The skills required to be competitive in business are constantly evolving. Most professions are impacted in some way by new technologies, programs, and methods that change the way things are done from one year to the next. This makes ongoing learning an essential part of being in business.
E-learning has emerged as a large and rapidly growing industry that makes education more accessible and customizable than ever before. If there’s an audience for your particular skills or knowledge, you can make money by starting your own online course.
The increased opportunities for first-time entrepreneurs made possible by the internet, Shopify, and other eCommerce platforms means there is no shortage of people trying to learn how to run a business on their own. Online business courses offer an appealing and practical alternative to full-time entrepreneurship programs or MBAs.
Now, entrepreneurs or people who are just curious about a particular subject can find an online business course that covers exactly what they’re interested in, enroll for a price that is usually much less than a college course, and learn at their own pace from the comfort of their couch.
It’s no wonder the global online e-learning market is worth over $100 billion USD and is projected to reach $370 billion by 2026. Since e-learning is borderless compared to more traditional types of education, you can start an online business course in Canada and access students all over the world.
Determine the subject matter of your online business course
If you want to be a part of the huge projected growth of e-learning over the next few years, your first step should be to determine what, exactly, your course will be about. There are a few things to keep in mind as you decide the subject of your course:
Be an expert on the topic
For your online course to be of value, it’s important you actually have the expertise to teach it. Since reviews are an important marketing tool for online business courses, selling people a course in which they don’t really learn what they expect isn’t going to be an effective way to make money with an online business course.
People interested in buying your course will want to know why they should choose your particular course over all the others available on the same topic. You don’t necessarily have to have a formal education in the subject, but you should have real expertise and experience.
You can demonstrate this by describing the professional experience you have using the skill you’re teaching or providing testimonials from people you’ve worked with.
Determine the scope of your course
Online business courses can vary from being very specific to broad in scope. For example, if you want to create a business course about marketing, you could create a broad course called “Fundamentals of Small Business Marketing.” Alternatively, you could create something specific like “How To Master the Facebook Ads Platform.”
Determine your unique selling feature
Research the online business courses currently available on your subject, and determine how your course will be different from the most successful courses currently available. You may want to purchase and go through some of the courses you’ll be competing with, taking note of the areas you think those courses are lacking in.
Maybe your content will be more up-to-date, divided into more easily digestible segments, or offer more supplementary content, such as workbooks and case studies.
Examples of topics you could cover in your online business course include:
- How to manage business finances
- A guide to business branding
- Everything you need to know about business administration
- How to create a business plan
- Coming up with an effective business model
These are just ideas, and your online business course can cover any business area where you have expertise and for which there’s an audience of people who want to develop their skills.
Determine your target customer
You should approach starting an online business course just like you would approach starting any other business. Identifying the target audience for your product is an essential step because it will guide your course’ creation as well as your marketing efforts.
What is a target customer?
Your target customer is the ideal customer for your product: in this case, your online business course. They are the dream client who needs exactly the expertise you can offer through the course, loves your teaching style and the way your course is structured, and walks away from the course feeling like they got excellent value.
This customer both:
- Needs the information in your online business course.
- Is happy to pay your asking price, and would even be willing to pay again for more courses from you.
Your target customer can be defined relatively broadly, or very narrowly. How you define them will end up guiding how you create the content of your course.
For example, if you create a course about small business branding for product-based businesses, your target customer could be just about anybody with a small business who doesn’t have a big budget to outsource their branding.
Alternatively, you might have expertise in the jewelry industry specifically, and you could instead create a course about jewelry business branding. In this case, your target audience would be narrowed down to jewelry entrepreneurs.
Benefits of defining your target customer
Knowing your target customer is essential to creating a valuable course for them. By defining that dream customer, you can make sure that you create a course of the most possible value to that type of person.
In the example above, if you are an expert in launching jewelry brands, defining your target customer as a small jewelry business entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to tailor all of the topics within your course to the specifics of jewelry brands. A general branding course may t talk about the fundamentals of logo design, but a jewelry branding course may go into detail about what types of logos perform well for jewelry audiences.
Alternatively, if you’re targeting a broad audience, it’s important to keep general small product-based entrepreneurs in mind so you can provide course material that is applicable to businesses of all different types.
In addition to helping guide your course creation, knowing your target customer will make it easier to market to them. If you know your target customer spends more time on Instagram than LinkedIn, you can focus your marketing efforts there.
Plan and design your online business course
With your target customer in mind, you can get started on the creation of your online business course. If you’ve never taken an online course before, you may want to consider going through one or two yourself to get a sense of how they differ from traditional courses and to identify what you like and don’t like about different instructors’ approaches.
Determine the scope of your course
Before getting into the details of your course design, it’s important to determine what exactly you plan to cover. This will save you time in the long run, because you won’t waste time creating content you don’t end up using or having to recreate parts of your course because you missed something important.
A good way to go about this is by storyboarding your business course. Storyboarding is a technique used in film products to plan the development and plot of a movie. It lends itself well to online course production too, because most courses have a large video component.
Define your learning outcomes
Once you know what you plan to cover in your course, you can identify what a student will learn by the time they complete it. These are called learning outcomes, and they’re an important selling feature for your business course.
A potential student may first be drawn in by your course title, but the next thing they’ll look for is a quick summary of what they will actually get by purchasing it. If the outcomes aren’t clear, they’ll likely keep scrolling and looking for a course that’s more clearly a good fit.
Learning outcomes are things you can plug into the phrase,
“By the end of this course, you will…”
This is an effective way of describing learning outcomes because it encourages your potential customer to imagine themselves, having taken your course, armed with the skills they need to take their own business to the next level.
Keep micro-learning in mind
One of the major benefits of e-learning is the ability to fit education into a busy schedule, so completing a course full of two hour lectures can feel daunting. You should aim to convey your course material in bite-sized portions whenever possible, so students can progress bit by bit whenever they have the time.
Offer a high production value
Creating a course that feels well-produced and is enjoyable doesn’t have to be expensive and can make a big difference in the experience your students have.
Video quality, lighting, and audio quality are the three most important components of production quality. You don’t need the top of the line microphone and camera, but choosing an option within your budget that has good reviews is an effective way to offer a polished course with higher perceived value.
Choose a platform
Popular e-learning platforms include:
- Udemy. This is a great platform for first-time instructors because it offers support for every stage of the process, from creating to marketing your course. It also has a huge base of active students who can search their database of courses.
- Skillshare. This is more geared towards creative skills, but business courses that would appeal to creative entrepreneurs can do well here. It has a different pricing model, since students pay a monthly subscription to access the complete catalog of courses. As an instructor, you can earn more based on the number of minutes your course is watched
- Teachable. This is a great platform if you want to grow and nurture your own audience, which is especially helpful if you plan to sell more courses in the future.
You can also create and host your online business course from scratch, but with such great course-building tools available, this is a much more difficult route.
Promote your online course using different advertising channels
One of the most exciting aspects of starting an online business course is the earning potential. Since it’s a digital product you can potentially scale it to thousands of students without producing any more content. You may have to offer some customer service or other support, which a virtual assistant can help out with, but otherwise, there is no ceiling on how much you can make from selling your online business course.
Once your course content is created, your focus should shift to promoting it. Like any other online business, there is a range of platforms and approaches you can use to market your business. You can try a combination of them, or focus on the ones where your target customer is most likely to see your promotions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) will improve your chances of showing up in search results for terms relevant to your course material. You can optimize your course description and any copy that appears online promoting your course. If you can get other websites to link to your course, that can offer a major SEO boost as well.
Building an email list of people you can market your course to is one of the most cost-effective marketing techniques in terms of return on investment. One way to build up your email marketing list is to offer a freebie of some sort in exchange for an email sign up. For example, you could offer the first video of your course for free.
Social media marketing
If your target customer is on social media, getting involved and improving your visibility with the community relevant to your course can help get more eyes on your content, and ultimately, more purchases of your course.
Paid ads may not be the cheapest promotional tool, but an effective campaign can make up for the cost. Google, Instagram, and Facebook Ads are popular platforms.
Are there entrepreneur influencers with an audience that might be interested in taking your course? If so, offering the course for free to some influential people and giving them a discount code to share with their audience can be an excellent, low-cost way to promote your course.
Affiliates earn a percentage from each sale of your course made through their unique affiliate link. Affiliate marketers tend to be skilled digital marketers or have a large audience either on social media or in the form of an email list, so paying them a portion of the sales they bring in can be well worth it if they get your course in front of lots of new potential buyers.
Maintaining a blog with content relevant to your target customer is great for SEO and can also help establish you as a trustworthy, competent resource. If people enjoy your blog content, they’re more likely to enjoy your course content as well.
Launch your online business course
With your course created and your promotion plan ready to go, it’s time to go live. With so many course choices available online, building up some positive reviews can help you get the ball rolling and encourage more people to purchase your course over others.
A good way to get reviews when you’re brand new is to give away access to a number of people in exchange for reviews and testimonials. You can give access to people in your network or create an opportunity for people online to sign up for free for a limited time.
Remember, your online business course can create ongoing, scalable revenue for a long time to come. Creating some excitement around your course when you launch is important, but it’s more important that you have a strategy in place for generating ongoing sales.
E-learning is forecasted to more than triple over the next four years, so there’s no time like the present to start your online business course and grow it into a sustainable side hustle or full-time job.
This article offers general information only, is current as of the date of publication, and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.