5 Easy Ways to Skyrocket Your Online Course Earnings

By Chris Huntley 

Published on  January 3, 2024

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In the world of online education, creating a course is just the beginning.

The real challenge – and opportunity – lies in maximizing its earning potential!

Whether you’re a seasoned course creator or just starting out, there are effective strategies to boost your revenue and provide more value to your learners.

In this article, we’ll explore five powerful ways to increase your online course income, starting with a highly effective approach: Tiered Pricing.

How to Maximize Online Course Earnings

1. Tiered Pricing: Catering to Every Learner

What is Tiered Pricing?

Tiered pricing is a strategic way to offer your course in different packages or ‘tiers,’ each with varying levels of content, access, and pricing. This method allows you to cater to a broader range of students, from those seeking basic information to those wanting an in-depth learning experience.

How to Implement It

  • Basic Tier: This could be your standard course offering, covering all the fundamental aspects of the topic. For a gardening course, this might include pre-recorded video lessons and downloadable materials.
  • Premium Tier: Here, you add more value. For the gardening course, this could include everything in the Basic tier, plus live Q&A sessions with you, or exclusive video content like advanced gardening techniques.
  • VIP Tier: This is your most exclusive offer. It might include all elements of the Premium tier, with added perks like one-on-one coaching sessions, personalized garden plans, or even a physical welcome kit with gardening tools and seeds.

 In the example below from GreatCourses.com, you can see they have a video streaming option for $29.95 or an option that includes the DVD’s for $39.95.  

Personal Example in Action: The Bible Conference with Bart Ehrman

Another practical example of tiered pricing in action was our recent Bible conference with Bart Ehrman.

We offered an MVP Tier that provided attendees with standard access to the conference and an exclusive follow-up session with Bart, where he broke down the conference content further. This additional value allowed us to charge an extra $20 per ticket, illustrating how tiered pricing can significantly enhance both the learner experience and your revenue.

2. The Subscription Model: Building Long-Term Revenue

Understanding the Subscription Model

In the subscription model, instead of a one-time payment, students pay a recurring fee (usually monthly but could also be quarterly or annually) to access your course content. This approach can create a steady, predictable income stream, but it’s essential to balance it with consistent value delivery.

Why It Can Be Financially Favorable

Let’s break down the math. Suppose your one-time course fee is $200. If you switch to a subscription model charging $20/month, a student staying subscribed for over 10 months generates more revenue than the one-time fee. This long-term engagement not only boosts income but also builds a loyal student base.

You can also have fun with some ROI terms like Customer Lifetime Value which is a critical metric in a subscription model.  Let’s say it costs $50 to obtain a customer but you only charge $20 per month for the subscription.  You have to know your lifetime value to see if that’s a profitable campaign!

Careful!  The Expectations of Continuous Value

Students paying a recurring fee expect regular updates, new content, and ongoing engagement. Think of services like Netflix – they continuously invest in new shows and updates to keep subscribers hooked. For your course, this could mean:

  • Regularly adding new modules or lessons
  • Hosting live Q&A sessions or webinars
  • Providing up-to-date resources or industry insights
  • Offering exclusive access to a community or forum for ongoing support

The Commitment Required

It’s crucial to recognize the commitment this model requires. You’ll need to invest time and resources to keep the course fresh and engaging. This might involve creating new content, interacting with students more frequently, and staying abreast of the latest developments in your field.

Example: Math Course Subscription

Consider a math course. A one-time fee might grant access to one existing courses while a subscription might give access to all existing content and could include extra goodies like weekly problem-solving sessions, monthly updates with new problem sets, or access to a community forum for peer-to-peer learning and support.

3. Leveraging Bump Offers, Upsells, and Downsells

Bump Offers: The Quick Add-On

What Are Bump Offers? Bump offers are like the “Would you like fries with that?” question at a fast-food restaurant. Presented at the checkout page, they are simple, low-cost add-ons to the primary purchase. A brief, compelling description is enough to encourage an impulse buy.

Example: For a gardening course, a bump offer could be a downloadable eBook on organic pest control methods for just an additional $4.95.

It’s a quick, knee-jerk “yes” you’re after.  Here’s an example from TarioSultan.com.  The customer is already on the checkout page and all they have to do is check the box to grab this $27 Google Analytics course:

Also note that the example above is of a ThriveCart bump offer.  ThriveCart makes it so easy and they look great.  If you’re not selling with ThriveCart’s shopping cart, you should consider switching.  

>> Learn More About Bumps and Upsells at ThriveCart’s Website

Upsells: Enhancing the Purchase

What Are Upsells? Once a customer has made a purchase, they are shown a new sales page with an upsell offer. This is typically a higher-priced item (but not always) offering significant value.

Strategies and Examples:

I see this strategy most when I click on paid ads and go to an irresistible offer.  Let’s say I get an entire course that solves the exact problem I’m having for $7 bucks! 

That’s crazy and you know the advertiser isn’t making a profit on it if all they get is $7 dollars.  Alas, they always greet me with another upsell offer for $50 to $100, which I also regularly buy.  It’s a great way to do business because I’ve already self-identified as a target customer for what they’re selling and if they can convince me that the upsell will get me to my ultimate goal faster or easier, or just give me a great deal on a related product, I’m usually buying!  It definitely works.

Other examples:

  • Offer a related course at a discount. For instance, following the purchase of a basic photography course, offer an advanced editing course at 40-50% off.
  • If you don’t have another course, consider offering a comprehensive eBook, exclusive one-on-one coaching sessions, or access to a premium community forum.

My Perspective: While some course creators offer multiple upsells, I recommend limiting it to one to avoid overwhelming the customer. It’s about enhancing their purchase experience, not spamming them.

Downsells: The Alternative Offer

What Are Downsells? Downsells are offered when a customer declines an upsell. This is a lower-priced option that still adds value but at a more comfortable price point for the customer.

Implementing Downsells:

  • If a customer passes on the advanced course upsell, a downsell could be a mini-course or a series of exclusive webinars at a lower price.
  • I’ve even seen downsells that offer the exact same upsell that the customer just rejected – but at a lower price.  “Wait!  What if we give it to you for 90% off?”  Ha ha!
  • It’s a way to salvage a potential no-sale situation, offering customers an alternative that still aligns with their interests and budget.

Application in my Bart Ehrman Partnership: In our collaboration with Bart Ehrman, we effectively utilize upsells by offering related courses at a discounted rate. This strategy capitalizes on the moment when a customer is already inclined to purchase and can significantly boost overall revenue.  We’ve never actually tried a downsell because, again, I think making more than one offer after the initial sale is a bit spammy.  But it works well for a lot of people, so feel free to try it out.

4. Content Expansion: Keeping Your Course Fresh and Relevant

The Power of Updating Your Content

In the dynamic world of online education, staying current and relevant is key. Regularly updating your course ensures it remains valuable and appealing to new and existing customers. This strategy involves more than just minor tweaks; it’s about substantial improvements and expansions that can warrant a new launch or re-launch.

Case Study: David Siteman Garland’s Course Overhaul

A prime example of content expansion done right is David Siteman Garland’s revamp of the “Create Awesome Online Courses” program. Recognizing the need to update and enhance his already successful course, Garland embarked on creating what he termed “Version 2.0.” This wasn’t just a few added lessons; it was a comprehensive overhaul that included:

  • All new lesson recordings.
  • The latest strategies and tools in the ever-changing online course landscape.
  • New case studies and examples reflecting current market trends.
  • Improved and updated content based on student feedback.

The Result: A New Sales Launch

“Create Awesome Online Courses 2.0” was not just an update.  It was such a huge overhaul that DSG did a full-scale launch of the product as if it were brand new. It provided Garland with the opportunity to:

  • Re-engage with past students and offer them an upgrade at a special rate.
  • Attract new customers who saw the value in an up-to-date and proven course.
  • Generate buzz in the industry, positioning himself and his course as cutting-edge and authoritative.

Your Course’s Potential for Expansion

Consider areas in your course that could benefit from a similar overhaul. Could you add new modules, update existing content with the latest research or technology, or even reformat the course for better user experience?

Remember, content expansion is an investment in your course’s longevity and appeal. It’s a strategy that not only adds value for your students but also revitalizes your marketing efforts and opens up new revenue opportunities.

5. Cultivating Customer Loyalty: New Offers for Existing Students

The Undervalued Asset: Existing Customers

Often, course creators are so focused on attracting new customers that they overlook a valuable asset – their existing customer base.

It’s widely noted in marketing research that selling to an existing customer is significantly easier (and more cost-effective) than acquiring a new one. In fact, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5-20% (Source: Marketing Metrics).

Creating Related Courses: Expanding Your Portfolio

One effective way to leverage this is by creating courses that complement your existing offerings.

For instance, I have a successful course, “Create Awesome Online Courses,” so I’m considering developing a specialized course focusing on a related aspect, such as “Mastering Traffic and Lead Generation.” This new course would dive deeper into strategies specifically for driving traffic and generating leads, offering added value to students who have already benefited from CAOC.

Beyond the Basics: Next Steps for Growth

This approach is just the beginning. The real key to success in online course creation lies in understanding and executing a well-planned MVP launch – a specific launch plan we’ve developed in Create Awesome Online Courses.

MVP launches, such as webinar-based or email-only launches, are crucial strategies we teach in our course. They are designed to maximize your impact with minimal upfront investment, testing the waters before you dive deep.

By adopting a strategic approach to selling your course offerings, including MVP launches, you can significantly enhance your earning potential.

Embarking on Your Journey to Success

Remember, the strategies we’ve discussed are just the tip of the iceberg. The world of online courses is vast and filled with opportunities for those who know how to navigate it effectively. If you’re ready to dive deeper and truly harness the power of online courses, our comprehensive course is your ticket!

Click here to learn more and get started on your journey to success.


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