You’re totally on board with creating a course as part of your passive income stream. But the problem is, you have no idea what topic to tackle. There are tons of ideas swirling around in your mind, and you’re not sure which idea will work best for your audience. In fact, you may not be fully sure who your audience is yet.
That’s okay—it really is. This is all part of the process. And by the end of this post, I promise you’ll have the actionable strategies that will lead you to the perfect course for the perfect audience. So, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s get started!
Here’s how to set up a survey using ConvertKit.
What is the One Thing You’re Most Passionate About?
In my humble opinion, passion should always be a part of the conversation. If something bores you, you’re not going to be very excited about it. In fact, you may even be dismissive of it—even if you’re knowledgeable about it.
But if you have a passion for a topic, you’re able to wax poetic on it for hours. So, start there. Find the thing that you love talking about and learning more about. That’s probably the best topic to go with for your course.
Choosing a topic you’re already passionate about will make creating your course feel less like a chore, and more like a passion project.
But what if you’re multi-passionate?
Believe me, I get it. I don’t just have one thing I’m excited about—there are a lot of things that I love. So, I can totally relate. But, here’s what you do with that: Make a list of the top five things that you feel capable of teaching and then move on to the next step.
What Are You Qualified to Talk About?
Passion is important, but knowledge is too. I may be passionate about a subject and be able to apply it to my own life, but that’s not enough. I need to be able to transfer what I know to help others.
Let’s say I’m into all things fashion. That’s my passion. But how do I translate my passion into qualification?
Perhaps I went to school for fashion, or maybe I’ve just got a ton of experience advising my friends and family on what to wear and what to donate.
Qualification is usually the next step in passion. I would say that if you’re passionate about a subject, you’re probably qualified to teach it. That’s because passion usually requires complete devotion to a topic. You’ve learned more about this particular topic than the average Joe, and you’re able to share insights with them that they don’t know.
But passion doesn’t always need to guide qualification. Sometimes, you can simply go through a process (that you weren’t particularly passionate about), and now you can use that information to help others. You may not be passionate about the process, but you are passionate about helping other people in various capacities.
So, maybe you’ve set up a company recently, and now you’re creating a course to help others set up their own company. You’ll include things that you learned, such as setting up a corporation or limited liability, the pros and cons of that, and how to go about local advertising. You may not be in love with tax codes and corporations, but you do love sharing what you’ve learned with others. And you’re qualified because you’ve done it.
My point is to explore the ideas that you’re qualified to teach. It could be mundane but add a lot of value to someone else’s life. Think about how big of a resource your future course would’ve been to you if it were available before you went through the process.
Who Are You Speaking to?
I’ve said it before, but it can’t be said enough: Be specific. Go niche.
What I mean by that is you need to speak to a small, targeted audience. It’s never, ever a good idea to appeal to everyone in the world. That’s because you simply can’t.
Some people will need what you’re teaching and some will never need it. And then, of the some who will need your teaching, there’s a group that just won’t like the way you present things. They won’t like your personality. They won’t understand your jokes. They won’t “get” you. But then, there are a blessed few who will. And that’s who you need to reach for. That’s your audience.
And that’s precisely why you need to figure out who they are and what they need most (we’ll discuss that point next).
Resist the urge to go general on your course topic. Go ultra niche, and you’ll be in a better position to find the right audience.
For example, don’t teach a beginner’s photography course. That’s way too general. That appeals to too many people. There’s simply no way that you’re going to be able to dive into the topics that each individual audience member needs to be successful.
Instead, go for a beginner’s iPhone photography course or a selfie photography course for Instagrammers.
Sure, you’re filtering out a ton of potential course takers, but you’ll be able to deliver more specific value this way, too.
What is Your Audience Interested In?
What keeps your audience awake at night?
What’s the one thing that your audience wants so desperately to learn?
You don’t want to be in the “oh, that’s nice to know” category. You need to be in the, “I’ve got to learn how to do this by Tuesday” category.
The best course topic is inspired by a person’s pain points—and in turn, it inspires urgency. Your audience comes across your course and thinks immediately, “Wow, I need this! This is the perfect solution to the problem I’m dealing with right now.” And then they decide to buy immediately.
So, this begs the question: What do they want to learn?
If you don’t know the answer, ask them! Here are my favorite ways to ask for what you need:
Contact New Subscribers
After someone joins your email list, send them an email with a personal request. Ask them to identify the number one thing that they struggle with. Share with them that you’ll use this information to create a future course and any information they can provide will be valuable and used to that end.
I love this option because it’s so simple to do. It doesn’t need to take a lot of effort on your part. In fact, you can automate this entire process (they don’t need to know that). Simply word a personal plea and then schedule it to deliver within a day or two of joining your email list.
For Those Not on Your List
One of my favorite ways to reach out to non-subscribers is through a quiz. Who can resist a quiz? By answering a few questions, your quiz taker will come away with a fresh understanding and you’ll gain something too.
Here’s how a quiz could work:
Set a quiz that promotes your course. Let’s say you want to teach a course on interior design for beginners. Your quiz could be something akin to, “What’s your signature interior design style?”
But wait for the best part. People who take your quiz will need to subscribe to your list to receive the answer, so that’s growing your email list. Way to go! But that’s not all… You can then segment quiz takers based on their answers and send them tailored content in the future. PLUS… you’ll then have a better clue about who your audience is based on your segmentation. This will allow you to create a more tailored course.
I love when you can multitask like that, don’t you? If you’re ready to implement this strategy, here's a post on how to set up a quiz on your Squarespace website in five easy steps.
Psst… I also recommend setting up a paid ad for your quiz using Facebook. Here’s how to get started with paid ads on Facebook.
Do a Pop-Up Survey
On your website, include a pop-up survey to gauge interest in a future course. Keep the survey short and to the point.
In your survey, you can offer multiple choices of course topics for participants to choose from. Or, if you have no ideas whatsoever, you can ask them to leave a comment with a topic they’d like to see in a future course.
Look at Your Blog
Last, but certainly not least, look at your site metrics. Pay special attention to your most popular and visited blog posts on your site. This will give you a huge indication, in glowing neon lights, of what your audience is interested in learning.
Not only should you use these popular posts as course idea jumpstarts, but you should also consider adding content upgrades retroactively to these top performers. I discuss the what, why, and how of content upgrades in this post, so definitely check it out.
And, by the way, if you don’t already have a blog, set it up now. Here's why you need a blog (and how to rock it).
Check out this related blog post:
Don’t forget to download this free guide to setting up an email survey.