Six steps to build a successful online course that sells like hot cakes!

Six steps to build a successful online course that sells like hot cakes!

Okay, you have the expertise, but don't know where to start building your first online course? Here is a crash course on building your first course.

There is no better time to start an online course business than now. The global demand for online learning will be worth $457.8 billion by 2026, according to Global Industry experts, and it shows no symptoms of coming down. Millions of people are buying online courses to improve their knowledge and skills, both within and without the traditional classroom.

As a result of this trend, entrepreneurs and subject matter specialists from all across the world have begun to create and sell online courses in order to help others with their knowledge. 

We've seen the impacts of this demand from the front row at Pensil, where large numbers of individuals and organisations have begun using our technology to make online courses.

Large number of our clients are well-established businesses and edtech entrepreneurs. For them, building and selling online courses is a sustainable way to generate additional income for their company. Several organisations (for example, NoCoder) are also developing free courses to train their students. However, selling online courses is the main business model and revenue source for many of our clients.

While we are pleased to announce that most of these folks have built an amazing online course company (meaning they are enrolling students and earning income on a routine basis), some course designers are struggling to transform their expertise into a full-time career.

It's not unique to Pensil, and it's even less so to online course developers. This is an example of the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 Rule) in action:

In every business – from property sales to financial products to pro sports – the majority of the revenue (approximately 80%) is generated by a small percentage of the workforce (roughly 20 percent ).

Based on data from hundreds of customers, it is apparent that for every individual who has released an online course in the last year and is successfully attracting new learners, there is at least one other person who is struggling to maintain regular sales and admissions. Most of the time, it isn't because they didn't design a terrific course. This is due to the fact that developing an online course is only one aspect of establishing an online course company. The other aspect is establishing a business. 

Building an online course is Not really a business in and of itself.

One cannot establish an online online course company unless you have an online course to sell. However, developing an online course is only one aspect of growing your business. Your product is your online course. It's not your entire enterprise.

New let’s discuss the steps to building your own online course:


Step 1: Determine what you want to teach.

The very first step in developing an online course company is selecting what to teach. What subject do you would like to be recognised for? What subject do you know enough about to educate others?

Finalize a topic for your course.

There are probably numerous areas that you understand enough about to develop a course based on personal life experience and professional expertise.

Determine a specified target audience.

After you've decided on a topic to teach, the subsequent step is to select a specific audience (also known as a target audience) that is enthusiastic about that topic.

Do not wrongly assume that your topic (and hence your course) would be appealing to everybody. If you try to develop a course that speaks to everyone, you will most certainly end up appealing to no one. I know it seems paradoxical, but believe me on this one.

Step 2: Evaluate market demand

After you've decided on a certain topic to offer, the next step is to determine how much demand there is for that topic.

It's frustrating as a course designer to invest several weeks, perhaps even months (or years?! ), producing an online course on a topic only to discover there is little demand for it.

It is far more effective to confirm interest for your curriculum before investing time, energy, and funds in developing it.


Investigate your competitors.

Try if you can discover other persons or businesses who provide courses or other types of training on your subject (or a comparable one), or who targets your target demographic.

  • Amazon's best-selling books
  • Similar online programmes
  • Prominent blogs and message boards
  • Top iTunes podcasts
  • Seminars, conferences, and workshops in person
  • Online gatherings (virtual summits, webinars)
  • Consultants and coaches

If you cannot discover anybody financially delivering your topic to others, it's a sign that there isn't adequate demand in the market for that subject to warrant launching an online course (or building a business around it). Competition demonstrates market demand.

What if there is no one to compete with?!

If you can't discover any competitive products or services on the subject, it might imply one of two things:

There is a need, but no one is currently supplying that market (rare), or

There is no interest, and you should choose another topic.

In any case, there is one further step you should take before deciding whether or not to build (or not build) your course.

Inquire with your intended audience about what they really want to understand.

If you have contact with your target audience, either online or offline, the greatest approach to discover what they want to learn (and are ready to pay to learn) is to ask them directly!

Here are a few questions you may ask your crowd to find out what they want to know:

  • Inquire with your email list
  • Inquire with your social media fans/followers
  • Inquire with your previous and/or current clientele

You may give individuals a link to a poll, ask them open-ended questions directly, or invite them to a short conversation with you using any of these choices.

Direct outreach (also known as cold calling) to your intended demographic through phone, email, or social media is yet another method. Of course, do so in a courteous, non-spammy manner.

If you can't find someone interested in learning the topic you're considering teaching, you should definitely go on to something else.

The ideal case is that you select a subject for which there is clearly a need (as seen by rival products and services on that subject), but nothing that is specifically for your key demographic.

Step 3: Develop an engaging and distinct brand.

It's time to start establishing your brand when you've settled on a certain topic to teach.

Don't rush into designing your logo, website, and business cards. These elements are important in portraying your brand, and they're not the beginning point.

Making a conscious choice about how you want to be positioned in your industry is the beginning point for developing a compelling and unique brand. Positioning is essential to branding.

Positioning should be strategic.

The most common error people (and companies) make with branding is attempting to appeal to all. Don't do it. Positioning should be strategic.

Create a brand that speaks to your key demographic. Don't attempt to please all, because everyone is not your target buyer/client.

Here are some questions to think about while you develop your brand:

How do you want to be seen and placed in your market? What would you like people to remember about you when they speak of you? What kind of people do you wish to attract? Who do you want to avoid attracting? What causes do you support? What are you opposed to? What motivates you to do what you do?

If your intended audience is seeking information on your subject, you need them to find you and know they've arrived at the correct spot. They must believe they've identified the right person (or organisation) to assist them in overcoming a certain problem or achieving a particular result.

Determine your one-of-a-kind value proposition.

Developing a Unique Value Proposition is a task that we suggest all course developers do. Your unique selling proposition (USP) is what will set you out from the competitors.

Answer the following questions to create your UVP:

  • Who do you assist?
  • What do you assist them with?
  • Why is that advantageous to them?

Once you've answered these questions, combine them into a single phrase.


Step 4: Grow your audience

It's time to start growing your audience once you've chosen how you want to be seen in your industry.

Your target is the entire number of individuals with whom you may interact via multiple distribution methods (your blog, social media, email list, personal network, etc.).

Why is it necessary to cultivate an audience?

If you do not have an audience that knows, loves, and trusts you, selling your course will be extremely tough since you won't have anybody to sell it to!

As a result, the sooner you begin growing your audience, the better.

Size is essential (but isn't the most essential part)

The number of your community is essential, but not as much as you may believe. The capacity to reach a larger number of individuals is an apparent advantage of having a huge audience. If you have 10,000 Social media followers, for example, your postings will most likely be viewed by more individuals than if you just have 1,000 fans (all else being the same).

However, the quantity of your community is not as essential as the bond you have with them.

It is more useful to have 100 email subscribers who open and read each email you give them than to have 1,000 Twitter followers who seldom see your Tweets or connect with you in any manner.

Whenever it comes to growing an audience, the most essential factors are commitment and participation.

These are some of the most frequent methods used by online course developers to grow their audience:

1. Use of social media

Create profiles and/or pages on the social networking sites where your target demographic spends their time. You do not need to be present on each and every social media platform. Just choose the top two or three that make the most logic for you and concentrate your efforts there. Share your material, join relevant groups, create your own Facebook group, and participate in discussions. The objective here is to form genuine connections with other individuals who are interested in your topic of discussion.

2. Content marketing

Provide as much free information about your course topic as you can. Free material aids in the development of trust and credibility in your sector. Essays, videos, podcast series, pictures, and infographics are common examples of material. All of these things contribute to increased traffic to the website and visibility for your company.

The more material you produce on your website as well as other platforms (such as YouTube), the more probable it is that your target audience will discover you while looking for information on your subject.

3. Publicity and public relations

Getting in front of current audiences is one of the easiest methods to grow your following. Publishing articles for major industry journals, being featured on podcasts, and being featured in conventional media (TV, radio, newspapers, print magazines, etc.) are all excellent methods to get visibility and influence in your field.

4. Collaboration and collaborative enterprises

Develop ties with other industry professionals and influencers. Establishing mutually beneficial connections with others may not happen quickly, but it can lead to a variety of possibilities such as guest blogging, talks, partnerships, collaborations, and consumer recommendations.

5. Speaking in public

Contact the event hosts and organisers of conferences and seminars attended by your key demographic. Make an offer to deliver a lecture on your subject. In exchange for a share of your sales, some events may even allow you to offer your course straight to their audience. One significant benefit of social speaking is that you have the entire attention of everybody in the room during your speech, which can be difficult to obtain online.

6. Email marketing

Whenever it comes to promoting your online course (or any other product or service) online, email marketing is by far the most efficient technique to create revenues. As an online course designer, your most important asset will most likely be an email list of people who have indicated interest in your program topic and have granted you permission to contact them.

Begin constructing your email list as soon as feasible. Keep in touch with your followers on a routine basis by giving them helpful emails and hyperlinks to your material. This is an excellent method to gain their confidence before asking them to buy from you.

Step 5: Build an online course.

Developing an online course is among the most exciting phases in this process, but can also be the most time and energy demanding if you aren't cautious.

The majority of individuals devote many weeks (or months, based on the course) to developing their online course. Other, more seasoned course developers have honed this technique to the point that they can produce a complete online course in a single weekend.

However, regardless of how long it takes you to design your course, the procedure would most likely look something like this:

  • Pick a good title and a subtitle for your course.
  • Make a curriculum (aka course outline)
  • Select your lesson genres (audio, video, text, etc.)
  • Make or record your lecture content.
  • Edit the content of your lecture.
  • Create your course webpage.
  • Set a cost for your course.
  • Make homework, worksheets, exams, and/or online forums for your students.
  • Personalize welcome and completion emails for your students.
  • Build a sales page for your course.

Rather than going over each of these stages in detail (which would make this post much longer than it currently is! ), I'm going to offer a few of the most significant things we've learnt about course design from the professionals we consulted.

Develop a "Minimum Viable Course."

The notion of Minimum Viable Product was popularised by American writer and entrepreneur Eric Ries in his book Lean Startup (MVP).

An MVP is a development approach used by businesses (particularly startups) to create a new product with enough functionality to satisfy early users. Only after incorporating feedback from the product's early consumers is the final, comprehensive set of features created and built.

When it comes to producing online courses, this implies you shouldn't attempt to make the perfect course the first time. Build a Minimum Viable Course instead (MVC).

And here is why...

The issue with attempting to construct the "ideal" course before showing or selling it to anyone is that "ideal" is a very subjective concept. What you consider to be ideal is unlikely to be the same as what your clients consider to be perfect. Even if it is, your course does not have to be flawless to be useful.

Trying to be perfect has deterred more individuals than anything from designing and releasing online courses. Do not allow it to happen to yourself. If your course is excellent enough to benefit someone, even if it is flawed, it is good enough to publish. Done is preferable to flawless.

Build your MVC as soon as possible so that you may post it and receive real-world feedback from real students. You may improve your course by removing training, adding training, and revising it based on their comments and other critical statistics (such as course completion and engagement rates).

Course duration is not equal to course worth

A common blunder is attempting to teach all you know regarding your subject in a single course. Doing so will almost certainly result in a very lengthy course that your students will not finish and that took an absurd amount of effort to design in the first place. Wrong strategy!!

Your online course is a time saver.
The goal of your course is to educate your student how to go from point 1 to point 2 as fast and effectively as feasible. It's the quick way out.
You should not, under any circumstances, overload your pupils by cramming all you know about your subject into your course. Your course should be as brief as feasible while yet covering the most important ideas in your training.

Don't build 8 hours of instruction if you can educate your pupils everything they need to know in 3 hours. They will not grumble that your course was "too short" as long as they get what you promised to teach them. Rather, they'll likely appreciate the fact that you didn't waste their time with froth or filler information.

Begin with a small 'pilot' group.

One key thing we learnt from the professionals we consulted is that you should not release the initial version of your course (your MVC!) to your whole audience.

Rather, you can market your course to a limited part of your audience at a cheaper price than you intend to charge for it in the future. If you do market your course to your whole audience, think about limiting the amount of students who may enrol in it. When you reach your enrollment goal, you briefly close your course.

Step 6: Concentrate on client satisfaction.

Let's suppose you've previously done Steps 1 through 5.

  • You've settled on the subject you'll teach. It's not too wide, yet it caters to a certain demographic.
  • You've proven that there is a market for your issue. Thousands of people all around the world are interested in learning it, and they're already spending money to do so.
  • You've created an enticing brand. You are well-known in your field as an authority on your subject. When your target audience finds you, they believe you can assist them.
  • You've amassed a following. You also have a social media following. You have subscribers on your email list. You have connections with other industry professionals. You've appeared in a variety of magazines, podcasts, and media sources.
  • You've put together an online course. And now that you've promoted your course to your target demographic, you're happy to report that you have clients. Your company is making money.

Even while getting this far is a GREAT achievement (and yes, you deserve to rejoice at this stage! ), there is still progress to be made.

Getting clients is only the start. Your duty now is to keep the promise you made to your consumers.

Consider any local company you patronise. It's a restaurant. It's a nail salon. A  coffee cafe. It is a convenience shop.

These companies do not survive as they are continuously acquiring new consumers. They continue in business because their existing clients return again and again, sometimes bringing their family and friends alongside them. This is also true for your online course company.

Keeping a client is far less expensive than acquiring a new one.

If you're continually investing in advertising and branding to help attract consumers but doing little to assure the success of those clients, building a successful and viable model will be tough (and expensive!).

When a consumer buys your online course, your connection with them can not end there. It should be the start.

Your clients should be so pleased with the training and entire experience that they buy further courses from you in the future and tell others about your courses as well.

Here are a few ideas for increasing student loyalty and motivation:

1. Make the learning process more fun.

Offer incentives and prizes for your learners who reach certain goals in the course.

2. Encourage your pupils to be accountable.

Assign them an accountability buddy, provide 1-on-1 or group coaching calls, or set up a private group or discussion forum for them to connect with one another.

3. Appeal to various learning styles

Don't design training that caters to only one learning type. Use a variety of mediums to distribute your material (text, video, audio, worksheets, quizzes, etc.).

4. Develop short, bite-sized learning content

Students are more likely to complete shorter lessons than lengthier ones. If it takes you a long time to teach a certain subject, try splitting it up into numerous shorter classes.

5. Send email reminders to your pupils

If you find a student isn't accessing or finishing the training in your course, send them a kind reminder email to re-engage them. Demonstrate your concern for them.


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