When it comes to creating your own online course, the number one question I hear repeatedly is this: “What topic should I choose for my online course?”
But what they are really asking is this: “How do I find an idea that will sell?”… In other words, finding a profitable course idea that will work for your business. Because who wants to spend days or weeks or more planning, developing, and launching an online course only to hear crickets, right? (I’m guessing not you!) You want to know you’ll have at least some measure of success.
You see, overthinking it doesn’t move the needle. The answer is simple. Just give your audience what they are asking for.
9 ways to find profitable online course ideas
1. Check out the competition.
What are they talking about? What are they creating? If you serve a similar audience, what sells for them will likely sell for you. Now, before you break out the “But it’s already been done!” line, keep this in mind: There are no two course creators, coaches, or online entrepreneurs alike. You may create a similar online course, but your voice, experience and process, teaching style, and personality are all very different.
No one else is you, and for your (future) students, YOUR STORY and you are the things they will resonate with.
2. Pay attention to the people you want to work with.
What questions do they ask in private groups, on your social media platforms, and elsewhere? What posts are they reading on your blog (check your Google Analytic stats), or which podcast episodes have the highest amount of listeners? These are all valuable sources of information about what they need and want, which will help you find a profitable idea and create your own online course.
Now, if you’re still unsure what your people are looking for? Ask. Reach out to at least 20 of your ideal clients and ask them about their struggles, what keeps them away from the success they are dreaming of, and even what they’ve tried so far to solve these challenges.
4. Check the bestsellers list.
Go to Amazon and research which books in your niche are outperforming others? These are the ones that offer answers your clients are seeking. Flip through the table of contents and read the online reviews to dig deep into the topics that really resonate with your audience.
5. Read the FAQs.
Check the frequently asked questions section on competitor blogs or in Facebook groups. Watch Q&A Live Videos they’re hosting. Also, check blogs for “Start Here” and “Quick-start” pages. The most common questions and concerns are addressed in those sessions.
6. Review the available resources.
Which are the most common resources your colleagues and competitors are recommending? There are often questions surrounding the use of software and other tools, which can be great ideas for an online course.
7. Check your email.
If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, chances are you receive questions from friends, clients, and even strangers daily. What are they asking about? Look for common themes and trends.
8. Revisit your keyword research.
Review the terms and phrases that your community most frequently searches, and use them as a basis for your research.
9. Check your search terms.
Google Webmaster Tools allows you to check which words send visitors to your website. Since people often search for questions (“how to do something” or “how to start something”), this can be a rich source of ideas.
Create an online course that delivers specific results
It’s true: Ideas are everywhere. Your potential members & students share them with you every day if you just know where to look. So don’t let your insecurities hold you back. Create the online course they ask you for and use your experience to teach how you got where you are now. Because most probably, your audience is where you were before.
Listen – I KNOW that you have big, bold, brilliant ideas that can change thousands of lives. And if you’re like most entrepreneurs in that “I-want-to-build-a-Beyoncé-level-business-but-don’t-know-how” stage, you’re probably lying awake at night asking yourself…
“How the heck do I get this thing off the ground?! “Or “Why would anyone ever buy from ME?! “Even that imposter syndrome alone is enough to make anyone say “um no thanks” to going all-in on the online entrepreneur life.
Meanwhile, those you look up to are crushing it, making millions, and doing work they love every day.
The only difference between THEM and YOU is that they:
- tapped into the knowledge, experience, skills, or passion they ALREADY had and
- figured out how to turn that into an online course business that creates a real impact for their audience and themselves.
The Magic Of A Profitable Online Course Idea
By creating an online course or coaching program that delivers a specific result to a particular set of people.
Can you imagine what your life could look like if you knew how to tap into what makes you unique and turn that into an irresistible offer that people are lining up to buy?
What if you could create a serious impact just by being you?
I know it may sound like one of those big, sexy internet promises, but I’m telling you, it’s TOTALLY possible!
In fact, you can sell your course or a program before you even create it.
You read that’s right. This is actually the best way to validate it. Because who wants to waste 6 months creating something no one will buy?!
But first thing first — the key to successful and profitable courses people can’t stop raving about:
Single Problem, Single Solution: The Benefits of Keeping It Simple
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You begin to write a blog post (or start a live video or even an email), and before you know it, your “quick update” has turned into a rambling, 3,000-word novelette that covers everything from where to find a graphic designer to how to design a business card. (of course, replace that with whatever topic you’re covering)
Now, a 3,000-word blog post can be great for traffic, but only if you’ve kept it tightly focused, structured, and leading through a specific path to a particular result. But what happens all too often (in blog posts and course development) is that every part covered brings up a new point to be addressed.
Logo design leads to business card formatting.
Business cards lead to taglines.
Taglines lead to ideal client avatars.
Avatars lead to…well, you get the idea.
The point is, when you strive to provide the very best information for your audience, it’s easy to want to include one more important detail. Soon, you’ve outlined an encyclopedia’s worth of content that overwhelms not only you but your student as well.
One Problem, One Solution
Most people don’t need or want an all-inclusive answer. If your course helps your students identify their limiting beliefs or run a challenge, then including information about how to set goals the right way or to choose a domain name might seem kinda relevant, but actually, it’s really just a distraction.
Worse, if you try to put in too much, you risk overwhelming your student. Too much of that, and she’ll log out and never return—for this or any other course you create.
And this is not because you’re a terrible coach or teacher, but because she’ll be convinced she’s a bad student.
Here’s another issue with including too much information in a single course: Depth of knowledge. When you try to include too much, you end up with very thin coverage of a lot of different topics… a.k.a. surface-based information that most probably won’t get her the specific result she’s looking to achieve.
The Better And Easier Way
Instead, when you focus your course on a single problem and a single solution, you can dig deeper and present ideas and information that won’t be found just anywhere, such as:
- Case studies
- Planning documents
- Multi-media content
… anything that will help her save time and effort to achieve the result.
These are the types of things that your people will happily pay a premium for because they cannot find them elsewhere. When you focus your course on a single problem, you’ll have the leeway to create these and other resources. Take a broader approach, though, and you’ll be forced to scrimp on the “extras.”
What Should You Consider If You Choose A Massive Course Or Program
But make no mistake—there is still room for that all-inclusive, massive program. One look at powerhouse coaches such as James Wedmore and his massively popular Business By Design will tell you that. I know that because I’m a member. But what I also know is that James didn’t start with BBD in the first place, nor did BBD look the same way as it is now when he first launched it. And of course, having a power-house team such as Team Wedmore behind you is another topic.
So, keep in mind, though, that if you decide to go ahead with an online program of this magnitude, you will (by necessity) have to:
- Expand the length of the course to accommodate all the extra information. Each week (or module) becomes its own “mini” course, focused on a single issue/solution.
- Increase the cost of the course. If your market bears a high-ticket, multi-module course, then, by all means, you should produce one. But do keep in mind that the more information you provide, the higher the price point.
- A reliable team on your side.
Remember, too, that an extensive course is a much more difficult sell—and we’re not just talking about the investment. There’s a bigger commitment on the buyer’s part as well, and that’s something she’s going to have to consider carefully before she takes the plunge. A smaller, single-problem course is easier to commit to and easier to complete and be successful with.