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How to Validate Your Online Course (Before You Create It)

So you have finally decided to create an online course. You buy all the equipment, research how to put the course together, and sit down at the computer with your cup of mojo ready to rock.

But then you run into a problem. You start to hear this one nagging question that starts at the back of your brain and edges its way forward. "Will this course actually sell? Are people going to be interested enough to spend the money and time to learn from me?"

Before you hit publish, and even before you start recording, make the time to do some initial validation.

Think of it this way. If you were going to marry the girl/guy of your dreams, would you propose on your first date? Some of you might. And it may even work out. But most of you won't. Why? Because you are not yet sure if the relationship is going to work out. So what do you do? You conduct some basic research. You spend the time and effort to get to know your choice and you make a decision based on experience.

The same can be said for making an online course. Before you throw all your chips on the table, take a minute to validate your course choice. Course validation can be broken down into 5 simple steps.

1. Search Course Marketplace

A simple way to quickly validate your idea is to search course marketplaces. Popular course marketplaces include:
Now you can actually search within each website or you can do a quick google search by typing the following.

Topic + Forum
Topic + Tutorial
Topic + Course

You are actually looking for plenty of results. If you find an area where nothing has been said about your topic it means that people are most likely not looking for solutions in that area. You then would take a list of ideas that you like and try to make your own spin on a particular topic.  

2. Use Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner will help you discover how many monthly searches your topic generates and how much competition you will face for those keywords. You are looking for keywords with at least 1,000 monthly searches and low competition. Here is an example.
 
Let's say you want to build a course on how to fish. You would first type the phrase into Google. You're looking for at least 10,000 total results. Fishing clearly has more than 10,000 results, which means there is plenty of interest.


Using related searches at the bottom of the page I would then head to the planner and plug in a couple of ideas.



I would then sort those ideas by average monthly searches. I would choose something that I am interested in that also has plenty of monthly searches and low competition. Simple.

3. Gather Feedback

In this world of constant technology, it can be easy to forget the people that actually use the technology. If you really want to know what people are looking for, just ask them. There are many ways to gather feedback:
  • Ask potential customers questions
  • Conduct surveys, online and in person
  • Search databases like Quora
  • Search trade publications, academic institutions, and government resources
The goal here is to contact at least 100 people and learn what it is they want from your course. What questions do they have? What problems do they need to answer? What are their goals in life? What do they hope to accomplish?

4.  Presell Your Idea

 To a lot of people, especially artists, the idea of preselling a course might seem shady. But in reality, this is one of the best ways to prove that your course will work. If people are willing to pay for your course in advance you know you have a valid idea. Ideally getting at least 10-20 sales during this phase will give you the proof you need to move forward.

Preselling gives you funding and confidence to complete your project. It also gives people a reason to buy. Sell your course for 50% off until you actually launch the course.

5. Crowdfunding 

 Sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo all allow you to post your project and receive money from donors online. It's a little harder to run a successful crowdfunding campaign than it is to presell, but still a useful option for many.

What do you do to make sure your idea is good enough to build a new course from scratch ?

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