An online course is an asset that you can create, release into the wild, and reap the rewards again and again and again.
But you don’t need to create an online course that big just yet.
My first course was called 2000 Fans in 28 Days. It was back when Facebook fan pages were all the rage. It sold for $37 and I generated around $30 – $40k in sales over two or three months!
I don’t recommend starting with social media courses, however.
Whilst I have the greatest respect for the creators of courses focused on social media platforms, you are setting yourself up for endless updates.
And I mean endless.
I used to offer an extremely valuable ebook called Facebook Marketing 2013. It was about 90 pages long and went through every conceivable way of growing your brand on Facebook, it led to my online video course Facebook Domination, which was a more detailed step by step process.
These products were almost the death of me!
By the time I’d finished a new video or an update of the ebook, the platform had changed something, sometimes within an hour of an update.
It was the most frustrating process and so huge tip here;
Sell the principles! Create a course around something evergreen which requires only minimal updates and then you will certainly reap the rewards for years to come!
How to Create an Online Course
So how do we set about building our course?
Before you get started it’s a good idea to ask and answer some key questions;
1. Is Your Online Course Something Your Audience Really Needs
On your journey to build your audience, have you been listening? Have you been answering their questions? Have you found a pattern? Maybe you’ve been asked the same questions over and over again.
Perhaps there’s a gap in the market that no-one else has filled yet, or you simply feel you have the knowledge and experience to serve your audience better than what’s already out there.
Whatever the reason, don’t create a course just because you ’think’ it might be a good idea.
You want to be creating the course because you have identified a real need in the marketplace.
2. Do you have a ready & waiting audience?
This is absolutely the best way to sell an online course.
When I sold The Social Networking Academy back in 2011 and did $117k in 7 days, I was told by my customers that they literally logged in for the webinar with their credit card in their hands.
I had spent months giving incredible value to my audience. I had sold a high-quality low ticket product a couple of months earlier and I had talked about the launch of my academy for weeks.
People couldn’t wait to get in.
As I said in my post How to Create a High Converting, Lead Generating Funnel;
“By delivering transformational value and putting the needs of your audience at the heart of your content & marketing strategy, you will build a marketing army who will spread the word of your brand far and wide for you.”
You will also presell all your courses!
3. What Type of Online Course Will You Create
Before you kick off the process of writing or recording, you’ll need to decide how you want to present your course. Are you leaning more towards video, audio, maybe primarily text-based, or most likely a combination of all three.
You may also be considering a membership site and due to the variables associated with a membership site, I have an entire post dedicated to it, so if you’re leaning toward that option check out ‘How to Create a 6 Figure Membership Site (the easy way) here.’
Here’s a great video by Mariah Coz on ensuring you create a course that is natural & unique to you while also serving your audience in the best way you know how to help them get results!
I’m going to focus mainly on video courses as I move through the instructions as not only are they the most common form of digital online courses, they’re also perceived as much higher value than text-based courses.
How to Plan & Create Your Online Course
I feel like pulling out the walking stick as I say ‘back in the day’, the day being all of 8 or 9 years ago; as to record, edit and host videos was a nightmare!
A 21 day course took me 2 solid weeks of frustrating agony to get live and that was after the modules, videos, and scripts had been planned!
Nowadays the longest part of the process is in the planning and scripting.
In fact, I went looking for a solid resource to link to, walking you through how to create a script for a video course, but they were all soooo long-winded here’s my quick-start guide;
1. Know your outcome.
What do you want your audience to have learned by the end of the course?
Let’s say for example I’m going to create an online gardening course. (Please note, I know nothing about gardening!)
So my outcome (and title of the course) might be;
“5 Design Principles that Underpin all Garden Design”
2. List out the steps they need to take to achieve the outcome.
- Why design matters
- Design principles
- The site – what have you got?
- Your garden on paper
- Garden shapes
- Different types of gardens
- Hard landscaping
- Planting by design
- Season by season
- Planting solutions
(I nabbed this outline from a beginner’s guide to garden design by Alan Titchmarsh.)
These are now your main modules.
3. List out the lessons within each module.
Module 2 – Design Principles;
Lesson 1 – Proportion
Lesson 2 – Scale
Lesson 3 – Movement & Flow
Lesson 4 – Unity
Lesson 5 – Rhythm
Lesson 6 – Balance
Also make a list of any backup material you want to accompany the course if relevant. i.e, cheat sheets, PDF’s, etc, so you can reference it in the video you record.
4. Bullet point each lesson
Easy tiger, I’m not a gardener so I’m not going that in-depth here, but try to keep the lessons short and sweet. If you’re doing video, no more than 5 – 10 min videos breaking complex tasks down into easy to consume and actionable steps.
If this is an email course or a PDF, break the steps down with lots of subheads, bullet points, and action steps.
The key here is to make it easy to follow and even easier to act upon.
Remember, no-one actually wants to take your course, they just want the results they’ll get from it, so leave the fluff at home!
5. Get creating!
If you’re going to make videos, with your script ready to go here’s how I would record, edit & upload;
Ensure you have screen and webcam recording software.
I use Screenflow for Mac which is a steep learning curve but I love.
Similar to screen flow is Camtasia which works for both Mac & windows.
Neither of these are cheap options though.
For a cheaper alternative, I also use Screenpal, which is a great little app. Easy to use, very user intuitive, and only $60 a year for unlimited videos and the ability to edit, merge clips, annotate (as you’re recording) and share directly to youtube or download.
The features are more limited than screenflow, for example utilizing both screen cam and webcam, but that’s certainly not a deal breaker.
There are lots of different apps on the market so have a play and then let’s get recording!
Record your videos
Not much to say here except keep it simple. You’ve written the script, you know what you want to do, so keep it succinct, to the point and focused on the outcome.
In my gardening example you might want to record yourself in the garden. Thankfully the folks over at Apple / Samsung etc have made that super easy for us!
Just setup a tripod, put your phone on top and press record! For better sound you might want a lapel mic or a shotgun mic.
Here’s my man Justin Brown from Primal Video to explain some techniques for recording outside if it’s a tad windy!
It’s really up to you how in-depth you want to take this but just remember ‘perfection leads to procrastination’, and your audience wants your content, not your fancy editing techniques.
That being said, if you plan to make this a high priced course – $1000 + above, then some bells and whistles certainly won’t hurt.
If this is your first course and you’re not even sure how many you’re going to sell yet (or even if it will sell, although I hope you’ve asked your audience before creating the course), keep it simple my friend!
Record, trim, and upload!
Creating Your Online Course Site
There are a few different platforms and each one offers varying features.
The leading contenders are Teachable and Thinkific, both of which are good options for beginners as they each offer comprehensive ‘How-to’ guides to get you up and running pain-free. However, they’re in amongst some strong competition.
Here are some detailed reviews of some of the top platforms here;
However, a new kid on the block which has recently caught my attention is a platform called systeme.io.
With everything under one roof, you can build your entire course site, complete with sales funnels, email marketing and an affiliate program, all built into one and using user friendly drag & drop technology. No coding required.
You can even add a blog and host evergreen webinars, a key sales strategy for course creators.
And the best part? It’s actually affordable! You can start and test it out for free and their packages range from free forever up to $97 a month depending on the package you choose.
You can see my detailed systeme.io review here. 😁
Also, here’s a great article by Eduard Klein that also covers the 64 most frequently asked questions related to online courses.
Pricing Your Online Course
So how much are you going to charge?
Too high and you price yourself out of the market, too low and you devalue your own site!
What to do.
When I sold my Social Networking Academy site for the first time, I had it priced at $97.
The week before my launch I met a fabulous chap called David Walsh. Dave has worked behind the scenes with many of the marketers you know and love and currently teaches YouTube techniques.
But after a couple of glasses of wine and a solid pep talk about my own self worth and the value I was offering in the site, he convinced me to put the price up to $197. (He wanted me to put it up to $497!)
If I hadn’t would I have only generated $60k from that launch instead of $117? And what if I had sold it at $497!? Who knows, but the fact is there was way more than $97 or $197 worth of value in there. I was a beginner who had no idea how to value myself.
So how you price will come;
- Partly from the market and what similar courses are selling for,
- Partly from your own self-confidence, ie, what are you comfortable pricing it at, after all you need to sleep at night, however, do push yourself out of your comfort zone a little, it will help you grow!
- Partly from what you feel the results of the course if applied would be worth to the participant.
I recently paid nearly $3k for a course which when looking purely at the content feels like a crazy amount of money. However, if I put everything I learn into practice, I can be assured of getting a lot more than $3k in return.
Creating the Sales Page
If you’re using your own website and looking for a sales cart with not only incredible drag & drop sales page templates but upsells, abandoned cart flows and all sorts of belles and whistles look no further than Samcart.
For more information on creating your sales page, check out this awesome article from the folks over at The Blogging Wizard – How To Create A Sales Page For Your First Online Course Or Product. It’s well worth a read to get to grips with the subject.
Selling Your Course Before it’s Finished
Alright so before we wrap up I did just want to touch on a strategy that sounds a little funky but is actually GENIUS!
Back in 2014(ish), I sold a course called “Forever Traffic”.
I had a rough outline and I knew what I wanted to talk about, but I hadn’t actually created the course yet. Just the idea.
I was absolutely upfront about this. I sold the ‘idea’ for $497 from memory and explained this would be a LIVE 6-week training program on all things traffic and laid out my proposed itinerary.
It sold like hotcakes and we had an absolute ball!
Because it was live, I had so much interaction with the members of the course, I was able to listen to their feedback and include it into bonus videos and future webinars and to this day it’s still one of the best courses I remember creating.
I did exactly the same in the first round of my Amazon training. It was live, over the shoulder training that at the time of selling had not been created yet.
The benefit of selling an online course this way is that you will know whether you have picked a great course topic before you’ve put any of the hard work in!
There’s nothing worse than spending hours, days, or weeks creating a course and launching it to crickets. (I’ve been there!)
Not only that as with my traffic course you get to interact and build the course based on feedback and questions. No better way to know precisely what your target market is looking for.
So there you have it my friend, your step by step by step guide to creating and selling your own online course.
Still a little nervous to create your own course, or want to dig deeper?
Here are some excellent resources to help you on your journey to becoming an online course superstar!