May 14

How To Create An Online Course That Doesn’t Suck…

So, you’ve heard just how crazy lucrative selling online courses can be and you want in on the action.


Where do you start? And how do you create a course that actually sells?

And more importantly, how do you create a course that doesn’t SUCK!!!

Well, in this post you’ll learn how to validate your course idea, build your offer, find the right price point and choose the right course builder software for you.

Plus, if you make it all the way to the end of this post, there’s a bonus 7th step that can 2x your profits that 9/10 people fail to harness…


Let’s get stuck in!

*This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I may get a small percentage of the sale. More info here*


The NUMBER 1 mistake that 90% of online course creators make is not validating their ideas.

You absolutely do not want to be one of these people.

Trust me. I’ve done it, and it sucks.

What you must do instead is VALIDATE your idea.

Always validate your ideas first.

So what does validating your idea actually mean?

Let me explain.

In order for you to build an online course that actually sells, you first need to validate that there is a market for your product.

Here are 3 ways to validate your online course idea:

Course platforms:

  • Udemy – Udemy is a wildly popular platform for online courses, with thousands of courses on every topic imaginable. Courses on Udemy are super cheap, so often there’s a lack of quality. But, regardless of quality Udemy is a great place to gauge market sentiment and to validate your ideas. You can see public reviews and ratings for each course, plus you can even see how many students each course has, allowing you to see how much (or how little) each course creator is actually making.
  • Skillshare – Is a little more sophisticated than Udemy with a smaller range of topics (they still have over 28,000 courses though). However, they still display how many students are enrolled in each course, so you can still gauge the popularity of each course.
  • Lynda – Lynda is more business-focused (it’s actually now owned by Linkedin). Unfortunately, on Lynda, you can’t see how many students a course has enrolled, but you can see how many views each course has had. Although not as accurate as actual student numbers, it’s still a good litmus test of the popularity of a course, and more importantly profitability.


  • Amazon – No matter what type of course product you’re planning on creating, you should first check what’s being sold on Amazon under your target keywords. Even though Amazon doesn’t sell online courses (yet…), it’s book repository is unrivaled. And a high selling book can be a wildly successful online course if packaged in the right way. Additionally, Amazon gives you rich insights into public sentiment giving you access to what your audience cares about, what they love and what they hate, with their review and rating system.
  • Patreon – Patreon allows users to pay content creators and artists for their work. This can be an interesting source for validating your ideas because support for creators mostly comes down to personal branding. For that reason, it can be a good source for validating how to position yourself in your market.

Influencers, Blogs & Brands

Who are the influencers in your niche? What are the must-read blogs in your space? Who’s crushing it on social media? And what channels are they using?

Take these steps to gather all of the information you can:

  • Sign up to their newsletters.
  • Follow them on their social media channels.
  • Check out their YouTube videos.
  • Dissect their funnels and sales pages.
  • Study their email bribes.

By finding out what the ‘top-dogs’ are doing in your niche, you’ll gain valuable insights into what works, and what doesn’t.

After following the process outlined above you should have saved yourself the pain of spending 100’s of hours creating a course that nobody wants!

And remember, competition is a good thing. It validates the fact that there is a market for your idea.

The last thing you want is to be a “ship in a clear ocean” that no one gives a fuck about.


Hopefully, you’ve now gone and validated your idea and you’re now confident that there’s a buoyant market for what you have to offer.


Now it’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of it all and start organising your content and structuring your course.

But, before you do that there’s a few things you need to consider…

Your students are looking for (and are willing to pay hard money for) a transformation. They have a problem, and they want you to solve it for them.

There’s a defined starting point, and a definite end point.

That is what makes your course valuable.

All too often (pretty much all the time to be honest) course creators think that more information = more value. They get obsessed with adding more and more content.

I call it “taking an information dump!”.

And that’s pretty much what it turns your course into, a steaming turd (minus the parsley).

Your students want a transformation, and they want it fucking asap.


Make your course as streamlined and as short as you possibly can, whilst giving your students all the necessary information to get the job done.

No more, no less.

create transformation
People will pay for a transformation.

Nearly forgot, back to how to organise your content (oops).

Basically, you just want to make sure your course is easy to navigate, and easy to consume.

This can be done by splitting your course up into:

  • Chapters
  • Modules
  • Lessons

The course creation software I’ll be recommending later in the article does all of this for you super easy, don’t worry keep reading and you’ll find out…


Whenever you sell anything (online courses included), in order to really crush it when it comes to asking your audience to hand over their hard earned cash, you’d better make sure that you’ve got a killer offer.

So, what does a killer offer look like?

A killer offer must answer all of your customers objections, go above and beyond their expectations, and offer a truly valuable transformation.

It’s killer offers like these that can command top dollar.


Because your course isn’t valued by the amount of content it contains, but by the size of the transformation in can provide.

As the saying goes…

Sell them what they want, give them what they need!


In order to maximise conversions it’s essential that you have a rad refund policy.

No-one wants to buy a lemon and be left with it.

However, on the flip side, you also want to have a way to reduce people taking advantage of you and just getting your stuff for free.

So what can you do?

Here’s a couple of options for you to think about:

  • Drip-feed course content – Lots of the best online course software has the ability to drip feed content to your students on a chronological basis eg. 1 new module each week. Drip feeding your content ensures that no-one can pay, steal all your content then request a refund straight up.

  • Course assignments – Another clever way to remove ‘tire kickers’ is to integrate assignments after each module, and in order for a student to be eligible for a refund, they must have at least have followed along with the course training and given it a good go (the whole way through). I’ve noticed this has been a method which is becoming more and more popular (especially with the super high ticket items).

Wrapping it up…

Don’t be afraid of getting refunds, if anything, if you’re not getting any refunds you’re probably not selling it hard enough.

You should have pushed the sales process hard enough to have at least a few people in your course who don’t really know why they’re there, but they just thought they should check it out.


When it comes to pricing your course there’s a few things you’ve got to take into account.

Firstly, how much money are you trying to make? Are you doing a one-off launch? or are you building an evergreen funnel?

These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself.

After listening to a lot of the top course creators in the industry I’ve come up with the optimal pricing for an online course to be around $200

Here’s why…

If you’re going through the big task of creating a killer online course then you’re going to want to be fairly rewarded for that effort, and I think a realistic objective is to make one sale a day.

Heres what’s interesting, from the moment you start charging for your course (even if it was just $1) your conversion rates drop massively.

Just the barrier of payment is a huge obstacle.

However, the difference in conversion rates for online courses between $1 – $200 is negligible, but once you start creeping over that $200 mark the conversion rate starts dropping quickly.

Selling one course a day at $200 works out at $36,400 per year, which I think is a good realistic target for your first course.


There’s a tonne of different Learning Management Systems (LMS) out there that cater for people at every stage of the process.

However, for your first course, I’m not going to recommend dropping a tonne of cash on premium products like Kajabi or Thinkific (upwards of $100p/m), as the performance improvements are negligible (especially for the needs of someone just starting out).

Instead, I recommend using one of the following:

  • Thrive Apprentice – If you have a website built on WordPress (if not, you probably should), then I highly recommend using Thrive Apprentice. Thrive Apprentice gives you absolute control over your course content, it’s super flexible, and most importantly it allows you to create beautiful courses your students will love. You can find out more about Thrive Apprentice in this review here. Price – $67
  • Teachable – Teachable is probably the most popular LMS on the market because it’s crazy easy to use, and they offer a free (well sort of) option for new users. The free version is only available for selling free courses (which isn’t what our aim is here), after that their next pricing tier is $29p/m (paid annually). The thing I don’t like about LMS’s like Teachable is that all of your content is hosted on their site, so effectively you don’t own it. That’s why I personally think Thrive Apprentice is the best choice.

These are just a couple of the course creation platforms out there on the market, so if you’re not a fan of either of these just have a search around and you’ll find a product that’s right for you.

Word of warning, however…

The software you choose to create your course is nowhere near as important as the quality of the course content, so try not to think too hard about it.


If you’re not utilizing the power of up-sells and adding an affiliate program for your product, then you’re leaving a whole heap of money on the table.

It could increase your revenue by an order of magnitude.

Up-sells + Cross-sells

“An up-sell is an offer for your customer to purchase something additional or something more expensive.”

upselling vs cross selling
Adding up-sells and cross-sells will increase revenue.

You can add up-sells as additional steps through the checkout process. Up-sells can be anything from one-on-one coaching, bonus material, premium upgrades, etc.

Adding limited one-off offers during the checkout process will inevitably improve your overall average order value.


A down-sell is something you offer to customers after they refuse one of your up-sells.

For example, you offer a customer a one-off Premium upgrade. If they decline the offer, rather than leaving it at that, you down-sell them a cheaper bonus item.

A simple illustration of a typical up-sell + down-sell funnel.


Digital products are great because once they are created there are virtually zero overheads. That’s why they make excellent affiliate products.

By turning your online course into an affiliate product you’re essentially building a small army of salespeople out on the front line promoting your product.

If you reward your affiliates handsomely, they’ll put in the work to drive sales your way.

As a rough industry standard, expect to give away 40% – 50% of the sale price.

Note: Not all LMS’s offer the ability to create an affiliate program or to offer up-sells through the checkout process. Thrive Apprentice (when integrated with Send Owl) does all these things which is why I personally choose to use it.


You’ve now got the complete framework for building a killer online course that actually sells.

The road from start to finish is a long one and will take many hours of blood, sweat, and tears.

But, if you follow the tips in this post it’ll not be in vain as you’ll have a high converting digital product generating passive income on tap.

Peace out.



Have any questions? Got any tips you’d like to share?

If so, chuck it in the comments below and get the conversation started.


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  • Simone Ralph says:

    Nice article. Learnt a lot. Thank you.

    • Rowan Clifford says:

      Awesome. Stoked you liked it.

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