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As you read this, you might have an online course idea already hanging out in your head.

If you’re passionate about a topic, you’re good at it, and it fulfills a need for someone – then you have all the makings of becoming a successful course creator. 

Creating an online course has never been easier thanks to a host of new tools and platforms that do most of the heavy lifting for you. All you need is your knowledge.

And if you’re building a business, learning how to create an online course is an ideal way to open up an additional revenue stream for your business while establishing you as an expert in your niche.

By creating online courses, you turn your tried and true industry expertise into a lead-generating, money-making, impact-creating online course that gets your valuable skills out into the world. 

To help you learn how to create online courses from scratch, we’ve broken the process into 10 easy stages – with plenty of tips from ultra-successful course creators who have the academies and the accounts to prove it. 

We’ve also included templates, guides and workbooks to support you every step of the way, so you can get your online course business up and running in no time. 

Here are our 10 steps to create an online course:

  1. Pick the perfect online course topic
  2. Check if there’s market demand for your course idea
  3. Create compelling learning outcomes
  4. Structure your online course
  5. Choose the most engaging and effective delivery method
  6. Produce your online course: filming, recording, and editing
  7. Choose your online course platform
  8. Establish your pricing structure
  9. Launch your online course and market for success
  10. Build an online course community

Get the Ultimate Guide to Creating, Launching, and Selling your Online Course: Download Now

How to create an online course from scratch

At the heart of learning how to create an online course is understanding what experience, expertise, and skills you have to offer the world.

We’ve tailored this guide to help you draw out your own unique perspective to solve your audience’s challenges, pain points, and problems. And build your personal brand in the process.

While it’s definitely not an exhaustive list of everything you’ll need to create and sell an online course – it’s a ‘birds-eye-view’’ of the major milestones on the journey to creating your first online course and tips to help you find your unique voice along the way from creators who have been exactly where you are.

Here’s our 10 steps to creating an online course that’s tailored to your audience – and feels authentically you. 

  1. Pick the perfect online course topic

Choosing a topic for your online course is the first step to building a successful and buzzing course business.

Your ideal course topic should ideally be something you’re passionate about, you’re skilled at, have experience in, and have a target audience for.

In other words, here are the 4 things you need for your online course topic:

  1. Passion
  2. Skills
  3. Experience
  4. Target audience

Let’s look at each of those in more detail…

  1. Your passion

Your online course topic doesn’t have to be something you’re head over heels in love with – but it should be a topic you’re passionate about. That means something you don’t mind thinking about, talking about, and reading about for weeks, months, and even years on end.

If you’re passionate about your online course topic, then it will translate into your content. You’ll be better placed to inspire and engage your audience while making your course feel more authentic and relatable. And keep your customers coming back.

Warning: choose a topic you’re not passionate about and you risk getting tired of teaching it. (And your lack of passion will lead to a course that’s as enticing as a cardboard sandwich.)

Related: How To Turn Your Passion Into A Business

  1. Your skills

As well as being a topic you’re passionate about, you also need to have the specific skills that will help you teach others about your topic.

That means your topic should be something you’ve learnt how to do – and you’re confident you can teach other people how to do too. It might be something related to your profession or career or to a hobby or skill you have.

By teaching your chosen topic on a public stage, you can help people learn from you and solve the challenges they’re facing – while setting you up as a thought leader in your field. 

“We all have a gift that someone needs… Don’t let technology, imposter syndrome, or any other limiting beliefs scare you. Just put yourself out there and get started because you can always perfect yourself as you go.”


Related: How To Monetize Your Expertise

  1. Your experience

We’re all the sum of our experiences. And your unique experiences are what will ultimately help you create a winning and wildly successful online course business.

Your experiences can include:

  • Work experience
  • Educational experience
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Volunteering
  • Workshops
  • Personal experiences e.g. relationships, family, spiritual, cultural experiences

If you can draw out the experiences that shaped you both professionally and personally, you can find a unique perspective for your online course that will help you stand out from the crowd.

“If you’re an expert in something – either from schooling or personal experience – I believe that you already have everything you need inside of you… The world is just waiting for you to share your knowledge, expertise, and lived experience in a way that’s digestible for others.”


  1. Your target audience

To create online courses that people will actually want to buy, you need to make sure you have a target audience in mind from the very beginning. Who will your course help? 

Try answering these questions to find your target audience:

  • What demographic groups are you most likely to help with your skills and experience? 
  • How do your audience think? What are their values, interests, and attitudes?
  • What needs, challenges, and frustrations do they have?
  • What do they currently not know or need help with?
  • How will your online course help them solve the challenges they’re facing?

People take online courses because they need help getting from where they are now to a place they want to be in their future – and your knowledge and expertise can help them get there quicker.

If you have a target audience in mind now, you can make sure that everything you do when you’re creating your online course is tailored to them – including your course content, delivery methods, marketing, and sales strategy.

Related: How To Define Your Target Audience (+Templates & Workbooks)

Activity: How to find an online course topic

To help you zero in on the perfect course topic, try this simple exercise:

Start by taking a sheet of paper and writing “Passions & Interests,” “Skills,” and “Experience & Achievements” across the top of the page. Draw a line between them so that each is in its own column.

Next, go column by column and write down as many things as possible that come to mind for each category. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just write down what comes into your head.

Now review what you’ve written. Do you notice any similarities between the 3 columns? They could point you to your perfect course topic. If nothing comes up, keep brainstorming. Go step-by-step through your experiences, including your education, career, and how you like to spend time.

The truth is, you don’t need to have a degree or decades of experience in your chosen course topic to become a successful course creator. In fact, some of the best courses out there focus on things you might consider a hobby. 

Here’s a list of 10 online courses from some of our most successful course creators:

  1. Microsoft Excel 
  2. Content creation
  3. Mindfulness and meditation
  4. Guitar
  5. Yoga
  6. Photography
  7. Sewing
  8. Roller skating
  9. Baking
  10. Dog training

There are so many online course ideas to choose from (the possibilities are literally endless…).

Remember: If you love your topic, you’re good at it, you have experience, and it fulfills a need for someone – then you have everything you need to create an online course.

Generate the Perfect Course Name: Download Now
  1. Check if there’s market demand for your course idea

Hands up, who wants to spend weeks of their life creating an online course only to have no one buy it? Nope. Didn’t think so.

Once you’ve picked your online course topic (or at least narrowed your choices down to 2 or 3 options), the next step is to do market research for your idea. The goal at this stage is to understand if there’s demand for your online course and who else is currently offering courses on that topic. 

If you’re just getting started, here are 4 questions to ask to help validate market demand for your online course:

  1. Are people asking questions about your topic? If yes, what questions are they asking?
  2. Who are your biggest competitors? Are there any topics, formats, or audiences they don’t cover or serve?
  3. Will someone pay money to solve the problem your course topic covers?

Let’s look at each question more closely and check out some tools that will help you complete your market research. 

  1. What questions are people asking about your topic?

To understand what questions people are asking about your topic, you need to do some online research. Here are 4 places to look online:

  • Try searching your topic on Reddit or Quora to see what questions come up and how often.
  • Take a look at Answer The Public to see what people are asking, how, and how often.
  • Scroll through any Facebook groups on your topic to gain some insight into the challenges your audience has.
  • Follow relevant creators on LinkedIn to see what they’re saying about your topic and who is commenting on their posts.

If you know where your target audience spends most time online, start your research there. For example, if you’re targeting florists, consider doing your research on Instagram and Pinterest rather than LinkedIn.

After doing this research, you’ll probably have a few words, concepts and ideas that show up in posts, forums, and questions over and over. You can use these as keywords for your research in the next section. 

  1. Are people searching for your topic and asking questions?

To understand whether or not there’s demand for your course topic, it helps to know how many people are searching for terms related to your idea online. 

Google Trends is the quickest way to check general search trends for your topic. These trends will give you a better idea of how popular a topic is and how it’s been performing over time. 

Use the keywords from your initial research to look up the popularity of your topic. For example, you can see below that “Online Yoga Classes” spiked in popularity at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. And it’s still popular today.

Search volume is also a great way to validate demand for an online course topic. Use a tool like Google keyword planner, Semrush, or Ahrefs to look at your topic’s search volume.  

Enter your keywords, and each tool will give you insights into how many people are searching for each keyword. 

The more people who are searching for each keyword – and the more competitive it is – the more sought- after your chosen topic is likely to be. As you can see, “Online yoga courses” is a popular keyword and has decent competition. 

Pro tip: Keep in mind that the search volume and competition you’ll see in keyword research tools only applies to the specific keywords you’re searching for. There can be hundreds of different keywords for any given topic. For example, running a search on “online yoga courses” will give you different results to searching for “online yoga courses for beginners” and  “yoga courses online”.

Related: 5 Steps To Test Your Online Course Ideas In The Real World

  1. Who are your main competitors and what are they missing?

As well as researching what your audience is currently searching for, it’s a good idea to take a look at your competition too.

Do some research to figure out who your top competitors are and what their courses offer. While you’re unlikely to be the first person to think of your idea, there’s a good chance you can do it differently and offer your target audience something new and fresh.

Online course marketplaces are a good place to check what’s already out there. You can also do a simple Google search – such as “online courses on [your topic or idea]”.

Many creator educators make the mistake of thinking that lots of competition for their chosen topic means their online course idea won’t be successful. In fact, it shows there’s already a thriving market for your course idea and it’s well worth investigating further. If other people are making courses on that topic, there must be potential to generate revenue from it. 

The trick is to find a gap in the market. 

Finding a gap in the market means finding an opportunity to offer something new that your competitors aren’t currently catering to – such as:

  • An audience: Is there a demographic or group of people who aren’t currently being served by your competitors? Who can you appeal to that your competitors can’t?
  • An idea: Are there any key concepts, methods, or ideas that your competitors aren’t covering? What’s missing from their course content?
  • A format: Is there a course style or format that your competitors aren’t currently offering? What could you do differently? How could you make your course more engaging?

The online courses already on the market have the upper hand. The creators behind those courses have been learning about your audience, developing their course, and tailoring their marketing for longer than you have. 

The best way to find success? Make sure you’re offering your audience something different to what’s already out there.

Here are a few examples of how creators managed to create new, different, and better online courses compared to their competitors.

Miss Excel – Making a (kinda) boring subject fun

Despite the stiff competition for Microsoft Excel courses, Miss Excel – real name Kat Norton – carved out a niche for herself in a crowded marketplace by using TikTok to create bite-sized Excel courses and infusing creativity, fun, and enthusiasm into her content. Making an otherwise boring topic super approachable.  

Miss Excel began by posting a new video on TikTok once a day. Then one of her videos went viral and hit 100,000 views in just four days. After that, the rest was history.

After her first video hit it big, Miss Excel was able to massively increase her online course sales, quit her job, and focus on growing her online course business full-time. She now boasts an impressive lineup of courses on Thinkific, helping over 17,000 students learn how to improve their Excel skills and bringing in a whopping 6-figure income in the process. 

The Budgetnista – Catering to an underserved audience 

Thinkific creator Tiffany Aliche from The Budgetnista found there was no shortage of creators offering financial advice. But she quickly realized that few online courses were catering to women – specifically black women – and this was a niche where she could use her skills and expertise to make a meaningful difference. 

By creating online courses tailored to her target audience, Tiffany carved out a hugely successful niche in a competitive industry – and built a 7-figure business in the process. To date, she’s helped over 2 million women learn how to manage their money, get out of debt, and save money smarter.

“I want to help women, especially black women, live richer lives. Because we have been left out of the financial conversation for so long.”


  1. Will someone pay to solve the problem your course topic covers?

Of course, to validate your online course idea, you also need to make sure that people will be willing to pay money for the products and services you’re offering.

There are a few ways to figure out who will pay for your course and how much they’ll pay. Here are 3 popular methods to validate your course idea:

  1. Talk to your audience: If you’re not engaging your audience during your market research, you’re missing out on valuable insights. Ask your audience about their challenges, needs, and whether or not they’d pay for a course to overcome them. Use surveys, quizzes, and 1:1 interviews to conduct your audience research and hear what your audience have to say.
  2. Create a free mini course: To check demand for your online course topic, create a free mini course for people to download via your website and/or social media channels. Depending on the interest in your free course, you can get a feel for whether or not a paid course would sell – and gather feedback from your audience on what could be improved and what they want to see more of.
  3. Pre-sell your course: To avoid creating a full-length course that no one buys, try pre-selling your online course before you create it. Pre-selling is one of the best approaches to launching an online course to make sure that you have an audience ready-and-waiting for your release date – and it can pre-fund your course production too. 

Related: 4 Steps To Validating And Selling Your Online Course

  1. Create compelling learning outcomes

Once you’ve finalized your course topic – including who you’re tailoring your course to – it’s time to get clear on what exactly you’re offering your learners.

A critical step in learning how to create an online course is identifying your learning outcomes. Think of learning outcomes like your big picture goals for the course. Your learning outcomes summarize what your learners will gain from taking your course – and they’ll also play a key part in marketing your course to potential students.

Download Free Lesson Plan Templates: Download Now

To your learners, your learning outcomes explain clearly and succinctly what they’ll be able to do after taking your course. This means they know exactly what they’re getting from your online course before they start, helping to make sure that the people who hit “buy” are the right fit for your product.

The result? Higher completion rates, better satisfaction scores, glowing testimonials, and fewer refund requests.

How to write learning outcomes for your online course

To help you write your learning outcomes for your online course, focus on these 3 key things:

  • What your learners will be able to DO by the end of your course
  • What your learners will KNOW by the end of your course
  • How your learners will FEEL by the end of your course

In other words, your learning outcomes should cover the skills your learners will gain, the knowledge they’ll acquire, and the attitudes and emotions they’ll feel after completing it.

Here is a formula from our creators for creating winning learning outcomes. Use this structure to create your own:

VERB + What they will do (with a measurement where possible) + how they will do it.

For example:

By the end of this program, you will be able to formulate your 3 profitable packages and offerings for your wider online course business using our profitable education business model.

Complete this statement using the formula to write your own learning outcomes: 

By the end of this program, you will be able to…

  •     __________________________
  •     __________________________
  •     __________________________

Try to repeat this exercise for the skills, knowledge, and emotions your learners will have. When you’re done, you should have 9+ learning outcomes for your course.

It’s up to you whether you choose to display your learning outcomes in sentence form like this, as bullet points, or in some other format on your sales page and website. For example, Mimi Goodwin’s Sew It! Academy has a range of learning outcomes listed under each of their course pricing plans. 

As you can see, the learning outcomes are clearly listed below the cost of each membership plan. Take the ‘Kids Only’ plan for example – learners will get to understand sewing machine basics, how to cut, pin, and iron, how to sew in a straight line, and the basic stitches and terms. 

With these basic learning outcomes, the Sew It! Academy’s customers know exactly what to expect from their purchase and can easily decide if it’s the right choice for them.

“If you start at the beginning, you just go down a rabbit hole… Instead, look at the end result that you want to achieve, and focus on how you’re helping your students to transform.”


Related: How To Craft Magnetic & Compelling Learning Outcomes

  1. Structure your online course

Video embed:

Now you’re clear on the learning outcomes for your online course, you can begin to organize and structure your course content. 

If your course topic has a step-by-step linear progression – like learning a new yoga pose –  this stage should be easy.

If your course topic is more complex, you’ll need to break it down into smaller sub-topics. Try to group similar themes, tips, and ideas into different modules and structure the lessons within each module in the most progressive and logical manner. The idea here is to form a flowing sequence of lessons.

Need more help? Here are 4 tips from our creators:

  1. Plan your online course with an instructional design storyboard

An instructional design storyboard will help save you a lot of time in the process of planning your online course content. It’s designed to keep your training focused and makes sure you hit all the most important points in the learning journey – before you sink time into fleshing out your online course.

Storyboards aren’t just a tool for planning videos. They can help you map high-level learning themes. For example, you could storyboard your student’s learning objectives using a Bloom’s Taxonomy storyboard, that covers all the levels of mastery your students need to master along the way.

Related: How to Plan an Online Course (Templates & Tips)

From here, you can start planning what courses you’ll need to create based on the themes you’ve come up with.

Related: 10 Instructional Design Models For Creating A Winning Online Course

  1. Create a course outline

To give your course creation process more focus, create a course outline.

Think of your course outline as the roadmap for how your online course will bring your learners from point A to point B. A course outline will help you deliver content to your learners in a structured, ordered way, layering skill upon skill until they finish your course feeling like an expert.

To help you create yours, download a copy of our course outline template here.

“I’ll get a sense of how things [in the course] are flowing and then I work through it in order from the top down. I’m always adding in things, and sometimes I’ll take things out if they seem irrelevant or if I’ve covered it somewhere else.”


  1. Plan your individual lessons

As well as thinking about your high level course outline, you’ll also need to plan your individual lessons.

When it comes to creating a lesson plan, it’s helpful to start with a few questions to determine the goal of your lesson.

  • What do your students already know?
  • What do they need to learn?
  • What tasks and activities will help to lock that knowledge into place?

Here’s an example of a lesson plan, including learning objectives and the key topics covered.

Lesson #1: How To Source Ingredients For Baking

Learning Objective: Learn how to source ingredients for baking to save time and money

Topics Covered:

  • How to find fresh locally sourced ingredients
  • What ingredients to buy in bulk for multiple recipes
  • How to evaluate ingredients by nutritional value

Create a lesson plan for every lesson in your online course to help you structure your content – and make your life easier when it comes to recording and creating the lessons.

Related: The Ultimate List of Free Online Course Lesson Plan Templates

  1. Consider how you’ll structure your course academy

Most creator educators rarely create just one online course. Chances are, you’ll probably end up with a whole academy made up of many different courses.

If you can think about how you’ll structure your academy at this stage, you can understand more clearly how each course fits into the wider framework of your business.

Here’s the simplest way to think about structuring your online courses – you can follow this method to create an entire academy:

For example, let’s say the goal of your academy is to teach people about sewing. You might have a bundle of courses on sewing projects and patterns, including:

  1. A course on fabrics and garment sewing; a chapter about how to draft a garment; and a video lesson on using basic shapes to create a clothing item.
  2. A course on pattern making; with a chapter on how to read basic patterns; and a video lesson demonstrating how to sew a pattern.

Sound familiar? We gave you a glimpse of this earlier with Sew it! Academy’s pricing plan. This example was lifted straight from their course catalog. The Sew it! Academy is an ideal example of how you can bundle separate courses into cohesive units and create an overarching academy with a clear goal. 

Check out this structure map for another basic example:

By thinking about your online courses as part of a wider academy, you can build a cohesive brand throughout all your course content – making it easier to sell your courses as bundles and become known as a thought leader in your industry or field. 

“You need to do two things: make it easy for somebody to tell a friend about what you do, and make it easy for your brand to have a professional, recognizable look. That brand recognition helps give people the ability to connect the dots.”


  1. Choose the most engaging and effective delivery method

You’re at the halfway point for how to create an online course that wows your audience.

To recap, you have:

  • Picked the perfect course topic
  • Validated demand for that topic
  • Created clear and compelling learning outcomes
  • Designed your course structure and plan

Now, it’s time to decide how you’ll deliver your content to create an engaging online course your learners will love.

When figuring out the best way to create an online course, you need to keep in mind your audience’s different learning needs and the ways you can deliver information to make your course as interesting as possible for your learners.

Here are a few questions to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Will you have videos, reading content, activities, audio content?
  • What type of visuals will you use?
  • Will you have opportunities for social learning?
  • How will you make your course fun and engaging?
  • How will you help students with different learning styles?

To help you design effective learning content, follow these 3 tips.

Related: How To Design Your Online Course (Visually And Structurally)

  1. Use a blend of different teaching techniques to make content more engaging

Traditional classroom experiences don’t always translate nicely into engaging online learning experiences. So it’s important to find ways to make your online course fun, easy, and interesting to complete. 

Here are 8 ways to make your online course more engaging:

  1. Bring storytelling into your teaching
  2. Create a learning community
  3. Use both synchronous and asynchronous learning
  4. Host live lessons or Q&As
  5. Use microlearning to break big topics into bite-sized chunks
  6. Include gamification to motivate your students
  7. Design your course to be accessible
  8. Make your courses interactive with quizzes

“I like to think of delivering your course like putting together a sitcom episode… Use lots of relevant and fun examples in your delivery and change slides and/or camera angles often. The former will keep the content interesting and the latter will re-engage the brain of your student.”


Engagement strategies like live Q&As and quizzes can be fun and add another dimension to your course content, helping to create the best possible learning experience for your audience.

When you’re creating an online course, make sure you’re also using universal design learning principles to ensure your course is accessible for anyone and everyone.

“Ask questions that make them think. Throw in a surprise slide every now and then to alert their senses and above all incorporate an opportunity to connect with you either on Facebook Live, Zoom or Instagram Live.”


Related: 24 Expert Tips On How To Be A Better Teacher

  1. Don’t make your online course too long

The ideal length of your online course is the shortest amount of time it takes to get your students from point A to point B. (The shorter, the better.)

There’s no one-size fits all approach to creating an online course. But in many cases, bite-sized learning can be just as impactful as a lengthy online course. 

A few factors may influence the length of your course – these include:

  • The complexity of the topic: Your chosen course topic will determine how long your course content needs to be. For example, a course on rocket science will probably be longer than a course on how to change a tire.
  • Requirements for continuing education credits: If you’re hoping to get your course certified for continuing education, your learners may need to complete a certain number of hours. These requirements will influence the length of your course and how complex your course may need to be.
  • Your pricing structure: If you’re planning to create a range of online courses at different price points, this might influence how long your course is. For example, if you’re offering a deep-dive premium course offer, it may end up being longer and more in-depth than your lower ticket introductory course that just covers the basics.

Many first-time course creators fall into the trap of thinking they need to put everything they know into one course. But the secret to learning how to create an online course is knowing what to include – and what not to include.

In fact, you might be more successful if you break your course topic up into several smaller courses rather than one big course, giving your audience the chance to cherry pick the content they want to learn.

  1. Add social elements like learning communities and cohort-based learning

We’re social animals. And one of the biggest challenges with self-paced online learning is finding ways to engage your learners and make the learning experience more social.

Consider building an online community to help facilitate meaningful connections between you and your customers. Learning communities complement online courses perfectly because they open up a space for social learning, peer-to-peer support, and learner-to-educator support. 

Online learning communities also help with accountability – learners can be paired up or placed in cohorts to collaborate on activities and hold each other accountable for hitting their learning goals.

“Online learning is definitely the thing that’s working… But along with that, I think a community or a way to touch base is important.”


Cohort-based learning is also a popular format for online courses. This model differs from self-paced learning as it’s a synchronous learning method where people gather to learn in real-time, putting the emphasis on collaboration and teamwork rather than individual learning. Cohort-based classes are a little more work to manage and coordinate – but learners tend to love them. 

And as a bonus, online communities will also help you in marketing your online course, turning your learners into powerful brand advocates – and opening up more opportunities to upsell and cross-sell to your existing customers in the future. More on that below.

Related: How To Create A Cohort-Based Course

  1. Produce your online course: filming, recording, and editing

When you’re confident in your online course structure, plan, and delivery methods, you’re ready to start creating your online course for real – including filming, recording, and editing your content. 

While this process will look different for every creator, depending on your course delivery plan, it’s likely you’ll need to shoot some video content. And you know what that means… it’s time to get in front of the camera and hit record.

Some of the most popular recording styles for online course content include:

  • Talking heads – One of the top recording formats for creating online courses, talking head videos feature your face and upper body in the frame as you talk to camera. You might have a greenscreen, projector or whiteboard behind you for helpful materials like presentation slides, visuals, diagrams, animations, and much more. Consider shooting other angles too to make your content more visually interesting.
  • Screen recordingRecord your device’s screen to create your online course content. This style of video is used most often to walk viewers through a process, explain a concept, or create a how-to guide. You might choose to feature your face or an avatar on-screen as well. 
  • Voiceovers – A voiceover is similar to a screen recording but you’re narrating what’s happening on screen. This style is often used for presentations and usually the speaker isn’t shown on screen. 

Related: How To Set Up A Video Recording Studio

Pro-Tip: Even though you’re learning how to create an online course, try looking at resources for how to build a YouTube channel too as many of the same video recording and editing principles apply. Check out content like ‘How to Edit YouTube Videos’ or editing software roundups to learn everything you need to know.

Don’t worry about your course content being perfect at this stage. The important thing is to get your course out there and in front of your target audience so you can start collecting feedback – then you can go back and refine and even reshoot your content based on what your customers are saying.

“I think things are shifting to becoming less perfect… you don’t have to have a huge production company to produce a course. Everybody can become a course creator with just an iPhone Pro.”


If you need additional support or you want a professional touch to produce and edit your courses, consider outsourcing the work to skilled freelancers. Check out popular platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to find people ready and waiting to help you. 

Related: Best Equipment & Software for Creating Online Courses

  1. Choose your online course platform

Where you choose to host your online courses will shape the whole course experience – from creating your online course to onboarding learners to collecting feedback and issuing certificates.

When you’re building an online course business, it’s essential to choose a learning platform that fits all of your needs and can scale as you grow – including design, marketing, and community-building tools.

As you search for the perfect platform for your online courses, make sure you look at the marketing options on offer to help you promote your content. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • What marketing integrations does this platform allow?
  • Can I build a website and/or landing pages on this platform?
  • What email marketing features do they offer?
  • What metrics can I track?
  • Can I create bundles and packages?

If in doubt, check out reviews, testimonials, and case studies from other creators who have used the platform to find out what it’s really like.

“Thinkific’s packages are simplistic and easy to follow. I love how user-friendly it is, and there is a ton of support. I like knowing that when I need something, I can get a response quickly.”


Related: These are The Best Platforms for Online Course Hosting

  1. Establish your pricing structure

A key part of figuring out how to create an online course is knowing how your course will fit into your business overall and the pricing structure you’ll use to sell them. 

Online courses pricing can range from zero to multiple thousands of dollars. To come up with a price tag for your course content, here are a few things to consider:

  • What’s your pricing structure? How you choose to package your course as a product will influence the overall course design, the value you build into it, and how you market it. Are you selling a stand-alone course, a bundle, a membership, or a combination of these? Figure out your structure first to know how to price your online course.
  • What are your income goals? Let’s be real – many creator educators choose to create courses to earn additional income. Look at what you’re hoping to earn from your online courses and price them accordingly. Remember the lower the price point, the more courses you’ll need to sell to hit your income goals.
  • Where does your online course fit into your overall business? If you already have an established business, your plans for how you’ll use your online course content will likely impact how you choose to price your course. If you’re planning to use your online course as a free lead magnet, a passive income stream, or your primary product, this will influence your pricing.

There are no rules for setting a pricing structure for your online course. It’s up to you to decide what you want to charge.

For a starting point, look at what your competitors are charging. Take a look at the notes you took during your competitor research and compare the depth and complexity of their content to the course you’ve created. 

If you’re confident your course is significantly better than what’s currently on the market, then price yours higher than the competition. If your main priority is keeping your course accessible and selling to as many people as possible, then you may want to price it lower – but beware of underpricing.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t underprice your online course:

  1. It will hurt your bottom line

If your course is a lot cheaper than your competition, people will assume it has less value and will be less likely to buy it. That means you could be driving customers away and into your competitors’ arms. 

If your strategy is to sell your course cheap to get as many learners as possible in the door, you also risk reducing the quality of the learning experience for your customers. Why? Because you’ll have less time to support your learners, answer questions, engage your audience, and offer a personalized experience.

For example, here are 5 different ways to make $50,000 selling an online course:

It’s a lot easier to manage 25 learners and provide a high-quality, tailored experience to your learners than to try and cater to 500. And the revenue result is the same.

  1. Your marketing effort stays the same

The effort you need to put into marketing to get someone to buy your course at a lower price point is only marginally less than for a higher priced course – so don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll instantly sell twice as many courses by low-balling.

This guide on how to price an online course gives you more details on why underpricing isn’t a good idea: 

(Assume each lead costs $5 and you have a 5% conversion rate.)

  1. You can’t reinvest in growth if your margins are too low 

Putting a lower price point on your online course also results in a smaller marketing and advertising budget because you’ll have less money to reinvest. 

In the example below, the $50 course actually loses money compared to the $200 course: 

That $100 profit is money you can use to reinvest in filming equipment, a graphic designer, a better microphone, or even just a day off. 

Pricing your online course can be a tricky business – but don’t fall into the trap of undervaluing your expertise and pricing too low. It can end up damaging your reputation and losing you business in the long-run.

If you have no idea where to start with pricing your online course, try asking your audience. Set up a survey to find out how much they’d be willing to pay for your expertise. The results might surprise you.

“I saw what was included in other courses, how they were priced, the content, what I would change, and what I would add… that’s how I figured out the prices. It’s been five years and they haven’t changed.”


  1. Launch your online course and market for success

Now you’ve chosen and validated your topic, crafted your learning outcomes, created your course content, set up your school, and finalized your pricing, it’s time to launch! 

Give yourself a pat on the back, but don’t go anywhere…

Get The Ultimate Guide to Marketing & Selling Your Online Course: Download Now

If you think the work is over now you’ve completed your online course – think again. It takes a little more work to market and sell your course than just uploading it to your course platform and waiting.

In reality, after launching your course you’ll need an ongoing marketing strategy to keep selling courses and converting followers into customers. In fact, your marketing plan can make the difference between zero sales and a seven-figure course business. 

To get started with your course marketing plan, try answering the following questions:

  • How will you use social media to market your online courses?
  • What types of content marketing will you use?
  • What promotions and discounts can you offer?
  • Will you run ads to market your courses?
  • Do you have an existing email list you can sell to?
  • Can you partner up with influencers?
  • Will you run an affiliate program?

Each of these questions represent a possible pillar in your overall marketing strategy. Combine several of these strategies and you’re on the right path.

“The most important thing is not just to use marketing for the sake of it, but to actually get the right word out. I tend to prioritize quality and creativity over numbers. This has helped me build the right type of client relationships and gain traction.”


Here’s a closer look at four of the most common marketing tools creator educators use to generate interest and drive sales for their online courses. 

Related: 58 Ways To Market Your Online Course & Increase Sales

  1. Pre-sell your online course

Pre-selling your course means you start to sell it before you’ve even created it. 

This marketing method is one of the best ways to protect yourself from wasting time by creating a course that doesn’t sell – and drum up interest for your course.

To motivate customers to enroll early, consider an early bird special offer for anyone that buys your course during your pre-sell period. That might be a discount, bonus resources, or a sneak peek. 

Make sure your pre-sale is a limited time offer to create a sense of urgency and drive your audience to take action – you can include a countdown or stopwatch on your website, emails, and social media to drive home the message.

The main thing you’ll need to pre-sell your online course is a sales page – see more details on that below 👇

  1. Create a sales page for your online course

Next, you’ll want to create a sales page for your course. A sales page (also known as a landing page) differs from other pages on your website. 

Your sales page only has one goal – to get people to enroll in your course. Everything on your course sales page should be tailored to converting casual visitors into customers.

Here are a few key features of a high-converting online course sales page:

  1. A clear, compelling headline (to catch visitors’ attention)
  2. An opening story (to introduce the problem)
  3. Bullet points (to highlight the benefits of the solution, how it solves the problem, what you’re offering, and bonuses)
  4. Testimonials (for social proof)
  5. Credibility (instructor bio, your experience, and more relevant info)
  6. Pricing details (with a clear call-to-action)
  7. Risk Reversal (a satisfaction guarantee)
  8. FAQs

Make sure your content is clear and compelling with a concrete call-to-action (CTA) that directs your visitors on what to do next. 

The idea of a sales page is to make your offer irresistible, so you make your potential customers’ purchase decision as easy as possible – that means giving them all the information, social proof, and learning outcomes they need to know whether your course is right for them.

Related: Course Landing Pages: What You Need to Get Better Conversions

  1. Use the webinar launch method

As well as creating a killer sales page for your online course, you can also use webinars as a strategy to sell your courses to potential customers. Webinars work because they create an environment where you can quickly earn your audience’s trust before you ask people to act.

“We need to be personable and connect with our target audience because they’ll probably never meet you in person.”


Webinars are a proven marketing tool that can help you generate leads, generate interest, and sell your course. If you offer your webinar attendees a discount or early bird offer on your online course, you can also boost conversions.

This is a strategy Miss Excel – aka Kat Norton – has successfully used to sell her online courses. She hosts free Excel training and offers webinar attendees half-price on her courses at the end of the session, after demonstrating her expertise and showing the concrete value her target audience can expect to gain from purchasing her course. 

“This launch method is awesome. I did two webinars in April, granting me my first six-figure month… 99% of the revenue was from core sales on Thinkific.”


Related: How to Promote a Webinar (Ultimate Guide)

  1. Use lead magnets to grow your email list

As well as webinars, you can also use other lead magnets to grow your email list – and market and sell to your subscribers down the line. 

If you’re not already familiar with lead magnets, it might sound like a complex marketing term – but it’s actually exactly what it sounds like. Lead magnets act like a magnet to attract potential customers to your sales page, email campaign, or overall sales funnel. 

There are a huge range of lead magnets that can be ultra-effective for attracting and converting your ideal customers. You could offer a free mini-course, masterclass, or email course – and provide your audience with a shortened version of your paid course that delivers value, builds your authority, and encourages them to engage more with your content.

You can also create downloadable resources like guides, templates, workbooks, and ebooks to use as lead magnets.

Find out what your target audience are searching for, asking about, and eager to learn more about – then create lead magnets that are tailored to their needs.

“Don’t hold back what you know, be generous with the knowledge that you have. Once I said ‘screw it’ and just started teaching everything I knew without the intention to get paid, my audience found me.”


It’s easy to create high-quality lead magnets for your business using graphic design tools like Canva and Adobe Express.

Related: Top Online Business Tools Used By Entrepreneurs

  1. Build an online community

Last but certainly not least, the final stage of creating an online course is building your online community.

Why are we so obsessed with communities? Your online community is what turns one-time customers into loyal, repeat customers who act as brand advocates, mentors, and a readymade, committed focus group for your business. 

Download The Complete Learning Communities Toolkit: Download Now

Building an online community lets you foster direct relationships with previous and current learners, allowing you to engage with your target audience in ways that a regular sales page or website won’t let you. 

By creating an online community, you give your students the space to ask you questions, share their learning experience, and give you feedback (directly or indirectly) about what your course does well and what it might be missing. You can also watch your learners grow.

“My first round of BAM graduated two years ago and they’re able to network and respond to newer members’ questions in the Slack community, as well as share their experiences, insights and stories of their journey.”


An online community can also function as an extension of your marketing strategy. When you ‘own’ a community, you have constant access to your target market that no algorithm can take away from you. You can use this access to build authority in your niche and generate more revenue. 

Just remember, as the community manager, it’s also your responsibility to keep the community machine oiled and the wheels turning. This might include:

  • Sharing themed posts for each day of the week
  • Asking questions to spark conversations
  • Answering questions yourself or calling on others to share their tips
  • Enforcing community rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of your members

And most importantly, it’s your responsibility to make sure you give more than you ask. Your students will quickly see through you if your community is nothing more than a marketing tool. So whatever you do, put people first

“For me, a membership is more effective than a one-off course because every single month I can check in with my students and watch them grow. Business has ups and downs and it’s never going to be perfect. I want to be there for all of it, and that’s what I love about the membership framework.”


Related: 13 Membership Site Examples That Will Inspire You

As well as improving the online course experience for your learners, an engaged, committed community can become the perfect space for generating new ideas, testing future products, and gathering valuable feedback to help you keep improving your offering and create the best possible experience for your customers.

Learn how to create an online course and start making money from your expertise today

The process of creating an online course can be hugely rewarding – especially if you’re able to create a resource that is genuinely helpful, valuable, and even life changing for your target audience.

If you have expertise and experience that you want to share with the world, now is the time to start. These 10 steps cover what to expect from the journey of creating, marketing, and selling online courses – all that’s left to do is for you to take the plunge. 

And if you need more inspiration, check out our Creator Stories from people who started where you are today.

“It’s never been easier to build your own course with all of the amazing tools that are offered nowadays to content creators… If I could do it in my living room on my laptop and make $1.3M in sales, you can do it too.”


Launch your online learning product for free 

Use Thinkific to create, market, and sell online courses, lead magnets, communities, and memberships — all from a single platform.

This blog was originally published in September 2021, it’s since been updated in May 2024 to include new information.