Creating an Online Course 101: The Secrets to Getting Started

Creating an Online Course 101: The Secrets to Getting Started

If you specialize in mentoring & coaching others, the geographical limitations of doing so in person could be frustrating. You want to help people, but it becomes impossible to achieve a mass audience beyond your native town/city.

This week, we are featuring the story of Rachael Pontillo, AWeber customer & creator of Holistically Haute.

She made an online course to connect with communities all over the world, she shared her advice on how you could create a course of your own.

Setting aims for your course

After beginning to teach skincare lessons & demonstrations in person, Rachael found the number of people she can reach was limiting.

That is when she decided to try creating an online course, Create Your Skincare. It is a six-week online course that teaches people how to create & customize all-natural skincare products for themselves & others.

Although she was initially intimidated by an idea of creating an online course, Rachael emphasized the importance of having courage & setting clear goals for the project:

By setting this positive tone, it easier for Rachael to stay focused & encouraged throughout the creation process.

Takeaway: Before you dive into creating a course for the first time, ensure you have a clear understanding of your goals and what you hope you & your audience will walk away with.

Establishing your framework & researching topics

To get an idea of the type of course she wanted, Rachael spent time researching other courses and took notes on what she liked & didn’t like. She also reached out to the course creators to learn more about the process.

For Rachael, the aim of this phase was to create a simple framework to support structure for her course.

Once she had a general model in place, it was time to increase content for the course. As she considered what her course would be about, she wanted to ensure it was something that would resonate with her audiences.

She decided to survey her audience.

As she heard the feedback, it became clear as to what type of educational content they would enjoy – from there the idea for her skincare creation course took form.

Takeaway: Sign up for 3 to 5 online courses and take note of what aspects you would like to repeat in your own course and what would like to avoid. If you have an existing audience, consider surveying them to learn their preferred method to consume content and/or what they would like to learn in an online course. Create a model for your course based on your takeaways & feedback.

Putting the pieces together & creating your course

After that she wanted to teach others how to create natural skincare products, it was time to create the content & design the course.

To do so, she began with her end goal and outlined the steps that were required to make that happen.

Once she had her angle, Rachael used storyboards, Venn diagrams & sketches to create outlines for individual course modules. She turned those into slides.

By creating these outlines, she was able to identify areas where there were content gaps that required other assets, like videos & PDF downloads.

Although Rachael used an online teaching platform to grow the course, she also recommended automated emails as another simple idea to get started.

Takeaway: The more preparation you do to grow your course, the easier it’ll be to tackle. After you decide on a topic, take time to outline the specific content pieces. To make the content, autoresponder emails are a simple place to start. You can explore third-party platforms like Teachable, Thinkific/Rainmaker.

Promoting the course to your communities

On her website, visitors could subscribe to her email list and receive frequent updates of her latest posts.

With “last call” email, Rachael creates a sense of urgency & communicates the benefits of the course.

In addition to email, Rachael uses Facebook advertising, webinars & incentives to build communities & relationships with prospects, display her skills & increase interest in her course.

By spreading the word about her content & course through different channels, it made it possible for Rachael to widen her achieve.

Takeaway: Leverage a wide variety of channels to reach existing and new communities as you begin promoting your course. Consider offering free incentives & other types of content to convince someone of the value of your business before asking them to sign up for your own course.


Get Started with Email Automation in 6 Easy Steps

Get Started with Email Automation in 6 Easy Steps

Email automation — everybody’s doing it! Or at least they should be. 90% of marketers say email automation is key to success.

According to Forbes, less than 10% of companies use marketing automation.

If you are not already familiar with the benefits of email automation, it is time to get on board. Automated emails are good for building a relationship with your audience, driving engagement & increasing conversions.

  1. Start collecting subscribers.

Before you could get started with email automation, people need to sign up for your autoresponder series. A robust, permission-based list of subscribers is a method to running a profitable automated email plan.

By placing sign up forms on your blog, website/social media channels, you can begin generating leads & building the right audience for your emails.

On your forms, be sure to explain what subscribers could expect from your emails & how they’ll provide value.

For instance, this signs up form from theSkimm explains the value of subscribing by mentioning that it will be “easier to be smarter,” because you will be receiving the top stories of the day. It then sets expectations by explaining that you will receive an email from them every morning.


After people subscribe, ensure your emails live up to their expectations. If you do not, you will likely alienate subscribers, decrease engagement & hurt your email marketing efforts.

Your sign up form should make opting into an email list as easy as possible. I recommend throwing in freebies — like ebooks/coupon codes — to create an extra incentive for signing up.

  1. Send relevant automated emails with segmentation.

You sent an email to an entire subscriber list. Perhaps it yielded some results, but perhaps it would have performed even better if you would target a specific niche within contacts.

Enter segmentation — one of our favorite methods to run successful automated email plans.

With segmentation, you could divide subscribers into highly-specific subgroups depended on criteria like age, geographic location, occupation & interests. You could then send them automation series designed for their unique needs.

For instance, for our free email course, What to Write in Your Emails, we use an automation series to deliver the course emails. We wanted to segment the subscribers who received this course into 2 separate groups – our customers & non-customers – we could send them different automated emails aligned with the specific needs.

To accomplish this, we asked people to recognize whether or not they were customers on the sign up form. We then set up 2 different automation series in AWeber that triggered depended on their answer. If they said they were customers, they received our customer automation series. If they said they weren’t, we sent them the other series.


Beyond sending more targeted emails, segmentation tends, relevant to get more conversions than messages directed at wider audiences. According to the Direct Marketing Association, targeted emails could drive up to 77% of your overall email ROI. For email marketers, it is a win-win!

  1. Embrace personalization.

There’s a lot of buzz about personalization — for good reason. According to Marketing Land, personalized emails see an open rate that is 9% higher than those written for larger audiences. They also saw a 41% higher click-through rate.

Subscribers do not just want relevant & authentic content. They expect it, which means your content needs to speak to them, answer their questions & align with the unique interests.

Personalization is well beyond including someone’s name in a subject line. There’re tons of great ways to utilize personalization in your automated emails:

  • Targeting customers with relevant educational courses.
  • Linking plans to move subscribers to an automated email series when another one ends.
  • Creating multiple email plans for different incentives.
  1. Engage new subscribers with a welcome email series.

Engaging people as soon as they take part in your list is one of the most compelling reasons why you could get started with automated emails. By sending a series of 3 to 5 friendly and helpful welcome emails, you could begin nurturing leads the moment they subscribe.

Welcome emails are good for getting subscribers excited about the content you are sending. By teasing some of your highest performing blogs, ebooks/social media posts, you could show subscribers that joining your list was a good decision.

First impressions are lasting impressions, so it is crucial your initial welcome email sets the right tone.

Make sure you introduce yourself & provide contact information. Write to subscribers the way you would write to a friend, deliver your lead magnet if you promised one & be transparent about what kind of content you will be sending. Here’s the welcome email theSkimm sends right after you fill out the sign up form. It’s concise & to the point but sets expectations & introduces theSkimm’s fun & conversational writing tone.

  1. Send subscribers valuable content for free.

It does not matter what you’re an expert in. If you are a thought leader in a certain area, use automated emails to share your passion & knowledge with the world!

Send free & valuable content to answer your audience’s biggest questions. Giving away content this addresses a specific problem helps build trust with subscribers, let you to maintain healthy relationships.

  1. Link campaigns together to increase your ROI.

You have a series of four automated emails set up for when people first subscribe to your lists. Once that email series ends, try adding subscribers to automated series to keep them engaged.

With Plans, AWeber’s email automation platform, you could automatically move subscribers from one series to another to support engagement with messages.

Using Campaigns, you could tag all the subscribers who achieve the end of your first email series, moving them into a series automatically. After the second series ends, you could move them into a third series, fourth series, fifth series…

Linking email campaigns together supports several benefits. But most importantly, it’ll help you:

  • Send the right content to the right people
  • Make a more personalized experience based on how people engage with emails
  • Involve subscribers over longer time periods
  • Inspire past customers to make future purchases