How To Create An Online Course: The Ultimate Guide

How to Choose the Right Topic for Your Profitable Online Course

How to Choose the Right Topic for Your Profitable Online Course


Imagine you're a busy business owner.
Under stress, working all the time, only a few spare hours in the week.
You've figured out the best way to grow your business is to win more contracts with corporate clients. But you're not sure how. So you're looking for a training course.
Which one would you choose:

Corporate Sales Training

- OR -

Land Your First Corporate Client in 30 Days

Or imagine you're a keen golfer and you want to beat your buddies. Which course are you most likely to buy:

The Complete Guide to Golf

- OR -

Knock 5 Shots of Your Golf Game

In each case it's the latter.
Most people (especially busy people which frankly is almost all of us these days)  don't buy courses for the joy of learning a subject. We buy because they'll help us get an outcome we're looking for in our business or life.
We want to achieve that outcome with as little fuss as possible.
So the key to an attractive course that will have buyers knocking on your door is to ensure your course delivers a Specific, Tangible Outcome in an Important or Urgent  Area for your potential buyers. And then to make that outcome clear in the way you describe the course.
You can get a 2x, 5x or even 10x increase in course sales for essentially the same content simply by focusing it on the right outcome and area.
And we're going to find a great topic for you in three steps.

Brainstorm Ideas using Topic Triggers

Strengthen Your ideas

Evaluate and Select the Best Idea

Tips for Finding a Great Course Topic

  • Remember, you’re aiming for your course to deliver a specific result or outcome for customers in an area that's a priority for them.
  • For your first course, go for a valuable but simple or small outcome you can create a course for quickly. Don't try to create your magnum opus on your first attempt at a course.
  • Don't get stuck trying to come up with the "perfect" topic. We're going to iterate and validate your initial idea with potential buyers. 

Using Topic Triggers to Brainstorm Great Ideas for Your Course

Rather than staring at a blank sheet of paper trying to come up with great ideas for your course that will be attractive to potential buyers, you can get going fast and start with proven ideas by using these Topic Triggers.
Ask yourself each question and make notes on the topic ideas that come to mind. You won't necessarily be able to answer each one, but in total you should get a really solid list of potential topics you can then work on.
  • What are the top problems you regularly solve for clients?
  • What issues do clients ask you about the most?
  • What are the first tangible steps your clients need to take on the path to achieving their goals?
  • What is a valuable quick win your clients could achieve?
  • What next step would clients be excited about achieving?
  • What’s the one thing you’ve seen that clients find as their biggest barrier to success?
  • What is typically the best thing your clients can do in terms of ROI?
  • What problems do you have the most experience solving?
  • What problems have you already developed clear methodologies or models for?
  • What problems do you think you deal with differently and better to your competitors?
  • What problems do you most enjoy solving for clients?
  • What problem or issue is creating the most “buzz” in your client communities right now?
  • What solutions do you deliver that are the newest and most intriguing to clients?
  • [If you work in corporates] Is there a specific problem that a big client faces that they could commission you to create a course for?

Strengthen Your Initial Ideas

You're now going to look at your initial ideas to see if you can  strengthen their appeal.
If you 've got a long list of ideas, select the top 4-6 for further refining. Just go with the ones based on gut feel you think would be the most likely to succeed and the ones you’d be the most interested in pursuing. You can always come back to the others later.
Then look at each potential topic and see how you can make them:
  • More obviously valuable (e.g. focused the idea on a higher value area, call out the value in the name of the topic etc.)
  • More tangible and specific (e.g. name specific results, a specific timeframe for achieving those results, specific people this works for, etc.)
  • More different, more new, more memorable (e.g. a unique approach, an alliterative name) 
For example, if your original idea is to do a course on presentation skills, you can strengthen it in a number of ways:
More obviously valuable:
  • Board level presentations
  • Sales presentations
More specific and tangible:
  • Ace your next board presentation in 48 hours
  • How to pitch to corporates
More different, more new, more memorable:
  • Hollywood presentation skills
  • The Perfect Pitch Formula

Evaluate Your Ideas

You're now going to evaluate the ideas you've brainstormed and then strengthened to select a "candidate" idea for your course to take through to validation.
For this, you're going to use three criteria:
  • The Value of the Idea to Potential Clients. Obviously, the more valuable the idea, the more demand there's going to be for the course.
  • The Uniqueness of the Course. A valuable course is a pre-requisite, but if many similar courses are available your sales and price will be lower.
  • The Ease of Developing the CourseSo many great courses never make it to market because the difficulty of developing them leads their creators to give up before they're done.
Evaluate Your Topic Ideas
Evaluate your leading topics against each of these criteria on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).  Use the following guidelines to help:
Value to Clients:
  • Does this solve a big strategic problem (or goal) with high financial value to many clients?
  • Is this currently an urgent priority for many clients?
  • Is this a problem or goal that’s highly visible to them and they’re already aware of?
Uniqueness of Course:
  • Are there only a few or no other courses available for this specific topic (or audience)?
  • Does this topic build on a unique skill, experience or story you have?
  • Have you created a specific methodology, tool, model or framework for this topic that you’ll teach in the course?
Ease of Development:
  • Can this course deliver results from a small number of lessons?
  • Do you already have ideas, content and materials you can reuse for the course?
  • Is this a topic you are enthusiastic about teaching?
If all the topics score below 10 in total, go back to generating more topic ideas.
If you have one or more topics that score above 10, any of them could be a successful topic for a course. Normally you would pick the highest scoring topic unless you had a strong personal preference for one. In the event of a tie, go with the topic with the greatest client value.
For your first course try to go with a topic that scores highly on Ease of Development - ideally 4 or 5. Once you're more experienced at developing courses you can work on more challenging ones.
Take your topic forward to the next module on finding your best audience.

Identifying the Best Audience for Your Online Course

Identifying the Best Audience for Your Online Course

Identify and evaluate the best potential audiences for your course to use as you develop and launch it:

  • Deciding which type of buyer to focus on
  • Brainstorming potential buyer audiences
  • Evaluating the best audiences for you