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How to Create an Online Course That Sells: 5 Steps to Follow

How to Create an Online Course

Until now, one of your biggest questions is still probably: Are online courses in demand? YES, online courses are in demand – now more than ever!

Because of two things: the accessibility of the internet and technology and the current situation of the world. E-learning has become a staple mode of schooling.

In fact, you already have a good market:

  • Those who can’t afford/don’t want to continue traditional schooling
  • Those who have busy schedules
  • Those who are aiming to upskill without formal schooling

We hope that pumped you up to get started. Trust us, making an online course is worth it especially if you do it well. If this is your first time, you’re lucky! We can guarantee that your first online course will already be awesome.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Easy But Effective Steps You Need for an Awesome Online Course!

To make recall easier for you, keep in mind the acronym COURSE:

  • Choose your targets (topic and audience) 
  • Omit everything unnecessary 
  • Understand your goal
  • Research, research, research.
  • Set up your setup
  • Execute effectively

Some of these sound like business terms, right?


It’s because executing something like this is similar to running a business – whether you intend to make money from this or if it’s just voluntary.

Think of it as a product that you’re selling to customers – it needs to be polished, presentable, and (near) perfect. 

Successful online courses go beyond uploading a lesson plan on a platform. It’s all about your content, strategy, and objectives.

Step 1: Choose Your Target Topic and Target Audience

Step 1

The first step is to really shortlist and choose:

  • What exactly do you want to teach?
  • Who do you intend to reach?

You need a direction to guide you as you draft your content and course outline, and the best way is to first answer the obvious questions.

Step 1A: Choose a Topic – What Exactly Do You Want to Teach?

There are endless possibilities when it comes to the course topic.

Do you want to teach about numbers, personal growth, science, marketing, the alphabet, language, cooking, dancing, music, organizing?

I could go on and on if you want me to – business, life coaching, fitness, baking, workshop, writi– oh that’s enough? Okay, sorry.

But do you get the point? There are lots of topics you can choose from. You can’t just vaguely say that you just want to create an online course and teach.

Teach what? Teach who?

No pressure, though. TAKE YOUR TIME.

And the fact that you’re here means you already have some sort of course idea on what you want to do. Working from there, you just have to further specify.

It could be something you’re passionate about, a topic you feel needs more attention, or a course you think would gain a lot of traction.

Step 1B: Choose a Target Audience – Who Exactly Do You Want to Reach?

Now, this is very important.

Determining who your audience is will help you decide what your next steps will be, and it could also be interchangeable with step 1a.

It’s possible that you really want to reach out to, say, children ages 3-8, then that’s a great way to narrow down your topic too (i.e., you can already eliminate advanced topics like hard science and advanced lessons from here).

Aim to be as specific as possible. You can’t cluster a broad group of people with different needs into just one topic.

Remember these:

  • People in different life stages and walks of life want to learn different things.
  • People have varying knowledge capacities.
  • Students have different needs and goals.

So, think it through. If you can’t get past this stage yet, we suggest staying put until you hammer the nail in this area. (Ask any marketing expert with know how, you’ll get the same sentiment!)

For example, you chose the topic language for children ages 3-8 years old.

Specify now the subject matter and know how that you want:

  • Will it be about grammar, vocabulary, conversations?
  • Which subject matter will be appropriate and helpful for the age group you chose?
  • Which specific language is it?

Step 2: Omit Everything Unnecessary

Step 2

You’re probably getting the gist now, that specifying is key.

Once you’ve locked your targets in step 1, the next step is to further narrow down everything and omit all the unnecessary content.

Using the same example from above:

If you’re going for the language conversational, then omit everything not related to language conversational.

Don’t include writing or spelling – since you’re focusing more on the talking.

This isn’t to say that the other ideas are unimportant, but it’s already A DIFFERENT TOPIC. Of course, if you feel like it’s absolutely necessary to include it, then do so.

But please, don’t dedicate an entire chapter to something unrelated to your course topic.

Step 3: Understand Your Goal

OK, so you now have a narrowed-down topic and a specific audience.

That means it’s time to draft your course outline and lesson plans.


You have to first understand your goal for you and your students.

It’s important to ground yourself on your purpose – why do you want to make an online course and teach?

It’s one thing to impart knowledge, and it’s another to just simply teach without purpose. We say go for the former.

But trust us, we’re not just mentioning this for fluff.

Understanding your goal will help you set the learning opportunities and objectives, which will also be an integral part of your course outline. This is setting what you want to impart to your students, and what they can get out of your course.

To show you a sample, take a look at this from the University Teaching Academy (UTA).


– Increase our understanding of the purpose of learning outcomes in relation to teaching and particularly assessment

– Raise awareness of the implications of the requirements set out in EQAL, for our current learning outcomes and assessment strategies

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the session, you should be able to:

– Write well-structured learning outcomes, for your units, that communicate to your students what they are expected to do and achieve.

– Align teaching, learning and assessment activities with learning outcomes in your units.

– Revise your current learning outcomes and assessment for practice, for units across your programmes, to meet the requirements set out for the new credit structures as prescribed by EQAL.

Source: celt.mmu.ac.uk

It gives the students an overview as to what they can expect from your course.

Other than from a selling and marketing standpoint, it’s also to properly guide you with the rest of your course content and even in the way you present your online course.

Set Your Learning Opportunities and Outcomes to be S.M.A.R.T.

Step 3

While we’re on the topic, we’ll just give you some tips on how to formulate your objectives.

You’ve probably heard of SMART already. But if you haven’t, it’s an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

It’s pretty self-explanatory, alright. But it’s all too often ignored. Your good idea will be inefficient if it’s not SMART both for you and your students.

Step 4: Research, Research, Research – Like an Expert!

Step 4

Don’t get us wrong, research shouldn’t just be the 4th step.

It should be the beginning, middle, and end of all your processes. What we’re talking about here is diving deeper into research.

For the record, research also guides you in choosing your course topic, audience, and objective.

Through research, you get an idea of what people need and are looking for, you find out what is it that’s in demand in the realm of the online course.

But once you have completed steps 1-3, it’s time to DIVE IN DEEPER!  This step will be your stepping stone for the last two processes.

As you’ve noticed, the word RESEARCH was repeated thrice. That’s because you should…

  • Research about content
  • Research about your approach
  • Research about your competitors 

Research on Your Content: What Should You Put?

It’s time to concretize your ideas and be a step closer to finishing your online course creation!

This is one of the most crucial factors that you should focus on in course creation, precisely because this is already your main product. It should be close to perfect – if not perfect.

But don’t get nervous, this is achievable if you conduct proper research and follow F.A.C.T (yes, we do love mnemonics and acronyms for recall).

FACT stands for:

  • Fact-check
  • Analyze and Ask
  • Consult
  • Test


Make sure all information you’re putting into your content and online course is FACTUALLY CORRECT.

One way to ruin a potentially good online course is to give out WRONG INFORMATION – even if it’s just one.

And we’re not talking about the syntax errors such as misspelled words or typos – those are more forgivable (but avoid it).

We’re talking about false information. This damages your credibility and you lose the trust of people. Even if you say you just have 1 false information out of 5 credible modules, don’t expect students to follow through anymore.

Besides, it’s also dangerous for your learners to believe incorrect information. Check out this list of articles that may help you find references regarding fact-checking.

Analyze and Ask

Of course, it’s important to analyze if these pieces of information are worthy to be included in your online course. They could be factually correct, but not useful for your topic and content at all.

  • Do these pieces of information match the subject matter you’ve settled within the above steps?
  • Will these facts benefit your target audience?
  • Is this something that’s related to your topic?

Ask questions and put yourself in the shoes of your potential students. At this stage, you have the power to make or break your product, so don’t take this step lightly!


Whether or not this subject matter is within your expertise, whether it’s your first course or just one of many; it’s important to take the time to consult.

You may feel like you already mastered a certain topic, but there’s always more room for improvement, mistakes, and growth.

You can consult an expert in the field (i.e., Subject Matter Experts or SMEs), though this usually constitutes a fee.

If your budget is limited, you can consult other course creators, friends, colleagues, or anyone from the same line of profession.

Not for free, of course – but it won’t be as expensive as compared to consulting experts.

Don’t be overconfident that just because it’s your course idea and content, you already have all the knowledge you need.

All high-quality online courses go through a lot of the nitty-gritty before they become successful online modules.


Have a test run of your product on yourself and with people who are willing to help you.

This is assuming you already have a finished course outline and lesson plan.

Test the topics, questions, and overview on yourself or others.

If it involves being timed, then time yourself as you answer your own questions. Collect feedback, comments, and polish everything until it’s good to go.

Keep in mind that if you, the content and course creator, found glaring difficulties and conflicts in your content – then it’s most likely that other people will find it twice as hard. 

Research On Your Approach: How Should You Deliver Your Online Course?

Now that you have your course content more or less concretized, it’s time to focus on your delivery.

This takes into account your target audience once again. With your content, how will you speak to your students to make them understand and want to learn more?

What tone of voice should you use? Which way will be more effective? Do you want to be the friendly or stern type? How strict will you be?

You may be wondering – why do I need to research this? Aren’t these personal teaching styles?

Well, you may want to change this mindset.

Research matters A LOT here because there’s always a certain approach that’s applicable for a certain group of audience.

Though there’s no cookie-cutter solution to all, there’s still a more appropriate teaching style for an age group or for a specific set of learners.

No matter how great your course content is, if your delivery is ineffective, it’s NOT going to be a successful online course.

Research About Your Competitors: Who Should You Pay Attention To?

Now, we don’t mean fighting with other course creators. If anything, you’re a community of online learning creators, don’t fight and work together!

What we mean is, know who are already out there in the market delivering the same product or online course as you. This could very well affect your course especially if they already have a well-established branding.

It’s helpful to at least familiarize yourself with who you’re sharing your target customers or students with, so you know how and what to adjust.

Step 5: Set Up Your Setup

Step 5

Your setup will be two parts: the materials and the means.

You’ll need to translate your content into a visual or audio aid, and you’ll need a platform to reach and communicate with your potential students.


Of course, you can’t just present your raw course outline to your students. You’ll need to translate them into understandable and helpful materials such as:

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Worksheets
  • Audio and visual aids
  • Books and references

You can always use course authoring software to help you develop these. You can create presentations, quizzes, and interactive activities through these platforms. An example is the iSpring Suite.

It’s a convenient and easy-to-navigate software to create an online course. You already have the controls you need and editing is more efficient.

There are also other platforms like the iSpring Suite that you may want to check out such as:

  • Gomo Learning
  • Adapt
  • Easy Generator
  • Lectora Inspire

However, a lot of these online learning authoring software is by subscription with pay.

If you want to do it for free, you can too!

There are already a lot of free platforms today that allow you to edit and create presentations for free such as:

  • Microsoft’s PowerPoint
  • Google Slides
  • Canva

Means, Medium, Tools

A part of your setup is also the means on how you’ll deliver your courses.

Other people call this your “education tools” to online learning and teaching, and (unfortunately) for the online setup, it will be the very backbone of your execution.

It’s important to choose something that’s accessible, easy, and efficient to use, or else students would be less productive and get demotivated to push through if they keep encountering errors, glitches, etc.

With the surge of online learning and online courses, there are already plenty of platforms that are easy to familiarize with. Examples are:

  • Zoom
  • Google (Gmail, suites, Gmeets)
  • Skype

Though some will require a fee, there are plenty of ways to conduct classes for free.

You can research more about it depending on your needs, but to give you an example, utilizing Google Workspace is a pretty cost-efficient platform if you already have a Gmail.

The normal Google is free. If you’re not yet conducting a big class, this will already be more than enough for you to run your courses. Then if you’re ready to go up a notch, or if you now have many students, you can upgrade to the Google Suites with a subscription fee.

To give you an idea, here’s how you can maximize the Google features for your online courses:

  • For communication with students: Gmail, Google Hangouts
  • For your materials: Google Slides
  • For your database and class record: Google Sheets
  • For your worksheets: Google Docs, Google Forms
  • For your virtual classes: Google Meets
  • For your master files: Google Drive
  • For your schedules: Google Calendar

Pretty cool, right? This isn’t sponsored by Google, by the way!

If you don’t plan on creating an online course for a whole website or system, you can always submit your course content to already existing learning platforms such as Coursera or Skillshare.

Step 6: Execute Effectively

Step 6

Okay! We’re now on your last step.

This is assuming that you’re now well-equipped by steps 1-5, and all that’s left is to execute it effectively.

Frankly, this might be the easiest step yet especially if you’re already prepared.

As long as you’re grounded on what you want to do, what knowledge you want to impart, and how you want to help, there’s no need to worry!

This isn’t part of creating an online course anymore, but it’s just as significant. Make sure to take note of all the things that you need to know!

FAQs on How to Create an Online Course


We hope you’ve read through the basic information that you need to consider as you create an online course.

This section will be dedicated to specific FAQs that we want to address!

#1 Can I Create and Sell My Online Courses? How?

Yes, of course, you can!

In fact, we encourage you to charge a fee as much as possible for your hard work, expertise, and labor.

When you submit it to online platforms like Coursera or Skillshare, they usually have good pricing that you may want to consider.

Watch these Youtube videos specifically about the Skillshare experience:

If you don’t plan on teaching or selling online courses to platforms, you can still collect a fee if you want to do it on your own.

You’ll be the one to set the price of your courses, which is a more beneficial setup for some.

#2 How to Create an Online Course Without Charge?

The steps we’ve mentioned above are pretty much free of cost.

Sure, you can upgrade to certain subscriptions and get features at a higher price, but all of them are doable without charge.

Like the Google Workspace example, you can already do all of the basic steps to conducting an online course efficiently and effectively.

And as we mentioned, you can easily create presentations, course content, and online courses through free websites and software.

Others also try uploading snippets of their content modules for free on Youtube to get started, and they soon garner views and profit through time. You can try that too!

#3 How Can I Promote My Online Courses for Free?

Plenty of ways!

The easiest way that’s within everybody’s reach FOR FREE is social media, of course.

You can post your classes on group communities, through your wall, or by spreading the word among your circles.

You can also create a social media account solely for your online courses, and use that as a communication tool with your clients and/or potential students. You can also post promos, gimmicks, and updates there.

But say you don’t have an audience yet, it might be worth the shot to try gaining a following first via already known and established platforms – like the ones we mentioned earlier (Coursera, Skillshare, etc.) 

#4 How Long Should My Online Course Be?

Again, this will depend on the people you’re dealing with.

That’s why as we keep reiterating, research is important

If you’re dealing with young children or teenagers, then it should be as short and concise as possible. An example would be around 5-10 mins. per video and a short worksheet per module.

If you’re dealing with adults, you can do approximately 15-30 mins. per video depending on the topic with a reflection or application activity afterward.

But either way, make sure to not drag your online courses on for too long. Kids or adults, our attention spans as humans aren’t the longest!

Applying the steps we mentioned above, you now understand why it is important to omit unnecessary details and be as specific as possible, right?

#5 Can I Use Social Media for My Online Course?

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with it. Social media is accessible for everyone, after all!

You can do so. And as long as you gain students and traction, that’s very well considered to be successful.

But if you want to keep your online course professional and maintain that branding, it’s best to move to a more stable platform such as Google or Squarespace (see the next question about this).

These platforms are far more secured as well, especially in keeping your files protected from plagiarism and against unwanted external conflicts. 

#6 If I Have a Website, How Do I Use It to Sell My Online Courses?

This question is leaning towards marketing. But staying true to our little metaphor above about how creating an online course is like selling a product to customers, we’ll help you with this question!

A website is actually a good idea to establish your own brand, identity, and platform.

Though of course, expect more complicated maintenance requirements since you’re doing the work for tech and teaching on your own (or with a team).

You can do the following:

  • Have a good landing page: This is so they can immediately see what you’re offering on the landing page as soon as they visit your website.
  • Have a clear and concise sales page: It’s important to be clear on what you’re selling and how they can access your product more conveniently.

You can also use platforms like Squarespace to conduct and host your online courses.

#7 Are Online Courses Better Than Traditional Courses?

This is a bit of a tricky question.

Definitely, there’s more demand for online classes now with what’s happening. And as we mentioned, there’s a specific market for this field.

But we understand you’re probably in the stage of thinking if you should push through with teaching an online course or applying for a teaching job in traditional schools.

And that’s a great concern!

These course setups are different teaching paths, and they also require different skill sets, training, content, and background.

Which one you think is better is up to you, your desired content, and your overall teaching goals.

Teaching an Online Course

Course-making would still need expertise, of course. But it won’t require the same credentials as that for traditional schools (i.e., Master’s degree, Ph.D., etc.).

The beauty of conducting online courses is you can impart your knowledge and idea to people who want to learn without going through all the conventional requirements.

But of course, you can’t substitute this for the purpose of traditional schooling.

Another good way to see it is to look at online courses as supplementary ways to gain knowledge. It’s for people who want to add to their knowledge and skillset as easily and as fast as possible.

Teaching a Traditional Course

As you know, this is more formal.

It requires you to go to school, deal with professors, meet certain requirements. The course curriculum isn’t entirely yours.

The students you’re dealing with here are aiming for diplomas, academic status, or a permanent career in the academe or a specific field.

If you’re to follow step 3, the objectives would now be something totally different.

#8 What are the Usual Online Courses? What Online Course Idea Can I Follow?

Usually, an online course would be something targeted towards improving your skillset or expanding your knowledge in a specific topic.

Though they’re not inexistent, an academic online course is usually more on formal platforms such as those authorized by actual schools and institutions.

You may want to partner with them if you wish to make a more academic or technical online course.

But course topics that you’ll see a lot of are along the lines of:

  • How to create my branding online?
  • How to do email marketing and make an email list?
  • How to improve my speaking and confidence?
  • How to improve my fitness goals?

You can also teach academic lessons of course:

  • Basic Math
  • Accounting for Intermediate Level
  • Advanced English Writing
  • How to Speak English?
  • How to Make an Email List

How to Create an Online Course Summary:


To help refresh what you’ve learned today, or if you’re just scrolling down for a TL;DR, this section is for you!

But it’s still best to read through the entire article to make sure that you have a proper guide in creating an online course that will truly benefit your students.

Trust us, we give pretty good tips!

1. Remember the Acronym C.O.U.R.S.E.

To polish your online course-making, use the mnemonic COURSE for the things you need to take note of:

Choose Your Target Topic and Target Audience

  • Narrow down the course topic: What exactly do you wish to teach?
  • Specify the target audiences and students: Who exactly do you intend to reach?
  • A broad answer to these two questions will make your online course content too vague. You won’t hook people with an ambiguous topic.

Omit Everything Unnecessary 

  • Polish your course content to magnify the subject matter that you want to focus on.
  • Only include unrelated topics that you deem to be necessary for them to understand your lesson.

Understand Your Goal

  • Set the objectives – this is both for you and your students.
  • Have a clear grasp of what your purpose is in teaching the course. This will be your guide in the following processes.

Research, Research, Research!

  • Research should be present in the entire process, and even before the whole process begins. But this heading is all about diving deeper.
  • Research your content, approach, and competitors.
  • Another acronym to remember: F.A.C.T.
  • Fact-check the credibility of your information.
  • Analyze your information and ask yourself what could be further improved.
  • Consult as many people as you can – experts if you can. Gather their comments, suggestions, and apply them to your process.
  • Test your course. Test yourself or let others try your content. Experience it for yourself and apply these changes.

Set Up Your Setup

  • Prepare your materials and means.
  • MATERIALS: Translate your course outline to helpful materials for your students (i.e., presentation, visual/audio aid, worksheets, etc.)
  • MEANS: Choose a platform where you can conduct your course.

Execute Effectively

  • The finale: the execution of your course.
  • Deliver your preparations to your students well, and just repeat from step 1 for your next course creation process!

2. FAQs Summary:

  • You can create and sell (and charge fees) for your online courses. Check out Coursera, Skillshare, etc.
  • It’s possible to create a course without charge and with minimal to no expenses.
  • Courses should be short and concise (10-30 mins. max for videos)
  • You can use social media to promote your courses.
  • It’s okay to use social media for your courses, but it’s better to go for formal platforms (for professionalism; to protect intellectual property and privacy)
  • If you have one, you can use your website to sell/host courses there. Check out Squarespace.
  • Online teaching and traditional teaching are different paths, you can’t compare the two. But definitely, online has an edge with our current situation.

Now, You’re Ready!

Now, You're Ready!

So, do you feel more confident and well-equipped now to create your very own course?

We sure hope so.

It may seem intimidating, but as you can see, the bulk of the work lies in the preparation rather than the execution.

A lot of research, corrections, and repetitions are needed to create an awesome online course that’s successful and effective. But after that, you’re all set and you can even reuse these materials to conduct more sessions in the future.

As long as you have the right goal, mindset, and willingness to work hard on your course, you’re all good!

About the author


Jack has worked on the video production, audio mastery, and physical coursework for over one-hundred popular online courses to date. He’s here to share his experiences with you, as well as show you what tools are worth your time, how to spot those that aren’t worth a penny, and above all else, how to keep yourself informed about how to navigate online course creation efficiently and effectively.