If you have a process, method, or blueprint for something that has impacted you or others positively, you might be considering building an online course around it. I honestly can’t recommend digital courses enough to those who have a way to simplify something for others because it’s a streamlined way to share your knowledge with many people.
I initially came up with the idea to create my very first online course after I was a wedding photographer for a couple of years. I’d gained momentum, built a profitable business, and found success in the space, and I ended up consulting with other photographers who wanted to know how I was gaining traction on social media, getting featured on big wedding blogs/websites, and connecting with my dream clients.
At first I offered mentorship and I ended up realizing I was regurgitating the same advice over and over again to different people, like a song stuck on repeat — and they often had the same questions for me, too. I figured I could create a curriculum that addressed all the topics and questions I covered in my 1:1 sessions and sell it at a way lower cost than my private consulting fees. That’s how my first course, The Jenna Kutcher Course, was born! (Very creative title, I know…)
A decade later, thousands of students and many more courses under my belt — both my own and ones I’ve helped launch as an affiliate — I’ve realized there are a few key no-nos to avoid when creating an online course. These are things not to do so that you can ensure greater reach, success, and impact with your soon-to-be course.
01. Do not delay growing your email list.
Here’s what I see (way too) often: Someone gets the idea to create a course. They POUR all of their time, energy, and resources into building out the curriculum, excited as all get out to finally release it. Then, the time comes to launch, and they start hustling to share all about it on social media and pounding the pavement to grow their email list. Lo and behold, no one knew they had a skill, something to teach, or were creating a course until it’s done… and more than that, they aren’t engaged and connected with you in a way that encourages them to buy!
You need an email list you can launch to, so that you don’t have to worry about social media algorithms or vanity metrics. List building needs to be the priority *before and as* you create the course. Do not wait for this, start it today, even before you have a course to sell.
Pssst, that’s a HUGE reason I created my free 5-day challenge to go from zero subscribers to 250 in just a month! You can sign up for free and get started here!
02. Do not make your course too broad.
Have you ever gone onto Youtube to find a quick solution to a problem and the video is way too long and you just want to find the one minute you need? Yeah, we’ve all been there. In today’s world, people want to learn something quick, zero fluff. If you’re thinking about creating an online course about general social media tips or cleaning tips or marketing tips or cooking tips, let’s dial it in a bit further.
People want specific knowledge and a clear and easy-to-understand outcome. Don’t make it too broad or ambiguous, since that doesn’t really lure people in as much as a specific result. I recommend using the SMART goal framework (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) to define the end result. For example, if your course is about cooking tips, its SMART end-result could be: “Learn how to plan, shop for, prep, and cook your family’s meals for the week in less than an hour each week.”
03. Do not throw in everything and the kitchen sink.
Building a course is a vulnerable thing that has you questioning if you’re qualified or if you can really make an impact which tempts you share everything you ever learned to pack your course full. I knowwww, it’s so tempting to go on and on and on about your topic (especially when you’re passionate about it!), but stick to the MAIN goal and outcome your course promises.
Imposter syndrome can make you feel like you need to put everything in there, but the goal of a course is to simplify the way someone gets a result, so keep it clean and get to the point! If anything, you can throw in a bonus module or lesson (or two) if you feel really compelled to include extras, and those can be a part of your marketing angle. But in general, we want to keep online courses as straightforward and simple as possible.
04. Do not unnecessarily add fluff, filler, or too many stories.
Stories sell, right? So use stories in your marketing but when you get into the content, I’d encourage you to stick to strategies, tactics, and how someone can implement to get a result. The goal here is to get people a “quick win” so they build up their belief When you hit record, some people have a hard time getting to the point and sticking to the main lesson. I get it!
This is a chance to connect with your students and share valuable tidbits with them that will help them. But too often, people go off on tangents or relate everything back to a long story when, really, the actionable meat of the course doesn’t require it. If you do tell a story, make sure it leads in to your teaching and then offer a tool for your students. Short stories inside your course can help you illustrate a point, BUT your program should be the blueprint and as fluff-free as possible.
05. Do not overthink the platform you use.
A lot of times we let procrastination keep us from progress because we overthink some of the smaller decisions. There are many, MANY course hosting platforms you can use for your online course. My recommendation? Choose what works best for you, quickly, and get building. You don’t need the fanciest software or design to create a powerful, impactful course, and this decision is one of the biggest hang-ups I see people get stuck on.
I have used the platform Kajabi since day 1 since it takes mere minutes to set up, has everything you need in one place, and has the BEST support. You can get a 14-day free trial with them here, but no matter which tool you choose, choose with confidence and move forward swiftly to the creation and promotion part!
Now for the to-dos? First, if you have an idea for a course, run with it! That spark of inspiration could be the fuel that ends up helping and supporting a whole community of people with the same goal. Get your process down in a space that explains it as simply as possible, share about it as you create, and voila! You’ll have an online course that serves the masses in a straightforward and beautiful way.