In this post, I’m going to give you solid insights into how you need to find online course ideas and validate them for surefire success.
The demand for online courses and eLearning has been growing exponentially.
According to the UF Canvas study, the eLearning industry is set for $325 Billion by 2025. That’s huge!
Before getting excited about creating an online course, determine what topic you need to create an online course. Your first step in getting a sweet pie of this emerging industry is by being an early adopter.
You will be overwhelmed when determining the topic for your online course due to the presence of diverse niches.
80% of the course niches come under these areas:
Any niche that you choose to create a course falls under any of these giant umbrellas.
You see, I’m a blogger for content marketers, right? So, it would be Wealth > Online marketing > Blogging/Content marketing.
You need to dive deep into a niche where there is enough audience to create your online course.
Based on the Japanese concept of “Ikigai”, you need to create a course around a topic:
- You love
- You are good/knowledgeable in
- The world needs
- You can be paid for
Choosing an online course niche that you love is a no-brainer. So, our primary focus would be the other three.
If you are already an expert in any field, it makes perfect sense to create a course in that field.
As an expert, you may already have an audience base, marketing strategies, blog, YouTube channel, and subscribers to leverage. You also have a vague idea about audience psychology in your field of expertise.
If you are a seasoned online marketer, the first thing for you would be to identify the things that you are already generating revenue for. Then you need to find a course that helps you growth-hack your existing business.
If you have great content on your blog, you can repurpose your blog content like online courses, or it’ll be easy for you to prepare a course transcript.
You need to prepare a detailed list of topics you are an expert in.
For example, if you are an SEO expert, your list would look like this:
- Onpage SEO
- Offpage SEO
- Link building
- Semantic SEO
- WordPress SEO
- Keyword research
- Technical SEO
- SEO audit
- SEO tools
There may be chances of you having fierce competition in your niche. For this, finding a market gap by using niche angling or other strategies is essential.
I will discuss these concepts in detail in the later sections.
If you are not an expert in any field, no problem.
One example is that of the “Sleep hacking” course by Scott; he discussed it in the SideHustleNation podcast.
Scott was initially a life hacks coach; while teaching, he noticed that his students loved his sleep optimization lecture. Thereby he got the idea to create a course around sleep hacking.
Although he’s not some kind of sleep doctor, he researched it, gained knowledge, curated the best information, created logical segments, created presentations, and published it.
He said in the podcast, “Many people have limiting beliefs about what they can create courses on because they don’t have skills on what they want to teach. But the reality is that you can be an effective teacher if you know more than a person who’s listening to your topic”.
You need to develop an interest in any specific field; consider getting a considerable hold on the topics.
This works great if you are looking to publish courses on big marketplaces like Udemy, where they handle most of your marketing. If you are into self-hosting courses on Teachable or Thinkific, you may find it challenging to market your courses not being an expert in a field.
In this case, I would advise you to carry out the course idea research as your first step, picking up a topic where there’s a massive need and gaining expertise.
You need to also keep in mind that if you are not an expert, preparing a detailed transcript and the presentations is very important.
People only buy things that they need. Before finalizing a course topic, it’s essential for you to test whether there’s a real need for the course in the market.
If you have an existing audience-base, you need to consider asking them what problem are they facing currently and would they be willing to pay you if you solve their problems.
You can reach them out via various channels like:
- Email newsletters
- Facebook posts
- Facebook groups
- Blog posts
- Facebook ads
Once you come across the problems, they’re having, you can pitch them some course topic ideas that you think would solve their problems.
If you are a blogger, you can take a look at the best-performing posts on your blog for course ideas.
Your content is performing well because you’re good at the topic, or your audience loves it. In both of these cases, it may be a good topic for the next online course.
If there are enough popular blog posts on a specific topic on your blog, you can consider creating an entire course on it by partially repurposing your blog’s content.
Course creation, like any kind of marketing, is a demand and supply game. You need to find the topics for which there is huge demand, but there are not enough online courses for that topic.
For this, you can make use of several tools and places.
This is a great place to discover potentially untapped course ideas, especially if you are an Udemy instructor.
Here you just need to enter any topic of your interest, and Udemy will display you the demand-supply idea and the monthly revenue potential you get on average.
Personally, I found many great ideas from this tool, upon which I created courses on Udemy that are giving me a good passive income.
You can browse forums and Q&A sites to determine what topic you need to create a course on.
Before doing the forum research, I advise you to have a vague idea about what field you need to create a course.
By browsing through the answers to this kind of question, you can quickly figure out an excellent online course idea with a little bit of brainstorming.
Another place where highly motivated buyers are searching is Google. You need to research what people are searching on Google regarding your field of interest/expertise.
Here, you need to find the ultra-specific topic ideas to cut through the competition.
Let’s say you are an expert in “finance.”
As you may know, there seems to be lots of competition for finance courses as a whole.
Here you can see Google will only recommend you the focused topics on which you can create a course.
You can take this a step further by using tools like Suggestomatic or KeywordShitter. These tools will give you more Google suggestions pulled directly via Google Search’s API.
Along with that, here are some of the search terms you need to consider:
- <niche> courses
- <niche> training
- online courses on <niche>
- <niche> courses for
You always need to go behind keywords with good search volume, representing the demand for your course idea on the internet.
If you are an expert in a field that’s very competitive when it comes to online courses, you may need to find a unique angle, and market gap by making use of niche overlaps and other techniques.
Let’s say you are a Social Media Marketing expert. You know how competitive this space is when it comes to courses.
But there’s still a ton of money to be made, by making use of niche overlapping.
Rather than creating yet another course on SMM, you need to cater to a specific set of audiences at a premium price. They are likely to buy your course as it’s ultra-personalized for them.
Like this one. SMM + Startups
Or this one. SMM + Artists
As you can see, the above courses are tailored to a specific set of audiences.
Another example would be the freelancer courses. You can create freelance related hyper-targeted courses like:
- Freelancing for developers
- Freelancing for travelers
- Freelancing for moms
You need to be creative enough to make use of Google keyword research, Udemy research, other tools, and your intuition to get an idea about the need in the marketplace.
If there’s a lot of competition in a specific niche, it doesn’t always mean that you should not enter the space.
It may mean that there’s still a lot of money to be made.
I personally don’t enter a niche in which there are “zero” online courses without thorough research.
When you come across a good competition in the niche you researched, you need to figure out whether you’ll be competing with low-quality courses or really the competition is fierce.
You can also find whether you can effectively position yourself along with the competition by:
- Researching the reviews of the existing courses
- Investing in going through the existing courses
- Research whether there are any unfulfilled needs in the existing training courses.
Before giving your final call on any topic you researched, it’s very essential to execute some of these course idea validation strategies.
The first step to validate the profitability of the niche is to determine whether your target audience are spending money online in order to get their problem solved.
You need to ask yourself these questions:
- Are there any existing courses on the same topic that are selling well?
- Are there any other good selling information products (like eBooks) on the topic?
- Are there any people giving paid consultations on the topic?
- Are there any mobile apps that people are buying to get their specific problems solved?
- Are people searching for certifications in the field?
Once you are sure that your target audience have their wallet open, rest assured you can proceed with the following validation strategies.
You need to first ask your existing audience, whether they are interested in your course.
You can conduct surveys using email newsletters, FB ads, communities, blogs, etc.
You need to know some details like:
- Demographics of the audience whom you’ll be serving your course.
- Challenges that people are facing in the given niche.
- How they are handling their current challenges in the niche
- What blogs your audience read?
- What books do they read?
- How can you help them?
- Would they love a course that solves their problems?
- What content they expect in the training course?
- What outcome do they expect out of the training course?
- What format of the training course do they love the most?
The questions I’ve mentioned above are quite generic, you need to tweak them according to your business goals and strategies.
By getting the answers to these queries, you’ll get a clear idea of whether your course idea will be relevant for your audience or not.
If you have an existing audience, but you’ve not done a detailed survey of their needs and challenges, you’ll be missing out a lot.
You can make use of tools like Typeform, Paperform, HotJar, or even free Google Forms for creating surveys. All you need to do is to drive targeted traffic to these tool pages. If you don’t want to spend money on these survey tools, you can consider choosing the LMS platforms like Thinkific or Kajabi. Both these come with surveys, built-in.
Preselling is an excellent strategy to implement if you are pretty unsure whether there’s a demand for the course you’re gonna create.
It refers to the process of you selling a course even before creating it. You just need to create a media kit, mockups, and promotional materials and present them on the preselling landing page.
On that landing page, you need to include some description of the course, modules, and also details about each lecture. Tools like Podia or Thinkific have this feature built-in. If you are using tools like Kajabi, there is no direct option available to pre-sell. But you can do this by creating a dedicated landing page for this purpose.
Normally, the preselling price of the course will be highly discounted as the buyers will get access to the course only after it gets launched.
Before putting forward this offer, you need to have a clear ETA in place for your course creation and launch. If this is your first-course launch, you need to have enough buffer time to avoid being squeezed in the middle.
Bryan from VideoFruit has a great case study on this, where he made over $10,000 in 24 hours by preselling his course.
According to him, the right pricing, evoking strong desire, and messaging are very important.
He did it as part of his course idea validation strategies with his existing audience (mostly email subscribers).
Before considering creating your fully-blown course, you may consider creating a minimum viable product (in this case course), to test the waters before diving into the mainstream. For this Kajabi would be a nice LMS tool you can use, as it comes with mini-courses for creating MVP kinds of products. If you are into academic courses, tools like LearnWorlds would be the best, because it is designed to align the needs of institutions.
Creating an MVP also helps you set a realistic launch date for your pre-launch offer.
You can also release MVP at a lower price and increase the price as you add more and more videos; this increases the value for existing students.
When you see the sales and good reviews coming in, it’ll motivate you to create more videos to the stack and make it a full-blown course.
With this, even if your minimum viable course fails, it’ll not be a heartbreaking moment for you, as you’ve not poured real effort and money into it.
You need to consider using Google Trends to ensure that your course topic stays relevant and set proper revenue expectations.
Suppose you are considering creating a course on the “Paleo diet”, you can search for it on Google Trends.
Here you can view the trend graph of the topic. You can see that people search more about dieting during the New Year time – thanks to the new year resolutions. And you can also see that the popularity of the Paleo diet has been declining.
You can also see in what subregions the paleolithic diet is popular. You need to make sure that the audience you’re willing to market are indeed from these regions.
With this, you’ll get to set the expectations right for your online course.
In Google Trends, you need to avoid getting into course ideas with huge spikes.
For example, if you are thinking of creating a course on the PubG game, it may be too late to enter, and it’ll not be an evergreen niche.
It’ll just be another Pokemon Go on a smaller scale.
Creating an online course alone is not enough. You need to figure out the strategies to market them.
Although the idea on which you create your online course is essential, your ability to market it effectively matters a lot.
Before creating an online course, you need to determine where you’re going to host it, what channels you’re going to market on, what’s your upsell? and so on.
You need to have a detailed game plan ready beforehand.
If you create an excellent course without proper marketing strategies, you are doomed to fail. Because marketing research is one of the important course idea validation techniques to implement.
Also, you need to have a clear final outcome you’re expecting out of the course in mind.
These are some techniques I personally use to research online course ideas.
Finding a low-competitive yet-profitable course idea is very important, and it determines at least 50% or even more of your success depends upon your marketing.
Course creation takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and resources. So I highly advise you to create a detailed plan, including the niche validation, niche research, and marketing reports.
Hope you found this post helpful.