Whether you’re an entrepreneur, educator, or creative, developing and marketing online classes can help you build an audience and reach a wide community of learners. Teaching online classes can be a main gig, a secondary revenue stream, or a strategic promotional tool for your brand.
What does it take to become a successful online instructor, and how can you translate your skills and expertise into a curriculum that others find valuable? Read on to learn how to establish and market your online courses.
Grow your brand with online workshops
Online classes and courses are a great way to build your brand. Whether you’re using the format to monetize your skills or to help customers better understand how to use your products, workshops help increase awareness of your offerings, show people that you’re a thought leader in your field, and establish an additional revenue stream.
Online classes can serve a few purposes:
Sell: Convert the curious into buyers with classes that demonstrate the value of your product and highlight its strengths in its niche.
Train: Help your customers get the most out of your product with how-to workshops and demos.
Build: Increase customer loyalty with classes that showcase your personality and develop your personal brand.
Productize: Your courses or your personal knowledge may be the main product you’re selling.
If you’re already working as an educator or instructor, launching online classes can help you fully digitize your business. For any educator or instructor, online classes are a path to lowering overhead and creating passive income. For example, if a yoga instructor offers live in-person classes, they can also monetize recordings and create an online class library as a new revenue stream. Online courses also give your customers a virtual option that may be more suited to their current needs.
Build Your Brand with Online Courses
Develop a curriculum for online classes and workshops
When you plan to teach what you already know, putting together a program of online study is relatively straightforward. It’s just a matter of organizing your expertise into relatable, engaging topics.
Your course outline should have a beginning and an endpoint in mind. What level of knowledge will your customer have when they sign up, and what level will they have achieved once they have completed the course?
Think about the steps they’ll need to take to get from one point to the other. Those steps will form the units of your course. Keep your course accessible by limiting it to five or six classes at most. If you have more expertise to share, you can consider making a follow-up course. For example, a graphic designer might start building an online curriculum with a beginner’s course on typography, and develop a secondary course on hand lettering for people who want to deepen their skills.
If you’re already running a business, you can repurpose existing assets for your classes. Explore brand video stories, whitepapers, podcasts, and webinars you’ve previously developed to see if they’d be of value to your learners. Then, fill in the content gaps by developing new teaching materials.
Spreading your course across varied media will keep learners engaged. You can embed e-books into the learner area of your website or link to third-party quizzes your customers can take at the end of course units. As you grow your online course content, you can also start to sell your e-books and other digital products.
Explore online course-building tools
Start by designing the virtual space where you’ll host your online classes. Your specific subject expertise will set you apart—and it’s just as important that your learning platform does, too.
Leverage tools for building online courses to give you a competitive advantage. For example, choose a website builder that simplifies the process of designing your website with easy-to-use, customizable templates. Then think about all the elements you need to be able to deliver an effective study program.
A members-only section on your site will help you to monetize your courses by putting them behind a paywall. Giving customers the ability to book space in your courses is important, too, so consider incorporating a tool like Squarespace Scheduling that allows you to automate reminders for follow-up classes and assignment deadlines.
The best virtual learning environments will also incorporate methods like:
Audio: Podcasts are great for busy learners on the go.
Video: The vast majority of online learning is done by video, so the ability to upload, host, organize, and present your video content in an appealing way is essential.
Reading materials: Embedding third-party code allows you to display files on your site so that learners can download whitepapers, essays, and e-books.
Through monetizing your course content with members-only areas, you can also explore website extensions that will help you scale your business and streamline accounting and finances.
Tools for Building Online Courses
Develop a pricing structure
Before charging customers for online courses, show them that your expertise has value by offering free introductory classes or other course materials.
Free course content—whether it’s a beginner class, a blog post, downloadable guide, or whitepaper—should be every bit as good as the follow-up material so that it gives customers a reason to buy. Just remember not to give everything away in your free content, so your paying customers get the full value of their purchase.
Once people buy into your teaching style and program content, you can leverage gated content and put the next stages of their learning behind a paywall. Consider adding Member Areas to your website to enable sign-up to your courses and provide tailored content for specific audiences. You can create multiple pricing fee options, like charging a one-time fee, or recurring monthly or annual fees for access to your content.
When pricing your online courses, focus on the quality of your material instead of the length of the programs. What are your competitors asking people to pay for comparable study content? How does their subject expertise compare to yours? Are they better known in their field than you, or vice versa? Also, think about the outcomes your students will take from each of your courses. Expert mastery may come at a higher price than entry-level, beginner content.
When you start selling your courses, try testing a few different price points, too. Run one for a few weeks, then drop it slightly to see if it has an impact—and then raise it to see if that does. You might find that people will value higher priced content more than lower-priced content.
Sell your online study program
One of the most important aspects of delivering online classes is knowing how to market them effectively. You can have the best-quality courses on the internet, but if no one knows about them, no one signs up. So, take some time to build a sales strategy.
Here’s what you need to do:
Understand your brand audience
Researching your target audience will help you find out what people want to learn and at what level. Then, you can shape courses to their needs. Research will also help you learn which social media channels potential customers use, what kinds of keywords they’re searching for when looking for courses, and what types of content they prefer to look at.
If your website is already up and running, you can glean all of this information by looking at your current web traffic analytics. You can also type some search terms into your browser and check out what “people also ask” when looking for courses on the results page.
Work on your sales message
Developing a brand message that up-sells the unique benefit of your particular courses to the specific audience you’ve identified will drive engagement, helping you to convert more customers. Think about who you’re targeting—beginner students or seasoned pros? Craft your message to speak to them.
Conduct A/B testing
Running two different promotions for the same course at the same time will help you work out which route to market works better. It’s called A/B testing, and it’s great for things like email campaigns to market your courses. For example, maybe one version of an email will get a much higher open rate simply by changing the subject line.
You can even A/B test the workshops themselves: Which version of your free sample course gets more people to sign up for the paid program?
Carry out campaign analysis
While your campaign is running, leverage website analytics to see who comes from where and which search terms or marketing messages entice them.
It’s important to make sure you know what you want the data to uncover. That could be awareness of your courses, engagement with your social posts and free content, or rates of conversion (actually purchasing a course).
Keep in mind: Low conversion stats can obscure high awareness stats, and vice versa. The same piece of data can demonstrate many different things about your sales technique and how well it’s working.
Ultimately, the more informed you are, the more it will come across in your messaging and the more likely people will be to sign up for your classes. Stay focused on your customers’ behaviors and keep fine-tuning your course content and messaging to deliver what they need.
Marketing and Selling Online Courses
Learn more about building your brand with online courses.