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Why You Never Finished Your Online Course (And How To Fix It)
Last Updated February 21st, 2017

When I asked people if they were interested in creating and selling an online course, 96.73% of people said yes.

And who could blame them?

I believe creating and selling online courses is one of the smartest ways to start – and grow – an online business.

The problem?

People go about it the wrong way.

I’ll explain…

Most people learn by watching what other people do. So when you watch someone like me create and sell an online course, here’s what you see:

1. You see that I create bigger courses that last between 4 and 8 weeks.

2. You see that I use multimedia, including: videos, screencasts, worksheets, and more.

3. You see that I do big product launches that include webinars, sales pages, and more.

So, naturally, you think, “I need to do all that too!”

And that can be overwhelming.

A huge 8 week long course? VIDEOS? SCREENCASTS? WORKSHEETS?



Some people will judge you for saying this. They’ll say, “REALLY? YOU DONT HAVE THE TIME? YOU MUST HATE YOURSELF!”

But let’s get real.

Anyone who tells you to “hustle your face off with no sleep” is living in a dream world. You need rest. And the truth is, you’re already spending your time on something else.

Maybe you’re looking to start your first online business, and you want to sell courses. That means you likely have a fulltime job already.

Maybe you sell some kind of service, but you also want to sell online courses too. That means you spend your time… doing the servie you sell… not creating a course.

Maybe you’re an author. A speaker. A software maker. A coach. A real estate agent. Anything.

The bottom line is this:

Yes, you want to create and sell an online course. But you can’t drop everything you’re doing right now to start doing it.


What can you do?

The answer is simple.


Take my first online course.

It was a short course.

It contained maybe 3 videos and a worksheet.

When I look back, It probably took me a few weeks to put together from scratch.

I recorded the videos in front of a whiteboard.

And as you can see first hand.


And my hair?


Also, what you can’t see in the picture: I attached the whiteboard to the wall with patches of velcro.


But here’s the thing…

It was good enough to get started.

The content was good.

The videos were okay.

And I sold it for around a hundred bucks.

That’s how Social Triggers got started.

I didn’t start with multi-week courses. I didn’t start with professional videos. I didn’t start with huge product launches. I started with a small online course… and the rest… as they say… is history.

And that’s exactly how you need to start selling courses, too.


Now of course there’s a lot that goes into this. And over the next few weeks, I’m going to deliver more content to you that helps you start small.

But for now…

Here’s what I want to hear from you:

What kind of SMALL online course can you create? Do you have any ideas percolating? Leave a comment right here.

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35 comments Leave a comment
Waju Abraham

I totally agree with the starting small concept. The reason the cemetery is full of dreams unaccomplished is because we’re always trying to launch big.

Thus, the challenge of capital puts a stop to the dream.

In my over a decade of entrepreneurship, I’ve never used capital to begin a business. Why? Checkout the fellow with capital challenges, and a closer look will reveal the obsession with big launches.

What I’ve learned is that starting small exposes you to lessons you’d never learn if you had all the capital in the world.

My first marketing video didn’t even have a whiteboard. Lol. I used the whitewall on my balcony, and had to pause each time a noisy car was driving by outside.

Starting small, especially with online courses isn’t A WAY to do it…it is THE WAY.

Great work, Derek! I love the way you do what you do!


Hi Derek,

I had tried creating an online tutoring business for math and science for high school students. I’m a high school teacher. Technology kept changing and camera technology kept improving and I just felt like nothing I was creating was good enough. I liked it, but marketing this, was unsuccessful. I had someone helping me, but I got burned out because I wasn’t sure if my site was good enough to support my business. I need to revamp my website probably and make it look better. Many of the things I could have changed are so old it might be better to start from scratch.

I have also recently developed a passion for sailing and I was thinking of making sailing classes online to learn some of the finer points. The ASA (american sailing association) is a BIG company that has a lot of online products going for it. Am I crazy to think I can make classes like they do and still profit?

I am a high school teacher, tech savvy, looking for a way to make an online course a success.


Alex Van Name

PS my connection to you came from Jami Scholl>>Pam Slim>>World Domination Summit


I am in the beginning steps of re-dedicating my focus on my blog I started last year when I discovered that blogging is the best start to create a beauty and hair conference in Barcelona, Spain. Exciting stuff! If I am also able to create additional revenue sources along the way…Excellent! As I am tired of being broke, working to make other people rich, while I merely survive…that’s not an exceptable scenario for me.

Thanks for providing direction and insight Derek.


I am 67 years old and have just started blogging on wellness as I have been very ill over past 10 years. I have healed myself. I have discovered all categories of healing modalities including frequency and the role of something I call the Inner-e. I want to create a health and wellness online course.
I am also a business mentor which I am able to do from my past business experience and IIB accreditation. Can you assist me?


Ciao Derek and everyone,

I’m an Aussie living in Italy for the past 4 years, I’m already working on a course for those wanting to make a move to Italy. I created a 15 page pdf and it went really well with people asking for more. I’m planing a 6 day email starter course with all my information going into an online area which they can access for a fee.

My main ‘problem’ doing this is working out how to automate everything through mailchimp. I’ve tried once watching a video but messed it up somewhere and the pdf email didn’t go out. I am determined to make this work and I’ve been consistently moving forward with ‘small steps’ for a number of years now.

Thanks Derek for all you share and for having us all be in constant action!!!

When I have my ‘bad hair’ video I’ll be sure to share it here lol

ciao ciao lisa x


After I finish my first course how do I sell/ market it?


I am working on making a course for “Task management with Evernote” – tailoring Evernote to your needs can save you several hours per week. The course is planned to be 4 screencast videos and an ebook.

The main challenge was that initially I planned to do “talking” videos but I did not like my performance. My voice still sounds strange to me when I listen the recordings but I am more convenient with the screencasts now.


I’m not fully prepared to deliver the online courses, yet, but they’re in the works. I plan to start small, with two or three blogs, and maybe a course or two. I’ve already authored a manual on MS Word Styles and Templates that I plan to start with. Then maybe I’ll go on to the recently released Structured FrameMaker 2017, since I was on the beta team and have almost finished the student workbook.

So, I have two (mirrored) websites and a pretty good business plan, I believe. I have also been in a successful online businesses before. If anyone wants to learn what I have learned about the inside nuts and bolts of an online business, I am happy to help you. You can sign up for my blog and ask away.

I won’t tell you it’s easy, because it isn’t. But as our humble author details, “Start small”. I might add at least one more thing…solve a problem that no one else has solved yet.


While I like this post. I am in the “got an idea and I think it could sell” and “geez there is a lot to do”
However what about first impressions – If it looks cheap / poor quality, then how much of that is negative towards who you are and what value you can bring to potential customers?
Thanks for the post


Done my first course on productivity. I think what I need is better copy so its value is more apparent…


I am thinking on doing a short course on finance for construction people or project managers to evaluate different options. Any takers?


You really need a solid foundation, and the “big picture” mindset to build anything with any relevance and sustainability. That’s why so many people quit so soon. Running a business, blog, or website is one thing… making money from it is another. Having a website or having a small business is cool, but at the end of the day it’s all about making the money… if that’s what you’re after. My point is this… Doing what it take isn’t easy at all, and a few courses, videos and ebooks won’t change it one bit. My advice is to DO what you love, and KNOW how to do. Spend some money on consulting and learn what you’re up against. Don’t set yourself up for failure, ask for help and guidance. Get the
big picture” first, THEN get going. Bring snacks, it’s a long way to the top.

Seems to me this site is pretty relevant and helpful, and there seems to be some transparency here as well. I like the simplicity, or “guided” flow the site has, it’s nice to get info without all the adds and shiny objects. REAL CONTENT… Good job!


Your articles always inspire me to take the right step. Yes, I agree with you many people never start because they wanted to make everything perfect and that never gets done.

I was wondering what online course should I create and I hope I will get some info about it from you soon.


I am planning to start a course on my WordPress website. Does your course program allow for this?

anfernee chansamooth

Totally with you on this Derek – too big too soon and you’re setting yourself up for massive disappointment. I’m thinking a 5-day course on “How to create kickbutt client case studies to grow your biz” would be helpful for a lot of entrepreneurs and small businesses. Any thoughts?


Deduct, De-stress, and get Growing. Simple steps to help take the stress out of business taxes and getting your business to true profitability.


How real solutions and authenticity in business endear your customers to you for a lifetime


Several ideas here – self-sufficiency course (broken down into smaller courses – recipes for basics, gardening knowhow, budgeting etc)- understanding classical music – how to read music – etc etc)


my small course can be on
– 3 steps for forgiving
– 8 golden rules for a happy relationship
– 3 essentials for being a great coach leader

Thanks for introducing the small bits approach. It feela light and easy!


I want to create an online course on artificial lighting for food photography – got a good outline going – now it’s time to create the content and not sure how to go about all that! But I know I want to do this!!


Love this. I already have an outline for a ‘flagship’ content driven SEO course I want to do, but it feels far to overwhelming to start with! Having said that… because there is so much I want to say I’m having real difficulty creating an outline for a smaller course. I’ve gotten as far as five short modules outlining five key things you need to do to get started, but now I’m having guilt about value! Wah!


I could create a course teaching parents how to build unbreakable family bonds by intelligent horseplay…
I could create a course teaching people how to feel (and reap the rewards of feeling) healing energy in every part of their own body…


I enjoyed your post. Thanks! I am on online English teacher and have been toying with the idea of creating an English pronunciation course for a while now. Going to break it down to a basic, manageable size … then see what happens.


De-stress & sleep better or less pain now


I already tried the “start small” tactic with a free ecourse to increase subscribers, but I only gained 7. It was a lot of work, for very little payoff. Plus- I haven’t even sold anything yet! I remember you teaching to work on audience first, or you will be talking to an empty theater. I’ve yet to be successful at filling the seats! I’m looking to increase my audience, before selling. I had planned to sell courses on self-care, beating depression, and increasing happiness (I’m a counselor), but I can’t see putting in the work without the audience. My blog has been live for a year. I’ve been published all over, and currently working on a book. Feeling a bit frustrated…


Marcia Naomi Berger

I have two ideas for online courses: 1. I’ll teach people how to hold a weekly marriage meeting. 2. I’ll teach single women who want marriage where and how to move past obstacles, meet good men, how to date, and how to choose your life partner wisely. I can do each class in about four hours. I can do a short version of each class, more like about one hour per class.


    Love that idea Marcia of the weekly marriage meeting course. I’ve tried something like this with my husband but without any structure it falls back into old habits. Let me know if you’d like a ‘guinea pig’ when you creat it !!

    ciao ciao Lisa x


I could do a course about expanding you social media presence.


Starting small is the best move. Then you can test pilot something small with your audience, see what works and what doesn’t, and create something bigger and better next time, when you have audience feedback.

Joakim Thörn

Hilarious Derek 😂👍


I am writing a course to help choir directors to both warmup their students’ voices and teach ear-training/sight-reading at the same time. I write music that systematically teaches intervals and solfegge for sight-singing.

Sandra Hughes

I can start with a small online course! I could do either ‘How to get what you want’ or ‘How to be happy’.

Start small. Build up to bigger


Love this brilliant reminder of how focusing on one simple achievable next step can create sustainable scalable change. Great message – thank-you!


Hey Derek, thanks for giving us permission to think small. Not only am I moving toward creating and offering my first on-line course, I’ll probably use Zippy Courses to house it. But given my message and platform (www.thezenteacher.com), my “think small” course will be a fourteen day course on self-care for teachers (probable price point: $49.95. What do you think?). I will include 14 3-5 minute videos and a fourteen day workbook. I have BIGGER plans, but that’s where I’m starting because it’s manageable. I know I can make that happen, so I’m starting there.


I could create a short course on how to get clients on freelance platforms…

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