Editor’s Note: This post about creating an online video course in stages was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

When tackling your next big project — whether a video-based online course, a content marketing original research initiative, or launching your new business — take a lesson from the construction trades and think like a housing developer.

Wait. What?

Hear me out. 

Earlier this year, I uploaded a video about using video templates in your B2B marketing. It is a way to get a professional video at a fraction of the cost you would normally pay for custom animations and motion graphics.

As a comparison, Wyzowl recently released research that found the average quoted price for a 60-second explainer video was $7,972.

My #LinkedInVideo post about customizing video templates prompted a LinkedIn direct message to me from a powerlifting and strength mentor in California. He’s successfully coached his athletes to breaking dozens of state, national, and world records. He’d like to turn that experience and expertise into a subscription-based training course.

He has hours of video footage, but “I am horrible at video editing,” he wrote me. “I’ve checked sites like fiver.com, but the rates are simply not something I can afford with that volume of video. I’ve even suggested that I’ll cut the editor as much as 40% of any revenues to the channel for sweat equity now.”

“What can a guy do?,” he asks in closing. “Any insight would be much appreciated.”

There is a lot there to unpack.

I want to give this guy some actionable advice. So, I pondered the question (some folks take a shower, my creative zone happens on long bike rides) and my conclusion was that he needs to think like a building developer.

Let me explain.

But let’s first back up to the beginning.

The Myth of a Side Hustle

Thanks to Chris Guillebeau, Tim Ferris and others, we’ve seen the rise of the “side hustle” culture where everyone wants a secondary (or tertiary) source of income. And advances in technology, the Internet, and bandwidth have lowered or eliminated the barriers that previously stopped us from making this happen.

A side hustle could be nearly anything, ranging from driving for a ride hailing service, freelancing side gigs for your profession (for example, writing, video production, accounting, bookkeeping, tutoring), or selling some sort of product (t-shirts, doll houses, etc.). 

According to a 2017 study from Bankrate.com, more than 44 million Americans reported having a side hustle. Of those, 64 percent make less than $500 per month. A follow-up study by Bankrate found that the median income for a side hustler was about $200 per month.

Image quote about the myth of side hustles for a post about creating an online video course.

Sure, there are plenty of examples of folks killing it with their side hustle. But most people are not.

Before you launch your side hustle, do a bit of research to determine whether the effort will be worth your investment. Some questions to keep in mind include:

  • How much time do you really have available for working on your side hustle?
  • What are all the ancillary costs you’ll spend to get your product or service out there in the world and start generating sales?
  • How competitive is your marketplace?
  • What are the opportunity costs you’re giving up to pursue your side hustle? For example, could you invest the time and effort into new skill set or special project for your current job that could get you a promotion, raise, or be leveraged into getting a better job elsewhere (resulting in mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money). Or you could just spend that extra time focusing on your friends and family (priceless).
Image quote about considering the alternatives to side hustles, such as family time, for a post about creating online video courses

When it comes to creating an online training course, it could take several months (working nights and weekends when you’re not at your full-time job) to get the course outlined and produced, as well as put together the website and other marketing materials you’ll need to attract buyers and convert sales.

What are Video Learning Courses?

If you’ve done the research and consider the investment and opportunity worth it, creating an online video learning course may be right for you.

What are video learning courses and why is that an attractive product/service for entrepreneurs?

I’ve know a copywriter and a social media coach, who both offer online video classes. They’ve followed a similar outline in creating and promoting their courses. But one reportedly is generating more than $40,000 per session and the other isn’t close. 
I looked around the net and found a Florida man who created a video course for sound mixing and was pulling in $75,000 a month. And videographer Parker Walbeck claims to be making more than $1 million in his Full-Time Filmmaker course (I’ve not taken either course, so can’t attest to their value add). Walbeck is even leveraging his experience into a new online video course on how to create a course.

Image quote about the elearning market. Creating an online course is challenging, and to stand out you'll need video

And of course,  LinkedIn, Udemy, Coursera, MasterClass and others offer a ton of online video courses. In fact, the eLearning market is forecasted to be more than $300 billion by 2025, according to research firm Global Market Insights

What is included in a video learning course?

Typically, an online video course includes an introduction video that overviews the course. This may be a freemium piece of ungated content that shows viewers your expertise, your style and the production quality.

Then there will be a number of videos, accessed after a registration fee, that cover different chapters of the course. There is also some sort of social component, such as a private Facebook group, where the class members can come together and engage with the instructor.

The videos can be high or low production. They can be live action, talking head videos. They can be animated videos. Or they can be a webinar slide deck that has been rendered into a video with a voiceover.

Video editing costs can be weighty

Years ago, I heard an NPR interview with John Williams, the famous Hollywood score composer of Star War, Jaws and other iconic films. In the piece, he said a good day of work was composing maybe a minute of the score.

Did you catch that?

I am lucky to get similar results when I am editing videos, especially ones that include animation. I recently finished creating an explainer video for a client where I spent a couple of hours animating just one 10-second scene (lots of moving parts).

Taking on the strength coach’s project would mean having to watch through all those hours of video, most of it likely unusable, and identifying the clips and segments that could be used in his online course.

I’d not only just be watching for the best clips that showcase his points, but I’d also look for things that often end up in videos that we’d rather keep out or need to keep out. This could include products, music, or people we don’t have permission or licensing rights to include. It could be the videographer’s or someone else’s reflection in a window or glass door (and who knows what they’d be doing).

After that, a video editor can get started on editing the video or videos, which includes content and context, flow, intentional and unintentional sounds, color, framing and dozens of other factors.

And then there are the motion graphics and other graphical elements that would be added into the videos.

Hopefully, you get the idea that a lot time goes into producing even a 1-minute video.

And that’s for projects that have a well defined script and storyboard.

I didn’t get the impression our strength coach had a clear outline of what the course outline would be. Note: a red flag for any video editor is being told you have hours of footage that just needs to be edited.

Naturally, the video editors he reached out to were giving him quotes that exceeded his budget. 

And the reason they ignored his offers of 40% of any revenues is that what he really is asking them to do is to invest weeks or more of their time unpaid on the hope he will be among those side hustle entrepreneurs who make more than $200 per month.

Try paying your rent or mortgage on that. Or buying your kids an ice cream cone.

I don’t know about you and your significant other, but my wife would kill me if I told her I was doing unpaid work for someone else’s passion project. 

Instead, our strength coach should think like a real estate developer

Years ago, I was a newspaper reporter covering public safety and local government in Southeast Washington.

It seems that for every story I reported on about outlaw motorcycle gangs, I also had to sit through a city council meeting listening to council members debate a condo development project along the Columbia River or next to a golf course, or both.

And what was one of the lessons I learned from all those council meetings and listening to the testimony from developers asking for this break or that code exemption on their project?

It was this: developers only want to pay for what is absolutely necessary at that specific point in time for their project.

If you’re building a planned 20-unit, mixed-use condo project, you start by only paying for the construction of that first condo, sell that condo, and then develop (and pay) for the next phase and so on and so on.

In the business world, this is called developing an MVP, or minimum viable product, a term popularized by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup.

What Ries advocates, and what housing developers the world over seem to inherently know, is you should quickly get a minimum product built and out to customers to see if they are, in fact, going to buy it. If they are, then you invest in all that “unnecessary” stuff like sidewalks, traffic lights, or mixed-use retail space. 

By developing your MVP, to paraphrase Ries, if you’re wrong about your product idea you’ll know so quickly and cheaply.

What do you need to get started with your online video course

Our strength coach needs to think like a developer. He needs to outline his MVP and get it out quickly to his audience and see if they’ll buy it.

And his MVP doesn’t have to be his whole strength conditioning program. He should consider a subtopic as an MVP such as: 

  • Increasing lean muscle mass 
  • Decreasing body fat
  • Improving speed and agility
  • Preventing injury
  • Sport specific conditioning

I know little about his space, but I’d guess there are plenty of other course options he could pursue.

The key thing is to seek customer feedback as soon as possible on whether there is any interest in the proposed topic. He could do this word of mouth, or in a simple poll he posts to Facebook or Twitter.

Once he’s validated interest in his MVP topic, it’s time to build the course. 

How to build your online video course

If he does this, I think he’ll find he can accomplish a lot of his project himself with tools he already has at the ready.

First, outline the course using Word or Google docs. This can later be turned into the accompanying worksheet students get when they take the course.

For example, since I love to ride road bikes and have been watching the Tour de France each morning for the last month,  he could create a MVP course on conditioning for road bikes. This could include an overview on the importance of conditioning; a video on stretching; weight lifting; eating and hydration before, during and after a ride; and videos on conditioning for specific elements of bike riding such as climbing, sprinting, and going downhill.

The second step, after you have an outline, is to begin scripting for each video. Each topic in his MVP outline would get its own video, which will be about 8-15 minutes in length. His script could be word by word on what he wants to say, or just a list of bullet points. If you’re creating a detailed script, a rule of thumb is that 150 words equals 1 minute of video so a 10-minute video would be 1,500 words.

The third step is to record the videos using his smartphone. No need to hire a professional videographer at the MVP stage. 

He can even use a smartphone teleprompter app that allows him to read his script while looking at the camera. At most, this costs about 20 bucks. 

The next big step is to edit the videos. There are a ton of free to relatively inexpensive video editing tools that he can use, including iMovie (free for Mac users) or Adobe Premiere Elements ($99). With those, he can do simple editing, graphics, picture in picture and more for his videos.

He may be able to use some of the existing footage he already has. That should be easier to sort through and access now that he has a narrower need. Instead of making sense of an entire strength conditioning program, he just needs to grab footage related to conditioning programs and bike conditioning programs.

Once he has his outline, scripts, videos, and course handouts, he needs a platform for selling his course. There are a ton of options there. Many of which offer free trials or allow the use of the platform in exchange for a cut of the revenue.

Leverage your MVP into more polished products

Once he has his MVP course produced, it is time to start generating some sales. He can first start by emailing anyone in his network asking them to either purchase his course, or refer it to someone they know who should purchase it.

After tapping out his network, and depending on the sales from that, he can look to spend a few dollars per day advertising on Facebook or other social platforms.

How many people he needs to reach depends on his financial goal and estimated conversion rate.

This will also help him determine the price at which he needs to sell the course. For example, suppose his financial goal is to make $10,000 from the course. At this point, his conversion rate for sales is just going to be a WAG, but we can expect it to be between 1 percent and 3 percent. If it’s the lower rate of 1 percent, and he sells his course for $200, then he would need to reach 5,000 people to make $10,000 in revenue.

Building Your Video Learning Empire

Based on his early sales, he can then look at developing the rest of his “property.” By that I mean, he could look at polishing the course, creating new courses, changing his pricing, increasing his ad spend and so forth.

He’ll also get a better response from professional video editors. Either he can now pay for the work outright (and he’ll have a tighter focus of what that work will be), or he will be able to better pitch his 40 percent revenue share now that there is some actual sales data to forecast what that could be.

Maximize your ROI and limit the risk

Of course, I have simplified the process, but you get the idea.

Real estate developers know that banks and other creditors won’t give them money to complete their projects unless they have some validation in the market offering. In other words, they’ve already sold that first condo unit and have other buyers making deposits.

Same with entrepreneurs seeking funding from investors. The investors want to see that an entrepreneur has maxed out credit cards, taken a second mortgage on their home, and cashed out their kid’s college fund, as well as convinced friends and family to invest in their great idea.

Video editors are no different than those banks and other investors. We want to limit our risk and maximize our investments.

Whether you’re looking to create a side hustle online video course, a content marketer wanting to hire a freelancer, or a budding entrepreneur seeking funding, think like a developer and quickly build your MVP to get revenue and validation early.