Okay, so let’s have a conversation about online education and courses for creatives.
Prefaced by saying this: Six months into my business, I hit a wall where I couldn’t take on the amount of 1-on-1 inquiries I was getting. I also realized that a lot of sweet potential clients were trying to outsource copywriting, and inadvertently outsourcing the psychology of sales in the process. It turns out that’s pretty important as a CEO, so I packed up my program into my signature Copywriting for Creatives program. So yup, I have a “course” or whatever. It’s my baby. I love it. I love the women (and like, 1 dude—hi, Tyler!) inside the community. They give me life, they get my best.
We also make a chunk of sales from it, which is part of how we fuel paying a team, paying me when I’m creating free content that doesn’t bring us direct sales, and pay the team when we’re working overtime for a client or pro bono (free/family/ministry) opportunity. So, I have a course and we generate solid income from it as part of my business model. Just wanted you to know before you read, ;).
But there are a LOT of courses.
Be an entrepreneur for 6 days and immediately your Facebook feed looks worlds different from your best girlfriend’s. Right!?
She’s getting hit with ads for Away’s new luggage line (gorgeous, btw).
You’re getting hit with ads for a webinar or free challenge.
You listen to a podcast and that person has a course. And then the next interviewee has a course.
So many perspectives, so many offerings.
“It leaves me wondering which is the best, the right, or the wisest investment of my time and money?” <– my friend Kaylen texted me. So good.
It’s exhausting. As my friend Rachel articulated on her blog, it can feel like the hustle or the lay-on-a-beach-and-hit-multiple-six-figures-while-you-sip-a-daquiri life of an entrepreneur is juussstttt within arm’s reach and you’re lame for not getting there sooner.
It’s not. It takes a lot of grind, but it’s a good grind. It’s fun. James Wedmore is one of my fave voices on this.
And six-figures isn’t EASY to hit, per se, but given that most business owners take home less than 50% of the business’s profit, a six-figure business—because no, that’s not their take-home, and that’s important to note—doesn’t mean they’re rolling in money. For some reason, until that clicked, I thought “six-figure businesses” MADE six-figures. I didn’t get the different in profit and revenue at first (I know, I know.). And some seven-figure business owners I know and learn from live very, very financially prudent lives.
But I still believe in online courses.
I believe in high-touch ones.
I believe in low-touch, don’t-even-talk-to-the-creator courses.
I believe in 5-figure masterminds where I message with the founder (It took me a month of “sleeping on it” to decide about the investment, I was that terrified).
I believe in books, courses, and podcasts where I’ll never meet the educator … ever.
I believe in non-pitch webinars.
I believe in pitch webinars, because, hey, I kinda like getting to have a free mindset shift. ????♀️ And if I like the leader, I’ll put some dollars down to learn more from them.
I believe in education as an entrepreneur.
And I believe that is going to look different for every entrepreneur because we have different learning styles as humans.
Sometimes, the trend is your friend! Today, I want to pick a minute at:
- Why we still need online courses in our education diet as creatives
- How to pick good online courses as a creative (when to take them and when to invest in 1-on-1 training)
- How to survive once you’re in one.
I KNOW it’s exhausting, but at the same time, I hope I can speak into why we can’t hate on it too much—we’ve just got to survive wisely!
I need a business education because I didn’t study business in school
I wasn’t a business major, and never even considered it. I had NO idea how to run a business—I even told my friend Becca the other day thinking of starting a business that this was literally NEVER a goal of mine. I cared as much about entrepreneurship 3 years ago as I did the new OPI color collection. Um ………. I didn’t.
I didn’t have successful lemonade stands growing up.
My little sis and I played Fancy Hotel (don’t ask) and balla-nastics (a 2-day, short-lived ballet-gymnastics hybrid studio in our playroom started in 1996 after the Atlanta Olympics) but I think that’s as far as my entrepreneur vein went.
But here I am, a passionate business owner who sees other women come alive doing what they love to do …
… and the way that manifests is that I’m an entrepreneur.
So back to courses.
I need continuing education to grow my copywriting and calligraphy skills, but also to figure out how on earth to do this whole run a business thing.
And the online education for creatives FEELS saturated, right?
But … is it?
The other day a photographer friend from home and I were chatting She’s deciding whether to go on her own or work in a studio.
“So, you know like, online courses?” I asked.
“Um, not really. What’s that mean?”
Hm. Good reminder. Those of us who feel online education saturation feel that way because we are in a bubble.
“I just want to remind you that the reason it appears so is because they’re really good at targeting people who are looking to start and grow businesses. So you start to see a lot of them. You don’t get in front of the people who do underwater basket weaving because you’re not interested in it.” -James Wedmore
So, if you get hit with ads about business … it’s because you’ve told Mark Zuckerburg’s team that you’re into business.
They own the Facebook space, they get to sell ads to people who can pay the prices.
They use certain copy IN those ads because the analytics show it works.
The online education space is only growing, and I don’t think that should scare us. I think about this a lot. It’s kept me up at night before. My highest-paid offer is working 1-on-1 with women to get their product into the hands of a woman who really, really needs it … launch copywriting for courses. And I don’t think that’s icky. I don’t think that’s slimey. In February, my friend Ry Schwartz talked about how copywriters have an opportunity to change lives doing something we’re good at—writing marketing words—and honestly, you could have heard a pin drop.
(????Probably my face when he was talking)
It was moving.
Honest selling feels good, actually. You helped someone, and they paid you a fair price to get that help.
I’ve raised my hand at conferences 2x in the past 4 months to ask what education saturation means for the industry (and got answered by James Wedmore at Amy Porterfield’s live event and by Ry Schwartz and Joanna Wiebe at the Copywriter Club #IRL.) This article from fellow copywriter Hilary Weiss blew up on Medium, and rightly so.
Here’s what expert responses boil down to.
Online education is going nowhere, they say. Here’s some more research on that. The mechanism to deliver it will change, but entrepreneurs and creatives still need education.
And I agree.
Workers will always need to learn how to get better at their craft.
How We Learn as Creatives & Entrepreneurs
For our friends who don’t work for themselves, educational processes are still in place.
Laymans terms: You gots to get trained on your job.
I only worked in big companies (one Time Inc. publication, one international women’s organization, one mid-size agency, and one restaurant start-up) from around 2009 through 2015, but we had:
- Lunch ‘n’ learns
- Mentor/mentee relationships
- Conferences and workshops
- Book club/company reading programs
- Off-site classes I was required to go to
- Off-site classes I asked if the company could pay for (Hi, General Assembly!)
- In-company education where I was trained on a job
Online courses, I’d argue, are a digital version of a lot of these. When we work from home in yoga pants with a cold cup of coffee and maybe a glass of wine around 4:55 p.m., it’s the same.
There’s still a lot of education as we learn how in the sam hill to run a business.
My sweet, sweet client Jeannie Sullivan is a learning strategy expert. She’s seriously got the coolest job: she teaches female entrepreneurs their learning style, so they can a) learn! and b) TEACH! I totally recommend her quiz so you can learn how you teach.
For example, my friend Kaitlin at The School of Styling hates the idea of teaching with slides and videos—she is a classic example of a workshop-style teacher.
I hands-down know that I like to learn by reading and taking notes, preferably color coded and with all the fun colored markers and stickers I can get. 🙂
Part of being an entrepreneur is knowing how you tick, and knowing how you learn is part of it!
And here’s how (I think) you figure out what to invest and when.
How to Pick Online Education
My friend Christina said it so well one time. She called it Barnes & Noble syndrome. You know when you’re at the bookstore, you flip over and peruse the back cover a book, think “I WANT THAT LIFE” and buy the book, only to never read it?
So, that’s what not to do. 😉 But we all do it.
Usually, when I buy courses online now, they are SUPER specific. They teach me (or someone on my team) how to do one thing. I buy it because I either can’t do it or I’m not doing it—and know that if I pay, I’ll finally do it.
They range in price, from $97 to $2,997, but they fit a specific need that I’ve gotta get help with. I need to have a better attitude about Instagram. I need to speed up my digitizing by about 3 hours. I need to learn how to A/B split test as a copywriter. My client’s launching a membership site and I’ve gotta learn how those work.
Then, I pay for more high-touch things for coaching. Sure, we dig into details, but a lot of the coaching is for accountability and kick-in-the-pants strategy. (I tend to get in my own way a lot)
When I’m trying to figure out if this is a worthy business investment or not, here are the questions I ask:
- What’s it going to take to make it back—1 client? 2 client? 3 sales? 1 extra session?
- Will this work for the way I like to learn? Are their a few different ways for me to consume the content (transcripts, videos, audio, live trainings, homework assignments?)?
- Did they get results for themselves and others in the category I want to grow in?
- Ex. If it’s a sales/marketing/business thing, I’m looking for revenue. Can they tell me stats? What does her business bring in? I don’t really want to learn marketing from someone that makes $40k a year, because we’ve got a team to pay and I need to make what my old job paid … I need to make a little more to contribute to our family bills.
- Ex. If I want to grow in like, painting, does she teach others to paint? Did they enjoy this? Did they make progress?
- I ALWAYS read testimonials!
- Is their regular teaching meaty? Do I like the way they teach?
- Do I want to think like them about this topic? Careful here!
- Do they REALLY care about their students? Am I getting a sleazy vibe?
- How long will this take me to finish? Do I have time for this?
- Is this something I need to learn as the CEO, or is a better investment to pay someone to do this?
- Is there a community or some way for me to get feedback?
I DO think you have to think about this well and look beyond the shiny Instagram photos because 95% of course builders fail. “Most online course builders don’t achieve anything close to the success they’re after,” Danny Iny said [source].
- 73% of course builders fall short of their student registration goals.
- 74% of course builders charge less than they’d really want to for their courses.
- Course building challenges abound: marketing, technology, and time are the front-runners
So, you’ve gotta look carefully.
Invest in courses that get results!
Hold Yourself Accountable: Methods I Use
Okay, YES. Sometimes, it’s the course or course creator that’s the problem. We got tricked into buying something that’s pretty fluff or surface level. ????
But, sometimes … we’re the problem. ????
We’re the one that doesn’t finish it. We’re the one that doesn’t apply it.
Online courses are just like training from a mentor in a corporate cubicle: at some point, it’s up to you, homeslice. Someone’s show you the ropes, now you gotta apply it.
My biggest learning in 2 years? The transformation is in the transaction. When I pay, I get it done. I’ve bought courses before knowing that I will not do that thing unless I pay. I put skin in the game and I get feisty about making it back.The transformation is in the transaction. Click To Tweet
I got access to my friend Jenna’s entire Instagram course as the copywriter for it … but I bought it. “WHAT did you just do,” she texted me when my name shot through. I told her if I didn’t buy it, I’d never actually take it and learn to be okay with Instagram.
And this is where I can give you the most tips about getting through them. ????
I mention a few resources in the video, and wanted to make sure I link them here—plus a few more!
I also talked about some of the tips I do to get through a course, and here they are!
- I’ll buy a new pack of markers at the grocery store or new cheap notebook
- I’ll light a candle ONLY when I’m taking the course, so it’s kinda something (lame, I know) to look forward to
- I outline the modules/lessons in Trello, so I have to check off a lesson AND it’s homework before moving on
- The minute I buy a course, I put it in my Company Guidebook Trello board so I don’t ever forget about it
- I reference courses a LOT. Having the logins handy makes it easy for me to run back and check on something I forgot!
- This is also where they live as a grow a team, so when we grow, I can direct a teammate to a course if it would help them with their job
And if it helps, here’s a screenshot of that Company Guidebook board. I put EVERY course I sign up for in here, so I don’t lose them. You can grab a template of it for free, too!
CONFESSION: I’ve always been a nerd ???? , and foster education, dream big, and words matter are 3 of my core values. Education has helped me a lot, because like I said, I LITERALLY knew nothing about entrepreneurship. My parents aren’t entrepreneurs, we don’t really have any in the family, and I had to figure out quickly where to learn how to do this.
Go ahead—celebrate how you’re serving the world & making a dent in your corner of the universe
Okay, comment below. I want to hear from you! How do you learn in our industry? What are your thoughts on courses? ????????