Developing an online course is a big accomplishment. Whether you’re nearly done, just getting started, or deep in the weeds, congratulations for taking action! But, once you finish creating your content and are ready to put it up for sale, you’re faced with another hard question:
How much should you charge for your online course?
In many ways, answering this question is even harder than developing the course. You have lots of freedom in how you create your course. But a price, once decided, is there for all to see. And if you change it, people will wonder why, so you want to be confident in the price you choose.
You don’t want to price it too low, because it devalues your course and your expertise, and could actually lead to reduced sales. But you don’t want to price it too high either, because it might put it out of reach for your target audience.
Let’s start with the biggest myth about what to charge for online courses:
“People won’t pay high prices for online courses since there’s so much free content everywhere.”
It’s simply not true.
People are charging hundreds, even thousands of dollars for their online courses, and they’re making strong sales.
Here are some of the key factors that can help you justify charging a higher price for your course:
- Additional value due to specialized content
- The expertise of the instructor or creator
- Meeting the needs of a very specific audience
- The promise of a profitable outcome or deliverable
- A powerful guarantee (e.g. see results or your money back!)
To help you determine what you might be able to charge, start by honestly answering the following six questions:
1. How much credibility or notoriety do you have in your niche?
You don’t need to be world famous. If you’re well-known in your niche, you can justify much higher prices. And some of this is about positioning. For example:
Have you had any media appearances?
Your first reaction might be, “Of course not, I’ve never been on TV.” But TV isn’t the only type of media. Podcasts count. It doesn’t matter if only 100 people were listening. If you were asked to appear on a podcast as an expert guest, then you have some credibility and authority in your niche. Same with a radio show. Doesn’t matter if the show airs at 3:30 in the morning. They still asked YOU to be their expert guest.
Even being asked to write a guest blog post on a major website counts. Anything you can use to position yourself as a sought-after expert can assist you in charging a higher price for your online course.
Have you published any books, YouTube videos, webinars, or articles?
Self-publishing counts because a book is a book. Your competition doesn’t have a book. Your students don’t have a book.
Do you have any famous or highly-reputable clients?
Have you won any awards or prizes within your niche?
Have you spoken publicly at industry conferences or events?
All of this raises your status in the eyes of your course-takers, because they haven’t done any of that stuff, most likely.
Now, if you honestly feel like you haven’t yet achieved much authority in your niche — meaning you answered ‘no’ to all those questions — then you have three choices:
- Start your course, but charge somewhere on the lower end.
- Charge what you think it’s worth, and use the course itself to elevate your perceived authority.
- Get some media appearances!
The first typically isn’t the best route. The second one can work for now. But pursue the third one, too. Find events to speak at. Publish a book, even a small one. If you lack authority, then go get some. Once you have it, you can raise the price of your online course.
2. What outcomes are you promising your students?
The types of promises you can make will heavily depend on the subject matter, but people will pay more when you can:
- Save them huge amounts of time
- Make their lives easier
- Equip them with new levels of mastery for skills and hobbies
- Help them form better relationships
- Assist with a healthier mindset and habits
- Save them money
- Help them make money
- Provide a guaranteed return on investment (ROI)
Some online courses deliver financially-valuable content and have documented cases of their students’ success. For example, you sometimes see guarantees that “over the next year, if you don’t make at least twice as much as you spent on this course, we’ll refund your money.”
You can bet those course owners aren’t making that guarantee lightly. They have the numbers to demonstrate that their course really does deliver that kind of value. Over time, you may be able to do this as well.
Also, when you can promise specific outcomes related to time, money, health, skills, or performance, people will pay higher prices.
For example, consider an online business course that helps people figure out how to successfully switch to a new career. That’s worth something to people looking to switch careers — at least several hundred dollars.
But then, consider another course that teaches existing business owners how to elevate their company from six to seven figures of revenue. The outcome promised in that course is worth more than the first one. That type of course could easily charge several thousand dollars.
If your course will make your students more money, how much? Will it help raise their current income, advance their career, help them implement income-boosting habits and processes?
Even better, do you have any case studies or testimonials proving that your course delivers that kind of value? If you’re just starting out, you won’t. But this is why you want your students to finish your course. That’s why you need to stay in touch with them as they go through it — because those case studies are like gold.
3. How does your online course compare to the competition?
This isn’t a hardline rule, but you should take note of what other people are charging for their courses within your niche. If you find ten comparable online courses and they’re all charging between $29 and $99, then you probably shouldn’t try to charge $800.
That said, ultimately the course is worth what it’s worth to the audience. If you have something valuable to teach and you believe your audience will pay what you think it’s worth, then charge that much. If you have superior authority or credibility, you can charge superior rates.
And, maybe all those other courses are charging less because they don’t realize the value of their own content, or they believe the myth about no one wanting to pay higher prices.
People who pay higher prices are more likely to complete your course. And you want people to complete your course, not just sign up for it.
And what about the ‘free’ competition?
All that said, you’re also competing against all the free content out there.
Let’s take a common topic: vegetable gardening.
There is a TON of free content about vegetable gardening. So why would anyone pay…anything at all… when they can just get free information somewhere else?
The answer is this:
Why do people start vegetable gardens? And why don’t some people start them, even though they want to?
Often, the value of an online course comes from the very act of signing up and paying for it. That act becomes the driving motivator that compels the person to actually follow through and do what they want to do. It gets them off the couch.
You can tap into this with language like, “We’ll hold your hand and walk you through every step of setting up and reaping from your very own garden.”
In that case, you’re not just selling the content or even your expertise. You’re selling the promise of finishing something they’ve always wanted to finish.
That’s worth paying for. And the free stuff will never be able to promise that.
Furthermore, consider the nature of your course and the audience for it.
A course on home vegetable gardening is probably not worth as much as a course on commercial vegetable gardening. If you tailor your course to people who want to grow enough food to be able to sell at a farmer’s market, those people have more at stake. They can’t afford to fail. And they’ll pay more for your expertise than a backyard hobbyist.
So, selecting a more narrow audience usually means you can charge more.
4. How long is your course?
Course length by itself doesn’t necessarily correlate to or justify a higher price.
But an online course that takes an hour to complete will have a tough time justifying a $500 price tag. Most people would feel ripped off if they paid that much and were done in an hour.
One way to reduce this effect is to increase the variety of learning methods you offer.
By using videos, audio files, text, worksheets, and quizzes, you’re increasing the perceived value of your course.
5. How narrowly defined is your audience?
As mentioned earlier, a narrower niche will often pay a higher price.
Imagine someone develops a course for accountants on how to bolster their skills, prepare to pass the CPA exam, and open their own firm. That’s a big, broad topic that will probably draw in a lot of people.
But then, imagine another accounting course designed specifically for CPAs who already own their own firms but want to double in size or open a second office.
The second course targets a narrower — and more valuable — segment within the accounting niche. And that course will be able to charge a higher price.
But don’t misunderstand — those are both good course ideas. The first one could easily charge several hundred dollars, and people would pay it. The second one could charge closer to $1000, and perhaps more.
Just about every industry and category has dozens of sub-categories, micro-niches, and specialties.
Take a look at your expertise, and see if you can design courses for one of those specialty communities, instead of just one big broad stroke that tries to cover everything. Teachers call that a ‘mile wide and an inch deep.’ You can’t cover everything in one course.
In fact, this is one way to quickly develop a slate of multiple online courses. You might be able to create several courses that feature some of the same content in each, but that also include content distinct to each particular sub-niche. And each course will be more valuable to the people within those micro communities.
6. What is the purpose of your course?
This is a big one.
Too many people set arbitrary minimums and declare that you should NEVER charge less than those minimums. Some say $50. Some say $100.
Ignore all that.
What matters most is — why are you creating this course?
If your primary reason for creating a course is to sell it, then you should look to charge the most you think your audience will pay, based on the perceived value and your answers to the previous five questions on this list.
But maybe you’re using your course as a lead generation tool. Perhaps you have a successful business already in place that sells a high-value offering such as:
- Coaching and consulting
- Done for you services
- Products, memberships, and subscriptions with recurring revenue
- A catalog of products
- Group masterminds, events, or conferences
If you can get people to take your online course, they’ll be more likely to sign up to buy your higher-value products and services.
In that case, you can make an argument for offering a completely free course, or a course for a very low price, like $29. Now, you could also still charge several hundred, and this depends greatly on your audience and the perceived value that gets communicated by the price.
But lead generation is a very different purpose for a course than just raw sales.
Your online course could also be just the first one in a series, and you charge very little for the first one, sort of like a trial offer. Then, you offer a much higher priced course or set of courses to your students as they near completion of the first one.
Your online course could also be designed as a bonus, add-on, or upsell to another higher-priced offer.
Suppose you charge $2000 per month for a coaching or consulting service, or charge $5000 for a particular product. You could create an online course and give it away as a free bonus for anyone who signs up for your high ticket item. The course will help more people justify their decision to buy.
Or maybe you offer a monthly membership for $29, but aren’t getting enough sales. You could offer the online course — which normally sells for, let’s say $349 — for just $79 for anyone who joins your membership. So now the course functions as both an upsell and a motivator for the purchase you really want them to make.
How much should you charge for your online course?
Take your answers to these six questions, reflect on them, and then consider your audience and the perceived value you want to create around your course.
Then, try a number.
Consider taking it to a few people you know who are in your target audience. Pitch it to them and see how they react.
Another approach is to choose a handful of your current customers and offer them the chance to ‘beta test’ your course. You can give them the course for a drastically reduced price, but they must promise to do three things: Complete the course, tell you what worked and what didn’t, and write a testimonial.
When they’re done, ask them for a price range of what they could imagine paying for this course. Or, show them several possible prices and ask them which seems the most appropriate.
Lastly, if you end up charging a price that’s over $300, you can always offer the option of a payment plan to make it easier for your students. Especially for longer courses, paying in three installments makes it easier to get through the course, and reduces the sticker shock.