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Creating Your Online Course: Do the Work, Then Take the Nap


Man in a hat napping alongside a dock by shining water.
Photo by Marie-Michèle Bouchard on Unsplash

Building Your Online Course and the Lure of Passive Income


The world of online courses has exploded. You can’t hop on social media for 4 seconds without someone offering to teach you something in the comfort of your own home.


And the market’s only supposed to get bigger - $350 billion by 2025!


Makes sense. Learning in a classroom is tricky since the pandemic. And with tuition fees being out of control, at-home learning isn’t just feasible. For some people, it’s the only reasonable route.


That means a lot of passive income for someone.


The ads for learning platforms can make building and selling an online course look effortless, almost like writing your own lottery ticket. It’s only natural to think, “why not me?”


Here’s the thing - creating an online course can be lucrative. It can even become “a cash cow.” But I think the word “passive” can be a little misleading.


Like almost anything, there’s a lot of work before you get to that “passive” part - if you get there at all. Some of the work will be interesting and exciting. Some of it will be annoying and painstaking.


But look - I think “why not me” is always good to ask. So, let’s do a little digging to answer that question.


This isn’t going to be about the nuts and bolts of making your online course. Zapier has a blog about good starter platforms for that.


I wanna talk big picture. Let’s consider:


  • Should you even create an online course?

  • What should you teach?

  • Where do you offer it?

  • What’s the best place to start?


Ready Or Not, Here You Come


A lot of potentially awesome online courses get built prematurely. The basic information’s good, but the teacher has almost zero experience in the real world.


I’m not trying to be a buzzkill. You may feel like you have some golden info. You probably do. But until your expertise has been tested in the marketplace, it’s likely to be a tough sell.


The bumps and bruises of working are what make your information golden. And results are what make you an appealing commodity. Without a track record, your curriculum’s going to be filled with gaps and your credibility will suffer.


So Start with Consulting. Start with Communicating


Instead of starting with a course, show up consistently online - live streams, blogs, emails - to flesh out your messaging, answer questions, and build a reputation.


You should, also, start consulting one-on-one before building out the course.


Consulting is a form of teaching. You’ll get used to articulating what you know - which is harder than you think. It’ll also reveal where people most need your help.


“Start with a high-end consulting business first,” says Forbes.com,”... you’ll be crafting your unique methods and approach that you can use later.”


By doing high-end consulting work, you’ll have a good revenue stream and a ton of valuable testimonials - while becoming a more savvy teacher.


So - as disappointing as it may sound to your eager ears - the first step in creating your online course is to get really good at your job and at communicating.


What’s Your Course About?


Picking a subject for your online class has a lot in common with writing ad copy or picking a niche. Your ad copy is about solving a problem. Your niche is about getting super-specific.


Both are important here. You want to build a course that solves a super-specific problem.


So think - is there something people always ask you for help with? Are they willing to pay you for that help? Start there. Anything that you’ve been paid to do over and over is a course worth considering.


Do a Google search. Start with a keyword pertaining to your work. See what Google offers as “related searches” paying special attention to the questions. These are clues about what answers people are trying to find.


Remember you’re dropping your online course into a sea of online courses. Specificity is going to help you to stand out as indispensable.


If a desperate parent sees an ad for tutoring, that’s one thing. If they see an ad for teaching elementary school kids with dyslexia who haaaate reading - that’s going to be a lot more compelling if that’s their problem.


Make A Landing Page


If you can swing it, make a dedicated landing page for your online course. It’s a clean, focused way to make an offer.


If you use your website, it’s not the end of the world. But you could muddy up your messaging or cannibalize your other menu items.


For instance, if you offer a consulting package for 15k, and a qualified lead is considering it, having an online course for $200 right next to it could leave that prospect hesitant. If your work can be distilled into a few videos and workbooks, what exactly are they paying for?


You and I know it’s not the same thing, but that lead will likely bounce without taking you up on either offer.


Especially when you’re starting out in the online course market, it’s worth it to separate your funnels.


These leads - the 15k client and the $200 ones - are likely coming to you for different things. Don’t try to market to everyone in the same space.


Testing the Water


Do you like speaking on camera?

How are things going with those workbooks?

Is editing a bit more boring than you thought?


Here’s the thing - buzzkill again - creating an online course is…a lot. It might even be more than you expect. You’re learning so many new skills all at once. My advice to you - test the waters before you take a big old swig.


Consider creating a smaller, free course first. Yes, you heard me - free.


FREE is such an attractive, yummy word to read when you’re scrolling. And building a free course is a great laboratory for you.


It’s a low-risk way of doing market research and getting a handle on how hard creating the full course will be.


Best of all, you can offer it as an amazing lead generator. With the collected emails, you’ll have a primed funnel you can market the full course to!


The Thinkific platform offers a deal where you can create your first course for no charge and launch it for only $39 a month.


My only caution is - don’t make this free course just a series of commercials.


I see people do this all the time, and it’s such a mistake. It feels like a bait and switch. The lead will feel taken advantage of, and all you’ve taught them is not to trust you.


Offer them real value. Show them how effective you are. Give lots of great tidbits away. Make them say in the end, “Wow! I can’t believe that was free!”


Then at the end, pop on a good CTA.


The Golden Goose


So. Why not you? No reason. If you want to do this, great! Quality info in the marketplace is always worthwhile.


But a lot of online platforms make it sound like pretend work with an instant payoff.

The return can be enormous if you have the patience to learn and build.


Creating an online course could be better than a cash cow. It could be a golden goose. One that continues popping out profits while you swing in a hammock.


But don’t kid yourself. There’s a lot of work to do before you can take that nap.




What’s the next level for you? Let’s talk about HOW to get there in my free coaching hour, Brave Biz Lab. Join in!




Sources:


Business Wire, $350 Billion Online Education Market: Global Forecast to 2025 by End User, Learning Mode (Self-Paced, Instructor Led), Technology, Country, Company - ResearchAndMarkets.com


Zapier.com, The 11 Best Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses in 2022, By Kiera Abbamonte


Forbes.com, You’re Not Ready to Build An Online Course, by Pia Silver





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