How to Create an Online Course: 10 Easy Steps

There are endless online courses out there, covering just about any topic you can think of. There’s good reason for this: Online courses benefit students and creators alike. Students can access affordable online education, while creators get paid to do what they love—and everyone can do these things on demand from anywhere in the world.

If you’re ready to learn how to create an online course, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll go over the key steps to create an online course that showcases your skills and knowledge, teaches your students something truly valuable, and helps you generate income without ever leaving your home.

How to create a successful online course in 10 steps

Let’s look at the 10 steps you can take to create an online course that sells:

1. Choose your course topic

As you can see from scanning online course marketplaces, you’ll be up against plenty of competition. But don’t let this stop you—instead, focus on finding the right topic. Ideally, you can find the perfect blend of something you’re passionate about, that you have talent and expertise over, and that has a high demand in the market.

choosing a course

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Ask yourself these questions:

What am I enthusiastic and excited about?
What can I get others excited about while sharing my insights?
In which areas, industries, and niches have I cultivated above-average knowledge and skills?
In which areas do I have experience and expertise and could answer questions a beginner might have?
From my above ideas, which ones are in growing industries rather than shrinking ones?
Do a lot of people search for this idea on websites and search engines? (More on how you can find this soon.)

2. Research your target audience

Once you have an idea for your course topic, it’s time to put yourself in the shoes of your future students. The goal is to learn who they are, what they’re interested in, the pain points and challenges they’re facing, what they want to accomplish, and what they would want to learn from an online course like yours.

If you can answer these questions, you’re in a much better position to be successful—you’ll have satisfied students who bring in more satisfied students, and you’ll have an easier time developing credibility in the online community.

Here are a few tools you can use to conduct research on your ideal customers:

Google Trends
Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, X, and Instagram
Online forums in the niche of your course topic
Independent research, like asking around and conducting your own interviews via phone, email, and chat

Google Trends course creation research


3. Pick the right format

When setting up your course, choosing the right format is essential—it determines how you market your course, what content you include, and how much you can charge. Here are three main types of courses you might consider: 


A mini-course is a good starting point. These courses are brief, usually taking just an hour or two to finish. You could deliver them through a series of emails or a playlist of short videos. Because they’re often priced low, sometimes even for free, mini-courses work well to attract people who might be interested in more extensive courses later on.

Multi-day course

A multi-day course is an intermediate digital educational product designed to be completed over several days. These courses often include pre-recorded videos, segmented into modules, along with supplementary materials like worksheets and quizzes to aid learning. Priced between $150 to $1,500, multi-day courses are ideal for those who have already tested their course idea through a mini-course.

Master class

Master classes are extensive courses lasting weeks to months, offering a comprehensive system for success. Geared toward professionals, they typically come with a higher price tag, ranging from $200 to $5,000. If you’re new to course creation, it’s advisable to start with mini-courses and multi-day courses before venturing into a master class format.

Select the type of course based on your experience, the depth of content you can create, and the willingness of your target audience to pay. This approach helps ensure that your offerings meet the needs of your students and align with your business goals.

4. Test your idea for market demand

Before developing your entire online course from start to finish, see if you can get some early traction. You can validate market demand in a lot of ways, from creating a landing page with email collection, creating one or several mini-courses, or giving a free webinar on the topic to see how many enrollments and attendees you can gather (and as a bonus, you can pick their brain during the webinar to get feedback, suggestions, and ideas for your course).

Here are a few ideas for how you can turn a broader course topic into webinars or mini-courses:

Marketing for small business → Email marketing tips and strategies
Acting fundamentals → Character development for actors
Beginner’s guide to woodworking → Introduction to hand tools
Organic gardening 101 → How to choose the right soil for your vegetable garden
Creating compelling fiction → Building believable characters 
Interior design principles → Color theory and palette selection
Mastering personal finances → How to create a simple budget

5. Start pre-selling the course

Another option for validating demand is to sell online courses before you create them. This way, you’re absolutely certain that people want it badly enough to pay for it. To do this, you can create a simple ecommerce store on a platform like Shopify and accept pre-orders.

You can also generate funds by crowdfunding on websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Patreon, and Indiegogo.

To successfully pre-sell, you’ll need to have some basics, like your course’s title, topic, and outline. You might also choose to write out certain sections or tease more information on what’s to come.

Here’s an example of a online educator who posted his teacher-burnout course idea on Kickstarter:

6. Outline your course material

Next comes outlining your course content. Your course outline process should start with breaking down your broader topic into smaller modules and lessons. Shoot for around five to seven modules with three to five lessons inside each. Of course, this will vary depending on the learning objectives you’ve set, but it’s a good starting point.

For example, let’s say you’re creating the course “Mastering Personal Finance.” A module and lesson outline might look something like:

Module 1: Understanding Financial Basics

Introduction to Personal Finance
Budgeting and Money Management
Managing Debt

Module 2: Building a Solid Financial Foundation

Saving and Emergency Funds
Understanding Credit
Insurance Essentials

Module 3: Investing for the Future

Introduction to Investing
Building an Investment Portfolio
Retirement Planning

Module 4: Advanced Financial Strategies

Tax Planning
Estate Planning
Financial Independence and Wealth Building

Module 5: Putting it All Together

Financial Goal Setting and Review
Developing a Personal Financial Plan
Final Thoughts and Next Steps

You should also decide what types of content you’ll be including, like:

Videos explaining concepts visually
Text to include details, steps, and other resources
Screencasts and walkthroughs
Downloadable worksheets, templates, etc.
Workbooks to summarize content

7. Determine course pricing

Setting the right price for your course depends on a few things: the type of course, who it’s for, and how much you’ll spend on marketing. A mini-course might be free or not cost much, a multi-day course might have a middle-range price, and a masterclass will usually be the priciest.

Consider your course’s topic and your audience. For example, people looking to learn about investing might be willing to pay more than those wanting to know about social media marketing. Also, think about how much you need to market your course. The more you spend on marketing, the more you might need to charge to make it worth it.

Your reputation matters, too. If you’re known as an expert, people might pay more for your course. Checking out what others charge for similar courses can also help you set a competitive price without underselling yourself.

Say your goal is to make $40,000 from online course creation. You could price the course at $25 and need 1,600 buyers, or set it at $200 and only need 200 buyers. If only 1% of people visiting your page buy your course, you’d need a lot more visitors if your course is cheaper.

Price your course smartly. Don’t go too low—you’ll just end up needing to push harder for sales. And invest in making a course that feels worth what you’re asking.

8. Choose an online course platform

After setting a price for your online course, it’s time to choose a platform that suits your needs. Here are three main options to consider:

Standalone platforms

Standalone platforms offer you complete control over your course content and data. If you like managing details and want integration options like Shopify, these platforms are ideal. Examples include:


Thinkific standalone online course

All-in-one solutions

All-in-one platforms bring your marketing tools, website builder, and content delivery all into one place. They are usually the most expensive option but save you the hassle of managing multiple tools. Platforms in this category include:


Online course marketplaces

These platforms come with a built-in audience, making it easier to get your course noticed. However, you’ll find you have less control over your course’s pricing and data. Popular marketplaces include:

Choose a platform that fits your needs, but remember, the quality of your course content is more crucial than the platform itself. If a platform doesn’t quite meet your needs, you can always switch later. Focus on creating compelling and effective content for your students.

9. Launch and promote your course

After putting in the effort to make your course the best it can be for potential customers, it’s important to get it out there through marketing. Here are some ways to promote your course:

Host a weekly webinar. Webinars are generally low cost and great for generating leads. If someone spends 30 to 60 minutes in your webinar, they’re more likely to buy your course afterward.
Utilize email marketing. Focus on building an email list of potential buyers. Share updates, info, and discounts about your course through emails. Even if someone doesn’t buy right when they land on your page, getting their email means you can nudge them toward a purchase later. You can even use email to offer a mini-course that promotes your main course.
Appear on podcasts. Make podcast appearances to boost your authority and share your expertise through conversation. Explain to podcasters how your knowledge fits with their show and could benefit their listeners. Often, you’ll get a chance to promote what you’re working on or offer a discount to listeners.
Leverage social media marketing. Identify the best social media channels for reaching your audience. Focus on those and develop a strategy that consistently adds value. Don’t stretch yourself thin across too many platforms.
Do paid advertising. Run paid ads on platforms like Google Ads or Facebook ads to target your ideal customers and lead them to your sales page. Ensure the cost to acquire a customer stays below the price of your course to keep your returns in check.
Prioritize SEO. Optimize your website so it shows up in search engine results. This makes it easier for potential customers to discover your course.
Invest in content marketing. Create free educational content related to your course topic. This can establish your authority, help your content surface in search results, and convert free readers into paying customers. 

10. Gather testimonials and feedback

Getting real feedback and testimonials from customers who have taken your course can boost your credibility. It shows potential customers that your course delivers real results. Display these positive stories on your landing page and throughout your marketing to highlight the true value and impact of your course.

Here’s how to collect this important feedback:

Gather opinions. After customers complete your course, ask them for their opinions. You can do this through a follow-up email or a quick survey.
Use feedback tools. Consider using SurveyMonkey for detailed surveys, or Google Forms for an easy and free option. These tools help you organize the feedback efficiently.
Encourage detailed testimonials. If a customer has particularly positive feedback, ask if they’d be willing to share it as a testimonial. Encourage them to mention specific improvements or achievements they gained from the course.

Feedback is not only for testimonials. Use positive comments to understand what parts of the course work well and critical feedback to improve parts that aren’t as effective. Continuously refining your course with each group of students will enhance its quality and ensure the best learning experience.

Advantages of creating an online course

Selling online courses is a business idea with several compelling benefits:

High margins. After deducting the costs of production and marketing, the remaining revenue from selling online courses is mostly profit. For instance, selling a course for $100 might allow you to keep $70, unlike physical products, which often have much narrower profit margins.
Steady income stream. Once you create a course, it can continuously generate income. This holds especially true for courses that are downloadable and don’t require live sessions or ongoing community management.
Low startup costs. Depending on your course content, you might only need a few software subscriptions to host your course, communicate with potential buyers, and foster a learning community.
Scalability. Creating an online course demands time and effort initially. Yet, once made, you can sell it to hundreds, thousands, or even millions worldwide without any additional production cost. Sales processes can be automated, allowing anyone to purchase your course with just a few clicks.

Selling online courses as a creator

If you’ve been debating the idea of being a course creator, there’s better time to try it than now. You’ll find that learning how to create online courses is more intimidating than it looks. Once you take the first step, you’re beginning a journey of continuous learning and growth until you find what works for you. In a sense, you’ll be both the teacher and the student.

How to create an online course FAQ

What is an online course? 

An online course is a collection of educational lessons or modules that are delivered over the internet, enabling learners to study at their own pace and, often, from their homes. These courses span a vast array of topics and are accessible via different platforms.

How do I create an online course on Udemy? 

To develop an online course on Udemy, start by registering as an instructor. Next, design your course content, and create high-quality video lectures and supplementary materials. Once your content is ready, upload it to Udemy, set your course fee, and publish it for students to enroll and begin learning.

How can I create online courses for free? 

To create online courses for free, first identify a specific topic that has market demand and where you have expertise, credibility, and passion. Decide on the course type, the content medium, and how you’ll structure the curriculum. Then, select a course platform, decide on your pricing strategy, and plan your marketing approach.

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