How to successfully sell online courses from your own website

Commerce Courses
13 min read
In this Article

The online course industry is booming.

It’s no surprise that selling a digital course is a great way to scale your income, and you certainly don’t have to search hard to find life-changing stories from creators. Take Michelle, for example, who earned nearly half a million dollars in one year from her course. Or Paige, who made over $54,000 in a single month from her courses.

And demand for online courses isn’t slowing down: the e-learning market surpassed $200 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to around $300 billion by 2026!

But as more and more people create courses, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out, reach your audience, and ultimately, make sales. It’s crucial you choose the right platform to sell your course, or your students might struggle to find your course—or worse, you may never have students enroll at all.

Today, I want to help you understand why you should sell online courses from your own website so you can make the most of your next course launch!

Sell online courses from your own website

Why you should sell online courses from your own website

Between coming up with course ideas and bringing your course to life, it’s fair to say you’ve spent hours upon hours making sure your course is ready. After investing all that time (and sometimes even money) to create your course, the last thing you want is to lose out on sales and potential students.

Here are three reasons why selling online courses from your own website is the best option for creators.

1. Better SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting free traffic from search engines. (Keyword: free as in no paid ads!)

For example, if I search for “learn floral arrangement”, the first result is a course (hosted on someone’s own website) for flower arrangements!

Online course from your own website example
Google’s search results show a course in the number 1 result for the query “learn floral arrangement”. Image via Google

Since 49% of shoppers find new products via Google, you’ll open the door to more potential students if you sell online courses from your own website. However, if you choose to host your online course on a third-party platform, you lose control of your SEO. And if you can’t control your SEO, you’re missing out on free traffic (and students) from search.

2. No monthly fees

Most third-party course platforms either charge a monthly fee or take a percentage of your earnings. For example, Teachable recommends their Pro plan, which costs $119 per month.

Teachable online course pricing
Teachable has three tiers of plans ranging from $39 to $299 each month. Image via Teachable

You’re already paying for hosting if you have a website; why pay even more for an additional platform you don’t need? When you sell your online course from your own website, you’ll get 100% of the profits, and you don’t need to pay any additional monthly fees.

3. No side-by-side competition

I hate to break it to you, but online course platforms are highly competitive and full of courses similar to yours.

Take this search on Udemy (a popular online course marketplace) for knitting courses as an example:

Sell online course Udemy example
Udemy’s search results place your course directly beside your competition. Image via Udemy

Potential students can easily look past your course as they scroll endlessly through your competition.

Not to mention, you may feel pressure to price your course lower if your competitors have rock-bottom prices. On Udemy, the average course sells for less than $50, making it challenging for creators who want to put a premium price on their course.

However, if you sell online courses from your own website, you won’t need to worry about blending in with your competition😉

Start selling within minutes

As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.

Get paid with ConvertKit Commerce

3 options for selling your online course

Figuring how to sell an online course can feel overwhelming. Let’s talk about three popular options so you can pick which one is best for your online course.

1. Self-host

Self-hosting can help you save a few dollars, but is often a complicated option, especially if it’s your first time making an online course.

There are several different ways to self-host your own course:

  • Create a members portal yourself: if you’re a coding whiz, you can build your own members portal to house your course.
  • Hire a web developer: if you don’t know how to code, you can hire a web developer to work with you. The price ranges for custom websites. As a reference, Web Design Island builds custom membership websites starting at $2,800.
  • Use a plug-in: Popular WordPress plugins like Memberpress, WP Courseware, and aMember will help you create an online course platform DIY-style, although this can still be fairly time-consuming.

On top of building out your own members platform, you also need to build checkout pages and connect those pages with secure payment processors. All of this can be either expensive or time-consuming (or both).

Relax and Learn Guitar added a members portal directly on their website.

Online course member login example
Members can login to access the course content or register if they aren’t already enrolled. Image via Relax and Learn Guitar

If you want to get your course up and running right away, I don’t recommend taking this path. For creators who plan to sell a simple course, the self-host method might be excessive and overly complicated (but don’t worry, we’ll talk about a better alternative further down).

2. Hosted platforms

Popular course platforms like Thinkific, Teachable, Podia, and Udemy make it easy to create and sell online courses—but that ease comes at a cost.

With hosted platforms, you're limited in how you present your brand, and their fees eat away at your bottom line.

In some cases, as I mentioned above, your course is even positioned right beside hundreds of your competitors. This makes it challenging to stand out and forces you to compete on price.

3. Selling on your own website

If you want more control and higher profit margins (and who doesn’t?!), the best option is to sell online courses from your own website.

With ConvertKit Commerce, you can create landing pages, collect payment, and deliver your course content all in one platform, straight from your site (no coding required)!

And because ConvertKit Commerce isn’t limited to online courses, you can use it to sell all your digital products. It’s the perfect option if you plan to grow your offerings in the future or if you have multiple digital products you’d like to sell right now.

3 things you need to sell your online courses on your own site

At this point, I’m sure you’re eager to start selling your online course! To get you ready for a successful launch, there are three things you must have. (Spoiler alert- you access to all three of these things with a ConvertKit Free account.)

1. Landing page

Here’s a not-so-fun stat: the average landing page conversion rate is 9.7%. That means out of every 100 visitors who land on your course sales page, 90 won’t turn into customers.

It’s essential to make sure your course landing page works with you (and not against you) by converting as many visitors as possible. Here are some tips for creating great landing pages so you can increase your conversion rate:

Pamela Salzman’s landing page features high-resolution videos to entice her potential students to sign up for her virtual cooking classes:

Online course example video
A high-resolution video on a landing page can be a great addition to your text. Image via Pamela Salzman

And Vivian Kaye adds social proof through testimonials on her landing page:

Online course testimonials example
Vivian Kaye uses testimonials to give her prospective students confidence in her online course. Image source Vivian Kaye

Luckily, you don’t need to be a professional designer/copywriter to make a high-converting landing page. ConvertKit Commerce has ready-made landing page templates you can customize to match your brand. And if you want to make your own from scratch, you can do that too with our intuitive landing page builder.

2. Email marketing platform

To deliver your course content (and stay in touch with your students), you need an email marketing platform.

But beyond just delivering your materials, an email marketing platform (such as ConvertKit) will also help you increase your course sales over time. Remember how I mentioned that only a portion of those who land on your course page will become students? You don’t want to write-off those who don’t enroll in your course right away. Instead, you can capture their emails and nurture those subscribers to increase the chance they become paying students. Afterall, 63% of those who don’t buy right away will make a purchase within three months, so growing your email list is a valuable investment!

Sarah Thomas uses ConvertKit to collect leads for the waitlist for her writing course:

Online course lead collection form with ConvertKit
You can add a lead collection form to your landing page to capture the emails of prospective students. Image via Sarah Thomas

This way, she can work on warming up her leads until her course doors open.

3. Payment processor

The most important part about selling your online course is making sure you get paid! For that, you’ll need a payment processor. A payment processor is a service that processes payment for ecommerce stores.

42% of online shoppers prefer to use their credit cards to make online purchases, while 28% prefer debit cards. It’s essential to select a payment processor that accepts both debit and credit, so you aren’t pushing away customers due to a lack of payment options.

And what’s the consequence if you don’t accept a variety of different payment types? 16% of people report they abandoned their carts because the payment option they wanted wasn’t available. To keep your conversion rates (and profits) high, give your customers options!

Popular (and reputable) payment processors include Stripe, PayPal, and Payline. With ConvertKit Commerce, you’ll have access to Stripe to accept payments. And luckily, Stripe accepts various debit and credit cards and digital wallets, so you don’t need to worry about losing potential customers!

Product Dive uses their ConvertKit landing page to redirect users to a payment form once they input their email address:

Online course save your spot example
First, Product Dive asks students to enter their email to save their spot in the course. Image via Product Dive
Online course checkout page example
After entering their email, Product Dive redirects students to this payment form. Image via Product Dive

I love this method because even if the recipient doesn’t go through with payment, Product Dive has captured their email address to follow up and hopefully make a sale down the road!

2 easy options for selling your online course with ConvertKit

ConvertKit Commerce is your one-stop solution for landing pages, email marketing, and payment processing.

Here are two straightforward ways you can sell online courses from your own website with ConvertKit Commerce.

1. Deliver the course via a zip folder

This will be the quickest and easiest method to get your online course into the hands of your students.

First, you’ll want to have a ConvertKit account. You can sign up here for a free account (up to 1,000 subscribers).

After logging in to your ConvertKit account, head to the Products tab.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
Click on Products to upload your course

This is where you will upload your online course (and any other digital products you want to sell).

Next, click “Create a product”.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
Click “Create a product”

You can create your product in three swift steps.

First, enter the name of your online course along with its price. You have the option to collect a one-time payment or recurring payments from your customers.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
Enter the details for your course

After that, you can upload your course files via a zip folder by choosing “A Digital Download”.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
You can add your course via the digital download option

Next, choose your domain. You can either use the domain ConvertKit provides or use a custom domain.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
Customize your domain or add a custom domain

And finally, you’ll be able to customize your form, checkout, confirmation, and receipt email.

Sell your online course with ConvertKit Commerce
Customize the checkout experience with ConvertKit’s easy editor

And that’s it! You are now ready to make money and sell your online course!

2. Use a plugin to connect with ConvertKit

The other way you can sell your online course from your own website is by using one of the membership plugins I mentioned above (such as Memberpress, WP Courseware, or aMember).

In this instance, you will collect payment via ConvertKit Commerce. Once your student has paid, you can use ConvertKit to deliver an email containing login credentials to access your members-only area.

ConvertKit integrates with many different course platforms:

List of ConvertKit integrations
A list of the different integrations ConvertKit offers. Image via ConvertKit

If you choose this method, you’ll have to build out your own platform, and it will take longer before you can get up and running.

Sell your next online course with ConvertKit Commerce

We understand how much heart and soul you put into your business, which is why we want you to keep as much of your course profits as possible!

Using ConvertKit Commerce, you can launch and sell your online course from your own website with ease.

Ready to get started? Sell your online course on your own website and make more money with ConvertKit Commerce!

Start selling within minutes

As a creator, you deserve to get paid for your work. ConvertKit Commerce is ready-made to help you sell digital products.

Get paid with ConvertKit Commerce

Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at www.dananicoledesigns.com

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