We are living in the digital age, and there are many opportunities for psychotherapists, coaches, and consultants to develop and sell digital products via online platforms – including courses, e-books, downloadable PDFs, audio files, apps, and more. These digital products are a great way to earn passive income, and they can be based on the information, skills, and tools you share with your clients every day.
One of the most effective ways to share your knowledge and specialized training (and develop new and engaging content) is through a lead-generating, impactful online course – transitioning your practice from one-on-one to one-to-many.
It’s predicted that by 2025 online learning will be a $350 billion industry. You might wonder if you should create an online course, and you’re probably unsure where to begin. Here are the top 8 tips if you’re thinking of creating an online course.
1. Do some research. Your online course has the potential to solve very specific problems for people in your niche market. Perhaps you’d like to teach other professionals about your specialty area, or maybe you have insights about the best ways to network online. Maybe you have a great idea for an e-course for your clients that incorporates DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills.
Your first step is to write down all the things you are good at or have specialized knowledge about. You might send an email to friends or colleagues and ask for their input. What is a skill that comes easily to you but seems difficult for others? What is something you love talking about so much that you could spend an entire day discussing it
Google your topic and visit course platforms: Teachable, Thinkific, LearnWorlds, Click4Course, Zippy Courses, and Kajabi, are just a few well-established examples. Does your course exist? What’s included in the curriculum? What is the cost? If your course idea exists, what’s missing that you can add to make it better?
Ask your target audience questions such as, “What are your biggest challenges?” “If I could help you solve one problem, what would it be?” “What have you tried so far?” “What do you think is keeping you stuck?”
You might post surveys in Facebook groups or ask colleagues out for coffee. Collect as much data as you can to dig in about the problems your potential students have before you create your course.
Market research is important! Why create a course that no one is interested in?!
2. Understand what is involved in course creation. Creating and marketing a course takes time and effort, but if you do the research and create great content, you can set yourself up for receiving a recurring passive income stream. The income generated by an online course isn’t guaranteed, and is partially based on the following elements:
- Fresh, engaging, and relevant content.
- Students are willing to purchase your course.
- Appropriate equipment – for example, microphone, lighting, backdrops, and so forth.
- The ability to hire someone or borrow equipment if you don’t have it.
- Comfort talking on-camera – if you’re uncomfortable being on camera, start practicing if you plan to include videos of yourself.
- Your ability to be personable, open, and engaging on camera (if you’re using videos)
- The tech know-how – do you know how to edit videos or create slide shows (using iMovie, for example)? There are simple tutorials online that can help with editing.
3. Create great content. Don’t take shortcuts because a poorly organized or overly complicated course, or one that doesn’t offer a lot of value, will probably fall flat. Focus on creating a well-designed course that actually teaches something of value that your audience can’t get on their own by surfing the Internet.
- Students have different learning styles, so consider including videos, PowerPoint or slides, audio, infographics, downloadable e-books, and images. Your content should logically flow, and the concepts should build on each other.
- Create an outline of what you’ll include in your course – be as detailed as possible.
- Add value by including your own experiences and subjective understanding.
- Write your script, and though this is time-consuming, if done well it will make course delivery far easier.
- Construct a bullet point draft of key points based on the script.
- Pro Tip: Teach well-organized and valuable information that’s not available for free elsewhere.
4. Test, adjust and test some more. As you refine your course content, test, tweak, and test some more! Even though you’ve done your research, you still might want to share your course with a small group and make changes based on their feedback.
For example, you could offer part of your course as a simple 30-day challenge. Each day (or week), send your beta testers an email with information and action steps. Create a private Facebook group to receive feedback, discuss insights, and offer the next steps. Use feedback to continuously refine your course – to make it even better! You want your audience to come back and purchase future courses.
5. Always over-deliver. Your students will be more engaged and loyal to your brand if you go above and beyond what they expect. If you’ve created a course to help solve problems, understand that new problems and solutions are inevitable. Revise and update your course as needed.
6. Offer free content. When you give away a lot of great content, potential students will assume your paid products are exceptional – and they’ll be more likely to invest in a course with a higher price point. To position yourself as an expert and successfully sell your course, allow your potential students to get to know you and how you teach by offering valuable (free) content.
7. Cultivate relationships. Consider the relationships between you and your students, because as more and more people complete your course and experience success, they are likely to share with others. You might even incentivize past students by offering free coaching to those who refer new students to your course. In doing this, you will create a true sense of community and grow an engaged tribe (which supports your marketing efforts). When you take the time to nurture meaningful relationships with other therapists, coaches, and consultants, they will be happy to spread the word about your online offerings. They can also serve as mentors and collaborators in future projects.
8. Have a marketing mindset. Plan how you intend to sell your course once it’s live. As soon as you launch your course, let potential students know! How you go about this is a topic for another blog post.
Online courses are a fantastic way to expand your reach, engage with a new audience, create passive income, and add a fulfilling new dimension to the important work you do.
Online course software provides everything you need to create and sell online courses. Some platforms even help you manage your entire Internet presence, combining elements of a content management system (CMS) with marketing and customer relationship management tools (CRM). Other than the course platforms referenced in this blog post, here are some others:
Kajabi, Kartra (works well if you focus mostly on video content)
WordPress plugins: LearnDash, AccessAlly (courses + membership site), Course Cats, LifterLMS (offers a great free version)
Online course platforms that provide ways to author and assemble courses plus provide an existing marketplace to sell courses: OpenSesame, Skillshare, Udemy.