The ability to create and sell an online course is all thanks to a new era of growth, learning, and information exchange. Gone are the classic days of going to school, doing well so you can get into a reputable higher education institution, and securing a high-paying job with an adequate salary that will help you build a life for you and your loved ones.
The system of yesterday simply cannot support itself. It’s noted by the credit agency, Experian, that the United States currently holds 1.4 trillion dollars of student loan debt or $39,395 per borrower.
Furthermore, The National Center for Education Statistics illustrates that this debt is going to keep rising. According to the research, “[…]between 2006–07 and 2016–17, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 31 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 24 percent, after adjustment for inflation.”
If one wants to “invest in themselves” in the future economy, they will be swimming in a sea of debt.
What’s worse? According to data compiled from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, only 27% of people find work strictly related to their degree.
But that’s enough bad news for right now. On the other side of this grim narrative, we can uncover a profound opportunity for the selected few willing to look.
Why the online course industry paves way to the future
The creation, sale, and purchasing of online courses will help pave the way into the future.
The eLearning industry, which includes the recognition of online coursework, has grown in recent years and expects to continue growing into the future. ADROIT Market Research projects the eLearning industry to grow to $315 billion by 2025.
The industry is becoming more robust. With more platforms and 3rd party utilities entering the marketplace (Teachable, Thrive Apprentice, Udemy, etc.), the entry barriers for the blogging “solopreneur” are lower than ever to make their own course — and more importantly, make some serious cash!
What does all of this mean in layman’s terms?
- People are searching for alternative means of developing skills.
- Potential users are presented with access to thousands of topics and courses that will help them develop those skills.
- Insurmountable opportunity lies waiting for creators willing to put in the necessary work to build, market, and sell their online courses.
So enough dilly-dally, you came here to read about how you can create, market, and sell your own online course. This article is going to teach you just that.
Starting out, we’re going to go over three fundamental themes worth considering for your online course.
1. You’re selling an outcome
Everything about your course: the features, technology, editing, and bells and whistles are great.
The end destination you’re selling your user.
- Are they going to learn a new language?
- Are they going to be able to code their own app?
- Are they going to train to run a marathon in under 4 hours? (to my runners out there — is that a good time?)
For both you as the creator as well as the end-user, the most important fundamental element to consider with your online course is the achievable outcome. This is important to you, so you know what to build, and it’s essential to the user so they know what they are spending their hard-earned money on.
2. The content alone isn’t enough
A tough pill to swallow with your online course is understanding and recognizing that many users won’t finish the course. This is due to the self-guided nature of online courses and the lack of willpower an average user will have in completing the course.
A way to combat this is the hand-holding you can provide for the user.
- Do you have automated emails scheduled daily/weekly after a user purchases the course?
- Do you have a Facebook group the users get access to that will help them fully discover more about the challenges and successes other users are experiencing?
If you can discover auxiliary benefits you can offer in conjunction with your course, you will have more users seeing the course through to completion. You will build a bigger base of True Fans that will act as brand ambassadors and purchase future courses you release.
3. Social proof, social proof, social proof!
As much as we’d like to consider ourselves free thinkers, human beings act more like herded sheep when it comes to our purchases. We are more emotional than rational in our purchases. We like to see that other people, who are similar to us, have made the purchase and have experienced favorable results.
This is where social proof can work to your advantage.
Do you have an email list already? If so, do you have a slate of True Fans that can act as Beta testers? Of course, they’re Beta testers of the program in exchange for feedback and a testimonial.
You need to build proof that the product works and that real people have gained favorable results.
Or else you’ll just have a nice online course collecting digital dust on your site’s storefront shelves (you can thank me for the nice alliteration later).
How to create & sell your online course
In illustrating how to sell your online course, we’re going to break this article down into the chronological order one can take. This order will cover several elements required in the creation and sale of your course.
Those elements include:
The rest of the article will outline a series of steps you can follow to create and sell your online course.
Step 1. Identify your end goal
As stated earlier, it is your primary job to define the outcome that will be achieved by the user of your course.
- Are they going to gain a 6-pack?
- Are they going to learn how to code and produce their first mobile app?
- Are they going to learn how to create a professional-level edited Youtube video?
- Are they going to learn how to make a solar-powered, self-sustaining tiny home on a budget of $75k or less (if you can do this by the way — send me the course now!)
When completing this step, this doesn’t have to be the most in-depth of undertakings. Perhaps you have a notebook or a handful of post-it notes and jot down some ideas. Don’t beat your brain up too hard. Identify various problems plaguing your niche and, with your expertise, a program or solution that can help the audience find a remedy.
One great method for finding the outcome is by polling your audience (if you are reading this article and wish to build and sell your first online course, you should already have and be nurturing an email list).
When you have identified the end goal for your user, it’s time to start outlining the course content.
Step 2. Outline the course content
So you have the end goal for the user. Now, you’re responsible for reverse-engineering the way you got there. Let’s put one of the above examples under the microscope: How to create professional-level edited Youtube videos.
With that, we’re going to need to know:
- How to select an adequate camera (can be a smartphone, 4k, etc.)
- How to select a proper microphone
- How to set up an XLR microphone
- How to properly frame the shot
- How to optimize the lighting
- What editing software to use
- How to stitch and clip takes
- How to use said editing software
- How to add opening video graphics
- How to add B-roll
- How to add free-for-commercial-use background music
- How to color-correct
- How to render the video
- How to upload to Youtube
You get the idea. All of these elements add up to the end goal of creating a professional-level edited Youtube video.
When you label out all of the steps necessary to get there, what you’re doing is creating your outline. The outline (which I recommend you create in a GoogleDoc) allows you to map out what lessons, chapters, and modules you’re going to add to the course. You have the responsibility of defining the chronological order of the chapters.
Take note of each example step above: all of these can be expanded in detail. The detail will be the lesson. The “How to…” the chapter, and then one can group the chapters into modules.
When you have this all organized and succinct, we’re ready for our next step.
Step 3: Implementation of the coursework
Implementation of the coursework essentially means how you are going to host or provide your course.
There are many ways to do this. Some of the most popular are:
- Thrive Apprentice
Now all of these platforms offer their advantages. Udemy is one of the most popular. It allows you to host your course on a site with thousands of other websites. That’s its drawback, however. You will be competing in a crowded marketplace with other course creators. This generally results in a price war with your competitors — driving the price down so your low cost will capture the sale.
But you put in scores of hours to create this piece, you don’t want to pawn it off for pebbles — right?
Teachable and Thinkific are similar in that you host your course through their site, but it acts as an extension of your site. You create a domain with them and when you provide a link (perhaps in the header menu of your site) you are redirected to a hosted Teachable/Thinkific site where you can then lead the user to a sales page, purchase and a login for them to work on the course.
Of course, the drawback here is that you still lose your site visitor — i.e., they need to leave your site to access the course.
The third method is a plugin like Thrive Apprentice. As a plugin, you are hosting the course entirely on your WordPress site. You allow the user to access the site via the plugin. Whenever they need to continue using the course, they are remaining on your site.
If there’s one thing all digital marketers and course creators can agree upon — keep your site visitors on your site.
However — whichever hosting platform you choose for your site, you’re well on your way to benefiting from the hard-earned ROI you set out for in creating the course.
Once your course is uploaded to a platform, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 4. Marketing your course
“If you build it, they will come” — Field of Dreams
Read that quote above very carefully.
Now completely disregard it. That mantra is your worst enemy when it comes to marketing and selling your online course.
Because no one cares!
Well, let me rephrase that: No one cares — until you convince them to care.
Yeah, that’s better. What do I mean by this? Just because you created an online course doesn’t mean that people will magically buy it. Why do you think whenever you turn on the TV or watch YouTube videos or do something that involves media (hold for Medium — Thank you Medium Membership!), you see advertisements for even the biggest companies on the planet?
Because when conducting business, you have to market to people.
Marketing to people involves reminding customers of your products and services and educating them on the benefits and outcomes your product can provide.
Of course, there are some fallacies involved with this: Coca-Cola and them selling, “Happiness in a bottle.” Shame.
But I digress.
In marketing your online course, you should constantly be sending out promotional material to your email list. A potential email sales sequence can be:
Introduce problem->What world could be like->Thing holding you back->People just like you (testimonials)->Offer
It doesn’t have to be overly intricate.
You can even introduce a pitch of the product using an email sales sequence like the one above after a new subscriber subscribes:
Opt-in->Welcome sequence (over 5 days)->Last email starts sales sequence
Overall, the most critical aspect of all of this is you can’t just create and then sell your online course without doing any marketing. You don’t just create it, and hope your customers will start flocking in droves — because that won’t happen.
Step 5. Onboard your user
No one likes to purchase something and then be hung out to dry.
When dealing with the sale of an online course, it isn’t enough to just sell the course and hope the user will be able to fend for themselves and figure everything out.
What you can do to onboard:
- Send a follow-up email with the purchase confirmation with a full user how-to PDF that outlines how to operate the course.
- Have a welcome video in the course before any on the educational content starts.
- Offer access to a Facebook group with current students — this will allow for troubleshooting and questions to be answered in real-time.
- Send an automated follow-up email after 5, 7, or 10 days to check on the user’s status. How are they progressing through the course?
Step 6. Create brand ambassadors
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos
It was mentioned earlier that your course’s success is partially contingent on testimonials (social proof). With every new user and purchase, you are doing your business and course a disservice if you’re not following up and asking for a review or testimonial.
You want people to go out and talking positively about your course.
In the new digital economy, more and more people are finding success online. Furthermore, more and more people are looking to reviews and testimonials to influence their purchasing decisions. A study conducted in 2018 noted that 7 out of 10 shoppers used rating filters to help influence their purchase.
Just because you are a blogger doesn’t mean you are insulated or immune from this fact. All of the course hosting platforms mentioned in this article provide some form of review/testimonial feature with their services.
Reviews and testimonials will make or break the future of your course.
Creating your first online course isn’t rocket science.
But it is blogging science (yes, I’m coining that).
You can’t just tape together a bunch of ideas, get a camera and start filming a course hoping it will do well. That will only leave you with a bunch of footage, scrappy content, and false hopes.
What you need is a proper strategy.
To create and sell your online course, you can adopt the following strategy that comprises of 6 crucial elements:
- Mapping of your user’s end goal
- Creation of your course outline
- Implementation of the course
- Marketing of the course
- Onboarding of the user
- Creation of brand ambassadors
Of course, all of this isn’t enough. When creating your course, you should always keep in mind the three fundamental principles of course creation:
Principle 1. It’s about the outcome.
Principle 2. The content alone isn’t enough.
Principle 3. You will live and die on social proof.
When you have all of these things together and choose the right platform to create, host and sell your course, you are well on your way to becoming an online entrepreneur and content creator.
So go forth!