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Create an Online Course for Recurring Revenue

Developing your signature online course is one of the most efficient, effective, and satisfying ways to use your expertise to drive recurring revenue through paid membership portals on your site. It can also be an effective marketing tool for engaging with new and returning clients. Online courses can help you scale your businesses while effectively managing your daily workload.

If you haven’t created a course before, you’ll want to invest the bulk of your time planning and developing your curriculum and course format. Once you know what you want to teach and how you want to teach it, you’ll focus on the technical aspects: recording your course or getting comfortable with your preferred video conference platform, and understanding how to make your course available online.  

Read on for a concrete guide that walks you through the process.

How to choose the topic of your course

When you’re trying to come up with the perfect course for your small business, there’s no need to start from scratch. After all, your clients are already telling you exactly what they want more of: the service or product they buy most often. Determine what that is, and reposition it as your signature online workshop.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be using a hypothetical example of a small photography studio. This particular business owner’s most booked service is a headshot suite. Since many potential clients may be out of state or unable to commit to a physical photography session, live online courses can help this photographer scale and reach new audiences.

Tips for creating the course content

Once you have a good feel for what your clients want, turn it into a course that works remotely. Looking at the above photography example, the business owner may decide to offer a live online workshop or create a pre-recorded video course that teaches people how to set up a simple photoshoot for themselves and take their headshots at home.

As you’re developing your curriculum, focus on the fundamentals, so each course is accessible and digestible for your clients and customers. Typically, try to aim for an online workshop length of 30 - 90 minutes. If you’re covering something complex, split it up into a course series or multi-day workshop, or consider creating a series of video courses based on skill level.

With Squarespace Scheduling, you can automate the course sign-up process, accept payments, and even follow up with testimonial requests to optimize your next session.

Basics of adding additional value

The momentum and engagement with your audience doesn’t have to end with your workshop — Member Areas can be key. Member Areas are password-protected, members-only portals that allow you to upload a recorded playback of your workshop, include any downloadable documents, and give your customers additional content that can guide them on the course content. 

You can natively host videos on your Squarespace website and easily upload them to a video library with video pages. If you record your workshop using a third-party video integration, you can still add your workshop playback to the protected section of your site, and manually guide workshop attendees to the Member Areas login page. 

Depending on how you develop your course, you may choose to include the Member Areas pricing directly in your course listing, or encourage members to buy their memberships separately. Either way, the members’ only section of your Squarespace website keeps your customers engaged while providing additional value to your course.

Strategies for upselling

If your Member Area is going to provide extra content outside of the course, the private Area can be positioned as a course upsell, or an additional cost that provides additional value.

For example, the photographer may send an email to the attendees after the course is complete, letting them know their next course in the series will cover professional photo editing. Since this second recorded course falls outside the scope of the original course, it’s pitched to customers as an additional investment and hosted behind a paywall. Positioning your Member Area as an upsell is a great way to encourage recurring revenue, assuming new content and value are added each month as their membership renews.

This article was updated on January 26, 2022.

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