Last week we covered five reasons why you may want to consider creating an online course. Today, we’ll look at what it takes to put one together.
Heads up, though…
When it comes to doing anything online, there are lots of moving parts, and that’s true also for online course creation.
And while it may seem overwhelming at first, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged.
You always have the option to outsource the bulk of the work, choose a platform that does most of the heavy lifting for you or pick up the necessary skills yourself.
But first, here are the steps to create an online course.
- Identify your topic
- Pick your audience, your niche
- Research your market and competition
- Focus on one problem
- Pick a course delivery method
- Choose a platform
- Develop your outline
- Create your course
- Prepare marketing materials
- Start marketing your course
While it runs counter to how most approach creating a course, putting a course together doesn’t start with compiling your content. It all starts with choosing your topic and identifying the problems you can solve for your market.
And now, let’s get down to business…
What’s Your Topic?
While you may want to create a course in your field of clinical expertise, chances are you have other skills, interests, and passions you may want to share with the world.
Start with compiling a comprehensive list of all your skills, interests, and things you feel passionate about.
- What is it you want to teach and share with others?
- How can people benefit from your topic?
- What captures your interest today and for the foreseeable future?
- What will be your topic?
Pick your audience, your niche
When you choose your audience, your niche, you identify the people who will benefit from your expertise and knowledge.
Once you identify them, you can target your content to meet their needs and solve their problems. If you ignore this step, it will be tough to finetune your message and solutions.
Understand this… if you talk to everyone, you’ll be talking to no one!
To identify your audience, ask yourself these questions:
- Who do you want to work with?
- Who would be interested in your course?
- Who could benefit from learning the course material?
- What frustrations and problems do people have?
- What solutions are they looking for?
- How would your course provide the solution to their problems?
- What are the common characteristics of your audience?
- How can you reach people in your niche to tell them about your course?
Research your market and competition
How do you research your market to uncover their problems and struggles? Simply go online and start searching.
Go to Amazon and search for your topic. What books and products are for sale, and how well are they performing? Read the reviews and learn what people like and dislike about a product.
Go to Udemy and search for your topic. Review the various courses, enrollment figures, and reviews.
Visit Quora.com, FaceBook groups, and online forums and read over questions people ask. Identify common pain points and problems people want to solve.
Also, do some research on competing products or courses in the market place. How are the courses presented, what do they cover, what are the price points, and what delivery methods do they use?
And don’t be afraid of competition. Competition tells you there is demand for the topic. At the same token, be careful with a topic where you cannot find any courses, products, books, or coaching offers. It may signal the topic is too narrow and not enough people are searching for help
Focus On One Problem
While it’s tempting to include lots of information in your course, stick to solving a particular problem for your audience.
People are inundated with information. More often than not, they don’t want to know more for the sake of knowing more. What they want is answers to specific questions and solutions to their problems.
Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you focus on working with parents of young children. A common problem parents want help with is getting their child to bed without a battle.
Chances are most parents are far less interested in “the why” but are eager to learn what specific things they can do to end the nightly power struggle. If your course can provide the answers and deliver the solution to the problem, it’s a win-win situation for both parties.
To find out which problems people have, you need to research your market. While you may be aware of the obvious problems, you may be surprised to learn of other issues your audience may be struggling with.
Finally, formulate your product idea. Utilizing your unique skills and looking at the list of products in the market place what’s missing? What can you create that’s different, offers a better solution, or provides a unique angle?
Pick A Delivery Method
Once you have the idea for your course, it’s time to decide on the best format to deliver your course.
How will you deliver your course? Will it be an ebook, audio course, video course, email course, or a coaching program?
Your method of choice will depend on several factors:
- Your audience… age, expectation, and comfort level with technology
- Course content… some topics lend themselves to text or audio, while others may be better if delivered via video.
- Your skillset and comfort level… if you have experience shooting and editing videos, sure, create a video course. However, if you’ve never done video and feel overwhelmed by the learning curve, stick to a format you feel comfortable with and can handle.
Make it easy for yourself… if you’re more comfortable with writing, then write. If you’re comfortable reading text, create audio, and if you’re more comfortable with being on camera, create a video.
While the delivery method is important, what’s even more important is that you do not overwhelm yourself. Too much overwhelm, and you’ll end up not moving forward with creating your course. And, as you develop more comfort around creating digital products, you can always change the delivery method later on.
Choose a Platform
Choosing a platform has to do with how your course will be marketed, paid for, delivered to, and consumed by your customers.
If you’re new to selling courses online, you may be wondering about the need for a platform. Wasn’t it all taken care of when you decided on the course delivery method?
When selling products online there are a few things to keep in mind:
- You need a way to host and serve up your marketing pages, aka landing pages and check-out pages
- You need a shopping cart, a way to take payment for your product. An example here is Paypal and Stripe, just to name a couple.
- You need a way to deliver your product. Customers need to be able to access their videos or ebooks on your website or download the files to their computers.
- You need a system for delivering emails to your customers so you can stay in touch with them, answer their questions, and introduce them to some of your other products.
Essentially you have two options here. You may opt for an all-in-one solution or go with a self-hosted option.
Frequently, WordPress software is installed when going the self-hosted route. Here you would upload your course files, marketing, and sales pages to your own webhost and serve them up to customers upon request. Your site would also need to integrate payment processors and email service providers.
If you’re thinking “sounds complicated…” you’re right; it certainly can be that. It’s akin to using duct tape to hold things together. At the same token, it’s a workable solution, implemented all the time. As you can guess, it takes technical skills most new course sellers don’t bring to the table.
Next up, the all-in-one solution. It allows you to do everything “under one roof.” The platforms will enable you to create courses using various formats, store course content, take customer payments, create marketing pages, send out emails, and more.
Platforms vary considerably in ease of use, pricing, number of courses you may host, and how they integrate with payment processors and email service providers. If you’re considering an all-in-one platform, be sure to do your due diligence before committing.
While all-in-one solutions tend to be more costly, they make the entire process less painful, allowing you to focus on your course instead of getting distracted by technological challenges.
Create Your Outline
It’s time to create the outline for your course. Take time to brainstorm what to include with your product. Next, organize your content, so it flows naturally and effortlessly when consumed.
Think about how many modules or chapters to include in the course. Ask yourself if the consumability would be enhanced if the content would be broken down further?
Develop specific learning goals for your course and use them to create the outline. Once you have a detailed outline, it’s time to write your course.
Write Your Course
With the help of your outline, create your course. Decide if you will include action items, work sections, or case studies with the course.
Using the outline, expand on, and provide further detail for all items. But don’t “kitchen sink it.”
In other words, don’t throw in unnecessary information. Keep it simple and to the point.
Resist the temptation to give too much information. Rember to focus your course on a specific problem you want to solve for your customers.
If appropriate, create graphics to support your message. Finally, complete your course by editing, proofing, and formatting it for effortless and easy consumption.
Marketing and Sales Materials
Your course is complete, and it’s time to create marketing messages to introduce the product to your audience.
While I listed marketing materials as the 8th item on the list, in real life, they are created along the way; they are written and tweaked along with the course.
At a minimum, you should have some type of sales page, check-out page, thank-you page, and course delivery or access page.
The sales page informs readers what your course is all about, what they will learn, and how much it will cost.
The check-out page is a simple page that collects payment information and completes the purchase transaction.
The thank-you page is what the name implies; it thanks customers for purchasing and sets expectations about what will happen next.
If you self-host your course, you will need a course delivery page, informing customers where to download the course.
If utilizing an all-in-one platform, chances are you will use some type of access page that tells customers how they can access the course.
Marketing the Course
Just hanging out your shingle is rarely enough to drum up business. And just as brick and mortar businesses must market to stay in business, so must online companies.
Once your course is finished, you have various options available to market it. Some of them include…
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Feature it on your website
- Banner ads on other websites
- Email marketing
- Local marketing
- Direct mail marketing
- Word of mouth marketing (tell all your friends and patients)
There you have it… all the steps required to create your first online course.
If you’re overwhelmed with the long list of things to do, I understand.
But let me say this…
Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged or deterred. I know there are a lot of moving parts to online course creation.
But remember… you don’t have to do it all at once, and you don’t have to do it all alone. There is plenty of help available to assist with every aspect of online business!
And as you develop your first course, you will learn the ropes and build upon them. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…
There’s no doubt online course creation comes with a learning curve, but anything worthwhile learning comes with one. Would you agree?
Join the conversation; leave a comment, ask a question, let us know what you think. We want to hear from you…
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”