How to Create an Online Course That Sells: A Step-by-Step Guide

So, you’re looking for a way to make some extra cash and share your expertise with the world? Well, creating an online course could be just the ticket!

With more and more people searching for quality online content to explore, now’s the perfect time to jump on the online course bandwagon. Not only will it allow you to position yourself as a leader in your field, but you can also build a community of like-minded people and reach a wider audience – all from the comfort of your own home.

Here’s a simple 10-step guide to help you create an online course that makes you money and has a positive impact on your students:

Why create an online course?

1. Passive Income

Creating an online course means you have the potential to earn money even when you’re not actively teaching. With no physical products to worry about, you can sell your course over and over again without having to invest time in the sales process every time. This creates a source of passive income, allowing you to earn money while you sleep, travel, or even work a 9-5 job.

The key to success with this business model is to regularly update your course with new and relevant content to keep it fresh and engaging for students.

2. Build Your Own Online School

The digital age has made learning more accessible, and creating an online course provides the opportunity to build your own online school from scratch. With a lightweight learning management system like LearnWorlds, you can easily customize the appearance of your site, manage your courses, and reach your sales goals. 

You’ll have the flexibility to add, remove, or update existing material to align with your learners’ needs and the latest trends. This gives you complete control over your online school and the learning experiences you offer.

3. Work from Anywhere

One of the biggest benefits of an online course is the ability to work from anywhere in the world. As long as you have a laptop and an internet connection, you can run your online academy from any location. This allows you to reach an international market, maximizing your income potential and giving you the freedom to work from anywhere you choose.

4. Low-Risk Business Model

Creating an online course is a safer option than starting a brick-and-mortar business. Most learning management systems offer a free trial, allowing you to experiment with the tools and decide if this is the right business model for you before committing fully. This gives you the chance to try out the service and get a feel for how it works before making a final decision.

How to create an online course in 10 steps

1. Select a topic for your course

With the rise of e-learning, competition in the online course market is fierce. To stand out from the crowd, it’s important to choose a topic that you’re uniquely qualified to teach, with high market demand.

Expertise, Credibility, and Industry Insight

When creating an online course, you want to be seen as an expert by your students. Here are some signs that you have what it takes:

  • Years of experience in the industry
  • Extensive knowledge and skills in your subject matter
  • Understanding of the industry’s history and future
  • Ability to communicate information effectively
  • Awareness of common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Credentials or accolades in your field
  • Proven track record and positive references
  • Thought leadership with a large online following


Creating an online course takes time and energy, so it’s important to choose a subject that you’re passionate about. Here are some signs that you have the drive to make it happen:

  • Enthusiasm for your subject area
  • A desire to help others acquire knowledge and skills
  • Commitment to providing a better course than competitors
  • Excitement about organizing a curriculum around your expertise
  • A drive for continuous improvement and mastery

High Market Demand

Ultimately, your online course needs to have a high market demand to be successful. Consider these signals when choosing your topic:

  • A growing industry, not a shrinking one
  • High search volume on search engines
  • Competition from similar courses in your niche
  • In-demand skill sets
  • An underserved audience for your topic

While not every item on this list needs to be checked, having a combination of expertise, passion, and market demand will help you create an online course that stands out from the rest. And don’t forget to validate the market demand for your course topic before diving in.

2. Conduct customer research

Hey there! So you’ve got a great idea for a course, huh? That’s fantastic, but hold up! Before you dive headfirst into creating your course, you need to get to know your audience. Trust me, taking the time to conduct user research and define your ideal customer before you start creating will make all the difference in the long run. Here’s why:

  • Put yourself in your students’ shoes. As an expert in your field, you’re at risk of falling into the “curse of knowledge,” where you assume everyone has the same background knowledge as you. That can lead to confusion and a lack of understanding for your students. Talking to potential students will help you get back into the mind of a beginner and tailor your course accordingly.
  • Understand your customers’ pain points. Your course should solve a problem or support knowledge acquisition that your students can’t find elsewhere. To do that, you need to know exactly what pain points your potential buyers are facing and how to address them in your course.
  • Know what students want to achieve. The transformation a student experiences after completing your course is the most important part. This could mean successfully starting a workout routine, passing a real estate exam, or writing a book proposal. Talking to potential students will help you figure out what they want to achieve.
  • Know how to sell to them. The old adage “if you sell to everyone, you sell to no one” is true. Building an ideal customer profile allows you to tailor your course content and marketing directly to them. Knowing the right messaging will inform everything from your landing page headlines to your social media promotions.

Now, let’s talk about how to get to know your ideal customer. Here are a few methods to consider:

  1. Check Google Trends. See if interest in your topic is increasing or decreasing, and filter by country and time frame. You’ll see related topics and queries that may be more appealing to your ideal customer. You may also find a sweet spot for releasing your course.
  2. Use Ubersuggest. This tool will give you insight into how many people are searching for your course topic, their demographics, and related search queries. Use this information to tailor your course offerings.
  3. Browse Reddit and Quora. People flock to these platforms to ask all sorts of questions, from skincare to industry advice. Browse threads related to your course topic and look for questions related to your topic to identify challenges and wants.
  4. Scavenge social media. Follow industry leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn and pay attention to conversations related to your course topic. Look for relevant hashtags to understand prospective buyers and their problems.
  5. Conduct phone interviews. Contact potential students directly to see if they’re available to answer a few questions in a research call. Conduct interviews with at least 10 people.

That’s it! Get to know your ideal customer and make your course creation journey smoother and more successful.

3. Choose your course format

Online courses come in all shapes and sizes, and the way you design and deliver your course will impact how you market it, what content you include, and how much money you can charge. Here are three common types of online courses to consider:

Mini-courses: Quick and Convenient

Mini courses are short and sweet, taking anywhere from an hour to a few hours to complete. They can be delivered via email series or a playlist of videos, and often serve as a lead magnet or marketing tool for a more in-depth, pricier course. As a beginner course creator, a mini-course is a great way to test the market and learn how to create a bigger course.

Multi-day courses: In-Depth and Engaging

Multi-day courses are intermediate-level courses that take several days to complete and often include pre-recorded videos, supplementary materials like worksheets and checklists, and a range of modules. These courses typically cost between $250 and $2,000. If you’ve already validated your idea with a mini-course, a multi-day course might be a good next step.

Masterclasses: The Ultimate System

Masterclasses are the ultimate learning experience, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to several months. They aim to provide a complete system for success and are often marketed to professionals. These types of courses typically cost between $300 and $5,000. If you’re a first-time course creator, you may want to start with a mini-course or multi-day course before diving into a masterclass.

4. Validate demand for your online course

Don’t you just hate it when you put in weeks of hard work creating an online course, only to find out that nobody wants to buy it? To avoid this pitfall, it’s crucial to conduct market research before investing your time and energy in creating an online course. The good news is, it’s relatively easy to validate demand for your course idea.

First, check if people are searching for your course topic and asking questions. Use Google Trends to see the popularity of your topic over time, and Google Keyword Planner to see the search volume for your course idea. Additionally, you can search for your topic on Reddit, Quora, or Facebook groups to see what people are asking about and the challenges they face.

Next, see if there’s a gap in the online courses that your competition is offering. It’s essential to differentiate your course from what’s already out there. Research your competitors and see what they’re offering. There’s a good chance that you can cover your topic differently, for a different audience.

To summarize, validate demand for your online course by:

  • Checking the popularity of your topic using Google Trends
  • Checking the search volume for your course idea with Google Keyword Planner
  • Seeing what questions people are asking about your topic on Reddit, Quora, or Facebook groups
  • Researching the competition to see if there’s a gap in the courses they’re offering

If your research shows that people are searching for your course topic, there’s a gap in the competition’s offering, and people are willing to pay money to solve the problem your course solves, then you have a course idea with a high chance of success.

5. Pre-sell your online course

By selling your course before it’s even created, you can avoid wasting time and resources on something nobody wants. Plus, there are plenty of other benefits to pre-selling, such as stress-testing your idea, getting early feedback from buyers, and even raising money to fund your course creation.

To get started with pre-selling, you’ll need to create a pre-sale landing page. You can use platforms like Shopify to do this and offer discounts to incentivize buyers to pre-order. There are also apps available on the Shopify App Store, like Pre-order Now, that can add pre-order functionality to your store.

Before pre-selling your course, make sure you have a title, topic, and outline in place so buyers know what they’ll be learning. Also, have a clear goal in mind for what a successful pre-sale looks like – for example, 25 pre-sales of your course. If you don’t reach your goal in a given time frame, consider refunding customers and rethinking your course plan.

6. Create a course outline

People take online courses with the expectation of a transformation – they want to come out of it feeling more knowledgeable, skilled, or ready to tackle a challenge. That means that when you’re creating your course content, you need to put yourself in your students’ shoes.

Start by breaking down your course into modules and lessons. This will depend on the type of online course you’re creating (e.g. mini-course, multi-day course, masterclass), as well as the completion time and cost. For example, if you’re creating a course on Amazon FBA, you might divide it into these six modules:

  1. Intro to Selling on Amazon
  2. Choose a Private Label Product to Sell on Amazon
  3. Amazon Software
  4. How to Source Private Label Items for Resale
  5. Adding a Private Label Product to Amazon Marketplace
  6. Promoting your Amazon Listings

Next, break down each module into specific lessons. Here’s an example of how you could divide the modules listed above:

Module 1: Intro to Selling on Amazon

  • Lesson 1: Why Sell on Amazon
  • Lesson 2: Create an Amazon Account
  • Lesson 3: Choosing your Brand Name, Setting up your Business, and Tax ID

Module 2: Choose a Private Label Product to Sell on Amazon

  • Lesson 1: Top Selling Items on Amazon
  • Lesson 2: What Private Label Items to avoid selling
  • Lesson 3: How to Track an Item’s Total Sales per Day
  • Lesson 4: Make your Product Stand Out

Module 3: Amazon Software

  • Lesson 1: Amazon Software #1
  • Lesson 2: Amazon Software #2
  • Lesson 3: Amazon Software #3
  • Lesson 4: JungleScout Tutorial

Module 4: How to Source Private Label Items for Resale

  • Lesson 1: Where to Search for Product Manufacturers/Suppliers
  • Lesson 2: How to Contact Suppliers and Sound like a Pro
  • Lesson 3: Packaging

Module 5: Adding a Private Label Product to Amazon Marketplace

  • Lesson 1: Setting your Amazon Product Price
  • Lesson 2: Amazon Revenue Calculator
  • Lesson 3: Creating & Optimizing an Amazon Product Listing

Module 6: Promoting your Amazon Listings

  • Lesson 1: Build a Product Launch List
  • Lesson 2: Best Amazon Keyword Research Tools
  • Lesson 3: Amazon Advertising

With a clear outline in place, you can now start building your course content, one lesson at a time. Make sure each lesson has detailed steps, information, and exercises for your students to work through, and aim for clear learning objectives that your students can walk away with.

7. Set the right price for your course

The price of your course can vary based on its type, with a mini-course being free or low-cost, a multi-day course being mid-cost, and a masterclass usually being high-cost. But there are several other factors to consider when pricing your course that go beyond the type.

  • Niche and Course Topic: Think about the industry your course belongs to and how price sensitive your target audience may be. For example, people looking to buy a course on investing are likely to be more willing to pay compared to those who want to buy a digital course on social media marketing.
  • Marketing: Consider how much you plan to spend on marketing your course. You should factor in the cost of promoting your course into the price you set for it.
  • Authority of the Course Creator: People are more likely to pay more for a course created by someone who is considered a proven industry leader. So, think about your perceived authority when pricing your course.
  • Competitor Research: It’s always a good idea to look at how other course creators in your niche are pricing their offerings. This will give you an idea of the market standard. Make sure to price your course competitively, not too low or too high. You can also add value to your course offering to justify a higher price.
  • Sales Goal: Set a sales goal for your course and use it to inform your pricing strategy. For example, if your goal is to earn $50,000 from your course, you could either price it lower and attract more customers or price it higher and attract fewer customers.

Pricing your course too low is not usually a good idea, as you will need to spend more time and money marketing it to drive traffic to your course page. Moreover, it’s often better to have customers who are less price-sensitive.

8. Choose your online course platform

Now comes the not-so-fun part: choosing where to host your content. There are plenty of options out there, so let’s break it down.

There are three main types of online course platforms: standalone, all-in-one, and online course marketplaces.

  • Standalone platforms like Thinkific and Teachable give you a lot of control over your content and data. They also integrate easily with other platforms like Shopify.
  • All-in-one solutions like Kajabi and Podia put all your tools, website builder, and content delivery in one place. These can be a bit pricier, but they’re worth it if you want to streamline your setup.
  • Online course marketplaces like Skillshare and Udemy come with a built-in audience, making it easier for people to find your course. However, you’ll have less control over your pricing and data.

At the end of the day, don’t get too caught up in the platform choice. The content of your course is what really matters. If you find a platform lacking in features, you can always switch to another one later on.

9. Promote your course 

So you’ve worked hard to create a kickass course and now it’s time to show it off to the world. You want to make sure those hours of effort pay off and reach the right people. To help you out, here are some marketing strategies to consider to sell your course:

  • Weekly Webinars: Running a weekly webinar is a low-cost method to generate leads for your course. By hosting a 30-60 minute webinar, you are likely to attract potential buyers.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing is a powerful tool to share updates, information, and discounts related to your course. You can use email to create a mini-course that promotes your main course and convince prospective buyers to purchase your course down the line.
  • Appear on a Podcast: Appearing on podcasts can help you increase your authority and demonstrate your expertise in conversation. Pitch yourself to niche podcasters and offer a discount to their listeners to promote your course.
  • Social Media Marketing: Social media is a great way to reach your prospective followers. Identify the best channels and focus on a few, adding value consistently to build a strong social media strategy.
  • Paid Ads: Paid ads, like Google Ads or Facebook ads, can be a powerful way to target your ideal buyer and convert them into a customer. Make sure to have a return on investment before investing in paid advertising.
  • SEO Tactics: Optimizing your website for search engines will help customers discover your course. Adopt SEO tactics to rank your site higher in search results.
  • Content Marketing: Creating free educational content about your course niche can build your authority, get your course and content surfaced through search results, and convert free readers into paid customers.

In conclusion, successful course marketing takes some experimentation. Start with a few marketing channels and double down on the strategies that work best for bringing in customers. Drop the tactics that are not worth the time, effort, or money.

10. Collect customer feedback and testimonials 

Want to make your course stand out and show potential students just how awesome it is? Then you need customer feedback and testimonials. Here’s the deal: having real students rave about your course is way better than just taking your word for it.

To collect these golden nuggets, reach out to folks who have already taken your course and ask for their thoughts. If they give you glowing reviews, see if they’re down to write a testimonial for your marketing materials. And don’t be shy about giving them some direction – ask specific questions about the results they’ve seen from your course. For example, “How much more money have you made since taking my course?” or “How confident did you feel before and after taking my course?” The more specific and detailed their testimonial, the better! Plus, if you can get a video testimonial, even better.

Now, don’t just collect feedback for the sake of testimonials. Take the time to listen to what your students are saying – what’s working and what isn’t. Use the positive feedback to improve your course and the negative feedback to fix what’s not working. This way, you’ll be constantly improving and giving your students the best experience possible.

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s illustrating on an iPad, growing a social media following, or mentoring in product management, you can turn your expertise into a digital product and help others learn along the way. Plus, it’s a great way to earn money from your passion. So, why not give it a try and start your journey as a course creator today!

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