The work associated with online course development can be a daunting prospect, especially for new online instructors.  Even for experienced online instructors, keeping up with all that needs to be done to run and grow a legitimate and successful online course business can be daunting sometimes. 

One solution to these challenges is to outsource some of your online course development tasks. Outsourcing is the process of hiring (usually via an online job platform) someone or a team of people to do some of the online course development work. 

Why Outsource Online Course Development Tasks?

You have a day job

The best online instructors are experts in their chosen topic. Maybe that’s you?  This often means that you’re working in that field full-time.  While it may seem as if you already have enough expertise and knowledge to just “throw together a quick Udemy course”, there’s much more to online course development than that!

Online course development is a resource-intensive prospect.  The main resource you need it TIME. And you know what they say, time is money, right?

You hate doing certain things

Do you loathe creating PowerPoint presentations?  Maybe you’re just not that into the whole social media thing?  Any desire to learn how to use video editing software?  Maybe not.  In such cases, it can make sense to pay someone to do the things you don’t want to do and make the whole process of creating an online course more enjoyable and palatable for you.

You can’t do certain things

There’s “hate” and then there’s “can’t”.  So maybe you want to try your hand at PowerPoint graphics and animations, but after a while you think, ugh.  Let’s face it, some people are just not that creative or quick to learn new things.  On a more serious note, maybe you’re dyslexic and it’s hard to write out scripts and create course materials.  Admit where your weak areas are and reduce your stress off by having someone else do it for you.

You want to create a multiplier effect or virtuous loop

In our ebook and in other articles we’ve talked about the value of developing a series of online courses to build up an audience and student following.  In order to do this, it may be necessary to outsource several of the more mundane activities such as copywriting, proofing, designing slides, etc.  so that you can greatly reduce the time it takes to put out new courses.

If you’re lucky enough to find some freelancers who do quality work and who get to know your online course development style, this can really help with the multiplier effect.

You want to focus on the value add stuff

If you free up your time spent on the small, laborious tasks, like proofing or formatting slides, you can use it to focus on executing the value-added stuff. This might be building up your sales funnel, writing blog articles, creating videos for YouTube and of course, putting together great course content and scripts for your course. 

Which Online Course Development Tasks Can You Outsource?

Short answer: any! That said, we don’t recommend outsourcing the entire process and taking a long nap 😉

Once you’ve identified what you hate to do or can’t do or must do and don’t have time for, it’s time to prioritize these tasks.  Having trouble envisioning what to outsource?  Here’s some ideas to get you thinking.

Research of all kinds

Are you wanting to dig deeper into topic research and finding topics that have the best chance of making you money?  Do you want to know more about your competitors and what they are doing and creating?  Is there a lesson that you need updated research on? Do you need to source images and videos or material to create downloads? Research takes times. It may pay to have someone else do it who has time.

Course design

There are people who specialize in instructional design, aptly named Instructional Designers.  Then there are people who have real-life teaching and curriculum development experience and there are experienced content developers/writers.  If you’ve looked at lots of videos and read articles about how to develop your online course, but you still just don’t feel confident, you might consider enlisting the help of someone who knows what to do and has the right frameworks to get the most out of your course research and content.

Graphic design

Some people are just great at graphic design and creating template, images, animations, course logos and putting it all together into a consistent brand.  If creative thinking and doing is not your thing, it’s probably worth a try letting someone else do it. There are plenty of freelancer websites specialized in hiring creative freelancers. Upwork now allows professionals to create deep skills profiles.  Fiverr is commonly used for creative projects. There are many more. Here’s a link to an article covering a variety of creative freelance websites.

Course marketing

There is soooo much to do to build your brand, create your sales funnel, email students, manage Facebook groups, etc.  Where to start?  If you are really going for it, course marketing-wise, then you’ve got a full time job!

There’s YouTube, your own website, blogging, video producing, podcasting, facebook ads, email marketing, newsletter development, SEO, webinars, podcasting, and the list goes on.  Course marketing was the number one challenge faced by online instructors we surveyed.

(Hint: It probably should be top of your list for outsourcing)

Engagement

While engagement is really just part of your online course marketing, it is helpful to think of the associated activities as a separate job to outsource.  Answering student questions, replying to feedback and reviews, monitoring reviews are all important to course sales growth.  If you have several courses going, it makes sense to consider hiring a virtual assistant who has subject matter expertise to help you manage your engagement-related activities.

Uploading content and updating your course

You may just get too busy or have too many courses to keep updated, especially in the run up to Black Friday and the January Sales on Udemy.  Maybe going through the steps of uploading, checking, and maintaining your courses as current, if you have little time or you are not technically savvy, is better left to someone else. Then you might spend more of your time marketing or coming up with new course ideas, for example.

Content Development, Repurposing and Writing

As part of your online course marketing, you might be trying to build a brand. This requires a lot of content development and writing and work in general.  For instance, many online instructors develop:

  • ebooks
  • Downloadable guides
  • A blog
  • Course landing pages and descriptions
  • Handbooks
  • Research reports
  • LinkedIn and Medium articles
  • Cheat sheets and checklists

That’s a lot of content! Then there is the scripting of each course you develop. Scripts for YouTube videos. And so forth. You might just want to hire a writer, plain and simple, to help you with all the copywriting and editing tasks.  They’re just more efficient and what you get in terms of brand growth could be invaluable.

Other Expert Skills

There’s a fairly long list of technical and expert skills required for successful online course development and sales that you may simply need an expert to do. These include video editing, creating Facebook ads, SEO, mastering a specific course software (such as Teachable), creating Kindle books, etc.

Challenges to Outsourcing Online Course Development Tasks

Budget

Online course development is often done, at list initially, on a shoestring budget.  The thought of paying upfront to get your course developed may seem like a financial impossibility.  However, time is money.  If you don’t have time and end up cutting corners on your course development, it will likely cost you money in the way of lost sales or being less competitive among your peers later on.  In this sense, you can prioritize what you spend on. 

If you just have $50 a month to spend, maybe you find a college student who will work 5 hours a month at $10 an hour doing social media.  Or find a designer in a developing country with lower labor rates who will work for $5 an hour and put together your PowerPoint templates.  When you think about it, that budget will cost you probably maximum 10 Udemy course sales. You’re going to sell more than that!

The once caveat to budget is that you should remember that often you get what you pay for. This can be the case when hiring from freelance platforms such as Upwork. You don’t necessarily want the cheapest person to develop your course content or to do your marketing or ebook development. There’s a balance to be found.

Quality Control

Finding reliable freelancers who perform their task well, to deadlines and are consistent can be challenging.  The reasons for this range from time zone differences, to language and culture, to a freelancer simply having different quality standards than your own or misunderstanding what you need. 

To this effect, pay close attention to reviews and ratings on freelance platforms.  Ask to see previous work. Ask for references.  Look for signs that the person is a self-starter.  Whatever you do, don’t take the person’s word for it that they are qualified, just because it’s a small task, they are cheap, and you need it done. Make sure that you can see they have the requisite skills and can deliver. And at the first sign of unreliability, end the freelancer contract and move on.

People Management

Delegating does not come easy to some people. Some people just don’t feel comfortable giving up control. And iIf you are not used to managing people it can be difficult to know which tasks and decisions to delegate, such as the color scheme for your PowerPoints, or the decision about the order of your lesson modules.  You might also have to spend some time upfront training and educating freelancers on your business, topics, what you need, etc.  This requires patience and clear communication. And if you are not the best communicator or don’t have much time, that can be present challenges to getting the most out of your freelancers.

Tuning Out

Have you ever just handed off something like a report at work or your child to a babysitter and thought, “phew, that’s done!”. Handing off something you don’t want to do can be bliss if you are short on time. That said, you have to keep your finger on the pulse and keep tabs on what your freelancers are doing. So resist the temptation to assume that all is well and expect a perfect deliverable by the agreed deadline.

You should set up at least weekly meetings and a series of deadlines or milestones with your freelancers to keep both of you on track and communicating. Remember, your freelancers have other gigs they are working on and other clients demanding their time. You don’t want your project, however big or small to fall to the bottom of their list of to do’s!

Using Outsourcing to Build Your Business

So how do you get started outsourcing to build your online course business? Here are some steps:

1. Make a plan for your online course development and set your goals. From this, you should create a task list and calendar.  Also, create a task list and schedule of activities you want to do or that you are already doing to develop and sell your online courses.  Then choose and prioiritize the things you want to offload.

2. Create a budget for each of these items, based on how important they are to your sanity and your business goals.

3. Decide if you need to hire a general virtual assistant, or specialist for these tasks.

4. Create job requirements and a job description. Decide how many hours a week the jobs will take.

5.  Choose an avenue for finding your freelancers. Friends, friends of friends, local experts, online freelancers, Nextdoor.com, Facebook groups, etc.

6. Give it time. Continue to advance your work while looking for the right candidate.

7. Over time, build a reliable team. Also look to learn some skills yourself from your freelancers in case they bail or you need to scale back on budget.

In the end, if you plan to build a true, full-time income stream from your online course sales, at some point, it is going to pay to outsource some course development tasks.  If you are new to outsourcing, it may make sense to get your feet wet now.

Start small. Pick a task, like research.  Open an account on Upwork (or put an ad at the local university) and hire a low cost, low-risk freelancer.  Then after you’ve been through the online course development process a few times and have learned what you can and can’t do, or don’t want to do, you’re ready to leverage outsourcing to grow your online course business!

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