Create an Epic Course – Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid

When done right, creating and running online courses can improve your credibility and reputation while helping you rake in significant profits on top of the billable hours you put in with clients. But a couple of tiny oversights and a few missteps can amount to an ineffective launch or lackluster delivery, leaving students with a less than favourable impression of your practice.

So how do you prevent this from happening? Here are a few tips I’ve gathered from my own experience, both from a student’s perspective and as a mentor & guide with Virtual Assistant Studio, an essential resource for new Virtual Assistants looking for training, advice and support.

Here are five of the most common mistakes made with course development and how to prevent them.

1) Not knowing who your ideal student will be

This is just as important as pinpointing your ideal client for your business. When you develop a course, every word of your content should be geared to your ideal student. It should address the issues, problems and opportunities they encounter every day, and it should speak to them in tone and language they can understand. For example, social media marketing courses are popular money makers these days, but the best ones break this huge topic down into manageable, bite-sized pieces targeted to a specific audience.

That said, is your ideal student a senior business person with little to no knowledge of social platforms, or a young entrepreneur well-versed in digital marketing but who needs to know the specifics on how to use Snapchat, set up a landing page or run Facebook ads? The answers to these questions will determine how you frame your content.

How to Avoid this Mistake: Research, research, research. Find out what your audience’s pain points are by asking questions in Facebook groups, at networking events and in industry forums. What do they need to know that isn’t out there already? What value and specialized knowledge can you offer that your students need?

2) Rushing course development

Let’s burst a bubble right here: There’s little to no chance that you’ll be able to put together a successful, in-depth and valuable course in three weeks from scratch. Depending on the length of your course and the depth of the information you’re including, expect to put in about 60 days of preparation, research and development. If it’s a topic you know well, your research will mainly involve finding credible sources for statistics and any background information you’ll need.

How to Avoid this Mistake: Have a realistic timeline for course development. Write detailed, point form notes outlining the information you want to deliver, and break it down into a sequence of lessons that students can easily follow. A course that explains the specifics of how to do something, identifies specific outcomes and provides students with reliable metrics to measure their success is far more valuable than a quick, general rundown on a broad topic.

Bonus tip: Don’t try to do everything yourself. It’s highly beneficial to budget for professional editing and proofreading. A great editor will catch all those little spelling, grammar and style mistakes you may have missed, and having someone review your material with fresh eyes will make a world of difference. Don’t skip this important step.

3) Not considering your student’s perspective

It’s not enough to know who your students are; you have to get inside their heads. What do they need from you in order to trust you to deliver complete, accurate, relevant information? It’s easy to get lost in your own head and forget your course material really needs to connect with your students for them to learn and apply it, so always check that you’re thinking from their perspective.

How to Avoid this Mistake: Consider your own and others’ experiences as students, and find out how you can both relate to the people you want to teach and appeal to their concerns with your course material.

For example, The VA Startup course we developed for the VA Studio is geared to VAs who have recently launched or are planning to launch their practices. The program helps them build a solid foundation for their practice by defining their mission, vision and values. While many want to figure out services and pricing first so they can take on clients right away, we focus on nailing down the basics to help our students find their competitive edge and differentiate themselves in a tough industry. We address this mindset, explain why we ask them to plan this way and roll out the course content accordingly to give them the best chance of succeeding.

4) Running your launch while developing your course

Course launch and development are two separate, equally important phases. It’s critical that you dedicate time exclusively to each, and not blur the line between the two. That means you should have your course finalized before you launch it, otherwise both phases may not be executed effectively.

How to Avoid this Mistake: Implement and follow your processes, set timelines for each phase and stick to deadlines – take the full 60-day period mentioned above to develop your course, and have someone hold you accountable to launching on time.

5) Cold selling

People don’t respond well when they click on ads expecting to see more information and instead are taken directly to a ‘Buy Now’ page. You wouldn’t cold call a prospect, introduce yourself, and then launch into a sales pitch with a call to action right away, so don’t do this!

How to Avoid this Mistake: Engage your audience via social media and your mailing list. Build a sales funnel that includes a Facebook group or other forum on a social network you know your audience is on. Take an interest in their lives. Talk to them and ask questions. Post blogs with highly valuable content they can use. The more they see your name and associate it with receiving real value, the more receptive they’ll be.

Get your Online Course ready in just 60 Days with the help of our ultimate course planner.

Meet your host

Sandra Booker, Founder of Changemaker Inc. (home to Sidekick COO and The VA Studio) and creator of Scale Society and The Advisory Board, is a mentor, Fractional COO  and growth strategist. She specializes in helping overworked, overwhelmed, multi-hatted entrepreneurs become the CEOs of sustainably scalable, and powerfully profitable businesses. 

After helping local businesses thrive, and receiving accolades in her community (like the 40 Under 40 award) Sandra turned her attention to the world of online service providers, and her clients include familiar names like Chanti Zak, Tarzan Kay, and Laura Belgray.

In her (efficiently used) spare time, she teaches others how to build and grow their own 6-figure virtual assistant practices and is on a mission to create a million jobs by helping her clients and students scale their businesses.

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