Published Podcast Ep. 20 | How to Launch an Online Learning Course with Stacy Ennis

One question we often get here at Greenleaf is, "Should I launch an online learning course?" For many, it can be a great way to further monetize their book's content. But how do you know if it's right for you? To help us out, we've enlisted Stacy Ennis, an author, creative consultant, and strategic wordsmith. Stacy launched her course Finish That Book! recently and will walk us through the steps she took to do so. 

Note: 3 sample chapters from our host Tanya Hall's upcoming book, Ideas, Influence, and Income are available for download below. 

2:00 Why don't you start by telling us why you decided to create an online learning course? 

  • First, I felt like I had this information that I was sharing over and over to clients and potential clients (who are would-be authors), and it would take a large amount of time to share this information with them. I thought there had to be a more efficient way. 
  • I also felt like I had a gap in my platform. I had a book, I blog, I speak publicly, but I didn't have a course. So I wanted to jump in and explore a new way of delivering content. 

3:45 What type of resources did you look at when exploring creating an online course? 

  • I brought in a business partner with more technical knowledge than I have to help split the effort. 
  • We decided to use a platform called Course Cats so that we could white label the course and brand it to fit in line with my primary website. The only downside is that you can't integrate it into an existing Wordpress site, so we did need to create a new website for it. It does use Wordpress, so for those with Wordpress websites, the backend will look familiar. 
  • What was most important to me was having full ownership of my content and being able to brand the website how I wanted. 
  • Pricing models were another concern. Even though one service may seem less expensive, transaction fees can add up. So it's important to look at those fees, as well. 

8:00 How did you approach designing the curriculum? Was it different than outlining a book? 

  • I write about 2.5 books per year, so I'm very comfortable with outlining. When I started thinking about the course, I started with a really broad scope. And through the process of outlining, I narrowed it down and focused the content, which is very similar to the process for getting started on a book. 
  • I also went out and asked colleagues in the industry about what they thought people needed most. Stephanie Chandler, who runs the Nonfiction Authors Association, said that the biggest thing people struggle with was productivity and getting the book done. I had gotten that feedback elsewhere, which helped me narrow it. 
  • Then, when it came time to create the content, I wrote out the content while also building slides. I used Canva to create both the slides and the workbook I provided to students. 
  • I also chose to include some additional resources and templates that would be helpful to students. When building out your own course, it's helpful to think about how best to serve the people you want to serve. Courses can be much less robust, while still effective. There's no right answer for what to include in your course. 
  • Before deciding to create a course, people should also consider if an online course is the best way to communicate the content. In my case, I was having these conversations with clients via Skype, so it was the right fit for transferring that content to a course. 

13:00 How long did it take to complete the course? 

  • It took about six months, but I think it could be done faster. I had a lot on my plate at the time. 
  • Writing the curriculum took 2-3 months of really focused writing, editing, proofreading, etc. I wanted to make sure that the content was great but also that the copy was refined. Then came recording. Then came editing. 
  • There are a lot of other steps to creating a course that you don't think about at first. 

15:00 Once you have built the course, you need to promote it. What did you do to promote your course? 

  • I started by creating a couple of free resources, which then led the people that downloaded them into an email funnel. I used ConvertKit from there to stay in touch with them. The free resource I created was a guide to answering how much publishing a book will cost, and I decided on that because it was the number one question I was getting. 
  • I also used social media to promote the course and emailed my network to get the word out. 
  • I receive several inbound leads from people who may not be a good fit to work with one-on-one. So it's nice to have a course to still serve them and to do it in a way that's profitable for me. 

17:45 Any other advice you'd like to share? 

  • Similar to writing a book, I'd say to get real about the amount of work that goes into it but to not be scared of it. 
  • They should also really plan out the process, create goals and a schedule. Then find someone to hold you accountable, whether it's someone who's taking on part of the work, editing your videos, etc. By doing so, you're committing financially to deadlines, which can be a huge driver to getting it done. 

About Stacy Ennis: 

Stacy Ennis is a creative consultant, success coach, speaker, and writer, as well as the cofounder of Next Level, a women’s leadership training program. Her background includes leading as the former executive editor of Healthy Living Made Simple, a Sam’s Club magazine that reaches around 11 million readers, as well as serving as the longtime ghostwriter for a Nobel Prize winner in medicine. Stacy has written or edited dozens of books, including Growing Influence (forthcoming September 2018, Greenleaf) and The Editor’s Eye. Her TEDx talk, “How to Raise Brave Kids,” has been viewed thousands of times by people across the world. She has a master’s in professional writing and editing from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor’s in writing from Boise State University.

Download 3 Free Sample Chapters from Ideas, Influence, and Income.