skip to content

A shortcut for making an online course


When making your first online course, it can be challenging to know where to begin unless you already offer some kind of digital download. If you’ve made a pdf guide, checklist, or some other type of digital product or lead magnet, that can be a great jumping-off point for your first online course. Ahead, I’ll explain what I mean. Let’s get into it.

Welcome to “First sale to full scale”, a 10-video series that covers the journey from making your first digital product to running a full-scale online business.

Up to this point in the series, we’ve focused mostly on smaller digital products. Now it’s time to expand your offerings. If you already have a digital download, paid or free, I’m going to show you three different ways to turn it into an online course so you can offer even more value to your customers. They are:

  • Change up the format

  • Go deeper

  • Take them further

Before we dive into the first one, I want to share an important principle. Any product you sell is about taking your customer on a journey from where they are to where they want to be. A customer starts with some unfulfilled desire or need, and your product is the bridge that helps satisfy their desire or need.

In this sense, digital downloads are typically smaller bridges, while online courses are typically larger bridges. Of course, the size of the bridge doesn’t matter as long as it effectively gets your customers to their desired destination. With that principle in mind, let’s talk about the first way we can turn a digital download into an online course.

Number 1: Change up the format

Most digital downloads are formatted as something simple like a pdf or jpeg. One way you can take the same material and turn it into an online course is to create an audio or video version of that information.

For example, let’s say you’ve got a pdf guide that teaches young adults how to structure a household budget. You can take that same pdf and record yourself on video going over each section of the budget. This provides a more immersive experience for your customers, and in many cases, you’ll end up providing extra details and insights that will make the material even more valuable.

And if making videos sounds intimidating, don’t worry. We actually created an entire playlist walking you through how to create a video-based online course using just your iPhone. Now onto the second method.

Number 2: Go deeper

A digital download is usually meant to offer a quick solution, which means it doesn’t often go as in-depth on whatever topic it covers. Your digital download can be valuable and effective but can still leave gaps your customers will need to fill in on their own. One of the ways you can turn your digital download into an online course is by identifying and creating content to fill in those gaps.

For example, let’s say I offer a pdf checklist for people creating their first YouTube channel. I may list things like:

  • Choose a dedicated time for filming, editing, and publishing

  • Identify who your channel is for and what kind of content they’re looking for

  • Write down 60 topic ideas

A customer who actually works through that checklist is going to get some value, but with an online course, I can go even deeper into each of those items and make it more likely that my customer will succeed. 

So “Choose a dedicated time for filming, editing, and publishing”, could turn into one of the course modules with three separate video lessons about filming, editing, and publishing.

“Write down 60 topic ideas” could be broken down into additional steps like doing keyword research, using creator tools like TubeBuddy, and crafting irresistible titles.

An online course brings your customer to the same destination but does so while equipping them with even more valuable information that they’ll need to succeed.

Going deeper is just one way to offer more value, but what if you want to lead your customers even further along in their journey to a whole new destination? That brings us to our third method.

Number 3: Take them further

Using the bridge metaphor, the first two methods are about bringing your customer to the same destination but with a stronger, better bridge. With this last method, we’re picking up where our digital download leaves off and building a whole new bridge to the next destination.

For example, let’s say you offer a pdf guide teaching people how to play the guitar. You're taking your customer from where they are–wanting to play the guitar but not knowing how–to where they want to be–being able to pick up a guitar and play a handful of chords.

A natural next destination could be teaching your customer how to write their first song on a guitar. This approach builds on what your customer learned from your digital download and brings them to a whole new destination.

You can use any one or all three of these approaches to take what you’ve already created and offer even more value through an online course. And the best part? You can use your digital download as a lead magnet to get new customers to buy your online course.

Let’s have some fun in the comments… if you’ve made a digital download and have an idea for how you could turn it into an online course, share what your digital download is, which of these three methods you might use, and what you plan to offer in your online course to give your customers even more value.

In the next video, we’re going to talk about how to build a sales funnel with multiple digital products to maximize your selling potential. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. If you found this video helpful and you want more content like this, subscribe and hit the notification bell so you’ll be sure not to miss any future videos. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.

LINKS/RESOURCES: Playlist: Making online course videos with your iPhone -

About the author

Ben is a video content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites – alongside their creators – thrive.