There has been an explosion in online learning in recent years. Once seen as a poor relation in education, online learning has finally come into its own. With even mobile internet offering the bandwidth needed for video, high-quality courses can be delivered on demand, straight to students’ devices. People can now choose from educators around the world, and benefit from the learning they offer at a time and place convenient to them.
The pandemic, of course, has helped that trend. Many people found new interests or dived deeper into old ones with the time, or perspective, they gained during pandemic restrictions. And even traditional university courses were delivered virtually; many colleges are continuing at least some online learning.
So, if you want to sell online courses from your own website, where do you start? Luckily, most of the technical work has already been done. Unfortunately, it’s the hard work of putting a course together that’s left for you!
Step 1. Find your niche
For most people, the niche might be the easiest part. If you already have a website, then it’s likely that your niche, or passion, is what it’s all about. The question, perhaps, is exactly how you build a course around that. There are a few things to consider.
First, make sure it’s something that you have an enduring passion about. If you think back to your school days, you can probably remember good and bad teachers. And you’ll probably remember the good teachers were the ones that had passion. Whether it was an abiding love for the books they were sharing, or an infectious excitement about getting to the solution of that formula. Whatever you are teaching, will you be able to bring and maintain an enthusiasm that engages your audience?
Second, can you position your niche in a sweet spot to sell a course? It needs to be general enough that you will have an audience. But there also needs to be enough specialism that it offers something they cannot learn elsewhere. Of course, the beauty of the internet is that your potential audience is billions of people, meaning even quite narrow subjects are likely to have sufficient interest.
Essentially, you are trying to find something that you can teach, that people want to learn, and where you can stand out from the competition.
Step 2. Plan your content strategy
You know your niche and what you are going to teach. Now you have to think about how you are going to teach it.
This is easier said than done. Teaching is a skill in itself, that’s why teachers usually have to be qualified. And it’s even harder when you are using videos because you don’t have the immediate feedback from your students.
But think about the online training you’ve used in the past. We’ve all done online training, and we know what engages us, and what doesn’t help us learn. Can anybody honestly say they are excited to read screens of text followed by the low-quality multi-choice quizzes that most online learning offers? (As a hint, choose the correct answer: (a) sharks, (b) no, not at all, (c) 1842 (d) setting your own hair on fire.)
Video is the most engaging medium for online learning. It can combine a human element, whether as a demonstrator, presenter, or narrator, while also showing the practical aspects of the subject being taught. And it allows you to control the pace, moving quickly over the simple and taking time on the complex topics.
It will take some planning, and perhaps some experimentation, to get that content strategy right. But once you have it, you are well on the way to creating a great course.
Step 3. Make your videos
Making videos deserves a series of articles of its own. But, in short, if you want to sell online courses from your own website, you need to have videos that are worth buying!
The first thing you need to consider is video quality. You probably have a very high-quality camera in your pocket, but despite the advances in phone cameras, they are unlikely to be enough on their own. And whatever camera you are using, there are a few things that frequently let down videos.
First is lighting: there needs to be enough to illuminate the scene. A dark, murky video where the details are hard to make out is no fun to watch. And, depending on your camera, it’s likely to result in a grainy image as the camera’s processor tries to compensate for the lack of light.
And make sure the light is even. Diffused light sources are the best since they will avoid harsh shadows. If you are shooting outside, then use reflectors, or even shoot when the skies are overcast. Clouds may put a dampener on most people’s day, but they act as a great way to diffuse light.
You also have to make sure you have a smooth shot. While uneven shooting can, sometimes, be very effective, perhaps to emphasize elements or even add a bit of drama, it will be quite unusual in a video course. Using a tripod or a gimbal will ensure that your picture isn’t shaky or drifting over the course of a shot.
Second, do not underestimate the importance of sound. This is a major weakness of modern phone cameras. Although, with good light you can get a great video from modern phones, there is nothing you can do about the tiny microphone they carry.
Viewers are very unforgiving about sound quality, often without realizing it. However, just trying to watch a video with poor sound quality, or even one where you turn the sound down a little too far. You’ll quickly realize that it starts to take a lot of effort. Your buyers will not expect to have to make that effort when they have paid for the video.
Finally, invest in editing. Editing is a skill and not one everyone has. This might mean you have to pay for someone else to do it, or if you are reasonably good at editing, investing in software. Most operating systems will come with rudimentary video editing software, but these are intended for hobbyist use.
Purchasing professional grade editing software will make the editing process far easier. And it will open up far more opportunities for you, having a wider range of effects and editing options. This may be on something as simple as graphics and titles, but they will also offer features like color grading, which can help you overcome some of the imperfections from shooting. You might be able to make do with consumer software, but you’ll struggle if your raw material is anything less than perfect.
Step 4. Create your website
Website creation can be a challenge. As the internet has become a richer experience for consumers, it’s become harder for developers to create the experience that consumers want. And hosting video is an immense technical challenge.
There is the logistical challenge of hosting and streaming video. Then the design challenge of creating the site. And, finally, the challenge of ensuring your site remains secure and only the people that pay can access your content. The easiest solution is to work with a third-party platform like streampal.io.
Streampal combines a simple and easy-to-use platform, with the power for you to customer every aspect, to create unique and distinctive online channels for your content.
You can start with a range of professionally designed templates for your site. Then tweak them to make sure they are exactly what you want. Once you have your site, you can start uploading your content.
Videos are the key components of a Streampal.io site. And you can use them however you want. If you want to sell online courses from your website, you might want to have an introductory video free, then have the rest requiring payment, for example.
You can also change the behavior of each video too. You might want one video to appear in multiple courses, for example, or even as standalone purchases. And each video can be accompanied by its own materials, so a purchaser can download extras, like a detailed recipe or instructions, or even just further reading for the lesson or course.
And, of course, Streampal will take care of analytics, so you know how successful your courses are, how often people are coming back for more, and what your customers are enjoying most.
Step 5. Choose your business model
Once you have your site and content ready to go, it’s just a case of choosing your business model. Online courses are a great way to generate revenue, but they can require work, so you need to think carefully not just about what you are selling, but also about what your customers are likely to want. The model you choose might reflect a variety of factors.
One-time purchases are, perhaps, the easiest for you. Essentially, you create and upload the video, or the course, and then the customer can buy access to it. Once you’ve done the work, this might become passive income, especially if your course is something relatively timeless that is not going to change or become outdated.
For example, if your video is about, say, a period of art, it’s unlikely to change drastically. So, barring a major historic discovery, you might be able to leave your video untouched for years, getting purchases from people who are starting to take their first steps in the subject.
Subscriptions have the benefit of generating recurring revenue, but also mean you have to keep working. A subscriber might benefit from access to a library of content you have created, but they are also likely to want to see new content added fairly regularly.
A subscription model is ideal if you are covering evolving topics, or perhaps areas where gaining mastery takes time. Returning to art, a subscription might be ideal for courses on how to paint in various styles, where you are constantly creating new content for different skill levels or to introduce new techniques.
Step 6. Promote your courses
Of course, if you want to sell online course from your website, you will also have to promote them. An obvious starting place will be from your website, where you can highlight and embed the courses and include promotional content.
However, you should also look at other places to promote your courses. These may include through any email list you maintain or newsletter you send out. You might also consider advertising, using the advertising platforms offered by Google or Facebook, for example, to target ads at your potential customers. And don’t forget that there are opportunities to sell in real-life as well. This is especially true if you also sell your skills and knowledge offline. Those who come to see or learn from you might be unaware of the possibility to buy online courses, and will jump at the chance.
But one of the benefits of online courses is that they are always there. Streampal includes search engine optimization, so your site will, by being hosted on a wider platform, start attracting traffic naturally through the search process, some of whom will convert to paying customers.
Anyone can be a teacher
Part of the internet’s power is its ability to bring people together and to share. Once upon a time if you had an interest you were limited to sharing it with people who were physically close, perhaps in your neighborhood or town. Now, you can easily share your interest with people on the other side of the world.
That also increases the potential to share learning. Instead of being limited to just a few enthusiasts in a town, you are now able to reach all the enthusiasts in the world. So, even if your offer is incredibly niche, the potential is there to turn it into a course with a healthy student body.
And the tools, like Streampal.io, are there to help you turn that dream into a reality. Sharing your passion has never been easier.