5 Steps to Getting Started on Periscope

5 Steps to Get Started on Periscope

I joined the good times on Periscope about a month ago (whoopee!), so I’m not an expert by any means. But, if you’re new to the social media platform, I’d love to help you get started.

(If you’re wondering what Periscope is and why you should join, read this blog post and then come on back and I’ll give you some tips for your first scope.)

Playing and connecting with other creatives on Periscope has quickly become my favorite daily to-do. (Follow me @blacksburgbelle so we can hang.)

If you’re kinda freaking out about doing your first scope or want some tips to get going, I’m happy to give you a slight shove towards making your first move:

1. Take two or three days to get acquainted with the platform.

If you’re brand new to Periscope, give yourself a bit of time to check out the platform before your first scope, but not enough that you travel to procrastination station.

I spent two days watching other scopes so that I could see how people were using the platform. I started commenting and giving hearts, following people that I wanted to connect with and learn from.

Over the course of a couple days, watch 15-20 scopes to get a feel for things.

2. Plan your first topic and practice a bit.

If you’re nervous or haven’t done a lot of speaking or live streaming video, practice what you’re going to talk about. And, pick a topic that you’re passionate about—that you can talk about easily.

Even though I have plenty of experience speaking, I practiced before my first five scopes. When I hit the broadcast button, I felt more comfortable because I’d gone over what I planned on saying.

If you’re covering more than one or two points, jot down notes. I do this for almost every scope, because it’s easy to forget what you want to say when people are asking questions and commenting.

This also helps to avoid rambling. If you ramble on and on, people are going to lose interest.

I get annoyed when I feel like someone is wasting my time because they aren’t prepared or they spend five or ten minutes rambling before actually getting into the topic they’re scoping about.

3. Prepare for your first scope.

Check your lighting before you begin by opening up your camera on your phone and switching it to video. The lighting will look very similar when you scope.

When you start your scope, that’s it. You’re live immediately, so it helps to check this before you start. Move around until you’ve got good lighting.

Select the little Twitter birdie button before you hit ‘start broadcast’, so that it sends out a tweet to your followers that you’re live.

If you’re nervous about creepers saying inappropriate things during your scope, deselect the location button before starting your broadcast. If you don’t share your location, your scope isn’t shared on the map and you’ll get a lot less trolls. I’ve only had to block one person on my scopes, because I don’t share my location when I’m scoping from home.

Before you begin, stabilize your phone or device. You can use a stack of books, a box or a tripod. Videos are always better when they aren’t jumpy.

4. Do your first scope within the first week on the platform.

After you’ve practiced and set yourself up for success, it’s time to go live. Eeeeeeeep!

Take a deep breath and do your best. Your first scope probably won’t be amazing. You’ll feel a bit awkward, maybe even tongue-tied, but it gets easier.

If no one joins you live or only one or two people join you, keep going. Talk as if you’re talking to a group of your ideal customers. You never know who will watch the replay and join you next time! That’s how you grow your following on Periscope.

5. Do another the next day.

Just get it in your mind that your first scope is gonna be kinda awkward. You’re getting used to the platform. Remember the first picture you uploaded on Instagram or the first tweet you sent? They probably weren’t masterpieces.

Periscope is just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get. You’ll start to feel a lot more comfortable after your first 10 scopes and you’ll be really good at it by your 50th scope. Don’t let the awkwardness of your first scope hold your back from doing another.

Everyone has a semi-awkward first scope, even those of us who speak or do live streaming video for a living (raises hand slowly).

Do your second scope that same day or the next. If you let too much time go by, you’ll come up with more and more reasons to delay. Don’t do that!

When you’re new to a social media platform, you don’t have many followers which gives you room to mess up. If you wait until 100+ people are following you, you’re going to feel more pressure to be perfect.

If you’ve joined Periscope but haven’t shared your handle, make sure you do so in the comments right here so that we can all connect. (And, if you’re looking for more creatives to follow and connect with, check out the comments on that post. We’re seriously having so much together. It’s like a daily slumber party with people all over the world.)

If you’ve already done your first scope and have tips for getting started, leave them below in the comments. Let’s learn about this new platform together. It’s more fun that way, don’t you think? I’ll bring the gluten-free oatmeal raisin cookies and cashew milk!

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10 Creative Entrepreneurs You Should Follow on Periscope

Creatives to Follow on Periscope

I’m still in the very new stages of Periscope but steadily climbing towards the addictive phase.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve spent an average of 120 minutes a day on Periscope—through creating my own scopes and watching other people’s scopes.

I’ve unearthed lots of pockets of time to hop in and see what’s going on: while I’m doing my hair and makeup, while I’m relaxing in the evening, while I’m cooking, while I’m in the passenger seat as my husband drives us somewhere, etc.

I’ve seen some weird people doing some even weirder stuff. But, I’ve also discovered some really fun, smart people to follow and connect with.

If you’re new (or semi-new) to the platform, you might be looking for legit people to follow that can help you with your business, give you some creative inspiration or just to hang out with.

If that’s the case, I’ve listed 10 creative entrepreneurs below that I truly enjoy tuning in to watch their scopes whether they’re live or replays.

Each person on this list is someone that I’ve watched at least twice (but many are people I’ve tuned into five to ten plus times) and I enjoy myself each time.

1. Mariah Coz

Mariah gives super smart advice about blogging and online business in a relaxed manner that always makes me feel less stressed. From what I can tell, she only talks about what she actually has experience with which isn’t always the case with business “coaches.”

Whenever I tune into Mariah’s scopes, I feel like I’m hanging with a close friend.

2. Nikki Elledge Brown

Nikki is known as the woman who created A Course About Copy and while she’s brilliant at copy, she’s also down-to-earth and all around business-savvy. And, Nikki’s accent is adorable.

If you’ve got kids, she talks about work and mom life balance and I know some of you wish you had someone to get advice from when it comes to balancing kids and your business. She had a six-figure launch last year so she’s the real freaking deal. (And, she gives you sneak peeks of Hawaii! Yes, please, let me live vicariously through you.)

3. Laura Husson

Laura is known for making you look good online. If you’re struggling with your website or online branding, you gotta follow Laura.

Anybody else feel like they could listen to someone with a British accent talk all day long? Laura’s that gal for me.

4. Chris Ducker

There are two dudes on this list (probably because I tend to relate more to lady bosses) and Chris made that cut. He’s super smart and entertaining. The only thing I don’t really love about Chris’ scopes are that he tends to drag out his intro—not getting into the meat of the scope until a few minutes in. During those long intros, I pray for a fast forward button.

If you don’t mind the rambling intro, you’ll learn a ton from Chris. Come on and join duckerscope.

5. Dave Shrein

I believe Dave started by helping church communicators with their marketing. But, on Periscope, he’s all about helping all types of entrepreneurs get unstuck from whatever is holding them back.

When he’s scoping, it feels as if he’s talking right to you and he’s always giving out helpful information for online businesses.

6. Alex Beadon

Alex is another girl boss I can’t get enough of on Periscope. I laugh every single time I tune into one of her scopes whether she’s shooting the shizz while putting on makeup or doling out business advice. She’s a smartie pants creative business coach (and seriously looks like Spencer from Pretty Little Liars).

Alex almost crosses the line of my woo-woo comfort zone because she talks about the law of attraction and similar topics, but that’s only a small part of her scopes.

7. Holly Gillen

Holly is your go-to video gal. If you need help with using video in your business, you should follow Holly. She empowers female entrepreneurs by helping them move from confused to confident in front of and behind the camera.

I really enjoy her calming style.

8. Olivia from Random Olive

Olivia isn’t a business consultant or coach but she definitely inspires me. She uses Periscope in a very different way: to teach and show brush lettering. How cool is that?

I feel like Olivia is a GREAT example of how any creative entrepreneur could utilize this platform. I recently watched one of her scopes and struggled to tap the screen to give her hearts because I was putting on mascara and almost poked my eye. (The mascara struggle is real.)

9. Denise Duffield-Thomas

Denise helps women release their money blocks and create first class lives. Out of everyone on this list, I’ve watched her the least but it’s mainly because I’ve only been able to catch her live once. But, the times I’ve watched her broadcasts, I’ve really enjoyed them and found them useful.

10. Amber McCue

Amber helps entrepreneurs do business better than usual. She’s the friend you wished you had to Skype with whenever you need business support. Amber is bubbly, confident and personable. Even though I don’t have kiddos, if she’s scoping about something to do with parenthood and business, I still tune in. I can’t help myself.

And, I just wanted to give you a heads up, that like any other platform, there are people pretending to be experts or gurus on a topic that they really don’t have much experience in. Don’t get sucked in by something that smells tuna-fishy.

Whenever you start following someone on Periscope, do a little research to make sure they’re not a phony bologna. You don’t want to start following someone’s advice to then find out that they don’t really have any experience with what they’re teaching and they don’t know what they’re talking about.

First clue that something isn’t right: they can’t answer your questions. If they talk about a topic but they can’t give smart, solid answers on the same topic, they might just be regurgitating advice from someone else.

Second clue that something isn’t right: they call themselves an expert but no one else does. (And, anyone who’s saying he/she’s a Periscope expert is delusional since the platform is only five months old.)

Third clue that something isn’t right: their websites are unprofessional (or their websites are non-existent).

Fourth clue that something isn’t right: they don’t have any testimonials from actual people that you can find online.

Now that we got that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s have some more fun.

Please share your favorite person to follow on Periscope (other than me because duh!) in the comments below, so that we can all check them out.

If you didn’t see last week’s blog post on why you should join Periscope, make sure you read it and add your Periscope handle in the comments. We’ve all been connecting and watching each others’ scopes.

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Get Free Group Coaching From Me (and why you should join Periscope today!)

Why You Should Join Periscope

How cool it would be if you could connect with your favorite online people in real time?

How fun (and useful) would it be if you could hang with your mentors via live streaming video and ask questions that you get direct answers to immediately?

Sounds kinda like a dream come true, right?

Well, if you’ve heard of Periscope, then you know it’s actually quite real.

If you have no idea what Periscope is, I’m happy to introduce you…

You meet Periscope. Periscope meet you.

Periscope is a new-ish social media platform for your smart phone or iPad. It’s a live streaming app created by Twitter that allows you to connect with people all over the world with video.

Basically, it’s AWESOME.

It’s like vlogging with instant comments and feedback.

I stumbled into Periscope less than a week ago.

A lovely B-Belle family member, Erin Southerland (Periscope handle: @BeautifulBegin_ ), emailed me, telling me that I should be on Periscope and that she’d like to follow me there to connect further.

My first thought was, “What de heeeeeeck is Periscope?” (said in my best Miranda Sings voice)

I’d never heard of it and usually I’m a bit hesitant about jumping on social media platforms that I’ve never heard much about cause I’ve got that hermit (introverted) side that screams, “Not another social media platform! Noooooo!”

But, the side of me that loves connecting with you won the should-I-really-join-another-social-media-site debate.

I downloaded the app with the thought that I was ‘just checking things out.

During the first couple of days, I watched Nikki Ellege Brown, Amber McCue, Alex Beadon and Laura Husson live while they were scoping. I was able to comment and chat. And, I found myself wanting to spend more and more time on Periscope.

I’ve never been an early adopter of any social media platform.

Facebook was a thing for over five years before I joined. Twitter was up and running for about a year before I finally registered and sent my first tweet.

And, my friend, Mayi Carles, had to beg me to join Instagram for eight months before I finally succumbed to peer pressure.

I’m never eva eva one of the first entrepreneurs using a new form of social media.

So, I figured I’d check out Periscope and possibly start using it months down the line. I didn’t think it would quickly become part of my social media plan.

But, again, the part of me that loves connecting with you regularly won out. I didn’t make any excuses to procrastinate (which would’ve been really easy to do). Instead, I did my first scope two days after I logged into Periscope for the first time.

It was a little bit nerve-racking…live video in which anyone in the world could comment, including mean trolls. But after doing five scopes, it feels a lot more natural and I’m having a blast.

And, here are five reasons that you should join Periscope and start using it NOW (not eight months from now):

1. We can hang out daily.

I’ve been scoping every day since Sunday and going forward, my plan is to scope at least once a day, five days a week.

If you join (even if you don’t scope right away), we could hang out for 10-30 minutes each day. You can ask me questions and I’m happy to help you with any and all business struggles. It’s kinda like free group coaching. Whoop! Whoop!

If that’s not enough to get you to join, we’re no longer friends. (Just teasing. Sort of.)

2. You can be a pro by the time everyone joins.

Even though I’ve never been an early adopter of social media, I wish I had been, especially for Instagram. If I could do anything differently when it comes to social media, I would’ve joined Instagram the minute Mayi told me about it.

For one, I totally trust Mayi and should’ve listened to her. Also, I could’ve been growing my following on that platform so much sooner. And, when there are less people to compete with, it’s easier to gain followers.

You’ve the chance to start connecting with people now on Periscope and get comfortable with the platform. That way, when everyone starts to join in a few months, you’ll be one of the pros. Everyone will be looking to you for guidance and your know how.

3. You can connect with your target market in an authentic, natural way.

Here’s the thing about live streaming video: it’s raw and authentic. You feel like you’re actually seeing the person as they are—not as the edited version you get from their blogs and emails.

When your potential customers connect to YOU, they’re going to want to buy from you and support you.

This is a pretty easy (and totally FREE) way to break down the barriers between you and your customers.

4. It’s really fun.

If you enjoy watching vlogs or you get a little thrill from the behind-the-scenes stuff from your favorite online entrepreneurs, you’re going to have a lot of fun with Periscope. And, why not join something that’s going to add more fun into your day?

5. There’s not a lot of pressure to be perfect.

In the past year, Instagram has become less about sharing real life and more about sharing the perfect life and business. Your photos need to be edited and pretty and your captions need to be clever and entertaining. Everything you upload needs to be branded.

That’s okay. I kinda like Instagram that way, because I love pretty photos. They inspire me.

But, it feels nice to join a social media platform that’s new which means that there aren’t many pros, which also means there’s less pressure to be perfect.

There are a handful of people I’ve found so far that seem to have this down, but that’s five compared to the hundred of others I’ve checked out that all seem to be on a similar playing field.

Joining something when there isn’t as much pressure to be as good as all the people who’ve been using the platform for a year makes it easier to jump in and get started. Plus, it’s fun to learn how to use the site at the same time.

So, that’s my spiel on why you should join Periscope TODAY.

If you join, you can follow me by searching for April Bowles Olin or blacksburgbelle. Either will work. Make sure to follow so that you get notified when I’m going live with a broadcast, so that way we can chat about business, nail polish, and anything else you wanna talk about! See you there.

When you join, leave your handle below, so that we can all follow each other!

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Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses Part 6: Marketing and Selling Your Ecourse

Create-and-Sell-Part-6

We’re at the end of the ‘Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses’ series.

Sad face.

But tomorrow (July 9th) I’m hosting the live Q&A call at 4pm EST.

Happy face!

If you need to catch up before the live call, you can find the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Intro and Picking Your Topic

Part 2: The Tools and Software

Part 3: Step by Step Guide to Setting It Up

Part 4: Planning, Outlining and Naming Your Course

Part 5: Pricing and Your Sales Page

For the sixth (and last) part of this series we’re delving into selling and marketing your ecourse.

Marketing is a topic that needs it’s own series cause I could write an entire book on the subject. Oh wait, I already have.

Instead of going into the ins and outs of marketing, I decided to spend this part of the series giving you twenty-one marketing ideas for your ecourse. These are the main ways I market and promote my online courses.

21-Ways-to-Market-Your-Ecourse

Click-to-Download

1. Email your list.

Email is the BEST way to let your loyal followers know about any new product or service. (If you haven’t started an email list, make it the very next thing you do.)

2. Blog about it.

A really easy way to promote your ecourse is to blog about it. But, don’t just blog about the course—teach something related to your course. When you post free, high-quality information, you show your readers that you’re an expert in the topic which will make them more likely to trust you and give you their money.

3. Link to your sales page in your Instagram profile.

You know how you get one link to include in your Instagram profile? You probably use that for your website link. When you’re launching a new ecourse, you should switch out the link so that anyone who clicks on it goes to your ecourse sales page.

When you post anything about your online course on Instagram, you can include ‘link in profile’ in the picture’s caption.

4. Boost a Facbook post.

Because of the algorithms Facebook uses, your posts might get in front of 10-30% of your Facebook followers. When you’re posting about your new ecourse, you want to get that specific post in front of as many of your followers as possible. This is one of those times it’s worth it to pay $5-10 to boost your Facebook post.

Every time I boost a Facebook post related to something I’m selling, I always get at least two sales from it. It pays for itself over and over.

5. Tweet about it.

Use Twitter to spread the word about your amazing new ecourse.

6. Pin a photo on your sales page.

Pin a photo on your sales page in order to let your Pinterest followers know about your ecourse. You can do this once each day until you’ve pinned all of the photos/visuals on your sales page.

7. Host a scholarship giveaway.

Wanna know the marketing strategy that works better than anything else for me when it comes to selling online courses? It’s hosting a scholarship giveaway.

The reason this works so well is that the women who enter are already imagining themselves in the course. And, I usually ask for them to leave a comment entailing how the course would help them. So, they’ve already thought through the benefits they’d get out of taking the course.

Once I announce the scholarship winners, I always get a flood of sales from other women who entered the giveaway. It’s a win-win-win.

8. Guest blog.

If you don’t have a large blog readership, write a few guest posts about the course topic for popular blogs. At the bottom of each guest post, write a short paragraph, letting readers know that if they enjoyed this post and want to learn more, you’re teaching an online course and link to your sales page.

9. Do interviews.

Another way to get your ecourse in front of other people’s audiences is to land some interviews. I say yes to more interviews when I’m launching something new. Their audiences get access to my expertise and I get to promote my course.

Marie Forleo does interviews with Danielle LaPorte, Kris Carr and others every time she launches B-School. It’s another win-win.

10. Launch a free intro video series.

I’m sure you’ve seen the launches that include a series of free videos (usually three videos) that teach you something that pertains to the course topic. Then, the person sells you on the course if you want to learn more.

These video series work really well when they’re done right, because they give potential customers insight to what they can expect from the course. Potential customers think, “If this is free, the course must be amazing.”

11. Offer a guarantee.

If this is your first ecourse and you haven’t built up a lot of trust with your audience, one of the best ways to deal with that is to offer a money-back guarantee. You don’t have to do this, but it will help those potential customers who are unsure push past their uncertainties.

I offered a money-back guarantee with my first three online courses, and that is one of the reasons some of the women felt comfortable enough to sign up.

12. Give away a sneak peek.

If you don’t have testimonials, it’s especially important to build trust. You can do this by giving your potential customers a sneak peek of the course. You could give them access to one of the videos or show them a few of your worksheets in action. This alone will increase your sales.

13. Ask your peers to help spread the word.

One of the lovely things about building relationships with other creative entrepreneurs is that you can help each other out. Put together a few easy to copy and paste tweets and Facebook posts and email your friends/peers, asking them to help you spread the word about your upcoming course.

When one of my friends reaches out like this (making it super easy for me to share), I always say yes.

14. Provide successful case studies.

Whenever I’m thinking about registering for an online course, it helps to see the success of other students who’ve already gone through the course. One of the reasons I signed up for B-School was because I saw interviews with a handful of successful students.

If you’re teaching an online drawing class, you could show the before and after drawings of some of your students. Potential customers will then think, “Well, they started out just as bad as I am. If they can learn, then so can I.”

15. Use testimonials.

I’ve talked about the importance of testimonials in the last part of this series, so I won’t go into detail here. But, if you’ve got a few really good testimonials, use them on more than your sales page. Post one on Instagram. Post another on Facebook. And, another on Twitter.

16. Host a live Q&A call.

If you open up registration to your course and you get a barrage of questions or your sales are much lower than you expected, host a live Q&A call.

Even if I don’t get a lot of questions and numbers are good, I almost always host a live Q&A call (on Spreecast). After that kind of call, I always get a rush of sales.

Remember that a confused customer never buys so if you can clear up any doubts on a live call, you’ll get more sales.

17. Set a registration deadline.

We all tend to procrastinate when we can. To end the procrastination, give your target market a registration deadline for your course.

18. Host a launch countdown on social media.

When Mayi and I launched an online course together, we created a countdown for Instagram. Starting at 10 days out, we posted a picture of the two of us each day with the number of days away until the launch day (10…9…8…7…). We kept it pretty cryptic because we wanted to build a lot of suspense.

Creative strategies like this really stand out.

19. Talk about the benefits—not just the features.

When you’re marketing your ecourse, focus on the benefits—not the features. For example, a feature of your ecourse might be that it contains 15 videos and a benefit might be that by the end of the course, your students will be drawing with confidence.

20. Utilize SEO.

SEO stands for search engine optimization which is fancy for being found when someone searches for your keywords on Google or other search engines.

I don’t place a lot of significance on SEO, but every bit helps. If you’re on WordPress there are lots of plug-ins that can help you with SEO.

21. Start an affiliate program.

Another way to get a lot more promotion for your ecourse, without you doing all the marketing, is to pay affiliates to promote it for you. If you start an affiliate program, each time one of your affiliates makes a sale for you, she gets a part of the profit. When you set this up within your shopping cart, each of your affiliates will get their own unique link (to your sales page) and that’s how your shopping cart knows who gets credit for the sale.

For instance, if your sell your course for $50 and give your affiliates a 50% commission, each time someone bought your course by clicking on your affiliate’s link, you’d each get $25.

It’s a win-win. You get your course in front of people you’d never reach otherwise and your affiliate gets paid for the work she puts into promoting your products.

Those are just 21 ways to promote your ecourse. The more creative you get, the more successful you’ll be. Have fun with this—marketing can be fun!

And, don’t forget that tomorrow (July 9th at 4pm EST) is the LIVE Q&A CALL!

(simply click on this link to join the call)

I’m really looking forward to answering all of your questions tomorrow. We’re going to have a blast. Bring your favorite beverage (moonshine anyone?) and let’s hang out!

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Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses Part 5: Pricing and Writing Your Sales Page

Create-and-Sell-Ecourses-Part-5

It’s time for the fifth part of the series on creating and selling your own ecourses: pricing your ecourse and writing your sales page.

For a lot of creative entrepreneurs, these two things provoke nightmares worse than the ‘show up naked to school’ variety.

Don’t sweat it. That’s why I’m here…to make this stuff easier.

If you need to catch up on the series, do so now so you can join the live Q&A call next week:

Part 1: Intro and Picking Your Topic

Part 2: The Tools and Software

Part 3: Step by Step Guide to Setting It Up

Part 4: Planning, Outlining and Naming Your Course

Grab yourself a glass of water with cucumber slices (because cucumber water is just so much more refreshing than regular water) and let’s tackle these topics that cause armpits to drip.

Pricing pricing pricing.

It feels like a bad word—like he who must not be named. So many people I work with hate pricing their work.

I know that if I gave some of my clients a genie in a bottle to grant their business wishes, they’d ask for him to price their products for them.

But, here’s the thing my friend: no one else understands your course more than you so they won’t be able to price it as well as you.

With that being said, too many entrepreneurs get engrossed in finding the “right price.” They waste time, often getting stuck in this phase for way too long.

When we’re talking about digital products, like an ecourse, there really isn’t a perfect price. So get that out of your head.

Instead, take these things into account to figure out what you should charge:

1. How much you want to make.

What’s the ideal amount that you’d like to make during your first launch? Be realistic but nudge past your comfort zone.

Then, decide whether or not you’re going to limit the amount of people who can register. If you’re providing one-on-one feedback or hosting live Q&A calls, you might want to restrict the number of students so your workload isn’t overwhelming, especially for the first run of the course.

If you do have a student limit, divide the amount you want to make by the number of students. That can give you a starting price point to work from. For example, if you want to make $5000 and you’ve got 100 students spots, you’d need to sell your course at $50 to reach that goal amount.

2. The quality.

The higher the quality of the course, the more you can charge.

You can charge a lot more if you hire a film crew to record your course videos than you can if you film them yourself. You can set a higher price if you record your videos with a nice camera and lighting kit than you can if you record the same videos with your iPhone with crap lighting.

Quality absolutely matters and price will alter your students’ expectations. You expect more from $297 course than you do from a $47 course.

3. The exclusivity of the content.

If you’re teaching something unique or rare, you can charge more.

For instance, when Bonnie Christine taught the ins and outs of surface pattern design on CreativeLive, they could’ve priced that course much higher because there weren’t a lot of other courses that go into that much depth on the topic (except for one that’s A LOT more expensive). In fact, people wondered why Bonnie was sharing her trade secrets when so many others refused to do so. (She’s cool like that–that’s why!)

If you have a distinctive style that people want to learn (meaning that they want to learn from YOU), then you can charge more. Let’s say that you’re a jewelry designer and you create truly unique pieces. If you decide to teach your skills, you can charge more because students are coming to you to learn how YOU make jewelry even though there are plenty of other jewelry making courses available.

4. The higher the investment, the higher the commitment.

Think about when you buy something. When you spend more money, you care more. You value it more.

We have two couches in our home, one that cost about $250 that we bought on Amazon and one that cost eight times that from Anthropologie. Guess which one I won’t allow my husband to drink red wine on? Guess which one I’ll keep for years and years?

It’s the same thing when it comes to courses. Let’s say you sign up for two different marketing courses, one being $15 and the other costing $475. Which one are you going to value more? Which one are you going to take more seriously, trying to attend the live calls and actually completing the assignments?

You might not like it, but it’s how it works. We value things more when they cost more.

Also, when you charge more, you weed out bargain shoppers. The students who register really want to learn what you’re teaching. And, that makes a HUGE difference.

This doesn’t mean that you have to price your courses higher, but keep in mind that cost does affect your students’ experiences and expectations.

5. Go with your gut. Sorta.

After you know the content of your course and the quality of that content, often you’ll know what you should price it.

So, simply ask yourself, “What should I price this course?”

What’s the first number that pops into your mind? Now, add a bit to it (because if you’re like most creative entrepreneurs, you underprice yourself). For instance, if your gut number was $37, up it to $45 or $47.

Ninety-five percent of the time, the gut price plus a bit more is the price I use. After I’ve thought about the first four considerations above, my gut number is usually the right one.

Now, that you’ve got a price in mind, let’s talk about writing your sales page.

Dun-dun-duuuuuunnn!

I know I know…I’m hitting you with the tough stuff today.

But, if you want to actually sell your ecourse, you’ve got to compose a sales page that does all the selling for you.

Before we get into specifics, consider the goal of your sales page.

The goal of your sales page is to get the RIGHT people to buy. The most important word in that sentence is RIGHT.

The goal isn’t to get as many people as possible to buy, regardless of whether or not your course will help them. (Unless you suck at life and business.)

It’s a subtle shift in thinking but I believe it makes all the difference.

By the time someone gets to the bottom of your sales page, she should know whether or not your course is the right course for her. And, she should be inspired and motivated to buy.

In order to accomplish this, you’ve got to connect emotionally with potential customers, let them know what they’ll be learning and gaining from taking your course and give them a reason to buy now.

If you do those three things, you’ll hit your sales goals and make your customers happy.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a sales page that’ll sell:

1. You need to connect to your ideal customer immediately.

The biggest mistake you could make is starting your sales page by introducing yourself or talking about why you wanted to teach this course. Your potential students don’t care about YOU at this point. All they care about it is how this course will help them.

They want to know if they’re in the right place. The first few sentences on your sales page are some of the most important, because if you don’t connect right away, you’ll lose a lot of sales.

Click here and read the intro of this sales page for my course, Six Weeks to a More Passion-Filled and Profitable Business, to get an example of how I do this.

Right away, I’m speaking directly to my ideal customer, letting her know that I get her and I can help.

2. Then, you should explain why you’re teaching this course.

After you’ve connected with your ideal customer and she’s interested in the ecourse, you want to introduce yourself and share why you’re the right person to teach the course. Don’t spend a lot of time on this. Two to three short paragraphs will do the job.

3. Give a brief overview of the logistics.

If your course is less than $50, a brief description of what you cover in the course, a few testimonials, a snippet of the course material, and a buy button (or two) is probably all you’ll need to add after the introduction.

If you’re charging more than $50 for your course, you’re going to need to give your readers more details. That means your sales page will be quite a bit longer, so this is good place to give your readers a brief explanation of your course.

For example, you might tell them that the course includes 12 video tutorials, 3 patterns, and a private Facebook group.

You can see how I did this in the grayish box (containing bullets) near the top of this sales page.

Bullet points are your bestest of friends when creating sales pages. They’re easy for your readers to skim and read through, they break up the page and make big chunks of text less overwhelming, and they give you an easy way to share details. Use them frequently.

4. Build trust with testimonials.

The most effective way to sell without being too salesy is to let other people do the selling for you. Sprinkle testimonials throughout your sales page.

If this is the first time you’re teaching the course, you can do two different things to use testimonials:

a) Give some of your most loyal customers access to the course early in exchange for their feedback—and use their feedback as testimonials.

b) Use testimonials you’ve received for other products/services but clearly state that the testimonial is not for that particular course. I did this early on with one of my courses and with each testimonial I put the caption “Praise for Working with April.” And, if it was a testimonial for another course, I wrote a caption like: “Praise for Blogging for Creatives.” Even though it’s not a testimonial for that specific course, it helps in the same way, by showing potential customers that they can trust you.

5. Give more details.

If you’re charging more than $50, this is where you need to give more details about your course.

I usually do this by breaking down each lesson or week within the ecourse. You can see how I included more details on what would be covered each week on this sales page.

When you’re sharing details about what you’re covering and what the students can expect to learn, my trade secret is to always provoke curiosity. You want your bullet points (or details) to compel your potential customers to feel like they have to take your course to learn those things.

Some examples of bullet points I used to provoke curiosity on my last course’s sales page:

  • How to charge premium prices
  • The one thing that can dramatically increase your prices
  • Website mistakes that can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars
  • How to make your competitors your friends and allies
  • How to dominate your competition by getting to know your ideal customer
  • How to sell to your ideal customer without being sales-y

When you read those bullet points, you want to know more, right? You want to know the one thing that can dramatically increase your prices and the website mistakes that can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those bullet points motivate you to stop procrastinating and buy.

I know this works because this course sold out without a big launch. It sold out after only five emails (only two were focused solely on the course) sent to my email list about the course or mentioning the course.

6. Include bonuses.

From creating and selling 17 ecourses, I’ve found that including bonuses on a sales page converts almost as well as testimonials.

People love to feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck. Don’t you?

What else will help your students succeed? Maybe you could include an ebook you wrote a year ago as a bonus. Maybe adding access to a private Facebook group for the students to encourage each other as a bonus could help them stay motivated throughout the course.

Here’s a tip that I don’t think I’ve ever shared before: if you don’t have anything to add as a bonus, take something from the course and make it a bonus. The course is the same but the perception is much different.

For example, if you were planning on including a live Q&A call at the end of the course, make that call a bonus. You could make a few of your video tutorials “bonus videos.” Anything can be a bonus.

Check out the bonus section of this sales page for an example.

7. Address objections.

Make a list of the top ten reasons your ideal customer might hesitate to register for your course. Then, make sure your sales page addresses these objections.

For instance, someone might hesitate to pay $27 for your knitting course when she can find knitting tutorials online for free. How can you combat that objection? You can: a) include a testimonial where a customer raves about your course, saying that it’s worth triple the price b) compare the price to something else such as “for less than a nice meal out, you can learn how to knit these adorable leg warmers you’ll be able to wear for years” c) show a clip of one of the video tutorials to show how the quality of your videos is well above most free videos online.

If you address each objection, your sales will absolutely increase.

8. Give potential customers more confirmation that it’s right for them.

On most of my sales pages, I include a section where I list who’s right for the course and who’s wrong for the course.

This does two important things: 1) helps weed out the people who shouldn’t sign up for the course 2) gives potential customers who are a great fit for the course additional confirmation that they should register.

You can see an example of this near the bottom of this sales page.

9. Get specific.

A confused customer never buys. (Repeat this out loud.) A confused customer never buys.

I always include a paragraph or two letting customers know exactly what to expect. That way they’re never wondering how they’ll access the course material or what to do next, because that’s one of the main reasons someone will hesitate to purchase.

Here’s an example excerpt from my Six Weeks to a More Passion-Filled and Profitable Business sales page:

“You can pay via credit card or PayPal. You choose!

You ready to join? If so, simply click the button below to check out with a secure shopping cart. Once you’ve made your first payment, you’ll be redirected to register for the course. You’ll choose a username and password and you’ll receive log in information via email. You’ll also get instant access to all of the RoadMap modules to tackle your procrastination and time management issues. Before the course starts, you’ll receive a notification email that the course is beginning. And, throughout the course, you’ll receive emails each Monday when a new set of modules is released (starting on January 26th).”

10. Insert multiple buy buttons.

If you have a lengthy sales page, you’ll want to place multiple buy buttons throughout. Unless you want to reduce sales. Then, just place one buy button at the very bottom. I usually include three to five buy buttons.

And, here are six more tips for writing a sales page that sells:

1. Write with one person in mind.

Have you ever written an ideal customer profile? This is the time to dust it off, read it and imagine that person when you’re writing your sales page.

When you do this, your writing becomes emotionally impactful. It’s funny how when you write as if you’re writing to one person, you end up connecting with a lot more people. Try it and see the magic that happens.

2. Edit. Edit. Edit some more.

Your sales page is not the place to sloppily slap something together. You’re trying to persuade people to give you their money. Edit each word, sentence and paragraph. Pay close attention to the verbs. Delete unnecessary adjectives.

Read each sentence out loud. Does it sound like you, like something you’d say to a friend? If not, it’s probably too stiff or too salesy. Inject your personality and get rid of the robot.

3. Share a sneak peek.

Show a screenshot of the inside of the course website. Share a snippet of one of the course videos. Include a photo of one of your worksheets.

Especially in the beginning, if you don’t give a preview of any of the course content, people will wonder why. They’ll think you’re hiding something.

Your customers are taking a risk when they sign up for your course, and you can reduce that risk for them by showing them a preview of what they’ll be getting. You don’t have to do this, but if your course content is high quality, it’ll increase your sales.

4. Use your customers’ language.

One mistake experts make when writing sales pages is using language that their customers don’t understand. Remember that your customers are trying to learn about your topic and probably don’t know the terms an expert would appreciate. You want to connect with your target market and using their language is one of the best ways to do that.

5. Give them a reason to buy now.

We all procrastinate whenever we can. Think about your own experiences. You know you’ve come across an ecourse and thought, “Oh that looks amazing. I should really take this, but I’ll wait until next month when I have more time.”

You have to give your ideal customer a reason to buy now…not next month or next year. The reason could be that registration will close in a week and you’re not offering the course again for another six months. The reason could be that your course on improving your relationship with your spouse could save your marriage and you need to invest in your marriage today.

You need to motivate your ideal customer to click the buy button instead of leaving the page.

6. Visuals matter.

You’re a creative entrepreneur which means that your customers expect more from you visually. It also means that many of them are drawn to visuals more than text.

Use photos and illustrations to break up the text. With your testimonials, use a photo of the person who provided the testimonial.

You need to use high-quality photos and illustrations. I suggest using your own photos, so that your visuals are branded. If your photo skills aren’t up to par, luckily you can find really good stock photos to use on your sales page. Investing $10-30 on photos for your sales page can make a big difference and often will pay for itself again and again.

Okay, I could ramble on and on when it comes to sales pages, but I think I’ve given you a solid starting point.

If you have more questions about pricing or sales pages, make sure you join the live call next week (Thursday, July 9th at 4pm EST)! It’s free and I’ll be answering all of your questions.

Click the blue “remind me” button right here to get reminder emails the day of the call. I can’t wait to chat with you! We’re going to delve even further into creating and selling ecourses.

Check out the next part of the series on marketing and selling your ecourse.

Comments { 9 }

Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses Part 4: Planning, Outlining and Naming Your Course

Create-and-Sell-Ecourses-Part-4

For the fourth part of this series, we’re delving into my favorite part of creating online courses: the planning, outlining and researching phase.

Sound the trumpets! Throw the glitter! It’s research time.

We’re also discussing naming your course, so if you’ve ever had an idea for an ecourse but couldn’t think up a decent name, keep reading. (I’ve been stuck in that ‘if only I could think of nifty name’ land so often that I’ve built my own hotel there. So, I’ve created a naming strategy that I’m sharing with you.)

If you’re reading this intro and wondering what the bananas is going on, you’ve probably missed the first three parts of this series on creating and selling your own ecourses.

Not to worry, my friend. They’re FREE and you can find them right here:

Part 1: Intro and Picking Your Topic

Part 2: The Tools and Software

Part 3: Step by Step Guide to Setting It Up

If you’re all caught up, let’s skedaddle on.

Through teaching 17 online courses, I’ve learned a trick when it comes to naming your course.

Drum roll please…

If you’re struggling with the name, skip it until you’ve got a grasp of the content. Okay, maybe that’s not the best “trick” and it didn’t deserve a drum roll but it’s actually a trusty technique that will help. Come on…take my hand…and let me guide you through it.

When you plan your first (or next) online course, your first step should be deciding what the biggest takeaway will be for your students. What are the students going to learn? What will they complete by the end? What skills will they master?

Knowing the big takeaway will keep you focused during everything else—outlining, naming, pricing, designing and marketing the course.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making when creating and selling their first online course is trying to cram too much information into it.

For instance, let’s say that you want to teach a knitting ecourse.

You want to help beginning knitters, so you’re going to teach them how to knit a specific scarf, going through the steps from a to z. The big takeaway is that by the end of the course, the students will have learned how to knit while creating their first scarf (and getting hooked on knitting).

Knowing the big takeaway makes the outlining process feel effortless.

You only include skills that pertain to that project. It makes the process of creating, marketing and selling the course that much easier. You’ve got a distinct target market and a clear skillset students will learn.

Consider that you want to teach a knitting course for beginners but you don’t pick a specific project. How much more difficult will it be to decide what to include in the course? What about when you sit down to type up your sales page? How about mapping out an ideal customer profile?

You don’t have to pick an explicit project to teach, but especially in the beginning, the more specific the takeaway, the easier it’ll be on you.

Think of the confidence boost you’d get from launching your first ecourse with success within the next three months. When you complicate things (like the content), it can take a lot longer to actually put together and get out into the world.

Now, let’s talk outlines.

I always outline a course before creating the content. And, I’ve found that the more detailed the outline, the easier it is to create the content.

Once you’ve determined what your students will get out of taking your course, it’s time to start your outline. Personally, I like to outline and then name the course but you might like naming the course and then outlining it. Do what works best for you.

For this phase, set a deadline or else you might find yourself at the bottom of the research rabbit hole months from now.

When I get to the outline stage, I predetermine a due date. Research is a big part of my creation process. It’s one of my favorite parts, so I can get swept up by it if I’m not careful.

Here’s how I outline and research (this may or may not work for you):

First, I gather a stack of 4×6 inch index cards and start to jot down any content I want to include in the course.

I only write down one idea on each card (which means most cards include one sentence or small paragraph). For instance, if I’m teaching a course on blogging, I might scribble “how to add social share buttons to your blog posts” on one card and “how to make blog images pinable for Pinterest” on another card.

After I’ve written down all of my ideas, I start researching other things I want to include in the course.

I begin by making a list of books, blogs, podcasts and articles I want to consume. For example, if I’m teaching a course on copywriting, I’d probably read 5-10 books and 50-75 blog posts on the subject as well as listening to podcasts and watching videos on the topic.

This submerges me in the topic. During the research phase, I keep the stack of index cards with me. Each time I come across something I might want to include in the course, I jot it down on another card. This includes quotes, examples I want to use, interesting ideas (and who to give credit to for the idea) and ideas I come up with while researching.

By the end of the research phase, I usually have hundreds of index cards with notes on them.

Next, I pick out the main lessons I’m going to teach in the course.

For instance, for the blogging course, the main lessons might be: 1) Why you should blog 2) How to get started with blogging 3) Taking photos for your blog 4) Using social media to promote your blog 5) How to write with personality and 6) The importance of headlines and first sentences.

I would write each main topic on an index card and tab them so that I know they are the main topics.

Then, I sift through all the other index cards and place them behind the main topic they fall under.

For example, I would place the index card with “how to add social share buttons to your blog posts” written on it under the social media lesson.

Once I’ve categorized each index card, I go through each main lesson one by one, laying out all of the index cards on the floor or taping them to a wall.

Then, I can easily see the main themes that I want to cover and I add them to my typed outline.

Next, I group together index cards that should be covered together. This clarifies what I want to teach in each lesson and what order they should go in.

At this point, I’ve got a main chunk of the content of the course done. I’ll sift through the index cards for each lesson, adding more to the outline until it’s a complete outline to work from.

This is when I do my happy dance because I’m ready to create the course content which usually either means constructing Keynotes or recording videos.

This might sound dramatic but my index system is life, because without it, I would miss points I want to cover and things that are significant to the topic I’m teaching.

I usually give myself about one month to fill out the index cards and research. For bigger courses, I might give myself two or three months.

Once I’ve defined the bones of the course but before I’m done with the research phase is usually when I decide on the name.

Naming a course or product is my nemesis.

I’m not good at it. And, I’m not just being humble.

Because of that, I’ve created a strategy that makes the naming process less sucktastic. If you feel the need to gulp down a giant slice of cake with buttercream frosting when you have to name something, this approach might help you. I mean, you can still have the cake. I’m going to. But, anything to make this easier is a win to me.

Step 1: Brain dump.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down all your ideas. Include words that pop into your mind, even if they don’t neatly fit into a title right now. Use this as your starting point.

Step 2: Put together five combinations.

From the list you’ve made, compile some possible course names. I try to come up with at least five to start with.

Step 3: Make the thesaurus your bestest friend.

When I’ve got an idea in mind, but something still feels a bit off I look up the words I’ve used on thesaurus.com and I play with different options.

Step 4: Step away.

Once you’ve done this much, taking a break will help your creative process. You know that feeling that bubbles up in your chest when you’ve been thinking about a creative problem for too long? Your inventiveness starts to stumble, you keep coming up with the same solutions and the frustration mounts.

That’s when you need to step (or skip because skipping is much more fun) away. Sleep on it. Take a walk. Think about other things like whether you should’ve painted your nails eggshell instead of paper white or if Kaitlyn is going to end up alone since she slept with that Nick guy (Bachorlette fans what what!).

Step 5: Review your list with fresh eyes.

Once you’ve gotten some space, you’ll make a better decision. You’ll probably have a couple of new options you’ve accidentally thought of during spin class or while folding laundry. You might realize that your favorite option isn’t that great. You might notice an option that you’d ruled out in the beginning in a new way. Play with your ideas some more.

Step 6: Narrow down your options.

Do some research to see if anyone is using the course names you’ve brainstormed. You’ll probably have to cross some out and possibly change some of the wording to make yours different. Then, pick your top three.

Step 7: Get feedback.

If you’re in a mastermind group or a member of a supportive Facebook group (like the B-School group), share your three top choices and ask for feedback.

Sometimes you’re too close to things to see what someone else might. Someone might share a word choice that you hadn’t thought of or someone might point out something confusing about your favorite name. That kind of feedback is critical.

Step 8: Pick a course title.

At some point, you’ve got to stop the brainstorm phase and name your course. After you’ve compiled different options, taken some space away from them, and gotten feedback, you’re ready to choose the name of your course.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. A confused customer never buys.

And, a confused reader never clicks. Clarity should always win out over cuteness. If your followers don’t understand what the course is (at all) by the title, they might not click to learn to more. You’ll absolutely lose sales.

Some “cute” names work but they work because people connect to them. For example, Mayi Carles’ Life is Messy Bootcamp isn’t completely clear by the name, but her customers emotionally connect to the phrase “life is messy.” If the name will inspire your followers to click and read more, then you’ll be fine.

2. Shorter equals better.

And, it’s easier to remember. One of my courses is titled, Six Weeks to a More Passion-Filled and Profitable Business, and because it’s such a long title, most of my customers call it “six weeks” which won’t make much sense to anyone else who doesn’t already know what the course is about.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to add more length to your course name but if you’ve got a shorter option, go with the succinct one.

3. Keep your brand in mind.

When you’re trying to brainstorm a name for your next online course, it’s important that whatever you pick works with your brand. Ask yourself, “Is this name something my customers would find jarring or unrelated?” If so, it’s probably not the best choice.

I hope this helps you when you’re in the planning, outlining and naming phases of your course creation.

If you have any tips to add or have any questions you’d like me to answer, leave them in the comments below!

Check out the next part of the series on pricing your ecourse and writing your sales page.

Comments { 20 }

Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses Part 3: Step by Step Guide to Setting It Up

Create-and-Sell-Ecourses-Part-3

This week for Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses, I’m showing you how I set up ecourses through my own website using WordPress and WishList Member.

If you’re just joining the series, you can catch up right here:

Part 1: Intro and Picking Your Topic

Part 2: The Tools and Software

In the video, I show you: 1) how I install another installation on my domain, blacksburgbelle.com 2) how I install WishList Member 3) what I do within WishList Member to set it up for an online course 4) how I design the website using Canvas by WooThemes and 5) how you can integrate it with your shopping cart and email software.

I tried to explain things in an easy-to-understand way. If anything seems confusing, it’s helpful to get into the program and play around a bit. Please remember that this technical stuff isn’t my area of expertise, but I knew it would help you get closer to selling your own ecourses if I shared this process with you so I’m doing it anyways. (So, if it sounds like I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how to describe something to you, I probably am.)

Because the video is close to 50 minutes, let’s just leap right in:

I hope this helps you see that creating and selling your own ecourses isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

If you still have technical questions, you can leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try my best to answer.

Through watching this video, maybe you’ve realized that you want to stick to ebooks, worksheets and other PDFs for now. If you’re interested in learning the technical parts of designing and putting together worksheets and ebooks, you should check out my CreativeLive course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You  Sleep. I spent over an hour showing how I use InDesign and Illustrator to create those digital products in that course.

Check out the next part of this series where I help you with planning, outlining and naming your course.

Comments { 23 }

Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses Part 2: The Tools and Software

Create and Sell Ecourses Part Two

Welcome back to Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses!

If you missed the kick off last week, you can check out the introduction to the series, Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses. (You’ll want to read it before diving into what you need to make it happen.)

This week is all about the tools and software you need to sell ecourses through your own website.

First, I want you to take a DEEP breath, because when you look at this list, you might be overwhelmed.

Instead of going straight to “well I’ll never be able to make this happen,” I want you to remember how excited you got when you thought about creating an online course. That enthusiasm will help you push through the overwhelm.

Everybody who decides to create and sell ecourses gets overwhelmed when they first think about what goes into creating it.

Before we get into the list (some of you are probably thinking, “alright already…get to the good stuff), there’s something else important to touch on.

From the comments last week, I know some of you are looking for shortcuts. Maybe you don’t want to invest a lot of money into creating your ecourse. Maybe you’re a little nervous about putting in a lot of time and some money and then it flopping.

Here’s the thing: if you’re starting out with a negative mindset, you’re not going to get very far.

You’ll get out of it what you put in. That’s the truth I’ve found with working with hundreds of creative entrepreneurs.

You probably can’t put together a course that people gush over and that makes you a good chunk of money with just your smartphone. You need some tools and software. You need to be willing to spend time on this. If you aren’t, then this probably isn’t the right time for you to create your first ecourse. (And, that’s okay, too!)

With that said, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to create an ecourse that your customers love.

Below I’m sharing the tools I use and some cheaper alternatives.

I want this be accessible if you have a limited budget, but keep in mind that what you can charge often correlates with the quality of product. Meaning that if you’re using your iphone to film the videos, you can’t charge as much as you could if you’re using a camera that gives you high-quality picture and sound.

You probably won’t need ALL of these tools. I don’t use all of them in the same course. It depends on what you’re offering within your course. For example, if you’re not hosting live calls, you don’t need a platform to host live calls.

Without further introduction (cause that was already pretty darn long), here’s the list of tools:

1. Computer

If you’re teaching an online course, you need a computer. I use a Macbook Pro (Mac girl for life!) and I love it, but you can do the same types of things on a PC. Use what you’ve got.

2. Website

If you want to host an ecourse, then you need a website to host it on.

What I Use:

I have a WordPress website and highly recommend using WordPress. The step-by-step tutorial video that I’m sharing next week is on creating an ecourse on WordPress website.

Cheaper Alternative:

If you want to teach an online course but don’t want to get into the technical bits of hosting it yourself, I suggest looking into other platforms such as Skillshare and Atly. Make sure you read the fine print because some platforms can remove your course at any time for any reason (without notice) and if that’s a main source of your income, you want to be prepared. Also, you give up control when you host your course on another platform and you have to share the profits. But, sometimes giving up some control and profits is worth it when you don’t have to do any of the technical set up or hosting.

3. Domain and Hosting

What I Use:

Instead of purchasing a new domain for each course, I install a subdomain onto my main domain: blacksburgbelle.com. If I can show you how to do this without showing any private information, I’m going to include it in next week’s video tutorial.

I use the program Fantastico (which I had to pay for separately but comes with some hosting packages) on my cPanel to install subdomains. I know that probably sounds confusing but it’s actually very easy. You’ll see next week! It’s a click of a button.

This is the cheaper alternative to buying another domain and paying for additional hosting for that domain. I do it mainly because it’s the easiest way for me to offer courses on my own website.

I buy my domains from Dynadot.

For hosting, I use Midphase and I pay $305.90 for hosting each month because I have my own dedicated server which means that my website loads much faster than it would if I was on a shared server. I DON’T recommend this for those of you starting out.

If you’re willing to invest in really good hosting, I suggest Synthesis. If you’re not ready for that, I suggest picking a hosting plan that’s less than $10 a month (such as Blue Host) and investing more in the future if necessary.

If you already have a self-hosted website, then you already have a domain and hosting. This is ONLY for those of you who don’t have a website yet.

4. Fantastico

I use Fantastico to easily install subdomains onto blacksburgbelle.com in order to host courses on their own site that is still connected to Blacksburg Belle.

Some hosting plans include Fantastico so check with your hosting provider before you invest in this.

Cheaper Alternative:

You could host your course on a password protected page on your website. If you pick this option, you can’t customize a website for your course because you’re using your main website. And, it’s not as secure, because someone could give out the link and password without you realizing it.

5. WishList Member

I use WishList Member for every course and membership program I sell through Blacksburg Belle. It’s user-friendly and secure. Next week, I’ll walk you through how I use WishList Member so you can see it for yourself.

Cheaper Alternative:

Same alternative as number four—using a password protected page on your website.

6. WordPress Theme

If you install a subdomain on your website, you have to set it up from scratch which means adding a theme and any plug-ins you want to use.

What I Use:

I use Canvas by WooThemes for everything including my website and subdomains. I love Canvas because I can easily customize my site with it.

Cheaper Alternative:

Free WordPress themes are always an option, but they often come with technical hiccups and aren’t easily (if at all) customizable.

7. Email Platform

In order to email your students (to give them course information, encourage them, update them on changes, etc), you need an email platform. Most online business owners already have an email platform that they use to email followers and subscribers. If you already use an email platform, you can use it for this purpose.

What I Use:

I’ve used AWeber for the past four years. Highly recommend.

Cheaper Alternative:

Within Wishlist Member, you can email your members, however, it’s very limited in what you can do. Simple emails…yes. Anything above very basic, you’ll want an email platform. I suggest using an email platform and if you don’t want to spend extra money, sign up with MailChimp because it’s free until you reach a certain number of subscribers.

8. Video camera

If your course (or sales page) includes videos (other than slides or screenshots), then you need a video camera to record those videos. I don’t recommend using your smartphone, because the quality is subpar. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a video camera, but investing a couple hundred dollars will make a huge difference in your videos.

What I Use:

I use a Nikon Coolpix L620 which was about $250 when I bought it.

Cheaper Alternative:

Your smartphone, but again, I don’t recommend this. I’ve filmed videos with my iPhone and there’s a huge difference in the picture and sound quality when using a video camera. When I’m paying for something, I expect higher quality than smartphone videos.

9. Camera

If you’re using pictures in your course or on your sales page, you’ll need a camera. I suggest investing in a decent camera—not just for your course—but for your business. If you take product photos or photos for your blog, it’ll help you improve all of those areas.

What I Use:

A few years ago, I took the plunge and bought my first DSLR, a Nikon D90. It’s been a great camera for me.

Cheaper Alternative:

You can get some really nice photos with your smartphone or with a camera that isn’t a DSLR. You have to decide what’s worth investing in and isn’t (or what you can wait to invest in).

10. Video Editing Software

For the most part, you don’t need anything crazy when it comes to editing videos for your course. You probably don’t need special effects or advanced techniques.

What I Use:

My go-to video editing software is iMovie. After you get the hang of it, you can do a lot with it and it’s free with a Mac.

If you’re on a PC, I can’t really help you because I haven’t had a PC in years.

11. Studio Lights

If you’re filming videos and don’t have nice natural light (not too harsh—not too dark) or can’t film during the hours you get the best natural light in your home, getting studio lights will make your life so much easier.

What I Use:

In my last house, I had a sunroom with beautiful natural light so that’s what I used. When I moved, I realized that all the big trees surrounding my house meant that natural light for my videos wasn’t going to be an option anymore. I purchased this lighting package.

Cheaper Alternative:

Natural light.

12. Tripod

If you’re filming videos for your course, a tripod will make your life easier. It steadies the camera and makes it easier to get the height just right.

Cheapter Alternative:

For quite a while, I used a stack of books on stool as my “tripod.” It worked just fine. I upgraded when my husband found me a high-quality tripod at a flea market.

13. Screenflow

If you’re including videos in your course but you want to record slides while you talk through them or you want to record your computer screen, you’ll need screen recording software. I use Screenflow to record and edit those types of videos. It’s been a great program for me and it’s very user-friendly. You can download a free trial to see if you like it.

14. PowerPoint or Keynote

If you’re going to record slides, you need software to create those slides. I use Keynote because I’m on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, you’d probably use PowerPoint.

15. Illustrator

I use Adobe Illustrator to create visuals for my slides, sales pages and course design. I also use it to create worksheet pages.

One way to make your sales page look more customized is to create your own buy buttons instead of using your shopping cart’s default buy buttons. It can make a big difference. I design my buy buttons in Illustrator.

Cheaper Alternative:

Because Adobe offers the monthly plan, I think it’s totally worth it. For $50 a month you get access to so many programs that will up your business game. If you’re not ready for that kind of investment, you can create a lot of this stuff (but not all) with PicMonkey for free.

16. InDesign

I use InDesign to put together workbooks, multi-page worksheets and ebooks for my courses. I don’t know of a cheaper alternative for this one but it comes in the monthly bundle package through Adobe.

If your course doesn’t include workbooks, multi-page patterns or ebooks, then you probably don’t need this.

17. Photoshop

I use Photoshop to edit all of my photos. If you’re using photos within your course (example: to demonstrate the steps in your sewing tutorial), you definitely want to edit them. It makes a huge difference.

Cheaper Alternative:

Photoshop isn’t a need by any means. You can do enough with free photo editing software like PicMonkey if it’s not in the budget.

18. Photoshop Actions

I used to spend a ton of time editing my photos. Then, I found Photoshop actions. To me, they are well worth the investment, because they save me hours and hours and hours. Right now, I exclusively use Paint the Moon actions.

Cheaper Alternative:

Editing your photos manually. Or, Photoshop actions that don’t cost as much, but from my experience, you get what you pay for.

19. Video Hosting Platform

If you’re using videos (either kind), you need a place to host them.

What I Use:

Vimeo is my go-to for hosting videos. I prefer it over YouTube, because you’ve got more options to customize them, making your videos feel much more branded.

Cheaper Alternative:

YouTube.

20. Shopping Cart

You’ve got to have a shopping cart in order to collect money.

What I Use:

I’ve always used 1shoppingcart in conjunction with PayPal to accept credit cards and PayPal. 1shoppingcart works seamlessly with WishList Member, so when someone pays, they automatically get redirected to the course website to choose a username and password. I don’t have to send the course information to each customer manually.

Cheaper Alternative:

I’m not sure which cheaper shopping carts work with WishList Member seamlessly like 1shoppingcart but I’m sure that there are some that do. I’ve heard good things about SendOwl, which is cheaper, but I’m not sure how it works with WishList Member. That’s something you’d have to research.

21. Spreecast

If part of your course includes live calls (such as Q&A calls), then you need to pick a platform to host them.

What I Use:

In the beginning I used GotoWebinar, but I didn’t love it. I’m currently using Spreecast but I don’t love it either. There are pros and cons to every platform and each one seems to come with it’s own technical issues. I’m still looking for a platform that has amazing customer support and less technical hiccups, but the best option for me right now is Spreecast.

Cheaper Alternative:

If you have nine students or less, you could use Google hangouts for free. Unfortunately, at this time, it only allows 10 people to join a call so it doesn’t work for larger courses.

22. Webcam

If you’re going to host live calls, you’ll need a way for your students to see you (unless you’re only showing your screen/slides), so you’ll need a webcam.

What I Use:

I upgraded my webcam to the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, because I wanted a clearer picture. It definitely gives me much better picture quality.

Cheaper Alternative:

For years, I used the webcam on my Macbook Pro and you could easily use the webcam that comes with your laptop (if applicable).

These are all the tools and software I use to create and sell my online courses. I hope it helps you figure out what to invest in to get started.

Remember that you don’t need all of this stuff. It really depends on what you’re offering within your ecourse. My advice is to set a budget, invest in stuff that’s going to make the biggest difference to the quality of your ecourse and pick cheaper alternatives for the other stuff.

Then, you can upgrade as you go.

Do NOT let this list completely overwhelm you. Take things one step at a time and enjoy the process!

Think of anything I didn’t include? Add it in the comments below.

Check out the next part of this series where I walk you through how I set up an online course step by step with a video tutorial. I promise it’s easier than you think.

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Create and Sell Your Own Ecourses: A FREE Six Part Series

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As a creative business owner, you’ve probably thought about teaching an online course at one point or another.

You might’ve only given it a few seconds of thought before deciding it’s not your thing.

Or, you might’ve wanted to teach an ecourse but you got lost along the way, not knowing where to start, what software to use or how to market it.

Maybe you’ve already launched your own online course but you were disappointed by the response from your followers.

Over the past four years, I’ve taught 17 online courses, most through my own website and three through CreativeLive.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, how to make the process easier and what to avoid. And, I’m going to share it all with you in a six part series that starts today.

Here’s the breakdown of what to expect and when:

Part 1: Intro to the Series and Picking a Topic (This post–keep reading!)

Part 2: The Tools and Software I Use When Teaching an Ecourse

Part 3: Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up a Course on Your Own Website

Part 4: Planning, Outlining and Naming Your Course

Part 5: Pricing Your Ecourse and Writing Your Sales Page

Part 6: Marketing and Selling Your Ecourse

Bonus: FREE Q&A Live Call on July 9th at 4pm EST. RSVP here by clicking the “remind me” button.

And, the best part is this is all 100% free.

Through teaching my CreativeLive course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep, I realized that many of you have thought about designing and selling your own courses. This series is all about helping you avoid mistakes I’ve made and simplifying the process of producing an ecourse so that you feel confident you can do it.

The series will include videos, worksheets and of course, written material.

If you’re on the fence about creating your own online courses, here’s why I think they’re a great addition to your revenue stream and business model:

1. Online courses are one of those things that you can create once and sell over and over.

It’s always smart to have digital products in your business model, so that you can make money 24/7 without additional work. When you have to make every product you sell (like knitted mittens or original paintings), your income is limited because there are only so many hours in the day. And, burnout is real.

2. It gives you the chance to work with other creatives without trading time for money.

When you work with someone one-on-one, you’re trading time for money (example: you coach them for an hour and they give you a set amount of money for it). With an online course, you often generate content that can be consumed by any number of people at any point in time. Instead of only working with one person, 348 people (or more!) can watch the videos or read the content you’ve created.

It gives you the chance to work with more people, without putting in more hours. That usually means that your customers don’t have to pay as much to work with you. Instead of someone paying $495 to work with you one-on-one, she pays $95 to take your course. It’s a win for you and win for your customer.

3. Technology has made it easier than ever to create and sell your own course.

I love teaching at CreativeLive (so much so that I’m going back this fall!), but when you host and sell a course on your own website, you have control over everything and you keep all the profit. Teaching ecourses can be a great boost to your income. Last year, online courses made up over 60% of my income.

4. Students can join you from all over the world.

The beauty of selling an ecourse is that your students can learn 24/7 from the comfort of their own homes, in onesie pajamas if they wish. I love teaching and speaking in person, but it limits who can join and learn from me. When it’s an ecourse, anyone can take advantage. This means your customer base can grow and grow and grow instead of being limited by the local community.

5. People are already trying to figure out how you do what you do.

You might decide that selling ecourses isn’t for you, and that’s fine. But when you start to succeed at what you do, you’ll always have a group of people who check out your website and shop, not wanting to buy your products but wishing to do what you do. Most of those people have the best intentions and aren’t trying to copy you outright. They want to learn your skillset to apply to their own personalities and brand.

These people are the DIYers and the aspiring entrepreneurs. Maybe they want to learn how to embroider so that they can make Christmas presents for their friends and family. Or maybe they want to open their own Etsy shop and sell embroidery. You don’t have to sell to them, but it’s something to consider.

Are you in yet?

If so, this week we’re starting simple.

Your first step: pick your topic.

Before you can do anything else, you need to know what you want to teach.

For some of you, your subject is going to be obvious.

If you’re a knitter, you’re probably going to teach knitting. You’ll have to narrow it down a bit more, picking a project to work on or a set of skills you’ll teach.

If you’re a speaking coach, you’re probably going to teach a course on how to become a better public speaker. Again, you’ll probably have to focus a bit more than that, but your topic is pretty clear.

For some of you, your topic isn’t as obvious.

If you’re a life coach, it could range from helping 20-somethings pick a career to helping women become financially confident to helping couples with intimacy.

If you’re a mixed media artist, you could teach a course on creating backgrounds for paintings or art journaling or painting a specific subject.

Here’s the easy way to pick a topic:

1. Start by making a list of all the course subjects you have the skillset to teach. Jot it all down. Don’t worry, you’re not going to use them all your ideas.

2. Cross off any that won’t appeal to your current target market.

3. Circle the ones that you’re the most excited to develop and teach. (Your excitement will sell the course more than anything else.)

4. Narrow down the circled ideas to two to three choices.

5. If there isn’t an obvious choice among your ideas, ask your followers. You can either create a simple poll or ask them to comment (or reply depending on the platform) with the one they want the most. Ask on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your blog. Go with the most popular choice.

Now that you’ve got your topic, I want you to do one more thing before next week: start to clarify who the target market is for your course.

You can’t finish this step until you’ve gotten down some more details, but you can start.

Here are the questions you’ll want to think about:

1. Who would benefit from this course?

2. What will most of the students have in common? (interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes)

3. Why will they choose your course over other similar courses? What makes your course different?

4. What are their biggest pain points? (example for a course on learning to budget: lots of debt, feeling overwhelmed financially, feeling like they’ll never get out of debt)

Start to brainstorm your answers to these questions. We’ll do more with this later, but it’ll help to get your ideas flowing.

In the next part of the series, I’m sharing all the tools and software I use when creating and selling an ecourse on my own website.

Even if you’re not ready to teach an online in the next few months, if you do the work during the next six weeks, you’ll be prepared when you want to get started.

If you know that teaching and selling online courses isn’t in your future, you could still get a lot out of: learning how to set up a membership site (because you can sell pretty much anything through a membership site—like monthly knitting patterns or downloadable prints), information on pricing (because we all have to do that no matter what we sell), and learning more about writing a sales page and marketing.

Once you know your topic for your first (or next) online course, leave it in the comments below.

Who knows…others who are reading this post might be interested in taking YOUR course once you’ve launched it.

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My Love Affair with Writing (And, how you can improve your copywriting skills)

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For this blog post, I’m supposed to talk about how I use writing in my business.

Well, it’s pretty simple. Writing is my business.

Almost everything I do within my business includes writing: blog posts, email marketing, Instagram captions, Facebook posts, sales pages, tweets, Keynote slides, workbook pages and more.

You might be one of those people who cringes when thinking about creating a business that’s based on that much writing.

I know people who’d rather lick their spouses’ toenails after a long hike than spend most of their days writing.

For me, writing is my happy place. It’s my meditation, and my second true love after my husband.

I set out to build a business around the things that I love: writing, teaching and creating. The result is Blacksburg Belle.

The funny thing is that writing wasn’t always something I loved or even enjoyed. In grad school, writing became one of those “ugh…pleeeeeease no more” kind of things. But, that was mostly because writing grad school papers was all about figuring out what the professor wanted you to say, not really putting into words what you thought or felt.

It took me about a year after graduating to realize that writing for pleasure made me extremely happy.

And, once I found my writer’s voice and stopped writing to get an “A” on a paper, writing became this wondrous thing that I enjoyed so much that I’d call in sick just to have an entire day to write.

My love affair with writing began.

I started a blog, landed a bunch of freelance writing gigs, and sought more and more ways to spend my time writing.

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You may not love writing as much as me, but if you have an online business, you’ve got to get good at it.

I’ve made as much as $10,000 from one email. The only reason I made that much money is because my words connected with my readers.

To get to that point, I’ve learned a lot about copywriting. Practiced what I learned. Learned some more. Practiced some more. And, so on and so on. (And, if you’re wondering what copy is, it’s writing in which you’re trying to sell something or get your readers to do something like email marketing campaigns, Facebook posts, sales pages and blog posts.)

There’s no easy way to learn how to write copy that drives your target market to do what you want them to do whether that be clicking the buy button or sharing your blog post on social media or leaving a comment.

But, there are some shortcuts. The best shortcut is to learn from someone who’s really damn good at writing copy. Instead of trying to figure all of this stuff out on your own, I recommend you read books and take courses that help you get there much quicker.

That leads me to the point of this blog post.

This post is part of Kris Windley’s blog hop to celebrate the launch of her writing workshop. She emailed me a week and a half ago asking if I’d participate and I knew I had to try.

I first “met” Kris when she asked thought provoking questions during my first CreativeLive course. From the questions she asked and the comments she made, I felt like she was someone I needed to get to know better.

You know those people that you instantly connect with?

Kris is one of those people for me.

When I signed my second contract with CreativeLive to teach another course, one of the first things I thought about was the studio audience. I wanted Kris to be in it. We emailed back and forth a few times. I kept encouraging her to do what she needed to do to get herself to San Francisco.

She came and it was so much fun to work with her.

At the end of those three days, my content producer said to me, “Kris with a K…she’s going places. I can’t wait to see what she creates.”

I have been nagging Kris over the past six months to produce some sort of writing course or digital product, because she’s got so much to offer and she’s extremely talented.

Guess what? Her writing course, Craft Your Voice, starts on May 25th.

I often don’t do this. I hardly ever write promotional posts for other people’s stuff, mainly because I want to keep most of my blog posts full of helpful tips and advice. But, I couldn’t resist this one. (Plus, it’s really cool that Kris is giving away a scholarship and want you to have the chance to enter. Details below!)

You should check out Kris’ writing process challenge and her upcoming course if you want help with writing better copy. And, remember, better copy equals more money in the bank.

I’m participating in a Blog Link-up with Kris (With a K), from www.withakwriting.com, because she wants to hear about the role writing plays in our businesses.

She is giving a Writing Workshop for entrepreneurs and bloggers, starting May 25th, and she wants to give away a scholarship to one of the lovely bloggers who participate in this link up. You can participate and get a chance to win too.

Just copy and paste this bolded text into the introduction of your blog post answering the question, “How has writing been beneficial to your business, and what do you want to Craft with your Voice next?”

Finally, go back to Kris’s blog on or after May 12th to add your link to the link-up party there, and you could win a scholarship to her new course: Craft Your Voice. She’ll be drawing a name on the 18th of May for a COMPLETE scholarship to the 6 week writing course, so you can write and link-up your post any time before then.

Have other resources for improving your copywriting? Leave them in the comments below. (This is one of those things that it’s the more, the better!)

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