How to Start an Online Course Business in 2020 – Simplified

We’ve begun to be asked how to write online courses and sell them. After all, we’ve done two of them now, and had several hundred people consume the content we’ve created.

With that being said, we don’t want to paint a false image. We’re at the very beginning of this, but we are growing and making money. You can too.

Below are some ideas to get you started. At the time of this writing most of us are in some form of quarantine, with few places to go, and more time on our hands than we’d like to admit.

You Have Something to Give

Let us just start by saying, each one of you reading this has something to share with the world. You know, or have insight to a specific area of information that few others do. Due to your individuality, your experiences, and personality, there is a course that only you can create.

Even as you read this, ideas are coming to your mind of passions and stories you would love to tell the world.

We believe it’s your duty to do so!

How do I find the time?

A common concern of would-be course creators is “I don’t have time.”

Bull crap.

All this is going to take, at least initially is 30 minutes to 1 Hour a day. It doesn’t matter who you are. You spend at least that much time surfing the web, watching whatever interests you and successfully distracts you from the work you’d rather not be doing.

By prioritizing this time all of the other “to-dos” will fall into place.

How Do You Get Started?

If you already have an idea for a course, then you need to start writing.

What? Yes, writing. The problem with most-be course creators, is that they have all these ideas in their heads but they haven’t actually put them all down on paper.

It’s quite simple really. Begin writing down all of your thoughts. Take 30 minutes a day and just write. Practice the “no bad ideas” mentality. Often, in these early stages, courses get killed because course creators are afraid that their early content is “not good enough”, or “doesn’t sound right”.

Ignore those thoughts. Right now there is no bad content, no bad ideas. Just get it all out on paper, or a google doc (this is what we do).

Just get your thoughts on paper. If you spend 30 min – 1 hour a day doing this, you should finish in 1-2 weeks.

Do not spend more than 2 weeks on this phase.

Finishing your Rough Draft

As you write your ideas down, you will begin to notice that by just keeping all of these ideas in your head, you actually had a lot of gaps in your thinking, or there are parts of the course that are still unclear or you don’t have good content on. You will begin to research, reading blogs, books, calling contacts you know, etc.

This is good, but it can quickly become a trap. Set limits on what you will do, read, and how much.

When we started our investing course, this is what that looked like for us:

  1. Read the top 5 books on Investing on Amazon

2. Interview 5 Certified Financial Planners

3. Interviewed 1 book author from the books we read

That’s it.

By doing this you don’t get trapped in an endless analyzation and researching cycle. Setting limits on necessary tasks is a sure way to actually be productive.

After getting your thoughts on a paper and doing necessary research (this process should take 2 weeks to 1 month) you’re ready to begin organizing the content. You’ll be tempted to do this in the initial documentation stage (a.k.a getting your thoughts on paper). Don’t.

Again, this process takes 30 minutes to 1 hour a day. You have this time. Believe me.

Organizing and Structuring Content

Ok. Now you have all your ideas on paper, you’ve done the research, and you’re ready to create a course.

Structure the course into a 6-week block, with content that takes no more than 1 hour to consume per week. (The activities you have your students do can be outside the 1 hour block of instruction).

The course can be structured in different formats, for example our Fundamentals of Personal Finance Course has 10 modules, but can be completed in 6-week time frame, with 1 hour per week of instruction.

If you have more content than this allows, you either need to cut, or create more than one course.

Using this structure will force you to be concise, and focus on the most important. Typically during research and documentation you will add a lot of fluff.

Cut the fat.

This process will be agonizing. You will struggle to organize and fit the right pieces in.

When you recognize the mental pain – remind yourself of this:

“In course creation, perfection is the enemy of complete, and if you’re not intentional, you’ll never end up with a course.”

Your course will not be perfect today, tomorrow, and most likely ever.

What it needs to be, is done and sellable.

You are the greatest obstacle to getting your course to that point.

The greatest help for us personally, was to pick someone we personally new that could benefit from our course, and literally create the course for them. With this person/couple in mind, it changed from “what do I want this course to look like” to “what is going to be the simplest way to help them?”

This forces you to make your content, easy, understandable, and direct.

It works.

Last but not Last, Marketing (yes, we wrote it like that on purpose)

The biggest mistake (we made) and we see many make, is the moment you start writing your course, is the moment you start marketing it.

The greatest feedback you will ever get is from those who will consume the content. Course creators spend years building content only to find the users and students are overwhelmed and confused. By involving others through the whole process, you keep yourself accountable and your content clean and effective.

How do you do this?

Find 5 target customers, and tell them what you’re doing. Ask them to review and go through your content for free. Create a facebook group and email list. Send out a weekly email updating them on your progress and ideas you’re having.

Get these individuals talking to each other. Begin to add more people to this group as you go along, and invite the individuals you initially contacted to do the same.

We take all the feedback we get on our ideas and courses and store it until our user base doubles.

2-4-8-16-32-64- etc.

By doing this, we can make a lot changes early and often, and then get more feedback as our user base grows.

The other aspect of marketing you can begin the moment you decide to create a course is to borrow other audiences to build your audience.

Establish yourself as an expert. What is an expert? Someone who is 2-3 steps ahead of someone else in a given field.

Reach out to podcasts, blogs, and others who have audiences, and ask to speak and share your ideas in presentations and conversations to get feedback and begin building a following.

There are so many ideas around building a course that we’ve learned and continue to learn. We hope this has been helpful.

If you would be interested in taking a course from us on building a course and seeing more of what we have learned, send an email to hello@centseifinancial.com with subject line “I’m Interested”.

Do you see what I just did there?

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