What Are Free Online Course Platforms Worth?
Starting your creators journey with a free online course platform can seem to be an appealing idea.
If you’re still testing the market with your new idea, or just prefer to start with as little overhead as possible…
… then the idea of being able to do so for free is tempting.
And a lot of online course platforms understand this and offer a free plan as a gateway to what might become a paying customer later on.
Deciding on which one you’ll sign up for, while keeping the long term plan in mind can be a tricky balance!
So we’ve compiled the top 5 list of truly free online course platforms and what you need to know before getting started.
Pros of Systeme.io
Cons of Systeme.io
Pricing: Free plan - Then Starts at $27/mo
Systeme.io is the only all-in-one platform that offers a free plan.
You’ll be able to build advanced funnels (with A/B testing) and full blown websites on the platform, you can build up to 15 pages.
The front-end drag & drop builder makes this easier than ever!
There are a bunch of pre-designed templates to help you build your pages with great design in record time.
You’ll even have access to advanced features (still on the free plan) like Deadline funnels, to allow you to create truly time limited evergreen offers.
On the free plan, you also get an unlimited emails allowance, for up to 2,000 subscribers on your list.
You also get to use their visual Workflows for automated sequences:
All of these tools are usually costing $100’s in dedicated softwares.
You can also use the integrated checkout system with upsell and downsell options.
Lastly, you’ll get to create 1 course with unlimited file storage, including video content!
The course builder is somewhat basic but should be enough if you’re just wanting to sell your first program.
Systeme.io is a great value for your money, even beyond what you get in the free plan we’ve just detailed.
There are only a few reasons that would make you upgrade your free account to look out for.
One of them might be if your list starts hitting new milestones and getting over the 2,000 contacts allowance.
Or if you want to create more than 1 course and funnel for a second offer you’re preparing.
But Systeme.io still remains very affordable, especially for an all-in-one platform.
In other words, it’s a great short term and long term decision!
MORE ON SYSTEME.IO:
Pros of Thinkific
Cons of Thinkific
Pricing: Free - Then starts from $39/month
Thinkific is often cited as one of the most popular online course platforms and gathers 10,000’s of course creators.
It’s also another of the few platforms with a free plan that doesn't have a transaction fee!
You’ll get access to a basic page builder to build your site and other funnel page:
It’s not very advanced but you can get away with it if you’re just starting out!
Note that Thinkific doesn’t offer an email marketing system or automated sequences.
But the core features of the platform is its course builder:
A full curriculum builder with a ton of learning tools for your program.
You also get several course templates to start from and help you get some inspiration while creating your online course.
Thinkific also has an integrated checkout system, but your pricing options will be limited on the free plan (no recurring subscriptions or split payments).
If you do want to integrate email marketing tools or other 3rd party platforms, you still have access to the Thinkific app store on any plans!
If the free plan isn’t enough and you want to unlock the full feature stack Thinkific offer, here are you options:
You’ll note that if you really want to get everything the platform has to offer, you’ll need to sign up to the Pro plan $79/month.
You still won’t have access to advanced pricing options on the Basic plan, or to things like the Community feature or advanced course building tools.
But if you like the platform on the free plan and start to grow, it will be an investment well worth it!
MORE ON THINKIFIC:
Pros of Teachable
Cons of Teachable
Pricing: Free - Then starts from $29/month
Teachable is maybe the most recognized name in the online course platform industry.
And they offer a free plan, discontinued for a while but available again, for its large user base of more than 100,000 people.
Teachable offers a very basic page builder to display some information about your course:
This won’t be enough to create a full site but it’s fine to create a simple sales page.
You can also create a powerful checkout with VAT and tax handling to sell your online course.
These are advanced and can be used to their full extent on the free plan too!
The only thing you won’t get on this entry option is the affiliate marketing capability Teachable offers.
Lastly, Teachable offers a great online curriculum and course builder with a plethora of learning tools.
This will allow you to directly upload videos or any other type you'd like.
There is also an option to create a Coaching product.
Teachable doesn’t offer any email marketing or list building feature.
The free plan only enables a limited number of features the platform has to offer.
It also comes with a hefty $1 + 10% sales fee:
You’ll only be able to create 1 course and won’t have access to custom domains, advanced reporting or theme customization.
If you decide to upgrade to overcome these shortcomings, you’ll still have to pay a 5% sales fee on the Basic plan at $29 per month.
Most people making over $1,000 upgrade to the Pro plan simply for that reason!
The Pro plan at $99 per month also enables you to unlock the full feature stack Teachable offers.
MORE ON TEACHABLE:
Pros of Groove
Cons of Groove
Pricing: Free - Then starts from $39.99/month
Groove has taken the industry by storm in 2020 when it launched its beta version along with a free for life plan.
The platform has built its feature stack significantly over the years and is now boasting an impressive list.
Most of these features are available to some extent on the free plan (not all).
Keep in mind that the platform is still in beta and there are a few hiccups and bugs…
But it still is a great value for your money and is improving by the day!
Most of the tools currently available are top notch, including the funnel builder:
Lots of templates are available and you can even import pages from other platforms automatically.
Groove isn’t designed only for course creators but enables you to sell anything you want online, including physical products and services or coaching.
Groove has a somewhat confusing pricing structure and your access to features will change greatly from one plan to another.
But here is what you get on the free plan:
You can imagine how each of these bullet points slowly progress over the 5 paid plan Groove offers.
The main reason to upgrade from the free plan will probably be to increase your email list (beyond 500) and start using the advanced features of the platform.
It can be complex to get started as a beginner on the platform however because of the sheer amount of tools available!
MORE ON GROOVE:
Pros of Hotmart
Cons of Hotmart
Pricing: Free - 9.9%
Although Hotmart isn’t as popular in the West as it is in its home market of south-america, the platform has a lot to offer!
And the way things are set up is very different from the rest of the industry…
Mainly the platform doesn’t simply help with the tech side of things but also with sales.
It does so through a wide network of affiliate marketer and a marketplace that allows them to find your product.
On top of that, Hotmart offers a basic landing page builder for you to build a sales page.
You won’t have any way to create email campaigns (only through integrating an external tool) but everything else is there!
There are a lot of unique tools to help you make your online program venture successful!
Hotmart has a very unique pricing structure: it doesn’t ever charge a fixed monthly fee!
Instead, it only charges a sales fee - meaning that you won’t pay anything unless you make money too.
Let’s break it down:
For anything over $10 Hotmart will take a 9.90% fee plus a fixed 0.5 USD.
Example: if you sell a $500 course, you'll get charged a total of $50 ($49.9 + $0.5)
For very low-ticket products (under $10), the fee will be a flat 20%.
This model can be useful when you’re just starting out and don’t want to be encumbered with fixed overheads.
If you grow your business significantly however, the sales can add up and become a burden.
MORE ON HOTMART: