You have a skill that I don’t. I’d like you to teach me—and you should.
You’ll probably feel good about yourself for doing so and, later, just maybe, start treating yourself to tropical vacations with the money you earn (or start pocketing a passive income stream).
I’m talking about developing an online course, an opportunity any entrepreneur can seize here and now. People love them. Many devour them.
Best-selling author Jeff Goins, who both takes and teaches online courses, published his thoughts about how they’re better than traditional educational experiences because they’re:
- Cheap. Experts often deliver university-level learning experiences at grade-school prices.
- Results-focused. Online instructors’ reputations are on the line, so they’re highly motivated to help you learn and apply the lessons.
- Exciting. Instead of attending a few lectures per week you get on-demand access to lessons, worksheets, discussion forums and, sometimes, interactive goodies.
- Flexible. Wear jammies. Drink beer. You attend class where and when you want—on your terms.
- Good for keeps. There’s no need to buy pricey textbooks or sell them back. The classes and learning materials are yours to keep forever more.
Online courses are a big business too. The self-paced e-learning market will make $51.5 billion in 2016, according to the E-Learning Market Trends Report by Docebo. In addition to the opportunity to profit handsomely from direct sales of your courses, creating courses can be a great way to increase your reach, enhance your brand, and grow your business.
Pick Your Platform
You can create and deliver online courses in a variety of ways, including using purpose-built platforms, all-in-on systems, or plugins that add course functionality to Wordpress websites.
I’m not going to get into the plug-ins approach. It’s the hard way. The other options are more suited for newbies in the online course creation field.
Udemy may be a name you know. It’s the biggie in the space, a global marketplace with over 40,000 courses. Selling your courses on it calls for adhering to their specific rules, including cost controls and sharing the revenues generated by Udemy’s marketing and online presence. However, if you’re keen on taking the fast ramp, rather not manage a website, and don’t plan to invest in promoting your course, Udemy’s a smart option.
Skillshare is an interesting alternative to Udemy—or an additional outlet you can use. For under $100 per year (or $12 per month), users get access to an all-you-can-eat, er, learn, menu of bite-sized courses that mostly clock in under 30 minutes. As an instructor, you’re compensated per the consumption of your class and for bringing in new (paid) members.
Rob Cubbon, a self-described “slacker turned entrepreneur,” is an online teacher who’s bringing in thousands per month. In a post on his site, he offers many ways to go about selling video courses online and details some of his experiences with the platforms.
Rob advises, “Don’t forget the most important site to sell your courses on—your own site.”
The Entrepreneurial Solution
A number of platforms are designed to make the process of developing and delivering online courses easy. Teachable, Thinkific and Ruzuku are three I’ve discovered in my online research.
Their features vary, as do their pricing models. Some earn a portion of their revenues by drawing commissions from the sales of your courses or adjust the fees upward to forgo commissions. Your choice of platform may determine whether the course runs on a website you operate or is hosted by the service provider.
If it’s true all-in-one simplicity you’re after, Kajabi may be your best bet. It’s particularly well suited to small business entrepreneurs because it makes it easy to go live with your online course quickly—with no need for outside tools and solutions. Site design and hosting, video hosting, landing pages, member management, course set up, payment processing and more are all included.
In a video on the Kajabi website, bestselling author Brendon Burchard offers a behind-the-scenes look at how he runs his entire business on Kajabi because he’s learned all other solutions are “a pain in the butt.”
The Basics of Creating and Selling a Course
As you might expect, the various platform providers in the e-learning business tend to offer oodles of content to school you in the ways of course creation and sales. Unsurprisingly, the lessons are packaged as courses, workbooks, webinars and more. The lessons are part “how to” and part “can do,” meaning they aim to convince those that question their ability to get into the business they’re perfectly capable of succeeding.
The lessons generally walk you through a process calling for you to:
- Identify an idea for your first course. Should delivering courses become a staple of your business (or your entire business) you may delve into all kinds of topics. First-timers, however, should focus on selecting a topic in their wheelhouse. Go with something you’re an authority in and have a passion for. Aim to teach something you’re confident there’s a market for and deliver a solution to a specific challenge or problem.
- Grow your email list. The go-to channel for selling your course, especially if you choose to do so via your website, is email. Make plans to grow your email list by conducting contests, offering mini courses, webinars and other offers or lead magnets that will promote new subscriptions.
- Create content. You’ll map out your course with an outline and break the lesson into practical steps. The components are likely to include video lectures (on-camera or “show and tell” webinars), interviews, case studies, worksheets and tools.
- Price it. The various service providers make pricing recommendations, but in most cases, course prices are up to you. You’ll want to factor in your sales goals, the relative value of the course and the existing market. Course prices range from $10 to several thousands. (Helpful, right?)
Many make the mistake of underpricing their courses. With a higher price tag, you may be able to achieve your goals with lower volume sales. Consider charging various price tiers where the pricier options include bonuses such as private consultations.
- Create sales pages. The quality of your sales pages, including the content and design, will prove important for closing sales. You’ll get advice (and maybe even templates) from the providers.
Sales pages generally include titles, subtitles, course descriptions, terms and social proof (such as testimonials). It’s a good idea to create video for your sales page to give potential students a glimpse of your personal style. Likability is a big factor.
- Send email. If your course is your product (not offered via a site like Udemy or Skillshare with a built-in audience), email marketing is vital. You’ll need a sequence of emails that add up to a week or two of deliveries.
Email sequences often include pre-release teasers, course announcements and descriptions, opening day offers, FAQs, bonus offers, social proof, class closure warnings and last chance notices. Your emails might offer free content such as blog posts, videos, infographics, or any other content you may want to offer as “teasers” to give prospective buyers a taste of the course content.
Give It a Go
The market for online courses is growing rapidly and ripe for you to dive into. You have skills and knowledge others will find helpful and when you turn them into an online course you’ll help yourself by building a source of passive income.
The process used to be technical and messy. Now you don’t need much more than a computer, online course platform, and the drive to package your know-how.
Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative is a digital marketing consultant, creative director and copywriter. Barry is the author of “SEO Simplified for Short Attention Spans,” has a podcast called “Content Matters,” and recently published the free resource “Content Marketing Roadmap.” You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.