8 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Online Course

With the number of online courses available, it’s hard to know which ones are worth buying. How do you decide which course(s) to buy? Here are some questions to ask before you spend your money.

1. Have you hit a wall?

Have you tried everything you know to do in this area but you’re stuck? If so, a course might be a good next step. 

Otherwise, exhaust all the free info you can find first. Consider a course later.

2. Is it in your time budget?

Before you buy, look at your calendar. Do you have space in your schedule to work on the course? Be realistic. 

My rule of thumb is to allow about an hour a day, 5 days a week for the course duration.

When examining your time budget, keep in mind, some courses are self paced. Others are meant to be followed with the group in real time.

If you don’t have the time, it’s a waste.

3. Is it in your money budget?

If you can’t comfortably pay cash for it, don’t buy it. That’s what I think.

I get many emails from people on a tight budget asking if they should buy a particular course. My answer is almost always no. Save your money for the things that are absolutely necessary. 

Working online isn’t easy. If you’re just starting, there’s a big learning curve. The last thing you need is more pressure to make a return on your money. People who feel this pressure often make less-than-ideal choices.

4. Do you have a backlog of unfinished courses?

Finish those first.

5. Do you need to know this information right now?

Here’s a common thought: I’m not quite ready to learn about (course topic) yet, but I’m probably gonna need it in a down the road.

You probably shouldn’t buy the course.

First, it’s very possible you won’t need it as soon as you think. Second, there’s a good chance at least some of the information will be outdated by the time you get to it. Third, this course or something really similar will almost certainly be available closer to the time you actually need it.

6. Are you buying it out of fear?

Are you afraid of missing out (FOMO = fear of missing out) if you don’t buy it? Are you afraid you won’t be successful without it? Are you afraid this is the key and skipping it will be a deal breaker? Are you afraid it will go away and you won’t be able to buy it again?

Don’t buy it.

I’m not a fan of buying things out of fear. Fear inserts a layer of unhealthy, negative emotion

Having said that, fear is different than healthy risk. Fear makes you feel frantic and fretful. Healthy risk makes you feel excited and empowered even if it comes with apprehension.

7. Can you find the same (or better) information for free?

I see people ask this question in Facebook Groups all the time: Can anyone recommend a good course for (blank)? 

I get it. People want the best information they can find on a topic. They assume a course is the best way to get it. I speak from experience — this is not always the case.

Over the years, I’ve vetted a lot of online products. Too many to count. Some are excellent. A lot are not worth the money. 

Here’s a better question when you ask around: What’s the best free resource you’ve found for (blank)?

8. Do you like the course creator’s style?

Every course creator has a unique style. Does it connect with you? Are they helpful? Are they accessible? Do they spend their days the way you want to spend yours? Do their values align with yours?

Before you pay money for their course, examine the free content they already provide. Get on their mailing list. Watch their YouTube videos. Listen to their podcast. Join their free Facebook Group. Read their blog. Follow them on social media. Take advantage of pre-launch webinars, challenges or content.


Don’t buy something because someone said you should. Buy something because you’ve thoughtfully considered the benefits and are reasonably confident it will help you in a specific way.

Despite marketing tactics designed to persuade people to buy products, a single course will not make or break your online career. Give yourself permission to let an opportunity pass you by. There will always be more options.

The best thing you can do is take the next right step in front of you. Master that first. Explore additional opportunities as you need them.

You might also be interested in a few courses I think are worth money.

11 thoughts on “8 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Online Course”

  1. Love this post Amy! I wrestle with parting with money when it comes to blogging courses and this helps loads 🙂

    1. Yes, Amy, thank you for this post. Your advice is clear and sensible. It confirmed a lot of what i’ve been thinking — mostly that i should not invest in another course before finishing the current one. I plan to have a personal finance blog and so . . . it certainly would not be prudent to continue to spend $ and begin to let the courses pile up on my laptop.
      I’ve just obtained a domain, but need serious coaching in setting up/polishing my website before publishing. A fellow Hope*Writer forwarded your link to me.
      I need to bake her some cookies 🙂

      Thank you again,
      Denise deBois

  2. Hi Amy!

    Thanks for sharing. I am reaching a plateau in my business and I was contemplating on buying an online course from a guy called Wilco. He claims to be a Facebook advertising guru and seems really convincing. However, after reading your point 7, I realized that I did not even try to search for the information online. I just did a simple search and so much of free information popped up! I don’t think I am going to pay for the course, at least for now!

  3. Amy, I love reading your blog and your useletter! And way too many courses out there makes it so hard to know which one to take. Right now I’m wondering about taking an affiliate marketing course. Do I need one? Which one? I am short on time and cash but want to do things the right way. Please give me your thoughts on this.

  4. Such a practical advice, Amy! Nowadays, it feels like the age of digital products. Let it be courses, ebooks, masterminds or masterclasses. It’s all there. As you said, some are really helpful while some are not worth the price.

  5. Amy, I often wish I stumbled upon you a year earlier. You are just the soundest voice in this crazy sphere. Thank you for this list, I appreciate you.

  6. Thank you for the advice! Just this week I was tempted to pay $1000+ for a 7-month course for Highly Sensitive Entrepreneurs. This was after listening to a 45-minute audio presentation. It was very good! But I decided I couldn’t afford it. I was so tempted to say yes as they were giving a discount. But I am ordering a book – maybe 2 – on the subject of Highly Sensitive Persons to see if the books will provide more insight on my unique personality and how to gain ground with my new blog and online shop. Plus, I found a website hosted by the author of the books I mentioned and signed up as a subscriber. This author’s expertise was key in contributing to the formation of this particular course (created by another person).
    Thanks again, Amy, for your thoughtful advice!

  7. That is such sound advice!
    I was considering buying another course today but realize now I don’t need to. I’m going to check out the free info first.
    Take care.

  8. Such a practical advice, Amy! Nowadays, it feels like the age of digital products. Let it be courses, ebooks, masterminds or masterclasses. It’s all there. As you said, some are really helpful while some are not worth the price.

    I really think it’s so important to make the right decision before buying a course. As tempting as these offers sound, one needs to look at their own schedules, budget and the desire for the content. If you really need it, just buy it. Making sure that you give all of your attention on all the lessons you learn. Otherwise, it’s just another file or a new login details dusting in your inbox.


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