Let’s start with the first and most important question: why would anyone pay for a webinar?
Most people use webinars as marketing assets, sales platforms, or both. But increasingly, paid webinars are the product unto themselves.
How are people charging in the 3 and 4-figure range for something that’s usually free, then?
Because it’s worth it.
If you want to make revenue by charging for webinars, that’s all you have to do: make your webinar valuable enough to justify it.
It’s a much more involved project, with a higher bar for quality in every aspect, but if you make the presentation worth it for attendees, the effort will be worth it for you.
Do the math on this.
Think about your most popular free webinars. How many people came? Of those, how many converted, as in bought something from you, or otherwise answered whatever call to action you offered?
Now imagine that number of people paying a few hundred bucks for a more intensive lesson. If you’ve got the credibility, the audience, and the knowledge, you’re looking at thousands of dollars per hour in revenue for your business.
You just have to bring the goods. Let’s discuss how.
When to Host Paid Webinars
You’ll notice that in the intro, I mentioned your previous free webinars. That’s because a paid webinar should not be your first webinar.
Or even your second. Or third.
Unless you’ve established a sizable following and serious credibility through some other channel, you’ll want to start by using webinars for their bread & butter purpose: building credibility, authority, and trust from a decent-sized crowd of true fans.
If you haven’t done that yet...stop reading. Start hosting free webinars. Come back later.
Seriously, though; even if you have an audience already from other channels (your best-selling book, your social following, that cult you founded in the desert one spring break), you should still run some free webinars, just to practice — because one of the requirements for a paid webinar is an extraordinarily smooth, polished presentation (more on that below).
Types of Paid Webinars
You’ve established your authority, built an audience of people who trust you, and have deeper, entry-fee-worthy knowledge to sell them. Your paid webinar can fall into a few different categories:
- A single paid webinar
- A series webinar
- A paid replay
Single paid webinar: This is a one-time lesson, for which people have to pay at registration.
The replay should be available to all registrants for free, regardless of whether they attended in real time. The webinar should be at least a solid hour of instruction, not including banter and Q&A.
The content should be dense, and structured so as to give the most value in the shortest amount of time.
Series webinar: This is my personal favorite way to utilize paid webinars.
Rather than trying to pack a decent entry fee’s worth of material into a single session, stretch the workshop out to accommodate the learning outcome. If it takes 4 hours of training to become proficient, host 4 hour-long sessions.
Better yet, host 3 2-hour sessions to account for Q&A and such.
The other advantage of the series webinar is that you can package and sell it more creatively.
If each session can stand alone as a separate lesson, you can sell them individually. For example, charging a lower price for the first session is a good way to lower the risk for nervous buyers; as long as that first session delivers, your attendees will have the confidence to buy the rest.
You can even offer a bulk discount for the remaining sessions.
Speaking of which, you can always sell a session “package” that includes a great discount for those who buy all the sessions at once — a classic way to create urgency and a sense of value.
Paid replays: This is a clever twist I’ve seen several hosts use.
Rather than charging to register for the live webinar and including access to the replay, you make the live webinar free for all who attend in real time. Then, you charge for access to the replay.
Mostly, this acts as a great attendance-booster for the live webinar, but given the percentage of registrants who prefer replays, there’s revenue to be gained.
Choosing Your Paid Webinar Topic
Once you’ve chosen the type, Step One is to figure out what this highly valuable webinar will be about.
We’ve got loads of advice on choosing webinar topics generally, but for a paid webinar, you’ll have to be a little more precise than you would for a freebie.
The best move? Use your free webinars to identify what skills your audience needs.
Be strategic about this; create a spreadsheet to track the “pain points” your attendees reveal in chat, Q&A, and poll responses, (all of which should be a part of every webinar you host, btw).
Create consistent terms for common pain points that populate the spreadsheet, and see which ones occur with the most frequency.
Say you’re teaching people how to get into the graphic design game. Over multiple free webinars, you ask what attendees’ greatest challenges are. Narrow the challenges down with polls. Use your webinar platform’s Questions feature (assuming it has one that lets you separate and organize questions) to compile FAQ’s.
“Not sure how to put together the best portfolio.”
“Have trouble using Inkscape.”
“Don’t know how to segment my contact list of potential clients.”
Categorize the pain points. Create a shorthand for each problem: Software. Email marketing. Portfolio. Populate your spreadsheet of poll responses, questions, and pain-point-identifying chat comments. See which one comes up the most.
From there, you can dig deeper. Get more granular and specific. Suppose software comes up a lot. Create a separate list or column of which particular software products people struggle with. Which one comes up most often?
There’s your pay-worthy webinar.
The key is to consistently record, manage, and study your pain points over time, across multiple free webinars and other interactions with your audience. Keep your sheet updated and organized, and people’s most pressing problems will reveal themselves.
You’ll know what you can teach people that’s worth their money.
Lesson Prep for Your Paid Webinar
You’ve got your topic. Now, you’ve got to create a webinar that’s worth every cent (more on what to charge below).
That comes down to two things: substance, and presentation.
On substance, start with a learning outcome and work backwards, like any good teacher. Establish what I’ll call an AWBAT (Attendees Will Be Able To…).
You have to be able to finish the sentence, “By the time this webinar is over, my attendees will be able to…” install hair extensions, build a website on WP Engine, remodel their bathroom. Whatever.
Then, craft a structured lesson that gets them there, step by step.
Remember: no one is paying for a lesson. They are paying for an ability.
Create valuable digital materials that your attendees can take with them: SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) documents with step-by-step instructions, infographics, e-books, even video files.
Give your “students” whatever materials they need to replicate the success you’ve given them on the webinar over and over, and there will be no question as to the value of your webinar.
Leave (lots of) time for questions. Be sure to build time into your paid webinar to address every question that comes up, thoroughly. Typically, hosts reserve this part for the end, but on a paid webinar you have to be prepared to spend as much time as necessary to make sure everyone leaves with their confusion resolved.
Consider getting others involved. One way to instantly multiply the value of any webinar is to add co-hosts and guests. Reach out to other experts in your field, and you’ll not only drastically increase the value to your audience, you’ll likely add some of your collaborator’s audience to yours, and vice versa. Win-win-win.
What Should I Charge?
It’s time to decide on a price.
There are far too many variables regarding the lesson, the industry, and the length and scope of the webinar or series for me to give you a universal formula. That said, you should always abide by the following principles:
- Don’t charge too little. Price projects value, and it will be hard to take you seriously if you’re charging $5.
It’s been proven over and over again in business that perceived value has more to with a purchase decision than raw price. Make sure your price sends the right message.
- Calculate the (potential) monetary value of the skill you’re imparting. Then, charge a fraction of that number.
If SEO expertise will plausibly let people raise their freelance writing rates to $400 per blog post, then spending $200 to learn SEO is way, way worth it, for example.
- Research comparable prices for paid webinars and courses in your industry.
You’re not necessarily trying to undercut (“Who can charge the least?” is a game no one wins), but get a baseline and go from there.
Prep the Presentation
With your lesson, materials, and price finalized, it’s time to prep the presentation. This comes down to two things: practice and equipment.
Understand this: for a paid webinar, the production value has to be far better than average. Paying customers need substance, of course, above all. But part of feeling like they got their money’s worth comes down to the packaging:
- Invest in your camera, lighting, and mic.
- Create an undeniably professional background.
- Dress for the occasion.
- Put time and effort into an above-average slide presentation.
- And of course…
- Invest in a reliable dedicated webinar platform with high-quality video and a reputation for not glitching.
The perception of value partially depends on how everything looks and feels. In other words, your attendees did not pay to watch a fuzzy feed of you in your pj’s in front of a pile of laundry talking out of sync with the video.
And practice, practice, practice. Public speaking is a cultivated skill, in any context, let alone with a specific webinar interface. Get the timing down with a few dry runs.
Now, you’re ready.
Promoting Your Paid Webinar
Again, this is similar in kind to promoting a free webinar, but much different in degree.
It’s one thing to get people signed up for a free lesson, but for paid webinars, you’ll have to navigate some objections. You’ll have to establish yourself not just as an authority, but as someone with uniquely valuable insight. Your lesson can’t just look helpful; it has to look like a smart investment.
You have to communicate the ROI.
Naturally, you can use the usual marketing channels. Write blog posts related to the topic, and link or embed your registration form. Pose pain-point-oriented “yes” questions ("Are you overwhelmed by small business accounting software?") on social media, linked to your registration page. Promote the webinar on your podcast, or go on someone else’s.
Do all that.
But for my money, there’s no better way to promote a webinar than a webinar.
There’s just no shortcut to the level of credibility required to actually get people to open their wallets, especially for a product that isn’t really tangible, like a lesson.
You have to put the time in with free webinars, teaching great lessons and giving people little wins until they trust you enough to trust you with their cash.
There’s no “hack” for this, no algorithm. You just have to spend the time with people, helping them out, for nothing in return. Your ROI is trust.
That’s why paid webinars are not a novice’s best option. There simply isn’t any quick way for someone without an established audience to do this. You need true fans, of the sort Kevin Kelly describes.
And you can only create true fans with substantive, personal, intimate experiences.
Automated webinars can be a useful option here. If you can pre-package a good free lesson and include a sales offer for your paid webinar, it can snag some more registrants. But for the kind of conversions you’re looking for, nothing beats live.
Pro tip: Use a webinar platform that includes direct payment processor integration with your registration form (I can think of at least one). Once you’ve gotten someone to the point of registration, the transaction needs to be as frictionless as possible.
Follow Up: Don’t Waste A Great Experience!
When you give a valuable paid webinar that truly helps people, leaving them with a skill and the feeling that every dime they spent was beyond worth it, it’s time to capitalize.
The revenue you make on a paid webinar isn’t the only value you get out of it!
In other words, mine this thing for testimonials.
Few things are more valuable in marketing than the word of consumers who gave you their money and don’t regret it. Ask your attendees to keep in touch, and follow up with them as they put your lesson into practice.
This information is almost literally priceless. We’re in the social proof era of marketing, so do not let user success go un-utilized.
Encourage attendees to share the results of your paid webinar. Then ask them to use it in your own marketing. Turn your customers into your sales team, and you’ll get a snowball of word-of-mouth rolling.
It might just mean more to your business’ growth than the money you made in entry fees.
Paid webinars are a viable option for those who’ve established a following, earned credibility, and know their way around a webinar. It’s next-level stuff, but don’t let that intimidate you.
Start from wherever you are, and get there!