Growing your business by creating and selling online courses goes beyond creating value-packed lessons or modules. Being a successful course creator involves delivering your course in a way that protects you legally and financially.

A crucial question to consider before someone purchases your course is:

“Will they receive lifetime access or limited access?”

Whether it’s your first time or you’re wondering if your existing courses are set up the right way, this guide will walk you through this important decision.

We want you to make money in the most sustainable way possible in 2024, so let’s get started!

Limited Access v. Lifetime Access for Online Courses

We know why you’re here. You’re super excited to create and sell your online courses and help transform the lives of your community members. We’re excited for you!

First, we must look at the core difference between giving lifetime versus limited access to your online course.

Lifetime Access to Online Courses

Simply put, lifetime access does not expire. The purchaser is granted access to the course’s content for as long as the course is live and offered. For example, Udemy, a popular online course platform, puts it this way: “Once you purchase a course, you’ll have access for life…”

But here’s the caveat: “…provided that your account is in good standing and Udemy continues to have a license to that course.”

Excellent customer service will be needed if Udemy loses a license to a particular course.

Likewise, if you run into technical problems with your online course, you will have to provide an explanation as to why it is no longer available — or provide alternative access.

The good news? This issue is unlikely since you are the course creator – as long as you’re using a reliable online course platform.

Limited Access to Online Courses

Limited access means the course will expire after a specified period or on a specific date, which should be identified in the contract you present at the time of purchase.

A common cutoff time is one year, which means your customer or student has 12 months to read or watch the lessons, complete the homework, and access any materials attached to the course.

Lifetime Access v. Limited Access: Which Is Better?

In 2024, many businesses are known to successfully sell their courses either way. In both cases, you’re only creating your course once before enjoying an evergreen stream of income.

We encourage you to try the version you think will best work for your business. So is this conversation done? Well, not quite.

The legal stuff (that we’re here to simplify) can make the difference between a successful online course that creates happy customers and a cringe-worthy pile of customer complaints.

Let’s quickly break down the benefits and risks of giving your students lifetime access.

The Benefits of Lifetime Access to Your Online Course

Buyers prefer lifetime access to digital courses when they:

  • Don’t have time to start the course at the time of purchase
  • Want to move through the course at their own pace
  • Want to take the course twice or more throughout several years

By removing expiration dates, you are meeting your customers’ unique needs surrounding their schedules and learning styles.

The Risks of Lifetime Access to Your Online Course

The definition of “lifetime access” is relative. Whose lifetime are we talking about – the customer or the business owner? Let’s assume we’re referring to the customer. Whether it’s tomorrow or fifty years from now, this customer expects to receive the course in its original form. 

Imagine that the course creator changes their niche and decides to stop selling this course. They block access to it because they feel this would genuinely serve their audience best.

The creator’s intention could be good. Maybe they’re about to release a new and improved digital product.

But guess what? The customer feels tricked because at the time of purchase, they were told they would have access forever.

In this scenario, there’s no legal agreement that defends the business owner’s choice to block access to the course. What naturally follows are negative reviews and refund requests.

So it’s time to ask yourself this: Is lifetime access worth the risk of affecting your reputation and financial stability?

True – this frustrating situation could be avoided if you’re fully confident that you’re only going to create one course for the entirety of your business. However, as an entrepreneur, you’ll likely want to improve upon your offerings over time.

Instead of limiting yourself to creating only one course, set yourself up the legal way. Lucky for you, we have the perfect legal solution.

First, let’s look at the benefits of creating your course with limited access.

Why Do Course Creators Prefer Limited Access?

Creators prefer limited access to digital courses because it:

  • Keeps the customer accountable for finishing the course
  • Prevents outdated course material from misrepresenting their brand
  • Highlights the importance of staying on schedule when there’s an element of real-time support, like coaching or mastermind calls

You made it this far, and we promised you a legal solution, so let’s jump right into it!

How Do I Deliver My Course the Legal Way?

After considering both options, our conclusion is this: Selling online courses with lifetime access is not a sustainable way to build your revenue.

Instead, we recommend having terms and policies in place to protect your business, as you offer online courses with limited access.

3 Ways to Keep Your Limited Access Legal

  • Purchase terms
  • Refund policy
  • Marketing messages that reflect the true value of your course

Because we know you want the fastest and easiest legal solutions for your limited-access course, we created our Digital Course/Product Terms & Conditions Template.

Included in the template are customizable purchase terms and a refund policy, along with all of the other policies you need for smooth sale-ing. (Pun intended!)

You’ll also get a user guide and preparation checklist, so there’s no second-guessing yourself as you plug and play.

(Yes, we also threw in a video tutorial, because we love you.)

There you have it! You are on your way to selling your awesome course without the stress of lifetime access. Happy launching!

Check out our ready-to-use, lawyer-approved, plug-and-play legal contract templates, so you can upgrade your client contract while staying Protected & Profitable™✨

Not sure where to begin? We’ve got you. Grab our FREE Legally Launch Guide to get the legal lowdown on everything in entrepreneurship, without the confusing mumbo jumbo. We’re serving it up straight and to the point. (Heads up: It’ll forever transform the way you view your client relationships!) Grab your copy now!

*The information presented in this blog post is for educational & informational purposes only. This should not be a substitute for customized legal advice from a licensed professional in a private setting. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney. This is not a law firm.

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