Home Education How to Create and Run a Profitable Online School from Scratch

How to Create and Run a Profitable Online School from Scratch


Distance education is famous for several reasons: it is a low cost compared to obtaining knowledge in universities, convenient for people from remote regions, and the opportunity to get a unique specialization. Every year, the online education market only grows, but the trust in conventional education among the younger generation steadily decreases.

Self-organization of such a profitable business is not a simple task. Still, if you approach the process with special care and attention, you will be able to do it with minimal (or no) investments. One of the best ways to save money is to hire an outsource development company because you’ll pay for results but not for time spent.

What is an Online School?

Let’s start with the basics. We are interested in a specific area – the info business. You probably do not particularly trust various coaches, insiders, and other local entrepreneurs, periodically encountering offers to take a “super mega-class course, after which you will earn a couple of million.

This education option involves distance learning in a variety of formats, and the prospective student can choose the one that suits him. The online school platform allows you to watch broadcasts in real-time, revise them at will, read the materials in hard copy, and hand in completed assignments to the instructor. After completing the training and passing the test (exam, pass…), the student receives a diploma or certificate – by mail or in electronic format for self-printing.

The principal differences between offline

The process of organizing online training is very different from the classes at a regular educational institution. Yes, and a license to create an online school is not needed: it is enough to register as a sole proprietorship (you can do without this status).

It is a free choice of the team.

The most important thing you need to create an online school is experienced teachers whose lectures and materials will be interesting for the clients. The teachers do not have to be in the same city as the clients. They can even be from another country.

Thus, you can remotely form an entire staff of those people who know the subject and can give the CA something new, fresh and valuable. You can assemble a team:

  • on job search services;
  • in thematic communities and channels;
  • Among opinion leaders.

Do you dream of teaching schoolchildren, teenagers, and students? They are already quite “tired” of Soviet-era teachers so a young teacher will have much more credibility for such clients.

It is an opportunity to start without investment.

Opening an educational institution in real life, you lay out a large sum of money initially: renting premises, buying furniture, finding employees, buying advertising, licenses. This option does not suit everyone – too much time and effort that is better “invested” in the learning process.

But online schools require virtually no investment: initially paying only a platform to post materials and videos (on one of the unique platforms or an ordinary site) and advertising. In some cases, it is possible to successfully “skip” this stage and start paying for the service after the first income is received.

It is weak competition.

As I mentioned above, info products are now created by everyone: bloggers, broadcasters, journalists, ordinary teachers, and even those who have absolutely nothing to say – those “air traders.”

A quality product will quickly attract attention and gain trust in this variety: students will start telling their friends about it or sharing it on social networks. “Word of mouth” will attract an even larger stream of customers who previously did not trust online learning.

It’s customer-friendly

Many regions lack a quality education, especially in the narrow field, so their residents resort to online courses. Others work from home or do not like the usual format of face-to-face teaching, so they prefer distance learning.

Services for creating an online school assume round-the-clock access to all the course materials: students can read the individual didactic materials when they have questions. Assignments usually have a specific deadline, but how nice to do them:

  • While on a long trip;
  • While on public transportation, waiting in line at the hospital, or anywhere else;
  • In the comfort of the home.

Even the busiest students can find time to watch the lectures, and they will enjoy their time with you.

It is a high net profit.

An online school has a reasonably fast payback, even if you initially did not invest in it. The amount of income depends on both the cost of taking the course itself and the effort invested in advertising. A separate plus will be your knowledge on the subject: perhaps in it, you are well versed and independently write impromptu “textbooks” (make a video, make tests…)

Putting training “on stream,” you can quickly reach a virtually passive income. In pursuing it, do not forget: students need feedback, and they will be grateful for it.

Setting up an online school from scratch: step by step

Are you “fired up” with the idea of creating your training project? If so, you have two options.

The first is to get training on running online courses. Some services provide full-fledged lessons on how to organize the learning process online. Mentors will help you quickly master the mechanics of starting online courses. They will give you all the information you need to start and even audit your project.

Thus, you will get to know both the market itself and the people who are “in love” with it. It will help you adopt someone else’s experience and find future employees or partners. Also, all homework is usually accompanied by extensive feedback: this way, you can be sure that you are doing everything right.

The second option is self-study of materials collected on the Internet. It is free, but it is incredibly time-consuming. You have to learn from your own mistakes. You have to move practically “by feel” and manually study the cases of your competitors. Such a solution will be suitable only for those with a minimal budget and a lot of free time.

To understand which way to go, let’s consider a step-by-step plan for creating an online school.

Step 1: Determine the niche

Our priority is to choose a niche. For a project to be profitable, it needs to be “in its place.” Deep, narrow slots are ideal for this – that is, you help solve a specific problem for a particular small group of clients.

Let’s take a simple example. You are a student interested in academic painting. Would you be attracted to a blogger’s story about how he quickly learned how to work with oil? Most likely, yes. But what if someone else told you about an in-depth course that included drawing, painting, and even sculpting? You’ll think it’s too long and that you’ll be overpaying for unnecessary knowledge.

That’s why we choose a narrow niche. It:

  • allows you to find an interested audience quickly;
  • gives you experience in organizing the learning process;
  • can be easily “captured” by you (if you create a quality product).

Do not “spread yourself,” do not try to capture many areas at once: give more effort and time to one of them, and then, encouraged by the success, start the next ones.

Of course, for each of the directions to create different marketing campaigns – the same strategy for the lessons on stretching and techniques to develop souvenirs from epoxy will not bring results.

Step 2: Market Research

Our target audience.

Lack of strategy is a big step to complete failure of the project. We’re not going to act “at random”: we’ll study the demand and market in advance when we get started.

We need to understand who our product is aimed at. As with any other product, there is bound to be a group of people interested, helpful, or can use it in real life. To do this, we will find out:

  • What age our potential customer is;
  • What his hobbies are and where he works;
  • What goal he dreams to achieve, what problem to solve.

By coming up with “portraits” of the CA, it’s easier to meet her needs and determine whether she’s willing to pay for similar services. Now you can reach out to potential customers: your audience on social networks, friends, random people from a forum, or subscribers to a Telegram channel. Feel free to ask them even simple questions, such as:

  • What format are you comfortable learning in?
  • What do you miss from other courses?
  • What kind of feedback would you like to receive?
  • How much free time do you have?
  • What kind of results do you expect after taking the course?

Now we roughly understand who we have to work with.

Our competitors

Let’s move on to the second part of the analysis – let’s study the products already on the market with a similar focus. 

You need to copy the entire business strategy of other brands completely! You must have some “zest” because the client, having checked your site with the competitor’s site, will stay and pay for training at your school. But a complete analog of some “Skillbox” with lessons on the same topics is unlikely to be of interest to anyone.

Maybe the client will like a stylish and convenient mobile application? Will he be attracted to opinion leaders (top photographers) as teachers? Gifts and bonuses for new students? Opportunities to network and share experiences with other students?

Do not neglect convenient services for analytics: with Wordstat, for example, you can easily find out how often users search for courses on a specific topic on the Internet. Just enter a few keywords and see the number of hits.

Step 3: Choose a format

We now have two variables: the CA portrait and the niche (the direction of the online school). Based on these, it becomes much easier to choose a lecture format. Here we go – here are the four most popular types of presentation.


In-person seminars (webinars) are the most popular format. The teacher communicates with a specific group of students (from two to several hundred or even thousands). The first class usually discusses the training plan and deadlines – this helps prepare clients for the future workload.

You (or the speaker you hired) can demonstrate your PC screen, your face, talk to the audience, or write in a chat room. After the lessons are completed, materials are usually given out in the form of an article or presentation that contains a “squeeze” of what the teacher has said.

Live communication with students is a great chance to improve the quality of the product and increase its relevance. It is desirable to conduct video lessons of about 10 minutes 2-3 times a week. The course duration can be different: from a week to three.

Pluses for you: opportunity to measure the degree of interest and “probe” the audience, increase confidence and loyalty, a better chance to attract an interested audience (especially if there are no recordings of webinars anywhere – “who had time, and he looked”), no need to rent a room for the speaker.

Electronic courses

“Assembled hodgepodge” of all formats, including interactives, tests, videos, online lectures, and materials in written format. Some of the information can be delivered in the form of presentations, others in the lecturer’s voice, and others you will have to read independently. Convenient tests and free-response tasks will help you consolidate your knowledge.

Pros for you:

  • Versatility.
  • The ability to combine several formats of material at once.
  • Increased confidence from the students.
  • The convenience of feedback.

Video lessons

In the beginning, this type of lesson requires certain investments: the purchase or rental of equipment, the search for speakers, editing and “painting” the video, additional voiceover. Then your students get all the information they need in the format of videos, which clearly show and explain the material.

Let’s return to our example about courses for artists: a student starts a video received by mail (or published in a personal account on the website). He sees how the teacher mixes the paint, what colors and shades he uses, how he moves the brush and then dries the work.

Everything becomes simple: the viewer notices what mistakes they have made and tries what they have seen on their own. The result is sent to the teacher, who evaluates the work, commenting on unsuccessful color combinations or improperly constructed objects.

There are two types of videos:

  • “Talking head,” explaining something by example and step by step (let’s say, assembling a PC or the basics of proper cardio training);
  • Streamcast – a voiceover recording from the screen (so you can consider the application, a personal account on the site, the process of creating an illustration).

Pluses for you:

  • Easy startup.
  • Minimal or medium investment.
  • No need to conduct live lectures yourself or hire teachers permanently.

Shoot – sell – make a profit.

Text format

The most primitive way of presenting material: you create a guide, a collection of helpful articles, checklists, and task lists, and then give them out by subscription. Immediately after payment, the student receives the first didactic materials and assignments. After completing them, he sends them to the teacher, who checks them and gives feedback.

Mailing lists are not a universal format because there is no “visualization” here. Even if you show some screenshots and illustrations, it is challenging to learn photography or site-building with ordinary tutorials.

Pros for you: minimal financial investment and quick startup.

Step 4: Thinking about the program and structure

Your first distance learning course should be a “calling card” for the school. A successful case raises credibility, gets new clients, and adds to your credibility. That’s why we need a structure that is as comfortable as possible. To do this:

  • Highlight the outcome. What is the purpose of taking the course for the client? To learn how to do their athletic training at home? Create their first website? Draw a vector illustration?
  • Generate a list of practices and exercises to lead the viewer to that goal. If the result is to create a website, activities could be working with blocks in a builder, basic programming, getting the SEO core right, or setting up an interface.
  • Create a list of theoretical materials – videos, screenshots, presentations, texts for speakers. Do not try to “complicate” the task for the student if the result can be achieved more simply.

The program should be consistent: “jumping” from topic to topic will confuse the student’s mind. At the same time, it should be complete enough to master the subject.

Step 5: Automate Business Processes

Now move on to manually sending out invitations and tutorials. But what to do if there are dozens or hundreds of students in the stream? How to pay attention to each of them to increase the product’s credibility and teach the clients something?

There is a solution: there are special services for creating online courses, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Make your choice based on your (and your client’s) needs, the desired class format, and budget.

Step 6: Create Content

The material that students receive should be transparent, helpful, and credible. Content is what our clients are after: they want to put it into practice, revise it, save it.

Teaching materials can be:

  • write, shoot, draw it yourself (if you have enough knowledge for that);
  • purchase from opinion leaders;
  • order from the performers on the Internet.

Some bloggers do much more straightforward: they translate other people’s articles from the Internet or brazenly copy them, retelling them in their language, or voicing other people’s words during webinars. It is quickly exposed, and the users do not like the “pseudo-authors” themselves. They are unlikely to come to you for the next course if these materials have already been able to find on the Web for free.

It is desirable to find regular authors and specialists at once who can help to create several courses for your school. It will be an easy task to make a highly specialized site in a specific direction and for a particular audience.

Step 7: Attract the Target Audience

The rate at which you find students depends on the format you choose. For webinars on specific dates, you’ll have to step it up. You don’t need to try to sell “head-on” – the conversion rate in such cases will be much lower. To generate a need for the product, the client must go through the sales funnel and have access to additional content.

Promotional tools differ, but they are all effective on different types of users:

  • Contextual advertising. Cheap, easy, and effective if set up well. It’s easy to “target” information to specific viewers: girls 18-26 who recently entered “how to pump abs” into the search engine and bought sports nutrition. Some of them will probably want to participate in a sports marathon course.
  • Opinion Leaders. Bloggers are an absolute authority for many. Offer them a percentage for brought clients or ask them to create their course based on your school. Subscribers of a girl who publishes tips on taking the USE and getting into an excellent university on her own are very likely to agree to participate in an inexpensive course for high school students called “Exams on a Hundred.” Viewers trust her, her opinions, and her choices.
  • Subscription base. Email marketing works well. Introduce popups and other marketing “chips,” offering the CA a tuition discount for subscribing or a promo code to be sent to their email. The base you’ve built can be used to promote other projects on similar topics.

Analyze the conversion rate and use those tools that bring the maximum result more often. Alternate several ways: each communication channel is sure to have an audience interested in online education.

Step 8: Launch successfully

When the whole process goes “on automatic,” you can breathe easy and get on with the following courses for your school. Preferably, without your involvement, mechanisms such as:

  • accepting tuition payments through a proven system;
  • creation of personal accounts on the site or platform for online learning;    
  • phased issuing of access to new lessons after you have fully completed the past ones;
  • checking homework (this can be done by robots or teachers you hire);
  • Presales and cross-sales: additional materials, other courses, and so on.

It is convenient for both the teacher and the students – the latter can request feedback if they wish and study the material at their own pace the rest of the time. The teacher spends time on more valuable things: improving the program, creating new material.


Our main task is the right choice of specialization, analytical tools, and establishing a dialogue with the client. Prepare carefully for the launch, choose a platform, select a team. Start gradually spreading the word about your school through different channels: integration with bloggers, advertising on websites, targeted newsletters.

Fueling customer interest will generate a “word of mouth” effect. Even if some of your audience won’t sign up for this course, they may be interested in the next one on a related topic. And don’t forget about free materials – practical and straightforward checklists, articles, and videos will increase trust.

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