18 Reasons You Shouldn’t Create an Online Course

A couple of our clients wrapped up big product launches last week.

Since then, the team has been immersed in survey data to figure out why people didn’t buy.

We’re finding lots of great lessons learned: lots of insights for future marketing campaigns, lots of objections we can overcome, lots of misconceptions we can work to clear up.

But there was one pattern in the responses that was really, really interesting…

A lot of people were talking about how they were course’d out.

They wrote about how they …

  • Had bought so many courses in the past, they just couldn’t buy another one.
  • Were tired of so many launches happening all around them.
  • Had put themselves on a course-buying moratorium until they’d spent some time applying.

And who can blame them?

Everyone and their dog seem to be building a business model around courses these days …

Which is why today, I wanted to share 18 reasons why you shouldn’t be creating an online course or program for your business.

1. You’re not an expert.

Don’t confuse this with imposter complex, which is the belief that you’re not good enough when you actually are.

That said, if you truly don’t have the expertise to guide someone else through the transformation, you shouldn’t be creating a course.

Classic example? Don’t teach people to build a business if you’ve never built one yourself.

2. You’re new to business.

A course, program or training product should not be the first product you sell in your business.

You need the time and experience of developing your own method by actually working with other people.

If you’re just getting started, go find some 1:1 clients that you can work with first. Then you can take what you learn and turn it into a course … once you’ve got a method that works.

3. The wrong people are in your audience.

Similar to #2, if you’re just doing a major pivot in your business, you really ought to not create a course as the first experiment on a new trajectory.

Instead, focus on better serving the audience you already have … or building the audience you wish you had.

4. You don’t have 20-30 people you could invite to a pilot.

True: you don’t need a list of thousands to create your first product. In fact, our first group program was launched when we had a house list of just 100 people.

What you do need is 20-30 people you can invite to a pilot. If you have the right people to invite, you can hand-sell the 5-10 seats for a pilot pretty easily.

If you can’t, then you either don’t have the right audience or the right product offer.

5. You don’t want to build your list.

Though you can start a training business without much of a list, you can’t sustain, grow or scale one without it.

If you decide to go the route of leveraged product offerings – which delivering courses most definitely is – you are going to need a steady stream of new prospects to sell to.

Volume sales requires volume audience building. There’s no two ways about it.

6. You don’t actually want to run a training company.

Seriously, not every online business needs to be a training company.

You can be a freelancer, if that’s what you want. Or coach, consultant or strategist.

You could build an agency, a studio, or a consultancy. Have a whole team working on delivering for clients.

You could dive into physical products. Double down on your local market. The possibilities are endless …

Just because “everyone else” is running a training company doesn’t mean you have to.

(And besides, not everyone is running a training company.)

7. You want to have an entirely transactional relationship with clients.

Creating a course because you have a dream of passive income, making money in your sleep, and never dealing with customers anymore isn’t what happens when you create an online course.

The simple truth is that books are passive. Courses require you to engage with your customers. Full stop.

8. You want to have an entirely relational relationship with clients.

Of course, if you love the deep relationships that form from working with people 1:1, then you won’t be satisfied with a course, either.

Yes, online courses can create amazing transformations.

Yes, they can be just as powerful and personalized as other ways of working can be.

No, they don’t give you the same sense of deep relationship as you get from other ways of working.

9. You have a hard time seeking out feedback and accepting when you’re wrong.

You’re an expert. This means you suffer from the Curse of Expertise. As such, you will get things wrong when you first create your course.

Will you be willing to listen, honestly and openly, to all the things that need to be fixed?

Will you be willing to revisit it, reiterate on it, and make it better?

If not, you have no business making a course.

10. Your customers don’t buy online, and they especially don’t buy online courses.

Once, a client came to us because they wanted to create a course for seniors to help them market their brick and mortar businesses online.

It didn’t sell.

Why? Because while her customers were happy to hire her to do it for them, they had no desire to learn it for themselves.

And they absolutely refused to use their credit cards to buy online.

Besides, research says that the third strongest predictor of student satisfaction is their Internet self-efficacy. If they struggle to use email, they won’t be happy with your course.

11. You need cash yesterday.

You can absolutely make a lot of money very quickly with an online course.

You can pre-sell it before you’ve started developing the materials.

But if you absolutely, positively need money yesterday

… finding someone you can sell a service to is going to be far, far, far more effective.

12. A course or program won’t address your customers’ core desires.

What do your customers really want?

Not what they say they want; I mean really want.

Do they really just want someone else to come clean the bathroom for them?

Then no course on how to keep a tidy home will help. A maid service, however, might.

13. It doesn’t fit the public image you’re building for your company.

When you offer training, you’re positioning your company in a particular way.

For example, you’re showcasing your expertise, or showing yourself to be a “guide on the side” not a sage on the stage.

But is that the image you want?

This becomes even more important when you consider the extent to which your company is an extension of your personal brand.

Simple things like “who shows up on camera” for a video lesson can become a key positioning decision you have to make before deciding to create a course.

14. It doesn’t make sense in the narrative of your business model.

Do you sell $79 digital products? Or $100,000 consulting projects? Then you need to ask yourself if a $2000 digital product is really going to make sense to your customers.

If you can shape the narrative and change the story so that it does make sense, then great. But that goes back to point #13 — the decision to build a course has to make sense from a business perspective and a consumer one.

15. It may not be profitable for a long, long time.

Creating training is typically a long play. Even if you don’t dump a lot of cash in, you’re going to be investing a lot of sweat equity into making the training a reality.

Through the process of design, development, delivery, feedback and iteration, it’s feasible that you might need to pilot your program 2-3 times at a loss before it would be solid enough to roll out to the masses.

Add in the question of what your prices will be (#14) and it becomes possible that the path to profitability may not be as easy as you might have first imagined.

16. You don’t want to launch.

Evergreen products are great.

Set up a funnel, drive traffic to it, and watch the sales stream in …

Right?

Except that for most businesses, it takes a long time to get to that point.

Even some of the most successful online training businesses have stepped away from trying to do everything through automation and gone back to launches as the main way to drive revenue.

Plus, there are significant benefits to cohorting your students — the sense of community, for example, simply cannot be created any other way.

17. You aren’t willing to learn new skills.

When’s the last time you learned something completely new-to-you?

Some entrepreneurs and business owners love the challenge. Others, though, hate it.

If you’re in the latter group, don’t create a course.

Just because you’re taking on the role of teacher doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a lot to learn.

You need to learn about how people learn, how to organize your ideas into curriculum, how to sell leveraged products, and more.

It’s a whole new skill-set.

18. You are in love with your ideas.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times …

No one cares what you want to teach.

You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t show your customers how and why they should care, it won’t matter.

Just like no battle plan survives the first encounter with the enemy, no brilliant idea survives the first encounter with a student.

You have to be willing to sacrifice on your ideas to make them “work” for your customers, otherwise… what’s the point?

Bonus: You aren’t willing to invest the time, money or resources into doing it right.

I once spoke with a lady about an online course she’d taken from a Big Name Internet Personality. I’d just mentioned that I helped people grow their online teaching businesses when she leaned over to me and confided …

“It was so bad, I’ll never buy from him again.”

A great course can make a lot of money. A bad one can destroy a business.

A world-class one will transform lives.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s really only one option: world-class or bust.

  • Nechelle

    Thank you for posting this Bryanne, this is an honest and real perspective that anyone considering creating courses MUST read.

  • YES! This has been on my mind a lot lately with literally everyone and their dog creating an online course. I have nothing against people trying to teach and make money from it – but not if it’s just adding to the noise.

    • In many ways, I think each of these 18 reasons can be a reason TO create an online course — IF it fits into the overall business model… IF it aligns with your personal goals … IF it’s something people want from you … then yes. Create a course. Create a hundred courses (okay, maybe not…). Just make sure it’s remarkable and gets transformative results!

  • WoW! Thanks so much for this! I LOVE creating and running courses, but you hit some hot (and scary) spots here. I believe that “everyone and their dog” contributes to courses that do not give you an adequate experience once you enroll. When I sign up for one, I am looking to learn what I expect, AND to learn from seeing a seamless experience and structure in the works, regardless of the content!

    • Monicka – yes! Around these parts, we call that your Core Promise: you need to deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. That’s the first step toward creating a product that gets referrals, repeat buyers and strong retention … which are what ultimately drive your revenue!

  • Yes, yes, yes, and yes — I love the honesty, the thoroughness, and the depth of this post … and most of all I love how you’re calling people to a higher standard. #worldclassorbust!