Do you want to start an online course but have no idea where to start?
Confused by technical platforms, and worried you’ll have to shell out hundreds of dollars a month just to set it up? Do you want to make a full time income from teaching? Then you need to keep reading.
In this article I’m going to walk you through setting up an online course that’s 100% free, that you can get up and running in a few minutes, and start making money from immediately.
The process will work no matter what you want to make your online course on, or even if you have no idea where to start. From business, to personal development, to gardening, we’ve set this up to work for you.
Even better, the entire process will be done with free tools, with no affiliate links or sponsored referrals. It’s just the exact same process we use when setting up our client’s courses, passed along to you.
Follow along as we go through the 6 steps to setting up your free online course. We cover the entire process, from how to set up your course, how to write lessons, and how to promote it so more people will find out about your knowledge and buy from you.
Popular YouTuber Graham Stephan makes him nearly $30,000 a month on autopilot from his Real Estate Agent, and YouTube courses, teaching people his tools of the trade.
By the end of this article you’ll have a course live to the world that you can charge whatever you want for. Many people use this exact process to make a full-time income running their digital courses from home, and you can do the same if you follow along.
I want to see everyone here succeed and get those same results, so I’ll be helping out in the comments, and auditing your courses to make sure you’re set up to succeed. Make sure to go through the steps!
Step 1: Plan Course Content
The most common problem we find is people get overwhelmed when writing their course. Their thoughts go all over the place, and overall they end up with a mediocre product that won’t get the sales needed to make a full time income.
We want to keep your course creation clear and focused so you can start earning as soon as possible. That means you need to plan out your course beforehand.
First step is to think about the transformation you want to create, where are they now, where will they be after? If you don’t know what to start your course on, pull from problems you’ve solved in the past, that you could easily teach people. Have you lost weight etc.
Lay out Point A to Point B, then the steps in between, how do you reach each result? Those are the lessons.
Here’s an example. Say I’m creating a course on how to make a website. I’d lay out the steps from our first video. Get a domain, get hosting, pick the pages, write the content, design the site, launch. Those are the steps, and you can build lessons around those.
If you have a bigger goal, each step can be a category, then within each one are the steps to reach the result.
This way you always stay focused on moving towards the end result. The most important thing is to create a real change in someone’s life, that’s what makes the course valuable to them, so you need to teach them properly.
Step 2: Write Your Lessons
Once you have your layout of lessons, write out each one, let’s break down the best way to write effective lessons. Here’s the template we give to our students.
First is the introduction, this needs to explain exactly what they’ll be learning in this lesson.
Then show them how to do it, use straightforward steps here and make it easy to build on top of eachother until you’re done.
Then recap what they learnt, how they reached the end result.
Then answer any FAQ they would have in this situation. Any common problems you run into and how to solve them.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM: PEOPLE GET STRESSED ABOUT MAKING HQ VIDEOS WHEN THEY DON’T NEED TO
Don’t have to make a complex video course to start out, just want to get people from A to B as efficiently as possible. Here’s some easy ways to do that using free tools
You can just record talking head, or record yourself doing the steps if it’s yoga, gardening etc.
Step 3: Choose a Free Course Platform
Now there’s a lot of different options you can choose to host your online course, and each one comes with some tradeoffs. From our experience, Thinkific is the best way to get started.
You get ALL of their resources on their free plan, and can build a full time business using their resources without paying a cent. It’s also easy to upgrade once you’ve hit the limit.
You also get access to their support line which can help deal with any issues, 24/7 support which is amazing on a free plan.
Puts you ahead of learning marketplaces like Udemy where only the top reviewed courses get any money. You’re able to have people actually come to your site and engage with you.
We recommend it because we use it for our business, and help set up clients on the platform as well. We aren’t using ANY AFFILIATE LINKS, it’s just what we recommend.
Head to Thinkific and signup for their free account plan. You wont have to put in your credit card details to get started, but make sure you confirm your email address before moving on to the next step.
Signing up sends you to the dashboard, the main area to change everything about your course. They have a great onboarding experience that teaches you how to set everything up.
First we want to create your first course, click Manage Learning Content and select Courses. Once there select + New Course which will present you with some pre-made template options for courses. We’re just going to choose the blank one. Write a name for the course and click Create.
Now you’re in the course builder platform. From here we can add all the content that will actually be inside the course. Courses on Thinkific are broken down into Chapters, and inside each chapter are the lessons. Think of it like how a textbook is broken down.
- Add your first chapter, then Add a Lesson. This will provide you with a list of options you can use for your lessons, from quizzes to videos, right now we’re just going to choose text.
- Give your first lesson a title, then add the content beneath it. This can be a combination of text, images, video.
- Once ready, select save. Hit back and you can see the list.
- Continue adding your chapters and lessons until everything looks perfect.
Once finished, we can choose the pricing for our free course.
- Click on Pricing, and choose whether you want the course to be Free, or would want to charge a One-Time Payment.
- If you want to charge money for this course, you’ll need to connect a Stripe or Paypal account in order to accept money.
- Click onto the one you want to set up, and go through their onboarding process to connect your merchant account.
- If Stripe isn’t supported in your country, they have a guide on connecting your own external payment provider.
With that finished, all that’s left to do is Publish the course. When ready, select Publish and it will be live to the world! If it still needs time you can always leave it as a draft, or select pre-order so people can be added to the waiting list.
With that, you’ve created your course. But now we need to actually customize the site that it’s hosted on. Thinkific offers tools to customize your course website, let’s go through setting it up correctly.
Step 4: Build Your Course Website
With your course ready, we now need to create the site that will present your course on the internet. Thinkific has done most of the heavy lifting, we just need to customize a few things.
- First head into Settings on the right to change the name of your course and the domain it’s on.
- From here, you can change the name of your Website, as well as the support email any inquiries will go to.
- Further down the page, click the dots to edit the Site URL. On the Free plan you’re able to customize the domain, but it will always have .thinkific.com. Make something unique that’s also easy to share.
- Put in your new domain in the searchbar and hit enter to see how it currently looks.
Don’t worry, we’re going to customize everything to look perfect.
- From the Thinkific dashboard, click Design Your Site and Select Theme Library. From here you’re able to choose the theme you want your site to start with, we can customize everything to look perfect.
- Choose Explore Themes, choose the one that stands out, then select one of the Styles you like.
- Install then Select the Theme, once done you can click Build to start creating your site.
You’re now in Thinkifics Site Builder Tool, this lets you customize everything on the frontend of your website.
- First, we want to go into Theme Settings and choose the Style we want from the list of options.
- Next we want to choose our Colors and Typography for the site. Choosing these will select the template colors and create a sense of consistency on the page.
- If you want ideas for Fonts, head to Google Fonts and browse through their most popular options to get a good Heading and Body fonts.
- If you want ideas for colors, refer to this color wheel and find one that connects with your courses brand, then add it to the buttons, links, and accent colors.
Next, we want to select the pages that we need to customize. Thinkific has already done the heavy lifting to plan out all the pages you need, the two most important ones we need to customize are the Homepage, and the page for your course. To edit, select pages, then click into the page you want to edit.
The main goal of the homepage is to establish you as an authority, and make people confident in reaching out. You should use this opportunity to show them positive testimonials from students, or pictures/text of what their end result will look like.
The course page itself should give them more detail about what they will actually be getting inside the course, and the process that will get them the results they need.
Simply add sections and fill them out with your information. If you need pictures to add, make sure to check out Unsplash or Pexels which have a huge library of free use images and videos to use. Once complete, hit save and your pages are finished. Edit the Homepage and Course page until they look perfect, save changes, and see how it looks on your main domain!
Step 5: Promote Your Course
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM: PEOPLE DON’T PROMOTE THEIR COURSE AND JUST HEAR CRICKETS
So they normally go to Udemy or other public platforms that do the promo for them . Downside is that they take 50% of profits and set the price for you. Not ideal.
You need an audience to find your course, and the best way to do that is to get traffic to the site.
Solve problems related to your course in blog format, what are problems that lead to them needing the solution your course provides? Write articles about that.
From there you can promote your online course, or add them to an email list and send them more details about it.
We recommend creating a stand alone blog site that links to your course. You can use free tools like Medium, or a cheap platform like WordPress.
Step 6: Why No One Is Buying Your Course
Alright so you’ve got a great course, and a plan to get traffic to your site. But if people are checking out your course how do you get more them to buy?
Truth is that they don’t trust you to get the result
Think of it like a personal trainer, they could talk about the programs and the end result, but if you dont see other people they’ve helped then you’re not inclined to trust them as much. People want to make an informed decision for a purchase and want to be 100% confident your course can help them.
Need testimonials to show that your process is working, but you need students to get testimonials. Chicken and egg situation eh?
Offer the course for free to people on your site for a limited time, or to your network so you can get an initial flood of students, trust me it’s worth it because a few free courses will mean hundreds of sales down the line.
Meet with them constantly, do the unscalable things now to ensure they’re successful.
Once they’ve reached that goal, have them record a video talking about their experience, video or text testimonials work great here. Include these on your website pages to help people feel more confident working with you.
Get feedback and change your course to be more effective, where have they gotten caught up?
We always get asked how we scaled multiple businesses and it all started from knowing how to build a real agency.
If you like the article, make sure to share it with a friend. Thanks for reading and i’ll see you in the next episode.