10 min read
As online entrepreneurs, we’re all looking for ways to increase our profitability. With only so many hours in the day, having multiple streams of income in your business can help you quickly level up your online business.
You probably have noticed a significant rise in the sheer number of business owners who are offering online courses to their audience. You’d have to be living under a rock not to!
What you may not know is exactly what goes into an online course, or why it’s revolutionizing the way we learn and earn an income online.
To start understanding the what and why, we first need to define what an online course actually is.
An online course is essentially a collection of lessons on a central topic that can be accessed on the web from anywhere and is often broken into modules with in-depth lessons underneath each umbrella topic. Many educators call this “distance learning” because there are no location limitations.
While online education is nothing new, its influence in the world of online business in the last two to three years has been staggering.
We’ve seen many online business owners go from full-time freelancing to solely selling online courses. Years ago, that would have seemed risky, but today it’s become almost a new normal.
Now anyone with a computer and Internet access can sign up for an account and start selling an online course. And while it may seem like the marketplace is already oversaturated with online courses, we’re really only at the beginning.
There’s still so much room for you to grow your online business through online courses. But you still might be wondering what the big deal really is. So why are they worth working into your current business model?
Online courses provide the unique opportunity for you to teach a wide audience about a topic in your particular skillset. And not only do online courses generate more revenue, they also build your online business’ credibility and authority. This is important in building trust with your audience as the go-to expert in your field, all of which lead to better conversion.
Here are a few additional reasons why online courses are worth incorporating into your online business:
When you’re solely providing services, how much you earn is largely tied to how much time you put into a project. This is true even if you’re pricing on a project-to-project basis vs. hourly rates.
Time is the great equalizer in online business. We can’t buy additional hours, so we want to make the most productive use of the time we have.
Online courses help you scale not only your income but also your thought leadership. In a sense, you’re getting paid to share your knowledge and build your platform as an expert in your field. Solidifying yourself as an expert is invaluable and well-worth the investment, especially if you’re able to generate revenue along the way.
If you’re a service-based entrepreneur, some people in your audience may not have enough room in their budget for your services. It’s understandable, but you’ve spent all this time building your audience from scratch that it’s worth looking into options on how to further monetize your influence.
While these audience members may not work with you one-on-one, they might have an interest in a lower-budget option that helps them DIY what you do. Maybe they want to dip their toes in before they make a larger investment. This is where creating an online course comes in.
Let’s say it costs $100/hour to work with you as a consultant. If you sell a course for $200 with four hours of content (not to mention all the bonus material and freebies you’d include), the student gets double the value of hours. If you include a course community, which I highly recommend, they’d get even more value from connecting with other students.
Online courses at a lower budget (often priced around $100-$500) create a stronger connection with your audience. One of your online course students may even turn into an ideal client down the road. They’ll already know how much value you provide so when they have the budget to outsource, you’ll be top of mind.
Have you always dreamed of working from anywhere as a location-independent entrepreneur? Do you fantasize about not having to ask for permission to take time off? Do you want to be more hands-off with your work?
This can become a reality with online courses. When you’re creating an online course, you can set your own schedule and work at your own pace. If you know you have a busy month, you can work ahead or pause your schedule when you need to.
Online courses can be created at any time during the day, too. No one has to know that you recorded one of your online course video trainings at 11 p.m. or wrote your sales copy at 5 a.m. This flexibility can be especially helpful for side hustlers.
Now that you’re warming up to the idea of weaving online courses into your business model, let’s chat about what kinds of content go into an online course. With the recent rise in multi-media, there’s more options than ever to create a unique course in multiple formats.
As we all know from our time in traditional school, not everyone learns from reading a textbook or listening to a lecture. That’s why including different content types ensures that all types of learners– from visual to auditory– feel like they’re comprehending the material.
Let’s break down the most common content types that are used within online courses:
Although there are multiple visual and audio formats that can be incorporated into online courses, plain text is still widely used. Some online course creators create their course solely using plain text. More often than not, online course creators mix plain text with other visual formats.
With the flexibility and creative freedom of plain text-based online courses, you can mold and shape your lessons to fit your audience’s needs. You may wish to create a separate PDF worksheet your students can print out and fill in on their own to test their knowledge, or include step-by-step written instructions within the text of your email or lesson web page.
Want to test plain text course creation for yourself? You can start creating an email course using only ConvertKit and Gumroad. This can be a great way to test the market with free, user friendly tools.
Including high-quality, engaging videos within your online course raises its perceived value. In a sea of long-form blog posts and eBooks, online courses provide concise videos for maximum learning.
Video engagement drops after six to nine minutes so it’s best to keep your videos around this length. This gives you enough time to prime your students for the subject, answer any important questions, and share an actionable activity.
But if you’re thinking “I can’t boil down all this information into a five minute video”, don’t worry. Your best option is to take longer videos and break them into smaller, bite-sized chunks. This will help your content become more digestible for your students.
To help you film and edit your online course videos, our friends at Teachable have some best practices for getting started:
Maybe your audience wants to learn on-the-go or your topic doesn’t need visual instructions. Audio can be a great option for this type of audience.
For the best audio quality, invest in an external mic (usually priced around $40-$90) and a pop filter (usually $9-$20). You can record your audio files using free software like QuickTime, and edit them using GarageBand or Audacity all on your own.
Also, don’t worry about being weirded out by the sound of your own voice. You’ll get used to it after a few times, trust me.
If your students want to go through your slide deck on their own time, embedding a slideshow viewer is a great option. This way students won’t have to watch your video with commentary if they want to pull out a quick quote from a slide or go through an activity after the lesson.
Some online course platforms like Teachable have slideshow viewers built into their software so you can be up and running in a few clicks. Another option is to create a slideshow on Slideshare. It acts as a public slideshow viewer so you can share it with a wider audience if so choose.
Want to test your student’s knowledge of what they’ve learned so far? Many online course platforms give you the option to create custom student quizzes with select lessons. We recommend looking into Teachable and Thinkific if you’re interested in including quizzes.
How do you know if you’re really testing your student’s knowledge? Here’s a few tips:
Along with quizzes, you may want to give your students what Regina of byRegina likes to call “adult homework”. These worksheets and workbooks give your students an opportunity to complete exercises and apply what they’ve learned. You can give online course students the option to print them out or create fillable PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Some examples of downloadables include:
The first step is to survey your audience to discover what they want to learn about. We’ll talk more about this in our next article on How to Find the Problem Worth Solving for Your Online Course Audience.
In the meantime, share your thoughts about online courses with us in the comment section below. Are you intrigued by the idea of creating and launching an online course? Is there anything specific holding you back? Let’s talk about it below.