There has been a massive shift in education in the last few years.
People still do local courses in person, but increasingly they are also buying online courses to learn just-in-time information from teachers all over the world.
With just a laptop or a phone, and an internet connection, you can learn just about anything online.
If you write non-fiction in particular, creating an online course is a great way to expand your book into a higher priced product that gives even more value to your customer and brings you another source of income.
Think about it.
You can sell a non-fiction book for $4.99 – $9.99, maybe max $15 for an ebook. But because a multi-media training course gives a lot more value, you can price your course higher. Most online courses are between $49 – $499, with some costing into the thousands of dollars (depending on the value of information offered).
This is not hype. This is actually what people want.
I personally spend thousands of dollars every year learning from online courses on topics as varied as Author Voice and aspects of craft (from Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch, highly recommended) to technical courses on how to set up webinars, or use video software. I don't have any official degree in writing, publishing or book marketing, but I have certainly invested in my education over the years!
I also recommend courses that I think are useful, from Nick Stephenson's First 10K Readers course to Joseph Michael's Learn Scrivener Fast, both of which are amazing. Joe's course has made over $1 million and you can get his free Course Creation Toolkit here – very useful!
I've also been making my own courses since 2009, and currently have two available: Self-Publishing Success and Creative Freedom: How to make a living with your writing. I don't do consulting any more, so these are how I serve the community by going further than my books (and of course, they add to my bottom-line).
So if you'd like to create your own profitable online course, here's an overview of the process.
(1) Decide on the topic of your course
There are a number of ways to decide on the topic for your course:
- You have a book already and you want to present that material in a new way, or you have a blog and want to serve the needs of your existing audience.
- Do a survey of your audience and ask them what their biggest question is around your area of expertise. This will give you a lot of material you can use within the course as well.
- Research what people are looking for in specific niches. Look at the top 100 books on Amazon in sub-categories, or magazines on the topic. Look at the top questions on Quora, or the top blogs on AllTop.com as well as questions on Twitter around a topic or the number of Facebook or LinkedIn groups on an area. If you ‘listen' by checking these types of sources, you'll find a myriad of ideas.
If you want a profitable course, it needs to be specific and address a painful problem that people will pay money to solve. It also needs to be aimed at an existing audience that is big enough to provide the return you want from your investment.
(2) Plan the content and prep your material
This takes a while because you need to consider what you will include in your course.
- Start by brainstorming all the possibilities. If you have a book already, it can be based on your table of contents. If you're a speaker, you might have a presentation deck to start with. I often plan in Scrivener or in Keynote and create a skeleton of the main modules.
- Flesh out the modules into smaller bite-size chunks that will be turned into separate videos within the sections. Remember that a training course is a journey as much as reading a book is, so make sure you organize it all in a logical sequence.
- Go multi-media. Use core video and audio, but also consider PDF downloads, worksheets, workbooks, exercises and other aspects that will bring the material alive. You can also plan bonus videos with experts in your niche, as well as live webinars with participants and even a community. As part of my Creative Freedom course, I have a private Facebook community where we share information and people can ask questions and network.
- Decide on your price point at this stage because this will guide how extensive the course is. For example, a mega-module course on how to run Forex trading from your laptop will be a lot more expensive than a series of small courses on how to play specific songs on a guitar. They both have their audience and separate price points. Don't spend 6 months creating the mother of all courses which will cost thousands. Keep it small, especially with your first endeavor as chances are you will learn along the way …
By the end of this prep phase, I will have Keynote decks for each of my videos as well as the logos and images needed throughout. Basically, everything is in place for recording.
(3) Get over the tech hurdle (and your own issues about being a teacher)
Yes, you will need to know some tech in order to create your course. There's a learning curve with any new skill, but good news, it's a lot easier than it used to be!
Currently, my tech setup is:
- ATR2100 microphone for high quality audio
- Screenflow on Mac for video recording and screen capture as well as editing (or use Camtasia for PC)
- Skype and eCamm Recorder for recording bonus interviews
- Amadeus Pro for editing audio (or you can use free software Audacity)
- Keynote for slides (or use Powerpoint on PC)
- Teachable for hosting, selling and managing the course which means I don't have to maintain my own separate site with plugins and payment systems. I've done my own tech setup before and it is a huge pain, whereas with Teachable you pay a scalable monthly amount and they do all the tech maintenance. It's basically drag and drop your finished files.
- PayPal for receiving income, and you can also use Stripe. Get this set up early and start transactions through it as there are checks in place for anti-money-laundering that will put a cap on what you can transact otherwise.
You may also have some psychological hurdles like, “Who am I to teach a course in origami?” or similar 🙂
But the main thing to consider is that you can teach as soon as you are one step ahead in the class.
As soon as you have learned something and put it into practice successfully, then you can help others.
In fact, if you get too experienced, you might forget what it was like at the beginning and you will lose beginner's mind. This is why I'm preparing a course right now on How to Write a Novel (coming Sept 2016). It's time to share what I've learned from 9 novels, 3 novellas and a short story series before I get too far from my initial learning curve.
(4) Record and edit your content
Once your material is prepared, you just need to record and edit it.
- Plan specific blocks of time for recording. Doing video is a little like a performance in that you have to project energy into your presentation so it can be tiring for introverts (like me!) So I set aside time in the morning for recording video specifically.
Plan longer than you need. If you have material that you think will add up to 30 min of video, then plan for 90 minutes to record it. You will stop and start as you go through and you may find things you want to add. You'll have false starts and generally, it will take longer than you expect. This is true for most creative work!
- Edit in separate sessions. I found it easier to record several videos with all the mistakes in and then go back later to do editing when I was more tired.
- Keep everything organized and backed up. Make sure you have an organized system for your files. For example, separate folders for the slides, raw video, edited video, audio, exercises, bonus interviews etc. Make sure you also back up the material just in case.
(5) Prepare your sales page and promotional plan
We all know that you can write the best book in the world, but if no one knows about it, then it won't sell any copies.
The same applies to courses!
- Build a sales page so people know what is in the course. This is like your book sales page on the retailers and there are specific things you need to attract buyers.
- Tell your audience about the course. If you have a website or email list or platform in any way, then you can start by telling those who know you about the course.
- Go wider. All the usual principles of marketing apply when you are selling a course, just as when you're selling a book. You can do content marketing – blog posts, podcast interviews, social media sharing – and you can also use paid advertising e.g. Facebook Ads, to attract your target market.
- Work with affiliates. If you have a network of professionals with your niche, you can work with them to cross-promote your course. If you do this, it is best to offer some kind of affiliate relationship, which is basically a percentage of the sale. I have affiliate relationships with a number of people I trust who have courses I have taken and recommend personally.
(6) Open the doors!
It's time to launch and start letting people into your course!
What is awesome about this point is that if you've done your job right and created something of real value, your customers will love your course and find it useful and will be more than happy to pay for that education.
Because this is NOT about scamming people or merely re-packaging a book, this is about offering extreme amounts of value for a reasonable price that will hopefully change people's lives in some way.
So what are you waiting for?!
Bonus Pro Tip: Avoid wasting time and money by learning from successful course creators
Hopefully this article will help you avoid some of the pitfalls, but I highly recommend learning from other successful course creators who have been through the process before.
Introducing Joseph Michael, the Scrivener Coach, whose fantastic Learn Scrivener Fast course has helped thousands of authors get to grips with Scrivener software so they can write and publish faster, saving time and money along the way. Many of you will have attended the awesome free webinars that I have done with Joe over the last few years. I learn something every time!
Here's an interview with Joe where I ask him about his journey from being rejected from a pizza delivery job to making multi-six figures with his training courses. If you want to create a profitable online course, click here to get his free Course Creation Toolkit. (Yes, I'm an affiliate of Joe's because his courses are awesome value and super useful!)
Do you have any questions about creating profitable online training courses? Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation.