How to Create An Online Course
Updated: May 2, 2022
You’ve been the student, heck you’re still learning, but now it’s time for you to be the teacher - and earn income while doing it.
If you’ve clicked through to this post, you’ve likely already got an idea or two of what you’d like to teach and are looking for help on how to best teach your topic - or perhaps you’re still working on defining the problem your audience may be experiencing and seek the means to guide them to a solution. Bottom line - if you have a passion for what you’re wanting to teach, know you’re good at, and are ready to leverage what you have experience in it - you’re ready to become a thought leader online. The best part? You can earn passive income while doing it (mine even pays my rent!)
In this first video, I’ll walk you through the key steps involved in creating an online course, the benefits, and helpful tools and resources that I’ve used myself. I’ve adopted the methodology outlined on Skillshare’s blog - PLAN, PRODUCE, PUBLISH, PROMOTE.
STEP 1: THE PLANNING PHASE
Think K.I.S.S stands for keep it simple, stupid? Not today! I am all about keeping it SLOW & STEADY when creating online courses.
One of my favourite YouTubers, Ali Abdaal (a doctor and podcaster, whose all about exploring the principles, strategies and tools that help us live more productive lives) often speaks of the Heavy Lift vs. Slow Burn approach. Online course creation is by all means a slow burn and I would caution against trying to cram everything into a weekend.
Particularly if you’re creating online courses part time, you’re going to be spending about 3-4 weeks researching and reading all that you can on the topic before you’re ready to go live. During this process, personal anecdotes will come to mind that you’ll be able to overlay into your content in parts, as will more topical insights. I love doing the Google news search on several aspects of the topic before filming to make absolutely certain I have the most up to date information on hand.
You’ll want all the content you gather to live in one space and Notion is a multitaskers dream, allowing you to structure your course setup and work on multiple projects both seamlessly and simultaneously.
Working with a kanban card view, you’ll be able to see all your various modules, and with the drag and drop feature, you’re also able to work on what you’re feeling at the time and revisit a section post-reading something interesting, to add to it.
I previously worked on PowerPoint and created modules sequentially, so having this overview in Notion means you can add nuggets throughout as you find them, is an absolute game changer. In many ways, the planning process is EVERYTHING. Despite not being a productivity Youtuber and generally steering clear of anything which sounds like it may complicate things - I have found that tools like Trello or Notion actually help make things simpler going forward. The process of course creation can be anything but sequential so having the option to shift things around makes being agile that much easier, and helps you have a special place to make sense of the thoughts in your head.
In this video, I compare Notion with Trello specifically - so if you want to understand some of the key differences, you may want to give it a watch before deciding how to proceed.
GROUPS ARE GOLD MINES
Don’t go underestimating the value that lies in Facebook Groups; in them lie established, specific niches, and are a great tool for market research. You’ll be able to unpack the FAQs and biggest challenges facing your audience - allowing for a better understanding of their mindset and what they’re battling with in real time. Here are some of my favourites:
1. Future Females - a really powerful group, with loads of inspiring stories from members and also a great place to be able to post your own content.
2. The Resource - here you can find job boards, and poke questions around tasks, it’s a place for constructive and helpful banter. (This is South African specific so be sure to find something similar in your region).
3. Instructor HQ - here’s where course creation can be shared, and its really helpful to run polls and get virtually instant feedback.
DATA IS THERE TO HELP YOU!
If your existing website already has a lot of content, then you can absolutely make use of Google Analytics as a means to extract topic favouring. It’s data at your finger tips and most helpful especially if the sample size is meaningful. In lieu of this, another tool from Google is Google Trends, it’s free, shows interests and comparisons, and you’re able to filter this info by time and country.
Pick a Platform
Next, you need to pick a platform - you need to be creating your content for the platform that’s true to you and you’re good at. Understanding the nuances and subtleties of your audience and where they hang out online will greatly help you.
Skillshare is a hub for creative people, featuring shorter content forms (20-60min) and is very hands-on, interactive and engaging, making use of interesting video angles. It’s also project-based, so bear this element in mind as it needs to be in the bedrock of your course as you create it.
With Udemy, people are actually buying the course upfront once previewing it (instead of paying a fixed fee once a month), which means even more so you’re needing to prove the value of your course, and inevitably ending up covering much longer content. It’s the biggest marketplace and a highly competitive space with the deciding factor would be most dependent on how detailed your topic is.
Other platforms worth mentioning are Teachable, Thinkific and Podia - and in many others you are 100% responsible for getting traffic to your page (tricky if you don’t have an audience when starting out, as you then need money to send people to the website or a biggish mailing list to utilise).
Think of your Introduction as a First Date
Your intro is your selling point and your ultimate hook! It really is your golden opportunity to promote your course from the get-go and make it count. With platforms such as Udemy this is even more important as people would have to check out at the end of this video. Showcase your personality, bring your best energy and outline the course benefits from the beginning.
Become a Batching Belieber
Batching your content is hotly contested but I feel strongly that shooting your videos back-to-back is ultimately way more efficient. Setting up your equipment, cleaning your room and looking presentable can all take time so doing this endlessly is likely just to give you excuses to procrastinate. Depending on how energetic I am feeling, I can film up to 90 minutes of content in a go so aim for 30 min initially and see just how much you can get in.
A good microphone is key (I make use of a Rode video mic) and overall, keep it simple, talking off the cuff. Come back to your most handy tool, Notion, where you’ve drafted the outline of your script and refer to the talking points you’ve made there.
There are free and simple video editors to minimise friction; Filmora, Adobe Premiere Pro, iMovie to name a few…. But I can strongly recommend iMovie to beginners (for Mac users) - it really covers the solid, good basics, is straightforward and quick, and doesn’t complicate the process. If you do happen to have a Mac and are keen to delve into iMovie, you may enjoy this video - it's crammed full of editing tips.
For PC users, I’d say DaVinci, it’s free and a bit more advanced. For when you’re feeling fancy, dabble in Premiere Pro for colouring and titling and remember you’ve also got Canva that can be used to inject your creativity. Including visuals and interactive elements into your content such as templates, assignments and quizzes really help liven up your online course.
In terms of slide decks, make sure your formatting is tight as it helps keep your content to the point. You may find it helpful to open with a talking headshot and then your video pops into the bottom left hand corner as you go.
TOP TIP: Bear in mind you don’t want any graphic/imagery in the corner that would affect your slides.
A great tip for your final slide is to cue what’s coming next - this keeps people interested and engaged with your content beyond the end of that specific video. I can recommend using Loom, which allows you to press pause, subtracting all the editing work at the back end.
You may be wondering about including music in your videos. I’ve played around with bedding tracks across YouTube, Skillshare, Udemy and honestly, I find them more distracting. That being said, you could try a short backing track for your intro, with a jingle and then silence, besides for your sweet, smart voice.
What about sounds effects? These need to be subtle, if used at all. You could opt to selectively use a swish when swiping left or right, but what’s even more effective is the use of jump cuts bringing yourself closer as you’re mentioning an important point, or even cutting to the side if need be. If you’re someone who’s going to be filming their content predominantly seated, it would help to also zoom in at points when you’re sharing something more personal.
PUBLISH Many of us are so fixated on a perfect outcome that we often never get the project or task at hand truly off the ground. Another of my favourite YouTubers, Lavendaire (a fellow content creator and entrepreneur who is an excellent resource for personal growth & lifestyle design) maintains that getting it done is better than it being perfect, and so I’ve learnt to adopt a more of a professionalism approach rather than perfectionism. Think of this as more of an MVP (minimum viable product or minimum viable course) - get your videos up, start seeing the traction and take note of the feedback. It's unlikely that you will only ever do just one version of a course, as time goes by you’ll surely find yourself adding to it and evolving it as a whole. It may seem like a lot of work but ultimately you want to put something out there that’s tried, tested and which you can build upon.
Brainstorm your selling points as a teacher and your course’s selling points. Your promo video needs to make use of captions that speak to strengths such as your own experience and projects to date. With these in mind, get active about promoting by using platforms such as LinkedIn to promote your YouTube video and remember to include your Skillshare link. Again, Facebook Groups are a goldmine to promote your content and see peoples’ FAQs. All in all, you have the marketplace as a means to promote for you as well as going the extra mile and promoting to your mailing list and social media accounts.
Now, with Skillshare in mind, here’s another video to help you on your way.
As you know, creating an online course is a great method of generating passive income. Since establishing myself on the Skillshare platform in May 2020, I’ve earned about $2000, and gained over 1,200 students.
Remember your course needs to be practically centred as learning by doing is favoured with Skillshare. Project-based courses encourage interaction, engagement and feedback and including this fun element is imperative to one’s learning journey.
The format of your content needs to be focused and digestible. Skillshare operates on between 20-60min of pre recorded videos, with a minimum being as little as 10min. The ideal is to break your videos up into 2-5min servings, using varied content forms, spacers and visuals. The more digestible golden nuggets of info being served, the better.
Mix it up - use different lenses and means of recording, and Loom is a great tool for this. Designing your slides in Canva keeps them visually appealing well structured. Check that your headshot doesn’t interfere with screen, and making use of spacers; at the beginning of a segment with a title slide or an animation as an intro into the next piece of your course.
For Skillshare particularly, I suggest doing 6-10 subsets of a course. You would ideally shoot your promo video last, as that way you’ll know exactly what you’ve covered and not as well as your precise structure. Skillshare will allow self-promotion only in the intro and outro takes, along with your logo so cover