The ultimate guide to creating your first profitable online course

Do you often wonder how great life would be if you had a little more time to spare for family – especially children?

Are you running on the hamster wheel of 9 to 5 and wondering why you still don’t have the financial bandwidth to make important life-changing decisions? 

I feel you girl! I’ve been there myself!

There are literally hundreds of thousands of women who build successful careers and totally love what they do – only to realize they need better work-life balance and a smarter way to reach their financial and personal goals after having children.

One ever too common theme that I’ve seen in the lives of many women including myself is that our worlds simply come tumbling down after our first ones are born. We are forced to ask ourselves if this is, in fact, all there is?

The standard 9 to 5 suddenly starts to feel too restrictive. Creating online courses may be the answer.

Why do you need to create courses?

If I was to answer this question very simply – then it would be this. Online courses help you create freedom of time and finances. Above all, as a mom, it allows you the freedom to spend more quality time with your children and work at a time that suits you best.

You can be present and available for important milestones in your children’s lives – because I know how important this is. And how quickly (or slowly) time flies and the young ones grow more independent.

For as long as I remember, courses have been a thing in literally every conceivable industry. What used to be offline has now gone online. The only major shift we are now seeing is how information is being consumed. 

Everything from math, design, photography, to copywriting and general business is being taught online and people are willingly signing up for it.

The online education industry is growing faster than any other right now. To give you some perspective, according to Forbes, the industry will go beyond $325 billion by 2025. This means people will spend $1 billion per day to buy other people’s expertise.

Because of this one change, ordinary people are building extraordinary lives. Also, due to Covid-19, e-learning and course consumption has skyrocketed. 

I believe this is truly the perfect time to take a ‘leap of faith’ and benefit from the growing industry. You know that hobby or skill that you’re passionate about, you can now actually build a business around it. 

Selling online courses can be very profitable if done right. Once you have a small group of warm people (or superfans) who love what you do and how you do it, it is a great way to make a consistent income.

People who’ve built big businesses with online courses

I love listening to and sharing stories and I think we learn best through them! Stories can offer valuable insights and ‘aha’ moments that we can then apply to our businesses and lives.

If you simply run a quick google search, you will find hundreds of stories of women and men who built successful courses and went on to double, triple, quadruple their incomes while serving others in the process. How beautiful is that?

Here’s Lidiya’s story who founded Let’s Reach Success somewhere around 2013. Just like me, she loved to write, and therefore blogging came more naturally to her. Lidiya is now a full-time blogger and course creator and helps people start successful side-hustles and make an income online. 

She started her blog as a hobby but later realized that it provided a recession proof-way for her to generate a 5-figure income.

Her story is pretty interesting. She loved writing and was passionate about self-help and decided to combine the two through her blog. She then changed gears and now teaches – through her blog – full-time about how to grow and monetize a blog.

Here’s another one. John Omar and Eliot Arntz were only 27 years old when they decided to work together to create an online course on iOS 7 app development. 

They spent $1000 and a total of 3 months to build and launch the course. The promise of the course? That they would take absolute beginners and turn them into junior developers in exactly 3 months. 

After the duo launched the course, they emailed every person they knew in tech. They had an iOS meetup that they hosted regularly and one of the partners had some GA students who were also informed of the launch. 

They only charged $99 for students to sign up for the class and ended up making $40k right out the gate in the very first month of the course going live. Not bad right?

Then there is Kayse Morris who is a former English school teacher. She started creating courses to help other teachers on how they can dive headfirst into the online world and use what they are passionate about in the classroom and turn it into a sustainable business. 

Her business helped pull her out of extreme post-partum depression. In 2019, she made her first million dollars and says that there is no financial ceiling or limit to what is possible. 

It’s truly amazing what becomes possible when you really open your heart and see the possibilities that exist.

‘But I don’t have anything to teach?’ 

I truly believe everyone has a course inside them. It is something that you know or do so well, and comes so naturally to you, that you feel that other people would know it too. But that is not always the case. 

A lot of times, we take what we know for granted. When in reality, with our knowledge we can help people who may be a few (or several) steps behind us. 

Sometimes we go through a mess in our lives. We are thrown at the deep end of a difficult situation and have to climb our way out of it. While it may feel like an impossible situation at the time, once we overcome it, we can help others navigate the pitfalls better.

I call this ‘mess to message’. 

Think about all the people going through a similar challenge and how you can help them overcome their obstacles faster. This is what people are happy to pay for.

The reporter method

Another valuable thing to remember is that if you are passionate about a subject that you don’t know a whole lot about, you can start reporting on it.

Learn from other people who have mastered the subject, read the best books on it, and talk about it every chance you get – on your blog, podcast, social media, by writing articles, etc. 

If you keep repeating this, would you remain a student or will you become a master yourself?

Please remember that every master was once a beginner. Don’t let this stop you from moving forward in the direction of your dreams.

Choose your ‘dot’

The number 1 thing that you need to think in terms of is who are you going to serve with your course. Who is your target audience or ‘dot’? 

This dot is the person that you want to speak with. The more clarity you have on who you’re serving, the more confidently you will be able to serve. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you try and speak to everyone.

Let me illustrate this with an example; A woman came up to Dean Graziosi one day and said, ‘’I’m an artist and I want to teach it to the world. I feel that no one will want to learn what I have to share.’’

So he asked her what kind of art she did? She said when I take nature walks and see something beautiful that inspires me, I sit down and paint it.

Dean Graziosi said, so this means your art is not for everybody. It is for people who want to capture moments of inspiration through painting.

Then he asked her what medium did she use? She said I love to use water paints. They are not so messy, are easy to clean up later, etc.

Dean said okay so that means your art is for people who want to capture moments of inspiration through painting and prefer using watercolors above all other mediums such as pencil, or oil paints.

Notice that Dean is trying to help the woman find her dot.

Then the woman added, ‘’You know Dean, I love painting with my daughter. She is a teenager and I feel it’s a great way for us to connect.’’

Moreover, she was not teaching professionals. It was for newbies who enjoyed the spontaneity of it all and wanted to bond and connect with their children. What a beautiful service to parents and children alike!

After this session, here is how she described her business. ‘I teach people how to use painting to bond and connect with their teenage children.’

Niching down serves as a way to build a connection with your perfect people. 

Why do people pay for online courses?

Because courses help them save time.

Course creators are bridge builders which means they are helping you navigate the problem faster and more effectively than you trying to figure it all out yourself.

The simple 4-step process to outlining your course 

I will explain a simple, 4-step process that would help you create a stellar outline for your course. This has to be the first step as you decide to create your course.

Step #1: Define the transformation

People never buy courses, they buy results. It doesn’t matter how great your information is it it is not providing any transformation. If you’re having a hard time defining the transformation for yourself, then trust me, your audience will also have a hard time understanding it. 

So this is the first thing you need to figure out and define. If you already have an audience that you plan to sell the course to, it would be best to understand what they’re going through while you’re at it.

The good way to go forward is to bake your result directly into the course name. At this point, Ramit Sethi’s courses come to mind such as ‘Earn your first thousand dollars’ or ‘Land your dream job’. The promise is clear.

Step #2: Sticky notes are your best friends

I personally love the colorful ones! Get a fresh packet of sticky notes and then start putting down ideas on each one. Use them for a big brain dump. Don’t overthink this part. Just literally put everything down that you can come up with when you think about creating your course.

Sticky notes are small which means you can only add one idea per note.

Lessons, mistakes, ideas, missteps – note them all down. In total, this should take you no more than one hour. 

Start by brainstorming for 10 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. Go for another brainstorming session for 10 minutes followed by another break. 

And finally, the best ideas usually come at the final 10-minute round because while you’re taking short breaks, your brain is in thinking mode and comes back with processed, refined ideas.

Stick these notes on a mirror or board where you can see them and keep adding to them. 

Step #3: Organize your notes

While our brains do a great job of coming up with ideas, they are not so great at organizing that information.

At this point, you will need to organize your sticky notes into groups. Each group will create a module. 

You can add additional ideas per group or remove ideas that don’t seem to be working very well. While building a course, the intention needs to be to help students quickly cover ground and get the promised results.

It’s natural to try and want to add too much information but we need to omit unnecessary details and only keep what is very crucial for others to get results.

With this sticky note method, you should be able to have your modules figured out. But don’t hesitate to move them around and rearrange them if you feel the need. 

Step #4: Make the outline

Step 4 is the natural outcome of the previous steps. When you have all your ideas organized and in front of you, you can simply create an outline. The work is mostly done at this point. 

Now, what do you do with the outline? Share it with some members of your audience and get their feedback. Don’t have an audience? Get in touch with friends or colleagues who may be looking for the kind of transformation that you’re offering with your course.

Find out what would they improve, what would they remove? Does the outline make sense to them?

Pre-sell the course

The next very crucial step is to pre-sell your course to your audience. If you don’t have an audience, you can still do it by running ads for workshops and webinars to promote your course.

If you have an existing audience, just let them know that you’re coming out with this course. That you haven’t made it yet but would like to share how it would be helpful for them.

Then offer early access to 20 people so they can work with you to build this course so that it can meet their needs. Offer them extra time to help them go through the content. And tell them that if you’re not able to get the 20 people, then you will refund them.

Pre-selling is a great way to validate your idea. If people are willing to invest at this early stage, this information gives you the confidence that you are moving in the right direction. People are essentially going to vote with their dollars.

Once you have this information, go back to the drawing board and complete your course.

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