Sam Burrough
2 February 2023
Course Creator Tips

Five ways course creators can build momentum fast

Sooner or later, most course creators end up stuck in a rut. After a hard day's work, it can be tough to find the mental and physical energy you need to create the online course you’ve been dreaming of.
Take a few minutes to reflect on how the tips below can help you find your flow.
If you already have a successful business, you may see online courses as a way to make it more successful. An extra income stream might mean you can work less or retire sooner. The trouble is creating an online course is a job in itself for at least a month or two, and even then, you have to run the site and deal with customers.

Most people don’t have that much spare time, so they end up working nights and weekends to get the course built. That’s only sustainable for so long before you hit burnout. And if you’re on the road to burnout, you’re probably not building the best learning experience anyway.

Here are five practical steps you can take to kickstart or revive your course creation process.

1. Check-in and be honest with yourself

Optimism bias is a cognitive bias that affects all of us. It’s when we expect better-than-average outcomes in a situation. When you see something bad happen and say, “that’ll never happen to me”, that’s optimism bias. It’s extremely common in project management. We overestimate how much time we have available to complete a project, we underestimate how long tasks take to complete and what they will cost. So it’s not surprising that most novice course creators suffer from optimism bias.
Look at the goals you’ve set yourself for writing, developing and marketing your course. (If you haven’t set any goals yet, go to tip four and then come back here!) Take a long hard look at where you are now and what you still need to do. Be brutally honest with yourself and talk it over with someone you trust, who knows you well:

  • Are your goals too aggressive in the time you have available?
  • How important is it to hit those targets by the dates you’ve set?
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to make your course happen? You might have to cut back on going out, participating in hobbies, spending time with the family, or reducing client work to hit those goals. Is it worth it?
  • Identify any other risks that could slow down your progress and think about what you can do to mitigate them.

2. Create an MVP course

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product. It’s a term popularised by Eric Ries in his classic book - The Lean Start-Up. The purpose of an MVP is to test your ideas with potential customers as quickly and cheaply as possible to get their feedback on your idea. You do this by building the first workable and saleable version of your idea.

Developing and marketing courses can be expensive. If you decide to produce a high-quality product aimed at the corporate market, you might invest in professional video, animation and copywriting. You might hire e-learning developers to build out your vision. You could spend thousands on digital advertising.
Doesn’t it make sense to test the water first? Until you start to interact with your audience, your ideas are really just hunches about what might work. MVPs give you a chance to validate your ideas, earn the loyalty of early adopter clients and gain valuable insights from them that will improve your offering later on. MVPs help you take a scientific approach to developing a business. They allow you to test your ideas.
Let’s say you’re an expert in Data Protection. You want to offer a course on Data Security for charities because you think there are lots of risks that aren’t being addressed in that sector. You could jump straight in and write an hour-long course, spend thousands on media production and then start marketing it, only to find that charities have very little money to spend on training like this and they have lots of free training available to them.

Or you could run a free online workshop that helps identify the risks and constraints within the sector. This would be much cheaper and faster to do and would help you build your reputation in that market. At that point, you might decide there is a market for an online course, but it needs to be at a much lower price point than you originally thought. Or, you might spot a new opportunity and decide to pivot to focus on that instead. Either way, you’re making better decisions based on better information.

3. Start with a coaching-led approach

One of the best shortcuts for any online course creator, who has genuine expertise, is to substitute content for coaching. Creating content is a lot of work. And as we’ve seen in the example above, until you engage with your target audience, you won’t know if you’re focusing on the right content or not. Coaching solves this problem because it lets you rely on the knowledge and experience in your head for the content. It lets you explore and develop the themes of your course with paying customers.

Most people are buying online courses to help them solve problems. When you create a stand-alone self-paced course, you put out one fixed solution to that problem for people. So you better hope you nailed it for the majority of the audience. When you deliver one-to-one coaching, you can adapt the solutions and advice to the individual on the spot, if you have the experience to draw upon.
Over time you can identify the problem areas that resonate and the solutions that help the most. This means you will find it much easier to write your content, produce any videos (because you’ll have been rehearsing during your coaching sessions), and you’ll have testimonials that are relevant to the programme. 
On the downside, it will take up some of your working week, but on the plus side, you’re now getting paid to develop your course. And you can reduce the production time to a few days instead of months. Remember, this approach only works for people with genuine expertise. You have to be able to draw on your knowledge and experience on the spot to help people. You'll also want to make sure you understand some of the fundamentals of coaching.

4. Make a detailed plan

Whichever approach you decide to take, you need a clear plan. A detailed plan helps give you clarity about where you are now and what you need to do next. It also gives you a way to document ideas when you have them.

We use a version of the Kanban approach. We have virtual boards for each project or sub-project. On each board, we have columns for:


All the work to be done. Use it to log any ideas and prioritise what to do next.


The work you need to focus on now.


Tasks that are waiting on someone or something else to complete.


Moving tasks here helps give a sense of progress and flow.
There are hundreds of project management tools out there. If you want to keep it simple, you can stick to a spreadsheet. If you like something more visual, Trello is a good free option. We quite like SmartSuite - but that can get a little complex. Whichever option you choose, you need to do the following:

  • Break the plan down into deliverables or milestones - these are the outputs.
  • Break the deliverables down into tasks - what do you need to do to get there?
  • Break the tasks down into smaller sub-task if necessary.
  • Stick them in a spreadsheet or your favourite project management tool.
  • Allocate time to them, schedule and sequence them - what’s most important?
  • Build momentum as you tick them off or turn them green.
This takes a fair bit of time and effort to do, but the planning process gives you a feeling of calm and control. Once you have mapped everything out, you know exactly what needs to be done next. So when you do choose to work on your course, you don’t waste time procrastinating about where to start. It gives clarity, but it requires discipline and regular revisions. Of course, it also requires an understanding of the course creation process. Follow the process, find the flow.

5. Find an accountability partner

If no one else knows about your plans, it’s easy to let them slide. If you tell people about what you’re doing and when you plan to do it, you create an obligation, in your mind at least. This can work well, but it can put a lot of pressure on you. It’s not worth burning out just to get your course built a few weeks faster. Finding someone to keep you accountable gives you an outlet to discuss your fears and frustrations and also to celebrate your progress and achievements. There are multiple ways you can do this:
  • Consider a coach - a good coach will help you create SMART goals and challenge you to reflect on how you can achieve them.
  • Start networking and tell people about your plans - Once you vocalise them, even to a stranger, you create a commitment you won’t want to break. Just try not to set unrealistic expectations.
  • Tell a colleague, friend or relative about it and set up regular check-ins - think of them as an informal coach. This can be a two-way relationship if you find someone else who wants to be held accountable for their own project. It doesn’t have to be another course creator.


So there you have it - five ways to bring order, logic and momentum to your course creation process. We know from experience how easy it is to get distracted by the day job and life in general when it comes to working on our side hustles. These tips are based on our own experiences.
  • Be realistic about the goals you are setting
  • Create an MVP course
  • Lead with coaching
  • Plan your project
  • Find a critical friend or coach
If you would like us to be your critical friend, we have just the programme for you. Our coaching programmes are designed to remove the confusion, and feelings of overwhelm that come with building online courses. We bring process, experience and good humour so you can focus on exactly what needs doing now and next. We have a programme for you, whatever stage you are at.

Course coaching and support options

Created with