You’re really excited about creating and selling an online course.
Your favorite creators -- and even some of your competitors -- are doing it, and you’re confident you have what it takes to create an online course your followers will love.
But there’s one big thing holding you back: the costs.
Since this is your first course, you don’t want to spend a bucket of money on equipment and production.
However, everything you read puts online course production costs in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The good news is you don’t have to decide between cashing out your bank account or bootstrapping everything -- you can create an online course for much less than you think.
Today, we’ll give a breakdown of the expenses you definitely shouldn’t skimp on when setting up an online course and those you can save for later.
We’ll address the most pressing question first: How much does it cost to create an online course?
How much does it cost to develop an online course?
Creators can spend anywhere between several hundred to several thousand dollars developing an online course, with hosting expenses, design and production costs, and marketing making up the lion’s share of your course creation budget.
Because course creation costs vary so wildly, let’s work through a hypothetical example.
But you need somewhere to host that WordPress site, so you pick Bluehost, which has a special $2.95 per month fee for WordPress users for the first term.
You’ll also need a theme to create a visually appealing website, with the majority of themes costing between $31 to $100 per year.
Doesn’t sound too bad so far, does it? Note, however, that your domain name and hosting costs will probably go up in your second year, and by a wide margin, once first-year discount promotions run out.
Your website will also need an SSL certificate to make sure that your website is safe and secure for your customers to use and so your site ranking in Google won’t be affected. You can buy one separately, but it’s often provided by web hosts as part of your package.
Assuming you have to pick up the tab, that’s another $60 to the tab (at least, if you use a popular registrar like GoDaddy).
Unfortunately, we’re not done just yet.
There are the plugins to consider, and this is where money starts flying out of your hands.
Because WordPress is a customizable program, you get to choose what plugins -- or specialized apps -- you want to run on your website.
And to create a functioning website for online course sales, you’ll need a lot of plugins.
Aside from plugins to run your general website, you’ll likely need a learning management system (LMS), too, which translates to paying a minimum of $159 per year for the LearnDash online course plugin or a minimum of $99 per year for the LifterLMS plugin.
Many WordPress plugins like LearnDash will offer a limited-time discount, which is a great way to boost their profits. However, keep in mind that these discounts typically only apply to your first year and will require you to pay full-price beginning in your second year to stay running.
By now, you can (hopefully) see selling a course on WordPress can get costly, not to mention all of the time it takes up in terms of technical maintenance, and those costs only scale over time.
Finally, there’s the issue of versatility.
Suppose you want to revamp or repurpose your online courses into a membership program.
But you take the bite anyway because it comes so highly recommended and seems like it’d work for you, except . . .
It doesn’t, and after you’ve spent weeks setting up your membership, you decide you need a different tool.
And that’s around the time you discover shortcodes.
Shortcodes are what they sound like: snippets of code that a plugin embeds in a post, usually with the click of a button on your end, to run on the page. They’re great timesavers when you’re happy with your plugin, but they’re a nightmare to clean up when you want to change things up.
So not only will you have to cough up the funds for yet another plugin, you’ll likely lose hours combing through your website to clean up stray shortcodes.
That’s not going to be a good day for anyone.
OK, that covers hosting your course and the technical sides, but unfortunately, we’re still not quite done with potential expenses.
What tools do you need to create your online course?
After you’ve decided where you’ll host your website, you still have something else to consider -- what tools you need to create your online course.
Aside from your laptop, there are a few more tools you’ll need to create your course.
Above all else, you’ll need a video camera and microphone.
Most smartphones have high-quality built-in cameras and mics, so if you’re one of those lucky owners, that’s one more thing to cross off your list of expenses.
If you’re looking for something a little more advanced than what your smartphone offers, you could use the highly-rated Logitech C270 webcam.
It’s available on Amazon for under $20, records HD video, and has a built-in microphone that filters out background noise.
If you’re looking for video and audio quality even nicer than what a webcam with a built-in microphone can offer, there are thousands of reasonably-priced videos cameras and microphones available, like the Canon Vixia HF R700 camcorder or Blue Yeti microphone.
And of course, proper lighting, such as this lighting kit for under $30, can take your videos from average to show-stopping.
You can learn more about cameras and microphones for online creators by checking out our guide to creating professional-grade videos at home.
Still not done with the potential expenses.
Once your videos are created, you’ll need a video hosting platform like SproutVideo or Wistia -- which start at $24.99 and $99.99 per month, respectively -- to store them so they won’t increase your server costs or affect your site’s performance and speed.
(Wallet feeling a little thin now?)
Of course, after you’ve done all of the hard work of creating an online course, you can’t just debut it in your storefront and forget about -- you need to promote it.
One way to do that is by creating a landing page where visitors can sign up for your list or make a purchase after finding out about your product elsewhere.
To go along with your landing page, you’ll want an irresistible lead magnet-- such as an ebook, checklist, or guide -- to get people to take action on your landing page, as well.
You can use a tool like Canva, which costs $119.40 annually, to create a visually-appealing digital download that will frame and complement your products perfectly.
If, by now, all of these costs associated with creating an online course on WordPress are making you feel nauseous, you could use another website builder like Weebly or Wix.
Keep in mind these sites also charge for the additional features that you can need to host and sell your online course on their services, such as Weebly’s “Worldclass”, which ranges from $10 to over $200 per month, or Wix’s “Wix Video”, which starts at $17 per month.
There’s an easier -- and more cost-effective -- way, though.
Podia has taken the technical hassle out of designing a storefront. You don’t need plugins to manage, market, or grow your business, and the price is a flat fee that never changes.
It has all of the essential features a creator needs, including:
- Customizable storefronts using the Podia Editor
- Customized landing pages
- Email marketing
- Product upselling and bundling
- Affiliate marketing
Sounds a lot easier than mixing and matching a bunch of plugins, doesn’t it?
It’s a lot more cost-effective, too, as we said.
Selling an online course with WordPress will cost you a minimum $708.28 in your first year, and $713.76 in your second year, assuming you pick the cheapest options available.
All of those costs will be upfront, and they don’t even touch on the potential expense from website downtime and hiring freelancers to untangle anything that goes wrong.
As I said, there’s an easier way, and we’re here to prove it.