In this article from Better Sales Funnels, I’m going to walk you through some of the basics of getting started in online course creation. We’ll talk about the various ways to make your courses available for purchase as a beginner, with some of the pros and cons of each.
Who is this article for?
If you are just getting started in the whole “make money online” world, this post is for you.
If you do any searching online or clicking on articles about this niche, the barrage begins. Online marketers can re-target you all across the internet: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, on almost every website you visit, and more.
The internet has amazing tools for sales and marketing, and when you immerse yourself in that world, you start to see much more of the internet than before.
But in the beginning, all the information (and the advertising) can feel like overwhelming noise. You have to cut through that noise and find the information (and the system) that works for you.
There isn’t only one way, even though the gurus will tell you that you have to do it their way.
Oh, by the way, this website contains affiliate links. If you decide to click a link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
How does one get started making money teaching online?
There are a lot of options to making money teaching online. It depends upon what you want to teach, and who you want to teach. There are plenty of options to teach English online, for example, if you meet the requirements of sites like Qkids. You don’t have to create any materials for those programs; they set the appointments, give you the course materials, and tell you what to teach, for the most part.
If you are thinking of more along the likes of course creation, there are plenty of options. The reason I prefer course creation over live, one-on-one teaching, is that I don’t have to BE anywhere at any specific time. I can do my work when I have the time (which is generally at night or when the kids are sleeping), and then my students can consume the information whenever they have free time.
The first step to making money online teaching is deciding where to start: live students or recorded courses? There’s no requirement that you choose between them, but when you are getting started, you have to take one first step.
So what will it be?
Course creation: an introduction to platforms
If you are thinking that teaching live is your preference, go on and do a search for these opportunities and apply!
If you are thinking that you want to know more about making passive income through online courses, read on.
There are tons of courses, tons of platforms, and tons of strategies to create and sell online courses. Many people will tell you start with your course, what do you want to teach? I would argue that instead of making a decision about what you will teach (and jumping into course creation), you should decide first WHERE you want to teach. Meaning, where do you want students to find your work?
There are many options to choose from. But generally, you will make your content available to students in one of these ways:
- Do-it-yourself website
- Done-for-you website
- Courses-of-all-kinds-for-sale website
- E-learning subscription sites
If you value freedom and control (and you have some time and money to invest), building a website from scratch is great option. When you take care of the site (and all of the necessary components), you have the most control. If you don’t like the way the site looks, change the theme. Don’t like the speed of the site? Get new hosting, install some plugins, or change your pages. If you want to move the social sharing buttons, that’s all you.
Setting up a website has never been easier. You can start with a really beginner friendly hosting service like Bluehost, which has really affordable rates for hosting, simplifies the process of getting your website domain (no transfers or CNAME) and takes you step-by-step through the process of getting your website started and available to the public.
The downside of doing everything yourself is that you have to do it all yourself. Starting a website can be a monumental task for someone who abhors the idea of starting and maintaining a website. While it is generally cheaper to do it yourself (you can get hosting, domains, and the plugins you need for probably less than a few hundred dollars total), building the website might be a hurdle that you never cross.
You also have to do all of the marketing to get visitors to your website to buy your courses.
Succeeding online is all about building momentum. You have to take action and take steps each day to achieve your goals. If you aren’t working daily on your goal (course creation), then it will be incredibly difficult to justify having the website in the first place.
I recommend do-it-yourself websites for folks who are already familiar with the nuts and bolts of building a site and online marketing. If you are a beginner, and looking to make money right away, then taking time away from your course creation is not a good idea.
For these reasons, I recommend that you consider one of the following solutions instead.
For people just getting started, I recommend that you consider starting with a done-for-you platform like Teachable.
With Teachable, you can have a website, post all your courses, take payments, drip your material to your students via email, utilize coupons, manage affiliates, and more. While you get to design the look and feel of your course site, you don’t have to do any of the technical stuff. Everything you need to get started is right inside of the platform. You can post your content, communicate with your students, take payments, and get paid yourself.
With Teachable, you don’t even have to put money up front. With the Teachable Get Started For Free Plan, you can post as many courses as you like. If the course is Free, you never pay anything to Teachable. If you charge for your courses, instead of paying a few to use the platform, you pay Teachable a small percentage of the course fee.
The Free Plan makes this platform a really idea place for a beginner to start. When you are selling 0 courses (which is what happens in the beginning as you start building students and a following), it is really tough to justify spending money you don’t have or you are not earning on tools and plugins.
The great thing about it is that once you start selling courses, you can transition to a monthly plan that makes sense so that you stop paying those transaction fees to Teachable. But until then, you can post and host your courses at no cost.
You still have control over your courses, how much to charge for them, whether to refund, whether to discount, and more. Without the headache.
However, just remember, Teachable doesn’t have a course catalog. You have to know a bit about online marketing (SEO, keywords, driving traffic, advertising, etc) to get people to your page to enroll. As such, Teachable is better than setting up your own website, but maybe still not quite the set-up that a brand new course creator would need.
Other Done-For-You Options
Another high quality option if you don’t want to build your own website is Samcart.
Samcart is a powerful (yet simple) platform where you can quickly set up your courses (or other products) for sale. They give you high quality templates to use, so all you need to do is choose your look and then edit it.
Samcart is focused on getting the sale. If you can get your customer to the site, Samcart is all about converting them into a customer.
The reason I don’t recommend Samcart initially for beginners is that they only offer 14-days for free. If you can’t make your first sale within 14-days, you end up paying. This is a high quality product, no doubt, but might not be the place for a beginner to start when the pressure is on to make those first $$$.
Mass Courses For Sale Sites
Another option for new teachers is websites like Udemy. Teachers on Udemy can upload their courses to the site for free, and then pay a percentage of the fee when a course is sold. There’s no costs to the teacher otherwise, which is ideal for people just getting started.
If the student comes in through the teacher (link or coupon), then the teacher takes home 97% of the sale. If the student finds the course ont he Udemy website and buys it, the teacher gets 50% of the sale.
Here’s why I like Udemy for new teachers: students can search for information they want to learn and discover you. When you don’t have a following (but know lots of stuff), students can come to you when they want to learn. Since Udemy is an established platform, a student is less likely to waver over whether or not to input their credit card (trust). This isn’t always the case when the student comes across your course on your own website. You can make money on Udemy without having any sales or marketing skills whatsoever.
What I don’t like…
Here’s what I don’t like about Udemy: you lose control. You set the price for the course, but Udemy can discount it as much as they like, whenever they like. You might be selling the course on Udemy for $200, and also on your own website for $200. This is all fine, until Udemy decides to offer your course for $9.99. You go from earning $100 per course (or more if your student comes in through your link), down to under $10. The discount might help people discover you and your courses, but you might feel better off selling one course at $200 than selling 10 of them at $9.99. I also think that 50% is too much.
Another thing to consider: Udemy has incredibly high standards for the audio and video quality. There’s no one standing over your shoulder about your materials when you host your own courses or use a platform like Teachable. On Udemy, you will have to buy some higher quality equipment to meet their standards. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult for people who are just getting started. Many people find that their first courses on Udemy are rejected because of the audio or video quality of the product.
Subscription Based Sites
If you don’t have money to invest on a website, platform, or equipment, or you don’t know anything about audio/video quality/editing, I would suggest that you consider producing content for an e-learning site like Skillshare. It costs $0 for teachers to post their content on Skillshare, and it is hands down, the easiest place to earn money as a beginning course creator.
Skillshare is an e-learning platform where students pay a subscription fee to access the entire catalog. Teachers then get paid per minute of their content consumed. There’s no payments to arrange, and no refunds. Teachers can promote their material, but don’t have to. Like Udemy, students can search the catalog and find your material. This helps new teachers begin to build a following of their own, as students can “follow” you. Once a student has followed you, you can send them messages, and notifications when you publish new content. Thus, if you are still building your online marketing skills, you can still earn money as a course creator.
I recommend Skillshare for beginning course creators because there is no up front investment, but also because Skillshare is the most supportive platform for its teachers.
When you join Skillshare as a teacher, you are immediately invited to participate in the Skillshare monthly teach workshops. During these workshops, which are focused on helping you post your first course within 30 days, you are guided through the steps of creating a course. They even give you an outline, so all you have to do is fill in the blanks. When you complete the tasks, you have the opportunity to win prizes like gift cards, microphones, camera equipment, trips to the Skillshare headquarters, Skillshare Premium months (or even a year), Skillshare Premium to gift to others, features on the Skillshare Instagram page and in its newsletter and more.
Further, if you are referred by another teacher (like me), you and the teacher who referred you will be sent $50 gift cards. If you want to get referred, leave me a comment in this post and we’ll connect to get you referred.
You can get two free months of Skillshare Premium through the link of another teacher. Click here to get your two months free.
Use Skillshare to build your skills…
With Skillshare, you can start honing your voice and your content. Skillshare focuses on classes that are shorter, between 20-60 minutes in length. There are no minimum standards for video or audio. You can use your smartphone to record your material, in snippets of even a minute or less. Since students can consume as much as they want of a course, you will start earning money based upon minutes consumed even if students don’t like your material (they can’t demand those minutes back from you!)
For a beginning course creator, Skillshare gives you every incentive to PUBLISH, even if it isn’t PERFECT. The pursuit of perfection is yet another hurdle that many new course creators struggle with. They compare themselves to established creators. They feel like they can’t possibly know enough to teach it. A new teacher might NEVER publish anything, due to feelings of inadequacy.
Further, there are tons of high quality courses on Skillshare that new course creators can watch and implement in their own burgeoning businesses.
Choose Your Platform then…
This article isn’t about choosing your niche or the actual creation of your material. Once you’ve chosen your platform, you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll be creating, and how to create it. If you choose Skillshare, there’s no reason to spend 6 months crafting a 10 hour course, for example.
When you choose a topic, think about what the purpose of the class is. If you want to sell thousands of dollars, make sure first that the niche is one that people want to buy. I see this frequently, where someone records content in their passion niche. Cooking and recipes, for example. Generally people surf the net for free recipes and free cooking tutorials. They don’t think to pay money for recipes they perceive they can acquire for free.
Start selling content that other people are buying. Period. Then differentiate as you get your feet.
My journey might help you…
If you are thinking of getting started in course creation (but you are struggling with the money, or with the fear, let me tell you about my journey of getting started in making money online.
I was motivated, but I didn’t know much (nothing, actually). The first thing I did was start a website. And then another one. Then another one. Naturally, none of these websites started making money in the first month. I felt like a failure.
So I wrote and published a few e-books on Amazon. I dumped hours into projects, only to have them sell a few copies and then disappear into the bottom-less well of Amazon. Again, I felt like a failure.
But again, I was motivated. So I joined several affiliate programs, started investing in higher quality tools, and got some coaching. I was LEARNING so much! But not necessarily turning that money invested into dollars.
Then I came across a blogger, who had a special link to some free months of Skillshare Premium. Not wanting to spend money, but interested in accessing the courses in the Skillshare catalog, I joined for free. And once I was inside, I marveled at the content. Much of the content was high quality, but informal. I felt intimidated about recording my face (my voice especially), but I decided to join a teach challenge.
Supported by the leaders of the workshop, I published my first “course.” We can call it a course, but really it is a class. Okay, it is just a few videos of me showing how to do a few things I learned how to do in my affiliate marketing business recorded with Screencast-o-matic (also free).
You know what happened? People started watching those videos. Not very many at first, but I got some views. And since Skillshare pays by the minute, I was able to finally start earning some consistent passive income each month.
I’m not an expert course creator. Or an expert. At anything really. But I know some stuff. And that stuff is stuff that other people want to know, too.
And now I make money each month because I took a leap of faith and took a small amount of action.
What is the minimum a beginner needs to get started?
You can get started with a smart phone, if that is all you have. Set up the phone so that it can record you or what you want to demonstrate. Upload those videos to the platform of your choice and then publish.
If you want to use a powerpoint slide deck or show something on your computer, you can use a screen recording software. There are tons of free and paid options. I use the free version of screencast-o-matic.
I don’t use a fancy microphone, but I know a lot of people like the Blue Yeti.
But even without these tools, you can start creating your high quality material.
So, what’s stopping you?