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I’ve noticed that when I talk with new course creators, they ask me a few recurring questions:

  • How can I be sure that my course topic is going to be profitable? What if I waste my time and money creating a course no one buys?
  • How can I find people to actually buy my course? Is there a market for my course?
  • How can I start making money quickly with my online course? I don’t want to wait months to see this pay off.
  • How am I going to translate my offline business into an online course? I have several areas of expertise—what’s the best topic to cover online? 

Recently, I have been talking with a friend of mine who is a new course creator—photographer and video editor Stefanie Dworkin—who is struggling with these exact worries. She decided that the best first step to deal with these roadblocks was to create a mini course.

stefanie-dworkin-about.png

What is a mini course? 

If you google mini course, you’ll get:

screen shot - what is a mini course.png

In this context, when I say “mini course,” I mean a short online course that takes 2 hours or less to work through, covers a very specific topic, and is often used as a marketing or growth tool (i.e., it’s more of a teaser for your main product). 

A mini course might be made up of repurposed content you’ve published on your blog, or it might be one unit from a larger online course you offer. 

A few examples: 

If you are a marketing coach, perhaps your flagship product is a course on Instagram marketing for creatives, and your mini course is a short tutorial on editing photos for Instagram.

If you support English-language learners, maybe your flagship course is a program on conversational English for Spanish-speakers, and your mini course covers coffee shop vocabulary.

If you are a vegan blogger (ahem, asking for a friend) and you wanted to monetize your business, you might plan to sell a course on how to do a 1-month plant-based detox. Your mini course could be just the breakfast component, or even just a mini course on how to make plant-based smoothies. Or you might go in another direction, and teach a mini course on how to take photos of your plant-based smoothies! 

I made a sales page for a a mini course as a sample (see the demo in Teachable’s Sales Page Design Mini Course). Meta.

randle-mini-course.png

Here’s a real-life example of a mini course in action: 

Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society teaches entrepreneurs to leverage Instagram and live video, and has a free 10-day challenge mini course to promote her program, Elegant Excellence:

elegant-excellence.png

And here is an example of a mini course the DIY Guy Caleb Wocjik offers. You’ll see it alongside a more robust (and more expensive) course on the same topic:

diy-video-guy-starter-and-adv.pngBefore we get too deep into your mini course topic and exactly why you should consider growing your course business with a mini course, let’s back up and look at our case study, Stefanie.

Case Study 

I mentioned I was talking with my friend Stefanie, a photographer and video pro. She’s in a situation that I imagine is familiar to you if you’re just getting started with online courses.

“I am a filmmaker, photographer, and educator, and run a small production and education business,” says Stefanie. “Over the years I’ve mainly focused on short documentaries for broadcast (PBS), client projects and personal projects, and teach part-time in media programs or directly with artists and media makers around New York City.”

Often, she spends most of her week editing video footage for clients, and squeezing in time to send out her newsletter about once a month. Every time we talk she has a new editing project with a tight deadline.

Stefanie’s portfolio:

stefanie-dworkin.png

She also supplements her income by teaching in-person classes at educational centers on various video topics. (In fact, I met Stefanie when I attended her night class on Mobile Filmmaking at a video school here in NYC.)

Now she’s looking for a way to continue to grow her income and her brand without wearing herself down with one-time, in-person trainings and back-to-back client projects.

Enter: online courses. 

“I already was teaching iPhone video production classes around town when a student of mine suggested I take it online,” said Stefanie. “I had already been thinking to do this but wasn’t sure how to go about it.” (I'm pretty sure that student is me!)

An online course would allow Stefanie to use her course curriculum over and over again, without adding more one-off classes to her schedule. And, if her course brought in enough income, she’d have more time and resources to spend on passion projects—like her deepening interest in holistic health and her multiple unfinished photography projects waiting for her attention.

But here’s the thing. 

In practice, it’s not always obvious how to turn that vision into a reality.

Stefanie has expertise in many areas: video editing software, photography, the emerging niche of mobile filmmaking and mobile editing. On top of that, she’s passionate about a lot of things: she’d love to give activists the tools they need to make use of mobile video, but she also sees how her mobile video skills could help everyone from moms to YouTube stars. 

When we sat down to coffee, these are just a few of the questions that came up:

  • Which niche has the most potential to grow into a sustainable online business?
  • Which topic will bring in the most students?
  • How can Stefanie be sure there is interest in her course topic?
  • Stefanie doesn’t have hours of free time to develop this course...and she can’t justify spending lots of time on her course until it’s profitable.
  • Can she wait weeks or months to get around to building her course and start bringing in income?

If you’ve ever been in this situation, I imagine similar questions have run through your head. And a mini course can be the solution!

Here’s how.

Why create a mini course?

1. If you don’t have an online audience (yet!).

If your biggest concern right now is finding and growing an online audience, a mini course is an incredible tool for doing so, especially if you offer your course for free as a lead magnet, or offer your mini course to students who prepay for your full course.

On top of simple list-growth, a mini course can earn you recognition as an expert for a very specific topic. If you can become the go-to for one tiny topic in your field, you’ll be more memorable. 

And don’t worry, your mini course won’t get you pegged like a child actor. One of our instructors here at Teachable, Deborah Niemann, published a mini course on copper deficiency in goats (for real!) to support her brand The Thrifty Homesteader, which encompasses everything from saving seeds to making eco-friendly, handmade skincare and household products. In other words, a very specific topic can support a business in a larger niche.

copper-deficiency-sales-page.pngscreen shot - deborah -first message.png

(More about paint points and traction below!)

2. If you’re not sure what your course topic should be.

With a mini course, you can gauge demand for your topic before investing your time and resources into a much larger course. If your audience buys your mini course, you already have some basis for creating a larger course on a similar topic. It’s better than putting all your eggs in one basket...only to find out no one wants to buy the basket! 

On a different note, I’m assuming one reason you want to start a course business is to make your life better. If you create a mini course on your topic, you can get a sense of how much you enjoy preparing course curriculum on that topic and marketing it to your audience. 

3. If you need to start making a profit before your full-length course is ready.

If you’re starting from scratch here, maybe you are just now getting your web presence off the ground, or just starting to think about how to translate your in-person trainings or your free content into an online course. Either way, it takes a little time to get a whole course up and running, what with the curriculum, the sales page, and your marketing plan. 

If you create a mini course, you can shrink down that startup time, start earning money faster, and put the profits back into your business. 

If you repurpose content or choose a bite-sized topic you know like the back of your hand, you can get start enrolling students in your mini course in hours or days rather than weeks.

4. If you’re new to online courses and want to get started with a simpler project.

I tend to use this analogy when I’m talking with course creators: they say novelists shouldn’t try to write to use up their “big idea” on their first novel. I think this is because your first novel is going to come with a huge learning curve. It’s smarter to test something a little less close to your heart while you’re figuring out the technical stuff, and dive in to your magnum opus once you’re more skilled with the medium.

I think the same can hold true for creating courses. If you’re dreaming of a comprehensive diet and exercise course...try starting with just a tiny slice of it, like how to do push ups the right way to target different muscles. That way you won’t burn up your big idea while you’re figuring out what it takes to create the course you’re envisioning.

How to create a mini course

If you’re ready to build your business with a mini course, how do you actually go about creating it?

Taking notes? Stay organized as you create your mini course with this free checklist:

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Step 1: Choose a topic for your course

Choosing a topic is probably the most overwhelming aspect of creating a mini course, both because there are so many possibilities, and because it feels like such an important decision. 

And it is important...that you choose a mini course topic that you’re knowledgeable on, that you’re excited about, and that other people are interested in.

What’s not such a big deal is worrying exactly how this is going to play into your course goals 5 years down the line. Think of this as your breakout role in a teen movie. Soon, your appearance in Lord of the Rings will totally eclipse it, but it’s a necessary step to get you started on your road to success. (This analogy breaks down when you realize you can keep using your mini course for promotions and business growth for years!)

Your strategy for choosing a topic will vary based on your situation, so I broke down a few common scenarios that might apply to you:

If you already have content...

Maybe you already have content online. You’re a blogger, a YouTuber, a podcaster, an Instagrammer, etc. In that case, you likely have all the content you need to create your mini course.

You’re in a good place, because you already have an audience, and that audience has likely already told you what mini course they want to buy. Take a look at your analytics. Which blog posts, YouTube videos, or podcast episodes are getting the most traffic and engagement? Are certain pieces of content causing a party in the comments section? That’s a good sign there is more interest. Does one of your posts dominate Google search? Maybe you are already an authority on that topic.

If you have an email list, which content is bringing the most people to your list?

Find the intersection of your best performing content, the kind of content you’re passionate about, and your strongest areas of expertise, and go from there.

For example, here’s how I might use recent traffic on my blog to get ideas for course topics:

screen shot - randle blog.png

If you’re an educator or trainer...

If you’re a trainer or educator, you’re also primed to create a course. Do you do in-person trainings, speaking gigs, etc.? Which talks or training events are the most popular? Which ones get the best attendance and spark conversations? Which ones are people willing to pay for? 

Chances are, you can take a tiny slice of a training series or talk you do and break it down into a mini course. 

Stefanie, for example, already teaches in-person classes on videography topics: 

stefanie-dworkin-workshops.pngIf you run a service business...

If you are a consultant who provides the same services to different clients over and over again, you’re also all set to create a mini course. The key is in breaking out a very small (but valuable) sliver of what you do. 

If you are a marketing consultant, what is one tiny tidbit that clients find incredibly valuable? Maybe it’s as simple as creating your bio information for social media platforms. Or maybe it’s the basics of sending an email newsletter.

If you’re Deborah Niemann, maybe it’s the trick you found to solve copper deficiency in goats! It’s a niche problem, but for the people looking for a solution to that problem, purchasing is an easy decision. 

Or you could be like my friend Leslie, a marketing consultant who couldn't keep up with the demand from authors who wanted to hire her to market their book launches. Instead of taking on those jobs, she’s creating a course on book marketing to make the information available to everyone who needs it. (She’s also creating a mini course made up of just one unit of her larger course.)

book-famous.png

If you’re starting from absolute zero!

The world is your oyster. You can take a cue from all the other scenarios.

Do you have any content you’ve been meaning to write? Do friends and family ask you for advice on the same topic over and over again?

For me, I might notice that friends seem interested in how I prep ingredients for smoothies and make them up on the fly. Maybe they frequently ask for recipes or ask how to take a picture of a smoothie that looks impressive on Instagram.

instagram-smoothie.png

Do you have any special training or experience?

Maybe you’ve worked in your field for years, and you have some insider knowledge. For example, perhaps you’ve figured out how to make your full-time living as a freelance writer. Your mini course might be all about how to write the perfect article pitch to lifestyle magazines. 

Do you find yourself helping friends and family with the same tasks over and over (and over)? 

Maybe you are always organizing your friend’s closets, or setting up basic WordPress sites.

Make a big list of all the things you could teach a course on. Then, mark the ones that seem especially fun or fulfilling to work on. Take a look at what’s left and choose the one that is simplest to create.

If you’re looking at a list of course topics and you can’t decide, think about which topics would be the easiest for you to get up and running. Do you already have lots of content around one of the topics? Is one of them way easier to film because it doesn’t require lots of camera angles, etc.?

Case Study 

Let’s take a look at how Stefanie might decide on a topic for her mini course.

Stefanie is an educator and she also provides services. Here are just a handful of topics she could cover: 

  • Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Video Editing with Apple Final Cut Pro
  • How to Get Video Editing Clients
  • Mobile Filmmaking
  • Digital Photography
  • Documentary Filmmaking
  • Editing Movie Promos
  • Holistic Health and Nutrition
  • Vegetarian Cooking (Anti-Inflammatory)

Here are the ones she thought would be the most fun/interesting to create:

  • Mobile Filmmaking
  • Digital Photography
  • Holistic Health and Nutrition 

And here are the ones that would be the simplest to create:

  • Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Mobile Filmmaking

These also happen to be two topics Stefanie already teaches in one-off workshops. She has lots of existing curriculum to draw from, she’s already an established authority on these topics, and she has a sense of the demand for the material. 

The content for the mobile filmmaking workshop was more compact, and she was excited about becoming an authority in an emerging niche, so she went with Mobile Filmmaking for the topic of her mini course.

Now, the topic “Mobile Filmmaking” is probably still too big for a mini course, but we’ll get to that later.

Step 2: Identify your target audience

At this point, it’s easy to skip straight to creating content, but I’d encourage you to take a pause and consider your audience. Creating a course in a vacuum means you have to hope that people will be interested in enrolling. It’s better to know exactly who you want to sign up for your course before you even create it—then it will be designed just for them.

There are a couple ways to approach this.

Firstly, you need to do some soul searching.

Are there any causes you care about in particular? Is there an underrepresented group of people close to your heart? Are you involved in a community that could benefit from your course topic?

To use Stefanie as an example, she was involved in a couple of (official and unofficial) communities: she’s a member of New York Women in Film and Television, and she is also interested in activism, and has a long-time interest in health and wellness.

Think about those communities: which ones are you most passionate about, and which ones could really use your help?

Stefanie has a particular passion around activism, and she has a hunch that activists could put mobile filmmaking to work at protests, rallies, and remote locales, where bulky, expensive audiovisual equipment might not be an option.

She also has the sense that mobile filmmaking will appeal to influencers in the health and wellness scene, so she’s keeping her options open before deciding which audience has the most demand for her course. One way to test this is to write and promote separate blog posts targeting those audiences, and see which one garners the most attention and engagement.

For example, she could write two posts:

  • How to Use Your iPhone to Get High-Quality Video at the Next Women’s March
  • How to Create High-Quality YouTube Videos with just Your Smartphone

She could get these published as guest posts on niche blogs, or just share them with her newsletter list, and see which one gets more traffic, engagement, and social buzz. 

Secondly, you should do some research. :) 

Google your mini course topic and do some exploring. On what kinds of sites do you see this type of thing cropping up? Type the term into the search bar in Facebook, and look it up on Twitter and Instagram (search hashtags). Are there Quora questions on your topic? What are the answers like? This will give you an idea of the communities your topic appeals to. 

If we google Stefanie’s topic, “iPhone video editing,” there are lots of recent articles, but they are mostly reviews of apps. It’s a good sign that there is budding interest in this niche!

google-iphone-video-editing.pngWhat to do if your topic is “taken”

Chances are, at this point, you might be panicking. There are probably other courses out there on your topic...and that’s okay. 

Take a look at the course—does it seem to be targeting your specific audience? If not, how would this course look different if it did appeal to your audience? 

If that’s not helpful, take another look at that course. What angles are missing? What gaps can you fill in?

And if you wanted to do a course on something as specific as, well, “copper deficiency in goats,” and it’s already taken, it might be time to go back to your list of topics and choose another.

If we google “iPhone video editing course,” we can see that there are definitely other courses out there. On closer investigation, though, they’re not as thorough as Stefanie’s course, and they don’t target the same market:

google-iphone-video-editing-course.png

But, I don’t want to limit myself!

If you’re looking at your audience and thinking about all the people you’re excluding, don’t worry about it. One of the biggest misconceptions about marketing is that you want your product and your messaging to appeal to a broad audience. Unless you’re Amazon or Coca-Cola, that’s probably not the case.

It’s always better to create a product or service so perfectly designed for your target audience that it’s an absolute no-brainer for them to buy it. Trying to appeal to everyone dilutes your message and makes your product less appealing.

Besides, paradoxically, focusing on a niche audience doesn’t exclude other people from your course. When you create something hyper-focused, your product and messaging is better and clearer. 

So even if you are targeting 35-year-old moms with 3 or more children in the U.S. midwest who are struggling to give their kids healthy school lunches without spending all their time packing lunchboxes, it doesn’t mean you won’t also attract a single mom of 1 in Turkey looking to make healthier baby food. It just means all those moms with the lunchbox problem will feel like you are speaking straight to them. And that’s good. 

Step 3: Provide a transformation

Now that you have a (tentative, at least!) course topic and target audience, it’s time to make this a mini course that your students can’t resist.

The best way to do that is to solve a real problem. Think about it this way. Your target audience has a problem, and your course can solve it. How will your students be different after they take your course?

The easiest way to figure out what problem you’re solving is to get even more specific with your target audience, just like we did with the mom above.

Instead of targeting people with too much stress in their lives, how about overworked business people who need to relax but can’t take time off. 

For Stefanie, instead of just targeting bloggers, she could make it more specific by focusing on online influencers in the creative and lifestyle space looking to use video to grow but stumped by the technology. 

The reasoning here is that if you have a very specific customer in mind, you also have a very specific problem in mind. If you can solve that problem, it will be incredibly appealing to the people you’re targeting. Think of one of the biggest frustrations in your life or business. If someone could solve it for you for a few hundred dollars, you’d probably jump for it. 

Here’s what a transformation might look like for Stefanie’s target audience:

Before I took Stefanie’s course on mobile filmmaking, I knew I could grow my following and monetize my blog with video, but I didn’t know how to get started, and I didn’t think I could afford the equipment. Now, I know I have all the tools I need in my smartphone, and I can shoot, edit, and publish videos to my YouTube in a couple hours. I’ve already gotten 2 sponsored partnerships! 

Now you try. What transformation will your students experience when they take your course? (It’s fun to frame it as a testimonial like I did above!) 

Step 4: Outline the content

(Side note: Morgan here at Teachable wrote an entire post on creating content for your course. Make sure to give it a read for a more in-depth plan: How to Plan Your Course Content.)

Alright, now it’s time to outline your content.

To start, take a look at the transformation you want your students to experience, and work backwards.

What are all the things your students need to know to achieve the transformation above? Make a quick list, then organize them into units.

Let’s do this for Stefanie.

All the things students need to know to be able to create high-quality smartphone videos quickly and easily:

  • How to shoot video on mobile
    • General
      • Framing
      • Zooming
      • Lighting
      • Audio
        • Tips
        • Gear
    • iPhone
      • Built-in camera
      • Apps like Filmic Pro
  • How to edit video on mobile
    • General
      • Transitions
      • Cuts
      • Text overlay
      • Interstitial
      • Music
      • Video length
      • Narrative arch
    • iPhone
      • Built-in video editor
      • Apps like Filmic Pro
  • How to optimize your video for the Internet

I’m going to stop there, because you might be noticing something...this has become MUCH bigger than a mini course! How could Stefanie possibly cover all of points in that seemingly small topic in just 2 hours or less?

It makes sense; her original curriculum on Mobile Filmmaking is a 2-day in-person workshop. So, what’s next? Make it smaller.

Step 5: Make the focus even smaller

If your list of skills started to get long like Stefanie’s, the next step is to take a look at that list, group like with like, if you haven’t already, and break it down into even smaller pieces.

Here’s an example of a few mini courses Stefanie might teach based on her list:

  • Editing Video on the iPhone with iMovie
  • Editing iPhone Video with Filmic Pro
  • Shooting Video with the iPhone
  • How to Get Good Audio with iPhone Video
  • How to Shoot Engaging Online Video
  • Etc…

Just keep in mind that whichever new, smaller topic you pick, it should stand alone. In other words, even if it’s the only course a student EVER takes from you, it provides so much value they become a raving fan.

Since video editing is a huge stepping stone for people and something that could help build Stefanie’s reputation as a trusted expert (and major problem solver!), her mini course is going to be on the first topic: Editing Video on the iPhone with iMovie.

Repurposing Content

I know, this feels like a lot of groundwork...but you are finally ready to start creating the actual content of your course. I have a feeling that the massive task of creating content is starting to feel a lot more manageable.

Take a look back at your mini course, and break it down into units. Here’s how that might look in Teachable:

iphone-curriculum.png

Now look at the content of those units, and decide on the best way to deliver each component. I.e., is it a video, a PDF, just a text lesson, etc. (Morgan’s post on How to Plan Your Course Content goes into much more detail on how to do this!) 

A quick bit of wisdom:

Video content is best for:

  • Portraying ideas and concepts in 3 minutes or less
  • Screencasts and walkthroughs, where your student needs to see the exact steps you’re taking on your screen

Downloadable content is best for:

  • Cheat sheets, glossaries, and other resources to come back to
  • Worksheets for following along
  • Process documents, like spreadsheets and other organizational tools 

Text content is best for:

  • Explaining a concept in more detail
  • Showing step-by-step info
  • Linking to other resources on the web

And all that’s left to do is create the content! Here are a couple of the best Teachable resources for creating your course materials:

How to Leverage Your Mini Course to Grow Your Business

At this point, you have everything you need to create a high-value mini course to support your online course business...except you might not know exactly how to leverage this course in your marketing. 

Marketing an online course is one of the focuses of the entire Teachable blog, so I can’t cover it all here. But I wanted to make sure you have the basics here. 

To charge or not to charge? 

When I talk to Teachable instructors in-person, one of their biggest questions about mini courses is: “How much do I charge?? Is it free?”

screen shot - pricing.png

This is a tough question, because the answer is a super frustrating “It depends.” But here’s my advice for a few common scenarios:

This is your first course and you don’t have an audience (yet!)

In this case, building an email list you can market your products to over time is your biggest goal. I recommend offering your course for free as an incentive for attracting people to your email list. You can do things like make it free “for a limited time” to drive urgency and convince more people to sign up while they can. 

This is your first course but you DO have an online audience

If this is your first course but you already have an online following (maybe you are a blogger, or you have sold other online products), then charging is a good way to see if your audience is willing to put money towards your course topic. So put a price on it! 

You have already created a course and you’re using this mini course to test out interest around a new topic

In this scenario, you already have an email list who has supported your previous courses. Charging is a good way to test the waters and see if that audience is interested in this other topic.

How much should you charge? (If you charge.) 

The average Teachable course price is $179 (and higher for our top course creators).

For a mini course, it makes sense to keep the price point lower to signify that it isn’t a flagship course and because presumably, it took less time and resources to create. 

I’ve seen mini courses for as little as $29 and as high as $99—it depends on your market (what are people in your niche willing to pay), and what your other courses cost. If your flagship course is $299, $49 feels like a mini course, but if your main course is $1999, then something along the lines of $99 might make more sense.

Another option is to set a price and discount it, to drive urgency. For example, your mini course might cost $69, but you could knock it down to $49 for a limited time to drive enrollment.

In general, I'd aim higher than you think when it comes to pricing—maybe $49 instead of $29, for example. You can always discount your course, but it can be tough to raise a price on your audience. :)

In the end your mini course pricing comes down to:

  • What you’re comfortable charging
  • What your audience is willing/able to pay
  • How your course compares to others in the same niche

For more information on pricing your course, check out Morgan’s blog post: How to Price Your Online Course. 

These are all the assets you need to start offering your mini course.

Whether you charge for your mini course or not, there are a few ducks you need to get in a row.

Course sales page

Your mini course needs to be available online! (Of course!) When you create your course with Teachable, you’ll get access to our sales page editor, where you can create professional, high-quality sales pages with a drag-and-drop builder. 

We created an entire mini course (with videos and walkthroughs) on exactly how to create a high-converting course sales page on Teachable. When you use this link it’s free! Mini Course: How to Design Your Teachable Sales Page

sales-page-mini-course.png

Email list

Next, you need an email list—and a place for your newsletter to live, like Convertkit or Mailchimp. We created a blog post here on the list-building tools we like here at Teachable: Our 7 Favorite List-Building Tools and Resources.

You’ll be able to use your mini course as a list-building tool, but for other tips on growing your list, check out this post: List-Building 101: How to Rapidly Build an Email List

Social media accounts

Another way to promote your course is through social media, and while it’s traditionally not as powerful a marketing tool as your email list, leveraged correctly, it can give you results.

The “big three” when it comes to social media are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

On Facebook you can create either a “page” or a “group.” Facebook pages are catered around you and your business, and give you a lot more control over moderation, while Facebook groups are more about community-building and free communication. 

On Twitter and Instagram you can simply create an account. You may want to go ahead and create a Pinterest account around your business as well, depending on your niche (do you have a lot of visuals and tutorials to share?).

instagram-log-in.pngThe goals here are to:

  • Claim your course/school name on social media
  • Add basics like profile images, bios, etc., so that when people search for your business they’ll find someone “legit”
  • Begin leveraging those platforms to drive people to your course

Quora can also be an effective tool, and it’s covered in detail on the Teachable blog: Quora Marketing 101: How to Get Traffic from Quora.

A few marketing strategies

Now that you have all your boxes checked with the logistics, here are a few quick-win strategies for actually getting your mini course in front of your target audience. (You did prepare it just for them, after all.) 

Guest blogging

One way to get your course in front of your target audience is to write guest posts on other blogs featuring something that is covered in your mini course. For example, Stefanie can do a guest post covering her favorite iPhone photo and video editing apps, or how to find background music for iPhone video. 

The best way to make this work for you is to find blogs that target an audience similar to yours. When doing this research, check for a few things:

  1. Do they take guest posts? You can tell by looking at post authors and bios: are they guest contributors? Do the blogs have a specific page on their site with information about contributing? You can also google something simple like “guest post for Mind Body Green” and see what comes up.
  2. Do they seem to have a big audience? How many comments are they getting per post? How many followers do they have on social media? If the audience is extremely targeted (i.e., everyone on the list owns a yoga business) it doesn’t need to be as broad as on a more general site (i.e., everyone on the list has some interest in wellness) because it should convert at a higher rate.
  3. Do they give guest contributors credit? You want to make sure you’ll be able to link back to your mini course sales page throughout the article as well as in your bio. See if other guest contributors do something similar, or ask the editor you’re working with.

As an example, here’s a blog in Stefanie’s niche that accepts guest contributors. Look for pages like this on popular blogs:

guest-blog.png

Organic social media marketing

To drive students to your mini course with social media, there are a few basics you want to be sure to do:

  • Link to your mini course sales page in your profile, so it’s easy for people to sign up
  • Post often (once a day is a good starting point)
  • Engage with your audience by responding to and liking comments
  • Share posts about your course, but also share related information (for example, Stefanie might post about lighting gear or cool iPhone photography techniques)

Influencer outreach

Another quick way to get students enrolled in your course is to give it away to an industry leader in exchange for publicity. It sounds fancy, but it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s how it works:

  1. Research influencers (bloggers, podcasters, Instagrammers, YouTubers, etc.) who run platforms related to your course.
  2. Reach out and offer them access to your course for free, and ask if they’d be interested in sharing it with their audience if they enjoy it.*
  3. That’s it! Just make sure to follow up and be reliable with email communication. You want to leave a good impression!

*With Teachable, you can also offer them affiliate revenue for anyone they send your way—and that’s usually appealing to influencers who make their money online! (Here’s where you can find Teachable’s Knowledge Base article about setting up affiliates.)

The worst case scenario here is that the influencers ignore you, or enroll in your course and don’t say anything.

The best case is that they love your course, tell their audience all about it, and drive lots of new students to enroll in your course and join your list.

Here’s how this might work for Stefanie: 

She notices that a blogger she follows who teaches people how to make money online sometimes promotes other products or brands on her social media accounts and in her newsletter. Let’s call the blogger Sally from Make Money Your Way. Stefanie sends Sally a quick email with a link to sign up for her mini course for free, plus shows her how she can earn money as an affiliate if she promotes the course to her audience. Stefanie follows up a week later to see if Sally has had a chance to try it out. 

In-person promotion

You got me—in-person promotion is not digital marketing, so it’s funny I’m suggesting you use it to promote your online course. But here’s the thing: if you already do speaking engagements and have access to large in-person audiences, you can leverage that to drive people to your course (and your email list). 

Here are a few ways that might work:

  • You teach in-person cooking classes with ~12 students every week. Next time, you tell your students about your free online course and pass around a list taking email addresses. Later, you send them all a link to your course.
  • You speak at conferences as an expert in your niche. At the end of your next presentation, show a few slides featuring your online course, and show them exactly how to sign up for it. Again, pass around a notepad and collect email addresses.

(In both these scenarios, just make sure the school you’re teaching at or the conference hosts are okay with you collecting emails. I’ve never encountered a problem!) 

Paid ads

I don’t actually recommend using paid ads if you’re just getting started. They can be expensive and require a lot of babysitting and technical knowhow. If you’re willing to invest the time and energy to leverage them, paid ads can be an excellent tool for growing your business. But you absolutely don’t need to use them at this stage. 

Get Started

If this was a lot to digest, don’t worry. I created this easy checklist to walk you through the exact things you need to do to get started.

Get the checklist! 

Let me know below if you have any questions! I’ll read every single comment. :)

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Randle Browning

Written by Randle Browning

Randle Browning leads the content team at Teachable, a platform for anyone (anywhere!) to teach online. She blogs about vegan recipes, moving to NYC, and her former life in an RV at The Waco Vegan.