How to Build an Online Course

Maeve Ginsberg
5 min read

So you want to build an online course. Congratulations! This is an exciting addition to your business arsenal. 

At Picante Collective, we’ve helped businesses of all sizes build, launch, and grow online courses spanning industries and topics on platforms like Thinkific, Teachable, and beyond. We’ve compiled this experience into our How to Launch an Online Course series, designed to help anyone interested in launching an online course.

Whether you’re in the beginning stages of creating your course or have an existing course you’re looking to take to the next level, this guide will help you claim your stake in the course space.

What are the benefits of building an online course?

Quick recap: online courses are an excellent way to expand your business by offering valuable information in a digestible, affordable format. They can serve as passive income that still helps grow your brand identity and reputation. Sounds pretty great, right? Let’s get into how to create and launch your awesome online program.

How do you build an online course?

You’ll find there a million and one ways to build a successful online course. The range of options is exciting but can also be overwhelming. Whatever your topic and method, any course starts with passion and expertise. Keep this excitement in mind as you set out to build your product.

Pick your topic

Your topic of choice should be a combination of your own expertise in the field and demand for the topic.

  • Check Google Trends to see what people are searching for to determine your focus.
  • Search other course sites to see what’s popular. Popularity indicates demand, but keep in mind that this may indicate a saturated market. Choose your topic wisely! 
  • Find your niche within the topic to stand out. How in-depth you go or what level you’re targeting is an important factor: are you looking to help beginners or focusing on a more advanced approach? Do you have unique experience in the field that will inform your teaching? Are you looking to share traditionally academic knowledge in a more accessible format? 

Identify your target audience

Who is your primary customer? What can you teach them? What do they want to learn? 

  • Consider conducting market research. Facebook groups can be a great way to put surveys out beyond your personal network.
  • Be aspirational but realistic with your audience targets.

Create the course outline

What will you cover in each lesson? How many lessons will there be? How long will it take to complete? How will it be structured? How will students be assessed? Consider the different types of learners that will take your course.

  • Have a primary learning outcome that centers in every lesson and drives content.
  • Create a results checklist: a goal list of skills or information that everyone who completes the course will have.

Build out content

Creating course content can take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending on the length, depth, and format of your course. How much time can you invest in this step? 

  • Will you write and/or film the content yourself or hire someone?
  • How much of it will be written content versus video (film or screencast)? 
  • Create a timeline for yourself. Writing and recording content always takes longer than you might think, so it’s wise to have a realistic plan.

Pick your platform

There are many online course platforms from which to choose. Pick the one that suits your needs based on how much time and skill you want to invest into the building of the course, as well as specific features you want (examples: progress reports) and scalability for the future.

  • Build from scratch: There is always the option to completely DIY your program and host it yourself on a new or existing site you own. WordPress offers a number of plugins to do this. 
  • Use a platform: Existing online course programs offer a range of customization and support options. Consider the capabilities and help you’ll need as you build. Consider the marketing within the platform as well; some platforms are so extensive that your course might have a chance of getting buried in a massive library.

Think ahead

Your course will grow and change. You may have to adapt based on student feedback or you may have to scale to meet demand. Build your course with this flexibility in mind.

How do you launch an online course?

So, you’ve created your course and are ready to launch. This step is exciting but also requires careful planning to ensure a successful launch.

Know your audience

  • You’ve already identified who you want to take this course: how can you reach them?
  • Meet them where they are both in platform and messaging. If you market your course on a channel where your audience doesn’t have a strong presence, you will be wasting precious time and resources. Be sure to do your research to maximize your marketing. 

Price your course

Online courses can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few thousand. Consider your personal goals for the course’s revenue, the market you are entering, and your audience’s budget.

  • How will people pay? There are many models available: single payment, monthly memberships, payment plans, and more. 
  • Will you offer upsells and add-ons?  
  • Consider the cost of upkeep: customer service, growth, and marketing all require time, skill, and manpower.
  • There is a psychology to pricing. Lower prices might seem more affordable to you as the seller, but to the buyer, they may think that the low price corresponds with low value. Be sure to price your course fairly for both you and the buyer.

Create a marketing plan

Marketing doesn’t start on launch day. Create a timeline around launch day that establishes your brand and course so that when launch day arrives, your audience is ready and excited to enroll in your course.

  • Paid: Ads aren’t required per se but they can significantly boost course enrollment, particularly if you don’t have an existing audience.
  • Organic: Information about your course (and its links!) should be readily available on any and all of your platforms. Be sure to incorporate it on your website, email newsletter, and social media ahead of launch so that your audience is lined up to enroll on launch day. 
  • Consider a limited beta launch if you have a strong existing audience that would be interested in trying your course and giving feedback before a full market launch.

Looking for guidance on how to build a successful online course? Need a marketing plan for launching your course? We can help outline, build, launch, and market your course whether it’s a brand-new idea or an existing program. Get in touch today to see how we can help grow your course enrollment.