7 reasons why I still love hosting my online courses on Squarespace

 7 reasons why I still love hosting my online courses on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Can you believe it’s been two years since I started putting together Squarespace 101? Back then I spent a good few weeks researching my options for where to host my course and I have to say: it’s all still valid. You can read that post here

Since then I’ve launched more courses and attracted 100s of students. And I figured it’s time to give an update on why I still love hosting my courses on Squarespace! 

 
I have been working through your Squarespace Classroom e-course slowly but surely, and this afternoon was brave enough to try the Mailchimp + Zapier automation. Just got message ‘Awesome! your Zap is working.’ and am almost crying with relief. Thank you a million times over for making it possible for me to build my course on a low budget, but still make it look amazing and everything works! Your course has made my life so much better, I can’t thank you enough!
— Dr Amelia Church・TALK Seminars
 

1. Brand consistency

This is a big one. Because you are hosting your courses on your own website you use the same fonts, colors and styling as everywhere else. No need to try and match your style on another platform (which never really works). 


2. Keep your customers on your site

Another big one. Your course participants only need to know one place: your website. This has so many advantages:

  • You don’t lose them to another platform.

  • It’s easy for them as they stay in a familiar environment.

  • They have easy access to all your other content.

  • It’s good for SEO as it drives more traffic to your site and keeps people there longer.


3. Looking good!

You cannot beat the styling options you have with Squarespace! Whether you use a password protected blog or index, you can style away merrily and have full access to the content blocks. I especially love using the gallery and summary blocks, as well as the quote, markdown and video blocks. I host my videos on Vimeo {affiliate link} and because Vimeo has great privacy and embedding options my videos look and work great. And of course I use the image blocks and lots of photos which creates a lovely and welcoming classroom for my students. 


4. Easy navigation

Teaching platforms like Teachable or Thinkific offer great tools for course navigation, including bookmarks and progress bars and such. You can’t do that with Squarespace.

However, I offer downloadable checklists that list all the lessons and according to my students they love my lists, which they also use for note taking while going through the lessons.

The navigation itself is handled via the sidebar, depending on your template you can either use the built-in sidebar or create a fake sidebar using content blocks, or there is even a sidebar plugin (psst, use code KMSS15 to get 15% off) for those templates that don’t have sidebars, e.g. Brine. I love using the summary or archive blocks for the actual navigation, this way any changes to my lessons are automatically updated. 


5. Seamless Payment Process

I am so impressed with how my little Javascript/Zapier/Mailchimp set-up is working! Every now and then Zapier flakes out on me but it's rare. I can't tell you how happy I am to have a process in place that automates everything from the moment someone purchases the course to the welcome email they receive with the password and login info. This was the one important area I had to tweak in Squarespace and it's working like a dream!


6. Your content is safe

"Is it safe to use one password for everyone?"

This is probably the most frequently asked question I get and with good reason: we don’t want people to cheat and it feels too easy to share the password.

From a technical standpoint using a password protected blog or index is still the best way to keep your content safe on Squarespace. But it is true, it is easier to share a password than a personal login. Which is why it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence and weigh up the pros and cons.

My passwords have probably been shared but generally I prefer to go on the assumption that most people are honest. When I took Susannah’s tarot class one person emailed me asking me for the password so she could just check it out before deciding whether to buy it. Excuse me? Apart from this not being fair on Susannah who puts a lot of work into her courses and deserves to be compensated, I have paid good money for this class, why would I just give someone else free access to it?

Having said all this, I can see that there are situations where you’d be better off with a membership system that can handle cancellations, payment plans (I use Moonclerk for those) and automated password recovery. If I had, for instance, 1000s of students then I would probably reconsider my set-up. But my courses are not made for mass audiences and sell at a very comfortable pace, it’s easy for me to manage so far.

Plus, I change the password every quarter and that seems to works well, too.


7. It's still the cheapest way to host an online course

 E-Course Hosting Comparison Chart

One of the problems I had with MyMemberspace.com (who I happily recommend to anyone who wants to use Squarespace with a membership system) was their pricing plan:

They charged monthly fees based on number of members which was prohibitive for evergreen courses where students only pay you once, but then you pay for each person every month for eternity. However, Memberspace recently added a new Pay-As-You-Go plan where you get unlimited members and pay a monthly fee plus a transaction fee that is charged on top of the Stripe fees. I have to admit, I was very tempted by this! And it finally prompted me to do the math on a spreadsheet. 

This was an eye opening exercise! Those additional transaction fees add up quickly!

This little exercise made me realize that - as long as I am ok to use the built-in Squarespace password protection - I am actually best off with the Squarespace Advanced Commerce Plan. Which I have been on for a while now and let me tell you, these features are worth it:

  • No transaction fee

  • Abandonded cart

  • Flexible discounts

  • Gift cards

Once you hit about 30 and more sign-ups a month you pay TWICE as much in charges with MyMemberspace and Teachable, even if you take the fees for Zapier and Mailchimp into consideration which are free until you reach significant numbers. I also pay $15 a month for Moonclerk so that I can offer payment plans but they do not charge a transaction fee so that's very reasonable. 

Feel free to download the spreadsheet below and do your own calculations! It's a Numbers spreadsheet (because I'm a Mac girl) but you should be able to open it with Excel and retain the formulas. Enjoy!


 7 Reasons Why I Still Love Hosting my E-Courses on Squarespace・Kerstin Martin Squarespace Studio

Conclusion

Two years in I am still very happy with my set-up and the ability to host my courses on my own website. Managing a single password for everyone – which was probably the biggest question mark for me – has not been an issue at all. I actually had a bit of an epiphany as I wrote this post, when I said that my courses are not intended for mass audiences. That is so true. I enjoy the personal interactions I have with my participants and would find having thousands of students overwhelming and stressful. I will never be a B-School level learning machine and I am totally ok with that. I am at a point where I make a great monthly income from my courses while allowing me to engage with my participants and keep working on my courses in the format I love. 

If you want to be notified about my new course launches this summer, please sign up to my Studio Notes here →

You can do it, too!

 
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