Whether you were inspired by your own amazing experience with an online course, or disappointed because you felt one was a waste of time — it doesn’t matter. Either experience can help you create awesome online courses and start sharing your knowledge of a subject with an eager audience.
If you’ve ever taken an online course where you’ve walked away learning something new, then you know how beneficial e-learning can be.
Online courses come in many forms. Of course there are educational online courses taught through education institutions. But there’s another segment of online learning where people can learn very specific tasks or skills at their own pace.
Why Consider Creating an Online Course?
You can literally find online courses on almost any topic. Watercoloring? Check. Writing a novel? Yep, there’s a class for it. Learn to fly an airplane`? Hard to believe, but yes, you can learn to fly by taking an online course.
So if you’re particularly skilled or knowledgeable in an area, then now is a great time to create an online course.
Online courses continue to grow in popularity. If there have been any silver linings in 2020, one might be how more people are turning to online learning.
Whether you’re talking about academic courses or something for the casual learner, all indications are that e-learning is continuing to grow. By 2026, the e-learning industry is projected to be a $375 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) market.
In addition to the massive potential of e-learning, the ability to earn a passive income by selling online courses makes this a great side hustle.
Almost all the work is done on the front-end. Once your course is created, you can begin promoting it and watch the registrations come in.
Let’s take a closer look at the steps needed to create awesome online courses.
1. Choose Your Target Audience
Choosing your target audience is the first critical component to creating your online course. Your target audience will determine many factors of your course, including:
- The content
- The tone
- The medium you use (videos, articles, self-guided tutorials, live instruction)
- The price
There are clear ways to determine your target audience for a course. You should define factors such as:
- Who they work for and where they work (self-employed for instance, or if they work outside the home)
- Knowledge on course subject (you may not have this defined yet, but you can brainstorm this now)
Picture key details about someone who would be interested in a topic you are also interested in teaching. Understanding what your audience needs most from an e-learning experience can go a long way in creating useful content — and a course that sells.
Not sure how you determine who your target audience is? Start asking questions in Facebook groups you’re active in, or other online forums. Take it to Twitter and put feelers out. Search through Reddit or pose your own question.
There are tons of ways to determine interest on a potential course topic. The best place to start is by simply asking questions on what people would like.
2. Create Meaningful Content Tailored to Your Audience
Having an idea of your target customer and their preferences sets the tone for your course. But defining your course topic is equally important. Your content is the heart of what you’re teaching — so let’s make it stand out.
Start with your own area of expertise and knowledge. Naturally, this is the first consideration. Write out a list of topics you feel comfortable talking about, as well as researching.
Or if you have experience creating something most people don’t do every day (like self-publishing a book or creating an e-book) then this is also a great place to start. You get the idea. People want to learn from experts or someone with practical experience.
Perhaps you’re not an expert but you have a passion for something that you could talk about for days. For instance, you love interior decorating, but you don’t have a formal degree. You could easily create a course teaching people how to freshen up their living spaces on a tight budget. You don’t have to be an expert to have something to offer.
Don’t worry if there are other courses similar to the topic you land on. As you’re developing your outline and research, you’ll start to develop your unique angle to the topic.
Research your topic
Once you brainstorm your ideas and narrow down your topic, it’s time to start the research phase.
Researching is highly important, even if you feel you’re already an expert. Look for teaching materials already available. Search through forums related to your topic. Join Facebook groups specifically related to what you’ll be teaching. You’ll learn from all these resources.
Create an outline
Once you’ve completed your research, it’s time to create your course outline.
Not only does this help you pull all your ideas together, but helps keep your course on track. Ensure each section of your outline is adding layers of valuable information.
Each section should convey the main point of what you’re teaching. It should provide actionable items and teach them exactly how to re-create what you’re teaching.
Create your content
Now that you have your outline, you have to put your course together. By this point, you should be able to create each module. We recommend sticking to 20 minutes or less per module, but this is only a preference.
Your content will also be based on the medium you choose to teach. Which takes us to our next critical step.
3. Determine Your Medium
You may think online courses are all the same. But when you look at the number of courses taught online, you’ll quickly notice there is a broad range of mediums.
Courses can be taught via:
- Pre-recorded videos
- Recorded lessons
- Text-only lessons (through articles)
- Live lessons
- Group sessions
- A combination of one or two, or all mediums
Not sure what your audience would respond to? This is where defining your target audience and asking questions in various forums could help you garner the answer. Think about who you think will purchase your course and which medium they would prefer.
Is it a busy mom or dad on the go, with only a few minutes in between errands? Then pre-recorded lessons could work the best.
Does your course involve using a technical or physical product someone would need to see for a reference? Then self-paced videos may be the best fit.
If your subject is one where your audience would greatly benefit from in-depth discussions and a live Q&A session, then live group sessions could be the answer.
4. The Right Price
Speaking of price, money is always a topic that can get a little dicey. But there’s no reason to fear asking for people to pay for a product – especially one offering value.
Choosing the right price for your course is an essential step to create awesome online courses. If you charge too much and no one sees the value in what you’re offering, then you’re sunk. If you charge too little, you’re leaving money on the table.
Thankfully, there’s a happy place between the two scenarios. Consider these factors when determining the price of your online course:
- The volume of valuable information. The length of your course is important. It probably wouldn’t make sense to charge hundreds of dollars for a 30-minute course. But when you’re providing a customer with hours of valuable information they can act upon, then you need to be compensated.
- The amount of “extras.” Are you offering additional services, such as bonus articles or one-on-one coaching sessions? If so, factor in the amount of additional information someone will be receiving by taking your course (versus someone else’s course).
- Consider a tiered strategy. If you can offer a wide range of information, and teach the beginner or an expert, then consider using two or three pricing options. Each level could add more value than the one below.
- The competition. You’re likely to create an online course about a topic that has already been created. If so, what are your competitors charging? Do you have advantages to your course worth charging a premium for? Spend time researching what others are charging, then stand confident in your product.
- The ROI. What’s the return on investment for both you, and the person purchasing your product? How much do you need to charge per class to recover your costs? Use this number to guide your pricing.
Don’t forget to factor in your costs such as website hosting fees, equipment investment, or platform fees.
And remember, you can always adjust your pricing later, especially as you choose to add to your content over time.
5. Choose a Website or Platform
There are two ways you can set up your online course for distribution: through your own website or through a platform.
Your own website is one option, but it can be more labor-intensive than working with a platform that creates online courses every day.
The sheer number of e-learning courses has opened up the number of platforms available for you to launch your course. Many of these platforms walk you through the technical aspect step-by-step.
But as you can imagine, with the amount of choices available, selecting the right platform can take research too.
Teachable, Udemy, Skillshare, Podia, Kajabi, and Thinkrific are all platforms designed to help you create awesome online courses. And trust us, this is scratching the surface when it comes to your choices for e-learning.
Each site offers different pricing plans and features, and each site has their pros and cons. The best way to find the right one for you is to research it, the same way you did for as you were developing your course.
As you browse through platforms, look for features such as all the fees, confirm the training resources, access to customer service and hours of availability. Also, think about a customer having lifetime access to the course. Choose a platform in the same careful manner you would any vendor relationship.
Here at Laptop Empires, we recommend the platform Teachable. The platform is designed for the beginner course creator, or someone who needs more advanced features. Teachable has a super user-friendly interface and dashboard for you to track all your sales.
6. Marketing Your Course
Remember, your online course is a business. This means you have to treat it the same way you would if you were running a small business. Ask yourself how you will promote your course. Determine a budget for advertising, if possible.
There are many avenues available for marketing that you can take advantage of. You can:
Add an announcement on your website
- Send an email to your subscriber list
- Run Facebook ads
- Promote via Pinterest
- Announce on all your social channels
- Create a “teaser” where you make several announcements before the launch
- Create a waitlist for your course
Marketing your online course is only limited by your imagination. It’s also a fundamental step in creating an unforgettable online experience.
Here’s a podcast episode about how to do a successful launch.
Final thoughts on creating awesome online courses
You don’t have to have a Ph.D. or be considered an expert in anything particular to create an incredible online course. By taking the time to put a thoughtful course together, you can end up educating thousands of people across the globe. Not to mention create an impressive passive income that you can enjoy for months, maybe even years.