I’ve been selling online courses since 2018, here in my dashboard you can see that I made over $220k with one of my courses in the first year of the pandemic when I was afraid that no one would be buying anything because people were in a panic and trying to save.
And in the past few years, I’ve tried and tested many online course platforms because I had to pick one for my one course and even after choosing one of them, I still keep an eye on the competitors, their prices, and innovations because of course I want the best quality for the money invested in the tool and the best user experience for the members of my programs.
I’m sure you are looking for the same perfect combination but the problem is there are so many options and on the surface, many look quite similar.
The Best Online Course Platforms
Thinkific is my top choice and so I decided to cover it first because it works great for me and I’ve been using it for about 3 years now. It has one of the most affordable pricing options on all online course platforms.
Thinkific is your classic example of a course platform, it is not an all-in-one solution, as I still have to use ConvertKit for sending emails to my list.
Aside from being cheaper than many competitors, Thinkifc also offers a complete and high-quality course experience for both the course maker and students:
- You can create on Thinkific customizable course websites
- You can also design an optimized sales page
- You can either give access to the entire course at once or drip it out over time.
- Free Wistia video hosting (just this alone has a huge value!).
- Can provide your students with customizable course certificates
What’s even more interesting, you can get started at Thinkific for free.
The paid plans start at $49/month (Basic Plan), $99 (Pro), $499 (Premier).
To be completely honest with you, I personally have used the Basic Plan like forever and it includes everything that I ever needed from my course platform.
The free plan has a few limitations but it doesn’t have any hidden fees and you can run one course with unlimited students. If you are not sure how fast you’ll start making enough money with your course to comfortably pay the monthly fee, you could totally run a course on a free Thinkific plan for as long as it takes you to take your course off the ground.
I can also tell you that in my 4 years of running an online business, Thinkfic’s support team has been always given me the most meaningful and helpful responses.
It’s not like I had a lot of issues with the platform to contact them often but when I made some mistakes and needed help, the answers were always very meaningful.
By the way, if you are in the process of creating your online course, and you want to avoid the most critical mistakes that beginners in the online business often make, check my FREE Masterclass that will show you the worst mistakes that get you stuck in the process.
I consider Thinkific the best platform for beginners who are just trying to sell their first online course because you can stay on a free plan for as long as you need it, without having to pay for your own domain name, website hosting, and so on. You can use Thinkific to host your video lessons, course sales page, and all of this for free.
LearnWorlds would work better for businesses, larger course providers, and corporations because it offers way more advanced features. Things that advanced course creators might need like quizzes, gamification, interactive videos, and so on.
Your students can also take notes and highlight important points in the educational content that you provided. Be aware that on the Starter plan which is $24/mo paid annually, you’ll have to pay an extra $5 fee per course sale.
The good point is that LearnWorlds offers a free 30-day trial so you can check the link in the description below as well.
If you are a complete beginner and you want an easy and quick online course platform, then Teachable is for you. They have a very easy setup process, website theme customizations, course completion certificates, and more.
Overall, Teachable and Thinkific have similar features and pricing but there are several extra fees from each sale that you make through Teachable. This was the biggest pitfall for me. You see, I started my course on Teachable but had to migrate to Thinkific in about 10 months because at that time Teachable experienced growth issues. The platform was often down or too slow to watch and upload the lessons.
Plus, they were in the process of changing their pricing model, added extra commissions from each sale for using Teachable’s gateway.
The free plan on Teachable is not really free like on Thinkific because you’ll pay $1 + 10% from each course you sold. If you make the math, you might end up paying in these fees more than a Basic paid plan.
On the Basic plan with Teachable, you’ll still pay a 5% fee per transaction in addition to the price of the plan, so you again will end up paying a lot more than on the Basic plan with Thinkific. You also don’t get to have affiliates for your course on the Basic plan on Teachable which is included on the Basic plan with Thinkific.
So with Teachable you are kind of forced to use the plan that costs over $100 a month if you want to avoid transaction fees and if you want to have affiliates.
I might be slightly biased when I compare Thinkific and Teachable because I use Thinkific but if you compare the pricing structure, definitely Thinkfic wins with their Free and Basic plans.
One important note I have to make is that with Teachable on the $100/mo plan if you use Teachable’s gateway, they will handle taxes for European buyers and affiliate commissions will be deducted automatically. On Thinkific, this is not even an option. In order to do this, Teachable will keep your earnings for a month from each purchase.
Some people might prefer things done all by the platform. I personally didn’t need it nor did I like the fact that my earnings were held on Teachable for extra 30 days while with Thinkific the payments go directly to my Paypal or Stripe account right away.
On Teachable you will get:
- Customization + easy setup
- Unlimited students
- $1 + 10% per transaction (on the Free plan)
- Instant payouts
- Unlimited courses
- Unlimited coaching services
- Product bundles
- Course design templates
- Graded quizzes
Teachable’s monthly plans start at $39 (Basic), $119 (Pro), $299 (Business).
Podia is also is striving to be an all-in-one online course platform for online courses, digital downloads, webinars, and subscriptions. Their selling point is that they give focus on membership options. Interacting with members, giving tiered plans to your customers, and integrating with Facebook Groups and Slack are all ways to develop your own online community – which Podia can offer.
They also offer:
- Course pre-selling
- Drip courses
- Membership coupons and
- Affiliate Marketing system to help you sell your products.
Podia’s monthly plans start at $39/month. Podia currently doesn’t offer a free plan but has a 14-day free trial period.
The main advantage of this relatively new learning platform is that you can create cohort-based courses and use many advanced features that are not available on platforms like Teachable:
- integrated community features (including built-in group chat, significant announcements, session reminders, and alerts);
- Graphy’s classroom player allows one-to-many video conferencing with up to 20,000 learners through Graphy’s classroom player;
- Students can share their progress in real-time in the web browser or via Graphy’s Android and iOS apps.
You can try Graphy here.
If you already have a WordPress website or blog and you want to start selling courses, then you should try out LearnDash. LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that gives you everything you need to offer courses on your website. The full-featured course builder from LearnDash works nicely with their email drip campaigns.
LearnDash works in a different way compared to all the other platforms I mentioned earlier in this video because you must have your own WordPress website where LearnDash will work as a plugin. This solution has a big pro – the pricing starts at $159 per year, not monthly.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that because LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that works on top of your website, it might be quite challenging to manage and maintain this system without technical skills. If you are not tech-savvy, you might have to hire someone to set this up for you and it’s an extra cost.
But I thought it was important to mention a different type of solution for selling online courses for those of you who are not afraid of technical challenges if the price is more attractive. Obviously, if you use your own WordPress site, you don’t have to worry about any kind of extra fees per sale which I mentioned is the case on some other platforms.
They also offer:
- Focus mode – a learning portal creating a distraction-free environment for students
- Drag & drop course builder
- Advanced quizzing
- Dynamic content delivery
- Flexible prerequisites
- Automated notifications
LearnDash’s monthly plans start at $159/year (basic), $189 (plus), $329 (pro).
Kartra is used by a wide range of online businesses, many of which sell online courses, videos, or other items that require membership management, lead collection, and payment processing functions. Software developers, agencies, membership websites, and online retailers with both physical and digital merchandise are among the companies and businesses that utilize Kartra.
We can categorize Kartra as an all-in-one platform. It allows you to build
- Customizable course websites
- Optimized sales pages
- Membership sites
- Funnel building
- Affiliate management
- Marketing automation
With Kartra‘s Starter Plan, you can store up to 2,500 leads, send 15,000 emails, sell 20 products, and build 2 membership sites. With only their Starter Plan, you can already store up to 2,500 leads, send 15,000 emails, and more!
From the first look, it might seem like Kartra is a more pricy solution compared to say Thinkfic or Teachable but you need to realize that with Kartra, you don’t need to use an email provider like Convertkit.
And you can build your sales pages and the entire funnel right here, inside Kartra. I have a friend who runs her store with several digital products on Kartra and she never needed to pay for a separate email provider as she has all email automations set inside Kartra. You can also set up your own affiliate program in Kartra.
So if you are looking for a way to manage your entire funnel in one place, Kartra could be the way to go!
Kartra’s monthly plans start at $99/month (Starter), $199 (Silver), $299 (Gold), $499 (Platinum).
Systeme.io is similar to Kartra in the sense that it’s an all-in-one platform and as a newer player on this market, it’s currently way more affordable.
The program has a sophisticated statistics tool that displays a sales report, the value per e-mail contact, and the value per customer on the dashboard. So you could get with Systeme.io all of these
- Sales funnel
- Email marketing tool
- Easy website builder
- Evergreen webinars
- Online course platform
Systeme’s has a completely free plan and the paid monthly plans start at $27/month (Startup), $47 (Webinar), $97 (Enterprise).
Even the free plan on Systemeio is very generous and gives you an option to use your custom domain and you can run your own affiliate program (both things are not available on the free plans with any other tools in this list), and you get up to 2000 contacts – all for free! If you are on a tight budget but want to start your online course business right away, you could start with the free plan on Systeme.io!
You probably see now that course platforms can be divided into 2 main categories. One is just a course platform, and another type is platforms that are more like a CRM – which means customer relationship management tool that often includes strong email marketing and automation tools. In this case, you have fewer software tools to connect with the online course platform because they are already included in the all-in-one platform.
And when you decide to run an online course business, you will need to decide for yourself – do you like to keep all your eggs in one basket and use an all-in-one solution. Or do you prefer to keep your email list in one place, host your sales pages on your own website and host the online course on a third platform?
As for me, when I first launched my course, only the first option was even an option. Moving to a new system is a lot of headaches so I keep running my course on Thinkific, I keep my email list on Convertkit and my landing pages are built on my own WordPress website.
But my choice is only my choice. I will help you with this article to make an educated decision for yourself.
Reasons Why You Should Create An Online Course
Everyone is going online
Everything (and I mean everything) is now accessible online. And yes, this means online learning as well. People can now just Google their questions, and they will always find an answer. So this is the best time to take advantage of it! Today is the best time to start your own online course because there will come a day where your online course will pop up on the Google results page when people search for a certain topic.
You just need to do it once
Once you have made your course, that’s it. It exists and it will always exist, so you don’t need to make it again. Even if it takes you a month or two to create your online course, once it’s done, it’s done.
Earn Passive Income
You may start making money while on autopilot after you become an online course creator. This is because, just as I have said, you will only have to do it once and it will stay on the internet for people to sign up for unless you remove it.
So, no matter what you do, whether it’s gardening, traveling, or sleeping, you’re still making money and attracting students who could be interested in your course.
Reach a larger audience
Having an online course can also be a way to introduce your actual business or other side hustles since you will be able to reach a larger audience and gain long-term relationships with your students. For example, if you are a blogger like me, you can use your online course to introduce or mention your blog to your students.
How To Start Your Online Course
What is your expertise?
The first and most important thing to do when starting your online course is to know what topic or field you are most knowledgeable in. You can’t be all over the place when talking about something because your students will take notice of it. Choose a topic that you won’t get tired of talking about. And if you have some real-life or hands-on tips and experience with that topic, the better.
Research more about the subject
Remember what I mentioned before? Never stop learning. And that includes even you as a course creator. Time changes and new things and knowledge gets introduced really quickly. Research more about the topic you are focusing on so that you will have something more to teach to your students.
Create the course outline and content
Make sure the content and style of your course materials are understandable and straight to the point. The devil is in the details, so verify and double-check everything before publishing it. Decide how often and in what format you want your information to be sent to your students.
Upload on an online course platform
If this is your first time creating an online course, then it is important to choose a learning platform that meets all of your needs. You will want to look for an easy-to-use page builder, straightforward navigation, attractive layouts, and the option to share videos, blog entries, and other types of material.
When it comes to online courses, the accessibility and appearance must be appealing to both the creator and the students. With this, you must find an online course platform that has all the features a course creator and student needs: marketing features, communication options, course-making features, and more.
With that said, let me know in the comments if you use any of the online course platforms I mention or if you have some more in mind!