Self-Hosted vs. Online Course Marketplace
One of the biggest decisions you'll have when embarking on your online teaching career is whether or not you want to place your course on an online marketplace or host it yourself. There are pros and cons to both decisions and what you end up selecting will be largely dictated by your circumstances and personal preferences.
Here are some areas to consider when choosing what works for you.
One of the biggest advantages of an online marketplace is its marketing power. As they earn money off a number of courses sold, these marketplaces have extra incentive to push their courses and make sure everything is optimized to get you in front of as many eyes as possible. You may already have a great following based on the marketing you've done around your creative career, and in this case, may decide that the extra push of the marketplace isn't a high priority. In that case, a self-hosted option will let your marketing efforts trickle into your classes, no revenue sharing necessary.
As we touched on when looking at marketing, the time and effort a marketplace puts into building a brand and getting students don't come for free. Self-hosted options like Kajabi and Rukuzu ask for a flat yearly fee. Sort of like Shopify for online courses, they each have easy to follow technology that simply fits into your existing site. Marketplaces like Skillshare will instead pay a royalty on courses.
Self-hosting may be an initial investment—either in time or money depending on the platform—but it could give you greater control over your earnings, as you won't be subject to any commission changes that a marketplace may decide on. Think this couldn't happen? Leading marketplace Udemy faced huge backlash when adjusting their commission structure from 30/70 to 50/50 with little warning, leaving instructors with a sudden, 20% drop in revenue.
It goes without saying that if you are hosting your own course, you have full control over all aspects of contact with your students. You'll receive their email addresses and can use this information to hone your classes, engage regularly, get feedback, and directly market new classes or work you're doing.
Conversely, if you are working with a marketplace, they will own student contact information and will also control how frequently you will be able to engage with students. This could make it difficult to cross promote other activities, like ebooks, exhibitions, and creative products.
The support a marketplace can provide—including teacher instruction—is a huge timesaver. While teaching in any capacity is a time investment, you'll have to do much more work if you are self-hosted—not only in terms of marketing, but also payment processing, refunds, soliciting reviews, and much more.
One of the beauties of teaching on a marketplace is that after the initial legwork, it becomes more passive income. Sure, you'll be responding to questions and comments, but once the course is up, you'll continue to get paid monthly as people take the class. It's up to you how much extra marketing you want to invest, which lets you rely more heavily on the platform during times when your plate is full and letting you pitch in some additional marketing of your own when you have time.
So what are you waiting for? If you've ever thought about teaching, there's no better time to get started and share your creativity with the world.