Want to sell an online course? The e-learning market is expected to hit $275 BILLION by 2022. In this guide, we'll share how to create and market your first online course in 7 easy steps.
Do you have knowledge about certain subjects, skills, or techniques? Have you ever considered creating your own online course to share that knowledge and make some passive income while you’re at it?
It's no secret that today generations young and old use the internet on a daily basis to learn something new. In fact, online learning represents one of the cornerstones of popular internet content.
According to studies, 98% of companies plan to use e-learning as a recruitment and training methodology by 2020.
This is an astonishing number considering that only a few years ago, digital transformation was a foreign term to most brands!
By the end of this post, you'll know how to jump on the bandwagon. The earlier you get in on this, the better.
But real quick before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to create an online course of your own, let’s start at the very beginning. Why create an online course?
What are the advantages of online courses as opposed to academic studies in a formal classroom setting?
After all, formal education is still the best, right?
Or is it...
You will be happy to hear that online learning goes above and beyond anything that academic teaching could ever provide due to one simple reason – flexibility in learning. There are very few rules when it comes to learning online, so let’s take a look at several big benefits of doing so:
1. Flexible Timing and Environment
An online instructor never pushes an individual to learn at a particular time of day. Not only that, but an instructor rarely gets notified of whether or not an individual is learning at all from the course they enrolled in. This type of freedom is unheard of in academic circles and for good reasons. Academic teaching is very different than online studies but the later provides more flexibility in both timing and choice of environment to study in.
2. Low Cost Compared to Academia
It’s important to note that online courses can’t exchange college degrees in terms of professional value. However, they are an amazing substitute. This applies for individuals who skipped college, those who want to fill in some gaps in education or simply learn new skills without putting years into the process. They are also much cheaper at a fraction of what an academic year usually costs.
3. Numerous Skills to Choose From
As you can see so far, we will compare online learning to academia quite often – and for good reasons. College courses usually fall into two categories; mandatory courses and extracurricular classes. The latter is often considered a necessary evil both by professors and students alike.
Online courses don’t have a strict curriculum nor do they fall into any one category by definition. You can learn pretty much anything you want through online courses and the same can be said about creating your own. From graphic design and writing to self-defense classes and yoga – online courses have a place for all of these skills and more.
4. Life-Long Learning
Quite possibly the most beneficial part of online courses is their longevity. Whether you are the course creator or an enrolled student, the course in question has no expiration date. It will always be online, ready for rereads, additional updates and references.
Additionally, people who use online courses often go back to the format again and again in the future. By extension, you can create numerous online courses in the same niche or branch out to other industries without anyone stopping you. All you need is a solid idea and a footing from which you will develop your online practice – more on that later.
This is made even more apparent by the fact that these courses offer content such as financial independence skills, dating tips and other useful lessons.
5. Huge Passive Revenue Potential for Entrepreneurs
Because of all the big benefits to online learning that we outlined above, the eLearning industry presents a gold mine of potential passive revenue for entrepreneurs.
In fact, researchers project that the global e-learning market will hit $275 billion by 2022!
But how can you create and market a new online course with such an abundance of quality content all around the web?
It’s no secret that online courses have gone rampant over the past couple of years. Internet is no longer a commodity and people are taking full advantage of the technology to learn and develop, both professionally and personally.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few exemplary online platforms which revolve around online learning. Some platforms create their own courses while others rely on third-party teachers to run their website efficiently. Each of them also comes with a distinct set of positives and negatives (both subjective, I might add).
Each of these websites can teach you a lot about how the eLearning market works, what types of content attract students, how you may want to format your course, and numerous other small details to take inspiration from...
Let’s start with the online equivalent (of a sort) of academia – Khan Academy. The platform was designed with free learning in mind and focuses on essential life skills each of us needs on a daily basis. Some of their courses focus on math, physics and chemistry while others go in-depth about personal finances, history of the world and other social skills.
Khan Academy doesn’t have an entry price and this is what makes the platform so popular among students and older latecomers. However, Khan’s model isn’t sustainable for individual online course creators such as yourself – you will have to charge something for your course (or at least you should).
Khan Academy is a very high quality online learning platform despite being free and open to everyone. It is crowdfunded by numerous prolific organizations around the world and aims to eradicate the lack of learning on the global level.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Udemy, a very popular online course provider among students and professionals alike. Udemy operates on a platform-maintenance basis, meaning that they don’t create courses themselves. They operate on a per-sale fee based on the individual sales of each course present on their website.
One important note is that your course might become invisible fairly quickly due to the insane turnaround times of each marketing campaign run by Udemy. Different courses are marketed to the entire population of Udemy on a regular basis, so your course will have plenty of opportunities to become popular and lucrative.
However, it’s very difficult to stand out permanently on sites such as Udemy. Creating your own website is a much smarter idea in the long run (more on that later). But you can still learn a lot from Udemy's advertisement strategies, course categorization and overall design of the platform.
Since we are talking about how to market a new online course, it’s time to take a look at Lynda. Lynda is a very popular online course provider which operates on an internal system of teachers, professional tutors and mentorship.
In short, Lynda is what you should strive for with your online courses going forward. The platform works closely with LinkedIn and allows users to share data across the two websites. Essentially, this makes Lynda a corporate training platform as well as a course provider for individuals willing to go outside the box and learn something new.
Lynda offers a monthly subscription (and a free trial) which makes its entire repository of courses free to use, download and share among peers (with copyright protection and watermarks, of course). The platform also offers programs for businesses with large office staff teams in need of professional tutoring which elevates Lynda from a traditional online course provider.
Although we think it's very useful to look at the eLearning platforms above and learn from them, we do NOT recommend selling your online course through any of these platforms.
The reason for this is simple:
Lack of control.
When you use someone else's platform to sell your course, you lose so much control. You can't build an email list, you can't set the best price for your course, you can't use your own branding, and worst of all you have to pay the platform a big fee from each of your sales.
So instead of that, get your own domain name and host your course on your own website.
There are a number of excellent tools called learning management systems (LMS) that you can use to quickly and easily build your own online course website. These tools allow you to near to complete control and flexibility to market your course however you want.
Here is a list of the absolute best learning management systems that we have tested and recommend:
OK, now that we have the right tools, we can dive into the 7 important steps of creating and marketing our very own online course...
Before you start creating your online course, you should categorize it accordingly. What is your area of expertise and what makes you a viable teacher for potential students? Do you have extensive background in a certain field and want to share it with the world? Or do you have an exciting new skill in hands and want to put it out there for everyone to learn alongside you?
Don’t jump to conclusions when it comes to the creation of your first online course. You can use some of the platforms we listed above to figure out what category your course would fit the best. Pauline Farris, a writer and blogger for The Word Point argued in benefit of online learning:
“I have developed my entire career and life’s work through online learning platforms. In my opinion, this type of learning is necessary for the digital age we live in, especially with occupations such as content management, UX design and programming.”
Putting a label on your course will allow students to find it more quickly and decide easily on whether or not that course is good for them. Make it as easy as possible for people to understand what your course is about, who it is for and what it aims to teach before doing anything else.
Who is your perfect candidate when it comes to learning from your online course? Do you want to target college students and young individuals or does your course cater to an older demographic? Are your students required to know something about the field before jumping into the course or will you get them up to speed?
These are also important questions to answer before creating the course you will market and sell down the line. The reason for this is quite simple – you need to know who you want to sell your course to. If you know that up front, it will be much easier to articulate your words, format your writing and decide on the content types in your course.
To help you with this, we've created a fillable PDF customer avatar template for you. You can download it for free below:
Your course should be: a) original, and b) relevant. These are the most important ingredients to keep in mind before you do anything else. Your argument must be different, fresh and exciting compared to numerous other courses which might have covered your topic previously. It should also be relevant to the target audience you decided to teach with your online course and correspond with their tastes, study preferences and daily habits.
The course should be outlined and broken down into several categories at first. Think of it as writing a college paper and imagine that your course has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Name your subheadings according to the flow of the course and start creating individual lessons for each.
Your individual lessons should be titled in a concise and direct manner without poetic vocabulary or unclear information. Make it easy for passing individuals to gleam some info from your course even if they might seem uninterested (at first). Once you have the first draft of your online course ready, you can start marketing it as such across the internet.
Some would have you believe that running your own marketing campaign is a mistake. However, the jury is out on whether or not you should outsource your marketing or do it yourself. It all comes down to personal skill, preferences and time available for content creation.
If you are marketing a course about online advertisement, writing or graphic design (to name a few), you can create your own content and market it as such. However, if you don’t have the skills or the time to do it personally, you can outsource it through numerous platforms.
You can hire a freelancer through a prolific platform such as Upwork or Freelancer or go to a local marketing agency and explain your project to them in person. It really does come down to budgetary constraints and whether or not you trust someone else to create marketing content for you.
Like everything in life, advertisement should be done in small steps across several weeks or months. This is where a content calendar comes into play since you will have to plan your marketing tactic accordingly. If you hired a professional to create marketing content for you, you don’t want to spend all of your chips on one game (so to speak).
Instead, create a content calendar in which you will be able to use a new piece of marketing content each day, three days, a week or as long as you have content available. It’s a good idea to always offer fresh content to your audience without relying on recycled advertisement.
This will give people a sense of professionalism in regards to your online course and make it more attractive for them to enroll. Stick to your advertisement calendar and post new content across all of your channels in even intervals. “But what channels?” you might ask. Let’s take a look at the ways you can market your online courses.
Each industry and their respective niches have numerous online forums available. You can use these forums to create your personalized account and explain your intents through original posts. Explain to your audience (and the forum admins) that you are an online tutor with an exciting new course for them to try out.
It’s a good idea to offer a freebie while you’re at it and make your first lesson free of charge for potential candidates. This will make it more appealing for people on the forum to take you up on your offer and give the online course a chance.
Social Media Groups
Social media platforms have long overgrown their infancy and offer numerous advertisement opportunities for creative individuals. You can set up shop on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and offer your course through those pages.
The untapped potential of social media platforms will allow you to reach an incredible number of potential students for your newly-created course. Start posting your marketing materials there and you will undoubtedly find a healthy base of curious candidates.
You might have heard of Reddit as the epicenter of all things interned – and for good reasons. Reddit is a widely-popular social platform with an emphasis on world-wide coverage. Nearly anything you can name has a “Sub-Reddit” dedicated to its fans.
You can quickly and easily market your online course through Reddit and find numerous onlookers interested in what you have to say. Reddit is completely free to use and doesn’t require nearly as much effort to learn how to use as other platforms so it’s a no-brainer even for less tech-savvy users.
YouTube is arguably the most popular video streaming service on the web – and it’s free to use for everyone. You can create promotional materials for YouTube and publish them on the platform under your professional brand or personal name (whichever you choose).
The good thing about YouTube is that its algorithm supports ad revenue generation. This means that you will be eligible for some form of additional revenue through YouTube marketing if you choose to go down this route. However, no one is stopping you from mixing and matching different marketing platforms depending on the type of course you sell.
Personal Blog and SEO
If you want to market your online course unhindered by any algorithms or rules you should opt for a personal blog. If you own a personal website, the sky is the limit when it comes to how you will market your courses and when you will do it.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help you rank highly in Google and other search engines and ensure your visibility for potential candidates. This can all be done individually, without anyone’s help apart from using tools such as Google Adwords or SEM Rush for SEO.
Online influencers are social media celebrities with large followings. They often work with brands, manufacturers and online content providers on collaborated campaigns. You can contact one or several influencers depending on your industry of choice and ask them for help.
Influencers rarely work for free and you will be required to compensate their time and effort in marketing your online course. However, these individuals do have an influence (pun intended) on their followers and you are bound to get good conversion rates from them.
Lastly, paid advertisement is something you can fall back on if everything else fails. Paid advertisement can be acquired through social media platforms and search engines such as Google among others. You will have to pay for each individual post and for several days or weeks in advance depending on the complexity of your campaign.
It’s good practice to check the previous advertisement tips out before settling for paid ads because they cost a lot more. However, your online course should never suffer due to budgetary constraints, so use your best judgment.
You might have wondered why we referred to your online course as “the first draft”. The positive thing about online courses is that you can update, expand and fix them as you go along. Listen to the feedback given by your students and industry professionals who might stumble onto your course.
Offer new insights into your lessons later on to bring back satisfied students. Fix any mistakes that might have crept their way into your published course and don’t settle for anything less than perfection. Treat your online course as a personal project and you will always find new things to learn from it just like your students do.
It can be overwhelming to process everything we mentioned above in one sitting. Now that we have arrived at the end of our comprehensive guide on how to market a new online course, let’s recap what we learned:
If you have any aspirations to teach online or to create an online course of your own – you should definitely go for it. Don’t let your potential go to waste because of naysayers or a lack of motivation.
Once you start creating your first lessons, you will be driven to continue working until you have a finished product. The first satisfied students you encounter will make the entire effort worthwhile – not to mention the passive revenue you will make along the way!
Margaret Reid is a freelance writer who is seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth. Currently she's working in the company The Word Point and trying to improve herself in the blogging career. Margaret is an experienced and self-driven specialist who cannot imagine her life without writing.
These are powerful techniques that I've used to help grow 7- and 8-figure online businesses– and they can work for you, too.