Online courses have become insanely popular in 2021. Historically, if you wanted to learn a new skill, take music lessons, or find a tutor for your child, you had to enroll in classes at a local university or travel to your instructor.
This process was often time-consuming and costly.
Today, anyone with specialized skills or experience can create an online course and offer it to the masses. The benefit of this is two-fold:
1) people can easily acquire new skills easily and inexpensively, without leaving their home, and 2) independent creators have the potential to earn a full time living teaching what they know online.
While the opportunity is readily apparent, the process of creating and selling online courses may not be as obvious. In this article, I will attempt to break down the process into eight main parts to give you a "big picture" roadmap to follow.
Step 1: Choose Your Course Topic
The first step in the process is choosing one online course idea to test. If you're stuck on this or have a couple of ideas in mind, you'll want to do research and prioritize your ideas so that you can choose the one that is most likely to be successful.
Step 2: Create a Content Magnet
In step two,\ you're going to create and promote at least one piece of content online to attract your ideal student or client. This could be an article, video, or social media post. The idea here is to catch the attention of people who might be interested in taking your course.
Step 3: Set Up a Waitlist
In step three, you're going to use the piece of content you created in step two to propose your online course idea using what I like to call "the waitlist strategy."
Basically, after providing some value upfront with your content, you're going to end your piece by saying something like,
"If you're interested in learning more about this topic, I'm putting together an online course for a small test group. If you would like me to send you more information, leave your name and email in the form below."
This step is essential because it allows you to gauge how much interest there is in your online course topic. Notice that we haven't spent any time creating the course yet. This is by design.
There no point in creating something that no one has expressed an interest in, is there?
These first three steps allow you to test out ideas quickly because if 1000 people see your content and no one expresses any interest by signing up for your waitlist, you'll know that you shouldn't invest time creating this particular course. You can pivot to an alternative idea.
However, if people express interest by signing up for your waitlist, you can move on to step four.
Step 4: Survey Your Waitlist
In step four, you will send a questionnaire to the people who signed up to your waitlist to find out exactly what they need and what. You can also ask people if they would be open to hopping on a call with you to answer some follow-up questions if you're comfortable with that.
This makes creating your course outline much easier because you already know what people are looking for instead of guessing (and likely being wrong.) Once you have a basic outline of your course completed, you can move on to step five.
Step 5: Create a Video Presentation
In this step, you are going to create a very simple video presentation to pitch your course and enroll your first group of students. Your presentation can be in the form of a "sales letter," which is just a written sales page, or you can create a short video presentation - which is what I recommend.
Some people call these video presentations "webinars" or online workshops, but honestly, you don't need to get fancy with this, especially when you're creating the first version of your course. A simple video that explains who you are, the problem your course solves, and how you will deliver the course is all you really need.
At this point, you either have a small group of students enrolled in your course, in which case you can move on to step six--or if no one enrolled, you could send out an email to ask why. This is one of the most important things that you can do at this stage of the course creation process.
You already know that people are interested in the topic, but something about your presentation prevented them from purchasing. This is your chance to figure out what that was so that you can tweak your presentation and have greater success with the next group.
The idea is that you keep working on your sales presentation until you are able to get a small group of students enrolled. You don't need a lot of people at this point. In fact, I don't recommend shooting for a "big launch" the first time you enroll people in a new course.
In my opinion, having a small group that you can work with personally the first time around is best because it allows you to work out all the kinks, understand what your students really need, and collect testimonials that you'll be able to use to sell your course to more people in the future.
Once you have a small group of people (I usually like to work with 3 to 25 people for a first launch - but you can decide for yourself), then you can start creating your course content.
Step 6: Create Your Course Content
Whenever I create a new online course, I usually break the material up into 4 to 6 week sessions. This allows me to create the course as I go.
For example, I'll record the lessons for Week 1 before the course starts. Then I'll create the lessons for Week 2 the following week and so on. Then I'll release them according to the schedule that I set in advance. You also have the option of teaching your course via live video each week if you don't want to pre-record your lessons.
Step 7: Collect Feedback
Once you've delivered your course, the next step is to collect feedback from your students and use this to improve your course. As I mentioned earlier, the first time you teach your course, there will probably be some kinks that need to be ironed out.
Maybe to you to clarify a lesson with more examples?
Maybe there are some topics that you need to add or remove?
Or, perhaps your students inspired you to come up with some bonus content that will make your offer even more compelling.
The point is, no one creates a perfect course the first time around. The more you work through this type of feedback cycle and make improvements, the better your course will become. This means that you will have more testimonials, more demand for your class, and you can raise your price.
At this point you've validated that there is demand for your course, you've delivered the first version of your course, and you made substantial improvements.
Now, it's time to scale up to reach more students and earn more revenue.
Step 8: Automate and Scale
When people talk about scaling an online course, they are talking about using automation tools to increase the number of students who enroll. This is typically where you hear people talking about creating sales funnels to sell their courses.
You don't want to jump to this part until you know that you have a course that people want and you know that you can get results for your students. There's nothing worse than convincing thousands of people to join your course, only to discover that your teaching method or process doesn't really work that well.
That's a recipe for a massive amount of refunds, chargebacks, and negative reviews posted all over social media. Therefore, you want to make sure that you have your course offer dialed in and tested before you start to scale it up.