Should you invest in an online course or membership?
Have you ever thought about doing an online course?
Learning online is proving increasingly popular, particularly as this podcast episode goes out at the end of April 2020 while the country is still on lockdown.
While it’s so easy to hit the ‘buy now’ button, spending money on an online course or membership programme does require some careful consideration.
In this episode I run through some of the things you should consider before investing in learning online.
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You can listen on the player link below or read a blog post on some of the questions to ask before investing.
What do people who complete the course go on to do?
Can you see former students who have taken part go on to achieve?
For example, if it’s a course on Instagram growth, does the person who runs it have testimonials showing the transformation?
They might have screen shots from former students showing their account before and after with an increase in followers and engagement.
Does the course get results? Ideally you want to see the person who created the course talking about their successes as well as their own expertise.
Have a look at this example of Janet Murray’s new Instagram course and you will see examples on the page of the transformation for clients who have followed her advice: Janet Murray Instagram Success Academy.*
On my Publicity for Pet Businesses programme, I have testimonials from previous students and links to their cuttings on my website.
This includes features on the BBC, in the Times, Telegraph, Independent and Mail Online, all publications reaching a global audience and you can see them here: Client Successes
Do you have access to the person running the course?
Do you have direct access to the expert when you need it? Many large courses or memberships have thousands of people taking part.
Consider what level of contact you are going to get to the person who is running the course.
Are you going to be able to speak to them directly and ask them questions?
Will you have group calls with them where you can have a two way conversation?
Will you be able to ask questions on a Facebook live? This is different to a two way conversation where you can ask follow up questions and get to the bottom of what you need to know or understand.
Is the person running the course going to be there to support you if you need them to? Do they have a vested interest in your success.
Will you study in your own time or work through the material live?
Being part of an online course where you work through the material on your own requires motivation and dedication.
It’s easy to fall behind or stop altogether if you don’t have anyone keeping you accountable.
One of the things I have found helpful and what I do in my programmes is teach the lessons live, then people can ask questions and I’m sure everyone is clear on what they’ve learned.
Recently I did a Podcasting course with Janet Murray and Colin Gray* and I know going through the learning materials live contributed to me getting this podcast up and running.
Each week we had calls with both of them and the chance to ask questions rather than having to figure everything out on my own.
Part of the programme was to set a date for having this podcast ready and posting it in a Facebook group – so even when lockdown happened I knew I had to stick to it.
Will I be learning as part of a group?
Being part of a group brings with it accountability as I’ve just mentioned and support and camaraderie – you will one another to succeed.
Learning as part of a group isn’t for everyone. Some people may find it overwhelming being on group calls and prefer to work alone.
Others thrive from bouncing ideas off each other and being cheerleaders for the other members in the community.
So if you’re looking into a course or membership programme, ask yourself whether it is right for your personality type.
Do you want to be in a group with other types of businesses or just pet businesses?
Helen Motteram’s Pet Professional Network is people focused and a community for pet professionals looking for advice in all aspects of business marketing, growth, personal development and mindset support.
Do you want to be pushed – or gently encouraged? If it’s the latter, then a membership like Rachel Cross’ The Petpreneur Network might be for you.
This focuses on mindset and provides training and resources to make running a business stress free.
Are there any additional costs associated with the course or membership?
The course or membership provider will be transparent about the cost involved and usually there will be a range of options.
You may find there’s a discount if you pay in one instalment or added bonuses. It’s a good idea to consider other costs involved with what you might learn on the course.
For example when I did my podcast course, I knew I was going to have to spend money on things like headphones and microphones.
When I did Amy Porterfield’s Digital Course Academy I paid for the course upfront and was given a bonus course on how to create a workshop in 30 days.
Another thing I needed to consider when signing up was that I would need to invest in tech and software.
So bear this in mind before you sign up and think things through.
What if you want to leave the membership?
If you sign up for a membership, you usually have access to a range of learning materials such as PDFs, videos and worksheets.
But what happens to these when you leave?
In some memberships, you are able to download resources and personally whenever I work through a programme I print everything so I have it there to refer back to.
If you’re considering a membership then bear in mind that when you leave you will no longer be able to log on and access the information.
You would also be expected to leave any Facebook groups or other groups that were part of the membership.
Be sure to check the terms and conditions of the membership site. Do you need to give notice to the person who runs it?
With online courses, expect the course provider to grant you lifetime access. But if you’re on a payment plan and defer on a payment, you may be locked out of the course.
Where will the learning materials be stored?
With us spending so much time on Facebook, some course providers are putting a lot of learning material in dedicated Facebook groups.
With my first Publicity For Pet Businesses course, I uploaded all the content to a Facebook Group and would put recordings of the group classes there too.
Now, I put the learning materials in a membership site so they are in order, and people can log in and find the resources they need.
Is there a replay of the classes?
We are all busy and even if you are the most dedicated person ever you are unlikely to get to every live class on a course or membership.
Check with the course provider that replays will be easy to access and where you can find them.
Does the course come with any one to one support?
Often courses and memberships are offered at different levels.
Gold might be where you work through the material on your own.
Silver might be where you work as part of a group with the expert.
Platinum might be where you work one to one with the expert.
These will be priced accordingly.
An important question to consider is if you needed the expert would they be there for you?
For example, in my last Publicity group, Suzanne from Edinburgh Holistic Dogs had an interview with BBC Radio Scotland and with the Telegraph (You can read it here).
To prepare her, we had a mock interview because I wanted her to feel confident and for her to get the most from the opportunity.
So ask is the person running the course or membership going to go the extra mile for you?
Is it good value for money?
When you say ‘Is it good value for money,’ what are you comparing it to? If you were looking to get publicity, you could pay £3000 a month for a PR firm with no guarantee of coverage.
If you compare that being part of a membership programme where you learn to do your own PR for a fraction of the cost, then it is good value for money.
In 2015, I invested £2500 on a digital marketing course because I wanted to upskill and not feel left behind having spent years in journalism.
I learned lots of things but have put very little into practice, but this is because I rushed in and bought the first solution I saw – so learn by my mistake and do your homework.
Do I have the time to do the work?
The course or membership provider should give you an indication of how much time you will need to invest for it to be a success.
But the question you really need to think about is how important it is to you to put the work and time in.
If your heart isn’t in it, you’re less likely to find the time. So how important is it for you to implement what you learn on the course?
Is the person running the course qualified to teach it?
Are they an expert in what they do? Are they well known in the industry? Do they attend industry events?
Do they have a proven record? Do they have contacts that it might be helpful to be connected with?
These questions might sound silly but anyone can set up an online course and call themselves an expert.
There are people creating courses about how to be a freelance journalist for example who aren’t trained journalists so be sure to check out their credentials and experience.
Will what I learn work for my business?
If you’re thinking about an online course or membership, and maybe you’ve just started a new business, see what’s working for others in your industry.
But also think a little outside the box and look at ways you can stand out rather than follow the herd.
For example, in his Pet Business Inner Circle, Dominic Hodgson encourages his clients to create printed newsletters.
He does this because many pet businesses spend time marketing on Facebook and there’s a phrase I heard this week, ‘When everyone else zigs, you need to zag.’
So by doing something that’s different from everyone else, you stand out from the competition.
Will it be easy for me to implement?
Can you get a feel of how the course or membership has been for other people?
If you can see the journey they have been on, the level of support they received and the results they had this can help you make a decision.
If you’re on the fence and you want to speak to someone who has been through a programme, ask the person who has created it if you can speak to one of their clients.
Then you can feel reassured in your decision.
Investing in a course or membership SHOULD put you on the fast track to where you want to be.
That might be improving your Instagram following, learning SEO or understanding how to get press coverage.
All these things you can figure out on Google, or by searching through YouTube videos, blogs or podcasts.
But having everything in the right order, accountability, added support and sometimes a little hand holding is what will make a difference.
If you’re thinking of joining my membership you can get a taste of what it’s like to work with my on my Five Day Pet Business Publicity Taster Programme.
It’s taking place from May 4th – May 8th 2020 and you can sign up here. Five Day PR Taster
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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