Did you know that you can create a successful online course with WordPress?
Selling online courses is a popular online business idea that you can start with a very small investment and no technical knowledge.
In this guide, we will show you how to easily create an online course using WordPress. We will also show you how to make money from it and make your online course successful.
Here are the steps we will cover to help you create an online course with WordPress:
- What Do You Need to Create / Sell an Online Course?
- Step 1: Setting Up Your WordPress Website
- Step 2: Install and Set Up MemberPress LMS Plugin
- Step 3: Creating Your First Course
- Step 4: Adding Sections and Lessons to Your Course
- Step 5: Creating Course Membership Subscriptions
- Step 6: Restrict Course Access to Membership Plans
- Step 7: Adding a Link to the Course Signup and Register Page
- Step 8: Preview & Customize Your Online Course
- Step 9: Selling Your Online Course with More Powerful Features
- Step 10: Promoting Your Online Course
- Frequently Asked Questions About Creating an Online Course (FAQs)
Ready? Let’s get started.
What Do You Need to Create / Sell an Online Course?
You will need the following things to create an online course:
- A course idea for how you can help others learn new skills.
- A domain name. This will be your website’s address (For example, wpbeginner.com).
- A WordPress hosting account. This is where your website’s files are stored.
- An eLearning management addon (also known as an LMS plugin) to create and manage courses.
- Your undivided attention for the next 45 minutes.
You can build an online course with WordPress in less than an hour, and we will walk you through every step of the process.
Let’s get started.
If you’d prefer written instructions, then just keep reading.
Step 1: Setting Up Your WordPress Website
However, we recommend WordPress because it offers you maximum flexibility and freedom.
WordPress powers over 43% of all websites on the internet.
There are two types of WordPress, and beginners often end up confusing them.
First, there is WordPress.com, which is a hosting service, and then you have the original WordPress.org, also known as self-hosted WordPress. See our guide on the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org.
We recommend using WordPress.org because it gives you access to all the WordPress features that you’ll need.
To start a self-hosted WordPress.org website, you’ll need a domain name ($14.99 / year), WordPress hosting ($7.99 / month), and an SSL certificate to accept online payments ($69.99 / year).
This is quite a lot of startup money.
Luckily, Bluehost, an officially recommended WordPress hosting provider, has agreed to offer our users a free domain name, a free SSL certificate, and a 73% discount on web hosting. Basically, you can get started for $2.75 per month.
Need more hosting suggestions? We also recommend Hostinger. They offer a discounted price for WPBeginner readers with free domain and SSL. Alternatively, you can take a look at our pick of the best WordPress hosting companies.
After purchasing hosting, head over to our guide on how to create a WordPress website for step-by-step setup instructions.
Step 2: Install and Set Up MemberPress LMS Plugin
Now that your WordPress website is ready, installing and setting up a Learning Management System addon is next. This will allow you to create and add your online course to your website.
Course creators around the world use MemberPress to create profitable courses and earn over $400 million every year.
Upon activation, you need to visit the MemberPress » Settings page to enter your license key. You can find this information in your account on the MemberPress website.
Once you have entered the information, click the ‘Activate License Key’ button to store your settings.
Next, you need to switch to the ‘Payments’ tab and click the ‘+’ add button to set up a payment gateway. MemberPress supports PayPal and Stripe (Authorize.net support is included in the Pro and Plus plans).
Simply select your payment gateway and then fill in the required information. You can also set up multiple payment methods by clicking on the ‘+’ button again and repeat the process.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Update Options’ button to save your payment settings.
Step 3: Creating Your First Course
The course creation process in MemberPress makes it super easy to create and manage online courses. It comes with a very easy-to-use course builder that allows you to create courses, add sections, edit lessons, and more.
First, you need to visit the MemberPress » Courses page, where you’ll see a button to install and activate the courses addon.
Clicking on it will automatically install and activate the MemberPress courses addon.
You’ll be redirected to the courses page.
Click the ‘Add New’ button at the top to create your first course.
This will launch the MemberPress course builder screen.
First, you’ll see the ‘Course Page’ where you need to provide a course topic, title, and description. MemberPress course builder uses the default WordPress block editor, so you can get creative and make an impressive course page layout.
You can also add ‘Course Categories’ and ‘Course Tags,’ set a featured image, and provide a course page excerpt under the course page settings.
Step 4: Adding Sections and Lessons to Your Course
MemberPress also makes it easy to quickly start adding content for each course without switching to a different page.
Simply switch to the ‘Curriculum’ tab and click on the ‘Add Section’ button to create your course outline.
You need to provide a title for a section.
After that, click on the ‘Add Lesson’ button under the section to add lessons.
Simply enter a title for your lesson to add it.
After adding a lesson, you can start adding lesson content by clicking on the edit button next to each lesson.
You will now be asked to save your changes.
After that, your lesson will open up with the familiar block editor screen.
You can add your lesson content here with the full advantage of the block editor.
This allows you to upload images, embed videos, add text, and offer downloadable digital products such as PowerPoint presentations, PDF eBooks, actionable worksheets, and other course materials.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Update’ button to save your lesson.
You can return back to the Course by clicking on the ‘Back’ link at the top of the editor.
Repeat the process to add more lessons to your course.
Once you have finished adding course content, don’t forget to click on the ‘Publish’ button to make your course accessible to eligible users.
Step 5: Creating Course Membership Subscriptions
MemberPress allows you to easily sell online courses with subscription plans. You can create as many membership plans as you like, and users can select a plan to pay for your online course.
You can also sell all your courses under a single membership, offer free courses, or add different courses for each plan. It depends on how you plan to structure your sales funnel.
A lot of people use a combination of free courses and paid courses to build their audience and maximize passive income.
To add a membership, go to the MemberPress » Memberships page and click on the ‘Add New’ button.
Next, you will reach the Add New Membership page.
From here, you first need to provide a title for this membership plan and then add a description.
After that, you can enter the membership pricing under the ‘Membership Terms’ box on the right. You can also choose the access duration from lifetime, expire (recurring), or fixed expire.
Next, you need to scroll down to the Membership Options section.
This is where you can configure advanced membership options like a sign-up button, welcome email, pricing box, and more.
Once you are finished, you can click on the ‘Publish’ button to save your changes.
Just repeat the process if you need to create more membership plans.
Step 6: Restrict Course Access to Membership Plans
The best thing about using MemberPress is its powerful access control rules. They allow you to decide who gets access to your online course.
Simply go to the MemberPress » Rules page and click on the ‘Add New’ button.
This will bring you to the Rule Wizard page.
First, select the content you want to protect under the ‘Protected’ content section.
For instance, here, we have chosen a single course under the protected content.
Below, you need to select the conditions that need to be matched for users to access that content. For instance, we have chosen our membership plan here.
Don’t forget to click the ‘Save Rule’ button to save your settings.
Step 7: Adding a Link to the Course Signup and Register Page
MemberPress makes it easy to easily send users to the page where they can register and sign up for your course by purchasing a membership plan.
It automatically generates a link for each membership plan that you can add anywhere on your site.
Simply edit a membership plan, and you’ll see the link below the membership title. You can also manually type in your domain name followed by /register/your-membership-title/
You can add this link anywhere on your website in a post, page, or navigation menu.
It will take users to the registration page.
You can even share this link on your sales pages, webinars, podcasts, Facebook groups, social media, and other traffic channels.
Pro Tip: We recommend using PrettyLinks to create memorable short links to share in podcasts, webinars, and social media.
Step 8: Preview & Customize Your Online Course
MemberPress allows you to use the classroom mode by default, which means your course pages and content will always look good regardless of which WordPress theme you are using.
You can simply go to view a course by visiting:
Don’t forget to replace example.com with your own domain name.
You’ll see all your courses listed there. You can click on the ‘Preview as’ menu to see how it would look to the logged-out users.
Clicking on a course will open the course, and you will be able to see the course overview, sections, and lessons.
It is super easy to navigate and also keeps track of users’ progress so that they can continue where they left off.
You can also customize the course page templates by visiting the Appearance » Customize page.
Then, you can just click on the ‘MemberPress Classroom’ tab.
Here, you can upload your brand logo and change colors to match the rest of your website.
Don’t forget to click on the ‘Publish’ button to save your changes.
Step 9: Selling Your Online Course with More Powerful Features
Both MemberPress and WordPress are super flexible. This allows you to use them with any other tools to grow your business and reach more users.
For example, you can create a powerful membership site/community that offers paid content and perks along with courses.
You can also use MemberPress with other LMS plugins like Thrive Apprentice. This allows you to use Thrive Apprentice for course creation and use MemberPress for powerful subscriptions, payments, memberships, and other features.
Alternatively, if you want to sell other items like physical goods related to your course, swags, etc., then you can use WooCommerce to manage payments and orders. This will let you build a proper online store for your website.
Step 10: Promoting Your Online Course
The other advantage of the WordPress + MemberPress combo is that it also makes it easier for you to promote your online course and make money online.
Let’s take a look at a few ways to promote your online course, attract your target audience, and make it successful.
1. Create Landing Pages for Your Online Courses
Your WordPress theme would be able to help you create a highly engaging website. However, you may need to quickly create landing pages to describe course details, showcase instructors, highlight special offers, etc.
Custom landing pages and sales pages are proven to increase course sales.
For detailed instructions, see our guide on how to create a custom page in WordPress.
2. Learn The SEO Basics
Search engines are the #1 traffic source for most websites on the internet. This is why you’ll need to learn how to make your online course website rank higher in search engines.
With the help of WordPress plugins and some basic SEO best practices, you’ll be easily able to compete with the big guys.
We now recommend using the All in One SEO for WordPress plugin.
To learn more, see our complete WordPress SEO guide for beginners with step-by-step instructions.
3. Track Marketing Data
A lot of beginners develop their marketing strategy based on guesswork. You don’t have to do that when you can get actual data to make informed decisions.
You can see where your visitors are coming from, what they do on your website, your most popular pages, and more. You can then improve your website to improve your conversions and boost sales.
4. Start Building an Email List
After a while, you will notice that most visitors who visit your website don’t sign up for your online course. The problem is that you would not be able to reach out to those users once they leave your website.
To address this, you need to start an email newsletter. This way, you will be able to collect email addresses, reach out to those users, and bring them back to your website.
If you are looking for alternatives, then see our comparison of the best email marketing services.
5. Convert Website Visitors into Subscribers and Customers
Most visitors to your website will leave without enrolling in your online course. This is why it’s important to convert those abandoning visitors into subscribers or paying customers.
This is called conversion optimization.
The best tool for the job is OptinMonster. It is the best conversion optimization software on the market and helps you grow your business with more leads and sales.
For more details, see our guide on how to convert website visitors into customers.
Need even more tools? See our complete list of the best tools to grow your WordPress website like a pro.
Frequently Asked Questions About Creating an Online Course (FAQs)
Over the last 14 years, we have helped thousands of entrepreneurs create their own online courses. Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about creating an online course.
How can I create high-quality videos for my course?
Videos are an important element of online courses. They help you better demonstrate your subject matter expertise and connect with your audience.
When first starting out, you don’t need to invest in fancy video equipment. A good Ultra HD webcam like Logitech Brio is sufficient for most users.
Recently, our team has started using the Descript online video editing platform, and it can significantly improve your workflow.
Can I use other online learning platforms with WordPress?
There are many online course platforms that you can use to build and sell courses.
You can use any of them alongside your WordPress website. Depending on your needs, these platforms may offer an easier online course creation solution.
However, they’re generally more expensive and/or take a revenue share from your course sales.
Which is the best webinar platform for course creators?
Nothing beats live webinars when it comes to online education. You can use it to boost your audience engagement and improve membership retention.
We have compared the best webinar platforms here.
Most of these solutions will let you create live webinars, automated evergreen webinars, and come up with tons of webinar engagement features.
How can I validate my course idea?
Creating online course content takes a lot of time and effort. This is why we always recommend users validate their course ideas beforehand.
There are several ways to validate a course idea.
You can run a poll or survey on your website, ask for audience feedback on social media, or look at your most popular blog posts or YouTube videos because, often, the most popular ones can be turned into courses.
What’s the one “little-known” thing that I can do to make my online course successful?
There are many tactics that you can use to make your online course idea successful and profitable.
The little-known tactic that works really well is case studies. Unfortunately, not enough course creators use them.
A case study allows you to highlight the most successful students in your community. This not only provides encouragement to others, but it can also help those who don’t know how to take maximum advantage of your products.
We use case studies in many of our own businesses for social proof to boost conversions and also to help our new users find encouragement and motivation.
We hope this article helped you easily create a successful online course in WordPress. You may also want to see our tips on how to add push notifications to connect with visitors after they leave your website or our comparison of the best live chat software for membership sites.