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How to Create an Online Course by Yourself in 9 Easy Steps
In just nine simple steps, you can learn how to make an online course. But why should you care?
After all, consumers can find plenty of online content for free. Plus, charging for premium content might limit your customer base. Despite these facts, the online learning industry’s value will exceed $250 billion by the end of this year.
More important: E-learning revenue has grown year-over-year for the last decade. That means you have an opportunity now to monetize your content with an online course. You just need the right tools and a few time-tested strategies to turn your knowledge into a profit-generating business.
What Is an Online Course?
An online course is a digital product that teaches students a skill or provides them with knowledge using digital media. Instead of visiting a physical classroom, students access the course content via the Internet. Online courses can also be referred to as distance learning or e-learning.
Some online courses feature text-only modules, while others incorporate video, audio, and graphic media to help engage students. At the end of an online course, the student should walk away with the knowledge he or she did not possess before.
Some online courses come from universities and colleges, but anyone can create an online learning tool and profit from it. Platforms like Kajabi give professionals and teachers a way to generate revenue from their knowledge and to engage potential customers.
Who Should Consider Creating an Online Course?
Do you need a special certification, license, or degree to create an online course? Of course not. Today’s educators don’t always work for accredited universities, and many of the finest teachers sell online courses commercially to benefit from their hard-earned knowledge and skills.
If you’re not sure whether you should create an online course, ask yourself these questions.
- Do I have specialized knowledge from which other people could benefit?
- Have I ever created content online to help people solve problems or finish tasks?
- Can I share my professional or personal experiences so that other people can learn from my successes and failures?
- Will other people express interest in my industry or profession?
- Do I know how to make or build something that others might like to try?
- Might other people enjoy exploring my hobby or vocation with me?
If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, you should create an online course. Not only will you share your passion or expertise with others, but you can earn money doing it.
What Do You Want to Teach?
Now that you know you can create a course online, what should you teach your students? Online educators have created courses around a variety of subjects.
- Cooking and baking
- Graphic design
- Beauty and fashion
- Personal development
This represents just a small sampling of topics that lend themselves to online courses. In reality, you can teach people how to do just about anything online.
When deciding what you want to teach, think about your personal background. What do you do for a living? What are your favorite hobbies? Do you have a special skill that most people don’t possess?
Additionally, think about how you’ll turn your knowledge into content. If you’re not yet experienced creating video, you might choose a topic that you can easily explain through text and photographs.
How Long Will it Take to Create My Online Course?
Some people spend weeks or even months putting together an in-depth course, while others can create a relatively simple course in just a few days. Remember that everyone works at his or her own pace.
The length of time you depend on your course will depend on several factors.
- Length of the course
- Complexity of the topic
- Number of assets you need to create (e.g. video, images, graphics)
- How you present the information
Even if you spend several months on an online course, the product becomes a source of passive income. In other words, while you might update the content from time to time, you never have to recreate the course, but you can continue to sell it to as many people as you want.
For many business owners, this encompasses the perfect business model.
What Technical Skills Do I Need?
When you use an all-in-one platform like Kajabi, you don’t need any special skills to create an online course. As long as you know how to use the Internet, browsers, and word processing software, you can develop your own online educational program.
Depending on the type of course you decide to create, you might also need to know how to use a digital camera, upload images to your computer, and edit image files. The same goes for video and graphic elements. However, you don’t need those skills to create a profitable course.
How to Create an Online Course in 9 Easy Steps:
Now you’re ready to begin designing your first online course. It’s a simple process that consists of nine easy steps, so don’t be afraid to jump in and get started right away.
1. Choose a Platform for Your Online Course
The right platform can make or break your course. When choosing a platform, look for a solution that offers the following features:
- Diverse design options: A poorly-designed course can quickly turn off customers, especially if it’s not easy to navigate or understand.
- Built-in marketing: You can’t earn money until prospects find out about your course. A platform with built-in landing pages, email marketing templates, and other features can cut your workload in half.
- Many content options: E-learning courses don’t always involve text-only modules. You could add a video, podcast, or other formats to your course. If your platform doesn’t support those mediums, you’re out of luck.
- Flexibility: Will you release every part of your course at the same time? Do you plan to slowly drip courses into your customers’ accounts? Flexibility can help you design a course that fits the content.
You might also want to consider a platform that allows you to build an online store.
One of our #KajabiHeroes, a photographer named Dan Frievalt, used his online store combined with his magnetic course content to generate a six-figure income.
You can start with one online course at the beginning. As your course gains traction, you might expand. Keep creating content that turns one-time buyers into loyal repeat customers. With the right tools at your disposal, you can turn a single course into a full-time business.
2. Select a Course Topic and Direction
Think of this process as your way of branding your online course. What does it offer potential customers? How will it change their lives? And what makes your content different, better, and more actionable than everyone else’s?
Topic and direction can influence your success right out of the gate.
Your course topic should reflect the specific focus of your course content. The direction should describe how you intend to reinforce the theme through your content.
Let’s say you’re developing an online course for photographers, like our friend Dan Frievalt. You want to share your shutterbug skills with the rest of the world. At the same time, you can generate interest in your own images for stock or fine art purposes.
Potential topics for your content might include:
- Landscape photography composition
- Portrait photography poses and props
- Macro photography equipment and tips
Now let’s look at direction. It’s intended for your eyes only, sort of like a business or marketing plan.
Let’s go with the landscape photography composition topic. Your direction statement might look something like this:
My online course will offer video and written content for beginners that describes in detail how to frame landscape photographs for greater visual impact.
You can get into more detail with your direction. Add information about your core audience’s demographics, experience level, and available equipment. The more detail you use, the sharper your vision becomes.
This strategy works for any type of online course you might want to create.
For instance, if you’re a sous chef at a popular Manhattan restaurant, you might want to create an online course filled with your best recipes. That’s your topic.
The direction might include information about how you’ll present the content and your target audience.
An article in Adweek offers several more tips for branding your online course with a topic and specific direction:
- Get to know your market.
- Find industry influencers or authorities to endorse your skills.
- Identify a way to hook prospects, such as with a sneak peek or a free trial.
This is also a good time to think about branding your content visually. If you don’t have access to stock photography or high-end image-editing software, use free resources.
For instance, we recommend combining Canva and Kajabi for the ultimate visual branding experience. Create headers for your content and other images to help market your course online.
3. Look at Top-Performing Content
If you’re thinking about creating an online learning library, you might already produce content for the web. It can serve as a treasure trove of useful data.
Using Google Analytics, identify your best-performing content. How do people find that content? How long do they stay on the page? What’s your average bounce rate? All these data points can help you refine the content you create for your course.
Maybe you haven’t ever blogged or created online content before. There’s still hope!
Instead of mining your own content, look at other people’s content in the same niche.
Create a list of long-tail keywords relevant to your course, then conduct Google searches. Which content ranks highest? Study those pieces and find ways in which you could improve upon the material.
You can also use other sources to identify content in which your target audience might be interested:
- Google suggestions: Open Google in your browser and type a keyword. Look at the suggestions that Google offers, which are based on popular search queries. You might create content around those suggestions.
- Answer sites: Websites like Quora, Yahoo! Answers can also help you figure out what interests your target audience. Research keywords on those websites and see what questions and answers crop up.
- BuzzSumo: This website offers a free analysis tool. Type in a keyword and hit enter. You’ll see a list of top-performing content around that keyword as well as social shares and other useful information.
Here, I searched “landscape photography” on BuzzSumo. You can search any keyword related to your online course.
After you conduct your search, visit every website on the list. Take note of the subheadings, bulleted lists, and other stand-out content. Pay attention to the imagery the authors have chosen.
You can’t copy other people’s material, but you can take inspiration from it. Since you know this content not only performs well but gets shared, you know the authors have tapped some secret to getting eyes on the page.
4. Find the Right Medium for Course Material
How do you want to present your course material? You have several options:
- Share text-based content that instructs your students on a particular subject.
- Create a video or image tutorial so students can see how you perform each step.
- Record a podcast so you can speak directly to your students.
- Host a live webinar so students can ask you questions on the fly.
There is no right answer when it comes to selecting a medium. Decide based on your competencies and the subject matter.
For instance, if you’re creating a course on American History, text might offer the best solution. It’s research-intensive and doesn’t lend itself well to other mediums.
However, if your course teaches students how to complete a craft, videos and images might serve you better. Text descriptions are easily misinterpreted, and your students will want to see you complete each step up to completion.
You can also create interactive media if you want to engage your students more. Quizzes, polls, surveys, and even infographics can help display and collection information.
5. Create Content for Your Online Course
Now it’s time to put the pen to paper, so to speak. You’re creating the actual content that your students will consume when they buy your course.
There are a few ways to make this process faster and easier:
- Recycle old content. Remember when you researched your top-performing content a couple steps ago? Incorporate it into your course. Add new material so your students get plenty of value, but don’t be afraid to build on whatever has worked before.
- Outline the content. It sounds tedious, but outlining can make course creation go much faster. For text, video, webinars, podcasts, and other content, just create a bulleted list of points you want to hit or questions you want to answer.
- Divide and conquer. You don’t have to create every piece of content for your course right away. Drip content often works with online courses because your students get to absorb each piece before moving on to the next. Focus on getting the first part of your course completed.
You might struggle with procrastination and time management. Set a daily word count you have to hit or decide how many hours you want to devote to your course every day. Keep yourself on track by logging words written or hours spent in a spreadsheet.
If you’re feeling stuck, try a brainstorming exercise. Write the topic at the top of a piece of paper or word processing document, then start writing or typing every idea that comes to mind.
You’ll generate plenty of nonsense and poor ideas, but you’ll also let your imagination run wild. Who knows what diamonds might come out of this particular rough?
You can also use other online resources as inspiration. Track blogs, forums, and other websites dedicated to your topic. What information do they cover? How can you deliver it better and in more detail?
6. Set Online Course Rates
Once you create your content, you have to decide what to charge. Many of our customers have achieved great success by offering multiple pricing options. Students can get their feet wet with basic content, then upgrade when they realize how fantastic your course is.
Resist the urge to undervalue your content. Even if you’re not a known expert in your field, and even if you’ve never gotten that doctorate, you must believe in your course if you want to make it profitable.
Online course rates can vary widely, but $99 offers a good place to start. It doesn’t quite break into the triple-digit realm, which can help sway prospects, but it puts a decent value on your time and effort.
You can produce add-on content for higher pricing tiers. For instance, maybe your basic customers only get access to written content. You can add video and audio content for students who are willing to pay more.
Believe it or not, increasing your prices can also result in a corresponding increase in engagement.
Let’s say that you visit your local thrift store and pick up a book for $1. You read the first few pages and realize that it doesn’t interest you much. You toss it in the back of your closet because, after all, you’re only out a buck.
Now, let’s imagine that you bought that same book at a regular bookstore for $25. Would you read a few more pages before giving up? Probably. You’ve already made an investment, so you’re more likely to see it through.
If you already have an audience, you can price your course more easily.
Smart Insights offers a helpful chart. It shows average click-to-open rates for email subscribers in different industries.
Use this data to help you estimate how many of your email subscribers will engage with your marketing emails. It’s the closest thing you have to a crystal ball.
This doesn’t mean that every prospect who engages with your marketing content will convert, but it can still help you forecast sales.
A simple calculation might help you decide how to price your course. You can use your email subscriber count and your estimated conversion rate. Add your total desired revenue to complete the equation:
Obviously, you’ll substitute your own numbers based on your desired revenue and other calculations.
7. Market Your Online Course
Once you've created your online course and set your rates, get the marketing engine running over time. The more effort you put into this step, the more revenue you'll generate from your course.
Your exact marketing strategy will depend on your current network and your personal preferences. For instance, some marketers prefer social media, while others like to concentrate on email marketing.
If you want to get the best possible results, though, you'll create a diverse marketing strategy.
Start with your target audience.
Build a few buyer personas to better understand who you’re targeting. Where do they shop? How old are they? How do they spend their time online? What social media networks do they prefer?
If you already have an audience, consider getting them involved with a survey or poll. Ask them what types of content they would like to consume in your courses. Let them know they have a voice.
Next, create marketing assets.
These could be email templates that you create for your subscribers or blog content that includes strong calls to action. Share as much information as you can on social media, but remember the 80/20 rule.
Just 20 percent of your social media shares should involve a blatant promotion. Use the other 80 percent to interact with your followers, ask questions, and share interesting information.
8. Measure, Evaluate and Adjust
After your course goes live and you start to get customers, measure your success. You can track various metrics, such as video stats, from within the platform you choose or using a third-party service.
Either way, look for key metrics that might show you how to improve your course:
- Completion rates: How many people who buy your course complete it?
- Bounce rates: Do people visit your course page, then leave soon thereafter?
- Conversion rates: Out of the people who visit your course page, how many actually buy the course?
Metrics like these show you how people respond to your marketing messages and your course material.
9.Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” - Denis Waitley
Many people fail when they first start developing online courses. That doesn’t mean they stop.
You might not pick the best topic during your first attempt, and you might not develop the audience you need right away. Don’t give up. If you fail to complete an online course, you’ll fail no matter what. However, if you give it a shot, you might very well succeed.
Create Your Online Course on Kajabi
It’s never been easier to set up your own online course.
At one time, you had to deal with multiple service providers: CMSs, plugins, child themes, and more. Today, Kajabi offers everything you need to create, promote, and track your online courses from your own computer.
Simply sign up for a free trial with Kajabi and start designing your course. Set the price, choose a theme, create a blog, and start an email marketing campaign, all from one platform.
You can also use third-party integrations to boost your courses even more. For instance, if you want to quiz your students on the content they’ve learned, use Zapier to create a quiz and offer it through Kajabi.
You’re ready to create your online course from scratch. If you follow the seven steps above, you’ll not only create course content but also market it to a built-in audience that wants to learn what you know.
An online course can seem like a daunting task, but when you break up the process into smaller parts, each section becomes a little easier to understand and digest. Plus, you might finish your course faster if you have a blueprint to follow.
After you create your first course, don’t stop and wait for customers to line up at your virtual lemonade stand. Instead, create more content. As you add courses, your revenue streams multiply.
For easy reference, here are the 9 easy steps to create an online course:
- Choose a diverse platform.
- Create a direction and theme.
- Take a look at your top-performing content.
- Find the right medium for your material.
- Start generating content.
- Set rates for each online course.
- Market your course to your target audience.
- Measure, evaluate, and adjust.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
Why wait? Kajabi offers more than a premium platform for creating online courses. You can also use our robust program to build a website, email marketing plan, custom domains, and more.
If you get started today, you could have an online course up and running before you know it... and we've got your back.
Free Download: Create A Course Checklist
Before you get started, make sure you download our Create A Course Checklist below. It lists everything you need to put together when you're creating and launching your first online course.
Create A Course Checklist
Download the free checklist below!