When I first set up Campfire, I created an online PR course. It was - I think - a good course with some great content. I used a third party course hosting company (bit of a nightmare), promoted it a bit and hoped for the best.
Funnily enough, it didn't really sell. I was trying to use an offline approach for marketing an online product. Mistake. But selling an online product was new to me. It was a learning curve, like so much is when you work for yourself.
The few people who did buy it got great results with plenty of press coverage. A lovely lady even wrote this glowing review about it. So I knew it wasn't that it was a sucky product, I just wasn't marketing it correctly.
As someone in marketing, that felt a bit rubbish. Surely I should know this? Cue self-flagellation and deep thinking and 'I should probably just get a real job' type thoughts. Put your hand up if you've had those before....
Anyway, I eventually had to take it down as it wasn't worth the cost of me hosting it.
I went back to the drawing board. I did extensive research about what people wanted and didn't want. I paid a hefty chunk of cash for a course about how to learn how to create an online course (irony), including how to market one. I plotted out the fundamentals and created all the course content, branded it up and worked on promo videos.
I'm now in the midst of creating all the back end side of things - like a new website, and sales pages, and marketing funnels, and autoresponders, and payment systems, and membership plug ins etc etc etc. All of this I could outsource, but I want to learn how to do this - every. single. step. of. it.
Frankly I still have an eye-watering amount to do before I can make it live. But I will. Because I have a very clear goal: to earn money without trading hours for cash. One day I will own a very large house by the sea with direct waterfront access to my yacht (just putting it out there universe....)
So if you are considering creating an online course, I'd like to share a few reality checks from someone midway through the process:
Creating an online course is hard work.
Make no mistake. Anyway who says you can just whip up a course and the money will come rolling in - easy as pie - is telling a big fat porky pie (that's a lie for anyone not from Britain).
It costs a lot.
All those people who say, 'I just made a gazillion dollars from my course' probably aren't telling you what it cost them in hard cash (much less blood, sweat and tears) to get there. It's not magic. You don't get something for nothing. It's probably a lot cheaper than paying rent on a retail unit with loads of stock - but it's not free either.
It's terrifying and exhausting.
You think about all the time and money you're investing in this thing and what if you launch it and tumbleweeds blow past and you're forced to down a bottle of cheap chardonnay mid morning and take a job packing bags at the local grocery shop.....
These are the thoughts that wake you up at 3am. And keep you awake till 6am, just about the time you have to get up, only to find yourself unable to keep your eyes open.
It will make you second guess your knowledge
Knowing how to do something and knowing how to explain to other people how to do something are completely different skills. As you try to plot out your course, you suddenly have to unravel what you do instinctively and that is a lot harder than it seems. You start to get to a point where you wonder whether you actually know anything at all. I strongly suggest when you reach this point, you turn off your pc and go for a walk. Then repeat this to yourself: 'You is smart. You is kind. You is important.' Remind yourself that you do know this stuff. Other people don't and will be willing to pay you to learn it.
It will give you a sense that you are creating something REAL
The problem with being a consultant - regardless of whether you're a PR consultant, a coach, a fitness consultant, a nutritionist or anything else in which you dispense advice - it's hard to say 'I made that.' There is no thing that you can point to as yours. Yes, you can revel in the results that you've achieved for your clients, but there is something immensely satisfying about crafting and creating something that is a product (even if it is a virtual product).
I can't tell you the end of this story yet as it's a work in progress. But as always, I wanted to share my journey of life at the coal face of solopreneurship. I do hope that when I launch it, I can come back here and tell you how I just made a gazillion dollars. However, I'm a realist. I'll probably come back here and tell you all about the mistakes you don't want to make, which I will make on your behalf.
But you know what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I know that what I've created will help solopreneurs. It will teach them how to get publicity even if they haven't got time, money or confidence. It will be based on my direct, personal, low maintenance approach to PR that has generated me and my clients plenty of great publicity. I used this exact approach for my sister's business and she generated €40k in sales off the back of a single press release.
UPDATE: You can now see the completed course here.