How to quickly set-up and sell online courses

One of the hardest parts of selling online courses is NOT the creation content, the marketing, or even the ideas. Heck, as entrepreneurs we don’t lack for ideas.

Many times it is wading through all of the many options out there.  Here is a quick “how-to” for setting up an online course quickly and getting that money in your pocket.  Each step has recommendations for various budgets and skill sets.

My personal set up:

Ontraport Pilot Press Plugin that takes Paypal + Credit Card Payments (processed as credit cards through Paypal Pro) and allows for payment plans.  The Ontraport system allows for dripped content and follow ups to students based on clicks.  I have Q&A forms embedded with the Gravity Forms and can respond to homework that way!

#1 Membership access

An important aspect is ensuring that all your hard-earned content is protected by a password protected barrier.  It is also important that it is efficient for you as well! No having to hand-place people into the access levels – let pre-designed programs do it for you!


Non-WordPress (percentages vary depending on system)

#2 Taking payments

Many of the access programs above will handle the payment portion for you – but it is important you have an idea of payment processors you want to take.  Paypal is widely known in the marketplace and is often integrated with many systems (including the Gravity forms mentioned in #3 below).

An additional capability to keep cash-flow opportunities open is through the use of credit card processors that don’t require a certain account created – such as Stripe, Authorize.net.  Remember though many credit-card processors require the use of SSL when embedded on your site so double-check for this requirement before committing to a payment processor.

#3 Student submissions & download access

Taking student submissions for contact, contract signing (see #4!), and even homework assignments is super easy on WordPress with Gravity Forms and Formidable.  They can upload documents and everything is stored right for you in the system.  Other online systems may have this capability but this plugin is a great add-on if the function isn’t available!

I also recommend having downloads available to students to create more value in content. Files can be easily zipped and put into plugins to allow for downloads such as:

#4 Legalities

Always, always, always (did I say always?!) have legalities in place before selling a course.  This includes the site’s Terms of Use/Service, Privacy Policy, workshop specific information, and copyright & trademark protections.

  • Terms of Use & Privacy Policy – The terms of use (TOU) for a site govern the relationship between the site user and the site owner.  Having a TOU is a legal requirement according to certain laws, as we will see through the provisions.  Here is an overall list of provisions to include in the site TOU.  Having an online web presence requires that we protect our site visitor data and let our clients know what will be done with their information.  While there is no federal legal requirement  (check your state!) for a privacy policy we have a legal duty to take steps to properly secure or dispose of client data appropriately.  Check out the 411 on TOS and PP here.
  • Copyright – The good news is that, in the United States, copyright is given at creation and protects your actual content.  It is important to note that damages do not begin until official registration – so it is always best to consider submitting and receiving official copyright designation.  See more from the USPTO
  • Trademark – It is a good idea to venture into the research on trademark protection for your course names and tag lines.  This is often a long process requiring money, specimen examples (logos, etc.) and placement in commerce for a defined period of time.   See more from the USPTO

#5 Extras

  • Custom Sidebars  – Say you want to offer multiple courses but want to have various sidebars to display.  Wordpress inherently has the function available that gives the menu option available when the student has been given access – however – you may need to have a variety of sidebars.  The free plugin SimpleSidebars is a easy drag-and-drop way to do this.
  • Sales Page –  In order to get students, you need to be able to sell them! There’s a variety of options available ranging from a one-time small fee for Visual Composer Plugin For WordPress (a drag-and-drop sales page creator) to monthly fees with Leadpages.
  • Facebook Ads – Creating facebook ads is a QUICK way to get in front of your audience and other audiences.  See this post on Facebook Ads for Conversions.

There are so many ways out there to run a course – it all depends on exactly what you want out of it (besides money!).  So start off with thinking about functionalities, then integration capabilities with your existing set-up, then your long term plans, THEN budget.

How to quickly set-up and sell online courses

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