How to Create an Online Course for Free – 5 Ways Revealed

With online teaching, you can book your time with individual students on various platforms like Outschool or iTalki and get paid a high hourly rate. But an additional revenue stream teachers should consider is online course creation.

It’s the secret to how many online teachers are making a steady, reliable, passive income. Take Jack of To Fluency, a former ESL teacher who started teaching his own private clients via 1 on 1 booking sessions and online courses.

Online courses take a lot of work, but there are many ways both free and paid to get started selling online courses

Creating an online course, what you need to know

Creating an online course takes a lot of time effort and planning. There are quite a few data points and steps you first need to consider before you spend the time and effort required to make an online course as a teacher.

You need to consider your audience, the unique selling point of the course, how you will actually drive traffic to your course to make sales, the technology required to get started and more.

Who is your audience?

When creating an online course as a teacher you first need to think about who your target audience is and how your course will be structures from start to finish as well as how it will fit into your overall business model.

Perhaps you’re teaching on Fiverr, and you want to create multiple packages and have an online course as an upsell in addition to your 1 on 1 classes. How would the course be a compliment to your online class?

Perhaps instead you want to do what Nancy Taylor has done and become a teacher for online teachers looking looking to build a brand in the online teaching space? Regardless, getting specific and knowing your audience is essential.

How will you drive traffic to your course?

If you build it they won’t come, unless you’re teaching on Udemy or Skillshare that is. Creating the course is simply one aspect, you need a way to drive sales.

One advantage of using a marketplace like Skillshare or Udemy is that they can help drive organic sales of your course without you needing to do any work. You will still want to promote your course on Instagram, Facebook your YouTube channel or blog but it’s great to know you can make sales if marketing is not your thing.

For all other options like building a website with Kajabi, WordPress or Teachable you will need to first have some type of traffic source. Be it a blog, YouTube channel or email list.

What are you comfortable with from a technical standpoint and your budget?

To create an online course you’ll need a camera, lens, microphone and a laptop to edit said course on. In addition, once you have your video lessons ready, where will you host them?

Again, Skillshare and Udemy are the free options. You could also use Teachable which allows you to create an online course website. It does have a learning curve, but it’s simple enough for an average user.

Last is going with WordPress and a learning management plugin. We love WordPress, but strongly discourage any solo content creator from using an LMS plugin. Any technical issue, updates, payment gateway integration and security fall on you.

This is why we strongly suggest Teachable for online course creation or Udemy and Skillshare for the free and easy route.

5 Ways to create an online course to sell (free and paid)

So once you’ve decided that creating an online course is for you, here are all the different ways you can create a course for free as well as paid options that you could potentially leverage.

  • Udemy and Skillshare
  • Teachable or Thinkific
  • Kajabi
  • WordPress and an LMS plugin
  • Gumroad

Udemy and Skillshare – Online course marketplaces

As we already alluded to, both Udemy and Skillshare are ideal platforms for online course creation. With each marketplace you can signup for free and begin uploading your course.

Skillshare is not ideal if you’re wanting to create courses based around grammar or a specific language. It’s a better fit for courses geared more for writing, adults wanting to learn how to teach online as well as how to teach online with a specific platform.

Udemy by contrast you can upload courses on whatever you want. From learning how to bake sourdough bread, to bee keeping to learning how to speak Spanish, all topics are welcome.

So which one is better? Skillshare is much more restrictive about their topics but do a better job of promoting your course to new students. Udemy allows for courses on pretty much anything, however they tend to burry new courses deep in their algorithm.

Pros:

  • Both marketplaces are totally free to use to host your courses.
  • Udemy and Skillshare do a good job of promoting your course organically to a new audience.
  • Both are a great choice for new teachers and instructors who don’t have a traffic source already.
  • Because of the low price your course will sell, it’s an easier sell on a blog or a YouTube channel.
  • Each platform has an affiliate program you can join and leverage.

Cons:

  • Students are customers of Udemy and Skillshare. As such, you don’t have direct access to your students.
  • The pay per enrollment is low. Even if you price your Udemy course at $199, you will still only make $3-$7 per sale due to deep discounts by Udemy. Skillshare pays per premium minutes so the pay is based on how many minutes you have watched and how much money Skillshare made that month.
  • You’re building on top of of company and not your own brand.

Teachable or Thinkific – Create an online course website

The next step up from leveraging a marketplace is to build out your own dedicated course website with it’s own URL and courses that your students can purchase.

One of the best and most cost effective ways to do do this is to use a website builder like Teachable or Thinkific. We prefer Teachable because they have a better checkout process, more modern looking design and have better built in marketing features like a blog, coupon codes and cross sells.

Overall though, you can’t go wrong with either option as they allow you to create your own self hosted website without needing to worry about the technical aspects of selling online like payment gateways, refunds, managing affiliates and so forth.

Pros:

  • Sell your own courses at whatever price you want under your own brand.
  • These website builders take care of all the technical and security details that go into managing an online course website so you can focus on your students.
  • Helpful marketing features built in like upsells, cross sells, coupon codes and more.
  • They both come with free plans to test them out.

Cons:

  • You must have some process setup already to drive sales. Be it paid advertising, a high traffic blog or YouTube channel.
  • These website builders cost a low monthly fee. Not a big deal if you’re making sales to justify the cost, but if you’re brand new with no traffic source they are not for you.

Kajabi – The all in one solution

Kajabi is an expensive, all in one marketing solution for internet marketers looking to sell an online course. Kajabi is different from Teachable because it incorporates all the tools and services you need to sell in one platform.

Specifically, you get your own custom website, email marketing (with automations), blogging functionality, podcast hosting, webinars, analytics and of course the ability to make an online course.

While you can put all these services together independently and only pay for what you need, Kajabi is an appealing option if you’re going to take advantage of everything that Kajabi has to offer.

Pros:

  • Kajabi is powerful, all-in-one software for selling online.
  • Grow your traffic through blogging, podcasting and YouTube the capture emails and promote your courses.

Cons:

  • Expensive for total beginners and if you’re not going to leverage all that Kajabi offers, it’s more cost effective to buy only what services you need.

WordPress and an LMS plugin

WordPress and Bluehost are what powers Teach and GO. It’s easily the best blogging platform if you’re looking to make a high traffic website. One aspect of a self hosted WordPress website that we love is the ability to use plugins.

For WordPress and online courses there are learning management plugins or LMS for short. The best overall LMS plugins are Member Press Courses and Learn Dash. These two plugins are specifically designed to sell online courses with your WordPress website.

Please note that while LMS plugins are powerful and feature rich they are more geared for a small team of people who will manage all the different aspects of an online course website. If you’re a solo creator or if you’re not particularly tech savvy, LMS plugins will be overwhelming to manage.

Pros:

  • LMS plugins allow you to build your own self hosted website with WordPress.
  • Full control of the branding and user experience from start to finish.
  • Add any feature you want or need with various plugins.

Cons:

  • Overwhelming to manage as a solo creator. You’re in charge of security updates, payment processor integration, design, hosting your video and lesson content and more.

Gumroad – The simple free option

Gumroad allows creators and teachers to sell digital products and memberships with ease. The way it works is that you upload your course content and material to Gumroad and when a student purchases them they are able to stream the videos from Gumroad and download any additional material you provide.

Gumroad does have various security measures in place like linking purchases to an email and IP address to prevent sharing of premium content on social media. It is not as advanced as Teachable with upsells, coupon codes and a dedicate school website, but if you’re looking for something simple, this is it.

Pros:

  • Is a great simple option to sell any digital product, course or membership on your blog or YouTube channel.
  • Has a free plan with no limitations.
  • Attractive looking purchase pages.
  • Users can simply buy your produce, no need to create and account like on Udemy.

Cons:

  • Very limited with regards to the design of your product pages. If you upgrade your Gumroad account then you can design your own landing pages with WordPress and integrate Gumroad buy buttons.

How to create an online course for free conclusion

We hope you found this guide helpful. There is no true free way to create an online course to sell but there are ways you can minimize costs. If you’re on a budget the best options are Udemy, Skillshare or Gumroad.

If you’re ready to level up your online courses and create your own website with multiple courses that can have upsells, cross sells, coupon codes and more then we strongly suggest checking out Teachable.