December 21, 2021

Spotnik: Online Course Creators

The fact that your clients' own market grows is the most important factor when choosing a niche. If their market is shrinking, there probably won't be enough business for you either. This blog series, "Spotnik," looks for and brings growth opportunities to your attention.

An independent online course creator is a solopreneur or a small business that creates virtual learning materials, typically for a targeted audience.

How many such course creators are there? Here's a snapshot:

  • Udemy: 65.000 instructors (Nov, 2021)
  • Skillshare: 8.000 instructors (Aug, 2020)
  • Teachable: 100.000 instructors (2020) 
  • Thinkific: 50.000 instructors (Dec, 2021) 
  • Kajabi: 40.000 instructors (2021)

The largest group getting into online course creations are coaches, trainers, and teachers (43%) followed by people teaching skills from a previous job (37%.)

Other people entering the online course industry are authors, professional speakers, or any other type of field-expert or thought-leader. More recently, there’s also an influx of knowledge-oriented social media influencers, for example social media savvy doctors or nurses.

For all of them, creating and selling online courses is a way to create an additional source of revenue, leverage their time better, and to build an asset they can re-use for years.

Independent course creators typically publish their courses on a self-hosted learning management system (LMS), such as Kajabi, or on an online course marketplace, such as Udemy.

Course creators using, or wanting to use, a self-hosted LMS are more likely to hire web designers / web developers.

Examples of Web Designers Helping Online Course Creators

Click the screenshots to visit the respective companies. Go here for more info about these examples.

Web Designer for Online Course Creators - Rob Galvin

Rob Galvin: Thinkific Course Sites, Membership Sites & Apps for Influencers, Coaches, & Online Course Creators

Web Designer for Online Course Creators - Courtney Marie & Co.

Courtney Marie & Co.: Kajabi Websites & Sales Pages for Coaches

Web Designer for Online Course Creators - Tech of Business

Tech of Business: Thinkific Course Sites for Music Teachers

Does the Online Course Creator Industry Grow?

Yes, forecasters expect the U.S. eLearning market to grow at a rate of 10% to 20% per year over the next 5 years. In 2021, the market is estimated at US$90 billion.

Online education has gone mainstream. Now, eLearning is the preferred option for many, both companies and individuals.

Plus, the sheer volume of education we need is growing exponentially. Those entering the workforce today will have four or five different careers over their lifetime, and there is a massive need for retraining ahead. World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. Lifelong education has become the new normal.

Some parts of the eLearning industry move even faster.

Cohort-based courses (CBS) are the last iteration of online courses and they have been growing fast since 2020.

Why? The dirty little secret of online courses is that less than 10% of students actually complete them.

The cohort-based course is the best answer the industry has come up with so far. They are showing completion rates above 50%.

What Types of Course Creator Clients Are There?

I scoured the portfolios of 16 web designers / developers serving online course creators.

Together, these freelancers and agencies had helped 94 course creating clients.

Out of those 94 clients, 78% were coaching businesses! So, let’s have a closer look at what types of course-creating coaches they had helped:

Type of Projects

Besides coaches, what other kind of online course creators hired these web designers? Here’s the full list:

  1. 1
    Coaches/Trainers, 74 clients (for example, Courtney Blue
  2. 2
    Professional Speakers, 4 (Kathy Parry)  
  3. 3
    Product Manufacturers/Distributors, 3 (Pemco)
  4. 4
    Nonprofits, 3 (1Life Fully Lived)
  5. 5
    Authors, 2 (Dan Solin)
  6. 6
    Managing Consulting Firms, 2 (Civic Excellence)
  7. 7
    Online Course Marketplaces, 2 (Onomy)

These 16 web designers had also been hired to help out with online courses by a cost engineer (Pivotal Value Training,) a marketing agency (Funnel Mentor,) a YouTuber (How to Cake It,) a Podcaster (Entrepreneurs on Fire,) and an online magazine (No-Till Success Academy.)

What Types of Services Are Online Course Creators Buying?

Starting out, online course creators easily get bogged down in tools and technology. “What learning management system, website theme, or shopping cart should I use?”

But after launching a course, 97% of course creators soon realize that the no. 1 challenge instead is sales & marketing. The reality for most creators, especially if they don’t have a dedicated following already, is that monetizing their expertise is really hard.

Next, after recruiting some students, they run into the next big problem: 90% drop out of the courses. These folks will neither come back for more nor refer any new students. A potential “true fan” has been lost.

So, online course creators generally hire web designers to help them with:

  1. 1
    Technical Set-up of Learning Management Systems
  2. 2
    Marketing and Sales: mainly sales pages, email marketing
  3. 3
    DFY Course Creation: instructional design, video production, etc.

Specifically, the 16 web designers I looked into had provided their 94 course creator clients with the following services:

Type of Projects

The most common LMS used in their showcased projects was Thinkific (40 projects) followed by Kajabi (35,) then LearnDash (15,) and finally Squarespace (1.)

Besides the top three services, the projects sometimes contained complementary services such brand identities, ongoing LMS support, integration with 3rd party apps (for example, Zoom), set-up of referral programs, and templates for social media, etc. - brand identities and ongoing LMS support being the most common complementary services.

Go Deeper!

To get to know the industry, trade associations for online course creators are a good start! Facebook groups are another way of getting closer to your target group, for example:

For more forecasts for the online course industry, click here for a ready-made Google search.