By ProBlogger expert Sam Nordberg.
Online courses are the hottest thing right now. Everyone seems to be launching their own course, and looking for ways to make what they believe is “passive income” – but here are five of the biggest makes people are making with their online courses right now:
1. Not thinking about who they are writing for
When you are creating a course, you need to think really carefully about the end user. Who are they? How much do they know already? What do they want the outcome to be? How do they want to consume the information?
If you really want people to learn from your course, and get results from it, then you need to make sure the information is carefully targeted to meet their needs.
Imagine you were writing a course on nutrition. There is a big difference between writing a course for a professional athlete who really wants to fine tune their diet, and writing a course for someone who has been clinically obese for many years, and needs a lot of support to start from scratch.
Think carefully about who you are creating the course for, before you start creating. Really focus on a single, specific need.
2. Trying to fit everything in
It took you years to learn everything you know.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating their own course, is to try and share all of their knowledge. I get it, you want to add value, and make sure that you give them as much as you can.
The problem is, there is no way they can absorb all of that information, and actually start to implement it, all in one go.
It took you years to develop your skills and get to where you are, it will take them a while too.
Focus on delivering smaller chunks of information, with a bigger focus on implementation (that is getting your students to actually try doing things) rather than just giving them lots of information.
3. Just recording videos and making PDFs
A course is more than just great content.
Sure, videos and PDFs are useful way to provide information to a student, but there is more to a course than simply content.
Before you start throwing together your content, consider the following:
– What support will they need?
– How will you get them actively involved?
– How will you get them to implement what they have learnt?
– How will they know if they are getting it right/wrong?
– What might they need before the course or after the course?
A course is a process, you take your students on a journey from beginning to end. Before you start to put content together, it’s worth thinking about that journey as a whole.
4. Not providing support
I’m sure you’ve seen it… you land on their sales page, and you have the two options: buy it for less money and just get the content, or pay more money and get their assistance/support/coaching to help you.
Here’s the problem… If they know that you’ll need support to help you get better results, then why don’t they make it part of the course? Why can you buy a course with no support?
One of the biggest problems with online learning is the lack of support. Students need someone to turn to. They might need help understanding the content, maybe they have technical problems, or maybe they just need to talk it over to really understand what they have learnt.
If you know that your students will need support of some kind (or simply, you know that they will get better results with support) then make sure it’s available to them.
You can look into providing a forum, or support group, having live calls, or even providing phone and email support for them.
Note: There are occasions where a course really doesn’t need support. Maybe the content is fairly basic and self-paced. If this is the case, feel free to sell the course without support.
5. Thinking courses are great passive income
Don’t get me wrong here, courses are a great way to LEVERAGE your income, and they allow you to spend your time one-to-many, rather than one-on-one, but they are certainly not passive. At least, not to start with.
As you’ve seen so far, there is more to a course than just putting your content online and charging people to access it.
You’ll need to promote your courses, help students sign up, answer any questions before, during and after, provide live support, help students to implement… and much more.
Courses are a great way to help your audience.
Courses are a great way to leverage your income.
Courses are a great way to help you monetise your knowledge.
But they are not completely passive. As with anything they require some hard work to set up, and lots of support on the way through.
You can definitely outsource some of that work, but be aware that to begin with, you’re going to be putting in some hard yards.
Courses really are a great way to grow your business, and to help you spread your message…. Just keep these simple things in mind as you start.
- Really think about who you are creating the content for and what they need to know
- Don’t try and squeeze it all in. Little bits of information that they actually use, is much more valuable than lots of information they never get around to
- Think about the whole process, not just the content
- Make sure your students get the support they need
And remember, it might be hard work to start with, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Sam Nordberg shows people how to take their passion and knowledge and create an online course that sells. You can learn more about her here and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
This article was first published July 20, 2016 and updated June 9, 2022.
This is exactly what I was thinking too, Sam. Considering the increasing number of bloggers, with their over-the-top online courses – I think there’s already too much of resources to choose from. The competition is way too high, so bloggers really need to get serious about how they think they’re going to make a passive income out of their passion.
Like you said, it’s not only about recording videos and making PDFs. I completely agree with this. Gone are the days of just providing great content. End users are way too smarter now. But I do believe courses are a great way to help the audience and make money for yourself at the same time. The only thing is we’ve got to do it right. Thumbs up for such a great post.
Thanks for your comment Soham.
I completely agree :) I’m a huge advocate for course creation, but there needs to be some strategy and thought behind it, not just a jumble of content.
Yeah exactly. Hope bloggers will put this into practice :)
You mentioned some really excellent points here. The biggest mistake bloggers with online courses make is that they do not provide support.
This makes the student feel abandoned. Supporting them through one-on-one live chat will help them keep engaged.
Constantly following up on the progress of students is also a great way to support them. You outlined some really big mistakes that many bloggers should focus on.
Thank you for commenting. You are right, live chat is a great way to offer support. We’d all hate for our students to feel abandoned.
One of the most important thing that people should take into consideration in online courses is analyzing the content he is providing and decide its pricing based upon the ‘uniqueness of the content it contains’.
I have seen people who offer courses that provide content which is already in the market and charge huge amount. So the main point here is they should do proper research and based on their personal experiences, their unique achievement can be used as a great content for other people for which they can charge.
Moreover you have rightly said that one should target specifically without including everything that’s fits in. Btw Great one. Cheers!
Suresh, good point, but price can be based on more than just content.
For example: 2 courses might offer the same content, but if one is self paced, and the other offers a huge range of support and assistance, then you would expect it to cost more.
I share the same thoughts Sam. Top notch content creation gives the creator and the people big confidence in the product. One should be truly passionate while creating the course including his own tips and tricks. Courses created should make people blow their mind so that they can say, ‘Ah man! This is what I was looking for’. Once a person feels the course is promising, he definitely promotes it to the like minded people.
Ruchit – so true.
A great course, with good support, should get lots of referral students.
Great tips, I will create an advanced WordPress course in Brasul, yes I am Brazilian, and I see a lot of potential here in Brazil but I had some doubts about what to deliver.
Work on delivering the things they really need to know, to give them the outcomes they want. What do they want to know about advance WordPress?
Wonderful article. I’ve just started my blog about kitchen appliances. Sometimes it’s difficult to adapt things for a specific audience. But I’m doing my best. Thank you and keep up with the good job. Love the content you post here always.
As you get to know your audience it will become easier to do :)
For example: Are they technically minded? Do they want the stats and figures about their pressure cooker?
Or are they more emotionally driven? Do they want to hear more about the ease of use, and the aesthetic look of it?
You can always survey your audience to find out more about them, and what they really want to know.
Excellent post which asks some pressing questions.
I created an absolutely phenomenal audio course for bloggers – 1 of a kind – but hadn’t thought of the support bit. Sure helps to bring people onboard who know they will receive email or chat assistance when they have questions about some aspect of the course.
I have been breaking down many fundamentals of successful blogging – the course topic – 1 at a time through both videos and posts on my blog. This does a few things. Advertises my course to prospective students but it also gives current students refreshers on the concepts, especially the mindset/energy ones, which are tough to grasp.
Definitely thinking about the exclusive email support. Maybe a Facebook Group (closed) for folks to come with their questions.
Thanks Sam, you rock :)
Signing off from sunny Cyprus.
I like your feedback. I am developing an online personal image course and wonder how long each session should be before I lose the attention of my clients? I plan to use videos and exercise during each session..
How long are your audio lessons?
Way cool. Happy you’re doing an online course.
My audio sessions are roughly 30 minutes per module, for 11 blogging lessons. You can do anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes I think before clients may find their attention span wandering unless you have Tony Robbins’ like, commanding, light up a room energy flowing through you as you create your videos. But really, if your audience loves your delivery, 30 to 60 should rock, although 20 minutes could work too.
I am a ham, kinda silly, light and intend to entertain, so my audio files are super high energy/a bit hyper at times and certainly do the best job possible at keeping my readers and students awake ;)….so they can get blogging tips from a fun, educational, helpful space.
Thanks for asking the question Diane.
Can we add #6 – Only Providing Videos
People learn different ways. Some learn visually and other learn better by reading.
Not only does a written version accommodate the learn by reading crowd you also accommodate the visually impaired.
I quit SitePoint’s Learning for the very reason there was no written content. I also declined signing up for one of the most popular marketers/bloggers course for the very same reason.
Hey Sam, you made some very good points, bloggers really have to offer a good support system for their courses, this helps students to clarify things they don’t understand and should be a minimal criteria for online courses. I personally like email and skype support, it’s quick, easy and convenient. Live chat is great too though. I’ll be keeping your post as a reference for when I launch my first online course, I’m actually busy with one as we speak but it’s still a work in progress. Thanks for the awesome post and helping us fellow bloggers!