Have you thought about creating an online course? Are you wondering what it's like to offer training that serves hundreds, if not thousands of people across the globe?
It's actually pretty great.
I know a lot more people are looking into this line of work, especially right now, with the pandemic going on.
I've been in the fortunate position of running an online training company for nearly two decades. I was able to quit my job early on and love setting my own flexible hours, getting to spend more time with my kids, and working toward my goals which involve serving people as best I can.
But I'm just one person. So I thought I'd ask other online course creators what the experience has been like for them. Here are the answers I got …
1. Katie Kimball
~Katie is the Founder of the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse.
“I founded the #1 bestselling online kids cooking course (Kids Cook Real Food) and am super passionate about teaching kids to cook (knives included)! In our online video cooking course and knife skills courses, over 12,000 families from all over the world are enjoying the healthy food their kids are learning to make. In our courses, we teach kids to use knives and cut up fruits and vegetables, and I've found through the years that cooking not only builds responsibility but confidence in themselves.
Through connecting with their food and families, cooking is the perfect venue to teach many life skills we want our kids to learn, from generosity to humor to problem-solving. I'm a former Catholic school teacher that went from making $24,000 a year to accidentally building a business that pulled in over $53,000 in a week.
My husband was able to quit his job and create his own business (that supports me and my colleagues) and we became an entre-family. Our kids work in the business, our teenage son is learning to edit videos and wants to be an entrepreneur when he grows up, and he's well on his way already at age 14 – having co-authored a cookbook that will be released this April! I am also able to help quite a handful of other stay-at-home moms earn income for their families (as members of my team).”
2. Christine Quigless
~Christine is the founder of qralce, an online Bootcamp for the ACT and SAT.
“I created our qralce’s Standardized Prep Online School to meet my student’s needs. My years of research helped me determine how/why my students get exceptionally high scores. Repeated incremental actions and feeding of information in small doses had a much greater effect on my students’ Test-Day performance than 6 to 8 months of 2x/week 1-on-1 tutoring.
Habits allow qralce students to surmount the stresses and anxieties that come with taking a “big deal” test like the ACT and SAT. That's because students didn’t have to make the conscious choice to use their strategies. Instead, they just had to show up and do what they had done in practice on a daily basis. The online courses give students the freedom to do their prep work when their schedule allows. For many students: elite athletes, school leaders, elite artists, professional artists, homeschoolers, this freedom meant that they don't have to stop their lives for these tests.
The online courses have not changed the hours I devote to my work, they are just a different kind of work. Where I used to spend my entire day working with students nationwide and internationally in one-on-one online sessions, here is how I spend my days now:
- 1/3 creating marketing tools and outreach opportunities,
- About 1/3 working with my students to figure out how to make the online course better,
- Another 1/3 building out or project managing the tools and devices that will make the course more effective.
It is a different way of life, and I love the effect it has had in all departments of my life!”
3. Matt Hugg
~Matt is the founder of Nonprofit.Courses.
“A few years ago I started as a course creator. I now do that, and also promote other course creator's work through my website.
The #1 way it's impacted my life is by putting me in touch with a broad community of experts in my field, from all over the USA, and increasingly, the world. The people I meet – usually virtually – all have a passion for learning, whether it is as a student or an instructor. Some of my clients are corporations who want to connect with nonprofits for sales or corporate social responsibility. Others are people who want to start nonprofits. Many are nonprofit staff who want to sharpen or keep up their skills. I find it motivating to work with people who want to help others. It makes me want to help them.”
4. Stacy Caprio
~Stacy is the founder of Her.CEO.
“Creating my course has helped establish me as a leader in my space. I've had people find my course online and then reach out to me asking if I would like to do paid consulting work with them.
When people see you as an expert in a particular space, which creating a course can facilitate, they are more likely to trust you and want to work with you on a paid coaching or consulting basis.”
5. Brook Sheehan
~Brook is the founder of Cup O' Sugar Inc where she offers useful apps and app training.
“Prior to launching my online course, I talked about it a lot but never took action towards making it happen. After months of feeling like an “impostor” (something I still wrestle with today at times), I got the courage to put in the work. It took 90 days to get everything completed from start to finish but it has been worth it all.
Launching this course has given me confidence, has brought about other opportunities in my life and has allowed me to still work as a chiropractor by day. The hardest part of the whole process is figuring out where or how to start. Once you get in motion the rest follows along. Take that step, make that course, inspire others through education.”
6. Gems Collins
~Gems is an Online Course Project Manager, Business Coach, CEO, and Founder of Gems Collins LLC.
“Since starting my online business as a business coach and online course project manager, I have been able to reach and support a number of businesses in multiple different industries. I have gained a vast amount of experience which has resulted in much higher confidence and an ability to help more people based on what I learn from each project.
My online business has also provided me a huge amount of flexibility which, as a military spouse, is essential in order to deal with all the unknowns! I set my own schedule, I take time off if I need it, and regardless of where we move to, my business moves with me seamlessly and my clients are not impacted in any way.
Having an online business has given me the career satisfaction I always crave but struggled to find as a military spouse. It has given me a real sense of purpose by helping so many business owners in need and allowed me to live the lifestyle I have always wanted!”
7. Ryan Reger
~Ryan is the founder of ryanreger.com.
“I'm addicted to the success stories in my community! There's no greater feeling than when someone approaches me at a conference and tells me that because of my course and the community we've created they've been able to quit their job and be home with their family. So to me, the biggest impact is the lives I've been blessed with the opportunity to touch in a positive way.”
8. Isaac Prentice
~Isaac is the Vice President of Strategic Development at Grace Prentice Education.
“In 2017, while running my kinesthetic education company in Miami, I completed research showcasing that the vast majority of learners today are hands-on students. The challenge was that the education industry hadn’t yet fully adapted to this monumental change.
Come 2019, in Raleigh, NC we started Grace Prentice Education to bring on-demand learning directly to the students. Using videos that maximize learning outcomes and are built directly to fit user attention span, we have been able to impact the lives of so many individuals and expand their personal knowledge basin. Being able to work from around the globe and create meaningful opportunities for individuals to expand their personal abilities has given me the life of travel and purpose that I have always desired.”
9. Daniel Feiman
~Daniel is the Managing Director of Build It Backwards℠.
“I left commercial banking 24 years ago to make more of a difference with my clients. The majority of my training practice has been face-to-face over the years with a small amount of virtual training. Much of the online facilitation has not been interactive; more webinars than participation programs. The COVID-19 changed all that. Suddenly I had to change.
I reworked my outlines & content to be more applicable to the online vehicle & the reception has been encouraging as well as surprising. Most of the initial response has been from international clients so I teach in the evenings (my time) to accommodate the clients’ preference for mornings ( their time). This has freed up the middle of my day for other activities, including reading on the patio. A real win-win.”
10. Bev Feldman
~Bev is the founder of Linkouture where she helps beginner jewelry makers.
“I'm a jewelry designer and metalsmith, and at the end of 2019, I had a massive pivot in my business. After nearly seven years selling my jewelry online and in person, I closed up my shop and switched my business model to selling online courses for beginning jewelry makers.
A huge reason that I decided to make this change was that I did not want to spend the last quarter of the calendar year focused on my business, which is when those in retail do the majority of their sales. I wanted to be able to have a more passive income stream that was spread out throughout the year.
Selling my online courses has enabled me to move away from spending hours creating products that have to be made over and over again, to making money from something that I had to work on once. I could sell it over and over again without constantly having to work to replace my inventory. I found myself more relaxed and engaged with my family the last few months in the year than I had been in years, to the point that even my parents noticed how calmer I seemed.”
11. Ellen Yin
~Ellen is the founder of Ellen Yin Media LLC.
“I decided to expand my business beyond one-on-one “done for you services” with a digital product so I could scale quicker without as much overhead, with the ultimate goal of freeing up more of my time to work “on” my business instead of “in” it. I also really love the relational aspect of group coaching and building a community, so that's why I opted for creating a membership.
My membership, Cubicle to CEO, helps service-based entrepreneurs use a step-by-step system to attract consistent clients and make their first $10K month, WITHOUT a large following, posting more, or expensive ads.
Since shifting my focus to growing my membership, I've been able to make the same revenue in my business while going from juggling 10 agency clients to just 3 agency clients.
I have so much more time to focus on high-level strategy and vision building for my company now, rather than spending all my time on the day to day tasks.”
12. Anantha Krishnan Sreeraman
~Anantha is a founding partner of Spark Databox.
“In the year 2019, professionally my partner and I designed a website named SparkDatabox.com, an online learning startup that offers online courses and certifications on advanced technologies like Big Data, Cloud Computing, Business Intelligence, Programming and Scripting, and more.
We are two individuals who were really fed-up with our regular 9-5 work. So we wanted to switch to a different job and ended up at a software training institute just to waste money. I am a Data Engineer and my friend Vinoth, who a Data Architect decided to start our own software training. Our only goal was to provide quality training at a low cost.
Starting my own business gave me a lot of confidence. I can support my family with the income from my business. Plus I don't have to worry about losing my job during this recession season. I have financial security now which I didn't have previously.
13. Lucy Kelly
“My online course teaches handmade sellers on how to bring their offline (craft/art show) businesses online. Since pretty much every art and craft fair for the foreseeable future has been canceled, my course has been essential in helping artists get their businesses moved online and set up to sell. Having a digital course has allowed me the flexibility to work at home and care for my 4-year-old daughter (which would have otherwise been extremely difficult as she attends a preschool that is closed right now).
This type of business has also allowed me to contribute significantly to the artist community: I am not able to individually coach everyone, but with the course, I am able to get them the resources they need to be able to set up a Shopify website without overwhelm and frustration.”
14. Sam Williamson
~Sam is the owner of CBD Diablo.
“When we first started our business, we realized there were quite a few hurdles that we had to overcome in order to get up and running. We also realized that lots of entrepreneurs in our industry were facing the same hurdles, so we partnered with another company and devised a short course on how to start a business in our industry.
Since publishing the course, we have received hundreds of emails from people thanking us for our valuable information, and it has opened up a huge number of business opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise had. It also led to interviews on podcasts and in blogs, further helping the business grow.”
15. Laura Briggs
~Laura is The Freelance Coach and founder of laurateachesyou.com.
“I sell multiple courses through my store at www.laurateachesyou.com In addition to generating revenue beyond my freelance services, it allowed me to recapture my love of teaching. I burned out teaching middle school while I was in the midst of a Ph.D. program to become a professor. For years I felt like I failed because I didn't like the traditional teaching environment.
Now as an online course creator I get to help people (my favorite thing) and still use my skills as an educator. I also get to live a flexible lifestyle as a military spouse and use my creative brain to think up new ideas for courses all the time!”
16. Jonathan Roberts
~Jonathan is the Founder and Director of the Ancient Language Institute.
“As the Founder and Director of the Ancient Language Institute, an online language school. I have never had a better job. Because our courses are offered exclusively online, I have a flexible schedule, which is great not only for my family but also for my students and their families.
In scheduling courses for them, we can work around their schedule in order to find the best possible class time. Having this sort of flexibility and control over my own schedule also allows me to spend considerable amounts of time improving my ability to teach well. Additionally, because all I need is a computer with an internet connection, I can be wherever I want. All around it's been a great experience.”
17. Jenni Hunt
~Jenni is the founder of jennihunt.com.
“In 2002 I started selling on eBay as a stay at home mom. While I was successful, with small children underfoot, I quickly burned out. Needing to continue to generate an income, I moved into training others to sell successfully on eBay and other online platforms. While my business looks very different now (I am not teaching eBay strategies anymore), I haven't looked back.
I train and coach small businesses to grow multiple revenue streams through digital courses and community building. Over the years I have learned how to listen to the needs of my audience and use creative courses to serve them better. I am delivering quality content; however, at the same time, I am using courses to learn more about the needs of my customers.
I am a bit un-traditional in my course creating methods. In fact, I sometimes cringe when I hear about others who invest a lot of money and time to create a course BEFORE they even know if it will sell. I have grown to a 6 figure business and helped others do the same with my “You don't have to have your ducks in a row – just get them in the same pond” method.
My experience has taught me how important it is to pre-sell a course before any resources are invested. After the course has proven to meet a need, then build an outline and provide a live online version of the program. This allows your customers to interact and engage with you which gives them value, but it also gives you the opportunity to polish and tighten your presentation and verbiage.
Only after the coursework is proven to be valuable to your audience do you polish it up and invest more resources — but, often additional resources are never needed. The recorded live version can be packaged up and continue to serve your audience.
Creating courses provide recurring revenue for my business and helps me help others have the same. And all you need is a tool like Zoom and Facebook – zero out of pocket costs, to create a course and start generating revenue.”
18. Mashon Thomas
~Mashon is the founder of Live Work Travel, LLC where she shares her story of being in debt to traveling the world.
“I’ve always been drawn to online business for the freedom aspect of it. Being able to work from anywhere allows me to live my dream of traveling the world. I’ve been location independent since 2017 and have run my business from numerous countries during that time. I began my remote life freelancing, and eventually decided I wanted to use all the hard work I put into building my business into helping others do the same. I created an online course to help others who were like me — feeling stuck, unsure what to do, no idea where to find clients, not knowing what I would say to pitch them — follow in my freelancing footsteps, but in a fraction of the time.
Creating an online course takes a lot of hard work and effort but the payoffs have been incredible. I’ve been able to expand my reach and help more people.
Instead of one-on-one conversations I’ve had with people over the years, giving them tips and tricks to jumpstart their own freelancing career, I’m now able to reach a much larger audience. Being able to help people I’ve never met to achieve the freedom that I have has been wonderful!
Through my travels, I’ve also been able to help people in other countries — where remote work isn’t as common — get introduced to the online world and get their start. This is hugely beneficial to them and their families as they can earn money in different currencies, often making a higher income than possible in their home communities.
Starting an online business takes a lot of work but is well worth it. I’m truly blessed and grateful to be able to continue working from home and reaching people everywhere, especially with the current crisis we face. Helping people realize that they have the option to take control of their career and build it into what they want is truly energizing!”
19. Shirley George Frazier
“As the instructor of six online courses, the opportunity to share my expertise with a worldwide audience is gratifying. My students learn skills and build confidence that allows them to start businesses, perfect hobbies, and enhance their lifestyles with families. This value positively impacts my life every day.”
20. Meg Marrs
~Meg is the creator and founder of K9 of Mine where she offers dog training courses.
“Creating an online dog training course has been an amazing experience for me! Before starting my course, I had an existing dog website dealing primarily with recommending various products and gear for dog owners.
Starting an online dog training course has allowed me to create a profit channel that isn't reliant on the whims of Google and Amazon to succeed. I feel safer with my business now knowing that I have multiple revenue channels that are independent of each other.
Plus, starting the course has helped me learn more about video content, which I now have begun to regularly include in our content strategy. Best of all, the course has given me an excuse to spend even more time with my beloved dog as we work on new content together!”
21. Cory Althoff
~Cory is the founder of codinglist.com where he helps train software engineers.
“Five months ago, I published a course on Udemy that teaches you how to go from a beginner to a professional software engineer without a degree. Having a course has been a blessing during these rough economic times. Not only because it brings in extra income, but because with so many people unsure about their future, it feels good to teach a skill that can lead to economic security even in a recession. Because people are so worried about their careers, last month was my best sales month to date.
Plus, the whole thing is on auto-pilot, which means I will have more time to spend with my daughter when she is born in June. I feel fortunate to be financially secure during these troubling times and to have the opportunity to help others position themselves to be as well.”
22. Breanna Gunn
~Breanna is the founder of Breanna Gunn Enterprises, LLC where she helps solopreneurs scale their business.
“As an online course creator and business strategist, I get to help struggling solopreneurs implement systems and strategies so they can scale to 7 figures sustainably without stress.
It’s a rewarding career that not only allows me the freedom to work wherever and whenever I want (which is even more important given our current situation), but also make a difference. This is something I knew I wanted to model for my kids.
Like many entrepreneurs, I come from humble sales beginnings. I started off selling cell phones and eventually made the jump to selling used cars. I made $30,000 in a month — and then I quit.
Selling was starting to feel sleazy, and I wanted to do something I was proud of. So I started working at a divorce law firm while I studied pre-law. And it was there that I discovered how much I loved making people feel valued and heard.
Fast forward to having my son, and I knew I needed to find a career that gave me the satisfaction of making a difference but didn’t leave me exhausted at the end of the day.
So, I started an online business. One built with boundaries, office hours, and making a difference in my clients’ lives. Now that’s something I can be proud of.”
23. Raymond Modglin
~Raymond is the founder of realuniversity.com, a real estate education school.
“I make a living selling online courses. My online real estate education school gives the 90 hours required education before a student can sit for the state exam. I have been doing this 2013 and have a fairly lucrative lifestyle because of this.”
24. Alexandra Cote
~Alexandra Cote is a Content Strategist and Udemy and Skillshare instructor.
“I started creating courses because I had this strong desire to make a change in my industry. I've already had so much success with this but the goal is still far away. These days I've noticed an increased need for online training courses. To my surprise, the number of students in my courses has increased sharply.
Now, more than ever, I'm super happy [and lucky] to have a chance to help someone out with their future career. I've created special discounts. I'm now trying to create conversations with my students to help them during these times.”
25. Ivy Summer
“At the end of summer 2019, I launched my online wedding-planning course for couples who want to plan their wedding with the tools and resources of a certified wedding planner with a decade of experience working with budget-conscious couples and a worldwide network of vendors.
Having an online business has allowed me to live in Greece with a flexible schedule. It also gave me time to work as a luxury, celebrity, destination wedding planner based in Athens. Plus I had the time to write a book about how to plan a wedding during a pandemic this season. I'm able to travel and indulge in other hobbies that enrich my life, like gardening, cooking more often, and learning new languages.
I've ultimately fulfilled my 10-year goals, which includes my dream of establishing myself as a permanent resident in Europe and becoming a well-known, pioneering wedding consultant and coordinator in the cannabis wedding space in the Bay Area. Had I not pivoted my full-service wedding planning business in San Francisco, I wouldn't have had the luxury to enjoy as much freedom as I do today.”
26. Susan Gonzales
~Susan is the founder and owner of Node Marketing, a digital marketing company based out of Houston, TX.
“While the healthcare impacts of COVID-19 are the most important ones to address during this time, I know our economy is a very close second in terms of the severity of issues that need to be addressed. Some people have the ability to donate needed emergency resources during this time. Others have the ability to share critical knowledge and expertise by donating their time.
During this crisis, I started SEO and digital marketing courses to help businesses and entrepreneurs improve their customer reach and conversions to keep those businesses afloat. I've been busy every single day with courses that I've offered completely free of charge. I believe everyone needs to do their part, where they can, to help improve our current situation. Even though I may be forgoing revenue to spend my time in this fashion, attendees have been profusely grateful for these online courses. I know that it will make a difference for these businesses but also potentially for so many of their employees.”
27. Meg Casebolt
~Meg is the founder of Love at First Search and an SEO Specialist & Digital Marketing Strategist.
“For years, I was providing 1:1 web design & SEO services directly to entrepreneurs, and struggling to find new clients. I started my online training with videos to teach my clients how to maintain their websites & create additional website content. The clients raved about it so much that I started selling the courses to people who didn't have the budget to hire me so they could DIY their websites.
As my business evolved, so did my courses. I niched down into just teaching SEO for small businesses. Having a course with a documented track record of student success helped me grow my outreach. I can serve more students, and many of those have eventually become my 1:1 clients.
As successful students have talked about the course & referred their colleagues, I've also been able to leverage that to pitch myself for bigger visibility opportunities. This includes podcasts & digital summits, which in turn has helped me sell more courses.
Having an online course business has allowed me more flexibility in my schedule. I only have one locked-in time bi-weekly when I need to show up for students, the rest can be flexible. This is amazing when I have small kids home from school right now! It has taken the pressure of my sales pipeline. That's because I have more people hearing about me and requesting to work with me.”
28. Tracie Shroyer
~Tracie helps course creators launch their courses and is the founder of LaunchTechMadeEasy.com.
“My online business and course have allowed my husband and me to buy an RV and travel the United States full-time. We are empty-nesters who are both still working, but because of my course, I have the time and location freedom to literally work where ever I want. I'm limited only by my wifi connection.
The real beauty is that the course I have teaches other people to launch their OWN courses online. Not only am I living my dream, but I'm helping other people to do the same. I've taught courses outside in the desert when it's 80 degrees and sunny while my students are bundled up in the snow. I've been on Zoom calls in the shadow of a mountain near a running stream. I can work whenever and wherever I want to and help others to do the same. It's an amazing life.”
29. Anna Fani
~Anna is the Founder & Managing Editor of The Writer Entrepreneur.
“I launched my online business in 2014. I started with free courses, then added paid courses later on through my Teachable schools. Running my online course business has allowed me not to worry too much about paying the bills. Plus I can work from home and brainstorm ways that I can make a positive impact on my audience. Running an online business also contributed to flexibility in my day to day life. I am able to juggle other aspects of life.”
30. Shade Y. Adu
~Shade is an award-winning coach, speaker, and best selling author. She is also the founder of Shadeyadu.com.
“I have created dozens of online courses. This business model has allowed me to work from anywhere around the world. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, I was a teacher in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Now through the gift of online courses, I have been able to teach people from around the world. I teach about digital marketing and branding, live stream, and digital product creation. I have taught over 2200 students in my online courses.
Courses have allowed me to make a living and transform my students' lives even during a time of crisis.”
31. Krista Neher
~Krista is the CEO of Boot Camp Digital Publishing.
“I created online courses almost 10 years ago (I used to mail out boxes of DVDs) and it was one of the best business decisions I've made. I've been able to travel the world (30 countries and counting). I actually relocated to Europe (Amsterdam) a few years ago.
Online courses give me flexibility in where I work, so I can travel and live where I want. I now have 2 young kids and am able to arrange my schedule to spend more time with my family. The flexibility has been amazing at allowing me to build a life that prioritizes what I care about while making a good income.”
32. Laura Spaulding
“We created an online course for people to learn crime scene cleanup, hoarding cleanup, and meth lab cleanup. We created it about 6 months ago and initially, it was tepid. Since everyone is stuck at home and getting laid off they are looking for a recession-proof business to start like ours. Course purchases have increased and the demand is higher than ever.”
33. Lisa Spector
~Lisa is a pianopreneur, Juilliard graduate, and the founder of PianoNinjaTricks.com.
“I had just opened my cart to my first online course, Piano Ninja Tricks when the Pandemic blew in. I’m halfway through the 6-week course, and because of the pandemic, I’m repeating it much sooner than originally planned.
I’ve taught at a University, owned my own music school, and taught privately for years. Teaching Piano Ninja Tricks online has been my favorite way of teaching, and the response from the students has been fantastic! I set the intention at the start of 2020 to spend more time in my Zone of Genius. And, I’m doing that with this course. It’s helped me teach piano concepts that I’ve used for decades (since I graduated from Juilliard) with one student at a time, and teach them to all the students enrolled.
We meet in a private Facebook group on a Facebook Live every week, and I pre-record two short videos for them every week. Yes, it’s built my confidence, particularly around technology. Simultaneously, because of the pandemic, I launched a weekly FB Live concert series. I was really only able to handle the technology around this (recording the sound of a concert grand piano always has extra challenges) because of the experience I gained in the online course.
Because this is the first time teaching it, it’s been quite a bit of work. But, it gets easier every week, and it’s really been so much fun for me. The next session should be a breeze. I’m really loving every moment of teaching online.”
I hope you've gained a solid idea of what running an online course business might mean for your lifestyle. It can make a huge difference in your day to day activities as well as your overall life.
I can guarantee that you'll have hectic times and ups and downs, but I know I wouldn't trade it for anything. Judging by what many of the successful course creators interviewed here, they wouldn't either!