5 Tests to Tell Whether Your Online Course Idea Will Sell

Last Updated on

January 27, 2023

Want to validate your online course idea? Market research is a critical first step. In this guide, we'll share 5 tests to tell whether your online course idea will sell. 

The e-Learning market is projected to exceed $241 billion by 2022, so there's obviously a ton of opportunity.

But– if you want to get a piece of that pie, you'll need to find a niche that's in demand.

So I'm guessing you want to know the answer to the million (or should we say BILLION) dollar question:

How do you know if your online course idea is going to be a huge success, or a colossal failure?

The short answer is: do your market research.

Researching the market for your online course before you create it is really, really important.

But most people skip this step.

Don't make that same mistake. If you do, you could end up wasting a ton of time and money creating a course that no one wants to buy.

Which is unfortunately what happens to most people.

The good news is, it's actually quite simple to validate your online course idea. You just have to do your market research.

So, how exactly do you conduct market research for your online course?

Well, here are 5 simple tests you can use to figure out whether your online course idea will sell... 

Test #1: Does Your Topic Have "Staying Power?"

Most people get it wrong when it comes to choosing a topic for their online course, and think that the best topic is one that you have loads of experience in.

Well, choosing a topic you have a lot of experience in is good because you will not lack content. However, a good rule of thumb is to choose a topic you'll love to learn about yourself.

Why choose a topic you love to learn? Because when you actually enjoy learning about it yourself, you'll have staying power.

That is, you won't get bored of teaching it, quickly moving on to your next "big idea" before your course has had a chance to really take off.

Here are some more reasons to choose a topic you love learning about:

  • You'll fully devote yourself to your online course because, in the process of creating it, you will be learning as well.
  • You will create the course you wish you had, and teach people the way you would want to learn yourself.
  • You won't be so far ahead of your students that you've forgotten what it was like to be a complete beginner.
  • You're less likely to use industry-specific jargon that your students don't understand, and you're more likely to explain concepts clearly and simply.

In other words, being experienced at something does not necessarily make you a great teacher. In fact, it can be just the opposite: oftentimes the best teachers are those who are less experienced.

Test #2: Is There a Demand for Your Course Topic?

Naturally, you'll want to invest your money, time and effort on something that’s in high demand. Something that answers real questions and solves real problems that people are having. Otherwise, creating your course and building an online education business would be a complete waste of time.

That being said, it's easy to fall into the trap of blindly assuming that people will be interested in your topic without actually having any data to back that up.

To know whether a topic you choose is in demand, you can:

Ask People You Know

Ask friends, family, or people you find on social media what they would like to learn. It's best to create a course around solving a problem for someone you know, or someone just like you, rather than someone you know nothing about.

Check for Competition

The competition can give you an idea of whether your course has a higher demand. Check on Amazon, popular podcasts, and Spotify and other platforms such as Udemy for other people creating businesses around this topic. You can even use your competitors as an inspiration to create a successful online course.

On the other hand, if there is no competition or very little competition at all, that is a bad sign... it probably means there is little or no demand for your idea.

Do a Keyword Search

Google is a powerful tool you can use to analyze the demand for your course. Use Google's Keyword Planner Tool to find out what people are searching for– this will tell you exactly what real people want to learn.

Another great keyword tool is Answer the Public. Simply search for keywords related to your course topic, and see how many questions come up. The more questions there are, the higher the demand for your idea.

Test #3: Do You Have an Ultra-Specific Audience?

Many course creators make the mistake to assume that everyone will want to take their course. However, if you don't appeal to any one particular group of people, then you'll actually end up appealing to NO one.

It may seem counter-intuitive to narrow down the audience for your course, but it has been proven time and time again that courses sell better when they are created with a very specific group in mind.

To test whether your idea is specific enough, as yourself the following:

  • Do you know someone personally who would be interested in taking your course? If so, what do you know about them?
  • What’s the age group of your target audience? Gender? Economic status? Profession? You should have a specific demographic in mind.
  • What are they struggling with?
  • What do they want to achieve? In other words, what would be their ideal end-result from taking your online course?
  • What have they already tried prior to your course? How/why did that method/system/product fail for them?
  • What are their core values?
  • What are they willing to pay in order to get their desired result? 

Test #4: Do You Have a Powerful “Why?"

You must have a goal for why you want to create this specific online course. Of course one of your goals is to earn money, but that shouldn't be the only reason. In addition to earning an income, there should also be a bigger reason why you want to create this course.

Creating a course, or starting a business, is just like choosing a profession: you shouldn't choose it just for the money. If you do, you're setting yourself up for burnout down the road. And without a real passion for your topic, you won't have the same enthusiasm as your competitors, and you won't be the most inspiring teacher.

This is the most sensitive place where many online course creators fail. They create a course solely for the purpose of earning and forget that the most important part of course creation is SERVING their audience.

The result?

No one buys their course.

So, what's your "why?" What was your motivation to teach on this topic in the first place?

Perhaps you had a personal experience where you were really struggling, but you eventually learned a valuable lesson, and then you were inspired to start sharing what you learned with others.

Or, perhaps a friend or a loved one inspired you through their struggles or victories.

Do some soul searching. If you have no other motivation than money, you may need to re-think your online course idea.

Test #5: Do You Have a Solid Marketing Plan?

You could create the most awesome course in the world, but it's not going to sell itself. You've got to have a solid plan in place for how you will attract your target audience and convince them to buy your course. 

All the ins and outs of marketing your course are way beyond the scope of this guide, but if you're ready to learn more then here are some other articles we have on the subject:

And if you're looking for a complete, A-Z system to creating and selling online courses, join Persuasion Education.


Determining whether there is a market for your course is just as important as creating the course and selling it. Now that you have 5 simple tests you can use, there's no excuse for skipping this step!

Keep in mind that you do NOT need to have tons of experience or qualifications in order to teach on your chosen topic.

You DO need a passion for it– don’t just do it for the money.

And of course, most importantly, you must strive to create a course that meets your target audiences’ needs.

Do this, and the money will follow.

Jacob Dillon is an essay writer and proofreader from the UK who currently works at ResumeGo. Being interested in personal development, he has authored various articles and books. He offers essay writing services and paper writing services. He can be reached via Facebook, or check out his Twitter.