Online courses are a great way to generate revenue, whether you already sell products or services — like digital downloads or coaching sessions — or are just getting started. Not only can you share what you love with people, regardless of their location, you can even generate virtually passive income.
Let’s take a look at how to take your courses to the next level by selling them online.
Note: This post already assumes you’re using WordPress with Sensei LMS for online courses. If you’re looking for a “Getting Started” guide, check out our post, Beginners Guide To WordPress Websites For Online Courses.
How to earn money with your online course
To sell courses on your site, you’ll need to use WooCommerce and Sensei Pro. This adds all the functionality you need to accept payments and restrict access just to paying customers.
1. Install your extensions
You can install WooCommerce by logging into your WordPress dashboard and going to Plugins → Add New. Search for “WooCommerce,” then click Install Now → Activate.
This will launch a setup wizard that will walk you through the initial steps of setting up WooCommerce, like choosing a payment gateway. You can skip over many of these — like shipping configuration — that don’t apply to online courses.
Now, purchase and install Sensei Pro by going to Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugin. There, you can upload the ZIP file that you received after purchase.
2. Add your products
Now, it’s time to create the actual products that you’re going to sell. Note that these are different from the courses you already built — we’ll be associating the two in just a moment.
- Go to Products → Add New.
- Add your course name to the Product name field at the top of the page.
- In the Product Data box, check the box next to “Virtual” and add a price for your course in the Regular Price field.
- In the Product Short Description box, add a description of your product, the most important details.
- In the text box right underneath the product title, you can add a longer description of your course, with more details that customers might be searching for.
- In the right column, add a featured image. This will display in your site listings and on social media when someone shares your course.
- In the Product Categories box, add a category for your course, if you’re offering several. This can be helpful for filtering and organization.
- Click the blue Publish button at the top right of the page.
3. Connect your course with your product
Now, go to Courses → All Courses and select the one you want to associate with your new product. In the right hand column, expand the Pricing box, search for your product, and check the box next to it. Now, only people who purchase that product can access your course!
In the sidebar, you can also choose to set an Access Period, the amount of time a customer can view your course. For example, you can set access to expire after three months.
And that’s all you need to start selling your courses! Check out the full documentation here.
Want even more? Sensei LMS also integrates seamlessly with WooCommerce Memberships and WooCommerce Subscriptions. This lets you make your courses available as part of a membership program or even charge for them on a recurring basis.
Tips for selling courses online
Now that your courses are available for purchase, it’s time to attract potential customers and guide your students to success!
1. Get your course in front of the right people
The most important place to start is with knowing your target audience. Who are they? What are their pain points? What do they care about and what motivates them? Get to know them by spending time where they are, like in Facebook groups or forums. Talk to them at trade shows or in coffee shops. And once you understand them, craft your courses and marketing messages around what resonates with their needs.
Your next step is to create effective landing pages for your courses. Landing pages are hyper-specific pages of your site designed to compel visitors to take action — in this case, purchase your course. Here are a few things to consider including:
- Previews of your courses, with images or bullet point lists of what’s included
- Compelling copy that provides information that your audience is specifically looking for
- Testimonials from people who have taken the course
- Videos explaining the benefits of your course
- Purchase buttons spaced throughout the page
You can use these landing pages within the rest of your marketing efforts. Speaking of marketing, there are a variety of ways you can get your courses in front of your target audience, including:
- Email marketing. Send updates, tips, coupons, and upsells to existing and potential customers. Your email list is one of your most powerful marketing tools as it’s one you own in its entirety.
- Paid ads. Use platforms like Google Ads to reach customers. Typically, you pay for each click your ad receives. Retargeting ads are also a super valuable option — they display your information to people who have already visited your site and are therefore interested in what you have to offer.
- Social media. Create accounts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Regularly update your feed with new, valuable content and occasionally mix in sales offers. You can also publish paid ads on the multiple social media accounts you manage.
- Search engine optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy designed to get your website in front of people who are actively searching for keywords related to your online courses. While there are a variety of things that go into optimizing your site, regularly creating high-quality blog content is a big factor.
- Abandoned cart emails. Automatically send emails to people who add your course to their cart and don’t complete the checkout process. A quick reminder or coupon code can make all the difference in recovering these sales.
The right marketing strategy is most likely a combination of several of these methods. And remember: be patient. Marketing is very often a long-term investment.
2. Engage with your students
Loyal students are the best students. Why? Because they’ll come back time and time again and even refer your courses to their friends, colleagues, and family members. And the key to maintaining loyal students is to engage with them whenever possible. Here are just a few ideas:
- Create a community. Get your students involved and interacting with one another. You can do this through a forum on your WordPress site or with a Facebook group.
- Send certificates of completion. Give students a reward with a certificate they can print and hang or show off to their friends.
- Respond to students quickly. Get back to learners who reach out with a question or comment and offer to help in any way that you can.
- Send out ongoing content. Create an email list of previous students and send out helpful content, information, and tips to stay top of mind.
- Let students share their progress. Add buttons that allow learners to share their success and excitement on social media.
- Create a completion page. Add a course completion page that really celebrates their accomplishments and makes them feel proud.
3. Make some content available for free
In many cases, you need to give away a little bit to encourage a purchase. For example, you may want to create a mini-course that’s available completely for free. This gives potential buyers a look into what they’ll experience if they sign up for a paid one.
Or use your blog for this purpose. Share helpful information, tips, tricks, ideas, and even free downloads to show future students that you’re an expert and to get them hooked. Bonus: this content can be super useful in your marketing efforts, especially for email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO.
4. Choose the right pricing strategy
This is another time when knowing your audience is absolutely critical. Do some research into what your competitors are charging and what people are willing to pay for what you have to offer. You could also reach out to people in your target audience.
Consider offering multiple courses at various price points so there’s a little something for everyone. You may even want to charge a fixed price or a recurring fee for a membership that allows access to all of your courses at once. It all depends on what your students will find most valuable.
5. Solicit reviews
88% of people trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation — they’re powerful! So after someone completes a course, encourage them to leave a review. The best way to do this is by sending an email post-completion that congratulates them and asks for a rating.
Don’t have any students yet? Consider giving away access to your course to a few people in your target audience in exchange for honest reviews.
6. Make it easy for people to ask questions and find help
If someone encounters a problem, you want them to be able to quickly find a solution rather than give up on your course altogether. This is true for existing students and potential ones!
So make it easy for them to ask questions through contact forms and live chats. Put together documentation and success guides that help them navigate your courses. And publish an FAQ page with answers to the questions you most commonly encounter.
Make money with your online courses
Not only do online courses enable you to share what you love and are passionate about with an interested audience, they’re also a way for you to generate income. That’s why Sensei LMS partnered with WooCommerce to make it simple to start selling your courses online.
Ready to get started? Download Sensei Pro today.