My strategy for choosing an new online course topic

The online course is THE best type of leveraged income generator there is. When you create an online course that sells, you can generate income from that ONE product over and over again. My own online course based business is starting to really thrive, and it’s honestly a thrill every time I see this pop up in my emails:

It’s especially cool because I’ve been off doing something completely unrelated when these sales occur! That’s residual (passive) income for you! This kind of income stream is available for you too and it’s no gimmick, and doesn’t require selling your soul (or your dignity!). If you need help with your mindset read this.

So of course (haha), starting work on a new online course is exciting – because I’m thinking ahead to creating a new source of leveraged income.

If you’re like me – a creative person who is bursting with ideas – we have new ideas for courses all the time. We have “aha moments” when stuck in traffic, washing the dishes, while we’re trying to sleep, or when we’re in the middle of a yoga class.

Deciding on which topic to teach.

When you decide to create a new online course and get stuck trying to pick a topic, it’s probably not because you have no idea what to teach. Instead, it’s that you have too many ideas!

For many, choosing a topic is the most challenging part of the course creation process. Should you stick to what you’re qualified in, go for something you’re passionate about, or jump on the latest trend?

A photo of The Leveraged Mama brainstorming for a new course.

Choosing your course topic is just the first step, but it is an important one. Once you know what you’d like to teach people, you can get stuck into testing your ideas. Especially creating content, and putting your new online course together.

Finding Your Passion And Niche

If you’re anything like me, your mind will be buzzing with ideas, questions, doubts, and suggestions. There’s a lot of noise to cut through!

The best way to start sorting through all your thoughts and drill down to something that can legitimately work is by emptying all your inspiration out onto paper (or a computer screen, if you prefer.)

So, we’ll start by doing a series of brain dumps as we work through some questions, starting with:

Who is your ideal audience?

When you launch an online course, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time with your students and (hopefully) building a tight-knit community of like-minded people.

So, think about what kind of people you’d like to connect with. Who do you feel drawn to teach? Who would you love to talk to? In the future, what type of people would you be stoked to be surrounded by?

Getting a clear idea of who your ideal audience is will help clue you into what content they would benefit from in their lives.

What is your ‘passion’?

What are you into? I’m not talking about the career/s you’ve had. I want to know what you could talk about for three hours non-stop with a buzz of excitement.

This may be a hobby, or it may just be something you’re interested in. Think about the things you find yourself researching often, just for fun. (However if you have ADHD, like me, it could mean you know a LOT because of your hyper-focused research sessions!!) What do you find the most joy helping people with?

Are there any topics you’re passionate about now that you will still be passionate about five years from now? Which topics do you love discussing most?

Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time researching and building your new online course, so you might as well choose a topic that you find enjoyable.

Teaching something you’re passionate about will help you stay motivated and keep pushing in those times when you feel like you’ve run out of steam.

Bear in mind that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a life-long passion. It could simply be your latest hyper-focus!

What are you naturally good at?

Do you have a knack for writing or drawing cute cartoons? Maybe you’re great at creating spreadsheets or have found a productivity hack to help you lock in new habits.

Spend some time listing your natural skills. If you get stuck on this one, ask yourself what people ask you for advice or information on most often. Do you feel skilled at any hobbies? Which activities are your favourites? What do you receive compliments?

What skills and knowledge do you have?

Now we move onto the practical part. This is where you can consider your qualifications and practical experience (paid or unpaid). What skills and knowledge have you picked up from self-study (classes, books, the internet, workshops), and which have you gained from formal education, organisations or communities?

Even if you don’t feel overly enthusiastic about your skills and knowledge when compared to your passion projects, this list could hold some insight into topics you may not have considered or uncover ways to enhance your chosen topic down the line.

Consider Your Unfair Advantage

Okay, you probably have a rather lengthy list of topics that all seem equally appealing. Don’t let this freak you out – it’s great news! After all, you don’t have to stop at ONE online course, and it’s better to be overflowing with ideas than lacking in inspiration.

Lay that list aside as it’s time to uncover your secret ingredient – aka – your unfair advantage or business booster.

Business boosters are simply unfair competitive advantages that might make it much easier to build a business around your new online course topic.

It’s something you (or the topic itself) bring to the table that can provide that extra boost to success.

Take a look at the following business booster topics and choose 1-3 ideas from your master list to slot into each.

  • A new and fast-growing topic
  • Something you’re already an expert at
  • The thing you love, almost in an unhealthy way (you eat, sleep and breathe this)
  • A topic that you know important/influential people within

If you think of any other business boosters, feel free to note them and slot a few topic ideas in. Maybe you have insider knowledge that will give you a leg up. Or perhaps a supportive partner in the industry to provide extra value.

Evaluate your new online course topic ideas

So, hopefully, you’ve successfully transferred all that noise in your head into the physical world in a series of lists. By now, you’re probably already drawn to one or more of your new online course ideas. However, before you settle on one, you need to evaluate the ideas in a balanced way.

Bring on the matrix (not the epic movie series, but the tool that helps you make more effective decisions!) Using a weighted average decision matrix is a great way to remove any emotional bias you might subconsciously use. Particularly when trying to choose the right topic.

Each topic is assessed subjectively in this way. To find out which of the outcomes (or two or three) is the most likely to be the top choice.

Use the Decision Matrix to evaluate your topic ideas

Here’s how it works. Each topic that made your short list will be evaluated against a list of criteria. I’ve created a criteria list but you can adjust if you wish.

I’ll have a suggested criteria list, but you can feel free to add/subtract as you see fit.

Each criteria is assigned a weighting from 1 to 10, which indicates how important it is in choosing your course topic.

Then, each topic receives a score for each criteria. For example, if the criteria is “personal interest in this topic,” you would assign 0 if you’re not interested at all, 10 if it’s all you’re thinking about constantly, or something in between.

After assigning your weights and scores, you multiply weight x raw score for each, then you add all the weighted scores for each topic.

The sum of each is your total score for each topic.

Whichever has the highest score might just be your winner!

Access The Decision Matrix editable spreadsheet here (make a copy to use it).

Next, it’s time to think about what to include in your course, if you want it to be a money maker.

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