Truth be told. The first, and second, and every time I’ve published an online course (or eCourse), I’ve done something “wrong.” Considering that the whole concept of making money from online courses as independent publishers is incredibly new in the grand scheme of things (we haven’t been doing it for 50+ years like many other forms of business), this is not too surprising.
When I started, I had less than zero idea what I was doing. I picked a random timeframe (90 days), and a topic I was passionate about (establishing a blog—because I made WordPress sites for a living at the time), outlined each day, and published a signup blog post. << This first course was a free one by the way.>> One that I did not even finish. #Shame
But also, why did I think a free 90-day course was a good idea? 🧐
Even still, it was valuable to the people that stuck with it, and it became the core substance for a course that would later help me make an unexpected six figures. I don’t say that to be flashy; I say that to encourage you because I still had no idea what I was doing when I released even that course.
But here’s the thing. Releasing courses, learning how to create content that helps, figuring out how to sell your materials . . . it all gets more organized and efficient as you go. Things start to make sense. Things start to flow. You start to see patterns. You become more epic at it. I truly believe we will never become “perfect” at releasing courses or other information products, but we can certainly figure out what works well and set ourselves up to learn more as we go.
So my friend, I’m going to sum up the steps of course creation in a framework I haven’t seen presented before. Mainly because I had to learn this as I went and because I don’t read other posts on courses—not because I’m the only legitimate resource (ha!), but because I want to share what has worked from my experience and from the plans I’ve been able to help others put in place. This is not information I read from someone else’s book some 2.3 years ago. This is stuff I believe in, and I hope it helps you create an online course that delights your audience, matters in the marketplace, and sells well.
One of the wisest things you can do for your course from the jump is to plan its position in your market, in your audience’s lives, in your brand, and yeah . . . I’m about to repeat myself, in your market.
Seriously. Even if it’s a free course, it needs a position.
Think about it, on a basketball team, there’s a point guard, but there’s also a post player and a wing. Somebody has to direct traffic, somebody has to take and make those 3-point shots, etc. Okay. Actually. I don’t jack about basketball, so if that’s incorrect, just smile and nod and give me a virtual pat on the head for trying.
But the point remains. The coach doesn’t need to and doesn’t want to put five point guards on the court at the same time. Can we say disaster?
So, if within your industry/niche, there are already 17 metaphorical point guards with similar skills, all playing—why turn out a point guard? And if you do decide to make a point guard (figuratively speaking, here), how will you position said player (your course) to be distinguishable and desirable outside of the 17 that already exist?
Figure out your course’s position first. It will help you know how to frame it for your audience, what to build into it, how to price it, and what you need to produce in order to make it epic.
Time to outline and plan your course details. You can use my tips from this free guide on creating email courses if you’d like, but regardless, the point is to create a course content plan that matches the frame + position you’ve chosen in the step above.
Does your course’s position in the market require a super duper niche outline? An intense + comprehensive module plan? Use step 4 in this post on creating email courses for some quick tips on how to outline your eCourse. Optionally, use this blog post for my exact process for creating epic content.
Let’s gauge your audience’s interest in your course now. There are tons of ways to “preview” a course. You can:
- broadcast on Periscope about your upcoming course (or you can simply call it a concept) and ask people for feedback—let others become part of the process and they will be more invested in you
- create your course materials as a workshop first—this is my favorite method and is something you can package and offer in a day or two
- send an email to your email list (no matter the size) with a free lesson from your course or your course idea and ask for feedback
- create a free email course to test out your topic, gauge excitement, get feedback, and help you build some of your eventual course’s content (using this post on creating epic email courses as a guide)
- create a post/request in a community you belong to online to understand what people think + feel about your potential course
As you preview your course to people, pay attention to:
- places where people seem confused
- areas people seem the most excited about
- opportunities to reframe and reposition your course to make it easier to understand or to make it clear what people will get out of it
Ahhhhhh, pricing. It can get so complicated, but in general, I’ve identified 7 pricing factors that I think are important:
- your time, tasks, and emotional expenditure
- material inputs, fees, and cost of goods sold
- business overhead and what you want to invest in your business
- the client’s perception of the value you are adding to their life or business with your course
- competitor prices and market prices
- how many of each course you expect to sell per week/month and how much of your income you want those sales to make up
- gut feeling and testing the market
Now that you know how you want to position your course in general, what your price range or exact price is going to be, what you’ll be teaching, and the perception people have of your idea, it’s time to package that all up and present it to the world.
In the checklist below, I share a few pieces of collateral you’ll want to put in place to help package up your course then promote it.
Packaging is important.
In real life, a package is what gets us excited about what we’re about to receive. A package sets the tone. Is it pretty? Is it frustrating to open? Do you even remember what you ordered? How is it presented?
One of the course sales pages and “packaging” efforts I love the most is Melyssa Griffin’s Pinfinite Growth course. Please check it out as an example.
So you have all these pretty courses dreamt up + outlined + packaged (or actually created), now how do you promote them?
Here are a few ways to consider:
- Blog posts that lead in to your course.
- Periscope broadcasts that lead in (create an easy-to-remember URL).
- Online workshops or webinars that promote your email course.
- Multiple pin styles that promote your course.
- Twitter and Facebook images.
- Instagram photos—take multiple ones at a time and schedule them over the few weeks of your course launch.
- Facebook Ads that lead to a free course/resource that then lead to your paid course.
- Collaborations with complementary brands that will lead people to your course.
- Free email courses that lead in.
Though you can choose to produce your course before you promote and sell it, I love the idea of starting promotion beforehand so that you know there’s an actual, real-life demand for what you’re about to spend tons of time creating.
You can promote your course and just collect email addresses from people who are interested in it—perhaps you can even offer people an incentive as Kory Woodard did with her Kickstart Your List initiative.
If you’ve been following along with me on Instagram, then you may know that I’ve been dealing with a few sites that have copied my work. I’m convinced that all creators will have this happen at some point or another.
It sucks to see your words and your hours/days/years of work on something be used by another person who is getting the credit, and the website traffic, and the . . . everything from your creations. It sucks.
But you know what y’all? It’s an extra special slap across the face and creative business soul when someone actually profits real dollar bills from your words and/or creations. Like actual cash money is in their pocket because of something they stole from you.
Protecting all of your work is pretty important, but protecting your intellectual property on paid materials, and protecting yourself from paying out on frivolous lawsuits or things going horribly south during a course collaboration is important too.
Your business and your course might need:
- registered copyrights
- a registered trademark for your course name or slogan
- terms + conditions under which people use your content
- an operating agreement with collaborators
- business insurance
- and more
There are things that would be difficult (or impossible) to defend in court without the proper intellectual property protection in place.
So, those were my 8 P’s of creating a course that matters and sells: position, plan, preview, price, package, promote, produce, and protect.
P.S. Will you please take a minute to leave me any other thoughts you have on selling courses or any questions you have about creating online courses below? You’re the best.
I just finished your 5 day info-prenuer training and now THIS!
You’re so amazing!!!
Thanks for breaking this all down so perfectly…I’m re-hashing my course for the new year and am swimming with ideas now.
Carla, thank you for those kind words! So glad to hear about your course and all those ideas. That’s epic.
Thank you for taking the time to comment.
This is excellent Regina! I’m in the process of writing an ecourse to be released in the new year and, before I began, it just seemed like this MAJOR task that I’d never, ever get done. Now I’ve started and I’m working through each module and each step in the promotion cycle strategically, it somehow seems to be getting easier (thanks to your awesome advice and periscopes!).
Lizzie, wow. Yesssssss. Happy to hear about your 2016 online course. Is it about freelancing? Travel? Freelancing while traveling? Getting clients?
Me and all my questions. #Sorry
Thank you for your wonderful words. I’ll be excited to see what you come up with.
Yes! It most certainly is about freelancing – more specifically, how to kickstart your freelance business in one month (something I did last year, and want to help others do!). #fingerscrossed (or should I say #workingsuperhardtomakeitwork!).
This is epic, as always!
Can’t wait to start bulking out the content of my course idea now that I have the outline…
Anna, yay, the outline is often the hardest and most necessary part, in my opinion. I’m excited to see what you build out of it. What’s the course going to be on?
I have learned pretty much everything I need to know about email course from you Regick. I thought I had an aversion to emails before I met you. Thanks for making this whole “blogging” thing fun again.
I know I super gosh when I think of you but you are an angel and I totally get what you are teaching. As it is makes sense.
Abbie! You are too kind to me. Thank you for this comment, and thank you for saying you had an aversion to emails before we met.
I always love reading comments from you and hearing about what you’re doing. Thank you for taking time out of your day to encourage me!
This was exactly what I needed right now! I’m in the brainstorming process for my first online course, and I was feeling a little lost. I totally took notes from your post, and I will be referring to them as I work my way through the 8 Ps. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! (I’m about to start Infopreneur in 5 soon. Looking forward to it!)
Also, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with people stealing your work. Not cool at all.
Ardelia, wow, yay–I’m glad this was good timing for you. Do you think it will be a blogging course? I’d love to see what you create.
P.S. That post on email courses or the free training at EmailCourseBootcamp.com might help even more with planning and laying it out.
I’m wishing you success with your course!
I actually read your post and did the free training at emailcoursebootcamp.com :). I found them both helpful! I think I’ll make a course about blog posts- there’s so much that goes into creating awesome ones.
Man, this is so helpful like usual. It came at a great time, too. I’ve actually started making a course myself — got it outlined and put in teachable so far.
I’m so thankful for the epic resources you provide! I couldn’t do all this without your help 🙂
Hey Regina! Seems like I’m a day late! Could I still purchase this course?
This was a great read Regina! I’d love to one day be able to offer a course based on my 4 years experience of creating websites and flipping them. But I know now is not the best time for that since I’m working on one website to call my own. 🙂
I have been combing through your blogs like a treasure hunter on a beach. (smile) My husband and I have been benefiting a lot from your blog posts and would like to thank you. Thank you so much for all your great advice!
I am finally done with my website after i’ve been rebranding it for months. But, before I hit that RELAUNCH button, I would like to know about copyrighting my stuff as you recommended. Do I copyright my whole website? Do I copyright each video within my blog course? I also have workbooks to go along with my videos. I hope you see this question in this post, please help.
It’s almost embarrassing how much I refer to you and your content. At least, it would be, if you weren’t so amazing. I love the idea of testing out content before things go live. I’m working on a Secrets of a Happy, Productive Artist course to help creative people who can’t seem to go from ideas to actually making art to MAKE ART DAILY. There are some worksheets that I could really stand to test out. Thanks so much for all the wonderful help!
One question: do you have recommendations on platforms for e-books and email courses?
Amy, you’re talking platforms to sell them? I like Gumroad and SendOwl for eBooks. I use Gumroad and also have my eBooks separately integrated with my WordPress site with a plugin called WooCommerce (which I love).
For email courses, MyEmma.com, ConvertKit.com, or even MailChimp.com.
Thank you so much as always for your wonderful advice and guidance! I’ve heard good things about WooCommerce. What are you personally doing about the VAT tax? Did you register with them? My understanding is that you either have to do some sort of blanket registration or have an interactive group for every single product b/c otherwise it’s considered a totally digital service, and that’s what the VAT tax is for.
Thanks again Regina! I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season!
WHOOPS! Just saw there’s a lot of info available about WooCommerce and plugins that help deal with the VAT tax issues.
You know, I never did go shopping for that jar….
REGINA YOU ARE SO FREAKING EPIC OMG!!!!!
Seriously, you do not know the kind of life you are giving me right now! Thanks for making this course-creation thing seem not so scary and this blogging thing a lot more fun than I’d imagined.
Seriously, Regina. You’re so smart! I just love all the free stuff you offer, and the more I think about it, the more I realize how brilliant of a business move it is to offer all these freebies and incentives. Thank you for opening up my brain today to the possibilities!
Love how comprehensive this is and really enjoyed reading it.
Packaging a course can be so tough!
Something I’ve found that helps is to study how people retain information from a psychological perspective.
Everyone retains information in different ways (visual, aural, kinesthetic, tactile)
It can really help to have different formats for your course content, including video, downloadable PDFs and even in-person workshops and webinars.
If you are unsure and have a bit of spare cash to REALLY take your course to the next level I know someone who hired an educational strategist to pore over her course content. The result was a multiple 6 figure return on an evergreen course. So worth it.
Hope this helps,
Thanks so much for the post Regina!
Wow, such amazing info here. I have been contemplating creating a course and this post has been really helpful. Thank you Regina.
Such amazing info here. Thank you for your guide.
I think my brain is about to explode!
So much amazing info to absorb…
Creating information products is a large part of my one big goal for 2016 so this information is invaluable.
I have been following you, reading and learning from you for the last year , I can know day that I am ready to do as you do and CREATE My Best LIFE, I guess like they say , when you are ready , you are ready. Thank you for creating from your heart and your soul. You are a brilliant gem , can’t wait to go through your workbooks and get my hustle love on … This Creative Badass has much to share with the world. Lots of Love Sweetheart <3 ~ E
This comment has nothing to do with this post, but I just felt the need to tell you how inspired I am every time I’m on your site. Your design, layout, products, and constant value you dish out for free makes me very excited. It’s so much value! I’ve barely scratched the surface and you already make me want to hustle so much more.
Keep up the great work!
Haha, are you serious, Nate? Your site is amazing. It made me so happy to land on it just now. I LOVE your logo.
Can’t wait for your blog launch, sir!
Wow, you are so kind, Regina! Thank you so much for these encouraging words. Made my morning.
Thank you, Regina!
Your blog is fantastic and I love your courses too. I was wondering how you feel about sales pages? I put my first course up on Thinkific too and I am building a sales page in Wix because I don’t feel the Thinkific sales page allows for much creativity.
Do you have a sales page and if so, how do you make yours? Do you find it’s necessary to have one?
Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I appreciate you, Bella.
I love a good sales page. I think they set the stage and set your customers’ expectations–plus, I also think they do a solid job of actually informing people of what they’re investing in.
I typically build my pages with Squarespace (like this one or this one), then link them to the Teachable “buy” page. But, I sometimes also just go with the Teachable sales page template. Melyssa Griffin makes amazing ones, like this one.
Thanks, Regina. Your sales pages are beautiful! I hope I can make mine look half that nice . 🙂
Thanks for publishing this, its so helpful. I’ll be looking into joining your courses when I nail down some finer details. Great advice!
Wow, Regina, everything on your website is just simply amazing. So many nuggets of gold information that I can use to grow my business, so thank you so much for sharing the wealth!
I was just wondering, I own a parenting magazine at the moment, but I am a keen musician (play the violin, guitar, piano, clarinet and saxophone). I would like to create a website from scratch that hosts violin lessons initially and then the other instruments). I’m not sure whether I want to sell via Skype yet, I was thinking more of a course that people can buy and use in their own time? But, I have no subscribers, followers, nothing. I will be starting this purely from scratch. Could you please direct me to the best place on your blog that I could follow and use from A to Z, please, because I have no idea how to start this musical journey! 🙂 TIA 🙂 x
Thanks so much for your time.
Excellent post, thank you! I’ve been blogging as a hobby for years and I’m looking for different ways to build bigger audience maybe do this for living some day. I didn’t know much about selling courses when I came here but now I know all the basics so thank you! 🙂
Great post, do you think it’s best to create online courses with slides or talking heads?
Hey! Loved the post. It gave me a LOT to chew on. I did notice it was written in 2015. I’m in the process of creating my first online course now. Do you have any updated material or anything you suggest differently at this point? It’s all so nerve-wrecking and exciting. I wish I had a coach for this!