Finance

Entrepreneurs Who Are Killing it With Online Courses

If you’ve been thinking about launching your own online course, this is a sign to stop dreaming and start doing.

Right now, we’re currently in the middle of the most historic boom the online education space has ever seen.

In November 2020, Technavio released a prediction that the Global Online Education Market would be worth $247.46 billion by 2024, and is expected to be worth $325 billion in 2025. When compared to 2015 when the e-learning market was estimated at around $165 billion, these new numbers are staggering.

The numbers don’t lie. Online education is the wave to ride.

With the rapid shift to e-learning that has been turbo-boosted by the pandemic lockdown of 2020, on top of the already-growing edu-tech industry, it seems that online education is quickly becoming the ultimate business growth-hack for entrepreneurs the world over.

Launching your own online course is not only a great way to share your knowledge with the world, but it’s also the ultimate way to boost your brand (and make some cash on the side).

By launching a digital product, you’re also helping to boost brand awareness, establish yourself as an authoritative figure, and even attaching authenticity to your mission. The more incredible content you create, the more your audience will fall in love with your brand.

FREE TRAINING: How to Create a 7-Figure Course From Scratch Using Foundr’s Never-Revealed “Rapid Course Formula”

 READ MORE: How to Create an Online Course Like Foundr

How an Online Course Can Help Your Business

Launching an online course is great because it’s low-cost, beginner-friendly, production is pretty easy, incredibly scalable, and the ideal side hustle for anyone.
For entrepreneurs, you need to consider the ways in which an online course can boost your brand.

Imagine you are the owner of a small cafe in your neighborhood. You don’t spend much on social media, marketing, or advertising, and you rely on word-of-mouth to get more customers.
You decide to launch an online course teaching other cafes on how they can train their staff to be better baristas.
Now your brand becomes synonymous with high-quality baristas and coffee. Word spreads that you’re somewhat of an authority on the right coffee bean grind, and coffee lovers start coming from far and near to taste your brew.

All thanks to your online course. You’ve boosted your business through your online course.

Conversely, let’s say you’ve been working as a personal trainer for years. You’ve got the experience, you’ve got the passion, you’ve got the equipment, but you don’t have a brand. Your clients know you through the gym you work out of, but you want to break free and make a name for yourself.

Just like that, you decide to launch your own online fitness and workout course. Suddenly, clients are referring your online course to their friends, your brand emerges as a personal fitness expert, and you’re free to even start your own gym with your branding as a promotion.

Still not convinced that an online course is the ultimate way to grow your business?

You know that here at Foundr we always provide proof. And that’s why we spoke with 13 entrepreneurs across all kinds of niches, industries, and services who have not only launched their own online courses, they’re also making an absolute killing.

Entrepreneurs Who Are Killing It With Their Online Courses

Shane and Angie Saunders, Founders of Breathe Me, Executive Breathing Coaches


If you are a good person with a great product and you care about the results your clients get, then online courses will help you turn your knowledge and expertise into a legacy. I learned that it was my own belief system that determined my success… If I didn’t think they would buy it… they wouldn’t. If I believe that it will make a difference to the client and that buying the product would change their life… people bought.

My beliefs impacted the actions I took (or didn’t take), which gave me my results. If I didn’t like my results, I changed my beliefs and actions.

Launching an online course has made a big impact on growth everywhere from brand awareness to word of mouth amongst the influencers… and of course, that has an impact on client results and revenue growth. We started going online almost 2 years ago, so when Covid hit we were ready for a pivot.

We were traveling around doing live events and it was too much for our little ones at the time. So, we chose to leverage reaching more people online with less impact on family life.

I learned a few strategies for online course creation… at times they seemed to be contradictory. I ended up jumping on Kajabi and building our own course according to how our clients get the best results. I knew that if I could consume the course, so could our clients. I just made it as simple and as streamlined as possible… sometimes less really is more when it comes to quick wins that have them wanting to progress to the next product.

Done is better than perfect… you can always get feedback and change and update content as you go. This is how we made money making mistakes.

A big mistake we made in this process was creating a course that we thought our clients wanted… but when we asked them what they wanted (or needed) it was very different and much simpler than we were making it. Lol! A great piece of advice from one of our mentors was “Ask them what they want… and then give it to them!” That was my ‘Light bulb moment’ that would have saved us nearly $100k on marketing investments!

How we learn and grow a business at the same time is to take action and make ‘calculated mistakes’. How we do this is to make a plan first and then ask yourself some questions about the plan. What is the worst that can happen? What is the best that could happen? Who can help me with this? We have a mentor that has done this before many times and they keep an eye over our shoulders and help us by pointing out ‘what it is that we don’t see’.

Our biggest mistake was to invest our savings into a marketing plan when we had no real plan, nor a hierarchy of products or a clear mapped out customer journey. So we paid out our savings with no plan on getting the return! Now we keep a very close eye on our growth and numbers each month. That way we catch mistakes early.

André Eikmeier, Founder of Good Empire, Online Wellness and Community Program

We had launched a program called Year of the Planet, early in the year, to help people reduce their personal carbon footprints.

When COVID started forcing communities into lockdown, we decided we needed to take what we’d learned from that program and create something that could help people navigate the fear and uncertainty. We partnered with an amazing friend, author, and counselor, Alison Nancye, and created “One Million Butterflies”, a 21-day personal transformation program and community to help people find their wings. We used the Thinkific platform, which makes it really simple to turn your content into an online course. We also used Facebook private groups for the community.

We found it resonated immediately with women experiencing all sorts of challenges, from domestic violence to cancer, financial hardship, anxiety, depression – it has become a bit of a haven for women looking to change their lives.

Launching an online program brought a new community to us, a diverse and global community of women. And opened up a new revenue stream.

Make sure you build community into it. Cohorts working through a program together at the same time are much stronger than a bunch of individuals doing the course on their own in their own time. Better engagement, better retention, better community.

My words of wisdom for others are to be human. Don’t get caught up in creating some sort of lofty “expert” status. Be yourself, be vulnerable, and be human.

Jessica Osborn, Founder & Chief Content Creator at Jessica Osborn Coaching, Marketing Strategy Course

When I started coaching other business owners on their marketing strategy in a 1:1 setting, I was working from home with a newborn to care for. Although I was used to the high pace of the corporate office I very quickly found that I had a limit, both mentally and energetically, for how many clients I could service at once. But I wanted to achieve higher revenue levels so I looked for a way I could serve more people without completely burning myself to the ground!

I realized that the struggles most of my clients were having were common amongst them – they knew their expertise, but were struggling to package it and market it effectively to gain the right clients. I found that

I was going through the same strategic development steps with each of them.

That’s where the idea for an online course came to me.

I could put these steps together into a framework and provide it as a course on a foundational marketing strategy that was tailored specifically for service-based businesses. I called it Business JAM – standing for

Just Authentic Marketing because the real key to success in marketing is getting the identity, offer, and brand strategy alignment right.

However, building a signature course of this level was going to be a lot of work, so I decided to build it as a group coaching program first, which allowed me to test the content and the concept of doing live group coaching – which I’ve added as a VIP level of support in my course Business JAM.

Starting a course has allowed me to scale from 6 clients in 2017 to 38 clients so far in 2020, and I have only just launched Business JAM once this year. Revenue in 2020 has already tripled revenue of 2019. My social media audiences have been steadily growing and I have a consistent 10% growth in my email subscribers month on month without doing any paid promotion!

Having the option to work with me via an online course rather than private coaching has made my method more accessible for more people, which has helped me grow my reputation in the online entrepreneurship community.

The one thing that held me back for so long was figuring out how to package up everything into a course that someone could do. Everything changed once I realized that you don’t need to include everything you know in a course! It’s much more important to focus on a single outcome and just deliver the content required to get them to the outcome, keep it simple and action-based. Overwhelmed is one of the major reasons people don’t finish courses.

To successfully sell a course the most important things that convert a sale is their trust in you as a person, and the clear outcome they’ll get from your course. So many people sell the module content, but they hide away from the sales process.

People are buying YOU – your method and your knowledge, so make sure they get to know you through the pre-sales process. Step up, don’t be shy!

READ MORE: How To Develop An Online Course

Sam Wood, Founder of 28 by Sam Wood, Online Fitness Course

Having worked in gyms for 20 years and loving the industry, the progression to online has allowed me to do this and scale the business beyond my wildest dreams. However, first and foremost it was to be able to help more people.

Launching my course helped me get huge growth in customers with half a million subscribers in under five years.

Incredibly exciting associated opportunities have also presented themselves through subscription upgrades and product partnerships.

It was critical to understand the web and app aspect of things and get a very thorough understanding of paid digital marketing. As the business rapidly grew, it was important to employ experts in all of these areas to be able to continue that growth beyond what I could do on my own.

For those who haven’t started? I say, Just go for it. Explore as many different digital marketing mediums as possible. This can be done quickly and cost-effectively, and you could be very surprised to which medium works best for your product and market.

Make sure you know your numbers. Set-up as much data capture as possible, as early as possible so that you can track how your customers interact with your website or app. The cost of acquiring a new customer, the lifetime value of a customer, and most importantly, what your customers are doing with your product so that you can continue to evolve and stay ahead of the pack.

Jenny Paul, Business Coach and Founder of Live Long + Hustle, Business Coach

Working 1:1 with clients, my time and energy became a bottleneck in my business. I was trading time for money and could only help a limited number of people a day.

As I was looking for a solution, I came across Udemy, an online course marketplace, and decided to create a course that answered my clients’ most commonly asked questions. They provided resources and guidance during the course-building process and having access to their course marketplace to sell my courses was especially helpful when I didn’t have an audience to launch to.

Once I cut my teeth there and started to build a platform, I decided to self-host my courses on Kajabi to have more control over pricing and marketing but Udemy was my entry point.

Creating online courses has helped free up my time, expand my reach, and build authority in my niche.

It also gives my clients another way to work with me, at their own pace and on their schedule. I offer courses at various price points, so that my clients always have an option, regardless of budget.

If you need a push, sell your course before you actually create it (this is called “pre-selling”). If you don’t get sales, you haven’t wasted time creating the course and you can tweak your idea. If you do get sales, you’ll be motivated to create and deliver the content by the date you promised.

READ MORE: How to Build a Profitable Marketing Strategy

Kate Toon, Founder of The Stay Tooned Group, SEO Course

Before starting my SEO training and education business, I was a freelance copywriter, building a business on my own while also juggling my family commitments. In my previous life, I’d worked at a large agency doing SEO for big brands like Pedigree Chum. As my business grew, I started using my mad SEO skills to improve my own rankings, moving to rank number one for the word ‘Copywriter’ in Australia (and 100s of other terms).

People wanted to know how I did it!

I spotted a real need for DIY SEO for business owners, ecommerce stores, and marketeers who found SEO a daunting and confusing task. People didn’t know where to start, so they either ignored it completely or paid huge amounts of money to SEO ‘experts’ who promised magical solutions.

I began by running in-person workshops and then launched the Recipe for SEO Success eCourse, Australia’s first DIY SEO course, in 2017. Now, more than 9,000 people have taken my SEO courses.

My courses are established in Australia as the number one to gain industry-level SEO knowledge and implementation skills.

The success of my online courses – including Recipe for SEO Success – and my online membership communities – the Clever Copywriting School and Digital Masterchefs – mean I no longer have copywriting clients (hurrah).

Now the Stay Tooned Group, which includes SEO, digital marketing, and copywriting courses, resources, templates, memberships, and events, enables me to provide one to many services rather than one to one.

This model has helped me build a profitable business, with irregular revenue streams from large launches and events, and recurring income from memberships and shop sales.

It’s enabled me to build a small team of subcontractors to support my business, which I still run in only 20 or so hours a week from a shed in my back garden: the #Tooncave. And the model also enables me to build on and improve my offering based on customer feedback.

My revenue has increased year on year, my memberships are growing and my Recipe for SEO Success course continues to sell-out, even throughout COVID-19 lockdown.

I’m a DIYer at heart so I didn’t read a book, do a course or find a mentor to help me build my courses, instead, I worked with an iterative trial and error model.

My courses are self-built on WordPress using Divi Theme and WooCommerce memberships and subscriptions, with videos hosted on Vimeo (rather than a traditional Learning Management System or hosted education platform). Our community is hosted on Facebook and our coaching calls are hosted via Zoom.

I sold the course first and then built it. I’ve refreshed the content every year and learned as I go, from comprehensive customer surveys and through the close relationships I have with students in the Facebook community. I listen. I learn.

I would say to others that they need to choose a topic you know a lot about and be confident in your knowledge. But don’t pretend to be a guru, we’re all still learning. And regardless of the information you have and how useful and relevant it is, YOUR delivery is what will make it really succeed. Now there are oodles of SEO courses in Australia, many run by people who’ve done my course, but I think my point of difference is me.

Also, focus on the quality of the content, rather than how ‘pretty’ it looks. Substance over style is really important, people can see pretty quickly through the fluff, and overwhelming them with content is going to win them over.

I’ve tried running my big course without the support and it was an utter flop, people need to read, understand, try, fail, ask questions, and try again. They need encouragement and to feel like they’re part of a team working towards a common goal.

And, given SEO is a dry as toast topic, they need a few laughs along the way.

When I run the course I hold weekly coaching calls and make a point of answering every single question from the group. I also offer reviews of websites (brutally honest), over the shoulder tools training, and encourage interaction and advice sharing.

By being approachable, inclusive, and sharing my knowledge freely I’ve built a following and a business without spending on any advertising. It’s all word of mouth.

Be human and be available. A good course lives or dies, not by the production levels of the videos, or the snazziness of the resources, but rather by the support you offer your students.

READ MORE: How We Validated 12 Online Courses Without Spending A Cent

James Simms, Founder of The EverLearner Ltd, Online Tutoring

My journey began organically. Initially, I was simply recording my teaching for my own secondary school students (I was a teacher for 17 years) and I hosted videos on YouTube. These were public and became popular and this triggered my research into hosting a simple LMS online which I did initially with Wix. The site was rudimentary, to say the least, but the popularity once again surged as students sought online support prior to their public exams.

The popularity was so significant that this caused me to need to give up the day job as a senior school leader and focus on my online work. I relaunched on WordPress using an LMS plugin called LearnDash and, a year later, commercialized my work. The business was immediately profitable.
12 months later, work began on my ground-up build of my own LMS theeeverlearner.com which was launched in 2017 and has grown ever since. The platform features my teaching, the most robust video tracking software on the planet (literally!) as well as low and high-stakes quizzing, automated assignments, and a superb analytics engine.

Now, in 2020, we are poised to launch the “final” (it won’t be!) phase of theeverlearner.com with the release of The ExamSimulator, a piece of software which allows teachers to set exam questions, students to answer them live in-app and our software auto-indicatively marks it. This does not exist anywhere else on the planet. We’re very excited!

In summary, the journey began with one student and, today, I teach in the region of 200k a week. It’s been fun!

With the process, I taught myself. I mean, I really did. Of course, I listened to podcasts, studied others in the trade, and “borrowed” ideas but I would argue that my main behavior was to look at existing offers and find the gaps… the things they didn’t do.

I also had a very clear vision of the impact I wanted the software to have on my classroom.

It’s important to remember that impact rather than commercial success was the objective.

I feel that this is where others fall down. I notice that people make online offerings to grow their business only. There is nothing wrong with this but this will not drive someone to build a world-class learning environment. Only true educational vision and rigor will cause that.

Accept in advance that there are a thousand and one things to learn… things that you have not even heard of… things that will surprise you… but that this is the beauty of the journey. If you accept this as normal, all you have to do is keep moving forward one resource at a time and the rest will follow.

Work your balls off!

READ MORE:The Ultimate List of Every Tool You Need To Create Your Online Course

Kristina Azarenko, Founder of MarketingSyrup, SEO Course

I’ve been an SEO professional for a decade, and I happened to teach many junior employees how to do SEO. At some point, I decided to make teaching one of my main focuses (I’m also a teacher by education), quit my job, and started a course.

The course has helped to structure all my knowledge and become better at explaining SEO to the clients in my consulting business. I also had a student who was Vice President of one company. After learning my approach, they have hired me a few times already.

My advice for others is to just start, but not from the steps you think.

First, learn what your audience really wants, let people co-create the course with you. Then pre-sell the course. You don’t want to spend days recording something people won’t buy.

Build a community – this is very important. It can be an email list, it can be social media following. It can be both. Share a lot of valuable information for free. That’s how you build a community. Be helpful and listen to your audience.

READ MORE: How Foundr Created it’s First Product Launch

Ryan Hassan, Foundr of The Centre for Healing, Mental Health & Addiction Healing Programs

After having a baby we started looking into different avenues for the business. The stress, overheads, and hours required at our physical clinic were taking their toll. I had seen different people doing well with online courses and also saw that there weren’t many quality courses in the area of Mental Health/Addiction.

I started off by taking a couple of courses creating courses through Udemy. From there I created my own little course on Udemy to get a taste for the process.

When we decided to move our IP into an online practitioner course we looked around at different platforms and got started with Kajabi. We can’t fault Kajabi, everything’s in one place and the payment process is really easy.

Thanks to our online courses, we’ve been able to reach people all around the globe and not just in Melbourne. Since moving online the overheads in the business have more than halved. Now with a bigger audience, we can create courses based on what people are asking for as opposed to guessing.

Our revenue has gone up and hours working has greatly reduced, meaning we can spend more time with our son.

Our students are all in a private Facebook group and that community is growing and thriving. Our paid advertising is with Facebook and organic marketing through socials (FB, IG, YT) & Email.

My advice to others?

You’re going to be embarrassed with your first course no matter what, so just start!

Think about just one element of your business and teach that (very niched). Forget about results and what you’ll make, just the process will be the biggest learning experience.

For example, my first course was Mindfulness for Anxiety. It has only made $2,000 up until this point, however, all of the things I learned by going through that process has made all our recent courses so successful.

Write a course outline & pretend you’re teaching yourself (those are the kind of people that will buy from you). Don’t try and be perfect otherwise you’ll never release anything. Listen to feedback and don’t take it personally.

Lacey Filipich, Founder and Director of Money School, Financial Advisory Course

I had been delivering face-to-face financial education for a number of years but wanted to reach more people and in a more affordable way. I got help from an incredible curriculum developer, Maria Doyle, to convert my in-person course to an online program. It’s been the backbone of my business for four years now. I’ve gone on to create several complimentary online courses to go with it.

I’ve now had students from 135 different countries speaking 32 different languages complete my courses, so my reach has expanded dramatically. It’s been wonderful to reach more people with independent financial education, which they complete on-demand and to their own schedule.

The importance of creating engaging videos cannot be understated. Work out how to break down your content into manageable chunks, (under 10 minutes each ideally) and make them fun.

My first videos from 2016 are excruciating to watch because I’m so wooden. I have re-recorded those videos a couple of times in the intervening four years, and each time they get more interesting and I get better completion rates. Time spent mapping your content in a structured fashion before you film is invaluable.

Explaining how to do something is not enough. You must explain, then demonstrate what to do AND what not to do.

And then, if you really want your students to nail the skill you’re teaching, give them an activity so they apply what they’re seen you explain and demonstrate.

READ MORE: How We Validated 12 Online Courses Without Spending A Cent

Tony Nicholls, CEO, and Co-Founder of Good Talent Media, Online Crisis Media Management Course

My years of working in broadcast media for ABC, SBS, and Network 10 provided me with the knowledge needed to develop the online crisis media management course I offer clients and associates.

I decided to start an online course to expand our usual seminar and training services during COVID-19, making them more accessible for businesses in need we developed an online crisis media management course. Creating an online course is a great way to help others by sharing your knowledge and expertise.

Online courses have helped me acquire more leads and referrals and a more qualitative relationship with our clients.

I believe being thankful for blessings is key to looking after one’s wellbeing. My advice for others is to give it a go! You won’t know if it’s successful without launching.

Adam Mishan, Founder of AM Vocal Studios, Online Vocal Training

I was giving private singing lessons in person and online at the time and I met a business consultant. He asked me if I had any plans to create any type of product for my business so that I wouldn’t be trading my time for money.

Around the same time, I was reading the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and these two events coinciding created a paradigm shift for me and I knew that I wanted to create a course.

I began to get busier and busier as a vocal coach and psychotherapist (at the time I was mainly a psychotherapist and a vocal coach on the side). My students kept on asking me about a potential course I could create that they could use to supplement the lessons they were receiving and keep them busy between lessons.

My online course sales have helped my monthly revenue far exceed what I thought was possible when I was locked into the mindset of trading time for money.

My online courses have helped make a good portion of my income passive which is amazing as it alleviates a lot of the stress and worry of taking time off. I no longer have the mindset that if I’m not working, I’m not making money.

When it comes to launching your first course, perfectionism will be your worst enemy. Just get something out there.

It will not be perfect at first and that’s OK. I’ve edited and added to my courses so many times. Everything is adjustable. I just know I wish I would have created a course sooner but the idea that it had to be perfect got in the way.

Research different platforms that you can post your courses to. When I first started I did not realize that there were some websites that will simply host your course but that there are others with a built-in marketplace like Udemy or Skillshare.

Both have their pluses and minuses but for someone just getting started with course creation, especially if you do not yet have an audience. These course marketplaces can be the best places to get started.

Search on YouTube for videos on course creation and the details of all the different platforms available. There is so much useful information available there for free!

READ MORE:The Ultimate List of Every Tool You Need To Create Your Online Course

Lindsay Marsh, Founder of Lindsay Marsh Personal Brand, Top-Selling Graphic Design Courses

Honestly, my goals for starting an online course were set kinda low. My goal was to generate some extra side income to put into my investment portfolio each month.
I was already working full-time as a freelance graphic designer and have done so for over 15 years. The thought was to take my skills and teach others how to be able to be creative and make a living off of doing so. I would constantly see successful course creators on my Facebook feed and would check out their intros and free lessons to see what the fuss was about.

I was surprised about the quality of the content and how long it really took for them to start teaching and providing real value. It was a lot of fluff and I thought I could teach so much better providing tons of information quickly. I knew I could generate some great side income, what happened eventually is that It became something way more profitable than I ever imagined.

I started offering courses on third party websites like Udemy and Skillshare and discovered that they do a bit of organic marketing of your courses for a share of the revenue.

What is great about this is I have no overhead or marketing costs. I started off with zero audience and zero followers. These third party course websites were able to help me organically accrue and student body of over 250,000 students! I did this with zero ad spend and zero costs.

In 2020, I will be very close to earning over one million dollars in profit with almost zero expenses and zero funnels.

In getting started, course creation groups, freelancing, and small business groups on Facebook kept me up to date with daily information that affected my industry. Being in community with others and finding mentors boosted my confidence and help give me a day to day opportunities to tweak and shift my business to be more profitable.

I think a course launched today is more profitable than a course launched tomorrow.

The online course industry is just starting to really become a big player in the education space with peak online education still years away. It is not a question of if an online course can be profitable it is really a matter of how profitable will it be. Avoid perfectionism with online course creation and create a few smaller courses to build an audience and larger courses later on to sell to that starting audience.

It is much like a content snowball, create one course to catch 20 students to sell another larger course later that sells 100, and so on. If you create content that is so valuable to your audience they will naturally sustain your momentum of earnings as you continue to be constant with your content creation.

It takes a while to build a course that sells really well. It may not be the first course that really takes off, for me it was my sixth course. Try not to be discouraged in your first year of creating online courses. Each new course release may yield better and better profits.

Keep your costs low at first, try to learn video editing and marketing skills so you can learn the best ways to find and locate your audience. That way when you outsource later on you have hands-on experience with how to best present your brand and courses. This also feels more authentic and organic when your audience hears mostly from content you have written or provided.
Also, care about your audience. This may mean giving away free content, guides, books to get them to feel like you want them to be successful. They will return the favor in kind by letting their inner circles know what has helped them be successful.

FREE TRAINING: How to Create a 7-Figure Course From Scratch Using Foundr’s Never-Revealed “Rapid Course Formula”

READ MORE: How to Create an Online Course Like Foundr

Summary

There you have it! The proof that not only is an online course a great way to make some extra income, it’s also the ultimate way to boost your brand’s awareness and gain new customers. Every single one of these entrepreneurs has proven success with their online course, and with a little dedication and elbow-grease, you can too.
If you could launch an online course, what would you teach? Let us know in the comments and our team of experts will weigh in to help you out!

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