When it comes to knowing how to create and sell online courses, it’s tough to know where to start, what to do, when to do it, and in what priority. I get these questions often. They go something like, “I think what I know is useful to people. But, I have no idea how to create and sell a course online. How in the world would I get started doing that?”
What follows is my attempt to explain what I’d tell you are the steps you need to complete. If I was sitting with you having coffee, I’d map these things out with you. In fact, go ahead, grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive in.
Question #1 Course objectives: what will your course help people do?
When you’re considering your course objectives, this is a perfect time to think through the goals of your course. For example:
- What’s the defining WIN? How do you define success? How will you know you’ve succeeded when you’re “done”? I know, you’re never done. But, it’s worth thinking about and defining it at this stage!
- What’s the value proposition? Write it down at this stage.
- What does the person get (on the other side) of signing up? List everything out—no bad idea at this stage. You’ll hone this list down at a later stage.
Answering these questions at this stage will set you on the right path going forward.
Question #2 Course structure: how will you break up the content so people will use it?
I know, you’re content is great. Everyone will buy it and finish every single minute! Wrong! You will need to consider how you will break up your content in pieces that are digestible for your followers. Consider a few options:
- Break up content into a few sessions? This may be the most simple way.
- Break into modules bundled together? Consider how your sessions might fit into modules.
- Take as you please? Maybe you don’t need an order for your content—and the buyer will decide?
- Time-spaced release? You post only a few things—and drop the rest of the content on a rhythm?
- Unlocked sessions after another session? For content that needs to be finished in order, consider this approach.
Question #3 Course style: how will you teach so people will listen?
This is an important question. It doesn’t matter how great your content is or how well you break it up and deliver it, if you don’t get this part right—it can hurt your success. Consider a few options:
- Voice-over slide deck? This option is the lowest on the tech need but can work for some content that needs a ton of examples.
- Full-on camera? This option is a bit techier—but typically worth the time.
- Team recorded? Will take more time and logistics, and more tech. But, it’s often worth it to get others in on the play—it helps your followers digest the content too.
- Zoom recorded? This will take a bit more tech knowledge, but it’s doable and can help you in getting started.
- Combo or hybrid? Maybe you do several of these options.
While deciding this really depends on your comfort factor and content, deciding the style of your course early on will prove vital and help you answer future questions on this list.
Question #4 Course delivery: how will people get your information?
Answering this question will take some thought. Depending on your content, what’s the best vehicle for launching your course? Here are a few examples I’ve seen work:
- Sign up as you please: this is usually done with a strong website and will take planning. This typically involves a hybrid of web, email, or even a membership site to accomplish.
- Cohort structure: maybe your content fits this style of taking a few people at a time through your course.
Question #5 Course personalization: how will you make people feel welcomed?
Another vital question is to think past the point of purchase. What will happen after a follower signs up? Consider a few things:
- Welcome communications: will you send a series of emails? What will be in those emails?
- Personal call or messaging: this will take a lot of time. But, the relational dot-connecting when you’re starting out can be invaluable.
- Welcome kits: will you create a kit that helps folks feel welcome? How will you deliver it?
Question #6 Course tools: what will you offer to help people learn?
Answering this question depends on the content you’re offering and how your followers may want to digest it. Consider a variety of options. The more the better!
- Workbooks: provide guides that house reference content and can be used as the follower is walking through your course.
- eBooks: be sure to have content you can use in bite-size chunks to deliver and encourage your followers.
- Worksheets: is there some of your content that would fit this format? Adding as many varieties as possible to your course will aid the learner at this stage.
Question #7 Course price point: what will you charge people who want it?
This may be one of the toughest questions to get right. Trust me, answering this question will feel like shooting in the dark. Here are some ideas that have helped me and others answer this question:
- Think 10x the value of your price point. Having this in mind will shape the entire course and your thinking about it.
- Under $100 for a key lesson type course. If you’re considering a topic-by-topic approach, this pricing may be in bounds.
- Over $500 for a full framework type course. If you’re going to cover several topics by the time someone finishes your course, this pricing may help you as you think through the timing of your course from start to finish.
Question #8 Course marketing: how will you promote what you're doing?
Once you’ve created your course and answered the previous seven questions, guess what, you’re not done! You’re just at the starting point! It’s now time to market your course. Consider a few ideas for how you might promote your course:
- Sample content: give a portion of your content away for free so followers will see it.
- Course outline: provide followers with an outline of all you will cover in your course from start to finish.
- Course objectives: spell out what you hope followers will learn from the course.
These are the eight questions I’d ask you if I was having coffee with you in person. Answering these questions will help you get your head around the why, who, what, when, where, and how of creating and selling your online course. My guess is, if you’re reading this, you have a great idea and want to help people. It’s time to ask yourself these eight questions. I look forward to seeing where your answers take you.
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About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.