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Course Creation: Overcome The 6 Biggest Writing Obstacles

Evan Jensen

Looking to increase your income as a freelance writer? Maybe you’ve thought about course creation, but you can’t wrap your head around all the moving parts.

There’s a lot to consider. And it’s easy to think there are too many obstacles in your way.

Maybe you second guess yourself with the thought:

“I have this great idea for a course. But I’m a writer, and I don’t know anything about course creation.”

So instead of pursuing that course creation idea you have tucked away, you stick with the status quo to earn more.

Take on more freelance work. Raise your rates. Because you think it’s the only way to increase your income.

You think there are too many hurdles to overcome to writing an online course. But guess what? As a freelancer with a product to sell…you’ve got more possibilities to make money.

Lots of freelance writers find the idea of creating their own online course irresistible. (And with good reason!). But many get stuck when it comes to actually developing their course.

Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are the 6 biggest obstacles to writing an online course, and how to overcome them.

Why every freelance writer should consider course creation

Do you want to make more money as a freelance writer?

That’s a no-brainer. And its why every freelance writer should consider creating an online course.

Why? Selling an online course:

  • Brings in more revenue
  • Allows you to reach more people
  • Establishes you as an expert in your field, and
  • Provides you with a different way to serve your audience

Rather than delivering a service, you can teach a valuable skill. Instead of working one-on-one with individual clients, you can work with small (or large) groups. You can even run courses on-demand, so your students/clients can proceed at their own pace.

Sounds good, right? But if you’re not sure where to start, then what?

Here’s what slows freelance writers down-and how you can avoid these roadblocks and launch your first course fast. 

1. Focusing on what YOU want to teach

…instead of what your audience wants to learn.

We often approach a new course creation idea from our own perspective:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Is there something I can do better than others?
  • What do I like?
  • What do I want to teach?

But what really matters is what your audience wants to learn. What do your clients need help with?

The fix: Just as you would with a writing job, start with your audience in mind.  Discover who they are, what they desire, what they need, and what they fear – and then look for ways you can help them get what they want.

2. The curse of knowledge

You know a LOT about freelance writing, about your niche, or about something else (life skills, hobbies, tech tools and shortcuts, etc.) Probably more than you give yourself credit for.

In fact, what you may not realize is how much foundational knowledge underlies your particular skillset.

This is called the Curse of Knowledge

And it can make course creators overly ambitious about the scope of their course. They try to pack in too much material and end up burying students under a mountain of work, knowledge, or both.

  • It’s a lot like doing research and interviews for a story assignment. You’ve got enough to write a 5,000-word piece. But your editor and your audience can only handle a 1,000-word slice. You can hack it all up and cover everything in 1,000 words. Or you can turn that story assignment into a 5-part piece.

When you start planning out a course, avoid overwhelming your students with too much information.

The fix: Identify one specific transformation your clients desire…and focus just on that. Get clear on what your students do and don’t know. Identify what background knowledge they need. Then design lessons to take them from where they are to where they want to go.

3. A never-ending case of Imposter Syndrome

Wondering if you have enough experience or expertise to teach a course?

You’re not alone. That anxiety is called Imposter Syndrome. And anyone-even PhDs with 20 years teaching experience-can fall victim to it.

  • Whether you’re new to freelance writing, or you’ve been around for a while, chances are pretty good you know how toxic Imposter Syndrome can be to your mindset and ability to take action, move up, and earn more.
  • Don’t let Imposter Syndrome hold you back from pitching new clients, raising your rates, or course creation.

The fix: Get this in your head. You don’t have to be a world-class expert to run a successful course. You just have to be capable of teaching what your students want to know.  If you have doubts about that, you might run a low-stakes pilot course, to prove that you can deliver the goods. 

4. Never starting because it isn’t perfect

Everyone wants their course to be perfect…but there is no such thing as a perfect course.

And trying to attain an impossible ideal will do nothing but slow you down.

Here’s an example…

What if Apple never released the iPhone because it wasn’t perfect? The world would be ruled by Androids. But that’s not what happened.

In 2007, Apple released the first generation iPhone. It wasn’t perfect. But Apple used that first launch to improve, create a better product, and get more customers.

Now there’s 24 versions of the iPhone, and more are on the way this fall. Launch. Improve. Keep going.

Teaching is an iterative process. It takes (at least) several tries to nail down the best way to deliver your material, engage your students, and generate the outcomes your students are looking for.

The fix: Launch your course quickly. It might be imperfect, but it’s the only way to get a head-start on refining it.

5. Procrastination

Freelance writers are some of the most skilled procrastinators on the planet.

Make excuses. Roll around on the floor. Ugly cry yourself to sleep. Organize your sock drawer instead of pitching prospects, working on an assignment, improving your writer website, or creating your first online course.

Been there, done that? It happens.

  • Procrastination often emerges in situations that feel very high-stakes or when a project seems overwhelmingly large.  Instead of focusing on the most vital tasks, we find ourselves doing busy work or chasing shiny objects that we think we “must” have before we can start creating.

The fix: Defuse your procrastination by creating the smallest and fastest possible version of your course. It doesn’t have to big. And it doesn’t have to be amazing. It. Just. Has. To. Be. Done.

6. Fear of technology 

When people start thinking about creating an online course, their thoughts often jump straight to the technology:

  • What course platform should I use?
  • How does it all work?
  • What do I need to film good video?
  • Do I need to learn graphic design, too?
  • How do I take payment?

But it’s premature to be worrying about all that. As you get more experience teaching the material, your content and delivery will shift-and you’ll want the flexibility to adjust your course accordingly.

The fix: For the first version of any course, small and simple is better.  You don’t need a lot of tech tools or experience to get started. Identify the minimum viable course experience (which might be as simple as live pilot run on Zoom) and plan for that.

Course creation + income for freelance writers

What’s the real secret to success as a freelance writer or anything else?

Try. Experiment. Take imperfect action. Do something every day to move your business forward. Thinking of your first course as an experiment removes a lot of the pressure that slows freelance writers down…

  • Move fast.
  • Don’t let your own doubts hold you back.
  • Treat everything (including failures) as a datapoint that will help you improve next time.

You might just be surprised at how quickly you can create and launch your own online course.

Are you thinking about creating an online course? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

@Danny Iny is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, course creator and founder of Mirasee. Get a FREE copy of his book Teach Your Gift to learn how to translate your talents and expertise into an online course.

Free E-Book for Writers: Recession-Proof Freelancer: A 12-Point Plan for Thriving in Hard Times. MakeaLivingWriting.com