How to build an online business to market e-learning (cooking lessons, maybe?)

cookYour friends love your cooking. “You should teach cooking!” But you want to build an online business to market e-learning cooking lessons. Where – and how – to start? Here are some ideas to help you get started developing your e-learning business in the European Union (EU).

 Your ideas

 Make notes of EVERY business-related idea you have. Use your smart phone, tablet, or pen and paper to record your notes and store them in a safe place for later review.

 Build your business plan

  • Capital investment: list all funding, including the monies you directly contribute as well as any grants or loans.

  • Expenses: this list will be two parts – the known and anticipated expenses including purchase of hardware, software, consultant fees, licensing or membership fees, legal services, shipping/handling costs, marketing expenses, etc.

  • Budget: developing a realistic a budget gives you an understanding of where you financially stand at the start of your enterprise. You also are better able to identify primary and secondary expenses – the products and services needed now vs what can be deferred to a later time.

  • Objectives: what do you want to the online course to do/accomplish? How large a market do you want to reach? Who is your student or customer?

  • Delivery: how will your course be delivered – downloadable PDF, interactive online course, paper or electronic disc media, or a combination of any of these?

Building blocks

  • The European Commission has online publications that can guide you through the steps of developing a business in the EU. This site should be the starting point of your research and planning. In addition to individual state requirements, there are legal forms, information on protecting the intellectual property of your product, international accounting standards, VAT and customs, and more.

  • Financial management: invest in a personal/small business financial management software program. It will help you track your expenses and income at all stages. Commit to using it every day. Youneedabudget.com is a low-cost program available on Windows or Mac platforms.

  • Test your product: test your online course and recipes before posting them on your website. Invite trusted friends and family to be course and recipe testers; their objective feedback will show you what does and does not work.

  • Keep your website simple: start with a few simple recipes and a brief lesson; review feedback from customers and discard or restructure those lessons and recipes where necessary. Build on the successes – gradually.

  • Study your market: use the internet to explore your prospective market. Social networking contacts are resources for ideas and opinions; feedback can help you determine if your online courses have strong marketability potential.

  • Study the competition: internet research can help you determine how you can set your online courses apart from your competitors’.

Marketing

  • Develop an easy-to-maintain web site: Free internet services are available to help you to create your web site, then progress to for-fee levels of marketing and advanced site design services as needed. Google offers a tiered-cost program whereby you can launch your web site for free and upgrade to more sophisticated marketing services and functions as your business expands. https://www.google.com/webdesigner/

  • Develop “microproducts”:these are shortened versions of lessons accessible at your web site. Film a mini-cooking lesson and post it to one (or more) of the online video sites like YouTube.com orDailyMotion.com. Viewers can purchase the full lesson or recipe from your web site. Podcasts interviews are another excellent opportunity for business promotion.

Basic equipment, software, and online services

  • A computer capable of running a full current Microsoft operating system and Office Suite. Microsoft and Mac (Macintosh) are the most dominant computer and software systems through which millions of international enterprises interact. Their programs will be able to support your computer-driven business needs almost anywhere in the world. Your computer should also be able to burn data to a CD or DVD disc.

  • A reliable, external backup system. This may be an external hard drive or cloud service. Complete a backup DAILY. You must be able to quickly recover your business data if your computer develops a virus, a temporary mechanical or software problem, or fails altogether.

  • Use the web to search for software programs designed to create online study courses. One available open-source program is Moodle,

  • A business-dedicated phone, if feasible.

What next?

Information on marketplace opportunities, requirements, financing and grants, vary within each EU state. But there is one nearly-universal recommendation for all would-be entrepreneurs:

  • Unless you have a large financial resource already available to you, don’t quit your day job! It is impossible to determine how quickly your online business will generate a sustainable income. When the saved income from your online business is sufficient to cover all your living expenses for at least one year, you might consider if it is time to retire from your current job.

You are very brave. Give yourself credit for your courage and accomplishments every day.

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