Are you working on your side hustle hoping to quit your 9 to 5 but having a hard time jumpstarting your new business?
Tired of trading time for money?
Are you stuck in a cycle that keeps you from taking your business to the next level?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then creating an online course is probably the solution you’ve been looking for.
Online courses are one of the best ways to create passive income and they’re quickly becoming an essential part of online business.
Here are a few reasons why:
If you want to finally find the freedom and time you’ve been looking for and want to create a digital course, then this guide is made for you.
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Download my FREE Virtual Summit Mastery Cheat Sheet PDF to learn more about the fastest way to grow your online course audience by hosting a wildly successful virtual summit.
It's so powerful that it helped me and my students generate 100,000's of email subscribers and millions of dollars in sales with our virtual summits in just the past year alone.
NOTE: This guide is massive; it contains well more than 10,000 words. As that’s the case, this is not what I would call “light reading.” I recommend going through the guide in the order it’s written for your first read and then coming back to re-read it and jump around to whatever section you need the most help with. You'll find the full table of contents below for your own convenience!
Why Create This Guide On Creating & Selling Online Courses?
There’s a lot of content out there about how to make money from selling online courses. But what I’ve found that is covering this topic are two things:
The person writing the content has limited knowledge in this area which shows in their writing, or
The person writing the article has a lot of knowledge on the subject but they’re holding back from giving away the goods
While there’s some pretty in-depth content out there, I felt that something very comprehensive on the topic of creating and launching an online course was missing.
As I poured over the content on the internet about this, I realized that someone like you wouldn’t get all the information they really needed to launch an online course.
So I decided to do something about it and put together this very detailed step-by-step guide to give you the knowledge you really need to create an online course.
Who Is This Online Course Guide For?
This ultimate guide to creating and selling online courses is for people interested in learning exactly how to create a successful online course from scratch (and eventually turn it into a 6 or 7-figure online business).
This includes everyone from veteran entrepreneurs to those just starting out, but my readers usually fall into a few different main categories:
1. You’re just starting out. Creating an online course and business is on your mind, but you don't yet have an idea, email list, product or where to go from here.
2. You're in the early stages of your online business. Maybe you’ve started laying the groundwork with your first online course, but you don't yet have much of an email list or revenue and have been struggling to figure out the best place to put your energy.
3. You have an existing online course business that's doing well. You already have a solid email list and product but you're looking for help to scale your online course a lot faster (Hint: a hosting a virtual summit in your niche can help you do that very quickly).
If you fit into any of those camps, then you’re in the right place.
What Is An Online Course?
If you’re unsure about what exactly an online course is then I’ll take a few moments here to explain.
Basically, an online course is a digital product created for and distributed on the web to teach a certain skill or process that generally solves a problem.
Since the course lives online a student can kick back on a lazy Sunday, sip on their morning coffee and learn something new from the comfort of their home instead of traveling to a classroom.
Online courses often take shape in a few different ways.
Here are the most common ones:
1. An Email Delivered Course
Either free or for a fee, a shorter online course may be put together within a sequence of emails.
One example of this style is this one from well-known marketer, Brian Gardner of StudioPress and CopyBlogger.
2. A Course Taught Through an Ebook
Ebooks are another digital product that can be used to teach. Depending on your topic, the level of complexity and your writing ability, an ebook course could work for you.
A site like Gumroad has quite a few examples of people teaching processes and new skills through an ebook.
3. A Video Delivered Course
This tends to be the most loved and more popular option. People can usually consume visual content better than strictly text-based information. SkillShare is a great example of what a video-centric digital course can look and feel like.
4. The Best Of The Best: A Combination Of All Three (And Then Some)
While a smaller course could do well in a single style, the best online courses out there often have a combination of these things:
For my own online courses (like Virtual Summit Mastery) and those of my students, this is the style of choice and is the one I have in mind while writing this guide.
Don’t let that last bullet point deter you.
In just a little bit, I’m going to show you how you can avoid this pitfall so that instead of wasting time you will create something you know your future students will pay for.
I have a very specific process for this that almost no one online is teaching. It’s the same process that many of my students have used to launch six-figure courses that continue to generate money every year.
Why Create An Online Course?
I’ve seen so many people creating courses. The web is filled with them. And I’m sure someone already has a course on a topic I could create. Why should I even create one?”
I’m asked this question all the time.
If you’re wondering this I want to snuff that flame of doubt with this one piece of knowledge I’ve come to learn:
People do not buy courses simply because it’s online. People will buy your course because of YOU and the VALUE you offer.
Once I learned that truth, many of my personal doubts about creating my own courses melted away.
And while I’ve created digital products and courses that cover similar topics others have available, I still have a thriving business thanks to the digital courses I have put together.
Honestly, though, there are many reasons why you should consider doing this for yourself.
Here’s a few you to consider:
1. You’re Helping People.
One of the biggest rewards for an online course creator is that you can truly impact the lives of your students for the better. Help comes in many forms and if your course solves a real problem for someone then you can rest happy knowing that you’ve done some real good in the world.
2. Sow Now, Reap For Years To Come
Course creation requires a lot of initial heavy lifting, but the majority of that work is done upfront. After you’ve put it all together, you can leave it be and funnel people into it year after year.
3. They Can Serve As A Passive Income Stream
Building on the point above, one upside to creating your own online course is that you can eventually automate many of your sales. This can then become a passive income stream.
4. You Can Grow Your Email List Like Crazy
One of the most valuable assets in your online business is your email list. It’s one of the few things you build that you own.
You can’t say that about your Instagram and Twitter followings. If those platforms shut down tomorrow all your work and audience is gone.
An email list can move from one email marketing platform to another or turn into a . CVS sheet and sit in your Google Drive until you need it.
It’s yours. And the more refined your growing email list becomes, the more profitable this asset turns into. An online course is a great way to build a profitable email list.
Just check out the case study below and hear how professional harpist Diana Rowan hosted several successful virtual summits to grow her email list quickly and then sell her membership and online courses to the engaged audience she built.
How To Create An Online Course In 7 Steps
Okay, I’m about to dig into the tactical part of this guide.
Remember, this guide isn’t a fluffy overview of what you could do or what might work.
I have done this.
I’ve put this guide together from my personal experience of creating and launching multiple six-figure courses. And many of my students have implemented many of the tactics I’m going to teach here and they have seen a lot of success with it.
But success requires focus and action.
So as a reminder, each of the steps below contains an action-oriented checklist where you need to put in the work.
I’ll tell you exactly what that work is, but if it’s going to do anything for you, you need to move forward and actually do it.
If so, then let’s get started.
Step 1: Set Your Online Course Foundation
I’m going to level with you.
Before you can dive into the rest of the steps in the guide, you’re going to be spending a large chunk of your time in this step.
Right now, you may have some ideas about the course you want to create so it can be easy to skip to the next part. But spending your time here is going to go a long way to helping you create the right course and not just the first one that comes to mind.
In this part, I’ll show you how to
How To Come Up With Online Course Ideas
When it comes to course ideas, people usually experience one of these:
- They are bursting with a ton of ideas and have a list as long as their arm, or
- They can’t think of many or any ideas for what their course should cover
No matter which one you are, this part will help you come up with some creative ideas while also finding the right type of idea.
The best online courses usually come from finding the center point of a few things:
When you come up with ideas that overlap into these brackets you’re often much closer to finding the right one you should focus on creating.
Throughout this step, I don’t want you to worry about validating your ideas.
We will be doing that later on.
For now, just focus on coming up with ideas and getting a real pulse for who your target audience is and the problems they need to be solved.
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Brainstorming online course ideas
Discover Online Courses Your Audience Wants By (Politely) Stalking Your Competitors
Whether you’re new to the online business world or you’ve been doing this for a while, it’s likely that you have some sort of idea regarding who your audience is.
Even if you’re new to online business or you’re thinking of creating a course where you currently have no audience, it doesn’t take long to find information about your audience.
Thanks to Google, you can start figuring out things like:
Just asking those few questions should help you start noticing something:
When coming up with a course idea, discovering competitors in the market is actually a good thing because it means that your topic has an audience of people willing to read, share, and engage with someone else about it.
As you start to research topics you’re contemplating turning into an online course, you can see either green lights or red lights as to whether you should move forward with a certain idea or not.
Discovering Possible Topics To Green Light
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Collecting data into a spreadsheet like this is nice for a couple of reasons.
First, it gives an organized place for your research to live so that you can refer back to it when you need it.
And that’s not just in the case for your course. You can use this research to compile a customer avatar later on. Or if you end up doing something like running Facebook ads for your course, you’ll have a list of groups and interests you can now target.
Second, as you work through the rest of these steps the research you’ve done at the beginning can feed into the work that you’ll do later on.
More on that in a bit.
For now, let’s move onto the third part to this step.
Refining Your Online Course Ideas
Now that you’ve done a deep dive on your research, you should
As you were researching your competitors, there is a chance that you had more ideas for course topics that you added to your Google Sheet.
But, now comes the part where you need to trim the fat.
Obviously, not every topic you’ve had is going to be a winner so you should remove it from your document.
Rearrange your topic ideas again to see if there are any that line up across all three brackets.
Once you come to this point, you should have one or two solid topics for your courses.
Here is what it may look like in your Google Sheet:
Skills + Expertise
Audience + Willingness To Pay
Founders in Tech. Have a budget for content.
Content marketing for startups
PPC, SEO, Traffic Generation
Millennials. Retirees. Willingness to pay? Yes!
Living in a tiny house
This is a broad example but I’m using it to show that you may have ideas that vary on the spectrum and that’s okay.
Now, you’ll notice that I’ve added a “topics” column to my spreadsheet and the topic is pretty general, overall.
As part of the refining process, you should take this topic and niche down.
I might do it like this.
Take, for example, this topic: Content Marketing for startups.
This is a good overall topic, but you could create a more defined niche to help you create something more clearly directed at a certain audience.
Key terms like “founder,” “tech,” and “growth hacking” would likely be things you would come across in your research phase.
Using those terms as you narrow down your topic makes it easier to have in mind who your course is for, what may need to be included within your course, and makes it more appealing to the right market.
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Refining Your ideas
Step 2: Build And Grow Your Online Course Audience
Now that you’ve refined your ideas and landed on the one you’re going to build a course around, I can bet you’re pretty eager to start creating it.
If you’re feeling that way I want you to hit pause.
Many posts and guides online teach (or at least leave you thinking) that you should create your course first and then sell it.
I don’t recommend doing that, and here’s why:
Even with all your research, the topic you’ve chosen still have a couple of vital pieces missing from your strategy.
Let’s talk about the first one.
Right now, your course idea is just that — an idea.
Is it a good idea? Probably.
Will people pay you for it? You’d hope so.
Notice the uncertainty there.
You’re unsure because you haven’t validated your idea.
That means you have yet to prove this idea is something people will pay you for. (And going around pitching friends your idea and asking them if they would buy the course doesn’t count.)
Don’t worry, though.
I’m going to teach you how to validate your online course idea so that you’re not wasting time.
But, before you can do that, you need an audience.
You may have an email list, but it there’s a chance doesn’t have the right audience for the course you’re going to create. And even if it does, it can’t hurt to prime your subscribers for what’s to come while also adding new and hungry buyers to your list.
Building and growing your audience for your course is what this entire step is dedicated to helping you do.
The Best Email List Building Growth Strategies For Your Online Course
Your email list is your list of buyers; your consumers.
And when you’re planning on launching a new online course, the more buyers and better.
As you go through the steps of building and growing your email list, you should have realistic expectations about what income you will generate here. Some people like to average out the revenue gained from an email list by saying that it's generally worth $1 per subscriber.
Personally, I say leveling it out that way is a bit misleading.
A better way to understand the revenue from your list is to go by percentages. On average, 5-10% of your list will be the ones who purchase from you.
Yours could be higher, but this is a good way to calculate your income projections.
How Many Subscribers Should You Have?
Simply put, you should aim for no less than 1,000.
With 1,000 people on your list and with the averages we talked about, 50 to 100 of them are likely to be the ones who buy.
Even if you have 1,000 subscribers on your list right now, I still recommend aiming to add an additional 1,000 to your list before your launch.
It can’t hurt, right?
I like this number as a starting point because even if you’re new to this, it doesn’t seem too unreachable.
However, if you’re feeling ambitious, you're welcome to up that number to something you’re confident you can reach.
If you’re a bit unsure of what to do to grow your email list, that’s okay.
The actionable strategies that you will find below are the best ones for quick email list growth, and they’re ones that myself and many others have personally tested and seen great results from.
Top Email List Building Strategy 1: New Blog Content and Lead Magnets
If you have a website or plan to start one for this course, then one of the best ways to gain email subscribers for your online course is through this method:
Creating blog content based on your online course topic and adding lead magnets throughout your post and site.
This is one of the easier things to start on and one of the most popular email growth strategies.
But as I’m sure you’ve guessed, even though this step is lower on the difficulty scale, it’s not as simple as writing a few short blog posts and tossing in a generic email pop-up.
This, like all the others on the list, needs some legwork to make this effective.
Creating A Content Plan
To execute this correctly, you need two things:
- A Content Plan, and
- A Promotion Plan
At the bare bones of it, this is content marketing 101. In the previous step, I had you create a Google Sheet.
Well, all the information about your competitors is about to come in handy because you don’t need to come up with fresh ideas. Instead, you can take a look at the sites of these influencers and see what topics they are writing about.
Take their best performing headlines and put your own spin on it.
To help you keep all of these ideas in order, I’d recommend creating another Google Sheet (or a new tab in your current one) and dropping your headlines in there. These days I tend to prefer Airtable for organizing things like this, which is like Google Sheets on steroids (plus a whole lot more).
As you read your competitor’s content, you may find holes in what they are talking about or see questions from readers in the comments that go unanswered.
This can give you ideas for creating even better content than what others have done.
If you’re a bit new to content marketing or want a really granular breakdown of the best way to create a content marketing plan, then I suggest you read this simple step-by-step guide to content marketing by Neil Patel.
He’s the hands-down expert on this topic and you’ll walk away knowing quite a bit more about the subject than you probably know now, which is great because consistent list growth often relies on a good content marketing strategy.
If you’re already skilled in this area, then when you’re done with your content brainstorm your Google Sheet will have all your content mapped out with target keywords added, and you’ll know which leads magnets you’ll be creating.
In the end, it will be organized under columns a look something like this:
Customer Journey Level
Your Lead Magnet(s)
Let’s take a couple minutes to discuss your lead magnet.
This part of your content creation and the setup is important because it’s where you’re going to pull in email subscribers for your eventual course launch.
What this lead magnet (also called a content upgrade) will depend on you and you may find you need to create more than one.
Some people create a PDF guide, workbook, cheatsheet or checklist. Others may create a short email series, or even video content.
No matter what you create, you’ll need two things to manage collecting emails and distributing your lead magnet:
- An email marketing service provider (like ActiveCampaign or ConvertKit). Check out my in-depth ConvertKit review here.
- Email lead generation software (for popups or in-content email collection, e.g. OptinMonster or ThriveLeads)
It’s likely you have these tools running in your business now, but if not I’ll leave it up to you to decide the best combination.
Whatever you decide to use, it’s best to set up these opt-ins with tags or segment them so you can target your emails to the people most interested in your topic.
Building an Online Course Promotion Plan
But just creating this content, isn’t enough.
The whole idea of “build it and they will come” has been shown to be the loser’s mindset in the race to building a successful business online and course.
To get a lot of the right people coming to your site you are going to need a promotion plan.
There is a bunch of information out there about how to go about promoting your content.
Here are a few examples:
No promotion plan will be exactly alike. Whatever the case is after you’ve created your content and lead magnets you should know exactly where you’re going to promote it.
Generally speaking, these tactics have proved effective for most people:
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Lead Magnet setup
Content Promotion process
Top Email List Building Strategy 2: Virtual Summits = Get Paid To Build A Large, Engaged Email List Of Buyers + Validation
Remember earlier how I mentioned the importance of validating your course idea?
While it’s not the only way you can grow a list and validate your idea, hosting a virtual summit is hands down the best way to do it if you can do it right.
A virtual summit lets you test your idea in the market to see if your course topic has the audience of buyers you hope it does.
Usually, hosting a virtual summit will help you be even more specific in what content you should create for your course curriculum and what is the best angle for it so that you're delivering what the market needs.
If the term “virtual summit” isn’t one you’re familiar with, let me explain a bit more about what this is and how it works.
In many ways, these are somewhat like attending a conference since someone is hosting it and it has a roster of speakers scheduled to deliver their presentations to an audience or to be interviewed by the host.
However, all of the attendance and interaction happens online — thus the “virtual” part of the term.
But one of the upsides to this format (aside from saving on travel and lodging) is that these summits give the host and speakers a chance to have a much more interactive role with those who attend.
These summits look like webinars, but since you’ve scheduled more than one, it’s like a back-to-back video feed of compelling video content that people tend to love.
Another benefit to hosting a virtual conference is that you can pre-record some of the speaker sessions and then edit these to make sure the content you serve to your audience is only the best-of-the-best.
For me, my first successful summit changed everything for my business. It helped me to validate my ideas and launch a course that has taught others how to put together these virtual summits successfully.
Other than validating your idea, the virtual summit model has proven to do a few other things like helping you build relationships with influencers, turn your audience into a community, and build your authority along with your perceived value.
Take, for example, my friend and former student Chandler Bolt at Self Publishing School.
Chandler had a list of about 12,000 subscribers before he took my course and held a virtual summit.
After he went through the process I taught and held his virtual event, not only did he have a new product, but he also grew his email list to over 30,000 and used it to add over $370k in revenue to his business in just 2 months.
Today, he runs a multi-million dollar business with more than 100k email subscribers.
This is just one example, and there are plenty more.
To top that, very few people across the web are even doing this, so there is room to grab market authority and become a go-to expert using this incredibly effective marketing strategy.
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Top Email List Building Strategy 3: Partner Webinars
If putting on a virtual summit makes you feel a bit uneasy then this strategy is a way you can test the waters since outreach and webinars have a part in the virtual summit model too.
And if you already have some great relationships with other leaders in our market, by all means, capitalize on it with these teamed-up webinars.
If you haven’t been a part of or seen this approach before, it’s simple.
It’s where you and someone else with your target audience host a joint webinar to both of your viewers.
Both people come to the table ready to market this webinar to help get the most out of it for themselves.
I love doing partner webinars, and here’s why:
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits and they don’t just apply to you. These also apply to whomever you choose to do the webinar with so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Step 2 in my Virtual Summit Mastery Cheat Sheet is completely dedicated to giving you ideas about how to research people with your target demographic and reaching out to them to pitch the idea of having them in your virtual summit.
This same approach works well when looking to do partner webinars so if you haven’t downloaded the cheat sheet yet, be sure to do so now.
EXCLUSIVE FREE BONUS DOWNLOAD
Download my FREE Virtual Summit Mastery Cheat Sheet PDF to learn more about the fastest way to build your online course audience. It's so powerful that it helped me and my students generate 100,000's of email subscribers and millions of dollars in sales with our virtual summits in just the past year alone.
If you’re going to be doing these type of webinars, I like to recommend starting outreach at least 2-3 months ahead of the actual webinar date.
This will give you and your partner some wiggle room for creating any materials needed or for prepping your website.
The added benefit is that you can (and should try to) stack these partner webinars so that you’re adding a bunch of emails all at once with a primed audience.
Doing it this way is better than spacing things too far apart since you want to reach your email target goal sooner rather than later so that you can start validating your course idea and move along in this process.
Something else to consider is what platform you’ll host your webinar on. Nowadays, there are quite a few options and each has their strengths and weaknesses.
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Top Email List Building Strategy 4: Facebook Ads To Lead Magnet
Finally, there is the method of paid media, specifically using Facebook.
I saved this point for last because it has proven to be a great way to generate leads for your email list.
However, out of all of these list building strategies, this could be the most expensive one.
But, without a doubt, your audience is somewhere on either this platform and starting with just a few dollars to test the waters can get your ad in front of someone who may have never heard of you otherwise.
If you’ve never set up Facebook Ads and you aren’t comfortable with too much tech then digging into the ads platform can easily feeling overwhelming.
Thankfully, you don’t need to know the entire system to set up something that potentially brings in a lot of emails to your list.
The best one to start with is a Leads Ad. Chances are you’ve seen and clicked on these type of ads in the Facebook platform at some point.
They are set up to look like this example here.
They have a bit of copy above the image, an image or video to support the copy and then a CTA to sign up. A click on that button takes you an opt-in that looks something like this.
Here, a person will fill in all the input areas and then submit it.
If your ad offered a PDF or something of the like, then you can trigger an email to send after they submit from here.
Even if you’re brand new and have never touched a Facebook ad before, I found this tutorial to be one of the best ones on the web so if you feel like it, you can try this out and see how it goes.
An alternative to this is finding someone else to setup this up for you, so if you have the budget for it, you could go this route as well.
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Facebook ads to lead magnet
These are four of the email list growth strategies that have been shown to work.
You can do just one, a mix of some or all of them if you like.
Do the work to grow your email list.
And since there will be time between when someone subscribes to your content and when you’ll move to the next phase, be sure to send engaging emails in the meantime.
You don’t want the list you’re growing to become stagnant.
An excellent way to help you keep this core group of people interacting with you is to use your emails to invite them into a community or Facebook group where you can get to know them better and vice-versa.
I also want to mention that since you have a target number you wish to reach with your list, you should consider setting a date for when you want to hit that mark.
Even though some of us shy away from it, people tend to work best under deadlines.
So have your target number, have a deadline set to reach it, choose the route for growing your list and then go for it.
Once you’ve hit your target number, then it’s time to move on to the next step.
EXCLUSIVE FREE BONUS DOWNLOAD
Download my FREE Virtual Summit Mastery Cheat Sheet PDF to learn more about how to build your online course audience fast by hosting a virtual summit. It's so powerful that it helped me and my students generate 100,000's of email subscribers and millions of dollars in sales with our virtual summits in just the past year alone.
Step 3: Pre-Sell Your Online Course To Your Highly Targeted Email Subscribers
So whether you’ve gone the route of doing a virtual summit or not, this part is going to help you with validating your course by pre-selling the idea to the list you’ve just grown.
Notice that I say I want you to sell the idea.
That’s because you’re still not going to be creating your course yet. I don’t want you to create anything until you’ve validated the idea.
Again, the reason for this is that you want to know EXACTLY what your email list wants.
They obviously have some interest in the topic you’re considering otherwise they wouldn’t have signed up.
But it’s not your job to sell them a product. It’s your job to create something that will help potential students solve a big problem they have on this topic.
And what you may think that is versus what it actually is usually different.
Not always as much as you think, but after you go through this step, I bet that without the data you’re going to collect, your course would have turned out different and not nearly as focused.
In this step, I’m going to walk you through how to figure out what your audience really wants and how you can have them pay you for your newly refined course idea without creating anything yet.
Start By Surveying Your Email List
When you’re about to create an online course, a top-notch survey will help you find out who your email subscribers are and what they struggle with on this topic.
From my own personal experience, the best way to put together a conclusive survey is to follow the Ask Method by Ryan Levesque.
If you haven’t read his book Ask, then I highly recommend you do because it will be one of the best tutorials you will ever learn about how to survey your email list to find your marketing goldmine.
But for the sake of your own time, I’ll give you some advice on how to put together a comprehensive survey.
1. Pick Your Survey Tool And Create Your Survey
There are quite a few to choose from here, but Google Forms will work just fine. Don’t worry if these look a bit ugly. That matters less than the questions in your form.
After you create a new survey, place the questions below in your form and make all of them a requirement.
1. What’s your number one biggest (x) challenge right now? Replace the X with your topic.
This is an open-ended question and it’s the most important one on the list. You want them to use their own language to describe this challenge and why it’s so painful.
Add the long response option here and in the description, ask them to be as descriptive as possible. The longer the answer, the better it will be for you and them.
2. What best describes you? (Check the box). In this box, you’ll want to list out a few options for them to pick from. In this section, what those options are will change based on your course and the people on your list.
As an example, this could ask them to check a box like this:
To get even more information from them, after this section, you can add another one like this.
If you chose “I work full-time on my internet business” then what best describes what you do?
This is an example of what this part in your survey form might look like so don’t copy and paste these bullet points into your own form.
Consider your audience and what you know about them and what pains and information you already have about them and then use that info to create your own checkbox answers.
3. On average, how much does your business(es) gross each year? (checkbox to answer) Create income based bullet points that make sense for your market. You could start with something like “Less than $20,000 per year” and work from there.
Or use whatever you think is a good starting point.
4. Occasionally, I like to reach out to those on my email list to follow up on some of the answers provided. What’s the best way to reach you? Ask for their name, email, and phone number. You can also ask for a Skype ID instead since some people really prefer not handing out their phone number.
5. What’s your primary niche or market? (short answer response)
Optional: About how long have you been doing what you’re doing? This isn’t something you have to do, but it can be insightful and see if there is any pattern here in your audience.
That’s pretty much it.
You’ll notice that this form doesn’t ask a question such as, “do you want to buy this course?”
This question doesn’t work the way you think it does so stay away from adding that in here.
Now that you have the survey ready, you want to email your list.
2. Email Your Survey To Your List
Keep this email short and to the point. You could say something like:
It’s [YOUR NAME] here.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sending you some content about [X] topic. So far, it seems that you’ve enjoyed things so far.
But, today, I want to do something different.
Today, I want to ask you, what you would like to learn about?
If you could take a few minutes to fill out this form and tell me what your biggest challenge is, that would be great!
I want to give you the best material that you need right now and your answer to this question is going to help me help you even more.
Here’s the link again.
Can’t wait to learn more about you!
[YOUR NAME / SIGNATURE]
You can use this and change it up or you can write something completely different. Just be sure to link to the form and send out your email with an enticing headline.
3. Analyze The Responses Your Receive
With a list size of at least 1,000 people, you should aim for 250 responses or more.
The more you get, the better off you’ll be.
If your first email blast didn’t get the desired response, then send another email out to the ones who opened but didn’t click through and to those who didn’t open the email at all.
This should help you pick up a few more responses. Once you have the data you need, you’re going to need to do some manual lifting.
Copy all the answers to the first question and paste the content into TagCrowd.
Be sure to customize what you want the tool to find.
You’re looking for similar words and frequency here. You can also add words you don’t want to be shown (i.e. the, a, and, but, I, etc.)
Run the responses through the tool and see what the results are. Be sure to save that data because you’re going to be using it soon. Now go back to your Google Sheet where the responses are collected and start to read through them.
Which responses stand out to you? Which people put the most time into the answer?
These are the ones you should consider setting up a phone call with. Reach out to them, set up a phone call and get to know more about them.
Obviously, you can’t do this with everyone, but do a few to really help you understand these people.
They are the ones you are going to spend the majority of your time selling to because they’ve shown they cared enough to spend the time to give you a clear and long answer.
4. Prepare A Pre-Launch Webinar
The responses you collected and the phone calls you’ve done should have given you a clearer idea of
With this input and with a much more focused course idea, you’re going to want to host a small webinar.
In this webinar, you’ll invite your email list to join and teach them something that you know they will find invaluable. Right after that, you’ll pitch your course.
This is where the validation of your idea happens.
Before you have created even one letter of one script in your course, you are going to use this webinar to sell the course idea.
After you teach something impactful, you should use the end of your webinar to pitch your sale.
Even though you haven’t created anything for your course, you should have an outline of what the course will include so that you can tell them about it.
And then tell them the price and how they can pay for it.
You don’t want to give it away for free. Your goal here is to see if your target audience will pay you for this.
Before your webinar, you should have two things set:
- The number of sales you need to move forward in the process
- The number of sales that is just too low to make you move forward in the process
So if you’re pitching the first run of this course to your audience and you plan to sell it at $299 for lifetime access, then how many sales will it take to make creating this worth your while?
Remember, the amount of money is nice, but you’re also looking for the number of sales.
Too few sales mean that you’ve somehow missed your mark with your audience and you need to go back to the drawing board.
If this happens, then any sales you made from the webinar should be refunded since you don’t actually have a course created to give to them.
However, if you made enough sales and hit your revenue goal, then that means it’s time to move on to the next step.
YOUR ACTION CHECKLIST FOR THIS SECTION
Presell Your Online Course Idea
Step 4: Create Your Online Course - Step-by-Step Process
If you’ve made it to this point in the process, then congrats! That means you have a course idea that people have shown their willingness to pay you for.
This is no small feat, and I know you’ve put a lot of work into getting here.
But, the work isn’t over yet.
Since people have paid you for a course, now you need to buckle down and start creating all the materials that will go into your course.
This part of the process can be a bit overwhelming, but I’ll break down some of the steps to help you get through it.
Creating The Outline For Your Online Course
Right now, you probably have an outline of what you think should go into your course, but if not, here are a couple methods you can use to create one.
Everyone has a method they prefer so you can choose whatever you like.
For outline creation, we’re going to start with a brain dump.
Every idea, every possible module, video, workbook, slides, you name it. Write it down and just get it out of your head and on to something tangible.
After this, take what you’ve written and start to organize your ideas. A lot of courses will break the curriculum down to something like this:
As you start to organize your outline, you’ll start to see your course comes to life.
The clearer this becomes, the easier it will be to see what you may need to add or what needs to be moved around.
With the outline done, you need to start building out your content.
Fleshing Out Your Course Material
Your course is going to have a mixture of audio, video, presentations, written content and maybe even workbooks.
Whatever mixture of these your course has, you should know what that is and what needs to be created.
Now you need to take some time to start putting it all together.
I have an entire section later dedicated to platforms and tools for your course, but for now, here’s a short list of what you can use to get started:
Create a schedule for creating these parts for your course for yourself and stick to it. Do your best to be reasonable in what you can do in a certain timeframe.
This is your first time doing this and you don’t want to burn out halfway through the process because you push too hard too quick.
Once you have your course fully created, you can pick your course delivery platform (more on this in the next step) and give the people who already paid for your course in the webinar access to it.
Be sure to get feedback from this group to see if you need to clarify anything in your course or if they feel that something is missing. Use their input to really tighten up your course so you’re in prime share for a public launch.
Another key part to this is gathering testimonials or success stories that you can use in your copy like emails and sales pages. These little bits of social proof go a long way toward gaining trust and sales.
YOUR ACTION CHECKLIST FOR THIS SECTION
Online Course Creation Process
Step 5: Deliver Your Online Course
Now that you have a course you’re ready to sell to the world, there are a few crucial things that need to happen before you can actually sell it.
- You need a sales page so people can know you have a course.
- There needs to be an easy way to purchase it.
- You need to be able to deliver the course, effortlessly.
To make that all possible, you’ll need to either create or do these 5 things:
- Choose a platform for delivering your course material
- Create a sales/landing page specifically for your online course.
- Have your email sequences tightened up and ready for launch.
- Have an online cart set up and ready to accept payment.
- Have your payment gateway connected to your course delivery platform so that it will seamlessly provide access to your course after purchase.
The truth about this part of it is that there is no single right way of doing it. There is so much technology out there that will allow you to find the right mixture for you.
I still consider this an important step because you can’t really move forward to the actual “launch” part of your course until these seemingly small things start doing what they need to do.
So in this step, I’ll give you some ideas of how to marry together your technology, emails, and course materials so that you can launch your course without a hitch.
Crafting Your Course Marketing Funnel
Finding a platform to host and deliver your course is just one part of getting your tech right.
In this part of the guide, you should take a moment and think of everything that needs to be in place before someone can get into your course.
What this could be for you versus another person can vary wildly.
Generally speaking, when you’re building a marketing funnel with a course purchase as the end goal, some standard methods have proven to work.
As you know, most people focus on growing their email list to launch their course. We’ve been through that already, so I know you’re familiar with the tactics used to do that.
But here is where all those cogs come together to build a revenue engine. It’s also part of your customer’s entire journey from their first contact with you and your brand to their initial purchase.
Naturally, getting this engine running can feel like a big step that is easily overwhelming.
I want to help you eliminate as much of that as possible, so I’ll guide you through as much as I can.
Most people find that visually planning their funnel is a powerful method for gaining a clear vision of how this will function and what they need to do.
The idea is for you can find the areas you need to fill inside your funnel and other technical parts that need to be in place before you launch.
Find Your Starting Point and Build It Out
Here is where we get to tweak your marketing funnel a bit in preparation for your public launch.
By now, you’ll have picked one or more of the email list building strategies that we went over before.
Since you’ve tested your course, you probably have emails written, opt-ins created, landing page copy created and so on.
That’s great because you won’t need to start completely from scratch. Now, you need to take all these different moving parts and marry them together.
To do that, you need to find your starting point. More specifically, you need to find a potential customer’s starting point (their first contact with you) and follow that journey to the end.
Here’s a very basic example of what that could look like. If you’re using sticky notes, you can have each of the parts listed below on a note of its own.
While this example looks simple on the surface, there are some other moving parts that you’ll start to see with some examination.
The landing page, for example, needs some attention to the copy and to be connected to your email service provider.
Since this page is designed to trigger an email sequence, you will need to take a look at any emails you currently have in place and fine-tune the copy, tags, triggers and so on.
The next step you have is the webinar.
Since we covered this earlier, you probably have a tool for this that you like, or maybe you’re considering something like Easy Webinar for this sort of thing.
Your webinar will likely contain slides that you need to adjust or create for the webinar.
If you are scheduling a webinar as part of your launch, it’s a good idea to have the webinar date(s) and the launch time scheduled in a calendar so you can keep track of things and be prepared for launch day.
After the webinar, you will have people streaming to your sales page to purchase the course.
This page needs sales copy, pricing tiers, and your online cart setup and ready to start taking payments.
My online shopping cart tool of choice is ThriveCart. There are online course platforms that I’ll cover later which have online carts of their own, but I’ve found this tool to be the best one for all my digital products and coaching programs (ThriveCart can also be used together with other tools easily).
You can check out my in-depth ultimate ThriveCart review here.
Once a payment is taken, then emails can be sent out showing payment confirmation and giving them their course access meaning there is some work in that area that needs to be done.
Notice how drawing out this journey helps you to see what tasks need to be completed before your launch is live?
Depending on your course launch platform and the other possible tools you’re using, what each of those tasks will be a bit unique.
Whatever they are, starting writing them down or typing them out.
Do a braindump. Try to consider what could go wrong and what processes you’ll need in place to handle it.
Get it all out of your head and arrange the notes under each bracket within your customer’s journey.
Even if you don’t have every single thing listed, at this point you should now have a clear starting point and can start to build out and polish off your funnel for your course.
Again, the way this looks and all the things you need to do will be different than someone else.
However, this process has proven rather valuable for finding your course of action for delivering your course.
The other benefit of doing this is that you get a better idea of what you will need in whatever tool you choose to help you deliver your course to your students.
How you decide to deliver your course to your paying students is not nearly as important as the contents of your course itself.
But, a part of the course you may not have considered up to this point is the customer experience.
The tool or platform you use to give access to your course has a strong impact on your customers’ satisfaction so here are a few of the top ones available that you may want to consider.
The Most Popular Course Delivery Platforms
For a digital course like this, ease of access, on-the-go mobile viewing, and easy-to-follow navigation all contribute to the experience your students will have within your course itself.
That’s why it’s important to figure out what platform you will use to deliver your course since it will play a large role in your overall customer experience.
In my experience, there is no single best platform; it’s all dependent on your needs and budget.
When I first started out, I was using one platform and then had to move to another one as my business and student’s needs grew.
Both did what I needed them to do at the time and I’ve found the right mix of technology to fit my current needs.
You’ll need to do the same.
There are a lot of options out there for delivering your course.
I’m not going to review every single option available in this guide (I'll have another guide on the best online course platforms and software we're working on), but I’ll list a few alongside some of their benefits/drawbacks so you have a place to start.
When you’re first starting out with your course, I like to recommend that people start with an all-in-one platform like Teachable.
This platform handles just about everything you’ll need to get our course uploaded and ready for the public:
Teachable does all of this (and then some) so by going this route you will be using a tool that takes nearly all of your to-dos for this section off your plate.
As with anything, there will be a learning curve as you figure out how the platform works and setting things up to work correctly.
There are some drawbacks to the platform like transaction fees, the marketing integrations are rather basic and there’s no option for Live Workshops.
But for someone just starting out with their course, it’s certainly an option work exploring.
Prices start at $39 per month and go up to $499 per month depending on your needs.
When you need just a bit more than what Teachable has to offer, Thinkific is another option you may want to consider.
Their platform has all the things you’ll need to upload and launch your course:
Thinkific goes a step further in many areas and expands upon things that you could find very useful for your course management.
For instance, there is a built-in student management and communication features that allows you to see the faces of your students, see how far they’ve come and to send customized emails to them based on what you’re noticing.
There are even features where you can give your students certificates of completion. Also, the promotional capabilities of the platform are one of the better ones available.
If you wish to drip out your content that triggers with a sign-up, create coupons, start an affiliate campaign, you can do that with Thinkific.
You can start using all the core features of Thinkific for free to help you get a real feel for it.
If you like it and want more features, then pricing starts at $49 per month and can go up from there.
While the other two options mentioned here are course building platforms, Kajabi is a bit different. While it is designed to help you create and launch a course, you can use the platform to build an entire website.
That is, instead of having your main site on one platform and then your sales page/course on another, you can have it all wrapped up in one site.
There are a lot of good features that can aid you in your course launch:
The nice part of this platform is that is really is an all-in-one tool.
A decent email marketing suite is built right into Kajabi so you don’t need to pay extra for that marketing service.
The mixture of landing page creation, email marketing, and your course means that you can stick inside one platform to create your marketing pipelines.
By that I mean, instead of trying to get various tools and platforms to comes together and work for you, everything you need — even your blogging and content marketing — is all handled in one place.
It’s a simplification of processes, to be sure.
As it is an all-in-one platform and not just a course launching platform, the price for Kajabi is more than the others on the list.
The basic tier is $129 per month and can go up to $899 per month, which may make the option as a bit out of reach for you.
However, since you’re saving on email marketing tools, external hosting, and various marketing plugins, you may find it’s too far out of your budget.
Your Action Checklist For This Section
Step 6: Launch Your Online Course To The Public
Launching your course to the public is probably the most rewarding step of this entire process.
All of the work you’ve been has led you up to this point and for myself, this part is also the most exciting.
There are a few different ways you can launch an online course, and I’ll walk through them below.
Before I do that though, I want to give you a quick pointer.
Since this course is brand new, you shouldn’t do try to set things up as evergreen right away.
There is still quite a bit of testing and refining that will need to happen before you get to a point where you fully automate the process.
Instead, you should do a 5-7 day open-cart for your launch and then close up shop on the course until your next public launch.
I know this may feel odd to do this, but trust me. It’s for the best.
Plus, the shortened timeframe will create a sense of urgency to your audience, and that can actually help your sales.
You can choose whatever method(s) you like for your launch, but just before to follow the 6-7 day open-cart rule.
1. For Beginners: A Webinar Series
If you’re new to online business, doing webinars is a simple way to launch your online course effectively.
Since you did this when you pre-sold your course the first time, doing this again will help you refine your process.
If you need a refresher on how to do this, just go back to earlier in the guide to help you through it.
2. Email and Facebook Pop-up Group Launch
The mixture of an email launch with a Facebook pop-up has grown wildly popular because of how great it is for getting conversions.
The way this works is that you create a short email sequence around your course topic and then invite your audience to join you in your 7-day pop-up group.
You’ll get to interact with them, create Facebook videos, host live Q and A’s, deliver PDFs, take polls and more.
This live interaction does really well to get your audience worked up and interested in your course. And since this is your group, you can be as promotional as you want to sell your course.
After you’ve closed your cart for the launch, simply close and delete the group.
3. Partner Webinars
This is another great method for launching your course. You have done this earlier in your process, but it works well for course launches too.
You can follow the same process of outreach that I mentioned before, but I'll give you a specific example of how this worked for me below.
Here's an example of how I reached out to Regina. She agreed and we did a partner webinar that brought in well over 1,000 new email subscribers.
You can keep things very simple and use a tool like ClickFunnels, LeadPages or Thrive Architect if you prefer WordPress. Below you'll see part of the webinar registration page we used, but overall we kept it very simple (and it converted really well).
And if you already did a joint webinar, you could reach out to the same people you did this with before and do another webinar with them.
4. Smaller Affiliate Launch
Doing an affiliate launch can be tricky from a technical standpoint by just looking at it from a far and seeing what other people are doing, however, if it’s still a powerful way to take advantage of other people’s audience.
My favorite tool for affiliate management system is what I also use for my shopping cart... and it's called ThriveCart. It's by far the best tool I've used for this, and it keeps things super easy and streamlined for me (I can even do automatic payouts to my affiliates and a lot of other cool stuff which makes me look like a total pro, while still saving me a ton of time).
You can email the people who bought your course originally and invite them to be an affiliate of your course.
Or you can try some more outreach and leverage your relationships to bring in affiliates for your launch.
You’ll lose a portion of your revenue to your affiliates, but you get the added benefit of spreading your course to your target audience.
With your first time launching your online course, try to keep this affiliate group on the smaller side so that it’s manageable.
For your launch, you can try just one method or mix a couple together. Something like your own webinars plus partner webinars could be a great starting point.
Choose your route and launch your course for the 5, 6 or 7-day timeframe we’ve set.
Now, here’s a very important step. Very few people do it, but it will help make your next launch even more successful.
After you close your launch, send an email to all the non-buyers on your list.
In this email, you’re going to ask them this:
What’s the single biggest reason why you didn’t buy?
Collect answers in a new Google Form (or whatever tool you choose to conduct your survey with) and review what your audience said. Look for patterns again and take their feedback to help improve your course.
Your Action Checklist For This Section
Step 7: Set Up Your Online Course For Massive Growth
After you’ve come off the common high of your first launch, it’s time to consider your growth strategy for when you open up your course again.
Continued email list growth is essential to the growth of your online course.
Thankfully, there isn’t a lot of new tactics to learn in this part.
Much of the strategy you implemented at the start of this process will still remain, except now they will be more focused and you can be bolder in your approach.
For this step, you want to look at the processes you used before and do 3 things:
- Do more of what worked,
- Tweak or remove the strategies that didn’t, and
- Test something you didn’t do before
So if partner webinars and affiliate marketing worked well for you, then double down on that this time.
Was there a strategy tried that didn’t go as well as you hoped it would?
Maybe now that you’ve gone through this process you see what you can do now to make it go better.
Or perhaps it’s something you decide isn’t worth your time right now.
And if you didn’t try a virtual summit, give that one strategy a try before your next launch to help increase your authority, attention, and sales.
Plus, you will have created another product and additional revenue in the meantime.
Keep focusing on your list growth and set a date for when you will relaunch your course.
Your Action Checklist For This Section
Your Next Steps: Ready To Create Your Own Successful Online Course?
And now, here we are.
The end of the ultimate guide to creating and selling online courses.
How do you feel?
I hope you feel a great deal more prepared for your next steps as an online course creator.
I developed this guide to help people just like you remove as much confusion as possible so that you can get right to work in your goals of being a course creator.
If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend downloading the Virtual Summit Mastery cheat sheet below, so you can use it as your guide to build a large audience to set yourself up for a much bigger online course launch (you need an email list before you launch your course).
EXCLUSIVE FREE BONUS DOWNLOAD
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Do you have any questions regarding creating and selling online courses? Let me know in the comments below.