Also, in 2017, approximately 77% of US corporations used online learning, but 98% planned to incorporate it in their program by 2020.
This means that entrepreneurs and all kind of businesses, save part of their budgets to enroll in online courses.
These are clear signs that online courses are becoming a popular solution these days. And more importantly, they are a great source of revenue
So if you are capable of creating an online course that tackles an issue or shows how to do something useful, you can form part of this growing market and increase your revenue.
What is also great about online courses is that is they are not expensive to produce.
It does require some time to create. But once you do it, you can start selling in on auto. This makes another solid reason to learn how to create an online course.
You just need to make sure there will be an interested audience for your course.
But we’ll cover that in the next sections.
*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own.This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission
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Choose an interesting niche topic for your online course
Choosing an interesting topic for a targeted audience is the key to success.
If you already have an online business or blog, you probably know already your audience.
But if you don’t there are some easy ways to do it:
Social Media Polls: Create polls on Facebook or Instagram and ask people what they would like to learn about. Try to be as specific as you can when creating the poll options.
Surveys: Send an email to your subscribers with a survey to gather information. I personally use Typeform for this, since is visual and really easy to set up.
Analytics: Lastly, you can always take a sneak peek at your analytics to get some more information about who is your main audience and their interests. Tools like Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel can be really helpful in providing this information.
If you do not have yet a blog or online business, you can still check topics people are interested in.
We are going to use platforms like Udemy and Coursera to find this.
Next, you will need to make sure your idea is going to work.
This will prevent you from spending your precious time creating something that might not work.
Validate your idea
First, what you need to do is to validate the idea.
You need to confirm that your course idea is a proven topic that could work.
How can you validate your idea?
By using exactly the same methods we use to find an interest in the previous section:
Use social media polls
Only that the question here would be different.
By now you should have an interesting topic from the section above. So now you just need to make sure people will be willing to spend their money learning about this topic.
Remember that every best-selling course solves an issue or provides very usefulinformation.
So a good start would be asking your audience “What is their biggest challenge right now?“
Also, you need to include something specific about your online course idea and ask directly: “Will you be willing to spend money in a course like this?” and “why yes or no“.
This will give you a pretty clear idea.
Lastly, you can set your objectives on what percentage of people do you need to answer “yes” to that last question so you can start working on your course?
Bear in mind though, that the percentage will drastically change if you target the right niche audience. So make sure you are sending your polls and surveys to the right people.
Create webinars to nurture your audience
Webinars are a great starting point to validate your course idea.
They offer an excellent opportunity to outline the content you want to present in your online course.
Once you run it with potential customers, you can even learn more from your student’s questions and refine your content.
Create a free webinar and use social media and email to reach your potential customers.
Then ask people to provide feedback.
This will help you for validating your online course idea.
Pre-selling your online course
There is another way to prevent you from creating an online course which might not work.
That would be by pre-selling your course without even having it ready.
Let me explain how you do that:
Remember you sent surveys and created polls from the previous steps? Now all you need to do is to contact the people who answered “yes“ to the question “will you be willing to spend money on a course like this?“
But first, you need to create a page with all the information they will need: Like the course title, description, payment methods, etc.
You’ll need to make clear the course is not available yet.
But you can call it an “early bird offer” and give them a special price. Once you have the final course created and working you can easily increase the final price easily.
For now, let’s focus on the pre-selling.
You can do this easily in two different ways:
1- You can simply create a landing page and clearly display all the info there and collect payment. You can do this easily using Instapage.
2- Create a landing page (or sales pages) using a Learning Management System. The one I recommend you in which you can create a sales page and collect payments effortlessly is Thinkific.
Once your landing page is created, all you need to do is contact your potential customers with this info.
Also, you can even use webinars to provide the people who signed up for your course pre-selling.
It does not even matter if your course is not created.
Simply cover the same topics you promised for your course on the webinar. If you need to, set up a weekly webinar for each lesson until you cover the whole course.
What you need to do next:
Validate your course idea with social media polls and email surveys
Create a landing page and pre-sell your course. You can use webinars to deliver it so you don't need to create it at first.
Create your course content
Now you have validated your course topic and confirmed there is demand, it is time to learn how to create your online course content.
Depending on what you want to teach and your audience, some formats might perform better than others:
Video. Probably the most used format over the last years. Courses can be composed of a sequence of videos you can create using many different platforms which we’ll be discussing later. You can create videos of you speaking, performing an action, or even recording your screen while showing how to do something.
Text. Your course will consist mainly of written text. It could be delivered in an email sequence, in a pdf like an ebook, a presentation, etc.
Audio. This is another format that is gaining momentum with the rise of the podcast. All you need is a good microphone to record your training.
Mix. Nowadays, most of the courses include a mix of video and text. For example, after a video lesson, you can sum it up with an infographic, create a survey for feedback, or even a quiz to keep people engaged.
So before you create any content, first decide on how you want to present it. Then, you just need to create it accordingly.
How to create an online course
What of the best things about how to create an online course and sell it, is that you don’t need much.
In fact, all you need to do is:
Gather the tools you need to create your course
Create the course outline
Produce interesting and useful lessons
1. Gather the tools you need to create your course
First, let’s start by making sure you have the tools you need to produce your content.
These days, you can do most of the stuff you need for your course with your laptop.
They all come now with an acceptable camera and built-in micro in case you want to create videos or audios.
Not to mention there are many free tools you can use to create your documents.
In any case, for more professional results, I suggest you use these tools:
NexiGo PC Webcam: Nobody wants to pay for a course where video quality is not good. And there is a reason this is the number one bestseller in webcams. 1080P, autofocus together with its small size and a very affordable price, make this webcam a solid option for any course creator.
Audio-Technica AT2020 Microphone: Either if you are recording videos or podcasts, this microphone will have you covered. Ideal for home projects, this might be the best value for money micro out there. It is fairly small and easy to install, and every customer is absolutely delighted with its performance.
LimoStudio’s Umbrella Lighting Kit. Bright photos and videos have been proved to perform best in any audience. And it is understandable since nobody wants to struggle to see a video. Also, poorly illuminated videos suggest poor quality, and you don’t want to project that image. With this portable and easy to set lighting kit, you’ll have all the light you need for all your projects.
Camera Canon G7 Mark III: If you’re looking for the absolute best camera to shoot inside or outside videos, this should be your choice. It provides a 4k sensor and almost unrivaled image stabilization.
Amazons Basic Tripod. If you work with a camera you are going to need a tripod. You don’t need to spend much on this since Amazon Basics offers you a great tripod at a great price.
Zoom Screensharing: This is one of the most used screen-sharing software by online creators. It will capture your screen and voice as you navigate through your course.
Canva graphic design platform: For any graphics that you need to create Canva is your tool. Infographics, ebooks, presentations, anything you need. It has it all, and it is free.
2. Create the course outline
Next, you need to plan how your course is going to be structured.
Think: Which lessons do I need to create so my students can learn this topic in-depth?
Then you can create your course outline this way:
Set the online course goal and work backward. Is easier to work having the final objective in mind
Write down all the skills and things you’ll need to teach so your students can complete your course and reach the goal.
Next, you just need to build a logical sequence for each lesson and chapter.
Try to think of each lesson, as a goal towards an objective. Then each chapter should be a step towards that goal.
That way, once your students complete every chapter of a lesson, they will accomplish the objective of the lesson.
3.Produce interesting and useful lessons
If you want to engage your students so they finish the course and get good reviews, you need to produce interesting lessons.
Some of the key aspects you should consider when creating your course outline are:
Make sure things are not repeated. Go thoroughly through your outline to make sure you won’t repeat the same topic differently.
Optimize your content so it is not too long or too short. People get bored easily. So you need to include only what is strictly necessary. Try to find the sweet spot between long and short including only what is relevant.
Create engaging content. For the same reason as before, your content should keep your students interested. To do that, include lots of useful information in an actionable way. Visuals also play a really important part in your course. That way you will keep your students entertained and engaged.
Cover each topic in depth. It is easy to find general information on the internet. So what really provides value to your students is thorough content. Something unique and useful they cannot find anywhere else.
Provide clear actions on what to do next. Include assignments at the end of each chapter or lesson. You can also create quizzes to keep your students engaged. Make sure there is an action for your students to take at the end of each lesson.
What you need to do next:
Gather all the tools you are going to need to create your online course.
Create the course outline.
Take into account the platforms you are going to use for your course. Then create engaging content accordingly.
Host your online course
Now you have your online course content ready, you just need a place where to host it.
This would be the place where you will upload all your content so your customers can access and buy your course.
There are 3 different ways you can do this:
Option 1: Use an online course marketplace
Option 2: Self-host on your website
Option 3: Use a learning management system (LMS)
Option 1: Online Course Marketplaces
An online course marketplace is a platform for education online that connects teachers with learners to provide them with courses that can help them towards an objective.
In a marketplace, your course is a part of a catalog. You have the option to customize your course landing page but not much else aside from the course content.
Moreover, most marketplaces let you publish a course for free but take a share of course sales.
The major advantage is that course marketplaces provide you with an existing student base, so if you don’t have much of an online presence yet, you might want to try with these first.
In conclusion, they have the ultimate control but they will also take care of everything like:
Promote the course to their students
Make courses accessible
The downside is that they take a good cut of your sales.
In summary, this is for you if you want something fast to start and don’t mind paying a percentage of your sales
This is not for you if you want full control and flexibility over your course and students, and you want a higher profit margin.
My favorite online marketplaces are:
Udemy: It offers loads of support for creating and marketing a course. They can get your course featured so you can reach a lot of potential customers effortlessly. Also, Udemy’s marketplace insights help you select the perfect course topic and see how it stacks up against other courses on the platform.
Coursera: Coursera is a professional online course marketplace with virtual classes from some of the world’s best companies and universities like the University of Michigan, Duke, and Stanford. Instructors teach Coursera courses at some of the world’s top universities, take about 4-6 weeks to complete, and include video lectures, peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums.
A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.
This option mix the best of the two previous options.
You will have more control over your online course and students and are very easy to set up.
Also, the interface most provide is intuitive and visual. Which will make your students’ experience more pleasant.
All you need to do to start is to upload your course content and design your site. The rest of the work like selling and promoting your course can be done with the LMS itself.
There are plenty of learning management systems, but in my opinion, Thinkific is the best value for money from all of them.
Thinkific is a platform with a robust set of user-friendly features, email marketing tools, membership site integration for your lessons, and excellent 24/7 customer support.
They are my top choice because they provide all you need to create and sell your online courses. And they make it elegantly and easy.
One of the most common questions that come with how to create and sell an online course is: “How much should I charge?”
The wrong pricing can lead to leaving money on the table and lose potential customers.
So you want to make sure you make it right.
Some of the factors that will determine your course price are:
Value: What are your students getting out of it? Try to deliver at least 10x the value your students are paying for the course.
Uniqueness. If you can teach something different which can not be found anywhere else, people will be willing to go the extra mile.
Quality. If you want to charge a premium price for your online course, then you need to offer premium level content. That means investing in a good camera, microphone, and lighting setup if you’re going to be creating video content.
Offering a couple of different options like a basic and premium plan is a good way to benefit from those who are willing to pay a higher price, but not miss out on sales from more budget-conscious customers.
For example, you could include:
Basic plan. This version of your course contains the essentials. It might be missing some more advanced content, and might not include access to live sessions or other features.
Premium plan: This version of your course contains all of your knowledge, bonus content, community access, and maybe even things like one-on-one coaching.
2. Avoid Low Prices
You might be tempted to start with a low price, but in most cases, this is not a good idea. This is why:
People expect to pay more for premium education. A course with low tags might make people think it does not have premium content on it.
Online courses offer more. An online course can contain videos, podcasts, worksheets, and a community discussion group. Students are willing to pay more for all these extras.
Online courses offer a huge shortcut. An online course offers a convenient way for people to access everything they need to know about a particular topic or to achieve a specific result saving them plenty of time.
Online courses offer exclusive content. Your students will only be able to acquire this knowledge through your course since the content can not be found anywhere else. Or at least, that is how it should be.
It filters out students you don’t want anyway. Low priced products actually attract more low-quality students.
3. Add Value To Increase Prices
On top of the mentioned before, there are some ways you can increase the value of your online course.
Offer content upgrades. Such as worksheets, infographics, ebooks, etc.
Provide one on one coaching.
Set up recurring webinars for a specific topic.
Pricing start recommendation
Considering all this, a good starting point would be something between $150 and $300 most of the time.
Some of the reason behind this pricing is:
It implies it has premium content and not just cheap content.
It enables you to start earning income faster.
You can promote it with ads without losing money due to a very low price tag.
Ultimately, you need to check on your competition. If they offer something similar at half the price, you will hardly get all the customers.
I suggest you try different price tags until you find the one that works the best.
What you need to do next:
Check the market and find out how similar courses are priced. Then do some testing with different price tags.
Create a course sales page (Landing Page)
Now it’s time to work on one of the most important parts. The landing page (or sales page).
A landing page is where all your potential customers are going to land. So it is very important this page is crafted very carefully.
On this page, you should address who is this course for, how can it help your students, and why they should take it.
To do that, you will need to create a compelling landing page.
The structure of a compelling course sales page
Click to expand
1. A compelling headline.
The headline is the first thing your readers are going to see.
If it catches their attention they will stay for more. But if it does not, they will leave.
That means you need to engage them fast.
These are some rules you should follow to make it work:
Make the headline unique.
Your headline has to be useful.
Be very specific.
It should convey a sense of urgency, scarcity, or curiosity.
Focus on the benefits of taking your course.
2. A descriptive subtitle.
The subtitle is going to provide support to your headline.
It is normally used to provide further details and point to the benefits of taking your course.
It needs to address the questions:
Who is this online course for?
How would it help me?
Why would I benefit by taking it?
3. High-quality media.
Visuals are very important in the design of your sales page.
It does not matter if you are going to use photos, graphics, or videos. They need to have good quality.
Some of the best media elements you can use for your sales page are:
Videos. Adding a demo of how your course works can be a great, and visual idea. Plus people love videos.
Pictures. Use a picture directly related to the online course topic. Bright pictures normally work best.
Mockups. You can create mockups of how a lesson looks like on a laptop or an iPad.
Graphs/Charts. These work great to show your students some statistics of useful data about your course.
4. Call to action (CTA) buttons.
The main goal of your landing page is to convert readers into students.
To do that, call to actions buttons are your best weapon, together with a convincing copy.
You need to create clear and prominent CTA buttons. They need to stand out.
Some tips on how to create CTA buttons that stand out are:
Use short action-packed text. Call to action buttons should feature action-oriented text. Some powerful words that work well are “get,” “you,” and “try” and “now”. They should back up your offer.
Use grab-attention colors. One of the easiest ways to make them stand-out is with colors. Bright colors normally performed the best.
Create large and easy to read buttons. You need to make them easy to find even if you are accessing the page through mobile. Make sure you stick to an easy to read font.
Create a sense of urgency or scarcity. This will likely improve click-through rates. Add words like “Only Today” “limited time”, etc.
Use them above the fold, in the middle, and at the bottom. Most of the time one CTA is not just enough. So place them across your page for better chances.
Test your buttons text. A good practice is to try different variations and choose the one with more clicks.
5. An opening story.
Stories are a powerful element to introduce your reader’s problem.
With a story, you can tell your readers how a course can help them. Start with the paint point and end by telling how this course can help them fix that.
That will help you to build trust, and they will feel more identified. Ultimately, it will work better converting readers into customers.
6. The course description.
The course description is probably what your readers will be more interested in.
It should contain all the key elements of your course.
Your course description should contain the what and the why:
What are you going to learn?
Why this is beneficial for you
Make sure you include all the content within the course: Videos, checklists, worksheets, bonus (if any), etc.
You need to make sure your students succeed and accomplish their goals.
If you do, you could get more testimonials and positive reviews.
Mouth to mouth is one of the more powerful referrals. But to achieve it, you first need to make sure your students finish your course with the results they expected.
A few ways you can make sure your students accomplish their goals are:
Make your content easy to skim.
Break your content up into smaller pieces easy to digest.
Adults don’t have much time, so make it easier for them to manage lessons.
Each lesson should have a goal.
Make sure your students understand the goal so they can acknowledge it once they finish a lesson.
Make your content interactive.
It will help to keep your students engaged.
Some ways you can achieve it:
Quizzes – Throw in a quiz for each chapter to test students.
Surveys – Ask students to provide long-form answers or describe their progress.
Feedback forms – Collect feedback from students so that you can incorporate it into your online course and make it better.
Gamification – Award prizes to students based on progression, and show their progress through your course to urge them on.
Send reminders to bring your students back.
If your course is long, chances are your students won’t finish it the first day.
Some of them might even feel lazy about coming back or simply forget about it.
You can send an email reminder to let them know they haven’t finished the course. You can motivate them to come back with a report status, or reminding them they need to complete the course to get a certificate.
You can do this if you use a platform like Thinkific for your course.
Track your student’s progress.
With the right training metrics, you’ll be able to find out where students get stuck with their training, which materials are ineffective, and which lessons fail to engage them.
Although you can measure progress manually with an excel template, there is a more efficient way: With an LMS like Thinkfic.
Thinkfic has a built-in feature to achieve this. You can enable student goal tracking in any course to capture their learning objectives at the start of the course and their progress towards that objective at the end of the course.
If you follow these 4 steps, you will be in a better position to help your students to succeed
What you need to do next:
Implement the strategies on this section to help your students succeed. This will also make your course succeed.
Now it’s your turn!
Do you know how to create an online course now?
Hopefully, this guide showed you all you need about how to create an online course and sell it.
If you want quick advice, I suggest you start by trying Thinkific. It is probably the most complete solution to create and sell online courses for entrepreneurs and businesses.
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