How Much Money Do You Need to Create Your Online Course?

If you’re starting out with online courses, you may be wondering how much it’s going to cost you to get started. Like most things in life, the answer is "it depends."

The total cost of creating, running and launching an online course depends on:

  1. Your budget
  2. What format your course will be, i.e. video course, email course, etc.
  3. If you already own (or have access to) the equipment necessary to create content
  4. The quality of media you want to produce

Costs for Each Phase of Course Development

The truth is, there are costs associated with every phase of an online course: creating, marketing, launching--not to mention running the course. (Not to mention the basic costs of a computer and Internet access.)

These costs can vary, but my goal is to list them out for you so you have an idea of what to expect. Let's dissect the typical costs for each phase.

Costs to Create Your Course

Here are some typical costs you might encounter during the content creation phase:

  • Word processor software and/or presentation software. 
    • Tip: Use Google apps like Docs and Slides
  • Audio recording equipment: microphone, boom stand. 
    • Tip: buy a shotgun mic that you can use for audio and video
  • Video recording equipment: camera, lens, possibly a different mic. 
  • LMS plugin or online course platform

Costs to Market Your Course

Here are some typical costs you might encounter during the marketing phase:

  • Email service provider
  • Landing page service (Leadpages, UnBounce, etc)
  • Budget for advertising (Facebook Ads)

Costs to Launch Your Course

Here are some typical costs you might encounter during the launching phase:

  • Everything in the Marketing Phase, plus...
  • Shopping cart
  • Payment processor (usually takes percentage of sales, but may charge a monthly fee)

Content Creation Costs for Every Level

Now that we've covered the typical costs for each phase, here are a few scenarios for starting at different cost thresholds. Again, my goal is to give you a few models to help you pick the right one that works for your situation.

Low-cost ($)

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I'm a big fan of ConvertKit. Grab a 1 month trial on me. (aff link)

The least expensive way to get started with online courses is to create a text-based course. You can do this with a simple email course. 

You could also create a text-only or presentation-based course in an LMS platform or plugin. However, I’d argue that it’s better to create an email course than use a platform to deliver a text-based course. Paying for a platform to deliver text is an unnecessary expense at this level.

Costs:

Mid-range ($$)

The next level of costs for starting and launching an online course involves adding media to your course. Audio courses and presentation-based course usually fall in this category. When it comes to media, you’ll not only need to a buy gear, but also find a place to host your media files.

Audio files are tricky. If the files are small, you can usually get away with hosting them on your website. Ultimately, though, that can slow down your site's performance. So you'll eventually want to pay for a media host so that you don't have to worry about all that.

Just know that you've got options. You can either pay for an LMS plugin (e.g. LearnDash) + media host (Soundcloud Pro, etc) combo or pay monthly for an online course platform subscription that includes media hosting.

Costs:

The Audio Technica AT875r. Versatile, great sounding mic for video and audio.

The Audio Technica AT875r. Versatile, great sounding mic for video and audio.

Muy Caro ($$$)

At the high-end of the cost spectrum are video courses. Anything that involves video becomes expensive quickly due to the equipment and bandwidth needs.

Costs:

  • Camera - $600 +up
    • Tip: Rent a camera from your local camera shop or borrowlenses.com
  • Additional lenses (for that nice blurry background) - $300 + up
    • Tip: Same as above
  • Audio Technica AT875r Shotgun mic - $170
  • Mic Boom stand - varies
  • Zoom H4N Audio Recorder - $199
    • Tip: You can use your phone and a lav mic instead if a recorder isn't in your budget. I've used my iPhone + Rode SmartLav+ for this plenty of times.
  • Video editing software - $199 for Camtasia
  • Mailchimp: $10/mo; ConvertKit: $29/mo
  • Other variable costs: Vimeo Pro $199/yr + LMS plugin, varies; self-hosted platform w/ video hosting included, $29/mo+ up depending on platform; Backup storage for videos (hard drive or Dropbox Pro); shock mount for mic, XLR interface
Note: Storage is also something that people don’t think about enough when it comes to video. If you’re recording videos for your courses regularly, eventually you’ll need extra storage space for your files. Just a little something to remember!

Summary

So there you have it. A list of the typical costs to create an online course, depending on the type of course you want to create and your budget. 

This can quickly feel overwhelming. It might seem that everyone is creating video courses and you should too, but the truth is it’s always a good to start where you are. 

Still, if you are set on creating an audio or video course first, consider testing the market by pre-selling your course to your audience, then you can invest the profits into the equipment you need to create your course.

Next Steps

Want to find out when I release workshops and articles to help you create your course? 

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