Online course brainstorm

How to choose a profitable idea for an online course

Mitch Denton

Are you thinking of creating your own online course? It’s a great way to share your knowledge and make some money on the side. But how do you choose a profitable online course idea?

Don’t worry, many online course creators struggle when it comes to choosing exactly what they should teach in their online courses because there are so many options available.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for coming up with good online course ideas. However, we’ve noticed some recurring actions from some of our top course creators when they develop a course, no matter the target audience.

In this post, we thought we’d share our findings with you in the form of a few tips to help you get started.

The 3 phases of defining an online course idea

While seeking out an idea for a new course, you can categorise the activities needed to produce successful online course concepts into three main phases.; idea generation, validation, and refinement.

Before settling on a concept, you must make sure to perform all three of these actions.

Idea Generation

The first step to finding profitable online course ideas is a straightforward one, and that is to brainstorm.

It is truly baffling how many would-be instructors just create courses based on their original concept with no prior study around such topics.

At this point we’re looking for quantity over quality, the truly good ideas eventually rise to the top, but even still, they need to be workshopped and refined down the line.

Validation

By now, you should have an exhaustive list of course ideas. Now you need to validate these course ideas.

In order for your course to be profitable, people must be willing to pay for it. At this point, it would also be beneficial if you considered how you plan to bring visitors to your sales page before making a decision.

If you can spend some time researching your competitors, it’ll pay off in more ways than one. For starters, the research will help you validate your course topic.

Validation is not just about whether or not people will buy your course, but also whether or not you can find them.

Take your list of course suggestions and begin evaluating them to see which one is more likely to succeed than the others.

Refine

At this point, you should have a list of online course ideas that have gone through the validation process.

You must now choose just one concept to build your online course material around. You may find you also need to consider broadening or narrowing your course topic in order to have a satisfying amount of content for users.

If you can’t discover any companies, no online communities where your target audience hangs out, and there are no sponsored ads, you should possibly reconsider the concept.

1. What are the most popular online courses today and why are they so popular?

The most popular online courses today are those that teach practical skills that people can use in their everyday lives. These courses are popular because they offer real-world value to students. Some of the most popular online courses today include:

  • online marketing
  • online business management
  • digital accounting
  • coding classes
  • cooking classes

Notice there is a trend towards a lot more digital and online skill training. This can be of great benefit to course creators, as most content creators are already proficient in a lot of aspects of digital and online practices.

For a more in-depth look at researching popular online courses, read point 3.

2. What skills do you have that could be taught in a profitable online course format?

Building a course around a subject you actually have knowledge and expertise in is a bit of a no-brainer, right?

You’d be surprised how many online creators overextend themselves to cater to a topic that is popular yet they have no prior experience in.

When examining your own experiences and background for topic inspiration, there are 4 main areas to pull from.

And they are as follows:

  • Education
  • Certifications
  • Jobs
  • Life Experiences

Education

If you’re looking to educate others online, what better way to do that than to share with them what you’ve learned in your own studies.

Your topics of interest may be connected to your degree, specific courses, or even broad educational areas (such as how to study).

Whether or not you graduated from high school, there’s a good probability that your educational experience will include a fantastic online course topic.

This may include advanced placement courses in high school, trade school classes, and anything else.

Even general topic ideas like how to select a degree, how to get good grades, how to get into the right college, project management, critical thinking, career guidance, and many others.

Certifications

Think about any certifications or licenses you may have. These are often exams you passed outside of school.

For instance, if you work at a bar, you’ll need to be fully accredited with your Responsible Service of Alcohol certification.

Consider any tests or exams you’ve taken. You might have a great online course idea there.

Jobs

Consider every position you’ve had, particularly those in which you excelled. There’s a chance that any of your past or present jobs might be turned into an online course business.

Your course ideas don’t just have to be about your job but could be about things you’re good at when it comes to your job.

Maybe you’re good at creating Excel spreadsheets or charts. Or maybe you’re good at coding.

Your ideas could include something general like networking, search engine marketing, or creating social media ads to run for your brand.

These are all skills people desperately need that can be profitable niches.

Your Life Experience

Everything that you’ve ever done, gone through, or experienced is included in this list. There’s no doubt about it; a lot can be covered under this heading.

Think about all the things you’ve experienced in your life. What have you accomplished in general?

These can include things like losing weight, parenting strategies, personal development, lifehacking, make-up tutorials, life coaching, personal finance, and so on.

Do people ask you for advice on anything? If so, that may be the perfect opportunity to create a course.

Between your education, credentials, occupations, and life history, there may be numerous places where they overlap.

Spend some time brainstorming around your own knowledge and experiences to figure out a course topic idea that appeals to you.

3. How can you determine whether or not there is a demand for your proposed online course?

If you’ve ever used a keyword research tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or any other SERP software, then you’re already familiar with keyword and topic searches.

You submit your topic idea into the search bar, and the program presents you with related keywords. Many of these programs will also show you how many people search for that term each month.

And the most advanced engines will even tell you the level of difficulty you can expect attempting to rank for those keywords. These tools offer a great opportunity for conducting market research.

You can find trending course topics as well as topics that are tried and true.

You can also use a keyword tool to see how your ideas stack up. Ideally, you want a keyword with a decent number of searches per month.

It’s fine to include both broad and precise keywords in the same search. With a mix, maybe not everyone’s typing in the keyword the same way when they search Google, but they’re typing in a lot of variations.

With the search for high-traffic topics comes an obvious level of competition as well. You’ll have to work to build up authority in your market, which is just a part of entering a popular field that has to be grappled with.

Summary

So, if you’re feeling stuck and can’t seem to come up with any good new course ideas, take a step back and approach the process in a more methodical way.

Apply what you’ve read here around idea generation, validation, and refining your profitable course idea.

Start by brainstorming all of the different things you could teach, then whittle that down by considering what your target market would be interested in learning.

Once you’ve got a solid concept, validate it with potential students to make sure there’s actually demand for it before spending too much time refining the idea. And finally, get started on building that course!

If you need some help getting started or want to know more about how this process works, check out some of our other blogs. We’ve got plenty of information to help you with creating online courses.

Mitch Denton

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