How To Create An Online Course – That One Guide

How To Create An Online Course – That One Guide

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

Juha Ekman

Hi there, I’m Juha Ekman. A few years ago, I started my online business selling online courses and digital products. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning, especially learning marketing, sales, and everything about passive income. It’s been quite a ride, and there has been a lot of ups and downs along the way. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned.