How to create your own online course
Start earning from your knowledge by creating an additional source of income. In addition to regular assignments, employment, and projects, you can create a course that earns while you focus on something else.
To create your own online course based on your knowledge, you will need a few tools. First and foremost, you will need a website with the ability to upload recordings or scheduled webinars, support for account creation, and payment gateways. Additionally, you will need equipment for recording sound and video. Don't forget about mass email distribution.
In the following stages, I will discuss in more detail the essential elements of your online course and in what order to implement them.
Choosing a topic - what is your course about?
Choose a fairly narrow topic and focus on solving your potential student's problem. In an online course, it's not about pouring all your knowledge into the heads of your audience. You need to give them secret knowledge instantly. When you want to paint your apartment, you don't take a painting course, you just ask an expert about the selection of colors, roller, and type of paint. The expert will tell you how to prepare the wall and what mistakes to avoid.
Focus on the audience, understand their problems, put yourself in their shoes, and present your solution. Take them from point A, where they have a problem, to point B, where you magically solve it.
How much can you earn from online courses?
All you need to do is sell a course for $400 to 2,500 people, and you have a million $ - it's that "simple". Achieving such a sum will require a lot of work, but in this business model, you will work the most at the beginning, and then focus mainly on advertising and finding new target groups. One of our clients ran a 3-day campaign on Facebook and earned 160,000 PLN (~37 000 $).
Even if it's not your main source of income, it's a good "second leg". In this regard, I share the opinion of many experts in saving/earning to diversify sources of income.
Ask the target group about their problems
Don't guess or make up problems for your target group. Go to a Facebook or LinkedIn group and see what they're talking about, what they need, and what bothers them. Ask questions in those groups, and if that doesn't help, write individually to 10... 20... 50 people. Write until the full range of problems becomes clear to you.
This stage also aims to weed out ideas that won't work. If the response is poor and no one shows enthusiasm for your questions, abandon the idea and move on to the next on the list.
Additionally, by getting to know these people, you are inadvertently promoting your personal brand. So make sure they remember who you are, what you do, and how you can help them solve their problem.
Take care of your personal image
Have a photo shoot. If you have a camera, do it with the help of a family member. However, even the best selfie cannot replace a professional business photo shoot. If your industry does not require it, then you have no problem, but if you are creating a top-notch course for entrepreneurs, presenting yourself in a tidy way in high-quality photos is almost expected. Also, take care of a good description and show yourself as an expert.
Taking it one step further, you can record a 30-60 second video presenting who you are, what you do, what achievements you have, and who you want to help. This will increase the trust of your audience.
After collecting the problems and questions of your target group, let them know that you will be launching a course soon. Release 3 recordings, webinars, or useful content in any digital form on groups, addressing one problem related to the topic of your course. These materials and all the buzz around you should encourage people to sign up for the waiting list.
Create a course landing page and a mini product
At this stage, you may not even have a website yet. A landing page is a mini website dedicated to ONLY ONE goal. You can build it, for example, using a tool like Landingi. Since you already have a target group, start collecting preliminary registrations and email addresses. Depending on the topic, 10-30% of these people will buy the course.
You will increase the likelihood of purchasing the course if you first sell them something cheaper. It can be an e-book or a recording of a webinar that is no longer available. If your students become familiar with the quality you provide, they will be more willing to buy the target course.
Start writing a newsletter promoting the course
Try to stay in touch with people who have signed up for newsletter waiting list. It can be a weekly newsletter with tips on the course topic. If the topic allows, you can send tips on how to prepare for the course. Send them a shopping list when you will be running a craft, electronics, or any other course that will better prepare them for the course.
This will save them a lot of time in the preparation phase. It can also be a checklist verifying a particular problem - for example, how to prepare for a webinar recording.
Before the course is created, continue to collect sign-ups and stay in touch with the group. If you have any doubts about the content, ask! Test your ideas on people who are going to pay you.
Gather the necessary equipment to record the course
Depending on the type of course, different equipment will be needed. The easiest way to record is to capture what's happening on your computer screen. In that case, all you need is a computer, microphone, and optionally a camera to show your face in the corner of the screen.
I've broken down the equipment purchase into separate sections to make it easier for you to choose:
What to use for recording video for the course?
For recording your face, I recommend using the Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam. Most built-in laptop cameras are not suitable for recording courses. Laptops simply do not have enough space for optics in their thin panels. You can also use a smartphone if you think its quality is satisfactory.
For pre-recorded video courses, a DSLR camera with a good, bright lens or a digital camera such as the Sony ZV1 or Lumix G7 would be ideal.
Use a tripod
If your laptop is too low, prop it up with books or use a tripod. A tripod will be useful for both the camera and the webcam. If you're sitting at a desk, a low tripod is enough, but for standing presentations, we recommend taller photography tripods.
Remember to position the lens at eye level. Don't record with the camera from below or above. Always keep it at the same level as your eyes!
How to record sound for a course?
If image is king, then sound is queen. You can't watch a good movie with bad sound, but the opposite is true. To start, I recommend getting a so-called lapel microphone with a clip, such as the Rode SmartLav+ or the Boya BY-M, which can be directly connected to your phone. For interviews, you can of course connect two lapel microphones and headphones using the Rode SC6.
If you have higher requirements and a more generous budget, choose between a dynamic or condenser microphone.
The simplest solution is to purchase a USB-connected microphone. An excellent example is the Rode NT-USB Mini, or the slightly more expensive Samson Q9U XLR/USB, which won't require replacement if the recording studio grows with additional interfaces/mixers. It has an additional professional XLR connector.
Dynamic microphones are those that we hold close to our mouths (like on stage). They are characterized by the fact that they don't pick up all the noise from the surroundings, but only your voice. They are sufficient for recording a voiceover for a course. They are often used by people recording podcasts in home and office settings. If you don't like the sight of a big microphone in the frame, use a lapel microphone instead.
Dynamic microphones that I recommend include the Rode M1 with an additional stand, the Rode Pod Mic, or the slightly more expensive Rode Procaster.
Condenser microphones require a much better-prepared room and have a more delicate construction. If you're recording at home, it will require you to surround yourself with blankets, close yourself in a closet, or cover bare walls with echo-reducing screens.
Condenser microphones that I recommend include the RODE NT1 kit or the slightly cheaper NT1-A.
Remember to speak into the microphone. Lapel microphones pick up sound fairly well from chest height, but the NT1, for example, has a close "golden" sound collection zone.
You've probably seen radio employees speaking into microphones with a special round cover (eliminating explosive p, b, t, d... sounds) placed close to their faces. It's thanks to this that the sound is very clear, clean, and has that intimate radio tone.
A directional microphone will come in handy when recording a video course with a DSLR or digital camera and you don't want the microphone to cover half of your face. Install it in place of the flash, on the so-called sleds, and plug it into the camera's microphone input.
Condenser and dynamic microphones require connection through an interface before being connected to a computer. This can be the Rode AI-1 or the Focusrite Scarlett Solo, for example. Of course, such an interface is not necessary when the microphone is in USB version or can be connected to the mini-jack microphone input on a computer/laptop.
How to light a course scene?
Two lighting umbrellas or softboxes placed in front of you on both sides are sufficient to illuminate your face. Experiment with distance to avoid white hotspots on your face. Umbrellas "soften" the light from strong lamps and eliminate harsh shadows. With more light, you also improve the video quality. Cameras capture well-lit scenes much better.
Lighting umbrella sets are not expensive, and you can easily notice the difference between umbrellas and regular lamp lighting. Sets usually include an umbrella or softbox, bulbs (2-3, depending on their power), tripod, and bulb holders. Of course, everything x2 to perfectly illuminate your face.
If you have powerful LED panels and are recording in front of your laptop, you can also reflect the sharp LED light off a white wall. This way, you can get soft shadows and a perfectly lit face. The wall scatters the light just like an umbrella.
Ask your favorite YouTube channel host how they light their scene. Before doing so, check if they have already answered this question somewhere. You may be able to establish contact and receive some valuable additional advice.
Personally, I prefer interiors in the background, but if you have a less representative space, it is worth getting two tripods and a roll of background paper. For more demanding users, these can be green screens and background replacement in special software. A uniform wall will also work if it is at the appropriate distance from your back and is adequately lit.
Software for recording a course
You can record your course using 2-3 different programs. One of them is OBS Studio, which allows you to record what's happening on your screen. You can prepare your presentation using PowerPoint or the free Google Slides. For audio editing, I recommend using the free program Audacity, and for video editing, Shotcut or DaVinci Resolve are good options. You can also use the paid program Screencast-O-Matic, which is very helpful for both recording and editing. Canva is also an interesting solution for recording your screen. If you're overwhelmed by the number of options in OBS or other programs, Canva can be a great, intuitive alternative.
Once you have your video materials ready, you can publish them on Vimeo. This platform, unlike YouTube, offers relative protection against sharing links to your recordings in its paid version. You can also limit playback of your videos to specific domains (such as your website) and even remove the Vimeo logo from your videos. Your recordings placed on Vimeo will then be available on your course website.
Test recordings of courses and webinars
If you are a beginner, conduct a few test recordings, check different light configurations and camera settings. This is very important because sometimes one room has more echo than another. It may also happen that the sun shining through the window too brightly illuminates your room and improperly set up camera changes the brightness of the image.
If you are recording a long course segment, lighting and sound conditions must be repeatable for several days of recording. Large fluctuations will be visible at the final stage.
During tests, you will also catch all kinds of "distractions" such as not silenced phones, notifications from messengers, or from antivirus and system programs, slowdowns in transfer due to weak WiFi, automatic updates, neighbors doing renovations, as well as couriers knocking on the door.
Remember to record short videos. 5-15 min max. Your users will choose how much information they want to absorb in one sitting. Don't force them to watch 45 min recordings.
Choosing a platform for your course
Don't let the choice of platform for your course slow you down. You can create an account on Teachable, Udemy, the Polish platform Skyier, or purchase a plugin for Wordpress if your website is based on that system.
The solution I use is not for everyone. It is a custom web application tailored to your needs, and it guides you through the process just like this article.
Billing on the aforementioned platforms is subscription-based with an additional percentage taken from sales. I don't use this type of solution. You pay at specific stages, and the website is ultimately yours, so you enjoy 100% of the profit from your knowledge.
As part of website development, you can request the addition of a blog module, a section dedicated to the success stories of your students, or any other function you need.
Complete the documents and sign the payment gateway agreement
I am a supporter of the Stripe.com payment gateway. It allows you to sell your courses and training worldwide! Alternative is PayPal or your local provider.
VAT invoices can also be automatically issued upon request by the user. All you need is for the website to be linked to an invoicing program or the one in Stripe.com.
Advertising campaign for your online course
It doesn't matter if you're recording your own course, conducting an online or in-person training. You always need to conduct a proper campaign! This applies to people with an existing community as well as those without one.
My solution helps combine most marketing efforts in one administrative panel.
The campaign process can take from 1 to even 3 weeks. During this time, you regularly send a link to the landing page with free samples, webinars, and other promotional materials.
People who want to receive a free e-book or gain access to a free webinar must leave their email address. They will be appropriately marked in your website's system.
At each stage of the process, they will receive further labels. This way, you can monitor which step each person is on and to whom you should send informational and sales content. You will receive a percentage breakdown of this data to make it easier for you to reach the collected contacts.
Advertising campaign schedule
When preparing a campaign, create a table with a schedule. Write down when you plan to do live sessions, webinars, blog posts, newsletters, podcasts, or videos on YouTube. When planning a one-week campaign, there will be far fewer materials than in a three-week campaign. The same applies to the frequency of sharing and publishing them.
Avoid breaks in the campaign longer than 3 days. Don't let users forget about you.
Remember, however, not to spam. Write to people who have given their consent. Each newsletter platform offers an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter, so be careful not to "burn" your contacts.
Temporary sales closure
A technique that increases sales is a temporary sales closure. If the course is always available, there is nothing to motivate your potential student to make a purchase. Similarly, there is nothing to motivate you to update the course content.
If you limit the sale to 1 month and plan the next edition in 6 months or even a year, you will significantly increase motivation to make a purchase. Also, note that the next edition will be slightly more expensive. This can be justified by updating the content or adding materials based on experiences from the previous edition.
Reopening of sales
Generate a list of users who missed out on the previous edition and send them a reminder. This will be your starting group. It probably won't be very large, so run the advertising campaign again.
Automating course sales
The entire process above can be automated. Pre-campaign => campaign => sales => sales closing => content update => campaign => reopening of sales.
Connect the tools together, update the content so that subsequent editions require significantly less effort on your part.
Having your own training platform with lots of features, options, and external services can be overwhelming at first, but you don't release a course overnight.
Gather materials and basic equipment before you start your final development.
Get used to the camera and microphone. Learn video editing software or webinar software if you also want to conduct them.
Check how to "go live" on Facebook for the first time. Remember that the rest of the technical environment, including configuring the domain, server, integrating payments and forms with mailing services, modules for landing pages, and customizing the entire platform to your individual needs, is my responsibility.
I hope the article helped you follow the process of creating and promoting a course. It's a simple process that requires some effort, especially at the beginning.