Selling online courses is big business these days, and observes expect the market to keep growing over the next few years. If you’ve got specialized knowledge in, you can set up a successful online course that brings in revenue and helps build your brand.

You don’t have to be an expert teacher but do pay attention to some basic principles to help you set up successful online courses–and to keep your participants coming back for more!

If you’ve been thinking about selling courses online, here are a few tips to get started.

What makes you special?

Before you even start setting up your online courses, figure out what your angle is. There’s a lot of free information available on the internet, so make sure that your package offers people real value.

Your job will be to convince people that your information is worth paying for, and content alone won’t be enough (see above: the internet).

But people pay for courses all the time, as long as they see the courses as providing value. This value can come in the form of course format or delivery, personalized interactions with an instructor who’s an expert in the field, or some other unique perspective you bring to the material.

As you start to identify the things that will make your courses special, use them to figure out which kind of LMS or other online training software will best serve your needs.

For example, do you want participants to interact with each other? with you? Do you need integration with an e-commerce solution, such as Shopify, ONTRAPORT, or PayPal? Many systems also offer custom reports and assessments, as well as certificates of completion. Often, platforms are geared more toward corporate or organizational clients versus small entrepreneurs, so figure out which features you really need and look for platforms that offer those.

Organize your content

Once you know what kinds of courses you’re going to offer, figure out how you want to organize the content. What kinds of assignments or other assessments will help participants understand the material?

Think too about the length of the course. If you’re designing something for working adults, creating courses that can be completed in chunks or short bursts might be more attractive than something that spans weeks or months. This sort of learning, often described as microlearning, can help people fit in practice when they might no otherwise have the time.

If you’re thinking about creating courses in something you know well, it’s highly likely that you’re no longer a beginner. As you organize the content, remember how it felt to be a beginner and create activities that move people through the material in logical ways. For example, someone just learning Spanish doesn’t need to understand how to say things in the past tense. Instead, I have beginners focus on simple things they’re likely to hear in most conversations, such as introductions.

Figure out which are the most important–and fundamental–principles for your course and then create activities that help participants master those. And then offer them ways to build on those skills in future courses!

Think bigger than one course

Think about how these online courses fit into your overall business model and marketing strategy. Maybe the courses aren’t important for revenue but will do a great job of introducing clients to your skills. Or perhaps an online course is a way to provide additional support to clients with whom you don’t have a personal relationship. For example, if you’re a life coach with a full roster of clients, you could create an online course that walks people through an important skill or decision-making process or that helps them decide if your services would benefit them.

Once you figure out what role the online courses will have in your business, integrate them into your broader marketing strategy. It’s highly unlikely that just throwing up some online courses will result in a successful revenue stream.

Many people who’ve built up a business selling successful online courses have done so by building on an existing network of contacts, such as through Facebook or other social media outlets.

Balance free content–such as a YouTube or Vimeo channel–with paid content, and make that free stuff good enough that people want more and come looking for you. When they do, make sure that your website makes it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.

Once people have completed a course, get their feedback–and then use it to make your next offerings even better!

There’s a fair amount of competition out there in the online course world, but identifying what you’re good at and turning that into a successful online course can help you build your brand and grow your business.

Kirsten Drickey

Kirsten Drickey

Chief Marketing Officer at Avizr

I'm endlessly fascinated by how people learn, and I'm happiest when I'm in the process of learning something new myself.

When I'm not working on marketing for Avizr, I can be found teaching Spanish, working with my student teachers, hanging out with my dogs, and exploring the many trails around Bellingham.
Kirsten Drickey

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