One of the big questions everyone faces when creating an online course is how much are you going to charge for it?
And it's a difficult question to answer as it can depend on so many variables.
However, in this article I'm going to show you some clear guidelines you can use to help you decide.
You'll learn exactly how to price your online course, why most people undervalue what their course is worth, and some tips for increasing your course price by adding more value.
I honestly believe, that for most people, the best way to get started is to make a short course that sells for $100-200.
1) It can be simple and relatively quick to make
2) It enables you to start earning income faster
3) You get to test your ideas and get feedback from your audience before investing too much time and money
4) It gives your audience a low cost way to start learning with you
5) It helps to build a group of potential customers for a more detailed follow-up ‘flagship’ course
For most people this will be the best way to get started.
You might consider jumping in with a higher priced, more in-depth course to begin with if:
- you are a consultant/coach who already charges hundreds of dollars per hour and/or
- you have a list of clients who would jump at the chance to work with you regardless of price
Otherwise, I highly recommend picking a price between $100 - 200 and not getting too caught up on it.
The most important thing is to get started and create your course without too many barriers in your way.
If you decide you want to sell your course for $1000 straight away you'll likely spend much longer agonizing over every little detail whilst making it in order to try and justify the price tag.
Perhaps your audience wanted to see something else incuded in the course that you overlooked, or perhaps they just couldn't afford such a high price tag.
It's much better to start lower, launch your course, get feedback from your audience and then add additional value over time, increasing your pricing as you go.
Why People Undervalue What Their Course Is Really Worth
From my experience, it's very rare for a new course creator to overprice their content. It's far more likely for people to under price out of fear or guilt.
You see, most new course instructors feel a sense of "imposter syndrome." This is a well-known phenomenon where people have trouble believing they deserve success or are really qualified to teach a course.
Even PhDs and people who are experts in their field struggle with imposter syndrome.
You might think to yourself, "who am I to offer a course that costs $200?" But in reality, you've likely created a product that provides much more than this in value for your customers.
- Perhaps you're teaching something that took you years to learn and you can help your students cut the learning curve
- Perhaps you're teaching something that will help your students save or earn more money
- Or perhaps you're teaching something that people just love doing for fun and they get great satisfaction and happiness from simply learning it and having it in their lives
In each scenario it's easy to see how what you create would be worth at least $200 to a lot of people, and in most cases it'd be worth a lot more.
A successful course creator once told me that if she didn't feel at least a little guilty or unworthy of the price she was charging for a course, then she knew she hadn't priced it highly enough!
So, get over your imposter syndrome and focus on delivering valuable courses that your people want.
Let's take a deeper look at what exactly it is that creates value in online courses. What factors influence the pricing and how can you make sure you create happy students and a thriving online course business where higher prices are possible?
5 Factors That Influence Online Course Pricing
How you price your online course is a big factor in determining how your course will sell and what your overall profit will be.
The more you can charge without seeing a big drop in signups, the more money you'll make. That's the "sweet spot" in online course pricing where you're making the most money you can, but customers are still satisfied and happy with the product.
Here are a few things to take into account that can help guide you in determining a price for your course.
1) What Will Your Students Get Out Of It?
What is the one big outcome that students will end up with after completing your course?
I like to try and give students at least 10x the value that they're paying for the course. But sometimes what that learning experience is worth can be hard to calculate.
Say a course promises to give me the skills needed to become a graphic designer, app developer, or affiliate marketer. That's something I can make into my dream career for the rest of my life.
In that case, even a $1,000 price tag seems like a no-brainer if I'm going to make $30,000+ per year with the skills I learn in the course.
With less money-focused topics it can be harder to assign a value. But it's safe to say I'd pay hundreds of dollars for a course that would teach me everything I need to know about watercolor painting, even if there's no financial benefit I'd get from it.
The enjoyment alone would be worth the price tag. Especially when you consider that the alternative would be costly in-person art classes.
For more obscure topics like a course on knitting sweaters for dogs, you might want to survey or interview some potential students and ask them what they'd be willing to pay for the course.
Some of the most common benefits that you can often focus on when communicating the value of your course are:
- It will earn you more money
- It will save you money
- It will save you time
- It will satisfy a deep desire of some sort
- It will bring happiness and fulfillment
Usually the outcome of an online course will fall under one or more of these categories.
Once you understand the benefits that your course offers in these terms, then it can become easier to communicate the value and justify the price of your course.
The quality of your sales and marketing can be huge in terms of what you can charge for a course, and can be one big thing that makes or breaks your success.
Your website, your brand, your free ebooks, your emails, your sales page and messaging - all of this will communicate a certain level of value, and will position you in a particular bracket of pricing.
Often when you go to buy a course, there will be an enormous long-form sales page with maybe 10,000 words of content on it, trying to sell you on their product.
They go into detail about everything you'll learn from the course. How the course is broken down including the full lesson plan. What outcome you'll get out of it. All of the content and features of the course.
They'll come up with some figure about how the course contains $5,000 worth of value but you can get it for only $399.
They'll give testimonials and show all the places in the world where people have already bought the course from. They'll give you a money-back guarantee.
But there's a reason that every successful online course you see will have a sales page like this.
You need to list every possible objection that someone could have for your course, and then write on your sales page explaining it away.
You need to provide so much sales content that by the time they get to the bottom of the page, they feel convinced and committed to joining. With everything they just learned, it would seem foolish not to sign up!
The more you're charging for your course, the more elaborate your branding and marketing will need to be to match your premium pricing.
3) Production Quality
You probably have no problem paying $10 to go see the latest superhero movie with a multi-million dollar budget that features all the greatest special effects and surround sound.
But would you pay $10 to go see an amateur movie made on a $200 handheld camera?
Probably not, even if it might have a better storyline.
Everybody says not to judge a book by its cover, but the truth is that we usually do just that. It's true when it comes to online courses as much as anything else.
Maybe in the early 2000s you could get away with an online course that had 360p video quality, but people expect more. HD is the new minimum.
People expect at least 720p video quality. Within a few years that will probably be 1080p, and eventually 4k video will be the standard.
If you want to charge a premium price for your online course, then you need to offer premium level content. That means investing in a good camera, microphone, and lighting setup if you're going to be creating video content.
The good news is, this doesn;t have to be a massively expensive thing to achieve and you can get started on a budget of around $350 at the low end.
Your course platform itself needs to be sleek and modern looking, with a fast load time and great user experience.
You could have the best content in the world, but nobody is going to give it a chance if your website looks like it was made in the 90s.
Thankfully, there are loads of great options for creating an online course that looks good these days, so this shouldn't be a problem.
-> Check out this article for a comparison of the Best Online Course Platforms
You don't have to go along with what everyone else is doing. In fact, there's a lot of value in creating something unique than anything else on the market.
You need something that differentiates your course from everyone else.
It could be creating a really thriving and an interactive community, or it could be teaching your topic is a new way that no one else does.
It's the difference between being "Joe's Generic Coffee Shop" and being "Joe's Organic Fairtrade House of Coffee."
In one place people expect to get a standard cup of coffee for $1.25. The other offers comfy sofas, cool music and organic fair trade soy lattes served at exactly 110 degrees. It will charge extra for it, and manhy people will gladly pay!
Be a market disruptor, not just another boring option. Be so unique, different, or just plain better that other courses in your niche can't even compete.
Find your special little twist that adds tremendously more value to your course. You can charge a huge premium for that.
-> Take a look around for inspiration with these 50 Online Course Examples.
5) Offering Different Options
No two students are exactly alike. So offering a couple of different options is a good way to benefit from those who are willing to pay a higher price, but not miss out on sales from more budget-conscious customers.
I'd recommend giving at least a couple of different options.
This version of your course contains the essentials. It might be missing some more advanced content, and might not include access to live sessions or other features.
The benefits of this option are that you'll have a wider potential audience of students since it's more affordable, and a lower price can also serve as an 'anchor point' to compare against your higher price options.
This version of your course contains all of your knowledge, bonus content, community access, and maybe even things like one-on-one coaching.
There will always be a proportion of your audience who will pay extra to get the full value that your offer, and giving those people the option will help you serve this part of your audience and enable you to meet your financial goals with fewer sales.
Another way to give students more flexibility when it comes to your course is by offering payment plans.
This way people don't have to pay $300 all up front. Some people might not have the funds available to pay $300 for a course all at once, but paying 4 installments of $80 doesn't seem so bad.
Normally if you offer a payment plan, the overall price will be a bit higher than if they paid one lump sum. So it helps make the course more affordable for students, but also can make you a bit of extra income.
Offering payment plans will earn you a lot more course customers and, in my experience of doing this, there is very little in the way of people defaulting on payments.
What’s Your Income Goal?
Another way to figure out how you need to price your course is to look at your income goal, and then work backward.
Are you just looking to make a bit of side income from your course, or is your plan to have it earn enough that you can quit your full-time job?
Whatever your goal is, you can start with your end number and then find a way to get there.
Say you're hoping to make $10,000 per year from your course.
If your course is $100, then you need to get 100 students to sign up for your course each year.
What if you increase your price to $300? Then you only need to get about 34 people to sign up in a year.
Do you think you could make your course valuable and appealing enough that people would be willing to pay $500 for it? Then you only need 20 people to buy your course in a year. That's only about one sale every two or three weeks!
Figure out what your end goal is first. Then you can play around with the course price and the number of students you'd need to achieve it until you get a number that makes sense for you.
Do you already have an email list? A good rule of thumb is that about 2% of people on your list would buy your course. So you can start with those numbers to work back from as well.
If you've got 2000 people on your email list, about 40 of them will probably buy your course. So if you want to make $10,000 on your initial launch, you'd need to sell your course for at least $250.
If you're worried that your current course doesn't offer enough to warrant that kind of a price tag, think of extras you can add to make your course more valuable. Things like worksheets, live Q&As, consulting, creating a private community, or increasing the production value of your course materials.
9 Reasons You Should Charge More For Your Online Course
Still not convinced that you can sell your online course for hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Here are some good reasons why you should aim to charge more for your online course price:
1) People Expect To Pay A Premium For Education
Someone can pay $500 for your online course and learn how to do accounting for their business, learn to paint, or become a computer programmer in their spare time.
Or they can pay thousands upon thousands of dollars and go to college or university to learn the same thing.
Let's face it. Many online courses offer the same amount of value that a university course takes a whole semester to deliver. Your online course is just as valuable of an education as actually attending lectures if you've put enough work into making it great.
The more that tuition prices continue to rise, the more appealing online courses seem for more people. Particularly for skills they just want to learn as a hobby and won't necessarily need a degree to list on their resume.
In the UK, students pay an average annual cost of £9,000 (about $12,000 USD) for university.
In Canada, expect to pay about $7,000 per year for a degree
And in the US, expect to pay an average of $34,000 for private colleges or $10,000 even for state public colleges.
Suddenly a $1,000 online course with hundreds of hours worth of content isn't looking so bad! Especially when an online course often gives you much more practical hands-on knowledge that you can start applying to your life right away.
2) There’s An Understanding That Online Courses Cost (And Offer) More
Most people would reject the idea of paying $100 for a single book. But for an interactive course with videos, podcasts, worksheets, and a community discussion group, people are willing to pay a large premium.
Even if you're just sharing the same kind of information that you could put into a physical book or ebook, people are still willing to pay more for it in course format.
Particularly because a course tends to offer more of a step-by-step guideline for students to follow.
3) Online Courses Offer A Huge Shortcut
Could someone search the internet, read every blog and watch every free Youtube video about a subject and come up with most of the information presented in your course?
But that's not the point. An online course offers a convenient way for people to access everything they need to know about a particular topic or to achieve a specific result.
Without a course to guide them, people could spend months or years trying to figure out everything that you present in your course. Even then, they might still miss out on some key details you covered.
By creating an online course, you're doing a lot of the legwork yourself and allowing people to quickly learn from your own experience.
It's the equivalent of someone planting their own seed and waiting for a tomato to grow, versus just paying a farmer to buy a tomato.
Not only will it save you a lot of time, but there are plenty of things that could go wrong along the process if your students are trying to figure out everything on their own.
4) Online Courses Offer Exclusive Content
When I was thinking about starting to publish my own ebooks, I watched dozens of hours of Youtube videos on Kindle publishing before I hesitantly decided to pay for an online course on the subject.
To my surprise, the course presented a lot of stuff I had never come across in all of my research, including some tips and tricks that were never publicly available online for free.
Online courses are worth it!
Free videos and information online is great, but it has its limits.
The exclusivity of only paying members having access to your lessons makes them all the more valuable. There's often no way for students to learn the same information otherwise.
5) You’re Charging For More Than Just The Course
When someone pays you, they aren't just getting access to your course. They're also paying for technical support if something goes wrong, and in some cases access to you one-on-one through forums or discussion boards where they can get personal answers to their questions.
When you're pricing your course, be sure to take into account all the upkeep and extra work you'll need to do in the future of your course. Including replying to emails, issuing refunds, live events, and other tasks.
6) It’s Easier To Make Money
Think about it. What's easier, getting one person to buy a course for $500 or getting twenty different people to pay you $25 for it?
The answer is one $500 course!
When you sell at a low price point, you need way more students to reach your income goal. That means a lot more time, effort, and money you'll need to spend on marketing to attract more people.
7) It Filters Out Students You Don’t Want Anyway
Low priced products actually attract more low-quality students that you won't want to deal with.
People don't appreciate a lower priced course more. In fact, refund rates are higher on cheaper products!
You don't want people who aren't your target demographic buying your course just because it seems like a good deal.
Online courses that come at a premium price have much higher engagement. If somebody spends $300 on an online course they're going to take it seriously and try to get their money's worth.
But somebody who spends $30 on a course might open the course once and never return to complete it, or just ask for a refund once they skim through what your course has to offer.
Plus if you have a smaller number of students, you can focus your attention on them and give them an overall better course experience.
8) Pricing Conveys Value
People will naturally see a $100 course as offering $100 worth of value. And they'll also see a $10 course as not offering much value at all.
In fact, if you price your course too low it can actually seem suspicious and make people wonder what the catch is.
If somebody offered you a car that looked like it was worth $20,000 for only $5,000, you'd think something was wrong, no?
9) You Deserve It
Putting together a quality online course takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and giving up time that you could be doing something more enjoyable.
You deserve to be fairly compensated for the hard work that you put into making an informative and easy to digest course.
3 Tips To Earn More From Courses
Here are three things you can do to increase your course sales, no matter what price point you're at.
Discounts can be a great way to create a sudden temporary boost in sales. However, they should be used sparingly.
I wouldn't offer discounts more than a couple of times per year, usually for Black Friday and one other time per year.
Make discounts count and spread them out. If you're offering discounts every month or two, you might find the majority of your potential students are waiting around to buy once your course goes on sale.
Ideally you want to make people work for discounts. Either offer them to existing loyal customers, or get people to sign up to your email list to get their coupon code.
Make your discount large enough that it matters and will actually influence people to buy too. Usually you'll want at least a 20% discount to motivate people who might not have bought at full price.
Create a sense of urgency
You've probably seen sales pages with countdown timers that suspiciously start at exactly an hour when you open the page.
There's a reason that so many people are doing it, because it works! Creating a sense of urgency is a powerful psychology and persuasion technique that will get people to buy.
Making a limited number of spots available or closing your course from registration during parts of the year can be a powerful motivator to get people to sign up. They'll feel like they're going to miss out if they don't!
It gets some people on board who might otherwise spend days or weeks looking up reviews and considering their options before committing, if they commit at all.
Don't be scummy with this powerful tactic though, or people won't trust or respect you in the future. If there's a limited number of students, actually do limit the number. And if you say you're closing the course after a certain date, actually do it.
Increase your course price over time
You should strongly consider increasing the price of your course over time. Especially if you intend to keep adding more content and value to the course, instead of just leaving it the same from day one.
Similar to creating a time-based sense of urgency, you can use the threat of increasing prices to get people to sign up to make sure they get "locked in" at the lower price.
Plus it can be an easy way to get some extra income. If your course is already selling well at $200, what are the chances that you'll suddenly see a huge drop in enrollment if you bump it up to $300? Pretty slim. But over the next 100 course sales, that's an extra $10,000 in your pocket.
We've looked at a whole range of different ways to view online course pricing in this article.
The basic message is that you should be thinking about charging higher rather than lower prices.
If it's your very first online course, then one easy approach is to settle on a price between $100-200 and sell your '1st version' course at that this level whilst gathering feedback from those first students and learning what else they'd like to see if your course.
You can then add more value to it and increase the price over time, all whilst earning income from it and generating testimonials from students to help in your marketing.
Once you've gathered some momentum, you can use some of the other tips we covered in this article to aim for higher prices.
In the end you should aim to create a 'premium' online course business. If you create great courses which get results for happy students then you'll be able to charge higher prices to achieve this.