Thinkific Review

Read our Thinkific review to learn whether it is the right platform for you to build and market your online courses with.

Our Rating:
4.6/5

Thinkific’s marketing and content delivery platform can help aspiring information marketers easily sell their content online. Its free tier offerings are great for starters, giving newbies a risk-free taste of all that the platform has to offer. It syncs with powerhouse software like Stripe, Paypal, and Zapier, giving users access to a wide range of features, regardless that many are not natively built into the system.

We knocked off a few stars because it doesn’t offer a mobile app, which is a huge misstep for student satisfaction, especially compared to similar product offerings on the market. It also fails to onboard new users as quickly as we’d like and isn’t a fully-accessible learning management system for students with disabilities.

If you want to give the platform a try, here’s a link to get a free 1-month trial.

Pros

Cons

Contents

Thinkific Review Introduction

Creating an online course is no easy feat.

You spend long, hard hours distilling your expert knowledge down to a few course lessons that you hope will connect with—and make sense to—your students (are they out there??). You break your hard-earned expertise into “chunks,” ideate worksheets and activities to pair with your lessons to drive your most important ideas home, and then do your best to get your content out there, for the world to see, digest, and hopefully, love.

Since you’ve got your hands full, you probably don’t want to spend too much of your precious time and energy mastering a complicated new platform to display your awesome course.

This is where Thinkific comes in. And this is where Thinkific shines. Thinkific’s no-fuss online teaching platform can quickly fulfill the needs of even the most ambitious online course creator.

We spent a little time playing in the backend of Thinkific to give you a deeper understanding of what’s out there and how Thinkific stacks up against other online course software systems. Keep reading to uncover our comprehensive—and honest—Thinkific review.

Homepage of Thinkific
The homepage of Thinkific in 2020

What is Thinkific?

Thinkific is a cloud-based learning management system (or LMS) that lets users create, market, and sell online courses. It can be a helpful tool to sell courses, educate your customers, and earn revenue, all while growing your brand and engaging your audience. It defines itself as “everything you need to run your education business under one roof.”

Compared to online course platforms like Kajabi, Thinkific really focuses on one important and distinctive feature: course creation. While you can also use the platform to keep in touch with customers through email marketing, conduct sales and optimize your sales funnel, and keep your data secure, Thinkific’s offerings in these secondary realms are less significant. 

Thinkific hosts the courses on their servers so that you don’t have to. This means that you still have 100% control over your actual business website and how it looks, but can make your courses more quickly and easily thanks to its drag and drop course builder. It’s perfect for fast design.

How does Thinkific Work?

Thinkific hosts digital content created by entrepreneurs around the world. These entrepreneurs, often called “teachers” or “creators,” then sell access to their online courses freely and widely.

Thinkific serves as the go-to learning platform that students use to access all of the courses they purchase. This means that while a course can be fully branded with a specific business, organization, or individual, the learning itself actually happens on the Thinkific platform, rather than on their host entity’s own website.

Thinkific courses span the gamut. Digital entrepreneurs, from Spanish teachers and yoga instructors, to smart phone marketers and more, have all called the Thinkific platform “home” as they work to scale their businesses and audiences. More than 25,000 teachers trust Thinkific. The platform has hosted thousands of courses for millions of students around the world. That’s a heck of a lot of personal development!

Some good examples of courses crated on Thinkific include:

Anyone who dreams of building online courses can sign up quickly and easily at Thinkific.com to tinker around with their easy-to-use builder tools. You will be surprised at how easy it is to create beautiful Thinkific landing pages! From the backend, you can manage and construct your content, design your landing page, and market and sell your course. You can even access analytics thanks to its beta reporting features. And of course, you can support your students easily within the platform, which makes it a great all-in-one solution for those just getting started.

thinkific-course-example-good-guitarist-
Good Guitarist is an example of an online course created with Thinkific

How Much does Thinkific Cost?

Before you go running to sign up for your very own Thinkific account, it’s important to know what access to the platform is going to cost you. Thinkific’s pricing and costs range from $0 (our favorite price!) to $499 monthly (ouch, but still an investment worth considering). Let’s examine what’s included in the different Thinkific packages and try to find the right one for you and your goals:

Thinkific Pricing Packages
These are Thinkific's current pricing packages

Tier 1: Free!

Thinkific wins the low-cost war with other learning management systems because of its free entry-level package. Don’t confuse “free” with poor value, either. This package lets you test-drive Thinkific’s core feature set before you bite the bullet and pay. This package includes a slew of capabilities, like: 

  • Instant access to your funds 
  • Student notifications 
  • Full e-Commerce Upsell offers 
  • Easy drag and drop 
  • Course Builder Discussion forums 
  • Build out your entire website 
  • Secure cloud hosting 
  • Multiple instructor profiles 
  • Choose your site language 
  • Easy, built-in SSL certificates 
  • Email and phone support 

Use all of the above to build up to three courses for an unlimited number of  students. You can freely add resources like quizzes and surveys to your courses, instantly access any funds that you earn, and enjoy content hosting for all of your video, audio, and PDF files.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even though the plan is “free,” you will be expected to cover ALL transaction fees, including payment processor fees and cross border fees (more on this below). The payment tier also incurs a high 10% transaction fee billed from the platform directly.

Tier 2: Basic ($49 / month, $588 annually)

The second tier of Thinkific’s platform will set you back about $50 monthly, but includes all of the features mentioned in the Free tier plus fun add-ons like coupons, the ability to email your students from within the platform, the ability to schedule your content (“drip”), and affiliate reporting and management. Another major value-add is the ability to create a custom domain—say so long to that long (and unnecessary!) Thinkific-bound URL. Play around with new features like advanced email integrations, Zapier triggers, and manual student enrollment management while enjoying this tier, too.

Expect to pay an additional number of fees to cover payment processors and the 5% transaction fee required by the Thinkific platform.

Tier 3: Pro ($99 / month, $1,188 annually)

Thinkific’s third tier membership, the Pro plan, is still affordable, coming in at less than $100 monthly. The features available unlocked in this membership tier significantly step up your offerings and capabilities, providing an even more robust and exciting experience for your digital students. 

The Pro plan includes all of the features from the free and basic tiers, plus unlimited courses, an additional site admin account, five course admins / authors, private and hidden courses (great for premium content!). It also includes advanced course pricing options, such as flexible pricing for courses based on subscriptions, free, one-time, payment plans, or additional course prices, plus ways to bundle your memberships to generate recurring revenue and better upsell your customers. 

It doesn’t stop there! This tier also includes advanced customization, certificates, priority support (great for getting all of your questions answered quickly), and the ability to host both assignments and communities. 

No wonder it’s their most popular plan on offer.

Tier 4: Premier ($499 / month, $5,988 annually)

This plan is perfect for more “advanced” customers who are trying to deliver online education at scale. This includes five site admin accounts, 15 group analysts, 50 course administrators and authors, single sign on (SS), a fully-fleshed onboarding package that includes training, an onboarding call, and a complimentary launch preparedness review, plus the unlimited growth package. 

The Growth package is especially exciting, as it allows you to easily sell your courses to cohorts, organizations, and other groups, utilize advance segmentation, remove all Thinkific branding, produce a public API, utilize Webhooks with your developers, build communities, integrate with Infusionsoft (an automated end-to-end sales and marketing solution). Even more, you can use more robust Zapier actions, integrate with ActiveCampaign’s CRM and email marketing tool, connect Brillium exams, bulk enroll and import students, plus send bulk emails. These Thinkific integrations are pure gold when you’re at this level of business development.

Phew! They weren’t kidding when they said that this is the package for teachers wanting to build an education empire.

More Money Matters

  • Credit card is NOT required. To sign up for the free plan, you only need your name and email address, and you’ll be good to go.
  • Annual discount. Save 20% off your bill if you decide to pay for your subscription annually rather than monthly. This means your costs will be $39 / month for the basic plan ($468 annually); $79 / month for the pro plan ($948 annually); and $399 / month for the premier plan ($4,788 annually). This can be a huge savings if you’re going all-in on a learning management system.
  • 30 day money-back guarantee. No questions asked; if Thinkific isn’t turning out to be the right platform for you, you can get a full refund within 30 days of signing up for a paid plan.
  • You can always cancel, upgrade, or downgrade your account. There are no long term contracts on the month to month plans. This provides a lot of flexibility!
  • Transaction fees. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em (though wouldn’t we like to try). If you are using the built-in Thinkific integrations with Stripe or Paypal, expect to pay the typical payment processors fee: 2.9% + $0.30 for each successful transaction. But wait—there’s more. Since Thinkific is a Canadian company, if you’re not a citizen of Canada, you are expected to pay what’s called a Cross Border or International Transaction Fee. Depending on your credit card type, you might see a small additional charge (usually less than $1) on your credit card statement that coincides with your Thinkific subscription charge. In addition, Thinkific also charges a 10% fee for each transaction on the free plan and a 5% transaction fee on its second tier plan. While these fees are by no means dealbreakers, it is important to keep in mind that even with the free subscription level, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Advantages (Pros) of Thinkific

What are the pros of Thinkific? There are many to choose from, but we think the three biggest perks of Thinkific are:

✅ Free tier, no credit card required.

We love that Thinkific has a free tier to offer first-time users. This doesn’t even require a credit card, which should give you even more confidence that you won’t accidentally lose track of your free trial period or forget to cancel before the first payment.
While you will still be responsible for some transaction fees (as outlined in the above section), you won’t be responsible for more out of pocket costs than what is borne of your course sales. For online education businesses in the early stages, this option can be huge. It gives you time and space to determine if the platform is right for you, and it doesn’t cost you a gazillion dollars to use that time and space.

✅ You can get paid via Stripe and Paypal, even at the lowest tier level.

Unlike comparable learning management systems, like Teachable, you can link your Stripe or PayPal account from the get-go, even at the free account level. This feature can simplify your payment plans significantly and give you more control of when—and how—you get paid. 

Competitors may require you to upgrade to a specific paid tier level before unlocking this capability. For instance, Teachable has its own payment gateway that won’t release payments until 30+ days after you’ve received income. While it’s fairly easy to set up, that extra step is pretty annoying, and you’d probably rather just use the platform you are used to (like Stripe or Paypal) anyway.

✅ Various third-party integrations are available.

The availability of Zapier-Thinkific integrations increases your online course’s ability to leverage external tools. While there are few native tools in the Thinkific platform, like the ability to send broadcast emails to your customers, there remains the ability to connect external tools to the platform through Zapier. This makes the platform more versatile, flexible, and easy to use, and can be a big win for boosting efficiency within your education business.

Disadvantages (Cons) of Thinkific

No online course building platform is perfect. Here are what we found to be the downsides, or cons, of using Thinkific over its competitors:

❌ No mobile app.

Mobile apps improve the student experience significantly, giving them the chance to access their courses and make progress on their lessons from anywhere. With Thinkific, your students are constrained to accessing your content from their desktop or laptop. People aren’t always as motivated to sit down at their workstation when they are learning things extracurricularly, so this is a barrier to consider if you want your students to have the best possible learning experience.

On the brightside, Thinkific is a very mobile responsive site, so it could be worse.

❌ Poor onboarding and training for non-Premier level package subscribers.

Compared to many other learning management systems on the market, Thinkific fails to provide a holistic, comprehensive training course for new users. While anyone can access multiple articles for free in their resource center, a clear pathway towards robust platform-knowledge doesn’t exist. In fact, if you want something even akin to learning the “essentials” of the platform quickly, you have to purchase additional training. Lame.

❌ It’s not fully accessible. Yet.

While the platform does try to mitigate its lack of widespread accessibility with various resources and tips, the fact remains that many of the courses are not built to be easily accessed by people with disabilities. If this is a core part of your audience, you might consider taking your online course building initiatives to another platform.

Is Thinkific Worth it?

Thinkific is a practical choice for any individual or company new to the world of learning management systems. It is easy to get set up on the platform, and the option to create up to two free lessons for future customers is a big win for all three parties (the platform, the creator, and the student). The dashboard is simple and will not distract you from your core goal: creating useful and sellable content to your audience. Rather than being preoccupied by too many robust features that detract from your product, you can slowly increase your sales and marketing efforts through a combination of various Zapier integrations and native features (like student notifications).

If you are ready for a full-on, all-eggs-in-one-basket type platform to build your education empire, you might be dissatisfied with the level of features available on Thinkific, especially at the lower price levels.

Since you can start at the free level, which will only cost you transaction fees, we think the answer to “Is Thinkific Worth it?” is a definite yes. Once your business matures, however, you might be more excited about other online course platforms with more functionality.

FAQs

How much is Thinkific?

The cost of Thinkific varies by your subscription package level. You can start a free level, which doesn’t require credit card info. The next plan, Basic, will cost you $49 per month or $588 annually. The mid-level tier, Pro, costs $99 per month or $1,188 annually. The Premium package is their most robust, and it’s priced at $499 per month or $5,988 annually. Keep in mind that you can unlock a 20% discount by billing annually rather than monthly.

Is Thinkific Free?

Yes, Thinkific is free. Thinkific offers an entry-level free tier for new users to the platform. The free tier includes access to the platform’s core features for you to build up to three courses for an unlimited number of  students. Thinkific’s free level also allows you to incorporate fun learning activities like quizzes and surveys in your course offerings, have instant access to your revenue, and enjoy complimentary media hosting for all of your video, audio, and PDF files.

Is Thinkific mobile-friendly?

Thinkific is mobile-friendly thanks to its fully responsive website. However, Thinkific is not available as an app, which can be a turn off to students who prefer to access courses from their phones rather than their desktop or laptop.

Does Thinkific have an app?

Thinkific does not currently have an app in the app store, but the website is fully mobile responsive. This means that even though students cannot use an app to access their course content, they can still enjoy a streamlined learning experience in a browser window from their phone.

Is Thinkific better than Teachable?

It is difficult to say if Thinkific is better than Teachable. Both platforms fulfill similar needs in the market as a great first step for digital entrepreneurs new to the world on online course production. However, Thinkific is better than Teachable in a few key ways: It offers live coaching and teaching, it offers the ability to link with external payment processors, like Stripe and PayPal, even at its free tier, and it costs less overall.