[418] How long does it take to create an online course?

Would you love to launch an online course – but are wondering how long it will take to create your course and get it online?

I get it.

Without a clear idea of how long it will take you to create your course, it’s difficult to decide to decide on launch date – and plan your launch strategy.

When you’re trying to estimate how long it will take to create your online course, there are a number things you need to take into consideration

For example:

  • How well do you know your subject? (and do you already have content you can repurpose?) 
  • How long will your course be? (i.e. how many modules/lessons)
  • Are you are planning to do everything yourself (or outsource some tasks)
  • Will your classes be live or pre-recorded?
  • Have you created an online course before? 
  • Do you have previous teaching experience? 

This podcast episode (which you can also read as a blog post) will take you through the key things you need to consider to estimate how long it will take you to create your course.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode.}

1. How well do you know your subject?

The first and most important decision you need to make about your course is the topic.

Choosing a topic you know well and/or have already created content on as this can vastly reduce the amount of time needed to create your course – and get it to market.

For example, my first course, Soulful PR for Starters, was a beginners course on how to do your own PR. I had already created a cluster of blog posts on this topic. For example:

  • What kind of ideas are journalists interested in?
  • How to write a press release for a journalist
  • How to write an effective pitch for a journalist
  • How to find journalists’ contact details
  • What to do if a journalist says ‘no’ to your pitch

So I was able to repurpose the blog posts I had already created (which were tried and tested ideas) to quickly create an outline for my course.

Had I been starting from scratch it could have taken HOURS of research.

2. How long will your online course be?

This will have the biggest impact on your time – as the longer your course, the longer it will take you to create the materials.

According to research from Teachable, a starter course might be just five – 20 lessons and cover a small aspect of a wider topic e.g. how to create a high-converting lead magnet or how to apply for a UK trademark.  Or it may cover a topic at a beginner’s level of detail.

A typical price to sell a starter course might be $50 – $200.

A flagship course like Build Your Online Audience might be 20 – 100 lessons and cover all aspects of a topic in lots of depth with plenty of additional resources and  a community/forum. It could sell for anything from $200 – $2000+.

Bonus tip: If it’s your first course, try creating a ‘starter’ course on a niche aspect of a bigger topic.

3. Are you are planning to do everything yourself (or outsource some tasks)

As a minimum, most online courses contain:

  • Video tutorials
  • Workbooks/printables (e.g. templates, checklists, cheat sheets, swipe files)
  • Slides

Some course creators also provide audio versions of their courses and transcripts (important for accesssibility).

This means that at a very minimum you will need to:

  • Plan your lessons
  • Record/edit video tutorials
  • Create slides and printables

If you are planning to do it all yourself, you may need to factor in time to learn about video editing and/or design. However I really recommend using a professional designer and perhaps even an audio editor. I’d recommend outsourcing if you can.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to factor in time for learning new skills and/or costs for outsourcing.

4. Will your classes be live or pre-recorded?

It’s typically quicker to create live content (as you have to do it all in one ‘take’). But depending on how perfect you want your content to be – you may want to edit your content afterwards and cut out any unnecessary parts. But if you haven’t done much online teaching, it can be quite nerve wracking teaching online (or teaching at all if you haven’t done it before).

For a masterclass that’s 90 mins – it typically takes me:

  • Around six hours to prepare for a class.
  • Around a day create workbook with help from my designer.

Although this can vary, depending on the topic.

If you’re a confident, competent online teacher, go for it live. If not, you may be more comfortable with pre-recorded.

5. Have you created an online course before?

As with anything in life, you tend to get quicker. When I first started creating online courses, it could sometimes take me up to three hours to create an online class. Now I do it all in one take. I don’t even edit out mistakes unless they are REALLY big.

While I don’t advocate creating your course upfront (it’s best to pre-sell it before you make it – so you’re sure you’re creating something people actually want to buy. Creating one session to see how long it takes you might can be a good idea. As can creating a one-off masterclass or webinar BEFORE  you launch a course so you can get a feel for how long things take you.

Bonus tip: Before you launch your online course, do a rest run with a one-off masterclass or webinar.

6. Do you have teaching experience? 

I have a professional teaching qualification and have taught in schools and universities. PLUS I’ve been teaching online for around seven years. This means I’m used to planning lessons and creating teaching resources (and can do it fairly quick).

But if you don’t have much teaching experience, it will typically take you longer than an experienced teacher. To create an interactive, engaging learning experience it’s helpful to understand how people learn – including different learning styles and how to adapt your content to engage different types of learners.

7. How to sell your course without making it (and why you should)

I believe you should pre-sell your course before you create it. That way you’ll know if it’s going to sell – BEFORE you’ve invested time and money in creating it.

If you haven’t got a big online audience to sell to –  consider starting small with a webinar or masterclass. You can build interest from as you build your online audience.

Ready to learn more?

Join my masterclass on how to plan and create awesome teaching resources for an online course

Podcast shownotes

  • About my how to plan and create awesome teaching resources for an online course masterclass  (01:47)
  • About this podcast episode (07:32)
  • Why I can’t give you the exact amount of time it will take  to create a course (but can help you calculate how long it will take) (08:21)
  • Why knowing your subject really well will help you create your online course quicker (11:25)
  • How to save time if you already have popular content you can turn into a course (13:12)
  • Why creating a niche mini-course is a good place to start (15:02)
  • Why you need to test your concept before building a flagship course (16:28)
  • The three main resources that you might need to create for your course (19:25)
  • What you need to think about when creating your resources for your online course (20:47
  • Why you need to remember that everyone has different learning styles (21:34)
  • How to make your classes interactive (and why you should) (23:40)
  • What you need to consider when you create your resources (25:10)
  • Why you might want to consider outsourcing and why design is so important (28:40)
  • Why your course materials need to look professional (30:10)
  • Why live classes can save you time rather than prerecording(31:40)
  • When you might prerecord your classes (33:20)
  • Why you should start with a masterclass or webinar and build from there (35:02)
  • Why you should presell your course before you create it (36:50)
  • How to find out if people will buy your course (38:39)
  • What to do if you don’t have time to build a big online audience to sell to (40:01)
  • How to get an idea of how long it will take you to create your course (43:20)


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