Teach someone to fish, and they’ll eat for a day.
Make a successful online course on fishing, and you’ll feed yourself for the rest of your life.
It’s not hyperbole to say there has never been a better time to create an online course. You have countless tools at your disposal and all the information you need.
The only thing missing for most of us is online course ideas that will find an audience.
Good news. In this article, you’re going to see:
- more profitable course ideas than you can shake a stick at; and
- a truckload of insights to develop your own online course ideas based on your skills and knowledge.
So, let’s start with some online course ideas you can use right now.
Courses on Health, Wellness & Fitness
Health and wellness is on its way to becoming a $1.5 trillion industry.
In part, that’s because so many people are starting to realize the value of investing in their health. But it’s also a sign that the definition of health and wellness has expanded immensely.
Wildfit is one of the many success stories in the health and wellness space. The brainchild of Eric Edmeades, Wildfit is a reasonably simple dieting challenge but has created a 400,000+ member community.
It also means that tons of people out there want to learn more about how to remain healthy. And that’s great news for you and other course creators who want to tap into that audience.
Much like personal development or content creation, the wellness industry is vast.
You can probably come up with a dozen course ideas in 10 minutes. So let’s get you started with these.
- Starting a health and wellness business
- Nutrition fundamentals
- Positive thinking and motivation
- Introductory yoga
- Weight loss for special diets
- Mindfulness meditation
- How have a healthy relationship with social media
- Managing stress and expectations
Courses on Pet Care
Around 85 million Americans own pets, and those pets are mostly cats and dogs.
And yet, only about four percent of Americans train their dogs, and even fewer train their cats.
New pet parents often have many questions about their furry friends, and even experienced owners sometimes need help dealing with unique situations.
A lot of things you may find to be common sense about pets care aren’t so obvious. So, if you have special education or even just a lot of experience with pets, there’s a good chance you can make money from an online course.
Nevertheless, pet care is a pretty saturated niche.
Even middling pet training and behavior courses boast tens of thousands of satisfied students.
You’ll have to think a bit more broadly than just a course on (say) dog training.
Here are a few online course ideas to get you started.
- First aid for pets
- Dog and cat massage
- How to discipline dogs
- Introducing a new dog into your home
- Clicker training for cats and dogs
Courses on Parenting
Becoming a parent is as confusing as it ever was for just about everyone. And there are so many new opinions about and approaches to parenting that people can be anxious about getting it “wrong.”
Parenting was one of the most profitable niches for content creation from its inception. As a result, so-called “mommy blogs” are still constantly churning out profitable content.
The two-mom team behind Big Little Feelings had a pretty straightforward online course idea:
Take everything they know about raising toddlers and put it into a course. The result is a highly profitable venture.
If you’re already a parent, that’s a huge plus, but it isn’t mandatory.
Many people want to hear strategies resulting from research rather than personal experience. And if you can combine the two, you’re set for success.
Here are some potential online course ideas for parenting:
- How to introduce your kids to smartphones
- Preparing for a new baby
- Dealing with divorce
- When to say no to a child
- How to stay organized as a parent
- Finding work-life balance as a parent
- Managing a child’s tantrums and meltdowns
- LGBTQ parenting
Courses on Relationships and Dating
Online dating has opened up a world of possibilities for people who previously had trouble finding meaningful relationships.
And the pandemic only served to pour rocket fuel on what was already a spreading blaze.
Unfortunately, it quickly developed its own rules, expectations, and codes of conduct.
Navigating that world can often feel just as daunting as traditional dating. This means there are a lot of people out there who can benefit from practical and legitimate information about how to succeed and find joy in online dating.
Here are some online course topics worth exploring in this space:
- Online dating dos and don’ts
- Setting up an online dating profile
- Online dating in a post-pandemic world
- Breakup recovery
- Overcoming dating anxiety
- How to use Tinder, Match.com, or OkCupid effectively
- Dealing with conflict in a relationship
- How to apply a growth mindset to a relationship
Courses on Personal Development
Personal development is a broad subject, and there’s no shortage of profitable online course ideas you could explore in it.
But only if you can stay away from the wishy-washy cheerleading that’s rampant in the space.
There’s a reason why The Science of Well-Being is one of the most popular online courses of all time.
Well, there are many reasons. But one of the main reasons is that it takes an evidence-based approach.
Insofar as possible, try to do the same when you create an online course on personal development. An online course topic based on anecdotal experience is much more challenging to sell than one with a solid scientific foundation.
And it’s especially important to package your course as tools rather than knowledge. Most of us don’t like being told we don’t know who we are, or even worse, we need to change who we are.
Here are some potential online course topics for personal development.
- How to lead effectively
- Improving productivity
- How to boost self-confidence
- Basic and advanced problem-solving skills
- Becoming a better communicator
- Setting expectations and assessing performance
- How to become better at public speaking
- Stress-reduction techniques
Courses on Home improvement
If you’ve tuned in to the HGTV channel in the last decade, you’ll realize that the home improvement audience is as vibrant and loyal as ever.
And YouTube channels such as This Old House boast millions of subscribers.
And if that makes you think that the home improvement niche is oversaturated, think again. There are always new things people want to learn and new things to teach.
From repairs to renovations, there’s no shortage of online course topics to choose from.
Here are just a few.
- Picking and buying the right tools for the job
- How to repair water leaks
- Home electrical wiring
- How to start a garden
- Permaculture in your own home
- Replacing vinyl siding
- Installing ceramic tile
- Drywall installation and repair
Courses on Photography and Videography
Many people would love to turn photography into a lucrative business. But you’ll find at least as many who love it as a hobby.
And there is no shortage of success stories, such as Parker Walbeck, who turned his passion into a six-figure online instruction business.
Source: Full Time Filmmaker
So much of what we consume these days comes in the form of images and video. And that means people who can create images and videos are in high demand.
And it means a lot of people want to enter the field.
That’s great news if your goal is online course creation because you can create different courses for each audience.
Here are just a few ways to go with this course topic:
- Photography basics
- Videography and photography equipment
- How to light pictures and video
- Introduction to photojournalism
- Portrait editing
- Wildlife photography
- Taking photos and videos with smartphones
- Image composition masterclass
Courses on Content Creation
A vast field that can encompass anything from YouTube how-to channels to teaching others how to make a profitable online course.
And the beauty of being a content creator is that you need to know just about everything.
You need to know how to make amazing content.
How to reach your target audience.
You need to know digital marketing strategies, web design, writing!
The list goes on and on.
An excellent example is one of our favorite creators, Ali Abdaal. He went from being a medical student to a super-successful content creator and now teaches others how to replicate his journey.
We’re sure you can think of dozens of online course ideas for content creators, but here are some to get you started.
- How to earn money writing
- How to start a YouTube channel
- Content creation hacks
- Making your own website
- Content marketing strategies
- Viral content strategies
- Graphic design basics
- How to start a blog on WordPress
Courses on Digital Marketing
Just covering the basics of digital marketing could take up dozens of courses.
There are so many platforms and new tools being released that it’s almost impossible to keep track.
And it can impact so many other fields as well. For example, if someone wants to be a successful content creator, they’re inevitably going to need some digital marketing fundamentals.
Plus, if you’re a digital marketer, passing on your knowledge will be a breeze. You’ll have an easy time reaching your target audience and figuring out the demand for your content ahead of time.
A word of caution, though.
If you make an online course about digital marketing topics, you’re going to be facing some fervent competition.
Even Google has a complete digital marketing course. And, spoiler alert, people trust Google more than they do a course creator they’ve never even heard of.
So, if it’s your first course, try to choose the path less traveled by.
For instance, instead of creating a course about social media marketing, try to focus on a specific industry. So instead of Facebook ads, you might make a course about Facebook ads for athletic brands.
Here are a few more ideas.
- Digital marketing case studies
- Marketing SEO
- Content strategy fundamentals
- Media buying terminology
- Remarketing best practices
- Marketing design basics
- Introduction to Adsense
- Affiliate marketing theory and practice
Courses on Personal Finance
Who doesn’t want to have a better handle on their income and spending?
Personal finance training has recently taken off in a big way, especially since more retail investment opportunities have become widely accessible.
And, ultimately everyone can get a little better at financial management, so finding an audience won’t be too difficult.
- Financial planning for students
- How to save money on taxes
- Personal investment basics
- Making money with a side hustle
- Retirement planning for dummies
- How do credit cards work
- Managing and consolidating debt
- Renting vs. buying a home
Courses on Technology
The field of technology is far more than just coding and web design. Sure, there are a lot of online course topics related to IT, but there are hundreds of other ways to go with it.
Everyone, from children to the elderly, is learning about tech in their own ways. And tech skills are more in-demand now than they’ve ever been.
Like with digital marketing, specialization will pay off when creating tech courses. Everyone is a different skill level and wants different things from their educations.
Michael Hartl’s Learn Enough courses are a perfect example of giving every student the education they need.
After creating the Ruby on Rails tutorial, he made fundamental courses for web developers in many different areas. And he leverages a subscription model so you can learn exactly what you need and nothing you don’t.
Source: Learn Enough
Some very hot topics right now include:
- Data science
- Web development basics
- 3D printing and modeling
- Fundamentals of git
- Using spreadsheets
- Mobile app development
- Best practices for information security
- Flying drones
Courses on Real Estate
Above, we discussed a lot of fields with nearly limitless possibilities. Now, let’s look at one that’s much more grounded.
Getting a real estate license requires pre-licensing courses, but that’s not what we’re recommending.
Instead, you can try focusing on teaching realtors and aspiring realtors the practical skills they need to succeed.
Ryan Serhant developed an entire realtor academy based around realtors the skills they need to sell. The Serhant Sales System course path has attracted thousands of realtors over the years.
Some topics you could cover include:
- Real estate investment analysis
- Emerging real estate markets
- Real estate deal closing strategies
- SaaS brokerages
- Negotiating commissions
- Lead generation
Finding Course Ideas
We could go on and list course ideas, but we’d much rather give you the tools to come up with your own course topics.
And, sure, you can make an online course about anything under the sun.
But we’re assuming you want to make a course that will reach an audience and generate passive income.
That limits your options quite a bit, and you’ll need to rely on more than just your instincts to come up with ideas.
You’ll need a repeatable and proven way to find topics that people want to learn and how to make those courses profitable.
That’s what we’re going to focus on in the next few sections.
Start With What You Know (And Love)
If you want to teach anything, you’re going to need a decent level of knowledge on the subject. But more than just knowledge, it’s probably going to require some experience.
Naturally, it’s a good idea to think about where you already have experience.
Don’t get too granular at this stage; think big picture.
For most of us, what we know is what we already do for a living. But it can also include things like hobbies, previous occupations, or anything you think you know well enough to start teaching.
Things you can prove you know
While you’re at it, try focusing on things you can prove you know.
In other words, subjects you have a degree, license, or another kind of certification in.
It’s not strictly needed, but it can be an invaluable marketing tool when it comes to creating trust with your audience. You can indeed become very successful by creating online courses about general subjects such as organizational skills and stress management.
Sell What People Are Buying
Once you’re clear about what you’ve got to offer, cross-reference it with online course ideas that you can realistically sell.
The first part of that boils down to simply doing research online about what people want to learn.
There are many ways to research trending topics, too many to list them all here. But a few that we like include:
Ahrefs — our keyword research swiss army knife. You can find keywords related to your idea that are trending and make inferences based on what people are searching for.
🔎 Example: if you’re interested in making an online course topic related to Excel, you could search try the keyword “Excel online course” in Ahrefs.
You might find that many people are searching for courses on how to perform advanced Excel functions. Since there are already so many basic Excel courses online, that could mean you’ll have better luck with a course covering advanced topics.
Google Trends — it’s a lot easier to be first than to be innovative. And Google Trends can provide the insight you need to be first in something other course creators haven’t caught onto yet.
An excellent example of that is the recent rise in interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Here’s what that interest looks like from the point of view of Google trends:
If you have created a course around early March this year about NFTs, you probably would have had a decent response.
And hey, here’s the proof:
Basically, we use Google Trends to keep our ear to the ground and keep up with… well, trends.
Exploding Topics is a similar tool that makes it easy to find patterns in search volumes across the web.
You can even join Facebook groups related to the topics you want to teach. Plus, they’re a great place to find students for your online course.
The tool you use isn’t all that important; even Google’s Keyword Planner can work in a pinch. The idea is that you’re trying to find what there is a demand for.
Look at The Most Popular Online Courses And Find The Gaps
Once you’ve created a shortlist of online course ideas that people might be searching for and correspond with your qualifications, you can see what’s already out there.
Take a look at some of the most popular courses in your chosen space.
See what topics those courses cover and the topics they don’t. Then, find the gaps between the topics you researched and the topics those courses cover.
Those are your opportunities.
Fill In The Gaps
Those are the topics around which you can create your own online course and “fill in the gap.”
Topics that fill in the gaps aren’t easy to find.
But, if you’re persistent and eager enough to teach what you know, you’ll surely find them.
Focus on Small Things
The vast majority of the time, it’s going to be incredibly challenging to compete with large-scale online courses.
Instead, you’ll probably find the most success focusing on specific things people need to learn that big courses miss.
🔎 Example: instead of creating the Ultimate Course For Digital Marketers, you might have more success starting a course on How to Create Newsletters in Mailchimp.
Or, instead of tackling The Complete Course on Project Management, maybe it’s easier to find an audience for a course on Auditing Process Lines for Bottlenecks.
The more courses you put out, the more experience you’ll have, and you can aim for more challenging course ideas. But, at least for a start, you’ll want to aim for the biggest audience you can realistically reach.
Last but not least, you’ll want any online course topic you come up with to solve some real and tangible problems.
Online learning has the benefit of endless reviewing, so courses that do well often describe the process of solving a specific problem. That gives people the chance to go over the process as many times as it takes to learn it.
A profitable online course is most likely going to be one that gives people tools and skills rather than knowledge and information. Information is easily accessible everywhere, but people are willing to pay to learn skills from someone who already knows what they’re doing.
Always think of ways to build course topic ideas around problems that people need to solve.
There is a whole lot more to be said about validating online courses, finding audiences, and developing your online business.
But you have enough information above to start coming up with course ideas that will sell. Once you come up with a few ideas and you’ve validated them, you can move on to creating your online course.
What online courses are in demand?
There’s a very high demand for online courses in computer science. The BLS also expects the demand for computer science occupations to grow 11% through 2029.
If you’re an independent course creator, one of the best online course ideas you can explore is something in the computer science field.
If you don’t have any experience in that space, here are some other in-demand courses right now:
- Communications courses, such as public speaking and interview skills
- Project management courses, such as Agile software development
- Digital marketing online courses, such as Facebook Ad optimization or Google Ad Sense training
What are the most profitable online courses?
You’ll probably find it most profitable to create many courses that teach real-life skills instead of focusing on making one course about a broad topic.
Popular skills in 2021 include:
- Anything related to the Adobe Creative Suite
- Organization and productivity while working from home
- Introduction to van life
- Fitness and workout courses
- Focused tech skills (e.g., how to create a landing page in WordPress)
Best niches for online courses 2021?
By far, the best niche currently is tech. From new tech gadgets to in-depth engineering courses, the tech industry is easily the most popular market and niche for online courses.
A lot of that boils down to low barriers of entry, so don’t try to compete by having the most comprehensive online course.
Instead, try to develop a course idea that can get people into the field as quickly as possible. Most people who are interested in tech courses want to work in the industry, so give them a simple way to achieve that.
How do I choose a topic for an online course?
Here’s a simple framework you can use to come up with online course topics fast:
- Brainstorm ideas based on what you already know.
- Research your potential niches to gauge how many people might be interested in your courses.
- Choose a price point for your course.
- Validate your course idea through surveys, questionnaires, lead magnet tests, etc.