How to Create and Sell Online Courses

In this article, we’ll go through the process of creating and selling online courses using Softr. We’ll first examine the motivation behind starting online courses and ways of validating them and will also review the advantages and disadvantages of setting up your own platform as opposed to registering on online marketplaces. Further on, we’ll go through the possible business model options and will finally demonstrate how you can set up a sales landing page and a paid courses section with our online courses template to start selling. Let’s start.

How to Start and Validate Your Courses

There can be different situations when it makes sense to start offering online courses. Perhaps, you have succeeded in something and now want to share your knowledge and experience with others, or you have a specific skill (e.g. you’re doing illustrations) and think that you can teach others as well. Some businesses often offer online courses alongside their main product as a way of promoting their business and increasing brand awareness. In this case, the courses can be offered free of charge or for a nominal price. No matter what situation you’re in, it’s always a good idea to validate your online course idea prior to offering it. One of the options is pre-selling the course to see how many people are actually willing to pay for it and only afterwards start developing the content (you can always refund if something goes wrong). Since the Softr payment system is working through a Stripe integration, you can set up pre-orders for a particular product (we’ll discuss the details of the payment setup in the following sections of this article). Another way of validating your idea is conducting surveys to receive initial feedback from your potential customers. Softr offers a variety of customizable form layouts, which you can use for that purpose.

Own Platform VS Online Marketplaces

There are many different online marketplaces (Udemy is probably the most popular one) that offer a ready-made solution for setting up your online courses. This option has its advantages, as you already have all the required tools available to you (no need to set anything up manually) and the marketplace is also ready to promote your content for you. However, in return, you have to comply with the rules and restrictions enforced by the marketplace (e.g. when making decisions on pricing or discounts) and you also have to share a significant part of your revenue. If you need flexibility and full control over your product, setting up your own platform is more preferable. With Softr that’s really easy to do and requires just a few quick steps as we’ll see further, so you don’t really need to do complex configurations and integrate multiple third-party services to achieve your goal.

Choosing Your Business Model

Basically, you have two options here: one-time purchase and subscription. You can either provide full access to your content for a one-time fee or can offer a recurring model with monthly/yearly subscriptions. The latter is more relevant when your content is regularly updated and you always have something new to offer to your customers. Softr let’s you implement this by creating a one-time product or a subscription on Stripe and setting it as a condition for accessing a specific site area. We’ll show how exactly that’s configured a bit later. Now, let’s see how you can actually start building a sales landing page for your online courses and a gated area with your courses.

Creating a Sales Landing Page

So, apart from the courses themselves, you need a nice landing page to convert your visitors into buyers. There, you need to explain what value the course provides and why people should sign up for it (the Hero and Feature/Feature Grid blocks can be used for this). Further on, you can add a Testimonial block to showcase reviews on your courses as soon as you have some.  Softr also has an FAQ block that can be used to address some common questions about your content. Moreover, you can use the Pricing block to show what pricing options you offer. Using the Conditions feature, you can easily define different access levels for any block or page within your Softr app. In the next sections, we’ll show how you can set up your gated content using the block/page conditions.

Setting Up Your Courses Area

The process of setting up your courses page is really straightforward. You just need to configure a gated area with your courses (e.g. video tutorials) and provide a checkout for your users to purchase. The quickest way to get started is to use the online courses template we have. All you need to do is select the online course template when creating a new application.
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The online courses template has its dedicated Airtable base, which is already configured and filled with dummy data that you can work on. The video below shows how you can connect your Airtable account/base and set up your Softr app using the online courses template.
web app from airtable template
By default, the template Airtable base has such fields as subject, description, video, thumbnail, etc. for each video lesson, but you can add any number of additional fields and modify the existing ones as needed. You can also configure the listing in your Softr app to adjust search, filtering, and sorting. The following video shows how to configure the filtering and sorting for the List block, which is used for the online courses page.
web app from airtable template
So, as soon as you’ve set up and configured your online courses page(s), you can start working on the visibility of the page(s) to create a gated area. We’ll talk about that in the next section.

Setting Up Gated Content

Now let’s see how you can create a gated area for your courses so that only registered users can access them. Softr has all the necessary functionality for that, and you don’t have to connect any additional membership service or something like that. There’s a dedicated set of user accounts blocks to build all the necessary pages such as sign up/sign in, reset password, and so on. Apart from that, the page or block visibility feature allows specifying the access level of each separate page or block. The described functionality is sufficient to configure the access to your courses area. You can also check out our video tutorial below, which goes through the memberships feature using the online courses template as an example.
web app from airtable template

Selling Online Courses

As soon as you’ve set up your gated area, you can start configuring payment options to start selling your content. Let's see how that's done. You just need to connect your Stripe account and add a checkout block through which the users can make payments. You can set a one-time fee for accessing your material or you can define monthly/yearly subscription plans by creating a corresponding product in your Stripe account.
 
In the previous section, we discussed the block/page visibility feature for logged in and non logged in users. Paid access works in a similar way. You can define custom conditions for each block or page to give access based on certain parameters only (e.g. “only people who have subscribed to product X can access this block”). The Adding Conditions section in our block/page visibility documentation provides a detailed explanation of how this works.
 
To sum up, all you need to do is set up a checkout page for each subscription plan or one-time purchases, and, as soon as the user makes a payment, redirect him/her to the block/page that is configured (via conditions) to be only accessible to the users that have purchased that particular subscription or product. This way, you can define different access levels and offer a variety of subscription plans or separate products.

Conclusion

So, we went through the steps that are required to create and sell online courses using Softr. As we tried to demonstrate, the process is not complicated at all and you can accomplish everything just by connecting a payment gateway and doing a few configurations. Hope you enjoyed it and might give it a try yourself. We offer a free plan, so you can register and proceed right away!
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