This Thinkific review is part of a series in which I’m focusing on tools and platforms to help side hustlers grow their businesses. Thinkific is a cloud-based platform designed for creating and selling digital products like courses and memberships.
My long-time readers probably know by now that course sales account for a large part of my blogging income, and it’s been that way since I launched my first course, The Facebook Side Hustle Course, back in January of 2018.
In addition to diversifying my blogging income, that course has allowed me to teach others how to start and grow a side hustle – something I’ve been passionate about since the beginning of this site.
More and more bloggers and solopreneurs are realizing the powerful effects of creating courses and membership sites as a way to teach and connect with your audience on a deeper level. It doesn’t hurt that courses can be quite lucrative for the creators (when done well).
If you’re thinking about adding a course component to your online business, Thinkific is one of several teaching platforms worth checking out. And my Thinkific review covers all of its features, pricing, how to use it to create a course, and more.
Thinkific Review 2020 | Does Thinkific Have the Tools You Need to Launch Your Course?
What is Thinkific?
Thinkific is a cloud-based LMS (learning management software) platform that business owners can use to create a website, host your pages and content, and create and sell online courses.
Founded in 2012, over 51,000 course creators have used Thinkific to teach students in 190 countries.
The platform itself has step-by-step guides and video tutorials to help you make the most of all of Thinkific’s tools, and the majority of this educational content is free in the Thinkific Help Center.
Or you can go to the Thinkific Training Centre, which hosts webinars and has a private Facebook group for online course creators. The Training Centre also has paid support – you can hire Thinkific experts to help you with specific issues or pay for specialized courses. I mean, that’s the business they’re in.
Before I get into the pricing section of my Thinkific review, I want to go over all of its features. Again, this platform is designed for online course creation and is light on built-in marketing options.
Okay, are you ready? Thinkific has a lot of features.
Course creation features:
- Full support for any content type: Create courses with video, text, audio, PDFs, HTML, voice-over presentations, quizzes, surveys, and add third-party content using tools like Typeform or Google Docs.
- Drag-and-drop course builder: Tools to help you import existing content.
- Built-in content creation tools: Use Thinkific’s system to create presentations, quizzes, surveys, text, and HTML lessons.
- Downloadable content: You have the option to let students download files and assignments directly from the course.
- Student discussion forums: This feature helps you build a community within your course through interactive in-course discussions. You can use built-in options for this, Disqus, or third-party integrations.
- Pass/fail quizzes: If you want to assess your students, you can track their progress through quizzes.
- Student surveys: Create built-in surveys to get student feedback.
- Custom uploading for Articulate, Storyline, and Captivate: Support if you’re pulling course content from any of these e-learning platforms.
Sales marketing features:
- Instant funds access: Payments are processed through Stripe or PayPal, and both of these processors give you immediate access to your funds. Plus, Thinkific doesn’t hold student funds for any period of time.
- Membership site options: Create a membership-based site or portal in addition to your classes.
- Group selling: Sell your courses to cohorts or organizations.
- Free trials: Generate leads with free trial lessons.
- Order and conversion tracking, plus retargeting Pixel support: These additions give you advanced tracking tools for Google and social ads, like paid Facebook ads.
- Search engine optimization: Create search-friendly URLs and meta tags.
- Multiple payment methods and currencies: Thinkific integrates with Stripe to support over 130 different currencies, numerous payment options, and PayPal for one-time payments.
- Basic marketing and email integration: You can add MailChimp, Aweber, Mixpanel, and Google Analytics.
- Advanced marketing and email integrations: Create highly targeted campaigns and access hundreds of integrations from Zapier and Segment.io.
- Bundles and upsells: Create offers for subscriptions, one-on-one coaching, and multiple courses.
- Affiliate reporting: You can create and manage an affiliate program for your courses.
- Coupons and promotions: You can design promotions to attract more students and customers.
- Drip content: Control how and when your course content is released to students.
- Payment plans: Offer payment plans to your students using Stripe.
- Direct integrations for ActiveCampaign and InfusionSoft: Thinkific has these integrations built into its platform.
- Compatible with existing websites: Add your Thinkific courses to WordPress, Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, and more.
- Customizable landing pages: Add your branding, change fonts and logos, add images, and more.
- Branded course catalog: Build a course catalog on your site so students can easily access all of your digital content.
- Custom site links: Create custom header links to connect related websites.
- Custom domains: Use your own domain or create one with Thinkific
- Additional pages: Add pages for FAQs, About Me, and more.
- CSS/HTML editing: Do even more with your web pages with these extra coding features.
- White label: Optional service to remove Thinkific branding
Features that nurture the student experience:
- Custom student environment: Create an ideal learning space for your students with progress indicators, unlimited replays, playback features, and more.
- Resume on any device: Students can resume course content on mobile, tablet, laptop, or desktop – content is optimized for each kind of device.
- Easy course navigation: Site design is focused on leading students through the curriculum.
- Choose your site’s language: Make your site appeal to potential students across the globe.
Features to help you teach:
- Student assessment: Track student outcomes with quizzes, collect assignments, and survey your students for course feedback.
- Progress tracking: You can monitor the progress of each student as they move through your course. This is a helpful way to identify students who might need extra support.
- Create evergreen or scheduled courses: Evergreen courses can be purchased at any time, while scheduled courses launch on a specific date.
- Multiple instructor profiles: If your course has more than one instructor, you can use instructor profiles to introduce students to everyone on the teaching team.
- Completion certificates: You can send automated certificates to reward students who successfully complete your course.
Site administration features:
- Dashboard: Your dashboard is an all-in-one place to monitor what’s happening throughout your Thinkific pages and courses.
- Detailed reports and analytics: Track sales, course progress, optimize marketing, and more.
- Automated student emails: Automatically send emails when someone joins or completes a course.
- Student segmentation and exports: These are data tools that allow you to understand your students better.
- Unlimited enrollment: There’s no cap on the number of students who can take your Thinkific courses or sign up for memberships.
- Manual student enrollment and updates: Manually edit expiration dates, add or remove students, and update their details as needed.
- Additional site admins: If you’re working with a team, you have the option to add more than one administrator account.
- Bulk student emailer: Send emails through your Thinkific dashboard with bulk or segmented email options.
- Private and hidden courses: Create and close off enrollment for private courses, and offer invitation-only courses.
- Track and pay multiple instructors: These features will allow you to share revenue with other instructors.
- Webhooks: Send course data to any tools you want.
- Single Sign-On (SSO): Students will have a seamless sign-on process using web tokens.
- Thinkific API. Developers can access and manage your site.
Security and support features:
- Built-in SSL: Automatically deliver secure course content to your students.
- 99% uptime and 24/7 monitoring: Thinkific works hard to keep your course up and running for you and your students.
- Customer support: Thinkific offers knowledgeable and expert-level support when you need help.
- Knowledgebase: Thinkific has a comprehensive help center with how-tos, webinars, and even courses on running courses.
- Private Facebook group for instructors: Get to know and learn from other Thinkific creators.
- Secure cloud hosting with daily backups: Hosting is PCI compliant and SSL enabled.
- Access upgrades instantly: You’ll have immediate access to new Thinkific features and updates.
- Priority support: You’ll have access to priority email support from the Thinkific team.
- Onboarding call: Get a 30-minute call from a Thinkific expert who can coach you through the setup process and answer any questions.
- Site launch review: Before you take your course live, get a 30-minute call with a Thinkific expert to make sure you have everything ready for your launch.
Phew, I told you there were going to be a lot of features. Now, let’s look at Thinkific pricing, so you can understand which features come with each plan.
How much it costs to create online courses with Thinkific
Thinkific has four different pricing levels, ranging from free to $499/month.
All of the following plans come with the core Thinkific features. These include:
- Full e-commerce – your shopping cart and payment processor are built-in
- Drag-and-drop course builder
- Secure cloud hosting
- The ability to choose your site language
- Built-in SSL certificates
- Phone and email support from Thinkific
- Instant access to your funds
- Student notifications
- Upsell offers
- Discussion forums
- Multiple instructor profiles
The prices you see above reflect annual pricing – you save 20% when you bill annually.
Here are the additional features you get with each plan:
(Free features plus)
(Basic features plus)
(Pro features plus)
Thinkific also has a Growth Package that gives you advanced features for groups and communities, which includes:
- Even more Zapier actions
- Advanced segmentation
- A public API, Webhooks
- Integrations for Infusionsoft and ActiveCampaign,
- Importing tools to add students from another database
- Bulk emails
- Bulk enrollment
The cost of the Growth Package is based on the number of active students you have in your course. The first 100 students are free, and then it costs $0.10 per student. 200 students is $10/month, 500 students is $40/month, 2,000 students is $190/month. The cost maxes out at $499/month.
You can add the Growth Package to any of the other plans, but you get an unlimited Growth Package with Thinkific Premier.
Using Thinkific to sell online courses
After you sign up for Thinkific, you will use the Thinkific Course Builder to create your courses. You’ll start in your dashboard, which is where you can design your site, access marketing, selling tools, and manage student support.
From there, you can pick a course template or create a course from scratch – there are templates for pre-selling, flagship courses, mini-courses, and more. The templates help you design a curriculum that uses learning best practices.
Then, you’ll give your course a name – you can change it later – and start adding your course content.
Your online course is organized into chapters (or modules) that contain multiple lessons. Essentially, each chapter focuses on one topic in your course, and then you break that topic down into digestible lessons.
I recommend using the Bulk Importer if you’ve already created content. The bulk importer allows you to upload video, audio, and PDF files. These files are stored on Thinkific, and you can use the drag-and-drop editor to place them in your course.
You start by going under the curriculum tab and clicking on Add Chapter – again, you can go back and edit your chapter names later.
Then you can go in and add the individual lessons. Thinkific gives you lots of options for lesson types: videos, quizzes, multimedia, surveys, narrated presentations, audio, webinars, etc. You’ll also want to add a course description and images.
Honestly, it’s relatively easy to create a course on Thinkific. The hard work is in the course content, and that’s on you. But Thinkific has all the tools you need to organize and host your course.
Most course creators will want to spend some time customizing their Course Player, as it’s the environment where your students learn. It’s like the online classroom where your course content is delivered.
Thinkific lets you change the colors and font to match your brand. You can add a logo and choose between a light or dark theme. Below is an example of a customized course player in the dark theme.
There are some advanced options in the course player, including:
- In-lesson discussions to build community within each lesson
- Completion messages
- Course reviews to solicit feedback from students (and good reviews can go on your sales page)
- Free previews of individual lessons to encourage students to buy your course
- Drip scheduling – release course content over time instead of opening the entire thing to students at once
- Prerequisite lessons that must be completed before moving forward
Thinkific’s course building platform walks you through each step, and after you’ve created your course, you’ll be prompted to build a landing page, which is the page that will sell your course.
Every single course or bundle of courses you create on Thinkific will have its own landing page, and this allows you to really explain what each product is.
Your landing pages are fully customizable, and you can start with the basics: a banner, description, CTA (call-to-action), pricing, and instructor information. Thinkific’s landing pages have all of those components as defaults, so you don’t overlook them.
You can add more sections, like student reviews, checklists, and course previews. And just like the rest of your course, you can change the colors, fonts, add images, and branding to your landing pages.
Here are the final few things you’ll need to do before launching your Thinkific course:
- Set up your payment integrations and pricing options: Thinkific supports Stripe (for one-time payments, subscriptions, and payment plans) and PayPal (for one-time payments).
- Connect your email marketing platform: Supported platforms are MailChimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, AWeber, and Active Campaign.
- Integrating for analytics: You can track your traffic using Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, Mixpanel, and Segment.io.
In addition to your courses and landing pages, Thinkific also gives you a customizable homepage where customers can see all of your courses.
Who uses Thinkific?
Thinkific can be used by bloggers, coaches, podcasters, speakers, authors, freelancers, and nearly any kind of solopreneur or small team. And some pretty notable names use the platform, including:
- Entrepreneurs on Fire: Personal finance podcasters with 12,000 students across five courses
- Jonathan Levi: Serial entrepreneur turned course creator who has taught over 120,000 students in 12 courses
- Elizabeth Rider: A food and wellness blogger who’s had around 25,000 students in her 12 courses
I’d say Thinkific is a good fit for any side hustlers who’ve started their online business and are ready to grow their income with an online course, but even large companies use Thinkific. Hootsuite, one of the largest social media management companies, has used Thinkific to create and sell courses. Hootsuite has had more than 450,000 students go through Thinkific-hosted training.
Pros and cons
Thinkific is a solid course creation platform, but I want to point out where this software shines and where it leaves you wanting more.
Thinkific review: The final word
There are several kinds of course creation software, including all-in-one options like Kajabi that are more expensive. However, you save money with Thinkific because its primary focus is to help you create and sell digital content for courses, memberships, ebooks, and more.
This is an important distinction as you shop around for course platforms and start to compare pricing.