Welcome back to Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses!
If you missed the kick off last week, you can check out the introduction to the series, Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses. (You’ll want to read it before diving into what you need to make it happen.)
This week is all about the tools and software you need to sell ecourses through your own website.
First, I want you to take a DEEP breath, because when you look at this list, you might be overwhelmed.
Instead of going straight to “well I’ll never be able to make this happen,” I want you to remember how excited you got when you thought about creating an online course. That enthusiasm will help you push through the overwhelm.
Everybody who decides to create and sell ecourses gets overwhelmed when they first think about what goes into creating it.
Before we get into the list (some of you are probably thinking, “alright already…get to the good stuff), there’s something else important to touch on.
From the comments last week, I know some of you are looking for shortcuts. Maybe you don’t want to invest a lot of money into creating your ecourse. Maybe you’re a little nervous about putting in a lot of time and some money and then it flopping.
Here’s the thing: if you’re starting out with a negative mindset, you’re not going to get very far.
You’ll get out of it what you put in. That’s the truth I’ve found with working with hundreds of creative entrepreneurs.
You probably can’t put together a course that people gush over and that makes you a good chunk of money with just your smartphone. You need some tools and software. You need to be willing to spend time on this. If you aren’t, then this probably isn’t the right time for you to create your first ecourse. (And, that’s okay, too!)
With that said, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to create an ecourse that your customers love.
Below I’m sharing the tools I use and some cheaper alternatives.
I want this be accessible if you have a limited budget, but keep in mind that what you can charge often correlates with the quality of product. Meaning that if you’re using your iphone to film the videos, you can’t charge as much as you could if you’re using a camera that gives you high-quality picture and sound.
You probably won’t need ALL of these tools. I don’t use all of them in the same course. It depends on what you’re offering within your course. For example, if you’re not hosting live calls, you don’t need a platform to host live calls.
Without further introduction (cause that was already pretty darn long), here’s the list of tools:
If you’re teaching an online course, you need a computer. I use a Macbook Pro (Mac girl for life!) and I love it, but you can do the same types of things on a PC. Use what you’ve got.
If you want to host an ecourse, then you need a website to host it on.
What I Use:
I have a WordPress website and highly recommend using WordPress. The step-by-step tutorial video that I’m sharing next week is on creating an ecourse on WordPress website.
If you want to teach an online course but don’t want to get into the technical bits of hosting it yourself, I suggest looking into other platforms such as Skillshare and Atly. Make sure you read the fine print because some platforms can remove your course at any time for any reason (without notice) and if that’s a main source of your income, you want to be prepared. Also, you give up control when you host your course on another platform and you have to share the profits. But, sometimes giving up some control and profits is worth it when you don’t have to do any of the technical set up or hosting.
3. Domain and Hosting
What I Use:
Instead of purchasing a new domain for each course, I install a subdomain onto my main domain: blacksburgbelle.com. If I can show you how to do this without showing any private information, I’m going to include it in next week’s video tutorial.
I use the program Fantastico (which I had to pay for separately but comes with some hosting packages) on my cPanel to install subdomains. I know that probably sounds confusing but it’s actually very easy. You’ll see next week! It’s a click of a button.
This is the cheaper alternative to buying another domain and paying for additional hosting for that domain. I do it mainly because it’s the easiest way for me to offer courses on my own website.
I buy my domains from Dynadot.
For hosting, I use Midphase and I pay $305.90 for hosting each month because I have my own dedicated server which means that my website loads much faster than it would if I was on a shared server. I DON’T recommend this for those of you starting out.
If you’re willing to invest in really good hosting, I suggest Synthesis. If you’re not ready for that, I suggest picking a hosting plan that’s less than $10 a month (such as Blue Host) and investing more in the future if necessary.
If you already have a self-hosted website, then you already have a domain and hosting. This is ONLY for those of you who don’t have a website yet.
I use Fantastico to easily install subdomains onto blacksburgbelle.com in order to host courses on their own site that is still connected to Blacksburg Belle.
Some hosting plans include Fantastico so check with your hosting provider before you invest in this.
You could host your course on a password protected page on your website. If you pick this option, you can’t customize a website for your course because you’re using your main website. And, it’s not as secure, because someone could give out the link and password without you realizing it.
5. WishList Member
I use WishList Member for every course and membership program I sell through Blacksburg Belle. It’s user-friendly and secure. Next week, I’ll walk you through how I use WishList Member so you can see it for yourself.
Same alternative as number four—using a password protected page on your website.
6. WordPress Theme
If you install a subdomain on your website, you have to set it up from scratch which means adding a theme and any plug-ins you want to use.
What I Use:
I use Canvas by WooThemes for everything including my website and subdomains. I love Canvas because I can easily customize my site with it.
Free WordPress themes are always an option, but they often come with technical hiccups and aren’t easily (if at all) customizable.
7. Email Platform
In order to email your students (to give them course information, encourage them, update them on changes, etc), you need an email platform. Most online business owners already have an email platform that they use to email followers and subscribers. If you already use an email platform, you can use it for this purpose.
What I Use:
I’ve used AWeber for the past four years. Highly recommend.
Within Wishlist Member, you can email your members, however, it’s very limited in what you can do. Simple emails…yes. Anything above very basic, you’ll want an email platform. I suggest using an email platform and if you don’t want to spend extra money, sign up with MailChimp because it’s free until you reach a certain number of subscribers.
8. Video camera
If your course (or sales page) includes videos (other than slides or screenshots), then you need a video camera to record those videos. I don’t recommend using your smartphone, because the quality is subpar. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a video camera, but investing a couple hundred dollars will make a huge difference in your videos.
What I Use:
I use a Nikon Coolpix L620 which was about $250 when I bought it.
Your smartphone, but again, I don’t recommend this. I’ve filmed videos with my iPhone and there’s a huge difference in the picture and sound quality when using a video camera. When I’m paying for something, I expect higher quality than smartphone videos.
If you’re using pictures in your course or on your sales page, you’ll need a camera. I suggest investing in a decent camera—not just for your course—but for your business. If you take product photos or photos for your blog, it’ll help you improve all of those areas.
What I Use:
A few years ago, I took the plunge and bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D90. It’s been a great camera for me.
You can get some really nice photos with your smartphone or with a camera that isn’t a DSLR. You have to decide what’s worth investing in and isn’t (or what you can wait to invest in).
10. Video Editing Software
For the most part, you don’t need anything crazy when it comes to editing videos for your course. You probably don’t need special effects or advanced techniques.
What I Use:
My go-to video editing software is iMovie. After you get the hang of it, you can do a lot with it and it’s free with a Mac.
If you’re on a PC, I can’t really help you because I haven’t had a PC in years.
11. Studio Lights
If you’re filming videos and don’t have nice natural light (not too harsh—not too dark) or can’t film during the hours you get the best natural light in your home, getting studio lights will make your life so much easier.
What I Use:
In my last house, I had a sunroom with beautiful natural light so that’s what I used. When I moved, I realized that all the big trees surrounding my house meant that natural light for my videos wasn’t going to be an option anymore. I purchased this lighting package.
If you’re filming videos for your course, a tripod will make your life easier. It steadies the camera and makes it easier to get the height just right.
For quite a while, I used a stack of books on stool as my “tripod.” It worked just fine. I upgraded when my husband found me a high-quality tripod at a flea market.
If you’re including videos in your course but you want to record slides while you talk through them or you want to record your computer screen, you’ll need screen recording software. I use Screenflow to record and edit those types of videos. It’s been a great program for me and it’s very user-friendly. You can download a free trial to see if you like it.
14. PowerPoint or Keynote
If you’re going to record slides, you need software to create those slides. I use Keynote because I’m on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, you’d probably use PowerPoint.
I use Adobe Illustrator to create visuals for my slides, sales pages and course design. I also use it to create worksheet pages.
One way to make your sales page look more customized is to create your own buy buttons instead of using your shopping cart’s default buy buttons. It can make a big difference. I design my buy buttons in Illustrator.
Because Adobe offers the monthly plan, I think it’s totally worth it. For $50 a month you get access to so many programs that will up your business game. If you’re not ready for that kind of investment, you can create a lot of this stuff (but not all) with PicMonkey for free.
I use InDesign to put together workbooks, multi-page worksheets and ebooks for my courses. I don’t know of a cheaper alternative for this one but it comes in the monthly bundle package through Adobe.
If your course doesn’t include workbooks, multi-page patterns or ebooks, then you probably don’t need this.
I use Photoshop to edit all of my photos. If you’re using photos within your course (example: to demonstrate the steps in your sewing tutorial), you definitely want to edit them. It makes a huge difference.
Photoshop isn’t a need by any means. You can do enough with free photo editing software like PicMonkey if it’s not in the budget.
18. Photoshop Actions
I used to spend a ton of time editing my photos. Then, I found Photoshop actions. To me, they are well worth the investment, because they save me hours and hours and hours. Right now, I exclusively use Paint the Moon actions.
Editing your photos manually. Or, Photoshop actions that don’t cost as much, but from my experience, you get what you pay for.
19. Video Hosting Platform
If you’re using videos (either kind), you need a place to host them.
What I Use:
Vimeo is my go-to for hosting videos. I prefer it over YouTube, because you’ve got more options to customize them, making your videos feel much more branded.
20. Shopping Cart
You’ve got to have a shopping cart in order to collect money.
What I Use:
I’ve always used 1shoppingcart in conjunction with PayPal to accept credit cards and PayPal. 1shoppingcart works seamlessly with WishList Member, so when someone pays, they automatically get redirected to the course website to choose a username and password. I don’t have to send the course information to each customer manually.
I’m not sure which cheaper shopping carts work with WishList Member seamlessly like 1shoppingcart but I’m sure that there are some that do. I’ve heard good things about SendOwl, which is cheaper, but I’m not sure how it works with WishList Member. That’s something you’d have to research.
If part of your course includes live calls (such as Q&A calls), then you need to pick a platform to host them.
What I Use:
In the beginning I used GotoWebinar, but I didn’t love it. I’m currently using Spreecast but I don’t love it either. There are pros and cons to every platform and each one seems to come with it’s own technical issues. I’m still looking for a platform that has amazing customer support and less technical hiccups, but the best option for me right now is Spreecast.
If you have nine students or less, you could use Google hangouts for free. Unfortunately, at this time, it only allows 10 people to join a call so it doesn’t work for larger courses.
If you’re going to host live calls, you’ll need a way for your students to see you (unless you’re only showing your screen/slides), so you’ll need a webcam.
What I Use:
I upgraded my webcam to the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, because I wanted a clearer picture. It definitely gives me much better picture quality.
For years, I used the webcam on my Macbook Pro and you could easily use the webcam that comes with your laptop (if applicable).
These are all the tools and software I use to create and sell my online courses. I hope it helps you figure out what to invest in to get started.
Remember that you don’t need all of this stuff. It really depends on what you’re offering within your ecourse. My advice is to set a budget, invest in stuff that’s going to make the biggest difference to the quality of your ecourse and pick cheaper alternatives for the other stuff.
Then, you can upgrade as you go.
Do NOT let this list completely overwhelm you. Take things one step at a time and enjoy the process!
Think of anything I didn’t include? Add it in the comments below.