How Much Money Can You Make Selling Online Courses? (Cost Breakdown)

Updated on March 8, 2023

Creating an online course has never been easier! So if you’re exceptionally good at breaking down and explaining information in a way that’s easy to understand, or if you’re an entrepreneur with a unique set of skills, talents, or perspectives that you’re ready to share with the world, then you might be considering online course creation as your next avenue. But before you invest too much time and money into creating course content, you’ll want to know how much money you can realistically expect to make.

The eLearning industry as a whole is booming, with no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s forecasted to reach $400bn by 2026. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every course creator will make substantial revenue. Your success will depend on many factors such as your target audience, how you price your courses, and your conversion rate. However, it does mean that you can indeed make money selling online courses, and it’s all down to you to play your cards right.

Whether you already sell courses or are looking into them as a passive income source or even a full-time endeavor, this article is for you. We’ll help you understand how much money you can make as a course creator, and give you tips on growing your reach as well as keeping your costs down. 

How to calculate revenue and profits from your online courses

Revenue is vanity; profit is sanity. It’s one of the most cited cliches in the world of business, but it’s an important mantra that you need to bear in mind as an online course creator. Let’s break down how to calculate each of them: 

Revenue = the size of your audience x your conversion rate x the price of your course. 

For example, let’s say 1000 people visit your website, and 10% of them convert (100 people), and your course is priced at $50. This means that your revenue is $5000.

Profit = your revenue –  your production costs – your marketing expenses – other costs.

So, using the example above, if it cost $1000 to make your course and $500 to market it, and you had no other noteworthy related costs, then this means your total profit is $3500.

How to plan and price your courses using this information

Giving importance to your profit and revenue goals will be helpful at every stage throughout the course creation process. Having a business-minded approach makes it easier to track costs that are eating away at your revenue, and develop marketing strategies that maximize your profits. 

So with this in mind, let’s look at some of the major factors that determine your revenue potential when developing an online course: 

Your target market

The reality is that some course topics are hugely in demand, while others are more niche by comparison. Markets such as crypto and blockchain, finance, self-improvement, and fitness, just to name a few examples, are currently more popular than subjects like horticulture and history.

Does that mean you should try and create courses for a popular market? No! If you want any chance of success as an online course creator, then you need to be an expert in your subject. This is the only way you’ll win the long-term trust and sales of your customers. Ultimately, if you are a horticulture buff looking to sell your knowledge online then there’s still lots you can do to make the subject appealing to a wide audience. It’s all in how you position the value of your course.

Your target audience

Your audience is not your entire market. Online courses are a competitive sphere and to stand out you need to narrow your focus to an area of specialization. If you’re too broad, you won’t have a unique selling point that draws customers in. This is where course creators operating in a bigger market may potentially have a tougher time, as they need to be significantly more specialized to stand out amongst hundreds of competitors.

For example, let’s say you create online courses for guitar lessons. You may find that the market is already saturated with online guitar courses for beginners, so instead, you narrow your focus on online death metal guitar courses for beginners. 


Finally, when we talk about pricing we need to think about three factors:

  • The size of your target audience
  • The average income of your target audience
  • Your course conversion rate

Imagine that you’ve launched your death metal guitar course for beginners, as per our example above. let’s say you have an average conversion rate of 5%, so 50 site visitors in 1000 convert.

You may be tempted to price your course at $150 so you can make a revenue of $7500 per 50 students. However, you also know that your average audience member is aged 18-20 with no or minimal income. Therefore, pricing it at $150 may actually affect your conversion rate. 

On the other hand, let’s say your course is about how to create wooden puppets and is very specialized. Your conversion rate is low by default (around 0.2%), so having a higher price is justifiable here because your target audience will understand that they are paying for the knowledge of a niche expert.

Pricing is obviously highly situational, and is not set in stone either – you should be able to test different prices and see what works. 

Keeping your course costs down

As we’ve seen, profit is about subtracting revenue from costs. There are a few different areas to consider when it comes to lowering costs, including marketing costs and production costs. We’ll touch on these lightly, though they are highly situational:

Production costs will depend on your niche. If you’re a life coach, you can get by recording high-quality videos at home with a smartphone. If you’re a fitness instructor, you may need to rent a gym, buy a high-quality camera, hire a video editor, and so on.

Marketing costs will inevitably depend on your budget, and your current audience size and conversion rate. If your conversion rate is low, then it will be worth investing in avenues such as Google Ads. However, there are also lots of free or low-cost marketing avenues you can look into, such as building SEO content on your website, having an email marketing channel, building a social media presence, and so on.

However, there is one kind of cost that is pretty universal no matter what kind of courses you create, and it’s also highly controllable, and this is the cost of your online course platform.

How to choose the most cost-effective online course platform

Explain that there are many closed platforms that will host your courses for you, and you might be tempted to use any of these because it’s relatively easy to get started with them. However, we’ve found that WordPress is actually the best and most cost-effective platform for course creators. Here’s why, in a nutshell:

  • Other platforms are much more expensive in the long run. Teachable, in particular, costs $59-$159 per month, depending on the plan. Thinkific, similarly, can cost between $36-$149 per month. 
  • These platforms earn a commission from your course sales. Udemy, for example, will host your courses ‘for free’. But if a student finds your course and pays for it without a referral link from yourself, you’ll only get 37% of the revenue.

Meanwhile, with WordPress, you can keep all your revenue and there are only a few annual costs that you need to factor in. These include:

  • A managed WordPress host: WordPress itself is free, but you will need a host that will install your website on its server. We recommend hosting from Pressable and as they are both credible, offer ample storage space in their plans, and are good value for WordPress users. Though we encourage you to check out each host’s pricing plans so you can compare prices in your jurisdiction, the most common plans are priced at an average of $250 per year. is one of the most popular managed WordPress hosts

A WordPress theme: Your theme is the foundation of your website’s design, so it’s important to choose one that you find aesthetically pleasing and also has layouts and features that support online courses. For example, you should choose a theme that has layouts that will help you create course-oriented landing pages and sales pages. You can find both free and premium WordPress themes, but we recommend a free theme called Course, which is made specifically for online course creators.

The free Course theme

WordPress plugins: Plugins are important because they add functionality to your website. As with themes, there are both free and premium plugins. Free plugins will be powerful enough in some instances, for example, if you need a caching plugin to speed up your website or a basic form plugin to build email lists. However, to create online courses on WordPress you’ll specifically need a Learning Management System plugin, and the best one available is Sensei LMS.

Sensei LMS

What is Sensei LMS?

Sensei LMS is an LMS plugin made by Automattic, which is the same team behind, Jetpack, and various other reputable ventures in the WordPress industry. As a result, they truly understand what an online course creator truly needs to set up their business on WordPress. In fact, what sets Sensei apart from other plugins is that it totally integrated with the Gutenberg block editor, which means that you use the same interface to create lessons as you would create blog posts and pages on your website. With Sensei, you get a native WordPress experience. 

Create courses with Sensei LMS and the Gutenberg block editor

Sensei LMS has a few plans available but the most crucial for course creators looking to generate revenue is Sensei Pro. At just $149 per year, Sensei Pro integrates with WooCommerce, so you can easily set up courses as products, and sell them from your website.

Sensei Pro integrates with WooCommerce

You also get access to all Sensei features with this plan, which means you’ll truly have all the tools at your disposal to create a stunning online learning experience. Some of these features include:

  • Course access periods so that you can set up pre-sales before you launch your course, and ensure that learners need to complete all lessons before a predetermined date.
  • Content drip and scheduling so you can decide how your lessons and modules are unlocked.
  • Groups and cohort learning, which is ideal if you’re selling your courses to online education institutions or companies that want to run employee training.
  • Sensei Blocks, which are a set of interactive multimedia blocks including interactive videos, image hotspots, flashcards, tasklists, and questions.
  • 7 question types that can be set with automatic and manual grading, quiz timers, and repeat attempts.

Start selling profitable online courses with WordPress and Sensei

Setting up a new course and selling it on the internet can be an attractive business venture. But to have a successful online course, you need to be mindful of how you’re going to maximize your revenue and profit. We’ve seen how much of this relates to identifying your market and making sure your target audience will recognize the value you can offer in exchange for the prices you set. 

However, we’ve also seen that one of the smartest things you can do as a budding course creator is to choose a platform that is cost-effective. This will ensure you’re not over-investing at the initial stage of your project when you haven’t even made your first course and it’s hard to calculate what your return will realistically be.

Using WordPress and Sensei Pro is not only the most cost-effective solution on the market but also offers a wide breadth of features to course creators and arguably many more customization options compared to other third-party course hosts we’ve mentioned in this article. By hosting courses on your own website, you can truly develop your brand, create an interactive learning experience, and keep all your revenue!

Sensei Pro costs just $149 annually and assuming you don’t need much more functionality on your WordPress website, you can have a fully-fledged online course business that costs around $400 per year when you factor in website hosting, a free theme, and your LMS plugin.

So if you want to create stunning courses with high-quality content that give you the best chance of making a profit, try out Sensei Pro today!

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