video

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.

Creating & Editing Instructional Videos

Video has become a popular way to share information and instructions online. Whether it’s a YouTube tutorial, Instagram or Facebook video, Snapchat stories, an online course system like Udemy, or a video you’ve uploaded to website, there’s a lot of options for sharing (which we’ll discuss in detail in a later post). For now, let’s focus on the behind the scenes work that people who watch your video won’t get to see.

Creating an Outline/Storyboard

Planning is an important part of the video process, whether you’re going to broadcast (or rebroadcast) a live video or you plan on editing after the fact. Even if you’re great on the fly, it helps to go in knowing what the general structure of the video will be so that you have a flow that makes sense to the people who will be watching.

What sort of things need to go in the outline?

  • Objective of the video: what do you want people to take away from your video? Narrow it down to one or two sentences if you can.
  • Setting: where will you be filming? Is there a specific date/time of day that it needs to happen? For example, if you are using natural lighting, there may be certain times of the day you want to use of avoid.
  • Script/Talking Points: ideally a conversational tone, including any physical cues or props, lighting changes, etc. that need to happen. (You may think “ah, I know what to say!” but this can be helpful if you have more than one person involved in filming or plan to add things like title slides for different content sections)
  • Length: think about what your audience will want in terms of length. Is it 2-5 minutes, 10-20 minutes, or longer? Note: You can always film in one long take and then edit; it’s better to have too much to work with than too little!
  • Rehearsal: Again, this depends on the level of production and number of people involved, but a run through can help you feel more prepared for the main event.
  • Editing notes: If at some point during the video you want there to be a cutaway to a product or screenshot, it can help to add this in the outline (especially if you aren’t the one who will be editing). Any title slides, credits, subtitles, etc should also be included here.

All you really need to create an outline for your post is some paper and a pen/pencil, but depending on how professional you need it to look (i.e. if you have to submit it for approval before filming or share with others) it may be a good idea to invest some time in an online template. A few free resources for doing this include:

As long as you have the basic information necessary (objective, script, editing notes, etc), there’s no reason why you can’t design your own template that suits your needs, even using something like Google Docs or Powerpoint.

Editing Software

Once you’ve finished filming (unless you’ve done a live video), odds are you want to do some editing. Most people don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on programs like Final Cut Pro or Sony Vegas, but the good news is that there are plenty of editing programs that are far cheaper, and will do everything you need. A few examples include:

If you’re new at the whole editing video thing, don’t worry- it gets better as you practice more. Some general things to look out for are consistent volume (especially if you include audio tracks from other sources- you may end up with a video with deafening intro music but the rest be barely audible), lighting (is someone getting washed out?), cropping (the sign over to the right of the presenter is distracting). Another note for audio if you’re adding outside sources (and using one audio track, as you may in iMovie)- make sure it doesn’t bump the rest of the audio tracks out of alignment with their video counterpart.

iMovie lets you create title slides within the program, but perhaps you want to customize any text you have, or edit product stills. You can also use other photo editing software like PicMonkey (which we use), Canva, or Pixlr (all web based)- this is by no means an exhaustive list but will give you a jump start.

When you are all finished and have exported your video file, make sure you watch it to make sure nothing weird happened in the exporting process-or have someone else look if you need another set of eyes on it. Also ask yourself or another if it hits the objective and sends the message you intended.

Additional Materials

Will you have written resources (i.e. PDF handouts) to go along with your video? If so, you may need to upload them somewhere to link to them in your video description.

Does it need a written transcript/annotations/subtitles? Note: adding subtitles makes your video way more accessible. Online transcription has gotten much more affordable at around $1-2/minute or you can DIY if you want to save money.

Should it also have social sharing or email forwarding options, or is it exclusive content? (Exclusive content could mean an online course which people register/pay for, which we’ll be discussing in a post later this month). In any case, having some action step at the end, whether it’s to sign up for an email newsletter or simply watch another video you’ve made, is a great way to reward audiences who get to the end.

Our theme this month is Getting Instructions Online, so stay tuned for more ideas on creating instructional content for your customers and followers!

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Six Phone Apps Worth Paying For (For Your Business)

So I was sitting in an airport when I downloaded Osmos without even a second thought of paying for it. It was a fun game (and totally mesmerizing if you never have played… your objective as a bubble is to get bigger by absorbing other bubbles. It’s like more fluid Tetris).

And yet, I totally hesitate when it comes to spending money on apps for functional things like my business. I get that it’s probably because business apps seem more expensive (or maybe your phone is supposed to be your destination for fun). I will say, I’ve been glad to have paid for some of these features because they are handy, have saved me money, or simply made me look good to the professional people I have the pleasure of dealing with. Here are six apps I have paid for and, looking back, I’m glad I’ve done so:

Split Screen Multitasking ($3.99)

How many times have you wanted to watch a Youtube video while checking your Facebook messages? I used to like how my phone made me do one thing at a time but now that I know this exists, I am not sure what I did before.

Cloze ($159.99 annually)

Hope you’ve picked yourself off the floor from reading that price but here’s my thing: I have A LOT of contacts to manage and sometimes, I need to be prodded to contact them. I also want to classify people (Customer, Family, etc) and add notes about them (birthday, kids’ names)… and have things like phone number and email addresses automatically synced. For all that $160/year doesn’t seem so nuts. Plus you can try it for two weeks free and see if it’s you’re thing before buying.

Quickbooks Online (Monthly fee)

So many people have tried to tell me that I should install their free Quickbooks on ONE COMPUTER. This terrifies me for many reasons which is why I use Quickbooks Online. But the best thing I wasn’t expecting about Quickbooks Online is being with a customer and having them say “I think I owe you a check, can you remind me of how much that was?” I’m able to tell them in about thirty seconds and send them a receipt, right from my phone. If it costs a few bucks to get paid faster, in the long run it is worth it for you not having to chase people. Trust me, I resisted forever and now I am a total convert.

Genius Scan+ ($6.99)

So the free version of this app served me for years. You can scan PDFs and email them to yourself or other people. It was great for collating, say, all my physical receipts together every year… until I realized that since I don’t have automated backups on my phone (I know, I know) it could all go poof. The pro version automatically syncs things into whatever Dropbox folder I want and I personally appreciate the backup. The scanning is great on this; I’ve had some people come into Anchorspace looking for a scanner and when they see the results of me scanning with this app, they are blown away. If you need a historical photo scanned to retouch, by all means go to a real and high quality scanner, but if you just need to get a lease to your lawyer, this is more than adequate, doing things like straightening out the document and finding the edges of scanned items automatically for crisp edges.

It looks like they have a cool app called Genius Sign too, which allows you to sign and annotate documents (how many times have you printed something only to sign it and rescan it?)

MileIQ ($59.99 annually)

I resisted this for years thinking I could keep track of own driving. I downloaded this app as a free trial and within the first month, I saw how many business meetings I drove to I wasn’t counting. I got more mileage tax credit than I paid for the annual subscription. Also, classifying drives is something I can do while sitting waiting, say, for a doctor’s appointment where I can check off a business to-do rather than just waste time on my phone. Generating my spreadsheet of driven miles every year for my accountant made me crazy but this year, it’s going to be a one click thing.

Note: This is an affiliate link where you save 20% and I get a $25 kick back if you sign up.

iMovie ($4.99)

You know when you take a video and think ‘Gosh, only ten seconds of this is actually funny’. Having iMovie on your phone lets you lop off those too-long videos. So you can just send the part where your dog runs toward you in the snow without the part where she stops and pees a little. Remember that some light video editing before uploading a video is something 99% of people don’t do so by even trying to do this before uploading to Facebook, your customers will take notice and appreciate (plus you can add your website URL at the end or something similarly useful in case it ‘goes viral’).

Point is, our phones are less the music players/gaming devices they started out as and more like computers that help us run our businesses. As such, investing in them can be a no brainer for your business or productivity.

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.

Your Webinar After: Distribution

When we think of an “event,” most of us forget that they don’t have to be a one time thing. This is especially true if you’ve had the foresight to record them. For instance…webinars!

Not only can you host a webinar live but you can offer it as a replay or even sell it as a course.

You may ask yourself, ok so I have this recording, what are my options for ‘archiving’ or ‘distributing’ my webinar?

CDs

Arguably the most old school choice, you can save your recordings in a physical format (CDs or on a thumb drive). I completely forgot this was something we used to do until I ordered a good course I heard about a few months ago online… and got mailed a binder with notes in it, CDs (that were like DVDs I guess since they played different sections of the course), and a personalized thank you note. It was all very old school but, hey, got the message across.

Podcast

A lot of people don’t realize podcasts do not have to be an exclusively audio format- they can be video, too.

You can chop up your webinar into a series of video podcasts… or if you are going to do multiple (regular) webinars, you can use a podcast format to curate them together.

Note: You can have a one episode podcast… but everyone will wonder.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.

A Third Party Course Website

So there are plenty of ‘learning’ websites that people go on to learn skills: Skillshare, Lynda, etc.

Your material could go on one of these websites to be distributed by these providers. The upside is these sites are already attracting traffic of people who like webinars. The downside (if you are trying to sell something) is your relatively small cut if you are approved as a provider. (Ex: Skillshare is around $1-2/student as I understand it.)

Basically, these websites vet you as a teacher and in exchange for the marketing and customer service, they get a pretty good cut.

udemyteachers

Your Own Website

Your own website will always give you the most options. You can put your webinar behind a login screen or you can send participants/customers a unique download link via email, it’s entirely up to you.

The main takeaway: using your website, you keep more money, you do more of the customer service and marketing, you give your customers the exact experience you want them to have. And you can take the good and bad that goes along with that.

Here’s a video going over the third party option versus the on your website option:

However you decide to distribute your webinar will ensure more people will see it for your efforts. Don’t skip this step, even if you want to.

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.

Promoting Your Webinar

So you’ve thought about the technology and content of your webinar… Now it’s time to get the people in the ‘door’…so to speak.

Like most events, most of the work is done before the event even happens. Whether you have 5 or 5000 people attend, you do the same base amount of work, so it makes sense to maximize the amount of people who know about (and will potentially attend) your webinar.

Email a ‘save the date’ to your list.

Start with what you’ve got: your customer list. Whether you have an email list, a Facebook group, or any other ‘platform’, it is good to begin getting your friends and customers excited about the event long before the webinar happens.

When they RSVP, allow them to add it to their Google calendar or share it on social media. Getting some initial interest will encourage you to go further.

Make a Facebook event and invite.

I am always surprised at how many people want a direct invite to something on Facebook. Even if publicly posted, people seem to want me to personally invite them to every workshop we do.

Hey, if that makes them come, I’ll take it. If you have a Facebook page or group, make an event and invite away! Ask your friends to pass on the invitation to those who would appreciate it.

Make several ‘teaser’ videos.

If you are going to listen to someone talk, you want to have an idea of what you are in for. So give your webinar audience an idea of what they are in for!

Post a few teaser videos, they can even be a minute or less, to let your prospective webinar attendees get to meet you and know what it’s about. Think of it as a trailer for your webinar.

If you feel bold, ask them to tag any friends who might be interested or RSVP to the event (which of course, you’ll link in each video caption like the smarty pants you are).

Add ‘calls to action’ on appropriate online properties.

Your webinar is going to be the most exciting thing you have going on while you’re leading up to the event. Think of changing things like the homepage of your website or the link in your Instagram profile to reflect this.

Also creating multiple calls to action on each social platform, multiple email sends, and multiple personal invites (online and in real life) will remind people this is coming up. Trust me, they need the reminders.

Consider ads to appropriate audiences.

Let’s say you’re doing a desk yoga webinar. Taking out a targeted ad to human resource managers of mid sized companies as an example audience may be a really smart move for you. Make sure your ad creative (the image you make to go with the promotion) seems specific to that audience only. You want them to feel like you are talking to them.

This may also be a good time to use remarketing data you’ve been collecting from Google and Facebook on your website, making a targeted ad for people who already have ‘met’ you online.

Paid ads have their place and you may find in attracting 100 more people and converting three of them to customers that your ad spend was well worth it.

Seek opportunities to cross promote.

Let’s say you’re doing a webinar on writing for the web. Consider connecting with university writing centers, libraries, and writing groups (online or off) to let them know what is happening.  They may not only promote it within their group but want to otherwise be a part of what you’re doing in your business. We’ve found involving more people, while it does take time, allows not only for a better attended webinar but a more interesting one as well.

You’ve already put in the time to create something interesting and of value for people, so it’s worth the extra time investment to spread the word and get your content in front of the right people. If you need any help/have questions about the marketing, we’re always happy to talk about that sort of thing 🙂 

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.
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