Every night I see lights in my neighbor’s garden. He grows mushrooms in his apartment. And he is so crazy obsessed with mushrooms, that he recently started selling online courses about mushrooms😳
He grows these fungi in racks. Every once in a while, he sells these mushrooms in the neighborhood for good money. Oh yes, they are organic too.
Just early this year, I saw a message from him in our WhatsApp group. It read:
“I’m conducting an online workshop on organic home farm setup and care. If you’re interested, please DM me. It’s happening this weekend. The entry fee and other details are below.”
He started teaching others something he’s interested in. Today he has an online course and a workshop too. Curious as I am, I researched a little more about mushrooms. I was surprised by what I learned. I’ll tell you more about it at the end of this article.
For a long time, I thought my friend had some unhealthy habit.
She had an 8-inch tall container in her kitchen that she claims were passed onto her by her great-grandmother. What was in it? Sourdough starter. I later learned it’s called the mother dough.
I was only convinced about this when I did some googling. It’s that obscure, at least to me. She now has an online course to teach others how to create a mother dough starter.
We are a curious lot.
I’m not the only guy that googled to find out more about mother dough. A lot more people are (perhaps you too). And we have a lot of interests. Just like my friend, you might be interested in some obscure subject or topic. Perhaps you are obsessed with doing something that many people want to learn.
How can you turn your seemingly obscure interest in a topic or process or idea, into an online course? What is that people are looking to learn, and how can you teach them exactly that?
My friend could’ve taught people how to bake sourdough bread. But she chose to teach how to create the mother dough starter. And my neighbor could’ve taught a course that taught everyone how to grow mushrooms. But he decided to teach others how to set up an organic home farm.
In the rest of this article, I share a simple (yet highly effective) framework to help you go from “I have an interest” to “I have a course and people are loving it.”
5 Steps to Turn Your Interest Into An Online Course Business
- Pick a specific niche of people or interest group that you already serve.
- Decide your positioning (and target market).
- Increase the value of what you create.
- Determine the Size of Your Target Market.
- Create irresistible offers.
Let me walk you through each step.
1. Pick a Specific Niche or Interest Group.
There was a time when the Swiss Army knife was a premium commodity in the gifting market. Today, there are too many Swiss Army knife-like products and services in every industry.
If your side hustle is making handmade soaps, you’re probably better off niching down further into something like handmade soaps for corporate gifting or handmade soaps for sensitive skin. You even saw how my friend and my neighbor decided to pick their niches.
The more you niche, the lesser people you are catering to. And that’s good. Here are some ways you can niche down:
- Character and lifestyle
Now let’s take this one step further with positioning.
2. Target Market and Positioning.
In recent times, Sebamed, the German skincare brand, ran an advertisement that specifically targeted customers of a competitor. In doing so, Sebamed named who their target market is, and what their positioning is.
But there are other ways to think about your target market and positioning too. FMCG brands can offer a ton of case studies. Colgate-Palmolive, a company that makes consumer products is perhaps an easily relatable example. They offer toothpaste for sensitive gums, for kids, for kids that like a specific superhero (like Spiderman or Superman), and so forth.
If I took handmade soaps for sensitive skin as an example, you could target this to Gen Z that are customers of a competing or complementary skincare brand. On the other hand, it could be targeted towards mothers with newborns too.
3. Determine the Size of Your Target Market – In 5 Minutes.
One of the biggest challenges as someone that has a side hustle is to gauge the size of your market. Because unless you know the size of your market, you don’t know if this side hustle can be turned into a full-time business.
But how to determine the size of your target market?
Here’s a simple back-of-the-napkin approach:
- Look around for businesses that sell to your target audience – J&J baby soap, if your target market is handmade soap for sensitive skin for mothers with newborns.
- How much is your target audience spending on those products or services?
- How frequently are they purchasing those products or services?
Do this exercise and you’ll know how much your target audience spends on products like yours.
4. Increase the Value of What You Create.
Why do you think pizzas are so expensive when bought inside airports or at 5-star hotels?
It’s not because of superior quality dough or ingredients. The difference in price is because of how the consumer perceives the value to be. When you don’t have many options inside an airport, you think it’s okay to pay $15 for a pizza that you’d probably get for $7 outside.
But that’s one way of increasing value.
Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s has “combos” and “meals”? While just the burger could be just $2.50 and added Coke plus fries costs you $6.
How can you increase the value of handmade soap for sensitive skin for mothers with newborns?
What if you gave them something extra? Perhaps a booklet on newborn skincare and a couple of samples of something else you create?
The power of the bonus
In the second episode of The Launch Plan podcast, Sean D’Souza of Psychotactics talks about the power of bonuses. It’s interesting to see how a little bonus can increase the perceived value of what you have to offer. Listen to the full episode here and download the worksheet.
5. Create Irresistible Offers.
Let’s say you went to a flea market. You are passing by a pop-up store where someone’s selling her handmade hats. You like them. And just as you walk past, you see a sign on your right that reads:
“3 Handmade Hats for $10”.
What would you do?
Let me guess. You’ll be tempted to walk to the shop with the sign and maybe even make a purchase.
The second shop made you an offer, but the first shop didn’t. Was the offer irresistible? That depends on the target market. If you were in the target market, you perhaps know that these hats cost $10 per piece. You know that getting three hats for the price of one is an irresistible offer.
If you made handmade soap for sensitive skin for mothers with newborns, an example of an irresistible offer would be:
“Get ‘Homemade Skincare Rituals for Sensitive Skin Video Masterclass’ Access with Every Yearly Subscription of Our Handmade Soap!”
What about mushroom coffee?
Well, it would be a shame if I told you that was clickbait. Because in mushroom coffee lies the sixth tip (and a bonus). If you’re looking to turn your side hustle into a full-time business, don’t forget the current trends. Mushroom coffee is a trend as I type this post.
Use tools like Exploding Topics or Google Trends to find out things that are trending. Trends are a great way of fine-tuning your offers, pricing, content, and so much more. It’s a topic in itself, and I’ll hope to write about how to leverage trends in a future post.
If you haven’t done so yet, do subscribe to The Launch Plan podcast where we dive deep into launches. In season one of the show, we dive deep into online course launches.