Do you want to make more money?
Well, maybe that’s a silly question.
Do you want a new revenue stream that will position you as an expert and generate (mostly) passive income? What entrepreneur wouldn’t, right?
These days the market for online courses is bigger than ever, expected to exceed $240 billion by the year 2023. People are looking to learn new skills in a way that fits in with their ever-busier lives, and e-learning is the way to do it.
No matter what you do, from finance to manufacturing to consulting and everything in between, there’s someone out there looking to learn about it. You can harness that demand coupled with the numerous user-friendly course publishing platforms to build a new revenue stream for your company.
What Kinds of Topics Can Online Courses Cover?
It’s easy to think, who, me? What do I know that someone would want to take a course on?
But you’d be amazed at the topics that are out there, drawing large audiences and generating substantial sums of money. Just to give you a taste, some of the top offerings on e-learning platform Udemy at the time of this post include courses on:
- How to use body language to your advantage as an entrepreneur
- How to use hypnosis to improve your tennis game
- How to sew your own silk scarves
- How to get stolen content taken off the internet
And these are just a few I picked at random! As you can see, there are courses for everything under the sun. If it’s something you do well that’s a useful skill, it can be translated into a profitable online course.
What Makes a Good Course Topic?
The old marketing adage also holds true for online courses: the riches are in the niches.
The more specific you can get with your course topic, the bigger the potential for upside. Why? Well, it comes down to competition and quality.
Let’s say you’re a tax specialist. You decide to create an online course that teaches business owners how to do their taxes. Great!
But wait. There are already thousands of courses out there on this same topic. You’re really good and all, but it’s going to be difficult to stand out in such a crowded space.
And what about the breadth of the subject matter? There are multiple types of business designations, each with their own tax rules. How will you cover it all in enough depth to make it worth your students’ while?
Here’s where going niche wins the game. Instead of creating a generic tax course aimed at all business owners, focus your lens—a lot.
Decide on one group of business owners to target: sole proprietors, corporations, etc.
Then, decide on one aspect of taxes to cover: deductions, credits, employee wages, etc.
Instead of ‘How to Do Your Business Taxes,’ you’ll develop a course like ‘How To Maximize Tax Deductions for Limited Liability Partnerships.’ How many competing courses are out there on that topic? Probably not too many.
By niching down your course topic, you maximize your chances for becoming the go-to source on that topic, and there’s where the real profitability lies.
And, if you’re worried that you’re limiting yourself by niching down, don’t forget that you can create as many courses as you want! When you’re done covering limited liability partnerships, you can do another course for sole proprietors, and so on.
Where Should You Host Your Course?
There are a ton of different platforms out there for hosting an online course, and it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s great to have so many options, but it can also make the setup process overwhelming.
There are a couple of key differences between most online course platforms you’ll want to consider.
Annual fee vs. per-student fee
Some platforms, like Teachable, require an annual fee to be paid up front. If it’s your first online course, this can seem like a big investment for something you’re not sure is going to pay off.
On the other hand, if your course is successful, it’s the most financially beneficial option for you because once you make up the annual fee, the rest of your enrollments are pure profits. This is a good option for experienced course creators, or those who are ready to strongly commit to building and marketing an online course.
Other platforms, like Udemy, take a percentage of the enrollment fee from each of your students. If you’re just starting out, this is a nice way to get started without any skin in the game. You only pay when you start making money via enrollments.
Once you start getting a lot of students, though, this model no longer makes sense because a big chunk of your revenue is going to the platform. I recommend the per-student option for online course newbies and those wanting to test the waters before getting serious about a course.
Third-party Hosting vs. Self Hosting
The platforms I’ve mentioned so far are third-party course hosting platforms. That means your content lives on someone else’s server and you send traffic to it.
Third-party hosting is great because of its plug-and-play capabilities. You can record your course, upload it, add some text and supporting materials and voila—the entire course interface is created and managed for you.
This does come with some significant limitations, though. For instance, you’re required to operate within the platform’s framework, meaning if you want to get fancy with how the course functions, you’re probably out of luck. The major upside is that you don’t have to deal with any of the technical hassle.
Self-hosting your course is labor intensive, but it’s the way to go if you want full ownership and creative control of your course. If you have an in-house web development team, this is a project they can tackle with ease. If not, you’re in for a lot of legwork (plus the headaches from any resulting technical issues).
Marketing Your Course
Once you’ve selected a topic and created your course, it’s time to market it.
Go first to the people who already know and love you: your customers. If you have a small clientele, reach out to them one by one to let them know you’ve launched a new course they might be interested in. If you have hundreds or thousands of clients, let them know with an email blast.
Next, take to social media to get the word out. I’ve found LinkedIn groups to be a great place to build a course audience.
Instead of going in and spamming the group with your ‘take my course!’ message, start by giving them a little bit of value for free. For example, you can create a free ‘preview’ of your course or release 1-2 select videos specifically for LinkedIn connections. Then, follow up to close the deal on your full course.
Finally, Facebook ads are a reliable way to drive ongoing traffic to your course. Again, instead of trying to sell people your course cold, bring them into your world with a free trial or other free download first. Then follow up via email or a remarketing campaign to convert them into a full course student.
Are you ready to get your slice of the online course pie? Leave a comment below and tell us what topic you’re thinking about!
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