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Set Up Pricing and Collect Payments for Online Courses

If you’re thinking of creating and marketing online courses and workshops, it’s important to define your pricing strategy. Knowing how much to charge and how to make it easy for people to pay—not to mention how to manage your revenue—can make all the difference in converting visitors into customers. Here’s our guide to setting up pricing and collecting payments for your courses.

Offer free content to attract course customers

Before you ask someone to pay for your course, you can show them that it’s going to be worth their investment. Give them a free sample of your program content—like a short video or downloadable guide—that showcases your expertise and teaching style. 

There are two ways to offer free content on your website:

  1. Make content accessible to anyone on the internet. Simply add the content to a page on your website that any visitor can access.

  2. Make content accessible in exchange for contact information. Create a free area of your website that requires visitors to sign up to gain access, but doesn’t cost them anything. This way, you can start to collect visitor names and emails, and build your audience for marketing initiatives like email campaigns.

No matter your approach, make sure the sample material is every bit as good as your paid content—people will judge the quality of your free classes before deciding to pursue your paid offerings. The idea is to make people feel as though they can’t wait for the next installment. 

Free educational content is also a great sales and marketing tool as it provides you with readymade social media messaging. Simply push your free classes out via your social channels, promote them with links in bio, and show the world what you have to offer.

Put up a paywall for course content

 You can monetize your educational videos, podcasts, downloadable materials, and other course content by only allowing paid access. A paywall will position your work as premium content and create an exclusive experience for customers.

 When designing your website, make sure your site builder offers tools that allow this option. Squarespace enables users to add paid Member Areas to their existing sites or build new sites specifically designed for gated content.

 You should be looking for a paywall option that enables you to separate your web traffic data for paid and free content areas, so you can see how the paid section of the site performs by itself. This arms you with information to help develop and improve your course content.

It should also enable you to connect your email campaigns with customer profiles so you can plan specific marketing campaigns targeting an already engaged audience. For example, you can send materials that say, “You just finished part two of the program. Look out for part three coming in a few weeks.”

Price your online course

When you build the curriculum for your online workshops with a tool like Squarespace Scheduling, you’ll probably have an idea of how much you want to charge for each class.

Before you start pricing your study program, though, there are a few factors to consider: 

What are your competitors charging?

Do you want to price yourself as a luxury or a budget version of their offering? Do you want to compete at the same level by pricing yourself just slightly below their offering?

What’s your current reputation within your field?

If you’re a widely acknowledged thought leader in your subject, you can probably charge more than a competitor who isn’t. If you’re less well-known, pricing lower will help you to build your brand—and you can increase prices as your credibility grows.

What outcome will your students achieve?

The bigger the outcome, the higher the price. You might try selling short courses at a lower price so that learners can invest more into subject deep-dives later, as they grow their confidence in your brand.

Will your students need to budget for course materials?

Are you going to supply free downloads of course reading and other content, or will you be asking your customers to purchase a book or other supplemental materials? If it's the former, you may be able to set your price point a little higher because you can point to those materials as bonuses customers get in addition to instruction.

Once you roll out your pricing strategy, try bumping the prices after a few weeks to see what happens. Then try dropping them to see what happens. You’ll soon get a sense of the right price point for your target audience based on your sign-up numbers.

Grow your profits

When your online classes launch, keep your eye on your website analytics so that you can see how they’re performing. You can leverage this data to help grow your profits.

First, knowing which types of courses are popular and which aren’t will help you shape future workshop content and more effectively target audience needs. For example, if your advanced carpentry workshops are not so popular but your beginners’ carpentry workshop sales are through the roof, concentrate your efforts where they pay off.

Second, knowing how your customers arrived on your site, whether via social media mentions or online searches, will show you where to place your future promotional materials. For example, if all your users are coming to your website via organic search, you might deprioritize driving traffic from social media channels. Focusing on your SEO strategy will continue to connect more people with your courses.

Organize your online income

 Accepting payments for course content online can be easy with the right website builder. Organizing those payments—for your accountant, for tax purposes, and for your own peace of mind—is a little scarier. But it’s not as hard as you’d think. Today, there are extensions and plug-ins available that allow any small business owners to keep track of their accounting.

Your paywall provider should give you some fairly sophisticated finance tools. However, if you’re running a complex business with multiple offerings, or if your online classes really start to grow into a lucrative endeavor, you should give yourself a running start at staying on top of your finances.

Still building your audience? Learn how to market and sell your online courses.

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