Online Course

How to Launch an Online Course: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide with Checklist

Female entrepreneur promoting extra income opportunities with online courses

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4 Steps to Finding & Validating Your Course Topic

(So You Know It’ll Sell)

A proven 4-step method to finding a profitable course topic that your audience will pay good money for.

The single most important thing I did in my business was launching an online course.

Not only does it provide financial stability and flexibility for my business, but it also allows me to establish a truly scalable stream of income. Taking that first step to creating your own online course can feel like an overwhelming task. Like any project, it involves several moving parts, including:

  • Finding a profitable online course topic
  • Creating your online course lessons and learning materials
  • Launching and marketing your online course effectively
  • Ensuring the success and happiness of your customers/students
  • Turning your course evergreen (aka leaving it open for enrollment 24/7)

Having 6+ years of experience on both the student and educator side of online courses, I can confidently say that I’ve perfected the online course launch process that is optimized for ease and maximum profits while taking utmost care of the student experience every step of the way.

I’m about to reveal it all in this post, giving you the ultimate checklist to creating your own online course–the stress-free way.

Business owner developing online course content on a computer

How to Launch an Online Course: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide with Checklist

You’re not alone if you’re currently dreaming of creating your very own online course. In fact, the online course industry is predicted to increase to a value of $325 billion by 2025 from its projected $185 billion in 2024.

Online courses are a wonderful resource for improving any area of one’s life and an incredible income source for course creators.

In other words, online courses are a win-win for both students and educators alike.

And if you’re ready to share your knowledge with a bigger group of people, scaling your income exponentially in the process…

I’m about to show you exactly how to sell out your online course, even before you create it, how to create your course material without the fancy tech gear, and what to do after your first successful launch.

Entrepreneur creating an online course on a laptop

Why Launch an Online Course?

If you’re dreaming of having full control of your time and schedule, the ability to travel anywhere in the world anytime, all without having the fear of depleting funds and financial stress…

Then creating and launching your online course is the perfect next step for you.

Online courses are the “work smart, not hard” solution to making more money without sacrificing your time as it allows you to serve an unlimited number of clients all at the same time.

It’s why the e-learning and online course industry is growing rapidly. In fact, according to Statistica, it was a $101 billion market in 2019, and it’s projected to reach $370 by 2026.

Not only is this a prime window for you to tap into a market that’s abundant with opportunities, but it’s also a great long-term solution for building a sustainable business. And I’m going to lay out the exact steps you need to take to do so.

Step-By-Step Guide to Creating and Launching an Online Course

But before we continue, I need to make it clear that online courses are not a get-rich-quick solution. Like all truly intentional and powerful business moves, they take time, planning, and optimization to ensure that it could generate a healthy flow of income for you and your business.

So if you’re ready to dedicate the time to doing this right, let’s dive in with step number 1.

Happy student benefiting from an online course

Step 1: Find and Validate Your Most Profitable Online Course Topic

The very first step you need to take is to find and validate your most profitable online course topic. Emphasis on “validate.”

This is probably the most detrimental part of the course launch and creation process. I’ve seen many first time online course creators who skip this step, assuming that their online course topic is one that their audience will be interested in.

They end up pouring hours into creating the course lessons, designing sales pages, and writing sales copy to sell their course, only to learn that their audience isn’t interested.

Skipping this step is similar to throwing spaghetti on the wall–you’ll end up investing your time into something you’re not sure if your audience will want.

There are several ways to find your most profitable online course topic, including:

  • Identifying the primary transformation (or result) that your clients ask you to help them with. (For example, if you’re a weight loss coach and most people are concerned with meal prepping, that will likely be a highly profitable topic for your online course.)
  • Paying attention to your most frequently asked questions on social media
  • Using AI (like ChatGPT) for ideas. (I suggest asking ChatGPT what it is your audience might be most interested in learning based on who your ideal students are. See step #2 for this!)

As for validating your online course topic, the best way to go about this is to ask your audience. While you don’t need to have a large audience to successfully create and launch your online course, you do need a small engaged audience who would be interested.

Poll them, hop on market research calls to determine what their problems are, and determine how your online course can be the solution they’re looking for.

Step 2: Get Crystal Clear On Your Ideal Students

If validating your online course topic prior to launching it is the most important step, this will be the second. In fact, validating your online course topic and getting crystal clear on your ideal students go hand in hand.

That’s because you need to create your online course to solve a problem that your ideal student aims to solve. You need to discover what it is about the problem that keeps them up at night, what solutions they’ve tried, and what it means for them if they’re able to solve it.

A good rule of thumb for getting clear on who your online course is for is to have zero confusion about who is a right fit and who isn’t.

You’ll want information like:

  • Their age and gender identity
  • Their education level
  • What is their income range is
  • Where do they live 
  • What they do during their spare time
  • What troubles them about their current situation
  • What have they done to attempt to solve the problem
  • What they hope to achieve when they solve the problem
I filmed this training about how to find your target audience for Google for Creators. While it’s geared towards bloggers, the concepts apply to finding your online course’s ideal students.

Step 3: Define Your Online Course Promise

Every successful online course has one big promise. This is the key to keeping your students happy and on track to solving their problem.

Your online course promise is also known as the transformation that your course will provide.

Before you move on to step #4 (outlining your online course curriculum), you need to know exactly where your ideal students are at before they enroll in your course (point A). You also need to know where they want to be after going through your online course (point B).

Don’t overcomplicate this step. Your online course promise should be short and easy to understand. This is something that should be summarized in one sentence.

For example, if you’re a pilates instructor and your ideal students–who are college students with limited resources to access consistent pilates classes–want to achieve a lean, toned physique on a budget…

Your online course promise will be, “I help college students develop a consistent pilates practice without the price tag of reformer classes.” 

You can also think of your online course promise as your course’s “I help” statement. So before you move on to step #4, fill in the following blank.

I (aka your course) help [INSERT IDEAL STUDENT] go from [POINT A] to [POINT B].

Entrepreneur holding coffee, symbolizing flexible work lifestyle from online courses

Step 4: Outline Your Online Course Curriculum 

Now that you know point A and point B of your course, it’s time to fill in the steps that’ll get them exactly where they want to go.

To simplify the creation of your online course curriculum, I encourage you to think about the larger transformation and work your way backward.

For example, if your online course teaches aspiring digital nomads to build a business as a virtual assistant, you’ll reverse engineer their steps into modules and lessons as such:

  • Module 1: What is virtual assisting?
    • Lesson 1: What jobs can you do as a virtual assistant
    • Lesson 2: What sorts of clients should you seek out
    • Lesson 3: How to find clients online
    • Lesson 4: How to nail your virtual interviews
  • Module 2: Inbox and calendar management as a virtual assistant
    • Lesson 1: Why your clients need a virtual assistant to manage their inbox/calendar
    • Lesson 2: How to manage a client’s calendar/inbox
    • Lesson 3: etc…

With this example, the very last module could include lessons on the very last stage of the process, such as

  • How to build a waitlist of clients
  • How to find accommodations on the road now that you’re a virtual assistant
  • Etc.

All of this information would largely depend on what you learn about your ideal student in step #3.

Step 5: Create Your Online Course

The beauty of creating an online course is that you can format it any way you’d like. Of course, I’d include questions about learning preferences for your ideal student so you know exactly how your students prefer to learn, but here are your options:

Video Online Course Content

This is the most common format you’ll find in the online course space. Video-based online courses are great for students who learn best in classroom-like setting. It works for both visual and audio learners since it has elements of both.

You can either…

  • Format your video as a talking head (which will feature more of your face-to-camera throughout the lesson)
  • Create a presentation-style course (which includes slides for visual learners and note-takers)
  • Combine both formats with your talking head in the corner of the slides
Female entrepreneur creating video content for her online course using a phone

Audio Online Course Content

Although I would not recommend creating an audio-only style course, this is a great addition for busy students who’d like to learn on the go.

Your audio-based online course content will essentially be the audio version of a video-based online course. I recommend including this as a bonus feature and highly discourage creating your course in this format alone.

PDF Online Course Content

Probably the least common style of online learning. PDF Online course content isn’t really all that popular because it lacks a certain level of personalization and touch point. However, if your online course is more technical and would be better presented in a textbook-style format, this might not be the worst option.

Remember, always root your course format in your market research and what it is that your ideal student will want.

Step 6: Choose Your Online Course Hosting Platform

No matter which format you choose to launch your online course in, you need a hosting platform for your students to access it.

When you Google the best online course hosting platforms, you’ll be met with hundreds of options and millions of reviews vouching for each course creator’s favorite.

To simplify the process for you, I’m going to focus on 2 of the main online course hosting platform types, so that you can make the best decision for you and your business.

An All-in-One Online Course Hosting Platform

Many online course creators will recommend an all-in-one online course hosting platform simply because everything you need is gathered in one place.

Platforms like Kajabi and Kartra are some of the most popular all-in-one course hosting platforms out there. Of course, it comes with a long list of pros and cons, including:

Pros:

  • Email marketing, landing pages, course hosting and more are under the same platform
  • You pay one fee for all the bells and whistles

Cons:

  • Fewer options for customization
  • Not as powerful for data and analytics
  • Experienced online course creators will eventually outgrow the platform if they hope to scale and optimize in the future

A Platform That Specializes in Hosting Online Courses (Standalone Online Course Hosting Platform)

This is my recommendation for online course creators who are ready to build something that sustains in the long run. All of CreateHer Empires courses are hosted on our favorite online course hosting platform, Thinkific.

While it doesn’t have email marketing and all the other bells and whistles that Kajabi or Kartra provides, it’s a powerful platform that supports all online course creators needs, whether you’re a novice or an expert.

We pair this with our very own tech stack to create a powerful online course system, including:

  • ActiveCampaign for email marketing
  • WordPress.org and Showit for our sales page’s hosting and design  
Here’s a Creator Insights episode for Google for Creators that I filmed to help you launch your online course successfully.

Step 7: Build Your Launch Plan

Phew! Now that we’ve got the nitty-gritty of building your online course out of the way, it’s time to solidify your launch plan.

I’m a huge believer in not needing 100k followers before you launch your online course. In fact, I believe that if you can’t sell it to 50 people, you can’t sell your online course to 100k people.

It’s more crucial that you focus on building an engaged audience that’s interested and eager in your upcoming course launch.

I’ve got a few posts to help you get started, including:

Generally, you want to create content that builds hype and anticipation for your audience before you launch your online course. This will get your audience interested and dialed into the topic your course is on.

No need to pay for ads or social media agencies to build this plan for you. In my free masterclass, I show you exactly what you need to build a highly effective launch strategy so you can generate buzz and excitement for your online course launch.

Step 8: Create Your Launch Event

A launch event isn’t entirely necessary for your online course launch, but it’s a powerful tool that can show your audience why they should take action and enroll in your course ASAP.

There are various launch events that you can choose from, from:

  • Challenges
  • Webinars
  • PDF downloads
  • Quizzes
  • Mini courses (dripped through a private podcast or email)

My preferred launch event happens to be webinars, because I know that my audience prefers learning in a classroom-style setting. Webinars not only allow me to show up with my face (and voice), so that my students have a feel for who their course instructor is… But it also allows me to spend valuable time answering questions that my attendees have about the transformation they want to achieve, or the online course they want to enroll in.

I show you how to create and host a webinar that’s primed to convert your audience into students in this post!

Presenter hosting a webinar for online course students

Step 9: Pay Special Attention to Customer Care

Once the details of your launch plan and launch event are settled and squared away, it might feel like you’re waiting on pins and needles to see the results of your hard work. While the temptation to go back and finagle with everything might be enticing… The best use of your efforts would be to think about the student experience after they hit “sign up.”

Remember, just because someone enrolls in your online course doesn’t mean that they’ll become lifelong, loyal customers. You need to pay special attention to customer care!

Because nothing feels worse than being treated like a dollar sign. A course creator who is genuinely dedicated to the success of their students take customer care seriously.

Whether that’s setting up a separate email account for them to send administrative questions to (such as billing, login information, etc.), or simply making sure that they’ve got everything they need to create their very own success stories.

This is one of the most overlooked parts of launching your online course, and it’s why I’ve made sure to include all the plug-and-play templates for your very own launch so that your students are well taken care of.

Step 10: Evaluate Your Online Course Launch Metrics  

Before you wrap things up and celebrate your success, you’ll want to evaluate your online course launch metrics! This is where you’ll be able to pinpoint areas of improvement, along with the assets and processes that worked really well.

Take a look at the numbers of your launch efforts, whether thats your social media post metrics, email marketing open and click-through rate, sales page conversions, etc.

Evaluating how your online course launch performed is the key to determining whether your online course is ready to go evergreen–meaning it’s available for enrollment 24/7–or if you need to improve on your live launch metrics prior to setting it on autopilot.

Female entrepreneur enjoying coffee during a break from online course development

The Completely Checklist to Creating Your Online Course

Not going to lie, this is one of the longer blog posts you’ll find on my site. I’ve distilled my online course ideation, creation, and launch process into 10 can’t miss steps.

But just as how no two businesses are alike, you might come across some questions that may be unique to your business and online course launch. If you’d like to explore how you can optimize the launch of your online course, check out my free masterclass: 5 Steps to Make an Extra $10k Per Month with An Online Course.

Click the link to save your spot and I can’t wait to see you in class!

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