Note: This complete guide on how to create an online course is available for free as a 37-page PDF: right-click and download here your free course creation PDF.
Welcome to this guide, my fellow course creator!
I am a course creator just like you, and I will share with you in this guide everything that I know about course creation.
I've been creating and selling online courses since 2016, and I have a solid six-figure business going. You can read all about my course creation journey here.
I will be sharing with you all the tips and tricks that worked for me, and also what didn't, so that you don't fall into all the same pitfalls as I did.
I can tell you upfront, that one of the biggest mistakes that you can make, is to just go and create your course, and then try to figure out how to sell it later.
That just doesn't work...
In fact, you need to create your course from the very beginning in a way that will make it easier to sell it to your target audience later once it's ready.
And in this post, I'm going to tell you exactly how to do it.
So, what is the best way to create an online course?
Follow these 10 concrete steps to create your online course, in a way that will make it easier for you to sell it once it's ready:
- Choose the right course topic
- Choose your main value proposition
- Validate your course idea
- Create an online course outline
- Brand your online school
- Record and edit your videos
- Pick the perfect online course hosting platform
- Craft a high-converting sales page
- Price your course the right way
- Launch and promote your course
So, without much ado, let's dive right in!
You can also check out all the free guides that you have available here at the Course Creator Academy by clicking on the Academy link on the top menu bar.
If you are looking to learn how to sell online courses, the natural follow-up to this article is:
In a Nutshell
Here is a quick visual summary of how to create an online training course:
If you want to use this image and display it somewhere like in a blog, you can. You can find the image link here - course creation infographic.
And now, let's get into all the nitty-gritty details! 😉
Step 1: Choose the Right Course Topic
This is the first and most important step of the whole process.
A word of caution: If you choose the wrong topic, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing that you can do afterward can compensate for that.
It doesn't matter if you have the most well-recorded course, or if you have the best course marketing in the world.
Nothing can compensate for choosing the wrong course topic.
So, the best way to choose the right course topic is to find a balance between what you love and what you are good at and intersect that with the topics that people are looking to pay to learn.
You need to make sure somehow that the topic is indeed commercially viable.
But you are also going to spend weeks or even months recording your online course, so you should choose a topic that you're passionate about.
How can you find a profitable online course topic?
The biggest danger of choosing a topic based only on what you like and are interested in is that there is a huge risk that your topic is just too niche.
There might just not be enough people interested in a course on it, so you need to check if that is the case or not.
The 3 practical ways to measure the market demand for your course topic are:
- Google search results
- Keyword research tools
- Feedback from online forums or communities
How to research online course topics on Google
If you look closely, the google search engine will give you a lot of information about the commercial viability of your topic.
Type in your topic of interest, and look for the "People Also Asked" and the "Related Searches" section of the search results.
Remember to switch your browser to "Incognito" mode to hide all your information from Google and ensure that the search engine doesn't serve you personalized results based on your previous search history.
Now take a look at the results that you got. Is anything relevant there?
If so, it means more people are looking for the same thing, so that's a good sign.
But maybe the results that you got are for websites with very little traffic.
To check this, take some of the websites in those search results, and run them through a free SEO tool like Ubbersuggest, and look at the traffic estimates for the top websites in your topic.
Check those estimates, are those websites commercially viable?
They should have an estimate of several thousand of page views per day, for that to be the case.
You can also type in your topic on Google Trends, or even on the Google Keyword Planner.
This last tool will give you keyword estimates straight from Google.
Using these free analytics tools, you should already have a good idea if people are looking to buy a course on your topic or not.
So what's next?
Where to find feedback for your course ideas?
To find a course idea, don't just rely on analytics tools.
Go out there, and find your ideal students and ask them what they think of your course idea.
You can find them in communities like Quora and Reddit, or even Facebook Groups or Linkedin Groups.
Look for online groups and communities that are related to your topic, and check their views count, upvotes, and other engagement metrics.
Most of all, ask people on those forums what they think of your course idea.
If you cross the feedback that you get from your ideal students with the metrics that you get from your search analysis, you will get a clear picture telling you if your course topic is viable or not.
If you want to understand this whole topic selection process in much more detail, check out this complete step-by-step guide that I wrote on How To Choose An Online Course Topic (That Sells).
So now you have chosen the right course topic for you.
But the question is now, before even starting to record one single lesson: how are you going to convince your future students to buy your course?
Step 2: Choose Your Main Value Proposition
After choosing your topic, you might be tempted to just start recording your course.
Don't do that. At least, not yet. 😉
I think that this step is critical, but most course creators overlook it and often pay the long-term consequences for it.
Now that you have figured out your online course topic, it's time to decide on your value proposition.
And you will quickly understand why you should determine this before recording the course.
Your value proposition simply means the value that you are proposing to deliver to your students after they have completed your course.
It could be something like this:
- "I help overweight men over 40 to get back into shape"
- "After completing this course, you will be able to build a complete website with Python"
Why determine the course value proposition upfront?
Because your value proposition will help you a lot to determine the main content that you will include in your course, as well as serve as the basis of your whole marketing message.
Also as important, determining your value proposition will help you determine what to exclude from the course.
For example, if you plan on helping experienced Yoga students to get their Yoga to the next level, you will likely want to exclude any material that is aimed at complete beginners, and focus directly on the advanced stuff.
Knowing the value proposition upfront will help you determine not only your course structure, but it will also help you craft your whole marketing message.
How to determine your value proposition?
Here is a simple method, just complete the following sentence:
"After completing this course, you will be able to…"
With the course idea and the value proposition in place, it's now time for the next step in the whole process - the validation phase.
Step 3: Validate Your Course Idea
You wouldn't want to spend weeks and months creating an online course that people won't buy in the end, right?
So, you need to be sure that there are enough people interested in your course.
This means that you need to validate your actual course idea, and notice that this is different than what you did in Step 1.
There you checked if there was enough interest in the topic itself, but now you are going to directly validate both your course idea and your value proposition.
You want to validate your whole marketing message around your course, to see if it clicks with your audience.
How do you achieve this?
There are a couple of ways:
- pre-selling your course
- asking for feedback in online communities
One of the best ways to validate your course is to pre-sell it to your target audience.
For example, I systematically pre-sell all my courses, by making them available early during the recording process.
So what does course pre-selling mean, how does that work?
This means that you will be selling your course even before creating it!
You will not only generate upfront revenue for your business but also receive instant feedback from your prospective students.
How do you pre-sell an online course?
First, craft your online course title, including your value proposition, what the students should expect, the timeline of the course, and the price.
Then design your pre-launch page and set it up on an online course hosting platform.
If you have never designed a course sales page, check out this guide that I wrote on How To Create The Perfect Online Course Sales Page.
Remember to make it clear on your website that it's a pre-sale.
Words like, "Coming soon", or "Early Launch" will drive home that message.
The goal of pre-selling is to validate if people are willing to pay for your course and to check if your value proposition and your marketing message resonate with them or not.
Depending on the size of your audience, just a handful of sales might already be a good enough sign that your idea is a good one and worth pursuing further.
If pre-selling is not an option for you, then at least post the idea in online forums and try to get as much feedback for it as possible.
Step 4: Create your Course Outline
Before jumping straight to creating an online course and recording the lessons, it's important to take some time to think about the exact structure of your course.
The essence of creating a course outline is to get you clear on what content your course includes, ensuring that you don’t miss anything, or even worst, add something unnecessary.
So how do you create your online course outline?
The outline is just a summary of your course content.
To get this right, ask yourself, "What skills or knowledge will my students have at the end of your course?"
Then break down your overall end goal into smaller steps - Modules, Chapters, and Lessons.
Bear in mind that you don't need any expensive or complicated tools for creating a course outline.
Simple tools such as Google Docs or Excel sheets are great for creating an outline.
In a nutshell, the goal of the outline is to decide what are the exact steps that you are going to ask the students to take to bring them to their desired outcome - your value proposition.
With the outline out of your way, now how do you now make sure that your course stands out from your competitors?
Step 5: Brand your Online School
There are a lot of course creators and online schools out there, so, you want to make sure that you stand out from the crowd.
And the best way to achieve this is to create a distinctive brand around your courses.
A brand not only makes your courses easy to recognize, but also adds more professionalism and personality to your online school.
This step is necessary before shooting and editing your course videos because you'll need to include your logo, banner, and even your domain in your videos.
You will also need it when designing your course website and for your marketing.
But, what's the best way to brand your online course?
Start by choosing your brand colors. These are prominent colors that will appear on your website.
Your brand colors depend on the courses you are teaching and how you want your students to feel once they visit your website.
You would want to pick just two colors - Primary and Accent color. While the primary color will be the most prominent, the accent color will mainly highlight certain buttons or elements on the website.
Also, you should create a well-designed banner and logo. You don't have to design it yourself, you can have it made for you using popular online services like Fiverr.
The next step in building a brand is to choose a domain name. It has to be simple, clear, have the right extensions like .com or .org, and most of all are easy to remember.
Once you have your domain, course hosting platforms like onlinecoursehost.com have all the tools you need to create a fully branded custom website.
This type of software makes it easy for you to customize your course website even if you don't have design or technical skills.
If you want to know in more detail how to create a course brand, check out this in-depth guide that I wrote: Create a Powerful Brand for Your Online Courses (In 5 Steps).
OK, so now you have everything in place. You have a validated idea, an outline, and the branding elements that you need.
So what's next?
Step 6: Record and Edit your Videos
At last, the fun part! 😉
I hope you now see why I don't recommend starting straight with this step.
It's because the risk of ending up with a course that nobody wants is just too big if you don't take all the previous steps that I covered.
So how do you record an online course?
There are different ways to record your online course videos.
You can get in front of the camera, just like the traditional classroom teaching but the difference here is that you are pre-recording everything, so you can do as many takes as you need to get it right.
You can also opt-in for text lessons, animated videos, screencast recordings, or slides.
Your course delivery methods will depend a lot on the topic that you are teaching.
For example, if you are taking a Yoga class or any other type of class that requires a live demonstration, you need to get on camera, to speak to your students and demonstrate some exercises.
On the other hand, if your course involves step-by-step tutorials on topics like software development, graphic design, video editing, photography, or anything else done with a computer, then you might consider screencast recordings.
If you have a choice, the easiest and most efficient way of creating a course is by far via screencast recordings.
This is what I use to create my programming courses, and it's super easy to do.
But of course, your students often want to see the face behind the courses.
In such a case, you can also film yourself at the introductory and conclusion phases of your course, to add a little bit more of personality and branding to your courses.
This helps your students to connect better with you and still keeps the course easy to produce.
What equipment do you need to create online courses?
Depending on your course type, you might only need a surprisingly low amount of equipment.
For your audio needs, you must get a good microphone.
It doesn't have to be expensive, but you don't want to rely on the built-in microphone on your phone or computer as they don't get the job done.
Your students might be forgiving of your video quality but nobody tolerates bad audio. Bad audio just makes the course unwatchable and is a deal-breaker for most people.
But besides the microphone, you might not even need anything else!
Your phone camera or your computer's built-in webcam is probably more than enough.
Some extra equipment might still be useful, such as a pop filter, a microphone stand, a green screen, and some lighting.
If you want to learn in more detail about some of the equipment extras that you might still need, check out these detailed guides that I wrote:
How to edit online course videos?
After recording your videos, you can then proceed to edit them.
Video editing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, Camtasia, Movavi, Final Cut, and DaVinci Resolve are worth checking out.
My favorite video editing tool is Screenflow, which I use to record and edit all of my videos.
Another thing that you can do in your courses is some green-screen recordings, where you insert yourself into the middle of the recording, making your videos look much more polished and professional.
If you want to learn in detail how to record and edit videos using Screenflow, and how to use a green screen to record courses, check out these in-depth tutorials that I wrote:
- How to Record and Edit Your First Online Course
- Green Screen Tutorial: Improve the Branding of Your Online Courses
Alternatively, you can also outsource all your video editing tasks, which is what I prefer to do these days.
I tell you in detail how to outsource many of your tasks in this article: How to Hire an Online Course Team (Video Editor, Assistant, Designer)
Once you have your videos recorded and edited, now all you need is a website to sell them.
Step 7: Pick the Perfect Online Course Hosting Platform
Finally, your course is ready and it's time to create your course website, and start making your first sales.
There are three ways to do this:
- Self Hosting: This involves building a website from scratch, especially with WordPress, and using the plugins to manage your courses. Here you have full control over your online school but at the same time, you are shouldering a lot of technical responsibilities like software upgrades, choosing and configuring plugins, fixing issues, etc.
- Publishing on online marketplaces: Here, you publish your course on popular platforms like Skillshare and Udemy that not only have a pre-built audience but also handle part of your course marketing. However, they take a large commission. You often can't choose your course price and have limited control over your branding and have no direct access to your student's emails.
- Use Online Course Hosting Platforms: This option is similar to self-hosting but the difference here is that these platforms remove all the technical headaches that come with setting up a website. All you need to do is to drag and drop some features and boom! Your website is ready. You also have full control of your online school from pricing to marketing and branding, and you can build your email list. More so, you get the full value of each sale.
So, which hosting platform is best for publishing your online courses?
OnlineCourseHost.com is an easy-to-use platform that allows you to set up your online course school, brand, and market your online courses even though you're not tech-savvy, a developer, or a designer.
You also have full control over your brand including the colors, banner, and logo, and can set your course price, and choose a suitable business model whether it's one-time sales, discount coupons, subscriptions, or lifetime plans.
Overall, the platform is way more affordable than anything else equivalent, and it doesn't take a cut from your course revenue.
You can access your funds and withdraw them at any time.
Once you have chosen an online course platform, you now need to create an effective course sales page.
Step 8: Craft a High-Converting Course Sales Page
Now it's time to craft and design your sales page otherwise known as your course sales page, or course landing page.
This page describes your course, but it goes way further to persuade your prospective students to purchase the course.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a course sales page. No matter how amazing your online course is, it just won't sell well without it.
Why is the course sales page so important?
To understand this, imagine creating the most awesome and well-produced YouTube video ever, and then giving it an awful title and thumbnail.
What would happen?
It's simple, hardly anyone will watch it!
And this is because the video conversion rate (the number of people that click on the video) is solely determined by the video and thumbnail, and not by its content.
And your course sales page is for your course what a title and thumbnail are for a YouTube video.
Make no mistake:
Your course conversion rate is mostly determined by your course sales page.
Of course, that other factors also come in place for determining the conversion rate, like how much your students know about you and your courses before landing on the page, how much they trust you, etc.
But other than that, the conversion rate is mostly determined by the marketing message that you lay out on your sales page, and not much more.
So your sales page has to capture your student’s attention and compel them to purchase the course.
How to create an awesome course sales page?
Rather than hiring a copywriter to write the content of the landing page for you, you should do it yourself because no one else understands your target audience better than you.
Try and learn some very simple but effective copywriting techniques, and use them to write your landing page.
Start by first designing an eye-catching thumbnail. And you don't have to design it yourself.
Here is a guide that I wrote showing how to get a great course thumbnail:
Besides the thumbnail, you also need to write a gripping title and course description.
I teach here some simple techniques to come up with effective course titles:
Go further and list the core features and benefits of your online course. This helps to boost your students' desire to take your course. Here is a sample:
You should also attach all the positive reviews you've gotten in the past. This boosts your course's credibility and increases your conversion rate.
Have an FAQ section that merely answers questions that you feel your prospective students may have and a "Bio" at the end of your page.
Your students would want to know the person behind the course. It's also a great way to establish your authority and credibility as the course creator.
To round up your course sales page, set your course price and add a call to an action button that will direct your readers to purchase your online course.
I think I have given you in this section the most important points about creating a course sales page.
But if you want a much more detailed guide, check out this article that I wrote: How To Create The Perfect Online Course Sales Page.
One of the most important aspects of your course sales page, that I don't think you can afford to get wrong is the course price.
Step 9: Price Your Online Course
The choice of your price and your billing model plays a large part in deciding whether your course will be a success or failure.
You wouldn't want to sell yourself short but at the same time, you must be careful not to overprice the course.
So, how do you strike a balance?
Before deciding on your course price, you should first conduct competitive research and find out what other course creators in your niche are charging for their courses.
You should pay attention to their pricing options and see what works for them, especially the most established competitors.
If you are unsure where to find creators in your niche, check out marketplaces like Udemy or Skillshare.
Understand your target audience to know their financial capability and if they are very price-sensitive or willing to pay a bit more for a course.
In addition, you should consider your course type - Is it around a hobby or a career skill?
Decide on a ballpark range for the price: is it below $50, between $50 or $100, or is it in the $200 to $500 range or even above?
Once you have a price range in mind, you can choose the exact price by using a few simple psychological pricing principles.
Some great prices to choose from are:
- $9.99 on the low end
- $49, $89, $99 on the mid-range
- $199, $399 or$499 on the higher end
If you want to learn some neat tricks to help you choose a great price, check out this in-depth guide that I wrote - Online Course Pricing Guide (Top 7 Science-Based Tips).
Besides the price, you should also choose the best billing model for your course.
You can either go for a one-time price where the students make a single purchase of your course.
Or you can stick with a recurring price where your students will pay either monthly, quarterly or yearly.
The last option is the bundle pricing which works perfectly if you have more than one course. You can decide to bundle together all your courses and sell them for one single discounted one-time purchase.
This option works extremely well because it combines the high conversion rate of a one-time purchase with the higher price of a course bundle.
Bear in mind that you don't have to commit to just one pricing model or option.
Your course can have different pricing options, as different persons are interested in different types of deals.
Remember that experimenting with different prices and pricing models is only possible if you're hosting your course on your website, as most platforms won't allow you to change the course price or switch the business model.
If you want to learn a lot more about the multiple different business models that you have available, check out this detailed guide that I wrote:
Now, it's finally time to launch your course and promote it!
Step 10: Launch and Promote Your Course
Finally, the big day has arrived, and you have been waiting for months. 😉
First, you should set a launch date. It could be a month, or a few weeks after you have completed your course. Send an email newsletter to your contact list announcing this date.
This is also the point where you can leverage your social media accounts, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You can also design social media image posts with your course details including the price and launch date.
And if you can, include a countdown timer!
They instill a sense of urgency and give your students reasons to purchase your course right now.
You can either offer early-bird discounts or open a launch window.
Mind you, your online course promotion is never going to be a one-time thing.
You'll need to keep up with it weeks, and months after you have launched your course.
And actually, the best way to promote your course is by far to have a pre-existing audience.
The most effective ways to build an audience from scratch and promote your online course are:
- Write high-quality content, in the form of a blog
- Upload instructional YouTube videos
- Email marketing
I recommended combining all of these strategies, it's what I do personally.
However, I think writing and publishing high-quality blog posts is the best way to promote your online course.
Once you've dedicated enough time to creating a blog post with an email marketing form to collect your students' emails, that post will bring you highly targeted search engine traffic, without the need for your constant intervention.
You can also add links to your courses in the body of the post and get direct sales.
Another strategy to promote your online course is to answer relevant questions on Quora with your blog posts. The visitors you're drawing from the platform to your blog could turn into potential students.
You can read more about how I do my marketing (including email marketing) in the following detailed guides:
- How to Create an Online Course For Free (Complete Guide)
- How to Promote Your Online Course: Complete Guide
- What Is The Best Lead Magnet For Your Online Courses?
- Effective Email Marketing For Online Course Creators
Conclusions and Final Recommendations
By now, you should have a general idea of how to create an online course that sells.
As you can see, creating an online course requires a lot of work.
Beyond just being an expert in your field, you also need to be a content creator and digital marketer.
It might seem like a lot but once you start, take it step-by-step, not rushing it or thinking about the end product, you'll be fine.
These steps worked for me and right now, online course creation is my job, together with running onlinecoursehost.com.
I hope that this guide has answered most of your questions on how to create an online course. But if you still have questions, let me know in the comments below.
So, what's next?
Most successful course creators have one thing in common - They host their courses on online course platforms.
That way, they have full control over their branding, pricing, and marketing.
However, the problem for a lot of course creators especially beginners, is that they don't have enough revenue to subscribe to some of these platforms, since they can be quite expensive.
So they go to the route of publishing only in marketplaces, which in my experience is a huge mistake as most of my revenue is done on my website.
So, how can you create your courses, brand your business, market, and make enough revenue without being crippled by large hosting expenses?
Because I’ve been there too, I know what it’s like to have to create an online course and grow an audience from scratch with a limited budget.
It is for this reason that I created OnlineCourseHost.com, the easiest and most affordable course hosting platform you can find on the web.
The platform is super easy to use and has everything you need to create and sell an online course. You can create unlimited courses, have as many students as you want, integrate Facebook Ads, customize your homepage, give out discount coupons, send email newsletters, and much more.
Best of all, you don't have to give the platform a cut of your revenue, as there are no transaction fees.
You can read more about the platform's features here.
But more than a platform, we want to give you all the information that you need to grow your online course business successfully.
That’s why we have created the Course Creator Academy where you can find everything you need to become a successful online course creator all in one place for free.
To get notified when new content is available here at the Academy, you can subscribe here to our weekly newsletter:
If you are looking to ask any questions on online course creation, you can reach me here on my Facebook group:
Ready to learn how to launch your first course on OnlineCourseHost.com? Here are the helpful guides for you to check out:
- How To Create An Online Course (In 15 Super-Practical Steps)
- How To Choose An Online Course Topic That Sells
- How To Record And Edit Your First Online Course
- Affordable Online Course Equipment - Complete Practical Guide
- How To Hire An Online Course Team
- The Ultimate Online Course Launch Checklist
- How To Create The Perfect Online Course Sales Page
- Create A Powerful Brand For Your Online Courses (In 5 Steps)
- How To Sell Online Courses? The Ultimate Guide
- How To Promote Your Online Course - Complete Guide
- Best Online Course Platforms (Ultimate Guide)
I hope you found this post on online course creation helpful, let me know in the comments below what other topics you would like me to cover, or any questions that you have?
Thanks for reading… and enjoy the course creation process! 😉
OnlineCourseHost.com Founder & Online Course Creator