The eLearning industry is growing — fast. So fast, that from the $120 billion of revenue per year back in 2015, it’s now expected to reach $275 billion by 2022.
And as people are warming up to the idea that eLearning is just as effective as traditional training, there’s never been a better time to get into this business.
Before you jump headfirst into starting a training business of your own, you’ll want to slow down and make sure you’re aware of all the elements that should be in place for your business to be successful. Here’s our six-step plan on how to start a training company.
How to start a training business in 6 steps (and make it a success)
Setting up a training company isn’t much different from setting up any other company. You’ll still need to think about all the essential aspects of business 101: who’s your client base? How will you persuade them to choose you? How will you beat the competition? Let’s look at how you can set up your eLearning business for success.
- Know your audience
- Use the right technology and tools
- Think about the content
- Partner with the right people
- Market it
- Run it like a business
1. Know your audience
Before starting your own training business, you need to decide who you’ll target with your business.
Enter market research. The best way is to hire a market research company that can assess the viability of the training business you’re considering. A more affordable option is to talk to people, run an informal survey, or put up a simple “sign up for updates” form on your Facebook or landing page to gauge people’s interest.
Ultimately, the goal is to land on a specific target audience for your services. Who are they? What do they need to learn? What do they want to learn? The next step is to determine how large this audience is. This way you’ll be able to estimate your company’s profitability.
Sustainability and profitability are two elements you should look at before you commit your time and money in starting an online training business. Of course, you’ll only be able to tell with real certainty after your business opens doors, but this will definitely help you rule out some impossible markets.
Another factor you need to consider regarding your audience is whether you’re targeting your local market (which, in countries like the US or China can be more than big enough) or an international one. This will affect a great many things, such as your content (depending on who you want to reach you might need to offer localized courses), the way of delivery (to easily target an international audience you’ll need a full-featured eLearning platform), even your payment methods.
Another consideration is whether you are targeting the general market (that is, J. Random User on the web) or businesses.
Don’t rule out enterprise training. Offering enterprise training as an outside contractor is a wholly viable business option. Not all enterprises have internal enterprise training programs, and even those that do, don’t cover all their training needs with them. That’s where you, as an independent training contractor could come in, offering them a complete training program without the hassle of deploying and maintaining it.
2. Use the right technology and tools
To run a successful eLearning business, it’s important to pick the right technology. After all, eLearning is 50% content and 50% delivery. Delivery refers to speed, UI, ease of use, intuitiveness, features and more. And that is all technology.
Modern technology, high-speed internet and the emergence of turn-key, full-featured LMS platforms like TalentLMS, have leveled the playing field so that a small two-person company can compete with a big, established training provider – if not in breadth of content, then surely in quality and presentation.
Besides that, don’t forget that the technology you choose will affect your scalability options further down the road– how big your business can eventually get.
You probably want your eLearning business to be infinitely scalable from day one, but that’s not easy (or affordable) to achieve, especially if you’re considering building the learning platform yourself. It’s also something that’s not necessary to address when you start out.
Instead, cloud-based LMS is the best solution in this case, as essentially you offload the scalability problem to your cloud provider, and you’re free to increase your plan (and reach) whenever the need arises.
This flexibility will usually come at a small per-user fee, paid to your Cloud vendor. But, unless you’re at Google scale, it’s still better than paying a huge amount upfront for building your own server farm, plus the salaries to maintain your own IT team.
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3. Think about the content
Content is the core of your business.
Whether you’re offering Arabian flute lessons to all consumers or Economics 101 to enterprise audiences, your content needs to be top-notch, because this is what will make your eLearning business stand out.
Think polished, professional-looking content, with a high enough production value. No sloppy writing, no boring PowerPoints, no boring videos of talking heads.
Take the time to do it right yourself. Or hire a talented writer, and learn about all the trade tricks that can increase the perceived (and actual) quality of your content (e.g., consistent typography).
The most important decision, though, is the kind of content you’ll invest in. While you might be passionate about Latin, it doesn’t mean others are too – especially in large enough numbers to help you sustain an online training business. You should also be cautious of uber-trendy subjects, as they may be unsustainable for any significant period of time. Cryptocurrency might be trendy now, but not in the next two years, and the last thing you’d want is to have invested loads of money on content that won’t pay off.
4. Partner with the right people
You might be tempted to wear every single hat in your new business. That’s fair. When you’re starting out your own training business, chances are you can’t afford to hire a dedicated department for marketing or sales. But, doing it all yourself is not a viable option, either.
Instead, find the right freelancers and partner with them. For example, you can outsource plenty of business administration tasks to a virtual assistant. You can hire freelancers to cover your marketing tasks, and even get instructional designers and subject matter experts to design your courses.
5. Market it
If you have your business license at hand, your content polished and loaded, and your LMS ready to welcome your learners, you might think you’re all set.
But that’s just the first part of starting a training business. The really hard part will be to market your training offering so that enough people sign up.
This all depends on your marketing budget and your ingenuity. At the very least, you should give your website and service a professional and memorable look based on your corporate branding.
Your target audience will also determine how you will market your eLearning offerings. For example, if you target a niche industry (e.g., music production courses), then it would be a good idea to advertise in trade magazines and websites. If you’re competing for enterprise training contracts, you should target websites like LinkedIn, talk to enterprise executives directly, etc.
Of course, if your eLearning business idea is unique and your content well thought out, it might market itself through word of mouth and favorable online reviews. But don’t depend on that — to paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, you should “always be marketing”.
6. Run it like a business
This goes without saying, but if you want to start your own online training business, you would need to treat it like a business, too.
First, you’ll need a quick starter course in economics to learn about revenue, taxes, and pricing. Don’t assume that you know these things and that running a business is intuitive. Some economic concepts are common knowledge. But most will come as a surprise, or maybe a revelation. A lack of understanding of notions like sunk cost, opportunity cost, and price curves has hurt far too many businesses to mention.
You’ll also need to keep up with the bureaucracy (the IRS doesn’t joke around), keep an eye on your competitors, and be on the lookout for new business opportunities and partnerships.
If what you have in mind is the cliche image of a boss that doesn’t do anything but collect his profits each month, you better forget it. Running a business is a 24/7 job.
How to start a training company
Even though starting an eLearning business requires hard work, there’s never been a better time to dive in. The online training industry is booming and will continue to grow.
Are you considering starting your own training and development company? What’s stopping you?
Already a proud eLearning business owner? What lessons did you learn when you started your training business?
Let us know in the comments!