Digital publishing is changing the education industry. Be it professionals seeking to gain additional skills to help them in their current role or someone who's looking to acquire new skills to start something of their own - online courses help people get better at what they do.

And there's no denying that in the last few years, online courses have taken the market by storm. More experts from their fields are creating courses to help others gain knowledge and insights.

Running an online course website has the potential to become a big business. Predictable University, for instance is an online sales training university started by Aaron Ross, the author of the best-selling, award-winning book Predictable Revenue.

Similarly, Appreneurship.Academy was born out of 6 years of my business partner and I helping over 100+ founders build their mobile-first businesses. It now aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs turn app entrepreneurs or appreneurs, through an online course.

Anik Singal built Lurn, an online course business because he was being hired as a consultant in college, booking him up 8 to 10 hours a day, keeping him slammed with work. He didn't want to do that much work anymore and so he decided to create an online course. Fast forward to today, Lurn is expected to make $20 million in revenues this year.

I spoke to Anik Singal, the founder and CEO of Lurn, Inc, who's an Inc500 CEO, listed 2 times among the fastest growing companies in America and BusinessWeek recognized him in the Top 3 of the best US entrepreneurs under 25.

Anik shares insights from his journey on what it takes to build a $20 million online course business.

The path to creating a 7-figure online course business

All kinds of courses sell better, but, all sell great online. Any course that can lead to a return on investment such as 'how to build a business', 'how to do marketing', 'how to do investment', 'real estate investment', 'options trading', 'saving on taxes', and so on and so forth. Anything that has a monetary return for people, it just tends to sell a lot better.

Getting initial traction

Facebook is by far the best way, all hands down. It is by far, because you can go into any niche. It's an equal playing field for a little guy who is just starting versus even GM. It doesn't matter. Facebook has leveled the playing field for everybody, and you can genuinely sell anything on Facebook, and build a lead list of anything on Facebook.

Going from Zero to $1 million

The greatest way to get traction is to build those relationships, get access to people in your industry that have websites and email lists. The way you do that is by going to events. You could build your own email list. So stage 1, before you even build your product is to build your own email list so that you can actually support those people first and really get them into the mix. Once you have enough of those relationships built (they're called affiliates), going from zero to 1 million is not that big of a deal.

Scaling Up

Diversify; have more than 1 course to create continuity. The more continuity you have, the more you could scale your business safely. Then do high ticket. Most people will sell $37, $47, $97 type products. Once you start building a brand in an industry, it's just as easy to sell a $2,000, $3,000, $5,000, $10,000 products, and that gets you much more scale and much more revenue very quickly.

Going from $10 million to $20 million

Growing a company from zero to $10 million, an entrepreneur can do it. But growing a company from $10- to $20 million, a CEO has to do it. So you have to bring in good management, you actually have to have strategies, you have to have team members, you have to have departments, and you have to have great communication. It's just a whole new level of management and operational structure, that's what lends to it.

Learning from Lurn's mistakes

The learning from Lurn's journey is that entrepreneurs need to quickly learn to become CEOs. You can't just be an entrepreneur and build a company in $10- to $20 million range. It's very, very difficult.

The biggest mistake is don't try to scale too fast; and when something is working, when there is a system that's working, don't abandon it because you're greedy and you want something bigger. That's what led me to having $1.7 million in debt because I had a system that was working so well, but I wanted to do something even bigger.

Published on: Sep 21, 2016