[UPDATED: AUG 2022]
You have finally narrowed down an idea for your first online course but if there was not only that one thing in the way! Where do you start? While creating an online course can be such a rewarding experience, it usually starts with information overwhelm. And if there is one thing that I’ve learned over the years as a course creator, starting small with a mini course will ultimately lead to success, especially if you’re just getting started with sharing your passion with an online course.
A tested concept I swear by is LESS IS MORE! And it’s certainly something to remember when it comes to mini courses. The short version of traditional online courses can be powerful tools for solopreneurs not only to get started in the course creation process but also help grow your audience at the same time.
Below, I’ll dive into exactly what is a mini course and the steps on how you can create a mini course that’s profitable and impactful. But let’s start with the basics first.
What is a mini course?
When people refer to a mini course, chances are they are talking about a short online course that takes two hours or less to complete. It covers a hyper-specific topic and is often used as a teaser for a larger course or field of study aka your expertise.
It might be repurposed content you have created in the past or it might be a module from a larger online course that you plan to release in the future or have already published.
For instance, let’s take one of my flagship courses, Website in Week, which teaches solopreneurs not only how to design their own website in WordPress but also includes all the details about branding, post-launch tasks, ways to drive traffic to their website, and so much more.
So naturally, as an introductory offer, I have decided to create DIY Website Starter Kit, a free mini course that covers my #Layout2Launch method, a three step process to planning, designing and launching your WordPress website without tech overwhelm.
But why mini courses?
Fact is, there are several benefits to starting your course creation journey with a smaller offer like mini course. But before you get started, it’s best to be clear why you are making it in the first place. This will help shape what you create. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I be sure that my course is going to be profitable?
- How can I find people to sign up or buy my course?
- How can I start making money with my online course?
- What’s the best topic to cover in my online course?
- How am I going to turn my passion into an online course?
With solid understanding why creating an online course is the right choice for your business, let’s take a look at some of the reasons for starting out with a mini course.
Benefits & Goals of Mini Course
Now that you know what a mini course is, it’s only fair to look at benefit you can get from creating one and also what goals you should focus along the way.
1. Grow Online Audience
For course creators whose biggest concern is finding and growing an online audience, a mini course is an incredible tool for doing so, especially if offered for free and used as a lead magnet, or offered to students who pre-pay for the full course.
A mini course can earn you recognition as an expert for a very specific topic. And in other words, a very specific topic can support a business in a larger niche. Let’s look at my Web Mentor Program caters to the different needs of my audience in their DIY web design journey.
2. Narrow Down Course Topic
Mini courses help gauge demand for a topic before investing time and resources into a much larger course. If an audience buys or enrolls in the mini course, it’s likely a good sign they’re ready to purchase the full product.
3. Start Making Money
If a course creator is starting from scratch, just gaining a web presence, or is starting to think about how to translate their passion or content into an online course, the process and timeline can be daunting.
That’s where creating a mini course can shrink down that startup time and produce a profit quickly.
Pro Tip: Creators should repurpose content or choose a bite-sized topic they know like the back of their hand to start enrolling students in their mini course. I’m talking hours or days to gather enrollments, rather than weeks.
4. And Again, Less is More
The best way is to start small to eventually grow big. As a new course creator you may not want to jump headfirst into a full curriculum. Biting off a smaller portion of a good idea for a mini course will help to find your voice and slowly build your business up.
Free vs Paid Mini Course
Maybe the most important question as a solopreneur is how do you leverage a mini course to grow a business and what to charge or not to charge?
Newbies without an audience: A free course is an incentive for attracting people to sign up for emails prior to becoming customers. Use wording like “for a limited time” to drive urgency and convince more people to sign up while they can.
Newbies with an audience: Charging is a great way to see if the public will put their money into an idea. Start with a price range between $10 – $50 after all you’ll be offering only a tiny portion of your expertise in your mini course. And as they say, even small change can add up to big bills in the long run.
Course creators with existing course looking to test a new topics: Assuming there’s already a robust email list and clientele, charging to explore new courses is an excellent way to “test the waters” and see if an audience is ready to expand their learnings or even shift directions with you.
In the end, pricing a mini course comes down to:
- What are you comfortable charging?
- What the audience is willing/able to pay?
- How does it compare to other courses?
So, there you have it. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to pricing your mini course. You are the boss and decide what your passion or knowledge is worth to you.
And always remember, if you start with a free mini course you can always charge for it later if you feel it’s better for your overall business … indeed the beauty of being your own boss!
STEP BY STEP to Create Your Mini Course
One piece of advice before you set out to create a mini course: Keep it short!
Often I’ve seen mini courses that could be stand alone products that can sell for hundreds of dollars. Keep the mini course small, simple, and short. Consider following this formula:
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
For those who have content already: A blogger, a YouTuber, a podcaster, an Instagrammer, etc. may have all the content needed to create a mini course and already have an audience. In this case, take a look at analytics to understand which topics may be good for a mini course.
Ask yourself …
❏ Which content is getting the most traffic?
❏ Which content is getting the most engagement?
❏ Which content is doing the best in Google search?
❏ Which content is driving the most new people to your email list?
For those who are educators or trainers: Those in this position may be able to take a tiny slice of a training series or talk and break it down into a mini course fairly easily.
Ask yourself …
❏ Which talks or training events are the most popular?
❏ Which ones get the best attendance and spark conversations?
❏ Which ones are people willing to pay for?
For those who run a service business: Consultants who provide the same services to different clients over and over again, may also be all set to create a mini course. The key is in breaking out a very small (but valuable) sliver of the whole picture.
Ask yourself …
❏ What is one tiny tidbit that clients find incredibly valuable?
❏ What projects do you have to turn down because of bandwidth?
❏ Do you often turn down clients because they can’t afford your rates?
❏ Are there any services you don’t want to do any more…but keep getting asked about?
For those starting from square one: Those who have been the go-to of friends and family members for the same topic over and over or those who have unique training or experiences might be positioned perfectly to create a course too.
Ask yourself …
❏ Do friends and family ask you for advice on the same topic over and over again?
❏ Do you have any special training or experience?
❏ Do you find yourself helping friends and family with the same tasks over and over (and over)?
❏ Do you have any content you’ve been meaning to write?
After answering these questions, you may surprise yourself and realize you have already more content ready for your mini course than what you initially thought.
But keep in mind, less is more, so don’t go crazy assembling your mini course just yet.
Step 2: Identify Your Audience
Course creators shouldn’t be tempted to jump right into content creation. Scoping out and identifying their target audience are keys to success. One of the main ways to start this is to identify a particular group or community you’re passionate about and want to serve.
One way to test this is to write and promote separate blog posts targeting those audiences and see which one garners the most attention and engagement.
Another way to dig deeper is good ol’ research. Type the term into the search bar in Google and browse hashtags on other social media channels like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Are there Quora questions on the topic? What are the answers like? This will give an idea of the communities your topic appeals to.
Pro Tip: Head over to course platforms like Udemy and see what courses similar to your topic are already available online.
Of course, if you discover a course already exists on your passion topic, there’s no need to panic. Simply examining the existing course to see if it’s targeting the same audience and if it’s doing so adequately can help determine if a new course will be successful. Identify what angles are missing and what new opportunities can be improved.
Just remember: It’s always better to create a product or service so perfectly designed for a specific target audience that it’s an absolute no-brainer for them to buy it. Trying to appeal to everyone dilutes the course’s message and makes the product less appealing.
Now tell me, are you clear on your target audience yet? Can you describe your audience in 1 or 2 words? If not, make it more specific because the clearer you are on who you are serving the more success your mini course will have.
Step 3: Provide Transformation
The best way to do this is to solve a real problem. Think about it this way: The target audience has a problem, and this course can solve it. Let’s take the Website in Week course mentioned earlier that helps female solopreneurs who enjoy DIY approach in their business to learn now to design and manage their web presence without all the tech overwhelm.
Now your turn, think of your course idea and answer the following questions:
❏ Does your course solve a real problem or frustration?
❏ How will your students be different after they take your course?
Again, it all comes down to keeping things specific and to the point by providing your students with small chunks of knowledge that can eliminate their pain points one step at a time.
Step 4: Course Outline
The very best way to do this is to take a look at the transformation students should experience through the course and work backwards. Yes, start at the end result your students desire! And while already planning your course, consider what type of content you want to use to support the learning journey.
When bringing this into reality for DIY Website Starter Kit mini course, I wanted my students to be able to get started with their website design process by mastering:
- How to plan a web presence like a designer
- How to design a DIY website in WordPress
- What to do after the website is launched
Of course, each of the sections was loaded with many smaller tasks one needs to know (and you’re welcome to sign up for the DIY Website Starter Kit for FREE) but we are here to help you come up with your very own mini course idea so again ask yourself:
What are all the things your students need to know to achieve the desired transformation?
Step 5: Find Your Focus
I know you may have come up with a super long list now of must-knows for your course topic. The next step for any course creator after making their list is to shrink that list even smaller.
The bottom line: Whatever topic is chosen, it should stand alone. In other words, even if it’s the only course a student ever takes, it provides so much value they become a fan.
So, as mentioned before, less content but packed with solid knowledge will be the sweet spot for your mini course. And guess what, if you already have some content available, now it’s the time to check your blog, archives or however you store all the know-how and get all the goods that match your mini course topic.
But in order to do so, first decide which method of delivery is best for each module: is it a video, a PDF, just a text lesson? Below is a friendly reminder of what is best suitable for your min course.
Video content is best for:
– Sharing ideas and concepts in three minutes or less
– Screencasts and walkthroughs, where students need to see the exact steps
Downloadable content is best for:
– Cheat sheets, workbooks, and other resources
– Process documents like spreadsheets and other organizational tools
Text content is best for:
– Explaining a concept in more detail
– Showing step-by-step info
– Linking to other resources on the web
Time to Launch Your Mini Course
You’ve created your mini course and are ready for people to sign up but wait … something is missing!
A place to host your course and of course a sales page to promote.
Over the years, I have created courses on various platforms and even self-hosted some courses on my WordPress website. I won’t go into details but if you are interested in learning more head over to my tech review for the latest course platforms.
Before signing up, one piece of advice, make sure to consider your long term goals as course creator so you won’t have to move your courses from one platform to another as it’s not difficult but can be very time consuming. So do your research or connect with me if you have any tech questions related to online courses platforms.
But no matter where you’ll host your mini course, you’ll need:
Course Sales Page
This is where people will be able to sign up for your free mini course or purchase access. Most course platforms already have drag and drop functionality for sales pages as part of their setup but if you’re self-hosting your online course, feel free to check out how to create your own sales pages in WordPress.
Email Service Provider
Course creators will be able to use their mini course as a list-building tool, so it’s a wise time to start building your email list. There are maybe different providers that will walk you through their setup process. After years with MailChimp, I have recently moved to CovertKit and love it.
Although maybe not as powerful a marketing tool as an email list, social media accounts can be great ways to drive traffic to your course sales page. Consider Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest to market your course.
Pro Tip: Schedule your posts ahead with a social media automation tool like Planoly to stay ahead of the game and rock the web.
Bonus: Mini Course Marketing
There are many ways to launch a marketing strategy around an online course, but some of the most successful ways for mini courses aren’t all that complicated.
Write for other blogs featuring a topic covered in the mini course and target the same audience. Before writing, consider if the blog even takes guest posts, if their audience is big enough to offer a high conversion rate, and most importantly, if they link and credit the post properly to drive business.
Organic social media marketing
This means linking the mini course sales page in any and every social media bio, posting frequently, engaging with the audience, and sharing related content.
Research influencers, bloggers, podcasters, Instagrammers, YouTubers, etc. who run powerful platforms related to the course. Offer them access for free and ask if they’re interested in sharing the mini course with their followers should they enjoy it.
Course creators who already speak at or have in-person classes can leverage those appearances to drive new customers to their course. Another option is to actually test the content you want to include in your online courses during a workshop or in-person event.
This may not be the way to go for those just getting started, but i willing to invest time and energy might see a benefit paying for targeted ads. But my recommendation is to first go the organic route before spending money, especially if you are unsure how it’s done right.
Small Steps to big rewards
No matter if you’re a newbie, established course creator or simply interested in exploring course creation options further, it’s important to do all the “leg work” before diving into creation mode.
Start small with a mini course to test the waters, and allow your product suite to grow along the way as you gain confidence and increase your following. Listen to your students’ feedback in regards to your mini course and make the changes before adding more content.
Because your end goal for your mini course or flagship program should always be for your students to walk away with lots of new knowledge and that is only possible with a carefully curated (and not overwhelming) online course that is regularly updated with the latest information related to your topic.
If you follow the tutorial above, you’ll be well on your way to starting your course creation journey. And while it may be a lot of work, it should be fun to share your passion with the world.
No COurse, No problem – get started today!
And if you don’t have an online course yet or thinking of turning your passion into profit with an online course, below are some recommended resources for you to get started:
- My Favorite WordPress Hosting Deal
- My Favorite Course Hosting Platform
- My Favorite Social Media Scheduler
- My Favorite Tool for Graphic Design
- My Favorite Email Marketing Platform
- Join Course Creator Bootcamp Course
- Watch the Content2Course Masterclass
- Or Download Course Creator Roadmap
And if all this is still too much hustle for you but you’re ready to turn your passion into profit in 2022, join the Course Creator Challenge to launch your own course in no time.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2021 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. In addition, I believe in transparency. If you use my referral links above, then I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you.