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How to Sell Online Courses in 2023 [Ultimate Guide]

Last updated: July 25, 2023

Creating and selling online courses is a great way to turn your expertise into an income stream. The global e-learning market is expected to reach nearly $460bn by 2026 – and you can be part of it. Online courses can also help you sell other digital products such as e-books.

Selling online courses on Payhip is highly cost-effective and easy. What you choose to publish is up to you – we’re just here to support you and make it as easy as possible.

And in that spirit, here is the complete guide to help you on your way. You will also find information on free tools that you can use to create and sell a profitable online course.

Quick find links of things we’ll cover:

What You’ll Need to Create Online Courses

People equate production values with quality and expertise. So it’s worth investing in some kit to make your courses look professional. However, before we dive into the various tools that you might need to create your online course, always remember to prioritize the content quality before the video production quality of your online course.

With that, here are some things that we think could help you create a successful online course.

what you need to sell online courses

1. Camera

Most smartphones nowadays can record very decent quality videos. You can increase the quality of your video recording by ensuring that your phone is standing on a solid foundation such as a tripod or even just a stack of books! It’s also a good idea to buy a basic lighting kit or at least shoot your videos where there’s a lot of consistent natural light.

If you’re looking to make a serious investment as a course creator, we recommend investing in DSLR cameras and a good quality lighting setup.

2. Green Screen

Consider buying a green screen that you can use to project a variety of backgrounds for your videos. This makes your videos look more professional. Most importantly you might decide to film your online course over several days, therefore, a green screen would ensure that your background stays consistent throughout the videos.

3. Microphone

Make sure that your students can hear you clearly. You can start with a clip-on mic or a lapel mic that usually costs around $25. There are also some excellent podcasting USB microphones on the market that won’t break the bank.

4. Video Editing Software

Editing software is also likely to be on your shopping list. If you’re not planning anything too complicated, you can use free video-editing software such as iMovie (for Mac users) and OpenShot, VSDC, and ShotCut (for Windows users).

5. Screen Recording Software

If you need to present slideshows or demonstrate tasks on your computer, you may need screen recording software. There are free software and online tools that might work including QuickTime and Loom. Be aware that some of these software can only record up to 720p instead of 1080p or higher.

How to Create and Sell Profitable Online Courses

1. Pick a Course Topic

If this is your first online course and you don’t have a course topic idea yet, check out our list of online course ideas for some inspiration.

Your course topic needs to overlap between your passion and expertise, and your prospective customers’ needs and demands.

Whatever your area of expertise, fine-tuning your online course content to the needs of a specific audience will pay dividends. Think about the reasons why somebody would look for courses online related to your area of expertise: are they looking to change something in their life, learn a new skill, solve a problem or improve their career prospects?

Try to be specific with your course idea. Course topics such as ‘How to Take Wedding Photos for Beginners’ will have a more defined market and have a higher likelihood of converting new customers than ‘How to Improve Your Photography’.

2. Research Market Demand

You’re excited about your course topic and you’re ready to start filming. But wait! Make sure that you fully understand your target market before you even begin writing the scripts and filming for your online course. After all, who wants to spend hours creating an online course only to find out that it isn’t demanded by your target audience? Nobody – that’s who!

Making data-driven decisions is key when it comes to building your online course business. Here are a few ways that you can conduct your market research:

  • Review interest volume. Using Google Trends, you can input the keywords for your course topic and gauge the level of interest globally or by certain countries or timeframe.
  • Discover what your target audience might be asking about. Using Answer The Public, you can find out various questions that people are asking about a particular topic.
  • Engage with communities on Reddit and Quora. Identify various questions and challenges that people are facing within your niche. Post your own questions to encourage other people to ask their questions on your thread. This might even provide you with additional content that you can include within your course topic.
  • Talk to your target audience. There’s nothing better than to hear from your prospective customers first-hand. Reach out and set up 1:1 calls to understand their needs and pain points. Remember to do enough calls to ensure that your results aren’t biased.
  • Research your competitors. Figure out who your competitors are, and what they’re offering. Don’t fret if there are other people who have covered topics within your niche, this proves that there is a revenue stream for your desired topic. Think about how you can provide a unique selling point within your course. Ask yourself:
    • Is there an easier way to explain the subject matter to the audience?
    • Can I cater the topic to appeal to a different audience group?

target market research for online course

3. Outline Course Content and Learning Outcomes

Based on your research, define the learning outcomes for your online course. Make sure that you and your students can clearly understand the expected outcome of your course. Setting ambiguous or inaccurate expectations will not only make your students frustrated, but it will also make the course creation process very frustrating for you.

A good practice is to complete this statement: “By the end of this course you will be able to_____”

Here are some examples of learning outcomes:

  • By the end of this course, you will be able to learn how to take wedding photos in an indoor setting
  • By the end of this course, you will be able to learn how to cook delicious recipes from your leftover food
  • By the end of this course, you will be able to learn how to cook vegan dishes without using processed ingredients

Coming up with succinct learning outcomes will also make it easier for you to promote your online course to a specific target market down the line.

Once you’ve laid down your learning outcomes, start piecing together all the content into sections and smaller lessons within each section. Divide your online course into logical sections where your students can progress naturally from one section to the next.

For example:

Course Topic: How to Take Wedding Photos for Beginners

  • Section 1: Introduction to wedding photography equipment
    • What equipment do you need to invest in
    • How to adjust your camera settings like a professional
  • Section 2: Learning how to frame your models
    • How to frame your models outdoors
    • How to frame your models indoors

Once you have a clear course outline, you should have a clear direction to start building your course content, one lesson at a time. Each lesson should have its own detailed guide and a variety of exercises for students to work through. Within each lesson, aim to have clear learning objectives that students will walk away with. Read our guide for more comprehensive tips on how to create a course outline as well as free course outline examples.

create online course

4. Determine the Course Formats

Most online course creators focus on video-based lessons, but at Payhip, you can create various lesson types such as:

  • Video
  • Text
  • Quiz
  • Assignment
  • Survey
  • Downloadable
  • Embed

Take advantage of a variety of lesson types to make your online course more engaging. Remember that every student learns differently. Some students learn better with visual demonstration, and some learn better when they get to actively participate via quizzes and assignments.


Join over 130,000 sellers who have launched their online businesses with Payhip

5. Write Script, Film, and Edit

By now you should have a clear idea of your course plan. It’s time to put your content together and start creating your lessons!

For video-based lessons, start with writing a script. Careful scripting makes sure that your lesson is logically structured, easy to follow, and concise. You can use a teleprompter app to display your script on a tablet screen mounted next to your camera. This is better than trying to memorize it all!

If you’re really lucky you’ll get a perfect take on the first attempt. Almost nobody is this lucky – not even in Hollywood. Most course creators need several takes. Rehearse your script and expect it to take at least three attempts to capture the course content in a way that you’ll be happy with.

Remember to edit your videos to increase the quality of your video production. Fix your sound, and add text and pop-ups wherever it’s needed.

6. Choose A Platform to Sell On

The most crucial step of this entire process is to choose the online course platform where you will sell your online course. Payhip is one of the highest-rated platforms for selling digital products including online courses and digital downloads.

Here are some of the best features at Payhip:

  • Unlike many online course platforms out there, Payhip is free! And yes, it’s not just a free trial, it’s free forever. You can access every single feature on Payhip without paying a dime. Payhip charges a 5% transaction fee when you make a sale. This is great especially when you’re just starting out and you don’t have a lot of traffic just yet.
  • Payhip has a variety of features for online course creators, such as in-house video hosting, customizable branding, drip courses, and a variety of engaging lesson types such as videos, text, quizzes, downloads, surveys, assignments, and embeds.
  • Payhip is an eCommerce platform, so you can create a fully customizable landing page. You can also build an entire website using Payhip’s robust store builder. You’ll have more control over your online course when selling on your own website.
  • You can bundle your online course with other digital products such as ebooks, printables, and more.
  • You can set various pricing options including one-time fees, subscriptions, and payment plans.
  • You get access to your store analytics and Marketing tools to run successful campaigns.

If you don’t yet have a Payhip account yet, sign up on Payhip for free to start selling online courses today.

online course features

7. Upload Your Online Course on Payhip

In your Payhip account, go to the Products tab then click the ‘Add new product’ button. Next, select “Course”, and you’ll be taken to the screen where you can add your online course product details.

Remember to:

  • Customize your sales page. This is where you will provide a comprehensive course description of what your online course is about to your prospective customers. The information that you have on your sales page will largely impact the traffic coming from search engines as well as the conversion from your site visitors into paying customers. At Payhip, you can also customize your customers’ checkout page and thank-you page as well.
  • Create a certificate of completion. At Payhip you can automatically provide a completion certificate to provide proof that a student has successfully finished your online course. Certificates offer a sense of accomplishment for your students, and as a bonus, it might just encourage them to boast about their achievements on social media, which in turn will be a free promotion for you!
  • Set up a drip schedule (if needed). You can make certain course content available to students over a period of time.

how to sell online courses on payhip

8. Set Pricing

This part is tricky if you’re aiming to sell online courses for the first time, but you can read our guide on how to price your online course that comes with a free online course pricing calculator.

You can research the going rate for similar content but you’ll probably still have to test the market and be prepared for a bit of trial and error. You may have to start low to build a following and generate some positive reviews before charging a higher rate later on.

There are different pricing options to choose from on the Payhip platform including one-time fee per course, payment plans, and subscriptions.

Bonus content such as downloadable guides, live group classes, and coaching are handy ways to create additional sales opportunities.

online course pricing strategy

9. Launch and Promote

Now that you’ve finished creating your course content, it’s time to launch it and start driving traffic to your course!

Join relevant Facebook Groups and engage with the community by providing your expert advice for free. Increasing your social media following is a powerful way to grow an audience.

Afterwards, use email marketing to promote your online course to your email subscribers. Email marketing works better when you have established a baseline of trust with your prospective customers.

Create a blog to build up your email list. Build your blog content and social media posts around what your potential students are hoping to achieve and offer glimpses of the answers that can be found in your course.

Include snippets from your courses in social media posts to give people a flavor of what they can buy. Remember to include links back to the relevant courses on your Payhip store so people can sign up immediately, and consider offering first-time discounts.

Testimonials are like gold dust. Do everything you can to get them and do everything you can with them. If somebody has a good experience with one of your online courses they’re usually happy to share it – but they almost always have to be asked. So don’t be shy. Testimonials are the best marketing you can have.

Read our guide for more comprehensive tips and checklist on how to launch an online course successfully.

10. Get Feedback, Refine and Improve

If you’re new to selling online courses, getting early feedback on the content can be really helpful. Maybe run a pilot of your first course with a small group and give them free or reduced-cost access in return for feedback. This can pay big dividends for your online business when it’s time to launch to a broader market.

In the most popular subject areas, creating online courses is a competitive business. Getting feedback from participants will help you improve the value of your content. Ask for specific comments on what people find the most and least helpful parts of the course and how they think it could be improved.

This isn’t always comfortable when you’ve put a lot of effort into course creation. But this is no time for thin skin. Respond positively to feedback and use it to make your courses even better.

Hopefully, these tips will help you plan how to sell profitable online courses. The mechanics of doing it through Payhip are, as ever, straightforward. And there’s always somebody ready to help you if you get stuck.

Good luck!

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