How to Make Money Launching an Online Course ($26,000 Case Study)
An online course is a way for expert creators to earn income by providing a scalable educational service to an audience that is searching for knowledge.
In a world where most high school students are expected to go to college, online courses are college for entrepreneurs and those wanting to improve their craft. For most courses, you don't end up with a certificate, but real-world knowledge and a skill that can solve a problem.
For example, I've taken a Pinterest course, a Facebook ads course, and a few high-priced blogging courses. The Pinterest course has allowed me to open up a new channel of traffic that is equivalent to tapping into a 6" pipeline of oil in my backyard. The Facebook ads course taught me how to properly retarget and take my customer aquisition from the old $31/lead to under $3/lead. And the blogging courses have taught me everything from monetization to SEO, and have resulted in millions of pageviews since taking it.
Definitely worth it... considering most college students end up with $40,000 in debt and the possibility of getting a job.
In this detailed guide, I'm going to teach you how to create your own online course and launch it to your audience for maximum profit and impact.
How easy is it to make money selling a course?
Setting up an online course can take months to create. In fact, my Psychology of Selling took around 7 months from the idea to the launch day. However, now that course can earn me hundreds of dollars per month on autopilot and has the potential to triple the income of anyone who takes that course.
If you've created a course before, it's much easier to put together a second, and then third course to sell to your audience. In fact, most course creators who earn more than $5000 with their first course end up becoming "serial course creators".
How much can you earn with an online course?
Online courses are an attractive passive income option because of 3 main reasons:
They have almost no overhead. One dollar earned is one dollar earned. No paying your distributors, no paying your workers, no paying for your inventory upfront.
They are scalable. You could literally have 1,000,000 people enroll in your course and have little-to-no upkeep with the growth. In fact, nothing in my business changes if I have 1 user enroll or 100 users enroll and that allows me to spend my time working on other projects while my courses keep generating income.
They will last for years. My Psychology of Attraction dating course has been up for at least a year and I've made minimal changes to it. Still, hundreds of people keep enrolling and I keep getting direct deposits for the payments. I suspect I'll be earning from this course at least 5-8 years in the future as long as I keep promoting it.
Creating and selling online courses was a $165 billion market in 2015, and is expect to almost double by 2023. There are hundreds of course creator out there earning over $60,000 a year, and even a few earning that much per month. There's tons of opportunity to make money selling an online course, but it all comes down to your audience and marketing skills.
The fact is that normal people are earning well-over 6 figures each year from teaching what they know in an online course. Ironically, almost everything they teach is available for free elsewhere on the internet... but students don't want to search through all the tricks and test what works themselves. They want a proven system that works and they want it now. This is why courses will always be a great income source.
#1 Before you create a course, validate your audience
So before you even start outlining your curriculum or think about spending your first check, you need to be empathetic to what you audience needs. You won't make ANY money if you don't first solve a problem that someone has. Preferably a problem that a lot of people have.
Here's how I created my Psychology of Attraction course. First, I already had an audience on Youtube of over 1,000,000 subscribers. Secondly, I knew I wanted to create a course because earning from just the ads on Youtube was quite unreliable and not really a "business".
So, first I looked at all of my top Youtube videos:
As you can see, 7 out of 18 of my most viewed videos were something you could consider useful to a guy who wanted to get a girl to like him. Also, My top 3 videos equaled over 29,000,000 views in the dating niche, which is pretty good validation.
I decided to use that as validation to create the course, because even 1,000,000 people who would enjoy it and considering a super small 1% conversion rate... I'd still have an estimated 10,000 buyers.
3 months later, I created the Psychology of Attraction and launched it for a total of around $5,000!
There are other ways of validating your market before spending the time and money to create a course...
Here's an example of testing the idea for my Psychology of Selling course using the audience on my Youtube channel and my email list.
First I asked everyone what they though of it. YouTube had recently added a new "Community" tab where you could do polls, which was super helpful. I asked them about a name, and what would benefit them most. I actually asked 4-5 other questions that validated the topic.
Even though Profiting with Psychology won, Psychology of Selling was more direct about what the course would offer. People mentioned in the comments that they thought the winner would be a course designed to help you make money for psychologists.
Then I sent out this email to my list of around 8,000 people:
Hey! It's Theodore!
Along with creating free videos on Practical Psychology's Youtube channel
and running Practical Growth Academy,
I'm happy to announce that I am...
starting the process of creating a new course!
This means I need your help!
The course is going to be on the topic of: SALES
I've got a rough outline, but in reality...
I want to create something that you'll get use out of 🙂
The first module is going to be the 25 Cognitive Biases explained:
In here, you'll have videos explaining how to use them to your advantage to sell more.
You'll understand how people make decisions and why consumers buy!
The second module will be Psychological Sales Tactics:
I'll explain stuff like priming, anchoring, social proof, discounting and much more
The third module will be Methods of Selling,
where I'll introduce, teach, and explain different ways of selling from the basic AIDA method to advanced StorySelling.
I've got a few more modules in mind,
- Sell Yourself: Personal Selling and Network Marketing
- Online Sales Funnels: From Opt-ins Leads to Retargeting Ads
- Affiliate Marketing Jumpstart Kit
- Copywriting: Selling with words
- Rejection Training: Cold Calling Tips
- Private Investigator Vault: Learn how to stalk and profile your clients (maybe not...?)
- Great Ads: A breakdown and case study of high-performing ads
- Sales Ethics: The Difference between Manipulation and Persuasion
I really need to know what you want!
So, hit reply to this email and let me know what else you'd like to learn!
If you suggest a new module I hadn't thought of - I'll send you a free copy of the course when I launch 🙂
- Theodore (Practical Psychology dude)
P.S. The next email you get will be 3 of my favorite ideas from Think and Grow Rich!
P.P.S I'm new to sending emails as a way of giving content - If I'm annoying you... hit reply and tell me so I can improve
Notice how I mentioned that I'd send them a free version of the course if they gave an idea I used. This creates an incentive for them to actually reply, which means they'll be thinking about topic ideas when they're reading the email, but also throughout the next few days.
The response was amazing! Tons of people said they loved the 3 modules I mentioned, and 4th topic they loved was Copywriting, so I decided to add it. The others didn't get near the response. In fact, for every 5 people who said something about the copywriting tips, I received an request for one of the others. This was how I got validation for this course... and also the modules to put in it.
#2 Outline what you can teach into topics
When it comes to creating a course, the main thing you want to deliver is not the information itself, but the actual outcome of taking the course. When I sell my dating course, I'm not selling 15 videos, I'm selling the ability to be confident around women and the skills to approach them. When I sell my sales course, I'm selling the ability to triple your revenue and build higher rapport with your customers.
Keep this in mind when outlining your course.
A simple way to outline your course is to first break it into 3-5 sections. For my dating course it looked like this:
- Finding a girlfriend
- Getting a girlfriend
- Keeping a girlfriend
For my sales course, it looked like this:
- 25 Cognitive Biases
- Psychological Closing Tactics
- Methods of Selling
By breaking it up into 3-5 main sections, you can then add 3-10 video ideas for each section. Next you want to do some research on your topics if you haven't already.
You might think you're the expert at something, but it really helps to see what else is on the market. I start by doing some simple Google searches. See what's out there for free. Then buy some books on the topic and read them if you can. After that, invest in some online courses that would technically be your competitors.
This allows you to know what is on the market, what a customer could find. Now, you can offer something even better... whether that is MORE information, or CLEAR information, or FASTER information in your course.
Once I started researching how to get a girl to like you for my dating course, I added these video ideas to the second module:
- The FORD Method (What to talk about)
- 5 Levels of Listening
- Building Trust
- First Date Tips
- First Kiss Tips
- Daddy Issues (This video is about avoiding what psychological issues that you can't fix)
- Attractive Body Language
- PushPull Method of Attraction
Once you have a basic outline for one section of the course, you can start creating content for it... and we'll get to that step in a little bit.
#3 Pitch it to your list
After you have come up with a rough draft, you want to validate again. Trust me, the more you can validate, the more you'll avoid risk. And avoiding risk is something very helpful when you're trying to grow your wealth. Nobody wants to launch a course they've spent months creating only to earn back what they spent creating it.
Here's a simple way I pitched my Psychology of Selling to my list:
It's a really long email, but I wanted to let you see the whole thing, so I just created an image for it. Basically, I just asked my list if they were interested in the course, they could apply to be coached by me.
This allows 3 very powerful things. First, it lets me find customers who are so serious about this course that they want to be coached. Being coached is more of a commitment that actually buying a course... because there's constant feedback. If there are customers who are 110% ready to be coached, there are customers who are 100% ready to take a course.
Secondly, it allows me to gain testimonials. I actually helped people grow their business through this little coaching program and it allowed me to gain a testimonial from each and every person I coached.
Third, it gives me feedback for the course. People were literally telling me "This video sucks, but I need a video on this" and that is really helpful with the development of a successful course. I personally think it's much more profitable and less stressful to create a course once you have an audience, because you won't have to sell as hard and you'll have easy early feedback.
4) Create your videos fast
Now after you have validated your ideas, got some feedback on your outline and maybe even some testimonials on your system, you need to actually create your videos.
Creating videos for an online course can be simple and easy. I've take courses where the creator hires someone to make the videos. I've also taken courses where each video is a whole production... probably costing at least $500 per video to create. Soon, I'll teach you how to create a PowerPoint presentation for your online course in under an hour.
But first, one thing you should know: if you can entertain your audience while teaching them... your completion and student success rate will be significantly higher.
Personally, I create all of my videos using this format. First, I write the outline, then I edit the outline. After a few days, I'll look over the outline again and then narrate it. Of course, my narration isn't perfect and usually needs editing. After the narration is finalized, I'll animate the video.
The neat thing about this process is I can outsource a lot of the work. Sometimes I outsource the script-writing, and I almost always outsource the audio editing and animation process. I love narrating though, and I want it my courses to be known for me creating them, so I'll probably never outsource the narration in an online course.
Creating a video with PowerPoint
If you want something super simple, you can can create your videos by using a powerpoint presentation.
First, create the Microsoft PowerPoint. This is super easy once you get a grip on the software. Create each slide, add images, and resources if you can.
If you want, check out a boom arm too... they're super helpful because you can move your mic around without too much noise.
Third, record your screen. I personally use OBS. OBS Studio allows you to record your screen, but you can edit all kinds of settings to fit your preferences. If you only want to record the PowerPoint (and not your whole screen, including the taskbar at the bottom), you can do that! If you want to turn down your mic through OBS, you can do that to.
Fourth, edit the videos. I've literally taken a course where some guy hacks up some snot in the middle of the video and didn't edit it out. Like, GROSS!
You control your output, so PLEASE watch them yourself and control the quality that goes into your online course. You should be proud of it!
Uploading your online course
After you have basically created your first online course and all the videos in it, you'll need some place to put them. I use Teachable, and I highly recommend using them too. Why?
- Uploading videos to Teachable is easy
- They handle student logins
- They handle all the payment processing
- Teachable has great support
- They have a free plan and the paid plans are worth the money
- They have a super simple sales page builder
- They have one-click upsells
Go ahead, and check them out!
#5 Create your bonuses
This is a super simple step that will get you many more sales. Now you must create bonuses for your online course. There's tons of other guides on this, but I suggest creating 3-4 extra bonuses that are basically like an Opt-In.
They should take around 4-5 hours to create and around 4-5 minutes to consume. For example, in the Psychology of Selling I actually have a library of ads that convert really well. I have copied some advertisements from Facebook and turned into images for my bonus section.
#6 Create a Sales Page
I'm going to give you a $100,000 outline for your online course sales page. It goes like this:
- Headline + Subheadline
- Problem 1
- Problem 2
- Problem 3
- Proof of how you have solved these problems
- Introduction of your online course
- Benefits of your course
- Outline of your course
- Buy CTA #1
- Money Back Guarantee
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Buy CTA #2
If I get a lot of response of this article, I might expand and give details about each of these. However, it'll make this blog post a monster guide and I would prefer validation before that! So, if you want more details about how to set up your sales page, leave a comment below please.
#7 Write an email sequence
If you're trying to write an email sequence for a funnel for your online course, it can be really difficult if you haven't seen one before.
Usually most launches send around 7-10 emails.
The first 3-4 emails don't try to sell anything. In fact, their only goal is to get the reader to open them and start trusting the sender. For my first 4 emails, that's all I did. I offered free PDFs, links to videos, and tons of information about selling that might help them.
Then in the 5th email, I announced that my course was opening and what was in it... along with plenty of links to the sales page.
During the 6th, 7th, and 8th email, I gave them more information about the course. Make sure to tell them exactly who it is for and who it's not for. One of these emails also included my bonus list and the benefits of using the bonuses.
The 9th email I sent was on the last day of the launch. I wrote around 700 words trying to convince them to buy.
The 10th email was on the same day, but 2 hours before I was going to close Psychology of Selling for at least 6 months. I made sure they knew that if they didn't buy now... they would have to wait 6 months and add another $200 to their budget to buy this program in the future.
The 11th email was a super short, simple, and sweet one that just reminded them once again that the course was closing.
That's my email funnel for my Psychology of Selling online course, and it seemed to work pretty well. There's definitely some copywriting tricks I plan on implementing to increase the conversion rate, and I might explain how to update an old email funnel in a future blog post!
Launching a course you've spent 6+ months creating is a very nerve-wrecking process. You'll think things like:
"What if nobody buys my online course?"
"What if everyone refunds because it didn't work for them?"
"What if my sales page crashes?" Mine crashed for 3 hours and that was the most frustrating 3 hours of my life!
The key to a good launch is this neat little saying: Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Your course launch should go swimmingly if you have everything ready on your launch date.
For example, a week before my launch, I had all 8 videos set up to publish, the entire email sequence finished, and the sales page perfected. All of my ducks were in their row before the crowd came to look at them. I tested everything. I even put my friends email addresses into the opt-ins to be completely sure it worked!
#9 My Case Study
With my course the Psychology of Selling, I recently launched it to both my Youtube channel and Email list. So far, I've had 88 sales from the launch. The product was priced at $297, which means my revenue is $26,136.
Also, if you're interested, I had 2589 sales page views, 380 checkout page views and 88 sales. This means I had a 3.4% conversion rate... which is pretty decent for the price point of my course.
It also means every person that saw my sales page equates to $10.09 for me. I used Youtube ads and Facebook ads to drive traffic to the sales page and this resulted in positive ROI on my ad spend, which I'll break down in a bit.
You should know I created 8 videos to promote this course. The first 4 promoted my lead magnets, which added more people to my email list and sales funnels. The last 4 directly called out the course and the main CTA was to click the link in the description and buy the course.
I created 4-5 Facebook ads and ended up spending $825.01 during the launch week. Facebook has a really cool feature where you can track people who first view the ad and then eventually view your "Thank you" page (which means they bought the course). This allows me to actually track the exact income I'm earning from my ads.
From these particular ad campaigns, I earned $3564.00 from spending $825.01. That means I earned a 4.32x ROI on my ad spend.
This is really impressive... I mean anyone who could spend $1 to earn $4 would definitely put all their money into that cash generating machine. The problem is that it isn't scalable.
This ad campaign could only target everyone who viewed my website first. Most of those people were PracticalPsychology viewers who signed up to an opt-in in the past 30 days. The only way I could keep doing this would be to get more people to my website from my Youtube channel, and that's what I used Youtube Ads for. Before I get on to that, check out what one of my ads looked like:
Using Youtube ads, and targeting everyone who viewed those 8 promotional videos for the course, I spent $2470 through the Adwords platform.
I split this up into 2 different ads. One was a video that promoted the opt-in to get more emails (and get them to view the opt-in page so I could target them on Facebook). The other was a video that created urgency and scarcity for the course and promoted the sales page.
The first did okay. I spent $1360 and earned $1490, for a whopping ROI of 1.10. Below you'll see each number, but you also have to remember I added over 350 new email subscribers to my list (which is around $4 a lead).
The second did subpar. I spent $1110 and earned $891. So technically I lost money, but I definitely learned a lot. Remember this was targeting warm traffic and sending them straight to my sales page.
Not too bad for $2470 on Youtube Ads to achieve:
- $2381 in revenue
- 350 new email subscribers
If you do some math (which I love to do), you'll see that I basically spent $89 to get 350 new email subscribers. This comes down to .25 (one QUARTER) per warm, targeted email subscriber on my list! (I can create an upsell, downsell, offer an affiliate product or another offer to earn this back within a month)
What I Would do Differently
Buttons in my Emails
All of my emails during my launch were text with a few images. I think buttons within the emails would greatly increase clicks, and ultimately profit.
Tracking links better
If I could go back, I would definitely track which emails and YouTube videos led to the most sales. Teachable doesn't really allow tracking, unless you use different coupons. I'd create a coupon for every link, and that would allow me to place it in to each email and in the description of each video. This would allow me to understand where my buyers are coming from.