How to sell online courses: THE COMPLETE GUIDE!
Selling online courses is a great way of spreading knowledge. Keep reading to learn how to work from home, create and sell content.
Selling online courses is a great way of spreading knowledge. Keep reading to learn how to work from home, create and sell content.
Selling online courses has become a very accessible and profitable practice to everyone who wishes to promote interesting content through the Internet.
Maybe you’re from a time when, to do a school or college project, you would need to look up information on the Encyclopædia Britannica.
Or, who knows, you used the encyclopedia to find out in which country cricket was played to be closer from Carmen Sandiego’s whereabouts?
From then on, things have changed a lot. Have you ever stopped to wonder that more and more we have all kinds of information and services in our hands?
Today you can already go grocery shopping on your cell phone, study and research everything you imagine through the Internet. And it is about this last topic we’re talking today.
Nowadays, Google gets more than 40 thousand searches a second around the world, which means 3.5 billion searches a day. It’s a lot!
And more and more people are starting to notice the chance to share knowledge and teach a small part of these users who are looking for answers. And it all through the Internet.
Just like us, who will teach you everything about how to sell online courses with this complete content, you can teach other people a subject you know very well or are very passionate about.
You’ll probably need more detailed information, that’s why we’ve developed a step-by-step on how to create and sell online courses, from content development to the first sale. So, make yourself comfortable and learn more right now:
According to statistics, the online learning market has been steadily increasing for years, and it is expected to reach $336.98 billion by 2026. And those figures were from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted online education around the world.
I’m sure you’ve realized that online education is a promising market.
Online courses are an excellent option for those who want to learn new things, develop skills, or grow professionally. Therefore, it is an incredible opportunity for those who have knowledge and want to start an online business.
Whether to make extra income or make it your main job, selling courses online is a sure bet to start working online!
If you want to invest in this market, here’s a step-by-step guide to making money teaching!
After our brief introduction, it is time to act! Understand all the steps you’ll need to take to put your product into the market:
After you decided to start your business, this is the first step that will guide all your planning. The niche choice must be based on your proximity to that segment and, of course, the market’s lucrative opportunity
In this step you must make your possibilities bigger, analyzing those niches that can bring you more positive results.
Start by listing subjects that interest you and open up space to those that, even if you don’t identify with at first, could attract good prospects.
Don’t be limited to what you believe might be profitable. Make use of resources that help you in this decision. Tools to research keywords are essential in this process.
You can use SEMRush, Keyword Tool and Keyword Planner, which will offer the search volume for each term searched. You can also use Google Trends to find out how the evolution of such terms is throughout the years.
In general, the more open the topic, the bigger will the search volume be, as well as its competition. The more segmented, the easier it is for you to gain authority in that niche.
The advantage in working with very specific niche markets is that you can be more assertive when offering the product to your audience.
To read more about the subject, access our complete post about how to choose the ideal niche for your first online course.
As important as defining a lucrative niche is understanding exactly what the characteristics of the audience to which you are offering your product are.
Besides identifying general representative aspects, such as gender and age, we should analyze specific features of your ideal client. This is when I introduce you to buyer personas.
But what are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are semi-fictitious characters who represent an ideal client to your business and are based on the analysis of real clients in that market.
Besides demographic data, you must register behavioral patterns, professional and personal goals, any problem that they may face and your product can solve.
When you understand exactly the audience you are dealing with, you can be more accurate in your actions to promote your online course.
Take a look at one of our persona examples:
Tip: If you are going to start a business from scratch, we recommend mapping only one persona, so you can direct your efforts. As your digital entrepreneurship grows, you’ll eventually find out other buyer profiles that also need your attention. At that point, you can identify new personas.
If you already have a business and intend to make it into an online course, interview your own clients/students and understand which is the pattern among them to create your persona.
Also, read our complete post that will teach you how to create a persona for your business.
One of the main benefits, besides the ones mentioned above, is the diversity of formats available on the Internet to create online courses.
There is no ideal format in the universe of digital products, but you have to find the one that better puts across the content of your course to your audience.
Before getting into details, let’s learn the main types of info products available in the market:
Ebooks: it is a very popular format for online courses because they are easy to be created and accessed.
The ebook easily adapts to any device that has a compatible digital reader and there is no need to be online to access it, once it has already been downloaded to the device.
In a few steps, it is possible to learn how to create an ebook, check our post.
Video lessons: this format of online course is also very practical and easy to be produced, even if you don’t have experience with video tools.
Smartphones themselves have high definition cameras, which are able to capture high-quality videos to make attractive video lessons to your students.
This format is suitable especially for subjects that need some kind of demonstration, such as cooking classes or physical exercises.
For those who are a bit shy, the recommendation is to train a lot in front of a mirror, record some tests or invite an expert who is more resourceful in front of the cameras.
Screencasts: they are videos captured straight from the computer screen. All you need is a screen capture software, editing, and microphone to narrate voice commands while doing a demonstration in your computer.
They are ideal for presentations in spreadsheets, such as a course on finances, or any other model that requires a computer simulation.
Audiobooks: audiobooks have gained popularity once they allow their content to be absorbed while the person is doing different activities: driving, cooking or exercising, for example.
Besides, audiobooks are extremely useful and important for visually impaired people. To learn more about this format, click here and learn how to skillfully narrate an audiobook.
Podcasts: podcasts are models similar to audiobooks, and their advantages are exactly the same.
The difference is that a podcast can have a more interactive content, laidback even, like in a radio program. The advantages are that, in the podcast, the listener chooses the topics that interest her the most and she could listen to the content whenever is convenient.
Monthly subscription: monthly subscription has an interesting format because it’s where you can make available regular contents and charge a monthly fee for the access.
A practical example:
You can sell only one combo of video lessons teaching cooking techniques at a higher price and every month you will have to get new clients to maintain your income; or you can create a monthly subscription and make weekly videos available (or the frequency you conveniently choose) with new techniques at a lower and more accessible price.
It is advantageous for the student, who will absorb the content in ideal time to learn and practice, and to you, who will have a more solid business, because you will guarantee recurring income for the next months.
This format is ideal for those who have a great content volume about a niche. What you’ll need to implement this kind of digital course is a platform that comprises a members area, like Hotmart Club currently does.
Through a members program, you can follow your students’ development, answer any questions in the platform itself and make content more interactive.
e-Magazines: they are electronic magazines and have defined periodicity, the same way as printed magazines. This model tends to substitute more and more the physical format.
Kits: they are combinations of different types of digital products, that may complement themselves to pass on a complete content. This way it is possible to deliver an online course the best way possible, according to the needs of the subject.
Digital producers must understand their market and audience very well, in order to set the best format for the product. I hope that with the aforementioned examples you already have an idea of how to make your online course.
The next step is the one where you must really dive into the chosen topic, to ensure you’ll have a lot of knowledge about the topic to, then, share it with other people.
Don’t hold yourself to your own knowledge, even if you are an expert on the chosen topic. In this case, you can look for new sources and references that you still didn’t know about the topic.
If you have decided to sell online courses without being an expert, you will have to dedicate even harder to be able to teach the content confidently and trustworthy.
Google will be your great friend at this stage. Find out who the biggest references in your topic are, read content from foreign sources, teaching methods, interview experts on the topic and talk about the content, to gain confidence in your explanations.
Now, let’s truly begin the production process of an online course. Ready?
Finally, let’s get to it!
Now that you are completely into your niche, know your audience very well and have defined the format of your digital course, you must draft what your product will be.
Regardless of being a video or an ebook, the outline, as it is also called, is what will guide you until the final product.
This is the moment to brainstorm. Write all the ideas that come to your mind. Be creative and imagine which shape your online course will take.
I recommend using Google Docs, as it saves the file in cloud, you will have easy access whenever needed – including in your mobile. And trust me, when you least expect you will have a cool idea to add to your material.
Look for reference from other courses, even if they are not related to your subject. That being said, let’s move on to the next step:
The lesson plan is essential for every class. It guides the structure of the class, describes the objective, content and activities to be taught.
Having a lesson plan is very important in creating an online course, as it ensures the correct organization of the course and the fulfillment of the objectives.
Creating a lesson plan is actually pretty simple, you just need to include the following:
It’s important to stress that this document will guide you and not restrict your teaching spontaneity. The class can and should be fluid. Having a plan is good precisely for flexibility without losing sight of the clarity and objectivity of what must be accomplished.
Besides the lesson plan, creating a good script is an important step when planning a course. Unlike the lesson plan, the script encompasses what will be discussed in the class and covers the entire visual part of the video.
In addition, the script is very useful to prevent you from forgetting to pass on important information and to ensure the class duration goes according to your plans.
A very common script that you can use is a two-column script. Simply create a document with two columns and the titles “Audio” and “Video”. In the audio column, you will insert all the text that will be spoken and sound effects, while in video you will have everything that will appear visually, including lettering, visual effects, and images.
With the draft in hand, it is time to write or record your content. Get all the necessary material for the course production ready: computer, cameras, microphone, lighting and whatever else you may need.
If you’re going to record videos and have no experience with the equipment, hire a video maker who can produce it for you or go with the cheaper version, asking a friend for help.
Make sure your content’s audio is clear, without background noise. Usually, the audience tolerates low-quality images, but bad audio will guarantee your video to be the target of criticism.
Also, remember to think about an interesting title for your product.
Ideally, it is best to wait for a couple of hours or a day after everything has been completed, to avoid a biased look at that content. Another idea is to ask an honest friend for help, someone with a critical set of eyes to give you feedback on your material.
After produced and revised, you must take that raw content and turn it into refined content, technically speaking. In the case of an ebook, its layout should have a design that speaks to your audience.
The same happens to videos. Again, if you don’t have the ability to do them, ask for help or hire someone skilled.
This is the moment when first-time entrepreneurs usually get confused. “How do I put my course online?”
One of the main advantages of becoming a digital entrepreneur is that there are platforms that are complete and free, like Hotmart, ready to host digital products.
It means you don’t have to know how to write a single line of code to keep your product online. It’s a simple process: you access the site of the chosen platform, register and send your product for approval. Yes. That’s all.
After the approval, your product will be available to be sold. But, of course, we won’t leave you with just that information in hand.
Understand now the main aspects you must consider when choosing the most suitable platform:
Your content needs to be organized didactically for your clients and future students. And, as digital producer, you will be responsible for this task. So, find an intuitive system that makes such process easy, especially if you are using a members area.
Remember the saying: “Less is more?” That’s right, it also goes for processes involving managing your product: if you can manage your emails and contacts in just one place, why bother sharing this task between two or more systems?
Because of that, it is important to search for platforms that offer any form of integration between email delivery systems and the one that manages and hosts your product.
ListBoss is an exclusive tool from Hotmart that allows programming automatic settings and segmenting your communication, ensuring that each kind of client gets the correct message. All this without having to repeat the process over and over again, gaining time to focus on what really matters: deliver a quality product. To learn more about this tool, click here.
One of the most important aspects of a product, whether it is physical or digital, is the relationship with its clients. After all, they are the ones who will define the success or failure of your undertaking.
For that reason, invest time researching for a good support system. And better yet if it is already offered by the platform hosting your course or product because this way you can concentrate your attention and not add steps to your client’s journey. One tip to make the right choice is to analyze the reputation of the companies that interest you, just like their experience in the market and use this item as a primordial factor when choosing your hosting service.
Remember it will speak for you and represent the image you want to pass as a Producer.
Everybody knows that it is normal to have questions when starting out a project. And with digital producers is no different.
It takes a while to understand each process, detail, terminology… But this process doesn’t need to be as hard as it may seem; you just need to make sure your hosting service offers you good support.
Think that you can need help with something important to keep your product running smoothly and, that’s why you must opt for a company that can answer you quickly, besides being able to offer you tips, tools, and useful advice.
Ensuring that your buyer has a pleasant experience from beginning to end is an important step for your digital product.
This is why you will need to use a simplified checkout, demanding only essential information and actions from your clients, and customized, allowing your audience to identify, right away, that it is about your product, thus creating more trust and safety.
At some point of your life, you probably heard someone saying they’re afraid of shopping online.
Given how easy it is to claim data in virtual world, this fear is reasonable and it is one more reason to treat your client’s financial information carefully .
To ensure that all data is in good hands, it is essential to use a system that acts according to world standards of digital security such as PCI Compliance and CSE Security, for example. If you are not familiar with these terms or security factors, click here to understand how a safe platform works.
This way, you and your clients will be relaxed, knowing all information and transactions are encrypted and safe.
Imagine the number of your product’s sales quickly multiplies. If you micromanage every little detail, such as sending the course to each buyer, you would get exhausted and wouldn’t even have time to enjoy the success of your business, right?
That’s why it is essential to optimize processes and add resources and tools that help simplify your experience and that of your buyers.
That’s why you must make sure you rely on a platform that offers automatic delivery of the content you sell and an intuitive system for you to control all your processes. So, your clients will have immediate access to your product and will feel even safer regarding the purchase.
When a consumer buys something, she expects fast approval and delivery, right? With the Internet, it is no different. The longer you take to approve and complete a sale, the more unhappy and frustrated your client will get.
So, research previously if the platform that’s going to host your product has an intelligent payment system that offers automatic approval.
If it does, great!
Now, another important aspect to be considered, in case you think about expanding your business to the world – and why not? – it is a good idea to choose a system that can accept different currencies. Therefore, you will already have the necessary support to conquer more and more territories.
To help you choose in your decision process, read about HotPay, Hotmart’s own payment system.
It has all the features mentioned in this article and others that will be useful for you – such as payment with two cards. To learn more about it, click here.
As data is essential to find out more about your audience, what they expect from you and towards where you should direct your communication, it is important to dispose of a service that offers results measurement tools.
This way, you will be able to have a deep understanding of your buyers and therefore better help them.
Paraphrasing the saying “out of sight, out of mind”, in the digital world “product out of sight, out of cart.” It is that simple.
After hosting your product on the platform of your trust it is of the utmost importance to show your audience that your online course is the best solution for their problems. And you can do this in any number of ways.
Starting from the principle that you have never done business using the Internet, you will need to trace a digital marketing strategy for your business.
At our free course on digital business, Hotmart Academy, there are several classes about digital marketing and strategy. And, according to our numbers, people who have been awarded all the certificates in this course have up to twice the chances of making sales.
Here we have listed a few suggestions of actions that you can take to start promoting your online course:
A blog is a big part of the strategies used in Content Marketing. Traditional offline marketing, in general, seeks a more direct approach, offering the product to the public right in the first contact.
In a Content Marketing strategy, you should talk 80% of the time about topics that are of interest to your persona and only 20% about your brand.
When attracting organic traffic with interesting and valuable content, you create authority around your name or brand and increases the chance of making sales, for being an expert on that niche.
The purpose is that the public is convinced that your product is the best solution for them at that moment.
Putting it into practice:
Imagine you are inserted in the niche of languages and teach people to learn English in a shorter length than traditional schools. You can write posts about the entire universe around the subject:
Notice that, none of these posts talks necessarily about your product but they are topics that clear the questions of people who are searching about the topic.
The more quality posts you can publish, consistently, the bigger the chance of your audience finding your blog as reference in that niche.
And, speaking of organic traffic, it is unavoidable not to mention the next topic:
SEO and organic search
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) gathers strategies to improve the positioning of websites and blogs in search tools, such as Google and Bing. This strategy is exclusively about improving organic search.
Organic search: they are the natural results for determined searches in search tools, meaning the ones not paid to appear.
You can see for yourself that most times you search on Google, you keep to the results in the first page, especially the three first ones in organic search.
And that is the common process of the majority of users: the first organic result gets, on average, 34% of the clicks, while the second gets 17% and the third, 12% – data mined from a study made by the company Advanced Web Ranking.
Currently, one of the main ranking factors for Google are indications other sites do to their contents, through backlinks.
If your website is mentioned in any relevant portal, your domain gains strength and Google understands it is relevant for the user, which may make your website/blog go up in the search results.
To get other websites to refer to you, you must create valuable content, which will serve as a reference within your segment.
How? Through a blog!
Also, use social media and email marketing to spread your blog posts. And, talking about email marketing, understand now how you can use it to your advantage.
You’ve probably heard that nobody uses email anymore, but this is a myth. Email is still one of the most precious tools in a Digital Marketing strategy.
That’s because you can establish a direct link to your audience and effectively promote your product.
In order to do that, you’ll need an email delivery system (there are free versions, such as MailChimp) that integrates with the chosen platform to host your product, so you will also be able to send emails directly to people who have purchased your product.
You can offer rich and free content, like ebooks and infographics, on your website and blog and ask for the visitor’s email to download this content.
From there, you will have a base interested in your topic and you can nourish it with different content until you offer your product at the best suitable time.
People who are starting out and haven’t yet got a lot of online visibility, can pay to feature in search engines, adding websites and social media.
With good images and an interesting text, you can direct the public to your website, blog or straight to the sales page where you will offer your product.
With the right text and proper segmentation to your audience, it is possible to attract people who will be really interested in your ad and, possibly, in your product.
Unlike a blog, sales pages (that can be hosted on their own website) have as purpose directing the user until the moment of purchase and convincing her that that product is ideal for her.
With this in mind, your page must answer some questions so your proposal is really clear to the visitor, such as:
Among other objective questions that may influence the decision to buy.
Check out everything you need to make an outstanding and professional sales page:
Social networking sites are great channels to get closer to your audience and better understand the behavior of clients and prospects of your product.
However, one point of attention is figuring out which social networking sites your buyer persona really uses and create smart strategies to talk straight to her.
In doing so, instead of creating profiles in all new medias, the ideal thing is figuring out the ones you really need to focus your strength on, so you can build a strong relationship base with your audience.
It is worth mentioning that, especially on social networks, it is not interesting to talk about your brand all the time (the 80/20 rule still applies!). It is better to talk about subjects of interest to your public, that may lead followers to wish to get to know your product.
Ebooks, infographics, whitepapers, spreadsheets, guides, they are all great examples of rich materials you can use to attract leads to your base and make a good email marketing strategy.
Here, it is important to note that, as more as a content is free, it must be rich – as the name say – and have sufficient value for your lead to get interested in your main product.
Make your rich materials available on a landing page, your website, blog, social networks and come up with email strategies to keep in touch with your audience and, at the right time, make a sales offer.
From time to time we broadcast live webinars with our Hotmart Academy students to chat in real time, answer possible questions, give tips about the digital market and offer better support for people who wish to become digital entrepreneurs.
Live transmissions are like workshops, where you gather people who are interested in a topic to teach, discuss and, consequently, position as an authority on the topic.
That can also be a great tool to create an email base with leads interested in your subject. To know everything about this strategy, read our complete post Webinar: all the steps to use this technique and leverage your business.
If on the one hand, we have the Producers, responsible for passing on knowledge through an online course, on the other, there are professionals focused on promoting these contents: Affiliates.
They work as a bridge between a product and the final consumer and get commissions for each sale made. The producer who takes part in an affiliate program has even more chances to escalate her business and generate sales opportunities.
Affiliate programs make available products from different niches, so affiliates choose the ones they believe are more suitable to promote.
It is noteworthy that it is the Producer who sets the commission percentage of its product.
Promoting your product will be a constant process in your business, especially if you wish to make lots of sales and achieve great results with your online course – which I believe is your ultimate goal.
Promoting your course shouldn’t end after people buy it. It’s very important to engage and retain your students.
After all, you want them to continue consuming your digital product and spread the word about your business, right?
To keep your students engaged, you should consider:
These are a few suggestions, but the important thing is always to keep in mind that you need to maintain a close relationship with the customer and let them know that you care!
Even if the course ends, be sure to keep in touch with your former students. Offer above-average support, send messages, and make them feel comfortable to ask questions and make suggestions.
Here’s how you do it!
Taking advantage of the various communication tools that social networks offer is a simple yet efficient way to keep in touch with your students.
Facebook groups are a great example. Everyone can interact, send suggestions, testimonials, ask questions … It’s an ideal environment to create connections.
Leave your contact email on your pages and even on social media to let your students know that they can get in touch with you whenever they need it.
Also, let them know that you are available to talk and encourage them to use your email to communicate with you.
Another way to keep in touch with students even after the end of the course is to create exclusive communities.
Communities are a trend and, especially for those who have an online course, they are one of the best ways to communicate with students and alumni.
In addition to maintaining a close relationship between teacher and student, having a community helps to strengthen your authority as a Producer. Seeing that you can use communities to share relevant content and publicize other courses.
Teaching is a noble art and everyone who proposes to pass on knowledge has an important mission to those who inherit it. And not only teachers are able to embrace this mission, but so is any person who can contribute with their professional or personal experience to teach and help other people.
It may be a cliche to say that everyone can teach, but if you think about it, the truth is that because we are simultaneously plural and singular we absorb different perceptions of the world. And that’s how everything happens. As our CEO, João Pedro Resende has said:
The world would evolve a lot faster if everybody could always share what they have of most valuable.
That being said, I hope you have convinced yourself that, you, yes, you reading this text, can become a digital producer – even today. And you will find the first steps on the next topics.
Before moving on to the practical part, I want you to quickly understand the main advantages online courses can give you:
If you are still unsure if it’s worth creating your own course, take a look at the main advantages that working from home as a digital producer or affiliate can provide you:
Once you decide to start an online business, you become your own boss!
That is, it’s possible to define how much time you will dedicate to your business, when you will do it, and from where. It could be from your own home.
If in an ordinary job you get paid by the hour, over the internet, you break the barrier of space and time and can make simultaneous sales to people all over the world who are interested in your digital content.
With your own business, you choose how you want to convey knowledge to your audience.
The possibilities are endless. Because there are several formats of online courses (we have already discussed them in this text), you have a huge variety of options to produce the ideal material for your market niche.
Not to mention that you can invest as you want in this business. Whether creating more modules in the course or new formats and even complementary courses, the entrepreneur’s creative freedom is very inspiring!
Unlike physical products, delivering your online course to the buyer is much simpler and, best of all, immediate!
At the same time that the payment is approved, the buyer will have access to the purchased course.
This is all possible thanks to the platform that hosts your digital products.
It saves your time and allows you to invest more effort in promoting your online course and developing strategies.
Even though many people have 9-5 jobs and are happy, and can balance their time without much effort, that is not the case for a lot of people.
For all the others who are dissatisfied with their jobs, who cannot spend enough time with their family, nor have time for themselves, this is a very important point to consider becoming a digital producer.
Having a business of your own means a lot of effort and work, but it also means that, over time, you will be able to enjoy benefits such as those mentioned above.
It’s still worth remembering that, even running a business from home, your online course will require a lot of work and dedication, especially in the early stages.
I imagine that there was a lot of information to process at once, and I hope this content is useful any time there is a question while you are producing or selling your online course.
And, even though this is a complete material to sell digital courses, you must always be up to date with new content, and, of course, you can count on us here at the blog and our other channels to learn a lot about the market of digital products and digital marketing.
If you wish to create and sell your online course, sign up for our free SmartCourse Maker and Learn How to Create and Sell your Video Course Using only your Mobile!
This post was originally posted in January 2017 and updated to contain more complete information.