The internet has revolutionized the ways that we learn, and as a result, more educators and entrepreneurs have started to teach online classes. From video tutorials to downloadable course materials, there are endless opportunities for educational entrepreneurs to sell courses online and make a profit.
Today, we’re digging into some of the ways you can sell courses online and make a profit, as well as how to to brand and market your products, so you can teach online classes effectively and profitably. You don’t need to be a certified teacher, you just need to be willing to share and teach what you’re passionate about.
How to Teach Online Classes (and Make a Side Income)
Selling a Guide or Tutorial
Sell courses online
Get people to sign up for class
Bonus: How to Sell Lesson Plans Online
Selling a Guide or Tutorial
While your vision may be to teach online classes in a more extended sense (i.e. a six week course), it can be easier to begin with a single class, workshop, or tutorial. Once you’ve mastered this, you can replicate and expand the process into a longer format.
You’ve probably seen a lot of stuff like this for sale online. Whether it’s a video lecture about the practical uses of aromatherapy, or a PDF explaining how to organize every room of your house, guides and tutorials are usually one-offs. The goal of a successful guide or tutorial is to engage that customer so that they will come back for more. Follow these simple tips to ensure your guide or tutorial is effective:
- Does it offer real value?
We’ve all experienced an online how-to that disappoints- whether from a lack of quality information, or the feeling that you could get the same level of information from a five minute Google search. Focus on functionality and specificity. Aim to provide your audience with tools they can truly implement.
- Is it high quality?
For many, just the site of Comic Sans font is enough to sour their impression of a product. This teaches us a valuable lesson- presentation matters. Take the time to create a quality design for your PDF’s, and pick a pre-designed template if you’re unsure of big design choices. If you’re making a video, ensure that it’s well-lit, and that there are no issues with the sound. Use simple editing to incorporate professional, polished branding.
- Does it help the customer connect with you and your brand?
This part is tricky. The goal is simple, though. You want to make sure that your personality, or your brand’s messaging, shines through. Give your customers a reason to come back again, whether it’s the sense of humor you bring to your lessons, or the enviable ombre’d hair you rock during a video. It can be easy to overdo this. We’ve all seen branding go overboard with wannabe Instagram celebrities. There is definitely an art to finding the right balance. When in doubt, ask a friend or colleague to take a look and offer their thoughts.
Sell courses online
Once you’re comfortable creating a guide or tutorial, you’ll have the tools necessary to create an online course. The first thing to consider is structure, which is essential to learning how to sell courses online successfully. While it’s great to disrupt and reinvent the learning process, think back to how classes were presented to you in school. There’s actually a lot you can draw from that same structure.
You will most likely want to start with an introduction, to give your students an organized outline of what they will be learning, and create a foundation upon which to build your lessons. From there, you are either covering a different topic every week, moving forward step by step to explain a continuum, or a combination of the two. You’ll want to wrap things up with at least a bit of a review, and talk about the broader repercussions of your topic.
There is so much value that you can provide when you teach online classes. From a video lecture (either as a video file, or live at a set date), to supplemental reading materials, and options for group discussion ranging from email to video chats, you can offer just about everything that an in-person class can offer. Depending on how interactive you want to get, you can create writing prompts and assignments for students, and allow them to share. Even if it’s just a space to answer student questions and encourage discussion, you can use tools like a Skype channel, or a private Facebook group.
If your video lectures are live, you can provide an added value by recording them, and sending the video files to participants afterwards. Offer a suggested reading list for those who want to explore the subject more deeply. Sell some of the tools that your students may be interested in after your class, on your website, and consider offering students a discount, or even an exclusive bundle.
Here a few questions to ask yourself before you launch your online course:
- Is it structured effectively?
There’s a reason it’s easier to write a paragraph than an essay. The longer our projects get, the more disorganized they can become. Once you’ve outlined your course, and have begun drafting each lesson plan, you will probably find that it’s necessary to go back and make some adjustments to the structure. Maybe one topic just can’t fit into the span of one lesson, in which case, it’s time to ask yourself:
- Do the number of lessons need to be reduced or increased?
If one topic just can’t fit into the span of one lesson, divide it into two, and leave lots of time in the second session for review, and maybe introduce information that’s relevant, but not so essential that it will compete for attention with the main topic. For example, if you’re teaching a workshop about wedding photography, and lighting just can’t be fit into one class, consider taking some time to show some examples of how wedding photography has changed throughout the decades, rather than jumping right into the next major topic. Alternately, if you’re struggling to fill the lesson plan with content, scale back. It’s better to create a fantastic, three part course than overcharge for a boring six part one.
- Is there space for student engagement and discussion?
If you want your students to be engaged, they need to be able to connect! It’s really easy to create a group on Meetup or Facebook, or even an email chain. This simple step creates a sense of community among classmates, and, more importantly, serves as a great tool for your next course. It’s an invaluable resource for student feedback, which can lead to breakthroughs in how you structure your lessons, explain confusing topics, and supplement with additional resources.
Starting small is the key to success when you teach online classes. It’s also a great way to slowly build customer trust. Even a two part class is fantastic, especially one where you give students a little bit of homework after the first class, and expand upon that knowledge in the second class. Consider doing something like this regularly, even if it’s the same class. As more people discover your business, they will want a simple, low investment way to test the waters with you, their new teacher. Providing these options is a great way to keep growing your customer base.
Getting People to Sign Up
Perhaps our biggest fear as creatives and entrepreneurs is that our work will go unnoticed. Luckily, in this day and age, we have so much more control over exposure. It’s important to always think about your niche, whether that’s aspiring jewelers, or people wanting to experiment with meditation techniques. A little bit of online sleuthing can make a big difference in your product’s visibility. Use relevant hashtags, not only when you create content to sell courses online, but throughout your brand’s social media accounts. Engage with your followers. Answer questions. Behave like the expert that you are.
Foster relationships with other individuals and brands within your niche to increase your audience and get more eyes on your work. Not only is this good for visibility and authority, but it opens the door to exciting collaborations down the road.
It’s helpful to find Facebook groups, Reddit threads, and other online communities interested in your topic. If you want to start something local, go ahead and create a group on Meetup, and use a platform like Selz to sell access to your classes. The possibilities are endless.
Don’t forget- scarcity and urgency are huge factors in converting your audience into customers. Offer reduced pricing for earlybird and last chance specials. Create coupon codes for your blog readers. Set a limited number of available spots for the course, and let people know as the class starts to fill up.
Bonus: Sell lesson plans online!
If you’re a seasoned educator who can outline a class in no time at all, that itself is a valuable skill! It’s easy to create a lesson plan and sell it through our platform. Once you’ve saved your file, you can go ahead and upload it to Selz as a digital product. Feel free to go overboard here and organize your product however you like, as Selz allows you to upload multiple files as one complete download. This means that your main lesson plan PDF can be supplemented by additional documents, such as historical primary sources, relevant artwork, and scientific studies.
Once you’ve uploaded this file, you can choose how many you want to sell, or mark it as unlimited. Making your product available for unlimited downloads means that the product can continue to sell and provide passive income endlessly. Selz also allows you to set products at a “pay what you want” price with a minimum price option, which is a great way to help fellow teachers access these tools without breaking the bank.
You don’t need a PhD to teach online classes and make a profit. As our worlds become more interconnected, it’s becoming easier to seek out advice and new knowledge than ever before. It can be hard to believe, but your passion, hobby, and pursuit of knowledge is of great value to customers within your niche. More and more people are signing up when educators sell online classes, to be part of a community, gain knowledge, and connect with a teacher. What are you waiting for? Get started today and make your passion pay off.