When we talked to Cristy “Code Red” Nickel about how she broke the $10 million mark with her online business, she told us about the difference it made having an amazing place to host her coaching and course business, not to mention that 12,500 members joined in the first 30 days!
Cristy’s experience with launching code red courses led to explosive growth for her brand.
Unfortunately, not all course creators experience this type of success. Despite the exploding online learning economy that’s projected to go to $1 trillion/year by 2030, course instructors are still struggling.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you want more support in building your online course and community, come join OUR Mighty Community for free and meet other new and established community owners! We’d love to meet you. Join for free!
In this article…
How to sell courses online – Planning
1. Crack your course topic
The first step to selling courses online is to come up with a compelling course topic. In other words, what will your course actually be about? And what will your participants get out of your course?
The best course topics follow three guidelines:
- They’re unique. When it comes to course topics, stay away from being too general. You should be able to clearly picture who this course serves and what results or transformation they’ll get from mastering this topic.
- They’re exciting. The best course topics aren’t just fun. They also have the power to motivate your students or participants.
- They cover something your participants can’t learn on their own. When it comes to selling courses online, your topic can’t be something that your potential students could simply Google.
Once you have your topic in mind, you might start wondering if you’re the right mentor for the job. Maybe you don’t consider yourself an “expert.” Fortunately, you don’t have to be.
While you can be an expert in your course topic, it’s not a big deal if you aren’t the world's leading X. Plenty of people sell courses online based on personal experience with the topic at hand. Other people are motivated to sell courses online because they want to learn more about a subject, and master it alongside their students or participants.
At the end of the day, where you’re coming from is less weighty than you think. The most important thing is that your course topic helps your participants achieve a goal, master a topic, or otherwise get them where they need to go. If you can get them there, even if they're beginners and you're intermediate, it can work.
2. Hone in on your ideal student
Do you know what too many course instructors are missing? A clear understanding of who their course is actually for.
People don’t buy courses because the topic is interesting. People buy courses because they offer a transformation or experience that they want.
So part of developing a course is getting a RAZOR SHARP understanding of who the course is for.
Don’t settle for broad. Niche down. “This course is for millennials,” is hardly a clear value proposition. But “this course is for millennials who are struggling to take control of their personal finances and save for retirement” is much clearer.
The investment you make in understanding your ideal member will reap major rewards.
To understand more about the kind of people you want to attract to your course, think about what goals they’re looking to achieve, and what obstacles are holding them back from getting there.
- What are they Googling about this topic?
- Why can’t they find the answers?
- And what can you teach them about this topic?
Understanding what your students look like, and why your course topic is important to them, is the key to delivering the results that they’re looking for. As such, visualizing your ideal participant lays the groundwork for you to sell courses online—especially if those courses are going to be successful.
3. Decide on a course format
Once you’ve got an idea of who the course is for, you can start to think about delivery. There are a lot of choices here that can seem overwhelming, but let’s keep it simple and talk about a few of the main ones.
Asynchronous vs. synchronous: These two big words basically just mean the following: Are you going to host the course live, in real-time, or are you going to pre-record the course and have people watch it after the fact? You can also choose to blend these by doing it live, keeping the recording up, and adding an online community for lots of engagement – we’ll talk about this below.
Delivery method: Video? Text? Audio? Some combination of all of these? Think about how you want to get the course material in front of your audience.
Outcomes: Think about what your course will lead to. We’ve already talked about how courses should lead to transformation. But what will your members have because they took the course? A portfolio? A credential or certificate? Or a new skill they can show off?
There’s a lot more we could say here, but you can read all about structuring an online course here.
4. Build on the right platform
The next step to selling courses online? Choosing a robust online course platform where your course can thrive.
When it comes to choosing a course platform, there are three main ways to do this.
- With plugins on a WordPress website: This was one of the earliest ways to build a course online. If you had an existing website, you could use a course plugin like LearnDash or Memberful to add a course to your website. This model is quickly falling out of style since it takes numerous plugins to get a business up and running AND WordPress courses rarely look as nice as the alternatives.
- By creating it on a course marketplace: A course marketplace has thousands of students on it already, and you simply add your course. Skillshare and Udemy are both examples of course marketplaces. They’re great in terms of getting your course in front of an existing audience, BUT there’s more competition PLUS these platforms will take a significant cut of your revenue (or, in Skillshare’s case, give you a small piece of their revenue pie).
- By choosing an all-in-one course creator: This is the final – and we’d argue best – model for creating online courses. An all-in-one platform gives you the space to create what you need to, but ideally, it comes out of the box with EVERYTHING you need to create a thriving course business.
Why choose an all-in-one? There was a time when building a great course meant stitching together a ton of different software, website design, content and video hosting, and quiz and survey tools. Then you’d have to rely on another outside source to actually sell your course online: an app to process payments, and then another few apps to integrate your course with your email, website, or social media so that you could market it.
An all-in-one takes the mess away and gives you one dedicated space to build your course and sell it. You can even opt for a totally white label online course platform, and do everything under your own brand.
But there’s one more secret that we love, and it will help you sell more courses AND will help your students get the most out of it. By adding an all-in-one platform that gives you not only courses, but also a place to build and grow a community, your students can engage with each other. This makes your course way more valuable… because of the critical human connection, friendship, and accountability that comes with it.
The platform we’ve created does all these things. A Mighty Network brings content, courses, community, and commerce together. And with flexible Spaces, you can add features like live streaming, events, discussions, chat, and content to your courses.
With a Mighty, you also get:
- The tools to easily create and organize lessons and dynamic course content
- The ability to charge for courses and collect payments securely in multiple currencies
- Access to Zapier, for easy integration with your website, your CRM, your email and more
- Multiple ways to connect your students, from polls to direct messaging
- Live streaming and community events built in
- The ability to sell bundles
- Access to your course and community on the web, iOS, and Android
Once you’ve chosen a platform, the next step to selling your courses online is to figure out how to price your online course.
5. Settle on a price
A lot of people create and sell courses online that deliver results and transformation to their ideal participants. And they undercharge for it.
There’s no exact science to figuring out how much you should charge when you’re selling courses online. But if you can figure out how valuable your course content is to your ideal members, you can settle on a price that reflects that value. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Without your program, how else would your ideal student get results?
- If your Ideal Member were able to build a new practice and get the results you offer, what could it mean to them?
- What price would make it worth it to you?
You’ve created a course that helps participants achieve a goal that they couldn’t get to on their own. And there’s a lot of value in that. So much so that you can and should price your course at what it’s worth (which is probably more money than you’re comfortable with).
For some creators, that will mean a one-time fee of no less than $499. For that price, your potential participants will know that your course is packed with tons of value and that they’ll be able to get the results they need.
6. Pre-sell your course
Here’s a pro tip for how to sell courses online. It works especially well if you have an existing following, but could work for anyone.
Pre-sell the course.
When you start telling people you want to create a course, a lot of them might say, “Yeah, that’s a great idea!”
Too many creators have seen this enthusiasm dry up when it turns into actually pulling out their credit cards to pay for the course.
One great way around this is to pre-sell the course. And you can pre-sell the course before you even create it!
You need a great landing page, course title, and payment system. Then, invite your potential students to pre-purchase, even at a discount. It will give you an actual gauge of whether or not people will buy the course.
If you get the reaction you wanted, build it!
How to Sell Online Courses — Building & launching
7. Choose the right gear
So if you’ve done the background work to prepare for your course, and you’re ready to build, you’ll probably find yourself down the rabbit hole of picking all the right course gear.
So if you’re currently sitting with $5,000 of camera gear in an Amazon cart, let us set your mind at ease.
You don’t need complicated gear to create an amazing course. Here’s what you might need:
- Camera: If you have a pro camera, that’s great. But a webcam or your phone will work just fine. Try sitting in front of a window, with your face to the glass and the camera pointing back into the room. It’s a great way to get good video without the high cost. If you have a bit to invest or don’t like the idea of sitting in a window, you can always buy a ring light to improve your video.
- Audio: Audio is more important than video. So don’t just sit and talk towards your phone or laptop mic. Instead, at the very least, plug in a headset or earbuds to pick up your voice close to your mouth. If you want to invest a bit more, try a lapel or desktop condenser mic for better sound quality.
- Editing Software: You don’t necessarily need to edit your course, especially if you deliver it live (obviously). But, if you want it pre-recorded and a bit more polished, you might choose to edit it. You can use a pro editing software like Adobe Premiere, or one of the many cheap or free versions online or hire a video editor to edit it for you.
8. Structure the course
We’ve devoted a whole article to this important subject, so we won’t talk about it all here. But structure your course according to the transformations your members need.
Resist the temptation to:
- Use the course to show off how much you know.
- Stuff the course full of as much material as you can.
- Add in modules that don’t help your cause at all.
Focus tightly on what your ideal students NEED, and get rid of everything else. The secret to a great course isn’t an avalanche of information – it’s giving the students exactly what they need to get the transformation they’re looking for.
9. Market it
At some point in the process, you need to market your course. You can do this before you get started (e.g. if you’re pre-selling). But there’s a good chance you may need to start marketing as you build and prepare for launch.
Again, we have a whole guide to how to market an online course, and it’s hard to do this justice here.
But here are a couple of ideas:
If you already have a following, start with that existing audience, and use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Have an email list? Start an email campaign. Have a ton of social media followers? Post regularly about your new venture. Make sure everyone knows that you’re selling an online course, who it’s for, and why it’s unique.
If you don’t have a following in place, you can still get the word out that you’re selling courses online. Reach out to your professional and personal networks via email, text, and over the phone to tell them what you’re doing. Ask for referrals. Tell everyone what you’re building, and who it’s for. You could also consider a webinar to help introduce yourself and the course you’re selling. You might even give your audience a sneak preview of the course itself.
10. Deliver it!
When all is said and done, all that’s left is to deliver the course. If you’re creating a pre-recorded course, you might be sitting in your office for a few days recording.
If you’re delivering a live course, you might be sending out links and RSVPs, and spending time with a crew of great people on a Saturday.
The delivery is up to you! So have fun with it!
11. Ask for feedback
Last, but DEFINITELY not least, don’t forget to ask for feedback on your course! You can use this to make your course better in the future, which is great. But you can also collect testimonials, which are vital for online courses. These are super important to help you sell more courses in the future, and if you can add a name and a face to the testimonials (if your students are comfortable), even better!
If your course platform includes analytics, you can also dive into these for valuable insights. Here's what this looks like in a Mighty Network!
How to sell courses online – 5 Success Stories
We hope we’ve given you a clear understanding of how to sell courses online, and got you excited about it! But if you need a bit more inspiration, here are some of the case studies from the awesome creators building and selling their courses with Mighty Networks and Mighty Pro.
Adriene Mishler – Yoga with Adriene
Adriene Mishler transformed her 10 million YouTube followers into an online community and workshops that teach all things yoga: Find What Feels Good.
Ashley Fox – The Wealth Builder’s Initiative
Ashley Fox launched The Wealth Builder’s community to educate and empower the people Wall Street won’t talk to about creating financial success. She made $100k in her first week! And from there build an amazing community that has a bedrock of live and pre-recorded personal finance courses.
Cristy Code Red
As we mentioned in the introduction, Cristy turned her business into a $10 million powerhouse that teaches members how to achieve their fitness and nutrition goals.
Leigh Metcalf – Topstitch Makers
When the pandemic hit, Leigh Metcalf turned her Atlanta-based bricks-and-mortar business, Topstitch, into an online, course and community-based business that teaches sewing!
Lisa League – Qpractice
Lisa League launched an online course to help interior designers ace the National Council for Interior Design qualification.
Sell Online Courses From Your Own Website with Mighty Networks
So we’ve walked you through how to sell courses online! We’ve covered a lot in this article, but we hope it’s got you excited to get started! That’s always the hardest part.
If you’re looking for an amazing place to build and sell your online course, come check out Mighty Networks!
Whether you’re an expert, have experience with a topic, or just want to learn more about a subject, learning how to sell courses online can be a way for you to share something important with the world.