Courses Hero

Online courses are one of the most popular ways for industry experts to make money and teach people valuable skills.

With so many online courses available, you might be interested in setting up online classes and generating your own revenue. 

This guide will teach you how to create an online course through actionable steps and specific guidance. By the end, you'll know exactly how to get started.

How To Create an Online Course in Eleven Steps

When creating an online course, there are 11 steps to stick to. This chapter will highlight each step and show you how it works.

Here are the 11 steps to create an online course:
1. Choose an Online Course Topic: Teach What You Believe In
2. Determine Your Target Audience
3. Deep Dive into the Course Topic
4. Pre-Launch Your Course (Sell Your Idea)
5. Develop the Course Outline
6. Gather the Course Material
7. Determine the Right Pricing
8. Choose Your Course Platform
9. Market Your Online Course
10. Foster a Sense of Community
11. Ask Your Students for Feedback

1. Choose an Online Course Topic: Teach What You Believe In

Your online course needs to revolve around a central topic. This topic should be something you're passionate about, believe in, and know a ton about.

Choosing a topic strictly because you think it will make you money is not a good idea. If you can't offer a unique take or talk about something you're knowledgeable about, people won't take your course — anyone else can Google information, so why should they care?

Your experience and passion are what sell the course.

However, picking a topic you love that doesn't have a market will make it tough to sell the course. If it's too niche, it'll be too hard to find your audience. There's a delicate balance between the two. Ideally, you'll find a topic you care about that other people also care about.

So, how do you choose a course topic? Here are three questions to ask yourself:

What Are You Good At?

What are you good at? What do you do for fun? What never feels like work to you that others admire your ability to do? You should ask yourself these questions to determine what your course should teach.  

If you're good at something, people will want to hear you talk about it. More importantly, they want to figure out how to be good at the same thing — this is where your online course comes in. People will pay you to teach them something as long as you're good at it.

What Do You Enjoy Doing?

Learning how to create an online course starts with passion. Your passion will be evident in every course you create. Your course will fall flat if you don't care about the topic. People won't be inspired, and your sales will reflect that.

If you light up when you talk about a particular topic, this might be an excellent place to start. Pick a topic that you love.

What Do You Know Well Enough To Teach?

You should only consider topics that you already know a lot about.

If you have to teach yourself about it first, you'll face a lot of frustration in the coming weeks. Learning enough to become an expert is a challenging feat. 

You'll spend a lot of time simply catching up. You can remove most of the upfront work by choosing a topic you're knowledgeable about already.

2. Determine Your Target Audience

Once you have a course topic, you must determine your target audience. Who do you want to sign up for your course? Who can benefit from your course? Who has an interest in the topic at hand? These are the people you'll be marketing towards. 

Who Is Your Audience?

Depending on your course, the answer to this question could be really easy or seriously difficult. If you're going to teach people how to be a bodybuilder, your audience will revolve around people who have a passion for lifting weights and working out already.
At a minimum, you should determine your audience's age range, interest, and level of experience.
Making an online course for 20-year-old hobbyist bodybuilders is very different than making a course for 60-year-olds with no experience in the gym. 

Your target audience will determine the following:
• How you speak
• How you present the information
• How you market your online course
• How you make your course relevant to the audience

You can do keyword research to determine the related content people are looking for. Your research will give you a better picture of your target audience's passions and interests. Try looking up "how to be a bodybuilder," then look at the results and related questions.

What Problem Do You Solve for Them?

Your course exists to solve a problem — this is why people will enroll in the first place. What is that problem? How do you make your students' lives easier through this course?

If your course is about home cooking, you should identify common issues that the everyday home chef experiences. Talk about pairing spices together, how to use the tools in a kitchen correctly, and tips for quickly dicing onions without crying.

If a course isn't solving any problems, there's no point in making the course in the first place. 
People will sign up to learn something new, solve problems they experience, and gain insight from an expert in that field.

Now would be the perfect time to start joining as many Subreddits, Facebook Groups, and Linkedin groups related to your topic as possible. Become friends with people in your space — the teachers and the students.

See what problems potential customers are having and what they are asking questions about. How can you steer your course to better fulfill their needs based on what they are saying in their communities? 

Straight up, ask the groups if they would sign up for a course about your specific topic. Qualify your idea with field research proving there is a buyer market for your solution. Use the existing communities surrounding your topic to fine-tune the contents of your online course site.  

3. Deep Dive Into the Course Topic

The next step is to dive deeply into the topic you're making a course for. It's all about creating value for your course.

When you know your topic or have an idea, it's time to find out what the other people teaching this subject online are covering. The last thing you want to do is create a course that barely scratches the surface of your expertise or is just like another course already out there.

What areas do other courses on the market drill down into the most about your topic? Are there gaps in the market for what you know about the topic? Can you present the info more concisely than your competitors?
Brainstorm these questions.

Build a list of all the valuable teachings you can bring to people through a course on your topic.

4. Pre-Launch Your Course (Sell Your Idea)

There might be a gap between your interest in a topic and the market's interest in the same topic. That means you might waste time developing an online course that people won't purchase.

How can you avoid this problem? By pre-launching your course.

A pre-launch is like a practice round for you. It will give students a live trial of your course while giving you invaluable feedback before your official launch.

From this pre-launch, you can learn a lot — how much interest there is in the course subject, how much more effort you should put into the course, and how well people respond to your teaching style.

Your pre-launch can be a skeleton of what your final course will be. You're doing this pre-launch to learn which directions to go, so it's best to do it before fully finishing your course.

In other words, a pre-launch course might be a short 15-minute version of a course that turns into a 10-hour course.

Here are a few steps to consider to have a successful pre-launch.

Recruit Students for Your Pre-Launch

To get the right feedback, you need the right audience. You can recruit students through high-quality email marketing, reaching out to your peers, talking to coworkers, or asking your neighbors.

If you have a social media presence or subscribers to your online blog, send them an email to gauge their interest and see if they want to be included.

Another great place to find potential students is at industry events. You already know the attendees are at least interested in your subject matter.

If you need to promote your course across different channels, then your course needs a well-done landing page.

Be Up-Front With Your Students

During your pre-launch stage, transparency is key. Let your students know that this is a pre-launch, you're trying to learn their needs and wants, and prompt as many questions from the students as possible.

The pre-launch is all about information gathering so you can put the most value into your course. Knowing how people feel about your course is imperative, and the best way to get honest feedback is to be upfront.

Collect Feedback from Students

Before every session, you should introduce the topic and ask your students what questions they have about the topic before you even cover it. This question will gauge upfront curiosity so you can structure your course to answer certain questions.

Record Your Course Content

Now it's time to record your pre-launch content. Don't overthink it.

All it takes is a few slides with a recorded voiceover. Don't forget to include images to keep the audience's attention. If you want a seamless way to put the content together, use Simplero's course hosting service.

Schedule a Follow-Up Q&A

Before the pre-launch course, you asked your students for feedback. Now that the trial course is complete, it's time to do the same.

Collecting this feedback is best to do on a live call. Ask which topics are still unclear, if any initial questions are unanswered, and how the students felt about the course.

This second round of feedback will open your eyes to topics you should have included in your presentation initially for comprehensive coverage. You should incorporate this feedback into your course before you officially launch it.

5. Develop the Course Outline

An outline will help you focus your thoughts — even if your course is massive. Spend some time to ensure the outline progresses naturally and covers all the topics students want to hear about in the pre-launch.
An outline is a roadmap.

You should ask yourself questions like:
• What does my student want to learn?
• What is the end goal?
• What value will my course add?
• What are essential things to know about my subject?

These questions will help you put together your outline.

At the beginning of your outline, try to include a "quick win." or a quick piece of advice or information that proves your course's value from the start. If your course is about making music, you might start by sharing a song that a previous student made before and after taking your course.

You'll learn a lot more about course outlines in Chapter 2.

6. Gather the Course Material

Your course revolves around the material. You won't be talking directly to students in a classroom, so you have a few choices. Do you want to present your course using written text, audio, video, or a combination?
Most course designers use all three for the best results.

How will you structure your quizzes, and when will you include them? These will make sure students are paying attention and actively learning.

Varied learning is the best approach here. Your students will not all learn the same way, so mixing up your approach is a great idea.

Add some visual, auditory, and hands-on aspects to your course.

While putting together course material, remember that your students aren't just looking for you to give them Google results. They want to hear from you: the industry expert. You should still be guiding each student through the process. The course material is just an aid to help you do that.

Don't overstuff too much content in your course. It's a delicate balance that takes some trial and error to get the right combination of course material and information.

7. Determine the Right Pricing

Now comes the part that makes course creators uncomfortable: pricing. At the end of the day, your course is there to generate revenue for you — but it's coming from a good place since it revolves around teaching people about a topic you are passionate about.

How do you price your course?

When the price is too low, potential buyers will think there's not enough value in your course and skip over it.

If the price is too high, it could discourage potential students and exclude people who can't afford it.
The best way to pick your price is to:

  • Look at your competitors. How much is their course, and how much information do they cover? Compare that to your own course.
  • Consider how much time you spent. Spending a thousand hours creating a course would justify a much higher course price than someone who spent ten hours putting theirs together. If you spent more time on your course, the quality is probably higher, the information is likely more comprehensive, and you can charge more as a result.
  • Consider how valuable your insight is. A "how to start a business" course from Steve Jobs probably has some invaluable insight that other business creators can't measure up to. Understand your position in your industry, and value the weight of your insight.

For reference, many entry-level courses are priced at $497, while flagship courses cost around $1,997. Just make sure you don't sell yourself short and undercharge. Once the money starts rolling in, use a payment manager like Simplero to alleviate some headaches.

8. Choose Your Course Platform

The next consideration is where you'll host your course. The course platform you use will directly tie to how many people see your course and how large your student pool is.

Picking a course platform is like deciding if you want to buy a billboard in Wyoming or Times Square.
When a course platform has more visibility, you'll be introduced to a larger group of people with the potential to turn into students.

A lot of course creators choose Simplero as their host. Simplero introduces your course to an audience, makes formatting your course easy, comes with a mobile app for students, handles payments, and takes care of customer relationship management— all through one platform.

9. Market Your Online Course

After completing a course, marketing will become your new most significant focus. In general, marketing can get more people to buy your course and boost sales.

Online education is a competitive space. You made a course that stands apart, but now you must show that to the world through a high-quality marketing campaign.

Check out Chapter 3 to learn everything about marketing your online course.

There are a few great ways to market your online course and extend your reach:

Content Marketing & SEO

A low-cost way to start is through content marketing that uses search engine optimization (SEO) best practices. This involves making a blog targeting specific keywords around your course.

A blog is a great way to establish your knowledge in your industry.

After building a solid online presence through content marketing, you can convert your readers into course students.

If you need help building a website, consider Simplero.

Affiliate Programs

Through an affiliate program, you pay a commission to someone for referring new business to you. In this case, you would pay them a percentage of your sale for having someone purchase your online course.

Since your affiliates can come from different companies, having a sound affiliate management system is essential. A system like the one from Simplero can help you track where your affiliate money is coming from and where you see the most success.

Paid Pay-Per-Click (PPC Ads)

Like an online billboard, a paid pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaign will put you in front of many potential customers.

How does a PPC ad work? You start by reaching out to a website or Google directly. Then, you'll put your ad on their page. Any time someone clicks the ad, it will direct to your course's landing page, and then you pay the person hosting your ad a certain amount.

But, you only pay when someone clicks — hence "pay per click." If someone just looks at your ad, you don't pay anything.

Doing this boosts your brand, introduces more people to your course, and directs them right to your page. From there, you need to convert them through your site.

With a professional course landing page builder, your conversion rates should be much higher.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is another excellent consideration when marketing your online course. This is when you send an email to your mailing list and briefly introduce the value of your course, prompting them to sign up and buy the course for themselves.

If you want to get your emails read, you might need some extra help from the pros. Use Simplero's email marketing tool for better results.

10. Foster a Sense of Community

It's a good idea to make your course feel like a community. Doing so will engage students more and increase your chance of getting word-of-mouth referrals. A learning management system (LMS) will offer students forums and community groups to foster a greater sense of community.

When people are engaged, they'll be more excited about your content. This can directly translate to more sales. If you have multiple online courses, it might mean that your student base from one course gets inspired enough to purchase your others.

11. Ask Your Students for Feedback

A recurring theme in this guide is the idea of feedback — and it comes up again. After your students go through your course, it's imperative that you get their feedback.

A survey is often the best way to get honest feedback.

Ask them questions like:

  • Why did you take this course?
  • Did this course meet your expectations? Why or why not?
  • That did you enjoy the most about this course?
  • What did you enjoy the least about this course?
  • How would you rate this course on a scale of 1-10?
  • Would you recommend this course to a friend? Why or why not?

Feel free to include questions that are specific to your industry and topic.

Another way to streamline the process is through Simplero's customer analytics suite. This tool will do all the heavy lifting for you and present the results in an easy-to-understand interface.

Also, you should email people who signed up for your list but never signed up for the course. Understand why they didn't take the course and if there's anything you can offer to entice them to sign up.


As you just saw, creating an online course isn't as complicated as you might have thought. All you need to do is follow these 11 steps to get started. However, creating the course is just the first step — read on to learn how to structure your course in Chapter 2 and how to make the most money through course marketing in Chapter 3.