If you lead any kind of workshop, you’ll have had little choice but to run it online since March 2020. A year down the line from the first lockdown, there are still many people taking their first steps into setting workshops up as pre-recorded online courses. The question I read most often on this in small business groups is “I’ve made an online course – what’s the best platform?”
To which the responses are “Teachable! Thinkific! Kajabi!” or similar.
Actually, many responses aren’t the best platform, they are just the favourite platform of that particular person. It may not even be the best platform for their needs – they could have picked a platform years ago, and considering the rapid pace of development, it may no longer even be the best fit for them!
None of this is especially helpful because your needs will be different from theirs. Below, you’ll find some things to consider instead.
If you’d prefer me to talk you through it, I made you a video:
What features will you need?
If you need landing pages and email funnels then you’ll need a tool that does that, whether that’s an integral part of the platform, or another tool you need to add on (e.g. Leadpages).
How good are you with tech?
If you’re not a big fan of tech, pick a platform that’s simple and intuitive.
What’s your budget?
Are you prepared to go without some ‘nice to have’ features to save some cash? Or do you have the budget to get what you want from day one?
What are you plans for growth?
What features might you need a year from now? Do you want to have them available from the beginning or add them on when you feel ready?
Will someone else manage it for you, or will you DIY?
If you have someone to look after the tech side of your platform for you, then it won’t matter so much if you don’t understand the technical details. But you should still have a good understanding of what the platform can do as you’ll need your finger on the pulse at a strategic level.
What tools does it need to integrate with?
If you already have an email marketing platform, will this need to integrate with your training platform? Do you need any additional tools to link the two together (e.g. plugins, Zapier)? Do you know how to set this up or will you need to pay someone?
Are you already on a programme of some kind?
If you are part of a course or membership to learn how to make a course or membership, it may be best to run with the platform recommended by your tutor, as ‘translating’ their lessons to another platform can be a huge pain. That’s assuming the recommended platform broadly meets your needs.
Why pay a monthly fee when you can pay a one-off fee for plugins on a WordPress site?
I’m 100% able to set up a WordPress site and all the plugins to sell online courses myself, but I’ve chosen to use a platform instead. Why? Because you need a lot of plugins to do this well – a membership plugin to control access to your content, an ecommerce plugin to take payment, another plugin to integrate your email marketing platform, possibly a plugin to play videos as well as somewhere to host your videos (I’ve used Vimeo or Amazon S3 in the past. No, you can’t use YouTube because it’s against YouTube’s terms).
All the time I would spend keeping my site up to date, dealing with any plugin conflicts and keeping out hackers I could be spending on selling courses somewhere that these types of headaches are managed by someone else.
This won’t be the best strategy for everyone, but be aware that choosing a WordPress site with plugins based on the price alone could be a false economy.
Don’t forget the EU VAT
If you’re selling courses into the EU that are delivered automatically, you’ll be liable to pay, and collect customer data for, EU VAT. After all, nobody wants a letter from the German, French, Spanish (or any of the EU governments) saying you haven’t paid your tax. Some platforms will do this for you, others expect you to handle it yourself. Always check the terms and conditions to be sure. Click here for more info.
And…what I actually use myself
Keeping in mind that what’s best for me won’t necessarily be best for you…for many years I used New Zenler. This ticked all my boxes – it has all the features I need, including email funnels, live workshops and landing pages, plus it’s managed by a very responsive team so I didn’t have to deal with any technical headaches myself. Because it’s still in beta, you get a lot more for your money that you do with other platforms – and there’s a plan with no upfront fee so you can try before you buy.
Update: Early in 2023 I decided to focus on one membership site, putting all my training content in one ‘product’, the Speedy Email Marketing Club, instead of having a series of online courses. This meant I didn’t need many of the features at New Zenler so I set up a WordPress site with a membership plugin. I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way unless you actually enjoy fiddling around with WordPress, though. (ie a bit of a geek like me!) Using a platform such as New Zenler is much simpler.