If you’ve created an online course, then you know that there were a ton of decisions that you had to make throughout the process. There’s a lot to do, including choosing your course topic, researching and purchasing recording equipment, selecting your course title, deciding what to include in your lessons, figuring out how you’re going to create your content, how to market your course, and everything else in between. And somewhere in that process, you faced the difficult decision of choosing a price for your course.
- Why is pricing your online course so difficult?
- How much should you charge per course?
- The impact of pricing
- How this guide will help you with pricing your online course
- A quick introduction story
- Lessons from the story
- The problem with charging a low price for your online course
- How low is too low?
- When to sell your online course for a low price
- When to give away your course for free
- Factors to consider when pricing your course
- How to increase the value of your course
- The price is right!
- Want to learn more about how to price your course?
Why is pricing your online course so difficult?
If you’re like most online instructors, pricing online courses won’t come naturally to you. In fact, out of all the steps involved in creating and marketing online courses, choosing a course price is one of the most difficult and seemingly complicated decisions you’ll face.
We suspect the reason so many online instructors struggle with this step is that they instinctively know just how impactful pricing affects a course’s value and adoption. It is not a decision that should be taken lightly, and it is definitely not something that should be created out of thin air without a sensible strategy behind it.
In this resource you’ll find practical ways to think about pricing your online course, as well as tips and best practices to consider.
How much should you charge per course?
This video covers how much you should charge for your course. Later in this blog, we have another video on how to charge a lot more (skip to that section here).
The impact of pricing
The price of your course has a direct impact on virtually every aspect of your online teaching business. For example, the type of marketing you choose to promote your course determines the type of students your course attracts (ie. targeting Gen Z with Tiktok tutorials). The amount of support and attention you can provide to your students, and of course, the amount of revenue you can generate from your course sales also impact your pricing strategy.
- Charge too little, and you erode the perceived value of your course (and severely limit your revenue potential and marketing abilities in the process).
- Charge too much, and you’ll likely have to reduce your price (it looks really bad when you do this, by the way!) in order to get some sales.
The question of what to charge for a course also comes up a lot in our Facebook Group, and among online instructors in general. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all response that we can give to every instructor floating this question around. But, what we can do is publish this comprehensive guide, based on the observations and experiences of our team at Thinkific, as well as numerous conversations about pricing with other online instructors.
How this guide will help you with pricing your online course
Since Thinkific currently powers tens of thousands of online courses on just about every topic you could think of, we’ve seen a lot of data to help you out here. At this point, we have a pretty good grasp on what works, and what doesn’t work when it comes to pricing your online course.
By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll be equipped with some practical ways to help determine which price will work best for your course. (You might want to grab yourself a cup of coffee before you read this article – it’s a long one!).
A quick introduction story
To kick things off, I’d like to share a quick story about course pricing. This one comes directly from our CEO Greg Smith. Before he started Thinkific, Greg was working full-time as a lawyer. In 2005, he created his first online course to help aspiring law students pass the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Here’s what he has to say about the experience:
“I created my first online course in 2005. I taught students how to prepare for the LSAT. At the time, I wanted to launch a massive 80-hour long course covering everything I could think of for the topic and charge a high price point. Instead, I started small to test the market, confirm that people wanted to buy the course and get feedback from students.
I started with a short course (about 3-4 hours in length) and covered only a small part of the whole topic. I set the initial price at $29. Looking back, I definitely could have charged more but at the time, I wasn’t sure if lots of people would pay for it. I wanted to test the water first, so to speak.
In the first month, I sold 10 copies for a total of $290 in revenue. Whoohoo! Definitely not enough for me to quit my career as a lawyer, but hey, it was passive income right? Plus, I didn’t have much of a marketing strategy or a big launch plan. I literally just put a link to my course on my blog. If people could find it, they could buy it.
Based on those initial sales my confidence in online courses was up and validated me investing further effort into the course. Over the next year, I slowly increased the price while simultaneously increasing the value offered by the course and the sales processes and language around it.
As I raised the price I found that more people bought the course. So I wasn’t just earning more revenue, I was actually getting more customers! There are many reasons why this happened but a big one was my course’s increase in perceived value. Having a higher price created a higher perceived value among potential students, which led to more sales.
I continued to raise and test my price at different levels over the years, eventually settling on $389 as the optimal price. As you can see, this is quite a jump from the $29 price tag that I originally started with.”
Lessons from the story
Greg’s story isn’t all that different from the story of many online instructors today. Unsure of what to charge for their first course, they test the waters by starting at a low price point. From there, they gradually increase their price until they find what works best for their market. Sometimes they improve their content before a price increase, sometimes they improve their marketing, and sometimes they do both simultaneously.
Although testing different price points can certainly be an effective way to find the optimal selling price for your course, the biggest drawback to this approach is that it takes a lot of time. Greg spent several years in this price-testing phase. But he did learn some very valuable lessons during that time – lessons that we can all benefit from (thanks Greg!) You’ll find more of his insights and examples of other online instructors throughout this article.
Lesson 1: Don’t charge too low at the start
When you first start teaching online, it can be hard to resist the temptation to charge a low price for your course. Maybe you don’t have the confidence to charge a high price. Maybe you don’t have a lot of content to include in your course yet. Maybe you have no idea what your target market is willing to pay for your course. Or, just maybe you don’t have a large audience or email list that you can promote your course to. Whatever the case is, we totally get it. These are the same considerations that caused Greg to sell his LSAT course for only $29 over ten years ago.
Lesson 2: Find and sell only to the people who value your type of content
There are probably a ton of resources online teaching the same thing that you want to teach in your course – from articles to ebooks, podcasts, YouTube videos, audiobooks, white papers, SlideShare presentations, and more. Knowing this, you’re probably asking yourself why someone would willingly pay a high price for your course when there are so many free and inexpensive resources that they can utilize instead.
Yes, there are plenty of people out there who don’t mind spending countless hours of their valuable time sifting through free information online. But these are the people that will rarely end up buying content from anyone.
There are also people who routinely buy several courses from inexpensive course marketplaces (where courses typically sell for $50 or less), but never actually complete them. Like unopened books on a bookshelf, these courses often collect “virtual dust” until they’re forgotten about or become obsolete. It’s a tragedy in the world of online education.
The good news is that there is a third group of people out there: people who will gladly pay a premium in exchange for high-quality information that is organized and delivered in a format that is convenient for them. They want to learn from and have access to an expert, and they want to pay for that privilege. Not only will they complete your course, they’ll also implement what they learn. These are the people you want to create your course for.
The problem with charging a low price for your online course:
There are a few scenarios where selling your course for a low price (or even giving it away for free) are appropriate, and I’ll cover them later in this article. But first, I would like to share some of the main reasons why selling your course for a low price is generally a bad idea.
It makes you lazy with your marketing
When you sell online courses for a low price, it makes you lazy with your marketing. Think about it. Would you invest a significant amount of time and money marketing your course if each sale was only worth a few dollars to you? Probably not.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that people will buy something just because it’s cheap (we can thank Groupon for killing that train). People want to know exactly what is included in what they’re buying, and they want to know that it has value. Just because the price is low doesn’t mean they will whip out their credit card and buy from you without question. Low price or not, you still need to market your course and persuade your prospective buyer to part with their hard-earned cash.
You can’t afford to advertise your course
While it is possible to launch and grow a course without advertising (like Brian Gordon did with his Exam Success course), it sure is a lot more difficult. When you sell your online course for a low price, you immediately limit your ability to spend money promoting your course and generate a positive return on investment (ROI). In fact, when you have a low course price, you are more likely to lose money than you are to earn a profit when you pay for advertising.
Let’s look at an example:
Let’s pretend that you sell your course for $50. You spend some money on ads (such as Facebook Ads), and after running a few campaigns you determine that your average cost per lead is $5. A lead, just so we’re clear, is someone who expresses interest in your course (by clicking on your ad or subscribing to your email list, for example) but has not yet purchased your course.
To continue with this example, let’s assume that your conversion rate from leads to buyers is 5%. So for every 20 leads that you obtain, you sell 1 course (20 x 5% = 1). Since each lead costs $5, you need to spend $100 on ads to generate a single sale worth $50. In this scenario, you lose $50.
Can you see why having a low course price makes it difficult to earn a profit from your ad spend?
You degrade your course’s perceived value
As a general rule, both online and offline, you get what you pay for. Since most buyers believe this to be true, this means that selling your course for a low price dramatically reduces its perceived value. If the price is cheap, the product must be cheap. That’s the assumption your target market will make.
The perceived value of your online course will be a huge driver of sales and setting your price too low actually hurts this perception. There is a psychological effect that your course price will have on your target market. From a branding perspective, it is better to position your course as the premium option in your market. Unless, of course, you are targeting the price-conscious shopper on purpose (ie. students), then act accordingly.
Online training is not less valuable than in-person training
Let’s get one thing clear: online training is not less valuable than in-person training.
The perceived value of an educational product is influenced less by the medium of its delivery, and more by factors such as:
- The expertise of the instructor
- The specificity of the topic as it relates to your student’s needs
- Level of personalization in learning
- The value of the outcome or result that your course helps your students achieve
Some people even prefer to learn online for the simple reason that it is more convenient and they can learn at their own pace.
Here’s what Jeff Cobb, author of Leading The Learning Revolution, said in an article about online course pricing:
“When attempting to assess the value that prospective customers might place on your e-learning offerings, I believe it is important to lay aside any biases you may have – or assume your customers have – about the delivery method or how online offerings relate to any classroom-based education you may offer. If you start with the assumption that education delivered online is inherently of lower value than classroom-based education that is almost certainly where you will end up with your customers.”
– Jeff Cobb
Competing on price is a race to the bottom
No matter what price you set for your course, someone out there will always be able to beat it. Competing on price alone is a race to the bottom. Customers that are loyal to the seller with the lowest price are not the kind of customers you would want anyway. Don’t waste your time trying to serve these people. Focus on marketing your course to people who will respect the value of it, and who aren’t going to cancel their purchase and ask for a refund the moment they find a similar course that is cheaper.
It takes just as much effort to sell a low priced course as it does to sell a high priced one
The effort to get someone to buy is only marginally easier at a lower price point. Pricing and discounts can help with that psychological tipping point to make a purchase, but pricing is only part of that equation. Getting leads, nurturing them, and eventually selling to them requires an investment of time, effort and in many cases, money. Selling a lower priced course probably won’t be much different from the process you guide them through to buy a high priced one.
“For every hour or dollar you invest selling a higher priced course you’re likely to see a better return on that investment than with a lower priced course. This is because it usually takes almost as much work and investment to get a sale at a low price as it does at a high price. If you’re building a sales funnel, running ads, sending emails, or even making phone calls to promote your course, those costs are often very similar regardless of how high your price is. So being able to charge more means you’ll get a much better return on that investment.”
– Greg Smith
A low price makes it difficult to attract joint venture partners
One of the best ways to promote and sell your course is by forming joint venture partnerships with other people who have access to your target market. These are people or organizations that have a database of people who would likely be interested in your course and are willing to promote your course to their database in exchange for a fee or percentage of sales.
The problem with selling your course for a low price is that it limits the amount of revenue your joint venture partner will receive. Higher commissions provide more incentive for joint venture partners to promote you. A 50% commission on a $100 sale is a lot less appealing to a joint venture partner than a 50% commission on a $1,000 sale.
Lower prices attract lower quality customers
Think about how many books you’ve bought in the $20 to $30 price range. Now think about how many of those books you actually finished reading. Not all of them, am I right? Don’t feel bad – we’ve all done it. As consumers, we tend to value the things we buy in direct proportion to the price we pay for them. The same logic applies to online courses.
When someone buys your course for a low price, there is a higher chance that they won’t even complete the course and an even lower chance that they will implement what they learn. Why? Because they have less skin in the game.
When spending several hundred dollars (and especially when you spend $1,000 or more) on an online course, there is a higher probability that you will complete the course and implement what you learn because you have the incentive to get a return on your investment. A higher course price attracts more qualified and more committed students.
I reached out to David Siteman Garland, an entrepreneur who has generated over five million (yes, million) dollars in online course sales. He has also helped over 2,500 people create and launch their online course with his program Create Awesome Online Courses, so he knows a thing or two about this topic. Here’s what he said:
“Bottom line – your job as a course creator is to help people get results. A specific outcome. Whether it’s helping a new mom get her baby to sleep through the night or teaching someone how to do a backflip on a snowboard. Premium pricing brings in SERIOUS customers that are there because they want to be there, and they are invested in the program. Serious customers lead to better success stories. Better success stories lead to more serious customers. Plus, with premium pricing it doesn’t take thousands of customers to grow a 5-figure, 6-figure, or even a 7-figure business.”
– David Siteman Garland
How low is too low?
Hopefully, you’re convinced that pricing your course low is, in most cases, a bad idea. So the next logical question is, how low is too low?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer to this question. A price that would be considered too low will depend on a variety of factors including:
- Your specific niche/market
- Your course topic
- Your marketing efforts
- The trust you have with your market
- Your authority and credibility in your market.
As a general rule, we don’t recommend selling your online course for less than $50.
Unless your goal is something other than to maximize revenue from your course sales, you should probably price your course for $199 or more. That being said, there are a few scenarios where charging a low price for your course can actually be a smart move.
When to sell your online course for a low price:
Here are some scenarios where it makes sense to sell your course at a low price:
During a pre-launch testing period
One technique that can help you get your course off the ground is to pre-sell your online course before you do an official launch. You can even start pre-sales when you haven’t yet finished creating your course. Just make it clear that your students will get access to your course as soon as it is released. You can even involve them in shaping the content of your course as you create it by asking for their input before you create each lesson.
This is often called a “beta-launch.” With this approach, your students will often be more forgiving of your course content and delivery since they know that this is new, and that their feedback will help to increase the quality (and price) of your course over time.
When you have a deadline before a price increase
When you set a deadline after which the price of your course will go up, it incentivizes people to buy immediately. Deadlines create a sense of urgency. So if you’re hosting a webinar, doing a big launch, or offering a limited time discount, it can be a good idea to offer a lower price before the deadline (this is sometimes called an “Early Bird Special”). But when I say lower price point, I don’t mean super low. If you drop your price too low, you risk degrading the perceived value of your course.
A better way to increase your course sales instead of reducing your price for a deadline is to include some extra bonuses that will not be offered after the deadline expires. For example, you can offer a free 1-on-1 consultation call, free access to a related course, or even offer to ship a physical gift (people love to receive something physical in the mail!) in exchange for signing up.
Amy Porterfield, a successful entrepreneur and online course creator, for example, recently used this technique during the launch of her course Webinars That Convert. She offered a “Sales Booster Bonus Package” as a bonus resource, but only to those who purchased her course before the deadline.
When you discount as a last resort to acquire a customer
I don’t recommend this tactic to everyone. However, in some cases, offering a discount as a last resort to acquire a new customer can work well. This is a tactic that Greg used to help boost sales of his LSAT course:
“With my LSAT course, I discovered that if someone didn’t buy my course after about 7 weeks of being on my email list, it was very unlikely that they ever would. By this time, they were much less likely to read my emails, more likely to unsubscribe from my list, and very unlikely to purchase my course.
This is pretty typical behavior in the exam preparation market (where people have a specific deadline to write an exam). If someone didn’t buy my course within 7 weeks of being on my newsletter, there was a good chance that they already wrote the exam and would never need to study for it again. This is different from most other markets where people can take a few months, maybe even a year or more to finally decide to take your course.
As a last resort to get the sale, I offered my LSAT course at a discount right around the 6-week mark of being on my email list. It didn’t generate a huge amount of sales, but I did pick up a few extra sales that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. If you plan to try this method just make sure you know your engagement numbers. You don’t want to be offering discounts right as people are getting ready to buy at full price. You want to offer them to people who are leaving you anyway. And don’t go too low. Even though these leads were pretty much lost to me without the discount, I still only offered 25% off.”
When to give away your course for free
Revenue generation isn’t the only reason why people create online courses. Here are some scenarios where giving away your course for free can be beneficial for you and your students:
To promote a more expensive paid course
Creating a mini-course that you give away for free to your customers, leads, and marketing audience can help them get a sneak preview of your content. After they complete the free or “trial” version of the course, direct them to a call-to-action to learn more on the topic in a paid, extended version of the course. One easy way to do this is by making the first chapter of your course free. If students want to continue on, they must pay — giving you students who are willing and interested to actually complete your hard-worked-on course content.
Deanne Love, for example, is a hoop dancing instructor who used Thinkific to create and sell her online programs. Deanne has a course called 15 Hoop Dance Moves Your Body Will Love which she gives away for free because it helps her attract students that she can promote her other courses to. It also gives people a chance to experience learning from her before deciding to pay for that privilege.
Mimi Goodwin is another example. She started her journey writing blog content for Sew It Academy, teaching people how to sew, create their own patterns, and work with a sewing machine. As her blog grew in popularity, she began to monetize it — and that’s when she saw the real value of her expertise! From there, she launched a course with Thinkific to make learning to sew even easier. Her course offers users a free trial before committing to the paid membership plan just so they can see first-hand how valuable her insights are.
For generating leads for a product and/or service offering
Many online course creators offer free courses in order to generate leads for their business. Use the free course content platform to educate your potential buyers on why this topic is important or how it can affect them. This can encourage them to reach out to you for more information about purchasing your product/service.
For onboarding new customers
Offering a free course can be a great way to help teach your customers how to use your product. This is pretty common in the software industry where users often spend significant amounts of time learning how to use new online tools. Providing new users with free training as part of the initial onboarding process can help improve user experience, minimize customer service inquiries, and reduce churn.
Wishpond, a Vancouver-based SaaS company, for example, provides a marketing platform to help businesses generate, manage and nurture leads. Using Thinkific, they created Wishpond Academy to provide free training to their new customers. After measuring the results, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that the customers who had accessed their online training courses were upgrading from trial to paid plans at a rate 380% higher than customers who never accessed the training. That is a BIG increase, one that has a direct impact on their bottom line.
As a bonus resource included in another purchase
If you have another product or service to sell, including a course as a free bonus for purchasing can help incentivize someone to buy from you. If you’re a coach, for example, you can offer your prospective coaching clients free access to your online course in exchange for enrolling in your coaching program.
Factors to consider when pricing your course
Do not price based on length alone
Many online instructors think that to charge a high price for their course, they need to create a very long course. This is absolutely not true. The length of your online course should not be a determining factor in setting your course price. Price based on the value of the content. If you have a ton of value that is explained in extensive detail (therefore creating a long course), this is where length comes into play. But don’t make it long just because you can. If you can teach someone to get the result they want with 3 hours of instruction, don’t create 7 hours worth of training.
That being said, your students are going to expect a certain amount of content based on the price they pay for your course. If you charge $500 for a course that contains 30 minutes worth of content, for example, your students are probably going to feel ripped off and request a refund. Use your best judgment. If you charge $500 or more, I recommend including at least 3-5 hours of training. If you’re giving away your course for free, the length doesn’t matter (though customers would definitely understand if it’s on the shorter side).
“A big mistake here is folks think they just need to add more content to justify the price. And the truth is, that’s 100% false. Your online course is the shortcut. Your job is to help them get the result as fast and as safely as possible.”
– David Siteman Garland
Take a look at your competition
Some people will tell you to take a look at the prices of competing courses and then price yours somewhere in the middle. This is bad advice. Price your course based on the value that you provide to your students. This includes all factors like your training and support, and the value of the outcome you help them achieve. Do not choose your course price purely based on the price your competitors are charging for their courses.
If you’re going to research your competition, do it simply to validate the fact that there are people out there who are paying to learn your topic. Do it to validate market demand, not to choose your course price. If you really want, you could purchase a competing course just to see the content, and use it as a benchmark for creating an online course that is better or more detailed in some way.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you can’t find any competing courses on your topic that are selling for a premium price, you shouldn’t take that as a sign to not create the first course in that area. Do market research to validate your ideas, regardless of how many existing courses are out there.
Millie Adrian is a course content creator who has generated over $400K in revenue by teaching influencers how to influence. Although she launched her first course by trusting her gut and setting a price way above the current market, she was able to later expand her course portfolio to now include three valuable courses (each at different price points) that are highly sought after by aspiring social media influencers.
To get to this point, she did extensive market research by launching and re-launching her course multiple times. Every time she re-launched it, she got valuable feedback from her students and incorporated it. And the best part? She’s still priced way higher than her competition — but her students value her content so much that they justify the price easily!
Quantify the results your students can achieve
If you’re going to help your students save money, tell them how much. If you’re going to help them save time, tell them how much. By quantifying the value of the outcome you help them achieve, you position the price of your course as a no-brainer. If taking your course is going to help someone earn a promotion at work or get a specific job, for example, that is an outcome that can definitely be quantified.
“If your customer tried to figure this all out on their own, how long would it take them? How much money would they have to spend? How much time and money are you saving them?”
– David Siteman Garland
Test multiple price points
This takes time, but it can be a great way to determine the optimal price for your course. Testing different price points to see how they each affected his sales was exactly what Greg did with his LSAT course. Starting with a price of $29, he gradually increased his price over time. After several increases, he eventually determined that $389 was the optimal selling price for his course.
If you’re going to test different price points, you should probably start with a low (but not too low) price and then gradually increase it from there. Keep increasing your price until your sales numbers start to show resistance. All else being equal, when that happens you’ll know that you’re approaching the ceiling of what your target market is willing to pay for your course.
For example, Amy Lang — a long-time creator-educator who offers a paid course on sexual wellness education (generating over $113,000 in revenue!) — offers multiple pricing tiers that target her two main groups: professional childhood educators and parents of children who want to learn her content. This pricing, offered through a membership model, helps keep the content accessible, which is her main objective in educating children about sexual health.
The optimal price for your course will depend on your specific business objectives. The goal is to find that sweet spot of revenue generated and the number of students enrolled at each price point.
Melissa Guller, Founder, Wit & Wire, suggests that creators can increase conversion and customer satisfaction by offering accessibility add-ons. These add-ons include payment plans, order bumps, or guarantees.
Payment plans allow students to pay for the course in installments, making it more accessible for those who cannot afford the full price upfront. Order bumps are additional items that students can add to their purchase at a discounted price. Guarantees offer students a risk-free way to try the course, as they can get a refund if they are not satisfied.
Consider your credibility and authority in your market
Think about how much credibility and authority you have in your market. Consider:
- Is your name or the name of your organization highly recognizable to your target audience?
- Have you spent several years building your platform and growing your audience?
- Have you published a book?
- Have you spoken at conferences in your industry?
- Have you been featured in the media?
- Do you have any specific credentials that took time to earn?
- Have you received any awards for your work?
- Do you have positive testimonials from other students or clients?
All of these factors help you to justify charging a higher price for your course.
If you’re not yet perceived as an “expert” on your topic, publishing free content is a great way to build trust and authority in your market. Do you have a blog, YouTube channel, or a podcast? These are great ways to share free content and build trust with your audience.
Consider the cost of your customer’s non-course alternatives
Without your course, how else would someone learn to achieve the outcome your course helps them achieve? Examples of things to consider:
- How many months or years of trial and error would it take?
- How much money would they have to spend to hire a coach or consultant to help them?
- How much would it cost them to fly to another city to attend a seminar about your topic?
- How much would it cost them to take a similar course at a local college or university?
Compared to the price of your course, these options are probably more expensive and time-consuming. This is good news for you. It means your course can be perceived as a bargain when compared to more expensive options.
Take a look at how OXG Media approached selling their content to students. As a marketing agency, they charge a premium to help clients drive their own projects forward. But the company also released a paid Thinkific course sharing tips and strategies as a more affordable alternative!
Consider the objective of your course
Lastly, as you choose a price for your online course, consider the objective you have for your course. Here are a few questions to ponder:
- Why are you creating an online course?
- What do you want your course to do for you?
- Is your goal to hit a specific revenue goal for the year?
- Is your goal to generate leads and build your email list?
- Is your goal to offer a bonus resource to customers of a different product or service that you offer?
Clarify the purpose of your online course as it relates to your goals, and price it based on those objectives.
If the objective of your course is to add an additional revenue stream to your business, for example, then quantify your revenue goal and work backwards from there. Let’s pretend your goal is to generate $50,000 in revenue from your course sales in the next 12 months. How many students will you need to enroll and at what price point in order to reach that goal? In the next section, we look at a few ways to make that happen.
How to increase the value of your course
Okay… you’re ready to charge a higher price for your course. The next big question is how do you do it? How do you justify charging a premium price? Great question! I’m glad you asked.
In this video, we interviewed a course creator on how she’s able to justify charging a lot more:
Here are some ways you can increase the value of your online course and stand confidently behind your price:
Teach something very specific
As a general rule, the more specific your course is, the more you can charge for it. The topic of selling, for example, is quite broad. And because it is such a broad topic, it will be difficult for a course about purely selling to stand out from all the other courses on that topic. A course on selling for real estate agents, on the other hand, is much more specific.
To take it a step further, creating a course for real estate agents on how to give a great listing presentation is even more specific. It is very clear what the course is about and who it is designed for (and not for). Any real estate agent that wants to learn how to give a great listing presentation is likely to purchase that course over a general sales course. The outcome of the course is specific, and worth a lot to them. If they get more listings, they will sell more houses. If they sell more houses, they will make more money. If they make more money, they will… Well, you get the idea.
“The more specific the outcome and/or the audience, the more valuable the course is. For example, one of my most successful students has a course on Facebook ads for authors. Now imagine you are an author and you have two courses in front of you. One teaches you how to do Facebook ads. One teaches you how to do Facebook ads specifically for authors. Which one will you buy?”
– David Siteman Garland
Create a private group for your course students
Creating a private group for your course students is a great way to increase the value of your online course. Not only will your students benefit from having more access to you, but they also get to benefit from interacting and building relationships with other students who are taking your course. Creating a Facebook Group for your students is a great way to make this happen. If you use a course management tool like Thinkific, you can also build and manage your learning communities directly from your course platform.
- Offer 1-on-1 or group coaching
Consider offering a certain number of 1-on-1 coaching sessions with each of your course students. Another option is to offer group coaching to a specific number of students at a time. Both of these methods are great for holding your students accountable for completing your course and providing personalized feedback to them. Download the Complete Guide to Online Coaching here to learn more!
Host a monthly live call with your students
Consider hosting a live conference call or webinar with your course students on a monthly basis. You can use that time with them to answer specific questions, delve into a specific topic in greater detail, or even invite a guest speaker to share their insights with your students.
Include downloadable resources
Many online instructors give their students the ability to download their video lessons, slideshow presentations, or even the audio versions of each video lesson. Doing so gives their students more control over their learning experience. Providing downloadable resources such as worksheets, templates, checklists, and resource guides is also a great way to increase the value of your online course and enhance the learning experience of your students.
Consider granting your students a reasonable amount of direct access to you (this can be through email or even by phone if you’re willing). This may or may not make sense to you based on your business goals and the price of your course. If your goal is to sell a $50 course to several thousand students, for example, granting each student direct access to you isn’t very feasible or economical. However, if you sell your course for $1,000 and you limit enrollment to 50 students at a time, granting your students some direct access to you is definitely manageable.
Form partnerships to expand your offering
If your course recommends specific resources, tools, or software to your students, then a great way to increase the value of your course is to partner up with the sellers of those resources to create a special offer for your students.
Nathan Chan, the CEO & Publisher of Foundr Magazine, for example, recently launched an online membership community for entrepreneurs called Foundr Club. To help increase the value of the program, he partnered up with numerous software providers including Intercom, Stripe, Wistia and more. According to Nathan, members of Foundr Club have access to over $10,000 worth of savings on various business and marketing related tools and programs.
Offer a completion certificate
Course completion certificates are an effective value-add because they give your students something to “show off” once they’ve completed your course. They can also be great for increasing student engagement because the reward of receiving a certificate helps give your students an additional incentive for completing your course.
Create different pricing tiers
The last tip that I would like to share with you is to create different price tiers for your course. Buyers love to have different options (it’s a psychological thing). If you only offer one specific price for your course, then they’re most likely going to look at competing courses as their other options. When you create different price tiers for the same course, you satisfy your buyer’s need to compare different options. And the best part is, no matter which of your price tiers they choose, they still end up becoming your customer!
Using different price tiers is another one of the techniques that Greg has been using to help maximize his LSAT course sales. Here’s what he said about the price tiers for his LSAT course:
“We have three price points: the free trial, the $389 and the $789 option. There is plenty of research to suggest offering three options and focusing on the middle one is very effective at increasing sales. Even though one of these is a free trial it still works like a 3rd price point. You could also have no free option and just three price points.
The bottom line is people like making a choice. Price tiers give them the chance to evaluate options and choose what’s best for them. By giving them a choice on your site, they don’t have to choose between you and a competitor. They can choose between you at one price and you at another price.
I pack the bulk of my features into the middle option and add very little at that highest price point. This has the effect of making the middle choice (where I want people to go) an easy decision. It offers tons more than the bottom price and only a little less than the much higher price.
Over 98% of my LSAT course sales are on that middle plan of $389. Almost no one buys the $789 course. And that’s what I want. I’m driving them to my ideal price. The $789 one is not there to sell, it’s there to make their decision to buy at $389 easier.”
The price is right!
Congratulations! You now know more about online course pricing than the majority of online instructors out there.
And look… if for whatever reason you still don’t know what to charge for your course, here’s what you should do:
Just pick a price and see what happens.
Worst-case scenario, you price it too high and no one buys. Or maybe you price it too low and lots of people buy it! Either way, you learn something.
Finding the optimal price for your online course won’t happen overnight. Just pick a price, ask people to buy it, see what happens and change it later if you need to. Keep changing it until you find that sweet spot between what your market is willing to pay and what makes sense for your business and revenue goals.
As we wrap up this article, here are a few more words of wisdom from Greg about course pricing:
“I started out at $29 and then slowly raised my price. This is one approach to pricing – to start low and work your way up. I think this tells a much better story than starting high and constantly discounting or lowering your price. Each time I raised my price I was able to let my audience know the increase was coming and give them an opportunity to buy at the current low price before it moved up for good. This tells a story of increasing value rather than creating a discount brand and diminishing value. Each time I raised my price I was able to generate a bunch of sales with this approach. Also, as I saw those gains diminish towards the $389 level, I was able to land close to the ideal price for my market.
That being said, it’s also great to come out of the gate with a high price. I recommend this approach especially if you have a little more experience launching your course, or you have a solid plan to launch and sell it. Also, if you have a high-value course and a limited number of people you can reach with it this can be the best way to maximize revenues. It does take a little more work to sell at the higher price point but the ROI is often much better.
So my suggestion would be to either do the work for a strong launch and come out of the gate with a higher course price or test your ideas with a lower price but have a plan to increase it after you get your first few sales. From there, continue to up the price as you add value to the course and refine your marketing efforts.”
Want to learn more about how to price your course?
Well, you’ve officially made it to the end of this article! I hope that this was helpful for you and that you are now ready to choose a price for your online course. Use our free pricing guide below and google sheets calculator to set up your pricing now.
This post was originally published in August 2021, it was updated with the most up to date information in February 2023.