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How to Make and Sell Online Courses for Passive Income

Lucy Miller 6th Apr 2020 One Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Got a serious skill that you want to share with the world? Great! Here, we’ll think about all the factors you need to consider if you want to make and sell online courses for passive income.

In this article we’ll cover the following: 

Should I run an online course? 

Online learning via laptop

If you’re considering running an online course, chances are you have an area of expertise or specialist knowledge that you believe you could impart on a wide scale. 

This might be true, but it isn’t the only thing that you should think about before you decide to take the step and launch a course online. It’s important that you consider the following factors carefully, too: 

  • Do you have the time and the patience to dedicate to it?
  • Are you prepared to wait a while for the course to bring in income?
  • Can you effectively market the course so that people know about it?
  • Are there lots of similar courses already? How crowded is the specific market that you’re trying to get into?
  • What can you offer that’s different?
  • Do you want to offer guidance to your students, or sell them the course as a one-off?
  • Do you need to get your course accredited by any specific industry bodies before you start selling it?

As you can see, there are lots of factors at play here. Questions range from the broad (whether you’ll have time to dedicate to building and marketing the course) to the specific (whether there are industry bodies you need to work with).

Answer these questions, and you should have a clearer idea of both whether you should invest your time in running a course and what it’ll look like if you do.

What kind of subject should my course focus on?

You’ll obviously have the best idea of the expertise that you can offer. It’d be a mistake to try and tailor your online course to something that you’re not an expert in. That could be a recipe for getting found out very quickly! 

What characteristics should my course have?

On the whole, there are some online courses that work better than others. They tend to have the following characteristics: 

  • Practical applications 
  • Easy to teach remotely, rather than in person
  • Easy to assess via an online test 

What about specific subject matter?

Subjects for those who are used to both working and upskilling online are a good idea. Popular ideas for online courses include: 

  • Digital marketing 
  • Analytics 
  • Business 
  • HR
  • Photography 
  • Coding 
  • Administration 

What about subjects with practical applications?

Practical subjects that require the learner to get out into the world are less likely to work well as an online course. Courses for subjects like healthcare do exist online, but you’re likely to want to find a body to offer professional accreditation if you’re planning on running one.

I’m an academic – should I run a course?

Of course, if your interests are more academic you might want to run more of a lecture-focused course. This is likely to work particularly well if you’re a professor or lecturer, with a university reputation to back you up. 

Subjects that are already popular in online courses cover the spectrum of arts, history, culture and science. Find your niche within these vast subjects and you could be onto a winner!

What else do I need to think about at this stage? 

Lots of things! Here are just a few of them… 

What platforms can I use to run my online course?

There are lots of platforms out there that you could consider if you’re looking to make and sell online courses for passive income. A few of the best include:

Who is my audience, and how can I get to them? 

It’s vital that you know who your audience is, and how to get to them. Consider building an email list, advertising on social media, and networking so that you can let people know about your plans in person. 

Don’t underestimate word of mouth here! It can be a vital tool in letting the right people know about your new offering. Make sure you’re also using targeted marketing to reach the people you want to directly at the same time, though.

How much money could I earn if I make and sell online courses for passive income?


A couple of questions to ask yourself 

You need to think about a few different things here. If you’re planning on making your online course interactive and running each session as a live webinar, you’re going to be investing more time in it than you would if you created a course that could be accessed remotely at any time. 

With the former, you’ll likely be able to charge more for your course – but it’ll take up more of your time, too.

If you’re not dedicating time to the course other than with its initial creation, marketing and any updates needed over time, it really can become passive. The amount you could make in this case is unlimited, especially if your course really takes off and starts getting thousands of students. 

How much should I charge? 

This entirely depends on how long your course is, and whether it has valuable career drivers like professional accreditations or exams included. You need to look at what the market rate is for courses of your length, subject, and skill level, and price yours accordingly. 

It’s worth considering intro offers for a limited number of sign-ups, too. These early adopters of your course can act as a test, and you can get their feedback on improvements etc before you start marketing your course at its full price.

Ask a question about running a business

Has the idea of creating an online course inspired you? Perhaps you want to know how to set up your tax affairs now you’re earning extra cash. Maybe you’re looking for more passive income ideas.

Whatever your burning earning question, our Magpies can help! Connect with the community and have your question answered by the MoneyMagpie team, vetted experts, and other Magpies like you.

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4 years ago

Intriguing! Will definitely delve further.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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