Some days it feels like the universe is stacked against you.
You try to make progress with your online course, but something always gets in the way.
Last week it was a crazy work schedule because of an unexpected project.
Yesterday, your kid was home sick from school.
And now that you finally have a block of time to sit down and work on your course, you’re just plain overwhelmed. There are so many things you could do that you just aren’t sure where to start.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because you’re not alone.
We surveyed our 30 Day Course Creation Challenge participants this fall, and they shared some of the biggest obstacles standing in their way.
These obstacles fell into 6 different categories:
- Not enough time
- Uncertainty about target audience
- Lack of confidence
- Questions about content creation
- Not sure what to focus on
- Totally overwhelmed by tasks
This post brings together a list of 42 important resources to help you overcome the barriers standing between you and online course success — so that you can become an unstoppable course creation machine.
Let’s start with the big one that everyone deals with: not having enough time.
We get it. Life is busy!
Chances are, you have a job outside of your course creation. You probably have a family and friends you want to spend time with.
We all have responsibilities and other things that take up time out of our day. So how do some people seem to be able to find more time in their days?
Here are a few comments from our Challenge participants about how they deal with not having enough time:
“I work full time and have other obligations, so getting it done means fitting[the Challenge material] in where I can.”
“Time is always the biggest thing. Just being intentional about making the Challenge a priority has helped. I’m working with clients and I have to put my paying customers first.”
“It can be hard to stick with the course on a daily basis, and I find myself completing assignments in ‘chunks’ when I set aside a block of time.”
If you’re feeling the time crunch, here are some posts that can help:
“What if there were a few painless practices that you could put into place to boost your productivity, minimize distractions (shiny objects included), and help you simply keep moving forward?”
2. How to Find Time to Start a Side Business — My Wife Quit Her Job
“The secret is being more efficient with your time and managing your day a little bit better… The reality is that there’s plenty of free time lying around. You just have to learn how to extract every last minute.”
3. Twelve Steps: Starting a Business While Working Full Time — StartUp Bros
“I get it. You have a busy life with a job, family, kids, book club, etc. It is simply way too easy to put off the work on your business until tomorrow. Setting concrete goals like ‘Write website copy by next Tuesday‘ or ‘Interview 10 customer prospects in the next 30 days‘ will help you get past that natural inclination to put things off.”
4. Seven Ways to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed & Start Getting Things Done — Yellow Conference
“We were always wanting more time. But guess what: we don’t need more time. And neither do you.”
5. The Best Way to Run a Startup With a Full-Time Job — Fortune
“An aspiring entrepreneur with a great business idea may be ready to quit her job and work on her startup full time. But when she has a family to raise and bills to pay, learning to juggle both a day job and a startup is a must.”
“The truth is, procrastination is more about our emotions than our tendencies for laziness or just being ‘bad at deadlines’. At its core, we procrastinate to keep ourselves happy in the moment.”
7. Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time — Zen Habits
“Having ‘not enough time’ is just a feeling — we all have the same amount of time, but we often fill up the container of our days with too much stuff.”
But even if you can find the time, often it’s hard to identify where your target audience hangs out online. How do you know who they are? And how can you reach them?
We hear this one all the time.
One of the most important foundations of your online course is knowing who you serve. Yet many course creators and online business owners struggle with figuring out exactly who their audience is.
Then when you know who you serve, do you know where to find them?
Here’s what our Challenge participants had to say:
“When I contact one individual at a time, they respond. I used to leverage my list using mass emails, but when I slowed things down and connected one-by-one, they connected back. I surveyed 25 folks and got 22 responses!”
“It is important to narrow the course focus and target audience.”
If you aren’t sure who you’re serving or how to find them online, take a look at these posts:
“Empathy allows you to understand your audience’s perceptions, beliefs, and feelings. It also helps you identify their motivations — why they do what they do, say what they say, and buy some things but pass on others.”
9. Focus on A Passion to Find Your Niche — Entrepreneur On Fire
“In trying to sell to anyone and everyone out there, I was selling to no one. My offerings were way too generic, and I lacked a certain focus that was sure to turn anyone away from my site in a heartbeat.”
10. How to Find Your Target Audience — ThriveHive
“Knowing your target audience will help you to determine what marketing methods to use for attracting new customers, and how to add additional value for retaining loyal customers.”
11. Know Your User: How to Define Target Audience for Your App — Duct Tape Marketing
“Do you want to know a common reason for a business’s demise? CB Insight has analyzed hundreds of stories on failing startups and concluded that 14% of them hadn’t examined their client.”
12. How To Really Define Your Target Audience — Creative and Coffee
“You know what your business is selling, but now you need to work out who you are selling it to and why they will want to buy from you.”
13. Seven reasons why your blog needs a well-defined audience — Big Commerce
“One of the truisms that floats around the internet marketing landscape is the idea that in order to be successful, you need to choose a unique topic. But, it turns out, this isn’t always true. In fact, as often as not, it can actually work against you.”
“Your job is to understand your audience by conducting objective and fact-based research. Talk to your customers, ask them to fill up surveys, and refer to the analytics data when framing your website copy and your core marketing message. Above all, don’t rely on assumptions.”
Moving on to our next category is something every new course creator feels at one time or another: a lack of confidence in your abilities or in your course being able to deliver on its promise.
Whether it’s a general lack of confidence or just not being sure how to complete a single task, your mindset can make or break your online course creation.
While some people seem to bring a natural confidence to their business endeavors, an entrepreneurial mindset is also something that you can cultivate.
Let’s see what our Challenge participants think about mindset:
“The biggest part about making a course is to start. This is an idea that I have had for a while, but I never went anywhere with it. Now I feel that it could really happen.”
“Taking daily action really helps me move past former blockages. Any attempt, even if it’s not perfect, helps move me forward toward my goal. I can always revise, but starting is what matters — putting pencil to page, and pushing ‘send’.”
“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you have actionable steps and achievable outcomes.”
If you could use a gentle nudge to switch up your mindset, these posts can help:
15. Want to Run a Successful Business? Change Your Mindset — Launch & Hustle
“When it comes to running a business, entrepreneurs seem to have one thing in common — they all agree it’s hard work. They all also know that it’s important for you to have certain characteristics. Discipline, authenticity and self-belief. But there’s one thing that is arguably one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur: self-doubt.”
16. Do You Have A Successful Entrepreneurial Mindset? — Huffington Post
“The true foundation of entrepreneurial success lies within your mindset. A good idea can take you far, but your mindset and true determination to achieve your goals are what will carry you through to the finish line.”
17. Are These 5 Mindset Blocks Sabotaging Your Business Success? — YFS Magazine
“You have this passion and burning desire to build a profitable business and make an impact on the world. You know it’s possible because you see others with an enviable lifestyle, but you feel stuck! So what’s going on?”
18. Six Signs You Are Not Ready for Entrepreneurship — Entrepreneur
“You can’t be 100 percent certain of anything in life, but there are six important signs that you may not be ready or cut out for entrepreneurship.”
19. Uncovering the Mindset of Legendary Business Owners — Jim’s Marketing Blog
“In every industry, during every economy, there are businesses that thrive. There’s no mystery as to why this happens. We can even predict them in advance. In fact, we can choose to become one of them.”
“Every business wants to grow and be successful. But is the pursuit of growth alone actually holding businesses back?”
21. Eleven Tips to Change Your Mindset for Success — The Business Woman
“As important as it is to have the skills required for whatever role you are currently in, sometimes this simply isn’t enough in competitive fields. This is why you need to ensure that you have the right mindset to go along with your skillset.”
Continuing to look ahead, you want your students to succeed. But how do you know how much content is enough? Should you teach them everything you know?
You’re enough of an expert to teach your audience what they need to know.
You know you can solve their burning problem, but sometimes it’s hard to know what content is truly important to the course and what you can leave out.
So how do you know what stays and what can wait until later?
Here’s what our Challenge participants learned:
“The exercises have really helped me and my partner narrow our focus so that we can create specific courses that address specific parts of the process without feeling overwhelmed by developing content. If we are overwhelmed creating content, our students will be in full panic mode when they attempt to dig into it!”
“The hardest part is getting things distilled down to the smallest possible chunks. That gives a feeling of accomplishment and quick wins that keep your students engaged and working on the course material.”
“It’s important to narrow the course focus. It isn’t necessary to create one monster course that’s all inclusive of the topics presented — it’s okay to break it up into multiple courses.”
If you’re struggling with creating the content to help your students move forward, these posts can help:
“Especially if this is your first course, it’s in your best interest – as well as your students’ – to create only the minimal viable content that helps your participants move toward the #1 outcome of the course.”
“It’s time to put your plan into action, and get you into the 15% of course creators who actually have a course out in the wild.”
“We asked what each expert sees as the biggest course creation challenge facing their community, what they think is really going on, and what solutions they would offer to that challenge.”
25. Eight Ways to Create an Online Course — Jeanine Blackwell
“There are lots of different ways you can create an online course — from simple live online delivery to more leveraged, fully recorded courses. Let’s walk through how you can design an experience to share your expertise online with others.”
26. Create Your Online Course Content: Phase 3 — Dr Kelly Edmonds on the Mirasee blog
“The next task at hand is the seemingly mammoth one of locating, sorting, and wading through all your existing content as well as building new stuff.”
27. How to Make Your Course Content More Actionable — Zen Courses
“It’s not enough to say students should take action. As course creators, we’ve got to create opportunities for action. In fact, for high-stakes subjects, we need to require action.”
28. Use This Framework to Quickly Price Your Online Course — VideoFruit
“You can use this process to price anything. It helped keep me from making a fatal error when launching my course… Not charging enough!”
Here’s a hunch. Your to-do list is long enough to make you break out in a cold sweat every time you look at it — or to send you into avoidance mode. How do you know what’s important? What should you focus on first?
In an online world where every guru and expert is feeding you a list of ten new things you need to do to move your course creation forward, it’s hard to focus.
And if you don’t know what’s important or what’s going to move your business forward, it’s easy to stall out.
Let’s see what our Challenge participants are working through:
“I’m not fully clear what to offer, but that will come.”
“I struggle with choosing priorities. I always have lots I want to do. It’s always about choosing what needs to be done next”
If you’re just not sure what comes next, these posts will help you figure out where to focus:
29. Your Online Course Business Needs Focus — Ruzuku
“It’s the curse of the entrepreneur: you have all the ideas! Maybe even too many ideas! Sometimes it seems like your brain might be trying to hijack your business success, because every time you sit down to focus on a business task, a new idea pops into your head.”
30. Are You Focusing on What Really Matters? — Skillcrush
“The pull towards what sounds or looks or feels good in the moment – instead of what will actually help you progress towards your goal – is incredibly strong and everyone feels it.”
31. How to Focus on One Idea — Business Boutique
“Having new ideas is an excellent advantage in business. But when you act on all of your ideas, you dilute your efforts. You reduce your efficiency and ability to grow one business well while confusing the heck out of your customers!”
32. Finding Your Focus Through ‘Deep Work’ — Entrepreneur
“It happens all the time. You start out the day with great intentions to get that financial report done or to work on your marketing plan only to find it’s 3pm and you’ve barely scratched the surface.”
33. Finding Focus in Your Creative Business — Being Boss
“So many creatives self-sabotage by focusing on what’s 3 steps ahead instead of just the next step.”
34. Find Your Passion With These 8 Thought-Provoking Questions — FastCo Design
“The following questions – shared by a noteworthy lineup of entrepreneurs, innovators, consultants, and creative thinkers – can help you figure out where your heart lies and what you really ought to be doing.”
35. Want to Grow Your Business? Focus on One Thing — Embolden
“If you don’t know where to begin with all the information and ideas you have, you should focus. And I mean really focus. Focus on only one thing at a time. Pour all of your time, energy, money, and resources into one thing.”
And sometimes – even when you know what you should focus on first – the long list of things you feel like you have to do is enough to overwhelm even the strongest course creator.
You may feel like your to-do list is going to crush you under its weight.
And even if it’s a document in digital format, you might be right. The weight of so many things pulling on you for attention and time can be enough to crush your desire to do anything at all.
You’re definitely not alone in this one. The good news is that there are ways you can dig out from under overwhelm.
Listen to what our course participants are working through:
“Most of my obstacles are coming from my inability to organize myself consistently.”
“I’ve run into a few distractions here and there, but that’s my own doing. I signed up for a million different lists and challenges and webinars all at once, so there’s been a lot of noise in my inbox.”
“I got stuck at one time, thinking there was a ‘best’ way or maybe even ‘perfect’ way to design my course and forgot to just keep going. Also, I have not kept up with my commitment to dedicate a regular time to this process daily.”
If overwhelm is threatening to destroy your course creation motivation, these posts should be just the ticket:
“As a business owner and a new course creator, it can feel like you have to say yes to everything: every opportunity, every client, every potential chance to move your course projects forward. But after a while, those ‘yeses’ start to add up.”
37. This One Simple Ritual Cures Overwhelm for Business Owners — CommitAction
“The world’s highest achieving business owners look at overwhelm unlike anyone else. For them, it’s a highly intuitive signal from the unconscious mind with a very specific meaning. It’s not stress, or some kind of disease. It’s not even a problem. Overwhelm is your unconscious mind telling you to change something.”
38. Feeling Overwhelmed? 4 Mistakes to Avoid — Huffington Post
“You are always busy, but nothing ever seems to get done. You are exhausted. Work and life cry out for your attention and pull you in different directions, regardless of what you really want to do.”
39. Decision Detox: How Making Less Choices Gives You More Freedom — Marie Forleo
“Your creative dreams require fuel. And doing your best work in this world means not blowing your daily supply of mental and emotional discernment on low-ticket items.”
40. Seven Small Steps For Entrepreneurs To Overcome Being Overwhelmed — Addicted2Success
“It’s inevitable. That disorienting feeling washes over you at the worst times. You have too much to do, you’re burning through cash, you don’t have much help, and others’ outsized expectations make your head spin and your stomach churn.”
41. An Open Letter to Those Who Are Overwhelmed (and Not Sure What to Do Next) — Marc & Angel Hack Life
“I have dozens of good ideas that I can easily execute on, but every time I rev up and start taking massive action, I get overwhelmed and scared… There’s so much I want to achieve, and I know I’m capable if I could just get beyond this.”
42. How to Get Overwhelm to Eat Your Dust — Amy Porterfield
“For me, overwhelm shows itself when I feel like I’ve gotten behind or everything feels disorganized, and I know things could go in a really bad direction.”
So there you have it.
Six common barriers that every course creator runs into at one time or another in their attempts to create their first (or next) online course — and 42 excellent posts to help you break through each one.
Overcome your obstacles to success
You know that you have a great course idea.
And now that you know what’s holding you back, you can take back your course creation mojo.
It’s time to run with your idea and create something great that helps your students solve their biggest problem or move toward their desired outcomes.
It’s time to become an unstoppable course creation machine.
Now back to you. Do you struggle with any of these obstacles? If so, did any of these posts help you start to overcome them?
Do you have other recommendations for how to break through the barriers holding you back? Let us know in the comments!