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How to Sell Online Courses from Your Own Website

Want to sell online courses from your own website?

After all, selling courses from your website can be a far more profitable and sustainable alternative to online course platforms and online course marketplaces. 

And today, you’ll learn how to…

  • Build a course on your website 
  • Create a course 
  • Sell it from your website

Want to learn more? Let’s dive right in. 

You’ll learn: 

Benefits of selling courses from your website

Sell profitable online courses 

How to choose the best course platform 

The 5 best platforms to sell your online courses

How to build your course website

How to create your course

How to promote your course

What are the benefits of selling online courses from your own website?

Online courses can be incredibly profitable.

In fact, the online eLearning market is expected to reach $374.3 billion by 2026, according to Facts & Factors. 

And building your course business on your own website is a great choice. Why? You…

  • Grow your own audience: Hosting your course on another platform means that you’ll build an audience in a space you don’t own. Having your course on your own domain helps you drive traffic to your business.
  • Set your own price: Many course marketplaces like Udemy set a limit on how much you can charge for your course. Skillshare doesn’t allow individual prices on courses at all. So you have to stay within their limits which lowers your earning potential. 
  • Customize your course and website: You have complete creative and content control over your course if you host it on your own website. You can choose whichever format you want and brand it to your exact specifications. 
  • Keep more revenue: By selling your course on your own website, you don’t have to share your profits with an online course marketplace or similar. Marketplaces like Udemy will take 50%-75% and more of your revenue as commission.

Next, let’s talk more about profitability.

Is selling online courses profitable?

Online courses are some of the most profitable products out there. 

You create your course once and then sell it many times over. Contrast that to physical products, which have a huge upfront cost and you pay for every unit you produce. 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

Yes, creating online courses takes work. But once you’ve created your course, they’re one of the most “passive” income streams out there. (Not that any income stream is completely passive, though.)

Online courses help you have a big impact too. 

Think about it: your customers buy courses to educate themselves on how they can change their lives in a meaningful way. That’s very different from selling a physical product, which will eventually be replaced or thrown away. 

Ready to create and sell your online course? 

First, you need a platform….such as your website!

How do you choose the best platform for selling online courses?

Where can you sell your online course? 

There are three main options: 

  • Your own website: Create a self-hosted WordPress website (we’ll talk more about how in a later section). Or, create a website on a hosted platform like Webflow or Squarespace – I recommend WordPress, though, as self-hosted websites are easier to tailor and come with a number of other benefits, such as better website performance.
  • Online course platforms: You can also create your website on an online course platform like Teachable, Kajabi, and Thinkific. These platforms let you build a course website with simple drag and drop tools. They tend to work well, but if you want a long-term solution that lets you control your own website, WordPress is a better option. 
  • Online course marketplaces: Websites like Skillshare and Udemy are marketplaces where you can upload your course and sell it to users. However, you can’t price your course as you like, and the platform takes a big part of your profits. 

Still not sure which option you should go for? 

Let’s take a closer look at these different platforms. 

The 5 best platforms to successfully sell online courses

Want an overview of the different platforms you can use to sell courses online?

Here you go! 

WordPress

A self-hosted WordPress website is the option I prefer for building a course website. Why? You retain control of your website – from how your course looks to how your website performs. 

Compare this option to a course marketplace like Udemy. 

With your own online course website, you can price your course however you want, create any type of course, and market it to an audience you own. On marketplaces, you are restricted from creating just any type of course (it has to fit their format) and you need to price your course according to their guidelines. 

Plus, you pay a significant commission on every sale. 

And unlike course builders like Teachable, you keep control over…well, everything!

You drive traffic to your website so you can build an audience on your own domain. 

However, WordPress does require you to host your website and build it with a theme and plugins. The process is pretty simple (and we’ll look at how in the next chapter), but you might be looking for a less “technical” solution.

That’s where Teachable can help.

Teachable

Teachable is one of the first course platforms launched to help course creators offer online courses on their websites and control everything from branding to student data, how you accept payments, and pricing. You can also integrate your Teachable pages as part of your website by redirecting them to your own domain. 

Teachable pricing starts at $39/month for its basic plan (or $29 if you pay annually) with a 5% fee on all transactions. The Pro and Business plans don’t include transaction fees.

I’ve tested a lot of platforms and plugins. And Teachable is by far one of the best online course platforms thanks to its solid features. If you want to set up your own Teachable website, my Teachable tutorial shows you how to set up a course.

Thinkific

Thinkific is an online course platform similar to Teachable where you create online courses on the platform and have control over your entire course business. Thinkific starts at $49/month per plan ($39 with an annual plan). The biggest benefit is that you don’t pay any commission on your course sales if you’re on the basic plan. 

Skillshare

Skillshare is, just like Udemy, a course marketplace. The only difference is that people pay for a monthly membership, and you get paid for the number of people who go through your course. According to Skillshare, first-time teachers tend to earn $200/month. 

Udemy

Udemy is one of the biggest course marketplaces. If you create a course on Udemy, you tap into their massive audience…But you’re limited to Udemy’s pricing policy, which requires you to price your courses between $20-$200. Plus, you don’t own your audience, so you don’t really build a long-term, sustainable business. 

Coursera

Coursera is a course platform for academic courses. It hosts degree programs and educational courses from prestigious universities and major corporations. If you’re an expert at a university or one of their partner companies, you could have your course hosted on the Coursera platform. 

However, they only accept certain course topics; if you’re not an expert in sciences or technology, you may want to consider other platforms.

Next up: how to build a course on your own WordPress website.

How to build your WordPress website

So you want to build a course on your own website?

I recommend you build it on WordPress. 

WordPress is an open-source website-building platform that gives you complete control over how your website looks and functions. 

And it powers over 40% of the internet

What’s more, building a WordPress website isn’t as technical as you might think. 

All you need is:

  • A domain
  • Hosting
  • A theme
  • Plugins 

Let’s go through them one by one.

Choose a domain

If you don’t already have a business domain, it’s easy to get one.

A domain is the URL of your website. For example: www.yourdomain.com. 

If you have a business name, use that.

But if you don’t already have a brand name, use the name you want to use for your business. 

This gives you more flexibility when building more courses in the future.

Buying a domain is simple. 

I recommend Hover. Hover costs $14.99/year for .com domains. 

However, if your business name isn’t available on Hover, you can try variations of your business name or use your own name.

Now, a question that comes up a lot is: 

Should you get a course domain name for your course instead of your main domain? 

I don’t recommend that you use a new one. It’s a lot of extra work. You’ll have to find an existing domain, build a new website… And there really aren’t that many benefits.

That’s why you should use your current domain and just create a page for your course (like this: domain.com/coursename).

Speaking of course names: if you don’t have one yet, don’t overthink it. 

There’s no pressure to come up with a cute creative name. 

Your course name should be easy to remember and explain the purpose of your course. Try to make it clear so that people instantly know what your course is about.

For example, my student, Emily Liou’s career course is called Happily Hired. That’s a great name because it’s simple and it has the benefit of the course in the title.

Next, let’s talk about hosting.

Find a hosting provider

If you build your website using WordPress, you need to host your course somewhere.

That’s what a hosting provider helps you with. Hosting companies host your domain, provide security, and power your website. 

I recommend WP Engine because it has the best customer support and is really reliable. 

WP Engine starts at $20/month, paid yearly. 

However, if you want a more affordable option, Bluehost is a good choice too. Bluehost starts at $7.99 per month.

Once you’ve chosen a provider, you need to set up your WordPress website on their servers. 

Follow these steps in these guides: 

Once you have a hosting provider, you’ll be able to access your website.   

But you also need to add a theme to make it possible for people to interact with it. 

We’ll look at WordPress themes next. 

Set up a WordPress theme

Your WordPress theme is what helps you design your website.

Which theme should you choose? I recommend Elementor. It’s a simple drag-and-drop WordPress theme that helps you create beautiful websites with no coding knowledge. 

It costs $89/year or $249 as a one-time (lifetime) purchase.

This guide shows you how to install Elementor to your WordPress website.

And if you’re wondering how to design your website, use these steps:  

  • Use a lot of white space to make your website easy to read
  • Use bold text and colors to highlight important sections
  • Keep the design clean and simple
  • Choose colors that positively correlate with the brand you’re creating 
  • Use easy to read fonts

Finally, you need to build your course on your website. Now, you can just create a new page and password-protect it for your first online course. But if you want to build out an entire course, then you’ll need a plugin.

Let’s take a look. 

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Set up WordPress plugins

Plugins help you tailor your WordPress website. For example, to create a course on your website, you need a course creation plugin. 

The best one, in my opinion, is AccessAlly. 

AccessAlly is a plugin that helps you sell online courses and manage membership sites. The best part? AccessAlly is a plug-and-play plugin, so you don’t need a lot of technical knowledge. 

The AccessAlly Essentials plan is $82/month (if you pay annually, you save $198). AccessAlly Pro is $108/month (you save $258 per year). The difference is that Pro comes with a Learning Management System that lets students submit homework and you can give them private feedback. 

I love AccessAlly and recommend it to all my students, so this might be the option for you if you’re looking for a comprehensive plugin. 

Create your pages 

What website pages should you include on your website?

  • Sales page: You need a sales page where you tell people about your course and show them why they should buy it. Both Teachable and AccessAlly make it easy for you to set them up. 
  • Payment page: You also need a payment page, or order form, which people can access from your sales page. On AccessAlly, you create forms, whereas Teachable lets you quickly set up payment pages on its platform. Both platforms make it possible for students to pay with credit/debit card, PayPal or Stripe. 
  • Thank you page: You’ll want to take your students to a thank you page so that they know that their purchase was successful and they can start learning. Set this up in Teachable or AccessAlly. 

Want to know more about building a website on WordPress? Check out my full tutorial.

How to create your course

So we’ve talked about how to set up a course on your website. What about the course material? 

Well, first you need the right idea.

Find an idea

Can any course topic be successful? 

Yes. There are great course topics in every niche out there. 

You can find courses on parenting, knitting, entrepreneurship, boosting your credit score, pilates, baking chocolate cake, and so much more. 

How do you make your course topic stand out, though?

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. What skills do you have? 
  2. What do people want?

Let’s start with your skills. 

You’ve developed a ton of marketable skills in your day job and your hobbies. 

By starting with your experience, you already have results to show. Whether you helped someone else (you helped a friend get a new job) or you have your own results (you used an innovative method to get a new job). 

So make a list of 10 skills you have and the results you can advertise. 

Highlight the ones you love the most, then move on to the next step: figuring out what people want. 

How do you do this? Market research. 

You can research online within your niche to see what courses are already out there and where there’s a gap in the market. 

Or, you can search Reddit forums and social media to see what your ideal audience is asking. 

What pain points do they have? 

Need more help defining your niche? Check out this video: 

Next up:

Creating your course.

Build your course

You’ve found a topic that people will be lining up to buy. Now you need to build the course. 

To start, what is the learning objective of your course?

What is the ultimate goal that you help your course students achieve? Then, break the ultimate goal into a series of milestones. 

Consider your course a path. How can your client get from A to B? 

A simple course outline would be:

4-8 modules, no more than 3-7 lessons per module.

Want to know more about outlining a course? Check out this video: 

Once you have your course outline ready, you can start creating the content. 

Here’s a secret: the format doesn’t really matter. 

It could be text, video, audio, and so on. 

But most high ticket courses are a mix of video and PDF workbooks. 

Top tip: When creating a course, you don’t need to pack in as much information as possible. Instead, focus on bitesize lessons to keep your students engaged and motivated to achieve their goals. 

Ok, now let’s look at how to promote your finished course. 

How to promote your online course

You now know how to create your course and sell it from your website.

The next step is to market it. To sell your course on your own website, you need to: 

  • Get traffic to your website 
  • Convert your traffic into email subscribers
  • Promote a webinar to your email subscribers

…And that’s what your “course funnel” looks like.

Here are the specific steps – we’ll start with your email list. 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

Email list

An email list is a list of subscribers who have opted in to receive emails from you. They’re your audience. And with your emails, you build a relationship with your audience, so that you ultimately sell your course. 

To get started, you need a platform to manage your email list and schedule your newsletters. 

Mailchimp is a good option when you’re just starting out. There is a free version that allows you to send up to 1,000 emails. When you’re ready to upgrade, you can for as low as $13 a month. 

When you’re ready to take your emails to the next level, ActiveCampaign is a powerful email platform. The Lite tier costs $29 per month.

Lead magnet

You need to give people a reason to sign up for your email list – otherwise, they probably won’t. 

That’s what you do with a lead magnet. Lead magnets are a free incentive for people to sign up – a small offer that helps your audience in some way. 

A few lead magnets include PDFs, videos, audio recordings, webinars, and quizzes. 

You’ll upload your lead magnet to your website with a tool like Optinmonster.

Webinars

Next, you need a webinar. 

Your webinar is a live or recorded video masterclass that sells your course. Your webinar offers the “what” your students want. Your course answers the “how.”

At the end of your webinar, you then pitch your course. 

Everwebinar and Zoom are a few tools you can use to set up your webinar. 

Launches

A “launch” is essentially a live promotion where you actively market and sell your courses. 

Your launch has different phases – the pre-launch, launch, and post-launch.

During the pre-launch, you let people know you’re going to launch something soon. And in the post-launch, you deliver your course.

But a great way to launch is to offer some type of an event. And live challenges are one of the best events. 

What are they? 

Let’s find out. 

Live challenges 

Live challenges are short live events, typically up to a week long. Your challenge leads up to your course launch. 

Your challenge should offer some type of “win” for your audience. 

For example, I used to run a challenge called WeekendEmpire, which helped my audience take the first steps to start their businesses. When people saw results, they realized my course could help them in an even bigger way. 

The best part about live challenges is you don’t need a huge audience to make them work. 

In fact, live challenges are one of the best ways to build an audience because they attract new people to your content. 

As long as the challenge is valuable and helps people achieve a small win, it’ll help you grow your following. 

Social media 

Social media allows you to connect with your audience on a platform like Instagram, Reddit, or YouTube for free. By posting valuable content and engaging with other users, you slowly become known as the “go-to” person on that platform. 

Over time, you can then promote your lead magnet on the platform you’re most active on to generate email subscribers and grow your audience. 

Tip: Don’t try all of the platforms at once. Instead, focus on one or two platforms that your ideal customers are most likely to use. 

Paid ads

Paid ads are social media or search engine ads you use to build your email list. They can be a fast and effective way of building an audience from scratch. For your ads, you need to create ad creatives and then consistently test different ad creatives. 

Search engine optimization 

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to building up organic traffic through search engines. By optimizing your website, it starts to rank for keywords on Google – and you get traffic. 

Organic traffic from search engines is highly profitable because it’s “free” and the traffic quality is high – these are people who are highly interested in your course business.

So you create content around your course topic, optimize them, and get them to rank on Google. However, while this is a highly sustainable and profitable traffic source in the long-term, it’s not the best starting point.     

Partnerships

Partnerships – otherwise known as affiliate marketing – is about offering a commission to people who sell your course to their audiences. This course marketing strategy helps you tap into other people’s audiences and sell your course faster. The commission is typically 50%-75%. 

Alternatively, if you already have an audience of your own, you can partner up with other course creators and cross-sell your courses. 

Testimonials

Once you’ve sold your course and your students are starting to get results, ask them for testimonials.

You see, testimonials will give your course much more credibility – people see that they can get results.

Reach out to your students and ask them to share where they were before your course, how your course helped them, and where they are now, after having taken your course.

For more on how to ask for testimonials, read my guide here. 

Next steps

Now you know how to sell online courses from your website. After all, websites are THE best platform for your course – you build a sustainable online business for the long term. 

However, creating a website is just one step of the process. 

Discover the top 3 reasons most courses fail

(plus how to fix them so you succeed)

If you want fast results, you’ll need to learn how to avoid the biggest mistakes most course creators go through.

Want to learn how? 

Get my free PDF with the top three course creation mistakes. 

Read more:

The Top Online Course Software

How to Design Your Online Course

How Long Does It Take to Create Your Online Course?

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you very much Luisa Excellent Article. Great videos that bring a very clear process. The second video is very informative on how to create a course. I will put it on the bookmarks thanks again.

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