If you have online courses or you are planning on creating one, one of the first decision you need to make is where you are hosting your course. There are numerous options for you to start selling your online course.
I’ll review platforms on the following:
- Checkout experience (this is crucial!)
- Transaction fees
- Affiliate marketing
There is no right or wrong answer here as most offer more or less the same service and pricing. But there are few features that I value more than others - mainly checkout experience and affiliate marketing. I just added one more course platform to the mix so now you can choose from 4 options.
*Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links. You pay the exact same price and the commission I earn helps me writing these review.*
Here's a short list on features and which one I recommend:
3+1 Platforms To Sell Online Courses from Your Own Website
Here’s a list of online course platforms in no particular order – there are more of course, but these three are my favorite of all thinking of pricing and value you get.
I have personally tried and tested all and each has great features for online course sellers.
All pricing below is for an annual payment plan, but monthly options are available.
MemberVault is the newcomer in the review. There is a reason why it has been added - they offer something other platforms do not.
That is gamification!
Not the most crucial feature but one that almost guarantees to improve your course completion rate (and ability to sell more advanced courses!)! People love rewards and see their progress and gamification offers that nicely.
I currently host courses on Membervault and LOVE the gaminifation and customization options I have.
I can send emails when someone reaches certain point count, I can give a free upgrade when someone reaches certain point etc - this impacts course completion rates in an incredible powerful way (and allows students to be ready to take the next step or course...).
You can create bonus content for those that reach certain part of your course and show a student leaderboard.
With Membervault you can host both free and paid offers and create a store for your digital products.
Let's look at Membervault a bit closer.
The next best thing after gamification is the free basic account. You can start selling courses for free which is fantastic. You only pay once you reach 100 students so by that time you can easily afford MemberVault very affordable pricing as shown below.
Third best thing about MemberVault is direct integration with ActiveCampaign - the best email automation app out there. This is actually a big thing as for some weird reason many platforms do not offer this integration on their free (or any) plans?!
Lastly Membervault really support external sales pages and checkouts in a much better way than others.
- First 100 students for FREE
- Affordable pricing when your business grows
- Gamification (not offered with other platforms)
- Active and friendly FB group
- Affiliate tracking on all levels
MemberVault also has active FB group where you can connect with fellow course creators and get help.
Podia is a solid platform to host and sell your online courses, memberships and other type of digital products like books or printables. This is not offered anywhere like Podia does!
If you want a simple, functional course host for a couple of courses/digital products I highly recommend Podia. Their storefront works so well for a few products and presents well.
Update September 2021: Podia launched Community feature which basically allows you to interact with your students right on the course! No more FB groups! This is a huge for any course creator who offers community as part of their program.
If I was signing up to my first course host, I would now choose Podia purely because of the Community function!
I can't stress enough how important it is to have Community as part of a course and having it under one roof makes it so powerful.
Creating a community helps you not only sell your first course but all the other courses as well!
Their support is super responsive and they genuinely care about their customers. They also often feature their customer’s courses on their social media platforms!
Their slogan is: “Sell online courses and digital products from your own beautiful storefront in seconds.”
Lastly, Podia offers WEBINARS as part of their package! This is an awesome add-on service that the other two platforms do not offer.
- Potentially all-in-one business solution including emails and pages
- By far the best checkout experience of all three (reduces cart abandonment rate)
- You can sell courses, memberships and digital downloads
- Super responsive customer support
- Host Webinars to sell your course
- Free migration service from other platforms!
-> Podia is the best option if you sell both courses and digital downloads!
It also wins hands down on checkout experience. The average cart abandonment rate online is whopping 68% aka people do not finish the purchase. Podia has this covered with simple and powerful popup checkout.
Podia truly has the best checkout experience as you can embed the checkout to your website or sales page!
Teachable is currently hosting over 20K courses for over 10K instructors, who have together earned over 50M over time. They have a user-friendly interface that is easy and quick to use.
They also offer Teachable School which means your student can sign up for multiple Teachable Instructor schools with just one login. Saving yet another login details from students can help your sales – I mean who does want to remember yet another password?
They have some big names in their books like Pat Flynn, Shopify and the New York Times.
Slogan: “Your skills and experiences are unique and valuable. Easily build a beautiful course website, share your knowledge, and be rewarded for it”. I agree.
Pricing below is as of May 2020. If you have checked pricing before, you'll notice quite a spike up on Teachable Pricing. Personally I no longer recommend Teachable as there are other platforms that offer better features at a lower price. Price from Basic to Professional is just too much.
- One page, customizable check out (super important for sales!!)
- Smooth design and great sales pages
- One login for all Teachable courses
- Reliable and easy to use
Teachable is a great option if you know your students probably have already purchased a course from another Teachable teacher. Students can then use a single login to access all courses from all Teachable instructors. Who needs to remember yet another password?!
Thinkific is a Canadian online course platform that has been around for years. They offer solid online course hosting and superb customer support. Their slogan is “The online course platform you can trust with your business”.
Their client list includes Hootsuite, Lewis Howes, and many more big names.
I used to be a Thinkific Expert and hosted my online courses on Thinkific (technically you still can purchase my courses on Thinkific, but I don’t link to the school anymore).
Why did I change?
For me, the deal-breaker was lack of customization options for checkout. (yes I keep coming back to checkout experience). Thinkific is currently (as of May 2020) in BETA for custom checkout.
I could have hired someone to customize it for my business but that would have just been a hassle.
Thinkific checkout is a two-step process where the first step is signing in / signing up. This can increase your cart abandonment rate.
Other than that, Thinkific is a wonderful option who offers truly amazing customer support for the course sellers!
- Linkedin integration (fantastic if you have a certification program)
- Solid student experience
- Really helpful customer support and active Facebook group
- Zero transaction fees
- Affiliate program
The only downside to Thinkific is the lack of customization on the checkout process. If there was customization available, I might just move back to Thinkific.
So what about my courses
So I guess you want to know where my courses are hosted now?
The reason is their awesome checkout experience, but if you want even further checkout customization I highly recommend Thrivecart, read my Thrivecart Review here. That is where many sales are lost.
The easier (aka least clicks and forms to fill in) the checkout, the more money you make. You can read more about checkout abandonment and conversion rates here.
If I had to move my online courses to a new platform, I would choose Podia for sure. I just really like their user-interface, super smooth checkout popup and support I’ve received from them as a partner and course creator.
Update on April 2020: I may just take up on Podia offer on FREE migration as Teachable has announced pricing change and reducing features on their plans.