Online courses are a profitable revenue stream.

The Tilt research ranks it in the top three, with 35% of content entrepreneurs selling them.

But what if you could make your online course even more profitable?

Workbooks can be a great add-on. You can charge a separate fee or increase the overall price of the class. (You can also create a workbook that acts as a marketing tool to attract an audience interested in your content.)

Here are five things to do to create a workbook for your content business.

1. Determine the purpose: Your workbook should align with your online course, but it doesn’t have the same mission as the class. Will the workbook reinforce what students are supposed to learn online? Will you walk through the workbook as you teach the class? Will you spend time during the course for students to complete tasks in the workbook? Or will the workbook serve as “homework” before the next session?

By considering how the workbook fits with the online course, you will improve both content products and deliver a seamless experience for your students.

2. Analyze the audience: You know who your audience is, but how will the workbook engage them? Explore how to create a workbook that not only complements the course but entices the student to use it. Think about these elements:

  • Graphics and colors. Use charts and infographics to show the details that would be hard to decipher in a video or slide or to illustrate a complex topic. Pay special attention to colors to ensure they’re conveying what you want them to convey (and they’re legible when viewed digitally or in print.)
  • Text. Usually, the primary component of a workbook is the text. Think about the text’s design. Use headers to highlight sections and make it easy to use. Consider bolding words for emphasis or for skimming readers to notice.
  • Action: Create exercises that require users to go outside the pages (e.g., research other sites or visit a brick-and-mortar store) or, at a minimum, include some activities, like quizzes, inside the workbook.

3. Develop the content: You’ll most likely want to organize your workbook in the same way as your course. Start with lesson one, move to lesson two, and so on. What will the workbook include that the course also incorporates? What will the workbook have that the course does not? Encourage your students to go beyond what you discuss in class by adding supplemental resources, stories, and more.

Think about how to make the text come alive by posing questions for reflection, adding exercises so they can practically implement aspects of what they’re learning, or publishing quizzes to give them the confidence that they really are absorbing the material.

As you design the workbook, incorporate graphics and other visuals to break up large blocks of text for easy reading. Remember, this is a workbook, not a book.

4. Test the workbook: You think the workbook works with your course. But since you’re the one who created both, you’re not the best person to make that conclusion. Do some beta testing or gather a focus group. Ask the students to take the course and use the workbook. Is it easy to follow? What makes them stumble? Is there something that doesn’t make sense or is hard to understand?

To get this feedback, you can ask them to complete a survey (make sure to ask at least some open-ended questions) or interview them about their experience. Use their input to revise the workbook to better meet students’ needs.

5. Publish: If you plan to print a physical version, make sure the course fee (or the workbook add-on price) covers printing and mailing costs and allows for a profit. Don’t forget to ask for their mailing address if you go for this option. Also, select a paper appropriate for someone to write on. Standard (usually 60#) paper works well. Heavier, coated paper can smudge the ink if someone writes on it. Coil binding also works better, so the workbook stays flat. 

Even if you print it, make a digital version immediately available upon purchase. Some students may want to start the course before the workbook arrives.

With your workbook published, you should update your course marketing with this new valuable product. Make sure prospective students quickly understand how it works with the course as well as how it provides added value to the experience.

Helpful resources:

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About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.