The online course industry is expected to grow 32% every year until 2026. This means you have the opportunity to increase your annual salary 32% minimum every single year for the next 4 years.
To really see the potential of that increase in your salary, I should also tell you that by 2026, the online course market should be worth $375 billion.
Now of course this is for the industry as a whole, but you can have a piece of that 375 billion dollar pie by creating your own online course.
Last week I compared the pros and cons of 3 types of digital products (you can read that here); an online course being one of them. This week I'm sharing the 18 tools you need to create your own online course.
These are the tools and software I personally use in my course-business, so I promise they're all tested and trusted. I'll keep this blog post up to date as my software needs change, and will link to all these tools below.
This content was also shared on my podcast.You can listen to the episode by pressing the play button above, or click the button below to subscribe to the Profit Meets Passion podcast, and listen on your podcast player of choice.
This blog post includes a list of the software you'll need to create, promote, and sell your online course. For a full description of what you'll use each software for throughout the creation and marketing of your course, click here to listen to the podcast episode that accompanies this blog post.
My email address @profitmeetspassion.com is actually hosted through Gmail which makes it really easy to log in, keep my Google Drive files organized, and my to respond to potential customer inquiries
Sales tip: be sure to invite your potential customers to respond to your emails! I like to have conversations with my potential customers who are on the fence about purchasing a course so I can help them determine if it’s a wise investment for them.
This is a process I teach in the Insta Sales Accelerator course, which you'll get as a free bonus when you join Wellness Course Academy!
You'll use this to purchase your domain name, or the URL, for your course. This isn't necessary if you already have a website that you'd like to host your course sales page on.
That said, I like to have each of my signature courses on their own sales page for ease of communication. For example, it's easier to say “Go to WellnessCourseAcademy.com if you're ready to create and market your own online course!” than it is to say “Go to ProfitMeetsPassion.com/wellness-course-academy.”
If you choose to have your own website for your course sales page, thank you pages, and opt in/funnel pages, you'll need to have a hosting software to enable your URL to be live on the internet. I use Cloudways for this.
One cool thing about using Cloudways to host your website is that you're able to very easily and quickly set up your website on WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com – they're different!).
WordPress is where you'll create (not design-I'll get to the design) your sales page, opt in pages, funnel pages, thank you pages, and even a blog if you choose to incorporate one to market your course.
I highly suggest using WordPress.org to host your website compared to another builder like Squarespace for multiple reasons. The primary reason is the limitations Squarespace has on email list building opt ins. With WordPress, you're able to add plug-ins to link specialized software that was designed for 1 main function.
I've seen my own email opt in rates increase from .5% conversion to over 7% conversion by switching from a generic opt in form (using Squarespace functionality), to a specialized plug-in that can be integrated with WordPress. The plug-in I use for list building is Thrive Leads (included with the Thrive Themes plug-in suite), and I cannot recommend it more.
To design your actual sales page, I personally suggest using Kartra. Kartra is an all-in-one software that you can use for sending emails (email marketing), designing sales pages, creating sales funnels (to passively sell your course), and more. I'll talk more about Kartra in the “Course Marketing Hub” section below.
One huge bonus for me using Kartra personally in my business and recommending my students use it, is it allows me to share my exact templates with them. This means, as a Wellness Course Academy student, you're able to import my sales page template directly into your Kartra account with the click of a button.
I realize not Kartra is not for everyone, so I have a few additional suggestions below if you want to design a long-form sales page using a different software.
Thrive Architect is another plug-in that comes with the Thrive Themes product suite. Since I whole-heartedly recommend using Thrive Leads, I do think Thrive Architect would be a good option to try for designing your sales and opt in pages.
As a bonus, using Thrive Architect will save you money if you're already using Thrive Leads since it'll come with the product suite from Thrive Themes.
Finally, I've used and truly love Elementor for building custom pages. I actually designed the home page for Profit Meets Passion using this software! My sales page template has also been creating for Elementor, so Wellness Course Academy students who aren't using Kartra can still import a template to save time.
Course Marketing Hub:
When it comes to creating your course, you really don't need much software. You'd need:
- something to record your video lessons
- something to create your digital assets (workbooks, meal plans, graphics)
- somewhere to host all your course content (which could be as simple as a Google Drive folder
When it comes to selling and marketing your course, that's where the bulk of the software comes in.
FYI: you can get a 14 day trial of Kartra when you click this link. I've already talked a bit about Kartra in the Sales Page section above, but it deserves more attention.
Here's everything I use Kartra for, compared to all the other software you'd need to replace these tasks.
- Weekly and Sales Emails
I send weekly value and nurture emails to my email list, and sales emails to my list of prospective buyers
- Page Designer
Kartra has a page builder, so you can create sales pages, checkout pages, opt in pages, thank you pages, etc. I integrate the Kartra page I've designed into my WordPress website.
- Online course membership platform
This is where my students log in to watch video lessons, download resources and templates, etc.
- Hosts an affiliate program
This is for my students to share my courses and earn commission when their friends purchase
- Builds my sales funnels
This is how I passively sell my online courses
- Checkout Software
While other checkout software like ThriveCart and SamCart also have the capabilities of creating a checkout page, not all page builders like LeadPages or Thrive Architect do. Kartra allows you to both design the page itself, and has the functionality to collect payment and deliver the product (either via access to a course log in or even delivery of a digital product like an ebook).
- Countdown Software
This software is needed for effective sales funnels. It adds urgency to your sales emails when you have people opting in to your sales funnel promotion at unique times. This allows everyone to have a unique “end date” for their own promotion before the call to action expires. I'll be going into more detail on how this works in a future episode.
(or) Alternatives to Kartra:
I've moved from using Kartra to using a bunch of other software to do everything that Kartra was doing, and I ended up paying about 4x more for all the individual software.
In addition to paying more, my sales conversions decreased, and I found myself limited by the time constraints and tech headache from needing to integrate all the individual software together.
- Email service provider
I have used Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Flodesk, Convertkit, and Active Campaign in the past. Active Campaign was my favorite out of all these options, but I still prefer Kartra.
- Checkout software
I have used Samcart and ThriveCart in the past, and would choose ThriveCart out of these two options. That said, I much prefer Kartra to either option.
- Page builder
I've used Leadpages, Elementor, and Squarespace in the past, and would choose Elementor out of these options. I actually prefer Elementor to Kartra's page building capabilities, but use Kartra since it's included and doesn't need an integration software.
- Course platform
I've used Teachable, Kajabi, Thinkific, Podia, and Teachery. I would recommend Kajabi if I had to from what I've personally tried, but I still didn't like the software. It was much more limited than Kartra, and was more expensive. If I were to ever move from using Kartra, I would try Thrive Themes Apprentice plug-in to create a course membership platform before I ever would choose any of these.
- Countdown software
I've used Deadline Funnel when I didn't have Kartra. While I don't have personal experience with it, Thrive Themes has a countdown software called Ultimatum that would be worthwhile trying. I will admit, Deadline Funnel was a superior product compared to Kartra's countdown timers, but not so much that I'll pay for both. Kartra's countdown timers work, and are easier to connect with my sales funnels than Deadline Funnel.
- Calendar scheduling software
I don't use a scheduling software often, and will admit that Kartra's scheduling software is limited. That said, for the small amount of time I need a scheduling software, I find Kartra's to be sufficient. I have tried Calendly in the past and liked it.
- Integration software
I used Zapier to integrate all the above software together, but don't need to use Zapier anymore as Kartra is all in one, thus it doesn't need an integration software
Admin & file organization:
This software is absolutely not necessary, but it is something I use for my business so I thought I'd mention it. Notion is a mash up of word documents, spreadsheets, and more. I LOVE it so much, but it did take quite some commitment to learn. If you're tech savvy, I highly suggest looking up Notion tutorials on Youtube.
I also use Google Suite for Google Docs, Sheets, and more. I create a lot of templates, scripts, and workbooks for my Wellness Course Academy students using Google Docs.
Before I started using Asana for task & project management, I was using a paper planner and Clickup. There are certain features in Clickup that Asana doesn't have, but I've found Asana to be much more efficient for me. I prefer the user interface to Clickup.
I procrastinated purchasing a course on how to use Asana for about a year before I finally bit the bullet. I thought I already knew how to use Asana, and to be honest, I thought the price tag of the course was high as I assumed it was really just a “how to use Asana” course.
After purchasing the course, I can say it is fully worth the investment. It's so much more than an Asana course! My entire business is more structured, organized, and efficient because of this course.
I whole-heartedly recommend it if you find yourself wondering what to do each day you sit down to work on your business. You'll save so much time and become much more product because of it.
I use Slack to communicate with my Course Creator Collective students, and my virtual assistant and contractors for Profit Meets Passion. I personally prefer Slack to manage online communities for my courses, and plan to change all my course communities over to Slack in 2022.
It's really important that you choose 1 primary form of visibility for your business and commit to providing consistent, valuable content in this place. For me, I choose to create podcast episodes, and turn those episodes into blog posts (like this one). I then email those episodes and blog post links to my email list as a way to stay top-of-mind as an expert in my industry.
I also use the following software to host my podCLASS (podcast + masterclass). This is a new sales funnel and launch strategy I'm currently testing. If I find it to be effective as a marketing strategy, I will be including tutorials on how to create your own podCLASS in Wellness Course Academy.
Here's the software I use for Podcasting, but keep in mind, this software will look different if you choose to use YouTube or maybe just blog posts as your form of consistent, value-based content.
I cannot tell you how much I LOVE Descript for recording and editing my podcast episodes. It can automatically remove filler words, you can easily add music to your episodes, and the software transcribes your audio file while you're recording it. This makes editing SO easy.
I just moved from Buzzsprout to Anchor to host my podcast. Hosting a podcast means this is where I upload the audio file, add the show notes, and Anchor distributes the episode to podcast players. While I won't say Anchor is better than Buzzsprout, I don't think Buzzsprout was worth paying for compared to Anchor – which is free!
Graphics & photography:
I've been a brat about using Adobe products for all graphics in the past, but Canva has stolen my heart. I hardly ever use Photoshop or InDesign anymore!
Canva Pro has also replaced my need to have a stock photography website, as I find really good image options with the Canva Pro account ($12/month). I've created templates for all the graphics you need for your sales and checkout pages for your course, in addition to Canva templates for your webinar presentations, course lesson slides, and even ebooks, meal plans, recipe/exercise guides, journals, and more. All these templates are included in Wellness Course Academy.
This software isn't quite necessary for everyone, but since I am a photographer I wanted to include it. I use to use Photoshop to edit my photos, but learning Lightroom was a game-changer. If you want to take your own photos to market your course, I highly suggest using Lightroom to edit them.
PSA: if all your passwords are the same – you need LastPass! The password I used for everything was recently compromised and I had to spend an entire day changing my password on a hundred different websites.
LastPass allows you to create strong, unique passwords for each website, and saves them in a very secure database. There's an app for your computer and your phone to make it easy to log into (so you don't need to worry about memorizing a string of random numbers and letters.)
If nothing else, use LastPass to create a strong password for your course website, your email service provider, and your course membership platform. Can you even imagine if you were to have your password stolen and all your course content deleted?!
I've used Screenflow in the past to record video lessons for my courses, but these days I use Loom. I personally love how easy it is! It also prevents me from being too much of a perfectionist with my recordings, as the ability to edit your Loom videos isn't quite as easy as it is to edit Screenflow.
This may seem like a bad thing, but recording video lessons with Screenflow took much longer to complete, as I was trying to make them completely perfect. Loom is more authentic, since I just press record and only edit if there is a big disruption like a dog bark or a cough. I don't worry about editing out a filler word or if I were to stumble over my words (unless it's really distracting).
There you have it! 18 tools you need to create and market your online course.