Let’s say your refrigerator breaks.
Or you’re trying to come up with a fresh topic for a blog post to keep your readers engaged. Where do you go?
You probably hit Google, YouTube, and “[Topic] For Dummies,” in that order.
You’re not looking for basic information. You’re looking for a specific, step-by-step process to follow.
You want to follow someone who’s been there, done that, and has the t-shirt to prove it.
Obviously, you’re not alone. That’s why the e-learning market is expected to double to $325 billion by 2025.
People crave actionable information they can do themselves. They just need to find people willing to help them do it.
And best of all, no certifications or fancy degrees are required.
You can take the experience you’ve already built up and turn it into a money-making course within a few days if you know what you’re doing. Here’s why the online course market is booming, and how you can start a side-hustle to profit from its growth.
Why anyone can succeed with online courses
The global e-learning market is now poised to reach $325 billion by 2025, according to the Global News Wire. That’s a projected yearly growth rate of almost 10%.
And according to Statista’s latest research, online courses, specifically, make up $46 billion of the overall e-learning market.
That’s massive market potential for first-movers.
In 2015, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com for 3x more than all of their previous acquisition costs combined. The deal cost them $1.5 billion dollars.
So, what’s with the sudden increase in online course revenue?
Well, one of the biggest reasons for online courses is the fact that work fields are constantly changing. In our digital world, game-changing factors can come into play at a moment’s notice.
Revolutionary products come out, new tools are developed, and new individuals or companies can quickly influence a field.
For example, graphic design used to be a highly-technical profession. If a company needed to create an original graphic, they’d generally have to hire someone else to do it.
But that’s no longer the case. Sure, there are times where a company will hire a professional to create a logo or design a website. But in many cases, individuals with basic computer skills can use a tool like Canva to get the job done for free and in less time.
But not every tool or innovation in a field gets is broadcasted in the sky. Sometimes, insiders keep their valuable knowledge a secret.
That’s why you need to be one of the insiders (even if you don't feel qualified to call yourself one). And you do that by constantly learning. If you want to be a constant learner, online courses are your best bet.
You can find an expert-led course on almost any topic imaginable. For example, let’s say you wanted to learn more about local SEO or reaching out to big-name influencers who you'd like to feature as guests on your podcast.
Topics like these are diverse. They aren’t cookie-cutter. You can’t attend Marketing 101 and expect to have a working knowledge of detailed topics like local SEO.
That requires an in-depth course. And that’s where your experience comes into play.
First-time movers who found their groove with online courses
Thousands of ambitious, yet little-known entrepreneurs are turning their expertise into courses and cash.
Take Justin Jackson, for example. Justin has created several online course businesses.
In 2016, he decided to become a solo product entrepreneur, and this turned out to be a year of massive growth for his business.
His total revenue for 2016 came in at $146,000. Then, in 2017, his revenue increased to $190,000 despite the fact that he was only able to work for one hour on many days.
He calculated that his online store made a total of 2,513 sales in 2017.
Needless to say, Justin was pleased with these results. He wrote, “The fact that I can do this work, and support my family of six, is still incredible to me.”
Now, she makes $1,000 each month from it without any ongoing promotion and considers it a side project at this point.
She had almost no technical background, to begin with. Instead, Regina relied solely on her own experience and personal take.
The course launched after just a few days worth of development and brought in thousands shortly after that.
The best online courses aren’t high-level lectures, created by people with three decades of experience.Instead, they’re from people who’re in the trenches. People like you, who’ve developed a unique approach to tackle a set of problems that other people can benefit from.
Here’s how to get started.
3 must-have components of the best online course platforms
People often think that online courses are tough to create.
And they are, if you’re not using the right tools.
Fortunately, the right online course platform can make all the difference.
It can take care of the messy stuff, like user access to courses and processing payments. That means you can focus exclusively on creating the best content possible, while your platform does all the heavy lifting.
Here are some of the main considerations when choosing a platform.
1. Ease of use
You shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to configure a single course. Nor do you want to spend days connecting software and third-party integrations.
Your limited time should be focused on content creation or helping customers -- not platform customizations.
Ideally, everything should work out of the box.
Adding new lesson modules should only require a few clicks. Payment processing should be seamless and automatic.
Look for a platform that gives you everything from A-Z, like:
- Unlimited file size, bandwidth, customers, etc.
- Drip-based course content, with the ability to schedule it out over multiple days or weeks
- File support from PDF to MP3 and anything in between
- Back-end management: including digital downloads, subscriptions, email marketing, editing and managing course content.
Every minute spent wrestling your course infrastructure means you’re missing out on lost sales.
2. Beware extra fees
Most online course platforms, like popular ecommerce platforms, have a cashout and transaction fee.
The cheapest plan on their pricing page might look good initially. Only for you to discover that they’re going to take a huge chunk of your sales on the back-end.
Nearly every platform will make you pay a monthly fee (sometimes as high as hundreds of dollars), a transaction fee, or both.
Meanwhile, online courses through Podia carry a 0% transaction fees for even the cheapest plan available.
A 5 or 10% tax on each new sale can quickly add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars each month.
Simply put: No one can afford that huge cut in revenue.
And with the right online course platform, you won’t have to.
3. Expansion strategy
Standalone online courses are great by themselves.
But the real money tends to be made when you add additional content.
It’s much easier (and cheaper) to sell to existing customers than it is to bring in new users. If you’ve already got customers attending one course, you need a platform that allows you to expand into membership software, digital downloads, and other courses.
So look for these features from the get-go, before getting locked into a new plan.
Not only does this help you make more money in the future, but it also saves you money by avoiding third-party products and integrations.
How to create your first online course on Podia
Podia has all three online course components.
It’s also all-inclusive and cheaper, too.
Here, I am going to show you how to set up a new store to start selling in minutes.
And with a 14-day free trial, you can fire up a test drive before making any serious commitments.
Start by signing up for the free trial, and you’ll be redirected to your online course dashboard.
From here, you can set up three main products: Membership, Online Course, and Digital Download.
On the top menu bar, you can customize everything from your storefront to your email follow-up sequence.
Let’s start building out your Storefront, first.
Begin by giving your store a name and a short bio.
For example, check out how Justin Jackson uses Podia to instantly communicate his unique selling proposition (USP):
Use the headline and bio section to expand on what people will get out of your new course.
Instead of focusing on course features or benefits, keep the attention on the outcomes or end results that customers will get.
Next, you can customize the store’s basic design, color schemes, and branding with your logo.
Now that the storefront is looking good, it’s time to dive into course creation.
Course creation and optimization have never been easier. Head back to your dashboard and click “Online Course” to get started.
The first question will ask you which type of product you want to offer:
Next, give your product a catchy title and description.
If you need ideas, check out the Podia examples section where you can find courses from the most successful entrepreneurs for inspiration.
On the “Sales page,” you can edit your product headline and description, FAQs, cover photo, and any video content you want to add.
In your “Settings” tab, set up your course pricing and any coupons that you might want for marketing and selling more signups:
You can quickly connect a PayPal or Stripe account to your bank account, allowing you to transfer sales from your course straight into your account.
After your basic setup work is done, you can start to build the course with content.
Courses don’t have to be pristine.
In fact, they shouldn’t and probably won’t ever be.
Because as each course runs, you will continually learn about what works and what doesn’t, what could be removed, changed, or added.
It’s a learning process that never ends.
The last thing you want is to continually delay your product launch because it’s not 100% perfect. In this case, 98% is pretty good, too.
Under the “Content” section of your course, you can start to add files, links or text boxes:
Add each section of your course in logical progression like Sally Twellman does:
Adding new sections will allow you to easily create section-based courses that have a neat and organized structure:
When you’re ready to preview your course, hit “Preview - Course page” on the right-hand side:
Now, you will start to see your content populating the preview page:
Continue adding your sections and filling each section with your content. Successful entrepreneurs on Podia, like Justin, populate their sections with both text and video-based content:
And your marketing and sales strategy is directly integrated on Podia.
On the right-hand side, you can change your course from “Draft” to “Pre-launch,” allowing you to collect leads on your course page:
Each section includes guided content to help you figure out how to use it.
For example, do you need help with promotion to get more customers?
Simply click on your sales page and get step-by-step recommendations to follow:
It’s that easy.
Now is the time to get started with an online course.
If you’ve ever solved a common problem in a unique way, it’ll almost certainly make an excellent course.
You just need the right tools to help you transform it from a vision into reality.
Want a complete setup guide from idea to launch? Refer to this in-depth guide to creating an online course in 2018.