31 Tips from 31 Course Creators on How to Build and Launch a Successful Online Course

Entrepreneurs from various niches share their number one lesson learned from creating an online course.

Pat Flynn August 7, 2017 16

31 Tips from 31 Course Creators on How to Build and Launch a Successful Online Course

This was my first year experiencing what it was like to create and sell online courses. With one public course launched (Smart From Scratch®) launched earlier in the year, and another one that just launched last month (Power-Up Podcasting®), I’m already experiencing the benefits I always heard other course creators talk about:

Increased income, yes. But, more importantly, increased amounts of success stories.

Truly, there’s no better way to package up information you have to solve a problem, and provide a win for your customer while also getting paid at the same time.

As an advisor now to Teachable, the online platform I use to host and sell my online courses, I knew there were tons of other course creators out there—many more and different experiences than my own—who could offer tips to those who are just starting out. [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Teachable.]

So here they are, 31 course creators from various niches with their #1 tip for creating and selling online courses:

1. Do not prepare an online course for selling. Create an online course for what you love to do and then sell it. You will earn a lot if you tell a topic that you love to do.

– Resit, Master of Project Academy

masterofprojectacademy

2. Stop worrying all the time about how you will sell your course and start worrying about how you will create such a good course that will provoke a real change in your students’ lives. Then, I promise you the money will come. Great content means good reviews, and good reviews mean more money.

– David Perálvarez, Club SiliCODE Valley

clubsilicodevalley

3. Build content that people can’t find anywhere else in the world for the same price or at the same level of quality. If you do both at the same time, sales will roll in like crazy.

– Dakota Wixom, QuantCourse

4. Stop making excuses as to why you aren’t qualified to teach, set a deadline, and commit to that deadline. Do not let yourself get distracted by trying to make everything perfect. It will never be perfect. Strive for professionalism, but don’t derail yourself in the chase of perfection. You can’t fix what you don’t launch. So launch it, learn, tweak, and repeat.

More advice from Sarah on her experience getting started: I lurked around the SPI and Teachable communities for 14 months. I listened to all the course-related podcasts Pat did. And I got stuck in a cycle of trying to gather all this intelligence. I wish I had stopped going into “research” mode and just committed that time to DOING IT. Finally, in January I committed to launching my course by the first week of March. I did it, and got 52 students. I was actually literally sitting in the audience at a conference Pat was speaking at and I was getting student after student and refreshing my app to see how much money had come in!

It was an amazing feeling and I only wish I had done it SOONER :).

– Sarah, User Research Mastery

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5. For a fast and profitable launch, plan a launch on Instagram. We flipped $2k in ad spend into $60k worth of sales on our Teachable course. Micro-influencers are the way to go!

– Julie Cabezas, Social Brand School

socialbrandschool

6. Each one of us has a secret passion. Maybe you know more about Star Trek than anyone on this (or any) planet. Maybe you can recite the relative strengths and weaknesses of every car on the market. Maybe you have all your grandmother’s recipes for your family’s special foods. You think you’re the only one who cares about these things. You are not. Use your secret passion as material for an online course and people will respond. Because people respond to passion.

– Eric Goldman, Profit Leader Academy

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7. Test your idea first. Don’t waste any time creating a course unless you have a solid list ready to buy it. Start small with blog posts and expand as the traffic steadily increases. Launch your course when your audience starts asking for it.

– Sarah Crosley, The Creative Boss: Create the Ultimate Opt-In Offer

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8. Don’t wait . . . set a date and get out there and pre-sell (better yet, create your webinar date to launch your yet-to-be-created course). Nothing will light a fire fast enough knowing that you have to get it done.

– Susie Parker, Family Success Academy: Baby Naps Made Easy

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9. Don’t try to be perfect.

– Cassie Zeider, Mommy & Me Wellness & Nutrition

10. No course is ever perfect when it launches. If you try to make your course perfect before you launch, you will NEVER launch. It’s okay to start with an initial version of your course that you improve on after receiving feedback from your students.

SPI is the primary reason I was able to launch my course. Without the SPI podcast, I would likely still be tweaking my course trying to get it to be perfect before I launched. Regardless of whether I’m chosen or not to be featured, I just want to say thanks for all the GREAT content your team gives away as it helped me tremendously.

– Daniel Milner, Make TV Easy

Kajabi Review [2019 Update]: A Professional Option That’s Both Simple and Elegant

Searching for the perfect learning management system (LMS) can be grueling, so it’s nice to have someone (like me!) do the dirty research work to save you time and energy.

Kajabi is a well-known LMS that states you can “easily market, sell, and deliver your content online,” even if you possess the design skills of an infant (the latter might not be their exact words).

The site is beautiful, and sign up is pretty simple and straightforward. Much like most free trials these days, you do have to add a credit card to obtain their two-week test run. But it’s not a big deal if you just pop a reminder in your calendar a couple days before they plan to charge.Check out pricing & you’ll see that Kajabi isn’t for the faint of heart or wallet. Click To Tweet

Once you start poking around and check out the pricing, you’ll see that Kajabi isn’t for the faint of heart or wallet. It’s definitely a professional’s LMS, and you’re getting what you pay for.

Kajabi Pricing

Here’s a rundown on their pricing structure, including the impressive 20% discount for paying upfront for a year’s worth of service:

Kajabi LMS PricingANNUAL PAYMONTHLY PAY
BASIC:$103/mo. ($1,236)$129/mo. ($1,548)
PRO:$311/mo. ($3,732)$389/mo. ($4,668)
PREMIUM:$719/mo. ($8,628)$899/mo. ($10,788)

Pro Tip: When you visit the pricing page, the annual fees load automatically. If you want to switch to the monthly pricing model, you’ll have to click the “Monthly Plans” tab.

Kajabi Pricing

This Post at a Glance [hide]

  • Kajabi Pricing
  • Getting Started
  • Speaking of Support
  • Kajabi Tutorial: Creating Your Course
  • Summary of Features 
  • Kajabi Alternatives
    • Kajabi vs. Teachable
    • Kajabi vs Thinkific
  • The Verdict
    • Find a Sellable Topic for Your Online Course!

Getting Started

Once you’re all signed up and ready to go, they ask three multiple-choice questions to tailor your experience. The questions ask if you’ve created a course before, sold content online, and have a list or audience.

After a short welcome video encouraging you to watch the overview video, check out Kajabi University, and try the Course Creation 101 and Building Blocks 101 tutorials within, you’re taken to a clean dashboard with a nice inspirational quote. There’s a “KajabiHero” (one of their successful course creators), announcements, and the easy-to-navigate menu bar all in plain view.


After poking around a bit, I noticed the dashboard changed to the following format when I returned:


Now, before we move along, I want to interject a disclaimer here. I’m fairly adept at technology and can find my way around pretty well, but this came only after a couple years of earnest effort, and after being more technologically backward than a Neanderthal grandmother. So occasionally that old woman in me rears her bespeckled head and shouts, “Where do I do this? How do I find that? What did I just do?” in very non-inquisitive tones.

I say this to give you technophobes out there hope. If I can beat my Neanderthal grandmother into submission with Google and YouTube tutorials, so can you!

Like the good student you want to attract, you’ll probably want to familiarize yourself with the provided info. Two great places to start are the “How do I…” tab (Granny loved that!) and Kajabi University.

The “How do I…” tab drops down into a nice little walk-through of getting your plans together, but doesn’t—surprisingly—clearly explain how to implement them within Kajabi.


For example, when you click the “Build My First Product” option, you’re taken to a page explaining the different parts of the “product,” which in this case means your course.

Here’s an excerpt:

Under the hood, every product is made up of the exact same components: Posts and Categories.

Posts contain your actual content (videos, text, downloads, etc). You can think of posts as lessons, or pages in a book.

Categories are used to divide your posts into logical groupings. You can think of categories as modules, sections, or even chapters in a book.

Now, while it’s great to know they’ve created posts (which I see more broadly as lessons) and categories (which I see more broadly as modules), it doesn’t really explain where to find them on the dashboard, or give examples on creating a post within a category. Or how to publish them, etc. You’re on your own if you rely solely on this little blurb.

Pro Tip: Make sure you read your welcome emails from support! I found what I was looking for in the videos they emailed after I joined. You’ll want to be sure to bookmark this one, as it’s a tutorial on creating your course!

One thing I did appreciate was how they broke down different product types like courses, consulting, and memberships, and then suggested different themes for each that would best suit the situation.

Thinkific vs. Teachable: The Complete Course Builder’s Comparison

Thinkific and Teachable are both fantastic tools, but you might wonder: which one is right for me? 

As an online course creator (even an aspiring one), you probably feel like you’re up to your eyeballs in options. 

You have so much expertise to share and so much to teach your audience, but no idea which tool to start with. And how could you? These products always market as though they’re perfect for anyone

While that may be true, there is one learning management system (LMS) platform that’s better for your specific needs. 

But which one? How do you decide?

The good news: we’ve done the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to. In this post, you’ll get a peek inside both Thinkific and Teachable — from a course creator’s point of view. 

Here’s what to expect in this comparison:

This Post at a Glance [hide]

  • Thinkific vs. Teachable: Price 
    • Thinkific Pricing
    • Teachable Pricing 
  • Thinkific vs. Teachable: Course Setup 
    • Thinkific Course Setup
    • Teachable Course Setup
  • Thinkific vs. Teachable: Student Experience 
    • Thinkific Student Experience 
    • Teachable Student Experience
  • Teachable vs. Thinkific: 3 Key Points to Consider
    • 1. Do your students want to learn on the go?
    • 2. Do you want to pay transaction fees?
    • 3. How much customization do you need?
    • Thinkific Features
    • Teachable Features
  • How to Decide Which LMS Platform Is Best for Your Course
    • FREE Course Builder’s Bootcamp!

Ready? Let’s take a look at our two competitors.

Thinkific vs. Teachable: Price 

A course creation platform will only work for you if it fits in your budget. 

And while your long-term goal may be to create courses so awesome you don’t have to think about money ever again… when you’re starting out, price matters. 

Let’s start our comparison by looking at the monthly and annual price breakdown for both platforms. 

Thinkific Pricing

Thinkific’s features vary across their plan levels, but all plans have unlimited courses and students.

And as with many course creation platforms, Thinkific offers a 20% discount when you pay annually. 

Pricing structure when you pay monthly:

  • Basic: $588 ($49/month)
  • Pro: $1,188 ($99/month)
  • Premier: $5,988 ($499/month)

Pricing structure when you pay annually:

  • Basic: $468 ($39/month)
  • Pro: $948 ($79/month)
  • Premier: $4,788 ($399/month)
Thinkific Pricing

Teachable Pricing 

Teachable’s pricing is very competitive. Except for the Basic plan, monthly and annual plan prices are the same as Thinkific. 

Pricing structure when you pay monthly:

  • Basic: $468 ($39/month)
  • Professional: $1,188 ($99/month)
  • Business: $5,988 ($499/month)

Pricing structure when you pay annually:

  • Basic: $348 ($29/month)
  • Professional: $948 ($79/month)
  • Business: $4,788 ($399/month)
Teachable Pricing

Note that both platforms offer a free plan. This could come in handy if your course is in the piloting phase!


With pricing out of the way, let’s move on to what your experience as a course instructor would be like.

Thinkific vs. Teachable: Course Setup 

Both platforms take a step-by-step approach to course setup. This makes either one ideal for the first-time course creator, and super simple for more experienced instructors. 

Here’s what to expect in the setup process. 

Thinkific Course Setup

Step 1: Name your school. 

Step 2: Name your fist course.

Step 3: Begin building your course. 

Step 4: Confirm your details.

Step 5: Build your course basics.

Step 6: Learn how to generate leads.

Step 7: Get your first enrollments. 

Looks pretty straightforward, right? Let’s move on and take a look at Teachable.

Teachable Course Setup

Step 1: Name your school. 

Step 2: Tell them more about you and your courses. 

Step 3: Watch the tutorials and start building your course.

Pro tip: We highly recommend watching the tutorial videos. They’re easy to follow and will save you significant research time. 

Step 4: Create your course. 

Step 5: Add your curriculum. 

Step 6: Choose your pricing plan. 

Step 7: Publish your course! 

Stick a fork in it… you’re done!


Thinkific is a good option for course creators who want more extensive customization options when it comes to site design.Click To Tweet

Now you have a good idea about how course creation basics work for both platforms. But don’t forget about the student experience!

Thinkific vs. Teachable: Student Experience 

Your students’ user experience is just as important as yours. Think about it: you’re doing this for them, so you want their time in your course to be worth their investment (in both time and money).

Let’s take a look at how your students will interact with your courses, starting with Thinkific. 

Thinkific Student Experience 

Your students will love Thinkific’s course experience. 

Thinkific’s presentation is clear, easy to follow, and great for visual learners. It offers a clear dashboard where they can see exactly how far they are in the course and look ahead to see what’s next. 

This is what your student sees when they open up their first course:

Your students can click on each lesson to see a drop-down with the text, audio, and video elements you’ve added. 

Next, let’s take a look at Teachable, from the perspective of your students.

Teachable Student Experience

Teachable’s student experience is engaging and intuitive, not unlike the course creator’s experience. The platform is easy for students to use, even if they’ve never taken an online course before!

Students can see what percentage of the course they’ve completed, and it’s easy to click through to the next lesson. This student experience is very similar to Thinkific in the way the course is presented. 

Here is your students’ dashboard: 

And here is what your students see when they open their course:


But as important as price, instructor experience, and your students’ ease of use is, there are more considerations to take into account before you choose the best platform for you.

Teachable vs. Thinkific: 3 Key Points to Consider

Honestly, the two platforms are very competitive. They both offer easy setup, payments with international currencies and all major credit cards, and unlimited courses and students. Plus, price and student experience are also incredibly similar. 

However, there are a few key questions to think about when choosing the best LMS for you: 

1. Do your students want to learn on the go?

If you’re looking for a course platform that supports an iPhone app, go with Teachable. Thinkific does not currently support mobile learning.  

2. Do you want to pay transaction fees?

Thinkific offers zero transaction fees for all plan levels. Teachable only offers this feature for their Professional plan and above.

3. How much customization do you need?

Thinkific has a large number of customizable features. Teachable is an eye-catching platform, but offers a more standardized course experience for both you and your students. 


Finally, let’s take a look at the features for each platform, broken down by plan level.

Thinkific Features

Teachable Features


Teachable is great for first time course creators, or those who don’t always love technology.Click To Tweet

Now that you know more about each platform, it’s time to make up your mind.

But unlike other LMS comparisons, these two competitors are seriously similar! If they’re so alike, how do you choose between these two comparable platforms? 

😉

Let’s see if we can make it easier to choose.  

How to Decide Which LMS Platform Is Best for Your Course

These platforms are both excellent if you: 

  • Are a first-time course creator,
  • Aren’t sure where to begin,
  • Need step-by-step guidance, or
  • Want a variety of integration options.

However…

Thinkific is better for course creators who want more extensive customization options when it comes to site design. 

While you might need to spend a bit more time working on your courses, it’s great for those who want 0% fees for transactions (no matter your plan level) and those who want to sell courses in bulk.

Teachable is better for course creators who don’t always love technology. 

It’s also great for those who want to offer their courses in different languages to attract a global audience. And remember, if you want your students to be able to learn on the go, Teachable offers an iPhone app.  

Whatever your decision, this is where the rubber meets the road — it’s time to start building your course! It’s time for you to teach your gift, and share your expertise with the world. 

If you’re ready to create your first online course – or launched your last course to crickets – and want to take the guessing out of course creation, you are invited to join our free Course Builder’s Bootcamp!