Thinkific vs Podia for online course and membership hosting

Last fall, I launched my first online course. I’d been wanting to do it for at least a year prior, but two things held me back—what will I teach and how will I figure out the technology?

The answer to the first question came to me during a mastermind call. I spent 10 minutes telling a fellow business owner how she could use LinkedIn to grow her photography business with corporate clients. Then she said to me, “you should really teach a masterclass on LinkedIn” and a lightbulb went off. Duh! I know LinkedIn incredibly well, so why not make that the subject of my first online course?

That thing you know so well and you assume everyone else does too?
That’s probably the prime topic for your online course.

The answer to the second question about technology wasn’t as simple. There are so many course-hosting platforms available, and every online educator I asked felt passionately about a different one.

After hearing the same answer from several people and doing a little online research, however, I settled on Thinkific. It seemed fairly intuitive to set up and the costs and fee structure looked similar to other platforms.

In the span of one week, I wrote, recorded, uploaded, and launched my first course. I earned a little less than $2,000 from my initial launch, and a few thousand more in the months following.

I was perfectly content with Thinkific … until a few months ago. At that time, I was preparing to launch my VIP membership community and wasn’t sure if Thinkific was the best platform to host it.

That’s when my business coach introduced me to Podia. She and many of her clients were using it to host courses, sell digital downloads, and run memberships. She promised me it was cheaper and more robust than Thinkific.

I’d never heard of the nearly 4-year-old company, and I was immediately skeptical. I’m from the Show-Me State; I have to see things myself to believe them. I did some research and talked to others using the platform. Turns out, my coach (as usual) was correct and I made the switch.

Thinkific vs Podia for online course and membership hosting

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Thinkific vs Podia

Here are the top 5 reasons why I chose Podia over Thinkific, and why (several months later) I’m so glad I did.

1. Lower prices*

I started on Thinkific’s free Starter plan. I was happy to not pay a monthly fee when I wasn’t sure if I’d sell a single course. The problem? I had to fork over 10% of every purchase to Thinkific. Plus, at that time, the basic plan didn’t allow students to pay via Paypal (that’s changed since then) and I couldn’t offer coupons. I also didn’t get a custom domain, couldn’t do much with email integration, couldn’t have affiliates, and tons of other limitations.

Within a month or two, I was on the Business plan at $99 a month. This took care of all the shortfalls mentioned above, but it represented a pretty big investment for my business.

For $79 a month on Podia (less if you prepay for a year like I did), you can host courses, sell digital downloads, and have memberships. You can have a custom domain, easily integrate with ConvertKit (or use Zapier to convert with Mailchimp), create coupons and discounts, set up affiliates for your programs, allow students to pay via Stripe or Paypal, and so much more.

2. No transaction fees

Best of all, neither of Podia’s programs include transaction fees. Even if you only pay $39 a month, you never have to fork over a percentage of your earnings to the platform. Paypal and Stripe still take their fees (there’s no way around that), but that’s all. Pay a monthly fee and nothing more.

Thinkific, on the other hand, takes 10% transaction fees when you are on the free plan and 5% when you’re paying $49 a month. No thanks.

3. More options

As I mentioned earlier, the impetus for me looking into Podia was the launch of my VIP membership community. Podia is set up to host memberships as one of its core offerings. Thinkific, on the other hand, added basic membership capabilities but that’s not it’s primary business.

I love that I can use Podia to host courses (like Thinkific or Teachable), to sell digital downloads (like Gumroad), or to house my membership (like MemberFul or Kajabi). It’s like a one-stop shop.

Of course, my guess is Podia isn’t as complete in any of those three areas as the task-specific sites I mentioned as alternatives. But for now my course, download, and membership needs are all fairly basic, so I love the convenience and affordability of housing everything in one place.

4. Easy switch

What really sealed the deal for me was when I learned Podia would migrate all my content from Thinkific at no extra cost. They do this for all of their Shaker ($79/month) users, regardless of where your content currently lives. Plus, Podia’s founder, Spencer, offered me a 30-minute video call where he walked me through exactly how to use the platform.

The tech piece is what typically keeps me from trying something new. They eliminated that issue and made the switch a no-brainer.

5. Unbelievable service

As you can probably guess from what I just mentioned about the migration and initial call, Podia has incredible customer service. And it doesn’t end after you’ve paid them.

I’ve used the site’s chat feature to ask dozens of questions in the last few months. Every time, I’ve received a quick response, usually within minutes. When they don’t know the answer, they quickly find out. When I asked questions about membership billing, they did some research and got me answers—and then turned them into a helpful resource on the site’s FAQ section. Even more, they have offered to fix problems or make changes on my behalf rather than simply sending me instructions or directing me to the FAQ section.

This former skeptic is now a believer. I understand why my business coach raved about Podia. It’s easy to use, pretty comprehensive, reasonably priced, and the service is truly second to none.

This is the first time I’ve written an endorsement of a single product. I don’t do this lightly, but I really believe Podia could be the perfect solution for many of my readers’ needs. If you’re preparing your first online course offering or wanting to start a small membership, Podia may be the most affordable option. As a bonus, you can make more money by selling digital downloads (you can turn old blog posts into an ebook using Canva).

Want to give Podia a shot without making a big commitment? You can by signing up for their free 14-day trial. If you try it, let me know how it goes. Share the link to your Podia offerings in the comments below this post!

* Edited 11/1/2018: Since this post was originally written, Thinkific has changed their pricing structure. They’ve eliminated their transaction fees, but it still costs $99 per month to get the same features that Podia offers for $79 a month.

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