Today we are going to talk a little about online courses, and how to set them up. These online platforms are the epitome of what Open Source Your Life is all about, in that you can literally learn any and every subject out there from a course on your laptop or phone, anywhere in the world. Open source learning is the future my friends, so jump onboard the free education train while you can!
Creating an online course is one of the best ways to “productize a service”. If you have a particular skill set and feel like you could turn your knowledge into actionable steps for others to follow, grab a camera and hit record! If you go this route, make sure you realize that you. There is something mentioned by many successful online business owners called “the curse of knowledge,” where those who are in a state of success have a hard time explaining how they got there to those who are just starting out. To be a good teacher, you have to think about learning from the perspective of a beginner, and assume that they don’t know all the things that seem simple and straightforward to you. The easiest way to lose a student is to move too fast, and skip a step.
Not sure if you have anything to share? Thats okay! Pick something that you’ve always wanted to learn how to do, and record yourself as you progress, or find someone who is an expert at it and ask if you can record them as they teach you (If you choose to go this route, make sure you get their permission before trying to sell it online). Tim Ferriss talks more about this in his best-selling book The Four Hour Work Week, a book which I highly recommend to everyone with the entrepreneurial bug. This is the best way I can explain it for you:AA
“You don’t have to be the guru at the top of the mountain to be an expert, you only have to climb the first 10% and teach those at the bottom how to get there.”
Udemy is a great online tool for both learning and teaching. I have experience on both sides, and I would recommend everyone to check it out and give one of their free courses a shot. It is an open source learning community where you can truly learn anything you wish.
Udemy is also perhaps one of the best tools out there for testing product ideas. Many people will create a basic version of a course, and put it up for free just to test the waters and see if there is any interest out there. If you have enough people signing up for it, you can then hit the drawing board and design the full version to sell at a premium price. Not only that, but you now already have an audience that you know is interested and ready to buy!
The main benefit of using Udemy versus other course creation platforms is that you have a whole community of students waiting on there already eager to learn! You’re audience is out there, now you just have to give them what they want.
One of benefits of Teachable is that you can design and host your course through the Teachable website, but grant access on your own site. This allows for a more seamless and integrated experience, where your followers can feel like they are a part of something because they are essentially still on your website. The only downside to Teachable versus Udemy is that if your following can only access your course through your website, you are alienating those who are apart of the open source learning community who might not see your course otherwise. While this may allow you to charge more, you will most likely have a smaller scope of customers. That aside, Teachable takes care of everything for you from hosting and signups to payments, allowing you to customize and brand each course to make it your own unique product. For that reasons, I would highly recommend Teachable to anyone who wants to provide a course to their followers that fully embodies what they stand for.
Academy of Mine:
This is the all-in-one solution for building online courses in that it provides you with a fully functioning website along with a platform to design, build, and market your course. It is also the most expensive of the three, costing anywhere from $299-499 depending on your needs. I would personally go with one of the first two options, but I thought it worth mentioning as I have heard it mentioned by some of the bigger promoters out there.
Many people choose to go the route of setting up a free course that their followers can opt-in to on their website by subscribing to their newsletter. Although I have not yet tried this method, I have experience on the other side of the spectrum as a customer and have found it to be very effective. They will often send you an email each day with a new lesson over the course of a week or so, and offer either a paid version of a complimentary course or a complimentary product at the end.
You can also go the route of making your course available on multiple platforms! This is your best bet at reaching the largest amount of people within your niche, and although it requires a significant amount of extra work it will pay off in the end.
To Charge or Not To Charge?
This is a question that many will have to ask themselves when creating their first course. It really all comes down to the quality and scope of information you have to share. If you can create a free course that offers something ov value, and a paid course that will allow those from the free course to implement the knowledge you already gave them in a more effective way, do that! If you’ve already tested the waters and know there is demand for what you can offer, make sure the price you charge matches the audience it is meant for. I have seen courses sold for thousands of dollars that were successful and some that didn’t make a single sale. I have also purchased a few courses for $10-50, that would have been worth much more. The choice is truly yours, and feel free to play around with the pricing. If you raise the price of a course from $49 to $100 and there is less demand, try dropping it slowly until you see sales level out again.
If you are providing a tutorial on how to do something online or otherwise digitally, you are probably going to want to figure out how to set up something that allows you to capture your actions on-screen. Most Mac computers come with the quicktime player pre-installed but if you don’t have it, go grab it here. Once downloaded and installed, open your Quicktime player. Then, at the top menu select File – New Screen Recording. Now all you have to do to start recording is click the red circular “record” button. One final note here is that you are going to want to edit the external sound source to be your computer’s built in microphone (if you don’t have a fancier setup). To do this, select the upside-down triangle shape to the right of the record button, and then select “Built-in Microphone”.
There you go! You’re now have everything you need to record, customize, and sell an online course of your own.
Last month I picked up a book that kickstarted my entrepreneurial drive like nothing ever had before, and I thought it worth sharing with you now. How many of you out there have read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss? If this is you, you probably won’t find this post as interesting as newcomers. But if you’ve never heard of Tim, or the “Four Hour” anything, you absolutely must keep reading… The rest of your life could depend on it.
Tim Ferriss is an icon in the business world, and yet I had never heard of him until I picked up his book and started walking around with it. All of the sudden I had people stopping me at work and on the street asking me how I liked it, and what I did for work. This newfound discovery left me stunned, realizing that there is a whole underground network of people just like you and I who work for the man by day, and work for ourselves by night. We all have this itch one gets from working for anyone but themselves, and it can only be scratched by finally taking that plunge and starting a business of your own.
Tim refer’s to himself as the “Human Guinea Pig”, in that he is willing to try anything to come up with a better solution to a problem. His books tackle everything from accelerated learning, to speed reading, vagabonding, starting a company or convincing your boss to let you work remotely! And it all makes sense in this ridiculous way that will leave you wondering why it has taken you this long to implement these actions in your own life. For this reason, I would recommend this book to anyone because there is something in it for everyone.
I found the audiobook online after hearing Tim speak on speed learning, and decided to listen to it one day while working out. I let it play for the next eight hours and then, feeling inspired, immediately started it over to listen to it again! But wait, there’s more! I realized that there were some things that I just couldn’t get from the audiobook, so I went out and bought a hard copy and read that too! Now I know you don’t know me personally, but I don’t read books all that often because I simply don’t have enough time, so anything that to make me want to go buy a book that I had already listened to twice has got to be worth your while!
If you have that itch, like there’s something out there you’re meant to do, but you’re still a little unsure about what it is or how to make it happen: I promise you that this book will send you down the right path! Pick up your copy on amazon here: The Four Hour Work Week on Amazon.
Still not convinced? Look Tim up on youtube or head over to his website and listen to his podcast. There’s something there for everyone and I know you’ll find something of value as well.
This is the final “Weekly Update” you guys will see from me. The purpose of these updates, was to give you a detailed idea of how I started out, managed by time, and kept moving forward. From this point on I will do my best to post monthly journals so that you can still get an idea of what kind of progress is being made, without having to sit through all of the unnecessary, boring details and get right to the things that matter.
This week was much like the others in that I worked during the day and put in a few hours each night. I read on my breaks, this weeks book is #AskGaryVee, and listen to motivational podcasts all day long. I am still working on trying to find that balance between spending time on work and time with family, friends, and my significant others.
Highlights from this Month: Set up web hosting, bought a few domains, purchased a website building package, built my website, hired a few freelancers, set up a newsletter, started growing my network on linkedin and other social platforms. These are the first steps to success in every online business. Follow my lead and take action!
Books I’m reading: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, #AskGaryVee by Gary Vaynerchuck
Here’s a quick one-line recap of each day for you:
Monday: Spent the work-day Networking on Linked-in. Started using Evernote (Great tool for entrepreneurs!)
Tuesday: Got email services set up for Newsletter launch coming soon!
Wednesday: Wrote blog posting about how/ why to build an email list.
Thursday: Brainstormed new ideas for things to come! Ordered missing podcast equipment.
Friday: Wrote a review of the Four Hour Work Week, discussed website needs with graphic designer.
Saturday: Work out day, Worked on mobile optimization. Scheduled first Podcast Interview!
Sunday: Finished painting the office. Came up with a pivot plan.
And that’s it. Every day I also made edits to this site in small, significant ways. See you next month with some awesome updates and hopefully more tips to help you get started. If you have any ideas or suggestions for me, please leave a comment below!
If you have read the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, you’re probably interested in trying this outsourcing thing out for yourself. If you haven’t read the book, you should do yourself a favor and pick it up here. Trust me, it’s the best $15 you have ever spent. I listened to the audiobook twice, and still found the hard copy worth buying!
I too caught the passive income bug after reading this book and wanted to try it out for myself. Here are some tips and tricks for successfully pulling off your outsourcing experience.
Upwork.com (Previously ELance)
Tim Ferriss really put these guys on the map! They have a lot of useful features and seem to live up to their reputation. I have had a good experience with them so far after a few job postings but there are a few things you need to take into account before hiring a virtual assistant to take some of the work off of your hands.
The first is to make sure they speak English well enough to complete the task, especially if it is writing based like blogging. Many of the best VA’s are in countries like India and the Philippines so English might not be the first language there, but don’t let this scare you away! Pat Flynn from the SPI podcast even talks about his success with outsourcing to the Philippines, due to their countries proven ability and work ethic.
Upwork also allows you to be very specific with other qualifications, and require a cover letter when freelancers go to apply. If you choose to pay by the hour instead of by project, make sure you set a cap for each task! Also, choosing someone who is a part of a team will allow for redundancy if something comes up, ensuring that your work gets done on time.
I have had outstanding success with Fiverr. For project based tasks, you just can’t beat them! I have used Fiverr for generating business ideas and names, as well as graphic design and other online business related projects. Most projects start at $5, which is obviously where the name comes from, but more custom projects are available at a higher price range as well. You can check freelancer’s reviews and even post a project for others to bid on!
I recently needed some formatting done for an e-book and posted the job on Fiverr. In less than a day, I had multiple people bidding against each other to complete my project for me! You can even message them directly before you buy in to ensure that they are the right candidate for the job. Check them out at Fiverr.com!
Words of Wisdom
You are going to want to set guidelines for your assistants, and shop around until you find someone you can trust. I’ll leave you with these three suggestions:
- Make sure that the task you are outsourcing is actually worth it. I have read many bad reviews from others who have given this a shot and were outraged after their VA spent days working on a task they could have completed in under an hour. If you spend longer trying to explain the task to your VA then it would take you to complete the task yourself, then just do it!
- Your success with this really comes down to your ability to manage and delegate. Can you successfully describe a task to someone who might not be as well versed in a subject as you are, in a way that conveys your needs effectively.
- Give your VA the power to make decisions! This step is often overlooked by managers in every job, but giving your employees the freedom to make quick decisions without your approval will free you from needing to constantly hand-hold. Tim Ferriss demonstrates this when he asks his outsourced staff of Brainquicken, LLC not to bother him with any task that can be solved for under $100. This one, simple step solved most of his headaches and freed up time for him to pursue other projects!
Many of you might be under the assumption that email is an outdated form of marketing, and therefor most of you are ignoring the pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. What do you do with it? You just send your followers relevant content! Think about it… Aren’t there any emails out there that you look forward to getting, because they provide you with something of value? I know I can think of a few.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard successful online business owners who, when asked what they regret most, responded with not building their email list sooner! The best time to start is now, and I am going to lay out the steps for you in a way that makes it easy to take-action!
Step 1: Brainstorm a subject you are passionate about, and try writing at least three blog posts about the subject to test your idea.
Step 2: Go through your contacts, and think of one person who would be the best fit for that subject and might be interested in learning more about it.
Step 3: Come up with a list of at least ten (more if possible) people who either might be interested in your idea, or would be willing to help you spread the word. This is easy if you use social media, as you can instantly find out what your friends are interested in. Also, family fit this category so if mom and dad are willing to help you spread the word, include them!
Step 4: Message this list of people with something like, “Hey ______, I am starting a website/ blog about “Your subject here” and I was wondering if you would be interested in learning more about it?” If they respond with a “no”, send a follow up email thanking them for their time and add “If you know anyone who might be interested, please let me know!”. If you do this right you are guaranteed to succeed, And just like that your network has gone from zero to hero.
Step 5: Pick one of the services above and sign up for an account. Then add your new emails to the list, and draft an email to send out congratulating all your new followers.
BONUS: Running a contest with a giveaway to get emails is a great way to 10x your results!
AWeber is the choice of many successful online adventurers, including Tim Ferris of The Four Hour Work Week. They offer tools for building email campaigns to tracking and starting at $19 per month. They offer a 30-day free trial and have a variety of mobile apps. They make it easy to get started with templated campaigns and helpful webinars.
ConvertKit is a company that I learned about through Pat Flynn of the SPI Podcast, during his email list building challenge. They offer a free 30-day trial which can be useful if you are the “see it before you believe it” type like me, but their prices start at $29 per month. That being said, they have a pretty good blog and a “Request a Demo” option that lets you see it in action before committing to anything!
MailChimp is a great email list building service for beginners because they give you access to their basic service for free up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. They are banking on the fact that when you grow your audience enough you will want to upgrade your plan, and for just $10 per month, you can send unlimited emails to your subscribers. This is my recommendation for anyone who might not have a blog or website yet, or does but has not yet built up their following.
And that’s it. Get out there and build yourself an audience!
Some of you are, at this very moment, traveling down the rabbit hole looking for the best hosting option for your website or online business. To save you the trouble, here is a bit about why I chose my current hosting provider after months of careful research.
I also want to start out by being completely transparent in telling you that I have provided affiliate links for your convenience throughout this article. I tried to be stay as unbiased as I possibly could before, during, and after I made my final decision. I found so many articles written that seemed like a sales pitch for one option or the other, which prompted me to write my own. This wasn’t written to promote the companies mentioned, but instead to help you out by saving you the months of research that I spent trying to take that first leap. If you would like to go through one my links, thank you in advance!
Lets begin by looking at the facts. Hostgator and Bluehost, among many other top hosting providers, are both owned by the same parent company, Endurance International Group. People have their own opinions about EIG and seem to think they tend to run companies into the ground after acquiring them, but it is important to notice that while it may appear that you have many options, most of them fall under the same umbrella corporation. Sure, Hostgator may not be the innovative, homegrown startup that it used to be but after reading this it will be clear why they were my top choice.
I spent hours and hours skimming articles and reviews to try and make this decision and it all really comes down to three things. Speed + uptime vs. price + value. Bluehost seems to be all the rage right now when it comes to promotions that are obviously motivated by affiliate programs, and it can be confusing sorting through all the sales BS to get to the truth. For me it all came down to simply putting the shared packages side by side, and weighing the options against the price.
Bluehost will give you a free domain name upon signup as a perk, but other than that the shared plans are almost identical. In most of the studies I found, Hostgator was faster to load and had less downtime than Bluehost. They both have a c-panel dashboard, and simple 1-click WordPress installation.
Bluehost and Hostgator also both have live chat support. After running a few side-by-side tests with long wait times on both, I came to the conclusion that Bluehost’s support was a complete waste of time. Hostgator’s live chat on the other hand, while also having a long and drawn out wait time, at least gave me the answers I needed.
Hostgator Hatchling, Baby, and Business Plan
Do yourself a favor and forget about the Hatchling plan. It comparable to trying dip your foot in the pool, when you know its just going to delay the process even more. Take the leap, and go big or go home.
You can often get the Baby for just a bit more and the potential for growth is less limiting. The Baby plan is a great starting point! It gives you the option to host multiple domain names and some extra bandwidth to work with. That being said, in my opinion the Business plan is worth a few extra bucks to get a private IP address and SSL if you really want to gain the trust of your followers, and both of these can play a role in SEO as well.
The same applies to the Bluehost plans. Give yourself some room to grow and go with the “plus” or “prime” plan and skip the “basic” one. You can often get them for the same price. Bluehost also offers a “Go Pro” plan for an extra $10 that I looked into during my search, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending yet after what I read. The idea is good, having less websites per server and charging more, but the reviews haven’t been friendly. It is however, your only option if you want a private IP address or SSL certificate within the shared plan; something that you can get with Hostgator‘s Business plan for less than half the price!
Shared VS Cloud
Be aware that “unmetered” bandwidth and disk space is not what it seems. After digging around you will see that they do monitor bandwidth and a shared hosting plan is exactly that, SHARED. In fact, it’s shared with tons of other websites, all fighting for bandwidth and speed on the same server. Because of this they will send you a message if you are using too many resources on the server, and pull your site if you fail to comply with their requests to cease doing so.
Also while you can host multiple websites on the same account, be aware that there is a limit and when you start to reach it you’re page load speed will suffer. To see all the “fine print”, go to this link, and hover over all of the question marks at the left hand side of the screen.
Both providers offer a Business cloud plan. Hostgator’s comes with Private IP and SSL, 6GB storage, and should be at least 2x faster than the shared plan. They also offer a c-panel management platform making it easier for users who aren’t computer science majors, like me, to operate. They boast 100% uptime, made possible by data mirroring and offer easy monitoring as well.
I settled on the Hostgator Business Cloud hosting plan because I wanted the extra room to grow with the benefits of having extra storage, more speed, and scalability.
Caution! Please take into account that the “introductory” price you pay for your hosting at a discount will change when the term you paid for is up. This is the “fine print” that you might have had trouble finding, and they do a great job keeping it quiet. This is why I would suggest that you purchase as long of a term that you can afford up front.
I’d say to go for at least a two year plan, as the discount is usually the same or close to the three year plan and by then you can decide if you want to upgrade your hosting or not.
Also, don’t fall for the “free first month for $0.99” trap, as they will jack the price up the next month. If you already made this mistake and are within the 45 day cancellation timeline, consider yourself lucky.
You will also need a domain name to finish the setup, and you’ll most likely want to purchase a domain name from a cheaper service. Refer to my post, “How To Choose A Business Name With A Matching Domain Name“, if you need some help getting started there. Thats it my friends.