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Trying to create an online course on a small budget? Expert Kathryn Hocking shares 8 free & low-cost tools for creating online courses.

It’s easy to wait around for the ‘perfect time’ to create and sell online course. The ‘perfect time’ normally looks like a fully booked client schedule with lots of spare time and disposable income to play with. I don’t believe there is a ‘perfect time’ to create an online course but I do believe that you can launch your online course for free.

In fact, I created my first few online courses for as little as $200 each (and then made 10 times that in profit). So today I wanted to share some of the free and low-cost online course creation tools that you can use to create your online course too!

How to create an online course for free

1. Thinkific: Software to create an online course for free.

Thinkific is the perfect platform for online course creators looking for a low-cost solution to easily create, market and sell their content. Best of all, it’s free to create and sell your first course.

It is a one-stop shop that gives you the ability to host your content and course materials (including PDF, video, audio and more), sell your online course with instant access to your funds (and ability to deliver free, paid and subscription courses) and market your online course with a custom domain and branded landing page.

This is perfect for online course creators who have invested in a brand identity but want to save funds on sales pages, membership sites, and shopping carts.

Thinkific will always be free to create and sell your first course, but check out our Black Friday offer!


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2. Canva: Free and low-cost design tool.

Having your online course content designed can cost anywhere between $500-2,500 (depending on the quantity of content and hours required) but if you’re happy to invest your own time then Canva makes it super simple to create PDF workbooks.

The free version is perfect for online course creators without a brand as it provides a range of layout suggestions and fonts that you can play with. But don’t worry if you’ve already invested in a brand identity (logo, brand colors, fonts, and textures), you can easily bring these all together using Canva for Work.

This is perfect for online course creators who are happy to do a little brand DIY.

3. Beaver Builder: affordable WordPress page builder.

Already have a WordPress website and want to host your online course there? Then Beaver Builder is an affordable drag-and-drop WordPress page builder. The page builder plugin will work with your existing website and is great for designing sales pages and membership sites that look totally professional. All you have to do is choose a template, insert your content and hit publish!

This is perfect for online course creators who already have a WordPress website and want to host their own sales page.

Note: Thinkific includes free tools to create a website and sales page for your online course.

4. Camtasia: Cheap software for editing online course videos, with a free trial.

Videos are a great way to provide information to your online course participants as they cater to all learning styles (visual, audio and kinesthetic). Visual learners can watch the videos, audio learners they can listen to the videos and by adding a downloadable action orientated workbook you can cater to the ‘doers’ (kinesthetic learners).

Camtasia is a great tool for creating videos as it allows you to record and edit them to look like professionally filmed videos. I use Camtasia to record the Powerpoint presentations of my webinars. While this is a paid service, you can get a 30-day trial and it is very simple to record and upload to your chosen video hosting service.

This is perfect for online course creators who want to provide demonstrations and tutorials for their participants.

5. Vimeo: Free video hosting.

Now that you have professionally filmed and edited videos, you’ll need somewhere to host them. Vimeo has both free and paid options that allow you to upload, host and share videos in high-quality HD. Once your videos are uploaded to Vimeo then you can share the link or embed them to your website for online course participants to watch. Even better, there are many privacy options to ensure only paying participants can see your videos.

This is perfect for online course creators who have created videos and want to host them online with options to share the link or embed into a website.

Side note: video hosting is including in all Thinkific plans. So if you’re using Thinkific to host your courses, you don’t need to spend any money on video hosting. 

6. Zoom: Free virtual meetings and webinars.

Is there a live element to your online course content? Perhaps you’re hosting live calls each month? Or using free webinars to promote the content? Zoom has both a free and paid option that allows you to host live calls with your online course participants and integrates directly within Thinkific. The free version is perfect for short calls with less than 50 participants but if you want the call to go for longer than 40 minutes make sure you upgrade to the paid version or Zoom will kick you out.

This is perfect for online course creators who want to promote their offering with a series of free webinars or live calls and zoom is one of our favorite top remote working software picks.

7. MailChimp: Free email marketing tool.

MailChimp allows you to keep in touch and continue to connect with your online course participants. Send emails at the click of a button with the free version or set up automated sequences with the paid version.

This is perfect for online course creators who want an affordable customer management system.

Related: How To Build An Email List (Complete Guide)

8. Zapier: affordable way to integrate your tools.

So now that you have an idea of the low-cost tools you can use to create your online course, it’s time to bring it all together. Zapier is an app that allows you to connect different apps and create an automation. Not only does Zapier already link with Thinkific, MailChimp, and Zoom, it also recommends Popular Zaps depending on the tools you use. For example, you might want to create a ‘zap’ that subscribes new Thinkific students to Mailchimp.

This is perfect for online course creators who value ease and flow in their systems and processes.

Side note: Thinkific now has an app store that makes it a breeze to connect all your course creation and marketing tools.

We hope you found these cheap & free tools to create online courses useful. Create an online course for free with Thinkific today!

Create and sell online courses | Thinkific online course platform


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This blog was originally published February 2017, and was updated in August 2021 for more up-to-date information.