How to Sell Online Courses

Kaitlin Macholz
Product Marketing
Stand out in a sea of free

Creating online courses is one of the best ways to start making money and building your own personal brand as an expert. There's a market out there for a course on just about every topic, so there's no better time to launch that course idea you've been thinking about. No matter where you are in your journey, this is your ultimate guide to selling online courses, broken down into simple steps.

Why sell online courses?

When you create your own online course to sell to your followers, you have control over the process end to end. You don't need to wait for approvals from brands or sponsors—you can get started using your own expertise and create the lessons in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

In fact, you can set up an online store for free in minutes and create your first course in less than an hour.

Beacons course on how to create your first Beacons course.
[Source: @Ben on Beacons]

But let's talk about the real elephant in the room: SELLING. It's one thing to set up an online course, but how do you figure out how to sell an online course in a sea of digital products at everyone's fingertips?

Thankfully, it's 2024, and you have an arsenal of marketing tools at your disposal that can do the hard part for you. With the right course content, the right marketing strategy, and the right sales messaging, you can start driving consistent course sales and build a true online business. Daunting tasks become easy steps. Hello, new income stream!

Top components of the right online course sales strategy for creators

So, how do you market your course as a content creator, make it stand out, and drive successful online course sales? Here's the checklist:

  • Create promotional content
  • Gather social proof
  • Share in communities
  • Send emails
  • Run ads
  • Write high-converting CTAs

Let's dive into each of these simple strategies so you can get started selling your online course today.

Create promotional content for your online course

As a content creator, you're already an expert at social media marketing. You already have brand awareness with a built-in audience where you can begin to promote and market your online courses. And you probably already know some of the best ways to reach your fans based on the kind of content you create. You may even already know how to do content marketing for brands that your partner with. Why not use those social media marketing skills to promote your own digital products?

Find the right platform to talk about your online course

First things first: find the right platform to post your content where engagement will be highest with prospective customers. Do your TikTok videos get the most engagement? Maybe you host a well-attended weekly Instagram Live? Do fans wait eagerly for your monthly YouTube vlog? Wherever your target audience is, that's where you should post about your course.

As a creator, you have a built-in audience where you can begin to promote and market your products.

If your online course idea aligns with the content you usually talk about in this channel, that makes your pitch even stronger.

Include the essential information in your course marketing content

When you're talking about your new online course, remember to cover the basics. Describe the course topic: maybe it's a coaching program, a self-help series, a series of tutorials... the options go on. Make sure to state the course title. Mention your online course platform so fans know where to find the link, or simply include the link to your course in your Link in Bio.

Image of an Instagram post with a caption marketing a creator's online course.
[Source: @lets.go.faceless]

Try a natural sell to your social media followers, not a hard sell

A lot of creators choose to incorporate their products in a “natural” way into their content, so fans can see how their course is an extension of topics they already care about. For example:

  • A creator selling a writing course might make a video about their daily journaling practice, and explain in the video how they use exercises from their course each day.
  • A fitness creator selling a workout course might make a video about their weekly workout routine and show how they follow the guide day by day.
  • A musician selling a music tutorial course make teaser clips of short samples of songs they teach to post on their channels
  • A life coaching creator selling a coaching program might interview one of their clients on how their program is positively impacting their daily routine.
An Instagram post that does a great job of selling an online course with a caption that is relevant to their followers.

Lastly, focus on outcomes. What is the value or result that a buyer will get from taking your course? This should be the main message that you repeat over and over in your content.

Whenever you create content on any channel, you can always direct your fans to check out your course and other digital products in your Link in Bio page, which is the easiest way to consolidate your traffic from all channels.

Gather social proof to create effective sales materials

Including testimonials in your promotional content and on your course marketing page is one of the best ways to signal social proof to potential buyers.

Social proof, coined by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, is the idea that people copy the actions of others in order to behave the same way. It’s an important force that drives a lot of buyer behavior—not to mention social media marketing and interactions!

Get in the habit of collecting social proof from buyers

Encourage your fans who purchase your online course to share why they like it:

  • Add a prompt after a buyer downloads your online course to write a review
  • Create a follow up email a few days after their purchase and ask the buyer to review
  • Ask buyers to tag you when they use your product and re-share their posts on your channels

Reading reviews and customer feedback helps potential buyers make a buying decision. Additionally, you create a positive feedback loop—if you show that buyers who share about your online course can get noticed and reposted on your channel, it will encourage other potential buyers to do the same.

Automate the process of collecting customer feedback

You'll do yourself a big favor by choosing an online course platform that automates this process for you. There are a few different options when it comes to online course platforms, but Beacons is the platform most optimized to drive sales for you.

Screenshot of Beacons follow up email, which is sent automatically to buyers on Beacons Store and asks buyers for reviews.r
[Source: Beacons]

Many aspects of the sales and marketing process are automated for you, like collecting and displaying reviews, so you can rest assured that your course sales page is as strong as it can be when you're on Beacons.

For a new online course launch, get creative to go from 0 to 1

Here's how to go from 0 to 1 when you're just starting to collect testimonials:

  • Reach out to the people you personally know who have bought your online course and ask if they can help you out by writing a review.
  • If you don’t personally know anyone, you can incentivize the first 10 buyers to write reviews by offering them a discount, a chance to win a giveaway, a personalized message from you, etc.

First time sellers and course creators might feel awkward asking for these reviews, but we're here to tell you: push through the awkwardness and just do it! It’s worth investing time and even money into getting these testimonials, because they will help you build trust with buyers and build a better online business in the long run.

Use email marketing as a superpower

Email marketing is one of the best platforms drive both awareness and sales for your products among your biggest fans: your email list subscribers. Email is a strong sales channel, and though it's overlooked even by social media marketing experts, it's been used for decades as a money-making channel for online businesses of all kinds.

Send different kinds of sales emails for different purposes

You can use email marketing to drive online course sales anywhere in your sales funnel, from awareness to retargeting to upsells. Set up emails to:

  • Drive urgency (with limited-edition drops, time-sensitive offers)
  • Drive sales (with discounts and cart abandonment emails)
  • Target high-converting groups (create segments of fans who have already made a purchase)
  • Retarget and upsell buyers after they’ve made a purchase
Sales email that drives sales for a creator's ebook and online course.
[Source: @mindsetmarketer on Beacons]

Use a tool that makes email marketing simple

It’s a misconception that you need to spend a lot of time and effort creating emails. Tools like Beacons Email Marketing make the process of creating and sending emails simple—for example, you can easily set up automated emails to send through Beacons that pull in your online course information.

Beacons Email Marketing interface where you can easily pull in details on your Beacons Store items.
[Source: Beacons]

Plus you can use email templates and best practices for “non-writers” so you never need to start from scratch. Beacons even has an AI Email Builder in beta, which creates every aspect of a perfect marketing email for you with the click of a button, from email copy to images to layout to subject line.

Beacons new AI Email Builder interface, where you can put in a link to build an email from scratch to market your online course and drive sales.
[Source: Beacons]

Share about your course in online communities

Niche online communities are the perfect place to share about your online course launch.

For example, you might be part of special-interest Slack groups or Facebook groups, a frequent reader of certain Reddit threads, or even in creator-specific community groups like the Beacons Community where members would benefit from taking your course. You could even "bootstrap" your own community on your social media account by fostering engagement in your comments section!

Screenshot of an Instagram post where a creator encourages fans to share their online courses.
[Source: @facelessviralvault]

Use discretion when promoting in communities

While posting in communities does sound like a great way to promote your products, do so carefully. People in niche communities don’t usually appreciate when you blindly promote yourself or spam them with products. 

The best way to share about your course is by offering genuine advice and building relationships within the community—then only include information on your course when it is relevant and helpful to the discussion. This strategy is more of a slow build. You need to establish yourself in the community before you can credibly recommend something.

The most effective way to share is by offering genuine advice and building relationships within the community

Build credibility before promoting your online course

One way to build credibility and genuine relationships in communities would be to host an AMA (Ask Me Anything) for community members about a topic related to your course, and discuss your products as a helpful solution among other elements of advice. To make it feel most genuine, focus the AMA on your expertise (what you can offer to others), rather than the course for purchase itself.

Run ads to your course sales page

If you want to invest some budget into promoting your course, you can run Facebook ads and Instagram ads, or even set up Search Engine Marketing through Google.

Choose the right ads strategy

There are two approaches you can take when running ads for your online course

Nail your messaging before running paid ads

Because you need to actually spend money on this form of marketing, it’s best to try out more organic promotional methods first—like posting content on your social media channels and doing email marketing. This will help you be efficient with your budget because you’ll have a sense of what kinds of messages drive sales for your course.

Remember to budget ad costs into your profits

Don’t forget to add the cost of the adds into your product cost structure. Whatever you spend on ads will be deducted from your revenue to determine the profit you ultimately make from these sales.

Write high-converting CTAs for your course

CTAs, or “calls to action,” prompt your buyers to take an immediate action. Influencer marketing is full of CTAs that you probably know already: "click here," "check out the link in my bio," "watch my latest video," etc.

Strong CTAs can be used in any form of marketing your products—in your content, in emails, in ads, etc.

Follow best practices to write a strong CTA

Here are some baseline rules for writing a strong CTA:

  • Stick to 1 CTA per ad or piece of content. You want to direct your potential buyer to do one thing.
  • Create urgency (e.g., “Check this out now!” or “Last chance to buy this course before the price increase!”)
  • Direct users to an easy and clear action (e.g., "Click here," “Check this out,” “Try it now,” “Learn more”)
Instagram Story with a strong CTA to check out a creator's online course by reading the caption.
[Source: @luxurydigitals]

Don't be afraid to test CTAs

You don't have to know right away which CTA is going to drive the most engagement from your fans. It's all a learning experience!

If you’re not sure which CTA will drive the most clicks or engagement, you can A/B test your CTAs by using one CTA in one ad, email, etc. and another CTA in a different but identical promotion to see which one performs better and drives more traffic to your course sales page. As with any experiment, try to isolate the CTA as the only changing variable between the two versions you test.

Integrate your online course platform and your promotional platform

When you're learning how to sell an online course, you want to KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don't make things harder for yourself than they need to be by trying to use a ton of different sales and marketing tools!

You’ll save time (and money) by using just one tool to set up, sell, and market your course. Ideally, you’ll want to choose a platform that integrates these selling and marketing tools together—with Beacons, you can set up your Store to set up your online courses and other digital products, your Link in Bio to promote your course to your social media followers, and your Email Marketing to drive course sales.

Beacons truly is THAT tool: the all-in-one marketing machine for creator superheroes who are serious about building a successful online course business. What are you waiting for? You can get started for free on Beacons today!

Kaitlin Macholz
Kaitlin is the Head of Marketing at Beacons, the all-in-one creator business platform. She has several years of experience working in marketing and startups, and has written for notable startup thought leaders and CEOs on business trends and strategy. She's passionate about helping creators and in her spare time creates her own content about baking and about her cat, Pixie. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok @ kaitlin.macholz
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Sell in your creator store, build an email marketing strategy, score brand deals—all from your Beacons Link-in-Bio. Powered by AI.
Get Started - For Free!
Get your online store in few minutes
Sell in your creator store, build an email marketing strategy, score brand deals—all from your Beacons Link-in-Bio. Powered by AI.
Get Started - For Free!

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