Knowledge is power.

There’s not much in life I’ve found to be truer than this. Whether it was knowing how to hack class enrollment in college so I could sneak into high-demand seminars, finding the discount flight websites so I could fly home for the holidays without breaking the bank, or simply knowing myself, my demands and negotiables during job interviews landing a higher than anticipated salary. Whatever the situation, the more you know, the better.

At Teachable, we know knowledge is unique and valuable, which is why we built an e-learning platform that lets you share and monetize your insights. Because we run the platform, we’ve seen some very cool things.

Together, we’ve watched over 12K course launches. We have access to the hard data for all of our schools. We’ve interviewed our top instructors, picked their brains, solved their support issues. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

This comes at a time where we're also being asked: How the heck do I create and sell a course, so we decided to answer that question. 

Below, I'll discuss how to teach online and make money with your online course in 7 easy steps coming from the tested methods that our instructors are using. 

Considering that we have over 5K active teachers, it’s actually pretty astounding that we had one singular method of course creation that has proven to be so consistently and reliably effective.

Our teachers have courses on everything from watercolor painting, growing your online business, and programming, so we assumed that each one of these individuals might market their course in different ways and all reach a certain level of success.

But this just wasn’t the case. Rather, when we began to investigate our top instructors, we were surprised to see that ALL of them organically and individually followed the same 7 Step Method for creating and launching their course.

It was some beautiful consilience. But enough with the big words and big talk, I’m sure you’re dying to know the method.

Before I break this down line-by-line, I want to invite you to our FREE WORKSHOP: 7 Steps to Launch Your Own Online Course in the Next 30 Days or Less where we’ll be going over this topic in detail.

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It's a 1 hour session on creating and selling your online course with one of the most inspiring people I know, our fearless CEO, Ankur Nagpal, followed by Q&A, and we'll be giving away tons of free resources.

Ok, let’s jump right into it.

For starters, you might be wondering why you should create a course? Maybe you’re a successful blogger, digital marketer, YouTube star or even a famous Redditor. Maybe you’re not successful at all and you’re like me at have 6 half-baked Wordpress sites, a vague interest in online projects and wouldn’t mind making a few dollars, or just playing around with a fun CMS that makes stuff look pretty.

Courses are incredible for 6 reasons:

    1. They provide substantial part-time income: We’ve seen courses monetize faster than blogs, YouTube audiences or Etsy shops that you can grow into part-time or full-time income.
    2. Everyone has something to teach: We’re shaped by our own unique experiences in life and those insights can be turned into a course, shared and monetized.
    3. They’re a reusable asset: Once created, you can repurpose, reformat and resell your course for as long as you’d like.
    4. You are an expert: We don’t buy into the notion that someone is too much a novice to teach. While teaching, you’ll build your expertise and we’ve found that the best teachers are the ones who just learned the subject. 
    5. You can help a mass amount of people at once: Courses let you share your knowledge quickly and with a lot of people meaning that you can help a lot of people at one. Take Pyoopel for instance. They built a free course to help prepare students in India for standardized tests. You can read more about their story here
    6. They have a high ROI: Especially if you already have an online audience or content, courses are a quick way to made additional money off of what you’ve done. If you don’t, the time investment into a course is still fixed and a fraction of an ongoing blog or video series.

As Forbes says, “with effort and strategy, online courses can become a revenue engine and powerful lead generator.”

Ok, let’s jump into those steps! We've got a SlideShare overview and I've written about them in depth.

STEP 1: FIND YOUR PROFITABLE COURSE IDEA

This step is polarizing. I’ve talked to people who have absolutely no idea what to teach, but want to make a course, people who think their idea is “the next great thing”, and people who think they’d be awesome at teaching everything.

Consider this:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What credentials do you have?
  3. What are you passionate about?

Then think about how you can tap into these skills and provide a transformation to someone.

A transformation is essential. A course is simply a shortcut to an outcome. But as long as you can provide this, teach whatever you want. We’ve seen it all:

For example, Charlie Hoehn teaches a course on landing your dream job in just three days. Think how dramatically a new job can change your life. That’s a transformation.

We know that this might seem a bit vague and you still need help finding a profitable idea.

To ensure there’s a demand for your product, make sure there is an interested audience and you’re solving their problems. For instance, let’s say you’re passionate about tango. Do I want a course on the history of tango? Maybe. But do I want a course that teaches me how to tango and transforms me into a castanet clacking vixen in a red dress? HELL YEAH.

STEP 2: SET YOUR INCOME GOALS AND PRICE YOUR COURSE

Here’s the secret to making more money: charge more.

That’s it. Crazy, I know. We get caught up in guilt over charging our friends, insecurities over the value of our information or, for me, bogged down in the state of the economy, price point of minimum wage and how many hours that barista had to work to afford that coat.  

Cut it out.

Instead of focusing on the money, think about the transformation you’re providing someone. If your course is valuable and high in demand, there is no reason why you shouldn’t charge for it. Still feel weird about pricing a course, then you’re like me.

True confession: I’m a tofu eating Brooklynite and bleeding liberal who once believed all information should be free... and then I started investigating what teachers can do to increase engagement. Answer: price their course.

We ran a significance test and PROVED that charging for your online course increases student engagement. aka pricing your course means people take your information seriously and take the time to learn it. More money = more learning. Can’t argue with that.

Also, remember that you’re just one person. If you want to make 10,000 dollars (totally realistic) and you charge $10, you’ve got to teach 1,000 students. If you charge $50, you’ve only got to teach 200. Students take time and management, so if you’ve got fewer students, you can spend more time with each one and generally they’re happier.

More money = more happiness for you and your students. That’s my kind of math.

My favorite example of number play is Amy Hoy. I recently opened her newsletter and was totally inspired (by an e-mail, I know, weeirrrddd).

Like that? Me too. 

STEP 3: CREATE & RECORD YOUR COURSE CONTENT

This step can seem daunting, like staring at a blank WordDoc for hours (what I did before starting this post), but it doesn’t have to be.

The best way to plan out your course is to write down a step-by-step outline of everything that someone would need to do in chronological order to get their desired outcome, a detailed how-to for learning a thing. Each step becomes a lesson in your course.

For example, let’s look at Mesh Lakhani’s course on Angel Investing.

See how clearly a student is lead through the process:


Remember, the goal of this whole process is to get to an outcome, so all of the steps should lead to that one goal.

Now, when it comes to actually creating the content, Teachable works wonders. You can upload text, powerpoints, keynote presentations, videos and audio interviews.

Not to mention, our content team is blogging each week on content creation and promotion. Check out these posts on DIY home video setups that cost next to nothing, repurposing one interview into multiple pieces of content, this post on creating great presentations and download our free Keynote and Powerpoint slide templates/themes.

We got your back.

STEP 4: GET YOUR SCHOOL ONLINE SO IT’S REAL (NO TECH SKILLS NECESSARY)

When it comes to putting your school online, we’re admittedly biased. However, Teachable was born to scratch an itch, and Ankur built version one because he wasn’t finding what he needed on other platforms.

When it comes down to the bare necessities, my hosting platform must:

    1. Let me create courses: I want to beautifully convey trustworthiness and authority through my design and layout QUICKLY without any technical skills
    2. Give me ownership of the course domain name: I want to bring people directly to my website
    3. Be mobile responsive. Sometimes I just want to create a course about what to do while waiting for the L train on my iPhone while I wait for the L train. I’m picky like that.
    4. Give me total control over my students. This is probably the most important point. Some platforms, like Udemy, discount my course without my knowledge or permission so my course priced at $100 is sold for 10 bucks. They also deny me control over my student data. If I want to email one particular student, or send an email to my entire course about a blog I’m launching, I can’t do it unless it meets very specific constraints.
    5. Accept payments on day one: Cash, money, traveling (my version)

Guess what, you can do all of this on Teachable within 5 minutes (I’ve tried) and all for FREE.

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The key to building an email list is to start by giving away something valuable for free in exchange for an email address.STEP 5: GET YOUR FIRST 1,000 SUBSCRIBERS & GROW YOUR INITIAL AUDIENCE

After you deliver awesome value to someone with your FREE content, some percentage (we hope it’s a lot) of those people will want to actually buy your next product aka. your first fully launched course!

So what to give away…

  • Ebooks
  • Podcasts
  • Membership to a valued community

Or, our favorite, a mini course.

It’s pretty simple. If your course is composed of 10 lessons, make the first stand on its own as a “mini-course” and use that as a content giveaway.

As Gary Vaynerchuk says, you’ve got to jab, jab, jab and then right hook aka. give, give give (content) and then make the pitch.

Let’s look at Angela Fehr. She taught watercolor painting through YouTube and wanted to start making money from her massive following. Rather than adding advertisers that would lower the quality of her product, she mentioned that she had an online course next to her videos, filtered her audience from YouTube to her course and now makes between 2-8K every month.

STEP 6: LAUNCH YOUR COURSE TO YOUR NEW AUDIENCE

Ready for a surprise? Sell your course before you create all of your content and everything in your course is finalized.

All you need to sell your course is a well-designed sales page/homepage.

Don’t take our word for it. As Bree Noble said:

“I was able to pre-sell my online course (Female Musician Academy) to 15 people at $290 new students told me that my Teachable school was so beautiful that they could tell the course was going to be amazing.”

Using your sales page, you can use a tactical email launch strategy to determine what the main area of interests are in your course.

This helps you tailor your content to audience wants and needs (what they’ll pay for) and gauge interest in your product that can help you determine how to price your course.

Sounds like a lot. Remember, we got you! Here’s a SlideShare-topping post on creating a beautiful landing page and a detailed post on email launch strategy that Conrad (our Co-Founder) and I wrote together.

You can also check out David Kadavy's blog, he's a best-selling author talking about design. Win! 

STEP 7: GROW YOUR COURSE BUSINESS

Now’s the fun part. Once you’ve got your course set up and base audience established, it’s time to grow your tribe.

You can do this a few ways:

Webinars: A webinar is essentially a free live training. You can promote this event to your list and others, but the training should lead up to a discounted offer for people who tuned in.

We've found a lot of people who have become very successful at using webinars to make money. Lewis Howes has made over 10K during one of his webinars (and he hosts his online course through Teachable).

Scot Britton also hosts a course on generating income with webinars as does Mariah Coz (check out our post on Mariah's method to create a webinar that converts). Both are incredibly successful.

Guest Posts: With a guest post or webinar to someone else’s audience, you provide high-value content for free to someone else’s following. However, in doing so, you’re gaining exposure with their audience and can include a CTA to check out your own personal product.

Deal Websites: There are numerous deal websites where you can list your product. Approach this method with caution since it tends to attract a low-quality user. However, these are customers you might not have otherwise.

We’ve listed our own courses on places like Stackcommerce, The Next Web Academy and Groupon.  It’s a great way to make incremental income.  

Joint Ventures & Partnerships: Like a guest blog post, joint ventures and partnerships allow you to leverage someone else’s audience. We’ve seen people become incredibly successful by offering affiliate deals to someone in the same vertical who has an audience.

Simply contact that person and offer them a percentage of income for every deal they bring in.

Personal Networking: Don’t forget to tap your own personal network. You can export your list of LinkedIn contacts and target them through email outreach. Use wisely. Don’t be a jerk to the people you love the most, but ignoring your own network is a silly mistake.

There are these few methods and many more. Any kind of growth strategy is a way to take your course to the next level--research tried and true methods, invent your own or...

Check out our blog each week for researched posts that will help you grow your audience.

Also, look for inspiration in other people selling digital resources.

  • Amy Porterfield: I'm a big fan of Amy's. She's great to turn to for creating webinars that convert. She has a course but her blog is totally free.
  • Ali Mese: Ali gives great advice about growing and launching your business. You can read his stuff on Medium
  • Scott Hurff: Scott nails it when it comes to the enigma that is user interface...no surprise considering he's helped design Tinder. Check out this post.

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If you’ve got questions, or areas of interest you’d like addressed in the webinar, leave your comments in the discussion board!

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Ashley Hockney

Written by Ashley Hockney

Ashley Hockney is the Content Marketer & Writer at Teachable (Create & Sell Online Courses). Her knowledge spans both the marketing and literary fields. Her background is in food & beverage PR i.e. she wants to talk to you about single malts.