The biggest reason for failure I see with people launching online courses is that they hit the wrong point on what economists call “supply & demand”.
The ideal place to be is lots of demand, but little supply – making you the only viable option for your prospects.
It’s a hard place to find, but very lucrative once you get there, like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But there are two places where people miss the mark.
Firstly, a market with too much supply. This makes it hard to be heard and generally there’s a race to the bottom in pricing.
In markets like this, only the giants like Amazon with huge economies of scale can survive.
You can sidestep the problem though by picking a smaller niche where you are the only player in a very specialist field.
Weight-loss might be too wide a topic, but weight loss for post-pregnant women might be just as hungry a market. Weight loss for post-pregnant women in physical jobs might be even more so.
Remember whenever you’re doing this that you want to enter a market that is more lucrative than the average of the mass market.
Weight-loss for penniless students? Not a good place to start.
Beware as you go more and more niche that you don’t fall into the second trap…
The second failing is entering markets with too little demand.
This is, surprisingly, more common. Individuals with a passion for a topic which no-one else is interested in. Or at least no-one they have in their direct audience.
These tend to be the instances where someone has followed a passion-project, created the entire product, then struggles to find buyers.
Ideally you should be building products because you have seen the demand, and know your first few buyers by name.
The next best thing is identifying a marketplace where you know your buyers exist, and being able to launch your product into that market with the blessing of whoever controls that marketplace.
Udemy is just such a place, and they’ve opened up their data to help course creators judge demand, competition and earnings ahead of creating new products.