1. What’s the subject of your online course?

Would you prefer to listen to this topic?

Before we start, I’d like to offer you a downloadable work schedule to help keep you on track with creating your course. I’ve laid out exactly what needs to be done each working day. There are three options, taking into account people’s different working hours.

So…

If you have 35 hours a week to work (full-time hours), you can create an online course in five days. Here’s your schedule: Create an online course in five days.

If you have part-time hours to work – 15 hours a week; maybe three hours a day – it will take you two weeks. Here’s your schedule: Create an online course in two weeks (three hours a day).

If you can find just 30 minutes a day, here’s the schedule to help you create a course in 24 days; less than a month. It’s totally possible. Here’s your schedule: Create an online course in one month.

Hope that helps.

And in terms of completing it during the programme, you can whizz through, and then move on to creating your funnel to sell spaces (more on this later). Or take your time. Work at your own pace, in the time you have available.

Now, let’s begin…

The first online course I ever did was run by Curtis Brown literary agency and it was called ‘Starting to write your novel’. Much as the title suggests, it was a course that helped you to get started on writing a novel. I knew about this literary agency and liked the idea of a course that I could do from home, in the evenings, when my children were asleep.

By the end of the course, I had the first three chapters of my novel written. So I started the course knowing what I’d get out of it and the result was as I’d hoped. They hadn’t told me that I’d be guaranteed a publishing deal, just that I’d get started on my novel.

When thinking about your course, focus on what you’re helping participants to achieve.

Your online course

You may have a very clear idea about what your course will be on, or it might be vague. Here are some questions to get you started…

  • What would excite you to write a course on?

An online course needs to be fairly comprehensive. You’ll be using your existing knowledge and then doing further research on the topic, so make sure it’s something you’re happy to spend a fair few hours thinking about – planning, brainstorming, discussing with other people.

Now that I’ve launched my first few courses, I keep having ideas for new ones. But some stick and others don’t. For instance, I have a master’s degree in print and online journalism and I work as a freelance journalist. I know that I could teach people how to become a freelance journalist but every time I tried to start writing the course, I felt uninspired.

So I decided to shelve it and instead write this course. Maybe I’ll come back to the freelance journalism course; maybe I won’t. But if it doesn’t fill you with ideas, enthusiasm and energy – it probably isn’t the right idea (even if, from the outside, it looks like it definitely could be).

The reasons I was driven to write this course…

1. It’s what I’m doing day in, day out (running online courses). I’m constantly learning new tricks and tips that I can add in. And I love that I’ll think a topic’s finished and then have another idea, or a conversation reminds me of something that might be useful for other people to know.

2. I felt excited about the idea of sharing this knowledge with other people who are ready to launch their own course but feel held back by confidence (more on this below) or structuring/marketing aspects. These are areas I feel sure I can help with.

3. It feels very current. There are more online courses popping up as people are increasingly working remotely and/or want to learn flexibly. If you decide to write a course on something that’s trending, there’s likely to be a good market for it.

  • Is your course idea very specific and niche?

If the answer is no, it’s probably not refined enough. This course should be specific and niche. So if you’re launching a social media course, having one on ‘How to gain followers on Instagram’ is likely to get more traction than ‘How to be good at social media’. Social media, as a topic, is vast – there are loads of platforms and different rules for each. So hone in on one.

Another example: you want to write a course sharing your bread-making skills. Writing a course on ‘how to make the perfect sourdough loaf’ will be better than ‘How to make bread’. Because the latter has too many variables. The more focused you are, the more value you can offer. Also, this will help in terms of SEO – more on that shortly.

My first online course, about securing your own press coverage, could have been ‘everything you need to know about PR’ – but again, the subject was so broad and I wasn’t sure I could actually teach them everything about PR. So I focused on what I knew about: press coverage. How to secure your own press coverage.

  • Do you have enough experience to offer this course?

You don’t need to be a Michelin star chef with special training in patisserie to launch a course about baking custard tarts but you do need to be able to make a really good custard tart. And you need to be able to explain simply and clearly to other people how to do it.

If you have an online profile, sharing ideas and advice on a specific topic, people will have more faith in your ability to teach them, because they’ll have had a taster already. But it should be noted that a big Instagram following doesn’t mean you’ll automatically launch an amazing course.

I was told about someone with a shitload of followers who put out an online course with a parenting focus. They sold loads of spaces but people were disappointed because there wasn’t a clear focus and this person didn’t actually have the experience to be teaching about parenting.

Knowledge is the most valuable asset, with online courses. So if you know a lot about your subject, you just need to present and package it up in the right way, then nail your marketing strategy – and you’ll sell spaces. And remember that if your content is good, you’ll also get repeat custom.

Someone who sells spaces just because of their following won’t, if their course isn’t up to scratch.

Also, if you have a following (100+) and they love the way you talk about working in your industry and then you release a course on something entirely unrelated – they’ll be confused. And they probably won’t buy it. So make the focus of your course the focus of your current niche.

And then, your social media followers can be your first customers. They know you, like the way you talk about your niche and have an interest in this area.

So just make sure that you have either a qualification or can prove that you have experience in this subject. This will be particularly important when it comes to the selling part – we’ll talk more about this soon. You need to be able to convince people that you’re the right person to be leading this course.

When I launched Becoming your own Boss, it appealed to women – mostly mums – who’d read my book The Freelance Mum. Having had a book published on this subject helped. You don’t need to have a book published in order to launch a course on any given subject but outside recognition helps. That could be testimonials from people you’ve already worked with.

  • Do you have the confidence to launch this course?

Sometimes I wonder why more people aren’t launching online courses and I can’t help but think it’s largely to do with confidence. Anyone with a job has expertise in something. Yes, people don’t always enjoy their work so why would they then want to create a course around it. But for those who do enjoy what they do, what’s stopping them?

Terms like Imposter Syndrome spring to mind: we question whether we deserve to be where we’re at in our careers and fear we’ll be ‘found out’ if we publicly say: I’m enough of an expert in this field to teach you how to become something of an expert. Also, it’s one thing doing a job/hobby but it’s another thing teaching it.

It’s worth returning to that time when you knew nothing about your subject. Remembering that you had to learn everything from scratch. And you did it. You got to where you are today by reading, watching, observing, listening. You know, when you really think about it, exactly what it took to get you from that start point to where you are right now.

For me, the start point was in March 2019. I’d done a couple of online courses but had no idea how to run my own. I was an absolute novice. So I did research. I made sure there was a market for my course idea – by putting out a post on social media; asking people if they’d be interested.

I also reflected on consultancy sessions I’d given, which were often focused on securing press coverage. People were coming to me to learn how to do their own PR so I reasoned I had enough advice to turn it into a course.

I bet you have people asking your advice, too. Absolute beginners wondering how you got so far, or people with more experience still keen to learn from you. So keep this in mind: you know what you’re talking about, you know how you got to where you are now and you can teach others to do the same.

After writing and designing my first course, I still felt panicked. Would anyone buy it? Was there enough information in there? Would they feel disappointed? But I decided to silence the doubtful voice in my head and just get on with it. After all, if I didn’t at least give it a shot, I’d never know.

So I put it out there and it was very well-received; my fears were unfounded.

You have now decided that you’re ready to package up your knowledge into an online course, which is great; you’ve taken a big step forward in just joining this course. At the end of this module, there’s a confidence exercise – just in case any doubt slips in about your ability to run a course.

But if you’re full of confidence and have no doubt that yours is an excellent idea and will fly…. great. Own it.