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How To Create A Passive Income With Online Courses (And Where To Sell Them)

How To Create A Passive Income With Online Courses (And Where To Sell Them)
Tracy Stine Apr 17, 2018
Want to Earn Some Extra Money?

One great way to earn a passive income is to sell courses online.

Courses are created everyday in just about every topic out there. Anything from how to braid hair and how to bake bread to complete guides on photography and software programming. If you have a passion for something then you can teach it and sell it.

All the hard work is just at the beginning – planning, videoing, voice-overs, and editing it all.

After that you can put your course online and there’s very little work to do after that as your course sells over and over again. You could even sell it in several different places for multiple streams of income.

First, how to get started in creating a course? You could read about it, search for articles online, or take a free crash course on Udemy.

Now that you’ve got some ideas on what courses you want to teach, or maybe you even have one created and ready. There are so many course platforms out there that it’s time-consuming to check them all out.

Don’t worry, Frugal for Less isn’t just about saving money but saving time too – time IS money you know. So, I’ve listed all the various ones and their options for your perusal.

1. Udemy

I mentioned Udemy earlier, so I’ll explain this site first. It’s free to become an instructor and post your courses on Udemy. They’ll even show you step by step on how to create your course for them as well.

They do have requirements for you to check before submitting. There are many sections covered, but they include:

  • Checking to see how different your course is from others – none with the same level or difficulty, the same teaching style, or topic coverage? If so, you many need to change yours a bit.
  • Structure – clear and specific structure of each lesson with introductions, what they will learn in that lesson and covers only one topic per lesson.
  • Length of video lessons – 2 to 20 minutes long
  • Instructor delivery – no pauses and “umms”
  • Many more that can be read on their site.

Your revenues depend on two factors – which base price tier you chose and what promotion the student signed up with:

  • Instructor Promotions – 97% of the revenue when students signed up with a instructor’s coupon
  • Organic – 50% of the revenue when no coupons or promotions were used
  • Affiliates – 25% of the revenues when students sign up through an affiliate.

2. Skillshare

Skillshare is set up differently than Udemy, instead of purchasing a course at a time, students purchase a “subscription” that allows them to take as many courses within that time.

There are several options for courses – self paced courses, project based courses, and community based courses with their own requirements that can be read in their teacher’s handbook.

You get paid two different ways:

  • Your referrals – You earn $10 for each student that you referred to sign up with Skillshare.
  • Royalties – Earn money based on the number of minutes students spend watching your courses. This amount also depends on how many subscribers are signed up during that period.

They claim that new teachers earn an average of $200 in their first month and top teachers earn upwards of $3000 a month.

3. Teachable

Teachable is a well-known site and shows up near the top in Google searches. They claim to have more than 7 million students, more than 34,0000 courses offered, and over 22,000 instructors making over $100,000.

They offer several packages, but every package offers:

  • Unlimited number of courses you can create
  • Unlimited number of students that can enroll
  • Product Support
  • Coupon codes (to offer students)

Then there are three monthly packages:

  • $39/month
  • 5% transaction fee
  • Monthly Payouts
  • 2 owners / authors
  • $99/month
  • No transaction fees
  • Instant Payouts
  • 5 owners / authors
  • Graded Quizzes
  • Advanced Reporting
High Volume:
  • $299/month
  • No transaction fees
  • Instant Payouts
  • 25 owners / authors
  • Concierge service
  • Bulk Student enrollments

Teachable’s payment platform has a 30-day refund policy so you get paid on the first (or next business day) of the month for purchases made 2 months prior (for example – get paid on March 1st for all of January’s classes).

But if you use your own payment platform (Stripe or PayPal) and you have a Professional or High Volume package, you can be paid immediately when a student purchases a course.                               

4. Thinkific

Thinkific is another course platform where you can create your own courses at your own discretion. There are no strict rules like on Udemy or Skillshare. It’s a simple drag and drop curriculum creation site. Their packages are better than Teachable as there is a free option as well.

All packages come with core features such as:

  • Advanced CSS/HTML editing capability
  • Full e-commerce service
  • Marketing & E-mail integrations
  • Multiple Instructor Profiles (several teachers can teach one course)

The different packages are:

  • $0/month
  • 10% transaction fee
  • Unlimited courses
  • Unlimited student enrollments
  • Basic integrations
  • Accept payments through Stripe or PayPal
  • $39/month (paid annually)
  • 5% transaction fee
  • All of the Starter package
  • Coupons & Promotions
  • Monthly Subscriptions
  • Course Bundles
  • Intermediate integrations
  • Custom Domain
  • (and many more)
  • $79/month (paid annually)
  • No transaction fees
  • All of the Essential package
  • Completion Certificates
  • Private & Hidden Courses
  • Advanced integrations
  • Payouts for each instructor separately
  • (and many more)

So, you can price your courses whatever you like and even offer a “free trial” option and each course has an option to add an “upsell” to other similar courses you offer.

They only take the transaction fee (plus the credit card processing fee). Therefore, you can start out with a free membership to test the waters with your course and upgrade when you get busier and want more features.

5. LearnWorlds

Another course hosting site like Teachable and Thinkific where you can create your courses and host them there, but this site gives you your own custom domain name for your “school”.

Their packages are different from the ones mentioned previously and are:

Starter Trainer:
  • $24/month (billed annually)
  • $5 per transaction
  • Unlimited Courses & Students
  • 4 pages (home, log in, catalog, check-out)
  • Interactive e-book
  • Coupons & Promotions
  • Instant Payout with 5 Payment Gateways
  • Subscriptions
Pro Online Trainer:
  • $79/month (billed annually)
  • No transaction fees
  • All of the Starter Trainer package
  • 5 instructor accounts
  • Unlimited pages
  • Certifications
  • 1 hour on-boarding consultation

Learning Center:

  • $249/month (billed annually)
  • No transaction fees
  • All of the Pro Online Trainer package
  • 20 instructor accounts
  • Landing Pages
  • Dedicated account manager
  • 2 hour on-boarding consultation
  • Your own School’s App (with a small fee)

There is also a corporate training package available as well but I did not include that here as we’re only talking about you earning a passive income.

6. Click4Course

The difference between Click4Course vs. Teachable and Teachific they claim is that Cllick4Course offers only 2 packages – External (e-commerce) and Internal (not selling).

The latter is for instructors not selling courses but are teaching internally such as staff training and doesn’t charge you “per sale” commissions. I’m only going to list the External E-Commerce option, because again, it’s about you trying to make money here.

This package offers:
  • $79/month (or $65/month if paid annually)
  • Unlimited courses and learners
  • 10% on Courses sold (includes all credit card and transaction fees)
  • Unlimited Course content
  • Unlimited administrators
  • Pre-requisite courses can be required
  • Multiple methods of grouping, emails, notifications, etc.
  • And more

7. CourseCraft

Another course platform to create and sell self-paced courses. They claim to be easy for both beginners and experts and they have no up-front costs and even offer several free courses for you to take to learn how to create your courses and how CourseCraft works.

They offer 3 packages:

  • $0/month
  • 9% transaction fee
  • Up to 100 participants per course
  • Up to 1GB uploads per course
  • Unlimited courses
  • Instant payouts
  • Promo codes
  • Mailing list integration
  • Exceptional email/live chat support
  • $23/month (billed annually)
  • 5% transaction fee
  • Includes features from the Free package
  • Unlimited participants
  • Unlimited uploads
  • Set up payment plans for students
  • Sell add-ons
  • Customize your course URL
  • Course bundling
  • $47/month (billed annually)
  • No transaction fee
  • Includes features from the Club package
  • Work with collaborators
  • Manage & pay affiliates
  • Unlimited free seats (promo codes for free access to your courses)

8. Course Cats

Course Cats claim to be the easiest platform to use as it was “born out of frustration”. You won’t need web designers, third party products and has everything you’ll need.

They have one package with two payment plans:

  • $197 every 3 months
  • 14-day free trial
  • No transaction fees
  • Responsive WordPress theme
  • Step-by-step guide and bonuses
  • Unlimited Updates
  • Unlimited Support
  • $497/year
  • Same as the Quarterly package except that you save $300/year

It was hard to find more details on what’s offered on the actual platform (like how many courses, administrators or students you can have). It’s too vague for my liking, but it’s here for you to read.

9. Zippy Courses

This website was created by course creators to help other course creators. Their claim to being better than other sites is that other sites are augmented for either selling or teaching and Zippy Courses can provide both.

Another difference with Zippy Courses is the availability of offering Course tiers – create one course and then limiting access to parts of the course dependent on what tier the student bought.

For example, one price for Basic level, charge another price for access to more parts of the course for the Advance level, and another price for the Professional level, or the whole course. Work once, sell three parts.

They offer two packages:

  • $99/month
  • No transaction fees
  • Unlimited courses and students
  • 1 administrator
  • 10,000 e-mail sends a month
  • 100GB File storage/transfer
  • Unlimited Landing Pages / Sales Pages
  • $199/month
  • No transaction fees
  • Unlimited courses and students
  • 10 administrators
  • 50,000 email sends a month
  • 2 TB File storage/transfer
  • Unlimited Landing Pages / Sales Pages

The difference from other sites is that they don’t charge transaction fees and have unlimited landing and sales pages, so I don’t know how much importance those are for a small side hustle business.

10. Kajabi

Right off the bat Kajabi offers a free online workshop on how to “turn your knowledge into a profitable online business”. They display your courses more in a store-front format and offer a blog as well.

All their plans include the following:

  • 24/7 Email and Live Chat Support
  • Advanced theme customization with HTML/CSS editor
  • Assessments (Quizzes and Surveys)
  • “Kajabi University” training courses
  • Ability to host events and webinars

The three different plans are:

  • $103/month (billed annually)
  • 5 Products
  • 25,000 Marketing e-mails a month
  • 1 administrator
  • 1,000 active members
  • 1 Site
  • 25 pipelines (promotional offers, product launches, etc.)
  • $311/month (paid annually)
  • 100 Products
  • 75,000 marketing e-mails a month
  • 5 administrators
  • 10,000 active members
  • 3 Sites
  • 100 Pipelines
  • Affiliate Program
  • Ability to remove “Powered by Kajabi” branding
  • $719 a month (billed annually)
  • Unlimited Products
  • 150,000 marketing e-mails a month
  • 25 Administrators
  • Unlimited active members
  • 10 Sites
  • Unlimited Pipelines
  • Affiliate Program
  • Ability to remove “Powered by Kajabi” branding

This is the most expensive site on the list and in my honest opinion, ridiculous and you can find a lot more value in the other options.

Your own Website

You could decide not to host your courses on a separate platform but through a plug-in on your own website. Many website hosts offer their own store front as well as plug-ins as part of their site creation platform. This would require more work and technical “know-how” but it’s do-able.

You can get started with a free domain name and a year’s worth of hosting at just $3.95 per month with Bluehost (roughly $48 per year). Most hosting plans cost double that amount or more, and domains typically cost you $10 per year.

One way you could save money on some of these packages is to split it with other “administrators”, find other instructors wanting to teach similar or complimentary courses and share the site.

You all will save money on hosting fees, have your own separate courses there and so on. But I suggest having a separate “contract” between the two (or more) of you agreeing on terms such as what happens when they default on payments, laying out how you will pay them, and other details to prevent any disputes.

Selling courses online is a great passive income where you could “fix it and forget it”. Also, as I mentioned in my other articles, you get back what you put into it too.

If you put out a quality, detailed course and take time to market it yourself as well, your earnings will be higher. If you’re passionate about sharing what you love, it will show and it will be fun working at it.

Tracy Stine

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