Monetizing knowledge through selling online courses is no longer a distant dream but a tangible reality for many creators.
But if you're like most aspiring course creators, the path to success can seem like a mystery.
You've probably been bombarded with conflicting advice, big promises, or maybe even discouraged by the fear of failure.
In this article, I'm going to share my step-by-step approach to selling online courses based on my journey to over $3,394,480 in course sales.
Let's dig into what works and what doesn't based on real experiences, real numbers, and a genuine desire to help you succeed.
Why I create and sell online courses
I've grown to love sharing the knowledge I've accumulated over the years.
Since beginning my solopreneurial journey in 2019, I've been in the trenches, made mistakes, and celebrated wins. So when I roll out a course, it's my way of handing over a roadmap.
My goal is to help the people travelling the path behind me, side-step the pitfalls, capitalize on what works, and experience life-changing growth.
But let's not dance around it — giving value to my students comes with a nice bonus:
Selling my courses has become an exceptional way to generate recurring revenue.
If you have a robust audience on social media but are on the fence about it, I highly suggest giving it a shot. Making a course will require time investment upfront. But assuming you've made an excellent digital product, the earning potential is limitless after that.
Create once, sell infinitely.
How profitable is selling online courses?
Not everyone's going to hit a home run on their first swing. One of the biggest pitfalls I see people make is selling too soon. They dive headfirst into course creation, only to wonder why sales aren't rolling in.
First, you need a level of credibility in your niche before you even think about selling any digital product.
Consider this: If people don't see you as an authority, why would they purchase from you? You wouldn't buy from a total stranger promising a guaranteed $10k+ in monthly revenue after you take their course, right?
So before you make that course and put it on the digital shelves, you need a loyal, engaged crowd. Build a die-hard audience on social media. Flood your channels with so much free value that subscribers can't help but want more.
Then, pay attention. Listen. What are they constantly asking about?
That's what they're itching to learn from you. Deliver accordingly.
TL;DR: Online course creation can be a lucrative venture. But there's much more to it than making a killer course. It's also about timing, credibility, and understanding your audience (which we'll dive into next). Find that sweet spot, and selling becomes much easier.
How I made $3,394,480 by selling courses
- Create a buyer's journey for your course
- Focus on a pain point and deliver a timeless solution
- Decide on an online course marketplace
- Build in public to generate massive attention
- Make your course easily accessible
- Leverage social proof in your social media marketing
- Practice the 80/20 rule when promoting
- Keep the course brief but packed with value
- Use upsells to offer extra support
Step #1: Create a buyer's journey for your course
Every potential buyer is on a journey with 3 key phases:
- Awareness: They know they've got a problem
- Consideration: They're window shopping for solutions
- Decision: They're ready, wallet in hand — they just need a nudge
Here's how you can align your content marketing with your audience's journey:
- Awareness: Post broad-reaching but thought-provoking insights on LinkedIn and in blog posts, attracting people who resonate with the content
- Consideration: Share real stories from people who've benefited from your advice — this isn't just marketing; it's proof
- Decision: Seal the deal by answering questions and addressing concerns, showing potential buyers you're not just some random person behind a screen, but someone invested in their success
Remember: Your awesome course is only one part of the equation. The other is your buyer’s journey.
Step #2: Focus on a pain point and deliver a timeless solution
Courses come and go. The internet is littered with once-hot topics that now collect digital dust. If you want your course to be the exception, you've got to think about longevity.
How? Go straight to the source — your target audience and community.
I see every piece of content I share as a two-way street. I'm not just teaching; I'm engaging. Throw in a CTA, spark new conversations, and lean into the feedback. It's gold.
Directly asking "What more can I offer?" or "What do you think about X?" can unveil insights you hadn't even considered.
Take LinkedIn, for instance. It'll always be a critical platform for professionals. Climbing the career ladder, building authentic relationships, or landing that dream gig — these are all timeless ambitions.
My course about LinkedIn growth and how to monetize social media isn't about chasing the latest hack. It's about understanding the underlying mechanics of a platform designed for professional development. No matter the year, these principles won't go out of style.
This is exactly how I'm able to keep selling this course today, years after making it. People are benefiting from it now just as much as they were a year or two ago.
Step #3: Decide on an online course marketplace
Selecting the right online course platform to host and sell your expertise is like choosing the venue for a concert. Sure, you've got the music… but where you showcase it shapes the experience.
Are you tech-savvy, eager to set up and tweak every aspect of your digital stage? Or are you looking for a venue that's all set up, allowing you to step right in and focus on the performance?
For me, the answer was clear: Kajabi.
Why? It's adaptable and user-friendly
Kajabi provides that all-in-one solution that just… works. And for someone who's more inclined toward creating content and building a community, this is a godsend.
Beyond its ease of use, Kajabi offers an integrated approach, bringing together sales, marketing, video lessons, course content, and a robust learning management system (LMS). No juggling multiple platforms, no complicated tech stack. Just a seamless experience for both the creator and the consumer.
There are countless course marketplaces and platforms out there, such as Podia, Teachable, and Udemy — each with its own perks and drawbacks. Do your homework and see which marketplace is best for you.
Step #4: Build in public to generate massive attention
When I built my first course, The LinkedIn Playbook, I worked on it quietly at home.
After the launch, I had high hopes it would generate massive interest.
In the first month that it was available, I made $11,781, or about $380 per day.
Contrast that to my updated version of that course, The Operating System, released in July 2021. I built that course completely in public.
I shared each day's wins and losses, metrics, revenue, etc. It took me 91 days to build it, and in the first month, I made $94,651, or $3,053 per day.
Both products generated roughly the same amount of landing page views, but The Operating System converted 2.7x higher even with 3x the cost, partly because people could see what I was building, and were invested in the journey.
Pro tip: As you build your course, tease your community with a course outline or course topics and ask for feedback. This will help you fill in potential gaps and provide a more comprehensive resource.
Step #5: Make your course easily accessible
When I look around the digital course space, I see a lot of people with significantly smaller communities than mine, trying to sell a "masterclass" for $1,499.
The amount of trust and nurturing needed to get someone into a high-ticket deal like that is pretty massive.
I price my products at an affordable rate, make them as valuable as possible, and simply ask people to tell their friends if they enjoyed them. I've found this pricing approach to be just as effective (if not more so) than a money-back guarantee.
Your affiliate program can be an incredible word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing campaign. I've paid out over $138,000 in affiliate commission to generate $395,200 in sales.
This is why I recommend that people price things to be accessible and create a WOM machine. It's easy to recommend a $150 product to your friends.
$1,499? Not so much.
Step #6: Leverage social proof in your social media marketing
I run zero ads. But when I promote my products, I always see a spike in sales.
One promotion has outshined them all - and it's extremely passive.
Once a week, I'll share a simple testimonial or DM from a happy customer.
When I share them, my course sales go up about 2-3x.
The words of your customers will always convert prospects at a much higher rate than your own. Every beautiful testimonial is a chance to convert more prospects into happy customers.
My normal days do between $3,500 and $4,500 in course sales, whereas a day where I share a testimonial will often result in $10,000 or more in course sales.
So remember, use testimonials to drive your marketing efforts.
Pro tip: Add your customers' raving reviews to your own website and/or course landing page. This helps with SEO and can be the reason why someone becomes your student.
Step #7: Practice the 80/20 rule when promoting
You may have read the above and thought that promoting once in 7 days is a lot, but it's not in the overall game of content I'm creating.
I typically create 50 unique pieces of content per month on LinkedIn, and 55 on Twitter. Out of those 105, I'll share a testimonial about 8-10 times.
That means, at most, I'm promoting less than 10% of the time.
The golden rule that I've found to be effective is to make sure that you are giving value 80% of the time or more and promoting 20% of the time or less.
Pro tip: Got a presence on multiple social media channels like Facebook and Instagram? Cross-promote for greater reach, even if your audiences there aren't as big as on your main platform. Link out to your course sales page so that people can learn more.
Step #8: Keep the course brief but packed with value
My first course, The LinkedIn Playbook, had a 45% completion rate (the average for course creators is 13.8%) because it's short - only about 75 minutes.
Idea.Audience.Proof.Product, a course I didn't promote much, had closer to a 25% completion rate, because it's much more robust, clocking in at 3.5 hours.
I truly believe the latter was a better, more helpful course, but it doesn't matter if people don't get through it. In hindsight, I would have made it much shorter.
The longer you are in the creator space and the more well-known you are, the longer and more robust your courses can be.
Starting an online business from scratch? Keep it short.
Teach people what they want to learn in 45 minutes or less, and you'll increase your completion and adoption rate.
Step #9: Use upsells to offer extra support
You've taken a course, you're pumped, ready to take action. But then, you hit a roadblock. Wouldn't it be nice to have direct access to the expert?
This is where upselling comes into play.
Do you offer one-on-one coaching, host a subscription-based community, or sell digital goods? Make sure your students know about them. You never know — they may be craving that deeper dive.
Weaving these upsells into your course doesn't just give you bonus points as a course creator; it enhances the overall experience. Provide avenues for your students to take their learning and application to the next level.
And let's be real:
Offering this heightened value is also a strategic business move. You get extra revenue streams and don't need to do much aggressive outreach.
So, directly address people's needs. Because as they benefit, so does your bottom line.
Start selling your online course
Well, there you have it.
My 9 best pieces of advice for selling a profitable online course:
- Understand your buyer's journey
- Deliver a timeless solution to a problem
- Pick the right online learning platform for your course
- Generate massive attention by building publicly
- Make your course accessible
- Leverage testimonials in your social media marketing
- Keep the 80/20 rule in mind when promoting
- Keep the course short but value-packed
- Offer additional support via upsells
But, remember - none of this advice matters if you never get started.
Good luck out there.