online course how to start a business

Expert tips from Tim Berry, leading business plan expert, founder and President of Palo Alto Software, Inc. on how to start a business. Tim give you tips on what to do and what not to do when starting up your business.

In this course you will learn the key elements to starting and running a business. These include: Who is your ideal customer? What traits best describe your potential customers? What is the best way to reach your potential customers? What are your starting costs and other starting needs?

Who this course is for:

  • An entrepreneur
  • Thinking about starting a business
  • In the process of starting a business
  • Writing a business plan
  • Growing your business
  • Marketing your business
  • Need help understanding the financials of your business
  • Pitching your business to a bank or investors

Starting an Online Course Business from Scratch

APRIL 2, 2020 • Kyriaki Raouna and 1 more Back to blogShare307TweetShare307SHARES

Today, you can start a business on just about anything.

Whether you are an artist, a professional musician, a teacher, an actor, an athlete, a writer or a gardener you have the option to open your own business and start making money out of it.

How can you launch your online course business today?

All you need is the right course platform and a plan on how to launch your business.

Online Course Business VS Online Business

There are many reasons why you should create an online course business instead of any other online business. The most prevailing one is the fact that as evidence shows, there is a lot of future due to growing popularity and demand in selling online courses.

The latest data shows the elearning market to more than double in the next few years reaching almost $400 billion (USD) by 2026. The growing demand comes both from individuals and corporations looking for online courses and training.

Online courses cost less, offer flexibility and are accessible to the growing number of internet users and smartphone penetration. People now learn from the comfort of their homes, on-the-go, or the office at the time of their choosing and without any traveling required.

At the same time, businesses invest in continuous professional education, individuals look for self-development courses or learning new skills online.

Fantastic news, right?

Starting an online course business can be a great way to:

  • Pursue a ‘career’ that focuses entirely on your passion project: no more 9-5 work schedule for you as you get to teach a subject you love on your own terms.
  • Create a source of passive income: once you get your business up and running and have your material online, you are ready to welcome students and start earning money.
  • Offer your value back to your community: whatever you learn along the way can be valuable for others and spreading your knowledge is inspirational.

If you have been looking to leave the confines of a 9 to 5 job and launch your own business, you should be using your knowledge to teach others!

First Steps to a Course Selling Business

Every business needs a structure and every structure needs to have a specific plan in place. Think about it – when you are ready to sail your boat, you prepare your equipment and make sure you have your manual with you at all times. Well, the same works for businesses.

Setting up Goals

Having a plan is all about setting up your next goals is essentially your business proposal, that helps to determine where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Writing this all down can prepare you to deal with possible setbacks and deal with them without straying from your main goal.

Examples of Goals:

  • Make $10.000 of income per month.
  • Leave a 9 to 5 job within 6 months.
  • Establish your business as a leader in your industry.
  • Train 1000 people in the first year of business.

After setting your goal, it’s important to keep it, but be flexible with it. There will be changes along the way. Accepting imperfection and embracing change is part of the process, and innovation can only come through the constant ‘battle’ between trial and error. Celebrate both successes and failures and keep pushing towards your goal.

What you will need:

  • Have a strong commitment to your goals.
  • Build your own company’s support network.
  • Be flexible with your goals.
  • Focus on your long-term business goals.
  • Accept your business imperfections.
  • Keep a positive attitude to everything.

These steps are vital if you are up for founding a course business. Becoming an edupreneur isn’t for the light-hearted as it requires much discipline and commitment – not only to yourself but also to other people – your audience.

As a result, successful businesses are built by people with a healthy mindset and vision who manage to transmit the process of learning and creating into a fun and progressive environment others want to join.

Decide What to Teach

An essential part of setting up your course business is finding out what you want to teach. While ideas are floating your mind, there are a couple of ways to refine your list down to one.

Here’s how:

Decide what ‘problem’ you can solve: think about the knowledge and skills you possess in your field of work.

Come up with the appropriate plan for it: think about how are you going to help other people – what strategy/plan you have placed to make it work.

Present your solution to your target market: come up with your offer and make sure you are ready to show it to the public.

Test your idea by asking people what they think about it: you can do this by creating a mini-course, pre-selling your course, sending out survey emails or asking for feedback.

Choose a Subject

While you may find it difficult to choose a subject, bare in mind that everyone is good at something!

The main idea is that you find something that you have a good knowledge of and it’s profitable enough to become a business. This means that you should choose a subject that:

a) you are passionate about and
b) you can make money out of it.

How to decide what to teach:

Teach what you already know: if you are exceptionally skilled or experienced in a topic, share your knowledge on what you already have.

Find out what people keep asking you advice on: if people are coming to you for answers in a topic, it means that you already know something of value to them.

Learn more about the problems people are facing: ask others what they are struggling with and be willing to come up with a solution.

Teach your passion: if you are passionate about a topic, you have probably spent a lot of time learning and developing and perfecting that skill or hobby, and you will probably enjoy teaching it to others.

If you are still unsure about this, be aware that people create – and have already created online courses literally on any subject, including the following:

  • Work-related skills
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking
  • Dancing
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Dog training
  • Using a tool (Excel, Video Editing etc)
  • Producing music
  • Writing
  • Sports
  • Hobbies etc.

To ensure that the subject you choose is a good subject, search if someone else has done it before you. If yes, it means that there is a genuine interest for it and that is going to sell.

Research the Competition

Researching your competition is an essential step to take. Learn what is available in the market, how many competitors work and what they do, as well as how they do it.

High competition might mean you will be splitting the pie and getting a small slice but might also mean there is high demand, where low competition might mean no demand at all. Compare this information with how popular is your topic, and people are asking for it.

Learning about the competition will help you find the silver lining between what you want to do, your area of expertise, and the market needs. What is missing from the market, and where your expertise fits?

You will be amazed at what you can find (and what you can learn) about your industry with just a single search.

Identifying Your Audience

At this point, it’s also important to think about your target market. The first question to ask yourself is:

Who is my ideal customer?’

Coming up with an answer to this question can help you create a customer persona, to think about how your course is going to be received and most importantly, to whom.

For example, if your subject is early primary school courses, you are probably looking for women/men aged 25 – 45 with at least one child between 6 to 12 years old. This will help you avoid targeting the wrong people and crafting the right message for them.

This gives you the focus you need to make the right choices on where to advertise. Simply put, it helps you know who your students are – your audience, where to find them and how to approach them.

Your ideal customer will also inform your other decisions. The colors of your website, the copy (text) and the pictures you will be using while selling to them, but also, the content of your course. If you are targeting millennials, you might have a short video-focused course, while an older audience might prefer a slower-paced course with more text.


Want the best piece of advice?

Start building your brand before you launch your course so that: a) you can stand out from the competition and b) you have an audience ready to buy when you launch.

Branding can easily help you create a marketing funnel where you can get course sales from and it’s all about how you position your business in the market.

First off, your goal is to position yourself as the go-to expert in your field. To do this – since you can’t appeal to just about anyone – nor you should try to, you need to be able to attract your target audience effectively.

Here you have to think of your unique value proposition (UVP) answering the following questions:

  • Whom do you want to help?
  • What do you help them do?
  • Why is it beneficial for them?
  • What makes your business unique?
  • Do you offer anything that is considered as an ‘added value’ compared to what other services/competitors sell online?
  • What do you want people to think when they think of you?
  • What do you stand for or against?
  • Why you do what you do?

These questions give you a chance to see your business through a different scope – from your potential students perspective. Also, it helps you understand what’s the real purpose behind what you do, your career motivation and ultimate goal.

Wendy’s Welcome – Start Social

Don’t forget that every business has a story behind it and you are the creator. You decide what it is and what it can become.

Once you have figured this out, you are ready to create your logo, your website, and get your business cards ready!

Deciding on a Course Price

Determining your course price can be tricky, but there is a way to find a balance between what you sell and what you can make out of your sales and business profits.

A surefire strategy to get to the right price range for your course is considering the following key points:

The quality of the course content: thinking of the types of content you intend to use in your learning material e.g. video, audio, text and the level of experience you are giving away. Also, take into account the equipment, computer programs you used to create the content as well as the costs involved in the process, including outsourcing.

The number of hours of work you put into it: time is valuable and the longer it takes you to produce something, the higher it should be priced.

The value/outcome you create in the long run: how big is the problem you are trying to solve? Research and calculate the possible costs involved in the process of getting access to the solution you offer through different means or offline e.g. helping someone lose weight, discover their ideal career, learn how to paint or advance their career etc. and set your price accordingly. Personal goals have a high satisfaction value, but a skill/certificate leading to a promotion might be valued even higher.

The involvement you have on the course: you will need to decide the level of instructor involvement you will have. Are you going to be offering feedback, answering questions, having live sessions or have a self-paced course with pre-recorded material? This should be reflected in the price.

Launching Your Course

The best thing about starting a business is that you have the opportunity to create something new, fresh, and innovative from scratch. Fortunately, there is a lot of potential for that, when creating online courses.

We have a complete guide you can read on how to create an online course, below is a quick break-down of what you need to do:

Decide on Learning Goals and Objectives

Your learning content should tie along with your learning goals and objectives. Setting up learning outcomes and objectives can help to come up with the right techniques and assessment exercises for your students..

Create the Course Outline

Your course outline can be a bullet-point list of the steps your students will need to reach the learning goals you have decided. There, you can “draw” the learning path and what you will need to achieve those.

Think of the type of content you want to use

There are many types of content you can choose from including video, text, audio, worksheets, slides, PDFs which are easy to view and download. Choosing the best format depends on the lesson plan you have in place. This will enrich your course outline.

Once you come up with your goals, you can create assignments, worksheets, quizzes, and/or discussion boards for students

If you are using video, which is currently the most popular tool online, make sure you choose your equipment accordingly.Learn how to sell courses in the LearnWorlds academySign up nowCreate an Online Course with LearnworldsFREEVideo Based Learning: A Complete GuideFREEThe Complete Guide to Creating Awesome Interactive VideosFREELearn How Interactive Videos Benefit Online CoursesFREE

Publish the course

When you have your content ready, the next step is getting your course online. LearnWorlds is the perfect course platform to get you started.

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

Start free trial

You can also do a pre-launch and prepare prospective students for the official course launch with a count-down.

Come up with a sales strategy

Lastly, you will need to prepare a sales strategy. Getting ready for your course launch, creating an email list and promotion material. If you don’t know where to start, you can read more on our guide on how to sell an online course.

And, you can download our ebook for more ideas on how to sell online courses:Free ebook

The Ultimate Guide To Selling Online Courses (vol 1)

Discover how to make your online courses ready for sales and, most importantly, profitable.

Building A Course Website

Every product needs to have an online presence. You will need to make a website to host your online business, and create landing pages for your courses that will identify with your target audience.

Appearance has a lot to tell site visitors and tights well with business branding. Visual appeal plays a huge role in the engagement of learners with online content and vice versa.

To fast-track your way to creating a successful website do the following:

Home / Landing page copy: Prepare a marketing copy (the text) with clear Call-to-Actions. Focus on solving a problem and leading visitors to the next step – signing up, buying the course, joining a mailing list etc.

Include an About us/me page: Who you are, your passions, your experiences. A page introducing yourself and your team is very important to anyone who has never heard of you before.

Blog: A blog can build trust, bring traffic, engage visitors and position your business as a market leader.

Course pages: Each course needs to present its value, the person teaching and its content.

Marketing an Online Course

So, your course is ready and published, what now?

The next step is marketing and selling your courses. Marketing is all about attracting visitors and pushing them further into your sales funnel.

This can be a combination of offline channels – business contacts, phone-calling, event marketing, meetings, workshops – and online channels – paid ads, SEO, affiliate marketing, partners, social media and email marketing.

Attracting the right audience is what really counts in all your marketing efforts. You will need to choose the right way to attract your audience. For example, selling compliance training might mean arranging meetings with local businesses, while teaching the guitar might require a youtube channel.

However, the most important part of your strategy is how you can capture and nurture leads (people who have given their contact information) into paying customers. The best way to do that is with email and social media marketing.

Email Marketing

The first thing you will need is an email list. Luckily, we explain in detail how to build an email list here.

An email list gives you access to a well-targeted group of people who have already shown their interest in your topic. Do your best to stay in touch with these people informing them about what you do and sending them helpful emails. You can either send them industry specific news, advice, insights or send them your latest blog post.

Tip: Use a free mini-course to get people to share their email address.

Social Media Marketing

A social media presence is very important to attract your first visitors. Use your personal social media first and then create professional accounts. Choose wisely, as not all SM are suitable for the same audience, and you might need to focus on one or two initially.

Create a page/profile for your online academy on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or even Pinterest and make industry-relevant posts frequently to drive traffic on your site.

Be aware that advertising on the right channels isn’t enough, so you have to come up with compelling texts and share posts at the right time. You can get help on this through social management tools such as Buffer or HootSuite.


Reach out to your network and talk with professionals in your field. These could be your students, colleagues, or anyone in your network who has something positive to say about your school and promote it accordingly.

Approach them and ask them if they want to become your partners and spread the word to their networks. Affiliate marketing is a great way to get in front of new people and use another’s influencers skills to sell courses.

You can also find other collaborations with small influencers like appearing as a guest in podcasts, webinars or writing a blog post for another website.

Getting Your First Leads into Customers

When a visitor gives you their email address, this is considered a “lead”. Getting more leads from free courses and other downloadables you can add them in your email list.

You will then need an email sequence to “nurture” those leads into paying customers. Think of leads as seeds of a flower, your email sequence are regular watering and paying customers as the blooming flowers. You want to take care of your seeds so many of them will become beautiful flowers in the future.

There are more ways to nurture a lead into a customer explored in the next few paragraphs.

Selling a Course

Now, you got the leads; you are sending them useful emails or social media to engage them, how would you go on selling your course?

This is all about your sales funnel. You want to have people moving from one stage of your funnel to the next:

  • Awareness — They know about you and your courses.
  • Lead — They have shared their contact information.
  • Customer — They have bought your course.
  • Retention / Loyalty — They are becoming repeat buyers.

The secret to getting leads and turning these to your paying customers is your offer. Your call to actions, your messaging and marketing messages. You need to give them some free value, show your expertise and convince them that you have the solution.

The guide on How to Sell Online Courses takes you through the whole process of setting up your sales funnel and understanding how you can increase your site traffic and leads.

Consider running a live webinar on your topic. This offers a huge opportunity to get your face out and present yourself to your audience if you don’t mind getting in front of the camera.

Similarly, you can join a local public speaking event, workshop or gathering, and even organise one yourself. If you are doing business coaching, you can do a workshop for SMEs in your area, and give them a discount to join your full course to help them succeed.

Continue Growing Your Online Course Business

A business is a living thing, it needs nurturing and can grow over time. Having your first sales is only the beginning. Learning from the first steps you will need to go back and improve your processes, bring more people in and work to make your sales funnel evergreen (run forever).

Then, you can go on to publish your second course, and then the next and the next …

There come new opportunities to explore and grow!

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