Reality Blog: Should You Bother Building an Online Course?

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I recently read a reflective piece by an obviously jaded blogger.

He said, “It seems the only people who make money from online courses are people who run online courses on how to create online courses.”

Hmmm, well, that certainly started me thinking!

I’ve been thinking about creating an online course, but it all seems too hard. So I’ve decided to take a different approach.

I believe it will be more effective for our Money-Making Website, and possibly less work.

And please, if you’ve created an online course, then add your experiences in the Comments at the end. I’d love to hear whether it was worth the effort and if so, why.

Plenty of Questions, Not Many Answers

So, how do novices like us create an online course? I believe the process follows roughly this path:

  1. We think of a suitable topic, related to our niche.

  2. Then we figure out how we’ll present it. Will it be a series of modules or just one? In webinar format or maybe live?

  3. We choose an online course provider after many hours of research and hope we’ve made the right choice.

  4. Then we spend the next week wondering if we’ve made the right choice. After finally relaxing a little, we then find out just how little we know about creating an online course.

  5. We research endlessly in the quest to decide whether we need a dedicated Facebook group to complement the course.

  6. Then we scratch our heads and wonder how we’ll actually entice people to sign up.

  7. And if we haven’t given up by now, we spend days deciding how much to charge for our yet-to-be-created-yet-likely-to-be-totally-amazing online course.

These are just a few of the steps I can think of. I’m sure you can think of many more.

Maybe an online course is worthwhile. I guess it depends on the topic. For me though, as I mentioned, I’m thinking of taking another approach.

The “Other” Approach

You see, my greatest fear is spending loads of time figuring out how all the pieces of an online course fit together, then spending even more time creating a high-quality course… only to have no one sign up for it!

So this is what I’m thinking of doing instead.

I know of a popular evergreen topic related to my Money-Making Website. It’s a topic countless campers and off-roaders want to learn about. Not only this, it will also appeal to motor home and RV owners.

I’m not going to reveal the topic here because we’re more interested in the process. For now, let’s call it Topic X.

This is what I plan to do:

  • In Top Wire Traveller, I have a Free Resources If you click on this link, you’ll notice the content is hidden behind a sign-up form. So it’s subscriber-only. The Free Resources section generates over 70% of our sign-ups.

  • Inside our Free Resources section, I’m going to provide a bare-bones outline of Topic X. It will have lots of useful information, but none of the “how-to” details people need to know. So subscribers will get some information on Topic X, but not the full experience.

  • In order to access the detailed how-to information, people will have to buy an online copy of the full guide.

  • I’ll compile my comprehensive Topic X manual, convert it to an e-book, and sell it on our website. I’ll use Facebook and Pinterest to promote the guide and drive people to a landing page.

  • I might even drop it onto Amazon and Apple Books, just to cover all bases.

  • And I’ll use the bare-bones version in Free Resources to drive people to a landing page as well.

By taking this approach, I’ll provide extra value to new and existing subscribers, and capture the ones who need this information and are prepared to pay for the full-blown version.

No need to figure out all those pesky questions I have around creating an online course!

I’ll have an e-book on an evergreen topic that will generate another source of passive income. I don’t expect to retire on this income, but every little bit helps. And if it’s successful, I’ll do the same with other evergreen topics or develop Topic X further.

Your Very Own Topic X E-book

So, could this work for you?

I don’t see why not. Every Money-Making Website niche I can think of has evergreen content. Here’s a sample of what you could write for your own Topic X e-book:

  • Caring for [insert animal here] — how to care for them, a comprehensive how-to guide you can sell on your website.

  • Embroidery — time-saving techniques and tips for beginners.

  • Luxury Travel — ways to score valuable upgrades for no extra cost.

  • Caring for the Elderly — how to navigate the minefield of aged care, what services are available, and who to contact for help.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Now, how does an online course stack up against my alternative approach?

Pros and Cons

You could price an online course higher than an e-book. A full-blown course is perceived as being worth way more than an e-book.

Although… you could include a companion series of how-to videos with the e-book, then sell it as a package. So one base rate for the e-book only, and a higher rate for the package.

Still cheaper than an online course, but more expensive than just an e-book.

Will people buy an e-book? I think so… as long as the information is presented in discrete, easy-to-digest chunks.

Personally, I’d rather have an e-book I can download as a PDF and refer back to. So when I’m looking for a snippet of information, I don’t have to trawl through the online course.

Sure, my e-book/video series idea will take time to compile and make presentable. But the work needed to make a slick online course has to be orders of magnitude greater, surely.

Maybe I’m wrong. And I suppose like most things, the first course would take the longest to compile.

The biggest sticking point for me with an online course though, is the time needed to answer people’s questions. I have to be available, online, and responsive. In contrast, any questions generated from an e-book can be incorporated into the next edition.

And people who’ve already bought the e-book can have lifetime access to all new editions.

There’s another really attractive benefit of creating an e-book. You don’t have to launch it on one specific day, like you’d have to with an online course.

I can get the e-book finished then quietly drop it onto the website. Ideally, I would have started promotional campaigns well in advance.

But if I don’t have time beforehand, then I can run the campaign after the e-book is available for sale. Far from ideal, I know. However, sometimes other things get in the way.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, I’ll get my first “how-to” e-book up and running in the next few months. I’m writing it as time allows, but it’s a matter of priorities.

So, what do you think?

Does my “alternative” approach have merit? Or do you think I’m wasting my time? Or maybe you have some experience, with lots of successful courses under your belt?

Whatever the case, I’d love to hear your thoughts, or other approaches you’ve used. Share them with us in the Comments below.

Andrew Murray

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Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

Andrew has traded the daily grind for a life on the road. He loves the lure of Australia’s wide-open spaces, solitude and isolation. Andrew and his wife Peta are experienced remote travelers, living the simple life on the road. They travel, work and live in their 4x4 truck camper. Andrew plans to build his Money-Making Website Top Wire Traveller to the point where it provides a regular income... enough to sustain their lifestyle on the road.

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