Creating and Selling Online Courses — a Guide for Yoga Teachers
Why it’s essential for you as a yoga teacher to offer your own online course plus details on how to plan, create, publish, and sell one.
As a yoga teacher, you’re always in the business of trading dollars for hours where you get paid for committing time to weekly classes. The problem with this is that not only is your income potential limited, but it is also exhausting when you’re teaching so many classes per week, leaving little time for personal practice and reflection.
This is a sacrifice many of you have made in order to earn enough and continue to do what you love as a profession. However, there is another way popular among high-profile yoga teachers, and that is creating and selling online courses.
In this starter guide, I’ll first explain why it’s essential for you as a yoga teacher to have your own online course. Then, I’ll give you an overview of how to go about planning, creating, publishing, and selling your course. Don’t be put off by that last word, “selling” — I’ll show you how to do it with integrity and in a way will be appreciated as helpful and authentic.
Why You Should Offer an Online Course
The path most yoga teachers take to build their career is defined by weekly public classes and some private clients. Depending on your level of experience, you may also be organizing retreats and teacher training courses.
Given this is the case, there are a number of key reasons why you should have an online course:
- Time: An online course helps free you from trading dollars for hours and limiting your earning potential. You can create a course once and sell it over and over again. Consequently, you won’t need to teach as much during the week, giving you plenty of free time for personal practice, reflection, and self-care.
- Audience: Selling a course online means you are not limited by where you live to attract clients. Thanks to yoga’s global popularity, you are now able to sell your course to people who are looking for what you offer, regardless of their location.
- Convenience: People who want to learn yoga often struggle to get to classes. With online courses, they can benefit from being able to practice in the comfort of their own home at a time that suits them.
- Affordability: Attending classes at a yoga studio can add up over time, and many can’t afford it. Workshops, retreats, and courses can be expensive. In comparison, online courses are more affordable, and there is no time limit for your student to use them.
- Relationships: Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to build meaningful and authentic relationships with people online. Once you have earned their trust, most prospective students will be glad to know that there is an affordable and convenient opportunity to learn from you.
- Stability: Offering an online course provides you with ongoing income. If you were to get sick or injured, preventing you from teaching in-person for a while, your course would still be available. There will always be an audience for quality content, and by appealing to a broader audience, you add stability to your business.
- Longevity: Yoga has been with us for thousands of years and will be with us forever. Your first attempt at creating a course may not result in a masterpiece — and that’s ok. You can always come back later to polish it up when time and resources allow.
There are clearly many benefits to having an online course for both you and your clients. It is easy to underestimate the demand of such a course, but with the increasing global interest in yoga, there is a real necessity for a course that allows people to get to where they want to with yoga, under the guidance of an empathetic tutor.
Successfully Planning Your Course
What Does a Successful Course Look Like?
Before we go further, it may help for you to see a few examples of successful online yoga courses. There are unlimited possibilities in terms of subject matter, presentation style, visuals, depth, and length. Below are just a few examples of courses that have performed well on Udemy, one of the most popular platforms for selling courses.
An In-Depth Training in Energetic and Emotional Healing with Seane CornUdemy.com..
Yoga : An Introduction to Yoga For Absolute BeginnersUdemy.com
This is a Priceless At-Home Certification with Sadie Nardini, E-RYT, Founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga.Udemy.com
There are much more available, but those should give you a few ideas.
Choosing the Right Topic
Now that you appreciate the benefits of offering an online course and what a successful course may look like, the next logical step is choosing a topic.
It’s easy to think too hard about this and to procrastinate, but there is no need. At the end of the day, your course should cover what you teach already and what you know works well in your classes. This is what you know and what you’re already comfortable with. This is your specialty and what many people have already paid to learn from you.
That said, there are a few golden rules to incorporate as best you can to develop your course topic.
The Riches are in the Niches
People usually think that appealing to as broad an audience as possible is the best formula for success when it comes to selling anything online. This could not be further from the truth.
In reality, the more focused and niche your offering is, the better it will do. This is because it will allow you to stand out from the crowd who will all be offering generic products that no-one is compelled enough to want to buy.
Typically, people are looking for a solution to a specific problem or solutions that address their demographic, be it age, gender, or current life circumstance.
Consequently, a course on beginner yoga for new moms is likely to outsell a generic yoga course every time. And, new moms interested in beginner yoga are more likely to be willing to pay a higher price for a course directed specifically at them as opposed to a generic course.
Video Production Quality
Everyone who attends your class in person wants to be taught in a studio that is fit for purpose, where they can hear you clearly, and where they understand what you are asking them to do. This is no different with an online course. It is essential to pay attention to how you shoot your videos.
Ensure that the environment you shoot in is practical. If you don’t have access to shoot in a yoga studio, how about on the beach, or in the park early in the morning? Or, do you have a room or section of your house that might work well? Experiment and learn by trial and error.
The latest smartphones are more than adequate for shooting quality video. However, it will be worthwhile investing in a few accessories if your budget allows.
- Stability: You need something to keep your phone level and stable such as a basic tripod.
- Lighting: Shooting with natural light coming from behind the camera is often best. If that’s not possible, consider purchasing one of the simpler lighting kits.
- Sound: If your room is quiet, your smartphone’s microphone should pick up your voice clearly. However, investing in a microphone will make a big difference. If you’re demonstrating poses, you’ll likely want to use a lavalier lapel microphone. If you’re just giving a lecture, you could go for a basic podcasting microphone.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to get fancy —just start small, learn as you go, and upgrade as you progress. You can always come back and re-do a video later if you want.
Bring your Personality
An online course is an excellent opportunity for you to strike up a rapport with a new audience base that may have come across you for the first time.
Continuing along the theme of standing out, don’t be shy to express your own personality and who you are. This doesn’t mean being loud and bombastic (unless that’s part of who you are!) but remembering to have fun and allowing people to get to know you.
Choosing a Platform
Your course needs a home online. This is the part that yoga teachers find confusing and overwhelming so let me try and break it down simply.
- LMS: The type of platform that delivers online courses is called an LMS (learning management system). They have all the features you might need to provide an excellent experience for your students.
- Requirements: The platform must be fast, reliable, and easy to use for your students. It will need to look great on both desktop computers and smartphones. It also needs to be able to handle payments and/or subscriptions.
LMS Platform Options
Broadly speaking there are three types of platforms you could use to create and host your course on. Here they are in order of easy to hard.
- Course Marketplaces: Platforms such as Skillshare or Udemy have LMS functionality combined with a marketplace where people can search to find a course that meets their needs. While they will also provide discoverability, you should still expect to market your courses page via a link on your website or blog, social media posts, and your email newsletter. This option is ideal for those who want to just focus on the content and don’t have the time or skills to build a custom site.
- Course Website Builders: Also known as teaching software, these are LMS platforms that help you create a course website without the need for technical or skills. Popular options include Teachable, Thinkific, Ruzuku, and Zenler. They allow you to build an exclusive and custom website that reflects your brand. Once your site is ready, you’ll then need to market it since, unlike a marketplace platform, nobody knows it exists unless you tell them about it.
- DIY Course Website: If you have the technical skills, you could create a course website from scratch yourself. Popular options include using a free CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress.org with a freemium LMS (learning management system) plugin such as LearnPress or LifterLMS. You’ll also need hosting such as that offered by Bluehost or GoDaddy. You can host your videos on YouTube but make them unlisted. Again, you’ll need to drive traffic to the site, since it is stand-alone.
Every teacher has a different situation, and there are many factors to consider, so by all means, please do your own homework and make your own decision. However, taking all factors into account, I personally think that course website builders are the best option for most yoga teachers long-term for the following reasons.
- Marketplace Woes: The downside of putting your course on a marketplace is that you have to give away significant commissions and must compete against similar courses from more established teachers. Furthermore, your branding is diluted, and you lack control over pricing. You also don’t own the relationships with your client — the platform does. Clearly, that’s not a great dynamic when you are trying to maximize your income and grow your business!
- DIY Nightmares: Creating a course website from scratch is the least attractive to most yoga teachers as this requires a level of technical and design expertise that few people have the time or patience for.
- The Course Website Builder Advantage: These avoid the problems mentioned above, take care of all the technical aspects, and allow you to create a beautiful looking course website that expresses your brand.
Having personally reviewed and tried a number of options, I’ve found that Teachable offers the best all-around combination of functionality and price.
Building an Audience to Sell to
As a yoga teacher, it is vital to cultivate the right relationship and develop a sizable audience if you want to earn significant income. That said, there are no fixed rules in terms of how big your audience should be before launching your course.
So how can you go about building your audience? I have found that the following tried and tested methods work particularly well for yoga audiences.
The way we capture prospective student details is via an email list using an email sending platform. Be sure to follow standard email etiquette so that people don’t feel like they are being spammed. This includes not sending emails as BCC, but instead, using a proper email newsletter service.
Tips for yoga teachers seeking to build and grow an email list with people ready to receive their class, workshop, and…medium.com
Popular email platforms include:
- TinyLetter: Simple and free for up to 5,000 contacts.
- MailChimp: Feature packed, but only free for up to 2,000 contacts.
It’s not always the case that accumulating a bigger list is better. Focus on developing a list that is responsive and engaged rather than a large one full of people who are only tangentially interested in what you have to offer.
Without a doubt the most popular of the social media channels out there. Through a combination of video and photo, this is the best way of showcasing who you are and what your brand of yoga is all about.
How the world’s most influential yoga teachers use Instagram to attract new students, engage their communities, and…medium.com
How the most influential yoga teachers on Instagram use the visual social network to grow their careers and attract…medium.com
There are literally thousands of Facebook Groups out there right now, some better than others. Doing a search on “yoga” in Facebook’s group section brings up plenty of groups that cater to an audience that is interested in yoga.
Identify the groups that appeal to you based on size of audience, and the quality of discussions in the group. Then start contributing to the conversation and promote your course as appropriate.
There are a lot of blogs and podcasts out there right now that are providing content to an audience interested in yoga. Reaching out to owners of such media to get featured is a powerful way to get your message across to the right audience.
There are clearly two pre-requisites for success using this strategy.
- You need to target blogs and podcast owners who have the target audience that you want, i.e., new moms interested in yoga.
- You need to be able to provide value to the audience you are addressing so that all parties get the most out of the collaboration.
Unless you already have a strong track record getting published by the big-name sites, it may be worthwhile considering more niche sites such as the following.
- HelloYoga is where yogis from all walks of life share their personal yoga journey stories. While a pushy sales pitch won’t be allowed, you could mention your course within the context of your story and link to it. Contribution guidelines here.
- TribeGrow offers articles providing inspiration and guidance to yoga teachers seeking to grow their career and/or businesses. This might work well if you are providing an advanced course or one specifically for teachers. Again, your CTA (call-to-action) would need to be subtle and contextual. Guidelines here.
- YogaRants is a great way to get your name out if you don’t mind being a little controversial. If your “rant” is published here and people resonate strongly with it, there is the potential for it to really blow-up. Guidelines here.
Marketing and selling your course
So you’ve built your course, and attracted a following of people who are engaged with your message and ready to buy. Now you need to market the course in the right way so as many as possible convert into paying customers.
A key factor in whether or not your course sells well is its pricing. Many people will interpret this to mean pricing low in order to get as many people interested as possible. That’s the wrong approach.
Assuming you believe in the value you are delivering to people, and which you may have got positive feedback on from your existing classes, it is absolutely valid to price your course higher to offer that value.
Having a higher price for your course (i.e., $197 plus) has a couple of benefits. Firstly, it helps attract only those students that can benefit most from your course and who are willing to take it seriously. This means you have more of an impact on the students you bring on. Secondly, it means that you have to sell fewer courses to meet your income goals for the same amount of effort.
Still suspicious if people will buy a course at that level (or higher)? You’d be surprised. I know of people who sell courses for hundreds and even thousands of dollars that people are more than willing to buy because of how the course is sold, and what having that course will mean for them.
Have you ever thought about how a movie is released nowadays? First, a glimpse of the poster is given on social media before a trailer is released in the weeks and months leading up to the release. Finally, there’s a big premiere to convey to everyone that the film is out.
Your course needs to be launched in a similar manner if you want to get the best results. In the weeks leading up to the launch of your course, you need to focus on teasing your email list of prospective students to let them know that something is coming.
Developing a video series will help to allow the audience to learn a little more about you, and to understand more about what is to come. I have found that three brief videos work well to get this important context out before you officially launch.
Once through with the tease, it is time to launch the course by ‘opening the cart’ and inviting people to buy your course. However, this needs to be a deliberate and strategic effort to allow most people to take the action that you desire, i.e., buying!
I have found that leaving the cart open without any deadline leads to prospective customers to believe there is no urgency for them to act; hence they procrastinate and end up not buying.
It is best to keep your cart open for between five to ten days only so that people can see that they need to take action otherwise they will miss out. This leads to a surge of buyers, especially at the end, as they try to get access to your course.
Rinse and Repeat
To have online courses contribute materially to your overall business, you need to take advantage of the fact that you only have to create a course once, yet can sell it over and over again.
After you’ve been through one launch process, there is no reason to stop there. You can launch the course again and again, assuming you continue efforts to build your audience as I’ve outlined above.
Indeed, shopping psychology dictates that some people need to have a sales message presented to them multiple times before they buy. So they may not buy when initially presented with an offer but may buy the second or third time.
There is work involved upfront, but if you carefully follow the advice in this guide, work on one step at a time, and pace yourself, you can have your own online course up and running in no time.
Need help getting started? Check out these free resources:
- eBook: How to Create, Market, and Sell your Online Yoga Course. This is a step-by-step guide available as a PDF download.
- Facebook Group: Yoga Online Course Creators. This is a group made especially for yoga teachers who want to create and sell online courses. You can ask me questions and connect with our community.