How To Sell Online Courses – The Fast Guide

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Key Takeaways

  • When selling online courses, choose a topic that aligns with your expertise and the underserved market.
  • Conduct thorough market research to gauge demand, pricing, and potential buyers before creating your course.
  • Outline your course to facilitate a transformation for your students, addressing their needs and obstacles.
  • Implement a proof of concept phase to refine your course based on feedback, increasing its value and appeal.
  • Choose where and how to sell your course, whether through e-commerce platforms, marketplaces, or your website, based on your audience and business goals.

Choose a Topic

To begin to sell online courses, you first need to choose a topic. The topic can be pretty much anything: accounting, consulting, marketing, sales, personal finance, coding, etc.

Ways to choose a topic:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What kind of life-learned experiences do you have that you could teach to others?
  • What are you generally good at?
  • What market segment is underserved, and which you could serve better?
  • What market has a gap that you could fill?
  • What are you talented or skillful at that you could teach to others?
  • What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? Why should people learn specifically from you?

Once you’ve identified your core expertise, skills, experiences, and knowledge, you are ready to set on a topic.

Example: If you are good at graphic design, what could you teach about graphic design that either hasn’t been taught before or is taught but not extensively enough?

Note! The broader topic you choose, the harder it will be to sell, and teach extensively enough. Choose a specific area or a niche inside a broader topic. Example: Finance (topic), personal finance (sub-topic), personal finance for single moms (niche).

Market Research

Once you’ve settled on a topic, you need to do market research surrounding the topic. Without market research, you don’t know if there’s demand for your course, whether there’s a real gap in the market, and if people are willing and able to buy your course.

Things to note when doing market research:

  • What is currently being offered in the online course space regarding your topic?
  • What is the average price point of online courses being sold in your topical area?
  • Are the people interested in your topic willing and able to buy your course?
  • Where do people sell online courses? Through their websites, e-commerce platforms, or e-commerce marketplaces?
  • What is the overall outline, course curriculum, and offering regarding the topic you are about to teach?

The concept of willing and able: College students might be willing to buy your course, but they might lack the money to do so, so they are not able to buy your course. A plumber might be able to buy your course as they have the capital, but they might not be willing to buy your course as they might generally lack interest in learning new things. You need both from a course buyer, willingness, and ability to buy your course.

Outline Your Course

You can outline your course based on the market research you did in the previous step, or you can outline the course based on the things you want to teach. An outline is an overview of the subjects, sub-topics, things, skills, or knowledge you want to teach to your students.

The main goal of online courses is to offer transformation, to fill a gap between A (current skills and abilities) and B (desired skills and abilities) or knowledge transfer.

Outline your course so that your ideal student can experience a transformation. Include modules, and lessons that are needed for the student to achieve the thing that you are teaching. What was needed for you to learn the thing that you are now about to teach?

Ideas for outlining your online course:

  • What is your competitor’s course curriculum?
  • What experiences, skills, and knowledge do you see as essential for a student to reach their desired goal?
  • What obstacles, challenges, and problems your audience has that you should cover and solve in your online course?
  • What is needed for a customer to achieve their desired state? What did you need to get to your point in life (skill, knowledge, and experience)?

Create A Proof of Concept

Without proof of concept, you can’t know whether your course works and whether people can actually get results by following your teachings.

Proof of concept (POC) is a realization of a certain method or idea in order to demonstrate its feasibility. Proof of concept can be done by collecting a sample audience and going through your course (minimum viable course) with them for free.

In the proof of concept phase, you create a minimum viable course (non-stylized, low-production value, only the essentials).

In the POC phase (can take months), you will collect reviews, and feedback, and improve your course so that the course can be beneficial for multiple types of students and customers. The more case types you can cover with your course, the more sales you can make.

Gathering a proof of concept audience:

  • Join Facebook groups and ask (if allowed in the group) whether people would like to test your course for free.
  • Join forums (Reddit, Warrior Forum, etc.) and pitch the idea of trying out your new course for free.
  • If you have an email list, offer your course for free for the first 10 students who sign up.
  • If you are a content creator, mention your upcoming online course and whether people would like to get it for free in exchange for a review and feedback.

Create the Course

When you’ve proven that your course works (you’ve had feedback and improved your course over time) and your students get results (you’ve gotten reviews and testimonials) it’s time to create your course.

To increase production value, you should invest in quality gear. Invest in a good camera, and microphone and make sure the backdrop (lighting, elements, interior decoration, etc.) and setting look professional.

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Steps to Create a Course

  • Refine the outline and content of your course based on the feedback that you got in the POC phase.
  • Prepare the course material for presentation with Google Slides, Notion, PowerPoint, or any other tool you use to showcase your course material.
  • Set and decide a specific date and time for the production of the course.
    • If your course is multiple hours long, reserve a week or month just for recording the course content.
  • To increase productivity and execution, only do one thing at a time. If it’s course preparation, only do that, and when it’s time to film and record, only do that.
  • Edit the course material with professional editing tools (Adobe Premier Pro) or hire an editor through Fiverr, for example.

Choose Where and How to Sell Your Course

There are three primary ways to sell an online course: through your website, using an e-commerce platform, or selling on e-commerce marketplaces.

If you have an audience and followers, an e-commerce platform or a website are preferred methods. If you don’t have an audience or followers on social media, for example, e-commerce marketplaces are the way to go.

Your situation in online businessE-commerce PlatformE-commerce MarketplaceYour websitePaid advertisingSocial media platforms
You have an audience (social media, email list, SEO).xx
You don’t have an audience.xx
You are selling a low-cost online course (niche-dependent).xxxx
You are selling a high-cost online course (niche dependent).xxxx
You like to build a brand and have complete control.xxx
You just want to make money online and have a set-it-and-forget-it business model.x
You have a website but no audience.xx
Table showing the best way to sell online courses based on the situation you have with your online business.

Best e-commerce platforms to sell online courses:

Best e-commerce marketplaces to sell online courses:

Related article: How to create a website to sell digital products

Pricing Your Online Course

To price your online course correctly, you need to understand the market you are in or getting into. Understanding the situation your ideal student or customer is in and whether they have the needed capital and willingness to buy your course, all affect the way you price your course.

Asking $2,000 for a course on knitting, might not make a lot of sense if the person won’t be able to achieve some sort of financial gain with the knowledge acquired through your course.

However, asking $2,000 for a business course that teaches how to build a highly profitable online business can be seen as a bargain. B-School, sold by Marie Forleo, is a good example of a high-ticket online course.

Different online course pricing models:

  • High-ticket Pricing Model
  • Low-ticket Pricing Model
  • Customer Ascension Pricing Model
  • Value-based Pricing model
  • Psychological Pricing Model
  • Competition-based Pricing Model
  • Reasoning-based Pricing Model

Usually, the bigger financial, health, or relationship gains you can give to a customer, the higher the price you can ask for your course.

Launch and Promote Your Course

Depending on your specific situation and where you sell your online course, the launch process can differ a lot.

The key to marketing and selling your course is audience profiling — not everything to everyone, but one thing to a specific group of people.

Scenario 1.: E-commerce marketplace:

If you sell your course on an e-commerce marketplace, then the launch process is as simple as publishing your course on the marketplace, mentioning it to your followers if you have any, and that’s it.

Scenario 2.: E-commerce platform and a website:

If you sell your course on your website, or on an e-commerce platform, the typical way to launch your online course is to build a course sales funnel.

how-to-promote-online-courses-basic-sales-funnel-example
Example of a basic sales funnel, giving an overview of the different layers a sales funnel has. Image credits.

Sales funnels are one of the most effective ways to launch, promote, and scale online courses. The top of the sales funnel is the starting point, where you create and grow the awareness for your online course. The next step in the funnel is to collect leads, nurture the lead, and ultimately sell your course to the lead.

Online course sales funnel structure:

  • Create awareness: Paid advertising, social media posts, and content creation.
  • Collect leads: Create a lead magnet or a simple purchasable digital product to collect email addresses and customer details.
    • Webinar: Create a webinar for collecting leads and selling a high-ticket course.
  • Follow-up content: Create a follow-up sequence to nurture your lead.
  • Action: Convert a lead to a paying customer.

Ways to promote your online course:

  • Sales Funnel
  • Social Proof and Testimonials
  • Paid Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Partnerships
  • Discounts
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Feature image credits.

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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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