If you ask any entrepreneur, starting a business comes with its fair share of challenges.
Starting an online course sales business requires a great deal of effort, dedication and most importantly passion.
If you're willing to put in the effort to build your own business, you're going to want to follow the critical steps to creating a successful brand.
We've created a guide that covers each step of the process - from making key financial decisions, to launching and marketing your business the right way, and tips/strategies on how to grow your business effectively.
💡 Introduction To Starting An Online Course Sales Business
Is Starting An Online Course Sales Business Right For You?
There are many factors to consider when starting an online course sales business.
We put together the main pros and cons for you here:
Pros of starting an online course sales business
You can put as much time into the business as you'd like. If you like the work and have some initial experience, you can start small and manage all aspects of the business on your own.
• Ability to start your business from home
It's not necessary to have a physical storefront or office space to get your business started. You can do everything from the comfort of your own home, at least in the beginning!
• Little startup costs required
The cost to start a online course sales business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 552 to 13,469.
• Rewarding work
Starting a online course sales business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you're working on something you truly care about.
With businesses and processes changing daily, there will always be demand for new features, products and services for your business. Additionally, there are several different business models and pricing tiers you can implement that will allow you to reach all types of customers.
• Traffic to your website
A online course sales business gives people a reason to visit your website and to keep coming back to you!
• No overhead costs
To get your online course sales business started, there are no costs associated with overhead, storage, packaging, etc. This will save you a lot of time and money!
• Meaningful business connections
You never know who you will meet as a online course sales business. This could be the start of an incredible business opportunity!
• High margins
The gross margins for your online course sales business are typically around 95%, which is considerably high and allows you to grow your business and manage costs easily.
• Quick build time
The average time it takes to build your product is quick - typically around 5 months. This will allow you to bring your product to market faster.
• Control of workload
With starting an online course sales business, you have the unique ability to choose how little or how much you want to work. You also have the freedom to decide which projects you want to work on, and can turn down the ones that do not interest you.
• Unlimited income potential
With starting an online course sales business there is no cap as to how much income you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more energy/time you put into your career, the more you'll make.
• You are your own boss!
With starting an online course sales business, you are the one to make decisions for almost all of the operations. Calling the shots can be empowering and liberating!
• Simple business model
A online course sales business has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes launching and building the business more seamless.
• Minimal experience required
Starting An Online Course Sales Business requires little experience and no specific certifications or qualifications. To be successful, you need hard work, determination and the desire to achieve greatness!
• You get to do something you truly love
With starting a online course sales business, you get to put your energy into something you are truly passionate about! You'll find yourself devoting as much time and energy as possible into the business to make it successful.
• Express your opinions
With starting an online course sales business, you can express your opinions and knowledge to your audience, which allows you to build your own reputation and identity.
• You can work from anywhere!
Not only can you start your online course sales business from home, you can also run your business from anywhere in the world. This is the entrepreneur dream.
• Easy to Learn The Business
When starting your online course sales business, there is a ton of information readily available to you online (Facebook groups, Youtube videos, Starter Story etc). This will help you get the business started and answer any questions, doubts or concerns you may have.
• You get to inspire others
Your business is one that encourages and inspires others, which in itself, can be very fulfilling.
• You establish yourself as an expert
With starting an online course sales business, you establish yourself as an expert in your niche, which builds your credibility. In return, customers are more likely to trust you and refer you to other friends and family.
• Various different ways to make money
With starting a online course sales business, there is not just one business model to choose from. This field is amazing in that there are various different ways to make money. Although this may complicate things, it's great to have different options and sources of revenue.
• Make money while you sleep
The advantage of starting a online course sales business is that you have the ability to have passive income and make money while you sleep. This is the dream for many entrepreneurs.
Cons of starting an online course sales business
• Crowded Space
Competition is high when it comes to your online course sales business, so it's important that you spend a good amount of time analyzing the market and understanding where the demand lies.
• Constant maintenance of publication
You may find yourself constantly needing to update your online course sales business in order to stay relevant for your audience and for those searching on google.
• Lack of benefits
With a online course sales business, you are typically self-employed and responsible for finding your own insurance, which can be quite costly and time-consuming.
Often times, as a online course sales business, you typically work alone and do not have much face-to-face interaction with other team members.
As a online course sales business, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It's important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you're taking on is worth it.
• No safety net
Typically, as a online course sales business, you do not receive a consistent pay-check and instead earn money based on your transactions each month. During the slow periods, you typically take away less since the job is based on commission. It's important to budget accordingly for the slow times.
• Work can be repetitive
You may find creating the same product over and over repetitive and tiresome. One way of avoiding this is to diversify product lines and revenue streams - this will keep things interesting!
• Time commitment
With starting an online course sales business, all responsibilities and decisions are in your hands. Although this is not necessarily a negative thing, work life can take over at times. This can place a strain on friends and family and add to the pressure of launching a new business.
• Difficult to build trust with your customer
With starting an online course sales business, there can be minimal face-to-face interaction, which means it can be a lot more difficult to establish trust with your customers. You'll need to go the extra mile with your customer to grab their attention and business.
• Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone!
Although this is exciting for some entrepreneurs, it can be a big challenge for others! You may find yourself in uncomfortable social and business situations, jumping into tasks and responsibilities you aren't familiar with, and pushing yourself as far as you can go!
• You might struggle financially (at first)!
If you bootstrap your business or choose not to pay yourself (or pay yourself less than you were making at your corporate job), this can be financially taxing. It's important to adjust your lifestyle and set a plan for yourself so you don't find yourself in a stressful situation.
• Minimal physical activity
A big part of starting a online course sales business is sitting at a desk for the majority of the day starting at your computer. Some may enjoy this, but others may struggle with sitting for the majority of your day without much physical activity.
• Easy target for criticism
Since your online course sales business has the ability to reach a large audience, you'll need to be able to handle criticism. The internet can be a cruel place, and regardless of your intentions, many people will disagree with you and even take their criticism too far. To survive in this industry, you'll need to have tough skin (or at least learn this along the way).
- Simplilearn (4.29K Alexa Ranking)
- Shaw Academy (6.02K Alexa Ranking)
- Real Estate Express (10.4K Alexa Ranking)
- Learnworlds (24.9K Alexa Ranking)
- Sales Hacker (26.3K Alexa Ranking)
- Diva Dog Bakery - Revenue $11K/month
Let's take a look at the search trends for online course sales over the last year:
How To Name Your Online Course Sales Business
It's important to find a catchy name for your online course sales business so that you can stand out in your space.
Here are some general tips to consider when naming your online course sales business
- Avoid hard to spell names: you want something easy to remember and easy to spell for your customers
- Conduct a search to see if others in the space have the same name
- Try not to pick a name that limits growth opportunities for your business (ie. if you decide to expand into other product lines)
- As soon as you have an idea (or ideas) of a few names that you love, register the domain name(s) as soon as possible!
Why is naming your online course sales business so important?
The name of your business will forever play a role in:
- Your customers first impression
- Your businesses identity
- The power behind the type of customer your brand attracts
- If you're memorable or not
It's important to verify that the domain name is available for your online course sales business.
You can search domain availability here:
Find a domain starting at $0.88
powered by Namecheap
Although .com names are the most common and easiest to remember, there are other options if your .com domain name is not available. Depending on your audience, it may not matter as much as you think.
It's also important to thoroughly check if social media handles are available.
As soon as you resonate with a name (or names), secure the domain and SM handles as soon as possible to ensure they don't get taken.
Here's some inspiration for naming your online course sales business:
- Planned Package check availability
- Doorman Program check availability
- ClassicalCourse check availability
- The Independent Trend check availability
- Legislative Course Of Study Spot check availability
- Diverse Course check availability
- Computer Program Group check availability
- Rawhide Online check availability
- The Service check availability
- Web Co check availability
- Parallel Of Course Place check availability
- Worldwide Electronically Trading Co check availability
- The Sociological Web check availability
- Regular check availability
- Digital Pro check availability
- The Safe check availability
- The Latest check availability
- The Developmental check availability
- Benign Class check availability
- Sociological check availability
- Latest Web check availability
- Run Spot check availability
- Infosci check availability
- Therapeutic Computer Programme Group check availability
- Latter check availability
- AvailableOnline check availability
- The Introductory Track check availability
- Adverse Course check availability
- The Viewable Website check availability
- AcademicCourse check availability
- Socialite Online check availability
- Straight check availability
- Master plan Program check availability
- LinearProgram check availability
- The Preventive check availability
- Elementary check availability
- The Fastest Electronically check availability
- Interactive Co check availability
- Garbage can Program check availability
- The General Class check availability
- Due Row check availability
- The Viewable Cyberspace check availability
- Whole check availability
- EntiretyOnline check availability
- The Vocational check availability
- Due Track Pro check availability
- The Offline check availability
- Entirety Internet Place check availability
- ManualOnline check availability
- Private parts Course check availability
- Due Of Course Collective check availability
- The Structured Plan check availability
- Safest Line check availability
- Chronic Curriculums check availability
- Flow Pro check availability
- The Published Cyberspace check availability
- Safe Virtual Co check availability
- The Comprehensive check availability
- Web Spot check availability
- The Voluntary Platform check availability
- Easier check availability
- Prudent check availability
- Political Platform Co check availability
- Probable Row Place check availability
- Independent check availability
- Class Trading Co check availability
- The Proper check availability
- Cyber Co check availability
- Point Plan check availability
- Cortes Course check availability
- National check availability
- Digital Collective check availability
- Introductory Flow Co check availability
- Offline Onsite check availability
- The Educational Syllabus check availability
- The Legislative Political Platform check availability
- Kodak Program check availability
- Day Row check availability
- Point Projects check availability
- The Opposite check availability
- EntireCourse check availability
- Overall check availability
- The Extensive check availability
- Successful Syllabus Co check availability
- WiseCourse check availability
- Point Political Platform check availability
- Published Cyberspace Pro check availability
- Manual Virtual Place check availability
- The Formal check availability
- Flow Trading Co check availability
- Month check availability
How To Create A Slogan For Your Online Course Sales Business:
Slogans are a critical piece of your marketing and advertising strategy.
The role of your slogan is to help your customer understand the benefits of your product/service - so it's important to find a catchy and effective slogan name.
Often times, your slogan can even be more important than the name of your brand.
Here are 6 tips for creating a catchy slogan for your online course sales business:
1. Keep it short, simple and avoid difficult words
A great rule of thumb is that your slogan should be under 10 words. This will make it easy for your customer to understand and remember.
2. Tell what you do and focus on what makes you different
There are a few different ways you can incorporate what makes your business special in your slogan:
- Explain the target customer you are catering your services towards
- What problem do you solve?
- How do you make other people, clients, or your employer look good?
- Do you make people more successful? How?
3. Be consistent
Chances are, if you're coming up with a slogan, you may already have your business name, logo, mission, branding etc.
It's important to create a slogan that is consistent with all of the above.
4. Ensure the longevity of your slogan
Times are changing quickly, and so are businesses.
When coming up with your slogan, you may want to consider creating something that is timeless and won't just fade with new trends.
5. Consider your audience
When finding a catchy slogan name, you'll want to make sure that this resonates across your entire audience.
It's possible that your slogan could make complete sense to your audience in Europe, but may not resonate with your US audience.
6. Get feedback!
This is one of the easiest ways to know if your slogan will be perceived well, and a step that a lot of brands drop the ball on.
Ask friends, family, strangers, and most importantly, those that are considered to be in your target market.
Here's some inspiration for coming up with a slogan for your online course sales business:
Play Online, Start Living.
Ordinary Teachings Are What We Do
Safe Websites Are What We Do
Online Is Your Friend.
Programs With Way
Process Is What We Do
Programs With Interest
Only Class, Year Coursework
Takes A Online But It Keeps On Tickin'.
Only Track, Natural Syllabus
Santa, All I Want Is Course.
Viewable Webmasters Are What We Do
Only Degrees Are What We Do
From Short To Prolonged
Put Of The Trend
Program Is Better Than Chocolate.
Would You Give Someone Your Last Course?
You Too Can Have A Course Like Mine.
Serial And Tutorial
Content And Taunting
Media & Digital Subscription Business Model
When deciding whether or not to start a online course sales business, it's important to first decide what type of business model you want to choose.
For this industry, digital subscriptions are one of the best ways to make money (and fast)!
We see subscriptions working very well for big businesses (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc) but I think it can work even better for small businesses and small teams.
Why? Because the economics work even better. You don’t need to find thousands of paying subscribers. If you charge enough ($10-100/month), all you need is a few hundred and you would have a sustainable business.
Here are some of the different approaches to the subscription model for blogs, publications, and content creators.
- The hard paywall - readers need to subscribe and/or pay to read anything
- The metered paywall - when your publication limits the number of articles readers can read each month (such as the New York Times)
- Premium newsletters - keeping your content free, but consistently upselling a premium newsletter to all readers
- Courses - although not technically a subscription model, this is still a great revenue model for content creators.
Here's a great example of a subscription model that offers different pricing and features for readers:
Offering different price tiers is an effective approach in “upselling” the product and providing new and exciting value for the end-user.
Here's a few tips when taking the subscription model approach:
- Write content that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
- Have at least one thing that readers couldn’t live without - as long as it has one thing you can’t live without, customers will keep paying for it.
- Focus on strong word of mouth and high retention of subscribers.
- Figure out a way to get people to “find” your thing since you can’t rely on social or Google traffic - may need to do sales or in-person events
To learn more about digital subscriptions and the different approaches you can take, we put together a full guide for you here.
Advertising Supported Business Model
When starting your online course sales business, it's important to first understand and identify what your business and revenue model will look like.
For online sites and publishers, an advertising supported revenue model is very common, and if approached in the right way, can be very lucrative for your business.
The general idea is to share services, information, news or feature articles that attract customers (typically for free) and then sell advertising space to other businesses that have a similar audience.
To find advertisers for your business, it's important that you are able to bring value to the equation. This could mean significant traffic to your website, number of followers, synergies with your target audience, etc.
One of the main benefits to an ad-model is that you are able to offer free services to the end-user, which can help organically grow your customer base. As a result, reaching a larger audience will attract more high paying advertisers.
Of course, there are disadvantages to every model. In this case, the main one being that your revenue largely depends on another businesses budget.. Advertising budgets often diminish, especially in tough financial times, which can put your business at risk.
To learn more about the ad-based business model and to determine if it's the right model for you, check out this article.
🎬 How To Start An Online Course Sales Business
How Much Does It Cost To Start An Online Course Sales Business
If you are planning to start an online course sales business, the costs are relatively low. This, of course, depends on if you decide to start the business with lean expenses or bringing in a large team and spending more money.
We’ve outlined two common scenarios for “pre-opening” costs of starting an online course sales business and outline the costs you should expect for each:
- The estimated minimum starting cost = $552
- The estimated maximum starting cost = $13,469
|Startup Expenses: Average expenses incurred when starting a online course sales business.||Min Startup Costs: You plan to execute on your own. You’re able to work from home with minimal costs.||Max Startup Costs: You have started with 1+ other team members.|
|Office Space Expenses|
|Rent: This refers to the office space you rent out for your business. To minimize costs, you may want to consider starting your business from home or renting an office in a coworking space.||$0||$2,000|
|Utility Costs (office space): This refers to the first month's utility bill for your office space. If you are not responsible for this bill, this would not apply to starting your online course sales business.||$0||$150|
|Office Supplies: Although these may seem like minor costs, things like your desks, chairs, pens, paper, filing cabinets do add up. To avoid these adding up too much, try to be as lean as possible and go paperless!||$25||$1,000|
|WiFi: Whether you work from home or in an office space, WiFi is an expense that's tough to avoid. Although the cost is minimal in most cases, it should be appropriately budgeted for each month!||$10||$100|
|Total Office Space Expenses||$35 (min)||$3,250 (max)|
|Equipment & Supply Expenses|
|Technology Office Equipment: This includes (but is not limited to) physical items such as: laptops, cameras, monitors, microphones, speakers, headsets. Technology needs grow as your company evolves, so to minimize costs, try and only purchase what is needed for you to run your business at the time.||$500||$5,000|
|Total Equipment & Supply Expenses||$500 (min)||$5,000 (max)|
|Training & Education Expenses|
|Online Learning Sites: With a online course sales business, you and your team may not know all the steps for starting and growing a business. There are plenty of resources out there to help you, such as online courses or learning platforms, but they aren't always free! Starter Story is a great resource for case studies, guides and courses for starting your business.||$0||$1,000|
|Total Training & Education Expenses||$0 (min)||$1,000 (max)|
|Design Programs & Software: These programs might include the Adobe family of design tools: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and others. This is typically a monthly subscription ranging from $10-$50/mo.||$0||$50|
|Email marketing tool: If you plan to grow your email list and email marketing efforts, you may want to consider investing in an email marketing platform (ie. Klaviyo, MailChimp). We put together a detailed guide on all of the email marketing tools out there + the pricing models for each one here||$0||$100|
|Accounting & Invoicing Software: It's important to have an accounting system and process in place to manage financials, reporting, planning and tax preparation. Here are the 30 best accounting tools for small businesses.||$0||$50|
|Project Management Software: You may want to consider using a project management and collaboration tool to organize your day-to-day. This can also be very beneficial if you have a larger team and want to keep track of everyones tasks and productivity. For a full list of project management tools, check out this full list here.||$0||$25|
|Internal Communication Tool: If you plan to have multiple members on your team, you may want to consider an instant message tool such as Slack or Telegram. The cost is usually billed per month (approx $5/user/month) or there are freemium versions available on many platforms.||$0||$20|
|Social Media Management Tools: If you plan to do social media marketing for your online course sales business, you should consider investing in a social media automation or publishing tool. This will save you time and allow you to track performance and engagement for your posts. Here is a list of 28 best social media tools for your small business.||$0||$50|
|Online data storage: It's important to make sure the information for your online course sales business is stored and protected should something happen to your computer or hard drive. The cost for this is affordable and depends on how much data you need to store. To learn more about the different options and pricing on the market, check out this article.||$0||$299|
|Total Software Expenses||$0 (min)||$594 (max)|
|Advertising & Marketing Costs|
|Business Cards: A online course sales business involves quite a bit of customer interaction, whether that is attending tradeshows, sales calls or simply having face to face interaction with prospective clients. Business cards are a great way to stay front of mind with your clients.||$0||$50|
|Customer Research & Surveys: Many online course sales business's conduct industry and consumer research prior to starting their business. Often times, you need to pay for this data or hire a market research firm to help you in this process.||$0||$300|
|Networking Membership Fees: Joining local networking groups or your chamber of commerce is a traditional yet effective way to promote your online course sales business - but these fees add up! It's important to choose the right group(s) that align with your business and help with growth.||$0||$250|
|Affiliate Marketing Commission & Fees: If you want to increase revenue for your online course sales business, affiliate marketing is a great way to promote your product to a new audience. When determining affiliate commission rates you will offer, you will want to take into account the price and margin for your product to ensure affiliate marketing is worth it for your business. According to Monitor Backlinks, the average affiliate commission rate should be somewhere between 5% to 30%. To learn more about how to set commission rates, check out this article..||$0||$250|
|Influencer Marketing: Partnering with like-minded influencers is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media presence. Many small businesses simply gift a free item in exchange for an influencer post, or pay the influencer directly.||$0||$750|
|Press: If your business and story is unique enough, press and media attention may come to you, but odds are, you may need to do your own outreach and budget for this. We put together a guide here that discusses different press opportunities (both free and paid).||$0||$500|
|Google Ads: With Google Ads you have the ability to control how much you spend by simply setting a monthly budget cap. Additionally, with these ads you only pay for results, such as clicks to your website or phone calls! It's okay to start with a small budget at first and make changes accordingly if you see valuable returns.||$0||$300|
|Facebook & Instagram Ads: With Facebook and Instagram ads, you set your budget and pay for the actions you want (whether that be impressions, conversions, etc).You can learn more about pricing based on your impressions here.||$0||$350|
|Total Advertising & Marketing Costs||$0 (min)||$2,750 (max)|
|A Domain Name: Your domain name is the URL and name of your website - this is how internet users find you and your website.Domain names are extremely important and should match your company name and brand. This makes it easier for customers to remember you and return to your website.||$12||$200|
|Email hosting: Email is a critical piece for running your business. Once you have your domain name, you will want to set up email accounts for each user on your team. The most common email hosts are GSuite (typically starting at $6+ per user, per month) or Microsoft Office (typically starting at $5+ per user, per month). The number of email accounts you set up will determine the monthly cost breakdown.||$5||$75|
|Total Website Costs||$17 (min)||$275 (max)|
|Time!: Time is money! When starting a business, think about how much time you are spending on certain tasks that could be delegated to another team member or automated. Additionally, spending too much time on tasks that aren't associated with revenue is a hidden cost of running a business.||$0||$500|
|Total Other Expenses||$0 (min)||$500 (max)|
|Specific Industry Expenses|
|Ticketing Platform Fees: A great way to promote your event is to use an event platform such as EventBrite or Events.Com. Although there is typically no upfront cost, there can be ticketing fees deducted from the overall sale, which is important to take into account when pricing your tickets.||$0||$100|
|Total Specific Industry Expenses||$0 (min)||$100 (max)|
|Total Starting Costs||$552 (min)||$13,469 (max)|
Brett Lindenberg, founder of Food Truck Empire discusses his startup costs setting up his blog + his decision to outsource:
Like most bloggers, the launch of my business was low cost. I bought a domain name from GoDaddy, website hosting from HostGator, and had my initial website template customized by someone located in the Philippines. I was introduced to the designer from a friend who had worked with the individual for a Wordpress design as well. The total initial investment for the business was around $500. The majority of the costs went toward paying the designer to create the logo and set up the site.
At the time, $500 was a substantial investment for me. I fell into the trap of having around $40,000 in student loan debt another $10,000 in credit cards after college. Adding a monthly car payment shortly after graduation and the other bills (rent, cell phone, internet access) meant things were tight for me financially for the first 5 years after graduation.
In spite of financial woes, I forced myself to invest money in the design and setup of my blog. In retrospect, I’m glad that I did this because it saved me a lot of time starting the website.
When you start a blog, my belief is that you should outsource all the one-time technical work, design, and setup. There are so many people that spend months wasting time trying to figure out plugins and Wordpress themes when they could have solved the problem on Fiverr.com for a couple hundred bucks and be off to the races.
Raising Money For Your Online Course Sales Business
Here are the most common ways to raise money for your online course sales business:
You may not need funding for your online course sales business.
In fact, many entrepreneurs take this approach when starting their own business, whether they have a little amount of cash or a substantial amount to get started.
So what exactly does the term "bootstrapping" mean?
This method essentially refers to self-funding your businesswithout external help or capital and reinvesting your earnings back into the business**
Bootstrapping means building your company from the ground up with your own, or your loved ones, personal savings and reinvesting all earnings back into the business
Here are some tips to consider when bootstrapping your business:
- Use your savings as your capital - one of the best ways to bootstrap your business is to collect your savings and use them as startup capital. This will also help you avoid using your personal or business credit cards when getting started.
- Determine exactly how much capital you need and how much capital you have to get your business off the ground. Generally, when bootstrapping your business, you may want to consider starting a business that involves less startup capital.
- Consider starting a business that will generate immediate returns so you can put money back into the business
- Be as lean as possible - this refers to cutting down expenses as much as possible, such as payroll, fancy software tools, unnecessary travel, renting an office, etc
- Consider outsourcing instead of hiring - in the beginning, you may not need to hire someone permanently to help run your business. It tends to be much less expensive to outsource work to a freelancer and hire someone permanently down the road!
Want to learn more about bootstrapping your business? Check out this article
Accelerators are organizations that offer a range of support and funding opportunities for startups.
Typically, this means they help enroll startups in programs that offer mentorship, office space, and resources to grow the business.
These programs are typically 3-4 months and involve intense education and mentorship - most importantly, the startups also offered capital and investment in return for equity.
Here are some of the most popular and well-known startup accelerators in the U.S:
Here are some tips on how to get into an accelerator program:
- Have an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) in place
- Make sure you have actual customers and an overview of how your business is doing (revenue, site traffic, growth metrics)
- Build a team
- Crush your interview - this is a critical piece in the process. Know your business and metrics inside out and most importantly, be able to portray what makes it so unique.
VC funding is a traditional and long process, but an effective way to raise money for your business.
The term "VC funding" refers to venture capital firms investing in businesses in exchange for equity.
The VC's (venture capitalists) are an individual or small group investing in your business and typically require substantial ownership of the business, with the hope of seeing a return on their investment.
VC's are typically the best approach for businesses with high startup costs - where it would be very difficult to raise the money on your own or through a loan.
When deciding whether to take this approach, it's important that you have a few things in place first, and know what you're getting yourself into:
Determine if your business is ready
Having an idea is not enough to get VC funding.
Typically, VC's will check to make sure you have these things in place prior to closing any deal:
- An MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
- A founding team with all proper documents in place (articles of organization, business formation)
- A validated idea with actual customers buying your product/service
Get everything in place and build a pitch deck
A VC individual or firm will be expecting a fine-tuned presentation that gives an overview of your business.
Here's what you should consider including in your pitch deck:
- Management team, their previous experience + current roles in the business
- Market challenge and solution
- Company financials - including a P&L statement, cash flow statement, and projections
- Company progress
- Investment amount - how much do you need and why?
Research the right VC to fund your business
Research the types of VC investors out there and what niche they focus on.
Then, put together a list of target VC's you want to approach and your strategy around setting up meetings.
Be sure you have everything in place (as discussed above) before setting up any meeting!
Make sure the terms and expectations are right for your business
Committing to VC funding is a big deal and a decision that should not be made lightly.
Although the money and experience from VC's can help your business quickly grow, you are also giving away a stake in the company, and the money comes with strings attached.
Be sure you do your due diligence in finding the right investor - one that truly believes in the growth and success of your business.
What Skills Do I Need To Succeed In Starting An Online Course Sales Business?
As a online course sales business, there are several essential skills and characteristics that are important to identify prior to starting your business.
Let’s look at these skills in more detail so you can identify what you need to succeed in your day-to-day business operations:
Resarch and Writing Skills
Research and writing skills are critical when starting an online course sales business. Here's what this looks like:
- Basic computer & technology skills (Microsoft office or Google sheets/docs knowledge, data input, and proficiency in typing)
- Creativity & originality in your work and approach
- Great communication skills and ability to meet deadlines
- Understanding of SEO
Other skills that businesses find valuable include digital marketing skills, basic web design, and accounting abilities. Some employers may also look for a online course sales business that has a bachelor's degree or formal education.
Additionally, you may want to consider putting together a portfolio of past work and experience. This includes samples of writing/research pieces, from school projects to internship work to career experience.
Business Savvy Skills
When starting an online course sales business, there are a few fundamental business skills you will want to learn in order to be successful:
- Leadership and training skills: A great team starts with YOU. Make sure you have all company policies and training procedures in place prior to hiring your team
- Decisive and self-confident: Over the course of your career, you will need decisions that could impact your business significantly. It's important you are able to think clearly and rationally about these decisions.
- Ability to understand the financials: You don't need to be an accountant, but it is important that you are able to clearly understand and define metrics such as expenses, revenue, profit, margins, COGS, etc.
- Strategic Thinking: Setting clear goals and benchmarks, identifying opportunities, risks. Ability to effectively communicate these insights to your team.
These are a few of many business savvy skills you should have (or work on) when starting an online course sales business.
For a full list, check out this article here.
Self Motivation Skills
Self motivation and discipline skills are critical in order to become successful in this field.
It's likely that you will find yourself starting and running your online course sales business from home, which could mean there are more distractions for you.
Here are the basic skills needed for self motivation & discipline:
- Becoming a self starter: It's important that you are capable of independently completing a task without the help or direction of anyone else
- Listening and following directions: When you are given direction by others, it's critical that you are able to follow directions and ask the right questions in order to get your job done
- Taking the initiative in problem solving: Instead of taking the easy route, you'll need to learn to troubleshoot issues on your own as much as possible.
Advice For Starting An Online Course Sales Business
We've interviewed thousands of successful founders at Starter Story and asked what advice they would give to entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
Here's the best advice we discovered for starting an online course sales business:
Kristin Larsen, founder of Diva Dog Bakery ($11K/month):
Trust your systems. If you’ve honed something that you know works, don’t be afraid to duplicate the process and try it for a new project. If something works - and works well - keep it simple. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Read the full interview ➜
Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan from the start is critical for the success of your online course sales business.
Because this allows you to roadmap exactly what you do, what your overall structure will look like, and where you want to be in the future.
For many entrepreneurs, writing out the business plan helps validate their idea and decide whether or not they should move forward with starting the business.
You may want to consider expanding upon these sections in your business plan:
- Executive Summary: Brief outline of your product, the market, and growth opportunities
- Overviews and Objectives: Overview of your business, target customers, and what you need to run your business
- Products and Services: Specifics on the products and services your business will provide
- Market Opportunities: Analysis of customer demographics, buyer habits and if your product is in demand
- Marketing: Outline of your marketing plan and how you plan to differentiate yourself from other customers
- Competitive analysis: Analysis of your competition and the strengths and weaknesses therein
- Operations: Hierarchal structure of the company and what it will take to run the business on the day-to-day
- Leadership Team: Detailing roles and responsibilities of each manager based on their specific skill-set
- Financial Analysis Understanding of all expenses, operating budgets, and projections for the future.
Learn more about how to write a business plan here
Determine Which Business Bank Account You Need
There are hundreds of banks out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that's right for your business.
Here are some factors you may want to consider:
- Location - Is your bank close enough that you can easily make deposits or get cash?
- Low Fees - Make sure to understand any and all fees associated with setting up and maintaining your bank account. Ask for a list - banks usually try to keep this hidden and in the fine print.
- Online Banking Services - Make sure you can easily navigate through your online portal and you have easy access to everything you need.
- Line of Credit - What do your options look like (even if you don't need this now, you may need this down the road).
- Every bank has something that differentiates them from the rest, so make sure whatever that is applied to your needs and values.
Check out this list of the 13 Best Banks for Small Business in 2020 and what makes them so unique.
Setting Up Your Online Course Sales Business (Formation and Legal)
When it comes to setting up your business, you may find yourself in a place where you have to make some financial and legal decisions.
The first thing you'll want to decide on is whether you want to be an LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp.
These three options are found to be the most common when starting a small business, and all serve to protect your personal assets and also provide you with certain tax benefits.
- LLC: All income and expenses from the business are reported on the LLC personal income tax return.
- S corp: Owners pay themselves salaries + receive dividends from profits.
- C Corp: C Corps are separately taxable entities that file a corporate tax return (Form 1120). No income tax is paid at the corporate level and any tax due is paid at the owners individual expense.
Depending on where you're conducting business, you'll also want to consider securing the proper permits, licenses and liability insurance.
Need to start an LLC? Create an LLC in minutes with ZenBusiness.
How Do I Pay Myself As A Small Business Owner?
Most entrepreneurs start a business to do something they love- but at the end of the day, you still have bills to pay (maybe now more than ever).
But it's important to strike the right balance - if you pay yourself too much, you could be putting your business at risk.
There are two common ways to pay yourself as a business owner:
1. Owner's Draw
Many entrepreneurs pay themselves through an owner's draw. This means that you are technically sean as "self-employed" through the eyes of the IRS and are not paid through regular wages.
At the point that you collect money from the draw, taxes typically are not taken out - so make sure you are prepared to pay these taxes once you file your individual return.
As an owner who takes a draw, you can legally take out as much as you want from your equity.
This type of compensation is suited for Sole props, LLCs, and partnerships. If you’re an S corp, you can pay yourself through both a salary and draw if you choose.
If you decide to pay yourself a salary, you will receive a set and recurring amount. This will be taxed by the federal government and the state you reside in.
The reality is that it can be really complicated to set your own salary, so we have some tips for you to consider:
- Take out a reasonable amount that allows you to live comfortably but also sets your business up for success
- Consider the number of hours you are working weekly + the type of duties you are performing.
- Set your salary based on your industry-standard, location, and profits (or projected profits)
- Look at your P&L statement: Deduct your own pay from that amount. This is important so you can first tackle important business expenses, and then pay yourself from the amount leftover.
- Pick a payroll schedule (and stick to it)! In the US, it's most common to pay yourself and employees twice a month.
To learn more about how to pay yourself and what is a reasonable amount, check out this article.
How To Price Your Online Course Sales
One of the most challenging aspects to starting an online course sales business is determining how much to charge for your online course sales.
When businesses under-price their product, this can be extremely detrimental to their bottom line and reputation.
Often times, businesses under-price their products to drive demand and volume, but that last thing you want is for customers to view your product/service as "cheap." Additionally, this can have a big impact on the type of customer you attract, which can be difficult to recover from.
On the other hand, when businesses over-price, this tends to be just as damaging to the business.
When customers buy, it's likely that they will explore the internet and look at other competitors to ensure they're getting the best value + deal. This is why it's so important that you research your competition and understand where you land in the marketplace.
Here are some factors to consider when pricing your product:
Understand your customer
It's important that out of the gates, you identify the type of customer you want to attract and how much they're willing to pay for your service. One great way to do this is by surveying your customers. Here are some important items you'll want to takeaway:
- Customer demographic: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Buying habits of your customer: What they buy + when they buy
- Level of price sensitivity with your customer
All of these segments will help you identify the type of customer you're attracting and how to price your product accordingly.
Understand your costs
When pricing your online course sales, it's critical that you first identify all of your costs and consequently mark up your online course sales so you can factor in a profit.
The actual cost of your online course sales may include things like:
- The actual cost to make the product (ie. raw materials, supplies, manufacturer).
- Shipping + overhead fees
- Operating costs to run your business
You may want to consider creating a spreadsheet with every single expense involved in operating/owning your business. This will give you an idea as to what you need to generate in order to at the very least, break-even and will help you price your products to factor in a profit.
Create revenue goals
When determining the price of your online course sales, you'll want to create goals for revenue + how much profit you want your online course sales business to make.
This process is simpler than you may think:
- Think about your breakeven cost (by completing the above step).
- Create a revenue goal based on your break-even cost
- Evaluate the # of items you plan to sell in a given period (make sure this is a realistic number)
- Divide your revenue goal by the number of items you plan to sell
This figure will help determine your estimated price per product in order to meet your revenue goals.
Evaluate your competition
The last piece in determining how to price your online course sales is by simply looking at your competition.
The best way to do this is by finding like-minded businesses that offer product(s) with similar perceived value. Then, you can compare prices of the different businesses and determine where your online course sales fits best in the marketplace.
All of these factors play an equal part in pricing your online course sales, so it's important you evaluate each one individually to come up with an accurate price that will help optimize your business from the start.
Gross Margin Calculator: How to Calculate The Gross Margin For Your Online Course Sales
Our calculator is designed to be simple and easy to use.
The goal is to help you set realistic expectations and understand what is considered a healthy gross margin for your online course sales business.
What Type Of Customers Will Buy Your Online Course Sales
It's important to first establish who you will be selling to, whether it's to businesses or consumers.
Typically, in this industry, products are sold to B2C markets (business-to-consumer).
Let's take a look at what this means for your online course sales business:
B2C (or business to consumer) is a transaction where businesses sell their products or services to the consumer directly.
In this market, consumer behavior is the primary driver for your business decisions - so it's important that you truly identify who your customer is, and what their buyer habits are when building your product/service.
B2C is that you are able to cast a very wide net when targeting your customers. Your product may interest a large number of consumers or a specific niche.
B2C is that consumers hold all the power - so if your website is not the most user friendly, or does not rank in the top search results on Google, chances are, your customer is going to shop elsewhere.
When building your online course sales business, it's critical that you hone in on who your target audience is, and why they need your product over your competition.
Here are some items to consider when identifying your buyer persona:
Building an MVP (Minimal Viable Product)
When building a online course sales business, it's critical that you first validate your product/service rather than rushing to build it right away.
This could save you months, if not years of building the wrong product/service.
If you're hoping to decrease any sort of risk that comes with launching your online course sales business, designing a prototype can be a great way to de-risk your situation.
The point of your online course sales prototype is that it doesn't have to be perfect.
In the beginning stages, it doesn't matter how rough V1 of your prototype is, it's more important to just get started and you can always refine from there based on feedback from your network and most importantly your customers.
How To Build A MVP
Here are several different ways of building a prototype/MVP:
- Start by building a landing page to see if customers actually need your product and if they are willing to pay for it
- Build a very basic version of your idea and ask for immediate feedback from potential customers
- Present a problem and solution via Facebook/Instagram Ads and see what the response is like
Kristin Larsen, founder of Diva Dog Bakery dives deep into the process of designing and prototyping their product:
Unlike my first program launch experience, I wasn’t fumbling around with new-to-me tech - I knew exactly what I was doing, which made things so much easier!
I spent about two weeks fleshing out a general outline, two weeks putting together all of the material in our curriculum platform (Teachable), and another two weeks creating launch funnels and workshop slides.
Knowing I would one day relaunch Diva Dog Bakery in some capacity, I had kept all of my products, supplies, and information over the years. This really came in handy when creating the program content. Plus, I can use it as an example when students ask questions.
I hired subcontractors to design a simple one-page sales page, update my logo, proofread the course content and create a recipe book as part of the training material.
How To Find The Right Developer For Your Online Course Sales Business
If you (or others on your team) don't have the necessary coding/design skills to build the product on your own, finding the right developer for your online course sales business is a critical piece to bringing your idea to life.
Prior to hiring someone, you'll want to:
- Have a very clear understanding of what your product (or MVP) will look like
- Understand what the details of the user experience will look like (pages, how users sign up, backend administrative details, billing, reports etc). It may help to draw out the prototype and UX experience on a design platform such as Sketch
- Understand what features you want to implement now and even those in the future
- Understand the costs and time associated with hiring a developer and set a budget (more on that below)
Here are some ways you can find a developer:
Arielle Frank, founder of Clout Collective talks about her experiences and lessons learned when hiring a developer as a non-technical founder:
My first attempt to find a developer was a massive failure. I was basically screaming to be taken advantage of with my lack of technical knowledge and a heart full of hope. I signed an extremely unfavorable contract with a developer based in Morocco who claimed to offer “discounted” development services in exchange for equity in the company. By “discounted” I mean that it would cost only $40K to build the MVP. At the time I had no frame of reference for whether or not this was normal and justified it to myself.
Luckily, after a lot more internet sleuthing, I found my current developer, Adeva. Working with Adeva was the opposite experience of my initial encounter in every way. At $8K, Adeva’s quote for my MVP was literally 1/5th the cost of the original developer! I decided to save money on a front-end designer for V1 by using a template and designing things where I could in Figma.
I was forced to figure out many of the details and features of the platform upfront since Adeva couldn’t give me a quote without detailed user stories.
When building out the prospective features, I tried to focus on the end result and work backward from there.
For example, the end goal was for a content creator to be able to read a review and know whether or not they want to collaborate with a specific brand. I used this goal to inform the questions I collected for the reviews and the best way to display this info. During this phase, I also relied heavily on my beta testers for feedback about which info would be the most useful for them.
It’s tempting to add a bunch of cool, slick features when you’re building your product, but my brilliant mentor encouraged me to focus on doing one thing extremely well.
🚀 How To Launch Your Online Course Sales Business
Build A Website
Building a website is imperative when launching your business, and with the right tools in place, this can be a simple task to check off the list (without having to hire someone).
- Pick a domain name that's easy to remember and easy to type
- Choose a Web Hosting Plan (ie. Shopify, Squarespace)
- Make sure you choose the right theme and design
- Implement the proper page structure (ie. about page, contact page, pricing etc)
To learn more about how to build a stellar website with little stress, we give you all the details on this step-by-step guide.
Best Website Platforms To Use For Your Online Course Sales Business:
There are a variety of websites platforms out there, and it's important to choose the right one that will set you up for success.
Here's everything you need to know about the two most common platforms for your online course sales business:
Free and open-source content management system based on PHP and MySQL.
Free to use/open source but you will need to pay for the hosting.
Businesses using WordPress:
The all-in-one solution for anyone looking to create a beautiful website.
- Personal Plan: $12/month
- Business Plan: $18/month
- Basic: $26/month
Businesses using Squarespace:
Once you have chosen the domain, web hosting, and platform, it's time to get started with the design phase.
Themes are a great way to produce the fundamental style and identity of your website - this includes everything from your font design to your blog post styles.
One of the best ways to get started is to simply explore the various themes (free or paid depending on what you're looking for) and test them on your site.
If web-design really isn't in the cards for you, you may want to consider outsourcing a web designer to help bring your vision and brand to life.
Launch Strategies For Your Online Course Sales Business
There are various different ways you can launch your online course sales business successfully.
Here are a few different strategies to get customers excited about your online course sales business.
- Build hype with a landing page: you can effectively do this through waiting lists, discounts, countdown timer etc
- Create a teaser video: even just a 30 second video is a great way to exposure for your online course sales business, and possibly even go viral
- Reach out to influencers: The right influencer for your product has the ability to reach your audience with just one post, and because of their loyal following, this could lead to a big return for you.
- Get Press: Whether you plan a PR stunt or get exposure through a popular news outlet, this is a great way to attract initial customers
- Launch on popular sites: A great way to get buzz about your online course sales business is to submit your launch to popular startup sites.
Here are a few popular sites to launch on:
Learn more about how to launch your business successfully ➜ here
Kristin Larsen, founder of Diva Dog Bakery dives deep into the process of launching the business:
As with Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, launching this program was made easier because I had a built-in audience.
Not only could I launch to my Believe in a Budget (my personal finance blog based on my experiences with both saving and making money) audience, but I could also launch to my Become a Pinterest VA TODAY! audience. Between the two email lists alone, I was able to directly email over 50,000 people.
I launched with a free live training workshop with a pitch at the end to join the program. I learned from my other program that this sales technique works very well, especially if you offer an exclusive coupon during the training workshop.
Because of my built-in audiences and proven sales techniques, sales started coming in immediately. I was excited to surpass my launch goals!
To get to this point, I spent about $2,500 on contractors and setting up various platforms for various parts of the process, from web design to graphic design to proofreading.
I could have done this work myself, but I wanted to be efficient and get everything ready quickly. In less than two months, we were able to build the program, launch, and switch to evergreen.
Get Press Coverage For Your Online Course Sales Business
The more buzz around your brand - the more the phones ring, the more traffic to your website, and the more customers as a result.
Here are a few ways you can get press for your business:
Press releases are a great way to share big announcements or news, but in order to get any traction, you'll need to find a way to make your press release stand out amongst others.
Try to convey a story that really matters, not just to you, but to the reporter and to their audience.
Here are some things to consider when submitting a press release:
- Craft a catchy subject (keep it short and sweet).
- Acknowledge the journalist's past work and interests - this is key!
- Include the main point of the story in the first paragraph, heck, even the first sentence. Reporters want to hear the juice first and foremost.
- Focus on the facts and try to limit the amount of jargon used.
- Pitch yourself! Help them put a face to the story.
- Make sure your topic is newsworthy. If it's not, find a way to!
- Try not to include any attachments of your release!
Email is one of the most effective and preferred way to send your press release, so as long as you keep your pitch brief, interesting and personalized (no cold emails), you should stand a chance!
Get Press Using HARO
HARO, otherwise known as "Help a Reporter Out" is an outlet for journalists to source upcoming stories and opportunities for media coverage.
The best part is, HARO is free to use! There are, of course, premium versions you can purchase, but the free version is still an accessible way to get press.
Once you set up an account, HARO essentially will email you based on stories (that are relevant to you) that need to be covered where you will then have a chance to essentially "bid on the story."
Here are some tips when crafting your pitch:
- Discuss your experience and expertise in the space. Make sure it's obvious why you're relevant to this story.
- Answer the question in 3-4 sentences. Try and be as direct as possible
- Offer to provide the reporter with more information and make sure to give them your contact info
Plan a Publicity Stunt
Planning a publicity stunt is an effective and quick way to raise awareness for your brand and gain some traction from the press.
If you're looking to plan a stunt, the objective should be to be bold and create something memorable
However, being bold has a fine line - it's important that you consider the timing of your stunt to ensure you don't come off insensitive or unethical. For example, timing may not be in your favor if you plan something during the general election, or in most recent cases, a global pandemic.
In order to measure the success of your stunt, it's important that you first determine your end goal, for example:
- Is the stunt aimed to raise money for your business or a particular organization?
- Is the stunt aimed to drive more traffic to your website?
- Is the stunt aimed to get more followers and engagement on Instagram?
Here are a few tips for creating a great publicity stunt:
- Research to ensure that there haven't been similar stunts done in the past by other businesses - this could easily turn off journalists and your audience.
- Make sure you can explain the stunt in one headline - this will help grab the media's attention. In other words, simplify!
- The stunt should be related to the product you are promoting. Even if the stunt is a success in terms of viewers, but it doesn't tie back to your original goal, then it's not useful.
- Keep the stunt visual with videos/images.
- Leverage the internet and social media platforms for your stunt by sharing your message across a variety of audiences. This will help with word of mouth and the overall success of your event.
To learn other strategies on how to get press, check out our full guide here.
🌱 How To Grow Your Online Course Sales Business
The Freemium Model
Offering free trials to your platform is a great way to gain exposure for your business and potentially get new customers!
Finding the right online course sales business is a big deal for most people, so it can be important for customers to try a free version with limited features prior to making a big investment.
Once your customer reaches the limits of their free account, they're much more likely to invest in the premium version so they can gain access to all of the features your product offers.
There are a few different ways you can limit certain aspects of your product:
- Usage quotas: Storage limits or limiting the number of times they can utilize a feature
- Limited features: Only allowing your free user to utilize certain features vs all features - this is also a great way to upsell during the user's experience
- Limited support: Customer support can be time-consuming, by limiting the level of support to free users this is a great incentive for them to upgrade (and will save you a lot of time and money)!
Consider Working With Instagram Influencers
Partnering with like-minded influencers (within your industry) is one of the most effective ways to grow your social media organically.
Industry influencers already have an established and loyal following. With one post, your product immediately establishes a connection with a brand new audience. It's that powerful.
When finding influencers to promote your product, do your research and make sure that their following will actually be interested in your product.
It's easy to be blinded by any influencer with a huge following, but if those followers don't resonate with your product, there may not be any value there... so make sure you do your research!
Evan Marshall, founder of Plain Jane discusses how "micro-influencers" have impacted his business:
Influencer marketing has been huge for us. Our approach is pretty simple. We give out samples of our products and ask people to post about us on social media aka a micro-influencer strategy.
We really like this approach because we get authentic stories and content. We cannot really control the messaging so the product has to speak for itself. We don’t really take product photos at all. Our customers take the photos and we ask to reuse them.
With any influencer strategy, you have to be very sure you’re targeting the right people and engaging with them. You can make sure you’re targeting the right influencers by looking through their posts and then looking through the profiles of their engaged followers.
It takes more time per influencer but the payoff is certainly worth it. Make sure their followers look like your existing customers.
It takes a ton of time and work to grow a social media following this way but it’s worth it. Other accounts have tried to grow themselves through botting or other manipulations. As a CBD company, we didn’t want to give Instagram any reason to shutdown our account so we’ve done everything through content and real engagement. It’s not magic to make this happen. You just have to post consistently and then reply or like every single comment you get. It takes months but it works
Improve your SEO
SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Here are some tools that can help you choose the right keywords for your online course sales business.
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
Build A Blog
One of the most effective ways to build brand awareness and grow your business is through consistently blogging.
We've outlined some useful tips for you to consider when creating content:
Consistency and Quantity
Quality is important, but it should be the standard for any content you publish.
What’s more important is consistency and quantity.
Consistency is as simple as committing to publishing and sharing a certain number of posts per week. For me, that’s three per week right now.
This kind of commitment is key, because one day, a random post will blow up, and you will have never expected it.
The easiest mind trap is to think "I’m posting too much", and “I need to give my readers/audience/this platform a break”.
This is nonsense.
There is no such thing as oversaturation. Well, there is, but it is just someone else’s opinion.
For every person that tells you you are posting too much, there is another person that wants even more of your content.
You should ignore people’s opinions on how much you post.
Patience & Persistence
Keep posting, keep trying, and keep putting out good content on the regular. Your time will come, and when it does, it will change everything.
The only thing you have control over is your content.
You can’t control how people will react to it. You can’t control pageviews, likes, or shares.
So the only metric you should focus on is how much content you can put out in a week, month, etc.
Where to share your blog content
I know it sounds obvious, but the best places to share your content is on your mailing list. It is guaranteed traffic and it is a great way to get rapid feedback from your most loyal readers.
Send newsletters often. I have done once a week since starting, and I’m moving to twice a week soon.
Work on increasing your mailing list as well. Look into ways to increase your conversion rate to your mailing list. I added a flyout popup thing to my site and now I’m collecting ~30 emails per day.
An email newsletter is one of the most powerful assets you can have and it is worth its weight in gold.
Reddit is one of my favorite places to promote content.
It is a very scary place because you will often get banned or heckled, but it can really pay off.
Create social media accounts for your blog, the main ones I use:
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Set up Buffer and share all of your blog posts to all of your accounts. All of these little shares really do add up.
Automate this as much as possible. I automated all of my social media for Starter Story.
When I started out, I put together a spreadsheet of relevant Facebook groups for my niche, and I would post to these groups whenever I had a big story I wanted to share.
Grow Your Email List
The more engaged list of emails, the more engaged customers, which ultimately leads to more sales.
One of the best ways to start growing your list is by providing your customer with something free (or discounted) in return.
This could also be anything from:
- Fascinating case study
- Video series
- Free week of the product
- Discount on the product
Learn more about how to grow your email list and improve email marketing ➜ here.
Dylan Jacob, founder of Brumate states their email collection tactic that is proven to work:
We use Spin-a-Sale for this (you spin a wheel for a discount code in exchange for subscribing to our email list). This has been the best email-collecting tool we have found because the customer truly feels like they won a prize rather than just a coupon code.
Even if a customer doesn’t convert right away, if we have their email we have a 19% chance of converting them into a future customer whether that is through future promotions, new releases, or simply just sending an email at the right time for a purchase to finally make sense for them.
We also have a return customer rate of over 14%, so one out of every 6 people we convert will end up buying from us again with an average order value of over $60.00.
Add an exit-intent popup to your online store
A great way to double, or even triple, your email opt-in rate and to grow your list is to add an exit-intent popup to your site, and offering a discount or content upgrade for subscribers.
Here's an example of what that might look like:
One thing that I spent years NOT doing, that I now kick myself about, is adding an "exit intent pop-up" to our site, which lets people enter a sweepstakes to win a Xero Shoes gift certificate.
That one idea has added over 100,000 subscribers to our email list, which is one of our most effective marketing channels.
Improve Your Email Marketing
Different types of emails
Here are the most common types of email campaigns you can send to your customers and their benefits:
- Welcome emails - the perfect way to provide information from the start with a clear CTA. Make sure to tell your customer everything they need to know about your product or service.
- Newsletters - a great way to give customers updates or send out your latest content
- Product launch emails - the quickest (and easiest) way to increase sales is by selling to current customers. Make sure they're the first on the list to know about your new product
- Promotional emails - promote discounts, deals coupons etc. Try and make this feel exclusive and for a limited time only
- Abandoned cart emails - give your customers a reason to complete their purchase!
Here's a great resource for finding curated email designs, for all types of email campaigns!
Abandonded Cart Flow
The abandoned cart workflow is one of the most effective strategies for turning your lead into a customer, and a powerful tool to have if you're an e-commerce business.
Think about all the times that you went on a shopping frenzy only to add items to your cart and then either forget or realize nows not the right time to pull the trigger.
Then, minutes later you receive an email saying "Hurry up! Your cart is waiting - and we want to provide you with 20% off your order."
Maybe that's the special touch (and discount) you needed to pull that trigger.
Implementing this workflow can automatically trigger this for your business every time a customer abandons their cart.
Here's a great example of an abandoned cart email from Brooklinen:
Things they do well:
- Showcase 5-star reviews from other customers
- Offer a small discount + free shipping
- Great design + clear call to actions!
Experiment With Pay Per Click Ads (PPC)
Pay-per-click (PPC) is a performance-based marketing method that allows you to show specific ads for services or products oriented to a very defined target, with the goal that the user visits your website or landing page.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Consider connecting the ad to your corresponding landing page so that the audience receives the necessary information after clicking on the ad.
- Conversion Tracking: When running PPC campaigns, be sure to run the ads with conversion tracking.
- Focus on quality keywords, even if there are few as this will save you time and money. When assessing the performance of a keyword, it's important to track the expense, conversion, and cost per conversion, as well as the ROI.
PPC advertising can be a very important lead generator as long as it's done properly. Your PPC campaign is intended to drive traffic to your website and help the business scale.
Additionally, if the campaign is not having the desired results, you can make the necessary changes immediately to improve them.
Ryan Schortmann, founder of Display Pros talks about their investment in PPC Ads:
My name is Ryan Schortmann and I’m the founder of Display Pros. We are a custom trade show display booth company offering easy to use portable display “kits” for small and medium businesses wanting to get into the trade show game.
It did not take long to come to the realization that to compete at any reasonable level, we were going to need to take the plunge and invest in Pay Per Click ads and display.
From experience, I know that it is important to give Google’s hivemind some time to settle in before each campaign starts seeing consistent results (this is largely dependent on budget).
A certain amount of PPC budget must be viewed as a “marketing research” expense and then you can look at the analytics data and make informed decisions on where to refine, tweak or plain scrap an idea.
Google Shopping was an entirely new concept for me. You can’t assign keywords to products so at first, I was asking myself “How the hell do you refine these?”. Then I found some good reading material and courses and learned of some advanced methods that the pros are using. It turns out you can utilize negative keyword lists combined with the priority setting on each shopping campaign to “shape” the keywords that are coming in and how much you are spending on them.
To learn more about PPC Ads and Google Shopping, check out this video to learn everything you need to know!
Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising is one of the leading ways to get the word out when it comes to online course sales business.
There are various different Social Media platforms available to you. Some may be more critical for your marketing efforts than others, however, it's important to have an understanding of what's out there and available to you.
Let's talk about a few of the main platforms and what makes them unique:
- Facebook Advertising - more than 2 billion monthly users. Facebook is the best for lead generation + capturing email addresses for e-commerce businesses.
- Instagram Advertising - approximately 500 million monthly users and has a higher audience engagement rate than any other platform. Instagram ads are best for linking to a product page or landing page and reaches the 18-29 age group most effectively.
- Twitter Advertising- Small businesses typically use twitter ads to drive brand awareness, but the platform is meant more for organic engagement (and is not as heavily used for paid advertising)
- Pinterest Advertising - 175 million monthly users and most effectively reaches the female audience. Pinterest is great for promoting products without "promoted". The promoted pins have a way of blending right in.
- LinkedIn Advertising - 227 million monthly users and is geared towards the B2B market and generates the highest quality leads. Great platform for recruiters, high-end products and services that will help businesses
It's important to first define your goal/objective so that you don't waste time and money into the wrong platform:
Here are some different questions to ask yourself as it relates to your goals:
- Do I want to simply drive brand awareness?
- Do I want to drive users to my website to gather information?
- Do I want to increase sales and get my customer to take action?
From there, choose the platform that targets your audience best and start experimenting!
Learn more about social media advertising ➜ here.
Founder Andy Hayes talks about mastering FB ads and the pixel:
The biggest bang for your buck will likely be mastering Facebook and it’s platform - which we all know is pay for play, so you’ll have to come up with a small amount of budget to start for marketing.
We’ve spent countless hours (and paid numerous coaches) before we cracked the code that works for us on Facebook, but it is working really well for us now.
Some of the most important things to know when it comes to FB Ads:
- Start with retargeting (that’s showing ads to people who already know you but did not purchase). Master this - and start building information on your Facebook Pixel - before you do anything else
- Once you have that down, try working with the 1% “Lookalike” audience to prospect for new customers. This may take awhile because your pixel audience is small, so try layering on interests - 1% Lookalike and your largest competitor, for example. Don’t use interest-only targeting until you master this.
- Great photography and videography is key, as is smart copy. Research what’s out there in your industry and constantly test - what works for one company may not work for other people.
- Make sure you have good offers. For example, we have a $5 trial for our subscription, which converts affordably - if we promoted our subscription with the standard $30 front charge, it wouldn’t be as cost-effective.
🏃🏼♀️ How To Run Your Online Course Sales Business
How To Retain Customers For Your Online Course Sales Business
Retaining customers is one of the most effective ways to grow your online course sales business.
Oftentimes, it's easy to find yourself focusing on generating new customers, vs retaining your current ones.
Look at it this way - you are 60-70% more likely to sell a new product to an existing customer than you are a new customer.
That's not to say that finding new customers and revenue streams is not important, however, the easiest (and most inexpensive) source of new revenue is right there in front of you.
Here are some ways you can retain customers for your online course sales business:
- Responding to comments on social media
- Send discounts (or freebies) to loyal customers
- Provide valuable content, for free
- Write a hand written thank you note
- Provide awesome customer service and build relationships with customers
To find out more tips and tricks on retaining customers, check out this article ➜ here
Kristin Larsen, founder of Diva Dog Bakery dives deep into the process of attracting and retaining customers:
I immediately turned the live training workshop from the launch into an evergreen workshop with a great post-workshop sales sequence.
With Become a Pinterest VA TODAY!, outside of two public launch periods, the program is ‘behind-the-scenes evergreen.’ In other words, people can only access the sales page if they watch the workshop, and the cart is only open for them for a short period of time.
I briefly experimented with that approach with Diva Dog Bakery™, and while it was getting sales, I wanted to try something new.
Because the Diva Dog Bakery™ program is a much lower price, I realized people might just want to buy the program without watching an hour-long workshop.
I changed the sales page to allow people to sign up for the workshop or immediately purchase the program, and sales shot up right away.
Currently, I’m only promoting the program through my existing audiences, a handful of great affiliates, and the occasional Facebook ad, like the one below.
This is the only ad we have been running since we launched and it’s performed really well for us. Again, when something works, we stick with it!
If you have an existing audience, don’t be afraid to leverage it. You worked hard to build that audience - take advantage of it!
Because the program is so new and different, word of mouth has really helped. This is a really fun side hustle that you can do from your kitchen!
Diversify Your Product Line
Adding new products to your business is a great way to expand into new markets and grow your business.
It's important to note that adding new products and diversifying may not be in the cards for you right this moment, and that's okay. You can always consider it down the road.
Here are some reasons you may want to considering adding/diversifying your product
- Meeting the needs of your customers
- Establish yourself as a top provider in your industry and stay ahead of the game with competition
- Resistance to downturns/trends fading
- Create new revenue streams
Provide Great Customer Service
Providing exceptional care and creating relationships with clients is a great way to build your reputation and retain customers.
Whether you are an online business or a physical business, it's highly important to communicate with customers and make them feel like they are the priority.
Just remember: customer service represents your brand, values, vision and YOU as a person.
As a brand, you want to deliver an experience that authentic, honest and transparent.
Don't make the mistake of giving your audience less credit than they deserve.
If you go around chasing every trend and only focused on yourself and money, you’re going to lose very quickly.
There have been many times where we have been tempted to do this but stayed true.
Sure we sacrificed sales, but we kept our integrity, played the long game and people saw and appreciated that, and really began emotionally investing in the brand.
Build a Referral Program
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business and acquire new customers. Especially when you are starting out, it’s important to build a solid referral program to encourage existing customers to help you find new ones.
A great way to do that is by offering a reward (ie. credit on your service or cash) to customers that refer you to their friends and family.
A fantastic referral program will help with clout, credibility, and establishing yourself in the space.
Word of Mouth
The most tried and true way to grow a online course sales business is through word of mouth - some entrepreneurs would say it's more important than all social media.
Why you should focus on word of mouth:
- Consumers trust word of mouth above all other forms of marketing
- 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising
- 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe it is the most effective form of marketing
Learn more about word of mouth in our guide: 30 Ways Founders Grow Their Business ➜
We put together the best resources on the internet to help you start your online course sales business.
- Social media tools such as Instagram
- Email tools such as Drip
- Education tools such as Teachable
- ** tools** such as Drip Ecommerce CRM
- How To Build Your Successful Online Teaching Business ...
- How To Start An Online School Business: A Complete Guide
- 7 Steps To Building A Business Selling Online Courses