3 Things You’re Doing Wrong When You’re Designing An Online Course



On the face of it, an online course seems like a perfectly ideal way to conduct business on the Internet. You can have students from literally anywhere on the planet. They can log in anytime they want, and they can learn at their own pace. But achieving the course’s objectives is only possible if you make sure that you design it correctly. If the design is not good, you end up with dissatisfied students which will be a terrible blow to your reputation.


Here are some mistakes you need to avoid:

  1. Not knowing if people actually want to learn the material you want to teach. This is perhaps the most common mistake in online course design.For example, if you design a fantastic course about how to make a video, and it focuses on the technical details such as proper lighting and sound and even teach your students how to use the best video software available. But no matter how comprehensive your course may be, it may not attract a lot of participants because your audience is actually looking for ways to make a video interesting.You’ll need to do a lot of research and even create a survey so you’ll know if you are offering them the right material and the right course.
  2. Not transforming your source material. Some professionals who design their own courses simply tell their students to read certain books and online sources, and prepare for a test. We certainly know of a few college professors who teach this way But if you ask students, they’ll tell you that this is a boring way to learn.So you have to take advantage of other methods of instruction. You can offer videos or slide shows. You can film certain experiments or demonstrations. You can feature interviews of other notable experts in the field. Be imaginative — simply showing a recording of a lecture is not the best way to let your students learn.
  3. You want to cover a lot of ground. This is another mistake that’s often the result of wanting to make sure that you give your students more value for their money. So you create a comprehensive course that covers many areas, thinking that doing so will enable your students to learn more.The problem here is that the scope can become too overwhelming for your students. An online course can be considered work, and there may be too much studying involved.Of course, you can design the perfect online course and you still won’t get a respectable number of enrollees. At this point, it’s no longer about the design, but about the marketing of your online course. When it comes to marketing, it’s no longer about making sure that your program is useful and effective. It’s about making your potential students understand that they need the course and that it will truly help them learn what they need to know.

How to Make an Online Course


Traditionally, if you want to capitalize on your expertise using the internet, you need to write. A lot.

You can write articles about the topics you are good at to establish your authority, and then write blog posts and/or product reviews, as the case may be. Or you can even write an ebook and use it for marketing or revenue generation. But my favorite way to monetize your expertise is (drumroll please)… offering online courses!

But exactly how hard is it to create an online course? Here are the basic steps:

  1. Start collecting the material you want your students to learn. If you’re just starting out, this can take a while. It won’t take as much time, however, if you’ve already written a book or numerous articles related to your expertise, it’s only a matter of converting the material into a different presentation.
  2. Find out what makes your course compelling. What would make people want to sign up for your course? This is the question you need to answer, and your online course should be much more interesting than just reading an article or a book.
  3.  Identify the presentation methods you will use. Some online courses simply use ebooks. But the more compelling online courses use videos and whiteboard animations.
  4. Make it look professional. If you’re using ebooks, they will have to be checked and rechecked for misspelling and grammatical errors. Then the facts you present will have to be verified as well. Presenting erroneous or obsolete data can tarnish your authority. With videos, you’ll need to learn how to edit them properly. You’ll have to know proper lighting and sound levels. If you use voiceovers, you must employ voice talents who sound great and are easy to understand by your target students.
  1. Live or recorded? If you’re just starting out, you may want to start with recorded lectures and demos first. That should minimize your mistakes during the presentation. Eventually, you may want to venture to live demos but accidents can still happen. Technical difficulties may come up and students may pose questions you don’t know how to answer. You’ll have to have a plan for every possible contigency.
  2.  Give out quizzes. A test will check whether your students have learned enough to proceed to the next lesson. Your quizzes can also tell you if your methods are actually helping your students learn.

Of course, making an online course can be a very difficult proposition, especially when you want to make sure that it looks professional. And you’ll also need to see it that the marketing strategy for your online course is appropriate and effective.

This is the reason why the help of professional course creators is so invaluable. They can help you design and plan your online course as well as help you create videos and presentations that look professional. They can even guide you on the right marketing strategy to use. With their help, you can avoid making costly mistakes that can have a dire effect on your business and your credibility.

How SaaS Companies Can Use a Free Online Course in Their Onboarding to Reduce Churn

SAASSaaS companies, like other service-based businesses, know the importance of retaining their current customers. And to do that, the company’s churn rate must be kept as low as possible. But how? One effective method is by offering them a free online course.

What is Churn?

Churn refers to the customers you once had but no longer use your services. Churn rate refers to the number of customers (or the percentage of customers) who leave you for any number of reasons.

Often they leave your company right after the initial onboarding, especially with a SaaS product. They sign up get confused about the product, then cancel the subscription. This one of the reasons companies like ClickFunnel and LeadPages create extensive free training (free courses about marketing, facebook ads, webinars, and more) and user guides. The more they reduce the confusion of new users, the more people stick around.

If you want your business to stay afloat, you need to keep track of your churn rate and keep it low. Remember – if your customers are leaving you, then that means you will need to bring in more customers to replace them. Marketing costs are generally more expensive than the cost to retain your current customers.

A simple tweak might be all you need to keep 10% more of your customers every month, meaning your company can grow that much faster.

Reduce Churn Rate with Free Online Courses

As I mentioned, one way of reducing your churn rate is to make sure that your customers remain educated. And that may mean offering them online courses. Making these online courses freely available not only help your existing customers use your product more effectively, but also help new potential customers first find your courses, and then ultimately want to buy your product!

For example, you can offer a free online course on how to use your product properly. Perhaps they quit shortly after onboarding because they found your product too complicated. With an online course, you can explain the proper procedure more clearly so that they will not feel intimidated or frustrated by the product because it didn’t work as promised.

With your free online course, you can also make them understand each feature of your product. You can highlight exactly how your product can solve any specific problem or issue your customer has. You can also demonstrate how they can use it more effectively.

Or maybe the course can even help them get greater results with your product. For example that is why Leadpages offers free marketing courses. They offer a marketing software, so the more their customers know about marketing, the more successful they will be and the longer they will use Leadpages.

By focusing on how your product can actually solve the problems of your customers (instead of creating them), you keep your customers happy and successful – which in turn will keep your churn rate low.

[Case study] How Tung Tran Made $28,329 in 5 Days with his first online course (a step by step guide)

Online course membership area - AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp

Tung Tran launched his first online course ever a few weeks back. The course is called AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp, and it teaches people how to build Amazon Affiliate websites.

He earned just shy of $30,000 in the first 5 days.

UPDATE #1: A couple weeks after this was written, he sold 23 more seats in his course, bringing the total to $42,000 in about the first 6 weeks. He also plans to continue to market it to get more and more students every single month!

Update #2: After checking in with Tung about 10 months later, his course has generated $8,000 – $12,000 / month in income, and between that and the launch will have generated a solid 6 figures in it’s first year. 

In this article you will get all the behind the scenes information on exactly how he did it. The Monetize Your Expertise team worked with him every step of the way, and so we will be showing you exactly what he did, and what we did, that allowed him to achieve these kind of results. It will walk you through the exact method we used to build the course (with templates), his actual launch sequence, and even the hourly journal he kept on the day of the launch.

The goal is to give you everything you need to also be able to wake up and see this in your inbox:

List of course sales from the online course launch

Simply put, we went through 3 essential phases…

1. Validation and pre-selling the course

2. Building a world-class course

3. Executing an online course launch strategy

Normally in case studies there is some kind of a disclaimer stating how the results are not typical. However, in a way these results really ARE typical. How? Because we knew it would succeed from the very beginning based on the plan we created. And as you’ll see below, we run the numbers, and his results (based on industry averages) are not unusual.

Simply put, while of course we can’t guarantee anything, if you do the exact same things that we did, and have a similar starting point, then you should get relatively similar results.

If you want to learn the exact steps that we used to build and launch this course, then invest the time to read closely all the way to the end of this case study.

The Brand Behind AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp

Written by Tung:

“I’ve been building Cloud Living for a while, and currently have built it to about 6k pretty well engaged subscribers.
I started Cloud Living in February 2013 just as a place for me to document my online journey. The blog grew pretty fast in the first year thanks to my public case studies on how I built and grew profitable affiliate sites.
Since then, I let it sit and the growth stalled out. The blog was making only around $1k a month for about 2 years.

I wanted to sell my own products but wasn’t very happy this first attempt. I tried to sell a PDF 3 years ago on the same topic that we ultimately made the course on for $99. I launched that ebook around February 2014 and made $7k in sales in 3 days – around 70 customers.The results were sub-par, and I wasn’t excited about the quality of the product so I discontinued it after 3 months. I didn’t feel it was good enough to charge a premium, so I wanted to build something better.

Last year I decided that I wanted to focus on the blog and grow a business out of it. That’s why I decided to make a course. I know this is something my audience really want so it wasn’t a hard decision to make.

For the course we built this time around, I’m extremely happy with the quality and feel totally confident to sell it at a premium. Without you and your service [having the course built by the MYE team] I wouldn’t be able to create this quality course myself.

This time around, I was committed to make the best training course on the market and that’s why I turned to you [Monetize Your Expertise]”

Course Revenue Results 5 Days After Release

Pre-launch revenue – $3,479 (7 sales)
5 day launch revenue – $24,850 (50 sales)
Total first launch revenue – $28,329 (57 total sales)

We tackled this project in 3 distinct phases

Phase 1 – Pre-selling and validation
Phase 2 – how we built the course
Phase 3 – how we sold the course

Let’s go through each phase one by one.

Phase 1 – Pre-selling and validation

Note: Validation is mostly important if it is your first time creating a product on a particular topic. For example, if you run a blog and you want to create your first product for it. However, a lot of clients come to us who have been giving talks, offering services, workshops, books, on their topic for years. In this case, they already have validation – if you’ve had hundreds of people pay you $5,000 for a workshop, then you can be confident that you can find hundreds of other people who will pay you 1/10th of that for an online course version.

As you read above, Tung’s goal for 2016 was to monetize his blog. He had made some decent passive income,  but nothing to get super excited about. It was time to take things to the next level. How? An online course selling at $497 a pop!

Tung took stock of the things that he knew, and the different types of businesses he had built (for example he was making over $50,000 per month selling t-shirts at one point) and ultimately landed on helping people build Amazon affiliate websites in the same way he had done successfully. This was also a topic that he had written extremely popular case studies about, and had even sold an ebook on, so he suspected a premium course on the same topic would be in high demand.

Now, this sounds like a good IDEA. But in reality, ideas aren’t worth much without validation and execution. The next step was to test the assumption that people would actually pay for a course on this topic. This is something many first time instructors forget to do, and then end up with a course no one wants to buy. If YOU think “it would be so cool to make a course on XYZ” that is a very different thing than your CUSTOMER saying (preferably while drooling) “I would do anything to buy a quality course on XYZ – it would solve my exact problems”.

Using the best practices of online course validation, Tung built a launch sales campaign. His entire blog campaign is included below.


At this point in the process you should have NOT built the course. In fact you should have nothing more than an outline. This is important.

Tung followed this methodology, so at this point he had not built any part of the course. The idea was to write blog posts around the same topic, deliver value, drum up excitement and see if he could get people to buy the course NOW in exchange for early access when he built the course later.

If it failed, then the only resources wasted would be a few hours writing blog posts (versus several months producing a course).

Here is his exact validation pre-sales campaign – it is simply 6 blog posts chronicling an exciting case study example of what he would teach in the course

Tung’s 6-Part Validation Prelaunch

Piece #1 –  The $10k Case Study Challenge

Piece #2 – $10k Challenge Update #1

Piece #3 – $10k Challenge Update #2 <<< He announced the course is coming soon on this article

After post #3 the course was considered to be officially validated and worth building. The reason is based on the way the first 3 posts were received and the conversions up to this point. Posts 4-6 were focused on building anticipation for the future course while it was being built.

Piece #4 – 10k Challenge Update #3 <<< He keeps mentioning it on every new update

Piece #5 – $10k Challenge Update #4 <<< He keeps mentioning it on every new update

Piece #6 – $10k Challenge – Final Update <<< The case study site making $3k per month by this post, and Tung increases the emphasis on the course and urgency with each new update

Results – Pre-sales revenue – $3,479 (7 sales)

Now that it was validated, it was time to build it!

Phase 2 – Building a world-class course

Originally, Tung had known he wanted to make an online course, and had even made some initial steps towards building one. But as many first time course creators find out…it can feel a bit overwhelming at first when you try to take on the whole thing yourself.

Not even taking into account the validation beforehand, or the marketing after…to build a high-quality course you need to….

  1. Be able to translate your idea / concept into a course curriculum
  2. Turn that curriculum into individual lesson plans
  3. Understand instructional design well enough to make your content effective an engaging
  4. Create custom designed slides for your entire course (often 500+ slides)
  5. Design and build workbooks and bonuses for the course
  6. Record the videos with high-quality presentation skills
  7. Edit all the videos to fix mistakes and improve the quality
  8. Project manage the whole process (i.e. do all of the above steps for 40 different lessons, on a clear schedule)
  9. Put up your content on a course platform (Tung used MemberMouse)

Realizing that his time would NOT be well-spent trying to figure out all of this and do it all himself – that’s when Tung came to MYE.

He turned to me and my team of course experts here at Monetize Your Expertise for this project to ensure the final product was worth charging a premium for, and something he could be proud of. We are both extremely proud of the results we achieved together.

Here is the exact process we used to build the course.

Step #1 – We mapped out product based on the goals

There are many ways to build a course. You can build a text-based course, a video-based course that focused on live filming, or on recording your screen while you teach someone to program, or by recording slides as you teach. Usually it’s a mix. You can also have courses 2 hours long, or 20 hours long. With or without PDF handouts. With or without bonus content (such as expert interviews).

Here is what we decided on:
• Ultimately 8 modules, with 8-10 lessons each
• We would launch with 3 modules completely finished, and drip feed the rest (to maximize efficiency)
• The lesson length would average about 8-10 minutes (although it ranges from 5-15)
• The content style would primarily be a mix of recording well-designed slides, mixed with recorded screen walkthroughs

Now at some point you might have wondered…

How do they build a course for someone else? How do they make a course on a content they are not experts in? How do they logistically do it?

Let me explain the process, which also serves to illustrates the workflow of course content creation. Also, you can review our FAQs which explores these and other questions in more detail.

Context: my company builds done-for-you online courses.

Specifically here is how we do it….

Note: you can use a similar workflow to efficiently produce courses yourself.

  1. Organize and go through all starting materials. Usually this is a published book, series of blog posts, or a live workshop that we will be turning into an online course.
  2. We schedule around 4-5 Content Development Calls with you, where we interview you about your course topic and build your entire course curriculum.
    DIY version: outline your course as a whole, and then have a friend interview you, and have that file transcribed.
  3. We take the course curriculum and break it down into lesson plans for every single lesson.
    DIY version: clean up the transcription, break it into lessons, and flesh it out.
  4. We build you custom-designed slides and workbooks for the whole course.
    DIY version: try to use a really nice design template and possibly a design tool like canva.com
  5. Client records the materials from the slide decks and lesson plans we’ve built for them.
  6. We edit your videos, project manage the process, and do internal quality assurance to make sure the final product is world-class
    DIY version: for project management, use Basecamp. For video editing, don’t do this yourself, hire someone from upwork.
  7. The client receives the completed course, and instead of 500-5,000 hours of work, they’ve just had to show up to the content development calls, and take a day to record from the lesson plans.

Keep reading to the end and you’ll get access to a free course tool I built I built for you, and a list of resources to maximize your chances of success with your project.


It is optional, but highly recommended to use every opportunity to get feedback and continued validation of the course you are producing, particularly by involving your early adopters. During this particular course project. we got a ton of feedback from customers every step of the way to make sure we produced the best product possible.

Here are examples of real life feedback we got from the students
(click on the arrows on the side to slide through them):

Note: the tool we used to do this was intercom.io

Phase 3 – Executing an online course launch

The structure of this launch might surprise you in its simplicity (and efficacy). Course launches don’t have to be sophisticated, especially if you have some kind of audience. You sometimes have to be a bit more crafty if you don’t have much of an audience to work with, however.

The Strategy

A 3-part content series on building a profitable Amazon affiliate site, posted on the blog and blasted out to his email list.

Here is a visual illustration from Digital Marketer that Tung found helpful:

Pre launch content from Digital marketer

Image from Digital Marketer – wwww.inspirechanges.com/portfolio/mini-class-launch-funnel/

Prelaunch Content #1 – Big Idea and Case Study
Prelaunch Content #2 – Step by step teaching
Prelaunch Content #3 – Addressing objections

Now you might be thinking: “Wait. That’s it?! Write 3 blog posts and mail them out?”

I know this is a huge sticking point for a lot of people. When people submitted questions about this case study, it usually involved asking about where exactly the traffic came from, and what was the exact marketing strategy.

Well here is the exact traffic breakdown:

Course Launch Funnel CTR's


Breaking down what this means:

  • 2,700 total visitors on the sales page
  • This converted to 50 customers (of the $497 product)
  • 1,300 from mailing the launch content (using Activecampaign)
  • 500 from Tung’s Cloud Living Facebook group
  • 500 from direct links on other places on his site
  • The last couple hundred from random anonymous sources

If you do the math for what this means to you:

  • 1300/6000 = 21.6% click-through from his email list
  • 288/2438 = 11.8% click-through from the Cloud Living Facebook group
  • 235 other visitors from Facebook due to social sharing of the launch content and sales page

These are relatively modest numbers, especially when you consider that these CTR’s are not even on individual emails or links, but just somewhere during the whole campaign. 21.6% of his email list clicked through to the sales page at some point.

That’s what I mean when I said this case study is by no means an unusual result. The metrics are normal. The strategy is simple. Your expected results will just involve doing the math based on the size of your own email list, social media following, etc. Your conversion rates won’t all be the same, but they can be used as a ballpark estimate.

While we kept this first version of the launch pretty simple, Tung already has big plans for the next round of marketing for the course that we are really excited about. JV partnerships, webinar marketing, PPC, etc. There are several great tools we are looking at to scale his marketing and scale his results. We’ve validated the quality, demand and results every step of the way and now it’s time to double down on those results.

The final product


Primary sales page – https://www.amzaffiliatebootcamp.com/sales-page/

tung tran amz affiliate bootcamp course sales page

Right click to save this image and view full-size.

Secondary Sales Page / FAQ page combo – https://www.amzaffiliatebootcamp.com/faq/

AMZ Affiliate Bootcamp Course Sales Page

Right click to save this image and view full-size.

Launch day

As you will see. Even though the results were great, there were definitely the inevitable launch obstacles.

Here’s a little mini diary kept by Tung documenting the launch:

“Launch day – I almost messed up the launch by leaving a couple things until the last minute
5pm – I wanted to do these myself, but I just now started working on the sales / checkout page
7pm – Still haven’t finished customizing the check out page. It looked broken. Need to ask for help.
8pm – Sales page took longer than I expected. Decided to just do the bare minimum to launch.
9pm – One hour till launch. Still working on sales page. Check out page was still being worked on
10pm – Launch time. Freaking out. Check out page done. But sales page was still work in progress. Haven’t added the add to cart button.
10:30pm – Ready to launch. Sent the first email.
11pm – Got 1st sale! Woohoo!
1am – Went to bed

Next day
8am – Woke up. Saw only 3 sales. Felt like I screwed up the launch. Was a bit disappointed with the results. But still stayed calm. Maybe people need more time to think because it wasn’t an impulse buy.

Rest of the 5 day launch:
The rest goes well. Last 24 hours brought in enough sales to hit the $25k mark, not even including the prelaunch revenue.”

5 day launch revenue – $24,850 (50 sales)

Total first launch revenue – $28,329 (57 total sales)

Like any major project, we inevitably faced some obstacles. But the results were more than worth it, especially considering this is just the first launch, and every subsequent launch should be bigger and better.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you read ALL the way to this point, then chances are that you have been wanting to do your own online course for a while. Well now it’s your turn.

I built this custom tool just for you – the Course Project Success Calculator

This tool will estimate your chances of success with your course project, and give you a list of selected resources to help you with your project, including interviews, guides, tools, and more.

Even with all the tools and information, remember that is up to YOU to take action on the opportunity provided through what you just learned. If you’ve been wanting to build the next big course on XYZ, now is the time.

Final thoughts from Tung about this project:

“Overall, I believe that we have created an awesome course here.

The final production quality is great. I’m really happy with the videos we created. Your voice is awesome! This project is pretty important for my personal and business growth. Now the course is done, I can experiment with all sort of marketing strategies to sell it. I’ve been doing only SEO and affiliate sites for a while. So learning new things is exciting!

For business, it definitely helps to diversify my revenue sources and help to position myself as an authority in the market. And the course makes good money as well 😀 I definitely see this course generate 6-figures for me by the end of the year!”

One week after this case study was published everyone continues to be happy, including both Tung ad his customers which is always our goal:

Tung: “The course is so amazing! I know I keep saying this over and over again, but I can’t help it! I get really excited when seeing our awesome product. So happy with how this turned out.”

Check out the Course Project Success Calculator, and if you’d like to discuss your course project with us, grab a time here. 

The Key To Building A Raving Fanbase

What’s the #1 biggest obstacle in building fanbase around your company or your vision?

It’s not that there aren’t enough people out there who love what you do. It’s not that everyone out there “just doesn’t get it.”

The problem is ambiguity.

If the right people don’t easily and immediately understand what you do, then they won’t be interested in becoming one of those keys partners or 1,000 true fans.

How Clarity Affects Popularity, And What We Can Learn From Startups

Have you ever heard the parody’s (this one is amazing) on the way new startups explain themselves? We are building buffer for uber in the cloud! In reality, this is actually a very smart strategy when you consider 1) clarity and 2) their audience.

The audience is usually investors or tech aficionados who are intimately familiar with the companies of comparison, and to those types of people this definition (if done correctly) can very clearly articulate the target market, the type of technology, the pricing model all in a few words.


Brevity Is Essential To Building A Clear Message (And Fanbase)

The first time I ever tried to build a website, even the people who knew exactly what I was working on didn’t know what the website was about.

Ironically, this website was for people with ADHD, but in order to have any idea of the purpose behind the website a visitor would have to visit several different pages and read massive blocks of text.

I remember one time in particular sitting down to get feedback from a doctor and startup founder who had ADHD, and he went through every line of text on the homepage, pointing out that it was either extremely vague or provided way too much unnecessary information. Both are easy traps to fall into.

We never think we are being vague, because we understand what we really mean inside our own heads.

We also often don’t realize when we are being long-winded, because when we are passionate about a subject and happily provide endless information that overwhelms people not as familiar.

He showed me a startup website that had one main header, with 3 short paragraphs below it:

  • Header: Our mission is to create X social shift by helping X people accomplish Y outcome.
  • Paragraph in the left column: One way we do this by doing [Service or Benefit 1]
  • Paragraph in the middle column: Another way we do this by doing [Service or Benefit 2]
  • Paragraph in the right column: Another way we do this by doing [Service or Benefit 3]

It was extremely clear, even at a short glance.


On The Other Hand, Excessive Jargon Alienates

Brevity is essential, however this can often lead to a problem on the other end of the spectrum:

Excessive use of jargon.

A relevant example is something I recently was writing and thinking about:

“It’s 6am and for whatever reason I’m reading this, and it seriously the most difficult to read Wikipedia article I’ve ever seen.


To me, science can be like Shakespeare, and that’s not a good thing.

Both have a really high percentage of terms that you are not really quite sure what they mean.

I think most relatively smart people are capable of understanding almost any concept that they don’t have a psychological block against…eventually.

The problem with an article like that above, however, is that to fully understand it, I (and most people) would have to sit down and read 30 other articles about the various terms and acronyms in it first, and that’s just not practical in most cases.

One takeaway: a beneficial belief is to take it as a given that you can understand anything, so long as you choose to put in the time. And it’s self-fulfilling. If you believe you

can’t, then you won’t, because you will have a psychosocial block against it and you WONT put in the time. 

Another takeaway: using too many acronyms and esoteric terms makes the barrier to understanding something much higher. Sometimes this can be beneficially used to screen for the well-educated customers or potential business partners, but usually it will just alienate the general population, including those who actually love your message (once they are able to understand it).”


Why Should You Care? So That People Understand Your “Why” Simon ted Talk – Power Of Why, And Why Leaders Share It

If you are an infoproduct creator you probably already recognize the value of the topic above. If not, and actually you are still reading, then I would like to relate this to the broader picture.

It’s not just about being understood, but about the ability to generate passion and inspiration.

In order to lead effectively, or to inspire change, you must focus on sharing with people your why. What is your why? Do you have one? If you do, can you even explain it? It is interesting to see how people respond to that kind of question or a similar one such as “what is your purpose?”

Many people will role their eyes, or not care to answer because they don’t see the topic as valuable. They don’t recognize value in having a clear why. Those that try often cannot clearly explain it. They have a general feeling about it, but cannot put it in any clear terms, often falling back on a vague cliche like “I want to change the world someday.” I don’t blame them. It’s hard!

Since they cannot explain it, no one will see understand it, and so they will never be able to inspire a passionate following.

On the other hand, once it becomes clearly defined and you broadcast the message of what you stand for, people with similar values and goals tend to gravitate towards you. I can say from experience that after this shift, finding those ideal customers, partners, mentors, or even significant others, becomes significantly easier.

Nowadays, all of my “true fans”  come from hearing my clear set of values and mission, and it clicks with them. Some people hate what I do, but more than enough love it, and the only way to find the later is to be open and clear about what you believe even if that means polarizing people.


Exercise To Improve Your “Why” And Your Marketing Message:post_images-007

  1. Do YOU know clearly what your business does? What your mission is? What your S.M.A.R.T. goals are? If not, work on the definition.
  2. Can you explain each of these clearly in one sentence? If not, distill it down. Trim the fat. Clarity through brevity.
  3. Once you have the one-liner. Show it to 10 people who are in the relevant group of people who need to understand the project to make it happen. For example, your target market, potential partners, etc. Do most of them understand it? Does it really resonate with at least one? If not, start over from step 1.
  4. Continually clarify and refine your why. Revisit it every week, or at least every month, to remind yourself what you are working towards and see if it still holds true.

Please do share – what is YOUR why?

3 Steps To Making A Great Online Course (And The 3 Mistakes That Will Stop You)

[Read all the way to the end for a chance to get a free tool you can use to validate your course ideas!]

As the “online course guy”…I am a big fan out courses (obviously). I was never a fan of old-school traditional educational systems, so I think it is fantastic that education is becoming more open-source and flexible. And it’s a great income opportunity for anyone who wants to share their expertise with other people!

That being said…

It can be quite difficult.

I say this from my experience with creating my first courses, and also having worked with dozens of people, helping them in this capacity. When you don’t know what you are doing, it’s incredibly challenging not feel overwhelmed by the process or insecure about what you end up creating. And these two feelings interact and exacerbate each other. Most people find themselves asking…

What if people don’t like what I am making?

Do I really know as much about this as I think I do?

What if it’s not good enough?

How do I know if this is actually going to sell?

So today I want to target 3 of the biggest obstacles that people encounter with online course creation:

  1. Validation – how do you know this course will succeed?
  2. Creation – how do you turn your knowledge into a product?
  3. Confidence and credibility – who are you to teach somebody?

Obstacle #1 – Validation

A typical mistake many entrepreneurs make is to focus on creating something solely because they want to make it. This causes problems for many obvious reasons, but even more so with online courses.

Sometimes it takes a visionary entrepreneur to create some innovative product or service that the average person in their market would never come up with, but this is almost never the case when it comes to education.

That is akin to telling the person who wants to learn about marketing – “I am going to teach you about chemistry instead because I like it more than marketing, and I am going to teach it in the way that I want to teach it rather than the way you want to learn it.”

Of course you could find someone who wanted to learn about chemistry as well, but you can see the potential problems you would run into with this backwards approach.

Rather than going out and building what you want, instead go discover and build what your market wants.

If you want to build a course for local business owners over 30 from Kansas, there is a good chance there is a common desire to learn a particular skill.

This is especially important because of the effect that some refer to as the “Expert Fallacy”.

This refers to the tendency of an expert to forget what it was like NOT to be an expert and to inadvertently assume others know more than they really do about that topic. So ironically enough, the expert will have a tendency to make content that is totally inappropriate for the people they are trying so hard to teach and help!

Just picture that genius professor you had in college who was actually one of your worst teachers.

Here are some simple steps to get started validating your ideas for your content and online courses:

1. Scout out what already exists:
If there are no current products on your topic, that is bad! Is there are successful products on your topic, great!

Just start looking for…

  • An innovative angle (example: I could easily write another article on this same topic, merely picking a DIFFERENT 3 steps to focus on to create online courses)
  • How you can create a product in the same area that targets a different market (example: marketing FOR ice cream shops)
  • What is the feedback on the product? What do people say it is missing? (Amazon reviews and blog comments are particularly good for this)

2. Pick your target market before your idea
It is much easier to create a product to meet the needs of a market than to find a market for the product you just created. If you create a product FOR the people you are trying to serve, exactly tailoring it to their questions and needs, that is one of the best ways to guarantee success.

So rather than deciding that you want to make a course on Facebook ads, instead realize that you are actually interested in helping local businesses with their online marketing. Now you have your target to reverse engineer the actual product by…

3. TALK to your target market
This may seem obvious, but almost no one does it. If you ask a hundred local business owners about what they want to learn about online marketing, you are almost certainly going to get some interesting answers. And the best part is that you will have a list of people to circle back to later once you create the product, and if you are creating a  product that is basically tailored to their exact needs…how can they turn that down?!

Here are some ways to get started speaking with your market:

  • Create a one question survey, and send to any email list or audience you have asking “If you had 15 minutes of my time what would you want to learn about?”
  • Create a list of 20 people you personally know in your target market, and email them this same question
  • Once you are starting to get a general idea of the direction you want to go, start posting on social media with “I am starting a free newsletter on [your general topic] message me if you want to be included!”
  • Each of these begins your list-building for this new idea, then you start polling the list you are building with questions that get more and more specific. “What would you want to learn about in 15 minutes?” becomes “what would you want to learn about guest blogging?” which becomes “what would you want to learn about sending cold emails to land guest posts?”

Obstacle #2 – Creation

Now you have some ideas about your topic, how do you actually CREATE this beast? I’ll go through your major options and what they are best suited for.

1. Recording your screen and slides

This is the bread and butter of most online courses nowadays. Create some sexy powerpoint slides, start recording your screen (with a tool like Camtasia or Screenflow) and bam! You are now creating your first content for your course.

This is best suited for talking about major concepts during core sections of your course. A good principle is to seek to “show don’t tell” whenever possible, so focus on using this for more abstract points. For anything that can be made more tangible you should use…

2. Recording your screen for walkthroughs

If I AM going to make a course on facebook advertising, then it would make sense to use the above approach to introduce the broad concepts, but then switch to recorded walkthroughs of EXACT strategies of setting up ad campaigns, finding facebook groups to target, etc.

The act of showing this rather than just abstractly talking about it on a slide is clearer and more effective, although combining both will drive the point home even more!

3. Talking head approach

Talking head style

I am a fan of this style, but it also a total pain in the ass! It can look amazing once you create a simple setup for it, but it inevitably takes much longer – you are more likely to run into problems (since now you have to start worrying about external cameras, lighting, how things LOOK as well as sound, etc.) and editing the content also usually takes longer.

On the other hand, it looks much more professional, and there are ways to do it with minimal skill and equipment. Due to the increased complexity and time involvement I typically recommend reserving this for course introductions, sales videos, etc. while relying on screen recordings (mix of slides and walkthroughs) for the core material.

4. Animation

There are some great fiverr.com gigs that allow you to cheaply create logo animations to spice things up with your content, and even some that can create customized promotional videos for you. This one is totally optional and should probably be avoided for your first course for the sake of simplicity.

5. Written material

Including some PDFs with your course is KEY. It adds an additional level of professionalism, and helps you incorporate multiple modalities to drive home important points.

Never underestimate the value of a pretty checklist which summaries some of the main points from your videos!

You can also find plenty of designers on fiverr.com to turn a word doc into a professional PDF handout for around $10 each.

Obstacle # 3 – Confidence and Credibility

There is a definition of expert that I love (although I forget the origin): an expert just means a person who knows more about a given topic than the person they are speaking with.

Think about it.

There are plenty of first-grade school teachers who are extremely mediocre at math, and yet they are fairly the “math expert” as far as those 6-year-olds are concerned.

Compare the teacher with an actual mathematician, and the “expert” status is lost.

The most productive way I have found to maintain confidence is to:

1. Always target a market who knows less about the topic than I do. Some people will inevitably know more than me out there in the world about ANY topic. But that’s fine, I am never targeting them.

2. Create insanely great content. I think people naturally feel confident when they do their best. After all, if you are doing your “best”, then literally by definition you can do no better! On top of this, I have found that students and customers care much more (on average) about quality rather than “official” credibility. As I mentioned above, often the more knowledgeable person with a PhD or MBA will actually be a worse teacher than a dynamic kid who just graduated college who puts in 110% effort.

So just remember…

1. VALIDATE your ideas

2. CREATE awesome content

3. CREDIBILITY comes from knowing more than your audience – that’s it!

Still not 100% your course will succeed? That’s why I built you the….
Download This Free Validation Tracker To Easily Evaluate Your Idea.

Diversifying Income With Ebooks (The Lazy Man’s Way)

I’ve had a popular course on Udemy for some time, and recently was exploring ways to leverage it further. I did some research and decided turning it into a short ebook would be a fast and worthwhile project to test out. Here are my experiences:

Two primary frameworks for creating and marketing the ebook:



Note: Scott’s a pretty cool dude with good content – I’d recommend following his blog.

Creating the ebook

My starting materials were very different than the post above, but it still helped give me ideas and get me started.

  1. With very specific instructions, I got a VA to go through my Udemy course and take notes on every concrete strategy. The result was a spreadsheet with columns: strategy name, 1 sentence description, 1 relevant link, and 1 relevant tool/app.
  2. Same process, but with blog posts on a similar subject.
  3. For a couple hours each morning, 3 days in a row, I organize and flesh these notes out into a short but sweet ebook.
  4. Used a fiverr gig to get a cover for 5 bucks.
  5. Add an upsell into the Udemy course, and an opt-in bribe. Either way I will be able to stay in touch with them (Udemy announcements or email list).

Total cost: about $60

The result:

gawe223_adhd (1)








Marketing the book

  1. Used this link to do free Amazon keyword research – created title, subtitle, and book description with this info
  2. Started using a trick where you can put keywords as fellow authors on the book…but decided I didn’t want to risk getting banned
  3. Hustled to get some initial reviews. There are a million ways to do this, however some reviews don’t get approved. How did Amazon know that was my sister?! 😮
  4. Booked book categories based on lack of competition (but still relevant). My experience is that a simple switch of category can DRAMATICALLY affect rankings and organic downloads.
  5. Even with no initial traction, got up to 5 sales one day with a 99 cent pre-promotion price point
  6. Scheduled free 5 day promotion to give away to audience and to increase rankings by getting lots of downloads (currently two days left of this)
  7. Promotion strategies used so far to market free book – announcement to my students and fellow instructors, posting to relevant fb groups (free ebook promotion groups plus those related to the topic), personal social media, adding link to email signature/autoreply in gmail, and finally picking categories I could get top rankings for to ensure organic downloads.
  8. Will increase price to $2.99 when promotion ends (lowest price point with higher revenue split)
  9. I tested out hiring odesk peeps to leave reviews for 5 bucks (just to see if it would work). Don’t go this route. Obviously this is somewhat “black hat”, and iIf you are looking to get some extra reviews in ethically ambiguous ways, just reach out to people posting free books in the free ebook fb groups, and offer to do a review exchange. Or better yet have a VA take care of this.

adhd ebook sales

Note: today is August 17, and these reports have a 1 day delay, so the graph shows zero downloads for today. There will likely be another 400 or so downloads that show up tomorrow. I will update the post with final results once the promotion ends.

Current results:

  • 5 reviews
  • Didn’t track upsells into course well – oops!
  • 12 subscribers
  • Average of 2 sales per day pre-promotion
  • 1419 downloads and counting first 3 days of promotion
  • Hovering between #1 and #2 in 3 different book categories (even though you actually pick 2, a 3rd category keeps showing?)
  • Ranked 449th overall in the free store – not back for a book made with 60 bucks and minimal work!

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how rankings change once the free promotion ends, and how many sales/day I get. Even if I get 1-2 sales per day consistently, that’s 60-120 bucks per month, not including leads and upsells or the value of credibility. The financial results aren’t mind-blowing, but was still a fun and useful experiment. I think there is also potential for it to do quite a bit better than that as well. The optimistic goal is 5+ sales per day, as that’s 300+/month passive. Now if I every want to self-publish a full-length book and really make money with it, I will know how to market on Amazon. Plus I get to technically call myself an “author” now for fun 😉

Biggest Lesson Learned

Above all else, the category and keyword research matters most. I actually ran a test right before I launched this book 100% outsourcing a book purely based on gaps in the Amazon marketplace. Some people make 6 figures per year with this approach. I picked a topic with high search volume, low-competition, then outsourced a short book on the topic for 55 bucks for book plus cover. Then I set up the free promotion and waited to see what happened. Since I picked the targets well, it is still one of the results for “HIV”, with minimal effort beyond the initial positioning. Note: I know the topic is odd, but again it was only based on the fact that there’s lots of traffic for this term, and the ranking books are terrible. So if you want to go out and write an awesome book on HIV and AIDs and went through the marketing process above, you would make bank.

Want to check out my book that I ran through this entire marketing process?

My book can be found here for free through Monday. If you enjoyed this post, it would be awesome if you could download and review my book (more reviews = better rankings). Tons of the random people who are downloading it have also contacted me to tell me how much they liked it. You can review it here and help me keep it at #1!

If you want to see the Udemy course I based it on, you can check that out here.

P.S. As one final comment to anyone who is looking to get into the infoproduct game – what you put out  doesn’t have to be amazing to truly help people. That Udemy course above was filmed on iphones in my parents basement when I was fresh out of college, with some edits thrown in by a friend of mine. Yet the course has been taken by thousands of people, made tons of money (by my standards anyways), and I regularly get messages from people telling me how much it positively impacted their life.

That’s the power of putting yourself out there and marketing the shit out of it 😉

If you are looking to create or market your own online course, just contact me and I will work with you to create a successful, profitable Udemy course , generating you continuous authority and profit.

P.P.S. If you are looking to find good niches to outsource kindle books for, a good tool to do this is KDSpy – it tells you which niches to pick, you outsource the book, spend an hour or two marketing it, then get 50-150/month passive income per book that you do this for. Some people do this with hundreds of books and make thousands per month.