How to Turn Your Know-How into a Course

One of the essential content assets you need if you want to monetize your know-how is an online course. An online course typically comprises various classes (or modules) each dealing with a specific topic which, when taken in sequence, delivers a promised outcome. The modules are usually media-rich, i.e. they make use of video, audio and include downloadable PDFs. If you haven’t created an online course, make it a priority. It will build credibility, authority and momentum. 

How to plan and setup your online course

The good news is that the technical aspects of creating an online course, e.g.. organising your content into media-rich modules; setting up a membership area; getting paid etc. is easily resolved with extremely affordable software. We’ll get to that shortly. This just leaves organising what to teach and how best to teach it. Let’s start there.

  1. What is the pain you’re solving for your target audience? Your prospects want to buy solutions to their problems. Everything you produce must solve a pressing need. Here’s something to bear in mind. Sell people what they want; but give them what they need.
         For example, your prospect may be planning to start podcasting and may want to learn about the equipment. However, you know that what they really need to learn is how to conduct great interviews, i.e. make valuable content, for example. You will want to sell your course based on the equipment angle – teach that fully (so your customers are not cheated) – but then emphasise the importance of great content. In this way, your customers get what they want but you’re still able to teach what they need to succeed, so you avoid complaints that your course “doesn’t work”.
  2. What is the result/outcome you’re promising to deliver? What will someone taking your course be able to do that they couldn’t before enrolling? Here’s the important part to remember: only deliver one outcome per courseDon’t be tempted to teach everything you know – it’s just overwhelming, confusing and your audience won’t thank you for it. In your course, you will probably need to solve several problems to arrive at the solution. That’s fine, but make sure you’re only delivering one solution, e.g. you can teach someone how to write a bestseller, but don’t teach how to write one and how to market the book. Those are two separate issues, two separate courses. One course, one solution.
  3. Where are they in their journey? Are you helping beginners, intermediates or advanced students? Tailor your content accordingly and don’t mix-and-match. Again, avoid the temptation to create a “something for everyone”. Be focused and deliver one thing exceptionally well.
  4. Validate your course idea. Before you create your course, you want to test whether it’s something your target audience needs and will pay for. What you think they want and what they actually want are often very different. For example, we had an idea for a service to help copywriters. It seemed like a “no-brainer” but when we emailed prospective clients they all said they liked the idea but could not afford a price that would make it viable for us so we did not develop it. That saved thousands in development costs and time. Don’t assume you know what the audience wants (that’s laziness). Ask your audience what they need. This can be as easy as sending an email or inviting a prospect for coffee to pick their brain.
  5. Use a mind-map to plan your course. Here’s the secret to planning your course: use a mind map. Mind-maps are the perfect tool for organising your thoughts around a topic. They’re perfect for:
    – Laying out everything you know about a subject. This boosts your confidence that you are an expert in your topic with a lot of value to offer your target audience;
    – Creating order out of chaos. Creation is not a linear process. Thoughts and ideas come at you from all directions and it can be overwhelming. Mind maps capture all those random concepts effortlessly and naturally.
    – Mind-maps let you see logical relationships between topics that might otherwise be hidden. They also help you organise your content in a thorough manner ensuring that nothing is left out.
    – Mind maps practically build your course for you. The resulting map is a step-by-step blueprint for your course. To learn more, read our guide to planning your course with a mind-map.
    – Finally, you do not need any fancy software to create your mind map (although it exists). Pen and paper is sufficient.
  6. Use this template to teach each step. Now that you have a detailed blueprint each step for teaching your course, here’s a layout you can use to teach each of those steps.
    – Identify the goal of each step;
    – Give an example of the goal in action;
    – Teach how to do it;
    – Give an easy-to-follow process or exercise the student can perform to successfully complete the step.
  7. Include content upgrades. Next, identify where you can include content upgrades. What are content upgrades? Think of them as any useful handouts to assist learning, e.g. checklists, worksheets, schedules, cheatsheets and so on. They add value to your course and make achieving results much easier for your students. This in turn means more satisfied customers and the option to charge more for your course.
  8. Only teach what’s needed. For each step you identify in your mind map, only teach what’s necessary to complete that step, no more, no less. The question to keep asking yourself as you teach the subject is “Does the student need to know this specific thing in order to achieve the desired outcome?” If not, leave it out. Make achieving the result as fast and as easy as possible.
  9. Keep your lessons short. Try to keep each instructional video in your course to under 20 minutes long. This is not always possible but it’s a worthwhile target. Any longer than this and students’ minds may start to wander. If necessary, break up longer courses into several parts.
  10. Building your course and putting it online. At the beginning of this post we told you that the technical aspects of building an online course have been done for you with a variety of software packages and WordPress plugins on the market. The solution we recommend is LifterLMS – a WordPress plugin that you can install on your current WP installation. (The LMS stands for “Learning Management System”)
         LifterLMS has all the features you need to create and sell your online course. You can:
    – Create an unlimited number of courses and lessons/modules;
    – Create media-rich content. Lessons can contain video, audio, downloadable files. If you can put it online, you can include it in your course.
    – Drip-feed content, if you wish;
    – Track student performance;
    – Create a discussion area for student questions;
    – Gamification/badges and other learning incentives;
    – Exam, grading and certification features;
    – Setup a membership area and membership levels to protect your content;
    – Payment processing using Paypal or Stripe.
    LifterLMS has even created a free tutorial to help you build your first online course.

Takeaway points

  1. Having an online course is essential for any expert wishing to monetize their know-how.
  2. Use a mind-map to plan your course. There’s no better tool for organising your thoughts and ensuring nothing is missed.
  3. Make sure you are creating something your target audience wants. Email prospects to ask if they would be interested in the course you’re planning. This simple step can save you a lot of wasted time, effort and money.

Action steps

  1. Decide what problem your course will solve for your audience. What outcome are you promising?
  2. Map out your course using a mind map. We recommend your course is primarily video-based. Video is engaging, can be consumed quickly on many platforms and you can pack a lot of information in a short amount of time. Video is the perfect teaching medium. You can augment your video content with content upgrades.
  3. If you’re ready to put your course online, check out the WordPress online course creation plugin, LifterLMS, to see if it meets your needs. (At writing, LifterLMS offers a free version for download. Certain features are locked in the free copy but you have enough to decide if the solution is right for you).

Photo credit: Matheus Almeida via Flickr.com / CC BY 2.0

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