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How to Create and Monetize Your First Online Course (Part 2)
Updated: Jun 24, 2020 / Article by: Lori Soard
Update notes: Facts checked and updated with latest stats.
Back in 1996, I started offering online writing courses through chat rooms to a handful of students. At that time, there weren't as many online course options out there and what I and others were doing was still groundbreaking. Today, you can find courses on multiple platforms, sell them on your own website, or offer them through a setting such as Udemy.
The thing I love about online courses today is that you have a ton of options in how you get the material out to your students. The thing I hate about online courses today is that there are so many different types of options that it can be really confusing.
Fortunately, I'm here to help you navigate through your options and also to help you stand out from the crowd.
In Part 1 of this article we have went through the steps in writing your first online course. Today, we will discuss about hosting and marketing your course online.
You likely started your blog because you have some inside knowledge that you wanted to share with other people. Blog posts are a great place to start sharing bits and pieces of that knowledge, but even more in-depth posts don't have the level of training that a good online workshop can provide.
Michael Dunlop over at Income Diary had this to say about using workshops to make money online:
People read your blog but I wouldn’t be surprised if over 80% don’t act on what you say. Having a workshop means they learn from you and implement with you, this is a very attractive offer to some people and they are willing to pay high prices to do it (source).
Defining Your Audience
According to Dorie Clark on Forbes, “You can’t simply expect to slap something up online and watch the dollars roll in, but with effort and strategy, online courses can become a revenue engine and powerful lead generator.”
This is true. You need to know:
Who is your target demographic?
What are they hungry to know?
Do you have that knowledge or how can you obtain it?
How can you make the information interesting?
Are there any similar courses out there? How can you make yours different? Better?
How will you market your course? To who? How often?
What is your ultimate goal for creating this content?
You've likely already read some of our articles on here about the many different ways you can start an online business and monetize your website, such as this, this, this, and this.
Adding workshops or an online course simply creates another stream of revenue that you can sell over and over again.
According to Forbes, e-learning is truly a profitable market, expected to hit $325 billion in sales by 2025. Of course, that number includes all types of online training programs, so your niche may or may not fall on the higher end of that spectrum. Still the industry is expected to grow, so it's never too late to get in on the earnings, especially if you have something of importance to say.
How to Turn Your Teaching into an Online Workshop / e-Learning Course?
So how do you start with your first online workshop? Here are the options.
You may choose to host the workshop on your own website (with your own brand name (ie. Jim's Cooking dot com) through a platform such as Moodle.
Moodle is an open source platform that is available for free online. The easiest way to setup Moodle at your website is by choosing a hosting provider that supports Moodle and use their one-click installer (such as Softaculous) for the installation. All you need to do is key in some basic information (such as name and directory for Moodle to be installed at) and click install – and the Moodle platform will be setup at your back-end system.
Moodle is a versatile platform that can work well for just about any type of class or workshop. With Moodle you can:
Set up password to protect your e-course,
Add and delete students,
Create whiteboard style presentations, and
Host live chats for your lessons.
Of course, you'll be reliant on the traffic that you can generate to your own site in order to find students, but if you already have a large mailing list, this option might be the perfect one for you.
However, there are also a few other options that not only allow you to create a workshop but can provide you with an audience that might be interested in that workshop. If your site doesn't get a lot of traffic just yet, this can be a viable option that will get your ideas in front of people.
Udemy is probably one of the better known create and sell platforms for online courses. You can set the price for your course, depending upon the uniqueness of it and the demand for it. They have more than 9 million students registered and about 4 million monthly visitors. For students Udemy refers to you because of their marketing, they keep half of the cost of the course.
The platform is pretty easy to use and you can also add video content to the mix. The biggest advantage is in the traffic and browsers that visit the site. You can still bring students in yourself and you'll keep 100% of those sales, so it is completely compatible with your website efforts. However, you'll also benefit, even if only slightly, from Udemy's marketing efforts.
CourseCraft is the perfect platform if you want to teach others how to make crafts. This platform works with your WordPress blog and they take just 5% or you can pay a small fee per course. This is a great way to keep control and keep everything on your own website.
The platform is very easy to use and they offer showcases of what others have done so you can get ideas for creating your own course and how it should be set up.
Teachable offers similar options to Udemy but you can also host the courses on your own website. This means your branding remains intact rather than having the Udemy branding forced on it. You can either pay a fee per student or you can pay a monthly fee.
You can host courses under your own domain name or use teachable's domain. The platform also offers multi-language support and the ability to create web pages on their platform.
What Types of Workshops Are Popular?
This can vary from industry to industry. For example, if you look at some of the free college courses out there, courses in psychology and business savvy top the list, even among those working on post bachelor degrees. However, your website might be about something completely opposite of that topic, such as how to start your own website.
Good SEO strategies work with workshops as well. Do some good, old fashioned detective work by looking at keywords, search terms people are looking at, and trending topics in your niche area. Then, head over to some of the online workshop platforms and see what workshops are already offered. You'll likely see a place or two you can add value.
Another option is to poll your audience.
Simply contact your mailing list and ask them what types of workshops they'd be interested in or what questions they have that haven't been answered. You'll likely be surprised at the results and may even come up with an idea for a new course.
Successful Online Course Instructors
Jen Conner, a friend and an art entrepreneur, used to offer online art workshops through her website. She had this to say about running a successful online courses:
It really does come down to giving them more than they can get anywhere else. One of my workshops was on creating murals in your home. There are so many different tutorials on this topic as well as templates you can buy and books you can read. I had to really think outside the box to make my courses have value.
One thing I did was implement some video examples of outlining the mural. Then, I added in examples of different techniques to create texture and effects. No one else was doing that at the time and it made my course very successful.
Some of the top digital photography courses on Udemy are taught by John Pullos. Pullos has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating out of 4,578 ratings and has taught over 23,000 students in his Beginner Nikon Digital SLR class alone.
A few things that he does that seem to create success for him:
Clear outline of what the student will learn
Clear description of his photography background and the knowledge he has to offer
Even if your industry isn't digital photography, you can learn by studying successful instructors and what makes them stand out from the rest of the courses offered on various platforms.
Creating an online course does take a bit of time and effort.
However, the great thing about these workshops is that once you've created them, they can earn you money for many years to come with just a few minor adjustments and tweaks.
About Lori Soard
Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.