There are times in life when shorter is sweeter and less is more. Consider this principle when it comes to mini courses. These bite-sized cousins of traditional online courses can be powerful tools for creators. But the why and the how may seem elusive at times. Below, we’ll dive into exactly what is a mini course and how to create a mini course that’s profitable and impactful.
When we refer to a mini course, we mean short online course that typically takes two hours or less to complete. They cover a hyper-specific topic and are often used as a marketing growth tool. And they might be repurposed content or a unit from a larger online course.
Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society teaches entrepreneurs to leverage Instagram and live video, and she has a free 10-day challenge mini course to promote her program, Elegant Excellence:
The DIY Guy Caleb Wocjik offers a starter class alongside a more robust (and more expensive) course on the same topic:
There are several benefits of a mini course. But consider the following questions from new course creators who often have the same recurring issues:
A mini course to give some context and answers to these questions.
Teachable spoke to course creator, photographer, and video editor Stefanie Dworkin—who struggled with these exact worries above and decided the best first step to deal with these roadblocks was to create a mini course.
She spends most of her week editing video footage for clients, squeezing in time to send out her newsletter about once a month, and supplementing her income by teaching in-person classes at educational centers on various video topics.
“I already was teaching iPhone video production classes around town when a student of mine suggested I take it online,” said Stefanie. “I had already been thinking to do this but wasn’t sure how to go about it.”
An online course allowed Stefanie to use her course curriculum over and over again, without adding more one-off classes to her schedule. And, if her course brought in enough income, she’d have more time and resources to spend on passion projects.
In practice, it’s not always obvious how to turn that vision into a reality.
For creators whose biggest concern is finding and growing an online audience, a mini course is an incredible tool for doing so. Especially if offered for free and used as a lead magnet, or offered to students who pre-pay for the full course.
A mini course can earn creators recognition as an expert for a very specific topic. One creator at Teachable, Deborah Niemann, published a mini course on copper deficiency in goats to support her brand The Thrifty Homesteader. Her course encompasses everything from saving seeds to making eco-friendly, handmade skincare, and household products. In other words, a very specific topic can support a business in a larger niche.
Mini courses help gauge demand for a topic before investing time and resources into a much larger course. If an audience buys or enrolls in the mini course, it’s likely a good sign they’re ready to purchase the full product. Then you can feel confident building out your content for a full course.
If a creator is starting from scratch, just gaining a web presence, or is starting to think about how to translate their knowledge or content into an online course, the process and timeline can be daunting.
Creating a mini course, can shrink down that startup time and produce a profit quickly. Pro tip: Creators should repurpose content or choose a bite-sized topic they know like the back of their hand to start enrolling students in their mini course.
You have to walk before you run. A new course creator may not want to jump headfirst into a full curriculum. Biting off a smaller portion of a good idea helps a new course creator find their voice and build their business up.
Some creators fall into the trap of building a mini course that can be stand alone product. These can sell for hundreds of dollars. Keep the mini course small, simple, and short.
Creator and educator Stefanie mentioned above had a handful of topics she could cover:
But she only had a few she thought would be fun and interesting to create:
And she also had a few topics that would be simple to create:
The last two topics also happen to be two topics Stefanie already taught in one-off workshops. And, she had lots of existing curriculum to draw from, was already an established authority on these topics, and had a sense of the demand for the material, thus making them more ideal candidates for longer courses.
The content for the mobile filmmaking workshop was more compact, and she was excited about becoming an authority in an emerging niche, so she went with Mobile Filmmaking for the topic of her mini course.
Scoping out and identifying an audience is key to success. One of the main ways to start this is to identify a particular group or community a creator is passionate about and wants to serve. Write and promote separate blog posts targeting those audiences and see which one garners the most attention and engagement to test.
Our creator Stefanie was involved in a couple of (official and unofficial) communities: She was a member of New York Women in Film and Television, was also interested in activism, and had a long-time interest in health and wellness.
Because she also had a particular passion for activism, she had a hunch that activists could put mobile filmmaking to work in places where bulky and expensive equipment might not be an option. Like at protests, rallies, and remote locales. And she had the sense that mobile filmmaking would appeal to influencers in the health and wellness scene. So she decided to keep her options open before deciding which audience has the most demand for her course.
For example, she could write two posts:
She could get these published as guest posts on niche blogs or just share them with her newsletter list and see which one gets more traffic, engagement, and social buzz.
The other essential part of audience identification is good old research. Type the term into the search bar in Facebook, look it up on Twitter, and browse hashtags on Instagram. Are there Quora questions on the topic? What are the answers like? This will give an idea of the communities your topic appeals to.
If we search Stefanie’s topic, “iPhone video editing,” there are lots of recent articles, but they are mostly reviews of apps, thus indicating there’s budding interest in this niche.
Of course, if a creator discovers a course already exists on their topic, there’s no need to panic. Simply examining the existing course to see if it’s targeting the same audience and if it’s doing so adequately can help determine if a new course will be successful. Identify what angles are missing and what new opportunities can be improved.
When analyzing Stefanie’s “iPhone video editing course” topic, we can see that there are definitely other courses out there. But on closer investigation, they’re not as thorough as Stefanie’s course, and they don’t target the same market.
Just remember: It’s always better to create a product or service so perfectly designed for a specific target audience that it’s an absolute no-brainer for them to buy it. Trying to appeal to everyone dilutes the course’s message and makes the product less appealing.
The best way to do this is to solve a real problem. Think about it this way: The target audience has a problem, and this course can solve it. For Stefanie, instead of just targeting bloggers, she could make it more specific by focusing on online influencers in the creative and lifestyle space looking to use video to grow but stumped by the technology.
Again, it all comes down to keeping things specific and pointed.
The very best way to do this is to take a look at the transformation students should experience through the course and work backwards.
When bringing this into reality for Stefanie, she would want students to be able to create high-quality smartphone videos quickly and easily by mastering:
How to shoot video on mobile:
How to edit video on mobile:
Although Stefanie’s list is thorough, it’s still far too large for a mini course. The next step for any creator after making their list is to shrink that list even smaller.
Here’s an example of a few mini courses Stefanie might teach based on her list:
The bottom line for all creators: Whatever topic is chosen, it should stand alone. In other words, even if it’s the only course a student ever takes, it should be enough to make them want to enroll in more courses.
Since video editing is a huge stepping stone for people and something that could help build Stefanie’s reputation as a trusted expert and major problem solver, she decided to make her mini course on: Editing Video on the iPhone with iMovie.
Some creators will be able to repurpose content. In order to do so, first, decide which method of delivery is best for the unit: is it a video, a PDF, just a text lesson?
Typically, creators have the big question of price looming over head: to charge or not to charge?
The average Teachable course price is $179 (and higher for our top course creators). But, for a mini course, it makes sense to keep the price point lower to signify it isn’t a flagship course and presumably, took a little less time and resources to create.
In the end, pricing a mini course comes down to:
Consider this the mini course checklist every creator needs in order to go to market:
A course sales page: We created an entire mini course (with videos and walkthroughs) on exactly how to create a high-converting course sales page on Teachable.
An email list: Creators will be able to use their mini course as a list-building tool, but for other tips on growing an email list, refer to this post that handles all the ins and outs of emails.
There are many ways to launch a marketing strategy around a course, but some of the most successful ways for mini courses aren’t all that complicated.
Write for other blogs featuring a topic covered in the mini course and target the same audience. For example, Stefanie can do a guest post covering her favorite iPhone photo and video editing apps, or how to find background music for iPhone video.
Before writing, consider if the blog even takes guests posts, if their audience is big enough to offer a high conversion rate, and most importantly, if they link and credit the post properly to drive business.
This means linking the mini course sales page in any and every social media bio, posting frequently, engaging with the audience, and sharing related content.
Research influencers, bloggers, podcasters, Instagrammers, YouTubers, etc. who run powerful platforms related to the course. Offer them access for free and ask if they’re interested in sharing the mini course with their followers should they enjoy it.
With Teachable, creators can also offer affiliate revenue for anyone driving traffic to their course. (Read up on setting up affiliates here.)
Those creators who already speak at or have in-person classes can leverage those appearances to drive new customers to their course.
This may not be the way to go for those just getting started. But those willing to invest time and energy might see a benefit paying for targeted ads.
Set up your student referrals so happy students can refer their friends. And then you can offer them both discounts on their next course.
Portions of this article were repurposed from a previous post from Randle Browning.
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