Course Creation: A Step by Step Guide

Jenna Kutcher 

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February 27, 2019



How do you even get started creating an online course? Now, I’m assuming if you’re tuning in that you are curious about the “how” or you’re already thinking about doing this for your business and maybe this show has made you aware of how big of an impact courses can make on your business, but just in case – today we’re going to cover why you can be an educator, how you create your first course, how you choose the right topic, and all the nitty gritty in between.

Let’s start with (my favorite) the numbers: I created my first course in March 2015 and since then I have created The Pinterest Lab, The Instagram Lab, The Photo Lab, and The List to Launch Lab. I’ve taught over 14,000 paid students through my courses. Last year my courses brought in over $2.5 million and I do between $5K-$10K a day in automated course sales. I have a less than 1% refund rate with my programs.

Why Online Courses?

I know what you’re thinking: I am NOT an expert in anything, I don’t know what I could even teach, heck, I’m an imposter and the fact that I’m even thinking about charging to teach something is such a joke. Did I just call out your inner-mean girl? You bet I did. I thought all of those things and I still do. Who am I to teach these things to the masses? But if I listened to that little voice things like this podcast wouldn’t even exist and that’d be a sad, sad world. Am I right?

You already have the knowledge, know how or expertise in your area or niche. What you take for granted as easy or things that come naturally — guess what? That’s not true for everyone else. So before you start thinking that you have nothing you can teach on, I’m going to challenge you to really dig deeper into that mindset. I’ve seen online courses on things as simple as making your kids lunches or how to scuba dive or meditation practices. There are limitless ideas that would make a successful online course ranging from super simple to more in depth.

Creating a course will set you up as an expert in your industry. By teaching about your topic in the form of an online course, it shows your audience that you know what you’re talking about, you’re good at what you do and you’re an expert in your industry. This can create other opportunities like partnering with other businesses you admire or speaking opportunities if that’s your thing or even influencer or affiliate marketing opportunities.

Courses can be that passive income source you’ve been searching for that will help you to scale your business and make it more profitable. If you set up your course and launch strategy correctly, you’ll be able to consistently drive fresh leads to your course and automate that entire process. For ideas on how to create hype around a launch, check out episode 193. Trust me, there is nothing better than making money while you sleep, or on vacation or on maternity leave.

Online courses can free up your time. Are you a consultant or freelancer or do other businesses contract you for your services? Let me guess, you’re in the dollars for hours camp and looking for a way to dig out of that? Putting all your information in one spot and really being thoughtful in how you set it up and share it could SAVE you time. Sure it takes time on the front end but with an online course you could set it up once and make money for months, even years to come. This could be your answer and a way to free up your time personally so you’re working smarter not harder or to do other big projects that could create a bigger impact but you just haven’t had the time to do them because you’ve been stuck in the hamster wheel.

You will be able to impact more people. Teaching in a group setting like an online course allows you to work with so many people than you could ever do 1:1. And what’s also really cool is that you are able to reach people at a lower price point and are therefore able to work with people that could have never afforded your one on one prices.

The Absolute First Thing to Do

Before we even get into the specifics of course creation I need to get on my soapbox and tell you about the absolute number one thing you need to do before you even start creating content for a course and that is: build an email list of people who are going to be interested in your topic and serve them well for several months before you even think about pitching anything to them.

This is not an episode on email list building, and don’t worry – I have plenty of those if you’re needing more guidance in this area – but when I look at people who launch successful courses and those who don’t, what it comes down to at the end of the day is if they had a group of engaged people who already trust them, have been served by them, and are ready to buy their product. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have something to sell to start marketing to your target audience. This is something you can start today with the long term goal of creating a course. I’ll get off that soap box now, but go check out jkemaillist.com for everything you need to know about this!

Pick the Right Topic

Get clear on what exactly your offer is going to be. It’s so important when you’re figuring out what to create that you tune in to the needs of the people you’ll be serving. It’s really NOT about you and it’s about THEM. A lot of times we, as creators, THINK we know what people need the most but we can often miss the mark if we don’t take the time to research and understand our audiences greatest needs. What are their pain points? What do they struggle with? What do you get asked about the most? What current content performs the best for you?

At times, what you think people need from you is not what they actually want, and if this is the case, you can either switch your offering to be aligned with what your audience is looking for from you — OR spend the time educating them and leading them down the path so that when it comes time to sell your course — they are primed, educated and ready.

Another thing that’s important when picking your topic: Make sure you love it and are passionate about it. This is going to be something you are going to talk about endlessly until you feel like you’ve exhausted all topics so let’s try to have some fun in the process. This passion is going to shine through when it comes to the sales process and you’ll want to have a bunch of stories, examples and life experiences to reflect back on when you’re promoting and teaching your course. While you might not be passionate about the exact topic, you MAY be passionate about the end result or what people will gain from learning about it. It’s safe to say I’m not crazy passionate about Instagram or list building in itself but I see the results it gets me and that fires me up!

Finally, make sure there is going to be demand. I’m going to bet some of you have had the thought after seeing someone else teaching about a topic you were considering. It goes something like “Great, now I can’t do that because so-and-so beat me to it.” I have good news for you: this is simply not true. Abundance people, abundance! The fact that someone else is teaching on the topic already means there is demand for it. You might have what you think is the greatest idea, but if there isn’t demand, it’s not going to sell. If someone else is successful teaching on a topic you want to teach on, that is a great place to start in terms of determining if there is market demand for it. I also want to say that you are going to put your own spin on things based on your unique circumstance and experience.

Ask yourself a few questions: Are people in your industry are talking about your topic — is it relevant? Is it something you get asked about often or find comes easy to you? Would someone a few steps behind you benefit from this knowledge? Do you get a lot of questions about it from your audience and are you knowledgable in the area? Is there a gap in the market either from a topic standpoint, looking at things from a different angle or a new teaching style or perspective? These answers will help you in determining if it’s a good choice for you

Choose Your Platform

What I use: Kajabi. Why I love it: It’s a super simple way to build out your course content and you can choose from design themes to make it fit your brand and look professional and well put together. There are also additional features like email marketing, automation, quizzes and surveys so if you’re looking for a more all-in-one platform it’s a great option for you. We only use the course hosting functionality, but if you’re just starting out and looking to check off more pieces of the puzzle in a one stop shop, this might be a great choice for you. I’ve used them for FOUR years and can’t imagine using a different platform. Scroll down for a 28 day free trial of Kajabi for yourself! Other options that I know people who host courses on to look into are: Skillshare, Teachable, a simple WordPress site with password protected pages, Udemy and Course Cats.

Build a Curriculum

I remember the first time I told my mom I was going to teach a course, she laughed. Not because she didn’t think I was capable but because she’s taught college students for 30 years and suddenly her 24 year old daughter thought she was going to build out a curriculum. It felt daunting, sure but I learned a secret in the process. Before writing even one module or outline for your course, begin with the end in mind. At the top of any fresh new brainstorming doc for either a new course or an existing course says these words: “End Result”. Now, this is the end result I want to see for my students.

What will the end result or promise be? It’s so important to be laser focused on exactly what you want your students to accomplish or learn specifically. Are they going to make more money? Lose weight? Save time? What results are your competitors promoting and how are you doing things differently that you can zero in on? Maybe one is too complicated or specializes in a different industry or doesn’t cover a unique perspective that you do. I want you to find your lane within the similar topic.

I’ll give you an example, here is the one for my course The Instagram Lab: Have a full Instagram strategy that will connect the user with more followers and drive more engagement on every post so that they can post with confidence and find the joy in strategizing their authentic content.

Next, outline the pain points you’ve identified. What do your students need to know? What are they struggling with? Here’s another example from The Instagram Lab:

  • Slow growth
  • Starting from 0
  • Not sure what to post
  • Zero engagement
  • Not converting to sales
  • Attracting wrong people
  • Follow/unfollow Frustration


Keep your end result and these pain points front and center when you are outlining the course. Refer back to it as often as you need to and really get down to the basics of if the content you are planning solves what you have outlined.

Keep it simple

Once you have an outline, I want you to consider a few things when creating the content of your course. Let’s not over complicate things. I want you to remember that you know a heck of a lot more about your topic than anyone who will be purchasing your course. Take a step back and walk through the steps at a beginners level and resist the urge to throw in every little thing.

Sometimes new course content creators feel the need to justify the price of their course so they throw in this bonus, or that group call or this “should be for sale as a separate product and not included in the course”. Here’s what I’ve learned: it is far more valuable to create a course that is no fluff, not overwhelming and that people will actually be able to get through and get results. It is absolutely crazy the number of people who purchase courses and never make it all the way through them. And this is something you should care about because if they don’t make it through your course and see results, they are not going to ever buy from you again.

We take this very seriously in my business and follow up with students who haven’t completed to give them a little accountability. We also look at common drop off areas — Where are people not completing the material? Is it because it’s not necessary or because it’s too complicated? Keeping things simple does not mean it is not valuable so be sure to keep this in mind as you’re creating your content.

Course Formats

Consider the format and how your students will want to learn from you. Knowing there are many different learning styles, I try to accommodate my students as much as possible by offering video, slides, audio and transcriptions of my modules. It wasn’t always this way, and maybe you’re more comfortable with a certain medium over another so don’t get hung up on feeling like you need to offer everything.

Ask your audience their preferences and try some things out. Look at how people are currently consuming your content — do more people read the blog? Or do you have a podcast and that’s where most of your visitors come from? Think through how you’ve enjoyed courses in the past and create what you think will work well for your unique business. Also consider how you’ll offer support in your course — will it be a Facebook group? Is there an opportunity to ask questions directly within the course content? Will you make your email address available for people to contact when they get stuck? Group coaching calls?

Again, don’t feel like you need to throw everything in here, but rather pick the things that you think will best set up your students for success and that work with your lifestyle and business specifically.

How to Price and Position Your Course

My first tip: studies show people buy more products when the end in the number 7. My course pricing: $197, $247, $997. So as weird as it seems, trust me that this is an easy way to increase sales!

Here’s what I want you to make sure: I want you to be towards the top of the pricing in your industry. This helps establish you as a leader, an expert and people will often assign quality to higher priced things and question lower ones. I want you to be confident in your offering and let me tell you this: It is going to be the same amount of work. You want to be working with the best of the best in your industry, not the people who are looking for a deal. You want action takers, people who will take their investment seriously and who are here to stay. You can create payment plans to make things more affordable for people to break it down into something more manageable for people.

Set yourself up for future success

If this all sounds way too overwhelming and you’re not ready for it in your business, that’s ok. I’d still love for you to start somewhere. Maybe that’s an e-book or online shop or starting consulting services to really build out your material that may result in future content that could be used as part of a course. Do some of the back end work now and move toward your course creation goal even if it’s baby steps. I’ve got a podcast for you all about passive income by creating e-books with my friend Kelly McNelis in episode 214 and one all about how I created online shop that made $218,000 last year in episode 191.

So there you have it, my best tips for creating an online course and setting yourself up for success so that this can become a passive income stream for your business for years to come. It has been the #1 way I’ve driven profits in my business, served my community and found freedom in terms of time outside of my business.

I hope you are feeling inspired about what creating a course could do for your business. I want you to go write down some goals as soon as you get a chance. Then keep those promises to yourself and work hard. These types of projects are the ones that often fall by the wayside because they are not urgent. They are not the things screaming for your attention, but they are the things that matter and what will make the biggest impact on your businesses. So respect this work and be proud of what you create. Get out there and be bold in talking about it and promoting it because this is the work that matters and is going to impact so many lives.

Want to learn more about digital course creation?

Check out The Digital Course Academy plus my special bonus right here.

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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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