Want to Create and Sell Online Courses? 4 Tips for Making Money before You Write a Word

One way I use my skills as a freelance writer to earn more is to create and sell online courses. Two of the main reasons are: (i) I can reach more students; and (ii) it can be very lucrative. How lucrative? In the last 17 days, I’ve grossed almost $3,000 in ecourse sales from Inkwell Editorial’s school on Teachable.

This is certainly not a king’s ransom when you consider that many who create and sell online ecourses have five and six-figure launches; earning tens of thousands of dollars in days. However, I’m happy because this is but one of my income streams — and it’s the slowest time of the year for my freelance business.

Before we get to the info promised in the title of this post, I just want to share some of my personal experience with developing and selling online training courses.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Why Every Freelancer Should Create and Sell Online Courses (At Least One)

As I wrote in this post, I’m a firm believer that every freelance writer / blogger should develop at least one ecourse. That post gives 7 reasons why, but chief among them is it provides you another income stream – one that allows you to earn almost on auto pilot for years. This can mitigate any dry spells that all freelance writers encounter at one time or another.

I developed and have been selling my SEO copywriting course since 2009. That course has sold for as much as $1,500 (when I gave an on-site seminar in Jamaica). This isn’t surprising when you consider that e-learning is growing.

ELearning StatisticsCreate and Sell Online Courses: 4 Tips on How to Make Money Before You Write a Word

The online education industry is poised to surpass $240 billion by 2021, according to Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Who’s keeping the bulk of that money? Course developers.

The Research Institute of America found that eLearning increases retention rates 25% to 60% while retention rates of face-to-face training are very low in comparison: 8% to 10%.

eLearning is one of the fastest growing industries, and it continues to grow rapidly. Since the year 2000, the market growth rate has been 900%.

Create and Sell Online Courses That Gross $1 Million Dollars?

FYI, here’s the story of two entrepreneurs who earned seven figures ($1 million/year) creating and selling ecourses online, and several more entrepreneurs who earn between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per month.

This blogger earned almost $25,000 from her affiliate marketing ecourse last month (yeah, it just one month — and that was a slow month), which I took in December 2016. FYI, it was worth every penny  — and then some.

Bottom line – the audience for elearning is there. All you have to do is find a niche to develop a course around, which is one of the things that’s covered in this Inkwell Editorial ecourse. Who knows; you could be the next million-dollar-per-year ecourse developer!

While the money can be good, it’s not without some work. Following are three of the difficulties you’ll face if you decide to create and sell ecourses online.

The Hardest Part of Creating and Selling Online Courses

The first thing you should know is that some courses are easier than others to pull together. For example, take my SEO writing ecourse. The hardest part was pulling it all together that first time. That’s why I put off doing it for almost two years.

It was a lot – a lot! — of work. I knew that going in though, because it is a technical subject and I had to write it with total newbies in mind. But now that it’s done, all I have to do is keep it updated. This requires a few hours every quarter or so.

By comparison, the How to Create an Online Course class was relatively simple to develop. It only took me a few weeks – from beginning to end.

The second hardest part is the constant marketing. But, this is true with any kind of business, so it just comes with the territory. You can’t develop a course and think that students are going to come knocking down your door.

If you done your research, have a huge mailing list and it’s something your readers have been begging you to put together, you could easily have a five or six-figure course launch. But for most of us, it just doesn’t happen like that. It’s a build.

The third hardest part is student hand holding. This is not hard, per say, it can just be time consuming. SEO, for example, is a technical subject and some students have tons of questions. What I do to mitigate this is simply add those questions to the class modules so that successive students have more info at their disposal, and hopefully fewer questions.

Using Teachable to Host Your Online Course(s): Some Insights

One thing I love about the Teachable platform, by the way, is that you can update class lessons and students have immediate access to the material 24/7/365. When I used to distribute my ecourses via pdf files, this wasn’t possible.

I absolutely love that they have a very responsive Facebook group. Hence, anytime you as a course developer have questions, you can just pop in and get help. They usually respond very quickly.

The one thing I don’t like about them is that if you use the free version, you can’t do things like sign up affiliates. The cheapest paid version is $39/month as of this writing. I started with the free version, and I advise new course developers to do so too.

In my opinion, there’s no reason to start incurring another monthly expense until you have your course up and going and start making sales. This way, your course pays for itself. You’d be amazed at how many ecourses are developed that never sell anything. So don’t take on the expense until you absolutely have to.

Create and Sell Online Courses: How to Make Money Before You Write a WordTools you’ll need to successfully create and sell online courses include:

A list management service like Aweber to start building your subscriber list;

A professional delivery platform like Teachable (remember it’s free to sign up); and

Your own self-hosted website, which will be a home on the web for you to effectively market your course.

FYI, you can get some gorgeous WordPress themes here, which will make you look like a million-dollar ecourse developer right off the bat!

Now that we’ve gotten a lot of background info out of the way (I really hadn’t expected to get into all of that!), let’s get to the title of this post.

Make Money with Your Ecourse Before You Write a Word: 4 Tips

One of the things I advise course developers to do in my ecourse is to pre-sell. Hopefully, you’ve done your research and have honed in on a topic that people want to know about. If so, you should have no problem getting some sales before you even start writing your ecourse. That’s what I did for my How to Create an Online Course class.

Recently, a student in that course emailed me the following question about pre-selling.

Hi Yuwanda,

How are you? I hope your summer is going well. I truly enjoyed taking your  course on How to Launch an Online Course.  I’ve been taking advantage of a summer slowdown to write course content and research my competitors.

It’s been fun but an [sic] challenging experience to “do all of this work for the course” before I get paid for it.

I’m creating a course on “[Course Name Was Listed]” and slowly building up a newsletter subscriber list. … my question is about doing “early bird pricing.”

Do I email the people who sign up for my newsletter, which is teasing out the course and offer them a rate of $50 for committing early? I guess I’m wondering if I just keep track of their names or try to gather their payment info or just wait until that happens via Teachable?

My Answer

In answer to her question, I wrote the following.

The best time to reach out to prospective students to offer them a discount is AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It’s NEVER too early to start marketing a sale/discount to students. So by all means, send it out. Three things you want to include are the:

(i) Deadline to sign up to get the discount;

(ii) Any bonus(es) you plan to offer early registrants; and

(iii) The BENEFITS the course will offer. Again, not features — BENEFITS, which is discussed in the course.

About Creating a Free Ecourse to Sell Your Paid Course

The above response completed my answer to this student, but the fourth thing I’d add is to create a free ecourse to pre-sell your paid course. Why? Because it’s much easier for someone to sign up for something free – especially if they don’t know anything about you – than it is to ask them to fork over money right away.

What should be included in your free ecourse? How can you do this without giving away free material that’s going to be in your paid course? This is actually quite easy because they are totally different animals.

Your free course should consist of information that overcomes any objections a possible student will have. You see, many of us are programmed to talk ourselves out of purchases things that aren’t for pleasure. And, we’ll use any and every excuse in the book to tell ourselves “No,” eg:

  • It’s too expensive;
  • What if the info is no good;
  • It’s too time consuming;
  • It’s too technical for me;
  • Etc.

And, you’re also fighting unknowns that many don’t even know they have, much less admit to, like fear – eg, fear of starting something new; fear of failure; and even fear of success. YES … these are all internal walls we put up to stay what I call “stuck.”

Stuck in a life we hate.

Stuck wishing things could be different.

Stuck … watching life pass right on by.

The info in your free ecourse will work to dispel all these conscious and subconscious objections, clearing the way for prospective students to eagerly say “Yes!” to signing up.

Example of a Free Ecourse

Sign up to the free ecourse I created as a pre-sell to my SEO writing ecourses. Almost 100 students signed up for this course the first month it was created. Subscribe and go through it to get a feel for the kind of info to put in a free ecourse.

How to Deliver Your Free Ecourse

What I suggest is drip marketing lessons to prospects. For example, if your free ecourse consists of five lessons, encourage participants to sign up to your email list and send out one lesson for five consecutive days. If you use an email list management service like AWeber, you can pre-schedule this and have it all work like a well-oiled machine. Teachable has a “Drip” function, that allows you to set this up automatically. I used it to deliver my free SEO writing ecourse.

At the end of every lesson, remind prospects of the early bird pricing and encourage them to sign up before the deadline – all before you ever complete (or even start writing) your course.

Successfully Create and Sell Online Courses: Final Thoughts

I’ve been developing and selling online courses since 2006. To date, I’ve created four (one is no longer sold). I have at least three more courses I want to create within the next 12 to 18 months. I like that via a platform like Teachable, I’m able to create my own school of interconnected courses that allow me to share my expertise so easily in such a professional manner.

Via Teachable, you can create as many ecourses as you want. But, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about going wide – ie, creating a lot of info products – like the year I published 50 ebooks on Amazon. So I’m keeping my school small and tightly focused. Once I develop the other courses, that will probably be it for a while.

Then, it’s just a matter of continuously updating and promoting.

Benefits of Creating an Ecourse – Even if It Doesn’t Sell at All

It’s a seamless way to build your authority in your niche; promote other products and services (eg, via affiliate marketing); and grow your email subscriber list, which you can use to sell future products and services.

But not for nothing, your course could be a runaway success and earn you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, allowing you to make money practically on autopilot for years. You really have nothing to lose – and almost everything to gain. When I started selling my ecourses on Teachable, in the first 10 weeks I grossed almost $5,000 in sales.

How much could you be earning with your own ecourse(s)?

Promote & Earn

All Inkwell Editorial ecourses on Teachable have an affiliate program. Just look for the module of the course you want to promote that says “How to Make Money with This Course.”

P.S.: Easily Create & Start Selling Your First Online Course

I’ve been in the “information selling” business since 2002 (starting with ebooks).

I put this course together because I’d been asked many times over the years how to start selling info products (ebooks/ecourses). You’ll learn everything you need to know to successfully complete and start marketing your first ecourse.

The Best Time to Create a Course

That depends on your niche, of course. For courses on/about freelance writing, summer is a great time, so when the busy fall season rolls around, you can start reaping the rewards of sales. But as any course you create will ostensibly be sold year round, any time is a great time to develop one. 🙂


Included with the course is the free report, 5 Things I’ve Learned from Selling Ecourses That Can Help You Earn More. With each e-course you create, you learn (and ostensibly earn) more. These are some mistakes you don’t have to make, giving you a jumpstart in your e-course creation career.

Be Sociable & Share

    Speak Your Mind