If you’re going to invest your time and money in the tools needed to create and sell online courses, you want to make money off them. It’s a no-brainer.
No one wants to create an online course expecting profit and making zero dollars. So, I am going to share 7 tips that can help you create online courses that make money.
First, let me tell me what I won’t cover in this post and why. I’m not going to cover all the phases of content design or what you should do in each phase. You can review the information here or download the 5-step instructional design blueprint below for step-by-step directions on how to design great content for your online course.
Tips for Creating Courses that Make Money
Now, let me tell you about the 7 tips I believe can help you create online courses that make money.
Tip 1: Define Your Value Proposition
Before you sit down to write any content, you should take a little time to consider what your Value Proposition for your course is. Your Value Proposition should answer these three questions.
What problem will you solve for your ideal client?
If a prospective client finds your course, they likely have a problem they want to solve and were searching for answers. Example problems could be things like:
- How can I create an online course that makes money?
- I want to grow traffic with Pinterest
- Potty training a toddler
In order for your course to make money, it has to be valuable to your prospective client. It must solve a problem for them. So, define what problem you solve, how you solve it, and share it with prospective clients.
What benefits will your clients get from buying and taking your course?
This is what we often refer to as, “WIIFM”, which stands for, “What’s in it for me?” Every prospective client who clicks on your course should be able to immediately tell what’s in it for them if they buy your course. For example, the WIIFM for my online course, Instructional Design Lab, is that my students will have built a complete training by the time they finish the course.
Why should they buy from you and not someone else?
Your prospective clients most likely have options to choose from when searching for the best online course to take to solve their problems. So, why should your course be the course that they buy? Is your price better than others? Do you offer an expertise that others don’t? Do they get more content or more resources if they buy your course? These are just a few examples to consider when you try to differentiate your online course from your competition.
Tip 2: Begin with the End in Mind
At the start of building your course, you should consider what the learner will be able to do or take away from the training. Many online courses fall short in this area and ramble on about a topic. They often talk about the ‘what’ but not the ‘how’ of a particular subject.
To ensure that your online course covers both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, think about what your learners should be able to do after completing the training. Then, write your learning objectives to match those actions.
Here are some example learning objectives which cover the ‘what’ and the ‘how’:
- Create an engaging online course using the 5-Step Training Checklist.
- Increase Pinterest traffic using Tailwind Tribes.
- Potty train your toddler in 5 days with the Potty Training Sticker Chart.
If there is something tangible your clients can take away from your online course, that increases the value of your course. Tangible take aways can include printable resources or items your learner creates during your course that are usable post course, like the complete training course my clients will have when they finish The Instructional Design Lab course.
Tip 3: Write Killer Content
You don’t need to be an amazing writer to write killer content. You just need to know a few key principles to ensure your content is meaningful and valuable.
When outlining, mind mapping, or storyboarding your content, focus on the content that your learners must know in order to fulfill your Value Proposition and the learning objectives.
You will want to avoid filling up your content with information that is interesting but not relevant to what your learner should be able to do. Sharon Bowman, author of Training from the Back of the Room, calls this ‘Need to Know’ versus ‘Nice to Know’.
My advice to everyone creating online courses for sale, or not, is to focus on the Need to Know content and add in a few Nice to Know concepts here and there.
Another strategy for writing killer content is to chunk your content into 10-minute or less time boxes and to put the most important learning at the front of that time box.
Human brains remember what they hear first and last the most and begin to lose focus after about 10 minutes. Now, people often get confused here and think that a training can only be 10 minutes long. This is far from the truth.
What this actually means is that you can talk for about 10 minutes before you toss in a changeup. A changeup can be an activity, a change of topic, a change of speaker, an activity, or etc.
The point is that human brains find change interesting during learning experiences. For more information about this, type ‘primacy recency’ into your search engine.
Tip 4: Build a Shitty First Draft
This is my absolute favorite tip because I can be a bit of a perfectionist and hold off on doing something until I have it perfect in my mind. I tend to get stuck in paralysis analysis or thinking I don’t have enough information to start.
With the Shitty First Draft, the goal is to get your ideas out of your head and on to paper, in a PowerPoint, into a video, or some other tool.
Your Shitty First Draft is a starting point. It’s not perfection. It’s not done. What it is is your start to something great.
Give yourself permission to produce a shitty first draft of your online course. Once you have a draft, you can tweak it until it is sales-ready or ready to launch.
Check out this article by Jason Lengstorf for more information on the Shitty First Draft.
Tip 5: Be a Content Evangelist
The first thing that came to your mind when you read the title of this tip was probably religious related. That isn’t what I am talking about here.
I am referring to how your content is delivered and how you edify your content. If anyone has ever pitched you on a direct sales or network marketing business, you have experienced what I am referring to.
They most likely provided you with a little education about your need, inspiration with stories of success from people just like you, and painted a vision of a better future for you and your family if you launched your own business.
When you deliver your content, I want you to be a Content Evangelist for your online course. I want you to educate your clients with the need to know information that solves their problems. I want you to share success stories from other clients who have completed your online course already.
You most likely won’t have any success stories at the launch of your course, unless you opened the course to a test group prior to your launch. If you don’t have success stories right now, that’s okay. Just add them in when you get some.
I also want you to paint a vision of a brighter, better future for your clients with the content they are learning in your course. Tell them throughout the course how specific tips and information may make life better for them, professionally and/or personally.
Tip 6: Be the Face of Your Online Course
Whether you are creating an online course that makes money with PowerPoint slides and audio narration or video, make sure your face is in the course often.
Humans need connections. They need to connect to the information you are sharing. They also need to connect to you as their expert trainer, teacher, and guide.
Your face, more specifically your eyes, are a great way to help them connect with you. The best way to do this is with a video. Make them feel like you are speaking directly to them!
The second best way to do this is to add pictures of yourself throughout the training so that you are seen.
If you can’t or aren’t ready to do a full video training, maybe you can add a video at the beginning of your training where you speak to your learner and then use photos of you throughout the course to keep your connection with your learners.
Another thing you can do to maintain your connection with your learner is to make learning easy for them.
Provide on-screen visuals or text to support key messages. Avoid sliduments, which Garr Reynolds describes as a slide meets document. Basically, don’t dump a bunch of text on a slide and read it to your learner. Doing this will bore your learner and you may lose your connection with them.
Tip 7: Create a Bias for Action
In most cases, learners do not want to be passive learners during an online course. Instead, they would rather experience the learning firsthand with activities and applications.
Where possible, build in opportunities for your learner to ponder principles and practice using what you are teaching through application exercises, homework, and prework.
If you are chunking your courses into the 10-minute time boxes as I suggested earlier, build in a practice opportunity or an activity at the end of each time box. For example, let’s say you’re setting up a six-week-long course. You could create homework assignments to be completed before starting the content for the next week.
This is also a great tool for ensuring your learners completed the coursework if you are offering a money-back guarantee.
You could also provide form-fillable PDFs or printouts for note-taking.
The idea is to give your learners the opportunity to interact with the content often so that they can apply what they are learning to their current situation. The more relevant the content is to their immediate need, the more they will value your online course.
Interacting with the content also helps your clients remember what you taught them, which increases their value. When they’re ready for more, they might turn to you first!
If you found value in these 7 Tips for Creating Online Courses that Make Money, please help me share this information with others by pinning it, tweeting it, leaving a comment below, or posting it to your social pages.
Also, if you have a particular training challenge you are facing, visit our Facebook page for some help. Follow us here.
Until we meet again, take care!
The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShield