Starting an online course business can seem overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be!
You can build an online training business that helps you tell your story, share your expertise, or even enables you to learn more about a subject alongside your students. And you can do it easily.
Ahead, we’ll define what we mean when we say “online course business” or “online training business.” Then, we’ll show you how to start an online course business in four easy steps, from choosing your topic to kicking off your first course. Let’s do this!
If you want more support in building your online training business and community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
What is an Online Training Business?
An online training business or online course business is a structured progression through course material or a topic. Each course builds on prior concepts, getting your participants closer and closer to mastering your topic, and has a clear beginning, middle, and end.
People build online courses into their online training businesses for all kinds of reasons. Some people are looking to share their expertise or experience. Others want to launch a new revenue stream or repackage content they’ve already produced.
No matter the reason, the best online training businesses have one thing in common: they combine courses with a robust, thriving community.
Why? Because when you combine courses with community, you give your people the ability to connect with each other, work together on your lessons, and master a shared topic of interest together. You create a high-value experience for your members—one they’re more likely to keep coming back to. And that’s huge.
Now that you know what an online course business is, let’s talk about how to start an online training business.
4 Steps to start an online training business
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
The first step to starting an online course business is to find a compelling topic for your students to gather around. And while you can be an expert to teach or offer an online course, you don’t have to be. The key thing here is getting people results. That’s the thing they’re going to pay for.
Your topic can be almost anything, as long as it’s clear and specific.
Most online training businesses have topics that fall into one of three categories:
A topic based on something you have expertise in. If you have experience that makes you an expert in a certain field, you can certainly create an online course around that topic.
Rae Benjamin created In the Cut to be an online community centered around providing resources and connections to help marginalized creatives break into the film and television industry. In the Cut has quickly grown in scale since its launch in 2020 and now has over 1,000 members. On their Mighty Network, they offer paid webinars, job postings, a network of like-minded creatives, and even host virtual events.
A topic based on your personal experience. You don’t have to be an expert to start an online course. Take inspiration from your own story: your identity, where you’ve been and why, or what you’ve achieved and how.
That’s exactly what Cecilia and Jason Hilkey did. They knew, as parents and former educators, that traditional parenting methods sometimes fell short. So they built a community, The Village by Happily Family, with courses to give other parents the tools to foster healthy relationships with their children.
If you don’t fall into either of those categories, you can also build a course around a topic that you want to learn more about. There’s no reason that you can’t be a guide, share what you’re learning with your course participants in real-time, and master that topic alongside your students.
When you’ve settled on a topic, you can move on to the next phase.
Step 2: Zero In On Your Ideal Student
Once you have your topic in mind for your online training business, you’ll need to figure out who, exactly, it will serve. In other words, what does your ideal student look like? And how will your online course deliver results and transformation to them?
Try to be as specific as possible. Where are they in their life? What goals do they want to achieve? What’s holding them back? The more clear you can be, the better.
That’s because when you define your ideal member, you put a finger on the people who will be the most motivated by the transformation you’re offering in your online course business. It turns out people are very, very motivated by the promise of a transformation. And if you can prove that you can deliver that transformation, they’ll pay to be a part of what your building.
For that reason, figuring out your ideal student is crucial to starting an online course business. So much so that it can be the difference between finding success and falling flat.
We have a free training on finding our Ideal Member in our Mighty Community!
Step 3: Find the Right Platform
The next step in starting an online course business is finding an online course platform that will give you all the tools you need to succeed—both now and in the future.
That means you’re looking for a white label course platform with a few specific features:
A platform that lets you create a dynamic course. Sure, you can deliver large blocks of text if you want to. But your online training business will be way more effective if you can deliver courses that are exciting and engaging. Think live teaching sessions, pre-recorded lessons, PDFs for longer references, and more. You need a platform that can support it all.
A platform that lets you leverage a community to make students more successful. As we said before, giving your students the opportunity to build relationships and learn from each other is essential to building a successful online course. Look for a platform that makes it easy for them to share their ideas with each other (and you!) with polls, a central activity feed, and more.
A platform that gives you room to grow. At some point, you might want to start adding more courses. Or maybe you’ll want to kick off a mastermind group for your more advanced students. Ideally, you’ll want to find a platform that will grow with you.
A platform that is with your students everywhere they go. This one is crucial. If your students can access your course and community at any time, they’re way more likely to stay involved. Choose a platform that gives you app access, so that your online training business can be with your students, all the time.
Most online course platforms are dedicated to delivering online course content, and online course content only. You won’t get all the features we’ve listed above, without adding in additional platforms or apps.
Mighty Networks is a powerful cultural software platform that brings community, courses, content, commerce, and live events together. Mighty's flexible Spaces let you build the membership YOU want, adding in features like live streaming, online courses, discussion forums, and written and video content. We bring all this together in one place, under your own brand and domain name, instantly available on web, iOS and Android.
You’ll be able to create versatile course content, from videos and audio to PDFs and rich-media articles; livestream within your network; get your students connected and excited with member-forward features; and grow your community down the line or add more courses and sub-groups in the future. Plus, you’ll be able to do it all on the web and via native mobile apps.
Once you’ve figured out your platform, you’re ready to price your online course and deliver your content.
Step 4: Kick Off Your First Course
The next step to starting an online course business is to run your first course. And you have a few options.
Run a course with content only. This is the option you’ll get with most online course platforms, and you can run a course in Mighty Networks like this too. Just run the course as usual, and turn the comments off.
Run a course with a dedicated community. This is when you create a course and run a dedicated community alongside it—one that’s only available to the course participants and not the larger community.
Run a course “live.” This is the easiest way to run a course. With this method, you put the community front and center, adding course content as you go.
Here’s how it works: Every week, you introduce a concept, and offer a case study — think of it as an example that brings your concept to life. From there, you define an action for your students to take, or an assignment for them to complete that will help them achieve a result.
If you use this basic structure every week for six to eight weeks, you enable your members to get tangible results that build on each other over time. And you get the ability to create content as you go, tweaking what you’re offering based on your member’s feedback. Not only do you do less work upfront, but you eliminate the possibility of building a course that doesn’t fit what your ideal members actually want.
Starting an online training business doesn’t have to be hard.
Whether you’re running a set of fitness classes, courses about finance, or lessons that build toward a tangible skill, your easiest road to success is combining your course with a community.
When you do that, you don’t just boost your own potential. You give your participants added value, and the incentive to keep coming back to your online training business. And with Mighty Networks you can do both—and it can be surprisingly easy.