Whether you’ve just created your first online course or have been working in the online course industry for a while, one thing remains in common: You want to make the biggest impact possible.
Boosting your income from online courses is dependent on a few factors, according to these five high-performing course creators — creators who make over $20k per month in revenue. Understanding your ‘why,’ thinking outside of the box, embracing imperfection, showing up consistently on social media, and gaining the confidence to charge what you’re worth are just a few things they’ve learned along the way to successfully create profitable online courses.
Here are their top tips to increase your monthly revenue by doing what you love:
Understand your ‘why’
Artist, coach and educator Tori Swanson uses Thinkific to teach artists how to become profitable through online courses.
Along her business journey, she had a realization: She decided that her business had to be rooted in serving the wellbeing of others in order to be successful. “Once I understood this, everything fell into place because it was clear what was authentic and inauthentic. The more honest, vulnerable and authentic I show up in life, the more I can contribute to others,” she says.
Swanson believes that one of the main reasons she’s been successful is through developing clarity around her offers. “Being clear about why I create, paint, and serve others through coaching has helped me say no to clients and opportunities that were out of line with my values. It’s also helped me to create content that is about my audience, not about me,” she adds. “The only way to truly grow and scale is to be passionate and obsessed with what you’re doing. If you aren’t clear on why you do what you do, then it will be much more difficult.”
Dare to think outside the box
Kat Norton started her Microsoft Excel training business, Miss Excel, using TikTok and Instagram in June 2020. She designed creative Excel training videos — complete with Vanilla Ice and Snoop Dog background music — that quickly went viral. In less than a year, she’s grown a community of over 500,000 people across platforms, and makes a living teaching people how to secure their dream job, save hours in the day, and spend more time doing what they love by becoming Excel wizards. “I started selling my Excel courses on Thinkific in November of 2020 and was able to quit my day job in consulting by January 2021 from the passive course sales. It has been such a rewarding job being able to help so many people become more efficient at work,” she says.
According to Norton, the main factor that led to her success was her ability to make a traditionally boring subject fun by infusing it with creativity. “My students find that I bring just as much fun to my courses as I do to my social media content,” she explains.
The success of photography teacher Cassidy Lynne came from letting go of the ‘typical’ photography business marketing tactics. What started out as a hobby in college turned into a full-fledged business when she decided to leave her corporate 9-5 job in pursuit of pursuing her photography passion. During the pandemic, she realized she wanted to share what she learned from building her own business to help other photographers build theirs. Creating and selling online courses was the natural next step. “One of the biggest reasons I’ve seen so much growth within my business is because of a willingness to try new strategies. I’m not afraid to fail. As I was scaling my business, I had to grow in my confidence. If I wasn’t confident in myself as an educator and entrepreneur, how could anyone else be?” says Lynne.
Swanson echoes Lynne’s thoughts on thinking outside of the box, advising that course creators let go of what they think their business is ‘supposed’ to look like. “Become a beginner, try new things, and see what sticks. Trust your inner voice and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there,” she says.
Use webinars to launch your courses
For those who are ready to level up and begin making $20k per month, Norton stresses the importance of using a webinar course launch method. “I host a free webinar each time I launch a new course. I pack the hour full of valuable content and offer a course discount at the end to allow participants to continue learning,” she shares.
Norton believes that Thinkific is what has allowed her webinar launch method to seamlessly scale her business. “When I do webinars, hundreds of sales come in at once. The automated enrollment and payment collection process has been critical for keeping up with the volume. I also love how easy it is to create new courses on Thinkific. The platform allows me to stay creative with all the different content types available and user-friendly site-building features.”
The idea that evolved into MedCram began when Kyle Allred was training to become a physician assistant under Dr. Roger Seheult. “I’d sat through countless hours of convoluted PowerPoint lectures, but Roger’s style was different. It was so efficient with simple and clear illustrations that moved at the speed of learning,” he says.
He and Rogers began creating short video lectures to help professors facilitate a flipped-classroom approach. The idea was that students could pre-learn basic information and utilize valuable classroom time for questions, scenarios, and fine-tuning. “We shared these videos on YouTube, and soon enough, our audience began organically expanding beyond Roger’s students.”
As their audience grew, they decided they wanted to have more control over their material and create their own courses. “Initially, we thought we’d stay on YouTube, as we were gaining subscribers and finding considerable success there, but we knew that adding quizzes and the option to sell courses would create a viable business and an even more valuable student experience,” he says. “That’s where the Thinkific puzzle piece came in. We did a ton of research on learning management system platforms, landed on Thinkific, and haven’t looked back since!”
Allred quickly realized that one of the fastest ways to scale MedCram was to hire freelancers, and he advises other creators to do the same. “Most course creators can probably relate, but as founders of the company, we had to let go of trying to do everything ourselves. We hired some awesome help, which in turn allows us to grow the amount of time we spend focusing on higher-level vision, content ideas, and business strategy.”
Norton’s number one tip for course creators who want to scale their business is to take what she calls ‘messy’ action. “I see so many people standing in their own way and waiting for the product or timing to be perfect. My whole business has been a cycle of messy action and then going back and refining over time,” she says.
Like Norton, Lynne is a proponent of taking messy action and not getting caught in the trap of perfectionism. “Your courses don’t have to be perfect before you sell them,” she says. “Don’t forget to add in a splash of your personality!”
For Allred, letting go of the idea of a ‘perfect’ video frees up more time and allows creators to focus on the value they’re creating. “Many videos will need to be updated in a few years anyway. Save yourself the time and hassle of trying to make it perfect. Give your viewers the understanding right away that their time will be well spent,” he says.
Be consistent with social media
Lynne says that one of the biggest catalysts to her success was being consistent with social media and investing in high-quality resources. “When the pandemic hit, I focused on video marketing for my photography business,” she explains. “This made my social media accounts grow a ton, which seriously slingshotted my business! The growth helped me realize that I love helping others in my industry move towards their goals.”
Norton believes that combining creativity with consistent social media use can work wonders in terms of growing your audience. “It’s incredible how fast you can grow a community when you align your content to their needs in a creative way. For example, I grew 50,000 Instagram followers in a week from one reel going viral,” she says. “The only limits we have in life are the ones we place on ourselves, and getting out of my own way was key in scaling my business so quickly. I show up authentically on social media and wholeheartedly believe in the power of my courses.”
Social media doesn’t only help to grow your audience, but it can also be a great tool to boost awareness of your courses, according to Allred. “Posting teaser videos and clips to spark people’s interest and get them excited to see the whole course has worked well for us,” he explains.
Listen to your audience
Social media is as effective as the content you share. When creating content, it’s important to focus on providing value for your audience. Lynne believes that to develop trust between you and your audience, paying attention to what your community needs can help to establish credibility. “Determine what your audience’s pain points are, and then make a course about it to help solve their problems,” she says.
Swanson stresses the importance of creators’ willingness to listen to what their audience wants, rather than creating content that’s all about the creator. “Most of the time, people aren’t creating content that provides value. Give away your learnings and knowledge for free, and don’t hold back!”
Charge what you’re worth
When it comes to pricing your online course, a lack of confidence can make you price your product too low, which Allred warns against. “People associate price with value. Don’t be afraid to charge more for your course if you believe in it,” he says. “Many people are willing to pay to learn from what they perceive to be among the best instructors. If your courses are priced low, it will be hard for your audience to believe that you’re the best.”
To become more confident in what you’re charging, Norton has adopted what she calls a millionaire mindset, a process that helps her tap into positive thoughts, be confident in what she’s offering, and charge what she’s worth. “I align my activities for each day with what the highest version of myself would do,” she explains.
Connect with your students
Steph Ball-Mitchell, founder of Online Yoga School, has been teaching yoga for over 25 years. She began using Thinkific to share her passion for yoga and help people to become yoga teachers online. Through her online education programs, she’s reached a global audience and has organically grown her business. “I realized that there was a need for online yoga education and Thinkific made it possible for many people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to become yoga teachers.”
Ball-Mitchell credits her success to her dedication and passion for the yoga community, as well as the way in which she connects with her students. “Authenticity and a love for my students has helped me to get to where I am today,” she says. “The connection between my students and I happens when creators have the right intention and are able to remain authentic with what they’re teaching. It’s important to be original and get comfortable in your own skin. Teach from that place!”
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