How to Create an Online Course

Online courses continue to grow in popularity as students enjoy being able to learn a variety of different skills, many of which are not available via traditional educational establishments combined with the flexibility of being able to learn at their own pace and choose when they study.

But it is also a great way for you to monetize your skills in a way that for many wasn’t possible previously and you can choose to do this as a bit of a side hustle or create a fully-fledged digital product business.

So there are plenty of opportunities but how do you actually go about creating an online course?

Well, that is what we are going to cover in our step-by-step guide, which is going to be focused on creating a video course.

Step 1: Choose a Subject For Your Course

The very first step is to choose the subject for your course and for this you can choose to:

  1. Cover a subject in full
  2. Create a course focusing on one aspect

If you are reading this, then you are probably creating your first online course and if this is the case, then creating a short course focusing on one aspect of your area of specialty can often be the best route to go down as:

  • It is easier to create
  • Allows you to learn the different aspects of making an online course
  • Doesn’t seem as overwhelming

When it comes to choosing the subject, you want to choose something you know a lot about, have practical experience of and feel that you can provide real value to anyone looking to learn that skill.

You can also do some research to see what kind of skills people are looking to learn and using things like Reddit, Quora, Forums and Facebook groups can all give you an insight into this and you will also learn about what resources are already out there.

Step 2: Choose The Level For Your Course

The second step is to choose the level for your course and this range from beginner to advanced and there are pros and cons to the different levels but it can be useful to think about an inverted triangle for this.

Beginner (Green)

Beginner’s courses are usually quite basic and they cover all the things someone brand new to the subject would need to know.

  • Pros – larger number of potential students, easier to create the course
  • Cons – usually more competitive, generally priced lower because of the competition

Intermediate (Blue)

These courses are for people who know the basics but are looking to level up their skills.

  • Pros – likely to pay more for the course, student retention is usually better, less competition
  • Cons – course needs to cover the subject in more depth, a smaller number of potential students

Advanced (Yellow)

These are very specialist courses for people who have a good knowledge of the subject but are looking to learn more about a particular area.

  • Pros – less competition, can charge more for the course
  • Cons – content has to be very high-quality, very small number of potential students

For most course creators, the beginner end of the market is often the best to go for due it being much easier to create the course and there being a much larger pool of potential students but this will depend on your knowledge and expertise as to which level you want to target your course.

Step 3: Decide Where You Will Sell Your Course

Before you start working on your course, you want to do some research into where you are going to sell it as there are a couple of options available:

Course Marketplaces

One of the popular options is to use online marketplaces specifically designed for online courses such as:

  • Udemy
  • Skillshare

These platforms offer a quick and easy way to upload and start selling your course and as they are marketplaces, they will also help you promote and distribute it, which helps you get students and start making money and while all of this sounds great but there are a couple of drawbacks:

  1. They take a cut of the revenue, this can be as much as 70% depending on the platform and how the student was acquired
  2. You have less control than other methods because you have to abide by the platform’s policies, which sometimes aren’t always favorable for course creators

Your Own Site

The second option is to create your own site for your course and there are many options for this, including course-specific platforms, such as:

  • Thinkific
  • Teachable

Having your course on your own site, with your own domain does provide some advantages, including:

  • Control, you have more control over your course and there are less restrictions and policies for you and the course creator
  • Revenue, many of the course-specific platforms charge either a small or no transaction fee, which means you pocket more of the revenue

But as with the marketplaces, there are also some drawbacks to having your own site for your course, with the main one being marketing as it is solely on you to market your course and start getting students.

Which one you opt for is completely up to you but it is worth spending some time doing research into both options to help you decide which one is going to be the best option for you but once you have made the decision, you want to begin the process of setting it up.

This may be creating an account with the marketplace or starting to set up your own store, either way having this set up before you create your course can mean that you get it to market quicker.

Step 4: Pricing & Distribution

Next up is to think about how much you are going to charge for your course and the distribution method you are going to use.

Pricing

One thing many course creators have trouble with is pricing their course and it is very easy to undervalue your skills and also the value that you are going to be providing and you want to find the goldilocks point, which means that it is priced just right, so that:

  • It isn’t too cheap so people will think it is probably rubbish and/or useless
  • It isn’t too expensive that people won’t sign up to it

A good way to do research into this is to look at what is already available on the market that is similar to the subject around which you will be creating your course, so look on marketplaces like Udemy but also look for people selling courses directly through their own site, this will give you an idea as to what kind of price range you can realistically charge.

If you are involved with communities around your niche, you could also put up a poll asking what price range they would be prepared to pay for a course relating to the subject.

Distribution

The second thing to consider is how are you going to distribute your course and there are two main options for this:

1. One-off Purchase

The most common distribution method for online courses is where students make a one-off payment in order to be able to access your course.

This payment is made upfront and once the payment has cleared, the student will have access to all of the course content.

If you are just creating one course, then this is the best option to go for.

2. Subscription

The second option and less common is to create a subscription-based course, this is where students make a monthly or annual payment in order to access the course content.

This is a great option if you plan to create multiple courses around the same subject and also continually update existing courses so that they contain relevant information.

If you opt for the subscription model, you will need to create your own site in most cases as many marketplaces don’t offer this functionality.

Step 5: Plan Out The Course Content

Now it is time to start planning out your course content or curriculum if you want to use a proper educational term.

Lesson Planning

The very first step is to set out the goals for your course, which should be ‘what will the student have learned by the end of it?”.

The second step is to plan out exactly what you are going to cover in your course in order for the student to achieve these goals.

Once you know what you are going to cover, you can then begin laying out your lesson plan by:

  • Figuring out how many lessons you are going to create
  • What will be covered in each lesson

Ideally, you want 1 lesson to cover 1 specific area and for video lessons, you want them to be between 5 and 15 minutes in length as this is usually enough time to cover the subject and not too long so that your students stop paying attention.

Next, it is time to start planning out each individual lesson by looking at:

  1. What the goal of that lesson will be
  2. The content required in order to meet that goal

This will give you an outline of what you need to cover in each lesson and then you can move on to planning how you are going to create the lesson, including:

  • Scripting what you are going to say in each lesson
  • The tools, equipment or demonstrations you will need
  • How the video will flow

By planning out all of the lessons, you will not only have a written game plan but you will have already started visualizing how these lessons are going to look, feel and flow, which makes the process of actually creating them much easier.

Additional Resources

A secondary thing you want to plan is any additional resources that you may include with your course and this will vary depending on the subject of the course but could include:

  • Information and resource sheets
  • Guides, templates etc
  • Workbooks

These can be really useful additions to your course and provide more value to your students.

Step 6: Create Your Course

The next step is to actually create your course and if you have done the planning for all of your lessons etc then this process becomes a lot easier.

But before you actually start, you want to make sure that you have the right equipment to actually record your videos and this will include:

  • A decent camera for video quality (minimum 1080p)
  • A tripod or similar for stable videos
  • A good mic for clear audio
  • Lighting so that your videos look good
  • Editing software to turn it into a finished video

It is worth a little bit of time creating some test videos, so you can dial in your process so that your videos look good and the audio is clear.

Once you have got your filming setup right, you can then start creating your videos and following the plans you created earlier as you will know what you need for each video (so you can get it ready before you hit record) and in what sequence you need to record things.

You can also spend time when you are not recording your lessons to work on your additional resources, for documents, it is best to save these in PDF format so that your students can download and print them off if they want to.

Step 7: Upload Your Course

By this point, you have to place where you are going to sell your course all set up and you have filmed and edited your videos, created your additional resources meaning that your course is nearly ready to go and it is now simply a case of:

  • Creating a name for your course
  • Uploading all of your videos (these might take a while to upload and process) and additional resources to your chosen sales channel
  • Creating a piece of cover artwork for your course, this can be done using tools like Canva
  • Setting the price

Before you set the course to live, it is worth previewing the course (most platforms allow you to do this) and this allows you to do quality control such as making sure the lessons are set up correctly, the video/audio is right and any downloads actually download.

Once you are happy with everything, it is time to publish your course and move on to the final step…

Step 8: Marketing Your Course

Arguably the most important step is marketing your course as you can have the best course in the world but if no one knows about it, then you aren’t going to have students and that means no sales.

If you are using a marketplace such as Udemy or Skillshare, then they will do some of the marketing for you but you still want to do some of your own as this can help you get more students but if you are selling your course via your own website then you have to start marketing it.

Marketing an online course requires a slightly different strategy than the ones you would use when marketing an ecommerce business as you need to put your course in front of people who are actually interested in learning that skill.

So what are some marketing methods you could consider:

  1. Start a YouTube Channel – one of the best ways to reach your potential audience is to start a YouTube channel around your chosen subject and post helpful videos (not as in-depth as the ones in your course) and leave a link to the course in the description
  2. SEO – if you have your course on your own site, then you want to consider optimizing your site for search so that it appears near the top of organic search results for people looking for courses on that subject
  3. Linkedin – if your course is aimed at a professional skill, then Linkedin could be a great opportunity to market it directly to your target audience, just don’t spam links to your course everywhere, instead post valuable content and build an audience/authority in your niche
  4. Communities – this can work for professional or hobby-based skills and can be done via Facebook groups, forums etc but once again, don’t just spam it with links to your course. Instead, provide value to the community
  5. Affiliate Marketing – this will depend on if the platform offers this functionality but getting influencers or affiliate markers to promote your course to their audience in return for a commission can be a great way to get students

There are many different ways to market an online course and what works for one might not work for another, so it is worth trying a few different methods and seeing what works and doesn’t.

If you have an existing audience such as YouTube, Linkedin, Twitter or an Email List, then marketing can be a lot easier and your audience is likely to be much more receptive to your course than cold leads.

Conclusion

Creating an online course can be very enjoyable, fulfilling and also profitable when done right and you can easily build a good side hustle or business based on a single online course because if the first is successful, then a second or third covering related subjects could also be.

There are two main keys to success when it comes to creating a successful online course:

  1. Create an awesome online course, provide your students with value and they might be happy to recommend it
  2. Market it correctly, getting students to your first course can be challenging and this is why having a strategy in place to get it in front of potential students is key

And one great thing about online courses is that being a digital product, they are scalable and easy to manage on your own or with a small team.

Hi, I'm Paul, the Owner and Founder of EcommerceGold.
I ran my own Ecommerce Business for over 7 years and now help others start their own online retail empires!

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