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Selling a course online is one of the best ways to make money from your skills, knowledge, and expertise.
With e-learning becoming increasingly popular, more and more individuals, businesses and budding entrepreneurs are choosing to invest in online course creation and sell their digital products online.
If you’re thinking of using your skills and experience to design and sell online courses, you may be wondering how to go about monetizing your plans and ideas.
One option that may have cropped up during your research is creating a membership site.
Membership sites are growing in popularity, but do you need one to sell a course online?
What is the difference between online courses and membership sites?
Before you can answer questions related to whether you need a membership site to sell courses online, it’s beneficial to consider the differences between online courses and membership sites. These are both digital products, but there are significant differences between the two.
Online courses are singular products, which are available to buy for a one-off fee, which is set by the vendor.
You create a course, you market it, you set a price, and if people want to buy your course, they can do so by making a payment. Online courses may start on a given date, or it might be possible to access the course all year-round.
Once you’ve made the payment, you’ll have unlimited access to that specific course.
Online courses tend to deal with specific areas of interest or topics, and they are designed to develop your knowledge within this arena and enable you to develop skills related to that individual subject matter.
Most courses comprise of modules or stages that can be completed in a recommended order. It’s possible to use a diverse range of content types when creating online courses, for example, interactive quizzes and worksheets, infographics, audio and video clips and written text.
In most cases, once an online course has been created and made available for sale, it won’t need to be updated or modified significantly.
Membership sites enable you to create, share and sell content on an ongoing basis. Members pay a fee, usually monthly, and in return, they have access to different courses and other resources.
With membership sites, there isn’t usually a set end-point, and it’s up to the individual how often they share content, and what kinds of content they produce. You may find that you combine online courses with webinars, live workshops or group coaching sessions, for example.
As content creation with membership sites is continual, these sites tend to focus on a wider range of subjects and topics than online courses. Although there is likely to be an area of interest, for example, digital marketing, a membership site will deal with all aspects of this umbrella subject.
While online courses generate an income per purchase, membership sites reap the financial rewards of subscriptions and sign-ups.
Do I need a membership site to sell an online course?
Online courses and membership sites are often talked about in the same sentence, but they are different entities. While selling content via membership sites may prove beneficial for some, it’s not necessary to create a membership site to sell courses online.
It is perfectly possible and plausible to sell courses online without encouraging people to sign up for more. Some marketers and budding businessmen and women don’t want to commit to producing content on an ongoing basis, and therefore, the online courses model is more appealing than the membership site.
There are dedicated platforms and sites that enable you to build and sell courses online, and you can also advertise courses via social media and blogs if you have your own site, for example, a WordPress site.
If you are thinking about turning your hand to online course creation and selling your wares, it is beneficial to explore all the options open to you.
The pros and cons of online courses and membership sites
If you are interested in selling online courses to promote or even create a new brand or to set up a business sideline, it’s wise to weigh up the pros and cons of online courses and membership sites. Here are some considerations to bear in mind:
- Time: it takes time to create an online course, but once your course is complete, and it’s available for sale, you shouldn’t have to spend any more time on it. In contrast, membership sites require you to devote time to the site on an ongoing basis.
- Commitment: when you create an online course, you’ll put a lot of effort into getting that course just right, but after it has been published, your commitment levels will fall dramatically. You might spend time and effort marketing and promoting your course, but the level of commitment is very different to that of a membership site. When you create a membership site, you’re signing up to an agreement to provide resources and content for your members on a continual basis.
- Income: with online courses, you make an income through selling your course. You’ll be paid a fee up-front in exchange for the buyer gaining access to your course. With membership sites, you’ll earn an income through membership fees, and this means that you’ll get a steady flow of money, rather than up-front lump sums.
- Versatility: online courses tend to focus on specific topics or areas of interest, whereas membership sites can cover a broader spectrum of subjects, and there’s scope to share a more versatile and diverse range of materials and content types. Online courses can be more versatile in a different way, as you can sell them via a host of different platforms and channels.
Tips for selling online courses
If you’re planning to start selling online courses, here are a few simple steps to take:
- Research the target market and use feedback
- Focus on producing high-quality online courses
- Offer something different and original
- Make sure your course is engaging and interesting
- Use different types of content and explore different learning techniques and methods
- Use market research to identify effective marketing channels and platforms
- Link courses to blog posts and include calls to action on your landing pages
- Include naturally-placed keywords
- Engage with previous customers and advertise new products
- Use social media and content like blogs and web copy to improve your search ranking
Online learning is becoming increasingly popular, presenting individuals and businesses with exciting opportunities to generate revenues through online courses. If you’re thinking of selling an online course, hopefully, this guide has given you an insight into your options.
Common ways to sell your courses online
1 – Use an online course platform
There are tonnes of online platforms available to you to allow you to sell your courses online. That saves you the tech stress and hassle of having to get things set up on your own website or creating a brand new website to do so.
- Quick and Easy to get set up
- Low entry fee
- Large user base on the given platform to discover your course
- Limited Customisation and features you can add to your course
- Monthly payments & High charges – Some platforms will take up to 50% of every course you sell
- You can’t extract the data for ongoing marketing and upsells
- You don’t own the site
2 Use a WordPress Learning Management System (LMS) Plugin on your own website
Using a WordPress learning management system (LMS) plugin allows you to add course selling functionality to your own website.
Plugins like Learndash, Lifter LMS, LearnPress, WP Courseware and Sensi by Woocommerce allows you to set up lessons, topics, quizzes. Drip your course content as they progress through, award certificates and track users progress through your courses.
You can also accept payments for your courses using popular payment gateways, including PayPal and Stripe to help you sell your online courses.
- Low entry fee and no ongoing monthly fee
- You have control of the functionality you can add and Customisation of the look and feel to make sure it fits perfectly into your site
- You can connect it to your CRM or email marketing tools. Meaning you capture your client’s details and allow you to upsell other courses you may have automatically.
- You will need some technical skill or confidence to get things set up on your site
- Can take a little longer to get set up than an online platform.