How I Made $2,100 from an Online Course before Creating It (Part 2: Pick an Idea)

A few months ago, I made $2,100 by selling my online course before spending a single dime or minute creating it. This is part 2 of a series of posts that show you how I did it. Check out Part 1: What you Need if you haven’t read the first post.

The next step in selling a course before you create it is to pick an idea.

This step is probably the most crucial out of all the other steps because if you do it the wrong way, you will fail.

More importantly, if you do it the right way, you will guarantee two things:

  1. That you will make some money
  2. That your time and effort will not be wasted

But how do you do it the right way and pick a winning idea?

Here are 4 guidelines that will help you out.

How to Pick a Winning Idea For Your Course


1) Pick something you love

If you’re not passionate about your idea, then you’ll get bored of it and drop out after a few weeks. You don’t have to be head over heels in love with the topic you choose, but you have to be at least really interested in it. Oh and “loving your idea” and “loving the money that might come from your idea” are two completely different things – the latter doesn’t count 😉


2) Pick something you have skills in

Picking an idea that you already have skills in will make life easier for you when you create the course. It will also make it easier for you to sell the course after it’s done because you will have the credibility in that space. If you’re a doctor, then picking a course topic like “How to conduct CPR for infants” gives you a higher chance of success than a topic like “Arts and crafts for 3 year olds.”


3) Pick something that has a paying market

This is probably the most important tip out of all four. If you pick something that already has a paying market, you will almost guarantee that you will make money from it. Try to look for a similar course idea that a person or company is already selling online. Don’t be discouraged by the fact a similar course already exists – this is actually a good sign because that means someone out there is already paying for a similar product. And don’t worry about any competition – you’ll be able to differentiate yourself on marketing and uniqueness (more about that later). Just focus on finding an existing paying market before you move on.


4) Pick something that is related to your field

If you’re a full-time employee or a full-time student, then pick something related to your field of work or study. This is going to help you SO much down the line when you create and sell your course. The primary benefit you’ll get is from “double-dipping” – where you can use the course materials you’ll create in your job or studies for extra credit (and vice versa). In general, picking something that’s related to your field is a good starting point because it’ll also be something you love and something you have skills in.


How I Picked my Own Idea

Here’s how I used those four guidelines to pick my own course idea, which was about managing and influencing virtual teams:

1) Pick something you love

The topic of managing and influencing virtual teams was something I was quite passionate about. I had been managing remote workers for over 10 years, and I was always intrigued by the concepts of influence and persuasion. So choosing a topic that combined all those areas was very exciting for me.


2) Pick something you have skills in

As a senior program manager, a project management professional (PMP), and an ex-management consultant, I already had the skills needed to teach the course. I also gave a few lectures and talks about managing virtual teams effectively in the past, so I was covered on that front.


3) Pick something that has a paying market

I knew there was a paying market as soon as I came up with the idea for the course because I had personally attended a few courses in that domain. However, for additional confirmation, I did a quick search on Google for “managing virtual teams courses” and saw a ton of them being sold online.


4) Pick something that is related to your field

Managing virtual teams was right up my alley given that I did that for a living (I still do). Moreover, I was also a part-time master’s student pursuing a degree in general management, which also helped in double-dipping between my course materials and my class assignments.

After running my idea through those four filters and getting a good score on them, I felt comfortable moving forward to the next step.

I highly suggest you do the same thing with your idea before you move on. EVERYTHING you do later on is going to depend on choosing the right idea, so make sure you choose wisely.


The Next Step

The next step after picking your idea is to survey people about their pain points and to create a free resource for them. Click to read Part 3: Survey & Freebie.