6 Steps to Monetizing Your Blog with Online Courses

sales Sep 09, 2019

Want to monetize your blog? Online courses are one of the best ways to make passive income. In this post, we'll share 6 steps to monetizing your blog with online courses. (This post may contain affiliate links.)

Online courses are seemingly everywhere nowadays. They’re advertising to you on Facebook, Instagram, and on just about every blog you read.

What’s the deal with online courses? Why are they so huge right now, and are they a good way to monetize your blog?

If you’re already blogging, you know the importance of creating high-quality content your audience wants to engage with. Why would you create even more content in the form of a course and have users pay for it?

In this guide, we’ll break down why courses can be a powerful way to make money with your blog, as well as how to get started.

Online Courses by the Numbers

Before we begin, let’s look a bit at the numbers and statistics behind online courses. When you see blogs promoting courses seemingly everywhere, it’s not always clear what the buzz is about. Is anyone really paying money for these?

In short, YES. By 2025, the market for e-learning is expected to grow beyond $200 billion according to Global Market Insights. That’s billion with a "B"!

If you’ve been blogging for a while now, you already know that competition is fierce. There’s an estimated 500 million blogs on the internet already. How are you going to stand out? Now is the time to get started with online courses while the market is hot and growing. 

What these numbers show us is that users are hungry for courses. They have the money, and they’re willing to pay for expert information from bloggers they trust.

Why Create an Online Course?

Now that you understand how big the market is for online courses, let’s talk about why you might want to create one. Aside from the potential for more income beyond the “traditional” blog monetization options (affiliate sales, advertisements, etc.), here are some other perks:

  • You’re in control of your income since you own your course and can set the price.
  • You already have an audience who trusts you and would love to learn more from you.
  • There are easy tools to help you build a course quickly and on a low budget.
  • You already know how to create high-quality, engaging content– you're made for this!
  • Courses are evergreen– you can simply create the course, set it to sell on autopilot, and continue your usual blogging routine.

When you create an online course, you establish yourself as an expert. Sure, your users could search for the information in your course on their own. All types of information is readily available on the internet. But this type of research takes a lot of time, and many (if not most) people are willing to pay to skip all those steps and get exactly the information they need from someone they trust.

Creating a course is one of the best options for bloggers who want to monetize by creating their own digital product. Since you've already been blogging, you have a huge advantage that most people don't have when first starting out: you already have an audience and you know exactly what they want!

For example, if you blog about personal finance, you could create a budgeting course. If you blog about marketing, you could build a marketing course.

The more specific you can be with your course topic, the better. If your blog audience is super broad, you may need to narrow it down. Make sure that you are offering something very specific to a specific group of people– this will allow you to charge a premium for what you're offering.

Sound good so far? Do you have a topic in mind for your course?

Great! Now, let's get into the nitty gritty of how to actually create and sell your course...

Where to Host Your Online Course

Let’s talk about how to actually get started. It’s officially the best time to build your own course for your blog, and there have never been more tools at your disposal that make the process super simple. 

There are tons of options for hosting your course, but here are some tried-and-true platforms used by most bloggers today:

  • Kajabi – Kajabi is an all-in-one business platform that helps you build a website, blog, email list, online courses and membership sites, and powerful sales funnels all in one place. This is our preferred tool at Persuasion Nation because it allows us to have everything under one roof, and we do not need to buy separate tools for marketing. You can try Kajabi free for 30 days to see if it’s the right fit for you.
  • Podia – Podia allows you to sell online courses, memberships, and digital downloads with zero transaction fees and unlimited everything. They have a few marketing features similar to Kajabi (such as email marketing), but they are not as full-featured as Kajabi.
  • Thinkific – Thinkific is a standalone course hosting platform. They have a free version that you can use with all the core features, and they never take a cut of your revenues. However, they do not offer email marketing or sales funnel creation, so you'll need separate tools for those things.
  • Teachable  Teachable is similar to Thinkific, except the pricing is a bit different and they take 5% of your profits if you use their Basic plan. For this reason, we recommend going with Thinkific instead for a standalone course hosting platform.
  • WordPress – You can also host your course on WordPress if you prefer. While this may seem like the most cost-effective option (if you already have a WordPress blog), you’ll need to manage the risk of unauthorized users accessing your courses. The best way to do that is by using a premium plugin for WordPress course creators, such as Zippy Courses or Coursecats. These plugins can be very expensive, and they do not include everything you need to effectively market your courses, so make sure you understand all the costs before you commit.

To re-iterate, you'll not only need a place to host your course, but you're also going to need a few tools for marketing and selling your course, such as email list provider and a sales funnel builder. For a complete list of tools we recommend, check out our guide: 20 Essential Tools to Create & Sell Awesome Online Courses.

No matter where or how you choose to create your online course, you’ll need to do some preparation. Like most things when it comes to blogging, you can’t slap together a lesson plan and call it a day. Knowing what you want to offer and how you plan to market it will help you find success no matter your experience level.

Step-by-Step Method for Creating an Online Course

It’s time to start creating. Here are all of the steps you need to follow in order to create an online course that matches with your goals. Take a moment to reflect on your target students and your existing audience. What needs do they have? How can you solve their problems? Consider these questions moving forward.

In fact, if you haven't done so already, now is a good time to create an Ideal Student Avatar for your online course. This is a fictional (but realistic!) representation of your ideal student– creating one will influence everything you do from here on out, so we recommend doing this as a pre-requisite to the following steps. You can download a free template and create your avatar here.

Go ahead and do that right now. I'll wait.

Done? OK great, let's get started with Step #1!

Step 1. Define the End Goal of Your Course

First, you need to nail down your goals. If you don’t know exactly what your students are trying to accomplish, how can you help them? You need to identify what your students will gain by taking your course.

Be as specific as possible. Will you help them create a budget they can use to build an emergency fund of $1,000? Will you help new photographers land their first paying clients? Be as clear as possible.

Brainstorm a few different goals and see how they tie together. If you don’t know what it is your students will gain, neither will they. Similarly, be realistic. While it’s true your students will need to put in some work to yield the results, they should also be attainable. Nothing upsets customers faster than false promises!

Step 2. Outline Your Course

Next, it’s time to dive into planning the actual course content. Just like the best blog posts begin with an outline, you’ll also need to create an outline for your online course to make sure you stay on track and help your students get to their goal, step by step.

Your outline may include the following:

  • An introduction to the course and your blog
  • What users can expect to learn
  • What’s needed to start the course
  • The breakdown of lessons, each building on top of the next
  • Any additional materials (workbooks, downloads, guides, quizzes, etc.)
  • Actionable steps for your users to take

Your outline should make sense as a whole. It needs to fit together and build upon itself. The right outline won’t be disconnected, rather, it will flow easily. Keep in mind the experience level of your target audience. What do they already know going into your course? What gaps need to be filled in?

Step 3. Create Your Course Content

It’s time to put in the work. This is the most time consuming process since you’ll need to actually create the content for your course. Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family to get your "regular work" done on your business or around the house while you work on this step... you may need to depart from your ordinary routine for a bit, but that's OK! Many people have successfully knocked out their courses in a weekend, or spread out over a few weeks.

Remember that your students learn in a number of different ways. The most successful courses include a mixture of video, audio, visuals, and texts. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience about the best way to communicate with them. Here are the tools we recommend for creating your lessons.

You’ll also need to create any extra materials. Many bloggers include downloadable checklists and worksheets, planners, e-books, and more with their courses. Find what works for you and start creating.

Step 4. Beta Test Your Course & Gather Testimonials

Once you’ve created your course and uploaded it to your course platform of choice, it's a good idea to test it out on a few people before you begin selling it. This is called a "beta launch."

You can offer your course to a select few people for free, or offer it at half the regular price. Either way, the point is to get feedback from real students going through the course so that you can have proof that it works.

After all, if you’re going to charge a lot of money for your course, you want to make sure it truly delivers!

Beta testing your course is also a great opportunity to start collecting testimonials that you can use on your sales page and other marketing materials. Never underestimate the value of testimonials– people shopping for courses want to see that other people just like them have gotten results before they buy.

Step 5. Price Your Course

Now we come to the trickiest part: pricing your course. Remember, pricing should be based on value. You’ve spent a lot of time building this course, but you don’t want to base it on how many hours it took you to create.

Consider your costs. What did it cost you to create and maintain your course? In the professional world, this is considered a business cost assessment. You have to pay for any web hosting, platforms, maintenance, and so on. Consider this in your price. If (worst case scenario) only one or two people end up buying your course, will you recoup your costs?

Additionally, what value will users gain from taking your course? Using the budgeting example from earlier, let's say your students will learn how to effectively save up to $1,000 in their emergency fund. This is a huge improvement in their finances, and it’s valuable. Since you’re promising a $1,000 return on their investment, you shouldn’t be afraid to charge a fair price.

Finally, keep in mind that you're probably not going to hit the perfect price right out the gate. It will take some testing and tweaking in order to find your sweet spot. So while you don't want to be hugely off in the beginning, it's OK to alter the price slightly later on if you find your initial price was too high or too low.

Step 6. Map Out & Build Your Sales Funnel

Every online course needs a sales funnel. A sales funnel is a series of steps that a blog reader goes through to become a paying student. Your sales funnel will probably look something like this:

  1. Someone types a question into Google and your blog comes up.
  2. They read your blog post and find it helpful. They want to learn more, so they opt in to your lead magnet, joining your email list.
  3. You send them even more helpful information by email, and tell them how they can learn your complete, step-by-step system by joining your course.
  4. They trust you because you've given them a lot of helpful information already, so they buy your program.

Of course, that's just a rough outline. You'll need to map out exactly what information your blog readers need to know in order to feel confident enough to buy your course. What objections will they have to buying it? What information will convince them that they need your course? You'll need to answer those questions in your sales funnel.

Also, consider how you can work your course into existing content and future blog posts. Which blog posts are going to attract the right students for your course? You may need to update and improve older blog posts or write some new blog posts in order to drive the right kind of traffic to your sales funnel.

When it comes to delivering the content of your sales funnel, you have a lot of options. There is no right or wrong answer here... only what you think your audience will enjoy the most! Here are a few ideas for sales funnels you could create:

  • Mini course – perhaps your blog readers would like to try your course before they buy? Offering a free mini course, or the first lesson for free, is a great way to encourage prospective students to take the plunge. If they realize the course is a good fit for them, they’re more likely to make a purchase. Again, it’s all about building trust.
  • Video series – a fun way to promote your course is with a series of video episodes. These videos can be embedded on your website, and delivered by email over a series of several days. They cannot access all episodes at once– they have to wait until the next video "comes out" before they can watch. This way, your prospective students are looking forward to each episode you send out with great anticipation... and in the last video, you pitch your course to them with a special offer if they buy now.
  • Email course – a simple but effective way to create a sales funnel is by email– simply create a series of educational emails. These emails should make mention of your paid program throughout (without being pushy or salesy), and if your readers enjoy the email course they'll want to purchase your premium version.
  • Webinars – webinars are another popular way to sell online courses. These are fun because you're hosting a live event and answering questions in real time. On the call, you're sharing as much valuable info as you can pack into 45 minutes, at in the last 15 minutes you're pitching your complete course. When done right, recorded webinars can also be put on "evergreen" so you're not doing them live anymore.

Remember that building an effective sales funnel is probably going to take some trial and error. Create a plan, and make adjustments as needed. You can always add new features or updates to your course and re-launch it with a completely new method. Experiment to find what works for you!

For more help with this step, check out our guide: How to Create a Sales Funnel for Your Online Course in 5 Steps.

Start Monetizing Your Blog with Online Courses

If you’ve been on the fence about creating an online course for your blog, now is the time to take action. The market is growing rapidly. If you already have an audience, you’re already ahead of the competition.

More and more bloggers are using online courses as a way to monetize. Not only is it easy to get started with a course of your own, it’s easy to market to your followers if you’ve already built a solid foundation of trust. Your users want more from you. It’s time to deliver.

Gone are the days of stumbling through endless online content looking for the right information. You can be that platform to deliver just what your users are looking for just when they need it. Odds are you already have some ideas for creating an online course. Now it’s just time to create a plan using the tips above.

There’s no time to waste. With more users spending money on online courses than ever before, this is a relatively low-risk business venture with the opportunity for a huge reward. It’s time to give your users what they’ve been asking for!

Ashley Lipman is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion in providing creative solutions for building brands online. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches.

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