How to Create an Online Course That Sells

Truth be told. The first, and second, and every time I’ve published an eCourse, I’ve done something “wrong.” Considering that the whole concept of making money from online courses as independent publishers is incredibly new in the grand scheme of things (we haven’t been doing it for 50+ years like many other forms of business), this is not too surprising.

When I started, I had less than zero idea what I was doing. I picked a random timeframe (90 days), and a topic I was passionate about (establishing a blog—because I did WordPress for a living at the time), outlined each day, and published a signup blog post. << This first course was a free one by the way. One that I did not even finish. #Shame

Even still, it was valuable to the people that stuck with it, and it became the core substance for a course that would later help me make an unexpected six figures. I don’t say that to be flashy; I say that to encourage you because I still had no idea what I was doing when I released even that course.

But here’s the thing. Releasing courses, learning how to create content that helps, figuring out how to sell your materials . . . it all gets more organized and efficient as you go. Things start to make sense. Things start to flow. You start to see patterns. You become more epic at it. I truly believe we will never become “perfect” at releasing courses or other information products, but we can certainly figure out what works well and set ourselves up to learn more as we go.

So my friend, I’m going to sum up the steps of course creation in a framework I haven’t seen presented before. Mainly because I had to learn this as I went and because I don’t read other posts on courses—not because I’m the only legitimate resource (ha!), but because I want to share what has worked from my experience and from the plans I’ve been able to help others put in place. This is not information I read from someone else’s book some 2.3 years ago. This is stuff I believe in, and I hope it helps you create an online course that delights your audience, matters in the marketplace, and sells well.


1. Position

One of the wisest things you can do for your course from the jump is to plan its position in your market, in your audience’s lives, in your brand, and yeah . . . I’m about to repeat myself, in your market.

Seriously. Even if it’s a free course, it needs a position.

Think about it, on a basketball team, there’s a point guard, but there’s also a post player and a wing. Somebody has to direct traffic, somebody has to take and make those 3-point shots, etc. Okay. Actually. I don’t jack about basketball, so if that’s incorrect, just smile and nod and give me a virtual pat on the head for trying.

But the point remains. The coach doesn’t need to and doesn’t want to put five point guards on the court at the same time. Can we say disaster?

So, if within your industry/niche, there are already 17 metaphorical point guards with similar skills, all playing—why turn out a point guard? And if you do decide to make a point guard (figuratively speaking, here), how will you position said player (your course) to be distinguishable and desirable outside of the 17 that already exist?

Figure out your course’s position first. It will help you know how to frame it for your audience, what to build into it, how to price it, and what you need to produce in order to make it epic.


How to Monetize Your Brand as a Coach or Consultant (without putting all your eggs in one basket)

We’ve done it all, my friend. Not long ago I was coaching business owners on how to build their businesses while still doing a few remaining freelance projects for a full-time income. While I was coaching, I unintentionally (at first) and then intentionally diversified my income by adding teaching products into my offerings. I was part coach, part infopreneur, part freelancer–which really helped me discover my strengths and find the place I could be most effective and offer the most impact.

Diversity. Great for communities and great for income.

But even as I was learning and going along and making many (many) mistakes, I experienced the snowballing benefits of monetizing my coaching brand in multiple ways. If you are looking to get into info products or to expand your existing coaching or consulting business through live workshops, live events, courses, books, or passive income products, this post is for you.

17 ways to monetize your brand as a coach or consultant 

a.k.a. 10 Services and 7 Products that are Super Epic for Coaches

Let’s look at this in terms of events and services that you can monetize as well as digital and physical products you can monetize.


1. Custom 1-on-1 Coaching Calls w/ Friendly Recaps

When you are first getting started in coaching, this will likely be one of the services that is simplest to offer. I think you need to plan what it entails along with what you will and won’t do, and I do still think it needs a signed client agreement. But, it’s a great place to begin because you can figure out what people really want and need, what really troubles your audience, and where you truly fit as a coach and teacher. What you learn in these sessions can be used to create scalable content to deliver in your online events to many people at once.

With your custom 1-on-1 calls (Skype or Zoom sessions, telephone calls, or even in-person meetings), you’ll typically:

  • send your client a questionnaire (we love Typeform or Dubsado for this) and/or meet with them to discover their specific needs and where you fit in
  • decide on a timeframe that y’all will work together or set up a rate per meeting or per month
  • send out an agenda before each call (if you have some general talking points for the meeting–and hopefully you do)
  • send out client notes sheets or a link to a shared doc where you client can take notes digitally (optional, but cool and a great way to add value)
  • conduct your session (usually 30 – 90 minutes depending on the type of call–this should be clear and communicated ahead of time so that all expectations are met or exceeded)
  • (with permission) record your session so that you can take a deep dive on problems/solutions
  • recap your session via email (or send the recording/replay to your client – the rules of recording are to make sure you have permission and to make sure to hit record, if it’s not automatic! Also, in your contract, specify how long you’ll be hosting the call and by what date your client needs to download it.)

2. 1-on-1 Coaching Program w/ Calls, Check-ins, and Homework

Once you’ve done custom 1-on-1 coaching for a while, or once you have an understanding of the general steps that your audience needs to go through to reach their goals, you can develop your custom coaching into an online program. In a formal coaching program, you guide multiple clients through a framework (the same general steps + processes) on an individual basis.

You still check in with your clients, have calls, and provide customized recaps and help to them, but it’s all based off of one formalized system.

In a coaching program, you’ll usually:

  • give your potential client an overview doc/email that outlines the programs, timeline, and steps, to help them decide whether or not it’s a good fit (again, Dubsado is a great tool for this)
  • have a call/questionnaire that helps you determine if the client is a good fit
  • send a welcome kit (optional, but wonderful) with your client’s first homework assignment and an invitation to schedule their first call after the homework is completed (we love Acuity Scheduling and Calendly for scheduling calls)
  • conduct your first call (via phone or video conference such as Zoom or Skype)
  • send the next pre-developed homework assignment (w/ a recap of your call)
  • repeat this process for as long as your program lasts

Note: To fully protect yourself and your client, your signed agreement with them should outline your refund policy, and the point at which the client is forfeiting the rest of their package (ex: you haven’t heard from them in 45 days and you’ve emailed them at their provided email address at least three times).

I once had a web project that lasted over a year because my client would never get back to me but I didn’t have a helpful “forfeiture clause” in my agreement–and P.S. I had spent every dime they’d paid me, so I wasn’t to keen on refunding them. Side note: The project ended up being super attractive and the client loved their site but a lot of angst and stress could have been avoided with a clear policy.


3. Custom 1-on-1 Email Coaching w/ Guaranteed Responses

Imagine this: either one of the options above (1 or 2), but instead of doing calls, you do emails. Or Voxer or WhatsApp.

You can tailor the process to each client (and just agree on a certain timeframe or a certain number of email “meetings”), or you can take your email coaching clients through a specific program (with homework and pre-set steps) and provide customized responses and email support. Bam. Magic. Great for introverts.


4. Group Coaching Program w/ Calls and Homework

Remember that one time, long ago, when we were talking about 1-on-1 coaching programs (#2 above)? Okay, now imagine that, but with more than one person. This is where the magic happens, my friend. Group online events that are well thought out (even in beta form) can add massive value to you and your clients. The client homework would go out to a group of people to complete individually or with accountability partners, and you would also:

  • conduct group calls or video conferencing via Zoom
  • provide recordings to clients who missed (optional, but super kind and especially thoughtful if you have clients in different time zones)
  • choose to focus on one or two people per call after the meat of the call has been presented (this “hot seat” can rotate each week), or choose to address everyone’s needs in each call
  • provide recaps, updates, and more homework via email or in the group coaching platform/community

5. Masterminds

Imagine that epic group coaching program that you created in #4 above, except that you added a supportive private community for your members. Things to think about — will you need to enlist help for moderation? Will the community extend beyond the end of your group program or will they have temporary access?

  • provide a community or means for people to connect outside of your group calls – options include a Slack group, a private Facebook group, or a dashboard on your website. We frequently hear from our group members that the community is one of their favorite and safest spaces for online growth and development. Community works.
  • provide Live Q&As or video recordings in the group as well as pinned posts of key information.
  • provide guided threads for each day of the week (or once a week) to encourage discussion among members so that they can help each other.
  • fostering a true community within your group can create IRL friendships that last for years. We’ve seen it time and time again! Digital communities create real communities.

 


6. Masterminds

Imagine everything we said above, but instead imagine that each week/month has a specific focus (growth, strategy, etc.) or that you are more of a facilitator and cheerleader than you are a direct coach.

You can provide a mastermind group that allows people to benefit mainly from others’ ideas and knowledge, but also from the regular accountability, and your presence.


7. In-Person Trainings or Workshops

Think of all the things you coach online 1-on-1 or in groups/masterminds—can it be applied or shared in real life as well?

You can create small workshops, pop-up events, and live trainings to help people with the goals you coach on. This is also a great way to collaborate with others in your community to help market and spread the word about your workshop. Think local coffee shops, co-working spaces and small businesses that might want the exposure from your event.


8. Speaking Engagements

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, eh? You can definitely decide to speak on the topics you coach on at different events, organizations, and conferences. It’s a great way to start to be seen as more of a teacher or “thought leader” (as they say), and it’s a great way to meet new people—some of them might even become your coaching clients. (p.s. Providing regular online events can boost your visibility as a speaker and expert.)


9. Online Office Hours

Perhaps people aren’t ready to commit to an online program, or perhaps someone really needs some targeted help with this one particular thing that you happen to be epic at, or maybe one of your audience members really wants the opportunity to “pick your brain.” Well, that’s where office hours come in. You can offer your time and expertise at a rate that’s comfortable to you, per hour or per day.

Office hours allow you to help people, make income, address audience pain points directly and swiftly, and keep your ear to the ground about people’s current needs and frustrations—which helps you know what packages and products you should offer.


10. Custom Audits or Reports

Often times, your potential clients will be in such a state of overwhelm/confusion, or in such a new place that they feel lost as to how to begin to get out of where they are to move to where they want to be. Also, you may have clients who just feel a slight bit off or frustrated with the current state of things and in need of some direction.

Doing a custom life audit, brand audit, situation report, or other type of organized document/delivery that outlines current areas that need improvement as well as current areas that are doing well, can be a rewarding, simple, and fun type of coaching that gives your client a strategic action plan that they can follow through with.

Custom audits and reports are also often a way for you to provide services to people who can’t afford your 1-on-1 rates yet or are looking to test you out before committing to your rates. You can also add this service as an add-on when people sign up for your online program. It provides additional income for you and gets them started in your program with one on one attention and laser focus.


11. Communities

An online (or IRL) community can be an add-on to any of your other products or services (as we discussed above), but an online community can also easily be its own standalone product. Providing partners, support, a venue, structure, and built-in friends and accountability partners for curated group of people who are all at a similar place in life/business is a seriously valuable thing that many people would be happy to pay for.

What is something you’ve had to struggle through on your own? Learn on your own? Do without support? Would you have enjoyed a community of people in the same position? Would you have paid for it? This has become one of the options that provides the most value for our audience – a place to connect in an online world.

Think of a community structure and virtual/physical meeting place you can provide for people. Is it something you’d be willing to add to your offerings?


12. Online Workshops w/ Live Q+As

These are so much more than your typical webinar. Think of classes that last 2+ hours and come with worksheets, videos, or some type of additional resources. Workshops have focused topics and may include guest speakers.


13. Pre-Recorded Workshops, Bootcamps, or Conferences

Packaging previously-recorded workshops or bootcamps together as paid products is genius. When you’re a coach, an online trainer or content creator, repurposing your best content is a strategic (and really really smart) way of doing business.


14. Courses

Seriously. Online courses (along with online events) are some of our favorite things in the world. Learning that can happen from your couch, or your cubicle on your lunch break, or during your commute, etc. #Epic.

And think about it. You’ll be able to package your knowledge, coaching skills, and experience together in a neat way that allows you to help more people at once.

You can also structure many of your courses to be forms of almost entirely passive (little to no maintenance) income once you create them. BUT…as you may know by now, we have found that the live component of online events and programs is what gives massive value to students since they’re able to get feedback in real-time.


15. Email Coaching Program (w/out Custom Support)

So, instead of framing your materials as a course and delivering it on some epic, 3rd-party system such as Teachable, Podia or Thinkific, you could also frame them as email coaching (without the custom replies).

“A new coaching session in your inbox each Monday for 8 weeks!” sounds pretty epic. And, it’s scalable, because those same sessions can be sent out to 10 people at a time or 10,000 people. #SuperEpic.


16. eBooks and Digital Workbooks

A digital file that can be automatically delivered to your customers as soon as they purchase it? Yes, my friend, that’s about as close to passive income as it gets in this coaching world—and it’s an epic way to make additional income while helping your ideal audience who needs items at different price points than your higher-priced coaching programs, online events and courses.


17. Printed Books and Workbooks

Yessssss. You can use printed books or workbooks with your clients as you take them through your coaching program, you can sell them separately on your site, or you can sell them through Amazon.com and get them fulfilled for you, so that you don’t have to ship off each order or accept + process returns. That’s brilliant, my friend.


So, if I’m not being too nosy, may I inquire how you currently monetize your online event hosting business or coaching business? And how you plan to monetize in the future? I hope this post helped, and I’d love to hear what you’ve got poppin’ in the comments below.

Photo (c): Branislav Jovanović via Stocksy.com

The 3 Keys to Creating a Successful Info Product

A few days ago I was in Baltimore speaking at an epically useful conference called Blogalicious. So many amazing people were there, it’s almost unfair. And I promise, this post will be about how to create info products, but please just let me share what got me here.

Two of my favorite people (okay, that’s cheating, they’re my sisters) also spoke at Blogalicious. We all attended each other’s seminars and had an amazing time. Check out Mattie of Mattieologie.com in the middle picture below on the left, and Maya of MayaElious.com on the right.

At the end of one of my sessions, Mattie posed a great question to get us all thinking.

Can anyone with information they’re passionate about (and truly knowledgeable on) create an info product?

And my answer was “YES.”

Why? Because I have an IRL friend who runs a chess website that makes a few thousand per month. He teaches people the basics of chess as well as complex moves (or whatever they’re called–I’m not epic at chess) in a membership site. I also have a friend who teaches people how to downsize to a camper and make a true home out of it. She too makes thousands per month from this one course.

In my personal experience, I happen to like talking about freelancing, coaching, and infopreneurship, because other than two briefly successful cleaning and t-shirt businesses back in the day, these three areas are the ones I’ve been able to build profitable businesses from. Whereas I rarely freelance or coach anymore, I still love teaching on how to get started and grow in those areas as well as how to get into creating info products and establishing your empire. I’m deeply in love with creating eProducts and teaching others how to monetize their information.

Today I want to share the three keys to creating a successful info product, my list of both common and uncommon info products, as well as an invitation to join a free 8-day email course on infopreneurship.


Step 1: Pick a Clear + Helpful Teaching Topic

It’s important to pick something clear. What do I mean by this? Your topic needs to be:

  • One that you can explain.
  • One that you can describe the benefits of.
  • One that you know you can be helpful with.
  • One that you feel confident hopping into a Q+A session on.
  • One that you know you can present in a way that helps others really grasp it.

The key is that you will have to position your product. Positioning is about giving your product a distinct place in the market. If your info product doesn’t stand out from the countless other options, you’re making your job as the primary marketer and instructor/creator much harder.

You can position your product as:

  • the ultimate guide to ______
  • an authoritative niche guide to ______
  • the low-cost resource for ______
  • the luxury experience in learning ______
  • the most interactive and community-centered guide to ______
  • etc.

It just has to have a recognizable position. When trying to figure out what position your eProduct will have, consider:

  • what your audience doesn’t need any more of
  • what your audience is not used to seeing
  • how your audience processes new information in your industry (skeptically, excitedly, etc.)
  • the information your audience is currently lacking on your topic
  • the other resources and guides your audience has likely purchased

Think about it right now. Does the product you’re considering creating have a unique position or advantage in your market? What additional features or reconfiguring might help it get there?

The simplest and most noticeable ways to position a product away from its competition are (1) playing with how much it costs, (2) changing how comprehensive or niche it is, and (3) being purposeful about the experience it creates for your customers.

What are the brands with the most distinct positions in your mind?

  • Apple? They position themselves as higher-priced (which is meant to communicate higher value) with a luxury experience (everything from the packaging to the stores in which they’re products are sold is all “ooh” and “aww” worthy).
  • Wal-Mart? They position themselves as the low-cost leader in home and grocery needs with an extensive inventory. They don’t advertise the durability and quality of their items as much as a more luxury or higher-priced brand like Nordstrom would do.

You get the point!


Step 2: Pick the Type of Info Product (That Best Fits Your Audience and Your Information)

How to Expand a Blog Post (or Series) into a Book

If you’ve had a blog for more than a week, you likely have at least one blog post up. More than a month or so? You may even have a whole blog series up.

Which means . . . that in another month or so, you could theoretically create a helpful non-fiction book out of your blog post or blog series.

I’ve done this before (5 or more times), and many others have done this too, so if you decide this is the year to publish your book by expanding on something already on your blog, you won’t be alone.

When expanding on posts that already exist for free on the Interwebs, it’s a good idea to take a step back and take a fresh look at the whole topic from the reader/customer perspective.

This comes in the form of five questions you can ask yourself about your current post or series as well as five general idea-generating questions you can ask yourself to create an awesome chapter/content list for your book. You can download the worksheets below (just click on them) to help you work through and record your ideas from this post.

How to go from a blog post series to a book

For the purposes of this post, let’s take for example a series you did on car maintenance for your “modern superwoman” blog. P.S. If it is a single post you are turning into a book, break it down into the main points/sections you made. Below, I assume it is a series, but you can change my list out for your post sections.

How Being an Infopreneur Helped Me Earn Six Figures in a Year

If you’ve perhaps been following along with my blog, reading the income + traffic reports I publish occasionally, then you already know a little bit about how I structure my business and earn a living. But, what I want to talk about with you today is the revelation that has really helped me in my first year of business. It may be something you already implement in your business or it may be something you want to explore more, and I hope I can help.

You see, it’s my new favorite word. Daredevil.
Wait. That’s my new favorite show.
My new favorite word is infopreneur.

A person who makes money with their mind. With their knowledge. A person who loves learning, loves teaching, and loves the feeling of helping others really get something.

And here’s the thing. Even if you’ve been overwhelmed/underwhelmed with scammy-seeming people selling sub-par information products, I want to assure you . . . you can actually monetize your infopreneurship in ethical ways that benefit others. You can explore things like a monetized blog or podcast, books and workbooks, and of course classes or coaching. I have some resources for you, ninja friend.

And whereas this post was originally written in early 2015 (when I’d only been “infopreneuring” on this site for about a year), I have learned a lot since then and want to point you in the right direction if you’re interested in changing your business model around so that you can change your lifestyle through passive income and low maintenance products.

Starter Infopreneur Resources:

1. I have a free 5-day email course on getting started in infopreneurship.