How to Come up with an Idea for an Online Course
By 2025, online courses will be a $325 billion industry.
That’s billion. Not million.
And with this growing industry, we’re starting to see more and more businesses scale in the direction of online courses.
It’s no longer just colleges and universities and business owners teaching online courses; there are online courses out there on everything from essential oils to dog training, jewelry making to home-making. And everything in between.
So, it’s safe to say that online courses are not a fad.
(Like pogs. Remember those?)
Online courses don’t seem to be going anywhere, and the industry is growing rapidly. So it’s not if you should create an online course but, rather, what should your online course be about, amirite?
If you’re not sure where to get started with coming up with a course idea, then this video is for you.
Hint: Your profitable online course idea can be even simpler than you’d expect. It’s probably right under your nose, and in this video, I’ll help you figure it out.
Not feeling a video right now? That’s cool! Keep scrolling and reading…
So, you want to create an online course but you’re not sure what it should be about. It’s no secret that online courses are incredibly profitable, but it goes beyond that:
A course isn’t just some one-off project you do; when you create an online course, you are adding an asset to your business. An asset that can grow your business even when you’re not working in your business. #SleepSales
Not to mention that when you create an online course, just the act of doing that is establishing yourself as an authority in your field, as an expert in your niche. By putting what you know – your skills, your systems, or your strategies — and packaging them up into one thing, you become associated with that topic. You can go from obscurity to thought leadership, simply by putting yourself out there in this way.
And of course, adding an online course to your suite of products and services can also serve as a stepping stone to get someone to invest in one of your higher ticket services. Your online course can become a prerequisite.
What to Consider When Coming Up with an Online Course Idea
But what if you don’t have other services that you want to upsell? What if you’re still not sure where to get started?
Here are a few things to consider when you’re trying to come up with a course idea:
First off, look at what you do and figure out where the repetitions and redundancies are.
Do you have a product that requires someone to have a bit of knowledge before they use it? Essential oils are a great example of this. If you’re selling something and you often find yourself flipping into teaching mode to help a customer understand how to use something, that could be a great topic for an online course.
Not only will it better serve your current customers, but it will also bring you even more customers because they will understand the value of the products and feel even more confident when purchasing them.
Does this sound like your business? Do you have a project with some kind of knowledge gap that could be filled through an online course? Let me know in the comments below.
Maybe you already have an online course or provide a service, but you consistently find that people have the same questions over and over again before they are ready to work with you. You can answer those questions or even take it a step further in online course form.
Before I developed my first courses, I was doing one-on-one coaching and consulting. But consistently, I found the people had specific questions about SEO and about Facebook marketing. I could coach them on their businesses, but giving them what they needed with SEO and Facebook went beyond what I could do or wanted to do in an hour long coaching session.
Not having a container in which to teach that, I created one. I packaged up my own system for SEO and created my first course, SEO in a WKND. And later, I packaged up everything I’d figured out about Facebook marketing and turned that into my next course, FB Framework™.
By having these courses in place, I was able to provide even more to my coaching consulting clients, but I was also able to get even more coaching and consulting clients through those who bought the courses. So by monetizing the repetitions and the redundancies — those things I constantly was addressing with my 1:1 clients — and putting them into online course form, I was able to dramatically grow my business as well as the businesses of my clients.
And that leads us to our next question:
Do you have a special system or strategy for doing something that makes a task easier or more effective?
Todd Herman of Alter Ego Effect fame packaged up his system for peak performance and productivity into a course called 90 Day Year. He had a special way of setting and getting goals that worked brilliantly for his clients — all who are Olympic athletes, billionaires, Broadway performers, Fortune 500 CEOs, and so on– and he distilled that system into a course that has served tens of thousands of business owners.
Another great example is Denise Duffield-Thomas. She has a suite of courses to help people work through money blocks and money mindset. She’s not just talking about those topics, she’s actually helping people undergo a transformation through her course content and her own proprietary method.
One more example is my course, The Course Course: It’s not just a course on general course creation strategies. Instead, it’s a very specific system. It’s the same system I have used to create and launch a dozen successful online courses, the same one that helped me gross $1 million in 18 months.
As with any kind of system, I didn’t just wake up one day knowing how to do it; I figured out how to do it over time.
So for you, maybe you have something like that. Maybe you have a system or a set of strategies that you have refined over time that you could package up into an online course.
Or maybe you haven’t developed an exact system yet… but could you?
Is there something you do that people seek you out for over and over again that you could find a way to systematize?
Courses vs. Coaching
When I mention this one to my students, I often get huge objections, especially from people who do 1:1 work with clients. There’s often this belief that sounds a little something like: “I do great work with my clients one-on-one, but I could never teach what I do. It’s too customized. It’s too personalized.”
And maybe it is. But maybe not. And if you dig a little bit deeper, probably not.
One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Albert Einstein. He said:
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
So, if you do 1:1 work, I urge you to zoom out and see where the repetitions are. Look at how you start with someone:
What’s that first step? What do they need to know or do first? And then, what usually comes after that? And after that?
Sure, there’s going to be personalization involved, absolutely, but, whether you realize it in this moment or not, there’s probably some kind of system.
Or maybe the word system makes you cringe, so maybe it’s a mission, a model, a framework. Whatever you want to call it.
You’re not going to be able to stimulate every single aspect of a one-on-one experience in a one-to-many online course… But you can probably get pretty close. And you could even offer support for your students in your course, like a Facebook group or monthly coaching calls or something like that. And through that support, you can address any issues that might arise.
And of course, an online course doesn’t have to be 100% comprehensive either. Like I mentioned before, an online course could be a prerequisite. It gives people the foundation they need to get started. And maybe they take things to the next level in another online course of yours. Or perhaps the online course is the gateway to working with you in a higher ticket program.
There are lots of ways to structure it, but the important thing is to look at what you do from one client to the next and find the common thread — figure out what can be replicated. There’s your online course.
How to Create Online Courses for your Business Peers
Now, all of the examples I have given are you teaching an online course to your current audience. And that would be a great place to start if you already have an established audience.
But maybe you don’t want or need to teach current clients or customers. Instead, you can help other people in your own niche or industry.
Say you’re a successful photographer. You could do a photography course for your clients and customers, sure? But what if, instead, you created a business course for newer photographers who were just getting started?
You could teach what you know about building and growing a successful photography business. Chances are, if you are successful, you didn’t just get there by accident. You got there by taking a few specific and strategic steps. You could share those with others to help them get started as well.
Like with my husband for example: He had a local dog training business here in Atlanta that grew very quickly and was very successful. It got the attention of other dog trainers who would reach out and ask “How are you doing what you’re doing? How are you consistently getting clients and continuing to grow your business?”
So, my husband took what he knew and had done and distilled all of that into an online course. He sold that to other dog trainers all over the world and they were able to take what they learned from him and grow their businesses as well.
So, whether you have a skill, a strategy, a system, a method, a model, some special way of doing something that is easier or more effective, then you can create and teach an online course.
But before I close this out, I want to address two big objections that I see pop up all the time when it comes to choosing a topic for an online course.
Those two objections get in the way of a lot of perfectly wonderful online courses being created, so if either of these apply, I no longer want these to be an excuse for you.
These objections sound a little something like this:
Objection #1: I shouldn’t create my course because someone else out there already has a course on my topic.
Objection #2: Why would someone want to buy my course when a lot of information is already available for free?
(I want to address both of those, but real quick: If either of those objections sound like you, then make sure you check out another video of mine, “The 4 mistakes Online Course Creators Make.” )
So let’s get back to that first objection:
Someone else out there already has a course in my topic.
As I tell my students, this is great news! It means there’s a market for it, otherwise you would know that course existed. This is fabulous. And I’ll take it one step further and say that competition is actually confirmation. Confirmation that you’ve gotten a good idea, that you’re onto something, and that you should make an online course on that topic.
At the end of the day, there are going to be lots of courses out there on the things that you want to create a course about. It’s inevitable. There are very few new and novel course ideas. BUT while the topics might be the same or similar, the teacher is different. The teacher who comes with their own unique perspective, their own unique experiences, and that’s what you leverage when you go to create an online course: Your own take on that particular topic.
Now, let’s knock out that other objection and wrap this thing up:
People often ask me: “Why would I create this course when someone can learn this information online for free?”
Without a doubt, there is tons of information available online through Google and YouTube and free Facebook groups, and so on. But, that should not be an obstacle for you to create a course on that topic. Why? Because people will always pay more for convenience.
Think about it this way: if I want to go to learn something, I pretty much have two ways in which I can do that. Option A is that I can try to figure it out on my own, therefore using a lot of my time and energy and willpower to figure out on my own…
Or… Option B would be to save time and invest in something that has all of the answers in one place. And even better than that, it doesn’t just have the answers, but it might even have a proprietary system for doing that particular thing in an even easier way.
Whether you believe me or not, it’s true: People will always pay for convenience; People will spend money if it saves them time.
Remember: Time is a non-renewable resource. You can always get more money – whether you believe me on that point or not – you can always rest or recharge and get more energy, you can always increase your bandwidth by getting more help from people or technology…
But you can’t get back more time. Once it’s spent, it’s gone. So people will always be willing to give up one renewable resource if it means they can save a non-renewable resource.
Or more simply, people will spend money, if it means they can save time.
So if your online course can help people do that — whether it improves their life, their business, their body, or their bank account – they will seek out your course as that time-saving solution.
Now, with all of that in mind, let me hear from YOU:
Did any of this help you to better shape your idea for an online course? And if so, share what your biggest takeaways were in the comments below! We want to hear! (And sometimes when you share your biggest takeaways publicly, they help others as well. )
P.S. If you want to take things to the next level, be sure to grab my free guide, The Course Idea Incubator. Inside, I’ll walk you through a series of questions to ask yourself so that you can define and refine your course ideas.
P.P.S. If you’re really feeling fancy, then you should also check out my free masterclass, “the six-step system to a profitable online course.” You can go save your seat and watch it today over at freecourseclass.com.
One final PSA: If you’ve got a strategy or system or special way of doing something that you know could help other people, then don’t sit on that idea.
Package it up into a course and share it with others. Not only will it benefit you but it will benefit others as well. Right now, there’s probably someone out there waiting for you, waiting for what you have to teach them. Don’t keep them waiting. Take the next step in creating your online course today.
HI, I’M COURTNEY!
I’m here to help you build, grow, and scale your business.
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