The ugly truth is that even the most promising ideas can fail. Edsel, the car model created by the Ford Motor Company, was predicted to be a perfect product. Now, its name has become synonymous with tremendous commercial failure. As you can see, even the best of us make mistakes, and there’s always a risk of failure when someone creates a product. An online course or even an online school are products too.
So, What Is a Niche & Why Do You Need to Choose One?
A niche is the field of knowledge and skills that you will specialize in. It defines the type of content you need to produce and the type of learners you’d like to educate.
To better visualize the term, think of Amazon or any other huge online retailer. The niche is the category in which your product fits. For example, sport and fitness supplies make up a broad niche. We can make it narrower and more targeted by diving deeper into a catalog:
See? Women’s leggings for yoga classes are a more targeted niche. You can also see some ideas on our list of the 100 best course ideas in 2020.
At this point, you may be wondering: is it possible not to choose any niches for your project at all? Well, Amazon manages to do it. For instance, you’re a career coach and your expertise would be useful to people who are looking for a job or want to build a better career—in other words, almost anyone. Or you teach healthful nutrition, which is also right for anyone. So where’s the catch?
The thing is that even if you’re an expert at everything, you still have only 24 hours in a day and a limited amount of resources. You’ll have to choose. But don’t worry, narrowing your niche doesn’t prevent you from selling more. On the contrary, in this case, less is more:
- You can concentrate your efforts around one field of knowledge and provide advanced expertise on one topic instead of scratching the surface in multiple topics. It’s also good for building a personal brand.
- You can focus on satisfying the needs of one certain audience rather than spreading yourself too thin offering everything for everyone.
- You can market your course more easily since your message aims at one audience at a time.
How to Choose the Right Niche for Online Courses?
It’s a good question since this task doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. We all have different knowledge, experience, and goals, so what’s right for one person is wrong for another. But we have good news for you. There IS one foolproof strategy:
The best niche is what you do best
Sounds obvious, right?
We expect that many people who are used to relying on market research and surfing the net for trending topics would argue that. While we don’t want to deny other opinions, here’s our point.
There are three elements to a successful training product:
- You know the topic inside out
- You have a lot of experience and lots, LOTS of meaty real-world examples
- The topic really rocks you
Knowledge is an essential component. If you’re in doubt about what niche to focus on, a good strategy is to act out of wealth. What do you know as well as your ABCs? What challenges do you solve every day? If you’re a CG artist who creates characters for computer games, it’s only natural for you to develop a course on game character creation, because you’re great at it, and it’s easy for you to share your expertise.
If you want to develop a course on a trending topic, but you don’t have any experience in it, the cost of development automatically increases exponentially. You’ll need extra time to research the topic, you’ll need to reach third-party experts to consult, or maybe to take some courses yourself.
Teach something you wish you’d known when you first started out in your career. It’s an incredible opportunity to not only share your knowledge but also to connect with your audience on a deeper level. The most common feeling a lot of people have about teaching is the dreaded imposter syndrome. That feeling of not being good enough, or not knowing enough in your field. But remember you only have to be one page/chapter ahead of someone else to be able to teach them. We all have something unique to teach—you just have to take the time to find out what that is.
a greeting card designer, freelance illustrator, and author of three online courses
It’s a rare case when someone is looking for a purely theoretical course. Having hands-on experience of what you’re going to teach others is crucial to earning trust. It allows you to demonstrate your own expertise instead of relying on abstract ideas or someone else’s examples.
While being an enthusiastic amateur is definitely not a bad thing, the main pitfall is the chance to become one of the I’ll-teach-you-how-to-earn-millions instructors who haven’t earned their own millions yet.
Another thing here is that it’s much easier to choose a relevant idea for a course and make it profitable if you already have the audience that knows you and trusts you.
I’ve spent a lot of time building up a community online, so I knew what was popular and what people wanted to see more of. I noticed that when I talked about certain things on Instagram, I’d get a lot more engagement or questions—these were good places to start. I get a lot of the same questions from my followers for how I create my illustrations, so that really helps me know what they wanted to learn from me next.
Creating an online course means devoting a significant amount of time, energy, and resources toward it. Having a passion for what you do fuels your motivation.
Is it possible to move forward without passion? Well, it’s commonplace when someone doesn’t really love the topic, but it’s profitable. And that’s OK. But what if the project fails to earn money? How would you feel after you had spent time, money and energy doing what you don’t like to do and all for nothing?
Conversely, when you’re driven by passion, even if you fail (which happens with anyone), you don’t feel like you wasted your time. Instead, you gained valuable experience that helps you pick up and move further.
Set yourself a goal for one year (i.e. number of courses, lessons, etc.) and then follow through, disregarding if you are successful at first. I made only 50€/month after 6 months of work. I would have given up, had I not known that I would continue anyway. So, I continued, found hacks, and made over 1000€ just 2 months later.
Plus, you can always feel whether a person loves what he or she is doing, right? Your audience can feel this, too.
What Else Can Help When Choosing a Niche?
While the previous portion may have sounded a bit like “follow your heart,” there are some technical tips that can help you decide on the topic for your course.
1. Create your learner’s persona
In marketing, there’s a tool called a “buyer persona.” A persona is a fictional character that stands for a typical representative of a targeted audience. Usually, it has a profile with a picture and personal information: name, demographics, goals, and pain points. Buyer personas help marketers visualize their customers and convey better messages that are both relevant and useful to the audience.
Snatch this marketing method and create a learner persona. What is this person like? Is this a male or a female? What is her job? What is her background? Does she have any prior knowledge and experience? Creating a profile of an ideal learner will help you specify the topic that might be in demand with your audience and hence potentially yield commercial success.
2. Check out Google search results
Conduct simple research by googling keywords related to your potential niche. By doing so, you’ll find the main competitors. If there are too many of them, the competition may be too stiff. Too few results may signal that the topic isn’t in demand and it will be more difficult to turn it into financial success. You need to aim in between to be able to monetize the niche and not get beat by recognized authorities.
We also advise using Google operators to get more precise results. Here are some of the most popular operators:
- “ ”
Put a keyword or phrase in quotes to find an exact-match search results.
There’s no sense in using AND by itself since Google applies it to regular searches by default. But it’s a useful addition to the “” operator because it allows you to look for a combination of two keywords. Compare:
By adding a hyphen, you can exclude certain words from your search results. If you don’t plan to offer any free stuff, you can exclude the word “free” from the search query to find resources offering premium content.
This operator asks Google to look for the pages that include certain words in their title tags and not to pay attention to the rest of the page content. It’s useful when you want to find out how many pages are directly focused on a particular topic.
3. Research course selling platforms
This piece of advice is similar to the previous one with the only difference being that instead of searching the whole web, we’ll examine popular marketplaces for online courses. The benefit of this method is that you can see how many people bought certain courses, get valuable insights from their reviews, and see which topics are rising in popularity.
Do not just start making a course about something you like, definitely check first if there is demand for it at all. For example, Udemy offers a tool called “Udemy Marketplace” that shows you all kinds of analytics (including how much course creators are making) for each specific topic.
We at Flora aren’t really fans of uploading courses to popular marketplaces as they limit course creators’ capabilities at pricing, analytics, and marketing activities. Whatever category you’re in, there’s tough competition among trainers. Yet, we encourage you to use them as a tool for research. You can start by looking at what these platforms offer on your topic, see what the learners seek, and, perhaps, snag some ideas for future courses.
These are the marketplaces worthy of exploring:
With the right niche for your training product, you can more easily create great content and grow your audience. Once you’ve chosen one, stick with it, since it usually takes a while before hundreds of learners enroll in your courses. That’s why we talked about passion. Analyze and choose smart, but it’s the passion that turns any result into a valuable experience that makes you stronger.
So, what is the topic that makes your heart beat faster? Have you thought of it as a niche for learning content? Please tell us your story in the comment section below!
About the Author
Olga Kokoulina, an editor and boots-on-the-ground author. She’s always ready to share in-depth insights on the most hardcore eLearning topics with her readers.