Think Twice About Your Online Course’s Refund Policy

Why self-serving refund policies make me cringe.

P.S. For you fellow Drake fans, I was considering titling this post, “If you’re reading this, it’s not too late” but then I realized you would have no idea what the article was about.

P.P.S. I am seriously open to debate on this topic. I will present my views but I am deeply interested in learning from the way other people see the world.

There is one reason (you—if you’re someone who is busy building a meaningful business) I was inspired to write this, and I have a few quick illustrations below to show my reasoning. Hopefully you won’t hate me when it’s over.


Why I’m strongly against online course and digital product refund policies that make people do X amount of work or jump through fiery hoops to get a refund.

You.

I write this blog for you. I create tools for you. I stay up at night dreaming, scheming, and creating for you. Not just in the “I say this because this is how online marketers are supposed to talk” way, but in the “No, literally, I relate to where you are and who you are, and where I had to come from to create various businesses and products I love” kinda way.

Refund policies that make clients submit worksheets, and modules, and proof of this and that and the other rub me the wrong way.

If your entire audience consists of people who don’t care about money at all, then cool.

If you have people in your audience that care about spending their money on things they get value out of, or who are on a specific budget, or who may, despite your wishes and requests, spend their last dollar on your program, then hmm.

How to Start a Profitable Online Business for $50 in 3 Months or Less

How to start an online business for $50, in 3 months or less. Want to start freelancing, coaching, or selling infoproducts online? This is your guide.

This post is for your eyes only if you are currently trying to start an online business (a profitable one) from scratch . . . and you want to do it in three months or less . . . oh, and you only want to spend about $50.

Whereas this post (originally published in April of 2015) used to link to a podcast episode on this topic, I decided to completely revamp the post. Why? I think the first chapter of my newest book (which you can find out more about at the bottom of this post) might inspire you and help you to create an amazing online business this year. Ready?

Let’s only assume 3 things as you start your business:

  1. You have access to a computer and the Internet a few times per week.
  2. You have access to a smart phone (yours or a friend’s) that can take pictures and connect with social media.
  3. You either have your closest friends’ and family’s email addresses, or you’re connected with them on Facebook, or through some other electronic means. As in: You can get in contact with your people—whether that be 10 people or 1000, for me, it was more like 10 when I first started. Or, if you’re not connected with friends and family, you’re okay with building a presence online and engaging with strangers (who will totally become your friends, don’t worry).

Now, let’s get into the first chapter.

Chapter 1 of Build Your Freedom Business for $50 in 3 Months or Less: How to Start Coaching, Freelancing, or Selling Information Products Online

“What have I gotten myself into?” you may be asking. A lot of things. But the main one is discovering a new system for starting a business you love. Really, a way of thinking and moving through the very involved, and intricate, and amazing world of creating a profitable online brand or empire.

After years of creating various businesses, years of creating websites for clients and personal projects, and most recently, years of creating and running online businesses full time, I can without doubt tell you I’ve failed a lot.

Wait, what?

Yes. I’ve failed miserably, I’ve failed publicly, and I’ve failed my way to success. Let me explain. Because I believe the lessons learned can help you create your own business online with less stress, fewer headaches, fewer sleepless nights, fewer mistakes, and less time. It will still be a lot of work, but man will it be worth it.

Let’s explore.

The Internet created a whole new world of possibility and completely changed the way we (1) get information, (2) make purchasing decisions, and (3) operate businesses . . . among other things.

The online space as it is today makes it possible for people like my friend Erika, a mother of three adorable kids, to make a living online training people how to provide better customer service. The Internet allows my friend Mike to provide coaching for mind, body, and emotional health. It allowed my friend Kelsey to create and sell planning templates to busy women for a full-time income until she decided to also show people how to design their own (which gave her another full-time income). My friend Ivan sells design and brand strategy work online. My friend Aislinn markets and sells her freelance writing skills online for a living. And I could go on . . .

I have friends doing everything from teaching yoga, and selling interior design or architecture services, to creating fabric patterns and selling cookbooks online. I myself write and publish books on business and marketing, plus create courses on starting and running a business, getting better at conversations as an introvert, and using yoga and movement to increase your flexibility, durability, and range of motion as an athlete or gym rat.

How is it possible to make and sell the types of products and services all of these people are creating? How can you really create significant extra income each month or perhaps even work for yourself full time online?

There is more than just one way to accomplish this goal, and in this book, you and I are going to explore the “system” I’ve used to create a full-time income online in the following ways: through freelancing, through online coaching, through self-published books, and through online courses.

Please be mentally prepared that this process is not easy and will require consistency from you, and that the “system” I’m showing you is a solid framework that you can modify and mold to fit you.


Here’s an overview of the system that we will dive into deeply within this book:

Step 1: Start with PASSION.

As cliché as it sounds, I think that the passion you feel for a hobby, a cause, a people group, a certain subject, or a specific skill will be a key driver of creating something meaningful and awesome.

In this book, we will get into a questionnaire to help you discover some of your true passions plus a list of 1001+ niche topics to help you pinpoint what interests you, what you want to talk about and create content on, and what you love.

As an example, for the purposes of this overview, let’s take a woman named Frankie who is a yoga + fitness instructor, a woman named Ingrid who is passionate about the uniqueness and strength of introverts, and a man named Paul who has transformed his health and body by becoming vegan and eating an amazing plant-based diet.

Meet Frankie, Ingrid, and Paul. Your friendly avatars will help us process all this epic information on starting an online business coming at you.

Frankie identifies her passion as helping people get fit.

Ingrid identifies her passion as helping introverts embrace + use their personality traits and succeed in life.

Paul identifies his passion as the power of veganism to transform your internal health and your body.


Step 2: After identifying your passion, identify your PEOPLE.

Part one. When you have a specific topic/niche in mind, it’s time to start imagining the basic details and habits of the type of person who will be interested in your topic or who needs help with what you provide content on.

Paul might assume that women (and a few men), between the ages of 24 and 50, who have had digestion issues or who are having a hard time losing weight or staying energetic throughout their day might be in need of his information.

Frankie might start to realize she really wants to work with martial artists and other athletes in need of strength and agility. She might then assume most of her clients or audience will be between the ages of 20 – 40, and she might also assume that many of her clients will be men.

Ingrid might realize that most of the people she’s ever talked to about extreme introversion are women, between the ages of 25 – 50 who are tired of being made to feel like their personalities are weird or bad.

Part two. Once you have the basic details of your people in mind, you can head to the Internet (and to in-person events, hangouts, or organizations) to actually find these people and engage with them. In fact, you may already be involved in groups either online or in real life that hold your ideal audience members.

Part of creating a successful online business is narrowing down and/or deeply understanding your audience--the people you want to help.

Ingrid might find a Facebook group or another type of online community for introverts and join it. She might also start reading the comments on top blogs about being an introvert.

Paul might find a Facebook group for people trying to lose weight or struggling with digestion issues (there are groups online for all types of needs, people, and interests).

Frankie might connect with people in her gym or people who regularly comment on a popular MMA Instagram account or a men’s health magazine’s Instagram account.

Part three. After you’ve engaged with your people a bit, it’s time to learn more specifically how to help them. This may include working with them pro bono, providing free content to them, or even creating some low-priced services or products to test the waters.

Paul might offer to coach one of the women in an “Overcome IBS” group online through a plant-based diet for 30 days. He might also create some free meal plans and share them with his friends on Facebook.

Frankie may decide to offer a few free sessions to a martial artist at her gym who she has seen lifting in such a way that will slow his progress towards becoming more quick and agile. She might also decide to do a “10 Days of Basics” series, where she covers some foundational lifts, exercises, and principles for people who want more speed and agility—then she might share her videos or pictures with an online group she is a part of and invite people to ask any questions they may have.

Ingrid may start asking questions in the “Introvert Power” Facebook group she found about what people’s biggest struggles are or where they feel most misunderstood. She might then create and share several new blog posts that address the topics the other women have brought up.

23 Types of Audio, Video, and Other Media You Can Add to Your Course (or Blog) to Make It Even More Epic

23 types of audio, video, and multimedia to add to your online course or blog

Not that text lessons and articles aren’t super valuable, but in the interest of making your online courses (or blog in general) more accessible, delightful, and useful for different learning styles, it is a good idea to explore the many types of media you can create—easily—and most often without any investment at all other than your time.

Check out the 23 types of media below that you can add to your online course, website, blog, landing pages, and more to create a more valuable and user-friendly experience for your students and audience.

Video

1. Animated videos with voice narration or an epic lesson

A nice change from slides (or from only including video of yourself), animated videos can be a great, clear way to communicate short lessons, to advertise your course, or to help students learn how to use your course dashboard. And yes, if you are wondering, I show you how to make animated videos from scratch, with a $0 video budget in The Epic Business Lock-In™.
Animated, educational video made with biteable.com

2. Recorded presentations—video of your slide deck with narration/lesson audio

I use these a ton in my online courses. Even for lessons that you already have completely written out as text lessons . . . if it’s something that looks good as slides, and will offer a different learning experience for your students, why not record a quick presentation? You can use QuickTime for free, or get software such as Camtasia or Screenflow to do this.

Add videos of your slides or presentations to your course

3. Live online workshops

One way to build out the modules of your course, or add valuable bonus content to them, is to create live online workshops on your course topic. You can use them as your main course sections by releasing them on a schedule and making them only available to your students, or you can use them as standalone content pieces (either paid or free) to build your email list or to have additional surprise content to offer your students or blog readers.

Even as a super duper introvert, I’ve now done more live workshops than I can possibly count. They are a wonderful way to get used to teaching, test out content, grow your email list, or build your course. If you’re considering doing your first live workshop, check out The 7 Types of Online Workshops You Can Use to Grow Your Brand, or my article on How to Create + Host Online Workshops (or Live Classes) for Free.

4. Online workshops, edited and repackaged (with extra goodies) after the initial recording

This is one of my favorite ways to create NEW value and new content out of something you’ve already done. You can take one or all of the live workshops you created in #3 above and make them awesome by:

  • Editing the recording down and taking out unnecessary dialogue, time-specific references that don’t apply anymore (ex: “Next week I’ll be doing another workshop on X topic.”), and any sections you don’t feel went well.
  • Adding in a re-recording of any sections that you want to redo. You can also add in corrected slides (if you noticed an error after it was too late to fix it), or entirely new sections that you think of by simply recording your screen (talked about below) and audio at the same time.
  • Adding in a workbook to the workshop. Now that you’ve done the live event, you know exactly what you said, all the points you shared, and you have all the content done . . . why not make an actionable workbook or follow-along notesheets for your workshop? If you were rushing to get a workbook done before the event, you can now go back and make it everything you want to.
  • Creating a PDF export of your slide deck (if you have one) for people to download and use after the fact to follow along with your workshop.
  • Getting a transcription of your workshop, or transcribing it yourself, so that you have a text version of everything you said. This is something I’ve done by hiring someone form Upwork.com. Once you have a transcription, you can provide a more accessible version of your content to people.

5. Screencasts

Videos of your screen (often called screencasts) allow you to provide software tutorials, or tips/hacks on how to do any type of computer task, and much more. In the example below, I’m talking through a flow chart for a business. Screencasts are one of my favorite types of videos to create and teach because they don’t require much tech (plus they don’t require you to have your face on screen if that’s not really your style) and can be done for free.
Screencasts can be amazing ways to show software function, share slides, and so much more

6 Steps to Get Your Finances in Order for Tax Time

How to get your finances in order for tax time with Janet LeBlanc

Psst . . . I’m going to let an actual accountant and super smart person take the reins on this one . . . meet Janet, of Paper + Spark.


Janet LeBlank Paper and SparkHi! I’m Janet and I’m an accountant, serial-entrepreneur, and mama of two living in Texas. My passion is helping creative entrepreneurs feel more confident and empowered when it comes to their money. After a winding journey of selling jewelry, stationery, and spreadsheets (oh yeah!) online for the past five years, I’ve noticed that creatives tend to avoid the financial side of their biz. I’m here to help with bookkeeping templates, tips, and tools that are both pretty and in-plain-English.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . time to finally total up all those numbers and see how your business really did this year. If you’re like many creative entrepreneurs and you don’t look forward to this process, you might’ve fallen a little (or a lot) behind on your bookkeeping work over the course of 2016. No guilt trips here; instead, I’ve got six steps to help you get your finances in order. Start taking action now and avoid the stress and overwhelm before taxes are due!

1. Come up with a plan and write it out.

Be honest with yourself—figure out just how behind you are and craft a plan. How much work is it going to take to compile all the data you’ll need before taxes are due? Do you need to get started like, yesterday? Or is it not as bad as you thought?

Examine your calendar from now ’til the tax deadline (2016 taxes are due April 18th, 2017) and sketch out how much work you’ll need to do each week in order to get caught up in time. Actually putting it down in writing in your planner will increase your chances of really doing the work.

Here is a very high level view of what you may need to know for your tax return:

  • Total sales and refunds
  • Total business expenses (sorted by expense category)
  • A year-end inventory count if you deal with physical inventory
  • Expenses related to your car if you used it for business purposes
  • Expenses related to your home office if you have one
  • Info on any business assets (think like big equipment) you bought or used during the year

2. Set yourself up to succeed.

That means 1) holding yourself accountable and 2) figuring out how you’ll stay motivated. To prevent yourself from saving all this *boring* accounting work til the last minute (and creating more stress), you need to figure out the best way to hold yourself accountable.

You know yourself best—whether that means sharing your accounting “to do list” with your mastermind group or promising yourself a big reward upon completion. In order to complete any task I really don’t like doing, I’ve got to stay motivated. I personally like to treat myself with a small reward each week after I’ve made progress; this way I keep working on the goal in small, manageable chunks until the deadline. {Note from Regina: Ditto! I like to get myself vegan brownies, yoga gear, new notebooks, or other “school supplies.” Find your “thing” to reward yourself.}

3. Gather all that paperwork.

Just start by getting all your junk together! It’s time to scrounge up all those receipts you’ve been (hopefully) hoarding throughout the year. Don’t forget to organize your digital receipts and documentation as well. Go through your email and “star” any business expense receipts, take screenshots, or print to PDF and save in an easily accessible folder on your desktop.

You can also physically or digitally print your bank statements, PayPal reports, etc. if you want to have these on hand for easier data entry later. Having all your documentation sorted and organized will make life easier when it comes time to record all these transactions.

4. Do the grunt work in pieces.

First—do you have a bookkeeping system, or at least a place to record your sales and expenses? If not, I suggest you set something up and quick. You don’t necessarily have to scramble to research accounting systems or apps right now; a simple spreadsheet can suffice.

Second—it’s time to play catch up. That means entering ALL your transactions for 2016—sales, refunds, shipping, expenses . . . everything. Entering transactions is probably going to be the majority of your bookkeeping time, so try to break it up into small, manageable time chunks.

Remember that plan you made? If you start early enough, you can give yourself a timeline that is actually doable for playing catch up. I’d suggest making it a goal to enter one month’s worth of transactions every week, and go one week at a time. If you start in December, you’ll be done before the April deadline with a few weeks to spare.

Be consistent and small. That’s how you win at business.

Be consistent and small. That's how you win at business. You'll see what I mean and it's simple.

These are the words I will pass on to my daughter or son (if I have a child in the future) should they ask me about how to be successful, or start a meaningful business, or build a purposeful life.

I have actual tears in my eyes as I begin to write these words. Partially because I was humbled and unable to speak after reading your comments on yesterday’s post (thank you, forever), and partially because I am overwhelmed with the simple, powerful truth I’m about to share.

These words probably won’t be new to you. No words really can be. But it’s the decision to embrace and apply them that matters.

Raise your hand if you are like I am when it comes to ideas—you have 1.3 million of them . . . every single time you blink or inhale.

They crowd your mind, excite you, drive you, wake you up, prevent you from sleeping, and honestly . . . eventually overwhelm you.

Your ideas are great. And any one of them CAN work. Any one of them CAN be the thing that helps you create a lifestyle where you’re able to breathe, take breaks, provide for your family in new ways, actually go on a vacation, etc. ANY single one of your ideas can do that.

But they’re likely all missing the thing that all of my ideas were missing a few years ago before I started this brand.

Consistency and smallness.

“Mom, what can I do to be great? Even when all the odds are against me?” asks my fictional child. Let’s name him Emmanuel—obviously we can all refer to him as Manny. Or, “The Man.”

“Son,” I reply slowly. “Be consistent, and be small. Every single day.”


Be consistent.

Show up. Consistently.
Keep creating content.
Speak passionately to a crowd of 0.
Until you’re speaking passionately to a crowd of 3. That’s 3 whole people, with whole lifetimes of experience and memories, who have chosen to tune into your words. That’s an honor.

Create. Consistently.
When everyone else has gone to bed.
When everyone else has stopped paying attention to your dreams.
When absolutely no one seems to care.
When someone has recommended to you that you stop or that you move onto something more logical (to them—major eyeroll emoji).

Love. Consistently.
Until your love finds the community of people it’s most needed by.
Until people can’t help but take your concern for them seriously.
Until someone, somewhere believes in themselves again.

Listen. Consistently.
Not just until you hear the one thing you choose to respond to.
Not just until it gets uncomfortable.
Not only for the sake of appearances.
Not only to focus on how someone else’s words make you feel. But also to focus on how they feel.
But also to understand what people need from you.
But also to know what to create consistently, where to show up consistently, and how to love consistently.

Be small, son.

In the way you approach an important goal.
Because if you focus only on the grand dream . . .
And if you focus only on the one outcome you’re hoping for . . .
And if you care most about the final destination . . .
Then you miss the opportunity to take the steps to get there.
Then you miss the stops along the way that were meaningful and beautiful for you and for others.
Then you miss the signs that were pointing another direction—where more purpose and greatness were hiding.

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