How to Fairly Price Your Online Course

Monetize Your List

When I started blogging and selling products, a normal price for an ebook was around $10 to $20 – at least in the circles I was hanging out in. A lot of people actually said I was charging too much when I made the switch to charge $39.

Soon I branched out in the space of guides and online courses which had a much higher price point. But even then the high-priced products were only $200 to $250 –  maybe as high as $500.

Now there’s a trend where online courses are priced $1,000, $1,500 or even all the way up to $5,000. It’s not uncommon at all to consistently see those $2,000 online courses. My question is, “Are $2,000 courses really best for the customer?”

Online courses: Charging high vs charging nothing

For the sake of this blog, let’s assume you’re an online course creator. You’ve got your core topic,  you’re ready to create your course, and you’ve figured out your pricing. So, where did you end up pricing your online course? Is your price point high or low?

If you went high, are you just trying to find a way to pad your pockets and make more more for your business? Yes, it’s absolutely right to maximize your revenue, but you always have to ask – “At what cost?”

In all my experience, if you’re pricing your online courses high to maximize your revenue you’ll find that the higher the price, the more revenue you’ll make. At some point, you’ll probably price yourself out of market. But think of it this way – if you have a small audience of maybe 1,000 subscribers and you’re selling a $10 to $50 product, you’re just not going to make that much in revenue compared to a lot fewer sales at a $2,000 price point.

If you’re thinking entirely on what’s best for the customer, I’ve heard people say you should be entirely altruistic and give it all away for free.

Please don’t do that.

You shouldn’t give your course away for free because it won’t be of value to your audience. Your customer might read the articles or download the online course, but they’ll never get around to finishing it.

Years ago, a friend of mine purchased Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula, which at the time was a $1,000 online course. I had another friend who said he’d been wanting to buy the online course, but asked if he could just borrow my other friend’s copy instead. Whether that’s ethical or not, he let him borrow the copy.  

Six months later, I asked both friends how the online course had impacted their work. The friend who purchased it had great results, but I was surprised to find out that the friend who had the course for free hadn’t even watched it!

I believe it’s because he valued it at the price for which he paid for it- nothing.

Even though it’s something that he wanted, since he got it for free there was no investment on his part.

If you want people to take action, you need to have them invest something. I would argue that something should be more than $0, $50 or even $100. But the big question is – “Should you go up to $2,000 or more?” I’ve even seen $5,000 to $10,000. Is that really what’s best for your customer?

Will your customer be better off after your online course?

When I’ve considered this in the past, I think about the financial position of most American consumers. They’ve probably got a decent amount of debt with a house, cars, credit cards, and student loans. They’re in a job they don’t necessarily love, but it pays the bills, but they have a plan to get ahead with an online business that they’re working toward.

Along comes your $2,000 online course with all the promises of reaching their hopes and dreams and that this is what’s going to help them get their 6-figure product launch or whatever it is. They get so excited and want to purchase it, but $2,000 is a lot even if it’s in a payment plan. So what are they doing to do?

If they don’t have $2,000 sitting around, they’re going to put in on a credit card. And even if they do have that in their bank account, it would probably be better ear-marked for something else like paying off debt.

After they’ve convinced their spouse it’s a great idea, they’ll spend the $2,000 and probably only get half way through the course. It’s harder than they expected and they won’t implement the material because they’ve dropped out. Now they’re in a worse financial position than before you sold them the course.

You could say this isn’t your fault. You gave them great material. You were there if they wanted to ask questions. You could stand on the fact that once you hand off the material it’s on that person to get the job done. That’s fair.

It was their decision to purchase. You didn’t force anyone to buy it so there’s no trickery involved. But is this person really better off after meeting you? If you can’t say definitively “yes”, I think you should rethink they way you’re doing business.

Can you justify the price of your online course?

The other thing to think about is whether or not your online course is truly good enough to justify the price. Are you there supporting your students? Are there work groups? Is there coaching?

I had a friend who purchased a very high end online course on business building. He was getting a lot out of it, but life got busy and the online course fell to the wayside. Sure enough, after getting through one module in two weeks, he got a phone call. It was his online course coach calling to check in. The coach said after watching my friend’s progress he noticed that he wasn’t getting any value from the online course without doing the work. And then he did something amazing. The coach asked my friend what he and his team could do to help him actually do the work.

They were taking ownership of the success of their students. If you’re going to charge a high price for your online course, you need to ensure success. You need to invest the quality into your online course that warrants that pricing. Is your material tested? Do you have case studies? Is your course actually working for people?

And what are you doing to help those people who purchased the online course and then drop off? If the answer is nothing – if you’re handing the material and walking away –  you shouldn’t charge those high end prices.

On the flip side, I should say that I don’t think $2,000 is ridiculous for great training that will impact someone’s life. If you think about it, a $2,000 course is about the same price as a single class at most universities – that’s not bad. You can teach so much more value in an online course than you can in a three credit university course. So if you compare it in those terms, then you could charge a lot.

Now if you’re unsure of your price, start lower and raise it later. Increase prices as you set out new launches. Take an extra week or so and rework the content based on student feedback and changing trends. Your audience is going to see that they should buy your online course now because the price goes up as it gets better.

They’ll also see that you have a long-term commitment to produce the best content that’s going to have the biggest impact on their lives and everyone is going to be better for it.

You have a responsibility to your online course students

When it comes down to it, if you’re going to charge a high price for your online course, make sure you’re taking responsibility for the success of your students. You shouldn’t take their money, hand over some videos and call it a day. Follow up. Track their progress. Do the work to make sure they get a great ROI from what you’re doing.

If you can do all that, then I believe you can feel really good about charging a big amount. If you do come to this high price, makes sure you’re putting in the effort to make your students successful, and come to it gradually over time to make sure you can deliver at least 10 times as much value as you’re charging.

Quite frankly, the more you charge, the higher quality student you’ll get, the more money you’ll make, and the more you can focus on a small group of people who are more likely to be successful and you can coach them into something great.

Nathan Barry

In previous careers Nathan has been a designer, author, and blogger. After learning the power of email marketing he gave up a successful blogging career to build ConvertKit. Outside of work Nathan spends his time playing soccer, woodworking, and chasing after his two little boys.

The future belongs to creators

ConvertKit helps creators like you take their projects from idea to reality. It's never been easier to build an audience and grow a business. And you can do it all for free.

Launch your next project