Ten Lessons I’ve Learnt from Selling On-line Courses…

I know I’m not the only one to have been tempted by the notion of earning passive revenue e.g. from books or on-line courses. Have you ever had that dream?

I’m writing this blog post from the above poolside in Mallorca, Spain where I’m spending a wonderful week with friends, reflecting on my business and writing my next book.

A few days ago the excitement hit me again–that I’m only able to do this because I’ve re-designed my business around my desire to be able to work from anywhere in the world. I don’t think I could spend all my time travelling as I did in earlier back-packer years, because I love my life at home now too. But being able to have fun exploring other places, with those close to me, is one of the things I cherish most. Had I not decided to break from the traditional model of exchanging time for money (in either a job or business), I wouldn’t be here today.

What difference would generating a good passive income make to you?

I know you’ve got plenty talents and knowledge others could greatly benefit from, and the digital on-line world opens up all sorts of opportunities for you to monetise this while serving people around the world.

After years of wanting to generate passive revenue, yet doing nothing to make it happen, I took leap in 2011.

Having delivered training courses for years (and taught many trainers how to deliver great training solutions), creating on-line courses seemed like a natural progression for me. It’s been one of the best business decisions I’ve ever made. 

Yes it’s been a step learning curve but I hired a great mentor and within a few months I remember feeling so excited to watch people signing up to my first product–while I was at the airport, heading off on a skiing holiday. I still get the same buzz every time someone buys one of my products or books. It’s so rewarding to know my work is touching the lives of others all round the world.

But there’s also another reality about the on-line digital world many people don’t talk openly about –that contrary to the meaning of ‘passive’ revenue, generating good levels of ongoing income from books and on-line products usually takes a huge amount of investment (time and money) too.

Without doubt, they are great ways to leverage your time and money. The potential upside is limitless, especially if you offer a range of books, products and services there is a market for, and at various price points.

But these are not passive income strategies until you’ve got to the stage you’re generating enough money to pay a team of people to help generate sales, or run you business. Even those who seem to make it quickly, have usually put in a lot of behind the scenes activity before they were known.

I’ve met so many people on my journey who have lost lots of money, got stuck and given up. Or get to a point they are so exhausted by the whole experience, they walk away.

I know what that feels like–to wonder whether it’s time to give up. I’ve been there.

If you read my blog regularly you’ll know that while there have been great times, in February this year I realised I’d fallen out of love with my business.

Thankfully I was able to notice the warning signs, and take remedial action before I walked away, hence why I’m taking time out at the moment.

It’s only through taking this break that I’m able to sit back and contemplate what worked well, what caught me out, and the changes I’ll be making to my business going forward.

And that’s the reason for this blog. To share the key lessons I’ve learnt from creating and selling on-line courses, in case some of my experiences will help you:

LESSON ONE: Earning a good living through on-line courses is definitely possible 

I love knowing that I’m helping more people around the world than I would had I not decided to offer on-line training courses or write my book.

Financially, it’s been an up and down experience–I’ve had some fantastic months and others where I’ve sold very little. But overall it’s been a great and rewarding experience which is why it will continue to be part of my business mix. My income used to be wholly dependent upon trading my time for money. Now I continue to earn an increasing income despite wording fewer hours. And while this is not completely passive, it feels good again!

I also know plenty of lovely people doing really well financially selling ‘wisdom’ products, many of whom are now great friends as well as business partners. These wonderful souls have helped me expand my view of what’s possible.

LESSON TWO: It may take longer than you think but it’s still worth it…

I remember when I first started out I thought and hoped I’d be making passive income in the on-line world in around six months–so I could spend more time doing humanitarian work.

If you’re already clear on your product/service offering and there is demand for it, it’s certainly possible to generate on-line income fairly quickly. Within four months of starting to learn how to do this, I’d made several thousand pounds from sales of my first on-line course. I remember at one stage noticing that while I’d halved my working hours, I’d only experienced a small dip in my income which was certainly an indication things were going in the right direction.

Please also be aware that there is more to making money from creating your wisdom product–the extent to which you make money from your creations, will also depend on how you market them. Not just at the outset, but on an ongoing basis.

LESSON THREE: Design your own success model

Most people teaching you how to create or market on-line products, are teaching you what worked for them, but this isn’t necessarily the best way forward for you.

Initially I copied what I was taught (especially in relation to on-line marketing) as it was all so new and I didn’t have discernment to know how to adapt what I was learning and still get good results.

But when your actions are not aligned to your truth, values or skills, this is obvious to others may not get the results you hope for anyway. Whenever I trust my instincts and do what feels right, things work out much better than if I try to do something I don’t agree with one hundred percent.

I know I could have made a LOT more money in the on-line world had I been happy to adopt manipulative sales tactics used by many in the industry. For me these clashed with too many of my values I wasn’t prepared to comprise on.

I’m happily mindful I may loose potential clients because of this but I consciously choose to work with people who make their decisions to buy from a place of desire and inspiration, rather than fear or scarcity. I find those who sign up with me share similar values.

There is no right or wrong. What’s important is that you’re clear on your personal style, ethics and values, and stay true to these in the way you create and promote your on-line courses.

LESSON FOUR: Focus, focus, focus

There are so many things that can distract you in the on-line world. Especially if a lot of what you are learning is new, and you need to learn how to both create and market on-line products.

What I’ve learnt to do is to focus on creating one product at a time, and monetising this before moving on to the next idea; to build your business taking small steps; and master one marketing strategy at a time. 

I’m a big picture girl who gets excited by huge goals, and has lots of ideas. But the downside of this is that I can easily be distracted and make things overly complex, which costs me time and money. Focus, focus, focus is a mantra I now tell myself frequently to manage my ‘firework’ mind…

What tendencies do you have that could distract you from your goals?

LESSON FIVE: Keep course content concise and actionable

My first online course was called Jumpstart Your Business, designed to help business owners put all the marketing foundations in place so they could and attract more of their ideal clients.

Originally it was a ten module course I’d run several times as a workshop, and so I knew if people implemented what I taught, they would sign up more clients. But I’d also been advised to keep on-line courses to between four to eight modules–so not as to overwhelm people, and to increase the likelihood they’d implement what you teach. From a business perspective this also means you can offer a series of courses that clients will work through.

So what was I to do with the extra modules in my course?

I hate to hold back on information I think can help others, and so embracing the ‘less is more’ principle for on-line courses hasn’t been easy. But now I’ve got much better at breaking down each step into smaller more digestible bites and to package these into a series of courses, so participants find it easier to implement what they are learning and so ultimately experience better outcomes.

LESSON SIX: Keep your systems and processes simple

I am so grateful that when I first learnt how to create online courses I was taught how to keep the process of creating, selling and delivering them simple. Doing this gives you a chance to test your materials, processes and demand for them; to measure customer transformation and satisfaction; and to establish whether you enjoy delivering and marketing them –BEFORE you invest too much.

I know I made some costly mistakes such as signing up to expensive software packages I didn’t need because some of my teachers recommended them. As a consequence some aspects of my business became overly complex and I had less time to market what I’d created, thus restricting the the impact I as having and profitability of my business.

LESSON SEVEN: People get better results when you offer an interactive experience

The idea of a complete passive income can be very appealing and that was the way I’d intended to build my business. Until the end of 2014, when European Finance Ministers introduced new sales tax legislation that applied to the sale of purely digital products to EU consumers, including the sale of home-study course, ebooks, audios, practical guides etc.

I’m all for paying my taxes but at the time it was an overly complex regime with no obvious software solutions to help calculate and process payments. And so I decided to pull all my on-line products until I decided what to do.

While frustrating at the time, I’m now grateful to the tax ministers as they helped make me realise that more people generally complete courses (and thus get better results) when there is an element of interaction. I also find I enjoy my on-line business more when I’m interacting and supporting those going through them.

LESSON EIGHT: Consider how you’ll sell your on-line courses from the outset

There’s no point in being the worlds best kept secret–with a great on-line course, that’s set up to receive clients but no one knows it’s there.

How you intend to market and sell your on-line courses has a direct impact on a whole range of different things–the name of your product, the price (e.g. if you’re going to use Facebook adverts or go out through joint venture partners, you may need to mark up your prices by 25-50%) and systems you’ll need to scale up to cope with high volumes of clients.

LESSON NINE: Remember to remain connected to the nature of being human

It’s only through taking this break I’ve realised one of the main reasons I was struggling earlier this year was that despite having a team of people around to help with the technical side of things, I felt stuck in a ‘false’ on-line world. Disconnected from the ‘real’ world.

As human beings we’re not made to sit at a computer all day or to mainly communicate with people through a screen or social media! I know these mediums have brought great benefits, but human beings are social creatures by nature (to varying degrees), and it’s healthy to physically connect with other people and the natural world.

I’m now making a point of spending far less time on my computer and social media. Instead I’m spending more time meeting up with people locally, being creative and enjoying  outside in nature–phew it’s a joy. I know off-line activities will form a greater part of my business in the future.

LESSON TEN: Learn from (and employ) those who know what to do

No matter what stage you’re at with your business, if you want to reach more people and enjoy a more profitable business, then packaging your knowledge into books, on-line courses or products could be a great way to go. However also be aware that learning how to making money from on-line courses is a huge learning curve.

I would definitely have given up along time ago had I not had great support from business mentors, peer communities, mastermind groups and technical specialists–all helping me work out how to pull it all together. I’ve also taken numerous on-line courses (on related topics) so I could learn and experience a whole range of ways to deliver my on-line courses.

If you’re interested in learning how to create on-line courses, how would you like to do this?

The easy or hard way?

I prefer making things as easy as possible which includes learning from those who know how to do, what you’d love to do.

If you’d like to create on-line courses that sell, this LIVE on-line fundraising training could help:

  • Title: The Quickest and Easiest Way to Create On-line Courses
  • Date: Monday 23rd May  (with a recording)
  • Time: 7pm UK / 8pm Europe / 2pm US Eastern / 11am US Pacific

This is a live interactive training session from which you’ll have a step-by-step guide to creating on-line courses. Click HERE to find out more.

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – please do share your comments below.

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Alisoun Mackenzie is The Compassionate Business Mentor, Author, and Speaker who inspires business owners and social entrepreneurs to turn their passions into profits and make a difference in the world. 

She is also the author of two Amazon Best Selling books Heartatude, The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success and Give to Profit: How to Grow Your Business by Supporting Charities Social Causes.

Alisoun is also the founder of The Heartabiz Hub a business network and training academy and has written the following free ebooks:

  • The 9 Secrets to Signing Up Clients Without Selling (click here)
  • 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (click here)
  • 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business  (click here)

You can connect with Alisoun here:

  • Alisoun Mackenzie Facebook Fanpage (for tips on authentic living and business mastery) – click HERE
  • The Heartabiz Hub Facebook Fanpage (for details about our courses and events) – click HERE
  • Give To Profit Facebook Fanpage (tips on supporting charities and social causes) – click HERE


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