How To Build An Online Course Business – That One Guide

How_To_Build_An_Online_Course_Business

Online course business is thriving and will do so for a long time if we are to believe Google trends:

Now, a different story is being told by the Statista website:

Then again, this article is saying that the global e-learning market is expected to reach $275.10B by 2022, and continues to grow at CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 7.5%.

Then we have another article stating that it’s going to hit $325B by 2027. The article is referencing a report from Research and Markets, which I currently don’t have access to.

So which source should we believe? Or does it even matter? The reports above show mostly the same direction. The online course business and online education business are growing and rather swiftly too.

The only report that shows a declining trend is a report from Statista for self-paced online learning and, which is the same as online courses basically.

I believe in Google, and what trend Google is showing. When people are searching for online courses, and the trend is pretty solid and even has a slight upward trend, then we can be comfortable and move on with the online course business creation.

So this article is focusing on you who want to build an online course business.

If you are new to online courses, that’s totally fine. And just so you know, this article is not those all-around articles, where we go through basics such as how to create an online course.

Related: How to create an online course

This article focuses on how to build an online course business. Not how to create a course, as that is a totally different thing.

We also don’t focus on how to sell online courses. There’s another article for that too.

Related: How to sell an online course

If you are selling a coaching service, or you are a consultant, own a big blog, want to create a passive income, or would like to help people with a topic of your passion. This article will help you tap into the online course business and get yourself a running start.

I’ve been selling an online course and digital products for a few years already in a super niche market. Which means it hasn’t been easy. However, I’ve made sales and still do from my course.

You can check the course here.

And here’s the latest income from it:

Gumroad online course sales

I can’t say I’m the only person you should listen to, or that I’m the only one who knows the most about online courses. But I’m preeeetty sure this article has such knowledge you don’t find online too easily. Until now, that is.

And a fair warning to you, the online course business model is doable, but you have to be the best, and this article gives you those tools to become the best.

So let’s begin!

Here’s everything this article covers:

Niche and market selection

I do cover niche and market research quite nicely in how to create an online course article. But in this article, I’m talking more about what are the most popular niches out there, and especially why. 

Because the why is the whole thing here, why people buy online courses, the question is not who buys, but why.

While there are plenty of reasons why people buy online courses, like getting from the current situation to the desired situation, we have to dig a bit deeper and see why certain niches work and where money can be made.

While the general and slightly outdated information is that the riches are in the niches, the thing is that not every niche is hugely profitable.

My online course is an awesome example of that. While there’s money to be made, and the course generates income at a steady pace, the thing is that it’s super niched down. 

So while we can say it’s easier to make money on super niche topics, we are also cornering our growth too. So when you choose a niche, you choose a niche that can be broadened up.

It’s a good practice to start small, and then grow from there, but if you start your whole online course business by focusing too narrow, you are not able to step up your game from there, when the time comes.

So let’s say you are an expert at creating stick figures from wooden sticks. And go on and name your website, woodenstickfigures.com (still available, it’s more than likely that there’s a way small market to make a fortune.

Now, I don’t rule out that you can always create a hobby site and generate some income from there, but when we are talking about serious business. We have to think about things a bit more.

The following niches are said to be some of the most profitable ones out there:

  • Beauty treatments
  • Gadgets and technology
  • Personal finance
  • Fitness and weight loss
  • Self-improvement
  • Wealth building through investing
  • Make money online
  • Health
  • Dating and relationships
  • Pets

I’ve bolded the ones that are so-called main markets. Money, health, and wealth are some markets that are proven to be lucrative. But here lies the problem. Because people know these popular wealth-generating niches, sub-markets, and markets, people are there, and thus the competition is more than fierce.

So they like to say to niche down, and I’ve seen plenty of articles and videos where experts of various areas analyze whether a niche is too niche or just the right one.

When you are building your online course business, you need to know whether your niche is something you can expand or not. So you can start small, but GROW in time. This way, you don’t have to analyze whether you are too niched down or not.

Leave yourself a playroom! See how and where you can expand your business to.

Before we sum up the chapter, we have to focus on one thing, and that is WHY these niches are so popular.

And the answer is simply because people want or need these things, now and in the future. Let’s think about beauty. Women like to wear makeup, or sadly it’s somewhat in our culture that women feel the pressure to wear makeup in some instances. So women have to beauty products. So there’s a market for it.

Gadgets and technology. Men like technology (as do women), and as technology brings new innovation to the market all the time. There’s a market for technology. 

I won’t go through every niche and sub-market here, but you see that every one of these categories does have a place in our lives.

When you have selected a niche that people need, desire, or dreams about. You have selected a good niche and market to go for.

Problem-solving

The less talked about business principles. Are you solving a major or recurring problem in your market? Is the problem something that many struggle with and where you are a person with 10X capabilities to help others?

Online business so hugely sugar-coated with success stories and whatnot, when the reality is that the huge success stories were the first ones entering the online business market.

Creating online courses, happen the same way, you can become the number 1 in your market if you are able to solve a problem that hasn’t been solved before. Why solve a problem that has already been solved? Surely you can make money with your course, but it’s hard.

Many online course platforms out there like to sugarcoat the business model because they want you to become their customer. That’s marketing.

What they don’t tell you is that the market is ever-evolving and harder and harder to penetrate with the awesome course.

You can be successful with your online course, but the problem you are solving needs to be something that is either evolving or recurring — a problem that can’t be solved or a problem that is only slightly solved.

Solving a problem that is already solved is an uphill battle.

The problem has to be major too because when the problem is major, people are willing to buy your course to solve that problem.

Website design and functionality

As you are building an online course business. You know that you need to be online, so you need a website, obviously. But as I like to keep this business-focused, I will shortly go through the things you need to keep your eye on.

Domain

As I previously showcased the woodenstickfigures.com example, you don’t want to narrow your online course business by already having a domain name that is well, too niched down.

So when you pick your domain name, make sure your course business can expand is not limited by the name. While the domain name itself doesn’t limit your expansion, in Google’s eyes, for example, the visitor might limit your service offering by seeing that you are only about wooden stick figures.

Also, when you are building an online business, please do keep the domain name and hosting service separated. If for some reason, you would like to change your hosting company, you can do it super easily. 

But if you have both domain and hosting under one service provider, you are slightly screwed.

You can check my resources page for my current recommendation for getting your domain name(s).

Hosting

When you are building a business, you need to have a very solid hosting service. Someone who can make sure your website loads as fast as possible from the server-side. You also have to make sure the service uses the latest version of PHP and drives that can serve your site blazingly fast.

If you have a blog, you are more than likely familiar with the fact that your article needs to load up fast. The same thing applies to your course sales page, the home page, and other supporting pages you have in your business.

You can check my recommendation for the best hosting service (which is also affordable) from my resources page.

Website and structure

Your online course business needs easily understood structure not just for SEO purposes but also for the one visiting your site. The visitor needs to know what your site is all about in one glance.

Make your website easy to navigate and avoid being salesy. No one likes to be sold at, so don’t go that route.

Theme, plugins, and integrations

Your online course needs to have a website. That’s granted, but which platform to use? Well, I like to use WordPress, and while it could intimidate you at first. I can only say that it’s the best way to go about it. 

WordPress covers roughly 30% of all websites online, and that is a lot of sites. 

WordPress also enables you to do a whole lot with your website, but plugins are the thing where WordPress starts to really shine. You can read more about the recommended plugins from my resources page.

But to give you an overview of what plugins I use in my online course business:

  • Elementor Pro
  • WP Rocket
  • ShortPixel
  • UpdraftPlus
  • Sucuri

And remember the fewer plugins you have, the better: fewer things to break and fewer things to slow down your site.

The main takeaways are that your site needs to be simple and easy to use. The visitor needs to know what your site is all about with one look. The site should load fast, and it should look good and professional.

Website design is something that might not come to you naturally, but you need to make your site look good. It should look like you are invested in your online business and that you know what you are doing.

While I do have to say that content is always the thing that ultimately wins, it doesn’t hurt to make your content look good.

Social media presence

I wasn’t totally sure should I include this section or not, but here it goes. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. are all platforms that some influencers out there order you to be active on.

You should post this and that. You should do it this often and do that to increase that. Create engaging content, create groups, ask questions, sent friend requests, create stories, etc. The list goes on and on.

But here’s the thing, at what point the above-mentioned things are about business? You could argue that it’s about connecting, it’s about building a tribe, it’s about… What is it about? 

Building an audience?

Mmm, it could be, but for you to build an online course business, which is more important, building the greatest course for your niche, or making friends and socializing on endless conversations on Facebook?

You are here to create an online course business for yourself, so your focus should be on making money. Right?

Audience building is surely one route to go building your online course, but the way you do it is critical. So the one thing you have to decide is what platform you will own?

What platform you focus on, and why? Is your audience hanging out on Instagram or Facebook? What about Snapchat?

Whatever route you take, remember that it should last long, and it should bring you something. If someone likes your Instagram post?

  • What is the ROI for that? 
  • What do you get from that? 
  • How does it benefit your course business?

You only have limited time on your day, so you should spend it efficiently. Spending it on social media might not be the best thing to do.

Focusing on doing productive work is the best use of your time. Make it count.

SEO, traffic generation

This is one of those things that you just have to get it. You need traffic! You need an audience, and the best audience is built organically. 

People are tired of seeing ads. They are tired of upsells, downsells cross-sells, and so on. People want authenticity, and while we could debate whether such a thing exists in adulthood, let’s just agree on being honest.

Selling your online course can be a set of manipulation, or it can be done organically. And the source of all this is traffic.

Many (pretty much everyone) are doing ads, especially Facebook ads, because it’s relatively cheap, and you get results. However, at some point in the future years, that source will dry, and people won’t use Facebook so much anymore. 

What won’t dry is organic traffic. But, the issue that many faces are that it takes time, it takes a LOT of effort, and then comes the issue of impatience.

People lack patience, and when that is the case, you can win. All you need to do is build an organic following.

You can do this with SEO, social media, YouTube, Pinterest. All you need to do is focus on one platform that you see as the very best source for organic traffic and focus on that.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Google, Pinterest, YouTube are all search engines if you are going the SEO route of building organic traffic. 

Every search engine has its own algorithm, and it’s hard to say which of the search engines are the most difficult to dominate. Google is the oldest and most sophisticated of them all. You are competing with around 1B blogs so not too easy to dominate.

Pinterest

Pinterest, while a search engine, it’s still slightly rough and might not bring you traffic too easily or a lot. There are roughly 300M users currently doing 2B searches in a month.

Related: Pinterest statistics

Pinterest is a visual search engine, and its main purpose is to bring you inspiration. So if your market is filled with inspiring stuff (home decor, DIY, food, and drinks), then Pinterest could be a platform to check out.

YouTube

YouTube is also a search engine and produces videos as search results. YouTube is said to be one of the best places to do SEO currently as you can rank easily to number one with your video on the search query.

Now whichever SEO strategy you choose, there’s competition coming for you. It’s wrong from me to say that you will do fine, or that it’s easy. It’s hard. It’s hard as hell to become number one anywhere (SEO, product, service), and if you settle for number two spot, then you will also have number two traffic and sales.

With SEO in check, below are the tools you need to analyze your success from the traffic side of view:

  • Google analytics
  • Google search console

While you could apply to Bing and other services, I think Google is the one you need to use. It’s the biggest, most sophisticated, and can integrate pretty much with any service.

Analytics will tell you where and how your traffic comes from, and search console tells you how you are ranking for different search terms.

Social media traffic and building a following

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. are all platforms that are used by the billions. With billions of people using the platforms, there’s a potential for your content to be seen and discovered by other like-minded people. 

Getting followers, friends, creating a Facebook group, or joining groups is a way for you to connect with people and slowly but hopefully steadily build your own tribe. By posting content to those platforms, your hope is that something will stick and bring traffic to your business.

I see the above platforms better for brand marketing than for organic traffic generation. The Facebook feed, Twitter feed, Instagram stories will only fade away with the wave of posts people shove to those platforms.

I won’t say you can’t build a following there. It’s just as hard as any other platform. Doing traffic generation of any kind is not easy, no matter how you approach it.

Paid traffic and ads

As said before, the ultimate scenario would be to have that organic traffic coming into your business. Whether it’s with local SEO, global SEO, or some other way, organic is the best.

However, sometimes there’s a situation where you just want to do ads. You’ve built your course, you have your business set up, and you are ready to go. Then surely, ads can be the thing you go after.

Some of the ad platforms you can tap into:

  • Google ads
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Bing ads
  • YouTube ads
  • Twitter ads
  • LinkedIn ads
  • Yelp ads
  • Reddit
  • Amazon product ads
  • Microsoft ads
  • Pinterest ads
  • Quora for business
  • AdRoll
  • Quantcast
  • Infolinks

The list is pretty vast, and while there are some obvious ones like Google, YouTube, Facebook, you also have options like Quantcast, Quora, and Reddit. 

So it’s not just about Facebook, and creating those retargeting ads. Think outside of the box and see how you can create ads to different places.

What you should remember about ads is that ads are intrusive, they are not wanted, they are given. So when you create your ad, remember that you are seeking an audience, you are demanding it for yourself. Be as non-intrusive as possible.

Funnel building and email marketing

This is not the first thing you do. This is the last thing you do. You don’t go and build a funnel before you have a proven concept. You need to see and experience that customers actually have results with your online course.

With a strong proof of concept, comes strong scaling. Funnels are built to scale things when the initial hard work has been done.

Your course needs to have customer success stories, and success stories are created by checking how your students are having success with your course.

Student success equals excellent testimonial, which then leads to proof that your concept works. Getting testimonials is crucial in your business, but rather than trying to get a testimonial, try to solve your customers’ problem.

Funnel building starts when you have testimonials when you have a strong and solid course in your hands. Sometimes you might have to improve your course three times before its generating success stories on automation.

A perfect example of a perfect course is the one that Sam Ovens built on consulting at consulting.com.

Success story after success story, on automation. Then you build a funnel showcasing those success stories, and your business explodes.

The number one funnel building training and tool is provided by ClickFunnels. I wouldn’t go out and recommend anything else. However, if you have time and creativity, the same can be achieved with WordPress and Elementor Pro, combined with ConvertKit. And yes, I’m doing things this way currently. Though I suggest, you check out my resources page for the very latest recommendations on tools I use on my online business.

nurturing_funnel_thecours

A funnel has a frontend and a backend. The frontend has a lead magnet, and the backend is about converting to a customer with different nurturing sequences and marketing tactics.

So the stronger the POC (proof-of-concept) you have, the easier the sell.

As mentioned before, you need the traffic to succeed, and traffic has different places it will go to. With a funnel, it only has one way to go, and that is created with a lead magnet.

Now, I’m slightly hesitant when talking about lead magnets, because I think the industry is changing and the method of acquiring customers is changing. So lead magnets could become obsolete soon if not already are.

However, lead magnets offer one point of entry to your sales funnel, where you will then nurture the prospect to become a customer and a happy student of yours — another success story to your business.

You can read more about lead magnets here: How to sell an online course.

The online course and offering

If you are already in the online course business or you are just starting out, this business model is not the easiest one to conquer. Competition is more than fierce, Udemy, Skillshare, boasts an incredible collection of online courses.

But here’s an opening, which of the courses you see there are 100% complete and satisfies 100% the need of that niche or market? 

Your course should be number one. It should be the best, most complete, and the only source that people go to. While you might think that people still create courses on the same subject as you do, however, they are either second or not worthy of attention.

People always go to the number one source. When there are two courses that are created equally and promises success like no other, then it becomes a matter of taste. Before that, it’s a battlefield, and even after becoming a taste, it’s a battle to stay on top.

Think email marketing services. There’s no one solution. There are plenty of solutions. The same applies to domain hosting services, but what about domain services. I can think of GoDaddy, Namecheap, but others…not so much. It’s a matter of taste whether to use Namecheap or GoDaddy. It’s a matter of taste, whether you drink Coca-Cola or Pepsi, the same is with Mac or PC.

Can your course become a dominant taste?

Can you provide a world-class experience with your course? Can your course promise and deliver results on automation? Is your course so complete and extensive that zero questions are left on the table?

Creating a mediocre product, with mediocre results are the ones you see popping up online all the time. Everyone offers the same, creating a supply overflow in the market.

Creating a moat, creating something that is not easily replicated, is it something that defies the status quo.

Creating a mediocre course is easy; creating a course that becomes the only reasonable choice for people is hard. Then again, if you do that, you win the market.

Service offering and model

Do you offer a value ladder? Is your course based on a monthly subscription or a one-time fee?

Defining your service offering is important, while we are talking about online course business, and what kind of model you are creating, it’s important to also think about the future and what else can you offer than just your course?

Masterminds, 1-on-1 coaching, consulting services, ebook, or something totally different?

A value ladder is a kind of stairs where you offer something at the very bottom of the ladder, and when a student has completed your course, there might be a need for more on the same subject but in a different form. 

Offering different services to your existing customers is beneficial for both of you. You are creating a brand ambassador and also can generate more income from one single customer. 

Masterminds are probably the pinnacle of education currently. So offering that to your customers might make sense further in the future. 

But how about the pricing? Rather than talking about the dynamics of pricing and how it works (that you can read from my how to sell an online course guide), we will concentrate on how to collect payments.

Subscription-based billing is on the rise, or at least it seems so. Who wouldn’t like to have recurring payments coming in every month?

However, how you create an online course business as a subscription service is a different thing. The usual idea is that when you are subscribed to a service, you will get something new every month.

But when you create a course, it’s usually a one-time work. However, you can include the following services to your course offering to complete the subscription model:

  • Daily, weekly, monthly workshops
  • Q&A sessions with you
  • Free monthly or yearly updates to the course
  • Live events

Related: How To Design An Online Course That Creates Results

Related: What Makes An Online Course Good? 5 Big Tips!

Brand building, image, and feeling

How do you differ from others, what makes you unique, what is the image and feel people will get when they see your business logo, color palette, or typeface?

What brand comes to mind when you think about red? What about grey?

Did you think about Coca-Cola and Apple?

If not, that’s ok; most likely, people still vision those brands because they are so goddamn popular and widely known.

Can your course business have the same recognition? Probably not yet. And most definitely not in the coming years, but eventually, it could have. Your online course business doesn’t have to be some mega-brand out there, but it can be. 

You also don’t start by thinking that you are already a brand. Brands are built with time, by differentiation, by being unique. That doesn’t happen overnight or tomorrow. 

Time, clear and strong message. Vision and mission will help you define your brand, but the ones that truly define you are the ones using your services. 

You are a provider of services and products. People will build your brand with you. Experiences, feelings, interactions with and towards your business, defines the success of your brand.

What are you all about?

In the end, you are selling a solution to a problem. What kind of business you want to have and how you tackle that problem become your unique advantage. 

Continuous improvement and innovation

This is probably the last thing people seem to understand or implement to their businesses. Online course business is about fast money, fast creativity, and fast success. Except it’s not. Not anymore.

It used to be enough where you just copycatted everything you saw online. Well, do the math now and multiply that copycat scenario by 1B, you will see that it doesn’t work anymore.

What made you stand out before, won’t make you stand out anymore. The thing is that there are so many people online these days, and so many are getting to the same business model.

The online course business model isn’t dead by any means. It’s just that its changing and the copycats won’t survive. The best of the breed will stay on top and keep profiting.

Online course business is growing, but the ones reaping the rewards are the ones who stick with the niche they are in and the ones who focus on one single course in one single niche.

It’s super logical, but you can’t see it before it’s shown to you.

Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he didn’t become the best by playing football, baseball (tried and failed), ice hockey, rugby, and basketball. He played basketball and dominated everyone.

That’s what’s called focus!

Related: Focus – 100% Focus On The One Thing

Usain Bolt didn’t become number one runner, by practicing javelin, gymnastics, tennis, or archery. No! He focused on one single thing and became the best at it.

What about Microsoft, they’ve been developing Windows OS for decades. While they are not the best, they are present in 77% of all computers in the whole planet. That is a pretty significant advantage that can’t be taken away from them anytime soon.

Do you see how focusing on one single thing is the very best thing you can ever do? If you divide your energy to multiple things and try to be the best at many things, you will fail up being the best at any.

You don’t have enough energy or time to be best at many things. Be best at one thing.

Improving eternally

Customer feedback, student success, results, promises kept are all achieved by listening and improving what is already working.

If there are questions unanswered, people failing, courses not completed. Then there’s a place for improvement. 

Perfection can be achieved but only with the help of other people. You can’t build the perfect course by yourself, because your experience is unique and individual. The more students you have, the more openings and cracks you will find in your course.

Innovation

What are you willing to do that other course creators are not? How can you bring something totally new to the table that others haven’t figured out in your market and niche yet?

It’s not about creating the same thing in a new fashion. It’s about creating something new and never seen before. It’s about creating something others can’t mimic or replicate.

You need to innovate your course, and luckily, you are reading this as this already has material that takes your course on another level if you are willing to do the work.

This is an example from a book called Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim.

It clearly shows that innovation happens when you extend the service offering (extend the course offering) and also differentiate the current offering (course modules).

So when you are building your online course business. Think about the way in which you can extend your service offering, as well as how you can serve your students more profoundly than the ones that are already in the market.

Short conclusion

So many course creators want to make passive income fast. They want to get out of their current situation to the desired situation.

Online course business is not one that you can tap into quickly and make a significant amount of money. You can make some, but life-changing, not so much.

You need patience, focus, one niche, mastery on topic, mastery on your chosen market, perfection to the nth degree.

You won’t survive by being somewhat good by doing what others are doing. You need to become exceptional.

I don’t doubt at all that you can’t do it. I also don’t doubt that you can’t make money in your niche. Not at all. I’m only saying it’s hard. 

Online course business is evolving, and the trend is showing that community, improved guidance, deeper student connection is needed in the future.

It’s not anymore sufficient to create a course, sell it and leave it there hanging. If it’s a hobby of yours and you want to make money in your hobby, then that’s a different thing. 

However, when you go and build an online course business, you go all in and focus on domination, not becoming the best copycat.

How To Sell Your Online Course – That One Guide

Selling an online course is far from easy. Even though so many gurus online say the opposite. Why is it hard, how can you improve sales and how to get that first course sale?

Well, this article is all about that. Getting that first course sale, and also discussing why it’s so hard to generate those sales and what needs to be in place to land those coveted sales.

Before we go into how to sell an online course, it’s worth establishing why it’s hard to sell online courses.

The first reason for failed course sales is that there are so many options, there’s so much supply, and course marketplaces like Udemy and Skillshare won’t make the journey any easier.

While Skillshare and Udemy do offer you an excellent platform to host and sell your course, this article is all about you owning an online business and wanting to host your course on platforms like Teachable or Kajabi.

Related: The 7 Best Online Course Hosting Platforms You Need To Know

The reason why I leave out Udemy and Skillshare platforms out of this article is that they don’t offer you the flexibility and options you need to build highly effective sales funnels and customer tracking.

But to get back into why it’s hard to sell an online course, one was the amount of supply, and another one is the authority. Or better said the lack of authority.

With online courses, it’s all about teaching, sharing knowledge, giving insights, revealing industry secrets. With this, the question arises, from whom should I learn from?

Authority comes into play, and if you don’t have that proven track record or results to show, the sale will be hard to make. However, in this article, I will be sharing a massive amount of strategies on how you can bypass some of the sale obstacles and how you can land those first sales.

Another thing that was mentioned was the supply. Skillshare, Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Pluralsight, Alison, Coursera has thousands upon thousands of courses on offer.

There are already so many courses available that it’s not easy to go against behemoths like Udemy and Skillshare, though this is yet again something that will be tackled in this article. 

The final thing that is making the course sales from happening is the lack of traffic and the audience. If you don’t have eyeballs, you don’t have customers, and you don’t get sales.

As you can see, making online course sales is not easy; it’s far from easy. The easy part is creating a course, making those slideshows, crafting the material, branding, creating a website, building a funnel, all of these things are easy. That is all about creating an online course, which differs greatly from the selling part, which is the hardest.

What’s not easy is getting the money and making that sale — establishing trust between you and the customer. Trust is needed, and without it, you don’t get a sale. It’s that simple.

While this might already seem like, there’s no way I can sell my online course. Worry not, this article has so many things that will open your eyes, and in the end, you are more than prepared to get that sale.

Now, if you haven’t yet created an online course, this article won’t do you any good. In this article, we don’t focus on creating an online course. We focus on selling your online course.

Related: How To Create An Online Course – Full Guide

Let’s begin!

Audience profiling

As with any product, no one product is for everyone. Even if you think about a mobile phone. Not every mobile phone is for everyone. We are individuals with our own preferences. We like different things, and so do your customers.

You might easily start to sell our online course to everybody. Everybody wants to look good, and everybody wants to make money, no one wants to be alone. Sure! However, the methods vary, and that is what needs to be remembered here.

You and I, we differ, and so does your customers. The key to marketing and selling your course is audience profiling — not everything to everyone, but one thing to a certain group of people.

The world is so vast that there are always people like you that like the things that you do in the way you do them. It’s like they feel you are just like they are. So they make a connection with you. The feeling of “I’m just like you,” it creates a connection.

And that connection can be created only by being yourself and searching people like yourself. Your online course is about one thing, and that one thing is something that your people are looking for.

Now, I assume you have done your market research and course validation before thinking about selling your course to the masses?

If not, read “How to create an online course.”

Now, when you know who is your target audience, and you know what kind of person is the very best customer you could have. You are ready to go to the next stage, which is finding them!

Facebook audience insights

We are not trying to target everyone, we are trying to target VERY specific people, and for you to be able to do that, we go to Facebook and start finding those people.

Best place to start is Facebook’s audience insights:

The usual route is to target by demographics, age, gender, etc. However, with Facebook, we don’t do that sort of elementary targeting. We go for psychographics, and for you to do that, you will target based on interests.

If someone is interested in email marketing, and you are selling an online course on how to get more subscribers or something email related. You could type in the person name who is currently “dominating” that industry and tap into that audience instantly.

Understanding your audience and knowing what they like is essential. You need this information when you are building your sales funnel.

Page likes, top categories, demographics are all the information you need, for you to build a high performing sales funnel.

The very reason online business owners are going for Facebook ads is entirely because you can target potential customers so specifically and easily.

When you know the age, gender, and interests, you know what kind of ad you need to create. You need to create an ad that is precisely tapping into their interests. 

Showing an ad of a muscular man to a female who is interested in fitness is a wrong message. Why not show a muscular female? Precise ads for a precise audience!

With audience insights, you get to see if the target market is more about females, males, and what age group is more dominant than others. You will also see what devices they tend to use. Remember, preferences and one’s image, culture, and thoughts.

Apple and Android people think slightly differently about technology!

All this data will help you create a customer profile like never before. So many are saying to create your customer avatar, imagining all these features, hair color, eye color, clothes, etc. I mean, seriously? It’s nice and all, but we should focus on data and see what it shows to us. Not create our own imaginary friends.

With hard data, you can quickly see what works for what group of people.

Remember that course validation is one part of creating an online course, and Facebook groups are a wonderful place to do exactly that.

Related: How To Create An Online Course

At this point, you should already know who is your audience, what they like, where they hang out, what pages they follow, what is the typical age, and are they either female or male or both.

You will need this information when you are creating your sales page, ad copy, ad creatives, funnels, etc.

It’s about speaking with the right tone, with the right imagery, connecting on a more personal level, making sure that what they like is presented in the ad.

Organic audience profiling

Let’s assume you have a blog that is well established and drives a ton of traffic every month. Then I hope you have installed Facebook pixel to your website’s header code.

And if this seems too complicated, then I think you are not ready for some of the more advanced techniques presented in this article. Worry not, though. There’s a bunch of guides online that help you with the Facebook pixel installation.

But getting back to the subject. With Facebook pixel installed, you can create a ‘custom audience’ from the website traffic you are getting. The best part about this is that the traffic is more than likely the people you want to target.

If your blog is about finance and saving money, and your online course is about saving money. Then you are already having the right audience in place, and you can target them through Facebook ads very effectively.

By having a custom audience, you are already excluding a lot of people from your ad campaigns, which is a good thing because the targeting is more refined.

So in a sense, by having a Facebook pixel installed on your website, you are creating an audience in automation. But yeah, you need the traffic to do that.

The Facebook custom audience gives you the ability to slightly skip the audience insights part, as your pixel and Google Analytics already have this data available.

Audience summary

  • Do not think your online course is for everyone. It’s only for some.
  • Do not target everyone with your ad campaigns.
  • Study your ideal customers by using Facebook audience insights.
  • If you don’t have traffic to your site, paid traffic is the way to go if all other things are in place (authority and trust).

It feels like I’m still scratching the surface only, but the most important thing to know about your audience is that you are serving the few, and when they are happy, you can serve the many.

The insights to online course marketing

We started the article with audience profiling. And that is the very first thing you need to nail down. You need to be very knowledgeable about who you are talking to because, in marketing, you are always talking personally.

I assume that you are not a huge brand or a huge company with millions in your jacket pocket. So we do things on a smaller scale and focus on individuals and not to the masses.

One of the biggest mistakes online course creators do is that they start to market to everyone. That is not what we do here. We do things little by little and build the foundation for more prominent marketing.

You have to leverage small wins to bigger wins. You use strategies that work for a small online business owner. Trying to be bigger than you are, is not going to work.

We need to establish you first, and then you start to scale. You need authority before you can start scaling.

Value proposition and USP

Your online course in mind, what is the one thing that you excel at and what others can’t touch? What is your Unique Selling Proposition?

What is the thing your online course provides that others don’t? What do you offer that others can’t or won’t offer?

The thing about marketing is that every business does it, and when that is the case, you need to be different. You need to differentiate yourself from the market. You need to be better than the rest.

If you think that you have a better looking online course, higher production value, better branding, etc., while those could work, they won’t. You can’t fake results, and if a course that looks downright carbage next to you can show results that you can’t. It’s a win for the ugly one.

When you are creating your USP, evaluate what you can offer that is critical for the customer to have. They need to see the value in your offer, not the features. They want to see how the course can benefit them. 

And while the value is always about perceived value, it’s your job to show it to them.

For example, having a fitness course, you should show how you got results with your unique method and how no one else is talking about this miracle technique that worked wonders for you.

If you are selling the same thing in another form, how can you leverage your results and show that your course is better, even if teaching the same thing as your competitors?

Results, authority, trust. Critical components on building your USP. 

Manipulation

In marketing, it’s either about manipulation or inspiration. Either you manipulate a sale for yourself, or you inspire the person to buy from you.

If you are able to pull off both techniques at the same time, good for you!

Manipulation is about “tricking” people to buy your online course, creating a false feeling of urgency, scarcity, reciprocity, even fear of missing out.

Next, I’m going to list manipulation techniques that you can use or not use. I do want to say that use at your own discretion and use them to do good as they are very powerful techniques. 

Scarcity

Scarcity is about limitation, limited availability, or limited quantity. When we talk about courses, scarcity can be created by having an open and closed cart time period.

Scarcity creates the feeling of something being scarce and hard to acquire or get. This creates a feeling of value because your course is hard to get, so it must be valuable.

You can create this with limited time availability and, as mentioned before, having a period when your course is open for the public, after which you will close it for a few months, for example.

When something is seen as a limited edition, there’s a feeling of missing out, not experiencing something, not being part of something great.

Innovation

You are presenting something new and innovative. Something that is never seen before, and you bring this message forward on your sales page. Innovation creates perceived value and is about giving the customer the feeling of new and being at the forefront of knowledge.

Fear

Fear of missing out or fear of losing. Very much related to scarcity where you are making something hard to get. Fear is something that is ignited by these kinds of events, and when it hits, a sale is made.

Price

Price is one of the oldest methods of manipulating a purchase. Being the cheapest, having the biggest discount, being the most expensive. It’s not always about being the cheapest. You can also be a luxury option. Even with online courses, there are those who pay the big bucks, and there are those who don’t see knowledge as an investment.

Without going too in-depth with pricing (there’s more later in the article), let’s just say that if you are the cheapest, you are also the least valued. 

Because your course is the one that anyone can purchase, but having more premium pricing, you are one that only a few can afford, and thus, your knowledge is more valuable.

Remember, it’s all about perceived value!

Aspiration

Motivation, encouragement, short-term gratification. Aspiration is about creating these good feelings, future visions, and establishing courage to make the leap of faith. Making the customer trust you and see the vision you have for her. 

It’s nothing but words, images, visions, but they all paint a picture in the minds of the customer, and that picture can be made into reality with your course. 

Aspiration is about visions, letting the customer see herself in your position, or having something that is just one course away.

Urgency

Only one spot left! Only 3 days left! You are creating a sense of urgency when something is available only for a short period of time. Kind of the same as scarcity, but the urgency is more about timing. 

You’ve probably seen these countdown timers or these clocks that display how many days, hours, or minutes an offer is available. Every offer that shows you something like 30 minutes and so on is more than likely a fake offer and a way to manipulate you to buy the product.

Sometimes an offer is actually for real, and the offer actually expires after a certain amount of time. However, I’ve seen it being misused too many times that I don’t really see them effective anymore. Annoying more than anything and slightly cheap method of creating urgency, in my opinion.

Reciprocal

I’m not even going to try and pronounce that word, but it means giving something valuable in exchange for trust. Funnels are all about this. At the start of a funnel, you see this nurturing sequence where you are bombarded with free valuable information.

You might even get free resources and whatnot. It’s all about creating trust between you and the seller. When you’ve given a lot of free and super valuable information and insights, you start to feel indebted to the person, and this way, you are “tricked” into buying a product from them.

Now, I do have to say this is probably one of the best ways to sell, as it’s not so much about manipulation. There are honest people who want to help, and if you do this right in your funnel, selling your product is a good thing.

After all, your online course is about helping people, and if you need to educate your customers first, that’s only a good thing and actually even a preferred thing to do.

Promotions

-30% OFF! Discounts, Black Friday sales, flash sales, etc. are all promotions in which you are offering your course at a discount for a certain period of time. Inside a funnel, this is a very effective way to get those course sales. 

udemy_cyber_offer

Peer pressure

Have you seen a famous person or a celebrity promoting a product? Who wouldn’t have seen it! Right!

It’s about peer pressure, giving the customer the feeling of if that person uses this product, then it must be good. A celebrity can, in some ways, lift the value of a product just by being next to it. The celebrity is seen as someone who is admired, other words valued. 

So having value next to a product attaches value to the product. Weird but effective. It’s like you are using the same product as someone with a “higher status” than you.

With online courses, if you can get a quote about the course from an online influencer, it might just improve your sales.

Inspiration

Above was all the ways you can use manipulation to “trick” those sales to you. Next, I’ll show you what inspiration in marketing means and how to do it.

Inspiration is a very different story and something that isn’t easy to pull off. That might also be the reason why you don’t see this technique used too often.

It even feels like it’s only for the big players — those with big and established brands like Nike and Apple. However, we can apply these principles to online course sales too.

Nike’s brand messaging
Apple brand messaging

As you can see from the pictures above, they are not selling you a product. They are selling you a way of life. 

While you might be thinking about how do you apply this to online courses. Easy. You talk from the perspective of change. You don’t talk about how this or that is only available until this week’s Sunday.

You start the conversation by showing them the improved lives they will have after taking your course. You will inspire them to take action, without some manipulation tactics thrown in there.

People don’t buy online courses for information. They don’t buy the knowledge. They buy transformation, a new beginning, a change to their current situation.

They want to achieve the next level in life, and your course can enable them to do that. Now, if you are thinking, how can your course create such a situation? 

Think about a Microsoft Excel course, for example. A person is not buying a course on excel. The person is buying the course so she can achieve maybe a better position inside her company. 

It’s never about the course, never about the features, but always about the endgame. 

It’s about the change you can create, and the results you promise with your course.

Inspire!

Sales Funnels

The audience selected, marketing tactics in place, it’s time to get familiar with funnels. 

nurturing_funnel_thecours

At the beginning of a funnel, you have the market, your audience, in other words. Your audience is, however, cold, meaning that they don’t know you, like you, and they certainly don’t trust you.

So we need a funnel to create that trust, connection, and likeability towards your online course.

We are, in other words, warming the audience for purchase. One of the biggest companies offering funnels, funnel training, tools, and resources is ClickFunnels.

I’ve taken courses such as One Funnel Away Challenge and can recommend that course for anyone interested in building funnels.

Related: One Funnel Away Review

But to get your funnel truly working, you need a few services in place or one service. ClickFunnels, as mentioned before, offers you a wide variety of tools and resources to get your funnel on gears.

What I like to use is WordPress, Elementor Pro, and ConvertKit. And you can check my resources page for the latest recommendations for online course business and passive income tools.

Related: ConvertKit Review

Without going too in-depth into how to use those services together, or how ClickFunnels work, I’ll continue on the part of how you need to build your funnel.

Lead magnets

Every funnel starts with the audience. Your audience has desires, dreams, hopes, and fears. So your job is to tap into those emotions and bring a solution to their struggle with your online course.

Lead magnets are a quick solution to a struggle your audience is having. It’s a freebie that you give in exchange for an email address.

Email address is then used inside the funnel to nurture, educate, and promote your course.

If you’ve seen these “freebies” that pop-up when you visit a website, that is the front end of the funnel. It always starts with the same “get this; give that.” That being your email address. Online businesses love to build that email list. It’s an asset, in the end, so yeah, it makes sense.

Lead magnets you can create:

  • Tools & resources guide
  • Checklists
  • Small workbooks
  • Templates
  • Tips & tricks PDF
  • Insights PDF
  • Case study
  • Report
  • Secrets PDF
  • Compilation of articles
  • Coupon
  • Free mini-course
  • Course module from your online course
  • Webinar
  • Audio clip
  • Cheatsheets
  • Quick-start guides
  • Email mini-course
  • Quiz or a survey

As you can see, the list is pretty long, and these are only some that I’ve encountered so far. The general idea is that the lead magnet should be something that can be consumed in around 5 minutes or less. 

However, webinars and free mini-courses can and should be a bit lengthier. 

The whole goal of lead magnets is to capture the audience and nurture them for sale. Remember, you need to know your audience pretty well, to be able to create the desired lead magnet.

The best lead magnets evoke curiosity, are simple and easy to catch. Meaning that they are easy to get and understand. Your leads are always looking for something, and if you know their biggest desire, create a lead magnet that solves their struggle and present it to them.

lead magnet example

For a few reasons, I think lead magnets are getting saturated and feel like the effect they are creating is less and less. For a few years, lead magnets provided insane value, and nowadays, people are more aware of the agenda behind them. So giving that coveted email address isn’t so preferred anymore, so there’s a resistance coming up.

Facebook ads are more than anything, lead capturing, getting leads that turn into customers for your business (inside a funnel). But when everyone is doing the same thing, it comes saturated and less effective. But then again, this is the beauty of marketing. It’s ever-evolving. Funny enough, the principles are not.

When you are creating lead magnets, remember that the magnet should not be a total cure for desires. It should not be like “offer the option A and then sell option A+.” You need to sell option B. If that makes sense?

When a person has received, let’s say a mini-course on how to use Photoshop, and then you go and sell advanced Photoshop training. The person might feel like they already know enough of Photoshop. However, when you teach how to make money with Photoshop skills, the game changes.

A lead magnet is all about pre-framing a lead to understand the importance of your online course. The better the framing, the easier the sale.

When you end your lead magnet with a CTA (call-to-action), you are guiding your new lead to the next thing. And the next thing can be more training, giving more value, or presenting your online course for purchase.

Email marketing funnel

After a lead magnet is done and active, you need to guide your leads inside your funnel to an online course.

And it all starts with the email address you got earlier, by giving them your valuable freebie, you got an email address in exchange. Now, you will start your email nurturing sequence. 

This isn’t something new and flashy, this is being done, by almost every digital marketer and online business out there, and if you are not already doing, it’s about time you do.

As I mentioned previously, you need different services to build this and one good option is to use ClickFunnels, to build all of this. I use WordPress, Elementor Pro, and ConvertKit together to accomplish what you can accomplish by just using ClickFunnels. But it’s up to you what you use.

The “usual” email marketing funnel

What is being taught and what is being used is a 7-8 step email funnel.

The sequence is as follow:

  • Day 1. Introduction/ sending the freebie via email
  • Day 2. Your backstory, why you matter, why should they listen
  • Day 3. Value email, giving something valuable
  • Day 4. Value email can be a video series, freebies, insights
  • Break
  • Day 6. Course pitch, building anticipation for tomorrow
  • Day 7. Objection handling email
  • Day 8. (morning) Online course offer
  • Day 8. (afternoon) Frequently asked questions email
  • Day 8. (evening) Online course offer, last call

The list you see above is an email funnel. That funnel is nothing special and is pretty much a basic form of an email funnel. The main goal of an email funnel is to build likeability and trust. 

You need to build that trust to sell your online course, and email is a fantastic way to do it. Effective?! Debatable.

The thing with emails is that they might not get opened, which creates the need for volume. With enough traffic, you can slowly see how your funnel works and what parts in it do not.

With modern email service providers like ConvertKit, you can A/B test different headlines and see what emails get opened and what goes past unnoticed.

Related: ConvertKit Review

With email marketing, it’s all about testing. Testing headlines, copy, images, offers, sequence, breaks, etc. Slowly but steadily, you will see your conversion percentages, and with math in your mind, you can start to pour in ad money and scale your business to new heights.

However, as cool and fantastic as it sounds, scaling, and building the funnel is not easy. While we can build funnels, creating a working funnel is another thing. It requires resources, and if you don’t have the money, you have to do it with time.

Organic traffic comes with time, but if you don’t have that. Then you probably have money, so you can go and try ads if they could bring you the results you are looking for.

Educating vs. selling inside a funnel

While we are still in the funnel side of things. It’s important to notice that there’s no one single way that is effective or that creates better results than another.

Your audience is always unique, and the way they speak and act online is unique. So when you are creating your funnel, you can either go directly to selling, or you can educate them before the sales pitch, or you can entertain. It’s up to you how you approach your future students.

When you are attracting people to join your world, you might go the education route. Educating them on why they need your services, why they need you, and your course.

99.9% of the people that meet YOU online do not know you, like you, or trust you. So educating them and giving them value inside your funnel is crucial.

Make them comfy and earn their trust. But don’t demolish that trust after the sale!

Online Course Sales

When you know who is your audience, you know how to create a lead magnet to attract them to you, and you have your email sequence ready. It’s time to make the final step ready and create a sales page and those sorts of things.

Making a sale is never about pricing. I’m not even going that route of pricing your course at $40,000 and saying it’s not about pricing. Price matters, but not that much. We keep it at $3,997 and below for now.

$3,997 is already a premium-priced course, but it doesn’t mean you can’t price your course that high. It’s all about who you are, what you can offer, what results can you promise, what value do you provide, etc.

Remember, it’s about perceived value. For some, learning a new skill, like being better at dates, is necessary, and thus they are willing to pay high dollars on learning such skill. For some, learning such a skill is not worth anything.

So making course sales is always about the selected audience and their needs, not everyone’s needs.

Next, we will go through what you need to have in place to make those course sales. And even though you have these in place, you still need to tweak the offer, copy, images, etc. to make everything work together seamlessly.

Online course hosting

For you to be able to sell your online course, you need to make sure you have a place where you host the course.

You can either host your course on your own website or on a stand-alone platform like Thinkific or Teachable.

Related: The Best Online Course Hosting Platforms

In the above article, I have laid out the best online course hosting platforms for different use scenarios.

What’s important to know is that different platforms offer different features, integrations, payment plans, etc. 

So make sure you read the article so you can decide which platform suits your needs the best.

You can read my current recommendation from my resources page.

Sales page structure

As you already know, there’s a sequence to things and why it’s important not to go after the sale right away. The same thing applies to your sales page. When a person lands to your sales page, it’s a good habit to establish a connection with the buyer.

Do you like to be sold at? Probably not. 

So you need to build a sequence to your sales page. First, presenting your students what your course is all about — a strong headline, accompanied by a strong sub-headline.

Make sure to be clear, consistent, and also tapping into the struggle they have.

You can check an example here.

That is my online course, and I’ve implemented a lot of strategies into it. There’s transformation phase, backstory, creating connection through similar emotions, showing features from the perspective of needs.

Establish a connection, tap into desires, be on their side, share the struggle, and show how you conquered the struggle.

It’s important to show that you’ve gone through what they are struggling with. People want to learn from someone who has experienced what they are currently experiencing.

It’s about giving them a vehicle to get from their current situation to their desired situation. They have desires, and your course is a way to give them what they want.

Now, here’s the hardest part. No one can teach you how to write good copy, and the reason is that you have your audience, and inside that audience is a certain language and culture. 

Great copywriting comes from within you and understanding your audience’s needs. You also need to know how humans behave and how people make buying decisions.

Related: Who buys online courses?

The signs on your sales page

When a potential customer comes to your sales page, the more you have going on in it, the more likely the prospect is going to bounce off and continue elsewhere.

So keep your sales page pretty, simple, to the point and avoid using red color in it as it can create a feeling of danger within the prospect.

When the sales page is inviting and not full of clutter, it’s easy to navigate, and the prospect knows exactly what he/she is getting, then you’ve done a great job with it.

You might feel at this point that it’s so hard to sell anything, and there are so many things that have to be considered. While that is true, I would say that take your time and build your sales funnels, pages, and sequences step-by-step, and little-by-little. 

There’s too much to get right at the first go, so it’s better to do it slowly and improve over time.

Offer creation

You are not selling an online course. You are selling an offer. That is one of those things I learned in One Funnel Away Challenge.

Related: One Funnel Away Challenge Review

While you might be thinking that you are selling an online course, you should think of it from another perspective. Essentially you are selling a course BUT also so much more, and that is shown as an offer.

Offer is your course, bonuses, features, benefits. It’s everything you can cram into the one price you are giving your students to.

It’s all about making your offer sexy, irresistible, must-have, no-brainer, something that is dumb to leave to the table.

While you can see from the picture above, there’s a bunch of things listed in there, and if the listed things are more valuable than the price I’m asking, then there’s a sale. 

Now, you might be thinking, what if you lower the price, wouldn’t people then buy more likely?

The answer is no. Sometimes the pricing can backfire you and cause more damage than success.

And next, we will discuss the pricing.

Pricing

Price is a signal. Signal of something being either cheap or expensive, but only in the mind of the individual. You see, a $297 course can be expensive, or it can be a bargain. It’s always about the person who you are attracting.

Buying a $297 course today would be a bargain for me, and it’s because I’ve paid more than $1,500 for a course already — the viewpoint changes by the experiences you’ve had in your life.

The same applies to your audience, how aware are they about online courses, online education, and the benefits it can give them?

I’ve seen multiple times in Facebook groups where people can’t decide what price to give their courses. Should it be priced at $497, or is $697 too much? 

It doesn’t matter!

If you can’t get your course sold at the price you’ve given to it, rather than thinking about the price, think what more can you offer. Pricing your course too low will give the idea of you not valuing your course and knowledge.

Here are an example and the pricing mechanism behind it:

Now I’m not telling you to price your course at $97 (which is the lowest price you can set to a course). And I’m not even saying that this is the price I will keep my course at. It can go up, and it can go down.

However, the reason I priced my course at $97 is that artists, in general, are not too wealthy and because YouTube is filled with videos showcasing line art techniques. So there’s a lot of free supply already.

However, I do know that the information is pretty fractured, and getting a full picture of how to do professional line art is a challenge. So I’ve priced it at $97, and it feels like the correct price for such a course. 

There are few cardinal rules in selling. Are your audience willing to buy, and are they able to buy?

If for both of these questions, the answer is yes, then the selling just got easier. In my case, are they able to buy, that is a bit 50/50 situation right there, as said before artists aren’t the wealthiest of people?

So price your course according to your audience and the value you provide with your course. It does not hurt to check your competition, too, though I see this as a novice advise.

Testimonials

Why do you buy online courses? Why people buy anything these days? Results!

People want results, and the more results you can show them, the better. When people see that there are other people who got results by using your course, they are more likely to buy the course.

Testimonials are social proof, and social proof shows that your material works. This is what most course creators fail to do. Show proof!

It’s tempting to go and create your course, but creating a course without first testing your material and seeing if people get results, will only lead to bad results (for you).

Related: How to create an online course

If you don’t have testimonials, show your own results, and when you get customers, ask for testimonials. Ask if you could show others how they got results with your course.

And whenever you get better and better testimonials, you can either replace the old testimonials with new ones or stack the testimonials together, creating a catalog of customer success results.

Selling an online course, or any other product is part art and part science. Science is all about knowing how and why people buy. Art is the copywriting part, how to start a conversation with your future student.

Selling online courses is always shown to be easy and something that anyone can do it. When the reality is that, you have to have a lot of knowledge and experience before you can do it effectively. 

Luckily if you read all that was discussed and showcased in this article, you know more than a lot of people. You are already ahead of the pack by a long shot.

Summary

  • Know your audience
  • Build a funnel
  • Create a nurturing sequence with emails
  • Craft a sales page with a sequence in mind
  • Gather and add testimonials to finalize your sales message 

How To Create An Online Course – That One Guide

How_To_Create_An_Online_Course

If you are looking for a guide that shows you step by step how to create an online course from nothing. This guide is it! Bunch of online course guides says the same thing, “create and launch your online course,” but this guide is a different beast.

We focus on the actual creation process and not on some general advice.

We don’t focus on selling an online course either, so if you are looking for a guide that gives you that information, check below:

Related: How to sell an online course

The above guide is a continuation of this guide and is all about selling the course that was innovated in this guide.

What I will be showing you are all the steps that are needed when you are just starting and want to build your online course from scratch.

You want to help people with the knowledge you have, and what better way than teach others how you overcame some struggle in your life. Or you might want to teach them a new skill you learned throughout your life. 

Knowledge, experience, and passion can be turned into an online course, and that is precisely what I will be teaching you here to do.

So let’s begin!

Know yourself

While this might be like. Ok. What is this anything to do with an online course creation? Well, it’s everything, actually.

You don’t want to create a course on a topic that you are not passionate about. On a topic that you are not an expert at, or on a topic that you don’t actually have previous experience with.

Remember, you have experience and knowledge that someone could use and is willing to pay for. So dig deep into your past, get to know yourself, and see what the one thing that you are pretty good and that you could teach others to become good at too.

The following questions help you decide the course topic:

  • What skills do you have?
  • What are you good at?
  • What do you like to daily?
  • What is the one topic that you can not stop talking about?
  • What are you passionate about?

When you have listed the above things, you have a list of online course topics. It’s that easy.

Now, where people get it wrong so easily is that they start to create an online course on a topic they are passionate about, but don’t actually have any real-life results at. 

You could be passionate about saving money, but you haven’t actually saved any money in the past, so it’s kind of like you lack the experience side of it. 

Many course creators or teachers selling a course on course creation, shout that you don’t have to have any experience, previous track record, or anything for you to make an online course.

Now, that is true, you can create a course, but you surely can’t sell that it if you don’t have results, experience, or other merits behind you.

So it’s crucial that you have the experience and have results with your method of doing things before you can teach it to others.

Next, we see if the list has topics that can be monetized.

Market research

What better way to do product research than typing into Google:

 [your thing] + online course

For example, “keto diet online course,” brings the following results:

These kinds of results mean good things for you.

  1. There’s a market surrounding keto diet
  2. There are Ads which signals that companies use the money to attract potential customers
  3. There are already online courses in your niche

Niche = A market segment within a sub-market, that is within the main market.

Market -> Sub-market -> Niche

When people say niche down, they mean the above thing. When people say that riches are in the niches, it means that it’s easier to find success in tiny niches than it is in the main markets.

If you keep your topic too broad, the competition gets fierce, however, when you keep your topic niched down, there’s a smaller amount of competition, and you can probably win in your niche.

Now, not every topic is equally monetized, and not every niche is equally lucrative.

The best advice I can give is that you should choose a niche from your list of topics that gives people real results, where people are willing and able to pay for your information.

Let’s say you are creating a course on “How to identify birds.” While there could be a market for this (not sure about that), is it something that people are willing to invest in? 

If one buys your course, what results the student will get, and will it benefit them in their lives. 

I know not everything is about monetary gain, or health, etc. However, when you invest your money in something, usually there has to be some kind of return on investment. 

The person needs to gain something from that monetary investment, something that will his/her life better.

Social media research

You can use social media to research if people are willing to pay for your course. 

You can start this by checking if the topic you are interested in and passionate about has these two things:

  1. People are talking about it (Facebook groups)
  2. People ask questions about it (Quora for example)

When you can find groups that are passionate about your topic, and there’s a lot of members active in those groups, you know there could be money to be made.

You can easily do this by joining different Facebook groups and then using the search from group option to do the market research effectively.

You can also directly post a question to the group and ask it. However, that is just plain dumb (in some niches), because people can see right through you. They know what you are doing, so try to be a ninja, rather than an elephant.

Don’t forget that, even if people are active on Facebook groups, you need to make sure they are able and willing to pay for your insights.

Continuing the bird course example, are people in this niche someone who has money, and are they someone who likes to spend big bucks on bird knowledge and on birds in general?

While it would be nice to create a course based on your passion, sometimes your passion could be something that people are not willing to shell money into. Are you shelling money to your passion or a hobby?

How do you approach developing yourself and your knowledge?

Amazon.com

You can also use Amazon.com and see if your topic and interest brings any results in the amazon search. Are there any ebooks, video courses, or products surrounding your niche.

If you got results and see that someone is already selling products that are in your interests, then there’s a very high chance that you too can sell your products just like they are.

While Amazon.com is not Google, it still provides an awesome way to do market research. Amazon is a huge company selling almost anything in the world, so if you can’t find products related to your niche from there. Then it could be a miss, rather than a hit.

Google Trends

Use google trends to see if your niche or topic is either going down or up in search trend. If it’s going down, then there might be demand for now, but eventually, there are fewer people interested in your stuff. 

So make sure you cover your future by looking at the trends through Google. 

Remember fidget spinners?

If you would’ve created a course on how to become a master fidget spinner user, well, your course could be more than in trouble today.

That’s why it’s important to check the trends and see what is currently on the rise and if the trend has been such for more than a few years.

When you have seen that there’s a demand in your niche and that people are already selling an online course covering your topic, it’s time to create your online course outline.

The real demand

When you’ve seen that there is an audience buzzing around the topic of your experience, passion, and interest. It’s time for some real research.

Even if people are talking and shouting within your topic, you need to find struggles that people can’t seem to get solved. You have to find patterns and repeating questions. 

What are some of the questions that the members of the Facebook groups tend to ask on a constant basis?

We always something we are looking for. We like to elevate our lives, and so we either create struggles to ourselves, or we see obstacles in our way. And your knowledge and experience can be the one thing that solves that struggle someone else has.

What is it? What is the one thing people are struggling with? Find it and see if you have the answer to it, through your experience in the niche.

Established research

Now, while this could be a bit more advanced, I will still categorize this as a piece of novice advice.

If you have a blog, a website, or an active Facebook group, you can approach your audience and ask directly what is the #1 struggle they have regarding the niche you are in.

You can do this via broadcast email and direct them to a Google survey, for example. It doesn’t have to be complicated; it’s just research.

However, do not make the assumption that you know the #1 struggle by having 20 answers. I would do more research on it and maybe use the answers you got and do further research on Facebook groups.

Remember, we are not selling your course yet; we are actually creating it to a certain point.

Related: How to sell an online course

Create your course outline

Now, you might already be excited that there’s a market for your knowledge and experience. You have seen how other people make money by selling material close to you. 

You know that there are groups and confusion regarding your topic. People are struggling within the niche, and your information can help them solve some of their problems.

But what to include in your online course?

What should it have?

Well. The best place to start is by looking at your competitors, and see what they put into their course. What can you do the same way they have done. And more importantly, what can you do differently and innovate the already working model?

As you might already know, there’s not one online course on Adobe InDesign, there are probably hundreds of courses, teaching the same thing. 

So what you need to do is start gathering all the other courses inside your niche together. See where they differ, and how you could innovate your topic to another level.

What people usually do is the same thing that the other guy is doing; however, here’s the question. Why should I buy from you when that guy is selling it too and half the price. And when you think about cutting your price, think about the reasons why you do it.

More about pricing on how to sell an online course guide and, more importantly, why you shouldn’t cut the price. Hint: It’s a never-ending race to the bottom!

Selling the same stuff in a different package always works. Surely! However, if you want to get ahead of your competition, you have to innovate a little and create something that your competitor does not have. 

Your own special sauce and experiences on the topic of your choosing.

Remember, you are unique with your knowledge, understanding, experiences, and worldview. All of the mentioned things can and should be applied to your online course.

And the best part is that you already have this knowledge. Now you just pour that creativity into the course.

Course structure:

The online course structure forms from modules and lessons.

Example:

Module 1.

  • Lesson 1.
  • Lesson 2.
  • Lesson 3.

Module 2.

  • Lesson 1.
  • Lesson 2.
  • Lesson 3.

…and so on.

course_outline_example

The structure is straightforward, and not much thought is needed when it comes to the structure.

However, where you want to be thoughtful is the naming of your modules. Make them evoke curiosity inside your potential customers. Sell the next module and make sure the student follows the path and completes the lessons and modules you’ve created for them.

Course modules should be created in a way where they seamlessly continue where the last one ended. Lessons should follow the same principles. 

Having a solid and seamlessly flowing outline helps the student see the whole picture and connect the dots, which is the hardest part.

Notice that we are not yet even creating the course, we are still planning the course, and there’s a reason for it. You see, you shouldn’t create your course, and if you are new to this business model, I will show you next why you shouldn’t create your course. So keep on reading.

But before you go further with your course creation process. You should validate your idea.

Validate your course idea

There are three ways to validate your online course idea.

  1. Create your course and sell it
  2. Pre-sell your course
  3. Beta launch your course

1. Create your course and sell it

This was the way I made my first dollars passively. I created my online course and sold it to my abysmal email list of around 500 people. I created an email sequence and sent it out as a broadcast. 

I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with sales on my bank account. It is the best feeling ever, and yes, it never gets old. It just doesn’t.

However, two conditions must be known.

  1. You have to be absolutely sure that there’s a market for your course. This part should be covered thoroughly in the market research part.
  2. You should have an email list to sell your online course to. An email list is not a must as you can always grow your audience from zero to anything. But it’s easier to launch your course if there are people following you.

Not too many people recommend this path. The thing is that the ones criticizing this method mean they haven’t done complete market research for the topic they are going to be teaching.

I wouldn’t recommend going down this road as you can get easily burned. You know, putting so much effort, production, money, and time to your online course, only to sell it to crickets.

You don’t want to do that. What you want to do is either pre-sell or beta launch your course. 

Thorough market research and understanding is needed to pull this off.

2. Pre-sell your course

This method is a pure course validation method. You only create around 20% of your course ready and sell it to your audience. If you don’t have an audience yet, you can throw ads or promote the beta launch some other way. The goal here is to see if there’s a market for your online course.

As you can see, this is kind of like probing, not being sure if there’s a market for your course. So the question is, have you done market research. Are you 100% committed to your topic?

Pre-selling your course is a fantastic way to avoid the pain of creating a course, only to see that there wasn’t a market ready for it.

This method is best suited if you have an existing audience for which to pre-sell your course. In the market research chapter, we discussed the established research, and if done correctly, you have created a course that solves the #1 struggle they are having.

So in the pre-sell phase, your job is to send an email promotion sequence of your upcoming course and sell the course to your audience. If everything goes as planned, you have around some customers, and you can start to develop the rest of the modules for the course.

By informing your customers that a new module or lesson is released every week, you will have more than enough time to complete the course that you promised to your customers.

However, if you are slightly hesitant doing it this way, then there’s also the third way, the beta launch way.

3. Beta group

There’s also a third way to validate your course idea. And it’s that you announce a beta launch of your course. And instead of creating other than the very first module ready, you will sell seats to your beta group. You will then teach the material to your beta group and see if they liked it or not.

And you will do this live. So it means that you have created the course outline, and you have the content written in an MS Word document or on a PDF or something, and you will go through the material with them right there and then.

This way, you will see if the course content you have for them is any good and if they learned what you were teaching. This is also a safe way to see whether the course you are selling is even worth creating. You don’t have to record a single video, and you certainly don’t have to put so much emphasis on the material.

Beta group coaching is an excellent way to get feedback while you teach your topic. You will also see if the lesson was too advanced or tedious or something in between.

And if the beta launch went well, then you can recreate the course by pre-recording your slideshows and re-launch your course again. Or, if you want to, you can also use the live training videos and compile a course from those.

When you have validated your course, it’s time to create the course.

Create your course content

If you chose the route of pre-sell or beta group. Then this is the step where you will put all of your knowledge and experience together and start slamming it into modules and lessons.

The very first thing is to finalize your course outline and see what it is missing or what could be added and, more importantly, what could be taken out.

Online courses are not about how much content you have but how little content you have. What is the minimum amount of material needed for your student to learn what you are teaching?

I use MS PowerPoint to create my courses. Yes. It’s just a basic slideshow you are going through with the student. 

Nothing fancy. As the main point is to teach, educate, and, more importantly, transform your students. So the way you present things is not the point. It’s the outcome. Keep that in mind!

While you could initially think that the more content you have, the more valuable the course is, however, that is NOT the case. The more valuable content you have, the better. The better results your students can get with your course, the better.

The most important thing to remember before creating your course to its final form is that you have to make sure you were able to sell it once or twice and that your students got results with it.

The ever-evolving course

Sell it, forget it doesn’t work. It works to a certain degree, sure. However, would you like to create something groundbreaking, long-lasting, and ever lucrative?

So many create an online course and leaves it to gather dust and decay. To become a force in your niche and to grow your market, you need to improve your course further all the time.

I’m not saying that you should re-record every single video in your course every single month. What I’m saying is that you should gather feedback and improve the parts that make people fail with your course.

One of the biggest things that keep people failing with a course is the change of interest and lack of motivation to keep going on.

It’s crucial that you give your students small wins, that you keep them motivated and that they see the big goal ahead of them.

Related: How To Design An Online Course That Creates Results

But how do you improve your courses?

Feedback loop

There are all sorts of loops, but one loop that isn’t talked about and isn’t shown anywhere in the feedback loop. And it’s because people don’t know about it.

What feedback loop is, is essentially a loop where you don’t stop ever asking for feedback, asking for improvements, etc.

Creating such a loop is easy, and it amazes me, why no one is doing this.

While this could be a bit advanced, bare with me, when you’ve set up your funnels, and there’s a thank you message after a confirmed purchase. You should send a survey to the student and ask what could be improved in the course, what’s missing in the course, how you could make it better.

And while not everyone will answer you, you might still get a few answers every now and then. Just keep the survey short and simple.

With all the continuous feedback you get, you will learn more and more about your customers, which will then give you the ability to innovate your courses even further.

While this is a bit advanced, I can say that there are even more advanced techniques you can do. Like having the students create your next course by forming an outline from the answers, they give you.

But I’ll leave it at this.

Brand ambassadors

Before ending the guide, we have to tackle one last point, which is building brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador is a student that got great results with your course and one that will promote your course for you.

Creating a course that results in disappointed students will surely cripple your business very quickly.

Now, to make your business thrive, you need to make sure you serve your students before purchase, during the course, and after the course.

Before the course, there’s the nurturing sequence, inside the course, your course will guide them towards an end goal, and after the course, you should ask feedback and make sure their thoughts are heard.

You can also have a community, and more than usually, this is the preferred method of doing online course business.

Inside the community, you could have monthly, weekly, or daily coaching calls and see how your students are progressing, what obstacles they have, and how you could help them overcome them.

When a student is wholly satisfied, and the student gets results that were promised in the course, you have yourself a brand ambassador. What better way to gain new customers than friends (your current customers) suggesting your course to another friend of hers?

No need for a nurturing sequence, no need for long emails or sales pages. The previous student creates the sale in automation. 

And if this sounds like an affiliate program. Well, that’s precisely that. But in this case, you have the option to either create an affiliate program so the referee can get a small commission from the free advertising or not.

So it’s up to you whether you implement an affiliate program to your online course business or not.

Summary

When you know your worth, you know what you are good at, and you know the value of your knowledge. You can start the transfer of that expertise into an online course.

Creating an online course is the easy part. You truly don’t need anything else than a computer, some slides, obs or other screen recording software, a separate microphone, and that’s about it.

I donät even want to go to the details of what equipment you need, and what microphone is best for recording your voice. Or what is the best looking powerpoint template? 

All the mentioned things don’t matter. Have you judged a bad quality YouTube video if it delivers more than you asked for?

This video is pretty much a showcase of just that:

The video is pure crap if you think about production quality, screen resolution, audio, etc. However, the content is a pure diamond, not even gold, but diamond.

So when you think about your course and what it should look like, sound like, lighting, etc. Remember that people buy courses based on future results; they want to get from point A to point B. They want to transform themselves and their lives for the better.

So the content is what matters, and when your course sells like hot cupcakes (though I’m not sure does those sell so much, but anyway), then you can switch the gear and create the course again with higher production values.

But in the end, content still wins. I’ve paid more than $1,000 for an online course, and it was just slides after slides.

But did I buy the course based on the number of slides, based on how it looked, or did I buy it because of the content? I guess you know already.

You shouldn’t get too hung up on the production value; what you should get hung up is on the market research. 

Your every effort should go into the market research part, and what your audience wants, what is the struggle and pain points they are having.

Creating an online course is easy. Doing all the work before and after is the hard part.

Next read: 

How to sell an online course

How to build an online course business