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How to Find Profitable Online Course Ideas in 2024

  • Jessica GlendinningJessica Glendinning

Updated for 2024

Here’s a depressing thought:

Most people who launch an online course aren’t happy with the outcome.

This often happens because the course creator didn’t find the right idea — one they have the expertise to teach that also has a market.

Maybe they jumped right in, creating their course without doing any research. Or maybe they made a bunch of assumptions along the way.

The good news is… you don’t have to make the same mistakes!

It’s not about finding the biggest and best selling courses out there and creating a slightly different version.

Instead, it’s about picking the right idea — one that your customers will actually buy.

What’s great about this method is that it works even if you don’t have an audience yet, or you’re thinking about creating your very first course.

So are you ready to figure out which of your online course ideas is best? Let’s get started!

4 Steps to Finding Profitable Online Course Ideas

Your first step: talk to people. It sounds so easy, right?

But a lot of first-time course creators get stuck on this step. It’s often because they *think* they already know what their audience wants, or they’re intimidated by putting their ideas out into the world in a real way.

So to keep things simple, let’s start at the beginning.

Step 1: Start Where You Are

There are three important parts to this first step: your expertise, passion, and access to the people you want to help.

Passion led us here

First, take a look at you — the expert.

I Am An Expert At…  

You don’t have to hold a PhD in a subject to be considered an expert, but you do have to know more than the people you want to teach.

Danny often uses the example of the 4th grader who is an “expert” in the eyes of a 2nd grader. They have a couple more years of knowledge, and can impart that wisdom to someone younger.

With this idea in mind, what are some areas where you know more than the average person?

Here are three simple steps you can take to identify your areas of expertise:

  1. Make a list of what you’re good at. This could include knowledge in your field, an uncanny understanding of processes, or a particular skill set. You might also look at what you’re already getting paid for.
  2. Next, reach out to 3-5 people in your network and ask what they think you’re really good at. You could ask what they see as your biggest strength, or if there’s an area where they would ask for your help.
  3. Then, compare the two lists. Are there areas where your list overlaps with the feedback you received? Or maybe there are gaps, where others aren’t aware of the things you’re good at.

Now, take that list and dig a little deeper.

I Am Passionate About…

When we talk about passion we don’t mean the vague cliché “follow your bliss” kind. But as you build your courses and online business, it is helpful to acknowledge what you enjoy teaching.

For this step, identify which items on your expertise list are the most enjoyable:

  1. Look at the two lists you just made and think about what you enjoy the most. You might rank them on a scale of 1 to 5, or just put a star by your favorites. Also note which kinds of expertise you already use on a regular basis (whether during your day job, side projects, or leisure time).
  2. Next, add another section to your list. If you didn’t get paid for it, what would you still do anyway? Are there causes you enjoy volunteering for? What do you do during the weekend? What are the things in your life that are non-negotiable?
  3. Then, make a wish list of all the things you might do that combine your expertise and passion. Don’t hold back — it’s a wish list after all, and you don’t have to make any choices yet.

Once you’ve completed your “enjoyable expertise” list, take the final step and cross-check it with who you’re connected to (aka, your network).

I Have Access To…

As important as it is to identify where your expertise and passions overlap, it’s just as critical to make sure you have access to the people you want to serve.

  1. Look at your wish list from the last step and identify the type of person who might benefit from this intersection. Who do you know who is struggling with this kind of problem? Who could you help?
  2. Finally, reach out to your network again, and ask if they know any of the types of people you identified. If so, ask if they would be willing to make a personal connection. In today’s world, it’s all about who you’re connected to.

Now you know how to identify the people at the intersection of your expertise, passion, and access. But what might this look like in the real world?

Let’s take a look at 3 different (fictional) examples.

Examples: Expertise, Passion, and Access

Example 1: Meet Debbie, the holistic health coach

Debbie has worked with clients for 3 years. She sees some common themes come up during her coaching sessions, and believes she could create a course to help solve those problems. But she wants to make sure that her clients are interested in her ideas before creating anything.

Debbie’s expertise, passion, and access might look like this:

A certification in nutrition coaching and 3 years of experience helping women with hypothyroidism through her coaching practice.

Her friends started coming to her years ago for help with their thyroid diagnoses, since they knew Debbie was dealing with the same issues. When she reached out to her network, they all echoed the same thing — and a few people also mentioned loving the recipes she shares on social media.

When she compares her two lists, there is a large area of overlap in her knowledge and what people ask her.

Example 2: Meet John, the marriage counselor

John has worked for a large marriage and family counseling practice for the past 15 years. He’s getting ready to retire and thinking of branching out on his own.

He wants to eventually bring in a side income while having time to enjoy his retirement. John has a hunch that a lower-priced, less hands-on introductory offer would allow more people to work with him with less effort on his part.

A roadblock facing John is that he doesn’t have a client base outside of his current practice. And because of confidentiality and practice regulations, he can’t ask any of his current clients to follow him into private practice.

John’s expertise, passion, and access might read something like:

A Master’s in counseling and years of work experience in the field.

John speaks to a few of his colleagues who have also been practicing for decades. He gets a mixed set of feedback — some who mention that he’s great with financial advice, and others who confirm that he’s great at his current job. He doesn’t have a great sense of what kind of potential clients he has access to.

When John compares these inventories, he sees the potential overlaps, but is also curious about whether he might branch out into helping people with their finances. He’s on the fence about which direction to go, and knows he needs to do more research.

Example 3: Meet Lynn and Tom, the small business owners

Lynn and her husband Tom co-own a small business that helps construction companies manage their contracts. Lynn has been leading small, in-person workshops for several years now, and she wants to spend more time at home before their kids graduate from high school.

Since the business is just the two of them, Lynn doesn’t want to take a chance on creating something that doesn’t work for their clients. She wants to be sure that a course is the way to go, before she puts in a lot of time and effort.

Lynn and Tom might list the following:

A combined 30 years of business experience. Lynn helped her father run their family business when she was growing up, and Tom is the construction expert; he was a project manager for several large construction companies until the two of them went into business together.

They talk to a number of former clients, and get a lot of information. The biggest benefit many of their clients express is an understanding of contract legal jargon. Others mentioned that keeping up with standard codes was important, or that Tom really helped them understand how to manage the on-site equipment.

When Lynn and Tom compare their lists, they get a good idea of the benefits their clients get from working with them, but they still have some questions about whether any of it would make a good training course.

The initial lists Debbie, John, and Lynn made are a good start, indicating that their ideas are worth considering. But there are still some questions as to whether people will pay for those ideas.

So let’s move on to the next step in the process: identifying your market — aka, getting more clarity on the kinds of people you could serve with your course.

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Step 2: Identify Your Perfect Person

By now, you should have a general idea of the kind of person who might be interested in your course idea. But you may still be fuzzy about exactly who they are and what motivates them.

In this step, you’ll learn more about your potential students.

The Who What and Why of Your Idea

First, look at the list you made in step one. Who are the people you can help? If you made a customer profile for them, what would it look like?

Something important to remember in this step: you don’t want to be everything to everyone.

Instead, you want to have the RIGHT person stand up and say, “Oh! That’s me! And that’s exactly what I need!” when they hear about your course idea.

To help you narrow down the “who” of your idea, you can make some initial assumptions about what they want to achieve. (You’ll test these assumptions later.)

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you think your ideal customer struggles with?
  • What kind of changes have they tried to make, that haven’t worked?
  • What could they do if the struggle wasn’t holding them back?
  • Who else is affected by this problem?

Also think about how and when you can access your ideal customer.

  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What social media sites do they use?
  • How can you connect with them, either online or in person?
  • And can you start building an email list to stay in touch with them?

To help you identify your own who, what, and why, let’s check back in with our three aspiring course creators.

Examples: Who, What, and Why

Example 1: Debbie, the holistic health coach

The first people who come to mind as Debbie thinks about her “who” are her current clients. Many of them struggle with weight gain associated with hypothyroidism. And quite a few are busy moms who don’t have time for the brain fog and fatigue that can come along with the disease.

She knows many of them have tried multiple diets, without much success. And they’re often busy taking care of their kids. They don’t feel like they have time to deal with a complicated diet plan — which is why most of the diets don’t stick.

Solving this issue would help them lose weight, get healthier, and have more energy to keep up with their kids.

Debbie has a small email list, as well as being part of a fairly active Facebook group where she has connected with a lot of moms who struggle with thyroid issues.

Example 2: John, the marriage counselor

If John bases his “who” on the patients he has seen over the years at his practice, there are a few potential profiles. A large number of couples have come to him over the years trying to save their marriage — and a significant percentage of those have struggled with shared finances.

Since John doesn’t have a client base outside his current practice, he spends quite a bit of time thinking about how he might access his ideal client. He decides that he can reach out to both his personal and professional networks — personal, to ask if anyone knows of couples who might be interested in the work he does, and professional, to see what ideas his colleagues have about where to find good clients.

Because of the personal nature of marital problems, he has a feeling that most people won’t air out their relationship problems online, but he can do additional research to see if there are groups and forums where the focus is on strengthening relationships and/or finances, instead.

Example 3: Lynn and Tom, the small business owners

Lynn finds herself in a slightly different situation than our other two course builders, because she has already been doing in-person trainings for several years, and she and Tom have been in business for so long.

She builds her ideal client profile based on the customers they’ve enjoyed working with the most, and who have received the most benefit out of working together. But since a lot of the trainings Lynn holds for these companies aren’t ones that can be repeated, they will need to find new customers to test out a different format for the trainings.

Now that you have more clarity around your “who,” your next step is to look at the current market, to see what people are saying and what solutions are already out there.

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Step 3: Find Profitable Online Course Ideas

Your next step is to zoom out and conduct a small amount of passive research.

We say “small amount” because this research can become a rabbit hole — we’ve seen prospective course creators get completely stuck in this phase, and we don’t want that to happen to you!

So set a time limit for this activity. Maybe a few hours, or short research sessions over a couple of days. But if you find that more than a week has gone by and you’re still focused on this step, try to wrap things up.

A good way to approach your research is to look for “problem language” — the words, phrases, and concepts that people use to describe their unique relationship to the problem or desire you plan to help them with.

Problem language is what people say about their own situation, the problems they face, and the challenges they can’t seem to get around.

This research allows you to go beyond the assumptions you made in the last step, to validate your audience’s experience.

Problem language can be found in lots of places: blog comments, social media posts, emails, and book reviews, just to name a few.

Here are a few examples of what you’re looking for:

  • Questions. “How do I get my family to eat their vegetables?”
  • Wishes and Hopes. “I’ve been dieting and working out for months now. I wish I could drop these last five pounds!”
  • Personal stories. “I used to be so intimidated to go to big networking events — I’m a huge introvert, and talking about myself with people I don’t know? That’s just the worst.”
  • Complaints. “I get so frustrated when I can’t figure out what’s going on with my computer. My kids just seem to ‘get it’ and I feel like a dinosaur sometimes!”

Now that you’ve seen a few examples of what problem language could look like, let’s check out where you might find it.

While there are a bunch of ways to see what your potential customers are saying, but you want to make the most of your limited research time and avoid the research rabbit hole.

Here are some of the best ways to listen in:

  1. Keyword search analysis. What are the terms people are actively searching for?
  2. Online platforms. You can find great examples of problem language on blogs, review sites, forums, and sites like Reddit and Quora.
  3. Social media. Eavesdrop on conversations on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and elsewhere. Find groups that are focused on the topics you’re thinking of teaching, or are frequented by the types of people you want to serve.
  4. Online surveys. If you have an audience of at least 1,000 people, you could consider sending them a survey to ask about their experiences and challenges. The reason a large audience is important here is so you get enough answers to be sure that your data isn’t misleading — 5 survey answers isn’t enough to give you a good feel for the market!

You might also spend a few minutes identifying popular content that helps people solve similar problems.

And most importantly: can you tell if people are currently paying to solve these kinds of problems? This could mean buying books, taking courses, or working with a coach.

Next, we move on to identifying the larger subject areas available for online course creators.

How to Find Profitable Topic Areas and Niches

What happens if you’re just getting started out, don’t have a bunch of clients you can ask about their struggles, or are thinking of heading in a new direction with your course?

Whatever the reason, you want to make sure there’s a larger market for what you’re planning to offer. This step will help you identify ideas that aren’t viable, saving you time and headaches.

To help you separate the bad ideas from the good, let’s take a look at one quick way to gauge audience interest in a particular topic.

Your best bet to tell whether a topic idea is viable is the Amazon Best Sellers list. At any given time, you’ll be able to see the top sellers in 30+ categories of books — which is a great indicator that these topics are interesting to a large audience.

To help you out with your research, we’ve compiled a list of 10 profitable categories found under “Best Sellers > Books” on Amazon for you to consider. We even went a step further and included five examples of more specific (fictional) course topics for each area to stimulate your thinking.

  1. Computers & Technology
    • Beginning Video Game Design
    • Creating Compelling Content with ChatGPT
    • UX / UI Design for Small Business Owners
    • 3D Printing and Makerspaces
    • Starting a Profitable Podcast
  2. Business & Money
    • Business Networking for Introverts
    • How to Stop Procrastinating and Get S**t Done
    • Start a Freelance Writing Business on a Shoestring
    • Establishing Authority through Content Creation
    • Marketing with Instagram
  3. Arts & Photography
    • Watercolor Painting for the Heart and Soul
    • Landscape Photography: 5 Essential Steps to Your Best Photos Ever
    • Mid-Century Modern Interior Design
    • Making Jewelry with Semi-Precious Stones
    • Knitting a Winter Wardrobe
  4. Health, Fitness & Dieting
    • Tapping into Your Ikigai for a Longer, Happier Life
    • Black Skin Care Essentials
    • Simple Plant-Based Eating on a Shoestring
    • Strength Training for Seniors
    • Mastering the Menopause Transition
  5. Education & Teaching
    • Homeschooling and Unschooling for Busy Moms
    • MCAT Mastery: The Only Study Course You’ll Ever Need
    • Best Teaching Strategies for Students on the Spectrum
    • The Joys and Challenges of Teaching Gifted and Talented Kids
    • Perfect Puppy Training
  6. Parenting & Relationships
    • Self-Care for First Time Moms (and Dads)
    • How to Grandparent Without Stepping on Anyone’s Toes
    • How to be the Adult When Your Parents are Acting Like Children
    • Divorcing Without the Drama
    • How to Survive Your Terrible In-Laws
  7. Religion & Spirituality
    • How to Live in the Now
    • 7 Biblical Love Principles
    • Applying the Teachings of Confucius in the Modern World
    • Living the Atheist Life Without Hurting People’s Feelings
    • God is All Around Us: How Nature Worship Sustains the Soul
  8. Humor & Entertainment
    • Write Your First Screenplay in 6 Weeks
    • Unleash the Superhero Inside You
    • So You Want to Do Stand-Up?
    • Learn Simple Magic Tricks and Amaze Your Friends
    • The Marvel Cinematic Universe and You: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About MCU
  9. Cookbooks, Food & Wine
    • 5 Simple Steps to Becoming a Wine Connoisseur
    • Smoothies for Health and Healing
    • Masterclass in Holiday Entertaining
    • Year-Round Bounty from Your Garden: Pro Tips for Canning and Preserving
    • The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: How to Shop, Prepare, and Enjoy Anti-Inflammatory Foods
  10. Crafts, Hobbies & Home
    • Joyful Scrapbooking
    • Designing Your Tiny (Dream) House
    • Transform Your Life with Gratitude Journaling 
    • How to Teach (Even an Old) Dog New Tricks
    • The Low-Stress Way to Plan the Perfect Wedding

Now that you’ve done some research and further identified what areas you could potentially focus on, let’s check in one more time with our would-be course creators.

Examples: Problem Language and Profitable Niches

Example 1: Debbie, the holistic health coach

Debbie heads straight to the Facebook group where she knows there are a lot of moms dealing with thyroid issues.

Some of the problem language she gathers looks like this:

  • Questions like, “What kinds of diets work for you? I feel like I’ve tried them all — paleo, keto, vegetarian, Mediterranean… Has anyone else had better luck with some other plan?”
  • Wishes and hopes like, “I see all the younger moms who are constantly up and down with their kids, playing and running, and I really wish I had that kind of energy and stamina. How do they do it?”

When Debbie looks at which areas of focus might be a good fit, she sees quickly that the larger topic her ideas fall under is “Health” — and Fitness, Holistic Healing, or Nutrition and Cooking might be a match.

Example 2: John, the marriage counselor

First, John tries to identify the places online where his new target audience spends time.

As he does this, he gets some initial validation about one of his assumptions: people don’t really like to complain about their relationship problems in public. He finds that couples put on the shiny, positive “social media face”, and save their complaints for closed discussions with friends and other places they feel more comfortable.

But he finds a few groups and forums that focus on cultivating great relationships. In these discussions, he begins to see problem language like this:

  • Personal stories / wishes like, “I wish I wasn’t too scared to do some preemptive counseling. My fiance and I have some pretty common issues, especially when it comes to money, but I can’t imagine even talking about this by myself much less together as a couple.”
  • Complaints like, “Sometimes I do get frustrated with my spouse. Even though our relationship is good overall, we don’t do a great job of sticking with our monthly budget. I try really hard to make sure that our paychecks will stretch to cover everything we need for the month, and then they go and splurge on something we don’t really need. Ugh.”

These include a Personal Finance course under the broader umbrella of “Money and Finance,” covering topics such as budgeting, and student loan refinancing; a course about Relationships under the broader category of “Personal Development,” or maybe a blending of the two — a course at the intersection of personal finance and relationships.

Example 3: Lynn and Tom, the small business owners

As part of her research, Lynn digs back through the notes that she took about each of the in-person trainings she facilitated. She and Tom also search through client emails and communications to see the types of questions their clients have asked over the years.

They find problem language like this:

  • Questions like, “Can you explain what the legalese in Section 3, paragraph 5 means, in English? I want to make sure I can explain it if the subcontractor asks.”
  • Complaints like, “I’m starting to feel like I can’t keep up. Back when it was just the machinery on site that I was responsible for, it was fine. But now with all these computers taking over some of the process, I feel like I need an on-site translator to help me understand how it all works.”

Since Lynn and Tom will hold internal trainings (and not market their courses in the same way as other course creators) the industry and niche are less important to understand. But their trainings likely fall under the general category of business — and they know their niche is helping construction companies manage their contracts.

Now that you’ve done your (brief) passive research, it’s time to take THE most important step of all: talk to people in your target market!

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Step 4: How to Win Supporters and (Positively) Impact Your Audience

Before you get started, let’s get something out in the open.

This step can be terrifying… or incredibly fun. In truth, it’s usually a combination of both.

Most people who are just getting their businesses off the ground – or looking to create courses for the first time – are nervous about putting their ideas out into the world.

And yes, it can be scary.

But it also gives you a chance to connect with your target audience. To understand them and their struggles in a really deep way. And to be able to serve them better than anyone else, because you GET IT.

Have customer conversations

So how about it? Are you ready to validate that your idea has legs?

Here’s how it’s done.

Reach Out to Your Target Audience

First, do what you can to clear any assumptions or preconceived notions you might have.

It’s easier said than done, but starting from a clean slate will help you create a course that is exactly what your audience wants and needs, without the idea getting clouded by what you think will help them.

Next, get in touch with people in your network.

Ideally, have these conversations face to face — whether in person or via video chat. If that’s not possible, try to have a phone conversation.

You want the chance to have a real-time conversation where you can ask clarifying questions and dig below the surface-level answers you’re likely to get at first.

For this step, there are two likely scenarios you’ll find yourself in:

  1. You have an established following and you’re seen as an expert in your space, or
  2. You have little to no following outside of your personal network, or you’re just getting established in a different topic area.

There’s nothing wrong with either of these scenarios! Not everyone can have a large, established email list, and nobody starts out with one.

Whatever your situation, there are three main ways you can do outreach at this stage:

  • Send an email to your list, if you have one.
  • Create posts on social media letting people know you want to speak with “people who are struggling with / experiencing [topic].”
  • Reach out directly to your personal network to see who can connect you with members of your target audience. The people you reach out to could be friends and family, work and business colleagues, friends of friends, etc.

Next, invite your target audience members to have one of two different kinds of conversations with you.

Have Conversations With Your Customers

Let’s look at the two types of conversations, and how you might approach them.

Informational Interviews: if you have a small or nonexistent audience, or are just starting out in your field, this is the approach to take. Informational interviews are informal conversations where you ask lots of questions about your target audience’s problems and desires.

Free coaching calls: if you have recognized expertise and authority (and a large following), this might be the approach you choose. During these free coaching calls, you get a chance to help and support your audience, and learn what questions and issues come up most frequently for them.

For both kinds of conversations, look for the statements that people make, the questions they ask, and the stories they tell. You want to learn how they see the problem you’re looking to solve, why they think it’s a problem at all, and what they believe the root causes are.

Here are five questions to ask during your informational interviews:

1. Tell me about your experiences with [topic]. This question allows you to hear about their whole experience, without suggesting they should see it as a problem.

2. What’s your biggest challenge with [topic]? Now you get to delve a little deeper, to see if there are challenges associated with their experience.

3. Why do you think it’s such a challenge? What causes the problem? This lets you see if they are aware of the root causes of the problem.

4. What solutions have you tried, and how did that work for you? This gives you great info about whether they care enough to try to solve the issue, and what kinds of things they have already tried.

5. If you could solve [challenge], what difference would it make for you? This lets them tell you how important (or not) solving the challenge is to them.

With each question, try to get to the “why” behind their answers. Be curious. You can use phases like, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.” Or, “What do you mean by [specific phrase]? Tell me more about that.”

Take notes for each of the conversations, or ask if you can record the call for your reference. This way, you can capture the exact words they use to describe their challenges.

When you wrap up each conversation, mention that you are also talking to a few more people who experience similar issues, and ask their permission to contact them again.

You might say, “Would it be okay for me to follow up, so I can let you know what I find out from the rest of my research, and what I come up with in terms of solutions?”

This leaves the door open for further conversation, if it turns out that your idea is something you want to move forward with.

If you’re ready to jumpstart your online course, then join our Hybrid Courses Bootcamp-FREE!

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And now that you have real-life validation that people are struggling with something you can help them solve, it’s time to make a decision!

How to Pick the Profitable Course Idea That Could Change Your Business

You’ve done your research, and talked to people in your target audience. But maybe you’re still not sure exactly which idea you should move forward with.

Let’s look at how to decide on the one course idea you want to try out.

Evaluate Your Experience

First, review the conversations you had with your target audience.

Did you see any patterns emerge, where multiple people expressed the same struggle or challenge, even if it was in slightly different words? Was there a common root cause to their struggles?

Next, see if there is urgency in the way they described their situation. This can be about both how quickly they want this issue solved, as well as how important it is for them to solve it.

If your audience could have and/or do anything to solve their problem, what would it be?

Are there results you can deliver, even if it’s just taking the first step toward solving their problem?

When you have a good idea of what your audience needs help with, you’ll then move on to research what other options they have available to help them solve their problem.

Spy On The Competition

This is a great time to do a little bit of snooping.

Please note: in general, our recommendation is not to over-focus on the competition. You need to be familiar with what’s out there on the market, but we advise against obsessing about others or trying to duplicate someone else’s success. Instead, develop your own style and approach.

That being said, it can be helpful to know who the competition is. Who are the companies (and people) that are solving the same problem that you want to address with your course?

Here are some questions to ask about the competition. Are they:

  • Doing anything special with their sales pages or website design?
  • Offering products (like courses), services (like coaching), or both?
  • Catering to the larger market or a smaller niche?
  • Charging a premium, or positioning themselves as the affordable option?

There are a few things to keep in mind as you’re doing your competitor observation:

1. A crowd is okay. Why? Because a crowded market is a strong indicator that there is demand for whatever it is you’re looking to sell.

2. Competitors aren’t always competitors. The people you think of as competitors might offer complementary services, which can mean future professional relationships within the market and future joint venture partnerships to promote your product or service.

3. Look for the opportunity to differentiate yourself. Keep this one simple. For each of the competitors, you need to be able to answer this question: Why should someone choose you over them?

And through the entire process it’s good to keep circling back to your own “why.”

Be of Service

Remember that this whole process is about serving people. Your market is the people that you’re looking to serve, and your course will help them create the outcome they desire.

What tangible results can you offer them? Which of your ideas delivers the biggest transformation, or solves the most urgent problem?

To narrow down your ideas, work from big to small. This allows you to hone in on an idea that solves a specific problem or challenge for a distinct subset of your market.

When you get really specific, you give your audience the chance to give you a clear answer (hopefully yes!) to whether your course is right for them.

Now that you’ve talked to your target audience and narrowed down your possible course ideas, let’s check in one last time with our prospective course builders.

Examples: Choose Your ONE Idea

Example 1: Debbie, the holistic health coach

Debbie reaches out to her email list with an offer of free coaching calls and has 6 people take her up on the offer. She then extends the offer to the Facebook group where she did her initial research, and schedules 3 more conversations.

From those coaching calls, she gets additional validation that two of the biggest issues her moms are dealing with are the nutrition and cooking struggles that come along with trying to manage their hypothyroidism.

Debbie decides to test out a course that focuses on How to Eat for Thyroid Health. Her plan is to include quick and simple recipes that the whole family will love, grocery shopping and cooking tips, and a lesson on nutrition for thyroid health.

Example 2: John, the marriage counselor

Since John doesn’t have a mailing list yet, he uses his personal and professional networks for outreach.

He writes up a few sentences about what he’s looking to do – he wants to connect with couples who want to improve their relationship with money – and makes the ask to get connected with anyone who fits that description. From this outreach, he gets a handful of people who provide an introduction to someone they know.

John holds informational interviews because this is the first time he’s exploring ideas outside of his current practice, and gets some really good feedback: most of the couples he talks to are very interested in learning more.

Based on the response, John decides to test out a small online finance course for couples, that will help them avoid arguments about money, have open conversations about their finances, and get in better financial shape (together).

Example 3: Lynn and Tom, the small business owners

After speaking to a handful of newer clients who just came on board, Lynn and Tom decide to run a test of what they’re calling “Construction Contracts 101” — where they’ll teach a lot of the general concepts Lynn has repeatedly covered in her in-person trainings.

They know there’s a learning curve ahead with transitioning what was in-person to an online format, but they’re excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Now that you’ve seen how this whole process might play out via our intrepid first-time course creators, there’s one final step — it’s something you may have noticed with the examples above.

It’s time to test your idea!

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Put Your Idea to the Test

This final step is where the rubber meets the road.

Instead of running off to create your course offering, we always recommend running a pilot to validate that the end result is something people will actually pay for.

Once you have a basic outline of what you want to cover, know what format the course will take, and decide on the price, you can go back to the people you talked to and pick up the conversation.

Pilot sales are the perfect validation that people want what you’re offering — they get a chance to pull out their wallets and pay you for your help!

Remember, this idea is not forever.

Just because you choose one topic for this course doesn’t mean you can’t run another pilot with a different idea. And if something doesn’t go exactly as planned, you get to iterate based on student feedback.

The piloting process is one of the best ways we’ve found to test out course ideas. In fact, Mirasee runs a pilot (or two) of every new course idea before we turn them into full courses.

So what are you waiting for? Now you’re ready to start creating!

Get Your Online Course Ideas Into the World

Before you go, it’s time to celebrate how far you’ve come.

You identified your expertise, passion, and access. You figured out who your ideal student is, and what makes them tick. And you researched your audience — both through a bit of passive snooping, and also by having in-depth conversations.

And then you took what you learned, compared it to the current online market, and narrowed down to the profitable online course ideas your audience might actually buy.

With all this work out of the way, it’s time to put your ideas to the test and run your first pilot.

But maybe you’re still not sure what the next steps are, or you’d like a bit of guidance as you start to test the waters of course creation.

If you want more clarity on your next steps, you’re invited to join our Hybrid Courses Bootcamp, where you’ll learn everything you need to know to successfully create and sell your online course.

Let’s Start Building Your Online Course!

In our FREE Hybrid Courses Bootcamp, we’ll walk you through how to transform your knowledge and expertise into a profitable online course… one your students will love.
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2 thoughts on How to Find Profitable Online Course Ideas in 2024


Thanks Jessica.

This write up has been extremely informative.

Please do you have one speaking to how to market and launch your course profitably.

Warm regards,

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