I already have a new DIY Business Magic episode for you, this one is all about getting started with online courses. Don’t worry, I am not gonna tell you how to make six figures in three month. Instead I am sharing:
- The pros and cons of sharing your skills online
- The mistakes I made over the years
- The details of my current tech/software set up and why I love it
- How I moved away from launching towards building long term, mutually supportive relationships through Patreon
I know many of us are excited about launching an online course but feel daunted at the same time. I really hope this episode will give you a confidence boost as well as some practical tools and approaches that will make the process easy. You got this!
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⋒ Hi, my name is Yarrow.
My Embodied Business podcast explores what it means to build a livelihood with integrity, joy and anti capitalist values. I offer practical guidance on tech, strategy, ethical marketing, creativity and money and interview other small business owners who do things their own way.
You can learn more about my work, listen to other episodes or join my community at PinkWellStudio.com
You can also sign up for my newsletter - I offer free monthly Spark Sessions and share resources, ideas & new episodes about once per month over on Substack ⋒
Hey, everyone. My name is Yarrow and you’re listening to the DIY business medic podcast. I’m laughing because this is like the fourth tag. And it’s it’s Monday morning. I’m super excited to record this. But also, it’s awkward. podcasting is awkward sometimes, especially when you’re talking to yourself. Anyway, as I said, I’m super excited. And I want to start off by saying that I’m super, super grateful for all the beautiful reviews that you’ve written already. Honestly, it just made my heart sing. And it’s so beautiful to hear that people actually want to listen to this. And we can have dialogues and make magic happen. And yeah, I’m just super grateful. reviews on iTunes really make a difference, especially at the beginning, in how many people can find this. So please keep them coming. If you like my work. And you’re into the idea of this podcast, which is all about doing things differently, and thinking about accessibility and ethics and collaborative work and making things better for more people, then yeah, please leave a review. That would be great. So today, I want to talk about getting started teaching online courses. I know that something that is on the mind of many people, some of you are already doing it. Some of you are happy with the way you’re doing it. Some of you are thinking about maybe doing it next year, but you’re not really sure how how that could work and what could what it could look like. So I want to tell you my story with online courses, I’m going to tell you what I see as the pros and cons. I’ll tell you exactly what my tech setup is currently and what it’s been in the past. I will take you tell you what my past mistakes and where there are many spoiler, and then I’ll share what I love and would do again and how it’s working for me currently. And then if you have more questions, totally bring them my way. I’d be running so many more free webinars coming up. And we can definitely cover this and have a q&a around online courses as well. So speaking of webinars, I love making them. I just had one this weekend, and there’s many more coming up. You can always see what is scheduled and sign up for free adyar Digital comm slash webinars, or is it free webinars? Anyway, I’ll put it in the show notes. And you will see it in the menu bar if you had to YAHWAH did calm. Cool. So what are the pros of teaching online courses? First of all, you get to teach something that you’re really excited about to a tonne of people potentially. And I think that’s inherently something that’s incredibly exciting and motivating. You know, you probably do your thing, because you really love doing your thing, whether that is making her potions or reading Tarot for other people, or making pottery and just taking examples from my own life right now. Sorry, I know you all have beautiful and diverse businesses. And so it really applies to absolutely anything, you can teach absolutely anything on the internet, even things like making art or how to produce beautiful things. You know, there’s so many amazing technological options today. I’m always amazed by how people teach art classes, and that they have these cameras kind of above their desk. And then you can really see step by step, how they’re using the different paint brushes and colours and how they’re mixing and layering things. And yes, that’s something I’m really into watching at the moment. But anyway, it could apply to so many different things. And there’s some real beauty in sharing your own skills. And I want to dive a little bit into what that can bring up as well. So if you have something that you’re really good at, and you’re making money from it, I think it’s really tempting and sometimes justified to think that if you’re teaching it, you’re giving your skill away, and then no one is gonna buy from you. I don’t think that is that that’s the reality, in most cases, I have. You know, as you know, I’ve been a web designer for many years. And I’ve made probably between 60 and 90 professional websites by now. And I’ve taught hundreds of people through live workshops on the internet, in real life through my courses, how they can do it themselves. And I’m fairly sure that in that process, I’ve not lost a tonne of clients that could have been one on one clients, because these are really two things for two very different groups of people. So one on one clients are people that have a bit of a budget. They just want to get it done professionally and beautifully by someone who has a tonne of experience and can guide them through the process of creating and writing content and thinking about their long term strategy. And they’re probably pretty clear on what their business is.
And the other group of people are people That maybe have a smaller budget and a little bit more time, they want to teach themselves maybe even excited about it. And maybe they are also wanting to be a little bit more playful. So some of these people will have clear business strategies and ideas and visions. And others will be like, you know what, I still have a job or just taking it slow and easy. And I just want to book my first website and see where that takes me, and give it some time to grow and expand and oil. Obviously, all these different reasons are super valid. But what it means that is that I really don’t think that the option to take this online course is taking anything away from potential one on one clients, because there will always be people who just don’t have the time, they just want to pay someone, or they’re just not excited about learning tech stuff. And that’s fair enough. So have a think about that, whether you feel any resistance around sharing your skill, and if so, if that’s really justified, or if you can just lean into the possibility that you’re an expert in what you’re doing. You have beautiful things to share. There’s something really special and treating people with one on one support. I think terror is an another really nice example, I teach people how to read for themselves all the time, for free and within my patreon courses. And yet, I also get people who want me to read for them because it’s a special treatment is different to have someone else hold that space for you. So yeah, that was a little ramble. So coming back to the pros of teaching online courses, as I’ve just said, teach something you really excited about, you can give more people access to your work, I think that’s a really important thing to me. Because obviously, I have to charge a decent amount of money for my one on one web design work. That’s how I make a living. I have to pay bills and all that stuff. And I know that’s out pricing some people and there’s only so much I can do about that. So I do have a couple of sliding scales, escape slope, sliding scale web design projects a year, or even free one. So people who just can’t afford it, but they have a great idea. And I really think they should have a great website. So yeah, I can do a couple of dollars a year. But beyond that, I’m a bit stuck because I have to make an income and teaching people how to do it for themselves is a beautiful way to make things more accessible. And then finally, the last Pro is that you can make passive income. And I’m putting that in air quotes. Because passive income is a funny idea in online marketing, that that is leverage beyond. I don’t know, I don’t want to go into a long complainy rant here. But I’ll just say I think that the the idea of passive income is often misunderstood. And it really bothers me that so many people almost kind of create this Ponzi scheme kind of thing where that heats incredibly expensive online courses on how to teach online courses. And you can really only justify paying that much for those programmes, if you then charge a tonne for your own programmes. And it just creates an very inflated environment. And I know it has worked for a lot of people I know people have become rich that way. But I have questions around that being sustainable, and what it means for how we trade with each other how transparent that can ever be. And if it’s necessary as well, I think there’s always an important question to ask around who you’re making, what you’re making for who can afford that and who can’t afford that. So anyway, I’ll talk a little bit more about passive income later on. But I will also say having stable income as an entrepreneur is a super valid desire to have. While I have complex feelings about passive income as such, and I think it’s misunderstood. I do 100% thing that teaching online can be a great way to stabilise your income a little bit, and to give you more time and space to be creative, and come up with cool solutions and get people excited about what you believe in. So it’s definitely not all bad. That’s a really positive thing about it. Okay,
so the downsides to teaching online, if you’ve never done it before, there might be a steep learning curve in terms of tags and understanding how to create a good setup. Or you might have some initial setup costs when you’re hiring someone to do that for you. You still have to promote your offerings, and it’s not really that passive. So that’s what I wanted to touch back on, or circle back on. So passive income. The idea is, or what we’re often sold in like Facebook ads is you just create this product once and then people will see it and they’ll be immediately drawn to it and you’re basically earning money in your sleep and that’s all you have to do. That’s kind of discipline vibration. So, and I think what people kind of miss judged sometimes is that you actually, especially with a cold audience, or with people that have never heard about your work before, you’ll have to get in front of so many people to make those conversions. So with a cold audience, and again, that this is a really broad generalisation. But just to give you an idea, in a cold audience, say you’re running Facebook ads to people who’ve never seen your work before, you can expect a conversion rate so so the number of people compared to how many have seen your product and will actually buy it is a good conversion rate in that case would be 1%. And again, like it’s a totally generalisation, you could also have it be 1.0, point 1%. It could also be 5%, it depends on a lot of different factors, for example, how well your targeting is, how good your ad graphics are, and your copy, and how expensive the pricing is for what you’re offering. So all I want to say by giving you this numbers is that people very easily overestimate how many people that can get to buy something, and how it actually takes a long time to build trust in people. And to get enough people to see your work to get a decent amount of people to actually say yes to it. That’s not to be a downer, I’m just trying to be more transparent about what that journey has been like for me, because it has really taken quite some time. And, and it’s also been so worth it. So I really don’t want to put anyone off. I love teaching online, and I don’t intend to stop anytime soon. And then the final potential downside is that you need to strike a balance between support and financial accessibility. So conventionally, I mean, things have changed immensely in the last few years. And they will change immensely in the next couple of years. But traditionally, a business model that many people have chosen is either to have evergreen courses that you can sign up for any time and that you will do in your own pace. And you’re pretty much on your own with that content. And I’ll tell you a really sad thing about that. And then I’ll also tell you a great thing about that. So anyway, the sad thing about that is that I heard and I might be wrong. This was just me listening to a different podcast, that on average, only 10% of people complete evergreen courses, where there’s been no one on one contact. And again, I think that can really differ across different industries. And it depends on how you know how the course is set up? How well made it is, how it makes sense for people what their motivations are, what is being taught, what’s the timeline? You know, there’s lots of different questions. So again, all I’m saying here is that it is quite hard for busy people and many of us are overwhelmed and retired and time and resources and headspace to complete something where we don’t have any hand holding or group support or live sessions. And yeah, and that’s just something to bear in mind. So the other business model, or or many people combine these two is to have a group life programme. So a couple of times a year, or maybe once a year, you lead a pro group of people through a programme with live classes and additional content. And, and that’s beautiful, because people get to know each other, they get to see that they’re not alone. They get to access you regularly, they get to ask questions. And then there’s a motivation and staying with the group. So people are much more likely to actually do the homework and do the learning and ask themselves the questions and, and that’s really great. So
but with that the downside is, of course, that for the person teaching, there is a much bigger investment in terms of tech and time. And just energy, you know, holding space for people is hard. It’s hard to expect exactly how many people will sign up what kind of questions they will have, there’s just a tonne of time that you’re going to have to pour into this. And that then often means that the pricing for such group programmes is much, much higher. And so the trade of that is then that it’s not as accessible as it could have been to many people had been an evergreen course. So for me, this balance thing has been something that’s been on my mind for many years. And I am doing this Yeah, I’m doing something very different that I’m super happy with. And I would love to get more people to consider that as an option as well. Because I know that when we’re starting off with something as people who really had no training and well, you know, most of us in conventional education didn’t have any training around self directed creativity or running a small business. So we’re really teaching ourselves and we’re starting over with something that’s new and exciting, but also better. Mysterious. And so we look to other people, that’s definitely what I have done. And I thought I could only do one or the other group live programmes or evergreen, and there would always be a trade off. Anyway, so what I’m doing now is that I’m offering all my courses on an evergreen basis, meaning people can set up any time, they can study in their own pace. But every month, there’s a live webinar that they can join, to ask questions, to meet other people to do a bit of networking and to feel that sense of accountability of wanting to stay with the group. And that’s really working well for people. And it’s also working well for me, because I have created clear boundaries around the energy I’m putting in, I am there for people, I am supporting them. But I am doing this at specific times. And in a way that works for me. So people can just ring me up, no one has my mobile number, sorry. But people still get to ask questions, there’s a forum with the courses that I’m teaching on teachable, or people can show up live, or they can message me ahead of your live webinar, and ask their question if they can’t make it live, and then they will receive the recording afterwards. So So how that’s working for me is that I have a tech setup, that’s pretty low cost, but very effective. And I’ll tell you in a minute how that works. And then I have specified times, it’s not the pays is still quite slow. So one webinar a month, it’s usually for each of the different courses, or areas of courses. And, and the other thing is also that these webinars are free and open to everyone. So I will tell everyone on my newsletter list and everyone and Instagram about them. And if people just want to check out my work and know a little bit more, they can just come to the webinar, even if they’re not taking the courses. And that’s a super big win win. Because a it’s building my list. It’s growing my audience, which is great. It gives people a chance to get to know me and receive some free teaching people who are doing the courses have that extra element of support and group access and getting to ask me questions. And, and no one has to pay a tonne of money. Right? You know, that’s probably the best thing about it. So yeah, that’s working really well, for me, it might work for you, too, you might hear my dog in the background. He’s having a moment. Sorry. So yeah, that’s working really well for me. And I’m really excited to expand on that and next year, and to maybe upgrade the pace of webinars a little bit more. So maybe I’ll start teaching fortnightly and see how that goes. And the other thing I will say about live content and webinars is that people can always make it is impossible to find a time zone that works for everyone all the time. And maybe people are just busy naturally. So I have an average at the moment between 60 and 80 people signing up for my free webinars. And that is without any ads. So that’s just letting people know that I in my world. And then between 10 and 25, show up live, and then some will watch the replay. And I’m totally fine with that. I know that people are really busy. And sometimes, you know, things seem shiny on the internet. And we sign up for a lot of free stuff and don’t actually really need it. And that’s okay. But the people that do show up are really committed and it’s beautiful to see their questions and to talk to them. And to feel like I’m in a dialogue that is accessible to a lot of people without me having to run Facebook ads or pour a tonne of time into this. And that’s another thing that’s really important to me, I don’t actually want to build a large team. And I know this, there’s only so many hours in my day, you know.
So anyway, we’re 18 minutes, and I’ve only talked about the pros and cons. So I want to move on to my current tech setup as tech setup. So what I’ve decided to do is to link my courses to my Patreon and I’m doing that because I want to create a long term mutually supportive relationship with people rather than selling them a one off things. So I’m really into Patreon. I don’t think that it’s flawless. But it’s the best option for me right now. So people decide to make a monthly pledge between well, starting from $3. To up to anything, you can pledge $1,000, if you want. I would not stop you from doing that. But anyway, so people can pledge, whatever they can afford, and then they can get access to my online programmes, and they can decide to show up for live programmes as well. And then every time someone signs up, I’m adding them to teachable and I’m sending them a welcome email. So that is a process at the moment that I am keeping manually, intentionally all usually my main client would always be automate as much as possible. You really want to don’t you really don’t want to have man Your labour involved in how you’re enrolling people and onboarding them. And I’m doing this at the moment because I really kind of like looking at each new protrusion and sending the other blessing, looking at their profile, and just seeing what they’re into, like what other people are, they’re following or supporting. And I want to get a feeling for my audience. So what I have automated in mailer light, which is my newsletter provider, which I really love and recommend, is that the welcome email is automated, so I’m just adding them to that list is just one click. And then I’m adding them to teachable as well where they can have access to the courses and a way to automate that jam I do in the future is using Zapier, which costs $20 a month. And that can kind of that’s a software that can connect all kinds of different other softwares together to save you some time, in case that’s something you’re interested in. Because most people sign up and become patrons, you can also buy a course for a one off price and teachable directly if you prefer, that’s possible.
And then the software I’m using for the monthly webinars is zoom, I really love zoom, because you have the option of a gallery where you view and that means that in small groups, if people want, they can be on video, and everyone can see each other. So it’s a bit like Sesame Street where you have a big circle with all these little faces on them. And then the person that speaks can speak, everyone can unmute themselves, they want to, but you can also have the option of a speaker view, which means that you only see the person that’s currently talking and that person has a big picture. So depends on group size, but it gives you that option. And I really appreciate that a lot because it’s nice to get to know people that way. And, and yeah, so so the software I’m using to recap really quickly as Patreon. My team, my courses are on teachable. my newsletter provider is mailer Lite. And what I’m using for webinars is zoom. And if I wanted to automate that step between Patreon and teachable, I could use Zapier to do that, but I don’t do that currently. So now I want to talk a little bit about my past mistakes. The first thing I did was totally overestimating my conversion rates. So I started teaching online courses about two years ago. And when I first I kind of started dreaming about them, and thinking about what I could invest for the initial production, I completely overestimated the relationship between the people in my world, the people that were following me on social media, and were receiving my newsletter, and the people that would actually sign up. And I think that’s a super common beginner’s thing, because we love the thing we’re doing was super excited about it. And it’s kind of hard to imagine why everyone else wouldn’t be super excited about it, especially if those people have already decided to either follow us or even receive our newsletters. But yeah, there was a hard awakening, not everyone was immediately in it. And that’s okay. So I learned. And the next mistake I made was I kind of forcing myself to making to make too many camera facing videos. What I mean by that is that I thought, any content where I’m explaining something, rather than showing something on the screen, needs to be a video that looks fairly professional, where I’m sitting at my desk, and everything is well lit, I’m remembering something great, my desk looks amazing. And I’m just speaking into the camera. And maybe those things are easy for you to make by the fact I found them really hard to make. I was I was I had such a when I first created the second instalment of my course, I had just had surgery, I was still in so much pain, but I just absolutely wanted to do it. And I wanted to look great. So I got a softbox like a lighting thing from Amazon. And then I tried to get home a couple of times really didn’t work, there was just so much clutter and very, very little space. And so I rented a hotel room for one night, which was a big investment for me at the time. And it still would be but anyway, it did it because I just was so stuck on how it would look. And and that puts so much pressure on me because I needed to make 12 videos in this one night ahead in his hotel room. And so I brought my soft bags and all my equipment and their camera, and my notes and I was just up all night trying to make it happen. And it really ended up looking just about Okay, and what I realised now is that actually, that’s not necessary at all. In many cases, if there’s nothing that you necessarily need to see people, you can just make an audio. Audio is amazing. You know, we see visual content all the time. We’re so overloaded. It really depends on what you’re teaching, but I would strongly consider, I would strongly urge everyone to consider whether actually audio material might be good for everyone. It’s cheaper to produce. It is Then more accessible to people at least financially. And that’s great, you know, important to remember is not everyone can hear it. And it would be really good if you could provide transcripts to your audio as if that’s possible. That’s definitely something that I want to get on top of this year. And so, yeah, just to say that accessibility isn’t just about pricing, it can mean many different things. And there’s many complex considerations to take on board.
So the next mistake I made was an overpricing, and not really understanding my audience. So I was in one way, expecting that quite a few people on my list would say yes to my course. But I was also thinking that they would pay quite a lot of money. And I knew I had made his investment into the hotel room and the camera and the soft bugs. And I kind of really wanted to make that money back. And then some because that was, you know, something that I really needed, were only income. So I think where I didn’t fully understand my audience was that I was really speaking to people who wanted to make their own website, but didn’t have the budget yet. And so, you know, there needed to be quite a big incentive incentive between hiring a web designer or doing it yourself financially. And I underestimated that. And so I priced them too highly, at least for me, you know that there’s no hard and fast rule. And maybe it’s silly to say they were priced too highly, they weren’t high, priced too highly for the people I was speaking to at the time, so I made very few sales. And then now with lower prices, find that many more people are able to say, Yes, I feel much less anxious about marketing this. And actually, at the end of the day, I make more money from them than I did when I when there were higher priced. The next mistake was that I was choosing the wrong platform. And that’s not to diss the platform at all that I was using at the time, it was just not right for me. And I didn’t fully understand the options that were available to me. So the first course I taught I choose chose gumroad gumroad. And I had my videos on Vimeo, and gumroad, I think just didn’t at the time, at least, this is a couple of years back, didn’t give me the design options I wanted, I was able to brand it a little bit. But it just didn’t look exactly the way I wanted. And I’m much more happy on teachable now, as an in between step I very briefly had a WordPress side, together with ontraport. ontraport is great if your business is quite established, and you can justify the costs, but I just wasn’t there at the time. And so I kind of got lured into thinking that if I upgrade my software, it looks better, more people are gonna love it. But actually, it was just too much money for me to spend at a time I didn’t make it back. So I left ontraport and that homemade platform I had made. And I moved on to teachable and now on the free plan with them. And I’m really happy. So I pay, I pay half a percent fee when someone buys on that directly. But otherwise, I add people manually that have become patrons. And that works really well for me. And then the last mistake I want to mention is that I had this idea of what a conventional launch looks like. So I was running Facebook ads and was trying to get people to sign up at a specific time. And that was just super hard and stressful for me. Because I spend a tonne of money and then there was this pressure to make it back. And to get it you know, to grow a cold audience but from people that had never heard of me before. And I now really find that taking it slower and not putting all that pressure on myself. not spending a tonne of production on production and ads means I can price much lower and I can just gently keep talking about it. And I can offer a tonne of free content that’s valuable to people. And then just trust that those people who need those products and are ready to spend a bit of money will do it. And and it’s just a much more gentle and easy experience for everyone involved. So the final piece that I want to share is what I love and what I would do again. So the first thing I want to mention definitely is that I’m super happy. I chose this option of having self study or evergreen courses together with live webinars. So it’s kind of the best of two worlds and people get a lot out of it. And yet it is financially accessible and I don’t have to spend a tonne of time on being available every single day. I love that I’m not conventionally launching anymore. That’s been a huge game changer. I would say it’s really changed my life. It’s it’s taken so much pressure off my shoulders, and I’m really grateful. I love my prices. I love that it’s more accessible. I do know that there’s something bittersweet about low prices. On one hand, it’s been way easier to grow my patreon it’s now 125 people which is amazing. I also know though that Because of those lower prices, people have less of an incentive and Larry Ellison this way to actually do the work. And that’s tricky, because like I said, you know, we understand that maybe 10% is a completion rate for for the self study prices that are low price for self study programmes that are low price. And that said, I want more people to actually have support and get things done. And I think the live webinars and the group support, do some of that work. So I expect that more people will complete these courses. But nevertheless, that’s something I’m aware of. so more people can say, yes. But there might be quite a few of those people that don’t finish the course, which is a shame. And it’s a balance that we need to find. Another thing I really loved that works for me is the transparent communication. So in the beginning, I think I was more in that online world and copying other people and saying things like, if you’re ready to get the website of your dreams, bah, bah, bah. And now I’m just being very honest. And I’m saying, you know, look, I can teach you how to do this thing for yourself, but you’re going to have to do the work. And you’re going to also have to know what you want, at least, to some extent, and I provide the space for you to explore that further and go deeper, and get really clear. But at the end of the day, you either need to pay someone to do the work for you, or you’re going to have to do it yourself. That is that is the sad story of growing a business. But it feels good to be transparent. And I feel like people are really appreciating that. And it is I don’t want to say refreshing, but it may be is it refreshing? Yeah. Cool. So and then the final thing that I really love, and that works for me at the moment is the optional add ons. So the low prices mean people, you know, people, more people able to access it. And then some people realise, okay, this was cool, I was able to get this thing. But actually, I need more help. And then I’m offering sliding scale, business and tech, mentoring sessions on zoom that anyone can book. And if people are going through the programme, and they feel like I’m not totally sure I need more support with this, they totally can book that.
And they can also if they find, actually, they don’t just need support, they just need to get it done by someone else. They can get a reef at not a refund, they can get a discount. And in the form of the money they’ve already spent on courses towards working with me one on one. So yeah, if someone bought the programme one off, and they paid a certain money, amount of money for the web design course, for example, and then they want to hire me, they can take that price of the fee of working with me. And that feels good and transparent as well. Yeah, that’s all I wanted to share today. I hope this has given you some insight into what it’s been like to build an online school over the last couple of years, the mistakes I make the things I love the tech setup, I have all these things. If you have more questions, please let me know either email me at hello at Yarrow Digital comm or DM me on Facebook, not Facebook. Oh my god, don’t DM me on Facebook. You can message me on Instagram or you can come in under and I will try to reply to everyone. And if there’s many questions, then I will also run a live webinar. Again, thank you so much for listening and for all your support. Please, if you like this, leave a review on iTunes. That would be super Wonderful. Thank you so much. Have a beautiful day.