Selling classes online is an excellent method to generate additional, passive money while utilizing your professional experience. If you’re successful, online learning might eventually become your primary source of income, giving you more time to dedicate to other elements of your life.
If you want to learn how to make money using online courses, there are a few steps you need do to maximize your earnings. Consider luring your audience with free teaser content, then charging for full access and encouraging delighted customers to submit reviews or feedback.
There are a lot of concerns about online courses being dead, or a lot of work for no money. While it’s true that courses are not the most profitable or scalable way to monetize your educational content.
There’s still a big opportunity to sell courses online as a creator. The e-learning market was valued at $399.3 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a 14% CAGR between now and 2032, reaching over $1 trillion. Since the pandemic, online learning has seen a sharp increase in interest across topics like cooking, fitness, wellness, and entrepreneurship.
Online courses are also a good business because:
- Low cost of entry. You can make an online course with very little cash upfront. It’s more of a time investment.
- Sell anywhere. You don’t need to set up a booth at a Farmer’s Market to sell courses. You can sell them right online from the comfort of your home.
- Easy to customize. You can share your knowledge on virtually any topic and differentiate yourself from competitors.
Courses can be sold one-off or part as a membership, which can give creators recurring revenue. In a membership, you sell access to various classes for a flat monthly or annual fee. Memberships can offer higher revenue growth over time.
The case study by Tomi Mester is one of the best examples. He shared all the details of how he left his full-time job and created the first online course that helped him earn more than $10K per month.
Nick Stephenson earned $130,208 from his course on marketing in the first week. John Omar made $1 million in a single year from his training in iOS app development.
As you can see, selling courses online to make money is a highly lucrative business model. If you are skeptical as to why people will buy your course, consider this.
The student loan debt in 2020 has crossed $1.56 trillion in the US. There are over 45 million borrowers with an average student loan debt amounting to $32,731. The high cost of education has motivated students and employees to look for alternatives.
Digital education has provided a breakthrough. At least 33% of college students take at least one eLearning course. Why? Because it’s cost effective and they learn 5 times more than they do from a formal course in college.
And it’s not just students – companies are also focusing extensively on Web-based courses to train their workforce. Research shows that this helps organizations increase revenue and boost employee productivity and effectiveness.
Obviously, creating and selling online courses is a growing industry. And the best part is that making money this way isn’t just a one-off gig – it’s a full-fledged business model. You get a chance to connect with your students, offer them upgrades, provide them with more advanced courses, and generate a passive income stream.
The step-by-step guide below will show you how to start and what steps to follow to create and launch a course and receive your first payment.
1. Choose a niche course topic
Your niche is the main subject of your course. Put simply, it’s what you’re going to teach about. Your niche gives purpose to the topics you want to teach. And filter out the noise on topics that don’t interest your audience. The problem is: Picking a topic is tricky.
In the creator world, a niche topic is a well-defined segment of your market. It applies to a specific group of people. Let’s look at an example. Imagine you have a YouTube channel focused on dance. Many of your followers are new to dance and love hip-hop.
You might teach a beginners’ course about:
- Foundational steps and moves like the two-step, running man, or cabbage patch.
- Terms and lingo common in hip-hop dancing, like “pop” and “lock”.
- Basic conditioning to build strength and flexibility.
RedWall Tutorials, which teaches online dance classes, has an entire section of video courses for beginners on its membership site. Your niche acts like a filter. It helps you identify the course most relevant to your audience. But what makes a good niche?
Tick these three boxes when deciding:
- Audience interests
You don’t need any formal qualifications to start. Your course can be about something you love that comes effortlessly to you. Or about life experiences that have made you the person you are today. It can also come from your professional background and accomplishments.
- Audience interests
What problems does your target audience face? What topics do they want to learn about?
Pay attention to what people talk about in the comment sections online. Chat with them in the community section of your membership website. Poll them through your email newsletter. You may find your audience wants a class about Memphis Jookin. Or another specific dance style that you can teach.
Profitability is an important consideration if you want to monetize your creator’s business. Some courses are more profitable than others.
Understand your course’s profit potential by looking at two factors:
- Monetization Models: Will you sell the course standalone or as part of your membership? Not every course is compatible with every monetization model. For example, an advanced animation course may be suited for a one-off sale. On the other hand, a series of beginner yoga courses may work best under a membership model.
- Competition: The more competitive your niche, the harder it can be to sell your course online. That’s because you’re fighting for the same people’s attention. Identify your rivals and see what they are offering. Consider how you can do it better.
Once you’ve chosen the topic for your course, you’re eager to start creating.
2. Create a killer course
The most successful online courses solve a problem or provide relevant information for an audience’s needs. Here are a few universal tips we’ve learned.
- Pick an engaging title
For courses, titles are important. If your title isn’t engaging, people won’t be inspired to click on it. Your primary topic should be present in your course title.
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Let’s look at an example.
Say you created a fantastic course on urban gardening. It covers everything:
- Selecting the right plants
- Urban planting techniques
- Pest control
- General plant care
You could go with a title like “Urban Gardening Course,” but it likely won’t stand out in your market. Something more compelling, like “Master Your Green Thumb: Urban Gardening Techniques for Spring Season,” is more effective.
It instantly tells your audience:
- What they will gain (becoming a master)
- What the course contains (gardening techniques)
- A sense of expertise (for spring season)
When choosing a title:
- Identify core benefits: What will someone gain from your course? Incorporate this into your title. People are more interested in the benefits and outcomes of a course than just the creator behind it.
- Keep it concise: While making your title informative is essential, it should be brief. Keep it short and easy to understand.
- Test your title: Run your title by a few people to get feedback. You can also do A/B tests by creating multiple landing pages with different titles to see which performs better.
- Organize your course content
Now you want to put yourself in the shoes of your students. Come up with the contents of your course and divide it into lessons to create an outline.
Identify the student’s desired end state and work backward from there. If a student wants to become an expert classical guitarist, how can you logically get them there step by step?
Content and lessons in your course vary depending on the type of course you create (mini-course, multi-video course, masterclass), as well as completion time and cost.
Once you figure that out, break down the course into lessons.
Here’s an example of what they might look like:
- MODULE 1: Introduction to Classical Guitar
- MODULE 2: Basic Music Theory and Reading Sheet Music
- MODULE 3: Beginner Guitar Techniques
- MODULE 4: Intermediate Guitar Techniques
- MODULE 5: Exploring the Classical Guitar Repertoire
Then, create more specific lessons that go into detail.
MODULE 1: Introduction to Classical Guitar
- Lesson 1: Origins and Evolution of Classical Guitar
- Lesson 2: Anatomy of a Classical Guitar
- Lesson 3: Renowned Classical Guitarists and their Impact
- Lesson 4: Classical Guitar vs. Other Guitar Types
MODULE 2: Basic Music Theory and Reading Sheet Music
- Lesson 1: The Language of Music: Understanding Music Theory
- Lesson 2: Reading Sheet Music: The Basics
- Lesson 3: Introduction to Scales and Chords
- Lesson 4: Time and Key Signatures in Sheet Music
MODULE 3: Beginner Guitar Techniques
- Lesson 1: Left Hand Techniques: Fretting and Chord Formation
- Lesson 2: Right Hand Techniques: Basics of Fingerstyle Guitar
- Lesson 3: Learning Basic Scales and Chords on the Classical Guitar
MODULE 4: Intermediate Guitar Techniques
- Lesson 1: Advanced Fingerstyle: Arpeggios and Alternating Bass
- Lesson 2: Slurs: Hammer-ons and Pull-offs
- Lesson 3: Expressive Techniques: Vibrato and Muting
- Lesson 4: Mastering Tremolo on Classical Guitar
MODULE 5: Exploring the Classical Guitar Repertoire
- Lesson 1: Melodies from the Renaissance: Early Guitar Music
- Lesson 2: Harmony of the Baroque Period
- Lesson 3: Beauty of the Classical and Romantic Eras
- Lesson 4: Modern Pieces: Classical Guitar in Contemporary Music
- Determine the course format
Next up, decide how you’ll present your course. For intensive, higher-priced courses, video is great to keep students engaged. It’s also amazing for portraying ideas simply.
But, the best course format is the one that works for your target audience. Ask prospective students what course medium they find most engaging (we still bet it’ll be video!).
Regardless of the format, aim to keep each lesson between 10 and 15 minutes and create actionable and focused content.
3. Decide where to host your course
As you scale your creator business online, you need an online course platform that delivers content and grows and evolves with you. Online course platforms help you create and distribute content, so you don’t need to manage it all yourself. A platform stores your videos, manages your enrollments, and provides communication tools for students. When students try to access your course, the platform delivers it to them.
The online learning platform market is valued at $57.42 billion. There are so many platforms to choose from. But how do you know what’s best for your online business?
Uscreen is an all-in-one membership platform for creators. It’s perfect for scaling your creator business with immaculate video delivery and marketing tools to sell your courses.
Think of using Uscreen like building your own Masterclass. You can host all your courses there, and students can access video lessons on any device on an ongoing basis.
With Uscreen, you can also:
- Create your own course storefront.
- Upload and organize your videos with ease.
- Distribute your content with OTT apps on TV and mobile devices.
- Make your content downloadable to watch offline.
- Accept worldwide payments.
- Use live streaming to reach audiences on any device.
- Track subscriber growth and churn.
- Grow your sales with affiliate programs and referrals.
- Own your audience.
- Take advantage of integrations with Mailchimp and Google Analytics.
Some other top contenders include:
- Podia: You can use Podia to sell digital products like online courses, PDF downloads, and coaching programs. Sign up is easy and there are no transaction fees. It’s a good option for new creators who haven’t sold courses yet.
- Kajabi: Kajabi is a platform for entrepreneurs who want to sell digital products and courses. It offers a ton of built-in tools for building sales pages, email campaigns, and more.
- Thinkific: Thinkific is another course platform that lets you build a branded course website. It offers a user-friendly web builder and engagement features like quizzes, surveys, and discussion forums.
- Teachable: Anyone can sign up for Teachable and create a course fast. It’s a good platform for beginners selling standalone courses and takes two steps to sign up.
- LearnDash: If you’re a dedicated WordPress user, LearnDash is a good online course plugin. It acts as a Learning Management System (LMS) that hooks up right to your WordPress website.
- Udemy: Udemy is the largest marketplace for selling online courses. Essentially, you create a course on their website and then launch it through Udemy’s catalog. You don’t control the branding or layout of your site, but you can get a lot of eyes in front of your course without doing any marketing.
4. Set a price
Knowing if you’re charging enough is important. But making sure your bottom line is healthy is also key. Creating an online course comes with all kinds of costs, depending on how you’re set up.
- Content creation costs: Time spent writing scripts, recording videos, creating graphics, and other content used in your course.
- Software and hosting costs: Any platform subscriptions or tools for content management and creation are also included.
- Marketing and advertising cost: This includes any expenses related to promoting your course, like social media ads, email marketing software, SEO, and content marketing.
- Payment processing fees: Most payment platforms charge a fee per transaction.
- Taxes and business fees: Depending on your location and business structure, you may pay for taxes, licensing fees, and other business-related expenses.
So, what’s the easiest way to price your course? Start by setting up an income goal. Then, use our online course pricing calculator to determine a course price.
You just need to input the following information:
- Monetization model: Will you sell courses under a membership or one-off?
- Revenue goal: What is your income goal for the course?
- Audience size: What will be your audience size at launch? Subscribers on YouTube, email lists, and social media can all be included in this number.
- Estimated conversion rate: What’s your average conversion rate? If you don’t have one yet, try between 1 and 3%.
- Development costs: How much did you spend to make the course?
- Payback period: How soon do you want to see a return on your investment?
- Average price of competitor courses: How much do people spend on similar courses?
9. Refine and improve your course
Re-evaluate your content regularly with a critical eye. Look for areas where you can improve your course. Maybe you need to simplify a complex topic or add more interactive elements to improve understanding.
Customer feedback is critical here. Use surveys, emails, or course reviews to collect feedback from your students. Then, make the necessary changes to your course. If you’re using Uscreen, you can easily update your course materials in the dashboard.
There are several selling platforms out there to choose from. Three popular ones are iSpring Market, Udemy, and Thinkific.