How to Sell Online Courses From Your Own Website

The complete, step-by-step guide for creating, selling, and profiting from online courses in 2021

How to Sell Online Courses from Your Own website

This is the most comprehensive guide out there that will show you everything you need to know and do to successfully create and sell online courses from your own website, even if you don’t have an existing audience.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • how to choose a profitable course topic,
  • how to turn your idea into awesome courses,
  • how to build an engaged audience,
  • how to launch and sell your courses.

In short:  if you want to turn your expertise/passion into a profitable online course business, you’ll love this guide.

I have broken the whole guide into 7 chapters:

  1. Why Sell Online Courses?
  2. Find a Profitable Course Topic
  3. Create an Awesome Online Course
  4. Build an Engaged Audience
  5. Get Your Courses Online
  6. Create an Irresistible Course Offer
  7. Launch and Sell Your Courses

You can click on a link above to go directly to that chapter. However, I recommend that you read this guide from start to finish and download a PDF copy of this guide for future reference.

Let’s get started.

CHAPTER 1

Why Sell Online Courses?

Why selling online courses is a great business model

The online learning industry is already huge, and it’s only going to get bigger as more and more students turn to online courses to further their education.

In fact, the size of the global eLearning industry was estimated to be around $250 billion in 2020 and is expected to cross $1 trillion by 2027.

So selling online courses is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to share their knowledge with others and make money in the process.

Online learning industry will cross $1 trillion in size by 2027

I personally know and have consulted many entrepreneurs who regularly make a six-figure or even a seven-figure income by teaching online courses.

More importantly, such success stories aren’t limited to just a few make money online niches. There are thousands of creators who make money teaching yoga, photography, web design, cooking, and a host of other things.

Take my friend and client David Young, for example. He is a drone enthusiast and the founder of Drone Launch Academy.

His course FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam Prep Course has earned him over $800k over the past 2 years. He quit his corporate job in early 2018 and now works full-time as a knowledge entrepreneur.

David Young sells online courses through Drone Launch Academy

Apart from the money, what makes the online course business model so attractive is that you’re basically selling digital products that you create once, but you can reuse them and sell them for years.

So you’re not trading your time for money which makes selling online courses ideal from a scalability point of view.

Moreover, the kind of impact that you can create on other people’s lives through online courses won’t be possible with any other online business model.

Finally, you don’t have to spend a fortune to create online courses; you can do it with a small budget, as small as a couple of hundred dollars.

Recommended Reading: How Much Does It Cost to Create an Online Course?

When you consider all these benefits, selling courses online has to be the single most powerful and impactful way to build a profitable knowledge business and find the freedom you want.

Creating and selling online courses is a great business model

It is a perfect business model for you if:

  • you’re a blogger or a Youtuber or an Instagrammer who has an existing audience.
  • you’re a freelancer or a coach who wants to move away from 1:1 work.
  • you have an established business and want to add another income stream to it.
  • you’ve been teaching in-person classes and want to take them online.

I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t create online courses if you’re new to the world of online business. In fact, this is exactly what I did when I was getting started.

However, to successfully create and sell online courses from your own website, you’ll need to invest timemoney, and energy into the whole process.

So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to make money online, it’s definitely not the best option. 

But if you are interested in teaching online and are willing to put in the hard work, the online course business model will work great for you.

I know you’re already thinking about things like “what I’ll teach in my courses,” “how I’ll create videos,” or “how I’ll market the courses.” Don’t worry about these things, as we’ll cover them in detail in the subsequent chapters.

The only thing that I want you to do before we move to the next chapter and start working on your courses is to believe that you, too, can teach online and build a business out of it.

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CHAPTER 2

Find a Profitable Course Topic

Find Profitable Online Course Ideas

Now that you’re committed to selling courses online, it’s time to decide what you will teach your students. So you need to come up with a profitable online course idea.

A profitable course topic should be:

  • something that you’re knowledgeable about or have expertise in,
  • something that you’re interested in teaching,
  • something that potential students are willing to pay for.

Basically, you need to find the sweet spot of your know-how, interests, and market demand.

Come Up With Ideas for Your Online Course

When I was planning to create my first course, I had close to 4 years of professional experience in the supply chain industry.

I knew it was something I was good at and loved doing on a day-to-day basis. As a result, finding my course niche was really straightforward for me.

So the first thing that you should think about is your skills and professional expertise. 

If you do a full-time job in an organization, think about the things that you do daily. For example, you may know about certain processes or software which can be helpful to others.

Or, you may be working as a freelancer or a consultant. In this case, take stock of the things that you help your clients with.

Similarly, you may be a blogger or a Youtuber, so you should look at the topics you create content around.

Before founding MyExcelOnline, John Michaloudis had worked as an accountant and financial controller for 15 years. During his corporate career, he would use Microsoft Excel extensively and even trained other employees in using the software.

So when he decided to start an online business and ultimately create online courses, it made sense to choose Excel training as his niche.

MyExcelOnline Courses

But what if you don’t have such a skill or professional experience? 

Don’t worry! Bcoz you might have a passion or a hobby that others are interested in learning about.

Or, you might have overcome a personal challenge in the past that many others struggle with as well.

You can teach online courses based on a variety of different things.

In fact, hobby/passion niches have picked up big time in the past few years, and there are thousands of successful course creators teaching courses in these niches.

I love the story of one of my clients, Zaheen Nanji, who developed a stutter when she was seven. Unfortunately, she also got diagnosed with breast cancer.

She overcame these personal challenges, and now she teaches online courses to help others build resilience. And the courses have done pretty well.

Resilience Champion Courses

Now that you have an idea about what you’re good at, it’s time to think about potential topics for your online course.

Recommended Reading: 150+ Profitable Online Course Ideas (With Success Stories)

At this point, just think about the things that you can teach and don’t worry about things like market demand, competition, etc. And you can use this ideation worksheet to list all your ideas.

A very effective way to come up with course topics is to identify what your potential students are struggling with and think of the topics as solutions to these problems.

Obviously, you’ll know about some of the pain points based on your experience. However, you can also find other things by following conversations in Facebook Groups, niche forums, or other online communities (e.g., Quora).

Find your students' pain points

Another important thing to keep in mind while brainstorming course topics is to be as specific as possible. For example, if you’re going to teach a course in the baking niche, here is how you can get more specific about it:

  • How to Bake (very broad)
  • How to Bake Bread (still broad)
  • How to Bake Sourdough Bread (specific)
  • How to Bake San Francisco Style Sourdough Bread (more specific)

Specific courses are easier to sell than broader courses, and I recommend that you start with a specific course that promises specific results to a specific audience.

As you move along in your journey as a course creator, you can consider creating online courses on broader topics.

Validate Your Course Idea

Most new course creators completely skip this part. Instead, they will come up with some ideas for their online course, but then they pick one randomly without validating whether there is enough demand for a course on that topic or not.

This ultimately turns out to be a big mistake, as they end up spending a lot of time and money to create an online course that just doesn’t sell. 

So you need to validate your course idea and make sure that there is a demand for it before you start work on content creation or marketing.

Get Google Search Volume

The easiest way to validate interest in your course topic is by checking the search volumes for related keywords on Google.

The tool that I recommend you use for this purpose is Ubersuggest. It is free to use and doesn’t require you to create an account.

=> Go to the Ubersuggest website and search with your keyword. Now analyze the results.

You should then check the search volume for your main keyword as well as the related keywords. A high search volume for your keywords would mean that people are interested in your niche.

UberSuggest Keyword Research

This keyword research should also give you insight into what related topics people are interested in, and so you can use this information to fine-tune your ideas.

Search on Youtube

Youtube is the largest video platform as well as the second-largest search engine in the world. On Youtube, you can find videos on almost any topic and in any possible niche. 

Plus, Youtube has a huge audience for tutorial-type and how-to videos that give you a strong indication of interest in your course topic.

=> Go to Youtube and search for your course topic. Then, analyze the search results and video views.

Validate Course Topic on Youtube

You can also read comments on these videos to get a sense of your students’ pain points and what they want to learn.

Search on Udemy

Udemy is the largest online course marketplace, and it has millions of students who take courses in virtually any niche.

While I don’t recommend you use Udemy as the main platform for teaching online, it can provide you a lot of information that will help you validate the demand for your course. 

=> Go to the Udemy website and search for your course topic and related keywords. Now check the courses that come up in search results.

Search Your Course Topic on Udemy

=> Select a particular course and check the number of students enrolled in the course.

Validate Course Demand on Udemy

=> Go back to the search results and repeat the previous step by selecting a different course.

If you find a few courses related to your topic and a few thousand students enrolled in these courses, that’s great news. This shows that a significant number of students in your niche are willing to pay for a course on your topic.

Search in Facebook Groups and Niche Forums

This is one of my favorite ways to validate a course idea because, with this method, you don’t just look at numbers, but you actually listen to your potential customers.

With this approach, you first need to identify Facebook groups, niche forums, or other online communities (e.g., Quora) where your potential students hang out.

Once you’re part of the community, search for your course topics and follow the conversations. See what people are asking about and whether it’s generating enough interest or not. 

And you can always start a new conversation yourself and collect direct feedback from your potential customers.

Apart from validating your idea, this will help you develop a better understanding of your niche. As a result, you can further refine your idea and improve your messaging.

Survey Your Audience

One of the most effective ways of testing your product idea is collecting direct feedback from students, and a survey is a great tool for doing that.

When planning to create my Supply Chain Network Design course, I first tried validating my idea using the above approaches. 

But the numbers didn’t look great, and it seemed that there wasn’t enough interest in the topic. 

However, based on my experience, I knew that Network Design was a premium supply chain skill and had seen how my colleagues and friends were interested in learning it.

So I sent out a brief survey to my small audience, asking them what they thought about the course idea and whether they would be interested in enrolling in the course when it launches.

Validate Course Idea through Online Survey

Overall, the response was positive, so I went ahead with the idea, which ultimately was the right decision.

If you have an audience of your own, this method is really straightforward to execute. You can create a short survey using Google Forms and send the survey via email.

If you don’t have an existing audience, you can still send the survey to your friends and colleagues and share the survey in various online communities and groups you’re part of.

Presell Your Course

If you need a stronger validation for your topic, you can presell before creating an online course.

To presell an online course, you can create a sales page that explains what the course will be about and when it will release.

If you can successfully pre-sell your course, there is no better way to validate your course idea, and you can be 100% confident about investing time and money into turning this idea into reality.

Another advantage of pre-selling a course is that you get access to a group of people who you can reach out to for feedback on your course content and other stuff.

However, keep in mind that pre-selling works only if you already have an engaged audience. Selling your course idea to a cold audience is more difficult.

If you followed all the steps in this chapter, you should have an idea for your online course by now. It’s time for you to start creating your course content now, which we’ll discuss next.

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CHAPTER 3

Create an Awesome Online Course

Leanr how to create an online course

Many new course creators mistake thinking about the value of their course in terms of the amount of content or the hours of videos it has.

They will then try to add as much content to their course as possible, making the entire process time-consuming and expensive, resulting in information overload for the students.

Remember, you’re creating a specific course that promises specific results to a specific audience.

So your course doesn’t have to include everything you know on the topic. Rather it has to cover the things that are required to help your students achieve the promised results.

With this in mind, let’s discuss how to create an awesome online course.

Plan and Design Your Course

Before you start creating the content, you will need to create an outline for your course. 

Course outline (or curriculum) is like a plan, and it will help you keep organized and focused throughout the online course creation process.

While creating your course outline, start by describing the end results for your course – the problem that you’re trying to solve or your audience’s desire you promise to fulfill.

Then think about the different stages a student will need to go through (milestones) to achieve the desired results.

Online Course Steps

These stages are basically the modules (or sections), and most course creators I have worked with tend to have not more than 7-8 of them in their courses.

Each module should have a learning objective of its own and will include multiple lessons.

You can think of the individual lessons as the steps that your students will need to take to achieve the learning objectives for a particular module.

This will require a good amount of brainstorming before you can finalize your outline. I personally prefer to write my ideas on Post-it notes and put them on a wall in my office.

Once my ideas are firmer, I put them in a Google Sheet.

Here’s how the outline for my first course looked like:

Create Online Course Outline

You can download this course outline template if you want to use it to plan your course content.

Once you have created the outline for your online course, you need to decide the delivery format for your lessons.

Video is easily the most popular and engaging delivery format for online courses, so you must include video content in your course.

The key here is to keep your video lessons short, preferably between 2-10 minutes, as shorter videos result in higher student engagement.

Video Lecture Length
Source: Teachable

In addition to using video content, you should use a mix of other formats — audio, text, PDFs, etc. to deliver your content.

One format that I am personally a big fan of is PDFs. It’s a great format for creating worksheets, cheat sheets, checklists, case studies, etc., for your lessons.

These support PDFs can help summarize important takeaways from your lessons, highlight the most important action items, and overall enhance your students’ learning experience.

Finally, you must realize that your online course shouldn’t just be a bunch of videos and other pre-recorded content because your students will lose interest very quickly and drop out of your course.

It’s important to design your course in a way to make it as interactive as possible. For example, you can include interactive quizzesadd assignmentscreate a community, live coaching calls, etc.

That being said, the delivery formats that you use in your course will ultimately depend on a few things, including the nature of your course, your niche, its learning objectives, course pricing, etc. 

Based on your chosen formats, you can start creating the actual content for your course, which we’ll discuss next.

Create Course Content

Let’s first talk about creating online course videos. There are two popular types of videos that creators include in their courses:

  • Screencast videos where you record your computer screen
  • Talking head videos where you speak in front of a camera

Screencast videos are really effective if you want to create tutorial-type content or record slides with voice narration.

The best part about the screencast videos is that they’re much easier and less expensive to create than talking head videos.

In fact, all the videos in my first course except the course overview were basically screen recordings, and they worked very well for my course topic.

Screenrecording Video
A sample screencast video from my course

If you’re creating an online course for the first time or you’re not comfortable appearing in front of a camera, this would be the best video format for you.

To create a video of your screen recording, I recommend that you use a tool like Camtasia.

Camtasia is an easy-to-use screen recorder that also includes powerful video editing capabilities. Simply speaking, it is overall the best screencasting software for online course creators.

Some people also prefer to deliver their course content live. If that’s the case, you can use Zoom to deliver live videos and record them to upload to your course lessons.

Recommended Reading: How to Screencast: The Complete Guide to Making Engaging Videos

Now, let’s discuss talking head videos. Recording good quality talking head videos is more complex than recording your screen.

Firstly, you’ll need a camera to record your face, for which you can either use your iPhone or an external webcam like Logitech C920.

Secondly, you’ll need to get basic equipment like a lighting kit, a backdrop, etc., to get good results with your talking head videos.

At this point, you don’t really need to invest in a professional camera or video recording equipment unless video quality is super important for your courses.

Sample Talking Head Video
A sample talking head video from Nathan’s Cybersecurity course

While creating talking head videos takes more time and effort, they’re worth it because they allow you to create a personal connection with your students.

So I recommend that you include at least a couple of talking head videos in your course.

Another important aspect of creating quality videos (both screencasting and talking head) is audio quality, and to record quality audio, you must invest in an external microphone.

The one that I personally use and recommend is Blue Yeti. It’s a plug-n-play microphone and is very reasonably priced as well.

Moreover, you’ll need to create a proper recording environment in your house (or office) where you have no background noise and minimal echo. Achieving such a setup is simple, and you can check this article where I share a few tips for that.

When creating videos for the first time, don’t worry too much about the video quality. Otherwise, it can slow you down significantly.

Yes, your course videos might not look that professional initially, but that’s totally fine. Instead, focus on delivering value through your videos, and you’ll do fine!

Your videos will automatically become more polished and professional as you create additional courses in the future.

Before we close this chapter, let’s talk about creating another popular content type — PDFs.

Creators generally use PDF files for creating worksheets, checklists, case studies, and other support documents for their courses.

Sample PDF Checklist
A sample PDF Checklist from Pinterest Traffic Avalanche Course

The first option and the one I recommend is to outsource.

You can get a PDF designed for as little as $5 using a service like Fiverr. You can also use Fiverr for video editing and to get your videos transcribed for cheap.

If you want to create and design the PDF documents yourself, you can use Google Docs. Or, you can use an online design tool like Canva.

Content creation for your courses (especially video creation) involves a lot of trial and error and will take some time. So you should start working on other things like building your online presence and growing your email list simultaneously.

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CHAPTER 4

Build an Engaged Audience

Build an Engaged Audience for Your Course

Not building an audience right from the word go is one of the most common mistakes that course creators make.

I find it surprising that so many people don’t realize that you can’t really sell online courses without an audience.

In fact, most people start thinking about funnels and email list only when their school goes live, which is why they struggle to sell.

The right approach is to start building your email list as soon as you pick your niche and finalize your course topic, so by the time your courses are ready, you’ll have an audience to sell to.

Let me show you everything you need to do to build an engaged audience for your business. I have broken the whole process into three steps.

Step 1: Build a Funnel to Capture Leads

The first step in the process of building an audience is to set up a lead generation funnel. The idea is to capture the email addresses of your visitors so that you can engage them and market online courses.

These are the steps in a typical lead magnet funnel
A typical lead magnet funnel

Create Free Content Related to Your Niche

The first stage of your funnel should always be some freely available content and for which a visitor doesn’t need to opt-in.

The free content can be in the form of blog postsvideospodcastsinfographics, etc. and the main purpose of this type of content is to provide value and warm your target audience.

So you can create a Youtube Channel to share videos, start a blog to publish articles, or start a podcast where you can interview other people in your niche.

For example, Smart Blogger wrote a blog post to help writers find freelance writing jobs to support their Content Marketing Certification course. It’s a massive, free resource that appeals to potential buyers and works very well. 

Smart Blogger wrote a blog post to sell their content marketing certification course

The key here is creating high-quality content because social media platforms and search engines have become much smarter at detecting crap and rewarding quality.

Believe me, this is the most important step in building a funnel and generating leads, something that many beginners ignore. But, on the other hand, most successful course entrepreneurs create free content consistently.

Create a Killer Lead Magnet

Getting people to sign up to your email list should be easy once you warm them up with free content, and you’ll need a lead magnet for getting their email.

A lead magnet is a piece of content available only when someone signs up for your email list. 

So you might have signed up for a free ebook, or a free video training, or even an email course, all of which are examples of a lead magnet.

At StationX, we use a cyber security career guide as our main lead magnet
At StationX, we use a cyber security career guide as our main lead magnet

Coming up with ideas for your lead magnet is simple. Say you teach online courses in the weight loss niche; you can create lead magnets like these:

  • Weight loss checklist
  • 30-day weight loss challenge
  • Diet plan for weight loss
  • Excel-based weight loss tracker
  • Weight loss exercise guide
  • Weight loss quiz

A well-done lead magnet must solve a specific problem, be created for quick consumption, and be related to your course topic.

And keep in mind that a 2-3 page lead magnet is as effective as a 300-page ebook, so focus on content and quality rather than quantity.

Once you finalize a lead magnet idea, you can format your content and create a good-looking lead magnet yourself using a tool like Canva, or you can get it done by a freelancer on Fiverr as well.

Set Up a Landing Page / Opt-In Form

If you don’t already know about it, a landing page is a dedicated page with a singular focus on making your offer convert. In this case, the offer will be a lead magnet.

You must have seen a page like this:

Landing page for Digital Marketer's ultimate social media swipe file
Digital Marketer’s landing page for their FB Ad templates lead magnet

Landing pages are really effective at converting visitors into subscribers, and you, too, need to create one for your lead magnet.

You should clearly describe your offer on the landing page and allow the visitors to submit their information to download it.

Once someone signs up, they are taken to a thank you page like this, where you can guide them on the next steps and even ask them to take further action like buying a low-priced ebook or a mini-course.

Digital Marketer sells a low-priced tripwire on their thank you page

Another popular way of collecting email addresses, especially on a blog, is by using opt-in forms.

The most popular opt-in type is popups. For example, MyExcelOnline.com has a popup form that appears when a user leaves the site.

My Excel collects lead for their online courses through popups on their blogs

There are other opt-in types that you can use, and a really popular one is inline opt-ins (or within content opt-ins). Once you click a button or a link, a popup will appear to ask you to enter your email address to get the freebie.

Inline Forms

When it comes to the tech for creating landing pages and opt-in forms, you have a few options:

  • Option 1: Use an all-in-one course platform like Kajabi, which includes the ability to create landing pages and opt-in forms natively.
  • ​Option 2: Use a specialized landing page builder like ClickFunnels and an opt-in form tool like ConvertBox.
  • Option 3: Some email service providers (e.g., ConvertKit) also let you build landing pages and opt-in forms.

Once a user submits their email address, the details are passed to your email marketing platform, where you can communicate with them and engage them.

Step 2: Engage Your Subscribers with Email Marketing

It’s very unlikely that a new subscriber will purchase your course and become a paying customer as soon as they subscribe. So you should create and set up a series of automated emails for your new subscribers.

The basic idea behind sending a welcome email marketing campaign is to provide value to your subscribers and make them know, like, and trust you. At this point, you shouldn’t engage in any selling.

While you can take different approaches while creating a welcome series, the first email should always be a welcome/introduction email that goes out immediately upon subscription.

At StationX, we send a welcome email to our subscribers.

Apart from the introduction email, you should send at least 4-5 additional emails as part of the welcome campaign over the next 7-10 days.

One option is to create an email course to teach your subscribers something of value and something related to your online course.

Brennan's Email Course
This is how Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing email course looks in my inbox.

Another option is to create an email series to tell your subscribers about some common mistakes users make in the industry or even tell them about some common myths.

For example, at StationX, we send our subscribers emails about myths in the cybersecurity industry, and it works well:

StationX Welcome Campaign

These are just a few ideas for creating your welcome email series. There are so many other things that you can do, like sending free resources, youtube videos, or even articles from other blogs.

Now, if you sell an evergreen course, you can transition your subscribers into a sales campaign as soon as they complete the welcome sequence (we’ll talk more about selling online courses in the last chapter).

However, if your course isn’t open for enrollment currently or isn’t ready yet, you will have nothing to sell to them immediately. 

In this case, you need to make sure that your subscribers are constantly engaged, so you need to email them valuable content regularly. 

Finally, you’ll need an email service provider so that you can store the subscriber information, send them emails, and, most importantly, automate email marketing.

There are quite a few tools in the market, but the one that I recommend is ConvertKit.

ConvertKit is a popular email service provider that offers powerful automation capabilities but at the same time is easy to use and affordable, making it ideal for online creators.

(If you want to see a full breakdown of the tool, you can check this ConvertKit Review.)

You now have your lead generation funnel up and running, and you can start sending people to it.

Step 3: Drive Traffic to Your Funnel

Driving traffic is key to building your audience and is also the #1 thing that course creators struggle with. You might have awesome online courses and a killer funnel in place, but you won’t have much success without traffic.

Let me share the top 6 strategies that I have found to be most effective for driving traffic.

Promote Your Content on Social Media

One of the essential strategies to drive traffic to your content is by sharing it on social media. There are many popular social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., that one can target.

For example, Alex and Lauren use Pinterest to drive traffic to their health and fitness blog and sell their online programs.

Avocadu Pinterest

The key is to pick one social media channel that you think will work best for your niche and your content, and then go all-in with that.

Start a Youtube Channel

YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet, and there are millions of people who visit YouTube to watch all sorts of video tutorials.

You’ll need to create a YouTube Channel and then publish relevant videos on your channel regularly to get started.

The good thing is that this won’t just help you get traffic from YouTube, but you can also rank for the search terms in Google.

A great example of someone using Youtube to sell their courses successfully is Video Creators. They have a Youtube channel with 566K subscribers, which is how they acquire new customers.

Video Creators use Youtube to sell their online courses

Youtube is still an underutilized traffic source in many niches, and if you plan to create video content, you should definitely target it.

Guest Podcasting/Posting

There are very few strategies as effective as guest posting and guest podcasting in helping beginners grow their audience. 

So in guest posting, you write articles on other blogs, while in guest podcasting, you appear as a guest on other podcasts. 

The idea with both these strategies is to put yourself in front of a larger audience in your niche. If you write guest posts or appear on podcasts consistently, you will build authority gradually, and you’re almost guaranteed to get results.

Drive Traffic Through Affiliates

One of my favorite strategies for promoting digital products is to leverage affiliate marketing. In fact, it is one of the main strategies for us at StationX.

So you can reach out to and partner with popular bloggers, YouTubers, and FB group admins to get them to promote your course.

How affiliate marketing works

I like affiliate marketing so much because you don’t need to spend money upfront, but you share a % of revenue after the sale. Plus, if done correctly, you can scale very quickly.

The key here is to offer generous commissions. Since you’re selling a digital product, I recommend that you offer a 50% commission.

Recommended Reading: How to Start an Affiliate Program for Your Business

Search Engine Optimization

I am a big fan of Search Engine Optimization, and I recommend that you leverage SEO if you write blog posts regularly. In fact, SEO is one of the main sources of traffic for this blog and a couple of my other blogs.

To rank your blog posts in Google, you’ll first need to identify the right keywords, optimize your content (and website) around these keywords and further build backlinks to increase your authority in the eyes of the search engine.

However, you should keep in mind that there is no shortcut to getting search engine traffic, and it will be months before you start seeing some results from your efforts but believe me, it will be worth it.

If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, you should check this in-depth guide from Backlinko.

Many creators struggle with driving traffic because they try to drive traffic from every possible source. If you do that, you’re bound to fail!

Rather you should focus on a couple of traffic sources that you think will be the most effective based on your content and niche. Go all in with these sources and master them before targeting a new one.

Another thing that you should realize is that you don’t necessarily need to run paid ads to grow your audience. If you’re ready to put in the hard work, you can grow your audience by just using organic traffic sources.

Drive Traffic via Paid Ads

It’s not as easy to drive traffic to your website organically as it used to be 5-6 years back. Plus, many of the organic traffic strategies like Search Engine Optimization take time to yield results.

As a result, you can consider using paid ads to drive targeted traffic to your blog posts and landing pages but only take this approach when you have a budget.

There are various advertising platforms, including Facebook Ads, Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc., and the best one for your scenario will depend on many factors, including your niche and audience.

These are just some of the most popular strategies to drive traffic and build your email list. However, there are so many other channels through which you can promote and market your content.

In fact, you can drive traffic even by using the simplest strategy of commenting in relevant Facebook groups or answering questions on Quora.

Having said that, building an audience is an ongoing process, and it will continue even after your course launch. Therefore, you must put in consistent effort, and you’ll see your business grow with time.

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CHAPTER 5

Get Your Courses Online

Get your courses online using a course creation software

To sell online courses, you first need to get them online!

What you’ll need for that is an online course platform that lets you host your content, create a members area, deliver your content and engage your students.

The good news is that you, as a course creator, have quite a few options for hosting and selling your online course. 

The bad news is that you have so many options that it can be overwhelming to research all the platforms and pick the best option for your business.

(If you want to see a list of the top options, you should check this best online course platforms article).

I have helped hundreds of creators build their course websites on popular platforms, including Kajabi, Thinkific, Teachable, Podia, and LearnWorlds.

Of all the course creation software out there, I have found Thinkific and Kajabi to be the standout ones, and generally, I recommend one of these to my clients.

Both are hosted platforms, so it’s their team that takes care of all the techy stuff for you, including things like hosting, site performance, security, backups, and maintenance. As a result, you can focus on more important things like content creation and marketing.

Both are suited for different use cases, and let me help you figure out the right option for you based on your business requirements.

1. Thinkific

Thinkific is one of the most popular online course platforms used by top course creators like Lewis Howes and Jonathan Levi.

The biggest strength of the Thinkific platform is the best-in-class features it offers for creating an online course and engaging your students.

To start with, it has an easy-to-use course builder which lets you quickly upload your content and structure your course. In addition, the platform gives you unlimited hosting for all your content, including videos.

The course player is very well-designed from an end-user experience point of view, and your overall course delivery will look professional across devices, including mobile phones.

On top of that, you can do live classes, create quizzes and assignments, build a community, drip your course content, create prerequisite lessons, send certificates, etc.

What is Thinkific?

Thinkific also has a website builder that comes with predesigned themes and a powerful page builder so that you can build your brand website as well as course pages on the platform itself.

Moreover, the platform comes with inbuilt course selling tools. So you can easily price your products, create coupons, offer 1-click upsells, process payments as well as run your affiliate program.

But what makes Thinkific an even more attractive option for course creators, especially beginners, is its unbeatable pricing. It is has a lifetime free plan, and the paid plans are pretty reasonably priced as well.

Overall, Thinkific is a great option for you if you’re looking for a standalone course platform to create and sell online courses. It will work great for you, whether you’re a beginner with a small student base or an established creator with tens of thousands of students.

If you want to give the platform a try, you can start with a free account or get a free trial of the Pro plan.

2. Kajabi

Kajabi is another extremely popular online course platform in the market and is used by top course creators like Brendan Burchard and Amy Porterfield.

The best thing about Kajabi is that it is an all-in-one online course platform. So you can not just host and sell your course, but you can also handle entire marketing, including sales funnel creation, email marketing, blogging, etc., on the platform itself.

You don’t need a separate sales funnel builder like ClickFunnels or an email marketing solution like ConvertKit. Rather you can run your entire business on Kajabi itself.

What is Kajabi?

Even when it comes to creating an online course, Kajabi is the most feature-rich platform out there. 

Apart from all the essential features like the course builder, video hosting, etc., it offers powerful tools like Course Player Themes, Community, Assessments, Automations, Mobile Apps, etc. This will help you deliver a great learning experience.

When it comes to customer service, Kajabi offers 24/7 live chat support, which you can rely upon. So if you face an issue or have some other questions, you can reach out to the support team and get help pretty quickly.

Overall, Kajabi is the best option for you if you want to run your entire online course business from a single place without requiring you to hack together or learn to use several different plugins or services.

If you would like to explore the platform in further detail, you should check this Kajabi Review. You can also get a free trial of the platform if you want to give it a try.

Both Kajabi and Thinkific are great course platform options, and you can’t really go wrong with either of them. It’s just that whether you need an all-in-one platform or a standalone platform.

Once you select your course platform, setting up your course will be pretty straightforward. Both these platforms are designed to be used by average, non-techie creators, and as long as you can point and click, you’ll be able to set everything up yourself.

Plus, they have step-by-step tutorials for everything, which will make it easier for you to get started.

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CHAPTER 6

Create an Irresistible Course Offer

Create Your Course Offer

Before launching your course and selling it to your audience, you need to decide your pricing strategy and build a sales page.

These are the two most important elements of your offer as they significantly influence your conversion rates.

So it’s important to get these right, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this chapter.

Price Your Online Course

Deciding a price for your online course is not easy because most creators don’t know where to start. So they take one of the following approaches to pricing their online course:

  • Set a price based on the number of hours of video or other content.
  • Set a very low price to attract a wider audience.
  • Set a lower price to undercut competitors.

While these approaches make it easy for you to decide a price for your course, the pricing won’t be optimal.

The first problem with low pricing (say $20) is that you might get a relatively larger number of enrolments, but it won’t help maximize your course revenue.

So you’ll generally get a lower revenue even though you’ll be putting in a similar amount of effort as selling a higher-priced course.

Here’s an infographic from Thinkific that illustrates this:

Course Low Pricing
Source: Thinkific

Moreover, if you price your course lower just to undercut your competitor, you basically start a race to the bottom. You’ll be better off differentiating your offer rather than undercutting.

So how should you price your online course?

I like to think about pricing in terms of the value and benefits a student will get out of a course. For example, if a course solves a huge problem for a student, you can easily charge hundreds of dollars for it.

Say your course topic is website design for wellness entrepreneurs:

  • If an entrepreneur were to learn website design using free content, he would spend say a minimum of 30-40 hours to learn all the stuff.
  • If he/she were to hire someone else to design a website for him, it would cost him say $3,000 – $4,000.

When you think from this angle, you’ll realize that your course is much more valuable, and you can justify premium pricing with the right messaging.

So it’s ultimately about the perceived value of your course, and a very effective way of further boosting it is offering bonuses on top of your course.

It is not without a reason that so many top course creators use bonuses to sell online courses. Look at this bonus stack that Amy Porterfield offers for her program – Digital Course Academy:

DCA Bonuses
Amy Porterfield’s DCA Bonus Stack

Now you don’t need to create such an extensive bonus stack but offering even a single bonus that is super useful to your students will work.

Let’s take the “web design for wellness professionals” course example again. In this case, you might offer these bonuses:

  • Access to a private community.
  • Live Q&A calls or coaching sessions.
  • Pre-built website themes.
  • A website SEO course.
  • Case studies.

These are just a few ideas, and you’ll ultimately need to figure out what works best for your course.

Now, if you feel that charging a premium price will make it unaffordable for some of your students, you can always offer a payment plan to allow students to pay for your course in multiple installments.

Offer Payment Plan

If you’re still not convinced about charging a premium price, you can start with a “baseline price.” Teachable recommends that you should price your course at least $100 (baseline price).

Finally, you know your course and your audience the best! So consider those and set a price point for your course.

Whether you go for baseline pricing or premium pricing, it’s up to you, and you can always test different pricing and modify them as you move along.

Create the Course Sales Page

To present your course offer, you need to create a sales page. A sales page is a type of landing page that describes your course to your audience and convinces them to sign up for it.

You must have purchased an online course or an ebook yourself from pages like these:

Online Course Sales Page
VIP Sales Page

At this stage, your potential customers decide whether to enroll in your course or not, and your sales page can actually make or break the success of your online course.

Here are some elements that your sales page should have:

  • A compelling headline that immediately grabs your reader’s attention and also conveys your course topic.
  • A sales video that covers all the important aspects of the course.
  • Relatable text that conveys your reader’s pain points and convinces them that they need to fix it.
  • Course description that introduces your course as a solution to the problem that your potential customers are facing.
  • Author bio that introduces you as an expert, showcases your experience and helps establish credibility.
  • Testimonials from past students/clients that help build social proof and thus boost your credibility.
  • Pricing section that tells readers the price of your offer and what they will get as part of it.
  • A money-back guarantee that reassures your users that their investment is risk-free.
  • FAQ section that answers the commonly asked questions.
  • Multiple call-to-action buttons that make it easy for users to sign up for your course.

Apart from the copy, it’s important to have a good design for your sales page. Make it a point to use a lot of high-quality and relevant images on your sales page.

StationX VIP Sales Page
Here’s a bird’s eye view of a high-converting sales page we built for StationX

As far as the tech for building your sales page is concerned, most online course platforms allow you to create sales pages natively.

Plus, you can always use a specialized landing page builder like ClickFunnels to build high-converting sales pages.

A sales page can go a long way in boosting your sales conversion, and so you should put effort into creating a good sales page for your online course.

Your online course setup is done, and now you can move on to the last step, where I’ll show you how to launch your course and sell it to your audience.

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CHAPTER 7

Launch and Sell Your Course

How to Sell an Online Course

You have put in some really hard work to create an online course and build an audience, and now it’s time to sell your course to them.

This is the most important step in the entire process because everything you have done till now will be of no use unless you get this part right and your subscribers buy your course.

So let’s start by discussing the two popular methods of selling an online course: 

Closed Cart vs Evergreen Courses

You can either sell an online course using a closed cart approach where the course opens for a few days (launch period) for enrollment and then closes.

Or, you can sell it as an evergreen course that is always open for enrollment.

If you follow the first approach, you can open your cart every 2-6 months, depending on the price of your course and the size of your audience.

The course will be open for enrollment for a few days, and once the launch period is over, the cart will close.

Stu McLaren uses this technique for his TRIBE course. The course opens just once a year, and when you try to enroll in the program after the launch period, you will be taken to this page, where you are asked to join the waiting list.

TRIBE Course Waitlist
TRIBE course’s waitlist page

The major advantage of this strategy is that there is a time limit for enrollment that creates a strong sense of urgency and pushes users to make a decision.

Also, the students join your course in batches so that you can work more closely with them.

The disadvantage is that the course is not always open for enrollment, and prospective students will have to wait before getting access. Another disadvantage is that launching a course each time can be a time-consuming process.

The other approach is to make your online course evergreen. Evergreen courses are always open for enrollment, and the user doesn’t need to wait.

Melyssa Griffin’s course Pinfinite Growth is an evergreen course and is always open for enrollment.

Pinfinite Growth

The key to selling an evergreen course is automating your sales funnel, which means you can focus on driving traffic and testing your funnel and email sequences regularly. This is what I like the most about evergreen courses.

However, it’s relatively difficult to incorporate a strong sense of urgency into your evergreen sales funnel because you’ll need to offer a bonus or a discount that is unique for every subscriber.

You should keep things simple in the beginning! If you’re selling a premium course ($200 and above), I recommend following a closed cart approach. 

Selling a lower-priced course is relatively easy, and you don’t need a similar sense of urgency to sell it. So I recommend that you sell a non-premium course as an evergreen course.

But that is not to say that you can’t sell a premium-priced course as an evergreen course. 

There are evergreen sales funnel strategies almost as effective as any closed cart strategy, but they are advanced, and we’ll discuss them later in this chapter.

Launch Your Online Course

Whether you’re launching a new course or you’re opening the doors to an existing course, you need to get your launch strategy absolutely right.

So let me briefly discuss how to launch your online course. There are two phases to your course launch: Pre-Launch and Actual Launch.

In the Pre-Launch phase, the idea is to nurture your audience and prepare them for the launch. You can send blog posts, videos, etc., via email that will help educate your subscribers about the problem that your course solves.

As far as the number of emails is concerned, you should send at least 4 emails over a period of 7-10 days.

In the last email you send in the Pre-Launch phase, give a hint that you’ll be making an announcement soon. Don’t introduce your course or provide any specific details about it as of yet.

Online Course Launch Plan
A sample course launch plan with the first 4 emails being pre-launch emails

For the actual launch, I recommend that you follow a modified version of Teachable’s ‘Crazy 8 Launch Strategy. Here’s how it breaks down:

Day 1 – “Announcement Email” – Tell what’s in your course. Talk about how many modules are there and what the students can expect to learn. Also, mention that the course cart will open tomorrow.

Day 2 – Course Opens Email (+Fast Action Bonus) – Tell your users that the course is open for enrollment now. Include a link to the sales page and explain how they can enroll in the course. Plus, mention that they get a fast action bonus if they buy in the first 24 hours.

Day 3 – FAQ Email (+Last Call for FAB) – Answer the commonly asked questions for your course and tackle common objections in this email. In addition, you should talk about how long they will have access to the course, money-back guarantee, payment options, etc., and include a reminder for the Fast Action Bonus.

Day 4 – Sneak Peek Email – Pick an important topic or a framework from your course and create an awesome blog post or video teaching the same topic. Tell them they will get more valuable lessons like these once they’re inside the course.

Day 5 – Surprise Bonus Email – Announce a surprise bonus to your audience. You can offer some other courses, ebooks, group coaching calls, etc., as a bonus. Tell them that you want to make their decision to enroll in the course a no-brainer.

Day 6 – Thank You and Social Proof Email – Tell them how much you appreciate them being part of your launch. In addition, you should include some testimonials, social media messages, etc., that will help you build social proof.

Day 7 – Logic + Cart Closes Email – Remind the users that the cart will be closing soon. Build a logic as to why they should buy now and make sure to mention your surprise bonus.

Day 8 – Cart Close Email 1 – Send a quick reminder to the users that this is the last day to enroll in the course and briefly summarize what they will miss out on if they don’t enroll. This email should go out in the morning.

Day 8 – Cart Close Email 2 – Send the last reminder to users that the cart will close soon and there is no way they can enroll in the course. This email should go out 2-3 hours before the cart closes.

Now, this launch strategy is ideal for launching a premium course, and so your actual approach can vary based on your niche, your audience, and course pricing.

For example, if you are launching a lower-priced course (say $99) to your audience, you can simplify this launch sequence, and sending even 4-5 emails will work.

Selling an Evergreen Course

There are some strong arguments in favor of keeping your online course enrollment always open, and the strongest one is that your students can enroll in your course anytime they want and don’t need to wait for your next launch.

If your evergreen course is a lower end offer, you can sell it using a simple 4-part sales sequence that follows the welcome campaign that you send upon subscription:

Day 1 – Introduce Your Course – Introduce your course, explain what’s in the course, what they get when they buy it, and what they can expect to learn from it as well. 

Day 2 – Overcome Objections – Tackle all the objections that your potential customers might have and help them decide whether the course is right for them or not. You should also answer questions related to your target audience, refund policy, etc.

Day 4 – Case Study and Social Proof Email – Include any testimonials from your past students or clients. If possible, include a case study and share how you helped your students get results in the past. Tell them they can also get similar results by enrolling in the course.

Day 5 – Opportunity Cost Email – Create a sense of urgency by pointing out the opportunity cost of not enrolling in your course now. Build a case of why they should enroll now and remind them that there is a money-back guarantee, so it’s a no-brainer.

If someone doesn’t buy the course during your evergreen campaign, you should put them into your regular newsletter so that you can keep them engaged and sell again in the future.

While this sort of an approach works well for selling lower-priced courses, it won’t be effective for selling a premium-priced course, and the simple reason is that your subscribers will need a stronger push in this case. 

To make a stronger push, you need to offer a special discount or a special bonus which is available only for a limited time but at the same time is unique for each subscriber.

To achieve this, you’ll need to use a tool called Deadline Funnel that lets you create evergreen deadlines that are unique to your subscribers.

Deadline Funnel tracks your visitors using both IP and cookies and thus lets you create an expiring offer that is genuine, and your users can’t see an expired offer simply by visiting the page in a private window or a new browser.

(If you would like to learn how to add scarcity to an evergreen sales funnel using Deadline Funnel, you can check this guide).

Deadline Funnel is an advanced tool, and there is a certain amount of learning curve attached to it. So I don’t recommend that you take this approach if you’re just getting started.

This will unnecessarily complicate the whole thing, which is not desired initially, and a closed cart approach would be the best option for you to sell your premium course initially.

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Conclusion and What’s Next?

Conclusion

In this guide, you have learned in detail how to create and sell online courses from your own website. We went through all the steps involved in the process, from finding an idea to creating your course and marketing it.

Now it’s your turn to implement what you have learned in this guide and while doing that, try to keep things simple in the beginning.

It’s very unlikely that you’re going to get everything right the first time. So focus on getting things done rather than aiming for perfection. And you can always tweak and improve things as you move forward.

Another thing you should keep in mind is that there are no shortcuts to building a sustainable online course business, and you’ll need to put in some serious work before you get any significant results. 

But if you do things the right way, believe me, the results will be worth it.

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step guide on How to Create and Sell a Profitable Online Course. You can download a PDF copy of this guide and take it offline.

If you’re new to creating and selling online courses, it’ll be extremely helpful to go through this guide a second time, even referencing it when you go out and try putting everything into action.

What did you think of the guide? Is there something that’s stopping you from kickstarting your online course creation journey? Or maybe you have a question.

In any case, let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.

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