How To Create a Successful Online Course

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Creating an online course is an excellent way to share your expertise and earn passive income. The process can feel intimidating at first, but once you’re able to formulate a solid topic, you can focus on growing your ideas into a bigger business.

Amy V. Cooper did just that; she’s a photography business consultant who turned 20 years of experience as a commercial photographer, photo editor, art buyer, and agency owner into an online course that generates a nice chunk of change for her each month.

“I launched my first course on Udemy,” she tells CircleAround. “I have over 400 students currently enrolled.”

She loves how she’s able to connect with people from around the world to share her expertise. “Clients with smaller budgets, in different time zones, or those who were unable to connect with me for one-on-one mentoring now have a place to learn directly from me at their convenience,” she says.

In terms of how much you can earn, it’s all dependent on a few factors, but Cooper knows from experience that “launching your course can be a nice side hustle income, or it can make you a millionaire.” She offers some advice on getting started and what to expect so you can kick off your online course journey. 

1How To Develop Your Topic

The first step to creating a successful online course is determining what you’d like to teach. This will be the easiest step for some, but don’t worry if you can’t think of something immediately. 

“I realized that most of my clients were asking me the same questions, and I wanted to create an offering that was accessible and affordable for everyone,” Cooper explains. “I was also looking for an opportunity to create passive income and expand my audience.”

You want to use your knowledge and expertise to help others, especially if it can help solve a common problem.

“I have a lot of expertise and experience in commercial photography and marketing, and a self-paced learning platform allowed me to share more of my insight with a larger, more diverse audience,” Cooper says. Sharing is caring, so if you have an interesting talent or can speak about a specific topic easily, you’re on the right track.

2Lesson Planning

Next, you’ll want to break down your topic into ways to help subscribers get the most out of their course. You can create lessons based on subtopics, step-by-step guides, make each lesson one tip or piece of advice, and more. Get creative and see where it goes.

Cooper breaks down her class into modules that address editing, marketing, industry basics, and more. She uses videos to enhance the content and makes the subtopics entertaining.

3Launch Time

Once you decide on your course topic and develop the lesson plan, you’ll need to figure out where you’ll host the course and how the content will be distributed.

Investing in a website is the most traditional way to do this; however, it can become costly and complicated depending on your level of coding expertise.

“You can spend a lot of money on audio and video software, learning platforms, hiring people to help you with content creation, design, marketing, etc.,” Cooper explains. “I say start where you’re at, with what you have. Your knowledge is the most important thing.”

She suggests sending lessons out via email, which can be done using sites like Substack. 

“I spent very little creating my course,” she states. “I already had Adobe Creative Suite ($32/month), which included all of the software I needed to create graphics and edit video, and I borrowed a good quality microphone from a friend for recording (you can invest in a good one for $100 or less).”

“Creating a course on the Udemy platform was free,” she adds.

4How Much Can You Earn?

A few things will determine the revenue you collect from your course. The amount you charge, your overhead expenses (such as materials, hosting fees, and more), and tax filings all come into play. 

“My course brings in anywhere from $200 to $2000 a month,” Cooper says, “depending on how much time I spend marketing it.”

How much you charge for your course is also up to you. 

“Courses sell for as little as $11 and upwards into the thousands. Some online courses even rival university tuition these days.” Cooper tells CircleAround. Doing market research can give you a good idea of competitive rates for your topic and expertise.

5Don’t Forget About Marketing

Advertising your course is vital, and luckily there are lots of ways to do this that cost little or nothing in terms of investment. Social media is a great start, especially with your existing followers.

“Poll your audience,” Cooper elaborates. “Ask what their main pain points are. Reflect on the questions you are asked the most about or in your work, and think about what you wish you knew about when you were just starting in your field.”

You can use this information to create new topics and ensure your subscribers are getting what they need, as well as discover what kinds of people are looking for courses like yours, so you can remarket to similar audiences.

The Bottom Line

Creating a successful online course is a fun challenge almost anyone can try without investing a lot in terms of upfront costs. Sharing your knowledge with others is rewarding, and of course, a little extra income never hurts.

Tags: Career, Entrepreneur, Education

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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