8 Steps to Creating a Profitable Digital Course

At the age of 19, I began my own business as a photographer, living in my grandmother’s guest bedroom with $0.81 to my name. A few short years later, I started solely shooting boudoir photography, and a year later I was making six figures — but for me that was only the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.  

One of the most difficult parts of entrepreneurship, particularly for solopreneurs, is determining how to scale a business to serve more people to attract and produce more clients, in turn generating additional profit. There are many ways to do this, and one of the easiest is to create passive income through an online course.

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Just over half of entrepreneurs have a college degree, and even fewer have a background in education or course design, which can make it challenging to know where to start. For me, creating courses began with industry peers asking me how I built my boudoir photography business into a profitable endeavor. My first course generated $70,000 in seven days, igniting my passion for course creation.

By going through the process of trial and error and learning how to create a profitable digital course, I’ve learned there are basic steps to take to add this valuable resource to your business offerings.

Determine the course topic.

After deciding to create a digital course, the first item to determine is what part of your expertise will people be willing to pay you money to learn?

Tune into what your prospective and current clients are saying. What do people ask you for help with? What do you find yourself constantly giving advice on? What would you friends say you’re the “go-to” person for?

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Validate your idea.

Just because you’re an expert on antique guns doesn’t mean anyone will pay for access to your knowledge. Test the demand for your topic to ensure there’s a market. This can be done a number of ways, including putting the idea out to your email list and asking for feedback, polling your audience through social media or conducting surveys through a platform such as Google Surveys.  

Increase your following.

Before you start prepping for your course launch, one of the most important things you can do is build a following. Pick two to three social media channels where you know your ideal clients already spend time and focus on creating valuable content for those platforms.  

Another way is to create an opt-in, or a free gift. It’s best to “gate” this by requiring people to enter their email address to receive the content. This way you can nurture followers through a sales funnel. Once this collection is in place, begin designing the course itself while your number of followers grows.

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Create the course outline.

Creating a course outline is as easy as making a bulleted list of each module or unit, what the student will learn in each module and what assets need to be created, such as videos, graphics or worksheets. From my experience, I recommend courses have no more than four modules/units.

Many business owners look at online courses created by their competition and think if they have more modules it will create more value and, in turn, more buyers. That’s not the approach that will get your students results in a timely manner — and it’s the results that will grow your course into a profitable stream.

Host a few webinars.

Webinars are key to good sales, and you should host two or three live webinars to market your course to potential customers. During the webinar, explain who you are, how you can help people solve their problem(s) and then present your online course as the solution. Be sure to include a clear call to action for participants, and offer a discount or bonus if they sign up for the online course before the webinar ends.

Related: How to Sell Your Online Course

Wake up your audience. 

One of the simplest ways to position yourself as an expert and grow your audience is with Facebook Live. Each of the five days leading up to the official launch, host a Facebook Live session that focuses on a topic that builds on the previous day’s focus. By the fifth day, participants should have learned something they can implement to get results. The sessions should be no longer than five minutes each, and don’t forget to promote your webinar.

To market Facebook Live, and your webinar, run Facebook Ads, include information in your email newsletter and post about it on your social media channels. All of these items should link to an opt-in page for the webinar where you can collect email addresses as people register.

Plan the course launch.

Plan for a seven-day launch of the online course that begins on a Tuesday and ends on a Tuesday, as studies have shown that is an impactful day for digital marketing. Eighty percent of my sales come from webinars, which allow me to not only pique interest in the course, but also collect participant emails to continue nurture leads.

Related: Online Courses May Not Be as Valuable as You Hope

After people view the webinar, set the outreach plan into motion. Reach out to your customer base via email once a day until the last two days of the launch. Those days, increase emails to two or three per day. The emails should link to the sales page of your web site, but don’t be concerned if you’ve never written a sales page. Focus on the course: what your students will get, what’s included in it and why you’re the best solution to their problem.

Ensure you don’t lose money.

There are two ways to launch a course: after the content has been created and the course is ready or before the course content is ready and letting people know the course will open the following week or in two weeks. If you’re new to creating online courses, try for option two. This gives you more leeway to prep and spend money creating a course that entices buyers based on the information you learned during the webinars, social media outreach, etc.

Gathering resources is one of the keys to starting a successful business. By making yourself and your knowledge available as a resource in an easy to access form such as an online course, helps position you as the go-to for entrepreneurs.

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