Essential equipment for creating an online course (for all budgets)
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A complete list of all the equipment and software you will need to create, record and sell a successful online course – even if you’re on a tight budget!
One of the most daunting parts of creating your first online course is the gear! Fortunately, you really don’t need a lot of equipment or software to create a successful online course. And there is absolutely no need to break the bank, either!
That said, if you do have some money available to spend on course creation equipment and software, it is definitely worth spending a little extra to improve the quality of your course, which in turn will help you sell more courses and enable you to charge more money for your course.
But please do not let ‘gear’ put you off from creating your first course. It is completely possible to create an online course that sells well – and which your students love – even on a tight budget!
The important thing to remember with course creation is that your students are far more bothered by the course content than your production values. If your content is good, your students will forgive a less than perfect tech setup (within reason!). Conversely, you can have the best tech setup in the world, but if the content is not good, your course will be a flop.
In this article I am sharing a complete list of all the essential equipment and software you need to create and sell a successful online course, with options for very budget.
(Please note, many of the links below are affiliate links – if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I may earn a commission. If you want to learn more about how to earn money on your blog with affiliate links, head over to my beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing for bloggers.)
For most online courses, you will need to record video content. Even if your course is mainly text based, recording a simple introduction video will really help improve rapport with your students and help them feel connected to you as a real person.
Of course, for many courses, video will be the main lesson format – especially if your course is teaching something practical – for example, cooking or home décor.
The good news is you do not need to spend a fortune on expensive video equipment. If you really have a tight budget, you can even get away with using your mobile phone!
LOW BUDGET SETUP: If you have very little money to spend on kit right now, don’t worry! These days mobile phones produce really quite professional results. Just make sure you invest in a cheap tripod to ensure the result is as professional as possible.
MID RANGE SETUP: If you have a small budget and want to upgrade to the next level, then I recommend buying a good webcam, such as the Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam. (Though obviously, a webcam will only be useful if you want to record ‘talking head’ type videos!)
HIGH END SETUP: If you want a high-end, professional result, then you will need to use a DSLR camera, such as the Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera.
For many online courses you will also need to record your screen – for example tech tutorials and/or slide presentations.
LOW BUDGET SETUP: If you are on a very tight budget, you may be able to get away with using the free version of Loom to record your screen.
MID RANGE SETUP: A good option, if you have a small budget and/or your requirements are fairly simple is Screencast-O-Matic. One thing I love about Screencast-O-Matic is how simple it is to use. While other, more expensive, screen recording options undoubtedly have more bells and whistles, they also have a much bigger learning curve! With Screencast-O-Matic the learning curve is much smaller and they also have a really great tutorial library.
HIGH END SETUP: If you want a high-end option with a lot more bells and whistles, you will need something like Camtasia (Mac & PC) or Screenflow (Mac only).
One of the most important online course-related purchases you will make is your microphone. When it comes to online course creation, audio quality is far more important than video quality. Poor audio is very off-putting when you are trying to learn how to do something! There’s nothing worse, when you are trying to learn something, than audio that is very quiet, muffled, or marred by static and/or background noise. So, if you are going to invest in anything, I recommend you invest in a decent microphone.
LOW BUDGET SETUP: If you are on a very low budget and really can’t afford much at all right now, then you will have to use the built-in microphone on your mobile phone / computer. Just know that this is not going to give you the best quality, so do trade up if at all possible!
MID RANGE SETUP: Fortunately, you really don’t have to spend a lot to get a very professional level of audio quality. A basic USB microphone that plugs directly into your computer is really all you need. Good options include the Blue Snowball or Blue Yeti. (Obviously, this kind of mic’ will only work if you can be sat at your computer to record your audio – if you need to demonstrate something practical, you will most likely need a lapel mic’.)
HIGH END SETUP: For top-end sound quality / maximum flexibility, you will most likely need a lapel mic’ such as a Lavalier Microphone.
Lighting is also an important factor in creating quality videos. While you certainly do not need a high-end lighting setup, poor quality lighting can give your videos a very amateurish finish and be distracting. The good news is, when it comes to lighting your videos, natural sunlight is often sufficient!
LOW BUDGET SETUP: If your budget is tight, simply ensure you shoot in daylight and sit with a window in front of you, and you will have really decent lighting without buying a single bit of kit!
MID RANGE SETUP: If you have a little money to spend I recommend buying a ring light, such as the Neewer Ring Light. This will enable you to shoot video when the natural light is not good, at night and/or if you are not able to record video content facing a window.
HIGH END SETUP: For high end production values, you will need a more professional lighting system, such as the Neewer LED Video Lighting Kit.
Video Editing Software
One thing that is pretty much essential when you are creating videos for an online course is some kind of video editing software. This is because you are bound to stutter and stumble at times and if you have no way of editing out your mistakes, you will have to start recording again every time you mess up… and you don’t need me to tell you how un-productive that would be!
LOW BUDGET SETUP: If you literally have no budget for video editing, there are free editing tools available. For example, if you have an iPhone / iPad, you will have iMovie. If you have an Android phone / Windows computer, you could try something like PowerDirector. (Just know you will have to put up with ads in the free version!)
MID RANGE SETUP: If you have a little money to spend on video editing software, I highly recommend Screencast-O-Matic. It is simple to use, the learning curve is not very steep at all, and you can use it for video and screen recording too, so everything is in the same place. This is the tool I use for video recording and editing and I absolutely love it. If your video editing needs are simple and you don’t want to spend hours and hours learning how to use complicated video editing software, THIS is the tool for you! (Screencast-O-Matic also have a whole library of great video editing tutorials.)
HIGH END SETUP: If you want a lot more options when it comes to video editing, you will probably want to use either Camtasia (Mac & PC) or Screenflow (especially if you are already using one of these options for screen recording). Alternatively, you may want to use PremierPro or Final Cut Pro for top-end video editing options – just be aware that the learning curve for these options is VERY STEEP!
Extras you may need…
As well as the video creation / editing essentials I mention above, you may also need the following:
External hard drive – video files are HUGE and will quickly eat up your computer’s memory. You may find you need to purchase an external hard drive to store your video files on. I recommend the Toshiba 1TB Canvio Basics Portable External Hard Drive.
Graphics cards – if you use a DSLR and/or a lapel mic’ you may need to purchase graphics cards for them. I recommend SanDisk.
Card reader – if you are using graphics cards, you may also need a card reader. For example, this one. (Check you get one that is compatible with your computer!)
A better computer – if you are recording and editing videos, you may find your existing computer is not up to the job! If this is the case, you may need to buy a better computer / laptop. I use a Dell Inspiron 15 inch 7000 series laptop, which is quite sufficient for my needs. (Though in all honesty, a desktop computer would be even better for video recording / editing.)
A teleprompter app – if you are not good at talking ‘off the cuff’, you might find a teleprompter app (AKA autocue) useful. I’ve tried quite a few, but the best one by miles that I have found is the PrompSmartPro. It follows your voice as you speak, which is just total genius! There’s a free version PromptSmartLite which allows you to try out the technology, but you’ll definitely want to pay for the pro version if you are planning to use it for a lot of videos.
A tripod – you’ll need one of these if you are using a mobile phone or a DSLR to record your videos. For example this one (mobile phone) or this one (DSLR).
Course Platform Software
Why do you need a course platform?
Strictly speaking you don’t NEED a course platform. You could, in theory, host your course on your own website, using a bunch of plugins and a payment processor… But to host a course on your own website is quite a palaver. It involves lots of plugins talking nicely to each other and the buck stops with you. If your course stops working due to a technical glitch, you are going to need to fix it – and pronto, because people have paid good money for your course and they won’t be happy if they can’t access it.
I don’t know about you, but I could do without those kinds of headaches!
Fortunately, there is a nice, neat solution: a course platform. A course platform will host your course for you and deal with all the design / functionality / clever tech / payment processors and more, leaving you free to get on with the stuff you are good at – like actually creating your course… (and then watching the money roll in!)
Why I recommend Teachable
I have used many different course platforms as a student and one of my biggest reasons for going with Teachable is because it was the platform I enjoyed using most as a student… And that for me is one of the most important factors: I want my students to have a really good experience on my course!
Teachable also offer:
- Unlimited students
- Great support and training
- Discount coupons
- Multiple sales pages per course (this comes in very useful!)
- A very user-friendly checkout, plus upsells and order bumps
- Tons of integrations (see the full list of integrations here)
- Lots of options for pricing and discount coupons
- The ability to create an affiliate scheme for your course
- The ability to create memberships, drip courses, course bundles, coaching, quizzes and more!
They have a number of different price points, depending on what exactly you want, but until your course is regularly delivering more than $1400 per month, I recommend going with the ‘Basic’ tier which costs $29 per month +5% transaction fees.
Once your course is regularly bringing in more than $1400 per month, it’s more cost effective to move to the ‘Pro’ tier, which is $99 per month and NO transaction fees. (This is because 5% transaction fees on $1400 is $70 – the same as the difference in price between the two tiers.)
I realise this might sound like quite a lot of money, but remember, you will only need to sell 1 course per month, and you will more than cover your costs!
(If you literally have no money to spend on course platform software, Teachable do have a free tier but just be aware that lots of really important features, such as discount coupons, integrations, email marketing and upsells are not available on this tier.)
Email Marketing Software
Why do you need email marketing software?
If you want your course to sell well, you need a strong email marketing setup. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes newbie online course creators make is not taking email marketing seriously enough. Because the truth is…
- Most of your sales will come from your email list
- People buy from people they KNOW, LIKE and TRUST
- The best way to get people to know, like and trust you is via EMAIL
- Cold traffic doesn’t buy
- Social media followers are much less likely to buy than subscribers
In fact, email marketing is the most important weapon in online course creation. Email marketing enables you to:
- Validate your course topic
- Get the right people onto your list – potential buyers /leads
- Warm up your leads
- Make them realize they need your course
- Excite your leads
- Use proven sales funnel tactics to convert leads into buyers
- Get your sales message in front of the RIGHT people
READ MORE >>> How to choose a profitable online course topic: step by step
READ MORE >>> How to create your first online course: a 10 step plan for success!
Why I recommend ConvertKit
My top pick for email marketing software is ConvertKit. ConvertKit is super intuitive and very easy to use, but it’s also incredibly powerful – meaning you can create highly effective sales funnels in ConvertKit quickly and easily. But ConvertKit offers so much more:
- The ability to easily offer multiple lead magnets – meaning more of your readers will convert into subscribers… meaning more potential buyers on your list!
- Low friction double opt-in process – meaning fewer unconfirmed subscribers… meaning more potential buyers on your list!
- Attractive and high converting sign-up forms and landing page templates – meaning more of your readers will convert into subscribers… meaning more potential buyers on your list!
- The ability to very easily build highly sophisticated welcome sequences, nurture sequences and sales sequences… meaning more of your subscribers will convert into customers!
- The ability to easily target/exclude subscribers based on previous behaviour and what they have or haven’t already bought from you. (So you don’t accidentally send out a sales email to a customer who has already bought that course!)
READ MORE >>> 26 reasons why ConvertKit is the best email marketing service for bloggers
Slide Presentations, Downloads and Promotional Materials
A key component of any good online course are downloads, such as worksheets, workbooks, checklists and cheatsheets. Many courses will also require slide presentations for some of the video content. And, of course, no matter what kind of course you create, you will need promotional graphics, such as a course mockups, pins for Pinterest and social media graphics.
LOW BUDGET SETUP: A very good low-cost option for your online course-related graphics is Canva. If you have reasonable design skills, you can create very good downloads, slide decks and graphics with the free version of Canva. Other good low-cost options for slide decks include PowerPoint and Google Slides.
MID RANGE SETUP: If you have a small amount of money available to spend here, you might want to look at course creator template packs from Creative Market. Using a template pack will save you the time it takes to create downloads, slides and graphics from scratch and they are likely to give you a much more professional end result – especially if your design skills are not great!
A word of warning: do check what software is needed to edit the templates, before you buy a template pack from Creative Market! Many are compatible with the free version of Canva, but some will require premium editing tools, such as Photoshop or Indesign. Also, make sure you buy the correct licence: you’ll need a ‘commercial’ licence that allows you to sell the end product as part of your course.
HIGH END SETUP: Of course, if you want the most professional looking downloads, slides and graphics, you will need to employ the services of a graphic designer. While not cheap, this option will give you the best results and will save you an enormous amount of time. It will also mean you can charge more for your course, as having high-end graphics, downloads and slides will make your course instantly look more professional and therefore make it look like it is worth more money!
Over to you!
Has this post helped you? I’d love to hear about it – what are you going to buy as a result of reading this post? Or perhaps you still have questions – feel free to ask them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help!
And if you have already created an online course, I’d love to hear about what equipment and software you used to create your online course? Perhaps you have a piece of must-have kit I’ve not included above… or a specific recommendation for a piece of kit / software that’s really good – do let us know about it in the comments below!
NEED SOME HELP CREATING YOUR ONLINE COURSE?
Then why not check out ONLINE COURSE JUMPSTART – everything you need to create and launch a successful online course in just 8 weeks!
Here’s a sneak peep of what’s inside…
- The FIVE BIGGEST MISTAKES people make when creating online courses
- The ONE BIG DIFFERENCE between a SUCCESSFUL course business and an UNSUCCESSFUL one
- How to find a course topic your audience wants to learn about SO BADLY, they’ll be falling over themselves to THROW THEIR CREDIT CARDS AT YOU
- How to properly VALIDATE your course topic idea (so you don’t waste time creating a course no one wants!)
- Why creating a COURSE OUTLINE is so important (and HOW to do it!)
- Why you almost certainly DON’T NEED AS MUCH TECH as you think you do to create an online course
- How to create HIGH QUALITY course videos, downloads and bonuses EVEN ON A BUDGET!
- Tips on choosing the RIGHT PRICING STRATEGY from an ex grocery sector promotions manager (yep, that used to be my job before blogging!)
- Step-by-step help to create a KILLER SALES PAGE that converts like CRAZY!
- The SEVEN essential components of a SUCCESSFUL COURSE LAUNCH
- Bonuses and downloads GALORE!
- 20 reasons why you should create an online course
- Ebook vs Online Course: Which should you create?
- How to choose a profitable online course topic: step by step
- How to create your first online course: a 10 step plan for success!
- How to create the perfect outline for your online course
Don’t miss a thing!
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