Creating and selling online courses are getting bigger by the day.
According to the research firm Global Industry Analysts, the online education industry grew from $107 billion in 2015 and is expected to go up to $325 billion in 2025. In fact, TechCrunch said that during 2017 alone, investors poured $8.15 billion in the EdTech industry, which generated almost $200 billion in revenue.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed education. Online learning has moved quickly to fill the gap created by suspended classroom learning due to COVID-19.
So, if you are contemplating on how to start an online school, there has never been a better time to join the growing e-learning industry. We have put together this simple guide on how to create and sell online courses. In this blog, we’ll walk you through the benefits of making an online course and the steps involved in setting one up.
Why Should you Create Online Courses?
Simple, self-education depends on online schools. People who want to pursue their passion and learn a new skill are using online courses.
According to Best Colleges, student satisfaction with online learning is high – overall, 94% say it has, or will have, a positive ROI and 95% would recommend online education to others.
This thirst for online self-education has created a splendid business opportunity. According to Uscreen, online school owners generate $5,700 in monthly passive income.
Online schools are one of the most flexible businesses and a great revenue generator. In fact, many entrepreneurs and influencers are creating online courses. Here are some examples,
- Dorie Clark is a well-known author and orie Clark personal branding expert. She leveraged the success of her books and is now creating awesome online courses
- Michael Port gave keynotes for the last 15 years. Now he’s making a bigger impact by offering online courses about public speaking
- Sunny Lenarduzzi is a YouTube marketing expert who helped many companies grow their YouTube channel. Now she creates awesome online courses and teaches others
- Danny Iny started blogging to share his knowledge of marketing. Later, he created a website called Mirasee and started selling online courses
- Mari Smith is an expert on Facebook marketing and has helped many companies grow. Now, she shares her knowledge via online courses
Similarly, there are many fitness experts, athletes, dancers, artists and engineers have started sharing their expertise via online courses.
6 Steps for Creating a Successful Online Course
Now that we have understood the benefits, let’s move on to the steps involved in creating an online course.
1. Decide What to Teach
Here’s an example that will help you decide what to teach.
In 2012, after John Lee Dumas left the US Army, he was searching for ways on what to do with his life. To be motivated, he listened to inspiring podcasts once a week. He realized that there were many podcasts, but none of them interviewed successful entrepreneurs on a daily basis. So he created one interviewing entrepreneurs (Entrepreneurs on Fire) and earned revenue from sponsorships. This is one of the most popular podcasts in the world.
He could have used this success to talk about any business. Instead, he listened to his audience and became successful as a podcast host. In 2013, he launched Podcasters’ Paradise and moved to online courses and earned thousands of dollars.
What can you learn from this?
- Identify a specific topic to teach
- Be more specific about the course topics you want to teach. For example, instead of providing motivation for everyone (a broad market), John narrowed things down by producing material to help aspiring entrepreneurs
2. Validate your Online Course
Validating your online course is an important step. Let’s take a look at an example to understand how to do it effectively.
Rob Walling is a successful serial entrepreneur who created thousands of materials (books, podcasts, conferences, and essays) to help startup founders succeed. He is also the creator of Drip, a marketing e-commerce CRM platform. Here’s what he said,
I wanted to find 10 people who would be willing to pay a specific amount for the product once it was complete. This forced me to not think about features, but to distill the idea down into its core value single reason someone would be willing to pay me for the product. I took that, and emailed 17 people I know, or had at least heard of, who may have shared the same pain. This way, I not only had my initial customers who could provide me feedback on the details of how Drip should work, I had the start of an early base of revenue I could use to start growing the product
Rob Wailing, Drip
What can you learn from this?
- Validate your idea and pre-sell it to figure out if there is demand
- If you could pre-sell it, you will have proof that it can generate revenue
- Through the process, you will have a list of people who will probably purchase when you actually launch
Validating your course upfront will save you a lot of time and money. One way to do that is by researching your competitors who are selling similar courses to your target audience. To check for demand around your topic, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner. If the search volume for your topic is higher, then the demand will also be high. Once you have checked it, all you have to do is differentiate yourself from your competitors by creating unique courses.
What if there is no competition?
If there is no demand for your topics, it could mean that there is demand and no one is serving proper material or there is no demand at all.
Either way, don’t lose hope. There is a safe way to pursue your interest. Here’s how.
HubSpot’s inbound marketing concept is world-famous. It has become so popular that over 24,000 people attended the inbound conference held in 2018.
So, how did HubSpot validate this idea when there was no demand? With content. They used blogs to generate awareness and understand the needs and interests of their visitors. Through content, they created this product.
If you don’t have the heart to leave your idea, you can try blogging to create awareness while choosing an area of interest that is currently in demand.
3. Create your Course Content
Once you have validated your online course, it is time to create your online course.
Creating an online course will be something similar to this,
- Selecting course titles
- Creating a course outline
- Creating lesson types like audio, video, infographics, sound bites and PDFs
- Recording lessons using tools like screen-sharing software, microphone, and high-quality video camera
- Fixing a price for courses
- Payment gateway integration
- Creating assignments, worksheets, quizzes and tests
- Offering a course completion certificate so students can “show off” to their connections once they’ve completed your course.
- Sending automated emails for course status, test scores, payment and more
You also need an important piece to complete this puzzle – An online course website
To have all of your course content in one place, you have to create an online course website.
For creating a full-fledged online course website, you need to pick a business model. Basically, there are two types, one-time and recurring (aka membership model).
With a one-time model, students pay up-front to access your online course. In recurring, students pay on a monthly basis, which means you have to create content regularly. Once you choose the model, these are some different ways in which you can build an online course website.
- Using website builders like WIX and Squarespace
- Using WordPress CMS (Custom themes, plugins and learning management system)
- Using programming languages such as PHP, Java, jQuery, Python
Among these methods, website builders often come with disadvantages such as limited customization options, lack of key SEO elements, no proper support and more. Building a online course website from scratch is a time consuming and investment heavy option.
Building an online course website with WordPress is the most economical option because there are many customization options, great learning management system options, membership plugins, custom wordpress education themes, SEO perks and more.
Also, it is best to hire a professional education website design company like ColorWhistle to create a user-friendly and highly intuitive online course website.
4. Employ the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Technique
Eric Ries, an American writer and entrepreneur, popularized the MVP technique in his book Lean Startup.
The MVP technique is used by many startups in which a new product is built with features that will satisfy early adopters. The complete set of features is added only after getting feedback from the initial users of the products.
Similarly, you can apply the same concept and quickly publish courses. Then, based on feedback from students, you can revise the course.
Also, keep your course as short as possible. If you can teach a concept within 3 hours, don’t drag it till 8 hours. The primary goal of your online courses should be to get users from point A to point B without sacrificing the key concepts of the course.
5. Create a Brand
Once you have everything in place, start building your brand. Excellent graphic designs such as logos and business cards play a role in representing your brand, but there are far more important things than this.
The biggest mistake that newbies in this industry do is following the spray and pray concept. You must always appeal to your specific audience.
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.– Seth Godin, entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker
We recommend creating a unique value proposition that will help you differentiate yourself from others.
For example, Barclays’ Code Playground is a place dedicated to teaching kids how to code. It has created attractive graphics to entertain kids while teaching something valuable. Parents will also trust this brand as Barclays care more about sharing knowledge than immediate gain.
6. Start Finding for Students
Now that you have set up everything, it’s time to find potential students for your online school.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”Peter Drucker
How you market your online academy depends on your audience. You have to choose online strategies that will add value upfront. Here are some in which most of the online course creators are building their audience.
When you start with social media marketing, select the top 2-3 mediums like Quora or Instagram that you think will make sense to focus your efforts. Share your content, create a group, join relevant groups to widen your reach
Start publishing content to build trust and authority. Some forms of free content you can create are articles, videos, podcast episodes, images, and infographics
Publicity & PR
Writing articles for popular publications, getting interviewed on podcasts and featuring in traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, print magazines) are some of the ways to increase your exposure
Building relationships with other influencers can lead to a number of opportunities such as joint ventures, partnerships, and customer referrals
Public or virtual speaking
Get in touch with event hosts and organizers of conferences that your target audience attends. See if you can give a presentation. Some events may allow you to directly sell courses. You can also promote your courses via online events.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to market your online course. Start building an email list and keep in touch with subscribers who have shown interest in your course. Once you have a solid list of subscribers, you can use marketing automation techniques to reduce the workload
Your Journey of Creating and Selling Online Courses Has Just Begun
If you have a skill that people would love to learn from you, then selling it as an online course is a splendid way to earn an income.
We hope that by now you will have a clear idea on how to start an online school.
If you need any help with setting up an online presence, our ColorWhistle team can help. You can outsource your online course creation requirements such as web design, website development and digital marketing. Just send a message or give us a call +1 (919) 234-5140, we can take care of setting up your online presence while you come up with awesome lesson plans for your online school
By reading this guide, you have already embarked on a journey of sharing your knowledge through online courses. The only question is, are you going to finish it?
We wish you the very best as you learn how to create an online course.