How Much Does It Cost to Create an Online Course in 2021?

How Much Does It Cost to Create an Online Course?

If you want to start a course business and wonder how much does it cost to create an online course, then you’ll love this guide.

Creating a course involves various tasks, including writing the course content, recording course videos, and getting your course online.

At each step, you need to make several decisions which makes estimating the cost of creating an online course a fairly cumbersome task.

So we decided to do a detailed estimation study, and based on that, creating an online course can cost you anywhere between $140 and $10,770.

However, the actual cost depends on various factors, which we’ll cover in detail in this guide.

What Does the Cost to Create an Online Course Depend On?

As you can imagine, online course development costs depend on several factors, so estimating it isn’t a straightforward task. Here are some decisions that will influence it:

  • Type of course videos you want to create
  • The quality of course videos (and equipment) you need
  • Whether you want to outsource certain tasks or not
  • The length of your course
  • And more!

For example, if you want to do most of the tasks yourself, the costs will be much lower than when you outsource most of the work.

Most of these decisions will be driven by your skill sets, your budget, and the time you have available with you.

In the next few chapters, I have covered how these decisions can impact the cost of creating an online course. You can then add the individual costs in different sections based on your specific scenario to get the overall cost for your purpose.

To make it further simpler to estimate the cost, I have divided the course creation process into 3 distinct phases:

  • Creating course content
  • Recording course videos
  • Setting up your course

Now, let’s take a deep dive into the different steps involved in the process and how much you should expect to spend.

1. Creating Course Content

Creating content for your course will be the first step in your course creation process. To estimate the cost at this step, let’s look at the different types of content you may need to create:

  • Written content for course videos, PDFs, presentation decks, website, etc.
  • Presentation slides for videos
  • Branding assets and graphics for your course material

Most online courses are between 2-8 hrs in length in terms of video content, so let’s work with this assumption in our calculations.

To start with, we’ll estimate the cost of the content writing part for course videos, PDFs, and presentation slides.

Now, if you create all the content yourself, it will obviously not cost you anything. And most first-time creators don’t outsource this part, but let’s look at the possible costs if you choose to do so.

Let’s start by calculating the total word count you will need to outsource.

Typically, a 60-second video script will have 120 words. So, the total word count for scripts for 2-8 hrs of video content will be 14,400-57,600 words.

Similarly, let’s assume that the course includes 1 PDF page for every 15 mins of video content. That will be 8-32 pages for 2-8 hours of video content.

One page of content will typically include 300 words, so the word count for PDF support resources will add up to 4,800-19,200 words.

If you create presentation-style videos, creating 30 slides for 1 hour of video is a fairly typical practice. And since you shouldn’t have too much text on a slide, 30 words per slide will be a good estimate.

So, you are likely to have 1,800-7,200 words of text in slides for presentations style videos.

Let’s look at the total word count you need to outsource, including all the above heads, for courses between 2-8 hrs in length.

TaskWord Count
Video Scripts14,400-57,600
Course PDFs4,800-19,200
Presentation1,800-7,200
Total21,000-84,000
Total (No Presentation Videos)19,200-76,800

As you can see, a 2-8 hr long course will have 21,000-84,000 words, including video scripts, course PDFs and presentation slides. And the number will be slightly less if you don’t have presentation-style videos in your course.

Now, let’s calculate the total cost of outsourcing this content to a freelance writer.

If you supply a freelance writer with a detailed outline and notes at every step, you can expect them to write 500 words in an hour, plus you can add 20% extra time for revisions.

We checked on Upwork for the average rate for a copywriter, and you can get an experienced freelancer on Upwork for $40/hr.

Cost of Outsourcing Copywriting
Total Words21,000-84,000
Total Outsourcing Time51-202 hrs
Total Outsourcing Cost$2,016-$8,064

So, the total cost of outsourcing copywriting will be in the range of $2,016 and $8,064.

Now, let’s talk about the cost of creating graphic design elements for your course material and your website.

One way to achieve this would be to do it yourself with a tool like Canva that makes it easy for non-designers to create graphic design elements. You can use the free plan of Canva, and it will give you all the features you are likely to need.

But if you choose to outsource this part, I’d recommend using an unlimited graphic design service for a month to outsource all your graphic design tasks. And you can also get your logo and course thumbnail image created within the same package.

Kimp is one of the most reasonably priced unlimited graphic design services out there, and you can outsource all your graphic design tasks to them for as little as $272.

What is Kimp

If your course is longer and you’ve more graphics requirements, you can consider keeping a subscription for two months, which will cost you $661.

Finally, let’s look at the cost of creating slides for presentation videos.

As I mentioned earlier, 30 slides for every hour of presentation will be a good estimate. If you supply all the text and graphics separately, a freelancer should take 10 mins to create 1 slide.

So, you can estimate 10-40 hrs for creating 60-240 slides in a 2-8 hr long course.

Based on UpWork rates, $20/hr is a reasonable estimate for outsourcing the task of creating presentation slides. The total cost of outsourcing presentation creation will be $200 – $800.

Now, let’s look at the total cost of outsourcing content creation, including writing, graphics, and presentation slides.

TaskCost
Content Writing$2,016-$8,064
Graphic Design Tasks$272-$661
Presentation Creation$200-$800
Total Cost$2,488-$9,525
Total Cost (No presentation videos)$2,288-$8,725

So, the total cost of outsourcing content creation will be $2,488-$9,525 for a 2-8 hrs long course. And the cost will be slightly less if there are no presentation-style videos.

Also, keep in mind that this is the cost you’ll incur if you outsource everything. If you were to do all the content creation work yourself, there wouldn’t be any significant costs involved.

2. Recording Course Videos

The cost of creating videos for your course will depend on the type and the quality of videos you want to create.

For instance, if you want to create talking head videos that show you speaking to the camera, you need to factor in the equipment cost for shooting the videos, setting up a basic home studio, plus the cost of video-editing software.

On the other hand, you will need just an audio recording setup and a screencasting software for creating screencast or presentation-style videos for your course.

First, let’s talk about the cost of making screencast videos.

There are many screencasting software in the market, but In my view, Screencast-O-Matic gives you the best value for money.

Besides all the standard screen recording features, it also gives you decent video editing and enhancement features, and you won’t need separate video-editing software.

You can get the Deluxe plan of Screencast-O-Matic at less than $20 for an annual license, and this plan gives you all the features you are likely to need.

Screencast-O-Matic Pricing

Recording high-quality audio is a major challenge for many course creators, and I’d recommend using a microphone and a pop filter to get quality audio output for your course videos.

You can get the starter version of the Blue Yeti microphone for $100 on Amazon, plus you can get a pop filter for $10.

Let’s add the numbers to calculate the cost of creating screencast videos.

Equipment/SoftwareCost
Screencasting Software (Screencast-O-Matic)$20
Microphone$100
Pop Filter$10
Total Cost$130

So, as you can see, you will need to spend roughly $130 to create screencast or presentation-style videos with a screencasting software.

Now, let’s calculate the cost of creating talking-head videos, another popular video format for online courses.

If you are a first-time creator with a limited budget, I’d recommend using your smartphone camera to shoot your course videos. The latest smartphone cameras include larger sensors and better software, and they can help you create high-resolution videos.

The other option is to use an external webcam like Logitech C920. It costs around $80 and you can plug it directly into your laptop to record videos.

Plus you will need a tripod to support your camera and keep it steady while recording videos. You can get a decent tripod stand at less than $25, and the most popular smartphone tripod stand on Amazon is priced at $24.

Blue Yeti Nano

Besides, as this Teachable guide explains, you can set up a DIY studio for recording basic videos at nearly zero cost by using a sheet as a background, household objects to stop echo, and opting for natural light.

You will also need a video-editing software to create your final course videos. Camtasia is one of the most popular video editing software in the market, which you can get for around $250.

Now, let’s add these numbers to get an overall idea of the cost of creating course videos with a smartphone camera:

Equipment/SoftwareCost
External Webcam (optional)$80
Tripod Stand$24
Microphone$100
Pop Filter$10
Video Editing Software$250
Total Cost (Smartphone Option)$384
Total Cost (Webcam Option)$464

As you can see, the total cost of creating course videos with a smartphone camera will be around $384, and if you use an external webcam, it will be slightly higher.

While smartphone cameras can be good enough for most creators, I’d suggest using a DSLR camera if you are looking to create a premium course.

The one that I recommend is the Canon EOS 70D and its starter version costs $898 on Amazon.

Besides a DSLR camera, you will also need a tripod stand, microphone, a pop filter, and video editing software to create your final videos.

Plus, you may want a slightly more advanced home studio set up to take care of things like lighting, background, and sound panels to create professional-quality videos.

This guide from Teachable estimates the cost of setting up a DIY home studio at $300-$900.  Since we have already included the cost of a microphone above, we will estimate the total cost for a DIY home studio at $200-$800.

Let’s add the numbers to calculate the cost of creating course videos with a DSLR camera and a DIY home studio.

Equipment/SoftwareCost
DSLR (Canon 70D)$898
Tripod Stand$30
Microphone$100
Pop Filter$10
Video Editing Software$250
DIY Home Studio$200-$800
Total Cost$1,488-$2,088

As you can see, if you are looking to shoot videos with a DSLR camera and a DIY home studio, you will need to shell out somewhere between $1,488 and $2,088.

Now, if you are running short on time, you may also want to outsource the task of editing your course videos.

In my experience, 3 hrs of editing for 1 hr of final video content is a good estimate for online course videos. We checked Upwork for the average cost of video editors, and you can easily find experienced editors at $30/hr.

So, if we calculate the cost of video editing using these numbers, it comes around to $180-$720, and it will be the same for talking head videos and screencast videos.

Cost of Outsourcing Video Editing
Time for editing 1 hr of video content3 hrs
Time for 2-8 hrs long course6-24 hrs
Hourly cost of a Video Editor$30
Total Cost$180-$720

Now, take a look at the total cost of creating course videos in different scenarios.

Overall Cost of Video Creation
Screencast or Presentation Style Videos$130
Talking Head Videos with a smartphone camera$384
Talking-Head Videos with DSLR and DIY Home Studio$1,488-$2,088
Additional Cost of Video-editing (same for all cases)$180-$720
Total Cost$130-$2,808

So, the total cost of creating course videos will vary a lot depending on what type of videos you’re creating. If you’re creating purely screencast videos, you can do it for as little as $130 while you may spend as high as $2,088 if you’re creating talking head videos using a DSLR camera.

Plus, if you outsource the video editing tasks, you can expect to spend anywhere between $180 and $720, depending on the length of your course.

3. Setting Up Your Course

Once your content is ready, you will need to upload them to an online course platform in order to start selling it.

Now, you can choose from a wide variety of online course platforms, but in my opinion, Thinkific gives the best value for money for a beginner.

The platform comes with powerful learning & engagement tools, gives you unlimited video hosting, and takes care of all the technical stuff.

Moreover, it also allows you to set up a website and process payments, so you won’t need a separate website builder and shopping cart solution if you use Thinkific.

Thinkific’s Basic Plan comes at $49/month, supports unlimited students, and gives you most of the features you are likely to need.

But if you need more advanced features like communities or live lessons, you will need to be on its Pro Plan, which comes at $99/month.

Thinkific Pricing: How much does Thinkific cost?

One important thing Thinkific doesn’t include is the ability to build sales funnels and use email marketing to promote your course. You’ll need additional tools for the same.

For example, you’ll have to get an email marketing tool like ConvertKit (which starts from $29/month) and use a platform like WordPress for your blog which will cost you at least $20/month.

The other option is to use an all-in-one platform like Kajabi that allows you to build sales funnels and do email marketing. Kajabi pricing starts at $149/month.

Both Thinkific and Kajabi will take care of hosting for you, but you will still need to purchase a domain name for your course website. You can get a domain name from a domain registrar like NameCheap for $10.

Now, although both platforms are extremely easy to work with, you may still want to outsource the task of setting up your course and sales page.

In my experience, 15 hrs is a good estimate for this task, and you can easily get an experienced freelancer who will do this for you at $35/hr. So, you can expect to spend $525 for outsourcing the task of setting up your course and sales page.

With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at all the costs that go into setting up your online course.

ItemCost
Course Platform and Other Tools$100/month-149/month
Domain$10 for the first year
Outsourcing Course and Website Setup$525
Total Cost$10 plus $149/month – $535 plus $149/month

As you can see, you will need to spend somewhere between $100/month to $149/month for your course platform and other software. This is really the minimum cost and you may end up paying much more depending on your exact tech stack.

Plus, you should expect to spend around $535 if you decide to outsource the course setup part.

We’ve not included a discussion on the marketing budget in this guide as that is beyond the scope, but you should plan for it and allocate a separate budget.

Summary – Cost to Create an Online Course

In this guide, we have discussed the cost of creating a course under different heads – creating course content, recording course videos, and setting up your course. When you add all of them, you’ll get the total costs involved.

The total cost of creating your course will be $140 + $100-$149/month if you create screencast or presentation-style videos and do all the content writing, design, slide creation, and video-editing work yourself.

Similarly, the cost will be around $394 + $100-$149/month if your course includes talking-head videos and you do all the work yourself.

However, the cost can go upto $1,498-$2,098 + $100-$149/month if you plan to create more professional course videos using a DSLR camera.

Finally, if you choose to outsource tasks like content creation, video editing, course setup, etc. you can expect to pay anywhere between $3,193-$10,770.

I hope you found the guide useful, and it helped you get an estimate for the cost for a course you may want to create. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

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