Create And Sell Online Courses: Tips, Tricks & Recommendations To Get You Making More In 2019

Create and sell online courses

Imagine getting paid 6-figures or more from teaching people something you already know, in an online course. Sounds great, but is it really that easy to create and sell online courses, or is this just another one of those hyped-up strategies in which only the few succeed while the majority fail?

pros-3
  • Low startup costs
  • Anyone can create a course
  • Higher than normal margins
  • Low operating costs
cons
  • Extremely competitive in some industries
  • Some marketing knowledge required
  • You're competing against free content

What Are Online Courses?

Online courses are similar to those taken through colleges and universities.

Initially, only institutions like these were able to deliver courses. However, with the emergence of the internet and new technology like Thinkific and Teachable, anyone can now create their own and sell to students.

This, of course is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It's good because it allows anyone who knows a lot about a subject to pass that knowledge onto other people.

It's bad because it allows anyone who knows very little about a subject to pass that onto other people!

The Parties Involved

There are 3 main parties involved when it comes to creating and selling online courses:

  1. The Course Creator
  2. The Student
  3. The Online Course Platform

The Course Creator

This person is probably you. They're the trainer who plans on creating an online course to sell to students.

The Student

The student is the person purchasing and taking the online course that was created by the course creator.

The Online Course Platform

The online course platform is the software that hosts the online course.

It normally contains a backend admin area for the course creator and a frontend area for the student taking the course. 

More on this later.

Make Money With Online Courses

Now for the part I'm sure you have been waiting for…making that sweet, sweet internet money!

I'm going to be cover 4 steps to building a successful online course business:

  1. Choosing your niche
  2. Building an audience
  3. Creating your online course
  4. Selling your online course

Step 1: Choosing Your Niche

It's true that when it comes to selling information in an online course format, not all niches are created equal.

For example, it's unlikely someone will pay you a lot of money to teach them how to change a diaper. There are free tutorials for that on YouTube and besides, eventually I'm sure they'll figure it out on their own!

In order for a niche to be suitable, you first need to look at these 3 factors:

  1. How strong is the pain point? (what is someone missing by NOT knowing this information?)
  2. How difficult is the information to acquire?
  3. How much do YOU know about the subject?

Understanding Pain Points

This is CRUCIAL if you are to pick a suitable niche!

If the pain point is not strong enough, it will be difficult for you to sell your online course.

The first thing to keep is mind is this…

Nobody wants the thing they are buying, they want the feeling they get when they finally have it. Click To Tweet

For example, if somebody took an online course that showed them how to fly a kite, they are hoping they will get some kind of pleasure from knowing how to fly a kite.

How much would someone pay for that pleasure? Probably not a lot, because the feeling of flying a kite isn't very strong…unless you're super into kite flying!

On the other hand, if somebody took an online course that showed them how to lose weight in less than 7 days, without having to change their diet, they are paying for the pleasure that comes with knowing they will look more attractive.

This feeling is extremely strong and is linked to our innate desire to find a partner and eventually reproduce.

Don't even try and fight it!

Here are some broad niches with very strong pain points:

  1. Making/saving money (business, investing, marketing, personal finances, career development, you get the picture)
  2. Health, fitness & beauty (losing weight and looking good will always be desirable)
  3. Dating & relationships (umm…did someone say SEX!)
  4. Personal development (who doesn't want to improve themselves??)
  5. Pets & hobbies (people love their pets!)
If you're not sure about your niche, drop a comment and ask. We answer every one!

How Difficult Is The Information To Acquire?

Nowadays pretty much everything is available online for free. However, that doesn't necessarily mean people aren't willing to pay for it!

Instead of thinking about finding new information that doesn't exist (because I can guarantee it probably does!), try to think of yourself as a content aggregator.

Sure, anybody can search YouTube and scrape together random information that will show them how to invest their money. However, your opportunity lies in your ability to aggregate all of that content in an easy to follow online course.

When you combine this with a certain amount of know, like and trust in the industry, you have a lethal combination for crushing it with online courses!

How Much Do You Know About The Subject?

I'm not going to tell you that it's okay to start teaching something like investing when you, yourself, have less than $100 to your name in a savings account that offers a 1% interest return!

That's wrong and if you're here to mislead people, then please leave this website immediately.

On the other hand, if you already have experience in an industry that has a strong pain point, then let's take that knowledge and share it with the world!

What if I'm interested in something, but I don't yet have a lot of experience?

It's a great question and to that I would say…go out and get some!

Before starting Screw The Nine To Five, Jill and I built an online business through blogging and affiliate marketing in niches from skin care to disease prevention. All of which we researched thoroughly before posting anything up on our websites.

It wasn't until our family and friends started asking us how we were making money, did we decide to start teaching others how to do it.

In other words: get results before you teach others!

Step 2: Building An Audience

This next step is one I see a lot of people skip and it almost always leads to failure.

Instead of spending months of your time creating an online course that you're not sure will even sell, you should be spending that time growing a PRESENCE in your industry.

Then, once you have an audience, you can use them to help build your course.

What Is An Online Audience?

Ultimately your goal is to influence as many people as you can through a strong know, like and trust factor.

The Know Factor

  • They follow you on social media
  • They're on your email list
  • They listen to your podcast
  • They watch your videos
  • They've seen you featured in media
  • They've read your book

The Like Factor

  • They resonate with what you have to say
  • They feel as though they are similar to you

The Trust Factor

  • You have proof to back up your claims
  • They hear about you through someone else they trust
  • You have already gotten other people results

Ways To Grow Your Know, Like & Trust

  • Podcasting (yours and other peoples)
  • Video (the most powerful platform)
  • Blogging (grow website traffic, guest blogging)
  • Social media (Instagram, Facebook groups, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit)
  • Email list (join ours here)
  • Paid advertising (not recommended until you have something to sell)

Is it easy to grow an online audience? 

No, it's not and that's why it's important to choose a niche you already have some experience in. 

Sure, some people try to fake it, but eventually people see through their bullshit and stop listening to them.

How Big Does My Audience Have To Be Before I Launch An Online Course?

While there's no exact number, I recommend waiting until you have at least 5,000 people in your entire audience.

That usually means a combination of social followers and email subscribers.

When you have that audience ready to go, it's time to move onto the third step…

Step 3: Creating Your Online Course

I know it sounds crazy that creating your online course is nearly the last step in the process, but trust me, you won't regret taking the time to do it right!

There are 5 steps to crafting and creating your online course…

Step 1: Identify Core Modules

Most of the top online courses are designed to have no more than 7 core modules. Remember, you don't want to overwhelm your students, otherwise they may not end up finishing the program.

The core modules should cover all of the broad topics you believe someone needs to know in order to solve their problem.

Step 2: Break Down Your Lessons

For this, it's best to initially create a mind map. You can write it down on a piece of paper, but I prefer to use a free tool like Coggle.

Like I mentioned in the previous step, it's important not to overwhelm your students with too much information.

Stay under 10 lessons if you can per module.

Step 3: Create Workbooks

This is a step people normally leave till last and I think that's a mistake. The lessons should be built around your workbooks, not the other way around.

It's more important that your students complete actual exercises as opposed to wasting their time half watching your lessons. Therefore, create workbooks for each module that contains useful exercises that can be taught in your lessons.

Step 4: Record Your Lessons

It's time to start recording your lessons and for this it's a good idea to use a combination of both face-to-camera and if necessary, screen recordings.

For face-to-camera, it's okay to use your smart phone, so long as it's as least comparable to the iPhone 7. 

If you want something with a little more punch, you can try the following:

  1. DJI Osmo Pocket (shoots in 4k, works with iPhone, $349)
  2. Any DSLR camera (this affordable 50mm lens works great on Canon DSLRs – $125)
  3. Hire a videographer (this can get expensive, but well worth it)

For anyone requiring the use of a screen recording software, I recommend the following options:

  1. Screenflow (Mac)
  2. Camtasia (PC)

Step 5: Upload To An Online Course Platform

The final step is to upload your course to a platform of your choosing.

Platforms I do NOT recommend:

UDEMY

Udemy

This is a marketplace for online courses.

Although their platform is AMAZING as far as user experience goes, the courses sold on the platform are severely underpriced!

Commonly, you'll see course creators offer ridiculous discounts of up to 90%.

This is bad for 2 reasons:

  1. As far as pricing goes, you as a course creator are competing in a race to the bottom.
  2. Students rarely complete and use the information provided in a course that cost them the same price as a cup of coffee!

FACEBOOK GROUPS

Facebook Group Social Learning

The other option that sounds appealing is to put all of your modules into a Social Learning Facebook Group.

I think it's a great idea to create a Facebook group for your students to connect. However, placing your training modules in the group itself will come across as lower perceived value.

Selling courses is as much about perception than anything else. If you present your course in a junky manner, people won't take you or your course seriously.

This is bad because:

  1. It makes it difficult to charge enough to justify running an online course business.
  2. Your students are less likely to complete your program and take the necessary action steps that will leads to results.

Platforms I DO recommend:

Platform #1: THINKIFIC

Thinkific

Thinkific is probably my favorite online course platform and for a few reasons:

  1. They have the best customer support which frequently comes in handy
  2. The courses you can create look incredible
  3. There are a lot of additional features (quizzes, surveys, Google documents, downloads, discussions and more)
  4. You can market and sell your courses on the one platform (that means you don't have to pay for additional marketing and ecommerce tools)

(Click here to learn more about Thinkific)

Platform #2: TEACHABLE

Teachable

Teachable is really similar to Thinkific. 

In fact you'd be hard-pressed to find a difference between the two (including pricing).

The reason why I feel Thinkific is a little better is because of their customer support.

It's common to have to wait a little longer for a response with Teachable, whereas Thinkific support seems to get back to you right away.

Still, both are great options for someone looking to sell online courses.

(Click here to learn more about Teachable)

Once you decide on the right platform for you, go ahead and upload your online course.

The next step is to get the word out so you can start attracting students and earn yourself some money!

Step 4: Selling Online Courses

Everything you have done up until this stage has lead you to this point. 

It's time to finally create something and release it to the world!

It's common to be afraid at this stage. You're about to ask people to put their faith in you and that means taking out their credit card.

But it doesn't have to be scary. 

There is a way to ease into selling your knowledge to your audience and that comes in the form of a beta launch.

Strategy 1: The Beta Launch

The biggest mistake you could make from the start is to waste your time creating an entire course before selling it to the public.

Instead you can run a soft launch of a beta program.

Here are the steps:

  1. Find out what your audience is most interested in solving (hop on the phone if you have to!)
  2. Create a 6-8 week itinerary of a live program you believe can help solve their biggest problem
  3. Run a 3-day launch of the program to your audience at half price (limit numbers to no more than 25 people)
  4. Run the program (weekly live classes are recommended with a private Facebook group)
  5. Capture results you get for your students in the form of video testimonials to use for promotion in future launches

The greatest thing about a beta program is that you're not relying on the success of your program right off the bat.

If it doesn't do well in terms of results for you and your students, make the necessary tweaks and try again with another beta.

Once you do succeed in terms of interest and results, you can now turn this live program into an online course.

Strategy 2: The Evergreen Webinar

Another great way of selling online courses is to use the evergreen method. 

What this means, is that you are consistently selling your course on an ongoing basis.

The best way of achieving this is to have a sales funnel in place that is attracting new students, every day.

The strategy that is working the best right now in 2019, is the evergreen webinar funnel.

Here's how it works:

  1. You create and record a training webinar that pitches your online course at the end
  2. You upload it to a tool like Ever Webinar, which allows you to create an entire funnel around your training
  3. You promote your webinar registration page (created using Ever Webinar)
  4. You refine your training over time, improving the conversion rate as you go

Pro's of the Evergreen Webinar

  • If done correctly, you can create predictable revenue
  • It's less upfront work than the launch model
  • You can bring on affiliates to promote your funnel for you

Con's of the Evergreen Webinar

  • It can take several months (sometimes longer) to get to profitability
  • The margins are normally thinner than large scale launches
  • Getting new leads can become a challenge

If you're the type of person that loves predictable income over the pressure of launching your online course a couple of times a year, then this strategy is suitable for you.

Strategy #3: The Launch Model

The third and final strategy, is to launch your online course using an open/close enrollment model.

This means that enrollment for your program is only available during a limited time. It's up to you how often you wish to open enrollment, however for best results, every 6 months or twice a year tends to work well.

The launch strategy normally works like this:

  1. You start by scheduling in dates on a launch calendar (a project management tool like Monday or Asana can help with this)
  2. You create and promote prelaunch content that grows an email list for your launch (video series are a popular choice)
  3. You open cart for a limited amount of time (5-10 days)
  4. You run post launch analysis to see how you can improve the next time around

Creating A Launch Calendar

The first step is to plan out and schedule your launch calendar.

As I mentioned earlier, launching no more than twice a year normally delivers the  best results. Therefore you have to think about the best times of year for your audience.

I cannot tell you what that is and so you will have to figure it out yourself.

As a general rule of thumb, its best to stay away from big public holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Advertising costs normally spike around these times of year and it can really eat into your margins.

I also recommend launching 6 months apart from each other, so you have time to support your students and grow a new audience for your next launch.

For your launch calendar, you will have to schedule in the exact dates for when your prelaunch begins and ends plus the dates of open and close cart. 

Lock them into your calendar nice and early, so you can be sure you're prepared for a successful launch.

The Prelaunch

This period of time normally occurs 6-8 weeks prior to the opening of your cart. 

Your goal during prelaunch is to build a large interest list full of people who are likely to purchase your course.

This is normally done through delivering free content that leads into a video series that can only be accessed after submitting your name and email.

For example, if your online course is designed to help people invest in real estate, then you could come up with 6 weeks worth of content topics that genuinely help people get results.

All the while, promoting a free video series that people can choose to opt in and receive. 

You can choose to release all of the videos at once like how James Wedmore does it with his program, Business By Design OR you can release them gradually over a 2-week period.

As an example, let's say you plan on opening cart on March 25, 2019.

Your prelaunch could roll out like this:

  • Week 1: Content topic #1 (Tuesday, January 29)
  • Week 2: Content topic #2 (Tuesday, February 5)
  • Week 3: Content topic #3 (Tuesday, February 12)
  • Week 4: Content topic #4 (Tuesday, February 19)
  • Week 5: Content topic #5 (Tuesday, February 26)
  • Week 6: Content topic #6 (Tuesday, March 5)
  • Week 7: Free series video #1 drops (Tuesday, March 12)
  • Week 7: Free series video #2 drops (Thursday, March 14)
  • Week 8: Free series video #3 drops (Tuesday, March 19)
  • Week 8: Free series video #4 drops (Thursday, March 21)
  • Week 9: Cart open webinar (Monday, March 25th)

The content in weeks 1-6 promote the free series and the free series lead into the webinar on cart open day.

Cart Open Week

Now for the big week, cart open!

This is about the time that launchmotions come into play and so I'll do everything I can to help alleviate the stress for you.

When it comes to the launch week, try to envision a hockey stick…

The Hockey Stick Launch

We normally see a spike of sales on the first and last day of cart open, with a lull period in the middle. 

It's this lull period that normally leads to a lot of stress for the person launching the program!

Day 1 is normally a big day because you have built a lot of anticipation around your online course during prelaunch.

Cart close day does extremely well because there is now urgency to join the program. 

Otherwise, people will have to wait 6 months before they can enroll!

Boosting With Bonuses

One great way to move people is to offer exclusive bonuses, depending on when they purchase during cart open week.

For example, on cart open day (if you are delivering a webinar) you could offer a fast action bonus to anyone who purchases on the webinar. 

This could be as simple as a 15 minute, private, 1-on-1 call with you.

Another great way to pick up sales during the mid week lull, is to offer expiring bonuses.

For example, if cart open is on a Monday and cart close is on the Friday, you could offer a suite of bonuses that expire one-by-one, each day throughout the week.

Bonuses are a must if you are to have a successful launch.

JV (affiliate) Partners

Generating all of your own leads can be difficult and costly over time. 

That's why most successful course creators bring on a legion of partners to help promote their launch.

The way it normally works is that your affiliates send leads to your prelaunch series. Any leads they send through that result in a sale, they get credited a commission.

Commissions normally range from 30-50% of the sale. 

I know that sounds like a lot, however you were never going to get that sale if it wasn't referred by your partner in the first place.

JV partners normally offer exclusive bonuses for anyone who purchases through their link, which further adds value to your program.

Normally it's best to run one internal launch (no affiliates) and one external launch (with affiliates) each year. That way you can cash in even more on the non affiliate launch.

Now it's time to select a strategy that works for you. 

Below I've categorized all the tools you may need to create and sell online courses….

Best E-Learning Tools

(updated for 2019)

Online Courses Platforms

Thinkific

Thinkific is one of the top hosting providers for online courses. A basic account at $49/month will give you everything you need to create and sell online courses for your business.

4.9/5
4.9/5

Teachable

Teachable is the biggest competitor to Thinkific and for the same price, they offer similar solutions. The only difference we found from our research is their customer support is not as helpful as Thinkific.

4.7/5
4.7/5

MARKETING TOOLS

ClickFunnels

ClickFunnels is a tool that allows you to create sales funnels, that automate the process of enrolling new students into your online course. This is great for anyone looking to sell their course on an evergreen basis.

4.5/5
4.5/5

LeadPages

LeadPages is a very similar, but more affordable tool than ClickFunnels. It allows you to create effective marketing pages to help sell your online courses.

4.4/5
4.4/5

EverWebinar

EverWebinar allows you to easily create amazing automated webinars and is perfect for anyone looking to create an evergreen sales funnel to sell their online course.

4.6/5
4.6/5

Video creation

ScreenFlow (Mac)

Screenflow is a video recording software for Mac. It allows you to record, edit and publish screen captures for your online course.

4.4/5
4.4/5

Camtasia (PC)

Camtasia is the best screen recording software for PC. It's a little more costly than Screenflow, however it does have more features which can help you enhance the quality of your lessons.

4.5/5
4.5/5

Audio (microphones)

Samson C01U (USB)

The Samson C01U USB microphone is our favorite for when it comes to recording on-screen lessons. It's super affordable, easy to use and the sound is the best we're found in a simple USB microphone.

4.8/5
4.8/5

Comica Wireless SmartLav

The Comica wireless smartlav is the perfect microphone for anyone looking to create videos using their smartphone. The audio quality is outstanding and it's incredibly easy to use.

4.8/5
4.8/5

Camera's

DJI Osmo Pocket (iPhone)

Get ready to start creating smooth $4k videos with the DJI Osmo Pocket. Plug it straight into your iPhone and start recording 4k videos while on the go with it's built-in gimbal technology.

4.8/5
4.8/5

Logitech HD Pro Webcam

The Logitech HD Pro Webcam is a must have for enhancing the quality of your lessons and showing a clear visual of your face when running webinars.

4.6/5
4.6/5

Video Hosting

Wistia

Wistia is the most popular video hosting provider for online courses. Fun fact: if you use Thinkific as your online course platform, you will NOT need video hosting, as it comes automatically included.

4.4/5
4.4/5

Vimeo Pro

Vimeo Pro is another good option for video hosting. It's more affordable than Wistia and in my opinion, just as good.

4.5/5
4.5/5

Project Management

Monday

This is our go-to project management platform. It's super easy to use and great for creating projects, especially around product launches.

4.7/5
4.6/5

Asana

Asana is a free project management platform that is popular for online course creators. The user interface is not as nice as Monday, however it's certainly a great tool for managing projects.

4.3/5
4.3/5

Courses For Online Courses

Even though you could probably use the information in this free guide to get started, there are some courses I recommend taking to get you results even sooner.

Here are a couple worth considering for 2019:

Create Awesome Online Courses

Create Awesome Online Courses

Create Awesome Online Courses is a program designed by David Siteman Garland from The Rise To The Top. He's been teaching people how to earn a living from selling online courses for over 5 years. When it comes to getting his students results, he has one of the best track records in the industry. Start by registering for his free training below.

4.8/5
4.8/5
Digital course academy

Digital Course Academy

Digital Course Academy is the latest brain child from Amy Porterfield. As someone who has made more than $10 million from selling online courses, she has carefully constructed a complete, step-by-step program based on over a decade of experience. It's currently closed for enrollment, however you can still get on the wait list below.

4.7/5
4.7/5

Tips From The Pro's

Setting my ego aside for a minute, there are many other people who know a lot more about selling online courses than I do. 

That's why I decided to reach out to the people earning the most to get their number 1 insight for when it comes to creating and selling online courses.

David Siteman Garland

David Siteman Garland

"Value and pricing have nothing to do with The length of your course. Lots of people come from the school of thought that if you include more in your course, you can charge more. Or that somehow length is related to price." - David Siteman Garland

John Lee Dumas

John Lee Dumas

"It's as important to KEEP your customers as it is to close them. Therefore, the on-boarding process is crucial. As soon as someone buys they need to know with 100% certainty they made the right decision. When someone joins Podcasters' Paradise, they get a personalized video from me from the app Bonjoro that welcomes them to the family. That is followed by a customized 8-step email to get them going in the right direction, and a follow up PHONE CALL from me to thank them personally." - John Lee Dumas (JLD)

Frequently Asked Questions

To answer this, it's all about building up that audience so you can prime them to eventually buy your online courses.

And to be perfectly honest, that takes time!

Don't expect to suddenly launch an online course and instantly hit 6-figures. Focus on growing website traffic, a social media following and an email list, before running a beta launch of your program.

If I had to put a time estimate on when it's likely to start earning a full time living from online courses, I would say a minimum of 6 months, but more likely 12.

When compared to, for example, running an affiliate marketing business, selling online courses can become costly.

Here's why.

In order to sell online courses, you first need qualified leads and that costs money. 

Most of these costs will come from spending money on paid advertising like Facebook ads, Google and YouTube ads.

This could take up 50% of your operating costs.

Everything else will come from online tools like Thinkific or Teachable, plus hiring staff to help support your students and market your programs.

Still, if done correctly, selling online courses can be extremely profitable.

In my opinion, more profitable than an ecommerce business, but less profitable than affiliate marketing.

It's hard to say.

Based on the trend, information is becoming more free.

However, I believe this could turn into a huge opportunity.

Here's why.

People don't buy information, they buy transformation.

Yes, there is a lot of free and cheap information out these, however that doesn't mean people are actually consuming and using the information to get results.

In fact, most do the opposite (don't finish courses).

That's why, it's more important than ever to focus on building a brand as opposed to trying to create the perfect course.

If you get enough people to trust you, you can charge them more for your courses, and charging more usually increases the chances of your students completing your course and taking action.

Therefore in my honest opinion, the opportunity to charge more for courses will counteract the movement towards free.

This one's easy.

If you have any expertise in an area that people are ALREADY spending money on online courses, then you have an opportunity to do the same.

Also, if you enjoy influencing other people, plus your friends and family frequently say you have an innate ability to explain things in an easy-to-understand manner, then you have an opportunity.

Free Online Course Training

I hope you enjoyed this free guide to selling online courses!

I've done everything I can to explain how to get started, however I do recommend taking some more training.

For that I recommend this free training from David Siteman Garland.

It'll give you a complete list of steps for creating, promoting and profiting from online courses.

If you have a question, or want feedback on your online course idea, drop a comment below.

We answer every one!

Have questions? Drop them below, we answer Them All!

2 thoughts on “How To Create and <b>Sell Online Courses</b> Your Audience Can't Get Enough Of”

  1. This is SO helpful, thank you for sharing this valuable info 🙏 I’ve been driving myself bonkers trying to come up with course ideas. I have a natural living blog with a decent following but am also super passionate about my own journey to a less stressed-out life & becoming a happier parent. I waffle back & forth between helping ppl eco their homes room by room versus showing my own messy journey to a happier life/motherhood & going from there….

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