Online courses are absolutely everywhere. To the extent that if there is something you want to learn about or become more proficient in, there is likely a course out there that can help you. Over the past few years, online courses have had a major increase in their availability and popularity by many people. According to Research & Markets the “eLearning” industry is set to grow to $325 billion by 2025.
Technology has transformed opportunities in teaching and learning. Before the digital era, it used to be talks, lectures, physical objects, and practical. But now classes can go on differently. The e-learning market is a product of this transformation, and it has revealed a new money-making niche.
Over the past decade, the state of online education has grown aggressively like never before. Due to numerous tech developments in the field of internet access, product delivery system, SaaS, multi-vendor marketplace solutions, authoring tools, and structure documentation, the concept of online courses has become multi-faced. Online courses have become a vital channel for education and their market is booming exponentially.
Just take a look at these statistics:
- It is projected that the global e-learning market will exceed 243 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by 2022.
- A substantial portion of stakeholders (65%) in the educational sector have demonstrated their readiness to endorse this new teaching model.
- Approximately 92 percent of students globally are willing to adopt online teaching methods.
You can capitalize on these trends and start an online learning platform to sell digital courses or better still teach what you know online.
There has never been a better time to join the rising wave of eLearning and take advantage of the growing market. Everyone has something which they can teach the world, whether it be large or small. There are courses on everything from potting a plant, to in-depth courses on financial algorithms which will take months to complete.
The trick to creating a successful online course is to have a usable strategy for launching the product, and promoting it correctly. In this ebook, I have put together some pieces of advice on how you can create, sell/promote and earn a living from your own online courses.
Picking a Topic/Niche
Picking an idea for your course is one of the most frustrating parts of creating a course. It’s also one of the most important steps in creating a successful online course. The topic you choose must solve a problem or educate your audience. Start with things people struggle with related to what you know.
This will define the specific market for your upcoming course, the products the market will respond to, and the best methods for promotion of your course. Some markets respond better to certain promotion techniques.
There are a few core ways to look at your topic choices:
- Look at what’s already working in the market
- Survey your audience to find out what they need
- Look for a gap in the market
Find problems people have related to what you already know. Before you start building or investing resources into a course, first find out if there’s an audience who is willing and able to spend money on what you want to sell. Make no assumptions. You’re looking for proof of market—evidence that will validate your online course idea. If the course doesn’t meet a specific need, it won’t succeed.
- Why would someone pay for this course?
- What pain(s) does the course solve?
- What outcome(s) can they expect at the end?
- How do you know your ideas will work? Will it sell?
- Who else is doing the same thing?
- Can you find examples of profitable courses in the same niche?
- Does your audience really want to learn about the topic?
What’s already working?
There are two ways to look at the “what’s already working” model. Firstly, it is working, and therefore you have already inherently validated the idea. However, you could also argue that someone has already done it and therefore there is no room for you to also enter that market. There is another viewpoint as well. What’s already working could be defined as what you are currently being paid for. Let’s say you’re a gardener by trade. That means people are already paying you for your expertise – therefore why wouldn’t people pay for your courses on the subject as well? If you are in this scenario, it is certainly the perfect subject to create an online course about.
Pick your audience and survey them
You could choose a marketplace first, and an idea afterwards. For example, you may choose the market of people who like food. So, you go and survey a large group of Foodies, or people who enjoy cooking to find out exactly what they may want to see in a course.
You might find a trend for a topic which could be highly popular. Another example, you may find that there is a strong urge for people to learn about making Japanese food. Conveniently, you happen to know about making Sushi and Dumplings etc…so you can begin making a course to fit that market.
Look for a gap in the market
The best approach here is to think super broad. Let’s use the same topic as discussed in the survey. Cooking. You can search online forums and places like Reddit in order to find out what people are struggling with around that topic. If people have a problem, they will be asking questions online about it.
The goal here is to find a topic which has enough repeat questions and problems associated with it. The important factor here is to separate what are useful questions/problems from the noise.
There are many questions being asked by people who were too lazy to just Google a simple solution, and then there are meaningful questions which you can provide a course to solve the problems of. When you find a significant number of the same meaningful questions…you have found your gap in the marketplace.
The profit to passion matrix
The idea of this Matrix is picking a niche which you’re both passionate about, but also can realise profit potential on the niche too. While there is little point in engaging in a project in which you cannot obtain profit, there is equally little point in engaging in a project which has a lot of potential profit, but you dislike the topic so much that you’re likely to quit.
You need to have a good balance of passion and profit potential. You need to look for ideas which land in the quadrant of something you’re excited about, that also has a high profit potential.
Naming your course
The name of your course is the first thing that people will see when looking at your course for the first time. The goal of the name is to pique the interest of the potential customer and lead to them having a feeling of longing to learn more. If you get the name wrong, they’ll move onto another course and forget about yours.
The name needs to make it clear exactly who the course is for, and what it does. For example “Cooking Skills 101: How to use chef’s knives effectively and with confidence” is a better title than simply “Knife Skills”, because the prospective student doesn’t get exactly what they could obtain from the latter title. It could be knife skills for carving statues for all they know.
The example above is also results-oriented. It tells the prospective student that by taking the course that they will see an outcome of using their kitchen knives with confidence. There is an end goal in sight.
Building your Content
Once you know there is demand for the course, begin to put ideas together. Think about what type of content you want to provide and how you intend to build your course content. Decide on your format; will it be a one-on-one session, recorded lectures, webinars, or in audio format? Weigh out the pros and cons of each, depending on your resources and preferences. Create your curriculum and get feedback from others, preferably from experienced teachers. Be open to constructive criticism and adjust your curriculum accordingly.
Do you plan to teach on your own, or do you have the budget to hire more teachers? Understandably, many might opt to work by themselves, but you need to be prepared to take on different roles. Remember that aside from teaching, you will be in charge of marketing your brand, assessing your students, creating the curriculum, accounting for your finances, and other tasks needed to grow a business.
Make it clear why your course matters and pitch your material appropriately.
Simon Sinek, the creator of the golden circle, once said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Apply the same principle when selling online courses. Let customers know the solution your course provides. The more details you provide and back with evidence the more likely it is that your customers understand why your course matters. Be very clear on the results learners can expect from taking your course. Will they make X times more money? Will they increase sales by Y per cent? Or will they improve productivity in Z days and have a more fulfilling life? Tell your audience.
Pro tip: make the reason why your course matters part of the headline.
It makes it easier for customers to find you. And when your target audience is researching a topic and they immediately find you, they feel like they’ve found the right person to help them solve a specific problem. Selling them on your course becomes so much easier.
There are three main mediums in which you can deliver the core substance of your course, and then there are different platforms you can display those mediums on depending on which medium you choose.
Those main mediums are:
- Video Content
- Audio Content
- Textual Content
There are two main types of video content in courses. There are the screenshare type videos where the author will guide you through things – This is common in courses teaching you about business or finance, or computer courses.
The second type of video content is what we can call “talking head” content. Which is literally you sat in front of a camera teaching the course.
There is also a subclass of the talking head video, where it can be someone other than you. In the same way there are ghost writers of books, you can be a ghost-creator of a course. You can hire an actor to record the video content for you, and you just give
them the ‘script’ to read. This can be beneficial for those who do not want to be physically associated with the course they are creating.
Audio content has the main benefit of being very portable. That means that people can listen to it while on the go at all times. Unlike video which requires you to look at a screen in order to learn, audio content can be consumed in a far wider range of scenarios.
It is important if you go down this route that the audio is recorded well, as it is the only thing between you and the listener. Your iPhone microphone or the built in microphone on your laptop likely isn’t good enough for this purpose.
There are many options online, and many recommendations of microphones for the purpose of recording audiobooks. What you choose will depend entirely on your budget, but it is certainly not something to limit your spending on.
Also consider where you record your content, as a room with a lot of hard reflective surfaces can result in an echoey and unpleasant sound to the ears.
Textual content is the simplest form of course you could make. You just write your content in a word processing application, and then upload it to the platform you choose to sell your course on. There are very few additional skills required, and can also end up being the cheapest option if you want to create a course on a budget.
You can also use text to create free micro-courses on your blog, which are used as a way to promote the larger product which could be in one of the other mediums of delivery. This is the best form of course for simple problems. The type of problems where the reader wants to just have their problem solved within a few minutes.
If you are a content creator or can source content that people will like, you can start selling content online in different formats. Choose your niche, content type and start making money following different revenue models.
Once you decide the format for your online course, choose an online platform that can help you scale or grow successfully.
Platforms like Thinkific allow you to teach what you know without worrying about the technical details. “Creating valuable content for your audience is just the beginning. Finding the right tools to help you effectively deliver it is a whole other story. Lucky for us we found Thinkific, transferred all of our online learning content over, and we haven’t looked back since,” says John Lee Dumas.
John and his business partner Kate generated over $50,000 in revenue in less than two months when they launched Entrepreneurs on Fire.
Pricing your course
After you have built your course and ironed out any of the kinks from the creation process, it is time to get down to the really important aspect of pricing and promotion. How you decide to price your course is going to be just as important as the content of the course itself.
You could have the greatest course content in the world, but if it is too expensive, or marketed to the wrong crowd, you could find yourself with very few customers. Pricing is quite a complicated topic, but the best approach is to price based on your goal…
What I mean by goal-based pricing is to decide what you want to obtain from the release of this course. Perhaps you want to reach the highest number of people, or make a large number of sales, or you want to make the most money possible.
If you want to reach a lot of people because your course is being utilised as a lead generation tool to something bigger, then offer it for free with very little barrier to obtain it. Simply offer it as a straight download.
If you want to make a large number of sales, then price it in a way in which users won’t have to think twice about purchasing it. Studies have shown that anything above $30 (niche dependent) will likely lead to some sort of second thought as to whether the course is worth purchasing.
Determine your pricing, and offer packages, discounts, or promotions that will entice students to enroll. Be realistic with your pricing but stay competitive as well. During the initial phase, consider offering free live Q&A sessions or AMA’s to interact with your students.
Finally, if you just want to make the most revenue, you need to price your course high. There is a general view that selling one course for $1,000 is easier than selling a $20 course to 50 people. You can play around here and test to see what your target market is willing to pay for your course.
Obviously if your course is on “How to get a job” then having a $1,000 course is probably targeting the wrong people, as in this instance your course niche has to be
something where individuals are desperate to obtain the knowledge but also have enough disposable income to purchase it without issue.
From an ethical standpoint, you don’t want to convince people who are struggling financially to put themselves into more financial struggles to buy your course…unless your course can (genuinely) guarantee them to no longer have financial struggles from the outcome.
Promoting your online course
If you haven’t already, start building an email list fast. Most people need to hear from you several times before they decide to buy from you. This is why having an email list is still the most effective way to sell courses. Use your list as an educational tool.
Build trust by sending them advice and tips related to your topic over time. When you eventually promote your course to them, they are more likely to purchase it because you provided value to them upfront before asking for the sale.
Social media is still an effective tool to market online courses. Make sure to post engaging and relevant content that will showcase your brand and purpose. Enable the comment and review section to allow your students to write their honest reviews of your classes.
Apart from social media, you need to create your website to drive more traffic to your business. Your website or blog could also serve as your teaching platform to educate people about what you are learning or what you know. It’s a promotion tool. If you regularly publish free content related to your course topic, you will attract more people to learn from you and hopefully buy your courses.
You can also do regular giveaways, live Q&A sessions, etc. to keep your community members engaged. Keep an eye out for feedback and questions, and address them promptly; in addition to gaining new clients, always keep a focus on retaining existing ones. These questions and feedback should also drive the new content you create, fulfilling your audience’s needs efficiently.
Evaluate whether your initiatives serve your clients and help them transform their lives – don’t waste your time on anything that doesn’t align with your audiences’ requirements. Your efforts must focus on your clients, their needs, and how effectively you can help them shape a better tomorrow!
Other creative ways to promote an online course include: creating a free simple course to attract the right audience, hosting a webinar session, creating affiliate programs and promoting the course on other newsletters, answering relevant questions on Quora, contributing your knowledge on other related blogs, cross-promoting your newsletter (doing newsletter swaps), including a link to your course on your social platforms and email signature and using social media ads (if you can narrow down users that will be interested in what you are selling).
Profiting from your online course
In simple terms, there can be very few costs, if any associated with creating an online course. Purely your time and brain power can create a course to be envied by many. However, the profit obtained from that could be viewed from two different angles.
Firstly, if you do everything yourself and incur no costs, then theoretically everything you sell is deemed to be ‘profit’, as you’ve had no expenses. However, you could look at a second frame of mind too. Let’s say you value your time at $50 per hour. The course you have created has taken you 25 hours to create, and therefore has an associated ‘time-cost’ of $1,250.
This is where the pricing aspect of your course comes into play quite a lot. If you have a course which you sell at $1, you would need to find 1,250 people to buy it before you can really argue that your time has been worthwhile. However, if your course is priced at $50, you only need 25 people.
Advice from teachers profiting from the expertise
“The easiest way to know what to do is listen to what people are asking for and then give that to them.” – JJ Virgin, Celebrity Nutritionist & Fitness Expert
“Determine what your audience’s pain points are, and then make a course about it to help solve their problems.” – Photography teacher Cassidy Lynne
“People can learn anything online for free. You can learn everything I teach on YouTube. So why do people pay me hundreds of dollars? Because I craft a learning journey, I take the guesswork out of learning, and I take some investment in their success”, says Jonathan. “It’s the environment that people are paying for. And I know this, so I very deliberately craft structured learning journeys that build on themselves.” – Jonathan Levi, Superhuman Academy.
“Re-target your marketing funnels with a mix of content formats (written, podcast, video, etc.)…good marketing is the right offer plus the right time and the right person. Also, try the hybrid launch approach (evergreen and live ) with a course offer stack for max profitability.” – Destinee Berman, Think In Color Keynote Speaker + CEO & Founder Destinee Berman, LLC.
Ready to profit from your expertise?
Use this guide to generate more revenue in record time. It’s a proven path to reaching $100,000 in online course sales with you. And it’s completely free. Learn more ways to build and sell profitable online courses.