Online courses have been all the craze these past few years. While courses are nothing new, many people who’ve achieved certain results or gained a particular expertise have been able to monetize their experience to help others learn something new while also making a profit.
If you’re wondering how to make money selling online courses, you don’t have to be a teacher or licensed expert.
Anyone can sell online courses to earn extra money or you may even be able to earn a full-time income by selling courses.
This can be a flexible way to make money with your personal expertise from anywhere and generate passive income as well. You may have many questions when it comes to the idea of creating your own online course.
However, this step-by-step guide can help walk you through everything you need to know including deciding what type of course to create and which platforms to use.
What are Online Courses and How Do They Work?
How is an online course different from a class that may be offered at a community college or a training program. For starters, an online course is a class that’s conducted solely over the internet.
Oftentimes, online courses are presented through an online learning management system. This allows students to see and review the course material, syllabus, and sometimes even communicate with the instructor all online.
Online courses are not always licensed and no special credentials are required to create one. However, it’s important to properly disclose your level of expertise and set realistic expectations with participants.
For example, if you are creating a personal finance course to help people save money and budget, you’ll want to disclose if you’re not a licensed financial advisor and that you don’t guarantee certain financial results from the course.
The great thing about online courses is that you can create all the content and resources once, then list the course for sale and make passive income.
Depending on the topic of the course, you may want to update some of the content over time to provide students with the best possible experience and information.
Related: How to Make Money Doing Nothing and Generate Passive Income
How Much Can You Make Selling Online Courses?
Most course creators make anywhere between $500 to $50,000 per month or more from online course sales. Important factors to consider when looking at how much money you can make while selling courses is the price point you have set for the course, your audience size and how fast you can turn your loyal fans into buying customers.
6 Steps to Selling Courses Online
Online courses should focus on educating others and helping them obtain a specific result. If you want to get paid to do courses online, there are a few important steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Brainstorm Course Ideas
Before you do anything, you’ll need to decide what your online course will be about. Start brainstorming some course ideas and even create a list that you can narrow down if it helps.
One of the best things to ask yourself is ‘how can I help someone’ or, ‘what’s a common problem people experience that I have a solution to’?
Everyone has valuable advice, solutions, and gifts they can use to help others. If you’re a parent who’s learned how to manage your household well despite working a full-time job and having several children, you can create a course for working parents.
If you’ve figured out how to save money at the grocery store, that can be another course. Or, perhaps, you have experience as a fitness instructor or trainer and you want to create an online course that helps people get fit and prioritize their health.
There are so many great online course topics to consider based on your experience and interests. Another thing you’ll want to think about is which topics people are interested in.
If you have a blog, you can take one of your most common questions or most popular blog posts and turn it into an online course.
Or, you can research other online courses to see what’s selling well or read forums like Reddit to learn about common problems you can help solve.
This is called gathering proof and validating your idea. It’s great to have an idea that you think would make a great course.
On the other hand, you want to validate your idea in some way so you don’t put in a ton of time and effort into an online course that no one wants to buy.
Step 2: Research Your Competitors
In addition to validating your course idea, you’ll want to research your competitors to learn more about your course topic and some best practices to adopt.
This doesn’t mean copying another person’s course or marketing material. But, you can definitely scope out the competition.
If someone else has a course similar to your idea, look to see what topics they’re covering and see how you can fill any gaps and make your course content more in-depth and better.
Also, seeing other courses like the one you want to create shouldn’t discourage you. It’s actually a good sign and lets you know that other people are interested in this topic and willing to pay to take a course.
Another reason to research your competitors is to see what you like and dislike about their courses (from a potential buyer’s standpoint).
Is there a particular reason why you would or wouldn’t buy a particular person’s course? Keep these things in mind when designing your course.
Step 3: Sign up for a Thinkific Account (Affiliate on Partnerstack)
Once you’ve determined your course topic and researched the competition, you need to figure out how you’ll present your course to students.
This step is crucial because the students’ experience is everything. People should be able to access your course material easily and the sign-up process should be easy for you as well.
Thinkific is a great course creator platform that allows you to create course modules, individual lessons, and more.
You can also offer quiz questions after each lesson if needed to help the students retain what they’re learning. Thinkific also helps you design a sales page for your course and collect payments will ease.
There are other course creation platforms out there to consider, but pay close attention to fees. For example, Thinkific offers a few different packages where you can pay anywhere from $0 to $399 per month to host your course.
This includes necessary services like:
- Design templates
- E-commerce features (secure online course payments)
- A custom domain
- One-to-one student email features
- Coupon codes to offer
- And more
Processing fees are another charge to keep in mind. Most online learning platforms will charge around 2.9% + 30 cents for each course sale.
Teachable and Kajabi are also great alternatives to Thinkific when it comes to online course selling platforms.
Step 4: Create Your Course
When you know which platform you’re using, it’s time to start creating your course material. Start by creating an outline for your course and dividing it up into modules which are basically sections.
You can begin with an introduction that explains what the course is going to be about and some best practices. Then, start working on the lesson materials and make sure it’s action-packed.
So, if you’re making a course about making money from a blog, you’ll want to show people how to start their blog and which specific action steps to take.
Consider whether you want to write out your course material or record yourself presenting it. Both written and video courses do well and it all just depends on how the student wishes to receive the material.
Courses with a video or audio component can be helpful to people who prefer to listen to the material or need clear visuals such as a PowerPoint presentation.
When creating course content, try to keep it concise and to the point but still include very valuable, high-level information. Some courses that are super long and in-depth may be excellent, but could, unfortunately, overwhelm students.
You want people who sign up for your course to actually finish the material and action steps so they can get results.
The key to creating a successful online course is to help people get a specific result so they can feel accomplished and improve their life in some way. The course material should always tie back into that particular goal.
Step 5: Market Your Course
The next step after completing your course is to set a price and start marketing it. Use the competitor research you did in Step 2 to help you scope out what other people are charging for their online courses.
When setting your price, don’t price the course based on the time it took you to create it. Instead, think about the value of your overall course. Will completing it help people save time and money in some way?
What’s the value of that? How long did it take you to learn the things you’re teaching in your course? This is valuable as well.
You may need to play around with a few price points to see what works for you. However, don’t be afraid to charge more if it makes sense.
There are plenty of people selling online courses that range from $500 t0 $1,500 and people are still buying them because they recognize the value.
Once your price is set, it’s time to develop a marketing strategy. Here are some tips to help you sell online courses with the right marketing.
a) Promote on Social Media
When your course is finished and ready to sell, one of the first things you can do is announce it on your social media networks.
This is the easiest way to gain some free promo and get the word out. You can make it fun by teasing some of the course material or sharing some fun facts about what students will get.
If you have a budget, consider setting up some Facebook ads as well to drive traffic to your course sales page and generate conversions.
b) Use Your Email List
If you have an email list, be sure to promote the course to your subscribers. Set up a launch email sequence where you can share different things about the course as it launches.
Day 1 may be an email introducing what the course is about and why you created it. Day 2 could be an email where you answer common questions, and so on.
My top two email marketing softwares that I highly recommend are MailerLite and ConvertKit.
c) Create Additional Content
Yes, you just created all that course content, but it could be helpful to create a post for your blog or a guest post that can highlight the course as well.
This will get the course in front of more new eyes. You can even consider doing some interviews or appearing on a podcast to create additional promotional content for your course.
Further, bonus content to add to your course can also entice people to buy. People love to feel like they’re getting a deal or freebie of some sort. Create some additional irresistible bonus content that you can offer people who sign up.
d) Share Your Story
Don’t be afraid to get personal and share your story as it relates to the course. Did you overcome a struggle or work hard to achieve a goal? This can help inspire others and establish your credibility as an expert in your field.
In addition, you can also share a review or testimonial from other people that you’ve helped in the past (with their permission).
Testimonials can be a powerful way to show people how you’ve helped others and prove that your material works. It can be challenging to get reviews if your course is brand new.
So consider doing a ‘beta launch’ first where you let a few people take it for free or a discount in exchange for an honest review that you can share publicly.
e) Offer a Discount Promo
Another thing people love is discounts. Consider offering your course at a discounted price for the first week to drive sales. You can offer a custom coupon code (Thinkific is great for this) to allow people to get signed up early and save on the purchase price.
Periodically, you can offer course sales or discounts and announce them to your email list and audience.
f) Set Up an Affiliate Program
An affiliate program allows you to market your course to tons of other people using affiliates or referrals. How it works is people can sign up to get a unique referral link that they can use to promote your course to their blog or social media audience.
When they make a sale, you can pay them a percentage of the course price. Well-run affiliate programs can help both the affiliate and course creator earn thousands of extra dollars.
Related: 21 of the Best Online Jobs Paying $20 an Hour or More
Step 6: Update Your Course Over Time and Keep Gathering Reviews
When exploring how to make money selling online courses, some people overlook this important step. At the end of the day, it’s all about providing a positive experience for the course students and serving them well.
To do this, you’ll want to make sure you’re updating the course over time and providing existing students with the new material.
This is important to do if the information you present happens to change in some way over time. Even if your course is evergreen, you can still add an extra lesson or module later on if you find it valuable just to help students more.
Also, be persistent about asking students to review the course and share their experience. You can film a short video testimonial with them or share their written review on your course sales page or with other marketing efforts.
Showing what people are really saying about the course and highlighting their results is one of the best ways to boost your sales.
You Don’t Have be a Teacher to Make Money Selling Online Courses
If you’re wondering how much you can make selling online courses, there’s not just one clear answer. You can make anywhere from hundreds to thousands per month selling online courses based on your existing knowledge and experience.
Now that you know how to make money selling courses online, it’s time to put your ideas into action. Start brainstorming a good course topic and determine how you’ll market and who you’ll target.
Online courses require a lot of upfront work but the passive income you can potentially earn certainly makes up for it.