How to Create and Sell Online Courses in 2021

How to Create an Online Course in 2021

By Ben Arellano

Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re just beginning to research how to create and sell online courses, you’ll quickly find out that it does take hard work, a little patience, and likely more time than you think.

But as with many income-producing digital assets, this is what I like to call a front-loaded business model. All of the hard work and effort are spent on the front side of creating, launching, and selling an online course. Once the course is launched, then you just need to find students to take the course.

This is somewhat a passive income model, because most of the work is done up front. But the course will eventually, of course, require maintenance and marketing.

The great thing about this model is that you can make sales while you maintenance and market the course, as well as plan your next course.

So you can greatly leverage your time spent upfront. Not to mention, you get to make money while you sleep!

  • Low Risk, High Profit Margin, Low Overhead

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

And perhaps this is starting to smell like a “get rich quick” scheme. But, I assure you it’s far from it. While it is possible to make a great income from online courses, it will take time and hard work.

The best part about learning how to create and sell online courses and then getting one launched is that your profit margin on that course will be insanely high, while the risk is very low.

Just think about it…you can easily create a an online course for under $500, but the income potential is as high as you want it to be based on how well you market your course.

The only risk at hand is the risk of failure in getting people to pay for your course. If everything blows up and your online course venture fails, you’ll only lose the time (the most valuable asset) and money invested (which likely isn’t much) in creating and marketing the course.

At the end of the day, some businesses just don’t succeed. However, a failing online video course business is far different than losing a restaurant that you invested your life savings in.

But honestly, you’ll have not waisted your time entirely, because you will have learned some valuable lessons throughout the process which can be applied to your next attempt.

I mean, what other business can you start for less than $500 and has next to no overhead?

Your overhead for an online course is basically the hosting fees for your website or online course solution. And, sure, you may need to purchase some hardware to record video and software to edit video.

But you certainly won’t have the overhead of a traditional brick and mortar business. I’m speaking from experience. My business partner, Nate, and I have run a successful online business for the past seven years from the comfort of our homes with very little overhead.

  • Create a Website as Your Central Hub

Creating a website gives you a platform to market your online course. I’m not just talking about sales copy, but a platform where you can blog and talk about your industry, interact with commenters on your blog, and link to all of your social media properties. Even if your actual course will not be hosted on this site, the website will be the central hub for all your marketing efforts.

Most importantly, you can use your website to place your email optin forms so that you can build an email list to leverage when it’s time to launch the course.

One of my favorite services is OptinMonster. OptinMonster is basically an email form application that not only allows you to create a really nice optin form, but it also has helpful functionality like “exit intent” which allows you to capture leads when a visitor is about to leave your site. OptinMonster also works with all the major email list services like ConvertKit, MailChimp and ActiveCampaign.

I’m a little biased when it comes to websites because I’ve been working with WordPress since 2009, and I love how flexible WordPress can be. I’ve also built my livelihood on WordPress with my plugin business. After all…it does power over 30% of the internet and is ever growing.

However, I am very much aware that WordPress is not always the easiest platform to work with. You do have to deal with themes and plugins and sometimes making all of those play nice together can be difficult.

That said…use what works for you. While WordPress is free, there are other options through services such as Wix and Squarespace. The point here is to get your own platform, use what works for you, and move on to creating and marketing your course.

  • Grow Your Tribe On Social Media

I know this is easier said than done.

There are so many “social media experts” that it makes my head spin (literally). I’m certainly not a social media expert, but I do know this…the only way you can truly grow on social media is to genuinely interact and help people who visit your profiles.

If you get on social media and you just try to hard sell people, well, I guarantee you will not only not makes sales, but you might as well not even exist on social media.

Remember…most people don’t like to be sold with what they might consider a sleazy approach even when they might actually truly be considering buying your product.

Pat Flynn is one of my favorite entrepreneurs of all time and one of his mottos is “Serve First”. I truly believe he exemplifies that approach and I also believe that mindset has lead to his high level of success.

Once you determine where your followers hang out most online, make sure you cater to them on that platform. I was never a huge Twitter fan, but I’ve found a lot of course creators spend time there. So…guess where I’ve been spending my time recently.

And you definitely want to use hashtags in your social media posts. I know hashtags are more prominent on some platforms like Instagram or Twitter and not so much on FaceBook.

But in any case, they are still important. I use an online service called RiteTag which helps me to determine the correct hashtags to use in my posts and it has shown to be very useful.

Also, you should be sure to follow people in your field or industry, as well as potential students. Join Facebook groups in your field, but again, don’t join a group and attempt to start selling to people. In fact some groups prohibit you from marketing your products.

And that’s ok!

Rather, be helpful and contribute to the community. Once you’ve built a reputation for being helpful, then people will begin to notice you and the sales will begin to occur naturally.

Make sure to network and interact with other leaders in your space by sharing posts from them and don’t forget to mention them in your posts.

This strategy of “flattery” can work wonders for building a network of online friends that will not only promote you, but it can also lead to other future opportunities to work together and, well, judging from my past experiences you just might meet some really great people that become wonderful friends.

Be sure to update your Linkedin profile and connect with other leaders in your space. LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with potential students as well. And always share your blog posts and YouTube videos on LinkedIn. Join groups there as well and stay engaged in conversations.

  • Be an Active part of a Community

One of the most attractive aspects of online business is that most of the work can be done on your laptop in your home. However, physically interacting with people has a completely different dynamic that can never be achieved through a computer.

Meeting people in person allows you to see things that you can’t see through a computer screen like facial expression, body language, and emotion. This is where true relationships can be established and the benefits are far greater than followers on a social media platform.

For this I recommend joining Meetup groups. Meetup groups are a great way to meet people in your industry. For years I’ve been part of local WordPress Meetup groups, and I can’t tell you how beneficial they’ve been on a personal and professional level.

You can even take things to the next level and offer to speak at Meetups. The Meetup hosts are typically looking for speakers to speak during their meeting. It’s a great way to build authority and promote your goods. It’s like “real life” social media 😆.

  • What About You?

If you are a seasoned course creator, I’m curious to know how you build momentum before launch. Even if you are new to course creation and have questions or comments, I’d love to hear them.

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