[CHECKLIST] How to Create a Profitable Online Course in 2 Hours Flat (Even if You Don’t Have a Website)
That's right: 2 hours to create the course, the community, and launch it online.
No membership software.
No video editing software.
No payment processor.
No shopping cart.
This is truly Online Course Building for Dummies.
The truth is you don’t need any of those things to launch a profitable course.
In fact, investing in complex course creation tools is likely to do a lot more harm than good.
All you really need is . . .
The Minimum Viable Product
The minimum viable product (MVP) is a simple version of your course you can create & launch quickly to determine if .
- your course is any good
- your market is interested
- your course will be profitable
Don’t spend one iota of your time learning some complex course creation technology until you KNOW your audience will buy it.
Here's an outline of what we'll be doing together to create your online course in just 2 hours. Click on the lesson you want to go to:
Why an Online Course?
Here's a real-life story of why I recommend building a simple online course:
Last week I attended a week-long watercolor workshop taught by one of the top wildlife artists in the world. He's the author of a bestselling book on sketching (now out of print), and has been working over a year on self-publishing an iBook on watercolor.
Let me repeat that: he's been working over a year on an iBook. It's still not done. And probably won't be for another year.
Because Apple makes you jump through hoops to have your book fit their iBook technology perfectly.
In short, it's a hassle.
Same with a Kindle ebook. It's a hassle.
But a simple online course? Easy-peasy: 2 hours and you're done!
This same artist told me he has over 20 videos recorded that he's trying to hyperlink in his iBook.
What? You've already got 20 videos recorded and ready to go?
What are you waiting for? Let's create an online course already!
One Rule: Keep It Simple
Simplicity is the guiding principle behind creating a basic online course to test your market fit.
Our goal is to create a good online course & launch it in 2 hours.
Specifically, here's what this will look like:
Video, with PDF downloads
Place where students can ask questions & get feedback from instructor.
Notice what this project is not: a perfect online course. Not a multi-day course. Those come after you've verified your simple course is profitable.
If it's not, don't waste your time or money moving forward with a more expensive version.
Simple Course Creation Tools (You're Already Using)
To keep your course creation process simple, we'll be using readily-available tools you're probably already using. That way you don't have an extensive learning curve.
What are they?
Tools I Recommend
To Record Your Video
YouTube Live, Facebook Live, your webcam or smartphone
To Sell Your Course
To Host Your Community
Let's take a deeper look at why I recommend these specific tools:
To Record Your Video
You already watch videos on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook, you've likely already used your webcam, and I know you've recorded a video on your smartphone.
So you're already familiar with all of these tools. No they're not perfect, but they're what can get you up & running with a course in 2 hours.
To Sell Your Course
Since the course is video with PDF downloads, it's easy to sell without a payment processor: upload the video to Vimeo ( a video hosting platform allowing you to sell your videos).
They deal with the payments, you get the revenue.
A solopreneur's dream.
To Host Your Community
One of the biggest reasons your audience will buy your course?
Access to you . . .
. . . to get feedback, their questions answered, and network with their peers.
They're already doing that in Facebook Groups. They're easy to create and manage, and your audience is already there.
1. Let's Build Your Course
Congratulations! You're ready to take the first step in building your course: recording your 60-minute video.
What will you record?
If you're an author: record a lecture you give about the lessons in your book.
If you're an artist: record yourself teaching how to create a simple piece. SMOC member Lisa Reber is a fabric dyer and teaches workshops on how to dye your own fabric using some pretty complex math formulas for the dye ratios you'll need.
If you're an entrepreneur: record yourself hosting a webinar, giving a conference keynote, or other educational session. SMOC member Dawn Hartwell is a social media consultant and hosts workshops on the latest social media topics.
If you're a local business: record a recent workshop you've taught. SMOC member Robin Finklestein, owner of The Valley Hive, teaches backyard beekeeping in the Los Angeles area. But what if you don't live in their area and no one teaches beekeeping near you? You can take their online course!
In short, record yourself teaching what you're an expert on.
Here are some of my best tips for overcoming fear of speaking to a group (or on camera):
MY BEST PUBLIC SPEAKING TIPS
Let's Record Your Video
Now that you know what content you'll use for your course, it's time to actually record your video.
My top recommendations for video recording tools are Facebook Live & YouTube Live, as they both offer webcam recording with screen sharing if you need it.
Tools I Recommend
YouTube Live, Facebook Live, your webcam or smartphone all work well
Record Your Screen
Facebook Live & YouTube Live are easiest.
For the purpose of our #1 rule — keep it simple — I recommend the the tools in the table above.
You can also use screen recording software, but that requires a learning curve and is not our focus here. If you're familiar with SnagIt, Camtasia or ScreenFlow, feel free to use those.
Record your course using Facebook Live
I recommend recording your Facebook live video from your personal profile.
Yes, that's an oxymoron for a business course, but watch this video to learn why and how to record your Facebook Live:
- Once you're done recording, select Done>>Publish Post. Be patient while Facebook processes your video. When it's ready, you'll get a notification.
- Download your video recording by going to your personal profile and select More>>Videos menu, as shown below:
- Select the video you want to download, and Facebook displays the theater box, as shown below. Select the three dot menu (...) and Download Video:
Record your course using YouTube Live
You can use YouTube Live to record your video course even if you don't plan to have people watch it as you broadcast it live. YouTube automatically records live broadcasts, and this is the only way you can record on their platform.
Here's how to do it:
- Use a computer with a webcam and select Upload>>Livestream from their Home page as shown below:
- Tip: YouTube will prompt you to Stream Now by adding live stream encoding software. We're skipping that and using an easier option.
- Instead, select Events>>Create New Event, and add your course title & description.
- You can make your live stream Unlisted — that way no one can see your video live unless you provide them with a link. (You can download the video after you're done.)
- Then select Go Live Now, as shown below:
- You're now live on YouTube, and it records your video. Begin your 60-minute presentation.
- When you're done, select Stop Broadcast. THIS IS IMPORTANT, as if you skip this step, YouTube won't save your recording. YouTube saves your recording (it often takes an hour or two and you'll get an email notifying you it's ready).
- Download the video recording by selecting your channel icon at the top right of the YouTube Home screen, and then selecting Creator Studio:
- Once you're in the Creator Studio, select Videos, and from the dropdown menu next to your live stream video recording, select Download MP4, as shown below:
Record your course using your webcam
Both Windows and Mac users can record video using software that comes on your computer. If you use a Chromebook, you'll need to use the Facebook Live or YouTube Live options I outlined previously.
If you use a Mac, you can use iMovie to record your video on your computer:
- If you need to record yourself only, use iMovie and your webcam. Here's a tutorial on how to do it.
- If you need to record your screen, here's a tutorial on how to do a screen recording using iMovie & QuickTime.
If you use a Windows computer, here's a tutorial from the New York Times on how to record a video.
Record your course using your smartphone
Both Android and iPhone smartphones offer native apps to record video using your phone. Here are my recommendations for recording a course on your phone:
- Record with your phone in landscape format (sideways)
- Place your phone on a tripod or other stationary object. It's more stable and keeps your hands free for demonstrating or communicating.
- Download an app to compress your video file. Smartphone videos are excellent quality, but are also huge!
High-five! You've completed the toughest part of this entire process: recording yourself (or your workshop) on video!
Now you're ready to prepare your file for upload, by compressing it to a smaller size . . .
2. Let's Compress Your Huge Video File to a Smaller Size
Video files are enormous. There's no getting around it. A 60-minute video for your course will be around 1 GB in size.
That's too large to upload to Vimeo. It could literally take all day to upload.
Instead, we need to make the file size smaller by compressing it: that makes it quicker to upload, without compromising video quality.
My favorite free tool for compressing video files is Handbrake (a free download here). Use it to compress your video file by following along with me here:
Now that you're video file is done, you're ready to become the next Stephen Spielberg by creating a video trailer . . .
3. Let's Hire a Pro to Create a Video Trailer ($5)
Why on earth are we creating a video trailer?
Short answer: Vimeo requires it to sell your course.
Long answer: it's standard practice to give buyers a sneak peek at the video they're interested in purchasing.
The good news is we're hiring this out on Fiverr.com. Sellers here often have a 24-hour turnaround, which frees you up to build your online community and upload your main video file to Vimeo.
On Fiverr, I recommend filtering the Video Editing gigs by a 24-hour Delivery Time and sorting them by Avg Customer Review, as shown below:
Once you've hired a Fiverr seller to create your video trailer, you're ready to create your online community.
4. Let's Build Your Online Course Community
No one likes going it alone . . .
. . . and that's how it can feel when you're learning online.
Make your students feel connected by giving them access to you & their peers in a Facebook Group.
You don't even need a Facebook business page to do it.
Follow along with me as we create your online course community:
Add PDF files to your online course community
If you have PDF downloads to accompany your online course, you'll add them here in your Facebook group. Your students can download them from the Files section of the group.
- From your Facebook group, select Files from the left sidebar.
- To upload your files, select the blue Upload Files button at the top right of the group.
- Choose the files you want to upload and select Open.
Awesome! You've got your community prepped for your students.
One question: how will they join it?
We'll make joining part of their buying process on Vimeo.
Now that you've recorded & downloaded your video, compressed the video file, created your Facebook group (and uploaded accompanying files to it). Now you're ready to launch your online course!
5. Let's Sell Your Online Course ($20/mo)
You're at the final and most exciting step: selling your online course by uploading it to Vimeo.
You'll be using Vimeo's PRO level, which costs $20/month. That's a small price to pay to sell your online course without a payment processor, shopping cart, or website.
Vimeo PRO allows you to sell videos on demand (VOD). By uploading your video to Vimeo, you'll instantly have the ability to offer your online course for streaming or download — for any price you choose.
Let's look at an overview of what's involved in selling your course on Vimeo (we'll do these together following this overview):
- Join Vimeo Pro.
- Create a new video page.
- Connect your PayPal account.
- Tell Vimeo the basic details about your video.
- Identify where you want to sell your course (current country or worldwide).
- Upload your video trailer and main video file.
- Connect your social profiles to the video.
- Add your video poster & thumbnail (these appear on the video's sales page and I'll link to my tutorial on how to create these).
While this looks like a lengthy process, it's really just a series of forms and uploads: you're giving Vimeo the details it needs to sell your online course.
Let's get started!
- Join Vimeo Pro by clicking here. Once you pay for your Vimeo PRO account you'll see a thank you screen like this one:
- Now let's create your online course sales page (Vimeo calls that your On Demand page). Create it by selecting your profile icon>>On-Demand Pages>>Create a New Page, as shown below:
- Vimeo takes you to the Create New Page screen. Select the option to sell a single video. Then add your PayPal account, and select Get Started, as shown here:
- Vimeo then displays the Basic Info screen. Add your video details here: the title, description, release year, genre, and tags. All of these details are required. Once you're done, select Save and continue, as shown below:
- IMPORTANT: Encourage students to join your online Facebook group in the description of your video. They can search for it on Facebook and request to join the group. How will you know if they purchased the course? Require them to provide you with their Vimeo receipt via Facebook messenger or email.
- Vimeo displays the Distribution page. Here you'll tell Vimeo that your video is ready to sell (instead of coming soon), where you want to sell it (worldwide or select countries), and you can even specify a unique URL. (Note: I don't recommend choosing the Sell your work on your own domain option, as it requires you to have a separate domain ready. Vimeo doesn't provide that). Once you're done, select Save and continue, as shown below:
- Vimeo displays the Pricing page. Give your pricing some thought: I recommend offering only the Buy option. Why? Because if you offer two options, Buy or Rent, you're forcing them to choose between the two. Make the decision simple for them: offer only the Buy option. Then specify the price, and select Save and continue, as shown here:
- Vimeo displays the Videos screen. It's here you'll upload your compressed video file and video trailers we created in steps 3 & 4. You also have the option of adding a Bonus Features video. Upload your videos and select Save. (If you don't have your video trailer yet from Fiverr, select Skip for now.)
- Vimeo displays the Appearance screen. Here you'll upload your the images for your sales page. Vimeo requires both a video poster (think of the movie posters you see in your local theater) and a video thumbnail (the small images you see on YouTube). Fortunately, both are simple to create with our tutorials:
- Click here for our PicMonkey tutorial. Use a PicMonkey YouTube thumbnail template to create the video thumbnail. To create the video poster, tell PicMonkey the size of the poster (shown below) and create it.
- Click here for our Canva tutorial . Use their YouTube template for the video thumbnail. To create the video poster, tell Canva the custom dimensions you need and create it
- Once you've uploaded your poster & thumbnail, select Save.
- Vimeo displays the Details and Promotions screens, but we're skipping those. They aren't necessary to get your course online. Select Skip for now.
- Vimeo displays the Audience screen: you're almost done! Here you decide if you want to allow viewer comments and you add your social network links. Once you're done, select Save, as shown below:
- Vimeo displays a preview of your On Demand page for your video course. This is it: you're about to launch your online course: select Publish Page, as shown below:
You did it! You're now the proud creator of an online course in only 2 hours of your own time.
Vimeo handles the payments and displays your revenue and video stats in your account, so you can see instantly how your course is faring.
Of course, now you need to promote it.
And we can help with that too.
I'd love to hear from you if you've used this tutorial to create your own online course: leave me a comment below, and I'll feature it on my social networks!
Do you know a colleague or friend who would benefit from this tutorial? Share it with them so they can get their talent out into the world and helping others.
To record a Facebook Live video: Facebook 101: Develop a Successful Facebook Page
To record a YouTube Live video: YouTube 101 Training Course for Small Business
To reach your goal of creating an online course: Reach Your Goals Every Time bonus webinar
To create your video poster for Vimeo using PicMonkey: The Ultimate Guide to Using PicMonkey to Create Social Media Images
To create your video poster for Vimeo using Canva: DIY Stock Photo Library Video