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5 Myths About Online Courses

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Creating An Online Course is Not Easy.

💰💸  It’s not a secret hack to getting rich quick.

🏖️🍹  It’s not a passport to a beach life sipping margs all day.

🤖💤  It’s not something that runs on autopilot while you sleep.

Creating an online course is an investment. It’s an art and a science. And despite the talk track online, creating online courses takes time, intention, and commitment. 

This article explores five of the most common false claims independent course creators hype up all the time. And then drops some truth bombs to set the record straight.

Myth #1: Online courses are passive income.

I hate to burst your bubble, but most successful online courses don’t run on autopilot. 

You have to be present and show up just as much as the learner—or at least have instructors who can—so you can guide clients to the outcomes you promised them.

The most effective online courses involve face-time and engagement, even when elements of the learning experience are online, self-led, and asynchronous. Moments for connection help drive understanding, application, satisfaction, and overall effectiveness.

However, there are elements of your operations and business model that you can automate, such as marketing and enrollment. Automating these processes can give you the time to focus on showing up and engaging with your clients.

💣 TRUTH BOMB

Online courses require a lot of upfront and continuous work. Teaching is an active profession, even (especially) when it’s online.

Myth #2: You can create an effective online course in a week.

Longer-term programs (between 10 and 25 hours) are best equipped to build knowledge and skills over time. They also drive the most interest and revenue, according to Thinkific. But these programs, when done right, can take up to 200 hours to design, develop, and deliver. For a breakdown of how we use ratios in corporate training to estimate build time, check out this post.

Here are some of the reasons course creation can take this long:

The impact of each of these factors varies by individual course creator and their unique situation. But, even if they master all these skills and work 10 hours a day, they’d still struggle to produce an effective online course for the sole reason that time in between matters.

It matters to walk away. To come back with a fresh perspective. To get feedback. To not rush. It can take a week alone to define the right learning objectives. Because if you get these wrong, your foundation crumbles. And there’s no way to be effective.

💣 TRUTH BOMB

Take your time when creating an online course. Time and space brings with it intention, clarity, validation, productivity, and quality.

Myth #3: You can get rich quick with one online course.

I hear the phrase “single asset millionaire” more often than I care to admit. Create one online course, sell it, resell it, and keep selling it, to make millions.

This sounds alluring. It sounds exciting. It sounds like it’ll give you the life you’ve always wanted. And technically, yes, you can make $1 million from a single online course. But it’s not probable. Probably not preferable. And it’s really not scalable.

People boasting about million-dollar gains are using emotional marketing. They want you to buy an outcome, not an experience. And they probably aren’t being totally upfront about the costs associated with things like marketing, website development, financial and project management, and course design, development, and delivery. When “transparent” course creators share their earnings, often they’re not speaking in terms of profit.

Even if it is possible, it’s not the smartest move for a business you want to grow and last. This one course should just be a piece of the puzzle. You can strategically build your portfolio of offerings with complementary courses, services, and products that your existing clients will want because they already know and trust you. 

Growth comes from not just procuring new clients but continuing to create value for existing clients. In fact, it costs way more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones—anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive according to Harvard Business Review.

💣 TRUTH BOMB

No one wants to be a one-hit wonder. Build up your business around your initial course success to not just reach $1 million, but to continue growing well beyond that.

Myth #4: Online courses replace one-on-one work.

Plenty of course creators say they’re no longer “trading hours for dollars” thanks to their online courses. They were tired of limiting their earning potential by only doing one-on-one work, like consulting or coaching, which limited how much money they could make in a day.

Let me just say, this is a personal and totally OK choice. If you prefer group work to individual work, go for it. But the myth here lies in the idea that online courses are either better than, or a replacement to, one-on-one services like coaching and consulting.

The truth is that these are two different operating models and offering types. You can offer an online course and consulting services. One isn’t better than the other; they complement each other. When they co-exist in your offerings, you may actually have greater impact for your client and can maximize your profits. 

Remember, building a diverse portfolio of offerings has its benefits.

💣 TRUTH BOMB

While you can reach more people with an online course, you can have a deeper impact with 1:1 sessions. It just depends on what you want and what’s best for your business and clients. It’s not an either/or situation. There are benefits to both.

Myth #5: Clients just want to be connected to you.

There are a lot of clout chasers in the online course space (yea, I said it). They’re looking for popularity, fame, and fortune, more than they’re looking to help people. Which is why when you dig into their marketing materials and course content, there’s a whole lot about them and very little about their learners.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but learners don’t want to listen to you talk about yourself for an hour. They don’t care about you per se; they care about what you can do for them. They want you to inspire them and share valuable, relevant knowledge that they can use right now. It’s OK to tie personal experiences to tactical guidance. But it’s not OK to brag about unrelated accomplishments without a clear purpose or focus on learners.

💣 TRUTH BOMB

Education is not about teaching, it’s about learning. Focus on what learners need and what matters to them, not what makes you feel good.

That’s it—5 common myths about online courses. If you take anything away, it should be this:

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