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📚 How to make $100K+ per year turning popular books into online courses

Bootstrap your way to six figures with this startup idea...


Wes Kimbell

Mar 26 2021

8 mins read


This is Wes with Everyday Startup. In today’s issue I’m going deep on a proven business idea you can bootstrap to success. Let me know what you think in the comments section…

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How many of you have read The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss? If you are anything like me, the book transformed my outlook on what work life can look like.

The first time I read the book, I devoured it. I usually opt for audiobooks so I can take advantage of my time while driving. I was on highway 225 from Houston on my way to Galveston Bay to hop on a sailboat in what would be several days of hands on training to become a certified sailor.

The timing of reading Four Hour Workweek and learning to sail could not have been better. The possibility of working remotely (Tim Ferriss style) while sailing around the world, experiencing other cultures enthralled me.

If you have dreams of working remotely, creating online courses is a proven way to bring in some income while allowing for travel. Let’s dive in and learn how you can make this a reality…

💡 Idea

Several weeks ago I sent out a startup idea to my subscribers on how you could make bank by turning popular books into online courses. Online courses can be extremely successful if you choose the right niche, target the right audience and market the course properly.

By creating an online course around a book that already has a massive audience, you’ve already skipped ahead of the game. Marketing the course instantly becomes easier because you can leverage (book) name recognition as well as target an existing audience on platforms like Facebook Groups. And because publishers can’t typically copyright the book’s title, there shouldn’t be legal matters holding you back if you do this properly (but do your research please, I’m not an attorney, this is not legal advice blah blah blah).

We all read (or listen to) books, but how many of us really apply the lessons we learn to our lives? How many of us actually change our daily actions based on the insights we read? The truth is most of us don’t even finish reading the book. Or if we do, it’s easy to forget many of the golden nuggets we did learn.

In other words, books don’t always work. But what if we repurposed the valuable content into a medium that did work? What if we offered people a way to not only consume all the important information in the book, but learn how to apply it to their everyday lives?

This is not about information, this is about transformation. There is so much data available, we are drowning in content. What is lacking is focus and transformation. If you can transform the outcome of your customer’s life in a positive way, you will have a true fan for life.

Online courses (especially cohort courses) are proven mediums to increase learning. Not only can you present the core learnings of the book, but you can reinforce the principles through tasks, projects, challenges and discussions among students and teacher. By creating a course, you are able to break through the noise and actually help transform peoples lives.

With online courses, you could drip the book’s contents by chapter or lesson (or principle) over time so students have enough time to implement each lesson. You could also add cohorts that include weekly discussions. Make the students the teachers during these group discussions. This is sorta like a “book club” with a curriculum.

To encourage participation (and increase the likelihood of transformation), you could even add an element where students pay a large, upfront fee to join the course. For each session they show up, they get a percentage of the fee returned to them. If they show up to every session they get ALL their money back.

The value you are providing is not knowledge but application and execution. Something very much lacking today.

🛠️ How I would build it

Since popular books have an existing audience, go find them. Whether it be on Reddit, Facebook Groups, some random forum that looks like it was built in the 1990s or wherever. Then work to build up your credibility. Eventually you will share your course with them (but not yet!). For example, if you were to create a course based on Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek, you could hang out in r/digitalnomad (which was made popular by Tim Ferriss’s book). This subreddit has over 1.1 million members. That would be a good place to start.

Remember to give half a dozen times to the audience/community before asking for anything. And when I say ask for anything, I’m talking about something as little as asking questions, i.e. what’s your favorite part of the book? What’s the hardest lesson to apply to your life? Which lesson in the book comes easier for you than others? And by the way, these are the questions you would ask to start creating your course material. Just spending time in the community will allow you to discover great material for your course as well. Find out what questions people are asking and pay attention. They are telling you how to build your course!

The next issue to consider is your platform. There are many online course platforms out there: Thinkific, Teachable, Kajabi, etc. Then there are marketplace based platforms that have an existing customer base looking for new courses to buy: Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare, or LinkedIn Learning.

In my opinion, you don’t need to use any of these platforms if you are going the cohort learning direction. Instead, create a simple landing page using Lead Pages or Carrd so students can sign up and you can collect email addresses. Next, request payment using Stripe or a similar payment processor. Then email your students an invitation to a student only Zoom, Hopin, or Teams video conference meetings with the full course schedule. Now you’ve got yourself a full online cohort course with super high margins.

You could also “hire” an expert to help you teach the course in exchange for a percentage of sales. If your material is good, they will want to help. This can be used to bring in more students if the expert has a nice following on social media. Leverage this to your advantage.

In terms of pricing, remember your goal is not to sell information but rather transformation, so price your course accordingly. Since cohort learning is akin to coaching, you might look at pricing models used by online coaches which range from $500 up to tens of thousands of dollars per session. It’s all about what value you are bringing to your students.

To hit the $100,000 sales mark, you could charge 100 students $1,000 or 50 students $2,000. This will be an easier sell if you can position yourself as an expert on the subject matter. For instance, “Learn how I took the core principles of 4-Hour Workweek to become a digital nomad earning 6 figures in less than 6 months,” or “I will personally guide you and other students step-by-step in creating a successful digital nomad life for yourself.”

I would probably start with a free email based course or text message based course in order to gather email address or phone numbers. I would give away my best content (information) in this course. At the end you would pitch your cohort based paid course which has obvious advantages of real-life interaction and instruction with not only you, the teacher, but other students as well. This is the real gem.

If the first course is a success, ask yourself what other popular books with similar topics could be turned into your next course? You could also consider adding an “alumni” community where members provide content month after month and pay you a monthly fee. You can grow this thing as large as you want.

Online courses are crowded these days. To be noticed, you’ll need to take advantage of an already existing audience (based on a popular book) and adopt the cutting edge of online learning which is cohort courses. It’s important to do your due diligence before you pick a book title to ensure there’s an existing audience large enough online that makes sense for your financial goals and that you can easily reach.

I hope this helps and if you have any questions, please leave a comment by clicking the button below.

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