So, you want to build an online course business?
Your first inclination may be to do it all yourself, but like any other business, you can grow a lot faster if you utilize a team. Hiring freelancers to address certain aspects of course building will allow you to bring your product to market sooner and start generating revenue.
Skip to an area you’d like to improve with freelancers:
But first, why is 2021 one of the best times to consider outsourcing your course-building team?
Increased Availability of Gig Talent
The pandemic forced a lot of the job force to seek new sources of income. Roughly 48% of the U.S. workforce performed some type of freelancing work in 2020. On top of that, video conferencing, online collaboration tools, and international freelance marketplaces now make it accessible to hire freelancer talent anywhere in the world.
What does that mean for you? Well, with a flood of freelance labor on the market, you can cost-effectively hire help for just about anything. On websites like Upwork and Fiverr, you can easily find specialists in graphic design, writing, video production, course setup, and marketing to help you scale your course creation efforts.
Challenges with Building an Online Course Sales Business
Let’s review the most common challenges faced by course creators and how you can address each of them with freelancers.
Challenge: Competition and finding a niche
Success breeds success. It also breeds envy.
You may have seen a handful of ads on Facebook and Instagram of ultra-wealthy course creators gloating over their 6-figures course sales empire. They promote their course on how to sell courses. That little light clicks in your head: maybe I can sell a course and make a ton of cash too…
But then you go to a course marketplace and notice that there are already thousands of courses that cover the topic you initially picked. All the industry growth and success stories have brought in more competition making it more difficult for course creators to simply find good course ideas.
Solution: Hire a Keyword Researcher to Help You Find a Niche
The best way to beat the competition is to get there before they do. Finding a niche sounds great, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. You need to know your passions and strengths, be an early adopter, understand your audience, and be willing to adapt. Avoid just going to Google and searching for the best online course niches. If someone is already writing about it on Google, then it’s probably being covered. At the very least, dig deeper than the first page of search results.
Leverage tools like Google Trends and Ahrefs to get insights on what topics people are searching for. You can also explore other trusted sites such as Moz and their Keyword Explorer tools to curate valuable data and improve your SEO.
If you are unsure about how to do keyword research, you can hire experienced marketing freelancers to do it for you. These freelancers can provide you with a list of keywords that have a good search volume and low competition. This way, you can focus on producing content that will be more likely to rank on Google, helping generate organic exposure and more sales.
Challenge: Time and energy to produce content
What makes a good course?
- Thoughtful and methodical design
- Smooth scope and sequence
- A storyboard of lessons and learning activities
- Graphic design and video
- Written copy and other supporting text
Now ask yourself these questions:
- Are you an expert in the subject?
- Are you a graphic designer?
- Do you know how to edit videos?
- Do you have time in the evenings and weekends to build out interactive quizzes?
- Are you willing to learn the course building software to organize and test all materials?
Depending on the length and detail of the course, it can take anywhere between 25 – 500 hours to create an online course. For a mini-course with just four or five videos, you could probably knock it out in a couple of days. An in-depth flagship course with multiple modules and lessons could take eight weeks or more to complete.
Solution: Hire a Graphic Designer
A big-time drain for course creators often comes with creating relevant and engaging media. Hiring a graphic designer will provide several benefits. Obviously, it will save you time, but it will also help increase the value of your product, making it more attractive and easier to market down the road.
Consider using a flat-rate graphic design company during your course build. You can get dozens of design requests completed for an average cost of $400 per month. The alternative is to pay someone by the hour. Just keep in mind a typical logo could cost $375 all by itself. A flat-rate service will get you much higher productivity and you can request items like infographics, custom illustrations, a course cover, and custom icons to enhance the overall appearance of your course.
Solution: Hire a Video Editor
Video editing can be a long, cumbersome process. But freelance video editors are relatively inexpensive in Eastern Europe and Asia. You can record yourself talking over some PowerPoint slides or a Loom video. To give it a professional touch, upload the file to a shared drive and hire a video editor to cut out any mistakes and add transitions with a professional look and feel.
Solution: Hire a Course Builder
Once you have your content ready to go, hiring an experienced course builder to expedite the process of publishing within your online course platform. There are a number of freelance websites you can use to find a course configuration expert. Many of these freelancers have direct experience and familiarity with popular course platforms like Thinkific as well. They will upload your content, configure your assessments, and set up your landing page so you can get to market faster.
Bonus Tip: Focus on the MVP
With any product, it’s essential to work as quickly as possible to get to market. You don’t want to miss the boat. And you’ll ultimately need to test the water and start generating revenue. The best course creators adopt a practice often used in software development communities: they build towards a minimal viable product (MVP).
An MVP is a product with enough features to attract early customers and validate an idea early in the product development cycle. After proving the model, you can then reassess, improve, and release it again. Remember, your first release of the course doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be extensive enough to provide value, educate your students, and create organic word-of-mouth.
Challenge: Attracting Customers
Many course creators often operate on the mindset that if you build it, they will come. This is a recipe for disaster. You can easily fall into the trap of investing a lot of time and resources into building an amazing course and never make a single sale.
Attracting customers starts with careful market research and preparation is key. It doesn’t matter how pretty your course looks — if there is no consumer demand, or if there’s already an established authority in the space, you’re going to have a tough time yielding any type of positive return on investment.
Another common issue course developers run into when trying to attract customers is cash flow. Many businesses blow their entire marketing budget during the course development phase. This is another reason why bootstrapping with freelancers is important. They will help keep your development costs under control so you’ll still have money left over to invest in active marketing campaigns.
Beyond doing market research and building a course that looks good, here are some additional solutions to attract customers:
Solution: Hire a Writer
Hiring a writer to generate content to promote your course is a great way to get exposure and ultimately generate sales. It also provides a double bang for your buck. Written articles, when done properly, can rank your website on search engines like Google. They also can be repurposed and incorporated into your course. You can also use them in social media posts, emails, and other marketing outreach efforts.
When hiring a freelance writer, do not pay someone hourly as that can get expensive. As an alternative, use a flat-rate writing service or negotiate a fixed rate per article with a freelancer. This will help you keep writing costs down, so you can make the necessary revisions to match your brand’s voice.
Solution: Run Paid Ads on Facebook and Instagram
Running paid ads is a good option for established course sales businesses looking to promote new content. You will need to budget for a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) freelancer to manage the campaign. You’ll also need to budget for running ads on the ad platform itself. If you have an existing customer database, you can use those data sources to run retargeting campaigns. An experienced Facebook Ads freelancer will also be able to install a tracking pixel on your course landing pages, so you can drip on students who might not have made a purchase yet.
Solution: Build an Email Series
For existing course creators, or businesses with an existing customer database, an email series is a no-brainer. Customers that have already purchased your courses in the past have already taken the leap of faith. You have already sold them. As you begin to develop additional courses, it’s important to start to make contact with your existing customers. Start to build anticipation. If this is an extension of your first course, or continued education, remind them of the focal points of the prior curriculum.
Freelance marketers specialized in developing email nurturing campaigns are valuable assets. These freelancers can provide a variety of skills including email template design, copywriting, data analysis, and creative strategy to craft compelling messages that convert.
Building an online course business is like building virtually any other business. Sure, you can probably power through a few weeks to develop a basic course and catch lightning in a bottle. But that is not a recipe for sustainable growth.
As the online education and gig economy markets continue to grow, there will inevitably be a feast or famine turnout. Course creators that effectively maximize cost-effective labor, including freelance talent, will excel at a faster rate than those that do it themselves or in-house.
More courses will get developed at a lower expense thanks to freelancers. This will increase profitability and customer databases for those investors, making it easier to reinvest and scale. These successes will make it even more difficult for those that neglect investing in people and technology. Those entrepreneurs will either be forced to adopt freelancers into their course development and growth plans, or they’ll likely experience stagnated growth. At that stage, they’ll either need to accept course development as a hobby, or as a side-hustle, and not as a viable business venture.