Don’t create that course! 3 essential tips before you rush to leverage

When a client asks for help with writing her course content, there is a question I always ask: Why?

Why are you creating this course?

And why now?

All too often, the answer is that a friend, or a coach, or someone in her mastermind, told her she should create a course or a membership site… and well, it seemed like good advice.

After all, she wants to get out of that time-for-money trap. She definitely has expertise to share and planned to create digital products eventually… and even though she has only been in this business a little while, she should just get over herself and do it. Right?

The trouble is, deep down in her gut, she feels shakey on it.

I’m not talking about the fear-tinged-with-excitement and ‘Can I really do this?’ kind of shakey. That’s normal and natural when you’re putting yourself out there to try something new and big.

I’m talking about the gnawing, nagging feeling in your gut that you’re truly not ready for this. The kind of niggling worry that keeps you up at night, or makes you feel a bit nauseous if you linger on it too long. A growing sense of dread that this really isn’t the direction you should be heading, but you’re too far down the track to stop now.

If anything is likely to tip you into a cavern of self-doubt, it’s rushing to create leverage from a fledgling business. If you’re not clear on your message, if you don’t know-in-your-bones what sets you apart, what you stand for and how you transform your clients’ lives or work, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone that they should buy your high-end course or sign up to your membership. And if you have a tiny subscriber list, the task is going to be even harder.

Of course you will find stories on Skite – sorry – Facebook of entrepreneurs who built a course straight out of the gate and turned a six-figure launch in their first six months. Yes it happens, but arguably less frequently than all those sponsored posts may suggest.

The online space is evolving at a rapid rate, and what worked for them two years ago isn’t necessarily going to work now. There’s also a lot more competition and buyers are becoming more discerning. Even if your customers are interested, they won’t necessarily purchase the first time they see your course. Instead they’ll stake you out for a while and get to know your work better.

Many entrepreneurs are suffering from course and membership site-fatigue. Sometimes it feels like everyone is creating a course, whether it makes sense to do so, or not. Plenty of entrepreneurs no longer bother signing up for three-video ‘free trainings’, because they know what’s coming next. They’re done paying the so-called “newbie tax” of buying expensive courses that just sit on the hard drive and never get finished. They’ve learned the hard way that if you’re not clear on what you’re doing and where you are going, a course is never going to be the magic answer. So they’ve banned themselves from signing up for any more programmes until they complete the ones they’ve already paid for – and in most cases, that’s highly unlikely to happen.

The same goes for membership sites. $15 or $30 a month may not seem like much… but it soon adds up. By the time you’ve signed up for two or three subscriptions you barely have time to access, you soon realise you don’t need – or want – any more.

It’s also important to understand that while courses and membership sites may be leveraged income, they are not passive income. Both require a huge investment of your time both upfront and on an ongoing basis. You’ll not only have to develop the course materials and potentially run the Facebook group, but you’ll need to invest considerable time, effort and money in marketing.

Most people who have launched a course or a programme will tell you that the launch process can be exhausting and all-consuming. Depending on your strategy you may have to create free training videos, web design, a membership site, webinars, autoresponders and Facebook ads… the list goes on.

If you think that sounds like a lot to manage or learn, you would be right. A successful launch involves an enormous number of ‘moving parts’ and if you don’t have a team to back you up (or maybe even if you do) you’re going to be working flat out.

Another consideration is cash flow. When you’re starting out, it’s important to create the consistent cash flow that will allow your business to grow. If you build your business around a course or membership, you can end up stuck in a cycle where huge chunks of your annual income depend on the success of your two or three launches a year. If one of your launches does not go well… you could end up in a tricky situation.

So am I saying that courses and membership sites are dead? Absolutely not. They are still a sound way to leverage your time and build a good income. But if you haven’t been online very long, you are going to have to work hard to convince your customers to purchase.

If you want your course to have longevity, if you want to build a name for yourself, if you want to create something incredibly valuable that can become a pillar of income for years to come – then don’t rush it. You need to make sure you are creating a quality product that will generate real results. Something that will stand the test of time (with a little tweaking now and then).

If you are considering creating a course or membership, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Be wary of coaches who trot out the same old cookie-cutter business models to all their clients. Not every entrepreneur is meant to be a teacher and not every area of expertise or every ideal client is a natural fit for a training course or a membership. If you need a mentor, look for someone who listens and helps you create a business that’s in tune with who you are and the way you want to work.
  2. Take the time to figure out what your business is all about. Get to know your ideal clients, discover what she truly wants and needs and how you can best deliver it to her (hint: it may not be a course). Figure out what lights you up, learn where you truly shine and identify what you’d like to delegate as soon as you can hire some help. Set some boundaries around your time and the way you do business with clients. And most of all, refine your message, and work out how to share it in a way that has impact and drives real results in your business.
  3. Set yourself a target of first working 1:1 with a certain number of clients – and here’s the key – in this specific area of your expertise. There’s simply no substitute for talking to people. And when you hit that target you’ll have a goldmine of intelligence you can use to create your course, or another digital product that may be even more appropriate.

To me, all of these things are best learned ‘on the job’. You might think you know who your ideal client is, but at the beginning, it’s often little more than a caricature. Even if you’ve worked offline in your field for many years, your online clients can have quite different needs and wants – and the way you serve them may be very different. It takes time to figure all this out.

With every encounter, your knowledge deepens and you get closer to knowing how best to serve your clients. Over time the patterns will become clear, and if you want to create a course, it will become much more natural – and easy – for you to create it and to sell it. You’ll also have a chance to grow your list and build up an income stream that will support you while you create those leveraged products.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about online courses

If you need help getting clear on your message so you can create some leverage, do your future course students a favour and book your free mini-session.

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