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How to find an online course idea that makes millions

Everybody has a skill that they are an expert in, something valuable that it is worth sharing. Plus out of the seven billion people on earth, there are a lot of people who would like to learn a new skill. Be it the looming threat of AI stealing jobs, the need to get better at your current job, to seek promotions or to just learn a new skill. And, there’s the likelihood that there are people who would be willing to pay you for sharing your knowledge.

With the rise of online learning technology platforms, it has become ever so easy to launch your very own online course and make money on the side, and for a lot of people, that side income has even become the main business. Case in point, Lisa Irby. She made her first dollar online in ‘98 and has been hooked to online course selling since then. Her most selling course: How to print T-shirts and sell online! has already made her hundreds of thousands in revenue.

Another great example: Cycling a completely outdoor activity. However, now you can even learn Cycling from the comfort of your home and become an instructor too!


And it can be done!

Almost every online course starts as a side project. Very few people, almost none, actually leave their day jobs to pursue the creation of an online course full-fledged. What this means is that even you can do this by devoting a few hours on the side every day and slowly but steadily build your empire. The New York Times bestseller — Four hour work week by Tim Ferriss, discusses just that. He talks about the many aspects of building a side business irrespective of location or time. It’s a must-read if you have been itching to learn how to create a side business that can help you rake in the moolah.

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The proof of the pudding is in the eating, truly it is...

While not every online course is going to be a million-dollar course, it sure can get you a little something to start with but slowly and steadily with the help of the right marketing and sales strategies, you can start building an income that is not just complementary to your main income, it might just become your main income source. The trick is to know what to sell.

The key is finding the right audience and creating high-value content that has actionable instructional material for the audience. Getting the content right is critical. But getting the Course topic right is even more critical.

Choosing the right niche

While there may not be a doubt in your expertise on a particular topic, however, if you are not able to find the audience for it, then there is no point in creating the course. While we can't think of any topic wherein an online course is not possible, the question is how much will it sell. Would it be in tens, hundreds, or thousands? But don’t give up on any idea so easily. Any online course can sell. Question is how much and at what price?

Consider this diagram:


Do you see where the three circles overlap, this is the sweet spot where the success of your online course lies. And that’s what you aim for when selecting which of your ideas is the most profitable.

Here are a few tips that can help you narrow down your search:

  1. A quick google search
    Searching is the easiest way to validate the topic of your course. Take a look at the google search results for cycling online courses. You have video results, actual online courses, and hundreds of possible links like that.

  2. YouTube
    A lot of people in the early days launched online YouTube courses like a web series. You learn something new today, now wait for a week for the next lesson. This is one great way of checking if your course type is being viewed online and by how much. It gives you a direct sense of the popularity of the content. Due to YouTube’s 1.5 billion users, initial online courses helped people make a lot of money from views, likes, and Ads. However, over time this revenue stream has reduced quite a bit and is not giving the returns as it used to. Plus you can’t charge the viewer per view or for your course as a whole. But like we said earlier, it's a great tool for sizing up your audience.

  3. Google Keyword Planner
    Keyword Planner is another great tool to narrow down the search patterns. After all, you should know how many people are looking for a search term related to your online course. This gives you a fair idea of your audience size. You could also narrow down the search based on demographics, should the course be specific to age or location, etc. And the best part is: the Google planner is a free tool.

  4. Quora/Reddit
    Read into what the people in your audience are saying. Reddit & Quora are a great way to find out, so you could check for questions about your topic and see what people say. It's a great feeding ground for deciding on content for the course and even the strategies of how to market the course.

  5. Social Media
    Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well are great places to check the kind of buzz the topic is creating. There are enough businesses, ads, messages, tweets, or posts being shared on social media and that too can give you a fair sense of popularity. Else, you could create a poll on FB and simply ask people what kind of courses they would be willing to pay for. That gives you a direct response to your choices as well and helps you decide better.

  6. Google Trends/BuzzSumo
    These help you target the most trending topics specific to your niche. You can learn what’s going viral and the clues these give you about what your target audience is interested in.

After you find out what’s trending, you’ll be able to focus on a specific niche. For example, if your topic is “personality development”, you will find many courses and books out there on this topic. The key is to keep the niche very specific. Only then will you have the ability to offer unique content that addresses what the audience wants to learn directly. Now, when you combine the specific niche with the target audience that’s when you have the perfect idea for an online course which can be a success.


Always remember, launching a profitable online course takes a lot more than expertise. If there’s a demand for your expertise that was previously ignored, you’ll have a lot of customers interested to buy from you. Additionally, know that competition is great for you! It will show you what worked and did not work for others which you can avoid yourself. On the flip side, lack of any competition probably is a sign that there is no audience for it or maybe not big enough worth the effort. At that point, you would need to look at the cost of time and effort, pricing of the course, and overall profitability of the course based on the small audience size. Some people are happily selling a niche course for $200 as well to 10 students a year. That’s a $2,000 per year side income. Some creators price their courses at $19.99 per student hoping they hit thousands of learners with the pricing. So it all depends on what and how much you want to achieve.

We hope that this article will give you enough pointers to look at how to finalize the topic of your choice to create an online course. Over the next few weeks, we shall share with you various aspects of selling online courses that will help you create, launch, and sell your online courses to thousands of learners out there.


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