers during your research phase. This will make your leads feel like you’re reading their mind. There are several platforms that you can use to build your sales page. 

It’s really worth repeating here that once you launch your presale page and make a few sales, it needs to be your top priority to finish your course, you need to remain ethical and you really don’t want to break a promise to your customers. 

How To Outline Your Course Content

Now let’s talk about designing your course’s content. When outlining your content, it’s actually easiest to start with your learner’s intended end state and work backwards from there. For example, if someone was looking to learn to become a cinematographer, their intended end state is to be able to confidently lead lighting and camera departments on a film set. 

So how do we help that learner make that transformation? Here are some of the things they would need to learn to get their. Lighting, Framing, Camera motion, Camera angles, Composition, Types of cameras, Lens choice, Depth of field, Color, Focus, Exposure, and filtration. So basically we’ve just created an outline for our course curriculum. Once we’ve done this, we’ll need to take the sections, sometimes call modules or chapters and break them down into subsections. 

Continuing with our cinematographer example, our lighting section might break down into things like lighting, fundamentals, lighting, terminology, and lighting techniques. After that you’ll need to plan out your content formats. Video content is great for portraying ideas simply and time effectively. Screencasts and walkthroughs are ideal for processes where students need it to see the exact steps. 

Text content is best for explaining concepts in more detail, giving step-by-step info and linking to other resources around the web. Downloadable content is best for cheat sheets, glossaries templates, and other tools that set learners up for success. Lastly, we have worksheets. Which are great for helping learners internalize concepts. 

Best Practices

When creating educational content, it’s important that it remains focused and actionable. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too much information, make sure that it feels digestible. As a best practice, keep your videos below 10 minutes in length, shorter videos in succession will help your learner feel like they’re making progress, which will really help to keep them motivated as a pro tip, make sure to use multiple content formats. It really helps to keep learners engaged. 

Goal Setting / Pricing

Earlier in this article, we gave you some different price ranges that vary based on the type of course you’re creating. These price ranges were pretty wide, and it’s important to remember that your pricing strategy will be affected by a variety of factors, including your niche, your marketing, your course topic, and your authority as a course creator. 

However one thing is for certain. Pricing, your course too low is a really bad idea, because you’ll still need to spend money on marketing to get traffic and sales. Let me put it to you this way. Let’s say your goal was to make $100,000 from your course. If you price your course at $700, you would need to make 142 sales to get there, assuming a 1% conversion rate you need to bring in traffic of 14,200 people. 

A lot of people rationalize pricing their courses lower because they believe they’ll be able to make more sales. A big beginner’s mistake that a lot of people make is believing that by pricing their course low, they’ll be able to make more sales. So if you price your course at $50 and you still want it to make a hundred grand, you would need to make 2000 sales. Assuming a 1% conversion rate that would mean you would need to bring 200,000 people to your site. So after we do the math, what really sounds more doable? Also take into account. The customers that shop at the lowest price point are probably not the ones you want. Remember this, the pricing of your course all comes down to the value of the outcome that your course helps students achieve. As a place to start, take a look at competing courses and find out what your competitors are charging. Then figure out how you can make your course more unique and more valuable. Then charge slightly more for it. This pricing strategy can be used to communicate that your course is better. 

Choosing A Platform

When it comes to picking a platform for your online course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options and features. Remember to keep it simple. There are three basic types of online course platforms. 

-First we have standalone online course platforms, like teachable and Thinkific. These platforms give you a ton of control over your content and data, and depending on your needs and budget, you really can’t go wrong with either. They’re also really easy to integrate with Shopify. 

-Then we have all in one solutions like Kajabi. This puts your marketing tools, website builder, and content delivery platform under one roof. Sure. It’s a bit pricier, but if you’re looking for a one system approach, this is it. 

-Then we have online course marketplaces like Udemy, a major benefit of online course marketplaces is that you’ll gain access to a large built-in audience. But one major con is that you’ll have less control over your pricing and data. Choose your platform carefully, but don’t succumb to analysis paralysis. Ultimately it will be your course and your marketing that are going to be your competitive advantage, not your platform. Also, you can always switch platforms later. 

How To Market Your Course

Marketing can make all the difference in the world for how successful your course is. It’s really important that you treat your course like a product launch, because that’s exactly what it is. The build it and they will come attitude just doesn’t apply to the world of online courses. 

Here are two of the most important things that you need to do. 

Collect emails early and often. Your email list will become one of the most valuable assets in your business, because it will allow you to continuously market to leads, it will also allow you to upsell past customers with new courses later on. 

Collect customer testimonials, as we spoke about before are vital for creating a sustainable growth engine building trust and more always ask past customers for testimonials in written or video formats on their transformation. Then use these testimonials throughout your marketing material. 

Let’s face it, marketing is a massive topic and each discipline really needs its own article to do it justice. Here are some simple ideas to get you started. 

Run a weekly webinar,  as we spoke about earlier, webinars are really effective way to attract leads. They’re low cost and with their high conversion rates, they’re low risk and high reward. 

-Next, we have email courses, we touched on mini-courses earlier on this article, but they’re also a great way to generate leads. Make sure that when someone signs up for your mini course, they’re also entered in an email drip campaign that sells them your main course, offering discounts to increase conversion rates. 

-Become a guest on a podcast, this can be a great way to increase your authority and reach new customers. 

-Social media marketing, to really succeed here, identify the channels that work best for your audience and focus on them. Well, it can be really tempting to try and be everywhere all at once, this will really water down your results. 

-Run paid ads, running paid ads is a powerful way to reach new customers. 

-SEO search engine optimization is a vital component of any marketing strategy. Increasing your ability to be discovered on Google with free traffic.

We have an article about 10 cheap and Free Ways to Promote Your Business