How to know if you should create an online course
There are online courses and training programs for just about any topic you can think of. PC Magazine recently published a hit list of the most obscure online courses you can take. And while I wish I had written the one about "what to text the girl you like" and the course about clowning gives me the creeps just scrolling past it, the majority of today's online courses focuses on really relevant subjects that many people want to know. In fact, the best trainings I've seen have focused on very specific niches that serve a narrow audience. Why is this? Because people want content just for them. They want to learn from peers who have "made it" in their industry or have been through enough shit that they actually know what they're talking about. For online courses, the adage of "If you can't do, then teach" doesn't apply here. The majority of clients I work with have been through the trenches in their careers and have gotten to the point where they've begun organically mentoring people who want to learn from them. The challenge with this is that time and energy are limited resources and they're maxed out from running their day-to-day business and coaching others. These are the people who really need to consider creating digital products to serve their audience better and more efficiently.
If this sounds like what you're going through, hear me out about why you should consider creating some sort of online offering for yourself and your brand.
1. You can serve more people with less effort
Yes, creating an online offering requires time, money, and effort up front, but down the line, having your knowledge, wisdom, and insight is significantly more scalable than handling all the one-off inquiries for your know-how. There is only one of you (unless you've actually creating that cloning device I've talked about for years... so if you have, call me), so you can only serve so many people with the time you have available. Maybe you've even started the process of creating in-person workshops or events. If so, that's awesome, but again, you are hamstrung by serving a set number of people at a venue, plus the costs of the event and managing all the annoying details to make it happen. I am certainly not saying that you shouldn't have some sort of in-person option, but when you bring digital into the mix, you get to be everywhere, at any time, through the power of the internet.
2. You can put out your best work
Ever finish a conversation or a project and think, "damn I would have done that differently"? With digital, you have the power to iterate over time. When you stand on a stage and give a speech, or give a client presentation, and you fuck up a word or get derailed in your thoughts, there's no going back. If you're like me, you think about that mistake over and over again until you are an anxious mess. With digital content, you get the opportunity to make mistakes... and fix it. Never has a do-over felt so good! An online training allows you to consciously cultivate your very best content, and you can be thoughtful about how you want your audience to learn. You can decide the format: is it audio only? Would video be best to present your subject matter? Maybe a workbook would really help bring the concepts home. Or, it's a mix of all of these things. Online allows you to present the very best of what you have to offer in the ideal format.
3. People can come back to your content later
You remember that three-day business conference you went to last year where you got so many great ideas and you came home with a pad full of notes? Have you looked at those notes and thought, "What the hell did I 'customer journey!!' down for?" You know you have these random hotel-branded notepads lying all over your house, just like I do. An article I read recently says that we retain approximately 10% of what we see; 30-40% of what
we see and hear; and 90 percent of what we see, hear, and do. So when you're sitting in class or a conference, you're usually actively retaining less than 50% of the information. And as time goes on, those percentages slip even further. So yes, it's great that you help people 1:1, but once they leave you, the information begins to sieve out. With an online course, they have the ability to come back to your material time and time again to get the reminders they seek. Know that this means? One less "I know you told me this already but..." coming your way.
4. New revenue stream for you
Ok now that we've covered the main points about how you can serve your audience, it's time to talk about the financial benefits for you. The #1 perk of an online course? A new revenue stream for you. Creating your course, putting it out into the world, and having it live somewhere long-term will take effort from you, but once it's created, you get to start monetizing it. Most of my clients hear this and get stars (or dollar signs) in their eyes, and start thinking about what other online content they can create after that. But here's the thing... you gotta start with one. You may have a notebook full of fantastic ideas, but if they never actually get created or you create them in a vacuum, without considering feedback from your audience, you're not going to get very far. You need to create, then iterate. As you develop and release content, your audience will tell you how they feel about it. If they don't say anything at all, it's a bad sign. You want your audience to feel something, to get some value out of what you've given them, and have opinions about it. Even if the opinions aren't good, that's important information for you to take in and use to your advantage. Over time, this will help you curate a collection of online content that you're able to monetize in new and unique ways, eventually scaling to serve more and more people. And that means the finances scale too. Big caveat here: there is a very good chance that you may not see ROI on your initial course or the first launch of something new. Don't expect this to be a magic money wand you wave and poof, here come those dollars. In my experience, it may take more than one launch for you to make back your investment—and that's totally ok. You may even find that you'll need to retool the content you've already created into a new format to make it palatable to your audience. Again, all good learning. If there were a set formula to this online thing, then everyone would be doing the same exact thing all the time. The point is to be able to leverage your knowledge and expertise in different form factors so you get a nice healthy mix of revenue streams coming in for all that effort you've put in.
As you go through your day to day, pay attention to how much effort you are putting out in a 1:1 capacity. Meaning, are individuals always asking you the same questions or for the same material? Do you have to dig around to find documents/materials, or resend emails? Are you sick of hearing yourself have the same phone conversations with different people who all want the same information? Then consider whether having everything all together, in one place, in a lovely package for people is worth the investment. If you were able to make sharing your wisdom more efficient, wouldn't that be fantastic? Think about what you could do with all that time and energy! Plus, if you can get a little influx of cash from it, to me it's a no-brainer.
Here's your challenge: for the next 30 days, actively pay attention to what information you're regularly sharing. If you're sharing the same thing more than 2x a week to different people, you may want to consider creating a digital offering. Not only will this eventually free you up for fresh, new opportunities, but you'll be able to reach more people who will benefit from your insights and hard-won knowledge.