In late 2016, I sat down to set my goals for the following year. One of my biggest motivations was to significantly transform the way I generated income.
You see, for the previous eight or so years running Smart Passive Income (SPI), I’d generated the majority of my income from affiliate marketing. I still thought (and think!) affiliate marketing was a fantastic way to generate income, but I needed to add some nuance and diversity into the products and services I offered.
If you build your business entirely on recommending the products or services of others, you’re putting your business at risk. At any moment, the relationships you have with those product owners and services owners can go away. I’ve had that happen before. It wasn’t fun.
By creating my own products, I knew I could better serve my audience because I’d have full control over the product and could better craft it for my target audience. It would provide a better experience with the SPI brand as a whole. It would allow me to keep the SPI community within my ecosystem, and continue to foster that relationship by sharing new products I believed they could benefit from.
So how was I going to achieve all this?
By creating my own online courses.
Why Online Courses Can Be a Win–Win for You and Your Audience
The funny thing is, for years I knew I could create an online course, but to be honest with you, I was afraid.
I feared that I’d be doing it for the wrong reasons and that that’s how my audience would see it too. I didn’t want to just make something in order to make more money. That’s never the way to go, and that’s not who I am.
But then I heard from a number of smart people who told me I was actually letting my audience down by not creating online courses. One person, in particular, told me that they’d heard me talk about an online course I took once that had had a deep impact on me and my business.
I realized that by not creating online courses for my audience, I wasn’t paying it forward. I wasn’t giving my audience the same opportunity to discover that deep impact for themselves.
What kind of deep impact are we talking about, exactly?
Online courses provide a way for students to go deep on a topic in a way that’s convenient for them. A well-constructed online course provides everything students need to know, includes content of various media types to accommodate different learning styles, and allows each student to proceed at the pace that’s right for them. They let people get access to expertise that might be out of their reach financially—not everyone may be able to afford your coaching program, but a course might fit their budget and provide nearly the same benefit.
For you, the advantages can be huge too: A well-built course helps you build your authority as the expert on a topic, build community and develop new fans, and of course, make passive income. And online courses give you the ability to have a wide impact as well as a deep one: You can serve a lot of people—theoretically an unlimited number—with each course you offer.
Four Courses Out of the Gate: How Did We Do?
With all this in mind, I knew I wanted to make online courses a big part of the SPI brand. And so my plan for 2017 was ambitious: I was going to launch not just one (or two or three) but four new courses.
In October 2016, I beta launched my first online course, Smart From Scratch®, with over 200 students who gave me feedback to help me adjust the course for the public launch in March 2017.
Our goal for the year was to generate about $400,000 in sales from these courses.
Did we meet it? I’ll tell you in a minute. But first, I want to talk more about the fear I had of creating my own course, because you may be dealing with the same kind of fear right now.
Don’t Let the Fear of Selling Hold You Back
I hesitated for so long to build online courses because I was too afraid to sell to my audience. Here’s the big realization: You can sell and serve at the same time. I also realized that by creating courses for people who wanted to go deeper with me, I wasn’t taking anything away from the segment of my audience that prefers to take advantage of my free and lower-cost material.
That realization was huge. It pushed me past my fear of selling my online courses to other people, which was a huge relief, and allowed me to create better courses to better help and serve my audience. Now I see that I’m able to serve even more people, especially those who are willing to invest in themselves to achieve their goals. And for each course I create, my newfound confidence shows through in my sales pages, emails, and in the course material itself.
The Most Common Objections to Creating an Online Course
I hope that what I’ve shared so far has you excited about the possibility of creating your own online course—but what if the voice of doubt is still whispering in your ear? What if you still find yourself saying, “I don’t know if creating an online course is right for me”?
The truth is, courses really aren’t for all people and all businesses. I think the most important thing is to first ask yourself, “What are the problems, pains, and needs of my audience?” And then ask, “Does it make sense for me to build an online course and sell it in order to help them through those problems?”
If your gut answer is no, then building a course may not be the best choice for you, your business, or your audience. And that’s okay.
Beyond the key questions you must ask yourself, here are five of the most common objections or worries people have about creating their own online course:
- “I don’t know enough,” or, “I’m not qualified.” Is it that you don’t have enough to say/teach, or you’re just not sure how to get started creating a course for it? Knowing the difference can make all the difference.
- “There are other people teaching this topic.” Here’s the deal: If someone else is out there being successful teaching the thing you want to teach, that’s great! It means there’s a market for it. And it means there’s an opportunity for you to offer a better version or one tailored to a specific subset of that audience.
- “I don’t have a big enough audience.” Guess what? You don’t need a huge audience to have a successful course! And with some smart marketing (see #5 below), you’ll be able to get your course in front of more people who can benefit from it.
- “I’m not tech-savvy enough.” That’s okay! I’m going to show you how to overcome all the possible technical hurdles to building your course, in this guide.
- “I don’t know how to market it.” That’s okay! I’m going to show you exactly what you need to do to successfully market your course—you guessed it—in this guide.
With that out of the way, let’s return to the question I left hanging earlier: How did we do in the first year of selling those four courses to the SPI audience? Did we hit our $400,000 goal?
We sure did—in fact, we more than doubled it, with over $900,000 in course sales for 2017!
This blew my mind! But it also showed me that there was a need, and we’d been able to meet that need. In addition to the value created for the students of the courses, we also created quality assets and information that have generated income for SPI and my businesses in the years since.
Over the past few years, online courses have become a central part of SPI, with seven courses available at different price points (some free) to different segments of my audience.
- Smart From Scratch®: How to Find a Winning Business Idea & Land Your First Customer
- Power-Up Podcasting® 2.0: Everything You Need to Know to Launch and Market a Podcast That Matters
- 1•2•3 Affiliate Marketing: An Interactive Video-Based Training Program That Teaches You Step-By-Step How to Authentically Generate More Income with Affiliate Marketing
- Amp’d Up Podcasting: Automate, Market, & Profit So You Can Get Time Back, Grow Your Listenership, & Earn More
- Superfans COMPANION COURSE: FREE Bonus Material to Guide You Through the Exercises in Superfans
- Build Your Own Brand: A Free 5-Day Challenge to Help You Build a Brand and Website You Can Be Proud Of
- Will It Fly? COMPANION COURSE: FREE Bonus Material to Help You Read Through Will It Fly?
- Email Marketing Magic: Grow your list. Make more money. Automate like magic.
- A to Z Webinars: Grow your list. Increase trust. Make more money.
Since creating my first course, the SPI courses have together generated nearly $3 million in passive income! Just as importantly, they’ve helped me better serve my audience, foster a vibrant community around each course, and diversify my income sources. These courses aren’t just another piece of the income puzzle—they’ve become an integral part of the brand and how SPI serves its audience.
What You’ll Learn in This Guide
Are you excited to start developing your first online course? Let’s go over what you’re going to learn in this guide to building an amazing online course.
What exactly is an online course? How popular are they? What’s involved in creating one, and are they for everyone? We’ll cover all the big-picture stuff you need to know before you start creating your first course.
This is where we start to get our hands messy. Learn how to choose a topic, create your course outline, map out your modules and lessons, create your content, and put it all together.
For some, marketing their course is the most daunting step, so let’s take fear and confusion out of the equation and get you excited to share your course with the world!
These are my 38 best pieces of advice to every course creator. Use them to keep you on the right track and inspire you to greatness with your online course.
From not determining what your audience needs, to creating too much content, to not marketing your course effectively, there are several ways things can go wrong. Let’s make sure you steer clear of all of them.
It’s one thing to know what you need to do to create a successful online course—and it’s another to hear the stories of others who have overcome hurdles and succeeded in creating their own awesome courses.
Learn why I use Teachable for all of my courses—and why I recommend it to all aspiring course creators out there too.
Online courses represent an amazing opportunity to give people the information they need and create income for yourself. This guide is designed to give you everything you need to get started building and marketing your first online course—all you need to bring is your desire to teach and serve your audience by creating something great.
Ready? Let’s get this show on the road!