Thinkific Vs Udemy: Which Course Platform is Best? (2023)
Trying to decide between Thinkific vs Udemy for your online course business?
If you’re an expert in a field, you can make a lot of money by selling online courses teaching others what you know.
Over the past few years, a lot of people just like you have created passive income streams by creating online courses and selling them through various marketplaces.
But to build a successful course business, you need the right online course platform that can handle the nuts and bolts of hosting, so you can focus on creating and delivering top-notch content.
Two of the most popular online course platforms for creators are Thinkific and Udemy.
Both these platforms are vastly different, which is why it’s so important for you to understand the key differences before making a decision.
In this article, we’ll evaluate both the two platforms on a host of features to make your decision a bit easier.
Read on for our full breakdown of Thinkific vs Udemy.
Table of Contents
What are Thinkific and Udemy?
Thinkific and Udemy are vastly different when it comes to creating and marketing courses.
Thinkific is a comprehensive platform that allows you to create and market your courses, the way you want. You can design your course from a host of templates, offer competitive pricing, and can have complete ownership of student data and its analytics.
Our Thinkific review goes into more detail on what all it can do.
Udemy, on the other hand, is a listing and marketing platform where you sell a course according to the terms and conditions laid down by Udemy. This platform handles the hosting and marketing for you, but you’ll have to abide by its terms and conditions.
From the above discussion, it’s clear that there are more differences than similarities between the two platforms, so let’s dive into them right away.
Thinkific is a platform that helps you to create and brand yourself the way you want. This means you can have a custom domain with no reference whatsoever to Thinkific.
Now you might wonder why do you need a custom domain? The simple answer is that a custom domain builds credibility to your business and offers flexible branding.
You will need a paid plan to have a custom domain on Thinkific and you’ll need the right technical knowledge to set it up, though it’s not too difficult.
It’s important to know that Thinkific doesn’t offer domains, so you’ll have to purchase it separately and then integrate it with Thinkific. Though it could be a bit overwhelming at first, there is considerable documentation to guide you through it. More importantly, this is a one-time set up that can provide a ton of benefits.
With Udemy, you have no such option. You have to upload your courses on Udemy, which means, you’ll never be able to have a domain for yourself and build a separate audience to Udemy.
Thinkific is the only choice if you want a custom domain.
Custom domains are helpful when you want to create a brand, add credibility to your business, and market yourself.
Course Presentation and Customization
Are you one of those people who wants a different look and feel for each course?
If you answered yes, Thinkific is your choice.
Every course is unique and you’d want to show its uniqueness to the world with a different design and structure, and Thinkific makes it possible.
Thinkific offers six different templates for different courses and they are:
- Blank course template for a custom course
- Mini-course template for a low-cost or free course to promote your offerings
- Flagship course template to build a full-fledged online course
- Pre-sell template to gauge the interest in a course
- Membership template to build a subscription-based content delivery business
- Webinar replay template to help your attendees to watch or rewatch a webinar you presented earlier.
These templates can be further customized with your business logo and design.
Udemy offers no such option. You have to upload your course content in the standard template given by Udemy and you won’t be able to add your custom logo or branding anywhere.
Undoubtedly, Thinkific is the choice when you want to offer a customized look and feel to your course. On the other hand, if you’re just starting, and not too worried about building your brand, you can go with Udemy.
Marketing is one area where Udemy scores over Thinkific as it handles the complete marketing for you. With its huge brand name and large student base, it can quickly reach out to millions of potential students around the world.
That said, Udemy will market your competitors’ courses as well if they’re hosted on its platform.
For example, let’s say you’re creating a course on how to build a website using .NET.
Undoubtedly, there’ll be similar .NET courses on Udemy. So, when Udemy markets to a potential candidate about .NET courses, yours will be a part of it. But so will the other courses, thereby reducing your chances of attracting a potential customer.
With Thinkific, you have to handle the marketing all by yourself, but you can make it unique, thereby increasing the chances of a sign-up.
Also, Thinkific integrates well with email marketing tools and apps.
More importantly, it integrates with Zapier that, in turn, gives access to thousands of marketing tools and apps.
Udemy is better at marketing and can be a good choice if you’re testing waters or don’t want to spend time and effort on marketing at this point. But remember, Udemy markets similar courses and not just yours.
Business branding is essential to carve a niche for yourself and to promote your courses as a reliable and credible choice to upskill or learn.
This branding is possible only with Thinkific where you can have a custom domain (only paid plan supports it), unique design, and logo and company name on the course pages to promote your offering.
Udemy doesn’t support custom branding and you’ll have to go with Udemy’s brand name.
Even if you market and promote the course by yourself, you’ll still be enhancing Udemy’s brand name rather than yours.
The winner is Thinkific as Udemy doesn’t support custom branding at all.
When students sign up for courses, you collect some basic information about them, and this can be used to upsell or promote your other offerings.
With Udemy, you don’t own any student data and can’t access them either for marketing. All the student data is owned by Udemy and it uses this data to market all the courses on its platform, and not just yours.
But Thinkific allows you to own student data, so you can use it the way you want. This data can be used to offer customized courses, pricing, discount coupons, and anything else that increases the conversion rate for your other courses.
When you own student data, you can glean a ton of analytics from it as well.
Thinkific is the right choice because it is only right that you own the data of the students who sign up for your course. And you can use it to market and upsell too.
Flexibility with Course Pricing
One of the biggest downsides of Udemy is pricing. Course creators don’t have the flexibility to offer the price that is fair to them and at the same time, competitive enough for students to sign up.
Instructors have to choose from the fixed price slabs offered by Udemy to price their course. In 2016, Udemy capped the price of a course to a maximum of $50. As a course creator, this may not be fair for you given that you put in a lot of time and effort in creating it.
Further, you’re subject to the terms and conditions laid down by Udemy. If it decides to cap all courses at $20 in the future, you have no choice.
This is a major downside for most content creators as they may not get the right price for their work.
Thinkific, on the other hand, allows you to set your pricing, alter it based on market demands, and change it at any time.
Thinkific is the best choice when you want flexibility in course pricing and the freedom to set a price that is fair for you and competitive for your students.
Customer Support and Community
Thinkific offers support through email and phone for the higher plans while Udemy offers only email support. While this may not make a big difference in most cases, it’s still something to consider.
But it merits to note that phone support is available only in the higher paid plans of Thinkific.
Thinkific scores over Udemy, but not by a whole lot as phone support is offered only in the higher plans and you’ll use it a lot less than you think.
Ease of Use
Both platforms are fairly easy to use and intuitive for the most part, though Udemy is simpler and easier when compared to Thinkific because it doesn’t offer any customization options.
With Thinkific, you need a basic design idea and imagination as you’ll have to build your site from scratch. You can of course get help from a developer on something like Upwork for this. In Udemy, you’ll simply upload your content to an existing platform.
Obviously, from this perspective, Udemy is easier.
As for students, Udemy is fairly straightforward to use and they will be familiar with the look and feel, especially if they’ve taken other courses on Udemy. So, this familiarity enhances their ease of use.
You can also build easy-to-use and intuitive navigation options with Thinkific, but since there is no set pattern, it can take a bit of time for students to figure out the site, especially for those non-tech-savvy students.
This is another area where Udemy scores over Thinkific because its design doesn’t change across courses and this makes it easy for students. For content creators too, it is fairly simple to set up.
Thinkific vs Udemy Cost
Since both platforms are very different, their pricing also varies vastly.
Thinkific pricing has four plans:
- Free – Only three courses and ideal for those who want to explore the world of content creation.
- Start ($99/month or $74/month billed annually) – Unlimited courses and students and is ideal for those who are starting. Can also create an affiliate program to have others promote your courses.
- Grow ($199/month or $149/month billed annually) – This is for seasoned course creators looking to expand their business.
- Expand ($499/month or $374/month billed annually) – For those who are all set to build a content empire.
Udemy, on the other hand, works on a commission basis and can charge up to 50% of the price of a course.
In short, Thinkific and Udemy have many differences, so the choice depends on what is best for you.
Choose Thinkific if you want an online course platform that will let you:
- Own your student’s data
- Have the flexibility to design courses the way you want including the look and feel
- Create a custom domain to brand your business
- Charge students at a competitive price that is also fair for you. With Thinkific, you get to decide how much you want to charge.
- Market your courses independently
- Pay no more than 10% (only for free plan) of the value of your course as transaction fees.
- Integrate with many third-party applications to enhance the learning experience for students and to improve the marketability of your course.
- Provide drip and membership-based content
On the other hand, choose Udemy as your online course platform if you,
- Are just starting to create and sell online courses and want to gauge how well you can deliver content
- Want a hassle-free platform where everything, including marketing, is handled by someone one. All that you have to do is create your course and upload it.
- Don’t mind the low returns
- Want to showcase your skills to a wide user base and funnel them to your custom domain
Many content creators start with Udemy to get a hands-on feel of course creation and eventually move on to comprehensive platforms like Thinkific as their online education business grows. They continue to use Udemy as a part of their marketing strategy.
We hope this piece helps you to choose the right platform for your next course.