Make money creating and selling your own online course

The e-Learning industry is booming and it’s possible to make money putting together an online course and selling it. However, you have to get into the mind of the student and fulfill your promises, otherwise it won’t be sustainable.

online courseIf you’re skilled at teaching English grammar, arts and crafts or even proficient at creating and providing content for a blog, chances are you have the tools and even material to create an online course, and sell it to make extra money.

The potential to earn extra cash is huge because the e-learning market is growing all the time. This is because people want to learn but find it difficult in between work, play and raising a family to find the time to dedicate themselves to a course or degree offered via traditional teaching methods. This is why e-learning has become so popular – at the push of a button you can learn anything at any time.

Budding entrepreneurs, in particular, are getting in on the game. “The online training [industry] is getting a big push through the solopreneur teaching what they know,” explains Shelley Smith, founder of TeacherToo, which helps entrepreneurs build online courses and other learning experiences for audiences.

Putting together a video

Once you’ve picked a subject to teach, you need to be able to record yourself so you can upload the video online. There are various recording packages to choose from. “There is QuickTime on an AppleMac and there are other options on Windows as well,” says Smith.

Investing in the tech may not come cheap but it will be worth it if you intend looking professional and creating slick, easy-to-listen-to audio or visuals. “You can get some good tech. Invest in a reasonable microphone and make sure your webcam is sufficient. You should also improve the environment where you intend to record and ensure that the acoustics are good,” advises Smith.

Ensuring that the course has good content that’s been well thought out is also vital. “If they are paying for an online course they want you to make difficult information easy and understandable. It needs to be curated and packaged. You can design a course and put it out there and do lots of marketing but if you don’t deliver on the promises that you make to students then it won’t be sustainable,” explains Smith.

“So make sure that you invest in the instructional design side, planning out your work, putting together the concept and focus on how they will learn about [what you are teaching them] for the first time etc. You have to get into the mind of your student,” says Smith.

To entice students and to add value, you may also need to give something away for free. “For example, I have a free e-book called ‘The whole nine yards of online teaching’ – through my email service,” says Smith.

Choosing the right platform

Once you’ve laid out the course content, you’ll have to find a platform to host the course. There are many options with various cost structures; but the more features, customisation, marketing services and functionality you want, the more you are likely to pay. “The jury is still out on who’s best as they are constantly changing and very competitive. It all depends on what you want to get out and what your requirements are,” says Smith.

Here are five platforms to consider:

  1. Teachable enables you to create and then sell beautiful online courses. You can start with your own free domain ( or link to a subdomain ( A Basic subscription costs $39 (approx R464) per month, the Professional plan is $99 (approx R1 180) a month, while the High Volume option will set you back $299 (approx R3 564) a month.
  2. Udemy boasts 65 000 courses in 50+ languages so there’s a lot of variety. It offers an instructor support team 24/7 to help you with your course creation needs, and a resource centre called the Teach Hub. It’s free to use, but you have to give 50% to Udemy for each student it brings you. “There’s a bit of controversy with this as they will sometimes discount your course so you will get less. But it’s their prerogative to do this. Unfortunately, you will have to relinquish some control on the marketing,” points out Smith.
  3. Skillshare offers unlimited access to over 18 000 classes so it’s not as big as Udemy. Teachers earn money through royalty payments and premium referrals. Payments are made on the 16th of every month through PayPal. If you don’t have a PayPal account, you can’t earn revenue via Skillshare.
  4. Thinkific offers its core features for free, then as your training business grows, you can pay to unlock better tools for marketing and selling your courses: choose between Essentials at $49 (approx R584), Business at $99 (approx R1 180) and Advanced for $279 (approx R3 326) per month. “It seems to have a bit more in terms of teaching functionality, but it’s a little bit harder to use,” says Smith.
  5. Amigoya is the new kid on the block, offering cheaper packages than some of its rivals. It enables you to either look for lessons or list your own skills to teach. Lessons can be scheduled via phone or messaging apps or any other platform that the teacher and student prefer. It offers free listings and allows tutors to keep what they earn. They make their money through selling what they call ‘exclusive advantages’. With the free plan your profile will only be listed for seven days. The $7 (approx R83) Basic plan gives you up to 10 listings over 30 days, while the Professional plan for $12 (approx R143) allows 30 listings over 60 days.

Ultimately, anyone with the right equipment can produce a course and publish it online. However, with more people getting into the game, the e-learning market is set to be a hive of activity with course creators jostling for position and attention. The key is to create something valuable, educational and enticing that people are willing to pay for. And beyond that, you need to have the marketing skills to promote it to the wider public if you choose a platform or package that won’t do the marketing for you.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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