Five questions to ask before paying for an online course
Have you ever thought about doing an online course?
We’re all so time poor that learning online is proving increasingly popular.
There’s no need to factor in travel time, you can learn in your dog walking gear or pyjamas and on a much smaller budget.
Plus subjects are much more niche – you can choose from over 100 million online courses from all over the world.
Over the years I’ve done online courses on Social Media, SEO, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogging, Facebook and Instagram ads, Twitter, Video, you name it.
I recently launched my own, Blogging for Pet Businesses.
Here are five key questions you should ask before signing up for an online course
1. Is it good value for money?
A few years ago I spent £2500 on a digital marketing course so I didn’t feel so much of a dinosaur having worked in print journalism my entire career.
I didn’t make the money back directly but I learned new skills which meant I could pitch for different kinds of work that I wouldn’t have felt qualified to do before.
So it was worth it in that respect. But I’ve also spent money on Pinterest and Instagram courses and they have sat in my inbox and barely been touched.
Before you hit that PayPal button, ask yourself whether you will even finish the course? Will you learn something you can implement regularly in your business?
It may take time to see results. Often simply feeling more confident can mean so much.
Lottie from the Cosy Canine Company who did my blog course said she didn’t really see the benefit of blogging before she did the course.
But now she can see the value. The night she posted her first blog she secured £60 worth of sales, which covered 25% of the cost of the course.
2. Do I have the time to do the course?
Choose a course that you WANT to make time to do. Take my Pinterest course that is still sat in my inbox for example.
I started it, but I just didn’t get it so I didn’t make the time. I actually signed up for the course to promote my pet blog and I know that other bloggers have AMAZING traffic from Pinterest.
However I know my audience hang out on Facebook and Twitter and that’s where I connect with them, so I didn’t feel I could justify spending time on another platform.
There are only so many hours in the day and I didn’t want to spread myself too thinly.
With my group coaching programme, I explain exactly how much time it will take.
Each pet business owner knows to block off 60 – 90 minutes for the live call then between two to four hours a week to get the homework done.
Yes, it’s a big chunk of time but it’s only for four weeks and it gets their pet business blogs off to a flying start.
Take a look at dog trainer Suzanne’s blog Edinburgh Holistic Dogs.
She says she ‘can’t stop blogging,’ now she’s started and is seeing the benefit with increased visits to her website and more clients.
Once you start to see this, it’s easier to find the time because you see it actually working.
3. Is the person running the course the right person to teach me?
Are they walking the walk? Have they been on the journey themselves?
One example is the amazing Sara Tasker from Me and Orla. A former speech therapist in the NHS, she turned her passion for Instagram into a business and has coached thousands of people all over the world.
She learned about Instagram while on maternity leave in 2013, starting with a photo-a-day project. Within three months she’d gained 35,000 followers.
Since then she’s written a book and says, ‘I’m passionate about helping other women and creatives find their online voice, because I know first-hand all of the huge and brilliant changes it can bring.’
Her account is simply stunning and here she is on Instagram with 216,000 followers (September 2019) www.instagram.com/me_and_orla
If you’re learning about photography can you see the work the person teaching the course creates? Are they the kind of images you aspire to be able to capture?
The reason I decided to do a blogging course was because I have a successful blog at www.thepawpost.co.uk and an engaged audience on social media.
Pet business owners looking to gain confidence writing can see the content I create and if they like it, they can come and learn with me.
4. Will what I learn work for my business?
I’ve been guilty of trying to learn about every social media platform out there and spreading myself too thin.
If you’re thinking about an online course, and maybe you’ve just started a new business, see what’s working for others in your industry.
For example, I’ve worked with four dog trainers who all know one another in my writing programme. The first, Suzanne, took a leap of faith by signing up.
But when people saw that blogging worked for her business, they followed. It’s a good idea to ask people around you before you invest.
Sometimes it doesn’t do any harm to think a little outside the box. Years ago a friend of mine Sara Lain from the Front Page Story Agency was the first to go online as a news agency.
The other agencies were reading newspapers and magazines, listening to the radio and watching TV to find stories.
Sara built a website and whenever people put ‘magazine story’ or ‘sell my story’ into Google, they came to her. Her agency is hugely successful as she got there first!
5. Will it be easy for me to put into practice?
When you’re learning something new, the course creator should set you up to succeed and keep things simple.
Take blogging. To create a successful blog you need an understanding of SEO, but first you need to get confident with writing and get your creative juices flowing.
Once you’ve done that, you’ve written some blogs and had feedback, you’ve seen what works and what your audience like, then you can get into the tech side of things.
If I’d started my blog and got bogged down straight away with complicated stuff it would never have got off the ground, so I teach the basics so there’s no huge overwhelm.
You learn how to optimise a post and get the tools to track your progress so you can see the impact of what you have learned on your business.
I ask each participant to track their website visitors and social media followers for a set period of time so they can see changes.
They’re given templates that are really easy to follow and give them the building blocks for each blog post which they can use until it becomes second nature.
That said, Lottie has got on the first page of Google for one of her sets of keywords, ‘Cockapoo owners know,’ for a super relatable post she did.
You can check it out here: Ten things Cockapoo owners know are true
There are some amazing online courses out there and they really can be game changers for your pet business.
To get the most from them, you need a lot self discipline and motivation.
Because no matter how great the course or teacher is, it’s up to you to show up, knuckle down and do the work.
Hi, I’m Rachel, a freelance journalist and PR and content consultant and crazy dog lady!
I’ve written so many stories about animals and pet brands that I wrote a book on how pet entrepreneurs can do their own PR.
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