The market for online courses is massive and growing as the online education industry continues to receive 100-billion-dollar-plus market projections by industry analysts.
Individuals are making a living selling courses on topics ranging from illustration to software development and bringing in 6- and 7-figure incomes every month. With the rise of the online course creator, more people are becoming interested in how to start teaching online for a living.
If you’ve been wondering how to create an online course, allow me to walk you through a simple 7-step process we developed after analyzing over 12,000 course launches and seeing our instructors acquire over 5 million customers and make more than $50 million in sales.
From this, we've found an standard pattern that has been proven successful time and time again - and we're happy to share it.
In this post, I'll walk you through ideation, creation, launching and more - everything you need to know start making money with your first online course.
Why should you create an online course?
A lot of people are drawn to creating online courses because they know that they are profitable. While the money aspect is exciting, that’s just one of the many reasons that you should create an online course.
- They provide part-time (or full-time) income: You can monetize a course more quickly and more effectively than you can a blog or YouTube account. Don’t believe me? We compiled a ton of data showing how courses monetize much faster that other information products.
- Everyone has something to teach: Believe it or not - everyone has an online course in them. We all have our own unique hobbies, passions and skills that can translate into an online course. You don’t need to be teaching programming or stock investments to have a successful course. We have profitable teachers with courses ranging from cake decorating to watercolor painting.
- They’re a reusable asset: Once you create your online course, you can repurpose, reformat and resell your course for as long as you’d like. You can make an online course today and still be profiting from it years down the line.
- You are already an authority. Many people are afraid that they aren’t qualified to teach because they aren’t an “expert” in their field, but we’ve found that the best teachers are only a few steps ahead of their students. Someone who was a beginner themselves 6 months ago is often much better suited to teach the material than someone who reached “expert” status 10 years ago.
- You can help a massive amount of people at once: Online courses deliver content in a straightforward and easily understood format, and you can reach a large number of people very quickly and provide a lot of transformations.
- They have a high ROI: If you already have an online audience or have content created, courses are a quick way to make money off of the work that you’ve already done. Even if you’re starting from scratch, the time investment into a course is still a fraction of an ongoing blog or video series.
- You can charge more for them: Globally, our culture values education. With university degrees in the tens of thousands, an online course that teaches a valuable skill can be worth hundreds and thousands of dollars. Compare this with an ebook, blog or subscription website. You'd be hard pressed to charge more than double digits.
Step 1: Find Your Most Profitable Course Idea
For some people, actually coming up with a course idea is the hardest part of the entire process. We all want a slice of that $3 billion pie, but it's hard to feel like you're good enough at anything worth teaching.
Luckily for you, to create a profitable course you just have to be good at something.
Think about it:
You probably have a passion and no matter how off-beat or obscure that passion is - other people will have that same passion and those people are your audience.
For example - perhaps you’re passionate about horticulture. Sure, the average Joe isn’t getting too excited about aquaponics, but there are some Joes somewhere dying to learn more about growing a flourishing aquaponic garden.
You just need to find them.
Finding your audience is easy - they probably hang out in the same online spaces that you do. Whether you frequent horticulture subreddits or are active in Facebook communities, go there and ask what people are struggling with.
From there, create your course idea and decide what transformation you will be bringing your students to.
When you’re coming up with your course idea, providing a transformation is essential. A course should be a shortcut to an outcome and you need to make that outcome apparent in your pitch.
Do your students want to learn all about what aquaponic gardens are? Probably not. But if you can teach them how to set one up in their own home on a budget that is something people will get excited about!
When it comes to finding your profitable course idea, it can really be broken down into three main ideas:
Need help coming up with a profitable course idea?
Step 2: Set Your Income Goals
One reason that so many people want to know how to create an online course is because they know other people are bringing in an attractive income through them and they want to make money, too.
But your goals should be more specific than “make money”.
Set a concrete goal to aim for. Whether you’re hoping to make $1,000 or $10,000, keep that number in your mind while you’re pricing your course. You can systematically work backwards to make sure you're course hits it's revenue goal.
Let’s break it down:
To make $10,000 on from creating an online course you could either sell a $10 course to 1000 students or a $100 course to 100 students.
Don’t be afraid of pricing your course too high, we dug into the data and found that students actually hold courses that they’ve paid more for as being more valuable and they are more likely to complete them.
People often times associate “cheap” with “low-quality” and will be less inclined to buy based on that perceived value.
There are many benefits to using premium pricing, but here are a few proven ones to consider:
- It’s easier to hit your income goals - you’ll make more with less students.
- Your students will get better results.
- Your students will be more fun (and easier!) to work with.
Another way to ensure that your customer’s value your course more is to actually present the value of your course to them!
You can tell them that you’ll teach them programming and that’s fine and dandy. BUT! if you tell them that you’ll teach them programming so they can get a job that pays more and has more flexibility - that has real value.
It’s great to advertise what your customers are going to learn, but if you can market your course and tell them what they will get from learning the skills you’ll teach them? Even better.
We have an in depth post on pricing strategies you can check out here!
Step 3: Grow Your Audience and Email List
Email list is a buzzword in the online sphere. Everyone is telling you to build one and preaching their importance, but a lot of people are left scratching their heads wondering how.
Plain and simple, the best way to grow you email list is to give something away for free.
This free product will be your lead magnet and it’s intended to draw in a targeted and interested audience. This lead magnet will prove to your audience that you produce quality content and that you’re a trusted resource.
What you can give away:
- Membership to a valued community
- Or, our favorite, a mini course.
Your lead magnet should be directly related to the content of your online course so you attract a highly targeted audience. If you’re teaching about Facebook marketing, you don’t want to create a lead magnet talking about Twitter.
The mini course
With a mini email course you can look at your full, 10 section course and take the first section and repurpose it into a lead magnet. The people interested in your lead magnet will also be interested in your premium offering on the same topic.
Viral giveaways are another popular way to grow your email list. With software like KingSumo you can give away a high value prize pack - make sure it’s specific to your course - and grow your list like crazy.
Viral giveaways are so effective because entrants can share a link to your giveaway to get more entries, thus advertising your giveaway with zero effort on your part.
If you have a ton of blog posts on your course topic - consider compiling them into an ebook to giveaway to your course audience.
If you already have the content it will be nearly effortless to compile and convert to a PDF. From there you can set up a landing pages and lead magnets on relevant posts and begin collecting emails.
It’s usually safe to say that 2% of your email list will convert into paying customers, so going back to step two we can figure out how large your list should be before you launch.
If you need 100 students to reach your 10k goal, then you should aim to have a list of 5000 before you launch.
We have four email list growing strategies that you can implement in 7 days here!
Step 4: Price Your Course
If you’re wondering how to make more money through creating an online course, the answer is simple: Charge more.The idea is easy but it’s something that people are afraid to execute.
We get caught up thinking thoughts like “I’m not worth $200” or “people can find everything on their own on Google.” Those thoughts are destructive.
This mindset often stems from thinking of your course as easy to create, rather than thinking of the transformation you are providing your students.
While you may know underwater basket weaving like the back of your hand and have taught yourself online, if you can teach someone else that same skill more easily, in a shorter amount of time and still provide that same transformation, that's value.
Step 5: Create Your School and Sales Page
Here is where all your hard work starts paying off. It’s easy to get your school online with Teachable’s software, and you can get the ball rolling within 5 minutes (trust me, I’ve done it).
When you’re figuring out how to create an online course you need to consider which features are not negotiables for you. Here is what I prioritized:
- An intuitive platform. Teachable allows you to create a beautiful academy that conveys trustworthiness and authority through clean design. Even better? It takes less than an hour to get everything online.
- Ownership of the course domain name - I want students to come directly to my website - this makes my brand look more professional.
- Mobile responsive - Mobile is the future, y’all and I need a platform that reflects that, especially since around 30% of my students will probably be taking my course NOT on a computer.
- Control over my school - This is probably the most important point. Platforms like Udemy can discount your course without your knowledge or permission so that a $100 course will be sold for 10 dollars. AND they recently set a price cap on courses at just $50 (not premium pricing). They also deny you control over student data and email list. Teachable gives you complete control over pricing and lets you collect student email addresses that you can take with you even if you stop teaching.
- Payments - I’m all about getting the ball rolling like, yesterday, so being able to accept payments from the day one is essential. This allows me to build my business from day one.
All of the above is available on Teachable - and we even have a free plan. If you are itching to make a course but don’t have the money to invest, no problem. You can create an online course for free.
Getting your course online is as easy as uploading the course material that you’ve already created. The platform is intuitive - getting your course online is easy.
Creating a Salespage
Setting up your salespage in a monumentous moment - this is how you start raking in the dough.
Example: MakeFabulousCakes by Darlene Abarquez
There are six assets that we recommend including in order to make your sales page as high-leverage as possible:
- A Headline: Tell us what your transformation is.
- Subhead: Go a bit more in depth.
- A Promo Video: Optional, but recommended! A quick two minute video can help add a face to your brand.
- An Explanation of the Course: Here is where you can go further in depth and explain what your course is, what your students will gain from it, and why your course is the best course.
- Testimonials: If you have previous customers or fans of your brand who are willing to vouch for you that can go a long way in creating social proof.
- Pricing: People need to know what they'll be investing to take your course - Teachable makes setting up pricing easy.
Interested in more information on creating beautiful salespages?
Step 6: Create Great Content
You’ve got your idea, you’ve figured out pricing - now you finally get to start creating your course! When people ask how to create an online course - this is often where they get stuck.
They know what they want to teach - but actually going about it is another story entirely.
The best way to plan out your course is to write down every step that someone would need to do in chronological order to get their desired outcome and each step becomes a lesson in your course.
Keep in mind that the purpose of your course is to bring your students to a transformation so plan your course accordingly. Each lesson should lead to that final outcome.
Teachable allows you to upload text, powerpoints, keynote presentations, videos and audio interviews meaning that you can work with whatever medium you are most comfortable with.
Most often we see instructors using a combination of both text and video to bring their students to an outcome. Video content can seem intimidating - it definitely was for this introvert - but with a bit of practice you’ll start feeling like a natural.
You don’t need a huge production budget, either. We’ll show you how to set up your own home video studio for next to nothing so you can start recording oscar-quality video from your home. With just a cellphone or webcam and a few strategically placed pillows for sound proofing you’ll have your own DIY video studio.
In addition to live video, a lot of our instructor choose to include slides in their videos to help structure the lecture. If you’re not a gifted in design *raises hand* our designer here at Teachable can walk you through creating great presentations and prepared 3 gorgeous and free PowerPoint and Keynote templates you can download and edit.
Filmed your video and unsure of where to go from there? Check out how to simplify the video editing process!
Step 7: Launch Your Course
After all of your hard work, it's time to launch your online course. And while it's fun to experiment with different marketing techniques, we've found that when it comes to launching, a tried-and-true method always performs better.
Which is why we've created a plug-and-play email launch sequence for you. It's called Teachable's Crazy 8 Launch Strategy.
It's easy to implement, effective and been used by members of our community to make 5 figures on their launch!
The idea is simple, after building your email list and nurturing them with some free content (like blog posts, videos, etc), you launch your course through a series of strategic emails.
The emails work to build anticipation for your launch and urgency to buy now.
Here's what the sequence looks like:
- Day 1: Tease out your course
- Day 2: Answer "What is the course"
- Day 3: Tell your audience the course is open
- Day 4: Answer FAQs
- Day 5: Offer a surprise bonus for those that buy now
- Day 6: Say thank you and show social proof
- Day 7: Make a logical argument to buy now and say your course is closing
- Day 8: Send three emails saying today is the last day
Read the full post here - The Ultimate Guide to Launch Your Online Course - and you can even see the exact copy and text we used during our Crazy 8 Launch.
Whew! Are you still with me?
That was a lot - but I promise you don’t need to be intimidated. These 7 steps are easy to implement and we have seen countless instructors succeed using this process.
And now that you've got the "how," let us explain the "why" to you. If you've ever wondered why you should create an online course, watch this:
Let us know - what is your biggest struggle in creating an online course? Ask away and we will offer our top notch advice in the comments!