#175: 3 Critical Steps to Getting Started on Your First (or Next) Digital Course Without Having to Backtrack


You’ve finally decided to create a digital course for your business, but when you look on YouTube or do a Google search about what you need to do, there are endless lists that all say something different. Suddenly adding a course doesn’t seem like a good idea, it feels overwhelming and downright messy. 

The reality is that a lot of people have put together lists of things to do to create a course based on their experience instead of research and proven practices. Creating a profitable course can be your reality and today I’m going to be sharing the first 3 steps you need to take. Without these 3 steps your course will fail to gain traction and become a profitable piece of your business. And the 3rd step can trip people up so at the end of the episode I’ll share my favorite way to simplify things in our Sixty-Second Solution.

Confusing Directions

You are ready to add a digital course to your business. You’ve heard that it can be a profitable revenue stream and want to diversify your offerings. Diversification is key to long-term success in business and it is exciting to think about the possibilities that adding a course can bring, but a quick Google or YouTube search will tell you that there are an unlimited number of “plans” when it comes to creating a course. 

Having too many options and sets of plans can create havoc. If someone has the expertise to help another person, it shouldn’t feel like climbing Mt Everest just to provide that help. Today’s episode is designed to help you know what to do, keep things simple, and even debunk a few misconceptions floating around out there.

Let’s begin with the very first step and that is to figure out what problem you are going to solve.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

Identify the problem that someone is having. If you have a great course idea, but it doesn’t solve a real problem, you will struggle to sell your course, regardless of how good it is. As you are thinking about the problem, keep your eyes and ears open in your research for what the real-world situation is.  With this clearly defined, you will be able to create course goals.

All too often I hear course creators talk about a course where they teach a skill. The skill is valuable either as something that is necessary to everyday life or a hobby that allows someone to feel balance and peace. What could be wrong with teaching a skill?

People don’t buy skills, they buy a solution to a problem. Let’s walk through a few examples of what I’m talking about. First up, what made you click on this podcast episode? Chances are you are curious or even struggling with getting started on a digital course. You are having trouble figuring out what steps to take, what is necessary, or even who to trust. This is a problem. The episode that you are listening to right now solves the problem of what steps to take when beginning the creation of your digital course.

Imagine you teach people how to crochet. Unless someone has just always had a hankering for crocheting, you’re going to have to identify the problem that is leading them to crocheting as a solution. It might be that they want to be able to create a handmade gift for their first grandchild but can’t afford to pay someone to crochet a baby blanket for $300. They are looking for a course on how to create that special keepsake that will still be on their grandchild’s bed for years to come.

Not knowing how to crochet is not a problem. Knowing how to crochet is the solution. So as we prepare to create a digital course, we really have to make sure that we are solving a problem that people are willing to pay money for and want to pay money for. 

Step 2: Build Your Audience

With a clear problem in mind that will be solved, at least in part, with a digital course, now is the time that we can begin building an audience and will be enthusiastic buyers of the course. Too often I see this step being pushed until the creator has a really clear idea of what will be in their course, the sales mechanism has been outlined, and the course might even be nearing completion.

The problem with creating everything before building an audience is that our audience will help us identify what gaps we have in our course idea, they will give us important phrases and words to use in messaging, and they will become our biggest advocates when we launch the course.

Without an audience our courses sit in a file drawer. We have to utilize the power of our audience to create and test content, material, and even pacing for a course. By building and getting to know our audience, we are much more likely to have a success and profitable course. 

Step 3: Create a Meaningful Course Outline

Finally, with what you are learning from your audience, you can create a course outline. This step can be tricky and is why at the end of this episode, in our Sixty-Second Solution, I’ll share a simple way to think about your course outline.

What comes to mind when I say that it is time to create a course outline? How many times have you heard that you should just brain dump all of your ideas onto a whiteboard, set of sticky notes, or on Trello and then arrange those ideas into categories and allow those categories to determine the modules for a course?

This is a critical and common mistake that course creators make. It makes perfect sense to brain dump ideas and then organize them. We are the experts on what we do and it makes sense to think about all of the things that we want our students to be able to know, think, and do. If we can just get it all out and organize it, then our students will be successful in solving the problem they came to us for.

As humans, we need to know what is coming to be able to process it and make connections with the things that we already know. How does this apply to our courses specifically? We need to clearly define what the outcome is for the course. What our students will be able to know, think, and do at the end of the course that addresses the problem that they are currently having. And we have to do this prior to the brain dump of all of the content because each module goal will align directly back to this course goal. Additionally, and this is where many course creators make a mistake, you absolutely need to have lesson goals that align back to the module and ultimately the course goals.

So often we create all of the content and then try to fit it into boxes so that it is a neat package for students. If you want to ensure that your students have the content needed to solve the problem the course addresses, we cannot skip this step.

Like I said, I’ve seen lots of fun activities for creating digital courses that begin with a brain dump of all of the concepts and ideas that you’d like to teach. When you begin with the content, you run the very real risk of not addressing a problem that people want a solution for.

Now if you are thinking that’s great, but how do I even begin creating those outcomes or goals? I’ll break it down in a simple way in today’s Sixty-Second Solution at the end of the episode.

Action Item

Having a list of things to do only helps if they get implemented. So this week’s action item will be a task that will either lead you down multiple rabbit holes, or be an easy, no-brainer. Because a successful course hinges on solving a problem, this week, take time to get crystal clear on what problem your course will solve. When we take the time and energy to write this out, it makes each next step easier to implement because you have a North Star.

The problem being solved is the North Star for every single digital course.


Today we’ve been talking about 3 critical steps that every digital course creator needs to take as they create a new course for their business. We have to base our course on solving a problem for our students, build an audience to inform what goes into our courses and how we talk about them, and finally, we need a meaningful course outline. One that is based on the science of course design and not a pile of sticky notes.

Here on the Digital Course Creator Podcast, I’m openly sharing with you the tools and tactics you need to add a profitable digital course to your business. 

But here’s what I’ve realized…

Success in any area of life requires strategy that you can get from lots of place. We have access to books, podcasts, and more right on our phones.

So why do we still consistently struggle? 

Because whatever change we want in our lives will be 10% what we read or study, and 90% mindset.

As a psychology professor and coach, I share as much as I can about mindset here on the show, but to truly thrive we all need individualized attention, accountability, and support. 

So if you’re ready to be known for your digital course, I’d love to have a conversation with you.

I have two slots open on my calendar each week to help course creators figure out their goals and where they are stuck so they can get moving. These are free, no obligation calls. 

And I can also add you to my client waitlist in case you decide you do want to work with me further.

Make the next 12 months the year you go from being a hopeful course creator to a profitable course creator by grabbing a slot at coursecalls.com. You can also find that link in the show notes.

Sixty Second Solution

As we wrap up today’s episode let’s dig into our Sixty-Second Solution for the week. As a course creator, creating goals within a course based on the problem you solve can feel time consuming and a little squirrely. It doesn’t have to be hard. Begin with the overall course goal. As you create this, remember that it will be a direct connection to solving the problem. Next up, create module goals. The module goals will be the highest level breakdown of what is needed for the course goal to become a reality for students. Finally, create lesson goals. The lesson goals make that module goal a reality and these are the most detailed and often the smallest components of what is being taught in a course. When creating the goals for each tier, be sure that there is a clear connection to the level above and to the overall course goal. Doing this will ensure your student’s success with the material and the problem you solve. 

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