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How To Create Your First Online Course: A Step-By-Step Guide

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

Whether you’re launching a side hustle or just want to help pay the bills, creating an online course is a great way to earn money from home. However, it can be a daunting process. 

Online courses are all the rage these days. With platforms like Udemy and Skillshare offering creators a straightforward way to earn passive income through enrollments, it’s easier than ever to create a course and sell it online. But how do you go about creating an online course that people will actually find and trust?

At first, creating an online course sounds like a daunting task. After all, it's a lot of work. You have to find the platform, create the content, and make it all fit into one neat little package — not to mention finding customers. But don't fret — this isn't nearly as difficult as you think.

Course creation is a complex process, but we’re going to break it down for you into easy-to-follow steps.

Why you should create an online course:

  1. It can enhance your online brand/presence: Educating your audience can help you establish yourself as a thought leader and a source of new information.
  1. It can increase your traffic/visibility: When you make something valuable available to others, they are more likely to reciprocate by sharing it with their own networks.
  1. It can help generate revenue from passive income: Creating an online course allows you to potentially generate money from this service even while you are not at your desk.
  1. It positions you as an expert: When you provide information on a topic, you gain credibility in the eyes of your target audience and establish yourself as an expert with valuable knowledge to share.
  1. It creates new opportunities: While there is no assurance that developing an online course will result in new business or speaking engagements, improved visibility and credibility frequently opens doors to new opportunities.

It's possible to make money doing what you love by creating online courses that teach others about your subject matter of choice. You just need to make sure that your students will learn something valuable that they can't get elsewhere.

You'll only have customers that believe in what you have to give and believe it will make a difference in their lives, whether it's professionally or personally. They should see your course as an opportunity for personal growth and development that they are invited to participate in.

Is it profitable?

If you're thinking about starting an online course, you might be wondering if it's worth your time and effort. The truth is, creating an online course can be very profitable, if you do it right.

According to Teachable's 2020 Online Course Market Report, their creators made $325 million in 2019 alone, which shows there is a massive opportunity with digital content.

In the US alone, about 25.8 million people are taking at least one course. The same study shows that 72% of American companies are using eLearning courses for employee training and education purposes. The global eLearning industry will be worth $325 billion by 2025, with a 5.5 percent annual growth rate from 2017 to 2025.

It takes time and dedication to produce high-quality content that people are willing to pay for. The good news is that once you've created your course, you can sell it on autopilot.

What you need to create an online course

Recording your lectures means you'll need a few tools to get your online course up and running. When you're just getting started, use what you already own to save money: An internet connection, a computer, and a mobile phone.

For the computer, you can use almost anything from the last five years. You don't need a powerful machine; you don't need to play video games on it. If you already have a Mac or Windows computer, use it. 

For recording and publishing your online course, any type of internet connection will suffice. We do recommend a high-speed connection (at least 2 MBps download and 1 MBps upload) to produce a quality course quickly.

Make your content and content quality even better by adding a couple more tools:

Cameras and Parts. A portable lighting set. Many plug-and-play options are available on Amazon. This can vastly improve the quality of your videos in general. To save money, you could opt to use natural light instead of attempting to make your own.

A microphone on a lapel. These microphones are simple to use, and many of them may be clipped to your clothes. The sound quality will be improved significantly without the need for any further equipment upgrades.

Backdrop. You can shoot in front of any solid color backdrop or buy a collapsible/portable backdrop stand. You could even use a room or home office, just make sure that your backdrop isn’t distracting to learners.

A teleprompter. Teleprompters allow you to read your script while looking into the camera. When watching videos, do you prefer that the person speaking is looking directly at you, and not at the sides of their camera, when they speak? Your viewers do too.  For your students, this can make a huge difference.

How to Create Your Online Course

Step 1: Choose a Course Topic.

Now, that you've come this far, you shouldn't have any trouble coming up with a topic for your course. But, if you're not sure what to teach, examine what your friends, coworkers, and clients consider you an expert in.

Perhaps you’re an expert at Excel and can help others create spreadsheets from scratch. Or perhaps you know how to build beautiful decks in PowerPoint, or are great at making videos using iMovie. Whatever your skill, it’s time to list them out and decide what course topic you think would be best received.

Step 2: Think About Your Teaching Style.

Once you’ve decided on which subject matter you’ll be teaching, now it’s time to choose a teaching style.

How do you prefer to learn? Do you like watching explanatory videos, or do you prefer reading articles and ebooks? Maybe you learn best by listening to a podcast or by doing things yourself (like tutorials).

Keeping in mind that there is no right or wrong answer here, but rather just the right choice for your own personal preferences, choose one of the following and start building out the content for your course!

Step 3: Research Your Course.

You do not necessarily need to go through a formal university education: there are many free online programs that teach you how to write about a certain topic.

The Internet is a great place to gather information. You can find a wide variety of material, from Google Scholar to websites that have been around for years and have been updated with the latest information.

In most cases, you will be able to find detailed and accurate information about your subject across the Web, and if you know where to look, you will sometimes be surprised at what amount of information is available for free.

Step 4: Create an Outline of Your Online Course.

Before you start creating the actual content, it is absolutely necessary to have a roadmap that will guide you through the process as well as help you better organize your thoughts and ideas. This is where having an outline comes into play. Your outline should include 3-5 main sections that cover all the key concepts of your topic.

Because each course is different, this step will look different for every instructor. If you need to add or remove steps in the beginning, middle, or end of creating your course, go ahead and do so.

Here's a quick and easy step-by-step process you can follow:

Part 1: Brainstorm (10 minutes)

Part 2: Create the Course Outline (30 minutes)

Part 3: Identify Course Sections (10 minutes)

Part 4: Create Your Table of Contents (10 minutes)

Part 5: Finalize Your Course Outline (10 minutes)

Step 6: Determine your course format

It's up to you to decide on the medium of your course. Of course, this would depend on what type of course it is.

In order to keep students engaged, most teachers use a variety of methods. You may, for example, include interactive elements such as short quizzes with your video to keep students alert.

Listed here are a few of the most common course formats and their advantages:

  • Video is an excellent medium for conveying complex concepts in a concise and efficient manner.
  • Text material is useful for explaining subjects in greater depth, providing step-by-step instructions, and providing links to other online resources.
  • Screencasts and walkthroughs are appropriate for processes in which students must witness the exact stages.
  • Workbooks are a great resource for helping students learn new ideas.
  • Downloadable content is ideal for learning aids such as cheat sheets, glossaries, and templates.

Look into your competitors' formats and ask prospective students which course media they prefer.

If you go for video, here are a few quick tips:

  • After finalizing your outline, write down your script and get to practicing. Invest some time in brainstorming methods to make your class interesting and engaging. Remember that people pay for things because they desire a one-of-a-kind learning experience, it's also faster for people to get distracted in online classes.
  • When you’re ready to record your first video, remember to make eye contact with the camera and stick to your script.
  • Always pay attention to your body language and make sure to enunciate your words. Think about the audience you’re talking to and how to best convey your message to them.

Step 5: Decide how much to charge for your online course

This is one of the most common questions when trying to figure out how to sell courses online. Pricing can be a bit of a guessing game. It will take some trial and error to figure out the perfect price.

The big question you need to ask yourself is this: How do you want your students to feel about the course they just purchased? 

This might sound like a funny question but it's important. You see, if you charge too low, students are going to wonder if your course is any good. If you charge too high, people will complain that your course isn't worth it and look for another solution elsewhere. 

The old saying is true: "You get what you pay for." 

Your price needs to reflect the quality and value of your course. One way I like to think about pricing is that the amount you charge should be directly related to how much value students get in return.

Take into account your specific niche. Is this a topic that few people offer and are knowledgeable about? You'll also want to consider the budget you've spent on advertising. This expense should be included in your pricing. Finally, think about your level of expertise in this area. Of course, if you know you're the only one who can deliver this course, you should charge a premium for your time.

Step 6: Choose Your Online Course Platform.

You'll need a place to host your online course. Ideally, your course should be hosted on a platform that is simple to use, flexible enough to incorporate your company's branding, and is visually appealing.

There are many platforms to choose from but we recommend Shopify and BigCommerce. 

Shopify is an eCommerce platform that lets entrepreneurs, online retailers, merchants, and course creators create an online store and sell things online in a snap.

Basically, Shopify gives you everything you need in terms of features, functionality, convenience of use, pricing, and customer service.

BigCommerce is another excellent platform for selling both physical and digital goods. Like Shopify, it is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that allows you to build an online store fast, with many powerful features that can benefit you and your learners.

Both platforms enable you, the course creator, to offer both digital and physical products. This means that along with your digital courses, you could offer merchandise, books, notebooks, and materials conducive to learning.

BigCommerce is aimed mostly at larger online retailers and businesses. It’s also superior for content and managing SKUs than Shopify. But Shopify is excellent for smaller shops or dropshipping. You might also notice that BigCommerce stores take longer to load in browsers, but they work just as well on mobile devices. Meanwhile, Shopify loads really fast but it isn't very user-friendly on mobile.

Because both platforms are priced comparably, you should consider the features and value of each plan before deciding and see which one best fits you in the long run. The good thing is both have a free trial so you can get a feel of which one you prefer.

Once you’ve decided, just head to their homepage and create your landing page in less than 15 minutes!

Step 7: Launch and Market Your Course

Once you’ve created the course, you’ll want to market it and get it in front of buyers. Here are a few marketing tactics worth exploring to sell your course and earn money:

Email marketing: Promote your course to existing customers or in your email newsletter.

Social media: Start tweeting, pinning, and posting about your new course to get people interested.

Blog posts: Write blog posts about the benefits of your topic. This can also help with search engine optimization (SEO).

Press releases: Announce the launch of your course on free press release sites like PRWeb or PRLog.

Webinars: Share a teaser video of what people will learn in your course. Host an online webinar where you give away some great content that showcases your expertise and what people can expect when they buy the full version of your online course.

Discounts and coupons: Consider offering discounts to members of associations or groups that are relevant to your target audience. 

Step 8: Collect feedback and get students to recommend your courses 

Students who are satisfied with your course are more inclined to recommend it to others. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most successful technique to sell online courses and costs you nearly nothing.

When you first start selling your course, you'll have to rely on your first students to leave you reviews and attract future students.

There are two ways to collect feedback:

  1. Ask for testimonials at the end of the course or after a particular module.
  1. Include feedback questions in your course survey.

Asking for testimonials at the end of your course is a good way of ensuring you get feedback from your customers. The most important thing to remember is that you need to ask for testimonials as soon as possible after they've finished the course - don't leave it too late because people forget and may not be motivated enough to go back and respond. Be sure to thank them when they do!

But how can you make sure that the chances of them leaving positive feedback is high?

Students who are satisfied with your course are more inclined to recommend it to others. Word-of-mouth marketing is the most successful technique to sell online courses and costs you nearly nothing.

These suggestions can help you assure your students' success and happiness:

Pay special attention to the consumer experience.

When a customer interacts with your service, how do you want them to feel? Is the experience you're giving them one they'll remember? Go through every step of the customer journey yourself and map out any friction or problems that you might encounter. Furthermore, you could check what is missing from the experience and improve from there.

‍Foster a community.

Creating a community around an online course is a common feature of the best-performing programs. This gives students a space where they can communicate and provide assistance for one another. The best way to build a sense of belonging is through social media. Try to build a Facebook page and group where you can upload extra materials, provide challenges, and more. ‍

Get feedback and put it to good use.

Gather feedback on your course through exams or email questionnaires. Make adjustments based on what they say.

Keep your course up to date.

This shows your students that you care about them receiving the most up-to-date knowledge, even after they bought your course. ‍

Create a FAQ and troubleshooting section.

As you update your course and collect feedback you may start to see patterns in the user experience. Use this as an opportunity to develop FAQs and how-to guides for the issues you encounter.

Help your students succeed and keep track of their progress.

When you're just starting out as a teacher, keeping tabs on your students' development is a snap. This also betters their experience and helps them learn more. 

Follow these tips and your students will feel listened to, valued, and confident in the financial decisions they made. A pleased customer base is a cornerstone for selling online courses long-term.

CONCLUSION

If you have what it takes, do seize the opportunity. The potential of online course sales is great and these eCommerce platforms are looking to give small businesses a boost.

This post was in no way meant to be taken as a complete how-to on building an online course. Instead, it’s as a jumping-off point for those who are curious about the topic and who want to learn more about what it takes to set up their own course.

Once you've read this guide and hopefully put the tips to use, it's time to get out there and make it happen. Always remember to set up and plan your website appropriately, to promote widely in order to attract visitors, and to be patient. The trick is developing a platform people want to subscribe to. Your next course launch will be a piece of cake if you can pull that off.

Need eCommerce Solutions?

If you need an eCommerce website built on BigCommerce and Shopify, or any eCommerce solutions developed, please contact us at 713-805-5888, email us at [email protected], or leave us a message here.

With over 400 clients served, Webinopoly is a leading web development agency with an experienced team of designers, developers, and marketers. Webinopoly combines a deep understanding of the eCommerce industry and its latest trends with proven success in building attractive and successful online stores. We specialize in custom BigCommerce and Shopify theme design, website development, marketing, and SEO.

If you’d like to learn more about what we can do or view our portfolio, please click on the links below:

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