How to Create an Online Course to Increase Revenue

19 min read

The online learning and training industry is worth an impressive $144 billion and is on the rise. It is expected to exceed $375 billion by the year 2026.

This is no surprise, considering how online learning is becoming an essential part of people’s lives as they seek to learn new skills from the comfort of their own homes. In this landscape, selling online courses can be an extremely profitable business.

However, when it comes to creating an online course that performs well, it can be difficult to achieve success without a solid strategy to follow for building your course and making sales online.

This article outlines everything you need to know about how to create an online course to increase revenue.

So, if you’ve ever had questions about building a profitable online course, read on to discover the different ways you can make more money from your online courses starting right now.

1. Understand Attention Spans

Now that you’re committed to creating a successful online course, your first step is to decide exactly what you’ll teach your students.

Picking the right topic is a vital step, and can be a little more complex than it seems. First, you need to understand the attention span of your target audience so you can decide the right length of your videos and other course content.

This mainly depends on the topic—how multi-step or complex it is.

Luckily, finding a topic for your new course doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you don’t already have some ideas in mind, you can simply look at your everyday reality and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your friends, colleagues, or customers struggling with?
  • What questions do you hear them ask most frequently?
  • What problems are you able to solve that others are struggling with?
  • Are you experienced in any skill set, tools, or software that others want to use?

Answering these types of questions will help you figure out the topics that you’re either knowledgeable or passionate about, which will give you a firm foundation for building a successful and profitable online course.

Once you have a list of problems or struggles faced by your target market, it’ll become easier to choose the right topic for an online course.

Don’t skip this step.

It will help you pick a topic with genuine interest. Otherwise, you may end up spending a ton of time perfecting an online course that no one wants to take.

Once you’ve chosen your topic, there are a ton of different types of courses you can create. This variety makes it easy to find the type of course that is best aligned with your audience’s attention span.

Some popular types of courses include:

  • Assessment Courses
  • Orientation Courses
  • Μini-courses
  • Live courses
  • The X days challenge courses
  • Demonstrations/Workshops
  • Spotlight/Niche Topic Courses
  • Certification courses
  • Drip feed courses
  • Professional training courses

You also need to make sure that the topic you choose is one that has profit potential. To do this, think about whether or not people are already spending money to solve that problem. This can be in the form of apps, services, books, online courses, etc.

If no one is willing to spend money to become better versed in your chosen topic, then the likelihood of you making money from your course is much lower, regardless of how unique or valuable your course may be.

2. Research Your Topic and Competitors

Your next step is to research the market and get to know your potential competitors. Just like any other online business, creating a profitable online course requires in-depth research and strategic planning. So, find out as much as you can about the market. Identify your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses so you can find ways to do better and set yourself apart from the rest of the field.

Most course creators skip this step. But research and planning make up a crucial stage of creating a successful online course. Without a plan, you’ll find it hard to build an excellent course. Instead, you’ll end up with a ton of unorganized information that your students could probably find elsewhere online for free.

That’s why it’s important to do adequate research and brainstorm all the different aspects of your chosen topic. Even if you’re already an expert, this will help you create a course that’s not only interesting and educational but also contains extremely helpful and actionable information to help your students get to the next level.

Besides, there are always new discoveries, new opinions, and new information to be had out there. So, you need to keep up with what’s going on in your industry if you are going to create an effective online course.

There is no one way to create a profitable course. But, researching your topic and what others have already done in your niche can help guide your efforts and increase your chances of success.

For instance, you might research other course providers in your niche who are marketing their courses to your target market. Over your course of researching the subject, ask yourself some exploratory questions like these:

  • What are your potential students talking about online?
  • What are your potential competitors teaching online?
  • What questions are people asking about your topic?

…and so on.

The more you learn about the subject you’re going to teach, the easier it will be for you to stand out from other online course creators in your niche as an expert on the matter, which is one of the things that potential students look for.

Pro Tip: Focus on creating an evergreen course. This means that instead of offering a live course, you create or record your content, and package the course as a product.

This way, you only have to put in the effort of creating the course once, but you will be able to sell it over and over for years to come.

These types of productized courses also make your course business scalable, as you can add related course to the mix over time and expand your business, instead of replacing one course with another.

3. Get to Know Your Target Audience

Creating a profitable online course comes down to being able to learn the needs of your target audience. Finding a pool to draw your audience from will never be an issue, with over 77% of American corporations and 80% of employers using online learning.

So, how do you make your course the one that people out there want to take? Find out what their interests are, and you will be able to come up with great course ideas. The deeper your research, the better you’ll understand your ideal students, and the easier it will be to sell your course to them.

You need to understand and define your student base, starting with a no-knowledge mindset.

Also, for your course to be profitable, it should achieve the following:

  • Solve a problem for others
  • Teach your students something new
  • Help your students achieve a specific goal

If your experience or knowledge can provide useful and actionable information to your students that either teaches them a new skill or helps them solve a significant problem in their lives, they will want to buy your course and even recommend it to others.

So, make a list of the different types of people who might benefit from your online course.

This might include:

  • People looking to learn about something you know a lot about or have some credentials in (such as: people looking to learn more about finding higher ed jobs, or how to write a killer CV).
  • People you already have a connection to (such as customers, affiliates, etc.)

Figure out the problems they are facing so you can position your course as the logical solution to addressing their specific pain points.

Whatever they want, crave, or need, you should be able to provide answers (or the means to create the solutions) through your course.

4. Break Complex Subjects into Multiple Lectures

When creating your course content, it can be a good idea to break up your ideas into more digestible parts to help your students retain their knowledge better. This is particularly important when dealing with complex subjects.

Remember that your students are probably juggling a lot of things apart from your course. The beauty of an online course is that students can go at their own pace, which means many of them will be attempting to slot your teachings into an already jam-packed schedule. Portioning lessons strategically will help your students pace their learning, sleep better, and retain information more effectively.

This is particularly important when dealing with complex subjects.

After your phase research is complete, you’ll likely have a ton of ideas on the different subtopics to include in your online course. Don’t try to cram too much into one lesson or you risk overwhelming your students.

Create multiple lectures from one complex subject, but take the time to make sure the content flows. Some course creators make the mistake of jumping from one sub-topic to another and then back again in an effort to help students get a better understanding of the topic as a whole.

To avoid this pitfall, nurture your ideas and really think through the best order in which to learn things. Create a roadmap for each skill, and use those to develop them into an exceptional lesson plan that is easy for your students to navigate and digest.

You can then build an exciting course to bring innovation and change to all your students.

Here’s how you can go about doing that:

  • Break down your main topic into different subtopics.
  • Break those ideas down even more.
  • Divide them thematically.
  • Put the topics in logical order.

So, your initial course outline might look something like this:

Here’s an example of what your list might look like:

Course Subject: Writing high-converting landing pages

Main Topic 1: Landing page fundamentals

  • Subtopic: What is a landing page?
  • Subtopic: Landing page vs. homepage
  • Subtopic: What can landing pages be used for?

Main Topic 2: Page elements and architecture

  • Subtopic: The 5 essential elements of a successful landing page
  • Subtopic: Your unique value proposition
  • Subtopic: Call to action copy and design

Main Topic 3: Landing page copywriting

  • Subtopic: How to craft an effective headline
  • Subtopic: How to write effective benefit statements
  • Subtopic: The psychology of writing copy that converts

As you can see, this step is crucial in helping you put together all the information you want to share with your students in a cohesive way.

5. Provide Supplemental Learning Materials

Supplemental resources are any nonrequired learning materials that you include in your online course. These additional instructional materials help your students grasp the concepts you’re trying to teach by giving them voices and perspectives on the course’s subject matter outside your own.

Most course creators have a wealth of content and resources to share with their students, many of whom are always eager to learn more. For instance, you might add links to videos to help them understand a new concept in a different format.

You can also post lectures and research papers, as well as links to additional information that can make a difference to any struggling student. Different membership site platforms offer gamification to make the studying process even more attractive.

Most online course platforms today allow you to track the number of views received by any resource, which means you can easily examine which of your additional learning materials students engage with the most. This will give you even more opportunities to beef up your content and provide more value to your students.

The bottom line is, creating a successful online course takes patience and imagination. But, if you have love and passion for your field of expertise, everything will fall into place more easily. Best of all, there are dozens of effective tools and resources online to help you create stunning courses in the quickest time possible.

If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform to host your course, it’s important to take many different factors into consideration, from storage space to ease of use. With Ecwid, you will be able to quickly set up an online store where you can start marketing and selling your course to a global audience.

Ecwid also makes it easy to add a storefront to an existing website. Alternatively, you can simply add a “Buy Now” button to your course landing page on partner blogs or websites.

Bonus Tip: Offer Pre-Course Resources

You can also offer pre-course resources as a way to increase the value of your online course and get the best return possible. A pre-course resource is beneficial because students will come to your course from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels. They each have different barriers to fight through to be able to register for your course.

So, it’s a good idea to offer any resources prior to commencing the course that might help to mitigate their fears or deal with their objections about signing up.

Additional Tips to Increase Online Course Revenue

Still looking for more tips and tricks to get going on your online course? Here’s a cheat sheet of additional information that might help you along the way:

Offer Extended Payments: If you offer a premium online course, consider offering longer, extended payment plans to make the price more affordable for a larger segment of your audience.

In addition to that, payment plans help you create a source of predictable revenue, which gives you peace of mind as an online business owner.

Open and Close Enrollment: One of the main reasons people don’t buy courses is because they love to procrastinate.

However, if you close enrollment for your course, it helps to get people moving so they can take action and avoid missing out on your offer. Leveraging such strategies can help you with growth hacking and boost your revenue from the online course.

Drip Your Content: Oftentimes, students become overwhelmed when you release all the course content at once, which leads to a higher refund rate.

You can avoid this by “dripping” the content out over a longer period of time (many instructors do this by adding milestones, as in, a new module of content won’t be accessible until students have completed the previous one) to make it easier for students to focus on what’s important and what they need to learn right now.

Send Strategic Follow-Up Emails: After someone buys your course, it’s up to you to make sure that customer is happy with their purchase. Use email marketing software to automate emails to keep students informed on what to expect in your course, next steps and more.

That’s why strategic follow-up emails are crucial to help manage customer expectations at a time when they need it the most.

For example, you might email them about once a week after each module has been released to give reassurances or to find out if they require additional help in using your product.

Create Multiple Pricing Tiers: Rather than selling your course at one price, you can create a single course with multiple tiers, each priced differently.

For example, if your course is priced at $500, you might consider developing a $1,000 level for that course by offering additional training materials, one-on-one consulting, live group coaching calls, and whatever else will help to add value to the course.

While this works well, one may also consider dynamic pricing based on how the competitive landscape is.

Conclusion

There you have it. The best tips for creating an online course to increase revenue. Without a doubt, you can make tons of money selling online courses, just as countless other entrepreneurs like you are doing every day.

This ever-growing industry offers huge opportunities for anyone who wants to make money by sharing their knowledge, skills, and experience with students from across the world.

So, use the information in this article to help you create an online course that will boost your business’s bottom line.

Over to you. Are you using any of the tips in this article to help you grow your online course income? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Do you want to learn more about selling online courses online?

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About the author

Prof. Ron Stefanski is a successful online entrepreneur and college professor who helps people create and market their own online businesses. Learn more about Ron by visiting OneHourProfessor.com. You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin, or on his Facebook Community.

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