My favorite way to build passive income is by building online courses. Over the past twenty years, I’ve created hundreds of e-books, webinars, and coaching programs to sell on my websites, but I’ve made the most money (by far) by selling courses. In this article, I want to help you figure out the best online course ideas for your business.
Courses work so well for consultants because they have a high perceived value for your customers. Webinars generally run for 60-90 minutes, so your customers assume you’ll only be able to solve one particular problem for them during a webinar. E-books can be more comprehensive, but the format makes your customers value them less (people like to be shown how to do something, not just told how to do it). Courses have the highest perceived value of all of the information product formats.
As a consultant, you’re well-prepared to create fantastic classes for your audience. Before you begin though, you’ll need to figure out the type of course that will appeal most to your potential customers. Here are my top online course ideas for your next online class:
#1: Step-by-Step How-To Courses
In my experience, step-by-step how-to type courses sell the best. When I’m figuring out online course ideas for my consulting businesses, this is the type of class I most often create. These types of classes work well because they show your participants exactly how to solve a specific problem or achieve a specific goal.
To create a step-by-step class, simply take one of the things you are already doing for clients and break it down into 4-10 main components. Then create a 30-60 minute webinar module for each component that shows your students, in detail, how to replicate your results. Then add additional resources like templates, worksheets, and action guides to go along with the modules.
At the end of this process, you’ll have a class comprised of 4-10 webinar modules plus resources and bonus items that should be very compelling to your target audience. If you’re having trouble figuring out which online course ideas to choose for your business, start with how-to courses… they tend to be the most compelling and most profitable for most consultants.
#2: Idea Courses
Another type of course I have been successful with is what I call “the ideas course.” Rather than showing your customers how to do something, this type of class gives your participants lots of ideas for achieving a goal that they want to achieve.
Some examples of this type of class include:
- 100 Ways to Sell More E-Books
- 50 Ideas for Finding More Consulting Clients
- 201 Strategies for Building a Better Dental Practice
I once created a class called “200 Fundraising Ideas to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit” and it turned out to be the best selling class I offered that year. People are drawn to idea-based classes because they figure that even if many of the ideas don’t apply to them, they’ll find a couple of ideas that will really help them achieve their goals.
As you think through your online course ideas, there’s another reason to keep idea-based classes in mind: they tend to be the easiest types of courses to create. While how-to classes and strategy courses require you to talk for extended periods on a single topic, ideas-based classes let you jump from topic to topic, never talking about an idea for more than 5-10 minutes.
Think about it: if you’re doing a class featuring 100 marketing ideas, and you are doing 5 one-hour webinars each covering 20 ideas, you’ll only have to talk about each idea for 3 minutes. Doesn’t that sound much more doable than talking about a single topic for 30-45 minutes? I definitely recommend including idea courses as part of your online course ideas thought process.
#3: Strategy / Theory Courses
The third type of online classes that are appealing to your audience are strategy and theory courses. These are classes that teach the overall strategy for doing something, without getting into the nitty-gritty step-by-step process for achieving the goal or solving the problem. I placed these last on the list because of all the online course ideas you have, these tend to excite your audience the least… less so than step-by-step classes and idea courses.
For example, if you’re a non-profit fundraising consultant, you may offer a class called “How to Raise More Money for Your Non-Profit” that presents an overview of non-profit fundraising strategy. It would be hard to create a step-by-step class that covers the same topic… there are so many different ways to raise money that a good step-by-step class would probably require dozens of modules… far more than you would want to create. Instead, you could create step-by-step classes on each aspect of fundraising: one for fundraising events, one for fundraising letters, one for online fundraising, etc.
Make no mistake: strategy and theory classes do sell, but I usually don’t try to sell them until after I have built a large following and focused on other online course ideas first. I have found that once people take your step-by-step classes and ideas courses, they’ll be more interested in learning the overall strategies that help guide your work.
What Online Course Ideas Will Work Best for You?
As you set out to create passive income strategies for your consulting business, you’ll need to figure out which online course ideas will work best for you. In my experience, the best way to do this is by asking your e-mail subscriber list.
Remember, one of the best things you can do is use your consulting website to build up your e-mail list. This will help you sell more consulting work as well as the info-products you create. As you start to think through online course ideas, create a survey and send it out to your e-mail list. (You can use an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey to do this quickly and cheaply).
Tell your audience that you want to help them achieve their goals and that in order to do so, you are getting ready to create one or more classes. List your online course ideas and ask them to rank which they are most interested in.
Then, once you have ranked your online course ideas and are ready to create your first course, my strong suggestion is that you pre-sell your course to your audience. Post a sales page, send out e-mails to your list, and see how many people sign-up and pay for the course. Give people a date in the future when the class will be delivered or tell them you will be releasing one module per week for the next 5 weeks (or however long your class runs).
If enough people sign-up and pay, you’ll know your class idea will work and you can get started creating it. If not enough people sign-up, you can refund their money and start figuring out other online course ideas that will work for your business.