course

What I Learned Making An Online Course

I made and launched an online course very very recently. It took me about two months to do it.

Lesson 1: Have a very small agenda for each video.

Who knew it would take seven minutes to explain the ins and outs of Facebook- specifically the fact you need a personal Facebook account to make a Facebook page and how to navigate between them?

Not me, that’s for sure!

When I planned thirty videos and two ‘bonus videos’ I had no idea that a “small concept”  takes a long time to explain when you really dig deep into the topic and keep in mind audience members who have no background in the area.

Try to have one small point per video. If you are ambitious (Ex: five reasons why you need to drink more water every day), prepare to be very succinct on each point. You will probably ramble a bit, because you are nervous and kind of excited. Another option is to follow an exact script, if you can avoid sounding robotic. There are free online teleprompters you can use to help you get through what you need to say and help you with pacing.

Lesson 2: Do a few first.

It’s really tempting to set everything up and just get them DONE (er, “over with”). But do one or two videos and re-watch, looking for things like 1) if the camera angle cuts off the top of your head, 2) the room seems echo-y, 3) your audio is picking up your computer mic and not the nice one you have plugged in. Two out of three of these things happened to me. You’ll only notice these things if you make yourself watch the two videos you just made and make adjustments. It will feel like extra to do this but trust me, you’ll save yourself time, effort, and heartache later.

Lesson 3: The resolution is here.

You will film at a certain resolution but at full screen on some devices (ex: my giant 20 inch monitor), it will still be blurry. Remember you can always reduce your resolution (likely for file sizes) after filming but you can’t make it bigger after the fact. Compare the filming resolution of whatever software you are using with the online learning software you plan to use, then just be ok with it.  (More on picking your online course distribution software here.)

Lesson 4: Filming is grueling.

According to basic math, filming 30 2-5 minute videos will take you 30 videos times 5 minutes, maybe an additional ten minutes for snack breaks. Unfortunately, filming doesn’t follow the rules of basic math.

I filmed ALL DAY starting at 8 am and finishing at 6 pm. If you buy this course, you’ll notice the daylight changing as I go on.

Basic math doesn’t realize you will be interrupted by phone calls, people stopping in, your dog barking, your weird heating system clicking as it kicks on… and any number of other things. Plan for a full day of filming and start early if you are planning on using natural light (much easier than wrangling the perfect artificial setup). I actually almost lost my voice because I spent the whole day talking, despite only seeing one other person the entire day.

Lesson 5: Get a little help from your friends.

If you think people are going to be clamoring for your online course, think again. I’m saying this as someone who has a ‘platform’ set up for distribution- you have to do a little outreach.

I emailed a few business groups I’ve done work with to let them know about my course and offer their friends/members a discount code to purchase. This means 1) Other people besides me will be saying this is good, building credibility and 2) I can measure which relationships ‘work’ by seeing which coupons are most redeemed. I’ve even considered granting a limited number of people access for reviews, feedback, etc.

Lesson 6: Your first course is going to feel rough.

I am saying this as someone who just invested a significant amount of time and effort knowing this is will not be the best thing I ever produce.

But here’s the thing; the only way you can get better at something is to practice. Plus you’ve just spent five hours editing yourself on video (adding some title/ending slides, adjusting volumes, etc.), so you may not be feeling enthusiastic about it at this point. Ask a friend or coworker to review and catch anything you may have missed…and just release the darn thing. If you get too precious about it, you’ll never get the feedback you need for future videos. Plus, your friend will probably tell you it’s fine and not understand why you haven’t put it out there already!

My best advice? Just jump into your online course experience! Most of us have not grown up acting, video editing, or teaching so it’ll feel strange and exciting to try to show what you know to people who don’t know you. But I have a feeling the best part of what I’ll learn from making this first online course will come a few months from now and prepare me for my next project. Onward and upward!

This online course- Internet Marketing for Artists– is live now and ready for participants. If you or someone you know is an artist and want to increase your business presence on the internet, this course is for you!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Distributing Your Instructional Videos

So you made an online course, congratulations!

Believe it or not, you did the hardest part already. Now it’s time to make a technical decision, which is what most people THINK is the hardest part. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: Do I distribute/sell my course on my own website or on a third party website? Here’s how to answer that question:

Step 1: Compare fees vs. features vs. subjects of third party software.

Most third party software that allows you to sell courses is going to take a fee for making it easy for you. Also, you’ll notice some platforms attract certain types of courses. Sure, you can be the only cooking course on a mainly design/development tutorial website but why fight City Hall? Start with a list like this and narrow down to one or two options that seem to work best for you: http://www.learningrevolution.net/sell-online-courses/

Step 2: If you have a robust website, ask your website service person how much it would cost for you to add course registration software to your website.

In some cases, we can do this with a software license and a couple hours of integration. In other cases, your website may need to be rebuilt to handle it. Most web people can at least give you a ballpark range without doing a full quote. Never hurts to ask!

Step 3: Do the math for low enrollment and high enrollment scenarios for your two third party options and your own website.

In our example, we will pretend you’ve made a course and you want to charge $24.99 for it and your low enrollment goal is 100 and your high enrollment goal is 500 people. You are using a typical online payment processor like Stripe to take credit card payments (2.9% + $.30/transaction).

Let’s say your developer will charge you $500 to add course registration to your website and you are also looking at Udemy as your other option.

Scenario #1: Your Own Website

Low Enrollment Costs: $500 + 2.9% of $24.99*100 people + $.30/transaction*100 people = $500 + $72.47 + $30 = $602.47
Low Enrollment Income: $24.99*100 people= $2,499
Net: $1,896.53

High Enrollment Costs: $500 + 2.9% of $24.99*500 people + $.30/transaction*500 people = $500 + $362.36 + $150 = $1,012.36
High Enrollment Income: $24.99*500 people= $12,495
Net: $11,482.64

Scenario #2: Udemy
Since these guys have a different fee structure depending on whether you or they make the sale, we’re going to assume you sell half and Udemy sells the other half in our calculations.

Low Enrollment Costs: 3% of $24.99*50 people + 50% of $24.99 *50 people = $37.49 +$624.75 = $662.24
Low Enrollment Income: $24.99*100 people= $2,499
Net: $1,836.76

High Enrollment Costs: 3% of $24.99* 250 people + 50% of $24.99 * 250 people = $187.43 + $3,123.75= $3,311.18
High Enrollment Income: $24.99*500 people= $12,495
Net: $9,183.82

As you see, in the low enrollment scenario, the costs are comparable. But if you have your own platform and feel like you can market your course as well as an online learning platform (or nearly as well), you can make more money. More heavy lifting, more ‘risk’, more money. Makes sense.

Unless we know exactly how your course is going to do enrollment-wise, there is literally no right answer to your software question.

So don’t let this choice paralyze you. Pick something and go with it for your first online course. In using it, you’ll learn its quirks and what you like or dislike about it, so if you decide to do another online course in the future you’ll have a better idea of what changes to implement.

Step 4: No matter what, make sure your new course is easy to get to from your website, social media, and email newsletter.

Make giant ‘Captain Obvious’ buttons. Make a giant photo for your scrolling slideshow. Put a link in your email signature. You want to avoid ever hearing the phrase “Oh I didn’t know you had an online course” ever come from the lips of a customer, potential customer, or anyone you know (unless it is a person who doesn’t go on the internet at all).

Technology is your friend with online courses and there are lots of powerful third party options to get your course started. So put it out there and see who can learn from you (and what you can learn from this process). 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

This Month In Business: Needing Help Edition

So the good news is, while I used to write this business update every week, I now seem to be writing it every month. I’ve been doing this because I’ve actually had a lot of work to do. (I know, *gasp!)

But it really does help to have some kind of check in with myself, since I don’t have a weekly meeting with my boss, a quarterly report, or other sort of evaluation. You, as my blog readers, help hold me to some accountability. For that, I am very grateful. Because I totally need some!

Here’s what I’ve been up to besides actual paid work:

1. I enrolled in an online business course.

You may have heard of Earn1K which is a business course aimed at freelancers. I’ve been on the email list for awhile and finally decide to take the plunge after a couple of months of realizing I’ve been not as focused as I should be on the overall direction of this business. In terms of business course experience, I took an eight week seminar from Women, Work, and Community two years ago, read a couple business books, wrote a business plan, and called it good. Plus it’s been about 6 years since I’ve taken a full on course and I figured it was time for some much needed personal development.

So far it’s been going really well and already the time and effort I’m putting in to develop my ideas is paying off.

2. I got a cash infusion from Mom.

I realize there are a few things I’ve considered doing for money that are unrelated to my business but was considering because I needed some cash. A combination of a few projects running longer than expected and a couple bills paid at the beginning of the year meant I had less cash on hand than I was expecting at this point.

My debt to income ratio is around 1 (breaking even!) but a bank will pretty much only talk to you if you’ve got a ratio of about 1.5.

Over Christmas, my mom had told me to ask for help if I needed it so I decided to take her up on her offer and borrow some money. She was kind enough to present a zero percent interest rate and put the check in an ‘I’m proud of you’ card. Thanks Mom! I’m already sleeping better and plan to pay her back in full by the end of the year if not sooner.

3. I’ll be having two upcoming seminars which one of my more connected friends is helping me organize.
Anyone who has ever eaten dinner with me knows how much I like food. My friend Paul is a food distributor who sells to many local restaurants. When he came to me and suggested we do a couple workshops geared at the hospitality industry, I jumped at the chance.

So if you are in Downeast Maine and run a food-related business check out the two workshops: www.socialmediafood101.eventbrite.com and www.socialmediafood201.eventbrite.com

4. I finished a really big project, with much needed help.
A couple months ago, a friend of a friend wanted some help developing a real estate website. I looked at the online landscape at other real estate companies and saw that what she wanted was possible, even if the websites themselves weren’t the prettiest or most functional websites I’d ever seen. So I gave her a quote for her real estate website and she accepted.

What followed were many unexpected complications: database access issues, formatting issues, code for site design interfering with search function. You name it and it happened. It became clear very early on that I could not handle this on my own so I pulled in a friend to help. Then another. Then another. Through coding, coffee, and sheer determination, we finished the site, exhausted from late nights and early mornings.

I learned three things from this experience:

1) Don’t be cocky in your abilities to do something you’ve never done before. Take the time you think it’ll take and double it. Worse case scenario you give money back.
2) If you are pulling people in, outline the project tasks and responsibilites clearly. Chances are the work will be difficult enough and there’s no need to add communication issues to the mix.
3) You don’t have to know everything but you have to know people who can help so you can collectively know everything you need to.

So the website is launched and I thank Nicholas Peterson, Matthew Baya, and Jeremy Mason for their help with it. And that said, if you know someone who needs a real estate website, I’m now your gal.

Anything you needed help with (and got help with) this month?

(Come on, make me feel there are a couple of you out there who needed the help of other people this month!)

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.