Online course do’s and don’ts for niche businesses

By Susannah Davda

If you are the founder of a niche business, you may have read somewhere that you should create an online course and, if that is something you are considering, this article contains information I wish I had known about before creating my own online courses. I hope it makes your course creation process easier.

I am the owner of the niche but profitable business The Shoe Consultant. I help people to start shoe brands. I launched my first course How to Start a Shoe Brand in 2020 and to date, it has made £56,000 in revenue.

I have just launched another course, so the do’s and don’ts I am about to share with you are fresh in my mind.

DO

Plan your marketing before your online course content

There is no point in creating a course if you haven’t told anyone it exists. Plan who you are going to market your course to and how you are going to reach them before you create your content. This enables you to build your course with those people in mind, resulting in a course which answers their questions. This makes marketing your online course much easier than creating it in a vacuum and hoping sales will just happen.

Anticipate course creation taking a lot of time

Each of my online courses took a whole year to create. That’s not from the moment I had the idea, but from when I started to build the course. My courses are in-depth premium-priced offerings rather than quick guides and these large projects had to fit around my other business activities. However, even short courses take longer than you think.

When you have written your list of modules, start planning how much time you think each module or element (e.g. writing the content, shooting videos, video editing, creating graphics, marketing) will take. Then double or even triple it. If you are going to create a course you are proud of, it will definitely take longer than you think it will.

Clear your calendar for the last few weeks before launch

When you start creating a course, you may have set a launch date many months in the future. Perhaps you want to launch in January when people have made New Year’s resolutions, or in September when there is back-to-school motivation in the air. At this stage, you will probably work on your course as and when you have the time and focus.

As your self-imposed deadline gets closer, your motivation is likely to increase. You realise how much work it will take to finish the course, and you start dedicating more hours to it. Things can get intense. Passive income sounds like the dream, but people don’t talk about the extremely ‘active’ part which comes before.

DON’T

Assume it’s all profit

You will never pocket the full course price as profit. Whether you list your course on a platform like Udemy, Thinkific or Teachable, or host it on your own website, there are fees to pay. My courses live on my WordPress site, and I pay for the LearnDash plugin, and Vimeo for hosting my videos, and a fee is also deducted by my payment provider Stripe. Make sure that when pricing your course, you factor in all of your costs as well as consider the value of your course to your customers.

Expect to sell a hundred courses on launch day

Even if you have planned your marketing meticulously, your course may still be a slow burn from a sales point of view. Depending on the topic of your course, how many people are looking for help with that subject, and how saturated the market is with that category of online course. It will also take a while for your SEO to build, or for people to find you on a course hosting platform. Experiment with different ways of promoting your course post-launch to see which are most effective.

Burn out

Try not to jeopardise your health, other paid work or relationships for the sake of your upcoming course. This takes some planning and strong boundaries. I believe that with better planning and more dedicated course time in the earlier months of course creation, I could have avoided working evenings and weekends in the final weeks.

I also think a self-imposed deadline is just that. I was desperate to get to the post-launch stage of my second course, so I refused to shift the deadline. Looking back, I could have moved it and worked a little less intensively, avoiding near burnout.

Should you create an online course for your niche business? Only if you can’t stop thinking about it and you have time to dedicate to it.

I also think your course should have a clear purpose and a compelling reason to exist. My How to Start a Shoe Brand course was a way for people who couldn’t afford to invest in my one-to-one consultancy could access my expertise. I created the How to Photograph Shoes to Sell course because an old blog post of mine on that theme was generating high web traffic showing a clear need.

I hope these online courses dos and don’t help your niche business. I wish you luck and much passive income (after the active part).


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