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How To Monetize And Make Money Selling Online Courses (Guide with Examples)

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Last Updated on December 7, 2023 by Antony C.

Creating an online course in and of itself will not boost your bank account alone. You have to be creative and proactive so that you adopt several angles of income. This goes outside establishing a platform and promoting your classes through your website, social media or using SEO.

If you want to make money teaching, you’re going to have to be creative in how you monetize and make money with online courses.

  • You need to understand how much your target audience is willing to pay.
  • You need to strike a balance between price and offerings.

With the online education industry growing 438% in just 5 years, knowing how to monetize well through smart pricing of your online course or membership site can mean the difference between earning $1,625 per month and $11,250 per month for your online business.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Choosing the best online course platform to create and sell course online is key to the types of monetization options available for the course creator.
  • The most basic ways to monetize a online course is to offer subscriptions, memberships, paid tiers, single course sales or trials.
  • Free course for your students and target audience can be the best marketing strategy to help you automate your monetization of your online course.
  • Best ways to monetization short courses and crash courses is to sell printed course materials, new content updates, learning resources, and ancillary products.
  • Upsell such as offering consultation service, certifications, licensing and other post-class sales are great way to build a brand for your online course and to bring in more students for your course.

Generating passive income through your online course business is not impossible, in fact there are many ways to monetize and make money selling online courses.

How To Monetize and Make Money Selling Courses Online

Creating a profitable online education business is highly depending on your monetization strategy and knowing which is the best online course platform or online course marketplace, to create and sell your new courses.

How much money you can make from selling online course as a course creator depends solely on you and your ability to to increase the value you are able to provide to your student.

Here are some of the most common ways to make money selling courses online.

1. Subscription Services

Selling your courses as a subscription model is the same as paying for a magazine or software subscription, which is an excellent way to make a recurring revenue. Generally, online course creators that offers to sell their courses on a subscription model will charge their subscribers on a periodic basis:

  • Monthly (30-days): Subscription fee that is charge monthly is the most commonly, and it is widely accepted. If you are pondering how frequent should you charge your subscribers, you should consider this option.
  • Six Monthly: Charging your subscribers ever 6 month is far less common but depending on your course content, it might works for you if your courses requires a longer commitment of time in order to complete the course.
  • Annually (12-months): Many course creators offers an annual subscription plan for their students in additional to monthly plans. Annual subscription is widely accepted and is often perceived as a “value package” offered as a value pack for monthly plan.

You can offer other time frames as well, each of the package can have different pricing too, charging less per month with more time purchased in the subscription.

This allows students to join your course for as long as they like and/or can afford. Once it ends, they can renew it or let it end and move on. But, having this option will depend on your course layout, how you want students to learn material and what you want them to take away by the end.

To illustrate the logistics and suitability of this way of monetizing your online course:

  • Your coursework doesn’t really have advancements such as having classes that advance one concept to another eg. beginner to expert.
  • Your coursework do not need to have an official ending that makes the end of your course, but instead it is highly depend on the progress of your student.

If these is the case, then subscriptions will be ideal, this monetization model will be depending on the timeframe of the subscriptions through setting a limit on the time period where the subscription will start and end.

Often the students will be given the option to renew their subscription if they preferred.

2. Memberships Sites

Having your students purchase memberships to your course is a great way to earn money teaching while building a community with your target audience. While it is very similar to subscription, it is different fundamentally.

  • Subscription: Access to a certain product or service for a stated period of time.
  • Membership: Joining a community where the individual is a member of a group, community or organization.

Membership is different to subscriptions because the student that sign up as a member of your membership site will become a part of the bigger community.

When monetization using membership, you can offer a few creative ways to sell your online course:

  • Tier based membership site: Members are separated into different tiers such as bronze, silver, gold, VIP. Each tier will be given different ability to access different types of courses or the different sections of the course etc.
  • Perk based membership site: Members of your online course may earn different perks as they complete the different courses or progress through your course.

You can offer a membership for the completion of the entire course or a membership for completing a section of the course.

A full membership where your members can access and complete the entire course can be priced cheaper overall than if someone purchases a membership to complete just a section of the course.

Special perks with buying the entire course upfront can be a great way to market your online course and make it more of a no-brainer if your student are looking for great value at a more affordable price.

How Membership Inclusions And Perks Works

Membership inclusion and perks often make the “basic” membership plan less of a deal when compared to the “full membership plan”.

With the addition of perks such as exclusive access to a certain resources, lower overall cost for the membership and extra freebies, the higher tiered membership plan is often seen as better value and a better choice to make when your target audience is deciding to signup for the membership plan.

Example on How Membership Perks Works

For instance, let’s say you have a membership for a course that lasts two years and it has 12 sections that span two months each. The student who purchases the whole two years will get free printed course materials, guaranteed personal interactions, a free t-shirt and a certificate at the end.

But, if a student purchases two months, they’ll only get a guaranteed personal interaction with you. Alternatively, in the case they purchase 12 months of the course, then they’ll get a free t-shirt and personal interaction. Of course, you can set the parameters any way you like.

3. Tiers By Skill Level

Paid tiers are commonly used for memberships or subscriptions payment model. However, you could also create a tier based payment model according to the skill level of the student.

Tiers by skill level will not only create a buzz around your online course, but it will also help target your chosen demographic better.

  • Attracting newcomers: Give a price discount for lower tiered learners so that they can easily get started in their online learning journey.
  • Attracting experts in the field: Give a price discount for higher tiered learners who have proven their expertise by taking test, earning points, other forms of accreditations. This is to help attract more experts in the field to be part of your online course platform.

Depending on the subject matter, the course topic, the type of online course platform you are looking to build, you can give great discounts to professionals in the field or newcomers to help you reach your goal and create a successful online business.

4. Free Courses

Free courses is a great way to help you monetize your online course business. Although it may seems strange, free classes can be a great way to promote your course especially if you are a new course creator selling your first online course.

If your goal is to introduce new students into your course, you can:

  • Give them some free introductory courses.
  • Provide links to videos that you offer as free courses..

These are some great ways to help get people’s feet wet with your material and learning style before offering second course that is priced reasonably to attract your first paying customer.

You can even link these free courses to an upcoming webinar you are conducting or products related to your class like charging for certifications upon successful completion. If you think about it, the possibilities are near endless.

Later in this article, we will discuss more on some of the advanced strategies where you can make selling online course even more profitable.

But before that, offering a single course for free can help you do something really amazing.

How To Create A Free Course Sales Funnel That Automate Your Sales Process

With free videos, written lessons, pertinent information not found anywhere else and etc. you can create a free course sales funnel where you can sell directly to your highly engaged target audience.

While you won’t make money selling free courses, you can use this to build your personal list of targeted audience.

 Here is a simplified version on how you can create your sales funnel using free course.

  1. Offer the first course for free.
  2. Ask for email and name in order to access the free course.
  3. Build your email list with each new person taking your free online course.
  4. Create an email marketing campaign with your list of highly targeted audience who have taken your free course.
  5. Send your potential customers into your landing page where you can promote and start selling them new online course. These courses offered need to give your potential customer massive amount of value making it a deal which your potential customer will not want to miss.

Email marketing is a power strategy to promote your online course to highly engaged targeted audience.

Active Campaigns and GetResponse are some of the best tools help you do this automatically.

  • Collect and arrange the emails you collected according to categories.
  • Gives you the ability to create customized landing page.
  • Automate your email sequence to send to your target audience according to the rules that you set.
  • Automate your free course promotion strategy and convert free customers into paying customers passively without you needing to send email to your audience yourself.
  • Automate the upsell process where you can let your email list know if you are launching a new course or you have updated your course contents.

Free course can help you maximize your potential to monetize your online course, and with the right tools, it helps you make you more money than another who only offers paid course.

5. Reference and Printed Course Materials

Selling course materials can be a good way to make additional money for your classes. This is good for students who purchase a short course or crash course where the resources provided are usually limited to what is highly relevant to the course.

There are two seniors where this is totally acceptable and are common ways to profit from your online course:

  • Students may want to request for a physical copy of the learning materials even when the softcopy of the learning materials are provided. When that’s the case, these printed course materials can be sold separately.
  • Short course usually have other related course materials that can help in the learning process but are not essential for the course completion, these reference course materials can be sold separately.

Printed course materials and reference course materials can include things like:

  • Lesson plans and Syllabi
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Tests and assessment checklist
  • Dictionary/lexicon
  • Workbooks and journals
  • Diaries

6. Ancillary Products

There are many products you can offer as an addendum to your course. These products can have your brand, designs related to your course topics, or even contact information and web address of your online class.

Ancillary product can be used for a few purpose:

  • Freebies and rewards for your learners.
  • Promotion of your brand or online learning course.
  • Extra income.

These products can be used as a means of physical promotion and marketing. Everyone who use these products in front of friends and family let your brand to get free exposure to potential new students. There are so many things you can sell:

  • Clothing: T-shirts, hoodies
  • Stationary: Pens, notebooks, journal, diary, calendars
  • Utensils:  Coffee mugs, beverage coasters
  • Electronics: Mouse pads
  • Accessories: Magnets, stickers, window decals
  • Travel: Tote bags, backpacks
  • Books: Books you author, bookmarks
  • Tools related to the class: kitchen utensils, yoga mats, screwdrivers and etc.

For these, you want to consider a logo along with color and presentation. You want to be eye-catching and funny but not too over the top and loud.

Certainly, you want to consider the class and the design of the courses. But, having everything match and sync with the look and feel of your brand will be important.

7. Certifications

Certifications is an unique type of product related directly to your online courses. They give students a sense of achievement and something to demonstrate their knowledge on the topic(s) you teach. Depending on your setup, certifications can be sold or given in different ways.

  • You can sell each certification individually upon the online course completion.
  • You can include the certificate as part of the completion of the online course content for free.
  • You can determine if certification will be given according to the membership plan or course plan that your student initially purchase. 

Monetizing certification is a good bargaining chip when you want to pursue students into purchasing the higher paid tier that you offer. (All others tier below that will have to pay for the certification.)

Of course, this will rely on how strict and rigid the requirements are for receiving it.

Generally, most online course offers to give the certification for free upon completing the course or after passing the final exam. If the student fails at some component, they’ll have to retake the exam and pass it before rewarding them the certification.

Having a certification can be a great incentive to influence student engagement and completing the full course.

8. Consultations And Coaching

Consultation is not only for coaches and consultants and as a course creator you can start offering consultation service pretty easily. Offering consultation service is a great way for course creators to offer to their audience to earn more from selling their course.

As an course creator, you are the expert in your field, having the credibility in the field and/or topic you’re teaching means others may need help or advice, especially students who completed your course.

Best Platforms To Sell Online Course And Consultation Services

Most online course platforms offers similar features, but only a few offers all the features required for you to set a coaching and consultation business on the same platform.

LearnWorlds and ThinkiFic are both of the best online course platform you should consider when you want to offer online course and consultation service.

These platforms offers all the features required for you to create engaging online course, additional to the ability for your students to book your time where you can offer a 1-on-1 consultation, live classes or even host a webinar.

How Much Money Can You Make Selling Consultation Service?

The amount you can earn for selling consultation is highly dependent on your topic you are providing the service. The amount each consultant earn varies widely and here is the breakdown on how much a consultant actually earn.

  • 42.58% of consultant earn up to $5000 per month.
  • 53.47% of consultant earn from $10,000 to $45,000 per month.
  • 3.23% earn more than $45,000 per month and some even earn more than $250,000 per month.

When providing a consultation service you can charge for these per hour or project. While selling online course is your main online business, knowing which online course platform to create and sell your online course can help you prepare form other monetization options such as providing 1-on-1 consultation service.

Consultations can also lead to speaking gigs and public appearances. You might even receive an invitation to be a main feature at a conference, convention or university. By making yourself easily accessible to the public, you’ll get your name and courses out into the ether.

9. Licensing and Royalties

Licensing your classes means you’d sell the coursework to another party for them to teach others. You retain the rights to the course development but you give another person permission to use it for their own ends. But, if you do this, your coursework should be truly unique and not something offered by anyone else.

Not all courses are good enough to be licensed, but when yours provides massive amount of value to your students in a very unique angle, it is possible to license your course.

Why Some Online Course Can be Licensed Some Don’t?

To demonstrate, there are many music teachers out there offering a variety of topics. Some have guitar lessons while others teach voice training and yet some show people how to read sheet music.

For you to license your online class, your classes must cater to a rare and specific niche that will have wide appeal.

Some ideas are Pythagorean music to control crowds, playing ancient music unearthed on clay tablets or Middle Eastern music theory. You could teach people how to appreciate music in any genre or how to play the harp. If your course is going to be typical or run-of the mill, then licensing will be a difficult sell.

10. Post-Class Sales

Believe it or not, you can make even more sales after someone completes the coursework. Not offering post-class sales or upselling your learners is a mistake made by most course creators.

Aside from offering certificates and ancillary products, affiliate and referral programs along with testimonials are just some suggestions.

Programs

You can setup affiliate programs where students can promote your classes to others on their website, business or social media pages.

Here, they’ll make a certain portion of profit that will help them finish paying for classes or use to purchase advanced courses you teach.

Another option is to offer discounts to students who completed a certain course for referring friends and family. The more people they get to join, the larger the discount they’ll receive for courses they’ll want to take.

Testimonials

Offering discounts for students to offer their testimonials is another recommendation.

Giving honest feedback about their experiences will lend credibility to the review. Plus, it gives prospective learners the chance to understand the course’s mode of operation.

Why You Need To Know The Different Monetization Options?

Understand your option give you a better idea on what you can do to help grow and scale your online business.

Every business starts from a firm foundation, and knowing what you want for the future of your business allows you to make wise choices when choosing how you want to set up and create your online course.

Getting started on the right platform with the best LMS is key to succeeding as a course creator and edupreneur.

Here I’ve handpicked a few of the best tools that will help you in your business to get started.

Regardless of what type of business you are intending to build, getting started with the right tool, means you are already halfway to success.

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Founder & Financial Writer at Income Buddies | Website | Posts by Author

Antony C., is an entrepreneur, course creator, published author of the book "Start Small, Dream Big", an investor with +15 years of experience and an accomplished financial writer. Having used and tried many business software and tools in his professional career and personal business, he recognize the need for unbiased, quality information based on real-life experience. Sharing his journey and expertise to assist aspiring entrepreneurs in creating and growing their online business and building wealth, he have created IncomeBuddies.com. Antony has been featured in global news outlet including Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq and Non Fiction Author Association (NFAA).

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