The top 10 platforms influencers are using to sell online courses and earn money directly from fans
- During the pandemic, many creators have embraced selling courses as a new revenue stream.
- Fitness influencers are launching at-home workouts, food bloggers are hosting their own cooking classes, and even plant influencers are teaching people how to tend an at-home garden.
- Insider broke down the top courses platforms, which vary in their pricing, features, and areas of focus.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In spring 2020, the influencer industry was flipped upside down. Events were canceled, budgets retreated, and even affiliate commissions took a brief hit.
But within weeks, influencers pivoted to answer the question: How could they make money while staying at home?
In the age of Zoom meetings replacing in-person gatherings, hosting online classes and webinars became an obvious solution for many.
“Right off the bat, influencers just started turning to other features and Instagram to host events,” said Erin Cutler, the founder of the talent-management agency Neon Rose.
Cutler cohosts her own digital course called “The Influencer Secrets” with influencer Sophie Jaffee (216,000 Instagram followers). What started as Cutler and Jaffe hosting Zoom meetings later turned into a pre-recorded course hosted on the platform Thinkific.
Thinkific is one of many platforms designed to host digital courses and webinars. Unlike hosting a Zoom meeting, platforms like Thinkific streamline production and offer creators a way to directly monetize their content through paywalls.
Many categories of influencers have jumped into the market. Fitness influencers are launching at-home workouts, food bloggers are hosting their own cooking classes, and even plant influencers have found a flourishing market to teach their followers how to tend to an at-home garden.
Plant influencer Darryl Cheng, who has over 560,000 Instagram followers, launched a course in the summer of 2020 on houseplant care essentials. After being asked the same questions by his followers, he figured that designing a course that answered all of them in one place would be both helpful for his audience and a way to make money from his expertise.
He said that while some followers may want quick tips, others want a more immersive curriculum.
“If somebody’s interested in the way that you teach something, then they’re naturally going to want more, and hopefully, also they’re willing to even buy something that’s specifically from you,” Cheng said.
Cheng told Insider that he earns about $2,000 per month from his course hosted on Teachable.
Read more: Houseplant sales are booming and so are ‘plantfluencers,’ the social-media creators sharing plant tips, products, and content
Podia, another platform, saw a spike in new creators using its services in 2020, chief marketing officer Len Markidan told Insider.
“We saw demand that we were projecting for 2024 by August of this last year,” Markidan said.
Many of these platforms encourage creators to make asynchronous material, or content that is published once and viewable at any time. That way, after the initial lift of creating the course materials, a creator can generate passive income.
On Kajabi, a platform that helps creators build and sell online courses, creators have made more than $1.5 billion, its CEO Kenny Rueter said.
“Online learning picked up so much throughout 2020,” Reuter said. “Now we’re on pace for over a billion a year annually.”
As usage of these platforms spiked in quarantine, several trends emerged.
Multiple sources that spoke with Insider mentioned the rising popularity of home fitness, software fluency, and personal development courses.
Grace Woods, the vice president of marketing at Patreon, pointed to another encouraging trend for the market: that patrons were subscribing to multiple creators.
“It’s not a zero-sum game,” Woods said.
But with a market now ripe with competitors, which platforms are the top options for influencers?
In this power list, Insider is highlighting 10 top platforms that influencers are using to launch their own courses or digital events as a way to earn money. To form this list, we relied on a mix of our own reporting and nominations from influencers, and industry experts to narrow down the finalists. We chose these companies based on factors including ease of use, its monetization tools, and overall impact on the industry.
For more on the influencer industry, check out these power lists on Insider:
- The top 7 merchandise companies helping creators on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok earn money without relying on ads
- We built the first-ever interactive database of the top managers and agents for YouTube creators, Instagram influencers, and TikTok stars
- The top 9 beauty and fashion brand ambassador programs that provide influencers with perks like paid trips and free products
What it is: A tool that helps entrepreneurs and creators make websites to market and sell products, including digital services like courses, webinars, and digital products. It uses “sales funnels” as a way to drive purchases of multiple products.
Price: Basic: $97/month; Premium: $297/month; Two Comma Club: $2,497/month
What sets it apart: Instead of solely focusing on education and courses, ClickFunnels is interested in sales. So if an influencer wanted to market a course, while also selling adjacent products (like slides from a presentation or workout equipment), ClickFunnels makes that easier to set up on a website and drive those sales.
Example creator: Sohee Lee, a fitness influencer who uses ClickFunnels to sell her at-home workout classes.
What it is: A virtual events platform where creators can host large-scale expos or conferences, courses, and webinars. Hopin charges a 7% fee of any tickets sold and events can also have sponsors.
Price: Free version; Self Service: $99/month (which Hopin distinguished as best suited for content creators looking to launch their own courses); and premium plans for $18,000/year
What sets it apart: At the beginning of 2021, Hopin bought StreamYard, a live video streaming studio. Hopin hosts can then use this feature to livestream their class or webinar across their social-media platforms, but paywall exclusive content behind Hopin — reaching their broader audience, while also driving customers back to the paywalled content.
Example creator: EveryStylishGirl, a media startup, is using Hopin to host “Secrets to Black Success,” a conference featuring creators like Jackie Aina (1.7 million Instagram followers) as speakers.
What it is: An all-in-one platform that helps creators (or “heroes,” as Kajabi calls them) build, market, and sell an online course, membership site, or coaching program.
Price: Basic: $149/month; Growth: $159/month; Pro: $319/month
What sets it apart: Kajabi is more expensive for creators than most platforms on this list, but its cost includes access to tools like business playbooks, website templates, unlimited hosting, a content management system, and detailed analytics that creators would otherwise have to pay for. This helps streamline production for creators, which has helped them net more than $1.5 billion in payouts.
Example creator: Kayse Morris, a teacher-influencer who helps coach other teachers.
Website: Mighty Networks
What it is: A community and online course platform that emphasizes interaction between creators and fans.
Price: Free; Community: $28/month; Business: $98/month
What sets it apart: Mighty Networks began as a tool for connecting creators and fans. It later added the ability to host courses, after creators on the platform requested the feature. As a result, Mighty Networks has more robust interaction tools than many of its competitors.
Example creator: Find What Feels Good Kula, a free private space for the Yoga with Adriene community.
What it is: A membership platform that lets creators place content behind a paywall and charge fans a subscription price to access it.
Price: Lite: 5% of monthly revenue; Pro: 8% of monthly revenue; Premium: 12% of monthly revenue
What sets it apart: Patreon remains the jack-of-all-trades platform for creators, thanks to its flexible hosting capabilities: podcasters, illustrators, musicians, educators, and more all use it. Creators can also create different “tiers” with different prices, giving patrons more options based on what they want to support.
Example creator: Molly Baz, whose Recipe Club has ‘thousands’ of subscribers.
What it is: A platform for content creators and entrepreneurs to package and sell various virtual services, from online courses to ebooks.
Price: Mover: $39/month; Shaker: $79/month
What sets it apart: Podia offers an all-in-one platform to sell packaged courses, digital downloads (like ebooks), different membership levels, and the ability to host webinars.
Example creator: Joy Cho, a Pinterest influencer with 14.6 million followers, uses Podia to sell PDFs, coaching sessions, and online business classes.
What it is: A website building and hosting platform that has recently expanded its membership offerings.
Price: Lite: Personal: $12/month; Business: $18/month; Commerce: $26/month; Commerce: $40/month
What sets it apart: Squarespace is primarily known as a tool for building websites, meaning tech-savvy creators will enjoy their ability to customize their site to fit their needs. On the other hand, because it lacks a marketplace to facilitate discovery, Squarespace caters more to creators with an established following.
Example creator: Kimberly Moller, a vocalist and educator offering vocal coaching.
What it is: Teachable lets users create a website to host courses and coaching products, including ebooks.
Price: Basic: $39/month; Professional: $119/month; Business: $299/month
What sets it apart: Teachable has its own affiliate program that allows participating creators to earn a commission on any new registrations they drive.
Example creator: Darryl Cheng teaches a course about the essentials of caring for indoor plants, which he launched in 2020.
What it is: A platform that allows entrepreneurs to create, market, sell, and deliver virtual courses.
Price: Basic: $49/month; Pro: $99/month; Premier: $499/month
What sets it apart: Thinkific’s platform has a highly customizable interface so that creators can design their websites as they wish. Thinkific also assigns experts to help creators build out their course content.
Example creator: The Influencer Secrets, taught by talent manager Erin Cutler and influencer Sophie Jaffe.
What it is: An online teaching and learning marketplace.
Price: It depends on how customers find a course. If they use a referral code provided by the creator, Udemy takes a 3% cut of the revenue; if they discover the course organically, Udemy takes a 50% cut of the revenue; if they discover the course through a paid promotion, Udemy takes a 75% cut of the revenue.
What sets it apart: Udemy is exclusively built for facilitating teaching and learning, and it has massive reach: 35 million students, 110 million minutes of video, 57,000 instructors, 130,000 courses, and 65 languages.
Example creator: Phil Ebiner, a photographer making more than $1 million selling photography courses.
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