The cost of creating online courses is dependant upon a whole range of factors and is different for everyone.
In this article, I share a list of likely costs to check out so you know what to expect and can come up with a budget that works for you.
Ultimately I want to make sure don’t waste your hard earned cash on things you don’t need and that you price your online courses be profitable from the outset!
Let’s take a look.
One of the biggest costs to consider is the software you’ll need to create your courses, host materials online for people to access, and to automate the whole online buying process for customers. You can find a comprehensive list of the type of software you’ll need in my blog post What’s the Best Software for Creating Online Courses?
Like any other product or service, you still need to let people know your online courses exist and so are likely to incur additional marketing costs. Depending what type of marketing you prefer this could be paying affiliates or joint venture partners or for advertising. I’d be budgeting up to 50% of the price for your course. Some people initially think seems a lot but if others sell what you offer or you adverts bring you a constant stream of clients, it’s better to get a percentage of something rather than nothing (as long as it’s a good return on your investment overall).
If you want to sell your online courses there will be marketing costs unless you have a large enough following to generate plenty business from existing clients or referrals.
Don’t make the mistake of pricing your courses too low then finding you don’t have enough money to invest in marketing them.
Effective marketing strategies automatically generate a constant stream of customers and what initially seems like a cost turns into an investment as you bring in more than you spend.
Thanks to the capacity of modern mobile phones, tablets, and computers we no longer need to spend thousands to create quality films or audios. Nor do most people need to hire a film-maker to create their training content. You don’t need to do this unless your audience expects high-end professionally filmed and edited content or you don’t want to learn how to use the existing equipment you’ve got. Below is a list of equipment I use to create my online course content and marketing videos. While I’m not a professional filmmaker, if you like the quality of what I produce this is all I use (together with the software mentioned above):
Video camera – if you have a mobile phone, tablet or laptop with a quality camera (for photos and videos) you may not need much additional equipment to create professional videos, audios and training materials. I always go for the highest specification of camera available whenever buying a mobile (photos and video) as I use my mobile to film most of my videos (other than when recording training materials with slides when I use Zoom software). Alternatively, if you don’t have a good quality camera on your phone, you can buy a stand-alone video camera. I have bought a couple of these in the past but in all honesty, I didn’t use them because it’s easier to use my phone and the quality of filming through my phone is better.
Headphones (with a mic attached) – these are definitely worth the investment if you want to have good sound quality for videos/audios created through your computer. Sometimes I get asked whether you really need these if you have headphones that come with your mobile. Personally, I find the sound quality is much better if you buy quality headphones. If you want to appear on podcasts or summits some people insist upon the use of quality headphones. You can find plenty decent headphones from upwards of around £20/US$30. Make sure you buy ones with a connection compatible to your computer.
Microphones – one of the best investments you can make to enhance the sound quality of all your films and audios. I have several for different purposes: a small mic that plugs into a mobile phone which is the minimum I recommend which you can see here. I also have a Hey Mic which is fantastic if you want to film video, talks or presentations where you’re standing back from the camera (several meters away). Think of the mics you see speakers wired up with at events and take away the wires thanks to Bluetooth! Again another brilliant investment at £100/US$150. The third type of mic I have is a Blue Yeti which I got to record my podcast interviews (approx £120/US$170). It’s definitely a great quality mic if you want to have a high-end quality podcast though I find the mic I have with my headphones works well enough for my audience.
Tripods (with attachments) – I have a few tripods to use when filming on my mobile phone. All are lightweight so I can take them with me when traveling. One of the most useful is the Joby Gorilla that can be used as a traditional stand-up tripod or you can easily attach this to branches and other objects when you’re outside. enables you to attach your mobile. All my tripods have been in the region of £20-30 (US$30-50).
Lighting – I’m not a film expert by any means but I have learned the huge difference good lighting makes to the quality of films. I usually film in natural light with a set of studio lights around me as required. You can get lighting packs online from £20/US$30.
- Remote clicker – to save you editing the start and end of videos, having a remote ‘clicker’ to turn your camera on and off with a worthwhile investment. You can get many of these for only a couple of pounds or dollars.
Most people start off doing much of the creation and promotion of their online courses themselves to minimise the financial outlay. However, the ‘cost’ of doing this could slow down sales and reduce your earning capacity, especially if you charge more per hour than the price of outsourcing certain activities.
You may find pulling together a team of different technical specialists is a good investment of your time. Particularly if technology or online marketing is new to you, you’d prefer others do the technical aspects for you, or if doing it yourself would take far longer than a specialist.
The people who help me with my online business include:
a virtual assistant (VA) – who does all sorts of admin for me including emails, organising webinars, liaising with affiliates or partners, setting up online events, transcribing audios, helping with blog posts, basic social media tasks, and website updates. Expect to pay anything from $25+ per hour. Experienced VAs and those with knowledge of certain software can cost several times this.
editors – for documents, audio files, videos, and blogs. Agree on an hourly, the number of words for per piece or per piece of content. Rates vary depending upon the type of editing you’re looking for them to do but have always been very reasonable in my mind.
online marketing specialists – to create ads, do social media management and create online marketing funnels that convert leads into paying customers. Depending on what your current level of experience, paying people to help create online sales funnels that generate a perpetual source of new clients can easily cost thousands. And remember this is in addition to the cost of any adverts. This is one of the reasons it’s really important to consider how you’ll market your online courses ahead of investing in the creation of them. Most people underestimate how much time and effort goes into selling them. That said, once you have automated sales funnels working, the upside can be incredible.
copy-writers – if you’re selling your online courses online, you’ve got a matter of seconds to grab people’s attention and tempt them in to buy. The design and words of your sales pages can make the difference between an abundance of sales to no sales. You get copy-writers that design the whole page (images, layout, and words) and others who concentrate only on the words. Unless you are a skilled copy-writer this is a very worthwhile yet understated investment.
designers – for branding and graphics. You can get cheap graphics done on fivver.com and 99.designs.com which is what I used when I was starting out but be aware you may not always get the quality you’re looking for. I still use cheap designers to create the visuals of ebooks and other products but invest in branding specialists for my logos.
Training and mentoring
Creating and selling online courses is a huge learning curve for most people. The good news is that while learning how to do it the first time does involve an investment of time and money, it’s easy enough for most people to learn. Once you know what to do, you can then easily create lots more courses.
Like everything else in life, creating online courses is a lot easier when you attend training courses or work closely with someone who can guide you and answer questions that come up as you implement your ideas.
You can learn how to create online courses by watching videos on Youtube, paid online home study courses or participating in interactive training courses.
Personally, I invested in high-end training and mentoring programmes with additional one-to-one support as I had so many questions when I was learning and just wanted to get on with it. Over the years I’ve invested well over US$30,000 to learn how to create, sell and deliver good online courses. That said I know others who have spent much less.
domain names – if you want to protect the name of your online courses consider whether to buy the domain for the name of your courses, particularly for any of your signature programs. You may not be able to fully protect the name unless you also trademark it or set up a legal entity in the same name, but checking to see if the URL is available is well worth doing. It’s one of the first things I do when coming up with a name for one of my key products or books. If the URL isn’t available that indicates someone else is already using it (or planning to) and so change the name of my course.
backing up your site – the most content you have on your website and the more people accessing it, the more risk there is of something going wrong. Make sure your site is backed up regularly. My website host provider automatically backs up my website every day.
book-keeper – depending on the software and portals you use to collect money from your customers you may need a book-keeper to help you keep track of all the income coming in, especially if you’re selling low-cost products that generate a lot of small value transactions appearing in your accounts. Ideally use software that works with your accounts software. One that summarises transactions and makes it easy to reconcile your bank accounts.
accountant – if the intention is that you’ll generate more income from online courses there may be accounts or tax implications of doing this e.g. the EU VAT rules if you sell digital products to anyone resident in Europe (no matter where in the world you live). So it’s worth making sure your account can advise you on any online aspects of your business.
How much it could cost you to create online courses depends on your current knowledge, skills, and resources available to you.
There may seem to be a lot of costs for creating online courses but there are ways you can keep your costs down and generate money to pay for these. That’s one of the reasons I teach people to create online courses in the way that I do – to research, pilot and promote your courses before you create them as I explain in my article How to Create Online Courses that Sell.
Rather than thinking of these as costs, consider how you could turn them into an investment. How many courses would you need to sell to recover your investment? How many different courses could you create to make the most of your new skills? How else could you package your expertise? Where else could you sell these courses?
Your next steps…
Start by making a list of all the things I mention in this article then do your research to find out the cost of the best solutions for you.
If you are unsure about what’s involved in creating online courses I invite you to download my Online Course Creator Checklist which outlines the steps to take for creating online courses that sell. It’s a useful guide to get started and ensure you put all the critical pieces in place for every online course you create.
And download my short 1-hour Online Courses Made Easy Course that will give you more of an idea of what’s involved in creating online courses. At only £10/US$15 this is a great investment for everyone thinking about creating online courses. Check it out here.
If you’re ready to just get going, you may also want to check out my more in-depth Online Course Creator Program. This teaches everything you need to know to test the market for your ideas and create engaging online courses that sell. It’s available as a home study or with my support. From only £295/US$385. You can find out more here.
I’d love to hear from you so please do post your comments, questions, and feedback below. Or get in touch if there is anything I can do to help you.
Wishing you every success with your online courses!
Alisoun Mackenzie is The Compassionate Business Mentor, Author, and Speaker who empowers business owners and social entrepreneurs grow fulfilling and profitable businesses that make a difference in the world.
Alisoun is the author of two Amazon Best Sellers Give to Profit (How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities Social Causes) and Heartatude, The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success.
You can connect with Alisoun here:
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