Online courses are part of a huge online market that continues to grow at a very fast pace. With everyone’s hectic schedules and busy lives, online courses offer a fantastic alternative to traditional classroom learning.
Your students are not locked down to specific days and times, but instead can watch your course when it fits their schedule. They are also very likely to watch those courses on their mobile device – their tablet or smartphone.
So are you ready to sell an online course…but have no clue what’s involved? In this article I’m going to give you an overview of the various components required to build and sell online courses.
Define Target Audience
This isn’t as simple as it first appears. That’s because most business owners don’t take the time to put themselves in their customer’s shoes. They come up with a product or service they think will sell and they build an online business, without considering whether there is a target market for it.
That being said, it’s easier to determine the target audience for online courses based on the content. For example if you are teaching a foreign language, your customers include high-school or college students, business professionals traveling abroad, or anyone wanting to learn to speak a different language.
So who is your ideal customer? Male or Female? What age group? What are their interests? What is their income? What are their challenges, concerns and pain points? What will they get from your course?
Domain Name & Website
You need a domain name and a website to sell online courses. Let’s address the domain name first. Once you define your target market, you need to know what search terms they will use to find you.
This is called keyword research. For example, if I was interested in learning a foreign language I might Google something like “online French classes”, or “learn French online” or “online French tutor”.
Brainstorm the most common search terms that your customers might use to find your online course. If you are a teacher, ask your students what they would Google to find your classes.
Once you have various search terms, you need a tool that will give you the search volume and the keyword ranking difficulty. Use a free keyword research tool like KWFinder. In addition to search volume, this tool suggests other long tail keywords with low Search Engine Optimization (SEO) competition.
When you’ve narrowed your domain name, visit a hosting provider such as goDaddy to see if the domain is available. Don’t be discouraged if it’s already taken as the most common and highly desirable domain names will be. Continue to fine tune your domain name using a long tail keyword with low SEO competition.
Along with a domain name, you need a website. In all likelihood your courses will include videos and course material such as worksheets and pdf downloads. So you need a website platform that supports video, secure downloads, membership and e-commerce.
It’s important that you have a mobile-friendly website because the majority of your customers will watch your courses on a tablet or smartphone.
Next step is to create your online course content. You need to determine how many levels of courses you will offer. For example, you might build content for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
You need to create enough content such that when you launch your online courses, you have enough time to create new content. You don’t want your students to run out of material. After all, the way you make money is to get students to pay for ongoing membership.
While brainstorming your course levels and the actual content, you also need to decide when students get access to the next course in the series. For example, you could create 12 classes, releasing one class a week.
I recommend you create a minimum of 3 months worth of content for each membership level. That means that if you have 3 membership levels consisting of 12 courses each, you need 36 courses ready before you open the site for membership.
But guess what? that also means each student signs up for the 3 months to complete the course. If they start at the beginner level and advance thru all 3 levels, they just paid you for 9 months!
Record Your Classes
Think about how you will present the classes. You could stand in front of a whiteboard and write as you speak. Or you could use a digital writing tablet and record while writing on the tablet and speaking.
Your videos don’t have to be professional. What’s most important is the content you are teaching. If it’s useful and relevant you will get lots of students!
You need software to record your classes. There are quite a few options, but if you are just starting out, you don’t need the very expensive ones. Camtasia offers a free version that will work if you are just getting started.
In order to make money from your online course website, you need to sell memberships. Using membership, you can offer 1 or several levels at different price points. You can offer various subscription time frames such as monthly, quarterly, and yearly.
Each membership level will have access to only the content you designate for that particular level. For example, you might be teaching a foreign language in which case you would have beginner, intermediate, and advanced course levels.
Membership software handles the various levels, access to content at each level, upgrades and downgrades in membership etc. It also handles how often your content is “drip fed” to each membership level.
If you offer any course material such as worksheets, ebooks, or course transcripts the membership software handles the secure delivery of your digital content.
You need an e-commerce platform and a payment gateway to sell your classes. The e-commerce software is installed on your website to manage the course sales. It also processes cancellations, renewals, refunds, and free trials.
The payment gateway is the method by which you will accept payment on your website. Two of the most popular and easy to use are PayPal and Stripe. They are both comparable as far as fees. PayPal is the more popular since most people prefer not to enter their credit card information online.
Whew! if you stayed with me all the way to this point…Congratulations! That means you are really serious about selling online courses. Kudos to you. If you are like most entrepreneurs, you had no idea there were so many pieces and parts needed to sell courses online.
You might think you can do this yourself…but why would you want to? Think about it, you need to concentrate on creating great content to get long-term customers.
Setting up the website, membership and e-commerce are very complicated and are best handled by a professional web developer. Take the time to do your research and “interview” several qualified web developers. Pick one that will become a long time business partner and help you not only build, but grow your online business.