How to sell online courses from your own website

How to sell online courses from your own website

If you're wondering how to create and sell online courses from your website, we've got you covered.

Let's get started.

What is an online course?

It’s long been said that knowledge is power, and the online world has made that knowledge more accessible than ever before. Today, the web and data are the world’s most valuable commodities. There’s never been a better time to share knowledge. We can now enjoy learning through a collaborative and interactive online medium with people from all over the world. The global e-learning market is expected to surpass £300 billion by 2026. If you’ve got knowledge and skills to share, creating an online course is a huge opportunity that you can’t afford to miss.

Why you should create an online course

Whether you're a coach, influencer, hobby enthusiast, or a fully-fledged business - everyone can massively benefit from creating an online course. Not only are you sharing your talents with the world, but you're also opening the door to a brand new source of income. Online courses are also a great way to drive more leads to your other offerings.

Let's say you're a life coach and you offer intensive masterminds, creating an online course is a low-risk way for customers to get a taste of who you are and what you can offer, which in turn builds trust.

Once customers have built trust with you and benefitted from what you can offer, you're in a much better position to upsell your intensive mastermind or additional services. Not only do online courses assist you in being seen as an authority in your niche, but they are also the fastest way to create informative and attractive pieces of content for people at all stages of the buyer journey.

Types of online courses

With the rise in technology, many people are now choosing to quit their day jobs to follow their passions and share their knowledge and experiences with others. Some people create an online course and then sell it over and over, much like a book. Other methods include holding regular online webinars or group livestreams, this is a popular way of launching an online course for many YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, coaches, speakers, and authors. In these cases, online courses become an additional revenue stream. Businesses can also offer online courses, although maybe not necessarily as an income source. A common business model is to offer free online courses to drive interest, which is what social media management platforms like HootSuite or CRM providers like HubSpot do.

Some businesses only offer their courses to their existing customers to help them get more out of their product or service. Although monetization isn’t the main goal, both of these avenues work to increase revenue by delivering more value to customers.

A customer whose interaction with a business leaves them with the feeling that they’ve learned something useful is a happier and more valuable customer.  A customer who is way more likely to rave about a business to their friends and family.


Top things to consider when creating an online course

When moving forward with your plan to sell online courses from your own website, there are many important questions to consider. For example, “what pain points will my online courses address?”, “what is my plan for building an audience over time?”, and “what kind of learning management system (LMS) will my online courses be available on?”. Before you start selling courses, it would be wise to put together a detailed plan which covers each of these points. The information in this article will help you to create your plan.

1. Build a community to spark engagement

Online communities can bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds and create a sense of connectedness that wasn’t possible before. Having a sense of community with an online course helps to boost morale, enable greater knowledge-sharing, and opens the door to new ideas and discussions. Everyone likes to do things differently, which is why online, community-powered learning is often the better choice. That’s something one-to-one mentoring programs, for example, have difficulty achieving. Instead of having an environment that encourages people to work together, everything hinges on that one relationship.

However, with a community focussed on teamwork and accountability, people don’t just learn from their mentors; they also learn from each other. A community gives them a space to share their experiences, bring new ideas to the table, and even bring fresh insights to the person or brand in charge. It's a great way to increase profit when you sell online courses from your own website.

2. Create accountability to encourage follow-through

A big problem with many online courses is that they don’t do anything to encourage success beyond charging a fee. Just paying for a course often isn’t enough of an incentive to get people to see it through to the end.

Think of all the distractions online and the temptation to procrastinate when learning from the comfort of one’s own home and chances are your students will fail to achieve their goals. Even though it’s not your fault, if your customers aren't active, it won't help you to build a strong reputation.

It’s a totally different ballgame if people feel like they’re part of a tribe, and that their success as a team is what drives their individual success.

The best way to sell online courses from your own website is to make it an integral part of your community. If you don’t have an online community already, then it’s time to get started so you can provide your students with the platform they need to connect with one another. By giving them a community to be a part of, they’ll create relationships, and, with every relationship comes accountability. This adds a powerful additional incentive to get to work as an effective team. Most successes are a result of a collective effort, such as a team of engaged employees or a class of highly driven students. And, what better way to encourage a collective effort than to build a community that gives people the means to work together?

3. Share knowledge to continually improve

The online world is all about a many-to-many learning environment. The conversation is driven by one or more subject leaders, while students participate to share ideas among themselves. The success of this model is a result of the fact that none of us ever stop learning, and the wealth of knowledge it creates serves as a valuable resource for everyone involved. A community of engaged individuals provides a forum for sharing that knowledge. To sell online courses from your own website effectively, you’ll need to provide your students that knowledge-sharing platform. By joining the community, they’ll be able to get involved with the experience right from the outset. They’ll have things like news feeds, social interactions and commenting, all of which offer far more incentive to purchase an online course.

Your community is what makes that possible while also giving members a huge added incentive to pay for a course.

4. Go mobile 

Keeping your students engaged is essential for ensuring their success as well as boosting your revenue. By being consistently present yourself and having a lively community around your brand, you’ll always be in the forefront of your students’ minds.

That means they’ll be far less likely to abandon the course and more likely to succeed and, consequently, invest more. This approach is especially important in subscription models, but it can also help improve your reputation and brand for one-off purchases.

The key to stronger engagement is being present on the same platforms as your customers. Today, people check their phones during waking hours every 12 minutes on average, so that’s where you need to be not just to sell your courses, but also to keep students engaged. With mobile app stores now being some of the world’s biggest marketplaces, developing a mobile community app will greatly increase visibility, drive traffic to your website, increase community engagement rates and, ultimately sell online courses from your own website.

Who buys online courses?

Online learning is becoming increasingly popular, among many target audiences. If you want to profit from an online course business, you should have a firm idea of who you’ll be building online courses for. Fortunately, there are plenty of online marketing tools that can reveal where demand lies for each niche and subject matter, and how to get their attention. One example is Google’s keyword planner tool, which can assist online course creators in choosing target phrases that will be the focus of their search engine optimization efforts. By selecting the most appropriate keywords for your course topic, you can not only attract more potential students to sign up for your course, but also ensure that student engagement with the course will be high once they’re on board.

A step-by-step guide to sell and monetize your online course from your website

1. Brainstorm profitable course ideas

If you have a skill that you're passionate about teaching others, the first step is to brainstorm course ideas. The more niche and specific your course is, the more likely it is to be sold. For example, 'Video Marketing' is a broad topic, whereas 'Video Marketing for Youtube' is way more specific.

Once you've brainstormed different ideas for your course, the next step is to validate your ideas before going and creating it.


2. Validate your course ideas

Before rushing off to create your course, it's a good idea to test the waters and validate your ideas first. There is a range of different ways you can do this. You could set up surveys or interviews with your ideal customers or existing customers and ask them a bunch of open-ended questions like:

  • What are your biggest challenges and frustrations with this topic?

  • How do you deal with those challenges?

  • What would you most like to learn or know about this topic?

  • Would you consider taking an online course on this topic?

  • What online courses have you taken before, and what did you most like about them?

This is one simple way to get valuable insights that will help you to understand your target market better.

Another great way to validate your idea is to do a Youtube search on your topic title. You can check how many people have viewed videos on your course ideas and read the comments for more insights on pain points, doubts, and frustrations of your target market.

An additional way to validate your course idea is to research forums such as Quora, Reddit, or social media groups. You can search for the types of questions people are seeking answers to and read through threads of conversations to dig even deeper.

3. Create course content

Once you've nailed your research the next step is to create awesome course content. Keeping your content as niche and as focused on the pain points of your ideal customers as possible will help you to avoid creating an overload of broad content that is irrelevant to your audience.

Always ensure that your course addresses specific problems and provides specific results. For example, if your course is titled 'how women with diabetes can lose weight in 8 weeks'. Maybe your course will cover diet, exercises, and daily routines.

It's a good idea to keep your course short and no more than 8 modules and to make sure that you assign a specific goal or result to every module so that people are clear on what it is that they will gain as a result of investing their time in learning.

There are a number of formats you can use to create your course. It could be via PDFs, eBooks, PowerPoint presentations, audio files, or even video. If you're opting for video, try to keep your video lessons shorter than 10 minutes to maintain engagement. There are a bunch of tools such as screencast or QuickTime player to record videos and it's also a great idea to ensure you have high-quality audio when recording. You can use an external mic to achieve this.

4. Create a website

If you already have a website, you can skip this step. If you're a complete novice, there are a bunch of website builders such as Wix or Squarespace that you can use to quickly get a website up and running. Before setting up your website it's important to factor in what features and functionalities you may require to host your course.

Things like having a secure site, the ability to take payments, functionality to store course content such as Folders, a way to view analytics to see engagement, and space for students to comment and engage with each other are all things that should be factored in. A community platform such as Disciple is a great alternative to a website as it provides all of the functionality you need within a single platform that can be fully-branded without requiring you to DIY it with a website.


5. Create a sales funnel

Building a sales funnel may sound daunting but it's much easier than you think. The first step is to create an awesome landing page. You can use tools such as Unbounce or MailChimp to quickly get a landing page up and running.

The key is to use your landing page for a specific action. Maybe you're using it to generate interest for your course, in which case the journey may be that someone fills in their details and you send them the next steps they need to take to register for your course.

It could be that you provide them with a taster of your course and then send them a payment link to purchase the rest of the course or it could simply be to send them a lead magnet on the topic of your course to drive more interest. Having a clear goal and follow-up steps in the form of a friendly sequence of emails or messages that allow people to get to know who you are and what you offer is the foundation for your sales funnel.

6. Drive traffic 

The final step is to drive traffic to your offering. You can do this in a range of ways. You could write blog topics or create YouTube videos on the specific pain points of your audience and share them with those on your email list or social media channels. You can create ads on social media or Google pay-per-click ads. You can also ask friends or relatives to share content with their own networks too. These are all great ways to shout about your course and get people into your sales funnel.

Final Words

Creating an online course may seem like it's a big task but when done properly, you can be sure that you'll reap the rewards. Here at Disciple, we're firm believes that success is measured by how much you help your customers succeed, and creating an online course is the perfect way to achieve that. What better way is there to leave a legacy than by having a group of happy, empowered, and educated students? Sharing your wisdom isn't just great for your customers, it's great for your business too.