How to Create Online Courses That Sell

how to create online courses that sell

Everyone has at least one skill they are good at, no matter how trivial they may consider it. Someone else needs to learn how to do the same.

If you are one of the former, then this article about how to create online courses that sell will do you some good.

Most of us are hesitant to create online courses because of uncertainties and self-doubt.

  • Where do I begin?
  • But I don’t write as well as so and so.
  • How much do I charge?
  • Where do I sell these?

By the end of this blog post, this subject will be less cloudy, if not clear as day.

Let’s get rolling.

What are Online Courses?

An online course is a self-paced, interactive learning experience that provides knowledge about a specific subject. It intends to educate the learner.

A few examples are;

  • Tutorials
  • How-to videos
  • Educational videos
  • Screencasts
  • Certification programs
  • Live webinars

The content is delivered over the internet through video or text. Usually over web-based tools like blog posts, wikis, videos, PDFs, and podcasts. Unless they are free, most online course content resides behind paywalls.

Online courses are popular because they provide high-quality content in an accessible format. Due to the digital style, it can be accessed anywhere and anytime by learners anywhere in the world.

Most of the course content is structured step-by-step since it’s all about empowering the learner with specific skills.

The notable difference to traditional classroom-style learning is the method of delivery. The internet has transformed how we acquire knowledge.

And unlike in a classroom situation, if you missed something, you can reread and replay online courses.

It’s a neat way to help others in addition to making money online.

What Makes a Good Online Course

Now that you know what these are, what makes a good online course?

It’s not enough to slap content on a topic together and hope people will subscribe by the dozens. Is the content actionable? Does it have relatable examples? These are some of the questions to ask yourself before publishing.

Some common traits of good online courses are as below.

  • Well-organized – Would novel-style content make for a good e-learning course? Endless walls of text? Maybe. But not the best. Most people will have a better experience if the content has short paragraphs, interspersed with numbered bullet points, graphics, and short videos.
  • Easy to follow – Directly related to the point above, if the layout is ideal then it is easy to follow. And not get bored even before twenty minutes are up.
  • Clear and concise – The lesser the content length, the better. If something can be said in fewer words, no need to try to fill up a foolscap. The same goes for video courses. But if the subject is broad, you should take every effort to break it up into sections that a learner can follow over several days or weeks.

How to Create Online Courses Step by Step

It’s best to follow a tried and tested path to creating online courses successfully. It involves breaking it up into smaller sections to be tackled one at a time.

Besides making it manageable, doing it this way also guards against the risk of forgetting critical components. Can you imagine launching an e-course only to realize all that it talks about is available for free?!

Had you not jumped the research process, you’d have known this beforehand.

One can go as far as scheduling calendar events and reminders for slowly coming up with the course.

Determine Your Topic

What area of interest do you feel most competent in? It’s the first step anyone should take. Have you been doing event video shoots that the attendees enjoy watching later?

Trust me. If people enjoy something you do, you’ll not have to solicit feedback.

Or is your forte manipulating data in spreadsheets? You accomplish tasks in minutes using advanced formulas that take others hours doing manually.

Whatever it is, you need to identify it and have a good mental picture of it. Don’t worry about knowing everything. You just need to have a firm grasp of the basics. You can build up from there.

The topic of the e-course should be stuff that you enjoy and have a passion for. It can be dealing with pets, DIYs, paranormal phenomena, building a business, sports, etc.

Just be imaginative if you cannot figure one from the get-go.

Research the Topic

The next step to take is researching thoroughly.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What kind of information is already available online on the subject?
  • What’s the best media for delivery – text, audio, video, a combination of these?
  • What are other course content creators charging?

The most successful online courses are well researched to cover all the bases. While it might not be possible to think up every eventuality, you should take care to action all that’s obvious.

For example, define a target audience. Are they stay-at-home mums looking for homemaking tips or senior citizens in need of financial advice?

Each distinct group will need a different approach.

And of topmost importance is the content. It needs to be in-depth, informative, and actionable. The content needs to exceed what the viewers and readers can find freely through a Google search.

Besides this, it needs to be different from what other content courses creators have published. At the least, a different perspective.

Create an Outline

Once you’ve gathered relevant information, the next step is to build an outline. It helps in defining the scope of the content.

And the best way to start is by setting course objectives. It defines what the learner will gain by going through the course in its entirety. It needs to be short but at the same time clear in outcomes.

The first main topic should ideally cover an overview of the subject.

For example, if it’s about training dogs, this should cover the general behavior of dogs and how they respond to aid in their training.

The other topics should be how to achieve ABC by going from A to Z. If the content is too long, introduce sub-topics under the main points.

Lastly, review this if it makes sense. Make changes where necessary.

Remember, the objective now is an outline and not filling in the main content. Also, do this if the content is audio or video for reference during the recording.

Fill Out Relevant Content

After you’ve built a structure you are comfortable with, next fill out content under each relevant outline.

If you are an expert in the field, you probably have all the content in your head. If not, refer to the points you made when researching the topic and expand on them.

For a non-newbie in the scene, you’ve probably put together similar content before. Repurpose this for your current task, fleshing it out with newer perspectives you’ve discovered.

For video and audio recordings (e.g. YouTube videos and podcasts), ensure you have the right equipment.

  • Camera – a good quality smartphone or webcam are enough
  • Microphone
  • Tripods – if necessary
  • Video and audio editing software

Videos and audio recordings will also need unobstructed settings for best quality. You don’t want your video tutorials with all manner of visibly unrelated things going on in the background!

While all these can be done in one sitting, more in-depth series can be created over days or weeks.

Edit Recorded Content

Once done with the writing, talking, and video recording of content, it’s time to edit before publishing.

In the case of writing, one needs to look at the readability ease, clarity, tone, and other grammar-related issues. However, in today’s age of innovation, we are lucky to have several tools to facilitate this. Grammarly, ProWritingAid, Hemingway App are just a few examples.

They save you several hours of work sifting through text manually checking for errors. Also, they deliver you from hiring out to costly proofreaders.

For audio courses content, you might need services that mix, split, change speed, add sound effects, etc., to audio. There are many software applications to aid this. These are Audacity, Adobe Audition, among many others.

Lastly, and probably the most popular form of content these days, videos would rarely work without some good amount of editing. Thanks to the stiff competition on YouTube.

The field is crowded in this regard, and your video editing needs will dictate the software to use. But the most popular and easily accessible by many are iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere Pro.

How Much Can You Make Creating Online Courses?

How much one can make as income from creating and selling online classes is pretty much an open cheque. The sky is the limit. Some pundits expect the e-learning market to exceed $300 by 2025!

Several factors will impact how much one can earn. Besides having quality online courses, these will determine whether you earn $500 or $5,000 monthly.

  • The price of the course.
  • How large an audience you can reach.
  • How easily your courses convert.
  • An existing base of buying customers.

While money can be a major concern for beginners, it should not be an obsession. Temper down your expectations at this point. And do not use others’ achievements as a yardstick.

You are better off piggybacking on existing platforms like Udemy and Skillshare to sell courses. That’s unless you already possess internet marketing experience, which is invaluable to selling online.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the average online course creator in Udemy made 2,950 per month in 2020. I know I’m biased to one platform, but I intend to paint a picture.

The opportunity is out there.

How to Market Online Courses

After finalizing your online course, you will need to make it available to the world. But this also comes with many questions and uncertainties.

Do I self-promote or hand it over to a third party for a fee? Which platforms do I use to promote?

These are all concerns that might have arisen at one point or another. And need to be addressed. The avenue you choose is dependent on several factors as well – the cost-benefit trade-off, prior experiences, among others.

Marketing the Courses on Your Own

One of the several ways is self-promotion. You do all the marketing on your own, for example, setting up a website and optimizing it for relevant search terms. Then users will find it using search engines while browsing.

Interested parties will sign up and pay you directly. But this is easier said than done. Specialized knowledge of website building, SEO, keyword research, copywriting, is needed.

Unless you have relevant experience as a digital marketer, this route is not recommended. But if you love getting out of your comfort zone, this can be a great channel to success.

Other marketing tactics will involve email marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, and the use of paid ads.

While this means takes time and effort, the advantage is that you get to keep all the revenue generated. That’s unless you incurred expenses that need offsetting.

Leveraging Third-party Platforms

An alternative to the former is using websites that allow users to post courses. These platforms, in most cases, have sizeable existing traffic of learners.

Therefore, your course getting seen will only take a short while. You avoid the hustle of marketing the online courses on your own – which is taxing.

But the downside is that you cede some of the revenue to these platforms. Nothing is free!

Some of these platforms are;

  • Udemy
  • Teachable
  • Skillshare
  • Treehouse

While it’s not a guarantee that you will make tons of money immediately or even on your first try, it’s a valuable learning experience about what works and what needs rethinking.

But as long as you did your research before creating the content, success is not far away. This route is a stress-free way to focus on the course content and leave the marketing to others.

In addition, as a starter, you can share a link to the courses on your social media accounts. And even email lists if you have many contacts.


How can I create online courses and make money?

Read the steps I’ve outlined above and follow them. With some creativity, you will end up with in-demand courses that many will be willing to spend money to purchase.

If you possess relatively excellent online marketing skills, build a website blog and optimize it for search engines using SEO. Also, run ads if you have an advertising budget.

But if all these seem hard, sign up to Udemy, Skillshare, etc., to upload your course and let learners access it from there.

You can also run a hybrid of these two methods. It can be an interesting exercise to see what works best.

How much does it cost to start an online course?

Anyone can build an online course for next to nothing.

As far as text-based content goes, you only need your brain and a laptop. Average spec smartphones can do the job with recording forms like audio and video.

The quality would hardly be any different from devices costing upwards of several thousand dollars, except for high definition content.

Though not directly part of creating the course itself, the marketing can cost much more, especially if you decide to spend on Google and Facebook ads.

1 thought on “How to Create Online Courses That Sell”

  1. Hi there Kip. This is one of the most comprehensive guides I have seen on creating online courses. I have bookmarked it so that I can read it closely and carefully when I get home. I have always wanted to create an online course and teach people programming but I have always been worried about how I am going to promote the course and get it to generate income for me. The solutions you have offered are just mind-blowing, to say the least. I didn’t know there were so many creative and rewarding marketing strategies. I am going to give this venture a go and let you know how it goes for me after a while. 🙂


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