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Market & Sell

How to Create and Sell Profitable Online Courses: Step-by-Step Guide

17 min

Online learning and training have become an essential part of every online business.

By teaching your course topic, you prove to your target audience, leaving no shadow of a doubt, that you are a high-quality expert in your field.

We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of online course creators build and grow their online course businesses and create great courses. Now, we are going to teach you how to turn your knowledge into an incredible learning experience!

Through our e-learning platform, we’ve revolutionized how individuals sell courses online by building an all-in-one powerful yet lightweight LMS designed to bring change for both course creators and their audience.

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We have the experience of what it takes to create and sell successful best online courses from your own website and through efficient and engaging landing pages.

In this blog post, we’ve documented the exact step-by-step process you need to follow to create your successful online course, enriched with interactive video lessons, downloadable material, individual lessons, quizzes, assessments, and much more.

This blog post is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things that need to be done. However, here you will get a good overview of creating and selling a successful online course; a fact that will save you a significant amount of time and will let you know what to expect in the fascinating journey of new course creation.

So let’s get started!

What is an Online Course?

An online course is a set of instructional experiences (lessons or learning activities) delivered through the internet with a specific learning goal. Learning activities vary based on the type of the course: Self-paced, Instruction-led, or Blended.

Most modern e-courses include a combination of video, webinars, text, and various assessments. Those can be uploaded directly to a Learning Management System (LMS) or created through an authoring tool as a SCORM course.

Online courses are the basis of many training programs and can be delivered by organizations to train employees, partners, and customers or as a knowledge product by course creators and elearning businesses

Step 1. Think Positive and Avoid Mental Blocks

Lots of negative thoughts are spinning around your head when you think about creating an online course:

“I don’t have enough money to start online courses.”

“I am not a subject matter expert.”

“What if this doesn’t work?”

“I don’t have the technical skills required.”

But your course, and ultimately the business that you want to create, is somewhere outside of this circle.

If you are waiting to get your mindset in order before you start building your course, you’ll never get started. Procrastination is a mental block holding you back.

Specify the negative thoughts you are having. Stuffing it away isn’t the best strategy.

And don’t think of yourself as a person trying to start your own business. Think of yourself as a business owner already.

Own it. Like it’s already ingrained into who you are as a person.

Step 2. Come up with a Profitable Course Subject

If you have an idea, a skill, a passion, an audience, or some content you want other people to see, then you can generate revenue out of it.

If you love your topic, you are good at it and have experience in it, you have a topic that will work for you.

People want to learn from someone who offers something valuable and life-changing for their own personal or, more often, professional needs.

Ιf you have an email list, come up with an email advertising your course.

You can also ask your social media followers, your subscribers, and people in your Facebook groups or LinkedIn about the desired course subject.

Think of a topic people ask you for help with:

Have you ever had people coming to you to ask you to help them with something? If yes, there must be a reason why they keep coming to you.

So find it out!

Are you looking for e-course ideas? For more ideas about online course topics, take a look at these:

Step 3. Choose the Type of Course you Want to Sell

A good starting point to creating an online course is defining what kind of course it is you want to create.

Based on our research of several online courses, we determined specific activity patterns that correspond to specific course types, and we have put together a highly-valuable free guide for you.

With this guide, you will find in detail how each course type works and what the exact structure of your activities must be.

Download Our Free Online Course Outline Templates:

Depending on what you want to achieve with your course, here are 18-course templates you will find:

Other kinds of courses can be cohort-based courses, subscription or membership-based courses, and blended courses.

Step 4. Presell your course to see the trends

I guess you don’t want to spend weeks creating an online course for absolutely nobody to buy it.

Pre-selling your course proves that there is demand and helps you build up a list of potential customers who would then buy at launch.

Make sure to use a one-page description to ask people if they’d be interested in signing up for the course and their reasons why or why not.

By testing your course, you can also see people’s preferences and suggestions on the pain points of your course.

Conduct several market research tests to see if it has a market demand or not and see what people might want to learn from you.

Step 5. Understand your Audience

Learning involves a change in the competence, ability, understanding, attitude, and belief of people.

To achieve that, you must know your target market very well to help your potential students go from point A to point B.

That means you need to know your target audience, what people may already know about your subject, and their motivation for learning.

Are people experienced with online education?

What are people asking for?

Are they experienced in your field?

Are they beginners?

Have they taken a similar course before?

Step 6. Draw people with your Learning Goals

Learning goals are broad, general statements of what we want our students to learn.

They clearly explain, with measurable verbs, the learning outcome, which is what the learner will be able to do, know, and feel by the end of the course.

Learning objectives help your students understand what the instructor expects of them and what they must expect.

So, with learning goals, you prove that even your first course is something worth investing in. Make sure also to include them on your sales page.

Remember only to include goals that you know your audience wants to meet or fills gaps not met by your competitors.

What is the Difference Between Goals and Objectives?

Learning goals are long-term, broad, and achievable but not necessarily measurable. On the other hand, learning objectives are also referred to as learning outcomes because they are immediately linked to the expected results – what we can expect learners to be able to do by the end of the course.


Read also: Learning Goals and Objectives in Course Design

Step 7. Brainstorm Course Content Ideas and compile the Material

In the market testing phase and the goal-setting, you may have put together many teaching ideas and material.

Now it’s time to decide upon the topics you will include in your course. At this point, it is all about deciding what to leave out of your content.

Breaking up your content into smaller bites makes instruction easier. It will also help you prepare your word and powerpoint documents accordingly.

As you are sorting through your piles of content, throw out anything that does not directly relate to achieving a learning goal from the ones you have set.

Once your content is ready, you may fall into a quagmire of structural issues. You keep forgetting what is supposed to link to where, and you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to edit disorganized content.

A storyboard will help you lay out your course framework. We have a fantastic article about storyboarding.

Choose your methods

Teaching is about delivering information efficiently, effectively, and appealingly. For this reason, you should always have an instructional plan in mind.

1. Small Wins

Small wins are simple activities/challenges in your course that give your students a sense of accomplishment and confidence. They keep students excited about learning more.
Include small wins throughout the training, mainly where students should have accomplished a particular challenge and are ready to move on to more challenging activities.

2. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is layering the learning experience so students build on the concepts they already understand. Scaffolding requires that you gradually layer from simple concepts more challenging ideas by telling students how this new information fits into what they already know.

3. Active learning

Learners must DO something to learn.

It is not enough to include dozens of videos of yourself speaking into the camera or do a lot of screen recording.

Allow learners to apply the content they are learning about. Use quizzes, assignments, and interactive elements in our new video editor to transform learners from passive to active. Social activities such as starting a dialogue in the discussion section or sharing pictures of the activities can increase the engagement of students.

We have also put together another invaluable resource you can download for free, the “Definite Checklist to Design Your Course Contents”, and use it to create your own course.

The Definite Checklist to Design Your Course Contents

Step 8. Make Your Lessons Entertaining and Inspirational

Now it’s time to decide on the way to deliver your content.

Your teaching style and method determine how satisfied your students will be at the end of your course and how successful your course will be.

You need to be aware of instructional design basics for distant learning, and the different ways you can deliver your training to ensure it is as engaging as possible.

For example, you need to create many worked-out examples and case studies in your course to promote the practice, worksheets, and describe contradictory situations.

Another fantastic asset of your course would be an established learning community.

We have massive experience in course creation. This is why we have created 50 instructional design cards, which you can print out and use in your course creation.

In this guide, you will find everything you need to know to provide appealing course content.

Step 9. Film and Record your Videos

One of the most successful ways to establish your presence in a course is through videos and webinars.

But, getting started with video content can feel daunting!

How do you capture it? Make it look professional? Stage and light and shoot it? Will you just use your webcam? How much will the right equipment cost?

While getting on camera, there is a specific checklist you have to decide upon:

Knowing what you want to create will help you choose the right equipment and make the right decisions.
Make sure to create videos with a more personal feel and to be highly expressive. You can record with a green background behind you so you can add anything behind you during the editing process.
Here are some readings you may find interesting concerning your video creation:

How to Make Educational Videos

How to Make a Screencast the Right Way

Using Interactive Video in Learning

Top 43 Websites for Free & Paid Stock Video Footage

And if you want a complete guide about Video-Based Learning, download our free ebook “57 Instructional Cards with Quick Tips for Amazing Videos”.

Step 10. Host your online Course

Once you have your course outline and your course material ready, it’s time to upload your quality content and start selling.

In the e-learning market, you have three major options:

*We suggest LearnWorlds is the best platform for creating, marketing & selling online courses. You can give it a try with a 30-day free trial!

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

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A lot of people go with the first option. In this case, you will have to find all the necessary plugins and pay for extra features in your existing website so that you can host an online course – and believe me – this process can become a real headache.

LearnWorlds also supports a variety of learning units you will be creating like interactive ebooks, videos, SCORM files, certificates, live videos, and many more!

Learning Units supported on LearnWorlds

If you go with a course marketplace to sell your online course, like Udemy, you neither can’t brand your academy as your platform nor act independently on your income.

That’s because marketplaces usually have a high fee per sale and no proper white-label options that let your courses stand out.

Our recommendation is to go with a learning management system. A learning management system is your School that you can link to your website and fully brand as your own platform.

It makes online course creation so much more straightforward than self-hosting or course marketplaces.

Read also:

100+ Top tools and resources for course creators

LMS Features: What To Look For In A Learning Management System

27 Best Online Learning Platforms

Step 11. Select a Business Model and a Course Price that sticks

Having a set pricing strategy with full access to the course upon payment is the simplest way to offer an online course, a digital product, or a membership site.

However, you can use a course in many different ways. Offering a free course, for example, can generate leads for expensive courses or work as a way to showcase your expertise.

With subscriptions, you offer your students more payment options, and you ensure that you get a monthly or weekly recurring income that you can rely on.

You can also use payment plans (installments) to either pay once or pay for up to six months or yearly.

To price your course, you must find that sweet spot where your course price is attractive to your learners. Usually, the higher you charge, the more engaged learners will be.

When you make your entire content free or cheap, people are less likely to trust it and have low expectations for results. So, avoid being competitive in your pricing and prefer to increase the value you bring to the table.

In our blog post “How to price an online course,” we go much deeper into the subject of pricing.

Step 12. Create a Course Page that Drives Sales

Before you hit publish, the final piece is to create the sales page of your online course (also known as your course description, landing page, or sales letter).

The sales page is the page that describes your course with good SEO, but more importantly, it persuades someone to enroll in it.

It’s the page that people visit before deciding to sign up – or not sign up – for your course.

To create a great sales page, the first thing you have to do is answer the following three basic questions about your course:

Our new Site Builder makes it much easier for you to create a stunning website that catches the visitor’s eye and allows you to be flexible whenever you want to make changes to your sales page.

Read also: How to Build an Online Course Landing Page

Step 13. Understand the Course Sales Funnel

Once you have finished the course creation process, you have to win the bet of selling it successfully. This is the trickiest part.
A sales funnel is a multi-step process that turns visitors to your site into buyers. A sales funnel, in a way, describes the whole process from awareness to purchase:

Step 1 – Awareness: Potential students first become aware of the existence of your course, which offers a solution to their problem. If you are new in the market, this is where you will need to focus, getting your course the attention it deserves!

Step 2 – Interest: You attract the interest of the potential customer. They get to know you and your products and look more into the offering.

Step 3 – Decision: Potential buyers are trying to decide whether to buy or not from you. A sales page is essential to all the previous steps, but most importantly, the decision phase helps the visitors make a decision.

Step 4 – Action/Purchase: How smooth your sales funnel becomes after they click on the “buy” button. How compelling your checkout process and page are, as well as how trustworthy your site looks, will help them complete the purchase.

Understanding the structure of the sales funnel is essential because you will have to create yours, introducing marketing tactics that work for your business.

See how to create a webinar sales funnel for your course:

Step 14. Engage in Ongoing Marketing

There are hundreds of pieces of advice out there about digital marketing, all of which can help you with your course launch.

We have put together a very useful and handy guide that you download, “The Ultimate Guide To Selling & Marketing Online Courses,” so you don’t get lost with selling your online course and start making money as soon as possible.

It’s all about understanding how an online learning sales funnel works.
Selling online courses includes many tricks with which you can increase your conversion rates:

One thing is sure is that you need an ongoing marketing strategy to promote your course and enroll students. You’ll also need to take care of other important matters that will keep your business running smoothly. Consider hiring an accountant to help you keep your finances in as good shape as the rest of your business.

Read also: How to Sell Online Courses: The Ultimate Guide for 2021 to learn how to increase online course sales

Step 15. Nurture Learners Into a Community

The best value your students can ever get is from a community.

Although learning is somewhat of individual activity, it is still a social process.

Learners love to communicate with people on the same journey as them and love sharing ideas.

It’s a great idea to encourage communication among the members of that community, allowing them to have a shared journey in their learning and fostering a sense of peer support. Establishing that sense of camaraderie between fellow learners will be beneficial for everyone in the long run.

Besides, it is impossible for you, as an instructor, to have all the answers. By building a community around your online course, you’re helping your students become self-sufficient and rely on the group more than you.

Create groups in your course, your blog, or social media and initiate discussions. Community building is an extremely important marketing tool you can leverage.

Looking for ideas to create an engaging community? Then read our top article about 8 Ways to Build an Online Learning Community.

Common mistakes to avoid

Are you making an online course for the first time? You might be susceptible to frequent and easily avoidable mistakes. Follow these rules of thumb for a successful online course.

Lengthy videos

Attention spans are getting lower. Video courses should be smaller than 20 minutes and avoid prolonged and crowded videos. There are three categories of video lengths:

Worrying too much

One of the worst mistakes. Being a perfectionist is one thing, but if you are overly worried about the quality, your audience, or any other factors, your course will never go live, which is the biggest of your problems.

Without trying, there is no chance of success. Give it a shot, test your market, make a sample course, and try to get your first paying customer. Do not worry about all the details and make-up as you go. Use the lean startup method (and read the book, it’s an eye-opener) on building your online course or any other venture.

Forgetting to Test

Like all new ventures, testing your product with real users, friends, and family is a great way to avoid silly mistakes. You might have forgotten to add a video, deleted a quiz you mention on the previous assignment, or didn’t include a “buy button.”

Test your course, and have someone proofread your landing pages and content for mistakes. When you work on a project, you tend to become “immune” to errors from the many times you have passed over the text.

Start Your Journey to Profitable Online Course Creation

The fact that you are teaching the subject you love and know best opens up countless and unbelievably excellent opportunities for your personal and professional development while meeting and connecting with people who live at the other end of the world every day!

By now, you should have a general idea of how to create and sell a rewarding online course to develop a target audience and generate passive income.

Building your community through an online school or online academy is a great way to spread your knowledge while monetizing your expertise.

What are you waiting for? Launch your online course today with LearnWorlds using our 30-day free trial:

Create a beautiful online school without any technical skills.

Start free trial

P.S.: Learn more about creating your online academy in our guide and learn how to set up your course on a learning platform such as LearnWorlds, connect payment gateways like PayPal, and set up your course’s affiliate program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to make an eCourse?

One way to build an e-course directly using a Learning Management System (LMS) like LearnWorlds, Moodle, or Blackboard. With these platforms, you can upload your content, create learning activities and assessments, and manage your students. Modern LMS also allows to sell the ecourses with their eCommerce features.

Alternatively, you can use an authoring tool to create a full course before importing it to an LMS. For some simpler courses, you can create videos and add them to your website, gated or ungated, and add the text below in the form of an HTML.

How to create a 7-day ecourse (challenge)?

A challenge course format usually requires you to release the content in intervals. You can create a welcome section with information about the challenge and a welcome video, then follow up with a daily challenge or task, where your students get access to the next activity.

Another way to do it is by sharing a checklist or a program of activities.

In both cases, you need to include some self-reflection activities and knowledge checks, so the students and you track their progress.

How to create a private ecourse?

A private course in LearnWorlds is not accessible to anyone either for free or paid. They are hidden courses that the admin has to give access to. You can change an ecourse to private from the settings tab of your school’s dashboard.

How to create ecourses for millenials?

Millennials are used to highly engaging content, making their attention span shorter and more challenging for educators to teach. To make an engaging ecourse for millennials, you need to focus on short, multimedia formats with highly engaging activities.

How to create video courses?

What is the best software to create ecourses?

LearnWorlds is the best modern course platform to create ecourses. It is an all-in-one tool for elearning businesses and solo creators alike. With LearnWorlds, you can build engaging courses, host your website, sell the courses, and manage the users.

How to make a course to sell

A profitable online course needs research and deliberation. Be sure that you first start building an audience before creating an online course. Ask your audience which topics they are more interested in, and try to pre-sell the course before you start creating the content.

How can I write a new course?

There is no one way to write a new course. All you need is patience, imagination, and a credible eLearning platform to help you put it together. Most of all, if you love the field of your expertise, everything will come into place. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about how to create a successful online course.

How long does it take to create an online course?

It depends on how much material you have that is ready-made. If all you have are PDFs and videos stored and you want to upload content, create some quizzes, a certificate, and a landing page, then a week is more than enough to create an online course if you work two hours a day on it.

How much does it cost to create an online course?

Again, depending on whether you have created the media you will use, the course creation may cost from zero (except for the learning platform charges) to thousands of dollars. For example, some instructors invest a lot of money in video production.

Read our guide on how much it costs to develop an online course.

How to make an online course interactive?

The more you have in mind to interact with students while creating your content, the more the final result will be interactive. How do you want to engage your students? What kind of interactivity do you want to include? Do your research, and keep those things in mind in the planning stage.

How hard is it to create an online course?

Creating a course is not as hard as it seems. After you have finished uploading content, you should ensure that people can reach and buy your course (through email marketing, for example). And this is the hardest part for course creators. A good idea is to reuse your blog’s content, as you already have people interested in following you.

How to create a profitable online course?

If you want to create a profitable online course, the most important thing is to get acquainted with your audience, learn their interests, and develop the best course idea. If people see that you are solving a significant problem for them and that they will learn new skills, they will want to buy your course. A successful course always:

Your experience can provide valuable information to younger professionals.

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Content Creator at

Kyriaki is a Content Creator for the LearnWorlds team writing about marketing and e-learning, helping course creators on their journey to create, market, and sell their online courses. Equipped with a degree in Career Guidance, she has a strong background in education management and career success. In her free time, she gets crafty and musical.

Nick Malekos is a Senior Digital Marketer in LearnWorlds. He is a results based and well-rounded Digital Marketer with years of experience in the education industry, writer and digital literacy trainer.