How a Creator Made $1 Million in Sales Using Online Courses

  • Catarina Mello is a San Francisco-based travel blogger with 397,000 Instagram followers.
  • When she’s not traveling the world, she teaches her own course for influencers.
  • Since launching the course in 2020, Mello has made $1 million in revenue.

When Catarina Mello isn’t traveling around the world, she’s “grounded” for about a month in San Francisco to start an online course.

Mello, a 31-year-old travel blogger, shares scenes from her travels and content creation tips with around 397,000 followers on Instagram and 315,000 on TikTok. Like many other influencers, Mello works with brands on paid sponsorships, which as a travel influencer often include benefits such as travel expenses, hotel stays, and beautiful destinations.

But while brand partnerships are often influencers’ biggest source of income, Mello told Insider that more than 80% of her income comes from an online course she sells on being an influencer.

The idea to launch a course came after Mello quit a full-time job at Google in 2019 and noticed an influx of followers in his DMs wanting to know how they could follow in his footsteps.

“My followers were constantly asking me how they could grow and monetize their Instagram accounts, how could they quit 9-to-5 jobs, how could they even make money as an influencer,” Mello said.

She said building a course became a “natural next step”.

“I wanted to control the growth of my business and not just rely on brands reaching out to me to partner up to make money,” Melo said. “From the DMs, I knew there was a lot of interest. From a business perspective, I knew I had to launch some kind of product.”

Screenshot of Catarina Mello's travel Instagram account.

Mello’s course is linked in his Instagram bio.


Mello first launched its course in July 2020, right in the middle of the first phase of the pandemic, when brand deals — and travel — were at an all-time low.

Today, his course, which launches twice a year as pre-recorded sessions, has brought in $1 million in sales. (The insider verified these earnings with documentation provided by Mello.)

“Because I now have this other source of income that I can rely on, I can be much more selective with the brand partnerships I take on,” Mello said. “I can also use this income to go to places I want to travel instead of going to places that customers took me or I was paid to.”

Mello uses Kajabi, an online education and business platform, to design and manage his course. Each launch is strategically timed when travel is slow for her.

“The idea of ​​doing launches, instead of an evergreen model where it’s always available, is that you’re creating a shortage,” Mello said. “It’s only twice a year that people can sign up. When there’s a shortage, you can create a lot more buzz around the launch and create urgency.”

What it takes to create, market and sell an online course

Before each launch, Mello offers three free workshop classes, which she calls “influencer training week.” Sort of like a “free trial,” she added.

“Once these free courses are over, I open registrations for the paid course,” Mello said.

The last time Mello’s paid course was in session, it costs students $947– which included unlimited reading and access to content, as well as access to an exclusive Facebook group and a live Q&A with Mello herself.

Collage of the best websites to create and sell online courses 2x1

Creators use platforms like Kajabi, Skillshare, or Teachable to earn money from online courses.

Kajabi; Maven; Teachable; Sharing of skills; Teachable; Rachel Mendelson / Insider

But marketing a course and maintaining it comes at a cost.

Kajabi, for example, costs creators between $149 and $399 per month, depending on the payment plan chosen (the platform does not take a revenue cut). In addition to platform fees, Mello budgets for marketing expenses. For a recent launch, she spent more than $60,000 on advertising on Facebook and Google, Mello said.

“When I run ads, my goal is to promote the free event and not the paid course because I know that once people watch the free event, it builds trust,” Mello added.

She also has to pay her team. Currently, Mello employs two full-time employees (a COO and a video editor) and five part-time employees (including a community manager, someone to manage ads, and a content writer).

His profit margin for courses is around 70%, Mello said.

Later this year, Mello plans to pivot its launch strategy by turning its course into paid evergreen content and adding new products, such as an additional course and digital offerings like presets.