Free PDF: The 3 worst online course mistakes (and how to fix them)

How Long Does It Take to Create an Online Course? (full guide)

On this page

How long does it take to create an online course?

If you’re wondering what it takes to create an online course, you’ve come to the right place. Today, you’ll learn how to create a course faster 

Want to learn more? Read on! 

The steps to creating an online course

What are the steps to create an online course? 

To create a course, you need to… 

Step 1: Research and plan your course

Step 2: Create a course outline 

Step 3: Create your course materials

Step 4: Design your course

Step 5: Publish your course

Course FAQs

But first, let’s take a look at WHY you should create an e-learning course. 

Create impactful and profitable courses

The online course industry is growing fast. According to Statista, it’s expected to grow into a $243 billion market. 

Course industry statistic

Selling courses is amazing for growing your bank account…AND your legacy.

Turning your experience into a product that lets you leverage your time and scale your revenue.

For example, whenever I scroll through the story highlights on my Instagram feed, I realize how many of them are from people who have purchased one or more of my courses. And then shared with me how much that course impacted their life.

These are changes that they and their families will benefit from…forever.

Just like your course will impact your customers’ lives. 

That said, building a course can feel overwhelming if you haven’t created a course before. 

Here’s how to quickly create your course. 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

view pixel

Start with a smaller course

One of the main mistakes people make is to try to create an extensive A-Z course on their first try. 

I get it…

You want to create the best course possible…

Share what you know…

And help people get the best results possible.

However, putting everything you know into one course is a lot of information. 

One of my own flagship courses, Employee to Entrepreneur, which teaches people how to build a business from scratch, has five modules. Every module has three lessons and every lesson has around four videos. Plus, it includes bonuses, bonus reports, and so on.

It took me three years and a lot of time and money to perfect the product. 

All that effort I put into creating my course paid off and my students love the course. But this wasn’t my first course.

But I didn’t start with this course. 

Instead, my first course was a “First Step Course.” 

In other words, a course that teaches the first steps a student needs to take to move them towards the result that they want. 

So instead of teaching someone how they can drop 50 pounds, your First Step Course would teach them how to drop 10 pounds. 

My First Step Course was called “Your First Paying Clients,” and as you might guess, it helps people get their first clients (instead of showing them how to build an entire business).

This format makes it far easier to build your online course. After you’ve learned how to create courses, you can start working on a bigger Flagship Course. 

Avoid this when you’re creating your course!

I’m going to bust a pretty big couse creation myth right now. Here goes: 

You don’t need to create your course before selling it. 

In fact, I don’t recommend that you do. 

Some people claim that you have to create your course before you sell it because it’s “higher value” for your clients. (But anyone who equates “perfect” with high value has their priorities in the wrong place.)

It’s actually harmful because it’s one of the top mistakes I see new course creators make, which has them not making any sales (who gets any value then? nobody)… 


Making sales and then having to deal with refunds because they created a “perfect” product that wasn’t what their customers wanted.

So, first sell your course. Then create it as you go. 

Obviously, you DO need to have a course plan available so that people know what they’re signing up for.  

So take Step 1 and Step 2 here below to research and outline your course and create the first lesson of your course before you sell it. Then, take Steps 3-5 once you’ve sold your course to create your course material, design it, and publish it. 

Now you know how you should approach creating your course. Let’s take a look at Step 1. 

Step 1: How long does it take to research and plan an online course?

How long does it take to create an online course?

The first step is to research and plan your course. This step requires most of the thinking and preparation that’s needed to create a course. 

First, you need a course topic. Here, most people try to find an idea for their course.

But that’s a mistake. 

Instead, focus on figuring out the right OFFER. 

Focus on the results you offer

Answer the question: 

What is the result your online course will help students get? 

That’s how you find your “idea.” Ultimately, the result you offer is what make your course valuable.

At the same time, plenty of people come to me and say, “this is going to be a really valuable course because I will include everything I know on the topic and make it super comprehensive.”

But that’s not a result.

Instead, what are your students going to get from your course? What’s that tangible result?

For example, your course might help people lose weight, find a relationship, or sleep better.

Take a few minutes to think about your result. 

Then, reverse-engineer your course so it helps someone get that result. 

Doing this will help you to take out a lot of content that you might find interesting but that isn’t necessary for your students to get the results they want. 

The thing is:

Your course should be the easiest and fastest to go through and implement. THAT’S how you help people get results and thus create the highest quality course possible.

The best part? You can create your course a lot faster too. 

Because you don’t have to spend time creating a ton of material, like scripts, videos, and PDFs, that no one will ever use. 

The fastest way to do research for your course

A great way to figure out what your course should look like much faster than if you’re doing it from scratch is to first sell coaching or consulting on the topic you’re teaching.

Why? Because coaching is pretty much the same as getting paid to do market research. You learn exactly what your clients are struggling with, how they talk about their challenges, and what feels overwhelming to them…while getting paid to help them.

Time required for this step:

Ultimately, researching and planning your course can take as little as a day. If you haven’t done any coaching or consulting, use at least a few days to understand the results you offer and why your audience wants them. Talk to your potential customers and get first-hand information on why they want your course. 

Step 2: How long does it take to create an online course outline?

Now you’re clear on what your plan will look like. 

Next, how long does it take to create a curriculum? 

Look at the result you researched in the last step. Create your outline by breaking that result into steps, milestones, or areas of mastery. I explain it here: 

For example, if you help people get a new job, the first step or milestone could be to help course students get clear on what job they want. In the next step, you’d help them update their application material, and so on. 

Or group the steps around certain areas of mastery.

For instance, my course Sold Out Sales Page teaches entrepreneurs who sell different types of products (coaching and courses) how to write a sales page. 

Creating a step-by-step course wouldn’t have made sense, so I broke up the course around the different types of sales pages you would use to sell different products.

Or, third, create your course around different tips. 

In my course Your First Paying Clients, the modules are organised around the different strategies for getting your first paying clients. 

Time required for this step:

Use a few hours to put together your outline. Especially if you coach or consult, this will be a simple step. 

Step 3: How long does it take to create your course materials?

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was to try to make my course “perfect.”

Maybe you’re guilty of thinking this, too? 

I get it! You want to create a great course that clients love. 

The problem is that there’s no such thing as perfect. So if you have that as your standard, you’ll never reach it. 

If you’re following these steps, your course is probably going to be a high-quality product within the first one or two versions.

So aim for good and results-driven, rather than perfect.

Create your materials

Your course consists of both written and video/audio materials.

I personally recommend a PowerPoint presentation with a voiceover combined with supplementary PDFs, Word documents, and Excel sheets. 

For each lesson, over-communicate so that your course is incredibly easy to follow. 

For example, in each lesson, include an overview of what people will learn, then share your materials, and finally, explain what the next steps are. 

Set up support

Next, what support do you offer to your students?

My first courses included a lot of coaching support.

Sure, I wanted to offer a great experience. Not only that, though. I also wanted to gather feedback and learn how I could improve my courses.

Over time, as I got more and more students and wasn’t able to personally coach them all, I started offering bi-weekly group coaching calls and support coaches. 

Think through your own support system, if you include one. How much support will you offer? What support should you offer so that your students get the best results? 

Time required for this step:

If you go for a smaller, First Step Course, creating your course materials (especially if you’re creating just your first module) can be done in a week or two, depending on how much time you have to work on your course. A bigger course will require more time, at least a month and a half, if not more. 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

view pixel

Step 4: How long does it take to design your e-learning course?

You also need to design your course.

These days, I have a designer who designs all my courses. And I put a lot of money and time into making them look great. 

But I definitely didn’t always have a team. My first course was much scrappier. 

Your design matters, yes. But early on, it doesn’t bring more value to your students.

To create nice-looking PowerPoint presentations, you can use Google Docs or Word. 

And tools like Canva help you create pretty PDFs. 

Time required for this step:

Spend a few hours designing your course materials. Over time, you can hire a designer and create beautiful courses. 

Step 5: How long does it take to publish an online course?

The last step is to publish your course.

It can be tempting to go all in and publish your course on your own course platform.

But this is a mistake. 

The absolutely easiest way to publish a course is to create a private Facebook group and upload your course content in the Unit sections. You can use pre-recorded videos or even livestreams to deliver the video content. 

I did this for my first course and it worked really well. Instead of having to spend time on building a website, I could quickly sell my course and use the profits to improve it. 

However, if you DO want to use your own website, keep it simple.

Create a page on your website (I prefer WordPress).

Then, host your content on that page and password protect it. 

Sure, your course won’t be the prettiest, but a gorgeous website doesn’t add a ton of value to your students. The results they get do so focus more on the support you offer. 

You can also use a platform like Teachable. Teachable offers a ton of features and it’s relatively simple to set up.

The last option is to build your own custom course platform. This is also the most complicated and expensive strategy. While my courses are hosted on my own proprietary platform, it cost me five to six figures to build it.  

And I definitely didn’t start there!

So choose one of the simpler options above to publish your course. 

Time required for this step:

You can publish your course in as little as an hour by either uploading it on Facebook or a password-protected WordPress page. 

Factors that affect how fast you create your course 

To really answer the question, “how long does it take to create an online course?”, you need to look at all the factors.

You see, the time it takes to create a course depends on how extensive your course is, if you’ve created other courses before, and so on.

Here below are the things you need to take into account. 

How extensive is your course?

First, are you creating a big Flagship Course or a small First Step Course? 

Too many aspiring course creators try to turn their first course into their magnum opus. Which ends up by way too overwhelming to create and sell.

Instead, focus on a smaller course that’s easy to set up and launch

Are you outsourcing any course creation?

Another factor is outsourcing. Are you outsourcing any of your course creation? 

Early on, you likely shouldn’t outsource anything because if you’ve never created a course, you won’t know what to outsource.

Once you’ve successfully sold your first course, you can start working on your flagship course and outsource more of that work. 

Do you have the skills to create a course?

Is this your first course? If it is, you first have to learn how to create online courses.

It takes skill to create a course that’s easy to follow and implement. So if you’re new to course creation, don’t sweat it. You WILL learn how to create courses even though it’ll take a bit more time upfront. 

But once you’ve mastered this skill, you’ll know how to build profitable courses—assets that you can sell over and over.

How much time do you have to work on it? 

Finally, do you have enough time to work on your course?

Look, I’m not saying it needs to be a full-time job to get your course done. It doesn’t. (Especially if you create a First Step Course.)

But you do need to be able to set aside time every week.

Everyone is busy, but my students in my course Ultimate Course Launch, who succeed in creating and selling their own course, make time for the few hours a week they need to get results.

Example timelines

Let’s look at two examples:

A First Step Course and a Flagship Course.

Here’s an estimate for how long it takes to create a First Step Course: 

Research & planning – 1 day

Outline – 2-3 hours

Course materials and design – 1-2 weeks

Publishing – 2 hours

Total: 1-2 weeks 

And here’s how long it takes to create your Flagship Course:

Research & planning – 1 day

Outline – 2-3 hours

Course materials and design – At least 6 weeks

Publishing – A few hours if you use an existing platform like Teachable

Total: At least 6 weeks 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

view pixel

Online course FAQs

What are some top course questions I usually get? Here are some of the questions my students often ask me. Use these answers to create your course faster. 

What topic should you choose for your course? 

One of the best ways to figure out your course topic is to first coach or consult people. Not only will you get invaluable insights for your course (such as your course topic) but you’ll also get paid to do market research. Win-win!

How long should your course be? 

As I recommend that you start with a shorter course that only teaches the first steps, your course doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) very long. For this type of course, your price would range from $47 to $497. 

How much does it cost to create a course? 

You can pretty much create your course for free. Start with a First Steps Course and upload it on Facebook. That way, you won’t have any extra costs.

Later on, when you sell bigger volumes of your course or a Flagship Course, you can spend more on website development, design, and other course-related expenses. 

Over to you!

How long does it take to create an online course? Now you know. 

If you follow the steps I share above, you can get your course up and running very quickly. Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it gives people the results they want.

Now, I’d love to know:

What course do you want to create? 

Let me know in the comments below. 

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

Want to know the 3 worst online course mistakes (and how to fix them)?

Want to know the top 3 reasons most courses fail?

(Plus how to fix them so you succeed?)

view pixel

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter your name and email to get instant access to the PDF

view pixel
When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business


Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

view pixel
When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business
19 Shares 6.3K views

This website uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies