There’s a way to create and sell online courses without spending a dime of your own money.
I was listening to a Tony Robbins podcast episode one time, and a single point stuck with me, and it’s been hitting me in the back of the head ever since. That point was that a lack of resources is a poor excuse.
I hear people talk about starting an online business all the time, but they talk about how expensive it is. I know a lot of people that would like to have their own business making money online, but they feel like they haven’t got enough money to make it work.
The point Tony Robbins was making is that a lack of resource is a poor excuse because that’s not what we lack. We lack resourcefulness. If we’re resourceful enough, we can make up for our lack of resources.
So, I want to make the point that if your serious about building an online business selling courses, trying to get it done absolutely free adds two things to your journey: time and effort.
If you can invest some money, you can be successful in less time, and with less effort. But, if you really want a roadmap to success without investing dollars, I’m going to share a plan to get you there. Just know, it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take effort.
Let’s get started…
How to Create and Sell Online Courses for Free
Most people who don’t think they have money to invest really do. They just want money overnight without any cost to themselves. But, success doesn’t come cheap.
However, there are some people that really want to create and sell online courses, but they honestly don’t have any money to invest. This post is for you.
If you have money to invest, here are some things you should invest in:
- WordPress Hosting ($30/mo)
- A Domain Name ($15/yr)
- A WordPress Theme ($70)
- Teachable, Thinkific, etc. ($30/mo)
There are ways to get around these investments. For example, instead of using your own domain and WordPress installation, you can blog for free on platforms like Medium. Rather than paying for Teachable, you can use their free plan until you have some paying students. The thought should not be to stay on free but to use it to drive your first few sales, then reinvest that money into upgrading your brand to premium features.
Step 1: Create Your Online Course
This is really going to be the easiest step of the entire process. The hardest part of creating and selling online courses is choosing what course to create, and then getting it in front of enough people that the sales make it worthwhile.
Don’t waste your time building a course no one will buy.
Choose A Marketable Course Topic
You need to make sure the course you build checks off three boxes:
- It’s a common problem in an identifiable niche.
- The people facing that problem are able and willing to pay for a solution.
- There aren’t any good free solutions out there.
A quick example:
I once invested a ton of money into creating a course on how to tie neckties. There were some poor videos on YouTube, but the Google search traffic volume was crazy large!
After investing hours creating, and shooting videos, etc… I found out a tie manufacturer was doing the same thing for free. And, their videos were better than mine, with cool animated diagrams, etc.
I pushed through and ran a bunch of paid traffic to my course.
No one bought it!
If there is a free option, and that free option is actually solving the problem, don’t make a course.
A reverse example:
I’m investing a ton of time and money into creating CourseCoach.com. There are a lot of free resources out there, and YouTube is filled with gurus selling their training on the matter. But, most of the free solutions are horrible, and there is obviously the biggest problem… knowing how to sell the course. No one is solving this for people like you.
That’s why you’re reading this article!
So, even though you could argue that this space is already saturated, the fact that people are still frustrated with the main problem means a solution can still find a place to thrive.
Make an Actual Solution
Don’t create a course to sell it. Create a course that solves the problem. In the long run, your students’ testimonies will explode your course growth. In order to get testimonies, you have to actually solve the problem.
If someone can’t get from their current state (needing a course) to the desired after-state (achieved the goal) through your course, it’s not worth paying for.
Build the Course in an Online LMS
Image Credit: BusinessBolts
A lot of people get caught up in bells and whistles. They spend a ton of time trying to figure out WordPress membership plugins, etc. etc.
I’ve been there!
It ain’t worth it.
The content doesn’t have to be flashy. You don’t need thousands of dollars in video equipment. You can use an iPhone and still deliver value if you’re solving the problems at hand.
In the beginning, since you’re doing this for free, have a “lean” mindset. Create a minimum viable product for version 1.
If the course sells like hotcakes, then you can recreate it with all the jazzy professional equipment, etc.
Step 2: Create Your Brand
You will need a professional feeling brand if people are going to pull out their wallets and pay for your course.
It can be either a personal brand or a brand name. For example, I could have built this course under my personal brand, but I did it under CourseCoach instead.
That meant I needed to create a logo, create social channels, a youtube channel, etc. etc.. And, then I have to publish a lot of content to those channels.
Figure out what you want your course to be identified with, and build that brand. If you’re serious about building a business out of your courses, you will want to get an LLC or similar as soon as you have the extra money to do so.
Since you’re doing this all for free, go ahead and create a Medium.com account with your brand name, too. This is where you’re going to generate traffic.
Step 3: Build Your Funnels
A quick word on funnels: the more people that go into the top, the more will come out the bottom.
The more people who know your course exists, the more will understand it can help them solve their problem.
The more people know your course can solve their problem, the more will seriously consider purchasing that solution.
The more people who seriously consider purchasing, the more will actually purchase.
It’s that simple.
So, if your course is marketable (see step 1), the main goal is to find a way to get as many people as possible to know it exists. This is where your funnel and marketing come into play.
If you were investing money, I would say buy a ClickFunnels account and set up some lead magnets to drive your traffic to. But, since you’re doing this for free, here’s what I suggest for your first funnel:
Create a free Teachable account, and give away the first couple modules for free. Then, put a paywall that blocks the most valuable modules.
You can use the first free modules as bait, giving them away in exchange for names and email addresses. That way you build your list, which is the lifeblood of long-term success.
Step 4: Publish! Publish! Publish!
You have no money for ads, so there’s no quick win here. The only way to dump people into the top of the funnel is through content marketing efforts.
So, get used to publishing a lot!
Once your course is built, this is where you’ll spend all your time and effort.
- Blog at least three times a week.
- Make a YouTube version of every single blog post.
- Publish quips and clips onto your social channels.
Don’t Dead-End Your Funnel
Every piece of content is the top end of your funnel. Don’t turn your funnel into a cup. Make sure there isn’t a dead end at the bottom.
In other words, always give a call to action in every piece of content. That call to action should be to either consume another piece of content, convert on a lead magnet, or in this case, sign up for the free modules of your course.
A lot of people do this step wrong or quit way too early. Doing it for free is going to replace investment dollars with investment time. So, it will take time. And, it will take effort.
So, don’t get discouraged. Just publish, publish, publish!
The video below will show you how to blog correctly.
How to Speed Up Success
Creating and selling online courses isn’t rocket science… unless your course is literally rocket science.
All it takes is consistent effort and time doing the right things for a long enough period. However, there are ways to speed up that process.
When you start making your initial sales, rather than spending that money on coffee, invest it. As soon as you can, get the paid version of your LMS. This will mean all future sales account for more revenue. Once that has paid for itself, consider moving your content onto your own domain, where you can always own the traffic it generates.
When you are driving plenty of traffic, try paying for remarketing ads for everyone who hits your purchase page. All those who start the course, but don’t buy, remarket them on Facebook and Google.
If the first few modules were valuable, they will come back and buy if you keep them warmed up with advertising and content.
The bottom line is, starting for free is doable. But, don’t have the scarcity mindset that you’re juicing all you can out of the free plans so you can keep the little bit that you do make. Instead, have the abundance mindset, and invest money into turning your online course into an actual business.
That’s how you get the ultimate success. Then, once it is running like a well-oiled machine, rinse and repeat the process.