October 1st, 2015 Business

reading-at-computerDeciding you want to sell a course is the easy part – harder of course is actually getting the course creating, your marketing material in place, and settling on pricing.

I have found that during my conversations with people who are interested in selling courses that they often want to start with the price.

This makes sense.

It’s fun to think about how much revenue your course could potentially generate.

Fun, but often not productive.

Deciding on the price for your online course is more of an art than a science. There are many factors that contribute to the final number. The influence of these variables is often dependent on your industry, the course topic, the audience, your reputation, and so on.

So instead of dissecting those components (perhaps a topic for another day), let’s instead look at the pros and cons of the different pricing models you can potentially choose for your courses.

5 Viable Pricing Models

One-Time Price

The obvious positive to this pricing is that it’s a low perceived barrier to entry from the customer. They see one price and know that is all they will be charged.

The benefit to this approach is that you can price some courses lower than others so as to build a customer list fast, and then you can market higher-priced programs at a later date to an established audience.

The down-side to this pricing is that you set a precedent that your products are only worth being paid for one-time. Changing to a different pricing setup will be difficult.

Recurring Price

In this model you are receiving continuous payment, the schedule of which is determined by the type of course and service you’re offering. Yearly fees are going to be an easier sell than a monthly fee. If people are going to pay monthly for something, they expect quite a bit of value.

The challenging aspect of the recurring pricing model is that you need to continuously over-deliver so as to validate the investment people are putting towards your course. Also, people hate the idea of being automatically billed for something again-and-again. You’ll need to address this buyer anxiety.

Bundle Price

Bundling all of your courses under one price is a great way to keep it simple. In some ways it’s like selling membership access to all of your courses. Sites like Lynda.com have made a killing with this business model.

You will also need to determine if you want the bundle price to be a one-time payment or recurring. The same challenges apply, but you’ll also need to be careful that you don’t undervalue your courses with this approach.


If you have a site where other people are creating content, you can opt to just take a commission of the sale and let them worry about how they price it.

One clear benefit here is that it takes the burden of selling the actual course (and creating the content) off of you so that you can spend more time marketing.

However, this business model is the hardest. You’ll need to give people a reason to choose your platform over others (like Udemy). If you don’t have quality content then customers won’t trust the courses for sale on the site and you won’t generate any revenue.


Sounds crazy, but there is actually a lot of benefit you can get out of offering a course for free. First, it gets people into your course and allows you to generate a healthy list of potential customers for your future courses.

Secondly, you can add pricing for only certainly components, such as the ability to download the certificate. When Coursera implemented this business model they made north of $1 million their first year!

Of course the success of this approach depends on the perceived value of the certificate itself. You’ll need to work hard to make the certificate an item that people want (and therefore are willing to pay for).

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


6 responses

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Hi…I have a question!
Is there any way to use a combination of price types for different courses and lessons?
for example, I want some of my courses to be free, some one-time pay and some to be Recurring due to subscription fee.

I’ll appreciate if you answer my question.


Yes by using a shopping cart like WooCommerce.

Is there a limit to the number of free courses you can offer?


No, there is no limit in LearnDash.

This is great! Does LearnDash have a built-in way to charge extra for some components? I would really like to create a course where people can pay extra to get additional essays graded by me. Is this possible?

Hi, I am looking to use learn dash with wordpress and had a question.

We run a few courses e.g. Painting Class on Mondays 10am to 12pm or 3pm to 5pm.

So when a customer selects the class can I have a drop down options for the 2 timings?

So a variable course, is this possible with LearnDash and are there examples?


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