20 Oct

Should You Create An Online Course Or Is It A Waste Of Time & Money? (COVID Update)

Woman learning if she should create an online course by taking one.

As the pandemic wears on, one of the biggest trends YourTango’s Experts are involved in is creating online courses. A few that emerged in the past few months include a series of courses on developing resiliency by career and life coach Maria Tomas Keegan and mindful eating and weight loss by Dr. Lesley Goth. Both ladies leveraged their passion for writing into a more in-depth online course, bridging their private practices out of the one-to-one model into the one-to-many.

This experience of opening up a small business to alternative forms of revenue is one of the many promises the online course model offers. And Maria and Lesley are truly just two examples we can share. Previously, the prediction from Research & Markets was that by 2025, online learning would be a $350 billion industry. One can only guess with the push to online learning across the planet what this number will be today.

Online Courses Fit With Our Modern Lifestyle

Unlike traditional learning, where the content was broad-based and covered a whole ocean of topics, online learning is very specific.

  • Want to learn how to write articles, there’s a course for that.
  • Want to learn how to take photos for blog posts? There’s a course for that.
  • Want to learn Google Analytics, there’s a course for that. 
  • And so many more

This is one of the main reasons that online courses have shot up in popularity. The specificity of the topics gives students precisely what they ask for. More importantly, online learning is available anytime it’s requested. Users can work through these types of eLearning platforms at their own pace, wherever and whenever they like.

As a therapist or coach and small business owner, you may wonder if you should create an online course yourself. You have a vast amount of knowledge and training and perhaps you want to share that with the world. After all, that’s what we want to do when we feel we have a calling.

Creating an online course can be a great idea, but there are some things you should know before you take the plunge.

Create An Online Course With New Thinking

As people stay home and are forced to explore business models that can grow with the limitations of the pandemic, the need for new information has reached a fever pitch. And nowhere is this more clear than the online learning industry, whose revenue is expected to exceed $240 billion by 2021.

The idea of online courses as a source of income has become wildly popular as well. It’s an unmissable opportunity for those with specialized knowledge to get paid for what they know.

Thinkrific.com said this about online learning:

“One of the fastest and most impactful ways to get your knowledge out to a global marketplace, making a bigger impact and making more money, is to download that knowledge lying dormant in your brain and turn it into a lead-generating, money-making, impact-creating online course.”

Founded less than a decade ago, online learning platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Teachable have been outrageously popular. Udemy, for example, currently offers 80,000 courses with 24 million students and 35,000 instructors.  

It’s important to note here that online learning platforms are not limited to folks who have teaching credentials. The courses on these platforms are taught by people who have particular skills that they want to share and teach. Again, not a bad calling if you ask me, but teaching does take work, even when it comes to creating an online course.

Results May Vary

The caveat to creating and selling and selling an online course is that just like everything else that comes with running a therapy practice or small business. You get out of it exactly what you put into it. As the proprietor, the return on investment is based solely on you and your efforts.

Similar to other aspects of your business that we’ve talked about such as blogging or social media marketing, nothing about your business has a “set it and forget it” quality. Creating and marketing a course takes time and effort. It requires an initial investment of time that you should prepare yourself for. The thing to keep in mind is that you do the composting at the outset, and if done correctly, you can set yourself up for reaping the rewards of the new American dream — a passive income stream.

Online Courses & Passive Income

In your travels around the internet, you may have seen references to digital products and passive income. Digital products include things like online courses, but also ebooks, downloadable PDF’s, audio files for meditation, calming exercises, and the like. Many entrepreneurs or small business owners create these digital products precisely to earn passive income. Creating the products seem to happen with very little effort because the material they’re teaching is part of their business DNA. In other words, they teach clients these skills or tools every day.

The small amount of income that can be generated from selling digital products in that fashion might very well be all they want. Seeing a couple of dollars a month with a minimal amount of effort could be a pretty sweet deal.

But there could be more.

Is It Worth It To Create An Online Course?

Remember, in a previous post we talked about the reasons you should be blogging and the overarching theme of blogging is to share your expertise. So, the same thing goes for creating an online course. However, with an online course, you are charging for your expert knowledge. It’s not free for anyone and everyone’s consumption. 

The amount of income potentially generated by an online course is not the same for everyone. The differences are based upon many factors including:

  • Niche profitability
  • How good is the content
  • What type of audience base you have to get things rolling

The permutation of variables could be endless. So truth be told there is no black and white answer. There are folks out there killing it and making bank with thousands of dollars of revenue every month. Conversely, there are those who are eking by with a one hundred to a few hundred per month, (even that can be considered a good number).

Selling Digital Courses Is All About Marketing

So what’s the real difference between those who make bank and those who don’t?

The answer is marketing. You own your own small business so you already know this: the answer is always marketing.

And when you’re considering whether you want to create an online course the formula for its success and profitability looks like this:

Success = 10% Content + 90% Marketing

Really when you think about it, it’s really no different than a business in a brick and mortar setting. The marketing tools may look quite different but the end game is the same. The success of your online course is dependent on how much you’re willing to pound the digital pavement.

So when we’re asked the question of whether or not creating an online course is a good idea, we can only say that your online course is only as good as you make it. And your return on investment will be a direct reflection of the effort you put forth.

A few steps to consider as you decide if you should create an online course, or not

First, research the potential profitability of the topic you’re thinking about teaching.

Google your topic and visit the websites you would consider selling your course on. Does it exist there? What’s in the curriculum? What are they charging? What’s missing that you could add to make the existing offers even better?

Market research is crucial. There is absolutely no sense in creating a course that no one is interested in or that you feel you can’t garner the fees you require for your time and effort.

Your second step is to create great content for your course.

There can be no shortcuts on this one. A poorly organized course, or one that doesn’t bring a great deal of value to the user, will never get off the ground. You need a well-designed course that actually teaches something of value that your clients can’t glean on their own by surfing the web.

The organization is critical here, as is the material you use to teach. Remember that people have different learning styles, so that means considering materials like videos, powerpoints or slides, audio, and images. It also means your content must flow. Concepts need to build on each other so learning flows naturally. When content is out of order, people get confused and quit or worse, don’t purchase at all.

The point is to teach something of value that clients need, that’s well organized and not readily available for free elsewhere.

This leads to step three. If you want to create an online course you will want to go into it with a marketing mindset.

That means planning how you intend to sell it once it’s live. As soon as you launch your course, you have to let potential clients know that you’ve hung your shingle out.

Truth be told, you’re going to have to shout it from the rooftops unless it catches fire, which has happened.

The question of whether or not to create an online course has been shared with us by many clients over the past year, and the discussions are accelerating.

Finding ways to monetize your experience and make a passive income is a great motivator. Enter the eLearning space wisely and you can benefit from it greatly. Enter it foolishly or unprepared, and it can be a costly waste of time.

Not sure where or how to get started with your online course, we can help. Our team helps build curriculum, course material, set you up on a teaching platform and more. Reach out today if you’re ready for this kind of support for your business and income stream.

Updated 10.21.2020