Strange transition I know, but I’m going to briefly walk you through how it happened and I hope it’ll help you understand how you’re probably only a few steps away from being able to make a similar journey yourself.
I have a great love of nature and I studied Ecology at university. When I finished, I was really interested in growing sustainable food and had by this time also become an amateur mushroom grower.
Not a lot of people think of mushrooms as sustainable food, but they’re actually a pretty low impact way of growing highly nutritious food.
I set up a small business growing mushrooms for sale to local restaurants and before long became obsessed with one particular method – growing Oyster mushrooms on waste coffee grounds!
With a colleague, we set up a company called GroCycle, which pretty soon became an authority on how to grow mushrooms on coffee.
We ran some courses in person and started to get loads of emails from people around the world asking if we could teach them what we knew.
To begin with, we answered each one of them, often giving hours of our time for free helping people with their growing problems and ideas for projects.
It didn’t take long to realise this wasn’t a good idea - not only were we spending valuable time that we should’ve been spending on other things, but it wasn’t the most effective way to teach people, and it certainly wasn’t a great way to run a business.
After a lot of research we decided that an online course would be a great way to teach this unique growing technique to people in different countries, whilst building a sustainable income stream for the business.
When you hold in-person classes, geography and travel costs limit the number of people you can teach, and you're also limited by the time you have to run the classes - especially if teaching is just one part of what you do.
This is the best thing about making an online course - you create it once and then sell it multiple times over, and it can be pretty much done on autopilot too.
"The best thing about making an online course is that you create it once,
and then sell it multiple times over"
Knowing absolutely nothing about how to create an online course to begin with, we got searching on the internet and couldn’t find much info, which is actually a large part of why I have created this site.
We did get a general idea of how we could make an online course though, and although it seemed a big job, we decided to just go for it!
We hired a local web developer to set us up with a content protected website and we got to work making the video lessons.
We cleared 10 days from our normal work commitments and locked ourselves in the office with a camera, microphone, PowerPoint and Camtasia, and we made the course.
After a few hours just getting used to the whole process and becoming more confident we found our flow and before we knew it our first module was done.
From there it was just a case of repeating the process for the other 5 modules, editing some bits for each module and then uploading it to the course site.
I know I’m making it sound way more simple than it really is, but there are articles elsewhere on this site that go into more detail about how to create an online course.
The point here is that two mushroom growers with limited knowledge in online course creation made an online course in around 10 days.
We decided we wanted to do it, and we did it.
"The point here is that two mushroom growers with limited knowledge in online course creation made an online course in around 10 days "
And it didn't cost a fortune to make either. We probably spent around £2500 ($3,600) to create it and, knowing what I know now, we could have made it for less than £1000 ($1500).
Here’s a screenshot from the top of the homepage inside our online course:
We’d kept an email list of people potentially interested in doing an online course with us, but hadn’t promoted it at all before launching for the first time.
We sent out a basic sequence of emails to the 570 people on this list and ended up with 64 people joining the course in the first week – more than 10% of the list which is pretty amazing, and testament to the fact they were a particularly engaged section of our audience.
Some had been waiting for the course top open up for months already!
It was a starter course so we priced it at £97 (approx. $141).
We launched the course and made £6,208 (around $9,500) in just 7 days!
I have to be honest - 2015, the year we launched the course, was a very busy year for all other parts of our business and we simply didn't get to spend the time promoting and marketing the course that we would've liked to.
However, we did make a commitment to open the course for new members to join every 2 months.
And each time we opened the offer, there were consistently at least 300 people to launch it to who had left their email address expressing an interest in taking the course.
Each time, somewhere between 5-15% of the list joined the course. This is considered a pretty good conversion rate and is down to the fact that most of these people came looking for what we offered, rather than us going out there trying to find them.
If we didn't do much promotion, then where did all the people come from?
Well, mostly we were pretty lucky! We received some nice coverage about our business in different places around the internet and even on TV, plus we rank well for 'growing mushrooms on coffee' because there aren't many people doing it.
We also dropped the price of the course to £47 (about $69) half way through the year following a survey we ran asking those who didn't join what the main reason was. After all, for us - it's not just about making money, but also trying to reach and teach a lot of people.
There's lots of different ways to price an online course, but I'm in favour of trying to have at least one course you offer (probably your first) which is accessible and affordable (i.e. under $100) - giving your audience a simple way to get learning with you.
We also learnt from this 1st year that there is a sub-section of our audience interested in going deeper with a more comprehensive course, which is what we will now also begin work on.
By the end of the 1st year, we'd taught 300 people from 40 countries around the world and earnt $33,000 from it!
Throughout the process I learnt so much at each and every stage.
I have an often dangerous habit of over-researching everything. From website solutions, to screen capture software, to microphones, to email marketing…I have spent weeks and weeks learning the whole process.
The point is though, I was not at all an expert in how to make an online course when I set out.
I didn’t even know it was possible to create one yourself to begin with.
But by deciding it was something we wanted to do, and then spending the time learning and (most importantly) actually doing it, I have accidently become an expert in the process.
Of course since then, I've spent hours more researching different ways of doing things better, quicker or cheaper for this blog. I'd love to see more people earning their living by teaching what they know with an online course - that's what this site is all about.
You don’t need to spend all this time to get to the same point because I’m here to help guide you along the way and teach you a lot of what I have learnt.
I’ve written some articles on this site to help get you up to speed so stop a while and have a look around.
Drop me a comment below and tell me what your unique knowledge is....what could you turn into an online course?