It’s our firm belief at Teachery that everyone has a course worth teaching. We all have a skill or unique outlook. What you can teach is your superpower.
Your superpower is something you can do better than someone else, but at the same time also provides value to other people.
Unfortunately we aren’t talking about leaping tall buildings or x-ray vision. But we are talking about you sharing something that can make an impact for someone else. You just need a plan to look within yourself to find that thing.
I’ll go into greater detail, but these are the steps to finding your superpower and building a course around it:
Reach out to your trust circle to help identify your potential course topic (superpower)
Ask yourself: Is this something I want to teach?
Test your assumptions
Share it with a small group of people who will find it valuable
Iterate, tweak, hone, etc based on their feedback
Starting with your trust circle
One of the things I always hated about applying for jobs was the question “what are your strengths?” I get the gist of why this question was asked, but for many of us it’s an incredibly hard question to answer. What I might think is a personal strength may not look like a strength to someone else. I might be blind to a personal strength that’s glaringly obvious to other people. This is why, especially for finding a topic for your online course, you need to lean on your trust circle.
First, let’s define a trust circle: A trust circle is simply a group of people (6-10) who will give you honest and real feedback, but are NOT your close friends and family.
Listen, friends and family are critical for support and feedback but they can be terrible at giving you objective feedback. The people you need to talk to are acquaintances, contacts who are doing things you aspire to do, clients you work with, etc. This type of trust circle doesn’t involve falling into the arms of strangers, it involves genuine and honest feedback.
So make a list of 6-10 people that you have contact information for (and have talked to before, even if it’s just once or twice). This is your trust circle. Email or call these people and ask them one simple question: What do you think my unique strengths are?
(Obviously add a little more than that to your email or call to them…)
You may not hear back from everyone, but hopefully the responses you do hear back can spark and idea or two about a course you can teach. If no one provides helpful feedback, reach out to a few more people.
Quick aside: When I was trying to rack my brain for ideas for my first online course, I reached out to my trust circle (8 people). I asked that question and heard back from four people. One of them said, “You’re the guy who can get sponsorships for anything. How do you do that? You make it look so easy.” And with that one response, I made $32,000+ selling a course about sponsorships in 2014.
Is your superpower something you want to teach?
Whatever superpower you discover, and subsequent topic for your online course, shouldn’t be bothersome for you. If you aren’t excited about teaching something, don’t waste any further time and immediately go back to the drawing board (do not pass GO, do not collect $200).
Lots of great authors talk about building the right audience (tribe, community, etc). The same principles hold true for building an online course. The course you’re building should attract an audience of people you want to help/serve. If you’re thinking about building an online course around learning how to cook, but you hate talking about cooking, you should pick another topic. On the flip side, if you love baking and have a unique outlook on how people can become better bakers, you should absolutely make that course.
You may not know ahead of time if you’re going to like the topic of your course. That’s absolutely a possibility and you can dive further into that by testing your assumption…
Once you have an idea for your course topic, test your assumptions
My wife Caroline had seen the success I had with my course and wanted to try creating one for herself. She, unlike me, had a practical skill at her fingertips (literally), but wasn’t sure anyone would pay her for it. That skill was teaching other people how to do hand-lettering.
Caroline set out to test the assumption that people would want to buy an “introduction to hand-lettering” course. She didn’t want to invest a ton of time creating a course that no one wanted, so instead she wrote a blog post about it.
In that blog post she shared a few awesome tips about hand-lettering and then teased the idea of selling a $20 hand-lettering course. She created a clear call-to-action that said “Want to be notified when the $20 hand-lettering course is ready? Enter your email…” Through this simple email capture on a blog post, Caroline could see if anyone would actually opt-in to pay for her course (validate her assumption). She set a goal of 200 sign ups. If 200 people signed up, she would create the course.
*Side note: Don’t set your validation number too high (email sign ups in Caroline’s situation). You don’t need 1,000 people to sign up to start building something.
She shared that blog post with her newsletter subscribers, on her website, on Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Before she knew it, she had 20 people signed up. Then 50. Then 100. Then she hit her goal of 200 sign ups. She had tested her assumption and knew she had to hunker down and give the people what they asked for!
Fun note: Caroline has gone on to sell her $20 hand-lettering course to nearly 4,000 students from around the world. She hasn’t spent a single dollar advertising or marketing the course. She continues to sell 5-10 courses per week from organic traffic, a reminder in her weekly newsletter, and a call-out on her website. Using Teachery, Caroline was able to create her online course in a matter of hours and generate nearly $100,000 in just a few years.
Build the smallest version of your course and share it with your target audience
Whatever topic you have for your course, find a way to test if people want it. Another great thing you can do is hop on Twitter and do “product research” (as Justin Jackson calls it).
Here’s a question for you:
Would you rather show your course to 1,000 people or 10 people when you’re just getting started?
Answer: 10 people.
Imagine standing in front of an audience of 1,000 people and giving a speech. You’ve never given a speech before and you completely bomb. Wouldn’t you rather fail in front of 10 people instead of 1,000? I know I would!
Things are going to go wrong. It’s inevitable. Even if you use a copy editor, have five friends look through your course content and you triple check it. You will forget something or need to change something.
Ideally you’ll want to get feedback from your target students. I’d recommend giving them the course for free and make them feel like they’re getting a sneak peek (because they are!). Encourage them to be honest with you about your course and even feel free to ask them what they’d pay for it.
Where do you find your target audience? Great question. A couple places to search for people who might want your course:
Your existing contact list. Reach out to your friends and family and ask if they know anyone who’d be interested. A direct (or warm) introduction would be extremely helpful.
Search keywords on Twitter (or LinkedIn). Use the same principles in the product research video I shared above.
Find Facebook Groups. This might be one of the last remaining benefits of Facebook: Groups. If you can find a group of people already interested in the topic of your course, you’ve basically found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Find subreddits on Reddit around your topic.
Search for bloggers who have already built audiences around your course topic. Could you collaborate (maybe 50/50 split?) and market your course to their existing network? 50% of something is always better than 100% of nothing.
Be prepared to iterate, tweak, hone, etc your course
You will need to make changes, but they shouldn’t derail your progress of marketing and selling your course. Because, to be honest, if you’re creating an online course you probably want to make money from it.
And you never know, just going through the steps to create a course on baking, might lead you to creating a course (or business) on opening a restaurant, or email marketing, etc. Go through the process outlined here and don’t be afraid to try things.
Good luck and we hope Teachery might be able to help you with your online course!