Want to learn how to easily get your first 5,000 subscribers? Download this free eBook to learn how.

7 Tips On How To Create and Sell Online Courses (#3 Will Surprise You)

It’s no secret that the market for online courses is big – and it’s getting bigger.

According to Forbes, the market hit $57 billion in 2014 – and it has kept growing ever since. Report Linker estimates that the online course industry is approaching $200 billion in 2016.

And that’s why in this blog post I share the 7 things you need to know…

…including how to create and sell your first online course… even if you don’t have an idea for one yet.

Let’s jump right in:

Lesson #1: If someone already created the course you want to create, that’s GOOD NEWS!

I know that’s counter intuitive, but bear with me…

When you come up with an online course idea that has NEVER been done before, that means one thing: there’s probably no one interested in buying it.


You might think, “But people need what I’m selling,” and maybe they do. But the internet is so large that if people need it, and are willing to buy it, there WILL be someone else selling it.

As a matter of fact: if you come up with an idea for an online course, and you can’t find someone selling a course similar to what you want to offer, I’d find a new course.

Of course there are specific strategies for figuring out what to create an online course about…

…and I’ll share more of those with you soon.

For now, I want you to know this: if there’s competition, that’s a GOOD thing.

Lesson #2: Your first online course won’t look that great, and that’s OKAY. Here’s why…

When you want to create – and sell – online courses, you may look at other people who do it (like me) and think: “Wow, their design is great, and so are their videos. I could never do that!”

But here’s the problem:

You’re comparing yourself now to where we are now. And that’s a mistake. You need to compare where you are now to where we were in the beginning.

As an example, take a look at this. These are 3 screenshots from my first ever online course. The videos were low quality. They were grainy. And I apparently couldn’t even afford a haircut.

But those 3 videos went on to generate six figures in revenue. Why? Because, while the videos were low quality, the content INSIDE the video was great.

(The same applies to your web design. Yes, the web design I use now cost $25,100, but the one I started with? It was a simple, plain white theme that worked. And it worked for the first 4 years of my business).

Now you might think, “Well, you’re different!”

But I promise you I’m not.

I recently interviewed one of my customers from Zippy Courses (my software that makes creating and selling online courses a cinch), and he said, “It all starts with a whiteboard on a chair.”


He’s an accountant, and he teaches business owners how to understand their numbers. In his video he did just that. Even though it was just a silly white board resting on a chair, the content was valuable, and it helped kick off his online course business.

Lesson #3: If you’re struggling to find an idea for your online course, this will help.

Why do people buy online courses? The short answer is because they’ve got a problem – and they want to solve it.

Maybe they’re looking to learn how to use a complicated piece of software. Maybe they don’t fit into their favorite jeans and want to lose weight. Maybe they’re stressed out and overwhelmed and want to take control of their calendar.

Whatever the case: people buy online courses because they have a problem in their life and they want to solve it.

So, how can you find an idea for YOUR online course?

Find a problem. And eliminate it with an online course.

I know this might sound like I’m over simplifying it, but it is that easy. Think about the problems your friends, colleagues, and family members come to you with… LISTEN TO THEM.

And then see if you can create a repeatable course that helps people solve problems JUST LIKE THAT.

Lesson #4: Why you should NEVER worry about “not being expert enough”

Joseph Michael Nicoletti helps novelists write their novel with Scrivener. And he makes about $20,000 to $30,000 a month doing it.

Let me rephrase that. He makes almost $1,000 a day by showing novelists how to use an app for writing.

I know. Ridiculous.


When he decided to create an online course about Scrivener, he said, “I was just using it casually. I definitely wasn’t an expert. I never written a book or anything.”

And he went on…

“I purchased every book on Scrivener and studied everything I could find on it. I’d study a particular feature, and then record a tutorial on it. Short 3-5 minute chunks mainly so it was easier for me to create, but it turned out to be one of the most popular features.”

Or, long story short, he created his course by learning one feature, filming a video about it, and then learning another feature, and filming another video about it.

He learned as he created, and he went on to become a HUGE success.

But here’s why I love this story:

If you want to create an online course about something… ANYTHING… and you feel like “I don’t know anything that I could teach…”

I have 5 letters for you:


And as you LEARN, document the process, and you too can create a course about almost anything.

Just be honest with people and share why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Lesson #5: People like buying courses – even when they can find the same information for free

While people “could” find what you plan on selling elsewhere..

…they still have to find it.

They also must figure out what information is legit… and what information is junk.

And figuring out the difference can be a full time job for even the most savvy people.

Or they can find someone who created a course, who charges a fair price, and buy that.

It’s what I do. And it’s what other people do too. That’s why the online course industry is exploding right now.

Time is one of the most valuable things we can never get back. Why waste time “figuring out” what’s good or not when you can buy a course.

Lesson #6: Why you should create a SMALL online course

When people create online courses, they think they need to create some big, in-depth online course that covers EVERYTHING they know…

…but that’s a mistake.

Don’t do that. It’s a waste of time. Especially if you’re JUST getting started.

My first online course was 3 little videos and a worksheet. And as I showed you earlier, they were ugly videos.

And it helped kick off my entire business.

Just 3 little videos and some worksheets.


Lesson #7: Learn From People Who Already Did What You Want To Do

I know it seems self-serving right now, but it’s important: you could try and figure everything out on your own. And you may end up waseting a lot of time (and money) doing it.


You could simply turn to someone who already did it, and shortcut your success by following their advice.


Don’t forget:

I put together a FREE LIVE WEBINAR that goes down on March 6th. There are two convenient times available. One at 12PM Eastern. The other at 8PM Eastern. And I will show you how to make your first $10,000 selling online courses.

I’ll cover everything from how to find an idea, to how to turn that idea into an online course, and how to start selling it. You can reserve your spot for the webinar right here:

Join the 12PM Live Training

Join the 8PM Live Training

Spread the love!

Join OVER 200,000 subscribers


Click here to sign up

Need more? Choose your path below

50 comments Leave a comment

I have ready-to-use 300 technical lessons.
Where should they be hosted ?

Mark Silver

I want to create a course teaching Brazilian Portuguese to English speakers. Do you think it can be a good idea?


I would like to do an online course to share my ideas to friends and followers and many others who are really having the interest to learn a new different way . so I’m getting my self organized to let help me lunch my course online .


derek, thank you! I have already created a language course and now i need to put the videos and pdfs up online and sell it….can you give us some direction about what platforms to use to host the course? Should i use a course builder by someone else? custom create a website? and for paid courses, how do you keep multiple people from downloading or viewing what one person paid for (sharing)? I appreciate your guidance.

    Sarfraz Khan

    You should use a plugin on a wp site like Learnpress if you are just getting started or Zippy courses by derek. The videos can be hosted on vimeo and the plugin will take care of the rest. Just put in the content and you are good to go. I am too preparing my first video course.

Sean Eaton

I’m deep in the course creation process right now writing a big course to help paramedics pass a professional certification exam. I’m on a time crunch because I’ve already Pre-Sold the course to “test the waters.” I wish I had thought to create a small course first to get my feet wet before jumping into such a large undertaking. Too late now.


Hi Derek, thank you for this very uplifting blog post. There are particularly two points that went straight to my mind- no 4. Why you should NEVER worry about “not being expert enough”. That’s my problem. I have been doing SEO and digital marketing for great brands for the last 8 years (with really good results), but there is always that thought- “I could be better!” “There are so many reputable experts”. “Am I good enough?” I hate the doubt so much! It’s good to know that I am not alone in this thinking, so I have to change that! And then no 5. I think it is also about the fact that we like to be guided. Free information out there can be a bit overwhelming and chaotic, whilst a designed and nicely structured course is easier to digest! Thank you for this post, it took my worries away (at least a little bit;)


wanting to design accredited beauty courses


Thanks so much for this post! I am just starting my own blog as a way to sell my e-courses (my first one is going to launch at the beginning of February!). You have definitely inspired me to keep going with the e-courses and on making more in the future. Thanks!

Rob @ MoneyNomad

What an inspiring article! Thanks for sharing these tips – especially #1. One of the most discouraging things is seeing your ideas already taken. However, if you can do it better, different, cheaper, or for a unique audience, I guess it doesn’t hurt to create a course on a topic that’s already popular. Appreciate you sharing your knowledge!


Hey Derek, great article. I especially appreciate you emphasizing starting small.

The first step is to create SOMETHING – a short course using basic authoring tools focusing on an area of knowledge you know something about.

Waiting until you’re the Expert of Experts and have a professional production studio and a team of Instructional Designers ready to help create your 16 hours masterclass is a great way to never get anything done.

And as Bre Pettis illustrates in the Done Manifesto – “Done is the engine of more.”


Great article! Finally, I was able to find an article that answered most of my questions in a clear and simple manner.

Katie Balla

Brilliant article with detailed guide and helpful information! But I am sure that 7 is not the final number when it comes to the tips of creating powerful on-line courses. Besides all your listed notes above, I would like to contribute one more tip that helps create a successful on-line course without any struggle.

You can purchase a theme that is integrated with powerful course plugin and is suitable for your website. I can recommend one from the latest release theme listing on ThemeForest which is Lincoln WordPress Theme – amazing theme using latest Material Design. I have purchased this and it totally surpassed my expectations, given me the feeling of satisfaction and bring in a full-fledged website with amazing course listing and course detail page design.

There are many WordPress on ThemeForest can do this. You guys should give it a try!


Staying with the subject of improving as you grow …. I would love zippy courses but can’t afford it yet. Do you have a free version or can you recommend a free one I can start with? I hate the idea of changing later but I have to start somewhere right?


I want to sell an online course, I know my subject…now what? Mahalo nui!


Don’t need to sell a course, need to sell a product!

Harold V Lee

I too agree with Ron Steward. Even though we have ideas and resources, getting customers from online is very hard. As mentioned here, it is easy to find ideas for creating compelling contents and courses. Even if we don’t have resources to create them, there are a lot of free and paid tools to get the job done. Here at Toronto, one of my friend had created a platform to create free courses for high school students. It has amazing features like webinar creation tools and social login. The LMS he used was Skyprep and everything had set up within few weeks. But he is still searching for users.

Ron Steward

This is amazing what you have said.But problem is that even if we have a lot of ideas and creative methods and tips with which other people can get benefit.We are unable to launch something free of cost.People are worried to spend a lot on internet and get nothing.People are interested in something where they can take a free start and start making money and then go further.Your words of wisdom are appreciated and we surely want to try it,what you are saying.


    Hi Ron. You CAN start for free. Use your phone to record the videos, screen casting software if you want to record a demo, and use an open platform like Udemy. These are free to use and test out your content. Good luck with creating your first course! The world needs what you have to teach! I believe everyone was born to teach something. There’s no better time to learn and teach online than there is today.



I never received a confirmation email. I am on an iPhone and I have multiple email addresses with no problem with receiving email messages on any of them.

Based on the previous comments in this thread it looks like you may have a systematic problem in your auto responder.

Looking forward to getting more info on your Zippy Courses.


Jeff Egan


I love what you say, but I am still a little dense about understanding how to monetize any video online courses that I create. Can you enlighten me?
Is it the number of hits on the video on you tube that generates advertising from where you get revenue? Or how do you put up a video in public for publicity purposes, and then expect them to pay for the course? Sorry to sound so naive,…but well, here I am.

Waylon Smith

Ok I have a question. Btw, I am brand new to the online business arena. I have two ideas for online courses. I cannot find any courses that are currently being sold online that offers the same content. However there are a lot of “how to” articles available on websites like Forbes and Entrepreneuer that cover the same content. They do not have much depth and they are quite vague. Since articles are being written on the subject matter does that mean there is enough demand?


Out of curiosity, how much did you charge for your first 3-video course?

I’m in the planning stages for numerous exciting wellness courses focused on yoga, nutrition, and self-cultivation and I’m having trouble figuring out the price-range for these products.

I already have an introductory wellness course for sale on my website, in addition to a free 5 week course, but I haven’t been able to achieve the sales I hope for.


Hey Derek thank you for another outstanding blog post! This is really exciting news to know that there is huge potential for online courses in 2015.

I’ve always thought that online courses were something created by gurus, high level influencers, people with money, or other high ranking experts. I would have never thought that “everyday” people could create an online course and make six figures. Like many others, I was always taught that if you really want to be successful, you have to go to school, get good grades, find a great job with benefits (including retirement), don’t take too many risks, and let your employer or government take care of you for life.

When I read books like Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and blogs like this one, I realize how much I’ve been brainwashed. I now fully acknowledge the potential to make money with online courses and other forms of making money online. After all, it’s all about providing genuine value.

Thanks again Derek for this very encouraging post!


Thanks for the great tips Derek. I’ve recently launched my own small online course which consists of a 26 page eBook and 3 part video series. It’s helps people to be more productive so they can achieve more in their time

Sarah Jordan

Derek, I’m so glad you shared the photos of what your first online course looked like! Quality content trumps “looks.” I created my first course (a hoop dance teacher training course) several years ago and although I used an HD camera, I am not a pro videographer. We all have to start somewhere 🙂

I’m creating a new online course for performers and entertainers, and this time I’m having someone else film and edit the videos.


Want to know more about online courses

    Derek Halpern

    You should sign up for the free series for sure.


Too good to say no, I’m in. Lets do the email course. See you all there!


Hey Derek!!

Great post and great tips here man! …

I have been thinking about creating my own internet marketing course for my blog recently … and look, you just shared awesome tips on this topic!!

How cool is that uh! lol

You shared very awesome tips to get started with your own online course. I know they are not too hard to create and sell. You can’t wait to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great! 😉

This was a great read! .. thanks again, for the value, Derek!

Have a fantastic week!

Cheers! 😀

    Derek Halpern

    you’re welcome!


Hi Derek,

Always love to read your stuff but here’s a question/problem that I’m experiencing: I’ve produced online courses, blogs, etc, only to find my material re-published on the web, word for word, without so much as a back link, by-line or even honorable mention!

The culprits tend to be in some far off nation like China, India and Pakistan where it’s impossible for me to take any sort of legal action against the offenders (sorry to those of you who live there and take offense at being singled out, but take it up with your country-men because this is an ongoing problem for me!)

It’s annoying to say the least! To put your heart and soul into a project only to have other people steal it! It’s gotten so bad that I’m leery about blogging or producing anything of value online because it’s too easy to steal!

Any advice you might share would be most appreciated.


Erich Senft

    Derek Halpern

    This happens, and you shouldn’t let it affect you. This is one reason why you need to protect your content with a plugin like ZippyCourses.


I also signed up and never got the confirmation, much less within the 5 min window. May want to check your mail function. Maybe I’ll start a PHP mail function course and you can be my first student! Lol

    Derek Halpern

    Very weird Ben. When you subscribe, make sure you add news@socialtriggers.com to your whitelist. It may be getting blocked by your email provider.


I cannot say how grateful I am to you and Zippy Courses Derek. Thanks!



The comments didn’t work in FF, had to use Chrome. Also, no confirmation email came through after signing up to your course. Instead I got the first of the 5 emails.

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks for that Gabi. We are working on that right now. The new design just went live, and we’re still ironing out all the kinks.



I’ve said this before in one of my comments on Social Triggers but now I’m convinced…

You’re telepathic!

This post could not have come at a better time since I’ve just started planning my first online course and I was a little nervous about how it’ll turn out.

But the funny thing is just yesterday I was thinking about your first videos on Social Triggers and I thought “hey, Derek had funny hair back then and people still LOVED his stuff, because the content was good and the messages were relevant and the advice helped people improve themselves and their businesses. So I’m ok too.”

Sorry, I don’t mean to jest about your hair back then, but you (and your hair) taught me a valuable lesson! 🙂



Also no confirmation email received. Not in Junk folder either.

    Derek Halpern

    Hey Bronwyn, what email service provider do you use? We use an industry leading email delivery service – and if it’s not getting threw, we suggest you add news@socialtriggers.com to your whitelist.

Kjell Ove

Signed up for your email series, but no confirmation came through to my gmail inbox. Not in spam either. Nothing.


Same thing as Carolyn, signed up but no confirmation email. BUT another email did come in titled, [1of5] Big Opportunity

    Derek Halpern

    You got that probably because you were already on my email list – and confirmed. So, instead of confirming again, we just sent you the series as promised.

John Shea

Hey Derek,

Been tempted to try out ZippyCourses but I’ve been having the best luck using Udemy. They promoted one of my courses back in November last year and I made $1000 without doing anything but the “creation” of the course, It took me a day to record the videos and another day to write the content. Not bad for a course I created in a couple days!

I’d be interested in learning promotional tactics to take advantage of loading up a course onto my own site, I think more than anything getting buyers to your course is the biggest challenge.

P.S. your comment form is not working for me on Firefox, had to use Chrome.


    John. Now that you have social proof, lots of students, and great ratings, this is the perfect time to bring the course over to your own website and start your own marketing. You can get a lot of visibility on Facebook for $5 or less per day! And you can start to experiment with raising prices a little and keep all the profit instead of splitting it with Udemy. I like Udemy and I think it’s a great place to start and use a strategy like this when you’re first building your list and credibility as an instructor. Time to branch out on your own!

    Derek Halpern

    Sounds like a great business strategy. Hoping someone will promote something for you ;-).

    I know you’ve been a reader here for a while. Promoting the course is something that’s a whole different story, but we’ve covered that a lot here.


Signed up for your email series, but no confirmation came through to my gmail inbox. Nothing. Not in spam either. 🙁

    Derek Halpern

    Check again, it should be there.


Hi Derek,

This is just on time. I am in the middle of creating my very first online course (I also bought your Zippy Courses and it does make things much easier!). I think you are right, we need to start small and we just need to get “out there.”
I do have a question that is related to your previous post as well. As we learned earlier, testimonials are extremely important. But how to launch a brand new (first) online course when I have zero testimonials? Is this something I should not worry about and just reach out to the first buyers for instance? Or just give my course for free to some people and ask an honest testimonial for return and then launch the course?
I cannot wait to learn everything from you and I am definitely going to join your class as well.


Leave a comment