Knowledge is power! And if you have knowledge to share, you can turn it into powerful passive income with your very own online course.
An online course is a class which is conducted over the internet. Unlike traditional in-person classes, you simply set up and record the content once, and then people access it whenever and learn at their own pace, while you earn a passive income.
Setting up and selling an online course is more straightforward than you might think. The keys to success are A) tapping into your expertise to find a course topic that people will sign up for, B) creating comprehensive, valuable course content, and C) marketing it to the right people.
Let’s walk through how you can create an online course that sells!
Online businesses are booming, and digital products such as e-learning courses are becoming more and more popular.
If you need a little extra convincing, here are a few zingers:
But wait! Teaching an online course is only for super-intelligent people with a PhD, right?
Not at all! 😉
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that you have more expertise and experience than you give yourself credit for. Everyone has knowledge that they can share with the world.
Take a look at the kinds of courses people are creating.
… and the list goes on.
You have the experience to create a course too! Find your niche, identify a target audience, and then set up a unique course that will better people’s lives.
Raring to go? Excellent! Just remember to keep your target audience in mind every step of the way. These are the people who will pay for your course content. Every decision you make from now on needs to be focused on them.
With that in mind, here’s the step-by-step guide on creating your very own e-learning course.
If you haven’t already decided on a topic, think about the audience, and answer these questions:
If you still aren’t sure, you could even survey your email subscribers and ask them what kind of online course they would sign up for.
Once you’ve identified your course topic, it’s time to get feedback! Ask your audience what they think about your idea to see if it really is marketable. Here are some strategies you could use to validate your course topic idea:
Once you’ve validated your course idea and you know it will be marketable, it’s time to focus on the content. Think about how you’ll structure it by asking yourself questions like:
Now for the fun part—you get to record your content! People will be paying for it, so you need to make it look ultra-professional. This means having the right equipment and being prepared to hire an expert if needed.
Here’s a shopping list of the things you’ll need for your course creation. Some of these are a “must-have”, while others are a “nice-to-have” to add an extra flourish to your content.
Great! Your course is finished and ready to go out into the world. Now, you need to decide how to share it.
Your price point depends on multiple factors, including the length of your course, how much you invested in it, the competition, and the outcome value for your audience. The most common pricing methods are:
If you are not sure how to price your course, take a look at similar courses. Do an analysis of the average prices and then experiment. If sign-ups are slow, consider offering it at a discount for the first 100 people to gain feedback and testimonials.
If you’re ready to sell your online course, Stripe is an online payment processor which you can add to your MailerLite sites. You can set up one-time and recurring purchases, then sit back and let it run itself! Find out more on how to sell digital products and subscriptions with MailerLite.
Think about what steps your customers will take before they sign up for your course. In fancy terms this is called a “sales funnel”, but this just means that there are phases to how you’ll catch their interest and guide them towards buying the course.
You could split this into three stages:
How do you guide someone from being ‘cold’ to ‘hot’?
One strategy is to set up a series of automated emails which guide them through each phase. Here’s an example with different ideas that could work for you:
The priority here is to add people to your email list, so that you can follow up with further information about your online course as they move down the “funnel”. To do this, you need a good lead magnet (aka, incentive for them to sign up)! Here are some ideas:
Now that people know about your online course (and are happy with their free ebook or quiz results!), you can crank things up. Give them a taste of what they’ll learn. Here are some ideas for inspiration:
We’re almost there! Now that your audience is primed and ready, you can pitch why they should pay for your online course. Here are some tactics to do just that:
This is just one approach to what your sales funnel could look like.
Next, we’re going to share even more marketing ideas that can help you to reach a wider audience —along with some examples to get your brain going.
Phew! Your first online course is up and running, and now it’s time to get the word out. Here are 10 strategies that can get your e-learning course selling like hotcakes.
Remember that sales funnel? Your course sales page is where you’ll explain the benefits to your audience so they’ll take action—just like this landing page by The Creative Accountant for their free email course.
You can build either a website and/or a landing page to promote the benefits of your course. The content should be optimized to address your target audience’s pain points, and motivate them to click the call to action (CTA).
The first thought that is likely to pop into your audience’s heads is “Yeah, OK, but what’s in it for me?” A lead magnet is an incentive for people to sign up. For example, you might offer a free PDF guide or the first module for free.
When Surfer SEO launched their brand new masterclass (above), they offered it for free until the end of February 2021. This was a great incentive for people to quickly sign up.
Email is still the best channel to attract and nurture your audience. You can use automation to magically send emails at the perfect moment, and send more targeted campaigns with segmentation and personalization.
Building your email list (aka relationships with your subscribers) is a great way to promote your online course and guide your audience down that sales funnel. Add forms and pop-ups to your site, so that people can easily sign up.
Get Messy promotes their art journaling course by sharing a free class with people who sign up. This will grow their audience and allow them to upsell and promote future products.
Being present on social media is a ‘must’ these days. You can use different platforms to promote your online course. Always remember to include a landing page link to drive people to learn more about the course.
When it comes to social media marketing, you don’t have to spread yourself too thinly across all these platforms. It’s better to optimize your content and perform really well on one or two, rather than burning yourself out. Find out where your target audience is hanging out the most, and then concentrate your efforts on that social media platform.
Following on from this, you can run paid Facebook Ads (and on Instagram too), to get your online courses out to a broader audience. Whilst it requires a little investment, it can really jumpstart your online course’s visibility.
Want to scale up your audience? Join forces with other course creators, experts, entrepreneurs and influencers. You’ll each benefit from one another’s following and be able to reach a wider audience with your course content.
Tony Robbins and Dean Graziosi regularly host masterclasses, webinars and online training sessions, together with other influencers to have a wider reach. If you’d like to partner up with others to promote your course, try joining communities with similar creators in your niche, or different online course groups.
Whether you’re podcasting, blogging or YouTubing, make sure you regularly share quality content that offers value. Especially if you’re blogging and following basic SEO best practices, as this content can drive organic traffic from search engines and get more visitors to your site.
Amie McNee runs a journaling course for creatives. She also has a podcast called ‘Unpublished’, which encourages artists to embrace their creative process. By regularly sharing valuable content, she’s attracting a target audience that may later be interested in purchasing the course.
A webinar is a live online workshop or presentation. People can tune in from anywhere, and these types of events are known for their high conversion rates. You could launch a webinar related to your niche, and at the end, have a call to action for people to join your online course.
Marcin (our MailerLite guru) regularly runs webinars explaining the ins and outs of email marketing.
Social proof can play a major role in decision-making. How many times have you bought something after getting a recommendation from a friend? Similarly, sharing testimonials about your online course will add credibility and build trust in your product—meaning that people will be more likely to convert.
Pro tip: Include headshots from each reviewer, as this makes the review seem much more authentic. Video testimonials can also go down well for e-learning courses, and you can also repurpose them for ads, social media posts and so on.
On her copywriting course landing page, Belinda Weaver includes lots of testimonials to help encourage readers towards making the purchase.
Once you’ve built up a following of loyal paying customers, you can give them an incentive to spread the word with their network.
Affiliate marketing is where people can promote your online course, and they will receive a small commission from referrals (aka, everyone who signs up through them). This is usually done through a personalized affiliate link.
People might create video tutorials, online reviews and how-to blog articles on your course—attracting even more potential students to sign up.
That’s fantastic! Remember that you can integrate MailerLite with Stripe and sell your online course via your landing pages and websites.
And if you want to experience a top-notch online course to see how it works, you are invited to sign up for MailerLite Academy! It’s completely free. You can see an online course in action while also learning more about email marketing.
I’m Meg, Content Writer at MailerLite. I was named after Megan Follows, the lead actress in ‘Anne of Green Gables’ (which tells the story of a budding writer). As fate would have it, I’m now following in her footsteps. When I’m not writing, you can find me sailing, skiing, or trawling through Parisian bookshops.