More and more people take an online digital course to gain job skills, start their own businesses, learn about a hobby and expand their minds. It’s easy for anyone to learn online at his or her own pace without the high costs of college or the hassle of returning to school. The U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics reported that college enrollment dropped by 90,000 students between 2016 and 2017. However, more students are taking college classes and other ongoing educational courses online. In fact, online course enrollment grew by 350,000 students during the same period. 
It’s clear that there is a rapidly growing market for educational courses, and business owners, entrepreneurs, teachers and skilled people in all kinds of areas are using the trend to market digital educational courses. You can create and market your own course as a successful business enterprise. There’s some research and course-writing work involved, but once you’ve finished the preparation, your online course can generate steady passive income. You can earn even more if you offer webinars, lectures, and virtual classes, and there are course creation platforms that will help you do the work.
- 2 Six Steps Involved in Creating and Marketing a Successful OnlineCourse Business
- 4 How Do You Actually Make Money with Online Courses?
- 5 Choosing the Best Course-Building Platform to Rock the World of Your Target Audience
- 6 Marketing Alchemy 101 for Promoting Your Online Course
- 7 Videos Will Command 80 Percent of Internet Traffic by the End of 2019
Six Steps Involved in Creating and Marketing a Successful Online
If you want to know how to create an online course, it’s relatively easy to do so. Your online course business can become a cash cow if you set it up properly, market it well and provide good customer service.
The first step is to choose your niche. You can research your topic, but it’s likely you’ll miss some important aspects of what you’re trying to teach unless you’re a crack researcher. It’s best to choose an area that you know well from your own business, educational background or work experience.
You can also hire someone else to write your course such as an expert in the field or an experienced writer or educator. It’s important to plan how you’ll earn money while writing your online course. Some of the most effective plans leverage market trends, news success stories and unique approaches to popular courses that can differentiate your course from run-of-the-mill offerings.
One of the most effective strategies is to choose a very specific topic within your chosen category. That leaves room for expansion to other related topics and upselling based on technology advances. These six steps are essential when creating a successful course:
- Test Your Idea Thoroughly Before Designing Your Course
You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel; you’re just putting a shiny hubcap spinner on it. Research your field on the internet to find out how many educational courses appear. Real-world data are essential for gauging your potential response. Is the niche popular on Facebook? How strong is the competition? If there are too many courses, you might have trouble competing. If there are too few courses in the field, there might not be a market for the course.
- Create an Appealing Brand for Your Targeted Demographic Student
What type of student are you looking to attract? You might be targeting millennials, bored baby boomers looking for a change or working parents seeking to earn extra money moonlighting. Your brand and concept must appeal to your ideal customer. Young people are often idealistic and interested in social justice, ethical business dealings, and environmental causes.
Tailor your course and marketing to your audience. You’d write very differently to appeal to a construction worker looking to learn new construction and engineering techniques than you would to engage a middle-class parent looking to start a website and learn about search marketing. Regardless of style, you should strive to create relevant content while appealing to prospects with your company’s unique take on the subject.
- Build Your Audience Using All Available Tools
You can build your market and network using a variety of online tools. Creating videos and appealing graphics, email campaigns, social media promotions, discounts, and incentives can generate sales and buzz about your course that can turn into leads and referrals. You can also partner with other companies to create training courses and hire your course graduates. If your course has local interest, you can meet groups in the community, speak as an expert at events and sponsor a contest or prize at local festivals.
- Chart Your Course with a Comprehensive Outline
Outlines will keep your course organized and make it easier to arrange things chronologically so that you’re not teaching advanced techniques to beginners who don’t have the necessary background knowledge. Miguel at Grumo.com offers this video on creating an outline for a digital course. 
- Cover All Essential Topics Before Fine-tuning Your Course
Using your outline, begin creating content, lessons, video scripts and quizzes and tests for your students to gauge what they’ve learned. Begin with the basics but be sure to cover all the most important topics at a minimum. Once you’ve got a rough draft, you can flesh out the course with improvements, footnotes, references, graphics, videos, webinars, and links to external resources.
Depending on how you’re presenting your material, you might want to hire coders to create course software or freelance writers to transform your words into professionally written and error-free content. Keep in mind that video content, live podcasts, guest lectures, and other special features need to be included in your outline and rough draft of the course. The course-production costs – both direct and indirect – should be included in the budget when setting your prices.
- Engage and Use Your Customers by Focusing on Their Success
It’s critical to focus on customer success, and you should consider building a network of job opportunities, online resources, testimonials and reviews from satisfied course graduates. Show prospects clearly how the course will benefit them and provide the tools they need to succeed.
How Do You Actually Make Money with Online Courses?
People go online for information, social engagement, and entertainment. People love to learn things about an astonishing number of topics that hold their interest. For example, a designer might want to learn a programming language to expand his or her skills. Bored or inexperienced homemakers might want new ideas for dinner, so these prospects are strong leads for an online cooking course.
The tools and equipment for creating online courses are cheaper than ever according to an article at Thebalancemb.com. Online learning is big business, and experts predict it will generate $240 billion in sales by 2021. 
What you know is valuable to other people. How much time and money have you lost because you didn’t know the rules? You don’t have to be a genius; you just have to know more than most people about your topic. You might have skills and insights that can save people money, earn them extra income, help them while traveling in a foreign country or get them through college.
If you’re already in business, it’s easy to add an online course in your field, and you’ve got a built-in audience of existing customers to whom you can market your course. You’re not limited to customers, however. You can teach students anywhere in the world and earn a regular income by paying it forward with your knowledge and research.
You earn money by charging a fee for the course. You can also earn money from the advertising that is featured on your website. Complimentary advertising works best, but you can also leave the advertising to Google Ads to earn an automatic fee every time someone clicks on your ad link. You can market course-related products on your website and earn a commission or sell directly from your business inventory.
You have the choice of marketing your course independently or working with an educational platform. If you do everything yourself, you’ll need to design a website, create compelling content, produce videos, write course material, arrange for content hosting, book an email provider and apply for credit card processing and a payment gateway to accept online funds.
Choosing the Best Course-Building Platform to Rock the World of Your Target Audience
Your course subject matter and target audience must align if you want the greatest possible business success. Bypassing startup costs by using an online course platform makes good sense for most aspiring educational entrepreneurs. Choosing the right platform is the devil in the details.
Online Educational Course Platforms Can Vary Wildly, so Choose the Right Platform for Wildly Successful Sales
Working with an online course educational platform might be the easiest way to begin. Course creation platforms include course marketplaces and course creation software. If you choose a marketplace learning platform, your course becomes part of the company’s catalog of educational services. Most of these platforms allow you to publish for free, but they take a percentage of your sales. The advantage of a marketplace is that you have an existing student base and fewer startup costs.
Course creation software, once developed and debugged, can be sold in multiple forums, but this effort requires some basic coding skills. There are many tools available online, however, to help you overcome limitations, educate you on coding techniques, simplify writing code for multiple operating systems and supply an editor for writing and troubleshooting code.
You can sell your software anywhere in the world through Google and other search engines, industry websites related to your course, your own website and other branded landing pages. Some of the marketplace platforms also provide a forum for selling educational software. These platforms usually charge a fixed monthly fee, but some charge fees based on each transaction.
How to Create an Online Digital Course Using One of the Best Course-Building Platforms
Choosing the best platform for your needs will require a bit of research. The list that is recommended by Zapier.com meets the general criteria for effective course building. However, feel free to check out other options during your research. Zapier.com recommends these 10 platforms: 
Udemy is one of the most popular, oldest and largest of the online learning platforms. The platform enjoys an instructor base of 35,000 and more than 24 million students. However, you must become a premium instructor to qualify. The platform offers easy-to-follow instructions to create your first online course. You will need to include 30 minutes or more of video and five lectures.
Udemy can help you choose your course topic with analytical insights such as market size, popularity, top-earning course, best keywords for marketing and effective promotional strategies. The platform charges 3 percent of your course sales through coupons, 50 percent for sales made through Udemy resources and 75 percent through sales made from its acquisition channels.
ClickFunnels is a very popular platform for creating sales funnels as well as for creating membership sites, including online digital course membership sites. They are known for their “2 Comma Club”, which includes those who have generated at least a million dollars through the use of a ClickFunnels sales funnel.
Eliademy is considered to be a platform for traditional formats using the Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, template. This involves using a course template and including quizzes, tests, lectures and discussion forums. Eliademy has more than 40,000 students, and the most popular courses include the arts, design, law topics, technology, philosophy, and social sciences. You can also include links to external websites such as Slideshare, Vimeo, YouTube, and Prezi. The costs of building your course are free if you pay a 30 percent commission on sales. Other flat-rate fee structures are available – in addition to a 10 percent commission – for creating confidential courses, landing pages, and webinars.
The Skillshare platform specializes in creative skills such as marketing, cooking, photography, art and even household skills like wallpaper hanging. The platform has more than 22,000 courses. It’s a free sign up and publishes your course, but your course must be approved as a premium to get into the catalog and get paid. Premium courses must feature 20 to 50 minutes of video lessons in 2-5 minute sessions. You also need a project where your students can demonstrate hands-on skills such as students promoting their Instagram accounts. Skillshare pays royalties for the minutes that students access your course each month.
Teachable integrates with email marketing, Google Forms, and affiliates that you can use to market your online course. You can build a website that supports your brand, and Teachable imports files from Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. This ability makes it easy to collaborate with associates and experts in your field and market your course using all available forums. The pricing structure is flexible, and the options include one-time fees, payment plans, and subscriptions. The built-in affiliate marketing application allows you to build your enrollment faster using an affiliate marketing strategy.
Podia allows you to create your own membership platform – sort of a mini Facebook or LinkedIn. You can create your own membership plans, paid courses, perks and incentives. You can also post other kinds of digital content in your own online “store.” each store has a landing page that includes a “What’s Included” section, FAQs, content section and course creator biographies and qualifications.
After creating your course, you can publish it immediately or pre-launch the course to build your student base. There are no transaction fees, and the cost of your online store starts at $39 and up per month to sell courses, memberships, and downloads and enjoy access to email marketing campaigns.
Thinkific provides a turnkey approach that helps you build a website, create your course with multiple templates and provide video lessons. The website builder is one of the easiest to use for inexperienced web designers. The costs are 10 percent of all transaction fees. That entitles you to unlimited courses, students and other website products. You can alternatively pay 5 percent of transaction fees and $49 per month for the platform’s Essentials plan, which includes coupons, promotions, course bundles and marketing integrations.
You can use Kajabi to build your database by offering a free download like an e-book. The visitors enter the email and are taken to another page where you can offer discounts on courses and products. It’s a great way to jump-start your online business. There are many templates you can use to build your course, obtain profiles of prospective students and launch email marketing campaigns.
Ruzuku is an ideal platform for hosting webinars and self-paced courses. The courses have little interaction with students during self-paced study, but you can schedule webinars to interact with students at key points. Ruzuku offers teleconferencing service and external services such as Livestream and Ustream. The cost of the service is $99 per month for a single instructor with unlimited courses, students and coupons. A payment gateway is included so that you can get paid.
It’s fun to pronounce “WiziQ,” and it’s an ideal platform for setting up your own virtual classroom. You can create standard online courses with self-paced study at WiziQ, but the unique selling point of the platform is the ability to host live class sessions. the platform provides a wealth of teaching tools such as YouTube video streaming, whiteboards, screen sharing, live chat and more. this platform is perfect for professors, teachers and remote companies that want to train their staffs. The fees start at $80 per month for the Lite plan that accommodates 100 students, virtual classes, tests, 40 recordings, and traditional online courses.
Why think small? You can create your own online school at Learnworlds with a course catalog and multiple teachers. You can offer as many courses as you like based on various prices. The platform even includes a branded app for an additional fee. You can create e-books, videos, external links and more. The basic cost for the Starter plan is $29 per month and a $5 fee for each course sale.
Building an Online Learning Community with Valuable Leads from Your Website
There are many ways to build your online learning community. If you use a hosted marketplace platform to create your course, you’ll probably have an existing base of student prospects. If you own a business, you can use your own customers and marketing lists.
Contacting bloggers and convincing them to write about your course is an excellent way to build your customer base. You might want to offer bloggers an affiliate deal so that they earn commissions for every click that results in a purchase of your course.
Your own website and social pages can produce a wealth of leads based on visitor behavior. You can target audiences with pages and/or ads on Facebook and other social media. One way to build an audience for your brand is to take a stance on a related topic in your field. You can position your business as an authority on the subject. Sending out a press release is a time-honored way to attract publicity.
Offering a free sample is also an effective way of building your network. You can offer a free introductory lesson from your course as a series of emails. The only obligation for the customer is to sign up for your newsletter and/or email communications.
Marketing Alchemy 101 for Promoting Your Online Course
Marketing online is different than traditional advertising. People often spend only a few seconds waiting for a page to load or to get answers to their questions. That’s why you have to be proactive about curating your leads. The competition for online course sales is fierce. Universities, independent educators and entrepreneurs are jumping in the pool with specialty courses and traditional college courses.
There are thousands of free and paid online courses from which to choose. That’s why you’ve got to distinguish your course from the cattle call of courses. Experts use their credentials and authority to attract students. You can do the same by developing authoritative links to your website, using the right keywords, supplementing generic searches with paid advertising, establishing a social media presence and getting reviews and testimonials from course graduates.
You can also learn a lot by monitoring your competition to see where they’re advertising. That doesn’t mean that you should copy your competitors, but research can give you ideas for marketing your unique selling point. Some of the best marketing ideas for selling online digital courses include:
- Knowing Your Audience – Everything that site visitors do on your website is valuable information for qualifying leads and developing customer profiles. Existing customers and new site visitors reveal much information by what they do, how long they linger, and which parts of your site engage their attention. Using this information, you can make educated guesses about their buying habits, educational level, and demographic profiles.
- Taking a Shortcut to Keyword Research – Paid advertising – such as pay-per-click ads at Google – can serve as a test site for keywords and marketing ideas. You can test different combinations to see how many clicks each approach generates. The beauty of PPC ads is that you only pay if someone clicks on the link. You can use your results – and excellent analytics data from Google Analytics – to make wiser marketing decisions for organic SEO marketing.
- Gauging the Pulse of Your Targeted Audience – You don’t have to guess what your customers want – they’ll tell you directly or by their behavior. Taking surveys of potential students is an ideal way to find the most qualified leads for email marketing campaigns.
- Using a Course-building Platform for Access to 24 Million Students – Udemy has more than 24 million students, so it’s easy to see the marketing advantages of using an online course platform.
- Leveraging Social Media Promotions to Generate a Steady Pipeline of Leads – Some business owners don’t recognize the value of social media promotions, which are often indirect. However, millennials are the best demographic group for most online educational courses, and millennials engage on social media religiously and hate heavy-handed promotions. Blue Fountain Media reveals that 90 percent of marketers find that social media promotions generate steady traffic, sales, and referrals.  The benefits of marketing your course on social media – according to Blue Fountain Media – include:
- Increasing brand awareness and course visibility
- Improving your rankings in organic searches
- Strengthening conversion rates
- Gaining business intelligence about market trends and the concerns of your targeted audience
- Gaining a forum where you can demonstrate thought leadership to attract students to your course
Videos Will Command 80 Percent of Internet Traffic by the End of 2019
You might want to produce a series of videos for your course and marketing purposes. Videos will make up 80 percent of internet traffic by the end of 2019, and YouTube reports that mobile video watching doubles each year.  Producing your own videos doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and the videos can outline the major points of your course so that people can view them on the go on their phones. For example, this simple video extols the virtues of the Thinkific course-building platform.  In the video, Steve Dotto of Dottotech.com discusses how he uses Thinkific as a turnkey resource for building an online course. Dotto is a well-known online educator, productivity nerd and software developer, and publisher.
You don’t have to wonder how to create an online digital course. Tips and instructions are available for any area of marketing, course creation, SEO, videography and web design – just go online. You can even take an online digital course. Once you succeed at earning the big bucks, you can write your own course on how to create an online course. Pay it forward by sharing your special expertise or knowledge.
 Insidehighered.com: Online Education Ascends
 Youtube.com: How To Create An Outline for Your Online Course
 Thebalancemb.com: How do you make money selling online courses?
 Zapier.com: The 10 Best Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses
 Bluefountainmedia.com: 10 Advantages of Social Media Marketing for Your Business
 Forbes.com: 17 Stats And Facts Every Marketer Should Know About Video Marketing
 Youtube.com: How We Use Thinkific to Create an Online Course