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How to

Sell Online Courses in 2022

The Ultimate Guide

A proven 9-step process for selling online courses

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You’ve heard so much about online courses lately, and there’s a good chance you’ve enrolled in some online training or classes yourself. You have to admit the prospect of selling courses online intrigues you, and you’re toying with the idea of creating your own online course to sell. But you have one big concern - you don’t know the first thing about how to sell online courses.

Sure, you could create a course on a platform like Udemy, but since these courses are low-priced, you’d have to sell a ton of them to make a serious profit. And you want something more, the ability to sell courses online that make a real impact on your students and allow you to earn a decent income doing what you love. But how do you even start?

If this sounds like you, then listen up. Here at Mirasee, we’ve been teaching course creators how to successfully sell courses online since 2013, and we can teach you to do the same. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a proven 9-step process for selling online courses to show you exactly how it’s done.

Now let’s get started!

Why Should You Create and Sell Online Courses?

Before we look at the actual process of selling courses online, let’s first address the question of why you should sell online courses.

For one thing, the online course market is booming and it’s possible to earn good money from an online course business. In fact, the online course industry is predicted to be worth approximately $325 billion in 2025. And according to a study from Global Industry Analysts, the global online education market will reach an incredible $457.8 billion by 2026.

These trends show no signs of slowing, which means there’s no better time to sell online courses to create a new income stream for yourself, and potentially earn a full-time living from your online course business.

In addition to earning a side income or even a living doing what you love, online courses also allow you to share your knowledge and make an impact on a large number of people, far more than you could from teaching an in-person course.

So if you’re someone who has expertise in a particular field and a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of others by sharing your knowledge and talents, then selling online courses could well be a fulfilling and rewarding way for you to earn a living.

How to Sell Online Courses

If you want to start selling online courses, it’s crucial to have a clear plan of action before you dive in. In this section, we’ll lay out the 9 steps you need to follow if you want to be successful at selling courses online.

course pursue

Find (and Test) Your Winning Course Idea

A successful online course starts with a profitable course idea. You need to pick the right idea, one that there’s demand for and that your customers will actually buy. How do you go about this process?

Here’s what we recommend:

Choose a course topic

The first step is to come up with a viable course idea. This is crucial, because you can’t have a successful course if you choose a topic that no one’s interested in. For a course idea to be viable it must be in a profitable niche and there needs to be a demand for it.

To start brainstorming course ideas, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my niche or area of expertise?
  • What topics am I passionate about?
  • How have I previously helped people?
  • Who is my ideal customer, and what is their biggest problem?
  • What causes them pain?
  • What is the solution they need?
  • How can I provide this solution?

As you mull over these questions, write down any course ideas that come to mind. Then review your list and zero in on your top three course ideas.

Identify your target audience

Next you’ll need to uncover who would potentially be interested in your course idea. Look back at your list and consider who you’d like to help with your course. Then ask yourself what they struggle with, what they could do if the struggle wasn’t holding them back, and where you’re likely to find them hanging out online.

If you’ve already created a customer profile, now’s the time to refer to it. And if not, we highly recommend you review our post on how to create a customer profile. Having a clear sense of who your ideal student is and their interests, hopes, dreams, and desires is essential for creating a course they actually want and for marketing it to them effectively.

Conduct some research

You’ll also have to do some research to make sure you’re totally clear on what your target audience struggles with and what specific problem you will help them solve. There are many ways you can do this, such as searching on Google and social media, or conducting online surveys to uncover the problems your ideal customer wants to solve. And one of the most valuable things you can do is set up interviews with members of your target audience to learn more about what challenges they’re facing.

You’ll also need to research keywords related to your course topic, which you can do with the help of tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs and Keyword Planner. You’ll want to look at the search volume for each of these relevant keywords to get a sense of how in-demand your topic is. If the monthly search volume is low, this suggests that there is little interest in your topic. On the other hand, if these keywords receive many thousands of searches per month, this indicates there is interest in and demand for your topic.

Test your course ideas

Once you’ve clarified your number one online course idea, we recommend running it by some members of your target audience to ensure that it’s something they actually want - and would be willing to pay for. In other words, you need to validate your course idea.

You can do this by building a sales page for your course explaining who it’s for, why they need it, and what they’ll learn. Then you drive your ideal customers to this page and encourage them to pre-order, leave a deposit, or sign up for a waiting list.

You’ll also need to track and analyze how well your sales page performs by looking at metrics like the number of visits to your sales page, your conversion rate, number of email opens, and number of link clicks.

If the results are satisfactory, you can move on and start planning your course content. If not, you’ll want to brainstorm some other ideas to test out.

Plan Your Online Course

After confirming your online course is something your prospective students want, you can start planning your course content.

At this stage, you don’t need to worry about scripting the videos or recording them. However, you do need to get clear on what your course will look like, which you can do by creating a high-level outline of your course.

A good way to begin crafting your outline is to first make a list of all your lesson ideas. Either in a blank document or notebook, simply write a list of any ideas that might become a lesson in your course.

Once you have a list of ideas, it’s time to start organizing them. For example, you’ll want to figure out which lessons should come at the beginning, middle, and end. From there, fill in the gaps from the list of ideas you created.

There are many different ways you can do this, depending on your specific preferences. You can use a notebook, Post-it Notes, or even a visual mind map tool like Lucidchart, MindMup, or MindMeister. At this stage, nothing you create needs to be perfect. All that matters is that you begin to form a clear image of what your course will look like.

Once you have a high-level outline of your entire course, you can then turn your attention to the individual lessons. For each individual lesson, develop some learning goals and objectives and make a note of:

  • Why this lesson is important
  • What this lesson involves
  • How this lesson helps (and works)
  • The specific action steps involved

After completing this step, you’ll have an organized high-level outline of your course, and a good sense of what you’ll be teaching in each lesson.

Plan Your Online Course

Create Your Online Course Content

After you’ve completed your outline of your online course, you should have a clear idea of the different modules and lessons that make up your course, and what each lesson will cover.

From here, you can go ahead and create the first version of your online course. This involves planning and scripting your lessons and developing assignments, handouts, and any other additional resources to go along with your course. You’ll also need to figure out your course delivery method, which refers to when and how specific lessons will be made available to your students.

Once all your scripts and other course materials are ready, it’s time to start filming your videos! Depending on your course, you might appear on camera to deliver the lessons, opt for screen recordings with voiceovers, or a combination of the two.

Once you’ve finished creating and editing your videos and the accompanying resources you can go ahead and upload your course content to your WordPress site or the online platform of your choice.

Of course, there is a lot involved in the process of creating an amazing online course, which is beyond the scope of this article. So if you want to learn more about how to create an impactful online course, we recommend you review our guide to creating online courses. This guide provides a complete overview of the process (plus some handy resources) so that you know exactly what you need to do each step of the way.

Pick Your Online Course Hosting Platform

Before you can upload your course, you’ll need to choose the online course platform that best meets your needs.

There are countless online course platforms available, and they typically fall under one of four major categories:

  1. Standalone Online Course Platforms: A standalone online course platform allows you to create and host your very own online course or school. They typically provide all the tools you need to build an online course and sell your course on your own site. Some popular examples include: Thinkific, LearnWorlds, and Teachable.
  2. All-in-One Online Course Platforms: These provide you with all the tools you need to develop online courses and manage your online business, including marketing and customer service tools. Popular examples include: Kajabi, Podia, and Kartra.
  3. WordPress Online Course Plugins: These are plugins that you install on your existing WordPress site, which allow you to host your course on your own WordPress site and have complete control over your online course. Some examples include: LearnDash, Access Ally, and Course Cats.
  4. Online Course Marketplaces: Online course marketplaces are web-based online course platforms where you can easily build your course and promote it to an established audience. Some popular examples include Udemy, Skillshare and Coursera.

Since there are so many course hosting platforms out there, the process of finding the right one might seem overwhelming. To help you narrow things down, you can ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you want to host the course on your own site? In this case, you’ll want to opt for a standalone online course platform or a WordPress online course plugin (if you have a WordPress site).
  • Does the idea of immediate access to a large audience appeal to you? If so, an online course marketplace is likely a better option for you.
  • Do you want all the tools you need for managing your online business? If you want access to additional tools to help you market and run your business, consider an all-in-one online course platform.

Once you have a sense of your preferred type of online course hosting, you can then begin researching the different options in your chosen category.

To learn more about the best online course platforms in each of these categories, we recommend you review our post: 21 Best Online Course Platforms in 2022: Thinkific, Kajabi, & More.

Price Your Online Course

As you finish designing the first version of your course, you’ll need to figure out how to price it. If you have no idea how to price your course, you’re definitely not alone. Many course creators stress about this process and quickly become frustrated and overwhelmed.

To prevent you from going down that road, there’s something we want you to keep in mind: there is no such thing as a perfect price for your course. It really comes down to what price is right for your audience at this point in time.

So here are some questions to ask yourself when it comes to finding the right price for your audience:

  • How much personalized support will I provide? Since one-on-one support takes up a lot of your time and energy and can’t be easily scaled, it’s very valuable. Consider how much support your students will need in order to achieve the promised result. In general, the more individualized support you offer, the more you can charge.
  • What results will my students achieve? Instead of focusing on the features your course will offer, think about the specific benefits your students will get. Figure out all the positive outcomes they’ll get if they take your course and then price them accordingly. Remember that the more dramatic the results and transformation, the more you’ll be able to charge.
  • What are my competitors charging? A good way to uncover how much your target audience will pay for your course is to check out what your competitors are charging for their courses. This can give you a good sense of how much your ideal students are willing and able to pay to solve the problem they’re facing.
  • How much experience and expertise will I bring to the table? If you have a high level of experience and expertise, and plenty of social proof to boot, you can generally charge considerably more than someone who has less experience.

Once you’ve set your price for your course, the final step is to actually test it out to see what kind of reception it gets. You might find that your audience is happy to pay this amount, or you might realize you need to charge more or less for your course. Remember that your course price isn’t set in stone, and you are free to adjust your price accordingly as needed.

Since pricing is something that many course creators find to be extremely challenging, we’ve developed a guide to online course pricing that walks you through this entire process in far more detail.

Release Your Online Course Pilot

Once the first version of your course is ready and you’ve set your price, it’s time to test things out with a real live audience!

Launching an online course pilot is essential for verifying that people are willing to buy your course, and it also provides an opportunity to get valuable feedback from your audience. Armed with this knowledge, you can fine-tune your course and address any problems that arise before you officially launch.

Releasing your course pilot is an incredibly exciting milestone in your online course journey. Still, the experience can be really nerve-wracking too - whether you already have an existing audience or not.

If you haven’t established an audience yet, you’re probably stressing over how you’ll ever convince people to sign up for your course.

And if you do have an audience, you’re worried how they’ll react to your offer. Will they be turned off by the price, or the fact that you’re selling to them?

Fortunately, there are some highly effective ways to recruit people for your pilot, whether you have an audience or not. There are countless strategies out there for selling a pilot, but there are three main ones that we recommend because they are simple, fast to implement, and most importantly, they work!

launch pilot

Pre-Sell Email Campaign

This is the only one of the three strategies that requires you to have a sizable email list of at least 1,000 engaged subscribers. We’re leading with this one because it’s actually the simplest strategy of the three. Here’s an overview of how it works.

First, you send an email to your subscribers explaining your course idea and asking them to respond if they’re interested. Then you send out a survey to the people who respond positively asking them specific questions about what they want.

Next, you send an email to the interested parties letting them know that you’re going to produce a course based on what they want, followed by a sneak preview. After some more time has passed, you announce that the cart is open and send them a link to your enrollment page.

The final step is to send around an email stating that it's the last chance to enroll before you close sales and begin the course.

One-on-one Sales Conversations

If you’re starting from scratch or have a small or unengaged audience, your best bet is to set up a sales call with people who might be interested. For this strategy to work, it’s important to only contact people who are likely to be interested in your offer and to simply present the idea to them without trying to sell anything.

The first step is to list all the people you know who might be a good fit for your course. Next, you reach out to the people on that list and present your pilot course idea to them. Then you ask if it’s something they might be interested in and respond accordingly.

If they say yes, you can go ahead and give them the details of the course, following the offer outline you created earlier. If they say no, try to find out why and ask if they know someone who might be interested. You can then reach out to the people they recommend. Finally, if they say “maybe,” ask if they can give you a definite yes or no by a specific date.

Free Coaching Calls

This final strategy is a good option if you did free coaching calls when you were conducting market research. All you have to do at this point is to reach out to the people you spoke with during your market research and present your offer to them, following your offer outline.

Once you’ve enrolled students in your pilot course, it’s crucial to provide them with the best online course experience you possibly can.

To ensure your students have a positive experience, there are some important things that you need to do while running your pilot. This includes supporting your students every step of the way, answering any questions promptly, and noting places where they get confused or stuck.

It’s also crucial to gather student feedback throughout the course by sending surveys at the beginning, middle, and end of the course. Keep an open mind and feel free to adjust the curriculum as needed to help your students achieve the best outcome.

Finally, be prepared to work and commit to embracing it. Delivering a pilot is hard work. There are course materials to prepare and deploy, last minute changes, tech issues to address, and you’re likely to get more questions than you anticipated.

It’s important to keep in mind that this busy period is only temporary, and that you’re doing all this to ensure that your students succeed, which in turn will lead to the long-term success of your full course.

Launch Your Online Course

In the best case scenario, your pilot was a success, you’ve received rave reviews from students, and you feel confident that you’re able to deliver an excellent outcome. This means you are all set to turn your pilot into a full online course.

So what exactly are the differences between a pilot course and a full course? Here are some of the major ones:

  • Full courses have a more polished, professional look to them, and any pre-recorded video content has a higher production value than the typical pilot course.
  • Full online courses utilize more advanced technology and tend to boast a more streamlined design. They’re generally built on online learning marketplaces and platforms.
  • Since pilot courses are offered to a much smaller group of students, they allow for far more one-on-one interaction with the instructor. Full online courses often have a large number of students, which limits your ability to provide personalized attention. This means that interaction with the instructor is usually streamlined in a full course.

In addition to making these upgrades, you’ll also need to take the feedback and insights you gained from your pilot launch and use them to optimize and improve your online course

Once your full online course is ready, it’s critical that you develop a launch strategy to help ensure your course is a success.

Before you can design a launch strategy, it’s important to understand the anatomy of a launch. As a general rule, a launch consists of the following three main phases.

Pre-Launch

For a launch to be successful, you need to plan it out carefully far in advance. The Pre-Launch stage is where most of the planning happens - long before the actual launch.

During this phase, you’ll figure out all the different components of your launch, create all the content you need, develop your email campaigns, schedule everything out, and do everything possible to prepare yourself for the launch.

Having a solid plan in place is crucial for a successful launch, and also can help reduce the stress of launching.

Launch

The second phase is the actual launch, which begins on the day when your cart opens and people can purchase your product (in this case, your course). During this time, which may extend several days or more, you make a hard sales push and try to get as many people as possible to purchase your course.

Post-Launch

The final stage is the post-launch phase, which is the time period immediately after the cart closes. During this time, you should be focused on onboarding your new students, ensuring they get the maximum value from your course, and addressing any questions they have or challenges that come up. This is also when you analyze how the launch went — what went well and what didn’t, how you can improve the next time around, and what lessons you learned.

Before you start your pre-launch planning, it’s good to set goals for your launch so you know how to measure your outcomes.

The idea of creating an amazing launch can seem overwhelming, especially when you’re new at this and don’t have a huge budget to work with. That’s why we designed this guide that gives you an inside look at how to pull off an effective product launch (for online courses and other digital products), and highlights 21 proven product launch ideas to inspire you.

Market Your Online Course

In order to create a course that sells, it’s crucial to get your high-quality course in front of the right people. And the way to do this most effectively is to design a solid marketing strategy for your online course.

It’s important to keep in mind that an effective course marketing strategy doesn’t happen overnight, but rather it’s a long-term process that will help you build momentum over time.

Here are some tactics you can use to develop an effective marketing strategy for your course.

launch promote

Create and Maintain a Blog

We highly recommend that course creators have a blog on their website that they update regularly.

With a blog you can accomplish many different things, including:

  • Bring in organic traffic to your website and your course
  • Share your ideas and build connections with your audience
  • Build a library of valuable content
  • Establish yourself as an authority in your field

In addition, writing blog posts that focus on your core topic allows you to showcase your expertise to potential new students. Yet it’s not just the value you share that matters, but also the social proof you establish.

Think about it… when you visit someone’s website, what pages do you look at first? Chances are their blog is on the list. Why? Because you want to make sure they know what they’re talking about.

Your potential new students want to know the same about you. A blog can help you achieve this - as long as you maintain it, and update it with fresh new content regularly.

Build an Email List

Creating content that drives people to your site is one thing, but it means little if they leave and never come back. And in reality, most people won’t buy your course right away. There’s just too much competition out there, and you need to show them you are the only choice they need.

The best way to do this is to build an email list so you can nurture your audience. Here are some ways to get people to join your list:

  • Add a pop up to your site encouraging people to provide their email to download a free guide or other valuable resource.
  • At the end of your blog posts, include a call to action to join your newsletter or to download a free guide.
  • Throughout your site, promote your newsletter, guides, free courses, and anything else that allows you to turn a visitor into a subscriber.

Once you have your visitors’ email addresses, you can speak to them more often. You can design messages and content and send it to them, rather than hoping they come to you.

It’s important to remember that you don’t just want to send them sales emails, but also valuable email sequences to help nurture them and build trust with them over time. This is by far one of the best strategies for turning a cold lead into a warm prospect.

Run Online Advertising Campaigns

Another strategy that you can employ is paid online advertising. It’s important to remember that the costs can add up over time, so you’ll want to be strategic about when you use them.

There are many different types of advertising campaigns you can use, but for course creators some of the best options are:

  • Facebook Ads: Facebook is one of biggest social media platforms around with the most advanced targeting and retargeting methods. You can specifically message certain people with relevant content, messages, and promotions. When it comes to selling your online course and nurturing your audience, Facebook ads lead the way.
  • Google Adwords: Many, if not most, people rely on Google when they have a question to ask or a problem to solve. As a course creator who sells courses to solve problems, this is a big deal. Organic reach matters, and so does advertising on Google. Together, paid and organic reach can help drive new prospects toward your content/site.
  • Outbrain: The truth is, many people spend a lot of time simply browsing the web. When they do, you want to reach them. Outbrain is a powerful tool that lets you retarget people who have already visited your site or joined your email list, keeping you top of mind.

Aside from these, there are many other advertising channels you can choose from. In our experience, advertising campaigns are a powerful way to reach the right people with the right message, allowing you to promote your online course and build trust at the same time.

Find Partners in Your Niche

No matter what industry or niche you’re in, you are not alone. It’s inevitable that you’ll have competition. There are different kinds of competitors, including those you’re directly competing against and those who complement what you do.

For instance, your course may align with an author’s book, or a coach’s mastermind group, or a podcaster’s annual conference. Or maybe there are bloggers with large email lists, vloggers with an established channel, and even fellow course creators who create content similar to yours.

And in some cases, there’s an opportunity to partner with these individuals. There are different types of partnerships, including a joint venture, shared webinar, cross-promotion, or affiliate launch, which can allow both you and them to thrive.

For example, you get to reach a new audience while they get a cut of sales (or a pro-bono promotion). It’s a great way to promote your course, build your audience, and generate momentum.

It’s important to remember that optimizing and promoting your course is an ongoing process. You’ll need to continue promoting your course, developing your marketing and lead generation strategy, and honing your traffic strategy.

To learn more about how to create an effective marketing strategy for your online course, we recommend you read our post on how to promote your online course.

Help Your Students Achieve Their Desired Results

Now that you have students enrolled in your course, you’ll need to do everything you possibly can to ensure they are successful and achieve the transformation they desire. This helps your students change their lives for the better, and it also benefits your own online course business.

That’s because students who have a positive experience with your course are more likely to purchase additional courses from you in the future, and to recommend your courses to others.

There are a number of different things you can do to ensure that your students get the most out of your course.

outcome-course

An online learning community

One of the most important ways you can support your students is by giving them access to an online learning community where they can interact with you and other students in the course. Your online community can take many different forms, such as a private social media group, a designated Slack channel, or a specific Members Area on your website, to name a few.

In these communities, your students can make connections with other people who are seeking to achieve the same goals and transformation as themselves, pose questions, and seek feedback or advice from the group on a particular issue they’re facing.

As the course creator, you and other people on your team should also spend time in the online community, monitoring the conversations, answering student questions, and providing guidance and support.

Personalized support

Another way you can help your students succeed is by offering some degree of personalized support.

This might include holding regular one-on-one or group coaching sessions, office hours where students can check in if they feel stuck or need some advice, and constructive feedback on homework assignments.

This personalized support also helps you track the progress of each of your students to ensure they are making progress towards their goals.

FAQs and troubleshooting resources

It’s also important to note common questions students have, as well as any challenges they run into along the way, including technical difficulties.

Any tech problems should be addressed as soon as possible, and it’s also a good idea to include FAQs and troubleshooting resources so students can find the help they need more easily.

It’s inevitable that some challenges will arise, but responding to a student’s concerns or frustrations in a helpful, timely, and sensitive manner can greatly improve their overall course experience.

Taking the time to support and assist students in achieving their goals goes a long way and provides incredible benefits both for your students and your online course business. It’s truly a win-win situation!

Give your students an amazing experience, and they will become your biggest advocates and will stick with you for many years to come.

How to Sell Online Courses: Next Steps

Congratulations on making it to the end of this guide! By now you should have a greater understanding of what selling courses online really entails.

Remember that this is ultimately a high-level overview of selling online courses, and we recommend you review the different resources we’ve highlighted in this guide to learn more about each step of the process. But understanding the process is just the beginning, and the next step is to begin turning the knowledge into action.

So when you’re ready to take that next step and start designing your first online course to sell, we invite you to join our Course Builders Bootcamp. It’s totally free to join, takes just a week to complete, and will help you to lay the foundation for creating and selling successful online courses.

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