How to Create an Online Course: 11 Clear Steps to SUCCEED

Learning how to create an online course is becoming more and more relevant as time goes on, and the coronavirus pandemic has proven just how valuable that is.

While we here at Self-Publishing School hopped on this trend much earlier than the pandemic by creating our Course Building for Authors program, we thought it would also be helpful to break down some tips for creating an online course for all of you.

While we obviously can’t give away all of the secrets for how our students of that program are launching their courses to $10,000+, we can give you a step-by-step rundown of how to create one for yourself.

Here’s how to create an online course:

  1. Make a course plan
  2. Know what your course outcome is
  3. Get feedback on your course idea
  4. Decide if you want course creating guidance
  5. Create a course outline
  6. Develop the entire course content
  7. Choose your course building platform
  8. Finish your course!
  9. Launch your course to a beta group
  10. Make course edits
  11. Launch and sell your course!

How to Develop an Online Course With NO Content Yet

If you have nothing and are starting from scratch, you’ll likely be a little more behind than others.

This blog post will help you but most of the time, having some sort of blog or a published book will make creating an online course much easier, faster, and overall better.

Our Course Building for Authors students often either come to us with a book published or another asset they’d like to turn into a higher revenue-generating business.

This gives them a solid base of content to turn into a course outline, an email list generated through a lead magnet inside their book, or a popular blog or other content asset they’ve been making for a while.

That said, if you truly don’t have any content, you can still learn how to create an online course! You’ll just have to understand that it may take a little longer to generate a solid outline.

Online Course Platforms to Use

While we’ll get into more of this specific step later (and how our students save 50% off a high-rated online course platform’s annual pricing), I wanted to drop a few options for you when it comes to where your course will live.

It’s important to have a reliable, trustworthy, and customer-service centered course platform in order to ensure your customers’ needs are met.

Here are some of the top online course platforms to consider:

  • Teachable
  • Kajabi
  • LearnWorlds
  • ThinkiFic
  • LearnDash

There are plenty of more out there, but those are the best from our research.

How to Create an Online Course Step-by-Step

So you have your idea, you know you want to use a course to create a passive income revenue source, and you’re ready to go!

Let’s get into how to create an online course that does well and sets you up for success when you launch in order to build your online business.

#1 – Make a plan

You could just put some content together and run with it, but we’ve found this is why most people fail with their online courses. They have the desire but don’t plan appropriately.

You should be aware of what you need, the expenses involved, and how you’ll make a return on that investment (ROI).

(By the way, you can check out the Self-Publishing School ROI Calculator to understand just what you can make and how much your business can grow by using one of our programs.)

Here are a few things to plan for if you want to create an online course:

  • Where will it be hosted? (Your own website = $ for hosting, domain name, etc.)
  • How will you collect leads to convert to course buyers?
  • Will you be the “face” of your course?
  • Do you have a platform with people asking for a course?
  • Do you have a platform to sell to? (We teach you how to do it without one in our program!)

These are just a few of the items you want to plan for while thinking about creating an online course.

From there, you should build an action-plan to tackle some of these prior to launching your course (though you can start developing the outline and content before).

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#2 – Know what you want the course OUTCOME to be

Most people don’t think about what success looks like for their customers before they develop the course. This is a huge area of importance we cover in-depth in our Course Building for Authors program, mostly because it sets you up for the long-term.

The more of your customers who find success, the more likely they are to refer, give you a high rating, and ultimately grow your business.

After all, the course is about them. Not you or what you’ve made. It’s about their struggles and how you’re solving that problem for them.

So ask yourself: what will the outcome be? What will be changed from starting the course to finishing? What will they have when they’re done?

You can use our program promise as an example: Turn your book into an online course and get your first 10 sales.

The result of this program is that our students will walk away with a complete course based on their book, and a guaranteed first 10 sales (because we also cover how to SELL your course).

If they don’t receive that, then we have some serious making up to do.

This also gives us a clear line of sight into what success means, which allows us to track this in order to make sure our students are getting what they paid for.

#3 – Get feedback about your idea

This is most helpful if you have an actual platform to go to. One of our Course Building for Authors students had a bit of a large Facebook group, and she was able to use that to ask them exactly what they wanted.

While we don’t necessarily advise people to make a course only to give people what they want, you should absolutely make sure that what you are covering is needed.

If you create a course on how to create a solid morning routine when what your audience really needs is a method of getting their tasks done throughout the whole day, it won’t perform as well.

Ask your friends and family, search forums, take to social media and research the need for what you want to create. If there’s a great need and little help, that’s the idea to go for.

#4 – Decide if you want guidance creating your course

You’ve already read all about how we help people build online courses with our program. But this is where you should decide if you want that help, or if you want to risk the odds alone.

You can check out that program page linked all over this post, and you can also research other methods of creating an online course.

All I can really advise you on is this: if you want to succeed, to make money from your course, and create a course that truly makes a difference, getting guidance from someone experienced will make a difference.

Imagine yourself without any help, trying to navigate this by Google search…and then imagine if you had a program walk you through step-by-step how to make it, with 1-on-1 coaching for specific questions, as well as a large exclusive community to support you.

You can absoutely have success without going to a coach or program to teach you this. However, it’ll likely take a lot longer and you’ll have to put forth much more work.

As a company that’s gone from $0 – $16 Million in 5 years from online courses, we know a thing or two…or ten 🙂

And we’re teaching you our exact methods, our sales tactics, and more.

Click here to check out the program page and decide for yourself if you’d like a complimentary 1-hour strategy call.

#5 – Create a course outline

If you have a book, this step is likely a lot easier, though there are some major differences between a book’s content and a course’s content.

That being said, creating an outline is super important. Think of each line item in this outline as a module for your course.

Having a clear plan with your destination (what you’ve determined “success” to be for your course) will help you create a better course, faster.

And in the age of time being the most valuable resource, this is really important.

Here are the steps for outlining your course:

  • Create “modules” for each section that differentiates from the one before it
  • Then go through and list 2-5 topics for each module
  • Then go deeper and indicate the biggest “takeaway” for those unique topics as well as for each module
  • Don’t forget to make a section for proof, examples of someone or yourself accomplishing what you’re asking them to do
  • Review your outline to determine if it needs anything else in order for people to succeed in your course promise

#6 – Develop the entire course content

Now’s the time to dig deep and make your content!

There are a few options you can use to put the course together:

  • Written content
  • Audio content
  • Video content

We here at Self-Publishing School recommend have all three available. But first, start with the written content (unless you’re more of a speaker, in which case record, then transcribe).

The reason for having several different types is because people learn in all sorts of ways.

By giving them choices, you create a better user experience and will be more likely to have people succeed and then leave positive reviews, boosting your course sales (not to mention the testimonials you can use for marketing).

#7 – Choose your course building platform

As stated above, there are a lot of online course platforms to consider.

You want to make sure you find one that works for you and your needs, and also fits your financial budget on this project.

Here are some things to consider:

  • The price
  • Does it host your content for you (otherwise you’ll host it on your own website, increasing the hosting provider cost)?
  • Can you send emails from it?
  • Can you check customer’s progress / achievements?
  • Is it easy to use (for the tech challenged)?
  • Will you have to learn an excessive amount in order to create your course?
  • What kind of build is it–drag and drop or a single format?
  • Will you be able to customize your course with branding?
  • What’s the customer support like (AKA: will you be able to quickly solve issues making it hard for your customers)?

We encourage spending a lot of time considering these, goingthrough free trials, and more in order to find the course platform that suits you.

For Self-Publishing School Course Building for Authors students, they get 50% off an annual subscription with Teachable because of our partnership with them.

#8 – Finish your course

Take the time needed to get your course content created, uploaded, and in whatever course platform you want to use.

This will be the longest step simply because you have to sit down and do the work. Nobody can do this for you (unless you hire someone to transcribe videos).

The steps for finishing the course content are actually very similar to finishing the first draft of your book.

Remember to be clear with your instructions, use metaphors to make it easier, and use examples from your own life. People love authenticity. Be real about what you did and how it worked in order to get them to take action.

#9 – Launch to a BETA group

Before you go live, you should always launch your course to a beta group at a lower offer price than you plan to go public with. This is super important for setting your course up for success later on.

It can be hard for those of you without a platform, but even offering a discounted price and letting people know it’s for a testing phase can help you get conversions through your website.

This stage is really vital for understanding what people are actually getting out of your course. Much like with writing a book, you can’t always tell what’s working and what’s not because you created it.

Have others go through, let them tell you what’s confusing, what didn’t work, and what was even hardest for them.

This gives you a list of “fixes” you can make before launching publicly that will give your new customers the most success.

#10 – Make any adjustments from the beta group

This is pretty self-explanatory, but make those changes! Don’t just ignore the feedback you get.

While you don’t need to change everything, especially if only one person had an issue and others didn’t, you do want to make sure you’re adjusting things that several people spoke up about.

Make your course the best it can be for your customers, and remember you can always make tweaks and updates later on as well.

#11 – Launch & Sell!

Now’s the time! We know these are a lot of steps, but they’re necessary to build a course that will perform well and bring you and your customers success.

That being said, selling it all on you. Whether you’re selling straight from a landing page or you’re getting on sales calls, the important thing is to focus on their need and how your course helps them solve it.

In our course building program, we actually have an entire section on selling and how to do it without feeling “salesy,” with our own blueprint for what we do here at Self-Publishing School.

Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Marketing Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own Youtube videos, fiction writing tips blog posts, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese! Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

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