The vital first step when creating an online course

The vital first step when creating an online course

In my last post, we talked about how you already have 90% of what you need to launch an online course or program that expands your reach and generates consistent, scalable new income.

In this post, I’ll share a case study illustrating how I helped a client launch a new course in just three weeks and the vital first step for creating an online course your customers will eagerly buy.

In March 2020, when the pandemic hit, my client, Alexandra, lost more than half of her income sources over 48 hours.

Her freelance gigs as a choreographer, theater director, and movement analyst were delayed indefinitely. The only income that remained would come from her position as an adjunct professor at Princeton.

We hopped on a call to discuss her options.

“This is scary. I’ve got two kids to support living in New York City. I feel like my career identity has been gutted because so much of what I do has suddenly just vanished. What can I do?”

After empathizing with how stressful the situation was, I proposed a solution.

“Have you thought about launching an online course or program? It would generate cash quickly, create a new source of income, and reach new clients, even with everything going into lockdown.”

She’d thought about creating an online course before but worried it would require a lot of time and money to create something new.

I explained she wouldn’t be starting from scratch. Like anyone who works with clients, creates content, or teaches, she already had a 90% of what she needed.

We made a list of assets she had to work with.

  • Her book manuscript
  • Syllabi from courses she’d taught
  • Articles and videos she’d created
  • Experience teaching various workshops
  • Experience as an artist, choreographer, and director

She looked at me with pleasant surprise on her face. “I guess I do have a lot to work with. Maybe I can create an online course? But where do I even start? How do I choose a topic to teach or which stuff to talk about?”

“You don’t,” I replied. “If you focus on the topic or solution first, you risk creating a course no one wants. Keep it focused on the customer, not the topic.

I continued by explaining we first needed to define two things to have a profitable course idea.

  1. The intended customer
  2. Their desired outcome(s)

After brainstorming her options, she arrived at the intended customer she wanted to reach with her course.

“I want to teach actors and performers new ways to explore and embody characters on stage.”

“Great!” I followed up. “Now, let’s list the highly desirable outcomes they will achieve.”

I further explained the course outcomes needed to be things her intended customer was…

  1. Actively looking for help with and
  2. Ready to invest time, money, and energy into

Based on conversations Alexandra had with stage performers, she knew they wanted to shake up their usual approach, extend their range of expressivity, and develop characters without having to delve into their personal life or reinvent the wheel every time.

Intended customer. Check.

Their desired outcomes. Check.

We had the perfect idea for a profitable course.

I pulled her list of assets out again. “Now we can talk about the solution or process you will teach in the course. Which of the things on this list can you draw from to guide your intended student to their desired outcomes?”

She examined the list.

“I’ve been using something called Effort Theory to work with a client on his one-person show. I use it in my choreography all the time. I’ve also taught it in classes and workshops.”

I nodded and replied, “Great! The next step is to create a high-level outline of the course. Break the process of learning and applying Effort Theory into milestones. Each milestone comprises one module of the course. Shoot for between two and six modules, eight max.”

She hopped off the call to get to work.

A few hours later, she texted me, “I’ve got my course outlined!”

I smiled and texted her back, “Awesome! Now, we are going to launch this course in the next three weeks.”

I watched for several minutes as the speech bubble with three dots popped up and down in my iPhone messaging app until finally, her stunned response arrived.

“But how am I going to record all of the videos in that time? Don’t I need to set up some kind of course website? I keep hearing I need a sales funnel, too.”

I reassured her, “You’re not going to do any of that. We’ll launch the course in three weeks because you need the income now. Let’s schedule a call, and I’ll walk you through it.”