How much to charge for a course?

I have read through all the related threads on this topic but they all seem to be related to what to charge for developing a course.  I chuckled... if I ever attempted to charge a client based on the number of hours I spent developing the course, it would be too exhorbitant!

I currently have a variety of courses that I would like to sell.  What I'd like to know is what is the "going fee" for courses and how to charge them.  I know that there is no one answer to this.  These courses are leadership, service and HR related course which range from 25 - 30 minutes and include a workbook with exercises throughout the module as well as a quiz at the end. 

Am I best to sell for a one time fee or purchase my own LMS and charge by the view.  I was told by another elearning developer that the typical price for what I've described is 10k - 25k per course.  Really?  I guess it depends on the industry.  If I do this based on a per view basis, what are typical prices for this option. 

Thanks for any and all suggestions and opinions on this.  I am going to be approaching a variety of companies and academic facilities.

19 Replies
Tom Ashcraft

I'm not ready to begin consulting, but I am interested in this topic!

Rob, is there anything more you can share publicly in the forums? I'm not sure the questions to ask and would like to know more without taking this offline.

Is there a base price (hourly or fixed) that most consultants base their fees? Are costs proportionate? For example, is a 60-minute course 2x a 30-minute course?

Great thread! Hope to see it continue here!

Robert Kennedy

Well, I just didn't want to call out numbers and make that the expectation.  It really varies from client to client, course to course, area of the country, etc.  There are a LOT of variables.  I share this link with some of my clients to give them an idea of some of the costs and time involved - Resources On Cost & Time.  That only has two resources but it is helpful in understanding where things are.  There are some consultants that charge hourly, anywhere for $40 - $120.  I have seen job descriptions for elearning developer positions that pay $25-$50.  I have seen Level 2 courses cost $1500 to $10000 depending on length, graphic treatment, videos...there are a lot of variables.  Each of us needs to figure out what we offer and what the clients needs are.  There are cases where I will do the same thing for two clients but the prices will differ because of client budget, immediate need, potential for future engagement, etc.  

To answer ONE question Tom, no, cost is not always proportionate.

Alanna Turco

Robert, thanks so much for sharing your insight.  It seems that there doesn't seem to be a standard out there and I am just not sure what to quote on some of these projects.  Bill - you must be the strong and silent type!  Would you mind reposting your answer.

Thanks and I hope we can generate some additional responses.

Bill Osborn

Wow look at that - it did not post any of my text how odd.

I agree with Rob and utilize the same resources that he posted. There are a lot of variables which can make pricing a product difficult. The bottom line is that you need to discover what your clients are willing to pay for the courses you have produced. This will be highly dependent on the audience and the level of the material (high level overview or deep down exploration). For example, I work in high tech and am compensated for more than just the courses I develop for my clients - they are also paying for my expertise in the field (this applies more to course development than trying to sell a course I write). It is not unusual for me to evaluate a companies manuals, existing materials, etc.. and find technical errors in the materials. My background also allows me to require less time from the assigned SMEs - an added value.

To address the issue you are looking at I would start with this basic formula:

Calculate what it cost you to produce your course offerings (time and materials) divide that by the minimum number of clients you believe you can sell your materials to and then subtract ten percent to 15 percent. That will give you a baseline to ensure you can at least break even.

So what to charge for your development time? That is probably your big question here. I will put myself on the line in saying that HR materials tend to be on the lower end of the scale (not saying they should be), employee continuing education for their job function would be in the middle of the scale, and anything highly technical or course materials that will ether help a company sell more widgets, train their customers to work with their widget better, or that will help advance someones career tend to fall in the higher end of the scale. So bottom line here is- will these materials help make better employees or do they make the company more money?

You will also need to consider if you are selling the copyright or only use rights. Two very different pricing models are at play with these. I would highly recommend that you keep the copyright and only sell use rights. Then you can provide add-on services such as course customization, branding it to their corporate look, and updates (which you can ether charge for or offer for x period of time as a service).

Sorry, a bit of a long response. Tom - I will try to answer what you wrote in a second post.

Bill Osborn

Tom Ashcraft said:

I'm not ready to begin consulting, but I am interested in this topic!

 Rob, is there anything more you can share publicly in the forums? I'm not sure the questions to ask and would like to know more without taking this offline.

 Is there a base price (hourly or fixed) that most consultants base their fees? Are costs proportionate? For example, is a 60-minute course 2x a 30-minute course?

 Great thread! Hope to see it continue here!


Tom, in my experience the fee is based on the statement of work. Thus, it is very difficult to say that it generally costs x amount per hour to develop a course. Although many consultants do have a minimum hourly rate that they use as a base ($40 to as high as $150 in my experience and I have competed against full course production houses that charge a lot more than that) and then develop the quote on top of that base. As I wrote in my previous post, there is a lot at play here including the type of content, the depth of the content, the desired course type (read through, interactive, highly interactive), amount of narration, etc...

Are costs proportionate? They definitely are not. The longer a course runs (talking eLearning or web based training here) the more difficult it is to keep the audiences interest and more work is required to ensure a good flow from one subject to the next. I would not recommend that a course run longer than 30 minutes - and if it does you should consider revising or breaking it into multiple modules.

Richard George

I love this thread, and love the resources.  I am relatively new to selling my courses on the open market, but have tried a slightly different approach, when I start talking to clients about number of hours and my effort, they tend to glaze over and start looking at me with the same sort of disdain people use when they look at attorney bills, by the hour, nickel and dime for copies, postage, etc.  Having been a CEO for 2 different companies, I looked at things like this in the same way.  The other issue I have is often I am reselling a course that the curriculum is completed and I simply brand and tweak it for another client.  So having these issues I have tried to simplify my pricing and I charge for each "finished minute" of the final program.  I take into consideration the intellectual value of the material as well, if it is provided to me or if I am working from scratch amd the amount of interactions and tests in the program that don't calculate well into the time schema. 

I hope this helps, I look forward to following this thread and would love to see other opinions that actually are working in various business verticals. 

Kelly Meeker

Alanna, as Bruce mentioned, OpenSesame is a marketplace for buying and selling elearning courses - you could definitely do a little searching in the catalog:

www.OpenSesame.com/courses

And see what similar or competitive courses are charging. I'd be happy to help you find something specific if that would be helpful - just send me a PM or an email at kelly.meeker@opensesame.com.

Russell Still

We're talking about what to charge a client to develop a course, right? That has to depend largely on the quality of the work. The more that you create, the better you get - and the more money you can demand. Having online examples of your work will likely go a very long way in selling your skills to a new client.

It takes me about 50 hours to create five-to-seven minutes of finished content on average. So creating a course with an hour of running material is a pretty big effort.

Katie Gohn

Kelly Meeker said:

Alanna, as Bruce mentioned, OpenSesame is a marketplace for buying and selling elearning courses - you could definitely do a little searching in the catalog:

www.OpenSesame.com/courses

And see what similar or competitive courses are charging. I'd be happy to help you find something specific if that would be helpful - just send me a PM or an email at kelly.meeker@opensesame.com.


Kelly -

I am an instructional designer looking for nearly finished courses that I can enhance with company (client) specific content and then resell on my own. Do you offer that service?

Thanks!