People go online for a variety of reasons, including entertainment and socializing. But the Internet is also used to find information and learn new things. Not sure how to use a new piece of software? There is probably a video tutorial on YouTube. Want to know what you can make for dinner with the three ingredients you have in your fridge? Check Pinterest for a recipe.
This need for information and instruction has created a great opportunity for you to get paid for your knowledge. While some people have done this by creating a blog or writing books, an online course is another method of selling what you know. Online learning is expected to reach more than $240 billion by 2021, according to Global Industry Analysts.
Many people don’t think they know enough about a topic to teach it, but the truth is, you don’t have to be an expert to create and sell an online course. You simply need to know more than most.
The topics you can cover are vast including art or photography, personal development, music, gardening, cooking, marketing, technology, language, and more. Many people have made thousands of dollars a month with online courses teaching things like guitar, how to use specific software, or how to bake bread.
Before you dive in and start creating your own online course, it helps to look at the pros and cons to see if this is the right avenue for you to pursue.
Easy-to-use platforms have simplified online course creation
You can offer courses that complement your existing business
Create passive income by re-selling the same online course continually
Use an online course to lead customers to your other product offerings
Online availability brings in clients from all over the globe
Online courses can be time-consuming to create
Depending on the platform you choose, products may not be hosted on your own website
Courses are typically only successful if you target what's already selling
Finding the pricing sweet spot can be challenging
Several new online course platforms are available to make setting up and selling your course easier than ever. Additionally, due to continually advancing technology, many of the tools and equipment needed to create a course are very simple to use, with professional-quality results.
You can create courses to sell as an addition to your existing business. For example, if you’re a blogger, you can offer a course that delves deeper into something specific in your blog's topic area. If you offer a service, you can design and offer an online course for people who would rather learn and do the work on their own instead of hiring you.
Creating and selling online courses can offer you a passive income stream. You only have to create a course once, and then you can sell it over and over. Additionally, because your course is online, you can have students from all over the world, in any time zone, without any additional effort.
One of the creative ways to use an online course for marketing purposes is to use it as part of a funnel system to lead students to your coaching program or other services. You can give them a small amount of information or teach them a basic-level service, and then direct them to your other paid offerings if they want more of what you have to offer.
Quality online courses usually offer students a variety of content delivery methods such as text and video, which can take time to create. Users expect to be able to have the course in a format to access on their phone or laptop, with video and audio files so they can watch or listen on their daily commute, for example.
When designing your online course, you'll need to choose an online service to host your finished product. This could be your own website, or it could be a hosted service such as Udemy. Keep in mind that if you choose Udemy or a similar site, you don’t “own” the market or the platform, Udemy does.
Like all other money-making ventures, your success depends on the need or desire for your course, and your ability to attract your target market. It's worth putting the time into keyword and trend research to focus on what's trending now and what people want to buy.
It can be a challenge to correctly price your course to maximize your income while still making it affordable for students. This part takes some trial and error and also involves looking at comparable online courses and getting an estimate of the market's going rate vs. the amount you want to charge.
How to Create an Online Course
If you’re ready to delve into the world of online teaching, follow the steps below.
1. Choose a Course Topic
Make a list of things you know about. Perhaps it’s something your friends and family ask you for help on. Maybe it’s a skill related to your job (i.e., how to use Evernote or how to be productive working at home). Do you have a hobby you can teach others about, such as watercolor painting for beginners or how to lower your score in golf?
You don’t want to spend a lot of time creating a course that no one will buy. Many people might want to know about your topic, but the question is; are they willing to pay to learn it? Before you invest time in your course, research who the best buyer for it would be, and whether or not they’re ready, willing and able to buy it.
3. Outline Your Course
If you’ve determined there is a market willing to buy your course, the next step is in determining what you’ll put in the course. By the nature of a course, the content you provide should go deep into the topic and cover all important aspects. A course isn’t like a blog post, which often just skims the surface.
To help organize your course, think in terms of modules and lessons. A module would be the overall subtopic, with the lessons providing the details of that subject. For example, if you have a course on starting a home business, you might have a module on business plans. Your lessons in that module would include “How to determine your USP” and “How to identify your target market.”
4. Decide the Best Methods to Deliver Your Lessons
There is an expectation that online courses will offer a variety of teaching methods, such as text, video, worksheets, checklists, infographics, audio, and anything else that delivers information.
The trick is in determining what format is best for what you’re trying to teach. In some cases, you might offer two methods for one lesson. For example, if you were teaching a course on how to use Quickbooks, you might have both a step-by-step text instruction and a video tutorial on how to install and set up the software.
5. Create Your Lessons
It is the most time-consuming aspect of creating an online course. Consider creating a logo or a color theme that appears in all lesson content. Proofread your text lessons and watch your videos to make sure there are no errors or glitches.
6. Determine How You’ll Sell Your Lesson
For the most control, create a website to host and deliver your lesson. There are membership site scripts and WordPress plugins that can help you set up a system for selling and delivering your course.
For faster, less technical effort, you can use an online course service, such as Udemy or SkillShare. Pay from these sites varies. For example, Udemy’s instructor pay depends on how the sale was generated (through its marketplace, an affiliate, or directly from you).
The benefit to these resources is that you simply upload your course and the sites take care of selling it to their members/market, including payment processing. The downside is that they own the market and platform. Plus, you’re competing with other course providers, which can mean the need to reduce the price of your course to compete.
A final option is a service such as Teachable or Ruzuku, both of which offer some of the benefits of self-hosted with the ease and speed of Udemy. These options have easy creation and upload like the course service marketplaces, but you can add your own domain, and customize your school like in self-hosted options. Some offer their resources for free, with more bells and whistles with paid plans. Most integrate with PayPal, or you can use their payment service.
Most of the above options don’t require exclusivity so that you can sell your course on more than one platform. Even so, be sure to read the terms of service before offering your course on multiple platforms.
7. Load Your Course Online
Once you’ve picked your platform, upload your course. If the platform allows you to customize your course, such as adding a logo or color scheme, add them. It will help you create your unique brand.
8. Market Your Course
Regardless of your platform, you need to promote your course. Even using a service like Udemy, in which students can find you by perusing the Udemy marketplace, you want to do your own marketing.
Start by creating a marketing plan that includes who your market is, where you can find them, and how you can entice them to check out your course. Great course marketing options include social media, PPC advertising, such as Facebook ads, and article marketing. There are many other free and low-cost marketing options as well.
9. Keep Your Course Information Up-to-Date
Every few months or so, check that your course information is current and relevant. Outdated information doesn’t help your students and can lead to bad reviews. Don’t forget to check and fix any broken links to resources.
10. Rinse and Repeat
There’s no rule that you have to stick with one course. If there are other courses you can teach related to your initial course, create those. You can then refer your students to these other courses. For example, if you offer a course on how to write a mystery, you can add a course on how to publish a book and/or how to market a book. You can also create new courses in completely different areas.
Creating and selling online courses can be quite lucrative if you’re able to provide a great course and reach your target marketing. Plus, with easier to use and more affordable resources to host your course, there’s no reason to avoid becoming an online instructor. While it can take time to create all the lessons in your course, once uploaded, it can become a profitable source of passive income to your existing business or as a business all on its own.