There comes a time in every service-based business when you hit your income ceiling with your 1-on-1 work — the point at which you can’t actually make any more money because your prices have reached their peak and you have a full client roster.
That’s when most entrepreneurs get the itch to create their first online course.
There are many advantages to starting with 1-on-1 clients and then branching into online courses later.
First, you have people coming to you for help already, so you know exactly what their biggest struggles and problems are, which allows you to quickly understand what they need help with.
Secondly, you can ask them questions about how you can best serve them. You can get direct feedback on any ideas you have for your online course.
Third, even if you aren’t ready to get rid of 1-on-1 work, this gives you the opportunity to listen to your clients to uncover a complimentary offer for them or branch into new revenue streams.
So, if you’re ready to turn your 1-on-1 work into 1-to-many online courses, I’ve outlined the 7 steps you can take to get started.
Step 1 — Figure out which type of course you’re going to create
Because of your 1-on-1 work with clients, you have a competitive advantage when it comes to deciding on what type of course you’re going to create.
You already have clients that are coming to you with a certain need or problem, so creating an online course that solves one of their needs or problems is usually the best route to take.
There are 2 main types of online courses you can create based off the work you already do with your 1-on-1 clients:
- An online course that provides a DIY solution to what you already do for your custom clients (i.e. if you’re a photographer, you could teach your customers how to manually use their own cameras to achieve similar results to what you provide for your clients)
- An online course that solves a complementary problem to the work you do with clients (i.e. if you’re a web designer who has clients that struggle with writing their website copy, you could create an online course that teaches your clients how to write their website copy so they have it ready before they work with you)
Here’s how to figure out which one you should do:
- Listen/pay attention to what your 1-on-1 clients are asking you for — Do you get the same request over and over again when talking to clients?
- Where do you see the immediate need? — If you’re comfortable with your custom design work but see an immediate need to teach clients how to write their own web copy, this might be a great course to start with
- What are YOU interested in creating? — Since you’ll be the one creating the course, you need to make sure that you’re passionate about the topic and will see it through to completion.
- Send out a survey to your audience — There’s nothing more that a community loves than to feel like they played a small part in your course creation.
One of my biggest lessons learned (and something I’m still learning every day) is to not take for granted what comes easily to you.
Those things may not come so easily for other people and that’s where you can hit gold in the online course world.
Step 2 — Identify your signature process
Once you’ve decided what type of course and topic you’re going to teach, the next step is identifying your signature process.
A signature process is just the set of steps you take when working with clients to help them solve their problems and achieve results. Why it’s important for your online courses is because your process will immediately set your course apart from others out there that may be teaching a similar topic to yours.
Because you’re already working with 1-on-1 clients, you most likely already have a signature process. If you don’t think you do, what I want you to do is outline all of the steps you take when working with your 1-on-1 clients. Refine those steps and voila — you have your signature process!
Here are some examples of online courses that teach a signature process:
- Irresistible Sales Pages teaches my signature process for creating high-converting and gorgeous sales pages for your digital products.
- Elle and Company’s Design Your Brand eCourse teaches you Lauren’s signature process she uses with her 1-on-1 clients to design their brands.
- Kathryn Hocking teaches her e-course creation signature process through her online course, E-Course Launch Formula.
Step 3 — Create your course outline
There are actually 2 steps within this 1 step.
First, you need to brainstorm how you can help your dream customer’s bridge the gap from where they are now to where they want to be. I have a post that goes into more detail on this topic.
Once you understand how you can get your customers to where they want to be, creating your course outline will be much easier.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that you want to provide as much information and direction in order to help them bridge the gap, but not too much information that they get overwhelmed and don’t make any progress.
I’m a big fan of starting your initial course outline in Trello, because of their drag and drop feature. It makes it really easy for moving different lessons from module to module.
Step 4 — Write + design your sales page
I know you’re probably thinking that you should write your course content before you write your sales page, but I like the reverse. Writing your sales page first helps you get much clearer on what you’re trying to deliver so you can structure your course content the same way and make the writing process much smoother.
I recently wrote a blog post sharing my 8-step process for writing sales page copy that will help you get started.
When it comes to the sales page design, you have two choices — DIY or custom.
If you’re creating your first online course, I recommend the DIY route unless you have the funds to hire a designer.
When you go the DIY route with anything, I always recommend to find the tools and software that will make the process easier.
Sales page software like OptimizePress is a great example. It has all of the functionality already built into it that you’ll need and even allows you to upload custom content templates that give you a great starting point for your sales page.
In my program, Irresistible Sales Pages, I not only teach people how to use OptimizePress to design their own gorgeous sales pages, but it also includes 2 exclusive sales page templates to get you started.
Step 5 — Create your content
Now it’s time for the fun part! Creating your content can be a breeze if you have a solid course outline and some systems in place.
Using a content grid can help you stay on track with what assets you need to create for each module/chapter/section of your online course.
Here’s a preview of the content grid I used to create Irresistible Sales Pages.
Choose a system that works for you, because if it doesn’t work, then it’s pretty much useless.
Other than that, my biggest recommendation is to only create the smallest amount of information to start and let your customers help you decide what other information you need to add.
Step 6 — Build your membership site
This is probably one of the most daunting tasks of them all if you’re not totally familiar with how membership sites work or Wordpress websites.
However, there are tools out there that can make things a whole lot easier.
Overall, your membership site needs to be able to do 3 things:
- Integrate with your mailing list and shopping cart
- Keep your course content protected from non-members
- Allow members to easily access their content
The most important part of your membership site is going to be the membership plugin you choose.
I’ve outlined a couple options of tools you can use to set up your membership site, depending on the mailing list software you currently use.
OPTION 1: WISHLIST MEMBERSHIP PLUGIN
Wishlist (membership plugin)
Paypal (shopping list)
Mailchimp, Aweber, IFS, etc (mailing list)*
* Wishlist integrates with many shopping list and mailing list software.
OPTION 2: MEMBERFUL MEMBERSHIP PLUGIN
Memberful (membership plugin)
Stripe (shopping list)*
Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor (mailing list)*
* Memberful is only limited to Stripe as the shopping list and Mailchimp or Campaign Monitor as the mailing list.
Step 7 - Launch that course!
The most important part of a launch is the pre-launch — everything you do before you actually open the cart. This is where you’ll build anticipation.
I always recommend setting up a squeeze page for your course as soon as you can. That way, whenever you mention it in your newsletter or on social media, you can send people to it to sign up.
I love OptimizePress and LeadPages for creating squeeze pages.
This not only starts building your list before launch, but it also shows you how many people are interested in what you’re creating.
Then, when you’re ready to have people purchase your online course, it’s time to put your Buy Now button on your sales page and send it out into the world.
There are many ways you can launch your course and choosing the ‘right’ way is totally up to you and what your community will love most.
The goal for launching is to create excitement and have a group of people ready to buy.
A few different things you can do to launch your course and create excitement could include:
- Limit the number of seats for your course
- Limit the amount of time that enrollment is open (i.e. 1 day, 4 days, 2 weeks, etc)
- Only open enrollment for the course 1-2x per year
- Include early enrollment bonuses
About the Author
Amanda Genther helps purpose-driven women entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life by providing personality-inspired design + next-level strategy for their online courses.
She is also the creator of Irresistible Sales Pages, an online course that teaches driven entrepreneurs how to become their own sales page stylists so they can launch with confidence and make more sales.