Guys. There’s one thing that drives me absolutely nuts about running this online business teaching online business.
People assume that only people who sell marketing advice can make real money. People literally tell me “you have it easy, you sell business training. I could never do that in my niche! I talk about saving money/quilting/holistic herbalism/whatever”.
It’s the great big internet marketing lie: that success is only for people selling “make money online!” courses and programs.
Oh my gosh I want to punch a wall right now – because this is SO NOT TRUE!
Case in point:
I’ve made six figures from a course about living in a vintage camper. (Yes, me! You didn’t think I only have one business all about online business did you? No way!).
And in my program Launch Your Signature Course™, I’ve taught people in the construction industry, in fashion design, in the knitting niche, artists, interior designers, holistic healers, fitness trainers, and everything in between how to create courses in their niches too.
Yeah! So now just try to tell me your excuses about how “your industry isn’t good for making money with courses”, because I will prove to you it is.
And to prove it to you, I’m just straight up showing you examples of courses that are successful, profitable, and making a real income for their creator in all sorts of weird industries and topics.
So please, please, please – do not dare tell me your industry or niche just won’t work with online courses.
Stop telling yourself EXCUSES for why you can’t – and start working on making it happen. Because you absolutely can.
I’m showing you 15 examples in this post, and another 15 are available in the download that goes along with it.
Get inspired. Get your mental gears turning. Start to see what’s really possible.
If you think your industry just isn’t cut out for selling courses, think again.
One big question I always get is “but I do X, will creating an online course really work for me?” And because of my own experience of the last 4 years creating and selling courses in tons of weird niches, of course I’m like “um yes!”, but don’t take my word for it!
Let’s look at some other people in fringe niches making bank with their courses.
Rob was nervous that because no one else in his industry offers online courses (literally nobody!) that his audience would just not know what a course was or buy one online. When he launched last year, he literally had no other people in his industry to look to as examples.
His course teaches you how to rock your auditions no matter what instrument you play. As a member of the MET orchestra, he has the experience but was not sure how this digital program in a very traditional space would do.
Well, after a “multiple five figure” first launch to a very small, targeted list and another launch underway that promises to be even bigger, Rob proved everyone wrong who told him a course about auditioning for the orchestra was way too niche and would never work.
Are you in a niche with no other courses? Great! You can be the first!
Julie Mollo has a successful business as a fashion designer and stylist – you’ve seen her dresses being worn by award winners at the Grammy’s and in your favorite music videos (Beyonce is a fan and client of hers).
However, Julie’s business can be seasonal, and after years of people asking her to please please please share what she knows about running a boostrapped-but-booming fashion brand, she decided to create a course about it.
She realized that the biggest thing missing from her university education was the part about, you know, actually creating and running a successful fashion brand!
Again, there are hardly any other people in this niche selling courses. At first she thought this would be a huge obstacle.
Turns out, the fact that her industry has so few people teaching online courses was a huge asset! She now has international magazines, top universities, and major bloggers promoting her course, all because of how unique it is.
“Turns out, the fact that her industry has so few people teaching online courses was a huge asset! She now has international magazines, top universities, and major bloggers promoting her course, all because of how unique it is.”
And she’s able to add another income stream to her business, which gives her more capital to invest in new clothing lines, bigger production runs, and more ways to support her fashion business.
(If you sell physical products, I want you to think about how creating a course about YOUR craft or product could help you increase the capital you have for your product business. What would that mean to you to have an additional passive income stream to help you grow your physical business?)
Julie is a student in Launch Your Signature Course™, my program on creating and launching YOUR own course. She used the program to turn her fashion brand into a profitable course, adding a new income stream to her physical product and custom clothing business.
My dear friend and collaborator Carrie-Anne Moss wasn’t sure how her audience would respond to her first big online course launch.
She had never launched before using webinars, email sequences, and price increases – and she wasn’t sure her audience would respond to that marketing that we implemented in her business.
Well, 350+ students/members later, and we know she made the right move!
The Fierce Grace Collective isn’t your typical course – each month students receive tools, meditations, guided visualizations, live calls, and other resources to help them nourish their souls, connect with themselves and other women, and really LIVE the values of Fierce Grace.
The community that has come out of this course is nothing short of incredible, far surpassing all of our expectations!
It really shows how you can create a course about anything – even in this space. The promises are community, connection, getting grounded, self-care, and more.
If you’re afraid that “launching” and “marketing” doesn’t apply to your soul-centered, holistic niche – think again.
Bree teaches female indie musicians how to have profitable house concerts and make hundreds of dollars a week putting on local band events, how to market yourself as an independent musician, and even how to manage money and finances as a self-made artist, singer, or songwriter.
As someone who’s first “business” was being the lead singer/guitarist in a touring punk band, and the person in charge of making “revenue” from t-shirt sales, band merch, and CDs and records, I immediately connected to what Bree teaches (I only wish I had found her when I was 18 and trying to figure out how to get paid to play back then!).
Now, I get a lot of people who tell me that their industry isn’t “into” webinars or “doesn’t do or know” what webinars are. And they use that as an excuse to not be the first person doing them! Crazy, I know.
Bree’s niche is like that too. Her audience is women singer-songwriters and indie musicians, not really the “webinar” crowd, or so you’d think. However, she makes a full-time income selling her courses for indie musicians to her audience on webinars.
I love the example of her profitable house concerts course – it’s a tiny, niche little course that teaches you how to put on your first house show (having lived in a punk house for 6 years, this was my entire life!) within a week. It’s her most popular course!
Keep an eye on Bree, she’s using the strategies I teach in Launch Your Signature Course™ to launch something amazing for musicians who want to reach their fans online.
5. Tiny Transition and Downsizing
OH hello! Yep, it’s me.
Many years ago (ha!) I launched my first course about living in a 120 square foot vintage camper.
Well, tons of incredible students have gone through my life-changing course and gotten absolutely stunning results. And yes, it’s a success in a little tiny niche that no one thought could work!
Seriously – all I can say is that if I can make it work (I mean, MORE than make it work!) with a course about living in a vintage trailer – YOU CAN TOO.
“Seriously – all I can say is that if I can make it work (I mean, MORE than make it work!) with a course about living in a vintage trailer – YOU CAN TOO. No matter what weird shit you’re into :)”
THIS is why I KNOW that courses are for everyone. Because I know that every niche, no matter how small and fringe, needs a course or two to help out the people just starting out – just 3 steps behind you.
6. Design Build Downsize
After creating my first course in this niche, I teamed up with a guy I had been teaching in-person workshops with and we created another big first in this space: an online version of a workshop about building systems in your home.
Construction and building technology is a very hands-on thing to learn. (I should know, I have a degree in sustainable architecture and the way I learned was by DOING – by building lots of these systems on my own).
- We were nervous that it wouldn’t translate into the online training platform.
- We were afraid that people wouldn’t be able to learn basic building principles from a presentation.
- We figured that people would be less likely to sign up because it wasn’t hands on.
Turns out, people had been waiting for an opportunity to attend a “workshop”, get 90% of the information (no hands-on stuff, but lots of detailed examples and diagrams) and not have to travel to do it. Travel and accommodations had been a huge barrier for people in our in person workshops. This online version of the workshops solved the problem.
“Travel and accommodations had been a huge barrier for people in our in person workshops. This online version of the workshops solved the problem.”
So if you have a topic or workshop that you currently teach in person – whether it’s a gardening workshop at a local store, or a writing workshop at a local library, or something you teach in person at a college or school – look at this example of how we translated our in-person live hands-on workshop into an online class that now has had hundreds of students and success stories.
If you don’t think you can turn what you teach in person into an online course, just look!
Amelia teaches DIY astrology to compliment her one-on-one services and readings.
Her course Elemental Astrology is “A deep dive into the core elements of stargazing, so you can learn how to practice astrology on your own. In this course, you’ll learn how to interpret the stars like a pro. Eclipses and retrogrades will have nothing on you!”.
It’s a $99 course, the perfect price point to start investing with her and get to know her style before potentially booking more sessions with her!
This is a niche you might not think about when you think “online courses” – magic, the occult, and astrology?! Who knew, right? I think it’s amazing what Amelia has created in her niche. I seriously love this woman, go check out all the amazing things she offers!
I love that Amelia has created a super affordable way to “work” with her.
For clients who may not be ready to invest in her premium services, the Elemental Astrology course is the perfect way to get started.
If you have services (coaching, consulting, copywriting, designing), you should consider creating an affordable way to serve more people in an online course. Especially since you can only have so many clients, and probably like the idea of some supplemental passive income to complement your client work!
Need more course ideas in unusual, fringe, non-marketing niches?
Download 15 more proven course topics for FREE!
And on the other side of the magic spectrum – we have Asad Chaudry’s course about card magic! Again, a hugely successful course with tons of students – in a niche about magic card tricks.
Look how in depth this course is. It’s crazy. And this is a skill that Asad already had. He had been doing this for fun for years. He probably didn’t realize that it would become such a successful course!
If you have a skill – even one that you think is something that just comes naturally, or something that “anyone could learn for free on YouTube”, or something that you get asked about at parties – that could literally be an online course that makes money.
“If you have a skill – even one that you think is something that just comes naturally, or something that “anyone could learn for free on YouTube”, or something that you get asked about at parties – that could literally be an online course that makes money.”
I know a lot of people say “but you can almost anything for free on YouTube! Why would anyone buy this?”.
Well look at Asad’s curriculum.
Look how organized it is.
THAT IS VALUE.
The way that you package and organize the flow of your course actually IS VALUE! People will gladly pay for information organized in a logical way, not having to piece it all together.
“Living an intentional life” might not seem like a course topic that would become a huge success – but that’s exactly what Jess Lively has done with her program Life With Intention Online.
She’s successfully turned her passions, values, and skills – and figured out how to get paid to guide others through her own transformative processes.
This is really what successful courses are all about!
I love that Jess has taken something very hard to describe and “pin down” – and turned it into concrete steps that people can take. That’s the kicker!
It doesn’t matter what the transformation might be for you – maybe you went from ungrateful and always stressed to peaceful through meditation and yoga, maybe you went from having a shopping addiction to being a minimalist (ahem, me) or maybe you went from being a codependent love addict to a healthy relationship.
If you can guide others through your journey, helping them along the way, you can create amazing change and impact, and make a living doing it too.
Learn more about my step by step program Launch Your Signature Course™ below. Learn More About Launch Your Signature Course
Angela teaches newbies and experienced painters how to create watercolor art. Her courses include “Watercolor Tree Clinic”, which helps you paint natural trees better, and “Winter Wonder Snow Scenes” which shows you how to paint wintery artwork with watercolors.
Can we just talk for a moment about how awesomely, amazingly specific that is?!
I mean, Angela is making a more than full-time income with courses about how to create watercolor art. Something that people do as a hobby!
This is a great example – her courses don’t help you make money, or sell anything, or save money – it is just for the PURE JOY AND PLEASURE of making art.
The point is, people WILL spend money on hobbies and to learn arts and crafts – even if the benefit is just some self satisfaction and enjoyment. Nothing more, nothing less.
I always say this, but value comes in a lot of shapes and sizes. And this Watercolor University is a great example of that concept.
One thing we talk about in Launch Your Signature Course™ is that you don’t need to overcomplicate what makes a successful course.
Something that you do every day that feels like a natural skill to you or something super basic – like using a software, drawing, or anything you think of as “easy” can be a hugely successful course! A lot of things that you think of as “well anyone can do that, it’s so easy” are NOT easy to other people.
Skills based courses teach a practical skill that someone wants to know, such as scrapbooking, using Photoshop, writing calligraphy, building a wooden box, or anything else!
Sean Wes has created a hugely successful course business…teaching hand lettering to beginners! I think this is just so cool. He took an artistic skill he had and taught others who wanted to create hand lettering art too.
He’s famous for growing a huge community around this, and having multiple-six-figure launches, of his hand lettering course. He updates the course regularly and it gets better and better all the time.
Don’t underestimate the demand for a skill that you have and can teach others. Apparently, before Sean created this community and wildly successful course, people were DYING for someone to please show them how to create hand lettering art! The market was there, and he found it!
“Don’t underestimate the demand for a skill that you have and can teach others.”
This is an inspiring story and example. Of course it’s something to work towards – but if someone can build an empire (with a team, a podcast, successful products, and more) with a course about hand lettering, you can do it too. I love seeing what’s possible!
You know what people struggle with (ahem, ME)? Their inbox.
It seems simple. It seems….so obvious.
And Val realized that everyone struggles with it, and she had some good ideas about systems to help!
These are tips and tricks that Val’s been using in her own business for a long time. Things she was always doing herself, but hadn’t thought to necessarily teach other. I’m going to guess that after fielding tons of questions (probably via email! ha!) she decided to the best way to help people out would be with a course.
This seems so small and simple – literally a course about using email. And yet, it’s a course that people clamor for and rave about.
Not only that, but this course ESTABLISHED VAL AS THE EXPERT.
(Guess what, experts don’t make courses – courses MAKE experts! I’m serious.)
“Experts don’t make courses – courses MAKE experts.”
She’s now widely known for her skills in systemizing emails – so much so that ConvertKit, the fast-growing email platform we use – hired her to run their marketing. Talk about showing your expertise with a course! It landed her this dream job!
This is one of the first online courses I ever read about – and I can honestly say that seeing how someone had created a full-time income selling a course about using a software changed what I thought was possible.
It opened my eyes to what I could do with my own skills (even though my skills were totally different) and I hope that it does the same for you!
I think the idea that you could make a living with an online screensharing course about using a software – that you already knew and used daily in your own life – was just so simple and yet powerful. The software already has a built in customer base, and you’re tapping into that!
Joseph helps writers produce better work faster by using the power of Scrivener. He’s now seen as the expert on this platform as well.
“How can you teach people to do something a little better, a little faster, a little bit more efficiently?”
Again, I never would have thought that scrapbooking could become a successful course! And yet, Jessica is living proof.
Oh and it’s not just one course – but many income streams all related to scrapbooking, editing photos for your scrapbook, using typography in scrapbooks and more!
It’s like a scrapbooking empire!
This inspires me so much – to see someone who has created a living teaching what she loves.
Scrapbooking is usually something people do at their kitchen tables or in their craft rooms, and Jessica has figured out how to reach way more people than if she taught just local craft classes.
- What’s something that you’re already doing as a hobby that you can share with others?
- Do people crave a bigger community for an activity they are now doing alone?
- Think about how you can use your course to CONNECT people with similar interests. That’s a big part of a successful course!
This course by Rachel about using cartooning to tell stories and explain concepts is amazing – I’m obsessed with this! (One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I originally went to college to get a degree in Comic Books and Graphic Novels. I was the president of the Comic Book Club in college. I studied graphic novels academically for 2 years. I’ve written more than 20 comprehensive papers on the topic. Tweet me for suggested reading 🙂
Anyway, needless to say this course is awesome. It’s about comics! Not only that, but I love how Rachel put her own spin on this. She talks about using comics in practical ways.
Somebody please make more courses about comic books where I can talk academically about my favorite characters and stories with other people WHO GET IT! Hahah.