How and Where to Start Your Online Course

"When it comes to creating my online course, I just don’t know where to start."

Does this sound like you? If so, you’re in good company. Lately, I’ve heard this over and over. In fact, during my interviews for The Zen Courses Show, some very successuful online course creators shared that this was their number one challenge when they decided to start an online course.

If you’ve been reading Zen Courses for some time, you know what I’m going to say: start with the content! But today I’d like to share some solutions on how to start effectively.

Start Where You’re At

Take a second. Really. Breathe. There are truly a dozen ways--if not more--to create a successful online course. The tools you use don't matter. The power lies in starting. 

If video isn’t in your budget or takes more time than you have, don’t worry about making a video course. Start where you are.

If you don't have fancy audio editing software, don’t worry about it. Get a solid mic (I recommend the Audio Technica ATR-2100), free editing software like Audacity and focus on recording valuable content. Start where you are.

If you only have time to create a text-based course, do it. Start where you are.

Stop worrying about what you don't have. Focus on what you have and how you can make it as valuable as possible. As long as you create valuable content, you will help people and grow. And remember, you can always iterate and improve later on.

Start by Listening to Your Audience

It’s not enough to build an audience. You’ve got to engage with them and listen to their needs. Since starting The Zen Courses Show, I’ve interviewed over a dozen online course creators and they all have one thing in common: their audience told them what they wanted and they listened.

The key is engagement and community. Tweet your fans. Share their wins. Give a damn and you'll build a community. That's where the magic happens. Your community will tell you what they want from you. 

Sometimes this will be literal. Other times it'll be the hard way after, say, a failed product launch where your fans will tell you why they didn't bite and what they really wanted you to build. In all cases, it's listening that will help you figure out where to start, what to include and how to deliver.

Start with Structure

Outline your content. Figure out what your modules and lessons will be. Decide what works best as text, audio, video, etc. (This is the most you should worry about technology at first.) Identify the major actions and outcomes for each lesson. Then go back and write, record, etc.

Don’t Start with Technology

From my experience, most of us want to figure out which tech tools, platforms and services we need to make our course work BEFORE we even create our content. Don’t do this. It's just like people who spend hours researching productivity tools. The best productivity hack is work.

Your content and audience will tell you what they need. Then, you can go find the best tools to make it happen.

For example, Emmy Wu’s audience told her they didn’t need live Google Hangouts because they weren’t sure they could make time for them. So she decided to cut them and focus on the online membership community part of her course.

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