Creating and selling online courses has become a wildly popular way to expand your reach and help more people. Online course technology is increasingly accessible and easy to use, allowing service-based small business owners and independent professionals, such as coaches and consultants, to apply their knowledge and expertise in a way that generates more leveraged revenue.
With an online course, you can sell introductory material to people who are not ready to invest with you at a higher level, provide guidance for those who can’t afford to work with you one-on-one, and raise your profile as an expert in your field.
Here are 6 steps to creating and selling your first online course successfully:
1. If You Build It, They Might Come (If You Do This First)
First thing’s first. If you have a great idea, we know you might be anxious to hit the ground running and jump right into building your first online course; but in all of your excitement, be careful not to get ahead of yourself. You’ll have more success if you take the time to focus intently on growing your email list of prospective buyers first. Build your platform, raise your profile, establish your expertise, and become known online for the kind of content you plan to cover in your course.
Make the effort to get to know your audience. Find opportunities to be in conversation with them to discover exactly what they need and want from you. It doesn’t matter if similar courses are already available; that only proves that the demand exists in the marketplace. What truly matters is that you identify and attract people who want to learn from you. Those are the people who will buy your course.
2. Start Simple
If you’re new to teaching online material to groups because you generally work one-on-one, start with something relatively simple and short, just to test the waters. You might not even like creating and selling an online course as much as you expect to. A ton of work goes into the front end of marketing and building it, you may not hit the ROI right away, and the project can distract you from your bread and butter business. So do yourself a favor and ease into the process.
Your heart might be set on making a big splash with your course, but you’re better off making a little ripple in a small pond first. Starting simple allows you to beta-test your content, get feedback, tweak, and revise, before splurging on high-production costs. A professional look and feel is important, but make smart choices when you’re starting out.
3. Plan and create your content
Early in the process, create a detailed outline of what you are going to cover in the course. What specific, tangible, key outcome can your participants expect from taking your course? List the topics you’re going to cover and organize them into modules. Make sure the breadth and depth of information covered in the course will seem manageable to the people taking it. Will students feel comfortable learning, absorbing, and synthesizing the information within the timeframe of the course? Will they be able to put what they learn into action?
One of the biggest challenges course creators face is keeping the content manageable. You know a lot about your subject, you want to be as helpful as possible, and you want people to feel like they got great value; but including too much can feel like a firehose of information. If you don’t keep your course simple and digestible for busy adult learners, they are likely to feel overwhelmed, lost, and shut down. So keep your modules clear, well-structured, and engaging.
3. Choose the right technology
Over the past few years, online course technology has exploded. You’ll find a wide range of options available. First, get clear on exactly what you want the technology to do — how you want the content to be structured and delivered and how you want to engage with participants in the course.
Will there be live components, or is everything pre-recorded? Will they participate in a Facebook group or a built-in forum? Will you use audio, video, PDF downloads, or all of the above? Will you autoship printed materials to their home? Will you drip the digital content delivery throughout the course, or will everyone get access to all content from the start? Are there different levels of course access, such as bonus materials for people who bought early or paid more? How will they pay? Ask yourself the questions, and then identify the right mix of technology.
4.Map out your launch
Marketing during an online course launch often takes as much or more work and effort as creating and delivering the course content itself. But if you have taken the time to build an audience, strong reputation, and relationships first, your marketing will get better results. Launching your course successfully requires creating buzz and rallying the troops of people who already know, like, and trust you.
Decide when you want your course to start, then and work backwards from there to determine when to begin your marketing launch sequence. This will involve strategically mapping out blog and social media content, series of emails, lots of copywriting, and possibly videos, webinars, and more. If this is your first time at bat, keep it simple but don’t shy away from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to persistently and confidently promote your course. Start early, get a team in your corner for support, get all the dates plugged into your calendar, and go for it.
5. Deliver on your promise
Now that you’ve launched your course and people signed up, it’s time to deliver on your promise. Expect that you might have some butterflies, hiccups, and tech glitches, but stay focused on supporting your students throughout the learning process.
No matter how clearly you lay out your course content or how thorough your welcome instructions are, participants will swear they can’t find something, they don’t understand something, or they didn’t get something. Roll with it and lean on your team for help. You’ve got it covered! Pay attention to the feedback you get as you go, be on the lookout for opportunities to give and offer more, and don’t forget to gather testimonials from happy campers.
At Solamar, we love helping our clients create online courses from soup to nuts. From conception to implementation, you can count on our team to get it done. Give us a shout!