Part 1 - The Nuts and Bolts of Creating My First Online Course

For as long as I can remember I dreamt of having a location independent business. I am a wanderlust at heart. I come by it honestly--my father has the same itch to travel and experience other cultures as do most of my siblings. My first experience with travel was when I graduated from college and purchased a one-way ticket to Europe. At the time my brother was studying printmaking in Italy, and my sister was teaching English in Hungary. After a few months of traveling around Europe and visiting them, my friend and I set up a home base in Prague where we lived for the next year and a half or so, taking the occasional trip including the time we hitchhiked from Prague to Barcelona. 

I learned that one of my happy places is on the road. I also learned that travel provides an educational experience that is second to none. Perhaps it is this free spirit in me that pushes me towards entrepreneurship and the laptop lifestyle that would allow me to adventure as much as my heart desires. Having spent years behind a desk at a company with a “butts in seats' ' philosophy, I certainly know that is NOT what I want. Not only is there a world to see, but I have three kids and a husband who deserve my attention - and I love giving it to them!

Finally, twenty five years after that first adventure, I have realized the dream of owning a location independent business. I am a certified life and career coach. I work primarily with women who are looking to transition to a more fulfilling job, career, or start a business of their own. My goal is to help people go from living a life they feel stuck in to living a life they have always dreamt of. 

I dreamt of a life that I wanted to live for a long time. I thought that I couldn’t have it for one reason or another: not enough money (always the biggest problem), not smart enough, not talented enough, not qualified enough, not brave enough, fear of failure, self doubt, limiting beliefs--you name it. I found myself stuck, in a job that I hated, working for a CEO who only cared about the bottom line, certainly not about me or my family or my goals. 

So I went through a process of self-discovery and self-help that took a couple of years. It included lots of reading, writing, reflecting, researching, and being open to change--from the inside out. The culmination of this process was being trained and becoming certified as a life coach, an unspoken dream of mine for years. 

Now, not only did I have a new certification that I was excited to go out into the world and use, but I also had this process. This process that I had just gone through and wanted to share with others. What do you do with special knowledge, technical knowledge, or knowledge of a process? You create an online course! This would be a perfect part of my new location independent business and one that, once created, could continue to bring in revenue that was not going to be exchanged for hours worked. And to top it all off, it meant that I could reach and help many more people than I could with one-on-one or even group coaching. This meant that I could literally help hundreds or even thousands more people in the long run.

If you have specialized or technical knowledge of any kind, or knowledge of a process that would be helpful to people, you can create an online course in very little time. Once the product is created, the work is done. Of course, you need to market and sell it, but the point is that you’re not trading money for your time at this point. 

How do you create an online course?

The truth is, I’m not an expert, but I can tell you about my experience, including some things that I wish I would have known before getting started. In this three part series, I will walk you through, from beginning to end, the process that I went through in order to complete my first course, From Stuck to Success.

Step 1 to Creating an Online Course - Selecting a Topic

Select a topic. This is very important. I knew from the start that mine would be the process of taking somebody from feeling stuck to finding success. I was passionate about the topic, had experienced this metamorphosis myself, and felt compelled to share the information with the world. What are you passionate about? The options for what a course could be are literally endless. What do you love to do? What are you good at doing? What knowledge do you have that could benefit others? What could you talk about passionately for an hour?

When I say it could be anything, I really mean it. There are way too many things to list out here, I mean just in the personal development arena there are probably thousands of different courses out there. Then you have academic classes, from language to math or science, art courses that range from painting to drawing to ceramics, programming, sewing, pattern making, studying for exams, design of any kind from graphic to interior, and the list is literally endless.

Once you have an idea that you want to focus on, start doing some research. See what the competition is doing. Are there gaps that you could fill? Is there room and demand for such a class? Are people talking about this subject matter? Do you have connections in the industry or ways to get your course in front of the right audience?

If you have a number of ideas, write them down, and prioritize them. Which do you know the most about, or which would there be a strong demand for. Once you prioritize them, choose the top one and move on to Step 2.

Step 2 to Creating an Online Course - Defining the Benefits

Now you have settled on a topic that people can benefit from, and from your research you know there is room in the marketplace. The next step is to figure out what those benefits are - what will they be walking away with after finishing your course? I worked in sales for many years, and they always say “sell the benefits, not the features”. For example, if you’re selling real estate, you don’t sell the large deck off the family room, you sell the wonderful summer parties they will be hosting, the morning coffee while watching the sunrise and the leisurely evenings sipping a glass of wine while watching the sunset. 

What are the benefits of taking your course? What will they be able to do or what will they have as a result? Once you figure out what the takeaway is, make sure that all of the content in the course leads you to that takeaway. 

For example, if you take From Stuck to Success, you will walk away with:  

  1. A clear vision of what you want your life to look like
  2. The confidence you need in order to pursue that life
  3. A specific goal that you want to work towards
  4. A detailed plan that will get you there.
  5. A belief system and success habits that serve you and your mission

The main benefit of the course is to get you out of that stuck position, and the benefits of getting out of stuck are incredible. It means exchanging sadness for joy, desperation for possibilities, and hopelessness for hope. 

How will people benefit from your course? 

What are the takeaways?

What will they have as a result?

Step 3 to Creating an Online Course - Creating the Content

For me this started with creating an outline. How many modules will I have and what will the topic of each module be? You can create anything from a mini course that lasts a few days to something with more depth that lasts weeks or even months. 

Since my course was going to be about creating new habits, I knew that it had to be at least long enough for somebody to actually create new habits in their lives. I wanted to give them the time to be able to realistically make that major change in their life. I settled on a two month course with 8 weekly modules. Each module would have a lesson along with action steps that they would need to take before moving on to the next module. Each module should have its own objectives, description, benefits, and resources. I wanted the course to be self paced, so they could go through the material as fast or slow as they want, but in order to get the full benefit of the course, they would need to complete all of the action steps before moving on to the next lesson.

Here are the steps that I took to create the content for my online course:

  1.  I broke my process into eight different pieces and came up with a title, or theme for each week. 
  2. I took notes for each theme and wrote down the pieces that I wanted to be sure to include in each module.
  3. I created an outline for each module.
  4. I created a full script for each module as I planned to make a video for each one. I am torn about this step. Having the script was great because I was able to publish the text under the video, so people have the choice of watching the video, reading, or both. But having the script made it harder to film. They were too long to memorize, and I didn’t want to be reading in the video. Next time I think I will just have bullet points or talking points instead of a full script.

How exciting! I have the meat and potatoes for the course! I still have a ways to go. I still need the vegetables, the utensils, maybe a glass of wine, some nice soft music for atmosphere. We're not there yet, but we have the main ingredient. We can build the rest around that. 

See Part 2 and Part 3 of this series, The Nuts and Bolts of Creating My First Online Course, to see how the rest of the process came together and to get more tips and tricks for creating your own digital course. 

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