How To Make an Online Course as a Content Creator

Jen Glantz in front of abstract background
Make an Online Course Jen Glantz/Flickr ideyweb/Shutterstock Login/Shutterstock

When I was laid off from my full-time job in 2016, I decided to work for myself as a content creator. During the first year of that journey, I realized that to be my own boss, I’d need multiple streams of income.

Relying on brand deals or affiliate revenue was unsteady. Some months, it wasn’t enough to pay my bills, so I decided to create an online course.

In 2017, I launched my first online course, teaching people how to start a side hustle. Since then, I’ve released over five different courses. Together, they have brought in thousands of dollars in passive income.

If you’re a creator interested in selling an online course, here’s what you need to know to get started. 

How To Make an Online Course To Sell

1) Choosing Your Course Topic as a Creator

The most important decision you’ll make when designing an online course is what the topic should be about. The more you can tap into your audience and what they want to learn from you, the more successful your course will be once you market it.

2) Do an Audience Deep Dive

Before launching my first course in 2017, I did a deep dive into my audience. I studied social media metrics, from the demographics of my followers to which posts had the most engagement that year. 

Knowing these details helped me wrap my head around who cared about my content and what messages they related to the most. I also scanned my messages and emails from followers to see why reached out for help. 

From those messages and the content with the highest engagement, it was clear that my audience wanted to start a side hustle but didn’t know how. I used that information to help me decide on the topic of my first online course. 

make an online course - research

3) Poll Your Audience 

If you’re unsure what your online course should be about, study your audience metrics, pull which social media posts have the highest engagement and study similarities in their topics. Consider polling your audience to see what topic they’d want to learn about. 

Use the poll feature on social media or email if you have an active email list. For example, you can poll your audience on Instagram stories about topics, price points, and course structure. For example, do they want a video course only or one that also includes text? Target your audience. 

4) Offer a Free Course First 

Before spending money and time creating an online course, you can also offer free mini-courses on a topic that you are considering. For example, before launching my side hustle course, I released a free, 5-minute video course on assessing your skills to see how they can make you an entrepreneur. 

I had 50 people sign up for this free course. At the end of the free online course, I gave them a survey asking what course they’d like to see next and how much they’d pay for a longer course. Their responses helped me validate my online course idea. 

5) Structuring Your Course 

Once you’ve landed on a topic, it’s time to map out exactly what will go inside of your online course. To help your course stand out, it’s helpful to brainstorm ways that you can tap into your own expertise, strengths, and background to make your course different from other ones out there.

6) Do a Competitor Analysis 

When I launched my first course, I decided to find three ways to make my course more valuable than competitors. I signed up for a handful of courses taught by similar creators with the same topic as my future course.  

After studying their courses, I realized they all used the same format. They all only taught lessons in a video format. I decided to create a course that used video, text, audio, graphics, quizzes, and worksheets to get lessons across to the audience. 

make an online course - teaching your class
Ground Picture/Shutterstock

7) Outline the Details of the Course 

Online courses can vary in length and format. Some can be completed in a few hours, and others might take a user a few weeks. There’s no one format that works better than the other; it depends on the experience you want for your audience.

For example, I decided that I wanted to teach my audience how to start their own course but also hold them accountable. I designed my course to take place over four-weeks. 

In between each week, they were asked to submit assignments. One week it was picking a business name, other week they’d send in a business plan. Then I’d provide them feedback before they started the next week. Doing this added value to the course and allowed my audience to get one-on-one coaching.

It’s also important to plan out each section of the course, write out the content for each section, and decide if you want to include extra items, like PDF’s, quizzes, or assignments. 

8) Setting up Your Course as a Creator

Once your online course is outlined on paper, it’s time to bring it to life. Before designing the course and marketing it to your audience, you’ll want to decide where the online course will live. 

9) Pick an Online Course Platform

I used an online course provider to host and design my course. There are a lot of options out there, so select one that fits in with your budget (since most course platforms charge either a flat fee or a monthly rate to use their service). I picked a course provider with a low price point and offered a lot of features (like the ability to host multiple courses and allow users to chat with each other). 

If you don’t have the budget for a course platform, you can host the online course on your own website and have it live behind a paywall. Consult with a website designer or your website hosting provider for details on how to set that up. 

make an online course - someone taking an online course
panuwat phimpha/Shutterstock

Marketing Your Online Course  

Now that your online course is designed and ready to go, it’s time to share it with your audience. But telling your followers that you launched a course can feel overwhelming. If you’re not quite sure where to start, break down your strategy into two separate parts.

1) Share With Your Audience 

Tap into your existing audience and share the news of your new online course with them. Cross-post the news about your online course on all the platforms you use, from social media to your blog. Brainstorm a 6-week content plan that incorporates details about the online course.

For example, I planned out two social media posts a week for six weeks that promoted the course. Once a week, I’d share value from the course. For example, I shared a snippet of one of the video lessons in an Instagram story and linked to the course below. 

I’d also share testimonials from people who’ve taken the course and what they had to say about it. That way, my audience could get a solid preview of what to expect if they bought my online course.

2) Find Affiliate Partners 

To spread the news about your course widely, partner with other content creators who might be open to sharing your online course with their audience. You can make them affiliate partners of your course. 

Often, this can be done through your course hosting provider. Then, your provider can earn a set amount every time they sell your course. For example, I had five different content creators become affiliate partners of my courses. 

Every time they shared a link to the course and their audience bought it, they earned $30. This helped get my online course in front of more people and offered the creators an incentive to share it on their channels. 

Go Make Your Online Course

As a content creator, having passive income as part of your business strategy is nice. That’s been the biggest benefit of having a suite of online courses. I schedule a few posts marketing the course to my social media followers and newsletter subscribers every month. 

I also share updated graphics and marketing posts with my affiliate so they can share the online course with their audience as well. I only dedicate two to three hours a month on marketing these courses and am able to generate extra income this way as a creator.

If you’re thinking about starting an online course as a creator, give it a try. Pick a topic, test the idea with your audience, and get started on the design. Before you know it, you’ll have an online course to share with your audience and a new source of income. 

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