When you start building a business selling online courses, it can be easy to fall into the trap of believing in myths. From doing big launches to dwelling on names to creating too many courses, there are plenty out there. Believing in myths can distract you from what really matters, causing you to focus your energy on the wrong things.
As you make your way into the online course business, try to learn from the mistakes of others. In that spirit, I offer you my top picks of online course myths to ignore—and why:
Myth #1: Your Course Name Is Everything
Your course name isn’t a headline. Nor is it the sole thing that grabs your audience’s attention. Obsessing over the wrong things is a common mistake new course creators make.
A lot of new creators debate their course names for hours, days, and even months. They dwell on this minor detail instead of putting their energy into developing their coursework and growing their audience
Truth: The name of your course matters, but it shouldn’t keep you up at night. What really matters is your course “hook,” also known as the OUTCOME people will achieve if they purchase and implement the lessons in your course.
So, pick a name and let’s get going! Once you have a name, be sure to also grab a domain (e.g. YourCourseName.com). This gives you a homesite and will make branding easier.
Myth #2: You Need to Create Lots of Courses
Did you know most high earning course creators, those who make over a $100,000 in annual revenue, achieve their income from just one or two courses? While having a large variety of courses can seem practical, it’s actually extremely counterproductive. Instead of creating a large number of courses, start creating ONE course that targets a niche audience. Once you do so, shift your energy and focus on marketing your course and getting as many students as possible to sign up. Do this before you even consider creating a new course.
The last company I co-founded, Neurogym™, my partner John Assaraf and I decided that rather than going wide and selling many different courses, we would go deep. We decided for an entire year our sole focus would be to sell one course and we would not bounce around. It was a huge success and a great strategy!
Myth #3: You Need A Large Audience
Engagement is more important than audience size, meaning you don’t need a large audience to be successful. Engaged audiences have a higher purchase rate. Thus, highly-engaged niche audiences may well perform better than large and poorly engaged ones. The key to ensuring engagement is to make sure you have a warm audience.
No, this doesn’t mean you only target clients living in tropical environments. An audience is a group of people who value what you have to offer. A warm audience is a group of people who need what you have to offer, and have already engaged with you in some way. For example, people who subscribe to your email newsletter are part of your warm audience—as they are already “warm” to what you have to say. Building a warm audience takes time and patience. It can be tempting to try to bypass this step but don’t. Be sure to take the effort to get to know your audience and interact with them frequently.
A great way to start developing a warm audience is by creating free content and lead magnets. Your free content doesn’t have to be an entire course. It can be something as simple as free tips and tricks offered in an opt-in newsletter. Research crucial yet common problems your audience has and offer them lead magnets to solve said problems. Maybe you’re offering a course on how to help freelance writers earn a living. A problem your audience may have is that they aren’t able to attract new clients. In return for subscribing to your newsletters, you may offer your audience tips on how to write a winning proposal or biography.
Establishing a warm audience is a fantastic strategy to implement in preparation for your first sales. If you’re able to provide outcomes for people with your free information, you’ve proven your information to be valuable. Therefore, they’ll be more inclined to pay for your courses afterward.
Myth #4: The More You Pack Into Your Course, The More Valuable It Is
Remember, quality over quantity. People aren’t going to buy your course just because it covers more than one topic. If you think cramming multiple topics into your course makes it more valuable, you’re mistaken.
Many course creators get caught in this myth not because they can’t decide what topic to teach, but because they wrongfully feel guilty about taking people’s money without offering them ALL the information they know. The truth is, your audience doesn’t want to be overloaded. If you try to pack years of acquired personal experience into one course, you’re guaranteed to overwhelm your audience. Furthermore, focusing on too many topics means your teaching on each topic will be shallow, as you won’t have time to go into depth for each topic. You can be assured that this is the opposite of what your audience wants to pay for. Instead, focus on one or two main topics as thoroughly as you can.
Myth #5: You Can’t Create The Course Because There’s Already A Similar Course In Your Field
If there are many courses similar to your topic out there, that’s great news! After all, why would you want to teach a subject that doesn’t have a market?
So many potential online course creators dissuade themselves from selling their courses simply because their subjects aren’t “original” enough. Think about it, what if college professors stopped teaching because other professors also had a Ph.D. in the same field? Wouldn’t that be silly?
Don’t waste your time trying to create a unique, “nobody’s-heard-of-it” type of online course. The key is teaching your subject in a unique way. Remember, no one is teaching your course the way YOU would. Your personal expertise is worth its weight in gold, and there are people out there who need to learn from it.
Myth #6: You Need To Be An Expert
So many online course creators have counted themselves out of the race before they even started running. If you’ve ever thought “I can’t create and sell an online course because I’m not an expert or an authority in my field,” stop that thought right now.
You’re thinking backwards! To be seen as an expert, you need to make a course FIRST. Experts are people with comprehensive and authoritative knowledge in a particular field. By creating an online course, you then become an expert in your material. So, don’t be surprised if once you start getting asked to make guest appearances on other creator’s lessons, podcasts, or even television!
Furthermore, being new to the world of online course selling is a huge benefit, not a disadvantage. So many long-time “experts” begin to grow out of touch with their students. Given that the material now comes second nature to them after years of teaching, they’re no longer aware of lesson or concept challenges students may face. As a result, it doesn’t even occur to them to address their own students’ concerns.
New “experts” are aware of all the bumps and barriers students must overcome when understanding the course material. After all, this is all new for you too! Being able to relate to your students as a beginner allows you to put yourself in their mindset. Connecting with your students is the key to being a good teacher, not a fancy degree or title. Don’t let the fact you haven’t taught others yet hold you back. Start with your personal experience. Be genuine in your teachings and testimonials will come in over time! In the end, you’ll keep customers engaged if you show them how you’ll take them from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they want to be).
Myth #7: You Need A Big Launch to Build a Big Business
Big launches are not a requirement for creating a successful online course. In fact, many course creators, especially those who run subscription membership sites, avoid the launch model entirely.
Start selling before your course launches. Pre-selling ensures that you’ll be the first to know if your course doesn’t have a substantial enough buying market before you invest your valuable time, energy, and money in your product. Pre-selling is also crucial in guiding the creation process of your course. Best-selling courses know who their market is. Know who’s buying your courses and why. Then, cater our course to that.
And there you have it. You don’t need to have a large audience, create lots of courses, nor be an expert to succeed. My own success has debunked these beliefs numerous times. And while I can’t promise you that growing your business won’t have bumps along the road, I can promise that if you steer clear of these myths, you’ll avoid falling into the traps that some new courses unfortunately never recover from.