Creating an online course is one of the most popular ways to get started with passive income, and it’s not difficult to see why. Online courses can cover just about any subject you can imagine, you don’t need any particular qualifications or certifications to create one, and there are plenty of e-learning platforms and hosting sites that can help you and your course reach a wide audience. Added to all these advantages is the fact that consumer demand for online learning opportunities is tremendous. In 2019, the global e-learning market was valued at $144 billion, and that figure is expected to reach nearly $375 billion by 2026.
However, while there’s no question that the world of online learning holds significant passive income potential, this doesn’t mean that every online course is destined for success. If you want to create an online course that stands out from the rest and that delivers the financial outcomes you’re hoping for, here are some important things to keep in mind.
Start with yourself
If you’re not sure what your first online course should be about, the best place to start is with yourself. Spend some time thinking about your skills, experiences, and strengths. Ask yourself what you’re passionate about, what you’re interested in, and what you’re good at. You can draw from all areas of your life here: schooling and education, jobs, and hobbies are all great sources of possible course subject matter. You can also think about the kind of advice people often ask you for. For example, do your friends often ask you for your cooking secrets? Do family members always turn to you for help in mediating and resolving arguments? Are you your co-workers’ go-to person for travel recommendations? Once you start exploring all your possible areas of expertise, you might be surprised by how much material you come up with (and how much you may already have taught other people without even realizing it!).
Research the competition
Doing research on the competition is an essential element of any business initiative, and online courses are no exception. Once you’ve chosen the subject of your course, check online to see how many other courses cover that topic, then do some deeper digging on the top options. Investigate any marketing materials that are available, take advantage of any free trial options, and look at online reviews for feedback from people who have taken the course. Particular details you’re looking for include the specific features and benefits of each competitor course, the outcomes that other courses are promising, and how other courses are priced. The goal of all this research is to figure out how you can improve on the offerings that are already out there, and/or what gaps exist that your own course might be able to fill.
Validate your ideas early
Developing an online course takes a significant amount of effort, so before you pour all your time and energy into your chosen subject, it’s essential to make sure that your idea is one that will appeal to your target audience. If you already have an online following—through a blog, an e-mail list, or a social media presence, for example—this is the perfect place to test out your topic idea. Ask questions, send polls or quizzes, track the responses you get, and make adjustments accordingly. If you don’t yet have an audience of your own, you can seek out members of your target market in online forums related to your subject, where you can offer yourself as a resource; by writing guest posts for blogs that appeal to your target audience; or by investing in some private targeted advertising.
Focus on the transformation
When creating their first online course, many instructors focus solely on what subject the course is about. However, even more important than the topic of the course is the promise of the course. Remember, everyone who takes your course is not just hoping to learn something, they’re hoping to transform themselves in some way: into better cooks, better listeners, and better travelers. It is this transformational experience that you want to highlight when you’re pitching your course. When your audience can clearly see what your course will help them achieve—who they will be and what they will have when the course is complete—it’s much easier for them to understand just why they should invest in it.
Don’t neglect the title
It’s impossible to overstate how important the right title is to the success of your online course. However excellent your content is, it’s not going to matter if your headline doesn’t grab your potential audience. Furthermore, many people will only look at the course title, not even at the course description, before deciding whether or not to learn more. The best titles provide an accurate description of the course, use a hook to create an emotional impact, and clearly communicate the transformation that the course will provide. To determine whether your title is having the desired impact, it can be helpful to test out and validate different title options just as you validated your course topic ideas.