Side Hustle: Teaching Online Courses

Thinking about creating an online course as a side hustle? Check out this step-by-step guide.


Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash


Many people know that I got my business started as a side hustle. I was working full time and working to get my business going when I was off. Eventually, I was able to make my side hustle my full time job. Because of that, I regularly have people ask me about making side hustles their reality.


This article is the first in a series of articles about side hustles.



I’d like to start with a few warnings.

  • I don’t believe in the easy way in or out of anything. Hard work has never been a problem for me. If you don’t believe in hard work, this article isn’t for you. 
  • I am not offering official or legal advice. Experience isn’t always a valuable tool, but it’s what I have and what helped me build my business. 
  • I don’t think everyone can do everything well. Skills, knowledge, and talent are different, and while I agree that almost anyone can learn something, I don’t think everyone should do it or will do it well. 


This specific article is about teaching online courses as a side hustle, which is not easy. As a licensed teacher, I fully employ my training and education to being successful in this area.


Teaching Online

Teaching in general is not for the faint of heart. Most service industries are difficult, but teaching brings its own set of challenges. I love teaching face-to-face, but because of my location, I am now only teaching online, which comes with its own challenges.

There are a few ways to teach online.

  1. Find a school or educational entity to teach for

  2. Find someone who has an educational platform to teach for

  3. Create your own platform to teach your own courses



How to Teach Online

If you’re interested in teaching online, you should start by evaluating why you want to teach and why you want to teach online. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to make extra money, online teaching is not it. It takes time, patience, trial, and error to do it well.

There are many ways to teach online, but the 7 step process below will help you get started.

hand with a pen typing on a open laptop with an open notebook and a cup of coffee


Step 1: Figure out what you want/could teach online

If you have a talent or skill, chances are that someone would pay to learn it too. My daughter is a talented artist and my husband a skilled mechanic. If she could teach others how to draw or he could teach others how to build a motor, they could have successful online courses. Neither has the patience to teach in person or online, but they have the skills. 

Protip: Don’t discount something because you don’t know. Make a list of what you do well. If you don’t know, ask your friends and family.


Step 2: Identify a market for your course

You may be good at something, but your skill may not be as marketable as another skill; it may be too narrow for a widespread or consistent audience, or your skill may be difficult to teach online. You can search groups on Facebook, ask your friends and family, or search platforms like Thinkific, Kajabi, Udemy, Teachable, Skillshare, or even YouTube. 

Protip: If you feel like your skill is too narrow, consider broadening your reach. Find and take classes that are ancillary to your skill or figure out how to package that skill to a broader audience.


Step 3: Research how to reach that market

Let’s say you want to teach 16-20 year olds how to maintain their first vehicle. That group may have a laptop, but they’re probably watching from their phone. Let’s say their attention span is short, they don’t have a garage or tools, and they like music. Use that information to determine what you can and should do to teach to that market. You would make sure your videos are short and clear on phones (strong lighting, zoom when necessary). You might provide a list of essential tools to have and background music. 

Protip: Don’t be afraid to segment your market. You may end up with 3-4 target markets who are all very different, but by breaking down your audience, you can really target each one differently.


Step 4: Find the online course platform that works best for you and your audience

All platforms are not created equal. I’ve been an educator for over 15 years, and I’ve used many different learning management systems (LMS). What works for you and for some does not work for everyone. At this point, if you are teaching for a school, educational entity, or individual, you will need to adhere to their platform. However, if you’re on your own, you have to figure out what system works for you. Personally, I use Zenler, which is an all-in-one platform. It’s an online course platform, email marketing platform, and website. 

Protip: Use the free trials, join the groups, watch the videos, and chat with others about whatever systems you are thinking about. Evaluate them for yourself, but evaluate them for your user as well.


Step 5: Map out your course

The fun begins! Just kidding. Setting up your course is a lot of work. In education, we encourage the use of backward design. Start with what you want the learner to know and to be able to do at the end of your course. Then, determine how you will assess that end result. Break the end goal into smaller milestones. Determine if there is a progression of those milestones that needs to be followed. Create small lessons to reach those milestones. Connect those milestones to the end goal. Determine if and how you would differentiate for your segmented audiences. Only then are you ready to start setting up your course materials and videos. 

Protip: Map out your course on paper before doing any videos. I like to use presentation software to guide me through each presentation. I start with an agenda (what I’ll cover) and end with a review.


notebook open with a pen in front of a laptop with a cup of cofee

Step 6: Test your course

During your research, you’ve probably identified a few helpful folks who were very interested. Give them an opportunity to become beta testers. Beta testers are essential for a strong online course. They go through the course as a student. They help identify issues, inconsistencies, and problems. They provide feedback, reviews, and recommendations for your course as well! 

Protip: Make sure you have a detailed contract for your beta testers, so they know what their expectations are and what the timeline looks like for them to complete the course in exchange for a free or reduced price.


Step 7: Market your course

Setting up a marketing strategy for your course is important to think about from the beginning. You should be creating anticipation for your online course, creating a mailing list, and baiting your market along the way. 

Protip: Most sellers have early-bird access for dedicated audiences. I heavily encourage a hard deadline for the course to start and to end.


Once you have your course going, you can create iterations of it with a lot less effort. 


Looking for a course checklist? Check out my online course checklist for free!


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