When you’re just starting an online course business, it can be easy to feel like there is just too much to do.
“How do I know if my idea will make money?”“How to I build an audience?”
“How do I record video?”
“How do I create a good sales page?”
“How should I price my course?”
We’ve spent years creating content to help course creators, and are now proud to say that you can find answers to all of those (and many other) questions in the Teachable blog...but we realized that by producing all of these resources, we ended up creating another problem.
Too much information (and not the funny kind of TMI).
Knowing which task to tackle first and what to do next is just as important as knowing how to do each task.
At Teachable, we’ve seen thousands of course creators go from not even having a course topic, to making 5-, 6-, and 7-figures in revenue. After analyzing how they did it, we’ve come up with a simple framework any new course creator can follow.
This guide will show you exactly what to do, in what order, and where to find the resources you need to complete each step like a boss.
The Online Course Creator’s To-Do List
How to use this to-do list
Not everyone has the same needs when they are just getting started. This list is designed to help you find out where you’re starting, so you’ll know what to do next.
Some new course creators have been teaching or coaching for years and already know the exact topic of their course, others don’t have a topic yet but have been able to build an audience and would like to monetize it.
A simple to-do list could work for some people and not for others.
That’s why the steps in our to-do list are not perfectly sequential or mandatory for everyone. Your path will depend on your current situation.
You will need to answer some simple questions that will help you determine what you need to do and when.
Once you know which steps you should be focusing on, scroll down to the specific section in this post that will explain your objective and link you to the resources you’ll need to get complete the step.
Pro tip: Try to avoid getting ahead of yourself. For example, if you have not validated your idea, there is no point in worrying about your course launch yet.
I promise that by breaking the entire process into smaller steps and working on them one at time, you’ll get through this whole to-do list before you know it!
1. Course ideation
Do you want to start your own online course business but don’t know exactly what to teach?
Do you have a million ideas but can’t figure out which one to pursue?
Then ideation should be the first thing you do.
Coming up the right course idea is about finding the intersection of:
- Your knowledge
- Your passions
- A profitable niche
The first two point are somewhat intuitive: you need to have expertise to share and be able to enjoy sharing that knowledge (after all, you’ll spend years doing it after you’re successful.)
The third point is one that surprises some new course creators. When it comes to online courses, teaching a niche topic will give you an edge in the market and help you generate more revenue than if you pursued a very broad topic.
What you’ll have after completing the course ideation step
After you complete this step, you should have a few solid online course ideas (no more than three!)
How to come up with a course idea
- Follow the steps described in this post: How to find a unique niche for your online business
2. Idea validation
The biggest fear of any course creator is to work days, weeks, or months on an online course, only to find out that no one wants to buy it.
Once you have an idea for your online course, it’s important for you assess market demand for your course before you invest any time or money to create it.
The good news is that the internet has made it extremely easy (and cheap!) to validate your business idea, so you can create your course without worrying if anyone will buy it.
What you’ll have after completing the idea validation step
After you’re done with idea validation, you’ll know whether you should pursue your course idea or go back to the previous step and come up with a new one.
If you validate demand for your course, you’ll also name and outline your course in this step.
How to validate your course idea
- Read this blog post with 15 ways to validate your online course idea and try at least 3 of the methods described.
After that is done, read and follow the processes described in these posts:
3. Audience building
A common mistake among new course creators is that they don’t start building an audience early enough.
Once you have a validated course idea, you should immediately start building your audience—even before you even start working on your course content.
Think of this as interest. When you start building your audience early, those efforts will compound until the moment when you launch your course: when the time comes, you will already have a group of people who know you and are interested in what you have to offer.
This step can be intimidating to some people. If that’s your case, you’ll be glad to learn that there are several tried-and-tested methods you can use to quickly grow an audience from scratch.
What you’ll have after completing the audience building step
A sizable audience of people interested in your niche topic that you can later tap into for your launch.
How to build your audience
Our recommended method for growing your audience is through building your email list.
Our List Building 101 guide will give you several tactics to get email subscribers including mini courses, lead magnets, giveaway, and webinars. What’s important here is that you pick ONE tactic and implement it. If you don’t know which to pick, here are our favorites (in descending order):
Of course, list building is not the only way to grow your audience—you can try other methods as well (but remember to only focus on one of them at a time and avoid trying to do too much):
4. Presale (Optional)
Some people find presales counter-intuitive and even feel uncomfortable doing it. After all, you’re asking people to pay you for a product that doesn’t exist yet.
Truth is that preselling is not for every market, especially those topics that are seasonal or time-sensitive (courses for pregnant mothers come to mind) will not be good fits for this method for obvious reasons.
However, if your course doesn’t address a temporary need, you’ll find that pre-selling comes with plenty of benefits:
- You’ll be able to get paid to create your course.
- You’ll have the opportunity to gather feedback about early versions of your course before your release it to the public.
- You’ll get a sense of what people want and how much they are willing to pay for it.
- You’ll be a lot more motivated to follow through and launch your course.
If you have built mutual trust with your audience, you should definitely consider preselling your course.
What you’ll have after completing the presale step
Revenue (!!!) and extra motivation to create your course.
How to presell your course
The presale process is similar to launching your course, with just a few tweaks:
- We recommend that you check out Teachable’s 6 steps to a successful presale.
- If you have time, also read this great case study.
5. Content creation
This is it! The heart and soul of your business: your course content.
A few years ago, if you wanted to create high-quality content, you needed expensive equipment, complex software tools, and professional help.
You can create a world-class online course with tools you already have and resources that are available for free. Or you can even choose to spend just a few dollars and upgrade your production quality even more.
The best part? You can do it all yourself.
What you’ll have after completing the content creation step
A beautiful and professional online course that’s ready to be launched!
How to create your course content
If you haven’t done it already, you should start by outlining your course content to get a complete curriculum for your course, organized into sections and lectures (if you already did this during the idea validation step, now is a good opportunity to review your work!)
- Read this post on how to plan your course content
Our most successful online courses are video courses. You can learn how to easily and affordably record and edit your video content.
- Check out our DIY video guide.
If you plan on using slides or presentations as part of your content, you can grab our free templates to make sure they look professional.
Finally, adding worksheets is a great way to increase student engagement and elevate the value of your course.
- Luckily for you, we created free templates you can download to create your own worksheets.
Launching is probably the most exciting AND nerve-wracking moment for new course creators. After you launch your course, you will be officially open for business.
A good launch can be the first step towards starting to earn side income. A great launch can help you make the decision of going full-time into working on your own online business.
While it’s true that there are endless ways to launch an online course, after thousands of launches by Teachable instructors, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and came up with a simple framework you can use to run your own successful course launch.
What you’ll have after completing the launch step
Your own online course business :)
How to launch your course
Before you launch your course, you should determine the price of your course. We recommend that you use premium pricing to sell your course.
- Check out our simple pricing guide.
Next, you should create an optimal path to purchase. This includes your sales, checkout, and thank-you pages.
- Take our free sales page design mini course.
- Customize your checkout page to increase conversion rate at the moment of purchase.
- (Optional) Add an upsell to increase the average purchase value.
Now that you’ve taken care of the basics, it’s time to plan your launch.
- Start by figuring out which type of launch is right for you.
- If you have an email list, use Teachable’s “Crazy 8” launch strategy.
- If you don’t have a list of subscribers, you can check out this useful guide on launching without an email list.
- If you have time, check out this amazing case study on how an instructor made $48k+ from his course launch.
Make it your own
You should think of the steps and guides included in this post as our best advice in your path towards launching your online course.
We understand that, ultimately, you know your business and industry better than we ever could. So if you found a better way to grow your audience, price your course, or launch it, you should by all means do what’s working for you!
If you’ve found other ways to complete each of these steps, we’d love for you to share them with us in the comments. This to-do list will always be a work in progress—we’ll keep updating it as we gather new and better information!