July 28th, 2015 Business

stacking-coinsI often get the opportunity to speak to people from a variety of backgrounds about their ambitions to sell their own online courses.

Most of the time their courses have something to do with their professional background or personal experience. This makes it easy for them to get started since they are very familiar with the content – all they need to do is put it in a proper structure.

There are also those with ambitions of creating a “course marketplace” of sorts, similar to Lynda.com.

As a disclaimer, I don’t think anything is wrong with this goal. Not at all. It clearly is a viable business model. If done correctly then you have quite a valuable asset.

The thing to remember though is that doing this correctly is going to cost a lot (and I mean a LOT) of money.

You see, when you decide to sell one or two courses that are related to your own personal knowledge then the only thing that is holding you back is yourself. In other words, you can get started today.

When you approach selling online courses with the “marketplace” first mentality, you immediately rely on others and are forced to address critical business concerns that you otherwise would not have to.

For example, you need to find people who are motivated to create courses for your marketplace.

This means there has to be incentive – and usually this is monetary. If your site doesn’t have a significant market presence, be prepared to pay these course creators handsomely for their time (and note that courses can take a very long time to create depending on the subject).

While the marketplace approach sounds great in theory (let other people create courses and you collect commission), implementation will prove to be a costly endeavor with no real guarantee of a return on your investment.

Start simple. Start with a course that YOU can create and begin selling it. Use the income from this course to fund your venture. Create another course and cross-promote. Perhaps create a third or fourth course. Start building your OWN marketplace slowly and keep 100% of the income.

At some point you may want to open it up to others once it gains enough notoriety. Until then, stick with what you can control and you’ll find that your journey to profit is a lot quicker.

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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


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Justin, I couldn’t agree more. I am the founder and MD of elearningmarketplace.co.uk and it has taken a lot of investment, time and hard work to get the company to where it is today. Fortunately I have been working in the education and learning and development sectors as an educator, manager and learning technology consultant for over 20 years, which was a huge benefit in getting the company off the ground 2 years ago.

We work with brilliant partners to bring a unique catalogue of e-learning to our customers, but it hasn’t been plain sailing and we’ve encountered many unexpected challenges along the way. Anyone thinking that an e-commerce business entails setting up a website and then the money roles in is wrong. You need to go into e-commerce with your eyes open having done a lot of research, and have a good understanding of SEO and search engines, so you don’t rely too heavily on out sourcing this expertise.

It’s good to blog about practicality. Even better would be to, allow your customers the opportunity of having built-in Learndash market-place capability and make it optionable.

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