Pin this image!
Have you ever wondered how to monetize a blog with courses?
All the cool kids are doing it these days, and given the allure of making money while you sleep, perhaps you’ve felt inspired to give it a crack yourself.
I'll be frank in saying courses require a lot of upfront work, followed by regular maintenance in order to be truly successful. If you can manage the initial energy and effort though, you'll reap the rewards in the long-term.
There are various ways to make money from blogging, some tried, tested and true and others a passing phase.
The most common forms of blog monetization include:
- Google Adsense
- Sponsored posts
- Information courses
- Affiliate links
Ads are becoming less and less effective. Sponsored posts are good, however with the proliferation of blogging and the growing clique of influencers, competition is fierce, profit potential isn’t huge, sponsored posts aren't passive (they require constant work and negotiation to acquire), and you need a large and engaged blog audience to be considered for a #spon post. The trouble across all ads, affiliate links and sponsored posts is that the profit potential is in the hands of someone else, and is therefore out of your control.
But courses? There's a huge market for courses. In this information age in which we live, people lap up knowledge like it’s going out of fashion. Courses are passive, meaning they require little time investment in proportion to the profit potential after the creation stage and you have more control of your product and email list than other monetization methods. Your audience size is also not a barrier to entry with course creation. While it’s important to grow your audience to increase your pool of potential customers, you can launch a course from a brand new blog and start making money right away.
It seems then, that the case for courses is weighty and worthy of investigation.
Why create a course for your health blog?
There are myriad reasons different blog monetization models will appeal to different people. Courses appeal to me personally as a form of blog monetization for the following reasons:
- Courses are scalable. This means, after the initial time and energy invested in creating the course, you only need to spend time and energy marketing the course. Unlike 1:1 coaching (which you can still offer as a separate revenue stream), courses will allow you to reach a greater number of people at once, which essentially blows the cap off your 1:1 consulting income ceiling.
- Courses go in-depth. The roles of coaching and courses are different. While coaching is exploratory and provides guidance, accountability and strategy, courses are educational and aim to teach students how to achieve a particular outcome. Courses can be used as supplementary resources for your 1:1 clients (this is how I use them), so they can learn/implement beyond sessions.
- Courses are creative. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys creating, courses are for you. Creating a course is different to creating blog content. There’s a finite start and end point, and the content generally works together to create a system or formula for your students to follow.
- Courses create teachers. I’m not sure about you, but I enjoy teaching. Courses are a great way to create formulas to teach your clients. Through the course-creation process, you may find that your ideas of what you teach become clearer, making you not only a better course instructor, but a coach and workshop facilitator too.
- Courses are accessible. While we’ve established that coaching and courses are different (one is exploratory while the other is educational), courses are generally more accessible to a wider range of people in your audience. There may be people in your audience who are dying to work with you, however given the pricing structure of health coaching / nutritional consultancy / private yoga teaching (etc) packages, they may not be in a position to do so. A course is a great way to be able to help those who can’t afford to work with you privately by offering lower price points that your consulting pricing. It’s also a great way for potential coaching clients to experience your methods and teaching style before they invest in private sessions with you.
- Courses create time and financial freedom. Okay, this isn’t guaranteed, but if you create a quality course that has a clear market, and you market the course well, there’s a good chance that you can create greater freedom for yourself and your family (if that’s a goal for you). Due to the scalable nature of courses (see above), your income potential with courses continues (and even grows) over time. All you need to do is continue to grow your email list and market your course. I explain the ‘how’ behind this in more depth below, so keep reading. Once you get the hang of that, it’s quite simple.
MY FIRST ECOURSE
I created my first health eCourse in 2014. It was called 'Something Beautiful,' and was a lifestyle guide for women who wanted to learn to live a more low-tox life, and cultivate more self-love. I learned SO much from that first launch - what I did well, what I didn't do well, what I completely missed and so many other valuable lessons I can share with you now.
My first round launch consisted of nothing fancy - no webinars, 3 emails to my email list, and a few social media posts. 12 awesome women trusted me enough to sign up, and I made $3,500 profit.
What I would change:
- The name: It wasn't specific enough and didn't communicate any outcomes
- The marketing: I made the classic mistake of investing so much energy into the course, and very little into marketing. All the effort I'd put in during the creation process had drained me, so I just wanted to finish and put the damn thing out there come launch time!
- The design: I hired an amazing graphic designer to design the course materials, but in truth, I would have been better off launching and refining for a few months before hiring a designer to make everything look beautiful
- The hosting: I built an entire new website myself for the course. I did everything - the design, payment gateways, passwords etc myself, and it was a huuuuuge effort. These days I use Teachable, which takes SO much of the hassle off my hands so I can focus first and foremost on creating quality content. I definitely recommend it.
What I did well:
- Relationships: I had a very engaged email list when I launched this course, with a newsletter open rate that averaged 70% (basically unheard of these days!). This is because I regularly replied to emails, encouraged replies to my newsletters and even used to hand-write letters and send them in the post to the women who read my blog. As a result, despite barely marketing my course launch at all, I still achieved quite an acceptable conversion rate for a launch.
- Started: There were so many reasons I had for not starting, and I faced plenty o' resistance along the way. But starting - and seeing the project through to completion - was very rewarding, and I learned so much from the experience that has helped me along the way.
How to monetize a blog with courses: The course creation process
#1 Develop a course idea using the problem-solution formula
It’s not enough to create a course for the sake of having a course. While the idea of passive income and making money while you sleep is an appealing reason to create a course, your course must meet the desires of your target audience and help them solve a problem. Without this, you don’t have a profitable course idea.
To hit an audience home-run, follow the problem-solution formula:
- Solve a problem that your audience faces
- Provide a solution / meet a desire
Examples of common problem/solution formulas for health audiences include:
- Low-confidence and self-esteem (problem) / Bursting with self-confidence (solution)
- Overweight (problem) / Find your ideal weight and never have to diet again (solution)
- Food addiction (problem) / regain balance and control of your life (solution)
- Low energy (problem) / Regain energy
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Meeting a soul-mate
- Navigating divorce
#2 Create a course blueprint
Your course needs to flow in a logical order, so once you have a course idea you’ll need to map out a structure. You can create a new project in Asana, use a Google Docs spreadsheet or create your lectures and modules directly in Teachable (as I personally do) to map out your course outline.
Start by writing down all your ideas on paper or on your computer. Next, group, divide and arrange your content into modules and lectures to make the course easy to consume. Small, digestible lectures are more effective at holding the attention of your audience, so try to keep your students’ learning experience in mind as you’re mapping out your content and the content that you’ll assign to each lecture.
#3 Target audience research
Once you have a course idea and a blueprint, share it with a handful of people in your target audience. Ask for their feedback and take note of any suggestions they make. To conduct this research, you could:
- Create a newsletter survey for your email list
- Hold private interviews with clients or people on your email list; or
- Hold a focus group(s)
Record everything, and make note of emotional sentences and statements people share about the topic. These snippets are gold, and could be useful sales page copy that helps you connect with potential students by using their language to demonstrate that you understand where they’re at.
#4 Flesh out the course content
By this stage you’ve come up with your course idea, given it an outline and surveyed and questioned your target audience to determine if the course idea is valid (i.e. will sell). Now you’re ready to start creating the course content.
I tend to find the most achievable way to create a course is to start simple. Write and create the most basic, essential content for the first round. Release the course at an entry-level price, and ask for feedback from your course’s first round of students.
Customer feedback is your most valuable form of intel, so use feedback from round one to fill content gaps and improve your existing material. Once you’ve added to the course and made any adjustments, you can confidently increase the price to reflect the increase in value.
The best content formats to use in eCourses include a combination of workbooks, written content, videos, audios and tests. Personally, I create written content and audio content for my first round, then add video content from round two onwards once I’ve collected feedback and made adjustments.
#5 Build a funnel
You know those people who yarn on about making money while they sleep? I know it’s tempting to flick 'em an eye-roll, but it turns out they’re actually onto something. Passive income is money that’s generated through simple automated marketing funnels that are always on, and designed to sell product for you. This model of course monetization is known as an ‘evergreen’ model. Once the course and the automation has been created, you simply need to focus on continuously getting traffic and new subscribers to your blog (new leads who may buy your course).
But what is a marketing funnel?
A marketing funnel is a journey that each customer flows through from before they come across your website, through a defined sequence of touchpoints that lead them to become a customer. An example of a basic marketing funnel includes the following user journey:
A new reader comes to your blog. I advocate using Pinterest, SEO and Facebook ads to drive traffic to your blog. I wrote a post detailing how to get more blog traffic here.
>>> Lead magnet
Reader is presented with high-value content that they must subscribe to your blog to access.
>>> Becomes a subscriber
Use content upgrades to convert more traffic into blog subscribers. Read how to do that here.
>>> Email welcome series
Set up an automated email sequence that every new subscriber receives. Introduce your content, establish a relationship with your subscribers and share your courses throughout these emails. I recommend setting up 4-5 automated emails for your welcome series.
>>> Pitch your course
Make sure to pitch your course at least twice throughout your welcome series. Your pitches don't have to be direct, you can use storytelling or an analogy to illustrate the benefits that your course may give.
>>> New student enrols
A percentage (probably 1-5%) of new subscribers will purchase your course via this sequence. It doesn't sound like much, but if you invest some solid effort into SEO and Pinterest (check out my course Pinterest for Health Bloggers - enrol now at the heavily discounted pre-sale price before we go live in November 2016) to drive consistent traffic to your website, and combine this with the use of content upgrades on your blog, you should start to see a steady flow of new subscribers to your blog within 1-3 months.
While automated ‘evergreen’ systems are a great way to monetize a blog, there’s another (potentially) more effective and (definitely) more effort-intensive course model: The launch model.
Launches are a seriously effective way to generate big profit from courses. Launches involve creating hype and buzz to increase desire around your product throughout a launch period (3 weeks to a month), and giving customers an incentive to buy due to a time-bound incentive (offering a discount, price increase deadline, enrollment bonuses etc).
Throughout a launch period, more people will be exposed to your business because of the increased marketing efforts (plus more people talking and sharing your stuff), and you’ll most likely experience a surge of purchases because of the finite deadline to purchase.
Launches require a lot of time spent planning and on execution, so they’re not for the faint-hearted (or perhaps for the time restricted!) but the results can be well worthwhile.
Personally, my plan for course monetization across my blogs involve a combination of evergreen and launch models. I plan to make my courses available on an evergreen basis so that anyone can access the information I teach at their own convenience, however I also plan to launch a few times per year to create greater profits and offer extra value to customers, when time permits me to.
Create passive income
I created a free workbook to help you create passive income for your health blog. Grab it here!
So, this has been a rather epic guide on how to monetize a blog with courses. I hope you find the information in this post useful and helpful, and I hope it inspires you to start planning a course of your own!
Got questions or comments about eCourses and how / why you should create them?
Drop a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you with my answer.