This is the first post in a three-part series on making money with online courses.
The phones stop ringing, clients begin peddling the old ‘we’ll get back to you’ spiel, jobs dry up like water droplets on a hot skillet; these are the signs of a business in trouble.
Ours wasn’t a Warren Buffet kind of success story, but we’d done pretty well for ourselves. As the owners of a small video production company in the sunny Caribbean, we had a decent stable of clients, more work than we could ever have wanted, and enough financial freedom to do crazy things like taking a day off in the middle of the week to do something totally non-productive.
So it was tough to face just how quickly we were going from success story to struggling business.
You see, our country, Trinidad and Tobago, is powered mainly by an oil and gas economy. In 2014, thanks to some fiendish global market forces, the price of oil plummeted.
We’d seen blips in global oil markets before, but this was different. Prices seemed determined to stay flat. Several years passed and Trinidad and Tobago’s energy industry never really fully recovered. Our little economy was heading for real trouble. Businesses everywhere were failing. And so was ours.
The business environment changed radically. The market was turned upside down. Many companies reacted by aggressively cutting costs. First on the chopping block were budgets for advertising and marketing.
With each year, we began to see a steady decline in the demand for our services—video marketing. Keeping our business afloat was like struggling to keep a candle lit in a hurricane.
Bills and debts started to mount like dirty dishes. Clients who used to call us every Monday morning with a new opportunity lost our phone numbers in the tall grass.
We had to do something to save our failing business from giving up the ghost.
Turning a struggling business around
Figuring out our next move wasn’t easy. At one point, we seriously thought about folding up the business we lovingly nurtured for more than 10 years.
The stress took a real toll on our health. Uncertainty created many sleepless nights. Anxiety became a constant, albeit, unwelcome companion.
Thing is, though, throwing in the towel wasn’t an option. We had people counting on us to pull through. Also, there were no jobs to fall back on as the recession was claiming casualties across the board.
We’d have to figure out how to survive in a recession, and fast!
Business opportunities during recession
Looking outside of our home country for opportunities was the key to survival in this economic storm. Turning to the same struggling economy for salvation just didn’t make any sense for us.
But we created video content for companies, so how could we sell that service in other countries?
Well, we knew the rest of the world was adopting more video. But offering done-for-you video to global clients from our home base in Trinidad and Tobago would not be practical.
What could we possibly sell to the world that didn’t require us to be physically present where our clients are? What could we offer the global market other than video production services?
The key would be reinventing the way we used video in our business. That’s where the light bulb started to flicker to life.
You see, we came from the world of broadcast journalism. Video and the camera is as natural to us as the sky is to a bird, or a latte is to a millennial.
Speaking on camera, reaching out to audiences and convincing them that what we had to say was worth their time…that’s what we did every day for a living as television journalists.
So that got us to thinking, what if we could help others shine on camera in this new digital age dominated by video? What if we could show people how they too could get attention and grow their opportunities by learning how to communicate convincingly on camera?
There are millions of people using video online every day to grow their business or build their brand. Some folks, though, are more comfortable being on camera than others.
Why not create a product that helps thousands of people get better results with video?
Creating an online course
So we had our product—camera confidence— but how could we get it out to the world?
The answer was actually in front of us the whole time!
We’d invested in some of the best training on offer through online courses. Stepping up our skills by consuming online courses was just a normal part of growing our business.
That’s how the most successful entrepreneurs sharpen their competitive edge, right? So we figured, why don’t we create an online course ourselves?
That’s how our first online course Become a Powerful, Confident Speaker on Camera was born!
Less than a year later, our online course now plays a leading role in the diversification of our income. By taking our knowledge and expertise and pouring it into a digital product that can be life-changing for entrepreneurs and executives trying to build their credibility, reputation and success using video, we have created a sustainable source of revenue.
Given the long road we’ve travelled from on-camera work to video production to course creation, here are a few nuggets of wisdom we picked up on our journey that we’d like to share.
Make the course ‘they’ want, not the course you want
It was important for us to create an information product for which there was demand.
Sure, our online course would certainly be based on our particular field of expertise and interest. At the same time, though, who wants to sink months of time and energy into creating a course people neither need nor want?
People aren’t doing online courses because they’re interested in learning a particular skill per se.
They do courses because it will help them a) have more financial freedom b) help them grow their businesses c) help them achieve the life they want. d) all of the above.
So, before you get clacking away on your laptop writing your best-selling course, research the demand for the topic you want to teach.
- Scout online course platforms like Udemy to see what the more popular courses are about.
- Read up on blog posts and online forums to see what people ask about most frequently in your industry.
- Take a look the bestselling books in your niche on Amazon to see where demand is strong.
- If you have a following on social media or an email list, ask your peeps what subjects they’d have an interest in learning.
If your research turns up a lot of competition in your area of expertise, that’s a good sign there’s healthy demand for that particular course idea. It would certainly be worth a bit more digging.
Doing the research will help ensure you’re creating a product people are more likely to sign up for.
Compiling Course Content
This one’s going to sound strange, but one of the biggest challenges we faced when creating our course was too much knowledge. Sounds arrogant? Well, it’s only arrogant if it’s not true!
We’ve been doing video and on-camera work for so long that what we know about the subject could fill at least 10 courses. Trouble is, though, our students are only signing up for one course at a time.
Give them too much information and they could become overwhelmed. That’s definitely a recipe for a ‘dud’. In creating our online course, we had to balance what would be most beneficial to our target market and gauge how much info they could reasonably absorb and act on.
Deciding what should be included and what should be left out is challenging. This is where establishing learning outcomes helps.
- What skills will your students learn by the end of the course?
- What new things will they be able to do?
- What practices would they have picked up that they immediately apply to their lives?
These learning outcomes should always be present in your mind when drafting the modules and lessons for your course. This will help you curate your content as you should discard anything that isn’t clearly connected to your learning outcomes.
Identifying your learning outcomes also tells prospective students what they’ll get for their investment of time and money, so they can decide whether your course is right for them. This increases your chances of enrolling the right students leading to happier customers and all-round successful product.
Remember what we said earlier, people aren’t doing online courses because that’s how they love to spend their free time. They’re gathering new information and skills to improve their lives and their business or career prospects. So it’s important to give a clear sense of how your course will help them achieve a particular goal.
Add order to your material
Next, is structuring your course with some sense and order to it.
Your modules and lessons should follow a logical structure and flow taking the registrant from point A to B.
Structure is crucial to ensuring your students get the best out of your expertise. They should feel like they’re on a journey that makes sense and follows a set route culminating in a logical destination.
Determine the best delivery for each lesson
At this point, you need to figure out how to deliver your content. What format are you going to use to transmit all that amazing wisdom to your students?
Given our video background and the nature of our topic, it’s only natural that we decided to do a video online course. There’s compelling evidence that video lessons perform better than other formats such as plain slides or text. While we went full video for our course, we also provided supporting PDFs and recap sheets.
Now, some of you may not be keen on going ‘all video’ for your online course. Nothing is wrong with slides or text either, however, we would strongly recommend you incorporate some video into your offering.
We’ve bought several online courses and were quite disappointed to discover they were little more than ebooks being marketed as a course. As a learning experience, it wasn’t particularly engaging and we felt somehow cheated.
So it’s a good idea for your course to have a mix of visual audio and text elements to cater for the different tastes and learning peculiarities of students.
You can try, for example, some on-camera or ‘talking head’ delivery, combined with slides or text for students to follow along. Depending on your topic, you may want to consider the use of B-roll, or additional video footage to illustrate your point more clearly. B-roll helps students see practical applications of the information with specific, step-by-step instructions.
PDFs, worksheets and short exercises engage your students further and reinforce the teachings in your modules.
Online courses: a billion-dollar industry…really?
It’s an idea that’s tough to chew on, far less swallow, but the global e-learning industry is expected to balloon to $200 billion within the next two years, believe it or not.
Here are just a few reasons online courses are soaring in popularity.
- They are a comparatively inexpensive way of retooling skills for a technology-driven age.
- With so much of today’s success tied to ever-evolving technology, online courses allow you to keep pace with new business tools.
- Entrepreneurs can enhance their skills on their own time and at their own speed.
- Online courses save you countless hours, even days, trawling through free online resources trying to piece together useful information to help you build your business.
A game-changer for your business
It’s not an exaggeration to say a simple online course radically changed the state of our business. This digital product provided a buffer against local economic shocks that threw us off track and threatened to end our business altogether.
For No Fuss Video in Trinidad and Tobago, our economy will never be the same again; but then, neither will we. Our business is different because it had to change to survive and thrive.
Now that the world is facing a crippling pandemic that hash triggered harsh economic consequences, the online space has never been more important to doing business, to communicating, seeing and being seen. Online courses are made for this new reality.
The true magic of online courses is that it opens up the entrepreneur to markets never imagined; the entire planet becomes your classroom. And with healthy demand for online course content, it’s a source of income that can offer stability in these uncertain times.
Read the other blogs in this three-part series here:
Part 2: How to Use Video to Create a Successful Online Course
Part 3: How to Promote and Sell Online Courses Using Video