It’s that time of year again….the time of year where a bunch online courses launch that teach you how to create an online business that will give you all the money and freedom and toes in the sand driving convertibles and working from your laptop that will make your wildest dreams come true.
If your inbox is filling up like mine, and you see the date coming near to purchase and you’re wondering if you should, I’ve got some thoughts on these courses to help you navigate these waters.
I’ve done these courses. I have an online business. I work at home, although if I was to walk outside it would be toes in the snow, not sand.
But I also see people put really expensive courses and masterminds on their credit cards, and they don’t have a plan as to what they are going to get out of them.
If you’re thinking about starting an online business, or any business really, here are some things to consider:
1. The first question to ask yourself is what your skills are, and what will you get out of the course? I don’t know of any course that will take you from zero to everything you need to start making sales. Some of them teach marketing. Some of them teach tech. Make sure that the course really meets your needs for the next thing to grow your business. Make sure you’re taking a course that will help you with some gaps in your knowledge. If you’re taking a marketing course, know that you are still going to need to budget for a website (which is $200-5,000 or more), a way to drive traffic to your blog (free engagement with Instagram if it fits your market, paid traffic like Google or Facebook or both) and then a back-end system to actually sell your products and manage your email (after much research, I went with Ontraport and I love them. I later found out that Infusionsoft, Ontraport’s biggest competitor, has a blanket ban on services like credit repair, even though business wise I’m very well behaved.)
2. Shop the bonuses: A lot of big launches will have a lot of affiliate partners promoting the launch, and throwing in their goods to sweeten the deal (and affiliates generally make 50% for digital courses, just FYI. They’ve got a lot of incentive to email you 4x a day.)
For example, if you know tech is your weakest side and you don’t have a huge budget to pay someone else to do a website and everything for you, look for someone who is offering tech-based bonuses. If you want a community, look for someone who has a supportive community you can join.
I’ve always found this a bit weird since so many of these businesses (mostly) women I see promoting these courses spend a lot of time branding themselves as premium. Some of them talking about raising their prices all the time. Then they turn around and once a year turn all their premium products into bonuses for someonelse’s course.
3. Know all the parts of an online business. Even if you are a solopreneur (for now) you need to be able to know and at least delegate all the moving pieces. There is what you do for a business and what you offer (coaching, service based like credit repair like I do, product based, etc) and then there is also the business of running your business. Even if you have the budget to hire out parts of it, you want to at least know the basics, like how to post your own blog, send an email to your list, etc.
Besides the unique gift/skill/talent that you bring to the marketplace, there is also figuring out your target market, copywriting, building a website, having your legal agreements in place, and then specialty skills like how you are going to drive traffic to your business. Is it webinars? Facebook ads? Facebook ads to lead to webinars? Affiliate partners?
Are you going to need to hire someone to do your website for 4k? Can you piece one together with something like Beaver Builder? (I just did the new WGC site with it and it was easy peasy….and I’m only sort of techy)
If you know all the pieces, then you can pick courses where you need to learn a skill to advance your business, rather than getting sucked into the scarcity mentality or buying into the power of what Kelly Diels calls the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand. I’ve been reading a lot of Kelly’s work lately and thinking about how the promise of so many of these courses is that you will wind up as the Ideal Woman (or man). My ideal woman weighs significantly less than I do now, has glowing, taunt skin, and doesn’t need as much as sleep as I do, and doesn’t lose her temper nearly as much I do. Oh, and she never eats sugar or carbs and always goes to yoga. I bring this up because so many of these courses have this as the underlying promise. It’s stitched into the marketing and the message. There are triggers built in that cause us to buy with our hearts, not our heads, and it can lead to a lot of unfinished courses.
4. If you’re on a budget, you can pick up a lot of it for free. Spare yourself the maxed out credit card. It’s almost never worth it. The model in online businesses these days is that people give a lot of value up front. This means that there are mini-courses, free checklists, and webinars galore that you can sign up for that will get you most of the way there if you have the time to watch/do them. Be a sponge. Attend as many as you can. You will learn a lot (and sometimes things other people are charging thousands of dollars for) and then you can choose who you want to work with when you have money flowing in.
5. Sometimes, the best thing about the course is the community. By sometimes, I mean almost always the best thing about a course is who you meet and connect with. Are you going to get access to all the alums of the course, or will just be in your own cohort? Both have their benefits. If it’s all the alum, those groups can get so big and so inane that many people will check out, especially if the groups aren’t monitored for content.
I’ll also add a word of caution here, especially for high-end masterminds. Sometimes, the unspoken intentions of the mastermind is to build relationships with people who will be affiliate partners for each other. The guise could be anything from working on childhood traumas in Costa Rica to going to adult camp and exploring play, but there are often many people who are there to look for business buddies to help them to the next level. If you’re not a “big deal” online yet, you might not be as sought out as other more well-known people. I was in a mastermind once where I didn’t realize some of the women were just there for strategic alliances. I didn’t have an online business yet, and I was excluded in a way that left me hurt and confused. Sometimes it’s just a natural thing that happens, and other times it’s very intentional. I’m not saying the masterminds aren’t helpful or worth it, but it’s good to know this vein is always there as well. Make sure you’ve got some people in the mastermind groups that are in the same place as you in business. You want to learn from people who are blazing trail, but you don’t want feel left out if you’re the only one trying to figure out how to launch your first $47 passive income product when everyone else is making 100k a year. Which leads me to my next thing….
6. The model always matters. When you’re thinking about starting an online business, your most likely looking for a way to stop trading time for dollars. You want to build a business that has multiple revenue streams, and not all of them are 1 on 1. If you want to be a coach, how many clients can you see in a week and not lose your mind? How many can you see that feels sustainable? Enlivening even? Don’t pick a model that is going to leave you wishing for a 9-5. For example, I do credit repair, but I know from speaking to hundreds of clients that it’s not just about getting negative things removed, it’s also about teaching people how to add positive credit back into their score, how to get the best score for a mortgage, and maybe most importantly, how to deal with the emotions around money. In the next few months, I’ll be rolling out more products and services that focus on those areas.
When I say the model always matters, in the back of your mind, be looking at how people are building their businesses. Sign up for the webinars and the free challenges and take notes. For example, some people run Facebook ads to a product that costs between $7-27 dollars, and that revenue covers the costs of their ads. They know if they can get you to buy one thing from them, you will likely buy another. So they use the revenue from the “trip wire” product to pay for their Facebook ads, but it’s a wash financially and they make their money with other products, like a $250-500 course, or a $3000 group coaching program, or a $35 a month membership site. There are lots of ways to reach six figures online.
I also think that by dissecting other people’s models, you can figure out one that works for you, how you want your business to feel, and your ethics. If you can avoid it with some research, I suggest not starting with a business model that someone else likes but makes you feel slimy when you apply it your business. You can always change it, but the more you notice how the industry works, the more you can craft your own model that fits you.
7. Follow people who know their $%&* and provide good information. Follow people who open up their talk about the taboo business things no one else speaks about. Even if starting an online business is a gleam in your eye, start following great teachers who can help you navigate all the waters. Take your time to learn about the tools and systems that go into an online business and you will save yourself a pile of heartache and money or both later.
One of the best people I follow is Nathalie Lussier. I read every email Nathalie sends. I follow her first on Facebook. I use a lot of her products to run my business. I like so many things about Nathalie. First, she’s an introvert (I’m technically an extrovert) and she has built a successful business without putting her daily breakfast on Instagram. I find this admirable. Second, she and her husband Robin have created programs and massively helpful tech tools that set the industry standard.
Nathalie was one of the first people who broke some of the taboo topics about how much you should expect to pay affiliates, what tech tools you need, and helpful reviews like what’s the best customer service software.
I’m a member of Nathalie’s Heartquarters Program, which has a bunch of mini courses on all things tech, including Facebook ads, search engine optimization (SEO), Kindle publishing and 15 other courses, as well as a Facebook community. Heartquarters Members also get access to hosting with WPEngine, and Girl Scouts Honor, they are the best website hosting company I have ever used. To host with WPEngine with the level of features you get through Nathalie, it would cost you about $50 a month. Makes the decision to go through Heartquarters a piece of cake. I am not kidding you, when I call WPEngine (which I did a lot moving my new site), the people who answer the phone can actually help you. Like….they have been trained. I know, it’s a weird concept, but it’s true.
If you signed up for my free guide on my website, you probably signed up through Nathalie’s polite pop up, Pop Up Ally. It was the first software purchase I ever made for my business. I knew I wanted a polite way to engage with people, and wouldn’t you know, Google is now reducing ranking optimization for people who use other kinds of pop ups that aren’t time delayed. Nathalie for the win.
Her tools are easy to use and they come with lots of support. Nathalie’s husband Robin once logged into my WordPress site when I broke something on Pop Up Ally and fixed it. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that.
8. Look through the slick marketing. Talk to other people that have done the course. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) guide your decisions.
Love and coursework,