[CASE STUDY]
How we built a profitable online course 
from Nigel's jumble of notes
The most common question we get for our online course clients:
"I have a million ideas for my online course and no idea where to start...what should I do?"

The second most common question we get:
"I keep reading all these case studies about how people made a million dollars or whatever with their first online course...but they had 100,000 email subscribers! Is a course worth building if I don't have that?"

When Nigel came to us, he was in the same boat. After working with us, he had a succinct, focused course (that we refined as we worked with him) and launched it profitably with only 283 people(!) on his email list. 

Like many experts & business owners, Nigel was enthusiastic about the idea of creating an online course for his audience, but was struggling to get the ideas out of his head and into a finished product. Since many entreprenuers are visionary types, that wasn't unusual or surprising!
By the time Nigel came to us for help, (in his own words) he’d already wasted a full year, thousands of hours of work, and over $50,000 taking random workshops and hiring various course consultants trying to learn HOW to put together his first course product....all he had to show for it was a big pile of jumbled notes. That's better than some clients, though, who come to us after having spent 5 or 10 years trying to create their first course (real numbers). 

There are only so many hours in the day, and so many dollars one has available in their budget for new business initiatives, so Nigel decided he wanted to be more efficient with his time and resources, while maximizing his profits. 

Finally he had a realization: "Wait a minute! Why don't I have an eLearning company do this for me?"


Shortly after we finished Nigel's project, he had a premium course that already generated over $18,000 worth of annual memberships from his initial soft launch. Keep reading to learn how you can do the same.
Why most people get stuck when they try to build their first course
When someone sits down and imagines what it's going to be like to build their first course, most people envision something along the lines of:
"Ok so I've been in this industry for 20 years! So it can be about this...oh and I can include that...oh and maybe this other thing too! Maybe I should start here, or there. I can probably knock this out this weekend!"

And then when they sit down to actually get started building it, it becomes more like:
"Ok....title...I've never been that great at titles. Should I start with a google doc or a keynote slide? Let's just skip that for now...Hmm let's see here...what do I do now?"

They quickly either get overwhelmed by either 1. having a million ideas and having no idea how to structure it, or 2. drawing a complete blank and having no idea where to start (or more often than not some combination of both!)

The more you are an expert on a particular topic, the harder it generally becomes to break down everything, because you've forgotten what it's like to be a beginner. 

Here's a 2 important lessons about course-building that most people don't discover until they are in the thick of things:

Law of effective course creation #1: The skills of course creation are completely independent of the expertise on the TOPIC of the course

You might know everything under the sun about your course topic, and yet may have no idea how to effectively structure that material in a way that someone can learn on their own through your online course. 

This is the same reason why the best chemists often make for the worst chemistry teachers.

Law of effective course creation #2: The value of a course is as much about what you leave out as what you include

If you think about it, you can find free information on almost any topic online these days. So given that, why are people, now more than ever, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a premium online course when they can find free information online? 

Hint: it's the same reason why you will buy a book instead of reading a free blog post, or why you might pay 200k to get a degree, or why you might choose a paid workshop from a trusted authority instead of going to a free class down the street. A trusted, credible expert, guiding you, step by step, to help you navigate infinite information where you might otherwise get overwhelmed and give up. 

Bob is a physicist that can show you why that blog post about a flat Earth can be confidently ignored. Susan is a doctor who can reassure you that you are safe from the risk of your third eye getting poked out even IF Jupiter's moon is rising or your reincarnated cat fruffles is mad at you because you walked under a ladder yesterday. 

So most people, not knowing these 2 laws of effective course creation, dive into things and inevitably try to cram everything they know on a particular topic into their course in a way that merely serves to confuse and overwhelm their students. You and I both have taken courses like that.

For example, Nigel is an expert in building technology businesses, but he was NOT an expert in tech business COURSE creation (not even the tech of course creation). He had no idea about...
- how to structure a course curriculum
- how to apply best practices of instructional design to his content
- how to design the graphics in the materials
- how to record a compelling presentation of the course materials
- the best way to edit course videos
- what price to set the course at
- what types of people would be most likely to buy his course

...and the list goes on. You get the idea. 

Nigel found all of this out the hard way, before he found MYE. He had felt disorganized, overwhelmed and desperate, but then fortunately he found us!

Most get into courses because they love their craft, and they see other courses and think 'I could do better'. 

And usually, you can.

First, pick your course topic
As a starting point for your first course, take a moment now to take stock of content you've created over the years, like:
- Presentations from past workshops or talks that you've given
- Articles / blog posts
- Books / PDFs / white papers
- Webinars
- Consulting materials

If you were to ask 3 random clients which topics they found the most valuable, and would to explore further, which would they pick?

And if you were to describe the content that you are going to be sharing with people in your course, how would you best communicate that in a way that makes people in your target market say: "Shut the front door and take my money now! I need this course now!"
Turning a ‘pile of notes’ into a profitable online course
For Nigel's project, the first thing we did was to listen to his story, and go over all his notes. Right away we could see that, just like most of our clients, he had a million ideas but no idea where to start. He wasn’t sure how to structure it, and was really stuck on what topics to cover and what to leave out. 

As an expert, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your audience needs to hear everything you know, but this is rarely true. Your impulse will be "ok how can I cram into this course everything I know? I want to make it as valuable as possible!"

When building a course, you need to focus on what your audience actually needs, not what YOU think they need. It’s easy to geek out about all the cool things you know about your topic, that make you feel interested and excited to share. But instead it’s better to stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself: 
  • What kind of outcome am I trying to help my customers achieve? (where they finish the course)
  • ​What is their starting point? (where they start the course)
  • ​What are the essential steps for getting from point A to point B?
  • ​What are their major sticking points along the way that I need to help them with?
This process should never be done in a vacuum. One of the best ways to make sure that the course you build is perfectly suited to your end-user is to invite someone in your target market to participate along the way. You can reach out to an existing customer that is a good representation of the type of course customer you will ideally like to have and tell them: 
"I am working on developing a new product about how to do XYZ. Would you be interested in setting up a free weekly 60-minute call, where I will help you with ABC, and get your feedback while I build this out?"

They get free support from you, and you get direct feedback from them about your course as you create it. Then every week, you draft up the next piece of the course material and share it with them as you walk them through it, taking note of their questions and sticking points along the way. 

If that approach isn't an option for your situation, you can also hire an instructional designer, as well as someone in your target market. Each week, the instructional designer will help your content, and then you share that (now well-structured) content with your test customer. This will obviously cost a bit more than the free option above of using an existing customer, but it is still much less costly than taking 6 months to build an online course that ultimately nobody wants to buy!

Having this kind of tight feedback loop along the way will end up being invaluable down the road, and it's also one of the ways our clients find value in the process of working with us for the online course projects.
Create more course revenue by adding more value
As you move closer towards completing your course materials, another important question to start asking yourself is:
What kinds of supplemental materials will my customers value most?

Courses are about more than just the primary videos / lessons (although that's where the bulk of the work will end up being). You will also want to make sure you are identifying places along the way where you can incorporate templates, downloadable PDFs, quizzes, cheat-sheets, expert interviews, or anything else high-value for your customers that will help them not just passively digest the information, but also opportunities to actively apply what they've learned.

This might only take about 10% as much work as the bulk of the course materials, but often will be some of the most memorable and treasured aspects of your course! For Nigel's course, as you can see above and below, this included things like Q+A calls, a forum / community, and coaching on the higher-priced / higher-value packages his course offered, which also created a great opportunity to frame the course as an ongoing subscription to a community that would grow and evolve over time, instead of just a one-off course purchase. 

Would your course topic lend itself to the creation of a community or some kind of ongoing value? What can you add to the primary course materials that would dramatically increase the perceived value of the course, that would address potential objections and sticking points as students apply what they learn, while also allowing you to charge a recurring subscription? 

This doesn't apply to every course out there - but it does apply more often than you might think (a poker course / community project we worked on comes to mind!)
Let’s look at a quick example for how you could do this for a course about lead generation, if you run a lead generation agency or are a lead generation marketing consultant.

What is the main outcome you would be trying to help students accomplish?
Get more leads for your business

What is the starting point / pain point for the course? 
Not getting enough leads for your business

What should be included in the lead generation course?
When preparing the lessons, it is tempting for the expert to try to present something epic and all-inclusive, like ‘Here are ALL the different ways to do lead generation!’. On the surface it seems like a good idea, but in reality this would frustrate and overwhelm people, particularly the beginners (who are the ones that need the teaching the most and are most likely to be willing to pay for the course). 

A better approach would be to teach "t
he top 1-3 lead generation methods for your business and the most important things you need to know about them". The message would be "don’t worry about the other methods, or random peripheral details - just focus on what we teach you here, and trust that it’s the fastest and most efficient way to succeed"

Initially this might sound like you are doing a disservice to your customers by holding back information, but actually it is the opposite. One of your roles as the expert / teacher is curate information. 

This means that a major part of your value proposition is
deciding what is not essential. The learner doesn’t have the time, resources or ability to filter all the possible information on lead generation. They need you to show them what is important and what is not. Essentially, they are paying you to give them the shortcut to success. 

So dumping your entire wealth of knowledge on them in one hit would actually leave them more confused and overwhelmed than when they started. 

[As a side note: the book Essentialism is absolutely amazing and talks a lot about this kind of perspective] 

The overall value proposition for the course 
Learn how to generate an extra 10 leads per week for your service business, within 30 days

What types of supplemental materials might you include in the course
- Expert interviews with lead generation experts
- Templates to help you generate more leads with email outreach
- Workbook to help you refine your marketing efforts, and brainstorm various lead gen ideas
- Monthly Q and A webinars about lead generation
- Partership offers to get discounts for marketing software and services, included in the course

How could you add more value and/or make it an ongoing subscription course
The course can offer silver and gold packages, with the gold package including an ongoing service to generate leads FOR the student, and the silver including weekly 1:1 lead generation coaching calls

What kinds of sticking points might students encounter as they apply what they learn
- Lead generation strategies not working for their industry
- Not feeling comfortable or confident in applying standard lead generation strategies
- Not being good at sales calls (to close their new leads)

How could you include additional tools or assets to help address those sticking points
- Lead generation strategies that work in ANY industry
- Sales scripts or training to help you turn those new leads into new business!
Now it's your turn
If you're in business these days, chances are that having an online course will help establish you as an instutry expert and help fuel the growth of your brand.

Regardless of whether you are an...
  • ​Author / speaker
  • ​Consultant/ coach
  • ​Service / SaaS business
  • ​Industry Expert
…having great online training will be an asset for your business. If you'd like to discuss how we can take YOUR notes, ideas, and expertise and turn it into a world-class online course, book a call with us and we can show you how. 

If you'd like to see how Tung used an online course project with us to generate an extra 6 figures of income, you can read his case study here.
What Nigel had to say:

“Freaking amazing service! I 120% believe that. I wholeheartedly recommend Monetize Your Expertise! If you're an expert in something (maybe written a book, or have a blog, or are a speaker) and are looking to increase your impact, influence and reach - then hook up with the MYE guys so they can build you up a world class course that will extend your brand and allow you to impact more people with your message than you ever thought possible.” 

“These guys can pull an online course out of all the stuff you have floating around in your head. The team has the same values as us and believe in Small Business. The competitors were all about enterprise course creation (which means they had zero clue how to put together a course that offered real value to real people).” 

If you think building a course could benefit you and your audience, then we’d love to help you create it. 

Whether you are also a blogger looking to further monetize your blog, a consultant who wants to use a free course in your marketing to showcase your expertise and showcase yourself as the leader in your industry, or a successful author / speaker looking for something high-value to offer on the back-end of your book / speaking presentations….chances are you should go out and build a course! E-Learning isn't going away anytime soon, and incorporating it into your own business is going to be a great way to build your brand, looking to next year and beyond.

If you'd like to schedule a call with our team to discuss your course project idea, click here to schedule a demo, where we will share with you more details about how we can build you a world-class online course, no matter the industry, or how early you are in the process.

You can also take a look at some of our project samples to get a sense of the quality of work that we do, as well as hear what our clients have to say about the experience of working with us on their project!

Flagship Course Examples
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And that’s it! In just a few hours of your time we outline exactly what you want to build and how, and then we get to work producing it for you while you move on to more important uses of your time. After 1-3 months (depending on course length) we come back to you with the final product. You are free to have as much or little involvement in the process as you'd like.

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