The exact steps I took to add a new revenue stream to my life
I’ll be the first to tell you — it ain’t easy. But, with a little time and a lot of effort, I built a money-making side hustle in less than a month. And I’m thrilled to say that the money train has begun to officially roll into my bank account.
So, what did I do to create a successful side hustle? I created an online course. And not just any course, I (with a colleague of mine) created a course that tapped into two topics we know extremely well that fulfilled a need in the market for a resource that combined knowledge in these two topics. And voila! Money-making side hustle.
It was an exhausting 29 days, but after putting in the work, we now have a fully realized product that I believe is starting to make a positive impact on the world. (And, extra money aside, that’s really what it’s all about.)
If you do it correctly, creating an online course isn’t exactly easy, but it is both rewarding and an exceptional way to quickly generate an additional source of income. And, with every day that passes, more and more people are looking to online education (rather than traditional education) to fulfill their personal knowledge needs. From programming to fitness to writing, the online education industry is booming.
Research and Markets forecasts that the online education market will grow exponentially in the coming few years. It says, “[the] online education market will reach … $350 billion by 2025, globally due to the introduction of flexible learning technologies in the corporate and education sectors.”
These flexible learning technologies include course hosting platforms like Udemy, Teachable, Skillshare, and Coursera. All of these platforms make it easy for anyone to sign up, create a course using their specific personal knowledge and expertise, and quickly sell their course to a vast worldwide online market. And trust me, if I can figure it out, anyone can.
With the specificity of so many different topics and ease of registration and attendance, why wouldn’t anyone want to take a virtual course? In an article in Forbes, Ilker Koksal says, “Online courses prove a more affordable option than traditional ones and there are no commuting costs, and sometimes required course materials, such as textbooks, are available online at no cost.”
So, I decided to dive in and create the course I wish I had when I was younger. Basically, I wanted to encourage and educate a 20-year-old me. I created an online course that supports mental wellness for young aspiring dancers. And, together with my colleague, I mapped out, researched, wrote, and began to sell that course in 29 days. Here are the exact steps we took to get our side hustle rolling.
There is one thing I know more about than anything else on this planet (other than, perhaps, reality television). That is dance. I was a professional dancer for much of my life and I have remained in the dance education industry until today. Being in the dance industry for over 30 years has helped me become a veritable expert on dancers.
I guarantee that you know about something, even if you think you don’t. It may be that you love making photo frames out of popsicle sticks and have done so for years, you have been roasting your own coffee beans for your whole life, or you know an absurd amount of information about homemade chicken feed. It could literally be anything — whatever you know can be turned into a virtual course.
Choosing what to teach is easy for some and difficult for others. When I sat down to create this course, I really thought about what I know. First, I brainstormed the different things I knew and was passionate about. Here are some ideas that came up during my brainstorm:
- Reality television
- Musical theatre
- Mental health
Then, after I brainstormed the topics in which I feel knowledgeable, I took the advice of Tim Ferriss and decided to combine two of them to stand out from the crowd. After a little trial and error, I came up with three combinations — dance and writing, writing and fitness, and dance and mental health.
After I chose three different combinations of skills and knowledge I possessed, I researched each of the pairs. First, there didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in learning how to write about dance. Second, there are a lot of fitness writers. Like, a lot. I chalked that market up to be practically saturated. Then, I searched for dance and mental health. The following article was one of the first on Google.
Why Are We Still So Bad At Addressing Dancers’ Mental Health? was published in Dance Magazine less than five years ago. Bingo. The more I researched the topic of mental health for dancers, the more I realized there were very few resources in this niche.
There doesn’t need to be a huge global need for whatever you know. There just need to be 1,000 people who you think would want to purchase your course. (Incidentally, if you have not read the short book 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly, I highly recommend it.) For me, I found more than enough evidence that there would be interest in my course. The next step was finding a website to host it.
There are so many websites that offer a landing place for virtual course creators to house their ideas. I did a good amount of research before choosing the platform Teachable to help me house my course on mental wellness for dancers. Each of the many virtual education websites is best for different types of courses.
Udemy, Teachable, Kajabi, and Thinkific were at the top of my research list. Each of these platforms has its own benefits and challenges. For me, I wanted a low-maintenance platform that gave me the maximum access to student information and allowed me to create new courses at will. Teachable was the best choice for me.
If you’re looking for a place to host your course, first write down what is important to you and then do research based on your priorities. Here are some great questions to ask yourself before doing research:
- Is it important to me to have my own website in addition to my course site?
- Do I want to sell the course to my personal contacts or do I want the course hosting platform to help me sell it?
- How much am I willing to pay per month for course hosting?
- What features do I want for my course (i.e. video capability, coaching features, plays well with other apps, etc.)?
Most platforms charge a blanket monthly fee and then take a percentage of your sales. For me, I chose Teachable’s Pro Plan which costs $99 per month but allows me unlimited students, no transaction fees, course and coaching hosting, a members-only community, instant payouts, and five users.
Again, each platform is different, but for most of them, it is super easy to get started and they offer tech support and guidance as you create your course. Once I chose the platform to host my course, I was ready to get creating.
I knew I wanted to create a mental wellness course for dancers, but I needed to create a structure. Because I spent many years in the higher education industry, I have created at least 20 different fully realized semester-long courses. Here’s the process I used to decide what topics I want to cover and how to divide them.
- Decide how long your course will be. For most university courses, the length of the semester is already decided for you. For an online course, it isn’t. Courses can be two hours long or ongoing for years. My partner and I decided to create a nine-month course and divide it into three-month segments. When you’re deciding your course length, it’s important to note how much information you plan to convey as well as how long you think your target customer will want to spend learning what you have to teach.
- List the topics you want to cover. I like to think of topics as chapters in a book. If you plan to teach a five-day course on, say, desk calendar making, you might want to cover different types of desk calendars, creating your calendar design, proofing your calendar, and printing your calendar. Great! There’s your course outline! For my course, we decided that we would do an introduction to the importance of mental wellness and then we would tackle the topics of self-talk and body image.
- Slot your topics into your course’s allotted time. Next, you can take the topics you want to cover and distribute them among the time you will be offering the course. For our course, we decided to spend one month on each of our three topics. But you can do pretty much anything you want. For instance, if you’re teaching the aforementioned desk calendar-making course, you can spend the first day of your course doing an introduction to desk calendars, and then you spend one day each on the remaining four topics.
- Set a structure within each of your course segments. It’s important that your students know what to expect, so the best way to do this is to set a structure within each of your course segments. For my course, we begin with education on the topic, we then do exercises for application into the students’ lives, we move to a virtual group discussion on the topic, and we finish with an industry panel on the topic. You could choose anything, though. Video>research>quiz, demonstration>practice>presentation. Whatever works for your course works as long as it is uniform from segment to segment.
- Do your research. If you’re teaching a course to begin with, you’re setting yourself up as an authority on the topic. However, it is always helpful to include research from well-respected sources within your industry. Even if you do think you know things, it’s always helpful to get a quote or to cite a source to back up your information. Research validates your ideas and it also makes your students feel safe and comfortable that they’re learning accurate information.
- Make your course. The last thing to do is to make your course! As you decided in point four, your course could be offered in various forms. You could employ a written form, an audio form, a series of videos, or anything else that you can dream up (that your course hosting site will allow). You can also combine some of these elements as well. Once you have your structure, feel free to create your course in a way that will be most memorable to your students. It’s your course, after all!
Here’s an example of the structure of one of our course segments:
This step of the process took us, by far, the longest. My partner and I were already very well-versed in the topic before beginning to create the course, but we spent a good 27 of our 29 days working nonstop to research and create the most fantastic course we could imagine. As you probably believe as well, we owe it to our students to put our absolute best foot forward.
This is the step very few people enjoy. It’s also the most important part of the money-making side hustle process. If you create an amazing course and nobody knows about it, you’re that proverbial tree lying quietly alone in the forest. Marketing your course is crucial. The good news is, there are so many ways to market your products nowadays that there is likely a path you might not hate.
For my course, we chose to go public with a launch on June 1st. However, before that launch, we began selling privately to dance studios individually (“B2B” as some people call it). We reached out individually to the people we know in the industry and began to tell them about our product. This worked in a way that I never thought it would. When we told people about our product, the answer was usually, “It’s about time.”
The great thing about marketing B2B is that when we sell a course to a dance studio owner, all of their students purchase the course. One sale, multiple purchases. This, however, is not the only way to sell your course. Here are alternative ways to get the word out there about the awesome resource you’ve created:
- Tell your network about it on social media.
- Purchase a series of targeted ads like Facebook ads. (These are much more targeted than you might expect.)
- Send out a prompt to your email list or contacts to check out your course.
- Hire a group of affiliates to sell your course for you. (Our new affiliates will be receiving 15% of the profits from the courses they sell.)
- Contact bloggers or journalists to write about your course in their publications.
- Be a guest on a podcast or YouTube series that relates to your course.
Whether you choose to market to your 465 Instagram followers or to a global market is up to you. Marketing can be overwhelming, but one thing I tell myself on a regular basis is that it doesn’t have to be done all at once. I try to add 20 or so new contacts to our course mailing list per day. For me, that works.
The most important thing to remember is that you can choose a method and path that works for you. You can choose the level of involvement you want to contribute to getting your course out there into the world. You can spend an hour per week or ten hours per day. It’s up to you. And that’s the beauty of being your own boss in the online course creation side hustle world.
My course is just getting started, but I am beyond thrilled with where it is going. So thrilled, in fact, that I wanted to share every little detail of its creation with you. The online course creation market is growing at an exciting rate and I was thrilled to get in the game with the course I created. And if I can create an online course in less than a month, I truly believe anyone can.
If you can find a topic that you know a lot about (a hobby or your profession) and pair it with a need or interest in the market, you are one step ahead of most of the competition.
Then, after you know what you want to teach, you simply need to find a course host and then create the course you want to create. And last but definitely not least, you will need to market your course so that other people can benefit from your hard-earned knowledge.
Here’s the website if you want to see what we’ve created. Life is always a work in progress and I will continue to hone my course as more and more students participate, but I’m proud to say that I created a money-making side hustle that will hopefully make the world a better place.