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You’re a content creator interested in YouTube monetization.

You’ve already started creating content – uploading and publishing videos on YouTube and you’ve gotten a bit of a following going on.

On the one hand, there’s the opportunity to earn money from YouTube by inserting ads. And while that can be quite lucrative, a lot of it is out of your control.

On the other hand, there is the opportunity to sell courses online – something that can be just as lucrative (if not more) as ad revenue, and puts control of your income in your hands.

How do you make that leap though?

To help you answer that question we invited XayLi Barclay as a guest for our YouTube Creator Summit.

XayLi is the founder of Shoot Start Grow Video Academy. As a visual content creation coach, she specializes in video content and helps her clients develop confidence on camera, create smart video content that positions them as experts, and helps them sell products and services with ease. On top of that, she’s an avid, expert user of Thinkific.

Learn how to choose the topic for your first online course and make the jump from YouTube to selling online courses with a smart content plan and effective video lessons:

Listen To Your Audience Carefully…

When it comes to choosing a topic for your first online course, it’s important to choose and define a niche.

And while this is definitely something you would have considered when starting your YouTube channel, in most cases, you’re only just starting to scratch the surface.

Like XayLi mentions, you might already be succeeding with capturing a certain target audience on your channel. However, they may actually want something different than what you’re currently offering in terms of content.

As a result, you’re potentially missing out on opportunities to really take your business to the next level.

To overcome this, XayLi recommends a 3-step system:

  1. Consider niching down even further than where you currently are. This means only covering a fraction of what you share on your channel, in your course
  2. Research that ‘niche-within-a-niche’ and see what is already out there
  3. Ask your subscribers what they’re struggling most about that topic

Earn Money From YouTube By Selling Online Courses

Once you’ve discovered what your specific topics are (from following the steps above), it’s time to start creating educational content around that area.

Now if you’re already creating educational content on YouTube, then chances are you’re a natural teacher.

And that’s awesome news.

The next step you need to make is ensuring that your content is thorough and in-depth. And as XayLi calls it, ‘edutational’’. In other words, it should be a mixture of entertainment and education.

By doing so, you’ll ensure your audience is both engaged with your free content (your YouTube channel) and curious about your paid content (i.e. your online course).

As for what the difference is between free channel content and paid online course content – it’s largely the same. There are only two main differences.

The first is that an online course is structured in a logical order, while channel content is messy – it likely covers a wide variety of different topics in seemingly random order.

The second is that YouTube videos often only scratch the surface. You can only hold someone’s attention span so long on YouTube – the format alone is designed to keep viewers clicking from one video to another, without dedicated focus. With an online course, you can dive deeper into whatever topic you teach as you take students on a curated learning journey.

How Do You Know What Topic To Create An Online Course About?

Creating content for an online course requires a slightly different process than how you would for YouTube.

Rather than just sharing ideas, you have to go deeper and ask yourself a few key questions, such as:

  • What do you want to teach?
  • What would you like the outcome of someone taking your course to be?
  • What goal do you have for your ideal student?
  • What is the end goal for you as an educator now that you’re turning your YouTube subscribers into students?

To assist you with answering these questions, XayLi recommends reading the most popular questions in your comments on YouTube and brainstorming the steps around them – what would process look like from start to finish?

Find Your Secret Sauce

The next step is to think about your ‘special sauce’.

Your ‘special sauce’, according to XayLi, is the key thing that differentiates you from everyone else in your industry.

In XayLi’s case, she teaches how to succeed with video, and her ‘special sauce’ is that she focuses on serving people who create online courses.

To find out what your ‘special sauce’ is, XayLi recommends answering these questions:

  • What are you specifically known for in your space?
  • What are other things that people know, love and appreciate about you as an individual? (i.e. your personality)

Spending the time to clarify this will enable you to create a unique experience for your students that no one else can replicate.

How To Structure Your Online Course Content

If you’ve been a YouTuber for quite some time, creating your own online course can seem like a daunting task.

Especially if you’ve never really had a structure in your content creation process before.

To circumnavigate this, XayLi recommends starting off by thinking about the end goal for your student.

By doing so, you can trace back the steps from that desired outcome, and effectively create what she calls a success path, which is the journey your student takes when they go from where they are now, to where they want to be. 

Online Course Transformation

From there, it’s just a matter of breaking it down into the key stages and milestones along the way. 

To help you map out this thought process, XayLi uses a tool called WorkFlowy, which she demonstrates in her video.

To see XayLi work through an example of building
your lesson plan, watch the video above!


Video Tips To Keep In Mind When Creating Online Courses

Once you have your topic and content plan mapped out, it’s time to create videos!

Before you get started, here are a few pointers XayLi recommends in preparation:

Tip #1 – Master different kinds of video content

Different kinds of videos serve different purposes, and in your online course, you will undoubtedly be jumping from one to another.

From screen shares to voiceovers and talking head videos, XayLi shares her favorite types of videos, what they’re used for and how she uses them. She also lists out her favorite video tools, such as Canva and Ecamm Live.

To learn more of XayLi’s favorite tools for creating different kinds of video content, check out the video above.

Tip #2 – Keep Your Course Videos Short, Sweet And To The Point

The rule with course video length is simply this – don’t expect anyone else to do what you wouldn’t do.

For example, if you’re not going to sit down and look at an hour’s worth of course content in one sitting, then don’t expect anyone else to.

In general, you want to keep your course videos short and goal oriented.

Tip #3 – Never Timestamp Your Work With Greetings

One mistake that newbie course creators make is unknowingly timestamping their videos while greeting their audience.

For example, you might begin one of your videos with “Welcome to the Facebook 2.0 course!

By doing so, you remove your ability to use the same video in say, a Facebook 3.0 course.  As a general rule, avoid speaking to specific dates and times in your content as much as possible.

Tip #4 – Keep your Slides Less Wordy

Just like you would when presenting on stage with a PowerPoint presentation, you want to keep the words on your slides to a minimum. 

You want to be able to explain your concepts and tell stories without your audience getting too caught up in the content of the slide itself.

Should You Create An Online Course Or A Membership?

One final question you may have on your mind is whether you should create an online course or a membership site.

Before we dive into that, here are a couple of major differences between the two:

  • Online courses are great for getting people to a specific outcome. They typically offer limited support and are used to teach foundational content.
  • Membership sites are great if you want to offer a higher-touch service, with ongoing support, content and community building.

There are pros and cons of each, and the choice you make depends on the outcomes you want to achieve, and what your audience needs.

In her video, XayLi breaks down additional key differences between these two, and in what situations she recommends each. To find out which one suits you best, check out her video!

So there we have it – the stage by stage process of how to create your first online course, as a YouTuber. We hope you’ve found this video useful!

Connect with XayLi at or visit her Video Academy at

Create and sell online courses | Thinkific online course platform