The Definitive Guide to Creating and Selling Online Courses 

Sell Online Courses

Do you want to sell online courses? Well, lucky you, there has never been a better time to build a business around it and this guide is to help you launch your online course, probably the first one!

According to various reports and observing the people around, there’s no doubt that e-learning is growing rapidly, with COVID-19 being the primary driver behind this exponential growth. In fact, the global e-learning industry is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2027.

So, if you want to sell online courses, you are definitely on the right path, and in this guide, I will walk you through every step of creating and selling online courses profitably. 

Why Sell Online Courses?

The answer is straightforward – because there are people who prefer to learn from experts at their own pace from the comfort of their home, rather than going to schools or institutions for the same.

That expert can be YOU, sharing your skills through online courses and making some money alongside. 

Moreover, if you want to start a passive income stream, selling online courses is one the best way to go as it involves low capital investment and –

  • It is easy to start. Online courses cost less to create, take less time, and take away the inventory management part, making it super easy for anyone to get started. 
  • It is highly profitable. While it is easy to start, you also have a product that can be sold unlimited times- if done right, you can literally create a lifetime source of income for yourself without managing it actively.
  • It enhances your personal brand. Want to build authority in your niche market? Start educating your audience with online courses, and they will trust you more than anyone from the space.

The best part of e-learning is that it is not just a preferred choice of individuals to learn, but businesses are also adopting it to upskill their workforce with the latest skills. This creates a massive opportunity for anyone with expertise to share their knowledge and build a successful business out of it. 

Step-by-step Guide to Sell Online Courses

Now, if you are ready, we will go through the process of creating online courses from the scratch and selling them profitably.

Step 1 – Decide the course topic

The first thing you need to do is find the niche for your courses. By niche, I mean the subject for your courses. This is essentially the baseline to filter the topics you can cover in that specific subject.

Here are some of the most common online course niches that you can look into to determine which subject you have expertise in and convertible with teaching –

  • Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Banking and Finance
  • Computer Science 
  • Information Technology
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Data Science 
  • Physical Science and Engineering 
  • Social Sciences
  • Health and Fitness
  • Personal Development 
  • Maths and Logic 

One thing to note is that even though you might be able to cover multiple subjects from the above list, I highly recommend picking one at a time and sticking with it to build your credibility and personal brand around it.

And, once people start trusting you and your expertise, you can always cover a wide range of topics your students might want to learn from you.

The next step would be to narrow down the course subject and pick specific topics to create your courses. For instance, if you choose Banking and Finance as your course niche, then stock investments and personal finance can be your topics from the niche.

Step 2 – Do the market research

Once you have picked a niche topic for your course, the next step is to validate the idea if it has the required market demand to monetize. 

The point here is that there are certain topics or subjects like automobile repairing, plumbing, chemical engineering, etc., that people would prefer physical classes rather than online courses. 

So, before proceeding ahead, you want to avoid such topics and ensure that people would like to learn your subjects online.

To determine that, you need to know your target audience, competitors, and why people would enroll in your courses. For starters, you can try to find the answers to the following questions –

  • How many competitors do you have for your chosen topic? How capable and legible are they in delivering value to their audiences?
  • What are your online course’s mission and vision, and does it align with your target audience’s intent?
  • What are the unique ways to position your online course as a brand?
  • How will your course create benefits for your target audience?
  • What are the various pricing strategies to apply for your online course?
  • What will be the scalability potential of your online course?

Once you have answers to these questions, you can decide if there’s market demand for your courses and if you can offer something better than the existing players in the space.

Step 3 – Outline your course structure

By now, you should have a finalized subject and topics for the course that you think people would like to learn from you.

Next, you should start framing the course content to create a flow of how your students would go from start to end of the course. You can arrange chapters in chronological order that students have to follow or let them pick the lessons as they wish.

Here is the information that you should have in your course outline –

  • Course title and description – name of the course and what to expect from it
  • Chapters & lessons – what your major chapters will be, and lessons covered in these chapters
  • Course style – live, pre-recorded or both
  • Content type – text, email, presentation, animated, or video lectures
  • Miscellaneous – quizzes, assignments, worksheets, and study materials

Apart from these, you can also work on a script and work over how you can make your course interactive and engaging to ensure people complete the course with flying ratings.

Finally, based on my experience with learning from experts via online courses, I think mixing different types of content and gamifying the learning experience with scores and quizzes within the course works the best to keep the students excited and engaged till the end.

Step 4 – Create the course content

By now, you should have picked a course topic and prepared the course outline because now comes the most crucial step – creating the course content. 

To start, you’ll need – 

  • A good camera. You can use your laptop camera, but an HD camera would be great to produce high-quality videos.
  • Sound Recorder or Mic. You can compromise with video quality, but the audio has to be the best – no background noise, loud and clear.
  • Proper Lighting. You don’t want your students to see a dark screen, so get proper lightning tools (ring light would work) such that your face appears bright and shining.
  • Whiteboard. If your course requires visual explanations, you should use a whiteboard (digital or physical) for teaching illustrations.
  • ‍Video Editing Software. If you have professional editing skills, you might already be familiar with Final Cut Pro (for Mac devices) or Adobe Premier Pro. If not, you can try Camtasia, an easy-to-use, beginner-friendly video editing software.
  • A Green Screen. The green screen lets you swap out the background for anything you want – images, videos, and graphics, which can be helpful to deliver a high-quality learning experience.

In addition to these necessities, ensure that you have a stable internet connection for live classes and other essential tools you might need based on your course structure. 

Once you have all the essential tools and software at your disposal, build a recording set (can be your home office, garage, co-working space, or even garden) and start creating your video content. 

Also, remember that you don’t need high-budget expensive tools when starting – the only thing you need to focus on is the content quality. So, don’t let the money issue factor in to stop you from launching your online course. 

Moreover, you can always hire a studio to help you record and edit videos with high production quality. This way, you won’t have to invest in tools and software that you may not use after launching the course.

Step 4 – Publish your course materials

When your course content is ready, the next step is getting your online courses accessible to your students. There are three ways to publish your course – 

Option 1: Self-hosted Website

Self-hosted websites are built and managed entirely by you or your team – the server, database, design, and customization are entirely under your control. It can be an inexpensive option, but you may need technical skills to build a website and publish the courses.

Over that, since you have the ownership of the server and the backend, you will be responsible for all its technical aspects – from a smooth registration process to a great learning experience for students.

One of the best ways to create a self-hosted website is via WordPress. It is an open-source website builder that you can install on any server of your choice and create a robust educational website using Learning Management System (LMS) plugins like LearnDash, LifterLMS, etc. 

Why choose a self-hosted website?

  • No revenue sharing.
  • Full range of customization and flexibility options
  • Complete authority and control over your content
  • Independence and long-term planning

Now, if you have made up your mind to build a self-hosted website with WordPress, you may want to read these articles for the next step –

Option 2: Standalone Course Platforms

Standalone platforms are designed exclusively for coaches and entrepreneurs to provide you with everything you need to host your courses along with other resources such as study materials, tests, etc.

Most online course platforms like LearnWorlds, Teachable, and others come with built-in marketing tools, allowing you to engage with customers consistently and drive more conversions on autopilot.

Unlike self-hosted websites, with standalone platforms, you don’t need technical knowledge to manage your courses as the majority of backend technical aspects, including website hosting and security, are handled by the platform itself. However, in exchange for the ease of use, you may have to bear the expense of their premium plans and (or) transaction fees on each sale.

Why choose Online Course Platforms?

  • Easy-to-use & Beginner-friendly
  • No technical expertise required
  • In-built marketing and engagement tools
  • Multiple payment gateways methods
  • Built-in analytics to track & analyze the performance

Are standalone platforms the right fit for you to sell online courses? If so, you should check our list of the best online course platforms.

Option 3: Online Course Marketplaces

Online Course Marketplaces are platforms where multiple course creators can sell their courses. These are basically Amazon for online courses, where people can come, find their desired course and enroll to learn.

Some of the popular online course marketplaces are Udemy, Udacity, and Coursera, which allow anyone to become an instructor and sell courses based on their expertise. 

These course marketplaces have an already established customer base that you can leverage to get visibility for your courses and yourself as an expert and mentor for personal branding. 

Why choose an online course marketplace?

  • Cost-effective approach
  • No technical knowledge required
  • Access to pre-built learning communities
  • Customer acquisition is a lot easier

These platforms provide you with everything from a hosted course page to marketing and promotion, which reduces your initial investment in starting your own website, but you will have to pay a sales commission to the platform. 

Step 5 – Decide the pricing of your course

By now, you should have decided on the platform to host your online course and be ready to launch your store. 

But before getting it live, you need to decide the pricing for your course – you neither want to overprice it such that people won’t enroll nor cheap enough that questions the content value and cuts your profitability. 

Here are a few factors that you should consider while pricing your courses –

  • Goals & Objective: Are you creating courses for selling or for your product consumers? If it is for your consumers, keep it free or charge a very minimal charge. If it is only for selling, set a price that people want to pay.
  • Course Length: How long is your course? The longer the course duration is the more time you had to put in to create the content. So, set the price accordingly.
  • Competition: Are there other mentors offering courses on the same topic? If so, you may want to analyze their pricing and then set a price that gives you a competitive advantage.
  • Value of the Outcome: How valuable is your course – Is it a beginner course or an advanced course? Depending on that you can set the pricing of your course. Advance courses are meant to add value to the professional career of people; so you can charge high prices for such courses.
  • Brand, Credibility, and Authority: How well you are known in your space or industry? If you hold a strong authority in your subject, people would be willing to pay higher than the market price to learn from you.

Next comes the pricing model – how do you want to charge for the course? 

Generally, there are three pricing models that you can choose from for your course – 

  • One-time payment – This allows students to pay upfront payments or installments to access your course for a limited time or a lifetime.
  • Recurring payments – If the course duration is longer than a couple of months, recurring pricing (monthly/weekly/yearly) plan can work for you.
  • Membership – You can offer subscription advantages such as 1-on-1 sessions, live webinars, and more alongside the courses to offer a membership plan. This will create a passive income for you.

Finally, creating a pricing strategy for your course is all about finding a balance between the value of your course based on quality, expectations, competition, and revenue goals.

So, take your time, calculate your investments in the course and find the best pricing options you can offer to your students. 

Step 6 – Pre-launch & Launch your Course

By now, you should have chosen the platform to publish your online course and the ideal pricing structure. Next, you might want to make your course live and start enrolling students.

Instead, if you have already been creating an email list, I’d recommend pre-launching your online course among your existing subscribers & supports via a newsletter. You can use email newsletter software to send weekly or daily newsletters around your upcoming course and encourage subscribers to enroll in the course.

On the other hand, if you have been building a personal brand on social media, let your followers know that your new online course is coming up and invite them to sign up for free or offer them an early-bird discount.

The goal of this pre-launch should be to make your online course reach a set audience to test and share their feedback with you. Further, based on their feedback, you can uncover insights such as –

  • Your target audience’s expectations
  • Modifications or additions to the UI or course content, if any
  • The level of interest or willingness for people to pay for your course

Using these insights, you can improvise the course content and launch it again to the public on a large scale.

Pro Tip – You should collect the reviews and testimonials from the people involved in the pre-launch and leverage them for social proofing on your website and marketing campaigns. 

Step 7 – Market your online course 

By now, your course should be live and ready to onboard students. However, people are not going to find out about your course themselves. So, don’t sit folding your hands yet – you need to start promoting your course among your target audience.

Here are some of the best ways to market your online course –

1. Build your personal brand

First things first, there are tons of free educational content and online courses available on the internet, why would someone choose to pay you?

Well, the short answer is – your personal brand. A strong personal brand can help you stand out among other course creators and build credibility with your audience as an expert and a mentor.

So, start building your personal brand and let your audience feel that you know what you speak and you can teach them something they don’t know yet.

2. Focus on Social Media

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter are some of the best platforms to build your personal brand and promote your courses.

On these platforms, you can reach your audience organically or run paid ad campaigns to target users who might be interested in your course. These platforms enable you to target users based on interest, age, location, and many more attributes, giving you the access to reach potentially interested students worldwide.

You can use social media management tools to automate regular posts on multiple social channels to build a loyal follower base for yourself and keep them engaged.

3. Run Search Ads

More than 90% of internet purchases start with searching on search engines such as Google and Bing. Search Ads enable you to be visible on top of the search result pages and drive traffic to your course sites. This gives you the opportunity to create awareness about your course and convert the visitors into students.

Google, Bing, and almost every popular search engine allow you to run paid ads on search pages and generate more sales for your course.

4. Start Affiliate Program

This is another effective marketing strategy to promote online products. In this strategy, you incentivize your existing students, influencers, and content creators for referring your courses to their peer groups and communities.

This is basically a strategy to encourage others to market your products in exchange for a reward for each successful sale generated through them. To learn more about this strategy, you can read our complete guide on eCommerce affiliate marketing.

Are you ready to launch your online course?

One of the long-lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer behaviors is a high dependency on the online ecosystem. People now prefer to shop online, learn online, and conduct business meetings online from the comfort of their home or office.

So, if you have the potential to contribute something significant to the e-learning ecosystem via your online courses, you should not wait any longer to launch your course. Just get started!

Although we have discussed several options for hosting courses, if you are still confused about where to sell your courses, here are my top 3 recommendations –

  1. LearnWorlds – Best platform to build a full-fledged online school (Read review)
  2. Teachable – Best for online courses and coaching providers
  3. Podia – Best for online course with a single instructor (Read review)

WordPress can be a great choice for someone who is handy with the platform and already has an existing website to which they want to add online courses. Otherwise, the above-listed platforms for our course marketplaces would be a better option to consider.

I hope this guide helped you with creating and selling online courses. If so, please do let us know about your online courses via social media – just mention us @ecomsutra in your post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and we will shower our love on it.

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