Before anyone takes your course, they’ll want to know who you are. Here’s how to establish yourself in the industry.

You have an idea for an online program. You’ve designed the materials, written the quizzes, and now you’re ready to launch. However, you’re having trouble attracting interested learners. What seems to be the hold-up?

Like anyone making a start in a new industry, many of your learners may be looking for some sign of legitimacy. They want to know that you’re qualified to teach your course. And to support that claim, you’ll need to invest a lot of energy into establishing yourself. If you’re wondering how to do that, here’s where to start.

1. Improve your website.

Your website is the face of your online business (and as an online instructor you should be thinking of your course as a business). It only stands to reason that it should be where you begin establishing your credibility. Begin by describing your course, its objectives, and its intended audience. Having a clear purpose will help convince learners that your course is meant for them.

Next, take time to identify other people in your industry who offer online programs and compare your website to theirs. Don’t just look at “peers,” but find the leaders in your field who have created a prestigious look and feel for their course. How does your website measure up?

It may take more resources than you have to create your ideal website. But you can go a long way if you have a good idea for the design you want to achieve, and making a good start can help you in the long run. Invest in nice-looking images, and if you are building a personal brand (for coaching or consulting), hire a professional photographer to take some nice looking shots of you around town. Avoid a busy design by by allowing for wide margins and plenty of white space in the layout. Use a clear, readable font. A little will go a long way.

2. Offer a resume.

Landing a client is like landing a job. Before they hire you as an instructor, they’ll want to know what experience you have. What qualifies you to teach a course? Do you have any more experience than they do?

You don’t have to offer a literal resume, but you should have a well-written about page on your website that describes your qualifications, as well as the beliefs that motivate you as an instructor. Did you study this subject at an academic institution? Have you taught this subject before? Have you worked in this industry? Are you an enthusiast who has pursued this subject in your free time?

Your experiences don’t have to follow a traditional path. After all, online certification is itself untraditional. But you should be able to demonstrate why they make you a suitable instructor.

3. Start a blog.

If you want to demonstrate your knowledge of a subject matter, a blog will take you a long way. Not only will it give your prospective learners an opportunity to read about your experience first-hand, it will also build your SEO and provide ample subject matter for other marketing efforts.

Another unexpected side effect to running a blog for many people is that it builds their own knowledge level in a subject area and helps them formalize their thinking. Running a consistent blog requires a significant amount of time and energy, but the relentless pursuit of new blog topics helps many authors explore their subject more deeply than otherwise.

4. Be active on social media.

Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter are all obvious starting points for new online educators to spread the word about their program. A business page on Facebook will give you a platform to share your blog posts, LinkedIn can help you reach a professional audience, Instagram can attract learners with high-quality visuals, and Twitter can help you engage with others in your industry.

You don’t have to be everywhere, but if you can get used to one or two of these, posting regularly will put you in front of a prospective audience and will help build an online history.

That said, there are other, less-explored avenues that online educators could make better use of. For instance, Medium is a content syndication website that allows users to post blog posts on subjects of their expertise and have them distributed to a wide audience.

Quora is another great social network for educators. It’s a site that allows users to ask and respond to questions asked by other members of the community, and to up-vote answers they think are particularly noteworthy. While it’s not recommended to market directly on Quora, it is possible to include a link to your website in your profile, and to mention that you run an online course in your credentials when you answer questions.

5. Attend networking events.

Conferences and local meetups can help you meet potential learners, but they also help you meet other people in the industry who might help you improve your own course. Maybe you meet another presenter who’s given a similar course to yours and who can offer advice on how to meet new learners. Or perhaps you gain inspiration for another module or micro certification course.

Either way, networking events help you stay in touch with your industry. And as the world begins to open up again, you may find learners are more eager than ever to connect in person.

6. Search for speaking opportunities.

Public speaking can be stressful for many, but it usually goes a long way toward establishing credentials within a community. A speaking engagement not only puts your message in front of interested individuals, it also gives you the seal of approval from the organizers of the event, and gives you another credential to promote on your website.

Speaking opportunities can start small. Look for local groups for professionals in your industry to start and build from there. Many events struggle to find high-quality speakers, and are happy to give a platform to someone who is willing and can demonstrate the requisite knowledge level to make their presentation worthwhile for attendees.

7. Ask for reviews and testimonials.

Once you’ve had enough learners graduate from your program, try going back and asking them for endorsements. Learners who had a good experience are often happy to leave a review on Facebook or submit a testimonial for your website.

Reputation goes a long way.

Starting an online course can be rough. However, word of mouth can carry you a long way, so long as you can deliver a consistent product to your audience. Once you establish your credentials, marketing your course will still require a lot of energy. But it’s a lot easier to convince someone to trust your course when they’re not the first.

Laura Lynch photo

About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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