How To Create and Sell a Digital Course with No Money and No Stress

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So you’re thinking about creating and selling a digital course.

Maybe you’ve seen the sexy sales pitches from the “course gurus” or the inspiring stories of how Mr. or Ms. Average made $100,000 in a matter of weeks selling their first digital course.

But here are the things they didn’t tell you. Creating and selling digital courses can be a complicated mess. It can also be expensive. And often times, it’s both.

In this post I’m going to help you with both.

That means I’m going to show you how to create and sell your first digital course the simplest (and smartest) way possible, while also showing you how to do it all for free.

Yes, free.

But free means you will need to compromise on a few things here and there. I’ll point these out as we go.

However, using 100% free tools for your course does NOT mean you’ll sell less (or more) of your course. It just means that you didn’t invest any money to get your course out there in the first place.

 

 

Here’s Why The Free Route I’m Sharing With You Is The Route You’ll Want To Take

If you’ve never created or sold a digital course before, here’s the plain truth:

You don’t know…what you don’t know.

That means you can’t possibly know what tool, platform, software, service or you-name-it will work best for you. You have no point of reference and no experience to draw from.

So spending money on any of these things is a pointless gamble and usually an outright waste.

Only once you’ve got a course under your belt (and sales for that course under your belt) can you know which tool, platform, software, service or you-name-it might be worth investing in…because it makes your life easier.

And then there’s this.

The #1 reason why people never take that idea in their head and actually create a course is because the tech involved is overwhelming. That means sooner or later, tech trips them up and makes them quit.

And if you’ve paid for a bunch of tech…that you have no clue how to use…then this overwhelm (and your stress-level) only gets multiplied.

That’s why you want to start out with 100% free tools for creating and selling your first digital course. Free tech is simpler. It saves you time. It costs you nothing. And as a result, you’re much more likely to actually create your course.

Oh, and even better, I’m about to show you how to use all of this free tech, step by step.

But Wait…Why Should You Believe Anything I Have To Say?

Good question. Here’s the answer.

My name is Dave Kaminski, the guy who created everything you’re seeing here.

You’ve probably never heard of me. That’s because I don’t do shameless self-promotion like many of my counterparts. Instead, I prefer to fly under the radar. Plus, it helps that I’m more or less allergic to social media.

But way back in 2007, I founded Web Video University – a resource that teaches people the no bullsh*#! ways to create, market and sell digital products.

In fact, I’ve personally been creating and selling digital products for 20 years (as of 2019).

To date, I’ve created and marketed over 260 digital courses. Do the math, that’s an average of 13 courses a year, for 20 years. Yea, I’m prolific.

And I’ve done all of this 100% myself. No assistants, no team, no freelancers, no employees. That means I know every aspect of the digital course world…intimately…inside and out.

Or to put it another way, I know my sh**.

But in case you still have any doubts about me or what I’m sharing here, take a peek at what a well-known digital course expert has to say about me…

If you're looking for a digital product master to help you with the overwhelming tech that is keeping you from moving forward with your digital course, Dave Kaminski is hands down THE BEST technical specialist around. He is my go-to guy.
Amy Porterfield
Host of Online Marketing Made Easy and creator of Digital Course Academy

 

Okay, blah, blah, I’m legit. So let’s move on to the stuff you actually care about.

 

Understanding The Digital Course Workflow

When it comes to digital courses, most people start out with a killer course idea in their head (and the dreams of how that killer course idea will change their life).

But what are you supposed to do next?

Well, it goes like this. You’ll need to create your lesson syllabus, your slide decks for the lessons, record your lessons, edit out your mistakes, upload your videos to a video platform, install a membership plugin on your website (I’m assuming you’re using WordPress), configure numerous settings for that plugin, integrate a payment processor like PayPal or Stripe into the plugin, create an order form, create a thank you page, create a login page, create an account page, create the page or pages that will hold your course lessons, add your video lessons to the page or pages that will hold your video lessons, protect the page or pages that hold your video lessons with your membership plugin and then test everything with a sample purchase.

I know it sounds like a lot, but I promise it’s not that bad…especially if you break it down step by step.

I call it a digital course recipe. And here’s an overview of what it looks like:

Digital Course Recipe

So what we’re going to do next is tackle all of the items in this recipe. And I’m going to show you exactly how to do it, step by step.

But there are two things I want you to keep in mind:

1Remember, we’re doing all of this for 100% free, so I’m only going to be covering tools that are 100% free! That means if you’re thinking “what about such-and-such tool.”, and that tool isn’t free, that’s why I’m not covering it!
2I lied about #1, kind of. I’m assuming that you already have a website and that your website is running WordPress. That means your regular web hosting costs are the only expense that you will incur for what I’m teaching.

 

How To Make Your Digital Course Lesson List (Syllabus)

The first thing you need to do is come up with the list of lessons you’ll be covering in your course, also known as your syllabus. This list will most likely be fluid, meaning that as you build your course, you’ll likely add, remove or change the lessons on your list.

While I prefer to simply write my list of lessons on paper, if you want to use a spreadsheet or some other high-tech tool, knock yourself out.

Now here’s the part that trips most people up. How do you come up with this list in the first place?

Easy answer. Imagine someone is sitting next to you who doesn’t know the first thing about what you’re going to teach them. So how would you teach that person? What would you shown them first, next, what’s after that, and then after that and last? And then whatever that process is for you, it becomes your list of lessons.

In other words, your list of lessons is simply the chronological order of how you would teach someone to do something.

But here’s the one thing to keep in mind when it comes to digital courses. You want each individual lesson to be 10 minutes or less. That’s because people generally don’t have the attention span to watch a video longer than that.

What if you estimate a lesson will take 20 minutes to teach? Split it into two lessons; part 1 and part 2.

This isn’t rocket-science. You’re just teaching people stuff in an order that makes the most sense. And you’re keeping your individual lessons at 10 minutes or less.

 

How To Make Your Digital Course Lesson Slide Deck For Free

Now that you’ve got your lesson list, it’s time to create a slide deck for your lessons. A slide deck is simply the presentation slides you’ll use to teach each lesson.

For example, PowerPoint (Windows and Mac), Google Slides (Windows and Mac) and Keynote (Mac only) would be the presentation software used to create your slide deck.

Of these 3, only Google Slides and Keynote are free. Personally, I use Keynote because I primarily work on a Mac. But if you’re a Windows user or just want to use the simplest tool, go with Google Slides.

I won’t be going into any detail on how to use presentation software like PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides to create your slide deck, as they are all intuitive to use and in today’s tech-heavy world you shouldn’t need any instruction on how to use them.

But I will tell you this; keep your slides simple. All you’re really putting on your slides are the main points you want the student to remember. In other words, you are doing the teaching by talking when a slide is shown…the slide isn’t doing the teaching by itself.

Once you’ve got your slide deck setup with all of your lessons, it’s time to record those actual lessons on video. And this is where the wheels start to come off for most people.

Relax, I’ve got you covered. Not only am I going to show you how to do this, but I’m going to show you how to do it for free.

 

How To Record and Edit Your Digital Course Lessons On Windows 10 For Free

This is the part where people start going down the tech-rabbit-hole and spending money that they don’t need to.

You’ll hear about screen recording tools like Camtasia. And you’ll hear about the fancy microphones to use.

You don’t need that stuff – not for your very first digital course. The free screen recording software already on your computer, along with your computer’s built-in mic will work just fine (I promise, you won’t make any more or less money by using these).

In the case of Windows 10, it comes packaged with a little-known feature called Game Bar. You are going to use this to record your video lessons.

Game Bar was intended for video-game-nerds who wanted to record their Xbox gameplay, but it works perfectly fine for making screen recordings of your lesson slide deck too.

Of course you’ll also need to edit your videos (you’ll make plenty of mistakes while recording your videos that you’ll want to cut out). To edit your videos, you’re going to use the Photos app on Windows 10.

Photos is an app most people think can only edit photos. Wrong. You can use it to do all of the editing for your videos too.

To learn step by step how to use Game Bar and Photos to record and edit your videos lessons on Windows 10, just watch the video below:

 

How To Record and Edit Your Video Course Lessons On a Mac For Free

Just like with Windows users, this is the part where Mac users start going down the tech-rabbit-hole and spending money that they don’t need to.

You’ll hear about screen recording tools like Camtasia or Screenflow. And you’ll hear about the fancy microphones to use.

You don’t need that stuff – not for your very first digital course. The free screen recording software already on your Mac, along with your Mac’s built-in mic will work just fine (I promise, you won’t make any more or less money by using these).

All Mac’s comes packaged with a tool called Quicktime.  You are going to use Quicktime to both record and edit your video lessons.

Most Mac users have a least heard of Quicktime…problem is, they think it’s only for playing videos on their Mac.

Nope. Quicktime is 100% capable of recording your digital course lessons and allowing you to edit them too. Plus it’s already on your Mac and completely free.

To learn step by step how to use Quicktime to record and edit your videos lessons on a Mac, just watch the video below:

 

But What About Recording On-Camera Video For Your Lessons?

So you might be thinking “I don’t want all of my lessons to be screen recordings of my slide deck, I want some videos with me on camera too”.

Well, here’s what you need to know about that.

First, on camera video raises the bar much higher when it comes to the tech you need to master. In other words, on camera video is a bigger pain-in-the-ass than screen recording video.

Second, on camera video can be tough to do for free. That means there is almost always some type of cost involved, from equipment, to software, to storage.

And third, because this post is all about creating and selling a digital course with no money or stress, it doesn’t make sense to cover a format (on camera video) that is neither free or easy.

So for those reasons, I won’t be covering on camera video here. In fact, I strongly recommend that for your first digital course you stick with recording your slide deck.

However, if you insist on making on camera videos, the simplest (and cheapest) option is to use your smartphone to both record and edit your videos.

 

Here Comes All The Website Stuff For Your Digital Course

Now that the video lessons are made for your digital course, it’s time to setup your website so that your course can be sold and customers can login and access it after paying.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, we’ll be using WordPress for this. And I’m going to assume that you already have WordPress installed on your site (I’m assuming this because 30+% of all websites in the world run on WordPress).

We’re going to be performing multiple things here:

  • Installing and configuring a free membership plugin (this guy collects the money for your course and protects your content…allowing only paid customers to access your course)
  • Uploading your video lessons to a free hosting platform (and making sure…as much as we can…that people can’t access your videos for free)
  • Creating all of your digital course related pages (the order page, thank you page, login page, lost password page and customer account page).
  • Creating your course delivery page (this is where your customers will go to watch all of the video lessons for your digital course).

Because there is a lot going on here, I’m going to break everything down into easy-to-do and easy-to-understand steps.

And I’m even going to give you the already-done-page-templates I use for my own courses (for free), which will not only make you look much more professional, but save you time and headaches as well.

 

Step 1 – How To Install and Configure Your Digital Course Membership Plugin For Free

Let’s recap. A membership plugin is the tool that collects the money for your digital course and then protects your course content, so only paying customers can access it.

In general, paid for membership plugins in WordPress are a bit of a nightmare for digital course creators. They are confusing, they are expensive, they are bloated with things you’ll never use and the documentation/support is generally a shit-show.

But you don’t have to worry about any of those things. First, because I’m going to tell you the free membership plugin to use. And second, because I’m going to walk you through how to install and configure it, step by step.

All of this will literally take just a few minutes.

And the free membership plugin you’ll want to use is called Paid Member Subscriptions from Cozmoslabs.

Because membership plugin installation/configuration is so confusing for people, watch the video below where I’m going to make it dead-simple for you. In fact, you’ll have the plugin installed and configured in just a couple minutes:

 

Step 2 – How To Setup Your Video Hosting For Free

In order for people to be able to watch the video lessons in your digital course, your videos have to be hosted somewhere. And in case you’re wondering, no, you can’t just upload them to WordPress – they need to be on a video delivery platform separate from your website.

And this is the part where by going free, we’re going to make the biggest compromise.

Here’s why.

Video delivery platforms come in two flavors; public and private. A public platform means that anyone with a link to your video can watch it. A private platform means you control exactly who can see your videos (for example, only your customers).

A public video platform would be YouTube. A private platform would be Wistia. Public platforms are free, private platforms are not (and can get quite expensive).

In the perfect digital course world, you would use private video hosting for your digital course. But again, private video hosting is not free…and free is what we’re after here.

So what we’re going to do is use public video hosting…but sprinkle in some tricks to make our videos as private as possible. They won’t be 100% private, but as close as we can get for free.

When it comes to public video hosting, the three main players are YouTube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I’ll spare you the technical reasons-why, but the bottom line is that we are going to use YouTube for our digital course.

If that freaks you out a little, well it might surprise you to know that there are digital course creators out there who earn 6 or 7 figures a year from their courses and who host their digital course videos on YouTube. If you’re earning that much from your digital courses, I don’t recommend using YouTube, but for your first course it’s absolutely fine.

Especially when you add in the tricks that I’ll be teaching you here.

To learn these tricks and how to use YouTube to host your digital course lessons, watch the short video below:

 

Step 3 – How To Setup Your Course Related Pages and Make Them Look Professional, For Free

You’ve probably enrolled in a digital course before. And when you did that, you probably didn’t give a second thought to all the pages you went through as part of that process.

There was a registration page where you filled out your account info or entered credit card information. There was a thank you page that you saw after registering. There was a login page where you entered your username and password. There was an account page where you could see your account info or purchase history. And there was a course delivery page or pages where you actually watched the digital course.

Guess what? All of these pages don’t happen by magic. You have to create them.

Creating these pages in WordPress is super-easy. The problem is that most people are horrified at how ugly these pages look after they are created.

And the reason they are so ugly is because membership plugins populate much of what you see on these pages (remember, your membership plugin is the guy that registers people for your course and protects your content).

And membership plugins win absolutely no design awards when it comes to how they present data on your web pages.

But this is where I’m going to help you out by giving you my own page templates, which will allow you to quickly and easily make all of your course related pages look professional and expensive.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The image on the left shows what your course pages might look like by default. The image on the right shows what your course pages might look like after using my templates:

Before and After With My Page Templates

Okay, so now it’s time to create your course related pages. And optionally, use my course page templates to make your pages look polished and professional.

Watch the video below for the step by step instructions on how to do this:

If you’d like to use the page templates that I show in the video above, just fill out the form below and I’ll send them to you. There’s no catch and my templates are 100% free.

Get The Digital Course Templates
Shown In This Post

Just Tell Me Where To Send Them (relax, they're free)

 

 

Step 4 – How To Setup Your Course Delivery Page and Make It Look Professional, For Free

Finally we have arrived at the most important piece of the puzzle; your course delivery page.

This is the page where your customers will access all of your video lessons. And there are two ways you can go about this.

First, you could create a post or page in WordPress for each of your lessons. But there are several drawbacks with this.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have videos 60 lessons. That means you’ll be creating and managing 60 posts or pages. Plus, you’ll need to protect all 60 posts or pages with your membership plugin so only paying customers can access them.

Then comes the problem of embedding YouTube into WordPress. When you do this, you’ll get the full YouTube player in all its glory. That means related videos will show when the video is over, a big YouTube logo will appear in the player and prominent sharing icons will appear in the player.

Aside from making it easy for people to steal and/or share your videos, it’s very unprofessional.

In the real-world, it might look like this:

Course video lessons the wrong way

There’s got to be a better way, right?

There is – and that’s to use my course delivery template (again, my templates are free…just complete the form you see on this page and I’ll send them to you).

With my course delivery template, instead of creating a post or page for each of your individual lessons, you create just one page instead. And all of your lessons will be on that one page.

When someone clicks a button for a lesson, a window will popup with the video. The video player will not have YouTube branding and it will not show related videos. A share icon will briefly appear at the top of the video and disappear (this is to conform with YouTube’s terms of use).

This is what everything will look like with my course delivery template. First, the course delivery page:

Course Delivery Template

And then the video player when someone clicks a button for a lesson:

Course Delivery Template Player

Pretty cool, right – but how do you make all of this happen? It’s easy, just follow along with the step-by-step video below:

Once again, if you’d like to use the page templates that I’ve shown on this post (including the course delivery template in the video above), just fill out the form below and I’ll send everything to you. My templates are 100% free and there is no catch, gimmicks or fine print.

Get The Digital Course Templates
Shown In This Post

Just Tell Me Where To Send Them (relax, they're free)

 

 

The Final Step – Test It Out

The big mistake a lot of people make is to start promoting their new course without testing everything first. And trust me, it’s no fun having a customer yell and threaten you via email because they can’t access a course they just paid for.

So you’re going to test everything out before you release your course live to the public. And here’s how you’re going to do it.

  1. Set the price for your course (in your membership plugin) to $1.
  2. Open a different browser than you normally use or an Incognito window if you use Chrome.
  3. Enter the URL of your course order page in the browser and make purchase your own course (make sure you use a different email address than you regularly use)
  4. Your thank you page should appear next and you should receive an email with your login credentials
  5. You should now be able to login to your account. Do it. Is all of your account info correct?
  6. Access the course delivery page and test each video to make sure it plays.
  7. Finally, you’ll test to make sure that only paying customers can access your course delivery page. To do this, in a different browser or a new Incognito window if you use Chrome, enter the URL of your course delivery page. You should see a message saying that you don’t have access to the content.

If you’ve done all of the above and everything worked as expected, congratulations your course is ready to be promoted to the public. If not, you’ll need to go back and troubleshoot/fix the steps that were broken. And then repeat the same test again.

My Final Piece of Advice – Quit Worrying About Sh** That Doesn’t Matter

First time digital course creators seem to all have the same illness. And that illness is getting caught up in sh** that doesn’t matter instead of focusing on what does.

Bottom line, the only thing that matters with digital courses is what will produce sales.

That means your logo doesn’t matter. Stumbling over words in your videos doesn’t matter. Using the same tech as your favorite guru doesn’t matter. And being perfect 100% doesn’t matter.

Earlier I mentioned how there are digital course creators earning 6 or 7 figures a year who deliver all of their course videos using YouTube. Why would they do this when they can easily afford to pay for private video hosting? Because where you host your videos will not produce more sales. And instead of worrying about a video hosting provider, they worry about driving more people to their sales pages.

Look, I’ve created and marketed over 260 digital courses. None of them have been perfect. But had I got caught up in all the sh** that doesn’t matter, I probably would have zero courses under my belt.

And that my friend is the biggest difference between people who are successful with digital courses and those who are not – the successful people only focus on the sh** that actually matters.

Questions? Thoughts? Comments? Let me hear what you have to say in the comments section below.

Get The Digital Course Templates
Shown In This Post

Just Tell Me Where To Send Them (relax, they're free)

 

 

1 comment

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  • Thank you so much for the tips… especially for your suggestion of using Game Bar or Photos for recording videos! I had no idea that one could also record videos through Photos app. I had been thinking about creating my C++ tutorial for some time, and your tips will surely come handy. Thank you once again 🙂