Online courses require a bit of work in the beginning, but once they’re created, watch out! You have the potential to continuously earn from this lucrative side hustle.
The key to knowing how to create a course is to map out a complete plan. Decide on your course topic and ideal audience, create an outline, record your lessons, then get it online and market it.
The more careful thought you put into your course in the beginning, the better off your results will be. And like so many other opportunities on the internet, it’s easy to get sucked into a black hole of information as you pull together your plans for your own course.
Today we’re going to help you sift through some of this so you can get started right away and start planning.
Decide what you will teach in your online course
One of the first stumbling blocks you may hit is deciding the topic of your online course. You might assume you have to be an industry expert or have a Ph.D. in a particular subject. However, one of the best aspects of online courses is you actually don’t have to be either of these.
Brainstorm ideas about what subjects you are both interested in, and comfortable talking about. Think about areas you’re knowledgeable about — maybe through hobbies or through work.
For instance, if your day job requires you to create advanced Excel spreadsheets, then you could create a course on Excel. Or if you have a love of growing houseplants and all your friends come to you for advice, then you could teach a course about the proper care of plants.
In other words, don’t feel limited simply because you might not think of yourself as an expert.
You might wonder why anyone would take an online course on a simple subject from someone they don’t even know. Can’t they just Google it? But that’s the point. Simply searching online for the answers takes time. Not to mention having to filter through information that you’re not 100% sure even applies to you.
By creating an online course, you’re providing all the necessary information for someone in one accessible place.
If you need help here is a podcast episode about choosing a topic for your course.
Determine your target audience
Once you’ve figured out your topic, it’s time to determine your target audience. Who do you think would most benefit from your course? You can get this information through research.
Figure out key demographics such as:
- Occupation and where they work
- Knowledge on course subject
You can gather this information by asking lots of questions. For instance, you can join a Facebook group related to your course subject. Pay attention to the questions people ask about the most and who is doing the asking.
Finding out your target audience helps you cater your content to a specific demographic while addressing their specific needs. As you’re creating your content for your course, you’ll know who can benefit the most from it.
Research your topic
Once you’ve narrowed down your topic and audience, it’s time to start researching.
Researching is highly important, even if you feel you’re already an expert. Start by looking for teaching materials already available. Again, you can search through forums and Facebook groups related. You’ll learn from all these resources. Or you can talk to experts in the industry and pull information from them.
After you’ve researched, not only will it give you the foundation for your content, but it’ll help you feel more confident and authoritative too.
Plus you’ll know what kind of teaching materials are already out there so you can work to make yours unique.
Create an outline
Once you’ve researched your subject and gathered all your information, it’s time to create an outline for your course. This will help you organize your thoughts, but also make sure the flow of your course makes sense.
Build your course layer upon layer as you add sections. This is also the time to start thinking about adding in various mediums (quizzes, videos, etc.) to add to your content.
Determine the methods you will use to teach
One of the great aspects of online courses is no two courses have to look the same. There are numerous ways to create content and teach someone about your subject.
Online courses take on many forms. You can use:
- Pre-recorded videos
- Recorded audio lessons
- Text-only lessons (through articles or blog posts)
- Daily or weekly email newsletters
- Live lessons (for instance via Zoom)
- Group sessions
- A combination of any or all of these methods
As you can tell, there’s more than one way to teach. But how do you know which method to choose?
This is where your target audience information is helpful. Think about what method your audience would respond to the best. For instance, if you’re creating an online course on exercises you can do after having a baby, then a video lesson would likely be best.
Or if you create a course on writing a science fiction novel, then your audience might find it beneficial to space out the lessons to give them time to practice writing.
Create your course modules
Now it’s time to pull all your content together. You’ve completed the research. Your outline looks amazing, and you know exactly where you’ll insert your quizzes throughout your course.
It’s time to create your course modules and identify any potential issues with flow or gaps in information. We recommend you keep your modules no longer than 20 minutes. After that, you start to lose people.
You also want to make sure each module answers your student’s questions.Be sure each module can answer:
- What I’m going to teach you
- What you need to learn
- What happens if you don’t
- How to do it
- Action item — tell your student to do something (further reading, take a quiz, watch a video)
Choose a course platform
Now that you’ve researched your topic, created an outline and awesome content, and have settled on who you’ll teach and how, it’s time to sell your course!
That’s great news, but maybe you’re still wondering how you get your course from your computer into someone’s hands.
When it comes to online courses, you have two different basic options:
- Create your course all on your own and post to your own website. Users can access the course on your dedicated web page.
- Using a teaching platform such as Teachable to host your course.
If you’re new to online courses, especially if you do not have a website, the preferred method is to use a service such as Teachable, Kajabi, or Udemy to name a few. Each of these sites will offer you step-by-step instructions for setting up a course.
At Laptop Empires, we use Teachable. Here’s our full review of Teachable.
Choosing the right platform
With so many choices in platforms, how do you know which one to choose? You’ll need to compare sites and settle on the one that provides the features you need. These features might include:
- Monthly or annual costs
- Access to customer service
- Ability to add your own community to your course
- Email marketing capabilities
- Any additional marketing support (affiliate programs, subscription services, memberships)
- Extensive training aids for setting up your course
Once you’ve narrowed down what’s most important for your online course, then you can choose the platform that meets your needs.
If Teachable isn’t what you need here are 7 alternatives.
Know how to price your course
Choosing the right price for your course is critical when creating a course. You want it to be affordable to your target audience but still reflect the true value of the information you are providing.
Fortunately, there are guidelines you can use to help you land on the right price for your course. Here are factors to consider as you’re determining your price:
- The length of your course. You need to be compensated when you’re providing a customer with hours of valuable information they can act upon.
- Any extras you offer. Are you offering additional services with your course, such as bonus information or access to an exclusive Facebook community? If so, factor in the bonuses someone will be receiving by taking your course (versus someone else’s course).
- Consider a tiered pricing strategy. Consider using two or three pricing options to offer to your audience. For instance, you could have one price for basic and then add content and create a more expensive course. Each level would have more options than the one below.
- Review the competition. Take a look to see what your competitors are charging.
- Determine your ROI. Determine the return on investment for both you, and the person purchasing your product. How much do you need to charge per class to recoup your own costs?
Don’t forget to factor in your costs such as website hosting fees, platform fees, or equipment you had to purchase.
And remember, you can always adjust the pricing of your course later, especially if you add additional content at some point.
Market your course
It’s time to let people know your course is available! Marketing your online course may seem daunting but there are several ways you can get the word out. And bonus — many of these ideas are free.
- Add an announcement on your existing website with a link to your course
- Send an email to your subscriber list announcing your course and providing a link
- Run Facebook ads to promote to your target audience
- Promote via Pinterest with a link to the course
- Announce on all your social media channels, including LinkedIn
- Create a “teaser” where you make several announcements leading up to the launch
- Create a waitlist for your course
- Announce it in the Facebook communities you’ve joined (if announcements are allowed)
- Run a contest and award one free course to someone who shares your announcement
The marketing doesn’t have to be an overwhelming prospect, You can get creative, even on a limited budget. The important point is to get the word out and generate excitement.
Final thoughts on how to create a course
Hopefully you can see from this guide that creating an online course is very doable. All it takes careful planning and research and you can be on your way to earning a passive income.
Don’t be afraid to put your knowledge or skills to work. You would be amazed at the number of people who want to purchase a course that will teach them something valuable.
So now that you know you can do it, the only question is what course are you going to launch?