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Can you really get results from an online course? (A hard look at ALL the e-courses I’ve taken since I started my biz…)

How many online courses have you purchased since you’ve been in business? Have you ever totaled up your investment?

I did that earlier this week. *gulp*

Here’s the full accounting, including my investment and the current value of the course:

Total number of courses: 12
Amount invested: $3,978
(Total value: $8,074)

WOAH.

I knew the number was going to be big but I had no idea I’d enrolled in a DOZEN online courses in 2 years.

And here’s an even more honest truth: 6 (!) of these courses (FB Ads Insider, LinkedIn Stars, Instant Network, The Six Appeal Process, The Most Kickass Webinar Blueprint Ever and Podcasting School for Women) are still sitting virtually unopened in my inbox…

Oops.

So why the heck am I’m sharing this (slightly embarrassing) information about my own course consumption?

Can you really get results from an online course?The online course addiction is REAL as an online business owner — especially if you are new to business.

It’s really easy to read a sales page and think, “Ah finally *this* is what I need to make my business work!” and plunk down your money before you’ve really thought it through.

Or to get caught up in the buzz of a big launch and catch some serious FOMO (fear of missing out).

Or to convince yourself you “should” learn how to do such-and-such someday and buy the course just in case.

Um, been there!

And guess what? Those are the courses that, once purchased, just languish in the inbox…

But the right online course at the right time can be a game-changer and a very smart investment. Next to high-priced 1-on-1 coaching or even the cost of a University course, online learning is insanely reasonably priced.

The sum total of ALL the courses I’ve paid for (~$4000) is less than 1 year of full-time undergraduate study at my alma mater, McGill University (~$7000 for Canadian students).

It’s less than I paid to work with Jenny Shih as part of her amazing 3-month coaching program, Make it Work ($4700 including an in-person retreat).

And it’s less than 2 months of working with my current coach, Kendrick Shope, 1-on-1 ($2000/month).

So which online courses were the very BEST use my time & money?

I promised complete transparency here so I’m going to break it down for you but before I do that I want to say they are ALL good courses — but when I look at which ones were really worthwhile investments for me it comes down to a questions of timing: was it what I needed in my business when I needed it?

>> B-School

This was my first business investment of any kind and my first online course. There are lots of opinions out there about B-School (I shared mine here!) but this was definitely right content at the right time for me.

I committed a big chunk of time every week to going through ALL the module and playsheets. I engaged in the community. I attended all the office hours. And most importantly, I IMPLEMENTED.

RESULTS:

  • Clear understanding of online marketing strategies and the nuts and bolts of building an online business.
  • Website written & online! Email list created.
  • Connections with dozens of B-Schoolers as clients, friends and mentors.
  • Bottom line: I doubt I’d have a business without B-School so it’s hard for me to even put a number on what my ROI (return on investment) was but I made the cost of the course back in the first few months easily.

>> Absolute FB Ads

Learning Facebook Ads was something that I knew I needed to do — and had been on my to-do list FOREVER. I’d even purchased Amy Porterfield’s Ads course many months before (and then never really opened it as “learn Facebook Ads” continued to sit on the backburner of my to-do list).

Since I never really dug into Amy’s program, I can’t compare it to Claire’s but the truth is Absolute FB Ads just showed up at the right time. I was finally READY to commit the time to learning Facebook Ads and I’d been following Claire for a few months — her blog posts and free guide were solid and I liked her no-nonsense, analytical style — so when she offered a work-along bootcamp with the course, I jumped in and finally not only learned how to run ads but IMPLEMENTED it and starting running ads that were generating lots of great leads for my business.

RESULTS:

  • Clear understanding of how to run Facebook Ads using the Power Editor (and how to perform the necessary experimentation to get good results).
  • Hundreds of new leads for my business. And the ability to add FB Ads support for my VIP clients also allowed me to charge more for that service.
  • Hundreds of new leads — and thousands of dollars in sales — for my clients.
  • I made my investment back on this course in no time and continue to get great value from the Facebook group as I run ads for myself and my clients so it was definitely a solid purchase.

>> Sales School

I first met Kendrick Shope through Jenny Shih’s Make it Work program in early 2014. I took furious notes as Kendrick shared the 5 Fundamentals of Authentic Selling. Selling was kind of a dirty word before I learned about Authentic Selling and I was constantly worried I was being either too pushy or like I’d missed the opportunity to help a dream client see just how much I could help them.

But the truth is without SALES you don’t have a business. So when I won spot in Kendrick’s Sales School, I was pumped. I knew selling was a real weak point in my business and I blocked out time to attend the classes every week and complete my homework on time (Kendrick gives EVERYONE who does this feedback — it’s unbelievable and incredibly valuable so I wasn’t going to miss out!).

I practiced consults & follow-ups with the other Sales School students, I launched a new offer using the sales copy techniques and tweaks Kendrick supplied and I started seeing results in my business even while I was still in the course!

RESULTS:

  • Right after finishing Sales School I had the very best quarter ever in my business at that point (it was responsible for HALF of my 2014 income).
  • A consult & follow-up process I can rely on (and whenever I need money in my business, I know exactly what I need to do to sign new clients).
  • Sales conversations became FUN instead of awkward and stressful — so no surprise more and more prospective clients began saying YES to my offers (and this continued to be the case even when I doubled my prices) 
  • I’m much more confident writing ALL sales copy and have a clear idea of how to communicate the value of what I have to offer to my ideal clients.
  • It’s really hard to put a number on the ROI of Sales School but learning Kendrick’s Authentic Selling Strategies has helped me double my income, no question — and I know they will continue to work for me as I grow my business.

So clearly you CAN get great results from an online course but how do you figure out when pressing “BUY” is the right decision for you?

An Online Course “do I need this?” Self-Evaluation

1 – What does this course promise?

What do they promise you’ll learn/be able to do by the end of the course? What happens if you aren’t satisfied? (If you have questions, reach out to the course creator! They should be happy to help you get the answers you need.)

2 – Who is offering it?

What makes this person qualified to teach this material? Has their free content been helpful? What is their reputation? (Ask around if you don’t know!)

3 – What do people I trust say about the course?

The testimonials on the sales page are great but dig deeper and reach out to anyone you know has taken the course for personal feedback. Post in online forums asking graduates for their thoughts. Ask what was their favourite & LEAST favourite parts of the course.

4 – Does this fill a definite skills gap I have in my business?

This one is probably the toughest but look back at your answers to #1 and be honest with yourself! Do you want the outcomes the course is promising? Do you know the steps you need to get those outcomes? (Because if it’s just a matter of DOING it, a course may not be the answer.) If you don’t know what your next steps would be to get those outcomes, then a course may be just what you need to plug those gaps and get you where you want to go.

5 – Is this what I need right now in my business?

Are you ready to commit the time to learning & IMPLEMENTING the course material right now? Is the skills gap you’ve identified in #4 something you need to fix now or is it a “someday” thing? The urgency of your need is a big key in whether or not you’ll actually spend the time to do the work — and that’s the only way the investment will be worth it.

I’d love to hear from you

Do you suffer from the online course addiction affliction? What’s the best course you’ve ever purchased for your business?

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20 Responses to Can you really get results from an online course? (A hard look at ALL the e-courses I’ve taken since I started my biz…)

  1. Callie July 23, 2015 at 20:20 #

    Interesting post Jackie – I’m always fascinated by what people invest in and whether they find it worthwhile. I always love the idea of courses, and I always want to take them just to see what they’re like, but I go through a process like the one you outline and very rarely actually end up buying these days (although I do still have a folder of unopened courses in dropbox from before I learnt this!)I think the course I’ve probably utilised the most has been Leak Kalamakis Stress Less & Impress.

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 21:44 #

      Ooh good for you for being so restrained, Callie! Leah’s course is awesome :) (It’s not in this list because she gave me access as a thank you and I poked around but it wasn’t something I needed at the time so I never dug in.)

  2. Mallie Rydzik July 23, 2015 at 20:50 #

    Registered for the webinar! :) I love behind the scenes looks at things like this. When you lay it out, $4000 really doesn’t seem like that much. Although that definitely sounds like a 1%er thing to say, lol. Of course if you’d paid in full for all of those, $7000 is kinda getting up there depending on how your business is doing.

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 21:38 #

      I too felt like $4000 wasn’t as much as I’d thought over 2 years, but you’re right – it is a privilege to be in a position to be able to look at it like that. It also makes me think that I can probably be saving quite a bit more than I do if I could spend that amount without feeling really pinched SO good money lesson there too!

  3. Angelique July 23, 2015 at 21:30 #

    Yes, I hold my hand up to this. I love learning new things (more than finishing them apparently).

    So true that timing is everything, like you said with the FB ads courses.

    Good points on how to evaluate if it’s the right time for you to invest and if you’re more likely to follow through.

    I heard someone call it “Just in Time Learning” – write down your goals and tasks needed to complete those goals (most of us do this in the new year)…BUT every time you want to take a course, hire a coach, go to a retreat consider if it fits in what you need right now.

    Though I do think investing in beta runs is smart – looks like you saved a bundle doing that when you look at the course prices now.

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 21:42 #

      Yes! For sure getting in on the beginning of a course is a great way to save money, but then so is NOT buying period – lol. I love the concept of “just in time learning” — I think it definitely gets easier to do that when you’re a bit more established and have a good handle on what exactly you need. In the beginning it feels like you need it all and it can be hard to know where to start! Thanks for weighing in, Angelique!

  4. Enelia Faithful July 23, 2015 at 21:56 #

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been tempted by several courses in the past and really tried to restrain myself from buying them because I’m afraid I can’t commit. I am glad I am not the only one who may just let them sit on my inbox unopened! Fortunately, I’ve done that with lower cost courses. I’ve also slacked off on free MOOCs because of work and life getting in the way.

    I’ve got a couple of really expensive courses on my radar and I want to make sure I’ve got the time to get my money’s worth. I’ll definitely use your self-evaluation checklist in my discernment process!

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 22:13 #

      You are so welcome, Enelia! It was a bit scary to lay this all out there but I *know* I’m not alone and had a feeling my lessons might help someone else.

      Honestly, it might sound bad but the big ticket courses (or any biz investments) really force me to ‘put skin in the game’ so to speak and actually implement so I get results!

  5. Megan July 23, 2015 at 22:00 #

    I’m such a class addict too and I’m with you that I’ve barely opened some. Oops! But sometimes the fear of missing out is stronger than the fear of wasting money. Such a fine line! Signed up for the webinar, looking forward to it :)

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 22:08 #

      FOMO is definitely real, Megan! And that sort of buzz around a course usually means that there’s something really valuable there BUT I’ve learned to be get really honest with myself about what *I* actually need at the present AND also by forcing myself sleep on it (sometimes for several days!) before pulling the trigger.

  6. Katie Price July 23, 2015 at 22:12 #

    Ohmygoodness, I totally suffer from online course addiction. I just counted, and I have 14 purchased courses – not including those from Skillshare or Lynda.com that I’ve taken. Yikes!

    The course that directly impacted my bottom line the most was an advanced WP coding course called Learn Create Launch. It gave me the chops I needed to raise my prices by about $1,000 per project.

    But I also have to mention that byregina.com’s Zero to Blog and Blog to Profit courses both opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about online business, and although they haven’t directly impacted my sales yet, I know they will eventually.

    Thanks for sharing your list of courses – I’m going to bookmark this for for later!

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 22:35 #

      Love hearing about courses that have really allowed you to step up your game, Katie – thanks for sharing! And so glad I’m not alone in my learning addiction, lol :)

  7. Val Geisler July 23, 2015 at 22:19 #

    OMG I need to print your questions and hang them up above the “Buy Now” button! Thanks for being brave and sharing this, Jackie. (BTW – I spent $5k in courses in 2.5 years so you’re good, girl!)

    • Jackie Johnstone July 23, 2015 at 22:33 #

      So glad to know I’m not the only one, Val! I honestly force myself to go through this process now before I press “buy” — the number of times doing this and then forcing myself to sleep on it has saved me money, I’ve lost count!

  8. Kerryn Hewson July 24, 2015 at 01:50 #

    This is a great inside scoop! Thanks for being so brave and honest. One thing, more than the cost, that stops me from buying courses is whether I have the time to really commit to doing the modules, the homework, and participating in the fb group or group coaching calls.

    When you know the course is aligned with your to do list and that by working through the course you’ll also be ticking off a bunch of things you keep struggling to get done that’s a real win-win situation.

  9. Tiff July 24, 2015 at 05:10 #

    “My name’s Tiff, and I’m a online-course-a-holic.” aka I totally relate to this.

    The ones that I buy – I love them, and I dive in, but then it gets to a point where I say, “oh, I’m not ready to take that step yet!” and then… buy-bye, class! Great stuff. Glad I’m not the only one with this secret addiction!

  10. Christin Kreml July 29, 2015 at 22:14 #

    THANK YOU for sharing this! I’m super hesitant on classes, but I’m a total eBook junkie. Though I don’t have the time to sit and read them so they just sit on my hard drive. : /

    Also loved hearing all the classes you have taken and to see a few new ones I haven’t heard of. Off to see what they’re like!

    Thanks again for your honesty!

  11. Gina January 30, 2016 at 00:06 #

    Hello, just came upon your post while researching Kendrick Shope’s course and you mentioned another course I had an interest in but would love to hear your thoughts on (if you’ve had time to do it yet) – Ash Ambridge’s Six Appeal Process. Wondering if you have completed it yet and what your thoughts on it are ;)

  12. Julia Slike August 13, 2016 at 14:33 #

    OMG If I did a post like this I’d have over 30 courses listed…. eeek!!!!!

    The best course I’ve taken is a 3-way tie between Clear Coaches with Susan Hyatt in 2014, a 6 month intimate program to teach online coaches how to build a business online. The irony was I wasn’t a coach and I didn’t have an online biz at the time, I just wanted to hire Susan as a life coach but the course was less money and more time, and included a 3 day retreat with her in Savannah.

    Chalene Johnson’s Smart Success + Marketing Impact Academy. I should have stopped there. Chalene taught me EVERYTHING I needed to know about building a biz online AROUND my family and values. Plus tuition included 2 tickets to her live event she had for each course. I haven’t used them yet but I plan to in 2017! She’s so nice that if you can’t go you can put them on hold!

    The other is more recent in April 2016 I enrolled in Jenna Soard’s “The Course Launcher” which promised to help you launch a course in 30 days…. now ever since I took Susan’s course I myself have been wanting to teach a “how to market a business online” course. At this point I was on a coaching + course detox because I was multiple 5-figures in the HOLE from all my “investments” and had only earned about 2k in 2 years!!!!!!! Something in me said I HAD to do this, I did. I even ticked off my husband and he simmered down (just a tad) when I said “If I do the work and it doesn’t work I can get a refund”. I wasn’t sure I could but I saw what my coach had done and I was determined to create those kind of results in my business. Interestingly for 2 years I had been focusing on the 1-1 model which was NOT working for me. So within 30 days I did launch my first course with 270 students!!! It was a success AND I had a “no launch, launch” with a once in a lifetime offer some of my students couldn’t resist and I had a $15,000 launch BEFORE I ended my first course…. say what!?

    So I’m excited to say that I’m releasing the 2.0 version of Create Your Authentic Marketing Plan™ this fall and can. not. wait. to see the results I make in my business, but also my students in theirs!

    Apparently being a course addict has finally paid off for me! I’m really great at distilling everything I’ve learned into actionable steps for my students, who have told me they’ve gotten done more with me in 6 weeks than a year alone!

  13. Sean Tobin April 27, 2017 at 16:05 #

    Thanks for sharing, and for being open with the spending and the benefits you got from each of your top three (and for sharing the fact that some of them are still sitting in your inbox unopened/unexplored). I guess I feel lucky, because I learned early-ish that the $97 deal is too tempting. After the second one lay unopened, I realized what you put much more eloquently above – that the learning is good, but without implementation, it is not worth the investment ‘right now’.

    What I really like though, is that your questions make me feel better about exploring other courses. I’ve held off because I’ve been busy lately, but I have also been too afraid to take a chance on another course – “what if I don’t…” running through my head. I appreciate these questions, and especially the focus on is this filling a skills gap, and can I focus on it now, and will I implement it.

    Looking at what is holding me back, its the discomfort of selling, and trying to put a value on my services. So THAT is what I’m going to look for and be open to investing in, since without sales, there is no business.

    Thanks Jackie!

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