Updated March 2020
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Why take a course?
I’m a do-it-yourselfer at heart. I’m currently a SAHM working within an extremely tight budget, and prior to this I was a single person working as a freelance writer and living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve always thought of myself as a resourceful, self-taught type — I skipped college because even though I knew I wanted to be either an artist or a writer, I thought it was silly to pay for a degree when you didn’t need a degree for either of those. So I kinda shocked myself when I decided to pay for a blogging course as part of my new freelancer-turned-blogger writing direction.
But I haven’t regretted it for a second. It was the right thing for me, at the right time, and — perhaps most importantly — it was the right course.
I didn’t jump in to the decision quickly, or lightly. It was a big deal for me to spend my precious dollars on something so subjective. Just “information.” But I researched, took my time, and decided to make the leap after hearing an expert (not the one I took the course from, ironically) talk about the value in “speeding up the learning process.” I like to figure things out myself, but I decided that this time I didn’t want to spend the next several years figuring out some of the basic principles. I have a preschooler and a baby who take up almost all my time, and I want this business going sooner rather than later. I want to spend my limited time perfecting my efforts, not learning the beginner ABCs of how the basics work.
So I found a course that was a good fit for me, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to buy it. It really was money well spent. I have so much confidence and direction now, and am well on my way to my goal of replacing a full-time income (the only thing holding me back at this point is time — I am a full-time mom first and there just aren’t enough hours in the day!). That being said though my blog is still growing, slowly but steadily, and my income along with it.
But there are so many bloggers out there who spends loads of money on courses just to be frustrated and regretful later it’s scary. How can you do what I did and find a course that you’ll be happy with? Come out the other side feeling positive and confident and that you invested well? Here are my tips and methods for finding the right course for you.
Be realistic. Take all sales pitches with a grain of salt
Not all courses are created equal. Some are excellent and worth so much more than they cost, others are written by people who mean well but just aren’t very good at teaching, and still others are a total scam written by people who seriously just want to take your money. There are no laws or government regulations dictating who can make and sell an ecourse, so you must do your due diligence and avoid getting sucked in by promises of grandeur, ridiculous success and so. much. money. Of course it is possible to make a lot of money blogging, but if the instructor makes big claims they should also have a level of transparency regarding exactly how they earn each of those dollars. Not just “with affiliate links” or whatever. Income reports, specific examples, etc are all helpful. Analyze what each course and its instructor offers with a logical, level head.
You should get a sample for free
Nowadays larger, reputable courses all give away some type of a free sample, as a way to entice you to take the next step and pay for the rest of what they offer. It’s called a freebie and a sales funnel — they lure you in with a free ebook, beginners ecourse, webinar, all with the hopes that you’ll love it and love them and happily upgrade to the more in-depth paid version.
This is not a bad thing, as it gives you a chance to see what they have to offer and assess whether or not you jive with their teaching style. I personally like webinars (you can see the course creator’s face, mannerisms, etc) and challenges — “30 days to this” or “10 days of learning about that.” Take advantage of these freebies whenever you can — not only will you get lots of helpful information but after trying out a few different ones (by different instructors) you’ll fine tune your spam radar and gain a more thorough understanding of what types of courses are out there, along with which one(s) will benefit you the most.
This advice works best for larger courses. Smaller courses and ebooks don’t always have a freebie attached, or it might be something simple like a printable or Facebook Live. In these cases the commitment is smaller, so the risk is smaller, but still do your due diligence. Read their blog, watch any videos they have, and try out their printable! If you like them, and their free stuff helps you, their little paid item is probably good too.
Also worth mentioning: If you watch a webinar or take a challenge or read a free ebook and the information doesn’t help you (it’s stuff you already know, or stuff you aren’t looking to tackle right now) then that course is not for you. Don’t assume they’ll step things up or things will suddenly start to get amazing once you pay. In my experience the amazing courses are amazing from the very very start. All the way from the free stuff.
The quality of the free stuff is a strong indicator of the quality of the paid stuff
I just mentioned this above but it’s really important so I’m saying it again: the free stuff should help you. Sales pitches and testimonials are fine, good even (testimonials help me decide!), but they should be mixed in with real, actionable information that benefits you even if you never move on to the paid product. This value isn’t found on the sales page, but on their blog and social media, in their free email opt-ins, Facebook groups or podcasts, Youtube channel, etc. If all they have is sales pitches and testimonials and nothing else, move on — the course is probably not a great value, or maybe even a bit scammy. Same if all the free information is stuff you already know (goes to my point above). Don’t expect a course to suddenly improve as soon as you hand over your money. The free stuff should be genuinely informative and helpful to you, in which case you can usually trust that the next paid steps will continue on that path.
Do your own research
Don’t take the sales pitch at face value. If it’s a big course that costs a lot of money (I wouldn’t worry too much if it’s a $10 ebook, ha) ask around and do some web research to see if others have reviewed it, and what they think. Ask about it in any Facebook or other social media groups you’re in that may be appropriate. Of course there will be always be at least a few haters for everything, but if you ask enough people you should get a good feel for any particular course’s quirks and pros/cons, and if the overall consensus leans towards good value or not.
You should trust and respect the instructor
Are they walking the walk? Do they have a successful business and/or qualifications in whatever it is they’re teaching? Do you like their general approach and philosophy towards the subject they’re teaching? What about the vibe they give off? That last one might sound silly but honestly this course stuff is all very subjective, and if you’re going to have any confidence in the information they’re teaching you need to have confidence in them, personally. Plain and simple.
Know what you want, and what you need
We’re all at different stages in our blogging careers, and there’s a course out there for everyone. Before you spend any of your hard-earned money on any course you need to have a clear idea in your mind of exactly what kind of help you’re looking to gain from it. Are you a beginner, somewhere in the middle, or somewhat advanced and looking to take things even higher? Do you need help in one specific area (like sponsored posts, or Instagram, or photography), or something more comprehensive (larger, covers a variety of topics)? Do you need/want one-on-one help or coaching? Or are you more of an independent learner? Also how much are you up for spending? Some courses cost $10, some cost over $1000. Don’t stretch farther than you’re comfortable with. Seriously.
Keep your expectations realistic
No course can do the work for you. It’s all just information — no matter how thorough or amazing it is, you must do the work to apply that information to your own efforts. Some tips can make a difference right away, but generally speaking blogging takes time and consistency to see real results. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GET RICH QUICK IN BLOGGING. Maybe someone gets lucky here and there, but that’s the exception, not the rule. True success takes time (or else everyone would be doing it, right?).
Understand that all information can be found elsewhere, for free
Here’s the thing: Blogging is not rocket science. Lots of people flop into it without a clue and successfully figure everything out on their own. But that (usually) takes a lot of time. And frustration. And luck. And trial and error. Online classes and courses are designed to speed up that learning curve. To move you from point A to point B in less time and with fewer headaches along the way. But there’s no “golden ticket” they can give you, and honestly most of the information is pretty simple. It’s just stuff you didn’t know you didn’t know, or “oh, that’s how that works” moments. Sometimes they’ll share templates or exact steps to strategies they use, but that’s still just trial and error. You could, technically, probably, get there yourself, eventually, without any help. Don’t go into any course expecting to get all kinds of information you couldn’t find elsewhere. You’re paying to have information organized and curated together for you, all in one place, faster than you would be able to do it yourself.
Don’t become a “course collector”
Of course you can collect blogging courses if that’s your thing! And I’ve actually bought quite a few small ones here and there, but when it comes to “big” (ie expensive) courses too many bloggers do it out of habit and hope. They have a desire for success but lack the time or energy or gumption to make it happen and buying all the courses feels easier than admitting they aren’t following through on any single one. Choose a course that is a good fit for you and really throw yourself into it. Give it the time and effort it deserves, and reap the results as a reward.
And that’s it! Any tips or advice I missed? What courses have you taken that you really loved? I share mine below.
The courses I’ve taken and recommend:
What it will teach you: Everything you ever wanted to know about SEO (search engine optimization). This guy is down to earth and approachable (as you can tell by his course name) and he really knows his stuff. He’s the real deal. This course walks you through everything, even the intimidating technical stuff like keyword research and building domain authority, in the most easy-to-understand steps and language.
How to try it out — the free opt-ins: The free 6 Day SEO Starter Pack covers everything from niching down to keywords 101 to on-page SEO and more. A great way to get a feel for Mike and his whole approach to this challenging subject.
What it will teach you: Everything you ever wanted to know about Pinterest and using it to drive massive traffic to your website/blog. From setting up your profile the right way to analyzing pin metrics and creating the prettiest and most effective pin designs. It way more in-depth than you would expect for this price tag.
How to try it out — the free opt-ins: She offers a free workshop on how to build your email list with Pinterest. Plus once you’re on her email list she offers a lot of great Pinterest tips and advice.
What it will teach you: Everything you need to know about building, nurturing and monetizing your email list. This is my favorite course of all time, because Kate is so fun and upbeat and totally down to earth. And everything she says totally makes sense! And she really does cover it all. How to get an idea for a freebie, how to make it, what your opt-ins should say and look like, what tech to use, what your thank you pages should say, your welcome series (down to actual email templates), and more. The value is insane.
How to try it out — the free opt-ins: She has a bunch! My favorite is the 2 years of email list topic ideas. They are spot on! You should be able to find her full list of freebies here (if not directly then click home and browse all of her products.
What it will teach you: The comprehensive basics of blogging for money. How to set up your website (including legal forms and required pages), how monetizing works and the different ways you can go about it (including in-depth info on each), how to structure your posts, different ways to drive traffic (intro-level info on SEO, building an email list, and using Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter), basics of blogging photography and image sourcing, and a lot more. It basically lays out a roadmap for you on how to get a blog started, how to grow its traffic, and how to use that traffic to make money. This is a big, comprehensive course designed for beginner bloggers, and bloggers who are new to monetizing.
How to try it out — the free opt-ins: Their 5 Day Start a Money Making Blog is the best place to sign up, as it gets you on the email list to receive info about their other freebie that launches new every month: the 10K Traffic Challenge.
The Genius Blogger’s Toolkit
This one is unique. No freebies, no link to give even. It comes out once per year and it’s a big bundle of (usually) more than 100 different blogging courses and products available for only a very short flash sale. You buy the bundle and get everything together for one crazy, super low price. Watch for this in my emails and in my Facebook group next time it launches (usually around October).