The Essential Secret to Selling Online Courses for a Living
The real math for selling online courses
When I started my journey in selling online courses, I had become convinced that I could make a full-time living quickly from it. I invested in other course creators' courses about how to make passive income from selling online courses. They all discussed how they had made six to seven figures from single course launches.
After going down this journey for six months, I have realized that there is one thing that determines your income in your online courses: audience size. If you do not have an audience you will struggle to make money. It doesn't matter how great your course is. If you have a large audience, you will likely sell many copies of your course. It won't matter if your course is not that great.
When I talk about audience size, I am specifically talking about your email or text list. You need a method to communicate with your audience that you directly control. Your Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers, and Twitter followers are not realistic metrics of your audience.
Previous studies have shown that people are far more likely to purchase from an email compared to social media. In addition, you do not even know if your message is reaching your audience on social media.
The reason why your audience size is the biggest factor is that a good conversion rate for a sales email is 1%. This may be a surprise, but if you are going to become successful at selling courses, you need to be able to project your income.
To see how audience size affects your online course income, we are going to go examine the income from two types of course sales: a launch and an email funnel.
The Math of a Course Launch
You have finally finished your course and you are so excited to be able to fill it with students. Once this happens, you want to let everyone know about your new course. The best way to promote your course initially is through a launch. If you launch specifically to your email list, you can estimate your income from a 1% conversion rate.
1000 person email list
Let's say your price your course at $297. You have an email list of 1000 people. Let's break down what you can expect to earn.
1000 email list x .01 conversion rate= 10 people who buy
10 people x $297 per person = $2,970 revenue
This means that you will receive $2,970 from a 1000 person email list. Also remember, that from that you still need to pay transaction fees.
Now, also remember that you will have your own business software expenses for your courses as well that will have to come out of your revenue.
10,000 person email list
If you had 10 times the people on your email list, unsurprisingly, you can expect to get 10x the income on a launch.
10,000 person email list x .01 conversion rate = 100 people who buy
100 people x $297 per person = $29,700
Now, you may still have the same business expenses compared to the 1000 person email list situation, but you will need to pay your business expenses out of your revenue.
If your audience size is only 1000 people, you should still launch your course, but it helps to be realistic about what a good income from that launch should be. You could earn more or less than a 1% conversion rate. However, the most important factor is that as you grow your audience it will be easier to make more money from the same product in a launch.
The Math of an Email Funnel
Once you have launched your course, you don't want to sell your course only once. There are two different models for continual course sales: regular course launches or an email funnel. What would your projected revenue per month look like for the same course in an email funnel?
100 email subscribers per month
If you had a 1000 person email list, it is unlikely that you are getting 1000 email subscribers per month. However, it's fairly likely that you could get 100 email subscribers per month. From the same source as above, they estimate a conversion rate for new member sequences to be 2.7%. Using these stats, let's determine what you can expect to earn:
100 email subscribers x 0.027 conversion rate = 2.7 or 3 people who buy per month
3 people x $297 per person = $891 per month
Assuming you spend $300 or less per month on business expenses, this would result in a gross income of around $7,092 per year.
1000 email subscribers per month
Now, if you have 10,000 email subscribers, you will likely be getting more traffic. Therefore, let's suggest that you have 1000 new email subscribers per month.
1000 email subscribers x 0.027 conversion rate = 27 people per month
27 people x $297 per person = $8,019
Assuming you spend $500 or less per month on business expenses, this would result in a gross income of around $90,228 per year.
How to Start an Online Course Business
You can make a full-time living from selling online courses, but it requires you to have a large audience.
I would suggest starting with content before you sell an online course. Create a blog, a Youtube channel, or a podcast to attract an audience. You can get my worksheet to help you plan your content.
Capture this audience by creating an email list. You can start an email list for free with ConvertKit. In your content, share with your audience where they can subscribe to your email list. This will allow you to build an audience and determine if you truly enjoy teaching your topic.
First, build your audience. Then, create online courses to sell.