You’re interested in teaching an online course, but you don’t know where to get started.
You have lots of skills, but don’t know which one to teach.
You have a course idea, but don’t know if it’s the right one to start with.
These are all important statements that most online course creators face when starting out. And creating an online course is a big investment. It takes time, resources, and passion. Without knowing if the course will be successful, is it even worth creating?
Course Validation is so important as you begin to teach online courses. After creating 50+ online courses, I have a good idea for how to pick a course topic that will work (that students will enroll in and will make money). Here’s a guide to course validation that will help you decide your next course topic. I’ve broken it down into three main types of validation: soft validation, hard validation, and hardcore validation.
First, answer this question. Is this your very first online course?
Answering this question is important because if you’re just starting out as an online teacher, you won’t even know if it’s something you love doing. There’s lots of reasons to start teaching online (sharing your knowledge, making money, building your brand, becoming a thought leader, helping others), and whatever your reason is, you’ll be most successful if you enjoy the process of course creation and publishing.
That’s why, my biggest advice for new online instructors is to pick something to teach that you love. Stop worrying about if it will make money. Your first course probably won’t make much money. It probably won’t be that great of quality. You’ll probably struggle to get it finished.
At least if you’re teaching about something you love, truly love, then you’ll have fun doing it. I see so many people trying to teach online courses just to make money. When they do this, they pick topics that they aren’t passionate about and try to teach them. It comes across in the way they teach the course, and this hurts your growth as an online teacher.
So as a number one rule, when you are picking out your first topic – stop caring too much about validation. Pick something you love to talk about – your hobby, your passion, your dreams. Create a course about that and see if you like teaching online.
If you did like creating that first course, let’s learn how to be smarter and validate our next course ideas so that we have a better chance at success.
Soft validation consists of doing your own research to see if other people are interested in your topic. Using tools like YouTube, Google Keyword Planner, the Udemy Marketplace, and Facebook, you’ll be able to see if there’s an audience for your topic. The reality is if there are lots of people watching videos on YouTube, joining Facebook groups, and searching for your topic idea, there’s a good chance that there’s an audience willing to pay for a course about it.
Method 1. Search on Udemy. Udemy is the world’s largest collection of online courses. Do a search for your topic to see if there are other courses related to your topic. If there are, this is a good thing. Check to see if there are a lot of students enrolled and reviewing these courses. If there are, it means there is an audience for that topic. Don’t worry about there being other courses already out there. You bring your own perspective and style, and people will like that.
Method 2. Search on YouTube. YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine (after Google), and there are millions of channels dedicated to this, that, and the other. If there are channels with lots of subscribers and videos with lots of views (tens of thousands+) about your topic, this is another good sign that there are people willing to pay for a course in that topic.
Method 3. Search on Facebook. Similar to above, if you find lots of Facebook groups or pages with engaged followers about your subject, this is a good sign.
Method 4. Use the Google Keyword Planner. Searching for your course topic or related keywords will show you if people are searching for your course topic. If there are lots of people searching, that’s a good sign – even if the competition is high.
This is the most basic type of course idea validation. You should do this for every course you do. It will help you come up with the idea, and also a target market that you should create the course for. It will also help you come up with a name for your course.
The next version of validating your course will take a little bit more effort, but will be worth it because you get direct feedback whether your course idea is valid or not. It entails actually asking people whether they’d be interested in your course or not. If you are building up an audience on your blog, in a Facebook group, on YouTube, or with your online courses, you can ask your current student base what types of courses they’d be interested in. Follow the steps below to complete this validation step.
Method 1. Message your audience. Using whatever tool you have available (an email list, an educational announcement, a Facebook group, a YouTube video, a blog post), ask your fans ‘would you be interested in taking a course about xyz?’ Depending on their feedback, you should have a good idea as to the potential success of your course.
Method 2. Create a survey. Survey Monkey is one of a variety of free tools to create and send surveys to your followers. In the past, I’ve created a survey that includes the question ‘What other courses would you be interested in?’ I put this survey at the end of all of my online courses. The feedback was spectacular. Being able to hear directly from my consumer about what course they’d be willing to purchase gives you an inside look at what your next course topic should be.
Method 3. The cold ask. Find people who you think might be interested in your topic and ask them. You can find people on Facebook, Linkedin, and Google Plus groups to ask. Either send them a direct message or post a question to the group.
Beyond getting people to tell you whether they’d be interested or not in your course, the next level of validation includes getting people to pay you for your course before you even create it. After all, many people might say they’re interested in your course idea but when it comes down to actually getting out the credit card and paying for it, they might not be that interested.
Method 1. Create a prelaunch course with a tool like Teachable. With Teachable, you’re actually able to create a course without any content in it. Put up a splash page with information about what the course will be. Then send it out to your audience (email list, social media followers, YouTube subscribers) and ask people to pre-register. To pre-register, they’ll have to pay for the course. I’ve seen people make 4-5 figures in pre-sale registrations. Talk about validation! If there’s people willing to pay for a class that isn’t even created yet, think about how many people would be interested in purchasing it afterwards.
Method 2. Crowdfunding campaign. Sites like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo are great places to launch a product before spending the time or money developing it. Many online instructors have also used these platforms to crowdfund the creation of their online course. On one hand, it gives you money to spend the time and effort creating a high quality course. On the other hand, it also validates your course idea. Similar to in method 1, if people help pay for your course with a crowdfund campaign, there’s bound to be people interested in paying for the actual course.
Now you know a bunch of different ways to validate your course idea – it’s time to take action. I know it may seem like a lot of work to do some of these methods. But putting the effort in right now to make sure people are interested in your course will be worth it in the end.
Cool! I hope this guide will help you in validating your next online course idea!