How to Sell Online Courses from your own Website (Beginner’s guide)
Should you sell online courses on your website? If yes, how do you go about it? Learn more in this article.
For centuries, formal education was confined to classrooms with chalkboards, chairs, and desks. Today, the story is different. Anyone from any walk of life can get trained simply by taking an online course. No physical contact required!
Further, research shows that by 2026, the e-learning market size is expected to exceed $376 billion. This figure was positively impacted by the unfortunate coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Like never before, online learning tools are experiencing a huge surge in usage.
Of course, this sounds like the best time to package your knowledge and be rewarded for it. So, what do you need to launch and sell a profitable online course? How do you get people to purchase your course? What are the steps involved in launching your course? These and more questions will be answered in this article.
- What you need to create and sell courses on your website
- How to sell online courses from your site
- 1: Pick a niche
- 2: Course Creation
- 3: Build your website
- 4: Create your first online course
- 5: Build a sales funnel
- Promoting your online course to generate more sales
What you need to create and sell online courses on your website
To create/sell an online course on your WordPress website, you need:
- A web hosting account
- A domain name
- An SSL certificate
- A website
- WordPress LMS plugin
How to sell online courses from your website
Creating an online course is one of the most viable ways of making money online. It is an online business that guarantees a flow of income on a regular basis. That is if you do things right.
Here are the steps involved in creating and selling online courses on your website.
Step 1: Find a profitable niche
Many people who launched online courses struggle to succeed. A major reason is that they didn’t find the right niche.
Online courses are meant to solve problems. Your course has to cover an area of need. It could be about health matters, parenting, business growth, etc.
Even though you are concerned about meeting the needs of your target audience, you should stay in your area of strength.
Ask the following questions to get a perfect idea.
- What am I good at? You may ask close friends what they think about your area of strength.
- What am I passionate about?
- What topic do I know more than many others?
Step 2: Course Creation
Creating great content will help keep your students engaged and earn you more referrals. So, at this stage, take your eyes off the money. Adding value to your students should be your primary objective.
Ensure that your course provides specific results to specific people.
Let’s see an example.
Course topic: How to design powerful websites with WordPress
The following modules may apply to this topic:
- Introduction to WordPress
- How to choose a web host
- Introduction to the WordPress dashboard
- Demystifying your cPanel
- Installing themes and plugins, etc.
However, if you include a module on Machine learning, you’ll throw your audience off the balance.
The next thing to do is to assign learning objectives to each course module. A Learning objective is a statement that explains the expected goal of a module.
You can break down each module into several lessons. Your lessons could either be in text or video format.
If you need to create video content, you’ll need these:
- A Screen recorder
- A good camera
- An external microphone
- A Tripod or Gimbal Stabilizer
Step 3: Build your Website
Building a WordPress website is easy. The following steps will guide you.
Get a Domain name
No website is without a domain name. It is a site’s unique name, such as google.com.
Follow these guidelines when choosing a domain name:
- Choose a descriptive name:
Use a name that describes your site well.
When you use a descriptive name, your visitors can tell what your site is about at first glance. You may also use your name.
- Keep it short:
Although a domain name can contain up to 63 characters, keep yours short. The shorter, the better!
- Use a memorable name:
As a rule, don’t use a name that is hard to spell, hard to remember, and hard to pronounce.
- No numbers or hyphens:
Using numbers or hyphens can mislead your site visitors.
Think of this – ‘1love’ is a lovely domain name. But, a user may use ‘onelove.com’. Confusing indeed.
Also in the case of a hyphenated domain, a visitor may type ‘mydomain.com’ instead of ‘my-domain.com’.
After finding the right domain name, check it’s availability. To do this, visit whois lookup page and enter your chosen name.
However, if it isn’t available, try something different, until you find an available one.
Now, it’s time to get your domain registered.
You need a domain registrar for this.
Domain.com, Name.com, NameCheap.com, are just a few of the many registrars we have. So, which should you go for? Well, there is no set-in-stone answer to that. Just look out for the following:
Don’t be fooled. In many cases, registrars offer low introductory prices. But, that’s just for the first year. Renewal prices are higher.
Learn about the renewal fees before choosing a registrar.
Domain Transfer Policies
Domains can be transferred from one registrar to another. Some companies may charge you for transferring a domain, others do it for free. You should, therefore, Review a registrar’s transfer policy to know about the terms and conditions.
What happens when your domain registration expires? Will your domain be sold? Or will you get some time to pay up?
Find out what a company will do from the company’s expiration policy.
Choose a Web Host
Every website, whether big or small, has a web host. A web host is responsible for keeping your website up and running.
To identify a good web host, look out for the following:
A slow-loading site can bore your visitors? 53% of mobile web visitors tend to leave a website/blog if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Pitch your tent with a hosting company that offers good speed.
What is Uptime? This is the amount of time a website is online. You need your website to be up and running most of the time. Generally, the hosting industry standard for good uptime is 99.9%.
When a web host guarantees you 99.9% uptime, what does it mean? It means your website may be offline for about 8.64 hours yearly. In other words, out of the 8760 hours we have in a year, your website will be up for 8751.36 hours.
In most cases, downtimes are as a result of ongoing maintenance.
Therefore, when shopping for a hosting platform, read the Terms of Service to know how much uptime guarantee they offer.
Sooner or later, you’ll need help. A good web host is expected to offer a hand of support anytime you need it. It could be through live chat, e-mail, or phone.
You have a part to play in keeping your website safe. So does your web hosting provider. Go for one that offers good security.
To learn more about WordPress Security? Check out this guide on WP security.
Udemy is a popular online course platform, so is Lynda and SkillShare. They let you create courses and also host them on their sites.
However, an online course platform may hinder you from doing things on your terms. For this reason, you can build your online course and sell from your website.
If you are worried about your coding knowledge, calm down. WordPress requires little or no coding skills. Your WordPress host may feature a one-click WordPress install. All you need to do is log into your hosting account and install WordPress.
But if this doesn’t work, you can install WordPress manually.
How to Install WordPress Manually
- Firstly, download WordPress on your local PC from WordPress’s official website and unzip.
- Secondly, upload WordPress to your hosting account via FTP. Confused on how to do this? Read this guide: how to install WordPress using FTP.
- Then, create a MySql database and database user. Here’s how to do this:
- Log into cPanel.
- Go to the database section and click on ‘MySql Database wizard’.
- Create a database and name it. Click ‘Next’.
- Create a database user.
- Add the user to a database and tick the all privileges box. Click ‘next’.
- Click ‘complete’.
- After all that, locate the wp-config file and configure it. To find this file:
- Log into your cPanel.
- Click ‘File Manager’.
- Open the ‘public_html’ folder.
- Locate the wp-config-sample.php file.
- Right click on the file and select rename.
- Change the file name to wp-config.php.
- Right click on your newly edited file and select ‘code edit’. You should see this:
/** MySQL database username */
/** MySQL database password */
- Now, replace ‘database_name_here’ in the code with the database name you created in stage 3.
- Replace ‘username_here’ with the username you created in stage 3. The same also goes for ‘password_here’ (replace it with your password).
- It’s time to run the installation.
- Open your installation page through a new browser window. It should be domain.com/wp-admin/install.php. This link should launch your installation script.
- Now complete the WordPress Installation.
- Type in your site name, password, username, and email.
- Click ‘install now’.
There you go! Your website is ready. If the WordPress dashboard looks strange to you, that’s okay. You’ll be used to it soon.
To also help you navigate your way around the dashboard, check our ‘introduction to the WordPress admin area’ article.
Customize your new website
To change the look and the feel of your website, install a WordPress theme.
To install a theme,
- login to your WordPress admin area. Here’s how:
- First, go to ‘yourdomainname.com/wp-admin’ on your web browser – replace yourdomainname.com with your real site domain.
- Secondly, enter your user credentials. That’s all.
- In your dashboard, open ‘Appearance >> Themes’.
- Now select any of the themes to install it.
- For more theme options, click ‘Add new’. You’ll have more themes to choose from.
You may also find more themes on these websites:
- Theme Forest.
- Elegant themes.
- Theme Fuse.
- Themify, etc.
Since you intend to sell online courses from your website, it makes sense to install a theme that suits this purpose.
So, what qualities should an online course WP theme have?
If a theme isn’t responsive, then it’s outdated. Folks will access your site through various devices (laptop, tablet, and more commonly mobile). A responsive theme, therefore, ensures optimal viewing irrespective of the device they use.
Fast and lightweight WordPress themes are better than the slow and heavy ones. Obviously! They help you retain your site’s visitors. Slow themes, on the other hand, could chase away your visitors.
- Easy to use:
Themes were introduced to save us time and energy. Let it remain that way. Therefore, a theme that is hard to use or customize isn’t worth your time.
- SEO friendliness:
Although SEO is largely about good content and keyword targeting, your theme also matters. A well-structured theme, therefore, makes it easy for web crawlers to go over it.
- Browser Compatibility:
Some themes display differently on various browsers. Check the compatibility of a theme across all browsers before you use it.
- Blog section:
Would you also like to promote your courses via blogging? Then go for a theme that incorporates a blog.
Examples of WordPress themes for online courses include Course Builder LMS, Royal, Porto, LMS, etc.
Optimize your Site for Search Engines
If you hope to have lots of readers and students someday, don’t skip this part. You are up against so many competitors. So to stay relevant, optimize your site for search engines.
Thankfully, WordPress makes this part amazingly easy. So, where do you start? First, install and activate an SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps your WordPress site meet SEO standards.
To install, go to Plugins >> Add New in your WordPress dashboard. Then, search for Yoast SEO.
It’s most likely to be the first plugin in your search results. Click ‘Install’ and then ‘Activate’.
Now, Yoast SEO is fully activated on your blog. You can access the plugin’s settings through the ‘SEO’ menu in the sidebar and the ‘Yoast’ icon on top of your dashboard.
Also, when editing a page or post, an SEO section appears below your WP editor. It shows you if your content is well optimized and if it is readable. For every content you create, therefore, check this section to know what to improve.
Install other necessary plugins
In addition, to improve the functionality of your WordPress site, you’ll need several WordPress plugins. There are over 50,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin repository. So, how many plugins should you install? How many is too many?
Generally, you should stick with only the very necessary ones for your website. And no more.
Remember – for every plugin you install, more codes are added to your site. More codes, however, mean more processing. And this, therefore, results in a slower site.
Also, plugins occupy valuable space and bandwidth. So, keep them as minimal as you can, especially if you are on a shared web hosting plan.
Here is a list of must have plugins for your website:
- WordPress Security plugin:
WordPress is a secure platform. That’s a known fact. Nonetheless, you may need to add an extra layer of protection using WP security plugins.
They protect your site from brute force attacks. Examples of WordPress security plugins include iThemes security plugin, Jetpack, WordFence, and Sucuri.
To also know more about security plugins, read our beginner’s guide on WordPress security.
- WordPress Backup:
Every WordPress website needs a backup, yours inclusive. A backup plugin helps to store your files and database. This comes handy when your site crashes.
- WordPress Contact Form plugin:
Forming a relationship with your readers is crucial. You can use a WordPress contact form plugin to add forms. WPForms, Contact form 7, Gravity Forms are a few examples of plugins designed for this purpose.
To learn more, read this guide on the best contact form plugins.
Tips to consider before installing a plugin:
- Download plugins from the WordPress Plugin directory or from any reliable plugin developer. Also, avoid plugins from questionable sources.
- Install only plugins that won’t conflict with your WordPress version.
- Update them regularly. This is because outdated plugins give room to security breaches.
- The fewer the better. That is to say, you don’t have to install a plugin for a feature you can easily add with a tutorial and a few steps.
Set up Google Analytics
To track and analyze your site’s traffic, use Google Analytics. It is a free tool that tells you:
- How many visitors you had.
- Which content is the most-read.
- The kind of content your visitors prefer.
- When you need to improve your site’s speed.
- The geographical location of your visitors.
- At what time of the day they visit.
- Your traffic sources, etc.
The data you get from this tool can be used to improve your site’s content, speed, traffic, and also general performance.
So to set to Google Analytics on your site, follow these three steps.
- Set up the WordPress Plugin directory and you’ll get a code. It’s called a tracking code.
- Copy that code.
- Paste it into the page you want to track.
To also know more, read our guide on how to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.
Install WordPress LMS plugin
A Learning Management Systems (LMS) plugin helps you to create, manage, and also sell your online course in WordPress website. An ideal WordPress LMS plugin features:
- A course builder
- Quizzes and tests
- Automated emails
- Payment gateway
- Course progress information
- Certification on course completion.
For the purpose of this tutorial, we will use ‘LearnPress’ – a free WordPress LMS plugin.
How to use LearnPress
We are about to walk you through each stage of creating a profitable course.
Note: There are other amazing LMS plugins, however, asides LearnPress. So read our post on the best WordPress LMS plugins, to know more.
Installing and Configuring LearnPress
To install, open your WordPress dashboard. Afterwards, go to ‘Plugins >> Add New’. Type ‘LearnPress’ in the search bar. Now Install it by clicking ‘Install Now’.
Next, click ‘Run Setup Wizard’.
To clarify, there are 5 stages involved in setting up LearnPress. So to begin, click ‘Run Setup Wizard’.
Next, configure your currency settings. What’s your preferred currency? US dollar, Euro, Canadian dollar? Well, there are over 160 currency options to choose from.
Also, you get to choose the currency position – whether left ($1,200) or right (1,200$).
You should also set the thousands separator, decimals separator, and the number of decimals.
After that, the next section requires you to create pages. The Setup Wizard already suggests 4 pages – Courses, Profile, Checkout, and Become a Teacher pages. However, you don’t need to create all four.
Courses and Checkout pages are two pages you’ll need for a start. So, click the ‘Create’ button (the one located beside the page you want) and ‘Continue’.
The next section has to do with payments. How do you accept payments for your courses? Simply, tick ‘enable’ and enter your Paypal email address. In addition, to use payment gateways like Stripe, Authorize.net and 2Checkout, purchase the respective addons.
Now, click ‘Continue’.
Communication also plays a key role in the success of online course business.
So tick ‘enable’ to allow email communication. Next, click ‘Continue’.
At this stage, you have successfully set up LearnPress. Now, choose your next action. Would you like to install a sample course, create a new course, visit your website, or go back to your dashboard?
Note: for more settings, go to LearnPress >> Settings.
Step 4: Create your first online course
We created our course content in stage 2. Now, it’s time to add it to your website. To do this, go to LearnPress >> Courses. When the page opens, hit the ‘Add New’ button.
The WordPress editor and LearnPress course editor are identical. This, therefore, gives LearnPress an edge over other platforms with complicated interfaces.
Next, add your course title and description.
Furthermore, you can split your new course into sections and also break the section down into lessons.
To do this, scroll down to the ‘Curriculum’ section. Input a section’s title and also a brief description. Then, add lessons under your sections.
Scroll down further to set the course duration, pricing, maximum number of students to take the course, method of assessment, etc.
Adding lessons to your online course
In the previous step, we only created lesson titles. So it’s time to edit each lesson. To do this, locate the lesson you want to edit, and click ‘Edit’.
Add content into the editor. Also if you need to add pictures or videos, hit the ‘Add Media’ button, and upload them.
Adding quizzes and assignments for your course
Quizzes and assignments are also necessary for evaluating the performance of a student. So to add a quiz, go to LearnPress >> Quizzes >> Add New.
Next, type your questions and choose the quiz type (true/false, multi choice, or single choice).
When you select a quiz type, you’ll be prompted to enter the correct answer, quiz hint, answer explanation, and the number of marks.
To also add a certificate to your course, purchase the ‘Certificates add-on’.
LearnPress also provides a couple of free and premium add-ons to extend its functionality.
Step 5: Build a sales funnel
Building your course is one thing, making sales is another.
Therefore, for amazing Conversion rates, you need a great landing page. Landing pages, also known as Lead Capture pages, are designed to convert visitors into subscribers.
You may also need to include a lead magnet to make users subscribe. To clarify, a lead magnet could be anything (a free e-book, blog post, video, etc.).
Promoting your online course to generate more sales
With WordPress, however, you shouldn’t have a problem promoting your online course and making money. Therefore, here are a few tips on how to promote your course:
- Update your blog regularly with compelling and interesting content.
- Build an email list
- Write a compelling sales page
- Harness the power of YouTube
- Start a Podcast
- Position yourself as an expert on Social Media
- Also give freebies
- Host a virtual summit
- Create an affiliate program
- Publish a book on Amazon
- Additionally, promote your course at events and conferences
- Offer a money-back guarantee
- Use Google and Facebook ads
- Lastly, answer questions on Quora, etc.
To sum up, creating and selling an online course on your website is quite some work – no doubt. It takes much of your time and effort.
However, your rewards – imparting knowledge, getting loyal students and paying customers, and creating a business – make the effort worthwhile!
To also know more about WordPress and how to get the best out of your site, check our WP college.