Your online course building questions answered
So it's safe to say online courses are all the rage these days and I know a lot of y'all are harboring dreams of potentially building one down the line as well. So today I'd love to answer some questions I've gotten a few times from all y'all who are toying with the idea of building a course.
Q: When should I build an online course? How do I know I'm ready?
A: First, there's the obvious, you feel like a legit expert on your topic, you know it forwards and backward and could talk people through your topic in your sleep. That's the first vital box that needs to be checked.
Second, this is important for the actual selling aspect, is when your audience is asking for it or you don't have enough hours in the day to serve all the people who want to work with you, building an online course is a good one to many type product, which enables you to spread your knowledge without needing to individually work with every person.
Now, the key here is people either asking for it or you have built an audience big enough that you can't serve them one on one anymore.
If neither of those things are true, I'm afraid it could be pretty darn difficult for you to actually sell the thing, and building a course is a MASSIVE time investment so it's pretty key you have some legitimately interested buyers lined up before you sink months of time into building your course.
Q: How do you find your course idea?
A: Build what your audience is asking for. If they're not asking for anything, now would be a fabulous time to get in touch with your people and figure out what they need. Now, if you know generally your topic but you're unsure about positioning your exact course, these methods could really help.
Q: How long does it take to build an online course?
A: As you could imagine, this varies absolutely wildly, depending on your topic and course format.
My course Square Secrets is a tech course teaching creative entrepreneurs how to build a Squarespace site for their service-based business. My format of delivery was almost entirely video lessons, as well as other linked resources, workbooks, and checklists. In order to create my content, I needed myself and a laptop.
Now, if you want to teach something like how to professionally dye hair, you're going to need to book time in a salon, find and schedule time with the people who you'll use as demos for the hair tutorials, and will need to shoot legit video tutorials that aren't just screen recordings of a computer.
As you could imagine, my course would take a LOT less time to create than the course on dying hair just because of the nature of the topic and format. So do think through what your format will be.
I can tell you that my course content is 10+ hours of video lessons plus a bunch of resources, workbooks, and checklists. Creating the course content and videos took me 7 weeks of full-time work (including working weekends sometimes.) In the course testimonials, I consistently saw people say that it was without a doubt the most comprehensive, in-depth, content-full course they've ever taken, so it paid off, but it was a LOT of work.
Now, building the course content is one thing, creating a sales page, preparing all the launch and marketing plan, setting up the tech (so much tech!) took me another 5 weeks. So all-in-all, I spent 3 full months from start to finish on my course. I didn't do any client work at that time, and worked weekends a lot.
I know I just made that sound rather daunting, but I can say that I absolutely loved those 3 months and found it such a pleasure to get to focus on one project and give it my all.
I can also say that I made an equal amount in my first launch to what I would have made had I been working one-on-one with clients in those 3 months. So, first launch complete, I made the same as what I would have made working with clients for those 3 months, but the difference is now, I can relaunch the course again and again and again. I will definitely need to update and tweak bits of the course over time, but the bulk of the course content is good to go launch after launch after launch.
That means that on my second launch, I only need to do the marketing and launching, enabling me to make much more in a couple week period than working with any client could.
So I honestly do see the time spent building the course as time really well spent, even though it was a massive amount of my year and I was rather poor for a while bringing in no income.
Q: How do you build an online course?
First, you'll need to choose the format of your course and then also the platform you'll host it on.
I can only speak to the type, of course, I've built, so if yours will be anything like mine (primarily screen shared video recordings, plus workbooks and checklists) here's how I did things:
I recorded videos with QuickTime and edited them in iMovie. I learned though that a more efficient way of doing this is using something like Screenflow because with that software you don't need to deal with saving the video and then importing it into a different software. I also used Handbrake to compress the video files. While Handbrake was an additional step, it cut down on the file size so much that uploading it to Teachable was wayyyy faster, and therefore it was worth taking the time to compress it before uploading.
After recording for a few weeks, I got pretty good at recording in one take and so for many videos, I didn't need to actually import them into iMovie to edit them - yay!
I decided to create all the courses workbooks in Google Docs. I have been in other courses before where they give PDF workbooks, but I often find I either don't have printer ink, don't want to kill a zillion trees by printing them even if I do have ink, or trying to fill them in and saving the edits on my computer is rather difficult.
I instead created fillable workbooks in a Google Doc that people could save to their own Drive or desktop and fill in. Much better!
Unfortunately, I didn't find a way I liked of creating checklists in Google Docs, so I did them the normal way - creating checklists in Adobe Indesign and saving them as PDF's.
Uploading to Teachable:
I think I've mentioned it once before, and I will say it again, the amount of tech and time that goes into creating a course was much more than I anticipated.
Platforms to host a course on are rather pricey, so it can be tempting to go for one that's maybe not so easy to use, is lacking a few features but is cheaper. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that I went for the most comprehensive and reliable course building platform our there - Teachable. Straight up, Teachable costs a pretty penny, but it was darn well worth it.
I loved having a course platform that straight up just worked, no headaches included. It was super easy to just hit upload on Teachable for all my course content files and organize modules, sections and other course settings.
There we go, those are the most common questions answered! If you have more questions for me, I'd def consider writing another post with more answers, so leave any questions for me in the comments below and you may just seem them answered in a future post.