Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your First Online Course

In this post, I'm sharing some key mistakes to avoid when launching your first online course. If you're new to course creation, here's some more articles that cover the basics:

Choosing a topic for your online course

Outlining online courses

Creating course materials the fast and easy way

Creating an online course is an exciting process but it also comes with some challenges. Today we're covering the biggest pitfalls that I see new course creators struggle with--and how to avoid them. 

Mistakes to avoid

1. Not Listening to Your Audience. 

Sometimes we become so passionate about an idea that we don’t stop to gauge audience interest. The truth is that even if you’re 100% sure about what you want to teach, you still have a lot to learn from your audience. Talking to your audience can answer questions like: 

  • Are people interested in your idea?

  • If so, are they willing to put money down for it?

  • Are you using the language of your audience and framing your course topic in a way that is familiar and appealing?

Even if we intuitively know that we have a great idea for a course, and we have a really good sense that it's something our audience is interested in, it's important to take the time to do market research and validate your course concept. Market research can also help you choose a course format and price point that will work for your audience. 

When I meet course creators who skipped market research (and ended up regretting it later) it's often because they found the idea of talking to their audience overwhelming and thought it would be time-consuming to gather data.

The truth is, you can make it simple and still get good information.

Instagram story polls were made for this. Use them to validate your idea and ask questions about price and format. Send out a survey to your email list and follow up with a few people who respond. Sell access to a live training before you record and edit videos for your course. Pre-sell your materials-- you don't necessarily need to do all of these ideas, but you'll save yourself so much time and money in the long run if you gauge audience interest before you get started. 

2. Overwhelming Your Learners

If you're like most online course creators, you're really excited about your content. And this is a good thing! If you weren't excited about your content, you probably wouldn't be making an online course in the first place. However, it's really easy to get so excited about your content that you just want to put all of it out there and into your first online course.

But while everything that you teach might be great content, doing it this way makes it easy to overwhelm your learners. When you plan your course, focus on what the target audience for this particular product needs to know to achieve success with your topic.

I advise my course creation clients to create a specific avatar (or typical learner) for each educational product that they produce. Knowing exactly who you're talking to is a great way to focus your efforts. Straying away from the needs of this person can lead to including content's that's too advanced for them or content that is not necessary to achieve the target goal of the course.

3. Not Getting On Video

Video is an ever increasingly important part of creating online content. That said, one common mistake that online course creators make is limiting the amount of video content included in their courses.

This is understandable-- getting on camera can be intimidating and video content can be time-consuming and costly to put together. All that said, there is no better way to create a strong connection with your audience.

A best practice is to make sure that at least 60% of the time that learners spend in your course is video. The reason this is so important is that video is really engaging. It gives you a chance to build a relationship with your learners because they can see who their teacher is and really feel connected the content. If you're creating a paid course this is especially important as most learners expect to see video content when they spend money on an online course. 

To make your course more versatile, you can also offer video transcripts or audio-only downloads-- whatever is most appropriate for your course.

PS- This doesn't mean you have to be on camera the whole time! In fact, my favorite way to teach is to combine short intro videos with slide voice-overs and screen sharing. This makes things easier for you and can help your audience get more out of your content. 

4. Not Targeting a Specific Audience

Another common mistake I see is trying to create material that pleases everyone. While it might seem logical to want to reach a broad audience, by making content that is generic, what actually ends up happening is that you create content that doesn't stand out in what is an increasingly crowded online space.

In most niches, online course creators face competition from a variety of different sources. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the presence of competition means that there's demand for your topic. 

What this does mean is that If you're a new course creator, you can often find greater success by niching down or choosing a creative angle. By targeting your course at a specific audience, you enable yourself to get that "ooh yes. that's for me" reaction from your ideal learner, which ultimately leads to more sales. 

5. Not Creating a Clear Transformation

Sometimes course creators design material that provides lots of interesting and useful content but does not provide learners with a clear transformation. When you design a course, you should have a strong sense of what your learner's experience with your topic looks like both and after they've completed your program. 

You should also have a really good idea of what success looks like with your topic and how it changes things for your learner. Knowing this information will not only help you design content that is useful and effective, but it will also help you market your content in a way that is compelling to your target audience.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you design content that creates transformation:

  • Does this content relate to a problem or challenge that matters to my audience?

  • Do I offer a solution or new approach to meeting that challenge?

  • Do I offer tools and tactics that are clear and easy to apply?

6. Not Putting Something Out There

One of the great things about digital products is that you can always revise and improve them. In fact, you should generally assume that your online course is a work in progress. Regardless of how great your course is, your audience is going to have feedback and suggestions once you're done. The platform you teach students to use is going to change its algorithm. Your tastes and teaching style are going to evolve. 

All of this is part of growing and improving your product. It's also why I encourage my clients to embrace "done is better than perfect." There is no need to spend months and months recording "perfect" videos or obsessing over your slide layouts. 

By getting your course out to your audience you enable yourself to start the process of learning and improving faster, which is ultimately how you succeed as an online course creator. 

Have you started creating your online course yet? what did you find most challenging about the process? Let us know in the comments below.

Meet Rachel

I’m an instructional designer providing eCourse solutions for creative entrepreneurs. My focus is on helping you learn how to talk to your audience and validate your programs to take the uncertainty out of launching.

Have questions about creating your online course? Click below to learn how we can work together!

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