As the impact of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread, smart business owners are thinking about creative ways to keep their business afloat. Even if your town hasn’t been put into lockdown, clients everywhere are canceling their in-person appointments and putting off scheduled events due to public health requirements or personal anxiety.

While some service-oriented businesses can deliver their services remotely, like life coaches or graphic designers, many of you don’t have that option. However, there are still tactics you can use to keep your business going and maintain a revenue stream during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even keep on using after the crisis is over to continue bringing in more income.

One of the best options is productizing your in-person service by turning it into an online course.

Online learning is extremely popular. The market is predicted to rise to jump to take in $325 billion in annual revenues by 2025, and marketing guru Neil Patel says that “An online course [is] one of the best ways to monetize your content today.”

Best of all, once you’ve made an online course, you can keep on making money from it for years. So there’s every reason to take the plunge into making an online course. Here we’ve broken it down for you, step by step.

1. Choose a Topic

The first step is to choose a topic for your course. Remember that we’re talking about a multi-class paid course, not a short video tutorial, so it has to be a topic that you can go into depth about enough to make the student feel that it was worth the cost.

At the same time, you’re not going to share all your expertise in an online course, so you need to think about what online students most want to learn, and how to help them reach their goals. What learners want from an online course will probably be different than what they want from your in-person services.

For example, if you’re a personal trainer, your clients mostly want you to help them either get fit or lose weight. But in an online course, you’re more likely to target people who want to learn how to become a personal trainer, or understand the science behind which exercises tone their abs more effectively.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right topic for your online course:

Think about your last 10-15 clients

Are there any patterns in the services or advice they wanted? For example, if you’re a beautician, and 8 of your last 12 clients wanted help picking the right foundation, an online course about how to choose the right makeup for your skin type could be very successful.

Think about material that you keep sharing over and over again

For example, if you’re a massage therapist and you find that you keep teaching clients how to relieve tension in their neck and shoulder themselves, that’s a sign that people want and need this content.

Consider specific goals that your clients could want to reach

For example, perhaps someone looking for online classes about photography wants to learn how to take excellent portrait photos of children, rather than learning landscape photography.

Carry out market research

Reach out to your best clients and ask them what kind of topics they’d like to see in an online course, or run your ideas past them to get their feedback.

2. Plan Your Course

You’ve decided on your course topic, but the work has only just begun. Next, you need to plan out the shape of your course. Think about issues like:

  • How long your entire course will be, i.e. the number of total hours
  • How to divide your course into separate classes, and how many classes to create
  • How long each class will be (short classes of 15 minutes each, longer ones of 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour)
  • Whether you’ll set tests during the course, and if so, what you’ll be testing and how you’ll structure the tests
  • What kind of certification or credit you’ll offer at the end of the course

3. Choose the Right Course Platform

Once you’ve made these key decisions about your course topic and structure, you need to move on to the technical question of how to actually build and deliver your course.

There are essentially 3 types of online course platforms:

Your first option: Course marketplaces

Udemy is the best-known course marketplace, helping you build and design your course and promoting it to their existing students. The platform already has built-in payment gateways and tools for communicating with students.

You’ll have to pay a regular fee, and you sacrifice some measure of control over the structure and design of your course, but it’s a good option for first-time course makers who don’t have much preference about the design of their course pages.

Your second option: Hosted online course platforms

Kajabi is the best example of a hosted online course platform. Like course marketplaces, Kajabi takes care of the hosting and delivery of your course, and offers payment gateways and communication tools.

Kajabi also gives you much more control over the design and structure of your course. There’s an easy-to-use course builder, with templates and themes to make the classes look appealing; tools for preparing quizzes and completion certificates; and automated built-in marketing tools.

You won’t have to hand over a share of your monthly profits, but you do have to take responsibility for all your marketing.

Your third option: Self-hosted on your own website

Finally, you can create and deliver an online course from your own business website on WordPress, for example, which has plugins to help you build an online course and integrate payment gateways.

Using your own site gives you total control over how your course looks, profits, etc. but it also means that you have to manage everything yourself.

That includes managing payment gateways for digital products, finding ways to communicate with students, designing the course itself, and more. It’s a lot of work for anyone who’s not very techie, so we don’t recommend it.

4. Pricing

Setting the right prices is always a challenge, and it doesn’t go away when it comes to selling online courses. If you charge too much, you’ll put people off, but if you charge too little, you’ll be selling yourself short.

What’s more, if your prices are too low you can also put off customers, who’ll think that the low cost of your courses means that they aren’t as good as other, more expensive options.

It’s important to have confidence in the value of the material that you’re offering and set prices that allow you to market courses effectively.

First, you need to think about your pricing structure.
There are a few options here:

  • Sell each course for a fixed, one-off fee, like $100 for a 6-class course on the basics of shoulder massage
  • Sell subscriptions to your content, so that people can access all your material at once, but for a limited time. For example, you might charge $25 for 2 days access to your classes, $130 for a week’s subscription, and $470 for a month’s access. This is especially effective if people know that you keep adding new classes and content
  • Premium pricing, where you sell your basic course for $100, but charge $250 for premium access to extra resources, advanced course content, more individual online guidance, etc

It’s a good idea to begin by testing the waters with a short course that you can prepare relatively quickly and sell for a fairly low price. If you get a good response, you’ll know that you’ve hit on the right topic and style, and you’ll feel more confident about stretching yourself to offer longer courses and charge more money.

5. Strategize How to Promote your Course

You might have prepared the absolute best, rockstar, online course in advanced pastry making, but no one’s going to sign up if they don’t know that it exists. You can and should begin promoting your course before you’ve even finished preparing it. For one thing, it’ll force you to complete it on time, and for another, it’ll give you time to raise interest and build traction around the concept.

Obviously, your marketing should begin with your existing customers.
Use clever email marketing to announce that your online course is coming soon. Personalize your emails as much as possible by using marketing automation tools to segment your customers.

For example, instead of an email saying:
“Our online pastry-making course is coming soon!”

try writing:

“You know those chocolate eclairs of ours that you love so much? We have good news! Soon you’ll be able to enjoy as many as you like without leaving the house. Keep your eyes peeled for our advanced pastry-making online course, where we’ll teach you how to make professional-grade chocolate eclairs, danishes, and even share some of our secret tips.”

But marketing your course can’t end with existing customers.

You need an integrated marketing plan that includes:

  • Building a landing page on your website to promote your online course
  • Social media marketing on all your channels
  • Automated email marketing drip campaigns that keep people excited for your upcoming course
  • Paid advertising (done carefully and well) to generate awareness of your new offering

Don’t forget to keep a careful eye on your analytics. You want to make the best marketing decisions possible, and that means knowing metrics like your cost per click for paid ads, click through rate for emails, conversion rate from your landing page, and more.

If you use a course marketplace like Udemy, the platform itself will help you market your course by promoting it to their existing students. It’s also good to know that Kajabi’s platform includes built-in, automated sales pipelines that connect with your email marketing platforms to make it easier for you to set up automated drip campaigns.

Now you know the path to creating a best-selling online course, there’s no excuse not to take the plunge. Go for it!