Are you an expert in something? No matter if you’re a self-taught guru or licensed professional… if you possess in-depth knowledge that can benefit someone else, you are qualified to create and sell an ecourse.
Read on for tips on how to create and sell an ecourse that makes you money and cements you as a respected expert in your field.
How Does an E-Course Pack Differ from Just Another Set Blog Posts?
With all of the information that’s passed around online, you may wonder what constitutes “e-course” versus merely a bunch of articles that you can publish on your blog or in your newsletter.
Even though most articles that you find online are informative, an ecourse should be educational in nature and it should also be comprehensive. Someone who’s looking to purchase an ecourse wants to LEARN something and go deep with the knowledge.
What type of person might consider buying an ecourse? Let’s think of some examples…
- Someone who’s on a coach’s email list might be interested in an ecourse that teaches how to manage time better so they can set and achieve goals. They will want concise, step by step information, a full understanding of goal setting, and they will want to put the knowledge to practice in their own lives.
- A person who signs up for a private Poodle Owners membership might just pay for an ecourse that teaches step by step how to train poodle puppies – from simple commands to leash walking to housebreaking to obedience.
- Email marketing and online tech junkies might appreciate an ecourse that walks them step by step through a new program or app that they’ve been wanting to master.
- Someone who just signed onto an independent sales force might desire training to improve their people skills, master advanced selling techniques and increase personal effectiveness so they can make more money.
- A novice gardener might wish for an ecourse that teaches how to dig a garden, plant seeds, nurture new crops, and harvest garden vegetables. A more advanced gardener might pay more for an ecourse that imparts specialized knowledge – for example, things like companion planting, composting and crop rotation.
So, You Want to Create an Ecourse. Where to Start?
If you’ve never developed an ecourse, you may be confused, wondering why, with so many articles available to read online, anyone would want to purchase an ecourse in the first place. Or, you may question what to put in your ecourse to provide value to your end users of the information.
What makes an ecourse an ecourse?
- An ecourse should be written in simple, clear, informative language.
- An ecourse should include step by step instructions with examples included for clarification.
- An ecourse should have an FAQ or Q&A section of some type, to address common questions.
- An ecourse should impart specialized knowledge.
- An ecourse is best taught by an expert – someone who has firsthand experience in the subject matter.
- An ecourse should explain things in a very complete and thorough way.
Other characteristics of an ecourse:
A course teaches – simple as that. You could theoretically keep your ecourse fairly basic, and just include a series of how-to articles that skim the surface. But if you do this, you may find that people are disappointed in the ecourse that they purchased from you. They may decide not to buy another one of your ecourses, if yours fails to impart anything useful.
If you’re interested in creating an ecourse that helps you increase your expert status, then you might consider offering your ecourse for free. This is probably the only time that a “lesser” or more simply-written ecourse would be acceptable.
If you sell your ecourse, it’s better to over-deliver for the price, than under-deliver and disappoint. The ecourse that you create could be as low as $5, and you might think, “Well, what do you expect for $5?” but the person who purchases the ecourse should nevertheless be impressed with what you’ve conveyed.
What Format Should Your Ecourse Be Available In?
Your ecourse materials should ideally be presented in multiple learning formats if you want to be considered a professional and an expert in your field. Of course, this is up to you though. Maybe that’s too much too soon and you’d prefer to start small. In that case, a simple ebook format is fine. You can always dress up your ebook with some well-chosen fonts and sleek images, if you want to add a little pizzazz. If your ebook takes off, you can always revisit the project and turn it into an audio CD, instructional video, or something else.
Some commonly known ecourse formats include:
Ebooks, e-guides and white papers – delivered in a PDF file that you can download to your computer. These continue to be popular due to their easy-download, easily-digestible format that people can read on the go, store on their hard drives, and access again and again from a member area on your website if you have one. Face it, no matter what fancy video formats they come up with, you’ll always have your audience of avid and enthusiastic readers who gobble up ebooks.
Pictorials – detailed images on a web page, with accompanying instructive text that you can flip through. Your web-based ecourse can be hosted in a private log-in area of your site that’s only accessible to paying customers who must provide a password in order to access the information.
Video ecourses – if you’re already taking photos and writing step by step instructions, you may as well go the extra step and get it all on video. This is fast becoming the preferred learning method for many – though admittedly, there are always different types of learners – visual, auditory, hands-on. The more choices you offer for your followers to learn from, the more seriously you’ll be taken as an expert in your field who delivers high quality teaching materials.
Autoresponders – these are individual emails that you can set up in whatever email management software you use, such as Aweber. Create the emails for the course one by one, including one article or set of instructions at a time, so as not to overwhelm. This offers the advantage of putting your ecourse delivery on autopilot, without having to personally respond to every customer who signs up.
Combination ecourses – If you want to increase value, then it’s easy enough to provide both an ebook instant download, AND a set of autoresponder emails that arrive one at a time over the course of a week, month, or more, to keep your students on track with gradual learning. You can time your ecourse and let people know in advance what to expect before they sign up. It could be something like “one email assignment per week for eight weeks and a group webinar every Friday to review what we’ve learned and Q&A session.”
Webinars – A webinar is conducted in a “room” online where members log in using a set of code numbers. The person who hosts the ecourse acts as group moderator, and attendees can participate in an instructor-led group discussion that only people who have logged into the webinar room can be privy to.
This type of ecourse is perfect if you want to conduct a mastermind brainstorm or an accountability group where people check in to report their progress and get feedback. Think high-achieving business owners looking to set higher income goals and hold each other accountable. Or, a different kind of webinar could be a weight loss initiative… or a step by step program for addicts in recovery to work on getting their lives back on track. The newly divorced might need a webinar that teaches how to be assertive with a problematic ex with whom you’re sharing child custody… the list of possibilities for a webinar ecourse goes on and on.
Ecourse Bonuses and Add-Ons
Assignments: Ecourses should ideally allow for hands-on application of what’s being taught. So if you’re instructing how to write website content, then there should be an exercise or an assignment that the reader can try on their own. If you really want to go the distance with your ecourse, you can invite the reader to submit their assignment to you for review.
Let’s say the ecourse is about how to use a potter’s wheel. There can be an “assignment” where the person taking the ecourse gets an opportunity to follow the step by step instructions and make a mug out of clay that they use the potter’s wheel to form, dry in a kiln or oven, and paint with acrylics.
Since the ecourse is conducted remotely online, it might be fun for the person who purchases the course to submit photos of the projects they completed as a result of taking the ecourse.
Group workshops add value to an ecourse that you may be offering. In addition to sending out a series of instructional emails that go out one per day for a week… OR an ebook (or both – giving the end user choices of how they can learn the material is a nice thing to do)… you can also invite them to attend a group workshop where they can share what they’ve learned with other members and brainstorm together, with you heading up the creative activity.
So if, for example, suppose you’re offering a writing class. In addition to doling out written assignments sent via email, you can invite class participants upload their work to a project management area that other class members can log into and where everyone can critique and provide feedback on each other’s work.
Journaling: Your ecourse attendees will appreciate the opportunity to chronicle what they’ve learned, or engage in introspective journaling if this is a personal development ecourse. Journaling has become popular in recent years, so if you come up with a set of worksheets and journaling assignments for your course attendees, you’ll be offering them an opportunity to record their own progress and then go back and review it later to gauge their own growth. This will also remind them of the value that they obtained by taking your ecourse.
Totally Profesh: Formatting Your Ecourse
Another aspect of what makes an ecourse an ecourse is the formatting. Sure, you can publish your ecourse in MS Word. Lots of people do. But you can charge more, and come across as more of an expert, if you take the time or invest the money to include high quality images, professional fonts, and a pleasing layout for your ecourse.
There are layout programs to help you add sophistication to your ecourse by laying things out professionally. QuarkXpress is one. The open source version of this program is called Scribus – it essentially accomplishes the same thing and works in a very similar way. Image editing programs like Photoshop, Adobe Fireworks and GIMP (open source and FREE) will allow you to personalize any stock photos you wish to publish as part of your ecourse.
When considering the layout for your ecourse, go beyond straight text and headlines. Think about nonfiction books you’ve read. They have those helpful tips in the sidebar, bulleted and presented in a different font on a colored background, to stand out against the white page with black text. Maybe there’s a simple graphic to make the sidebar tips pop, like a little cartoon light bulb or a clipart “pencil” that writes out the “tip.” You can also add talk balloons and bursts if those fit with your brand.
Remember, you’re teaching something. So yes, adding images is a good start if you’re creating an ecourse. But if you offer specialized information and step by step instructions, then customized graphics that help readers visualize what’s being said, will really increase understanding and add tremendous value to your ecourse. Talk to a graphic designer who can help you format your ecourse with flair and style, if you want to go pro and get people looking your way.
How to Go Deep With Your Ecourse Details?
Suppose you just wrote, or purchased content for, an ebook on how to can tomato sauce in Mason jars.
If you find some stock photos of tomatoes and jars of tomato sauce, that’s okay. But you’ll be viewed as so much more of an expert if you actually run through the process of canning tomatoes, taking photos every step of the way.
Another way to ensure that your details are being thoroughly explained is to start with an outline format.
An outline will also come in handy if you’ve opted to purchase pre-written content for your ebook. You can place the content on the side, to grab bits and pieces from. But before you do any content placing, you want to first write the outline.
Your ecourse outline will help you decide what the content will consist of. Start with a simple title that says what you plan to teach. Then outline the main chapters you want to cover.
After your outline of chapters comes a sub-outline of the sections that will go into each chapter.
Next comes an additional sub-outline that breaks down the chapter sections into how-to articles.
Break that down into outlined sentences which become the main idea of each paragraph.
Fill in the details. Add an intro and conclusion to each how-to article. Remember that if you purchased content to help make ecourse creation quicker and easier, this is the part where you insert little gems from your pre-written articles.
Also remember that the more you can turn the pre-written content into your own thoughts and ideas, the better and more original this ecourse will be. If you can reword the existing content, you’ll be able to transform this into YOUR writing.
If the details need further explaining, break them down further. THIS is how you impart specialized information! THE DETAILS is what makes a course a course, and not just an article.
Now go back and fill in the written details of any parts of your ecourse that you may have glazed over, or paraphrased. If you come across parts that need sources to back them up, open up a web browser and find reliable experts and published works that you can quote. Be sure to reference the article or publication, and the author.
The entire process will take some time. Many, many drafts later, you will have completed the instructional part of the ecourse. If you haven’t yet come up with a compelling title or beefed up your headlines, now is the time. Creative people will enjoy this part of the project – customizing everything to sound like you and your brand.
Now comes the time to add the worksheets section, journaling assignments, or whatever it is that you plan to include that will allow people who take your ecourse to apply what they’ve learned and fully immerse in the subject matter. If you’re stuck on how to create worksheets and assignments, not to worry – this type of content can also be purchased as PLR and changed to fit your unique program.
Elements of Online Marketing that You MUST Have if You Want to Sell an Ecourse
A website or blog. Hopefully you already have one. But if you just created a special interest ecourse, you have plenty of written material to now publish a website. Maybe you can even use those PLR articles that you purchased, to publish on your blog and get people looking and clicking on your sales page where you advertise your ecourse.
A permission-based email manager. Aweber, MailChimp, and GetResponse are just a few. You may know that you need a “list” to pitch your ecourse to. This is your followers and fans. Your list is comprised of people who have signed up to receive your emails after they discovered your blog. No, it is not enough for your people to find your blog but not sign up for your list. You’ll lose far too many people this way. They’ll just surf on, never to be seen again. If you have a list of people whose attention you’ve got, not only can you offer them this ecourse that you worked so hard on, but you can sell lots MORE valuable information, service and products to them. So get that signup on your website and your fan pages so you can collect email addresses of peeps who will later become your customers.
An online payment system. Most people choose PayPal, though there are others, such as ClickBank. Upgrade your account so that you can accept payments without a lot of hassle.
Ebook selling software OR a member site. Now we’re getting technical here. If you just want to sell PDF files (ebooks), you can automate the process by setting up a program like e-junkie and configure it with your PayPal. This set up allows you to take automatic payments and have the ebook go out to your customer via email without you having to manually perform this task each time someone orders. Of course, you want to monitor your online sales, as there is always the potential for something to go wrong. If you’re ready for the big leagues, then I’d strongly recommend a membership for your customers that’s hosted on your web server. Use a program like aMember and give your members control over their purchases with multi-tiered options for low and high-ticket purchases.
Question: this is all very complicated. How will I ever be able to set all of this up for success?
Answer: If you’re serious about making money online by offering expert ecourses, then you may want to invest in a virtual assistant, an internet marketing expert or online business coach, OR you’ll want to give yourself a few years of researching and learning the ropes so you can handle most of this yourself if you tend to be the technically inclined, self starter type.
It helps to think of email as the conduit that connects everything, via links. So if you’re selling a PDF ecourse, and you also want to offer access to your private brainstorm room online, then all you have to do is find a way to email the link to your PDF to the customer via email, AND share with them a link to your private group on Facebook where they can log in and chat with you as well as other members. Want to offer an instructional video to your paying customer? Email them the link to your private YouTube video that you created. It’s all done via email, hence the need for the list.
Question: can’t I just skip the website, and sell my ecourse on Facebook?
Answer: No. You need the website to drive traffic to the ecourse. You can’t just sell your ecourse via social media. Sure, social media is a great way to meet people and become known in your field. But without a blog or website, you’re relying solely on social media sites which belong to someone else, and can disappear at any time. Use social media sites to lift your blog up in the search engine ranks by sharing links to your blog from all your profiles.
Final Thoughts: What Will Your Ecourse Be About?
If you’re an expert in something, then you want to try and think like a neophyte who’s just learning. An ecourse that turns heads and gets signups from your audience of newbies typically achieves the following:
- It addresses a burning need to know
- It employs irresistible language
- It covers HOT trending topics
Let’s use “Life Hacks” as an example. Everyone wants “life hacks” of late. There’s even a TV show about this. “Life Hacks” seems to jive with our fast-paced lifestyle, offering shortcuts for busy people.
Maybe you’re a really productive person who has tons of shortcuts that let you get more done in less time. That’s what your ecourse can be about – shortcuts.
But, no one thinks that shortcuts is a very interesting term these days. So if you call it “Life Hacks” – which has a trendy, techy feel, you grab the attention of the Cool Crowd and the Wanna-be Cool Crowd – and voila, you’ve captured attention and now you’re making sales.
Another trending term – “Side Hustle.” This is just a new way to say side business. Will you be selling ecourses as your next side hustle? I’ve got even more great hacks for you to learn from!
Thanks for reading this. I hope it’s armed you with the knowledge you need to start making money selling ecourses online!