The Future of Online Education | LifterLMS 3.0 and Beyond

Every country in the world is currently reforming their approach to education, and LifterLMS is evolving as well. This LMScast with Chris Badgett of codeBOX will explain his vision of the future of online education for the new LifterLMS 3.0 and beyond.

Chris’s life work is about finding new effective and engaging ways to learn and to facilitate learning. He has 2 small daughters that he’s invested in providing the best possible education for. To do this he employs a method called “unschooling,” a philosophy that advocates exposure to a world of learning opportunities to allow students to fully experience areas that interest them most. The role of the mentor is to protect learners from making unrecoverable mistakes, while allowing other mistakes to act as learning experiences through reality-based feedback.

This same philosophy has gone into the development of LifterLMS, including learning from mistakes. Chris feels he made one of those mistakes when he recently shared news about the LifterLMS 3.0 upgrade, but failed to offer the reasoning behind those major changes.

In deciding how the new LifterLMS should be improved, some considerations included:

  • Utilizing technology that supports effective and engaging learning
  • Providing access to the tools necessary to reach experts around the world and integrate them into the classroom
  • Making it possible for people with valuable knowledge and life experience to easily launch online training platforms to create income and impact
  • Curating learning materials from diversified sources in order to create the most effective and engaging learning journey
  • Helping people follow their interests from wherever they are, take control of their learning, and connect with mentors and peers while helping others grow
  • Rewarding learning method creators based on the effectiveness of their content and craft

The mission that drives the roadmap and evolution of LifterLMS is to democratize education in the digital classroom by facilitating personal leadership, rapid learning, and connection to others on the same path. Accomplishing that has required some tough decisions that need to be explained. In this podcast Chris details the reasons behind adding some paid extensions and add-ons, removing some previously free services, and providing options for new and current users of the LifterLMS platform.

The LifterLMS 3.0 software is a major upgrade, and some things will simply be backwards incompatible. The coding and architecture simply can’t stay the same if the platform is going to progress. In order to deliver on our vision for the future of online education we’ve made progressive decisions for LifterLMS 3.0 and beyond, and we want you to enjoy all the shiny new features we’ve introduced based our users’ feedback.

Sign up here to get the free version of LifterLMS right now, or get ready to run faster with the Universe Bundle which was released when LifterLMS 3.0 came out.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter at for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

I made a mistake.

But before I get into that, I wanted to share a story with you …

First I invite you to listen to Sir Ken Robinson tell the story of how every country in the world is currently reforming education in this video:

I believe there are exciting, new, effective, and engaging ways to learn, thrive, teach, and facilitate learning in today’s world.

Working on this problem and opportunity surrounding effective learning along with unlocking human potential is my life’s work. I’m not just thinking about next year or about the standard five year plan. I’m thinking generationally, focusing this work 50 – 100 years out.

A personal journey with learning
I love to learn.

I’m a parent with daughters who also love to learn.

I’m a very private person, but sharing a little bit of my personal story will help you see my root motivation and vision for the future of online education and LifterLMS.

My children do not go to school, even though they are of school age. I’m not a big fan of labels, but you could label us as practicing “unschooling.” Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. If a parent, teacher, or anyone for that matter, wants to support an unschooling learner, it is done by helping expose the learner to a variety of experiences allowing them to discover interests and communities on their own. Supporting unschoolers is all about facilitating and allowing the learner to lead.

It is important to recognize that unschooling is not anti-school.  Rather it is about seeking out the most effective resources, at the right time, and in the right way for each individual learner. My approach isn’t as dogmatic as it may sound (which is why I don’t like labels). For example, my children enroll in specific classes in our community that interest them, like art and music. I am simply sharing my personal story, beliefs, and choices.

Of course as a parent, mentor, or leader, we have a duty to protect unschoolers from unrecoverable mistakes. However most mistakes and failures are recoverable. We want lots of those kinds of mistakes, and we want reality to provide feedback on what’s working or not. “Real world” or reality-based feedback is a powerful teacher.

Keep reading. In a little bit, I will show you an example of reality-based feedback related to the mistake that I made.

Now if you think about it, we all have done some unschooling in our lives even if we didn’t realize it.

As a kid I was bored and unengaged for much of my classroom time. I had a “good” education, but I could have gotten a lot more out of those years.

It wasn’t until college that I was allowed to start making conscious decisions to lead my own education.  I persued classes that actually sounded interesting to me like anthropology, sociology, philosophy, sustainable development, appropriate technology, travel, and outdoor leadership. This was really the beginning of an unschooling approach for me.

The secret sauce to unschooling that works for me includes:
Taking leadership of my own path
Continuously improving my craft and experimenting constantly (which I find easy when passion or interest is there)
Surrounding myself with others who have chosen a similar path (no matter where they are on their journey)

Many great things in my life have come from embodying these three personal truths. It is through this unschooling approach to life that I have found success in an outdoor leadership career in Alaska, a work-from-anywhere, semi-nomadic, married-with-kids lifestyle, and as the passionate online education software entrepreneur standing in front of you today.

Again this is my personal journey and what’s evolved for me. Your journey and path is your own. You get to define what success means to you. There are many paths. Choose yours.

So how does online course, membership site, and learning management system (LMS) software fit into all this?
Please allow me to ask you a few questions that I have asked myself over the years.

Read each question, pause, and really think about what the answer might look like.
What would a world look like where we had technology that supports effective and engaging learning?
What would a world look like where all teachers had access to the tools necessary to reach experts around the world and integrate them into the classroom?
What would a world look like where people with valuable knowledge and life experience could easily launch online training platforms to create income and impact?
What would a world look like where people and businesses could curate learning materials from diversified sources in order to create the most effective and engaging learning journey?
What would a world look like where people anywhere could follow their interests, take control of their learning, and connect with mentors and peers while helping others grow as well?
What would a world look like where learning content and learning method creators were rewarded based on the effectiveness of their content and craft?
These are the questions that consume my curiosity.

I’m motivated for myself, my family, you, and all of the world’s people.

Learning is what makes us human.

But I don’t just explore this learning utopia in my mind.

I also think realistically about the tools and specific cultural transitions that need to transpire to get us there.

So what would a software look like that facilitates a learner’s personal leadership, rapid learning, and connection to others?

The answer to that question is what drives the roadmap and evolution of LifterLMS.

I invite you to come with us on this journey to the next evolution of learning. Our mission is to democratize education in the digital classroom.

What does democratization actually mean?

At it’s core, the democratization I’m talking about concerns empowering individuals and learning communities.

The big shift that’s happening right now in education starts with personal leadership.

The democratization starts within you.

You decide who is leading your learning journey.

Is it you?

Is it someone else or something else?

Do you realize you have a choice?

Sometimes we are unaware of our own belief systems and assumptions which include who and what we allow to lead us.

I guarantee you can remember a time when you were in control of your learning. You chased something of interest. No one forced you. You experimented with it, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. You found a community related to this interest and you got involved. Eventually others came to you looking for guidance on their own free will and you helped them.

What was that for you?

At LifterLMS we are building tools that help education entrepreneurs create learning platforms that matter. These are platforms designed to create high-impact, engaging, learning environments that can also be extremely lucrative if your content and methods are good.

I believe you need the following elements to be successful as an online course creator, membership site owner, or learning management system administrator:
Wisdom, knowledge, life experience
Instructional design (an intelligent packaging of the wisdom into an effective class structure, curriculum, method, path, system, program, etc.)
An online course delivery system, membership site, or learning management system (LifterLMS offers all three of these approaches simultaneously or separately)

Some say that when building an online education program, there is a preferred order in which to do things. Many people do this backwards.

I learned the ideal order from a great friend and mentor…

1) Build community.

Community happens naturally when you allow the natural social connections to form through something like an unschooling approach. Unfortunately today there’s a lot of unnecessary focus on gimicky tactics for “building the list” and “persuasion techniques.” The strongest communities are simply a natural byproduct of pursuing your unique version of meaningful work.

2) Build learning content.

This also happens naturally as your competence grows and you begin helping others who are less experienced. Over time your methods of helping and facilitating get better and better as you see positive trends from what is working in reality. The instructional design improves as time goes on. Your unique methods of helping or facilitating real learning become the learning content and framework.

3) Create the delivery system.

Unfortunately I’ve seen way too many people focus on the tools before they have the community and the content. The tools are a very important part of the puzzle but they are not the starting point. The online course, membership site, or LMS software should support the exchange of knowledge, set the student up for real world application with direct, reality-based feedback, facilitate community, and empower the learner to lead their own journey.

What’s new in LifterLMS 3.0 and what does the future hold?

LifterLMS 3.0 is about to roll out. In last week’s post we wrote about 19 of the top new features, benefits, and changes.

I made a mistake by sharing with you what was happening with LifterLMS 3.0, but not why. That’s an example, by the way, of me making a mistake in the real world and getting reality-based feedback from real people. That’s part of my unschooling journey as a software entrepreneur. That’s a lesson to me that helps me improve as a communicator.

LifterLMS 3.0 is a major upgrade. Moving from 2.7.12 to 3.0 is a major version change in terms of semantic versioning. The point system we use here is often misunderstood or misused. In a major update, there are some things that are backwards incompatible.

Backwards incompatibility is not a bad thing. For example, when you decide to have children, you can not expect to have the same life you had before kids. Life has forever changed, but this is not a bad thing.

There is a fork in the road here. We are exposing a seam. In the words of Seth Godin:

“There is a seam. That was one color, this is a different one. That was yesterday, this is today.”

For LifterLMS 3.o there are a lot of awesome, shiny new features shaped by the voice of our users, but there are also a few backwards incompatible changes. The code and architecture behind the way people purchase and access courses and memberships have been completely rewritten from the ground up. Also the ability to sell courses and membership with PayPal or WooCommerce have been moved out to paid add-ons. These integrations have also been completely rewritten to work with the new payment and access system and have even more functionality than their predecessors.

People who are currently using these payment methods in an older version of LifterLMS that do not want to pay for the new PayPal or WooCommerce add-ons are in complete control and can make the decision to NOT update their version of LifterLMS. There will be a big red alert message next to the usual update available area in WordPress. If someone accidentally updates and changes their mind, they can choose to roll back to the previous version which is freely available here. If they don’t know how to roll back, there is a community of web developers and even WordPress “version roll back” plugins out there.

Some might be wondering why we decided to move the PayPal and WooCommerce functionality from the free core software out to their own premium extensions.

It was a tough decision and this is why we chose this direction:

1) Some of our users don’t need eCommerce features. Some sell their training offline or through a different method. It’s important in a product for the main feature set to be desirable to the majority. If selling your online training is important to you, then you may want to go to the store and purchase individual eCommerce add-ons or you might want to get them all through the Universe Bundle that will roll out alongside the LifterLMS 3.0 release. Remember, our top priority is making online education work, not just eCommerce. We are LifterLMS, not Lifter-eCommerce. Of course we want education entrepreneurs to be successful and make a profit. I’m sure you would agree that if your learning content and teaching methods are effective and desirable, you can afford to pay for the tools you choose to sell them with. It’s easy to put skin in the game when you’ve got a valuable and effective training product.

2) As a business we need to be able to grow and pay great people to provide product support and continue product development. We give a lot away for free to the community, and we’re happy to. But any good product needs to have a sustainable business model behind it. The major business expenses in software products are support and continuous improvement. It’s in the learning community’s best interest for LifterLMS to be able to fund and accelerate development resources towards more learning-focused functionalities, like more advanced assessments, assignments, teacher capabilities, and much, much, more.

3) You can still validate your online course, membership site, or learning management system for free with LifterLMS. The free LifterLMS 3.0 includes a new feature (manual gateway) you can choose to use that puts a transaction in pending status after checkout pending arrival of a check, cash, bank transfer, payment through a different system, etc. Once you get payment, you can change the order status and the user is immediately let into the courses and/or memberships that they purchased.

You could also validate your training by selling the course or membership with an easy PayPal invoice, embedded PayPal button, WooCommerce simple digital product, Gumroad digital product, FreshBooks invoice, and a host of other free-to-set-up or low cost services. Upon payment, simply deliver your customer a LifterLMS voucher to activate their purchase, give the user a coupon, approve the order manually in LifterLMS, or enroll them manually. It’s easy to validate your minimum viable training product (MVTP) with LifterLMS.

Once you have proof of concept, we offer a suite of products to help you create an amazing world-class platform. You can buy individual products or save big by investing in the Universe Bundle where you get everything we make. At the end of the day if your course is delivered through our system and good enough to make money, it’s in both our best interests for LifterLMS to be able to afford to support you and continuously improve upon the tools that make your platform possible.

4) We want to run, not walk.

Of course we care and sympathize with people who want a valuable component to remain free. I understand where these people are coming from, but I am also offering an invitation to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

For those of you that you that wish to continue, I know you understand why it’s important for us to be running into the future together, not walking.

Running not walking
I have a vision for transforming how we as humans worldwide can learn and teach.

I have a vision for how we can lead ourselves, build healthy relationships, and experience the joys of rapid learning.

But I’m not just a dreamer.

I’m a builder.

I can connect the dots to get us there.

However this is bigger than me, you, and LifterLMS.

This is my vision, but this isn’t my story.

This is our story.

This is our time.

Let’s run, not walk, forward.

In order to run, LifterLMS needs to have a strong business model behind it. LifterLMS needs to be able to cover support costs, cover development costs, and grow fast.

In order to run, LifterLMS needs a community of users who share this vision and our shared journey. LifterLMS needs a community of users that are making courses that matter.

Your time is limited. So don’t waste it by living with an education operating system that is under-optimized.

You’re time is limited. So don’t waste it by not valuing the tools and the community that is here to support you.

Let’s run, not walk.

Sign up here to get the free version of LifterLMS right now or run faster with the Universe Bundle coming out soon with the release of LifterLMS 3.0. Again, we will prorate existing customers. Contact us here if you have an active license and would like to be prorated and upgraded into the Universe Bundle.

If you want to run faster and join us on this journey but need financial support because of geography based currency issues or exceptional life circumstances, click here to explain your situation and apply for a partial or full software scholarship.

The release of LifterLMS 3.0 is an event. Click here to watch the replay of the LifterLMS 3.0 Launch Party Webinar. There will be some limited-time discounts for everyone to celebrate the launch. There will be deeper discounts for current LifterLMS Pro users as promised.

I will see you at the starting line. Make sure you are on the email list so you’re in the loop.

Get ready to run into the future, not walk.


The Top 10 Themes from the Online Course Creation Summit with Devin Slavin

In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett steps you through the top 10 themes from the Online Course Creation Summit with Devin Slavin. You’ll learn what the Summit is all about with major points of course creation from leaders in the industry.

It’s all too easy for people working online to become isolated in their endeavors, so in 2016 Devin gathered 40 top online entrepreneurs and course creation experts for the first Online Course Creation Summit. There they shared their knowledge and experience and what works in designing, building, launching, and marketing for their online courses. Devin and Chris share a deep appreciation for nature, which Devin brings to his business model through collaboration instead of competition. He’s now building his Course Creation Network and bootcamp hub on that foundation of partnership for people involved in creating online courses.

Today’s discussion highlights the top 10 takeaway themes from the Summit. Number 1 is achieving engagement by creating courses that people will purchase and follow through with. Next is the idea of pre-selling your course before it’s finished and working with a pilot group to build a course that people will actually buy. The 3rd theme is user experience and how your course flows. Number 4 is community, how to build it and take it to the next level. The 5th point is to focus on results and your students’ outcomes.

At number 6, authenticity is about being real and is key to connecting and engaging with your students in a meaningful way. Automation and segmentation form the 7th theme, including tracking user participation and finding out what people are actually interested in. Number 8 is an overview of technical platforms and how to choose the best one for your needs. Live engagement is the 9th element, including streaming platforms, webinars, and other ways to interact with current and potential students. And finally, number 10 is certification, whether that’s a simple badge or an industry accepted certificate of completion.

Too many course offerings are built on conversion and getting the sale rather than providing real value to the customer. At LifterLMS our focus is engagement and democratization of education through the digital classroom. We want everyone to have access to truly relevant teaching and learning in the global community and in niche markets by making our LifterLMS platform and codeBOX services accessible and affordable. These top 10 themes from the Online Course Creation Summit with Devin Slavin can further help you deliver that value.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. Today we have a special guest, Devin Slavin. How are you doing, Devin?

Devin: I’m great. So glad to be here and joining you on this awesome show, Chris. This is … I’m just stoked.

Chris: Thanks. It’s been a long time coming. I first came across Devin when he was doing the Online Course Creation Summit, which I ended up buying and working through the videos. I couldn’t go through it as fast as the summit which was really cool. I checked out some of the things but I was just really busy at the time. I was like, “I’m going to get this, and then I’m going to go through this slowly as I go through it,” and I’m finding so many cool nuggets of wisdom in there, and I just want to thank you for putting that on. But tell us a little bit about the Online Course Creation Summit, what it was, when it happened, what it’s evolving into? Then what we’re going to get into in this episode is 10 of the major themes or takeaways that you got from the summit, but tell us the backstory.

Devin: All right. Well before I do that, I have to say that you would have been a speaker on it had we connected earlier, Chris. I think I told you that as we connected. It was, we connected right before it went live and everything was all set in place, so I have to say that, and give a mention to you that we’ll have to have you on the next one, which I am, not to get ahead of myself, we are planning maybe next year so we’ll have to talk about that. Anyway, the Online Course Creation Summit was essentially me gathering up 40 of the top online entrepreneurs and course creation experts from around the world and they were just sharing all of the things that’s working in 2016 for course creation, whether it’s designing, building, or marketing, launching your online course, and it was a blast.

I feel like, I mean, I’ve been studying this for years and consider myself an expert in course creation, but being able to interview so many of the people that I’ve been interacting with and following over the years was awesome. I myself learned a tonne while I was doing that and connecting up the dots which is what I plan on sharing with you guys here today, and with you, chris, so I’m really excited to do that, but that was just the … We did a series of interviews and presentations and really the vision was to bring everyone together in one place because I think sometimes, not always, but sometimes what happens in the online world is we all have our own platform and we promote our own stuff and I think at least with some of the people that I was talking to at the summit, it was like a way that we could all come together and share best practices together, and all win from it.

That was the vision of the summit. It was really awesome. Got a tonne of great response. So much so that we’re planning on doing it next year, like I said, so yeah, it was awesome.

Chris: That’s awesome and I totally resonate with that message of sometimes it’s easy to be isolated, like I’ve worked with a lot of experts. I’ve launched online course platforms myself and the expert, it can be quite isolated and just busy doing their craft. The people who provide the software solutions are doing their own thing and the consultants and other experts that support the industry of it all are sometimes in their own silos. When I saw you pull that off, I was like, “That is a great idea. I’m so glad somebody took the leadership to do that.” That’s awesome.

Devin: That’s cool, man. I was just going to say, I mean, the interesting thing is I come from, and I think we’ve talked about this, but we have similar backgrounds in that we’re into online courses and creating courses and supporting people in that, but also we have a deep appreciation for nature and that’s where I came into the world of online course creation, and a lot of the spirit of nature and community is to collaborate rather than to compete, so I’m bringing that into my business model and I’m actually building my business off of that principle which is a little bit of an experiment.

I know a lot of businesses have been successful based on their collaboration and the partnerships, but I’m actually launching the Course Creation Network, which is not just featuring my stuff but featuring everyone’s, the top leaders in the field in course creation and resources around that. It’s kind of an experiment because I’m not saying, “Everyone buy my stuff.” I’m going to be saying, “Hey, check out what this guy’s doing and this person, and this woman’s doing.” It’s about the spirit of what’s really working in course creation as a whole, and not about me. That’s what I’m excited about.

Chris: That’s super cool and I admire that heavily, and I think I heard an interview with Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, where he was talking about the third wave of the internet and there were 3 Ps. 2 of them are policy and partnership. I forget what the third one was, but the idea of partnership to be successful going forward, there’s just so much going on, everything’s so complicated, integrated. It’s going to be the partnerships that pull ahead as opposed to “I’m a solo operator and I’m going to do all this by myself and my silo.” It’s a different world and I totally resonate with that ecological perspective and trying to turn competition into collaboration and all that.

Devin: Absolutely.

Chris: Let’s see where the experiment goes and look forward to seeing the journey.

Devin: Yeah, man.

Chris: In the spirit of collaboration, what were some of the … You’re in this leadership position, you’re interviewing all these experts, and you’re starting to pick up on big takeaways or common themes or trends, and I know you’ve got some to go over today, let’s jump into it. What’s the number 1?

Devin: Yeah, let me bring up my cheat sheet here. Oh, this is great. Of course, somehow I managed to close the window with all my notes. Just hold on one second, but what’s cool about this, and by the way, the only people who have got this content that we’re going to share right now are the people that happened to tune in to my final keynote of the Online Course Creation Summit so you guys that are tuning into this, you’re basically going to get the top themes of the whole summit, so if you can’t tune into 40 different interviews, you’re going to hit the highlights right now. Let me just … Bare with me for 1 second. My apologies that I somehow closed the window.

Chris: Yeah, no worries. I mean, in that whole spirit of a summit and collaboration, I like to think of it in terms of when you read a book, you’re taking that author’s sometimes 10, 20, 30 years of experience, condensing that down into a smaller chunk and then when you do something like a summit, you’re just exponentially doing that. Like, you’re taking all these different people who have spent decades refining their craft, condensing their information down into the best things and then you get to, as the organizer and everything, you’re then curating and collaborating to bring out the best of the best. It’s just such a powerful format.

Devin: Yeah, totally, and it’s really interesting. Something I didn’t expect with it, and I hope this isn’t too much information for you guys who are out there to create courses, but the cool thing is that I was interviewing people and they didn’t know what the other person was saying by the time it went live, so I’m sitting here going, “This person’s saying this, and this person’s saying that. They don’t know what everyone’s saying,” so it’s just like, these themes that I’m going to share with you, it was really cool, because this is what everyone’s saying without knowing what the others are saying, so anyway. I know it’s 10, 10’s almost too much to remember, so I hope you guys can remember.

I’ve heard that about 4 things is the most that we can remember, but I’m going to just go through them and we can discuss them individually, I think, but I’m thinking as I rolled them out originally for this presentation, I kept people on their seats with what is going to be the next one, but I’m going to touch on every one of them really quick and then we can decide which ones we want to discuss. In terms of the top 10 themes for the Online Course Creation Summit this year, 2016, number 1 theme was actually engagement. Engagement in terms of how do we create courses where people actually purchase them, engage with them, get their results, complete them, share them with the world, because the background on that is that sometimes a lot of people buy courses and they actually don’t even open them which is crazy. Like, purchasing a course and then it doesn’t even get used.

I’ve never done that personally, but I’m sure I understand people get busy. As a course creator, that ends up being an issue because all of a sudden you’re selling your course and nobody’s getting results from it because they’re not actually using it. Anyway, I’m getting into the details but number 1 is engagement. Number 2, pre-selling your course before actually creating the course. Actually pilot it, pre-sell it before you invest the time and energy, so that you know people are going to buy it before you invest all of the resources. User experience, so the whole experience of creating the course is number 3, of taking the course, and how that flows, and is it related to how people naturally learn.

Number 4 was community, and really how to take your community to the next level and then that increases engagement. I’m going to share number 5, because all of a sudden I’m saying, something’s telling me that I shouldn’t share them all at once right now to keep you guys on your toes, so number 5 was having the results based focus. We’re really creating courses that are focused on the outcomes for our students over everything else, like, what is somebody coming to this course to get and how do we design a course to maximize the impact on our participant’s lives? Okay, that was just 5. I feel like I probably shouldn’t have introduced all 5 like that, because how are we going to discuss this, Chris? I’ll just stop there and let you take it from here.

Chris: Yeah. Well, I would 100% resonate with the engagement one. That was one of the things we did at LifterLMS, is we wanted to focus on engagement as a top priority and as a differentiator in the marketplace, and I think I heard the statistic in one of our Online Course Creation Summit presentations that there was a, I don’t know if it was from Udemy or it was an industry standard, that there was a 10% completion rate and we’ve had content on this podcast, LMS Cast, about the dirty little secret of membership sites, which is that sometimes there’s all this focus on getting the sale and the conversion and not enough focus on actually delivering and keeping people engaged on the other side of after they pay. It’s kind of like the dirty little secret of the industry, and that’s one angle we want to take. What are some common actionable ways that people can increase engagement that you saw?

Devin: Oh, wow. Okay.

Chris: There’s a lot.

Devin: There’s a lot. There’s a long checklist actually that I have and maybe we could include the checklist. I wasn’t planning on it before we started this interview but I can include my checklist of engagement tips and by the way, it’s not like some offering that I give out or anything. This is just my personal checklist that when I talk to people like you, I’m like, “Oh, that’s a good tip.” I just write it down. Maybe we’ll be able to include that, but yes, some of the things … Okay, so this really gets back to the whole essence of creating a course and before you even start creating a course, how it relates to engagement is really getting in the world of the person that you’re hear to serve. As a course creator, whatever I’m putting out there, whatever I’m doing, it’s not about me. It’s about the person that I am serving, the person that’s going to purchase the course, the person that’s going to get results in their life.

I think the number 1 thing in terms of engagement is to first of all really get that and get in the world of your participant rather than having it be about yourself, which is actually a tricky thing to do. I think as humans, we’re all figuring out how to do that and be evolved and be beyond our own world, but in terms of engagement, just getting in the … The foundation is getting in the shoes of a participant and designing things for them. For instance, if I’m purchasing something, I love to, whether the course is complete or not at the time of purchase, which is a whole topic in itself, if I purchase something and then I get access to it, I love some sort of interaction where I can go in and get started with my course, like a welcome or introduction model, something that I can immediately take action.

That’s one thing that increases engagement and some people might be saying, “Well, of course I was going to do that,” but to jump ahead with pre-selling, a lot of people are actually having success in creating courses by releasing 1 module at a time, and creating it along with their first participants. The point is just to think like your participant, have something there for them so they can get started, get dreaming, as an introductory module, setting goals and creating that future for themselves which is why they purchased your course. That’s what I would say is one of the number 1 things right there. Just having something there when people start.

Chris: That’s huge. I mean, at LifterLMS, we say we’re on a mission to democratize education in a digital classroom. That’s not just a fluffy thing. The educational system is broken, and I mean it’s not like completely broken but there’s so much room for improvement and the way people work and the way people get jobs. What people do with education, either general or specialized is changing so rapidly and all these niche opportunities are being exposed because the internet, that there’s never been a better time to start tweaking and fixing that problem. I’m not saying that traditional schools should not exist or whatever, but there’s just so much opportunity to blend in some kind of more engaging global access online stuff, so it’s really cool to see what entrepreneurs out there are building and who are working on that engagement issue.

Devin: Yeah, totally. I have a feeling you and I could have a whole episode on that because it’s actually something that I’m really passionate about. I’m so grateful for all of my teachers throughout my life, but I really felt like as a kid growing up that there was so much more to learn and learning can be different versus learning about things that I didn’t care about and seemed irrelevant to my life as I was developing. Anyway.

Chris: This is the beginning of the series, so we’ll do some more, but yeah, that’s definitely a big issue and there’s never been a better time to work on that. Tell me more about pre-selling. We’re big believers in that, we’re big believers in validating your idea, validating your market, getting your language right, like you mentioned, like focusing on a result is another one where maybe you don’t want to teach somebody web development. Maybe you want to teach them how to get their first, to make 60 grand a year as a web developer as a solo freelancer. That’s a more specific than “how to be a web developer,” or “php 101,” or WordPress, whatever. Sometimes we become better communicators by pre-selling and then co-creating with that first pilot group or whatever, but give us some more pre-selling wisdom. Like, what are people doing? What’s working?

Devin: Yeah. This pre-selling topic is actually a really an intense one and it’s a deep one because on the positive side of it is that we’re actually testing out, we’re coming up with all our ideas and before we actually create it, we’re testing it, we’re seeing what people, what our target audience really wants, what’s the language they’re speaking like you mentioned, what are the key topics that they want to learn, what are their main stresses and struggles, and what are their goals? All of these things are doing that research and we’re piloting things. It essentially means, the way that I look at it, pre-selling is “Look, I’m going to do all the work that I need to do to put this course out there, but I’m not going to create it first because I want to make sure that I’m on target and that there’s people willing to buy it.”

It’s really smart as an entrepreneur, in the sense of a minimum viable product, like, let’s develop the essentials to get it going and then once we know there’s a demand, let’s invest all of our resources into it. On a theoretical level, it actually makes sense for everyone. It’s a win for everyone. The negative side of it is that as a course creator, be totally transparent. As a course creator, it can be difficult to do all of your marketing and putting everything out there without the course being there because you have to wear 2 hats. You have to wear the marketer’s hat at the same time as you’re wearing the course creator, content develop hat which is way easier for me to do one at a time.

Like, I love both of those things, but I start to feel a little bit spread thin when I’m going out there to work on ways to promote my courses versus when I’m getting into the nitty gritty of just developing the content for my students. I think that’s the challenge with it, is to actually be able to know what you’re going to put together, have clarity around what you’re pre-selling, but then actually sell it ahead of time, and deliver on your promises week by week, or month by month, whatever you promise. Yeah, that’s just a little snapshot of the pre-selling pros and constantly from me. I know you asked about how to do that, so I can probably talk about some of those ways, too, but I’ll pause just in case you have any comments or thoughts on that as well.

Chris: Yeah, I just totally agree with that. You’ve got to wear multiple hats and there’s a concept called “resource boxing” which is easier said than done, but if you’re going to be a marketer on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and a content creator on Tuesday, Thursday, or chunk up your days, it is very different mindset to be in the selling/marketing mode and be in the teacher mode. I think it’s important to acknowledge that and help people realize that it’s okay when you start feeling flustered, switching between those hats, because it’s not necessarily a natural transition. It’s something you have to really focus on. Then, I just wanted to add, the pre-selling concept, the first step in that, the action item is to write the sales page, or write that course description because a lot of experts have the curse of knowledge.

They’re so deep in their material and their wisdom, that just the act of writing it out, putting the bullet points about the benefits and the features, and just describing exactly what you get is so powerful that it makes all the work of creating all that stuff later much easier, because you’ve already laid out the train tracks, or at least you’re, like you said, your MVP, your minimum viable product of what you think it’s going to be. Maybe it’s going to evolve as you go, but at least you have a starting point and a trajectory.

Devin: Yeah, totally. I love that you pointed that out because I used to teach my Course Creators Bootcamp that it was the kind of brainstorming session, really getting clear about what you are ready to, what you’re wanting to teach, and then go the next step was actually the sales page and that was because that’s how I create things. It’s like, when I actually have to clarify what I’m putting out there to the world, which is essentially what a sales page is, get in the world of the participant and where they’re at, and then to actually create a compelling story about the problems they face and then to deliver a solution and why the course is a solution and what it includes, and all these things.

When I would come to creating a sales page, it would re-inform what I need to include in my course, so I actually started that beforehand, but as it goes, the funny thing is I found that it’s actually really hard to teach that process, so I do put curriculum design and planning out the curriculum before the sales page process, but I do point out that they influence each other. It’s kind of like if I could teach 2 things at the same time, I would do both at the same exact time knowing that you inform each other, but at this point, I do go to curriculum design and then turning that into the sales page.

One other thing, and I know this is a little bit of a side note, but the other reason that I do that is I found that it’s easier to put down a concept like the main result or the outcome, and then to make it something that’s exciting and enticing afterwards, like there’s part of my brain that’s like, “Teach them how to create a course,” and then this other part that comes in as a secondary layer of making it like really sexy and fun, or engaging or getting into the emotion of it. I find that easier to do secondary. Anyway, that’s …

Chris: That’s awesome.

Devin: … Me giving a bit of my process there.

Chris: Yeah, and I just want to add to that, some very similar framework that we teach where you have the expert, or the body of knowledge, then you have the marketing or the business side of it all, and then you have instructional design, like you’re talking about curriculum design. There’s this 3 hats and you’re probably good at 1 or 2 of those, and weak in 1, and I think that’s a good opportunity to build a team or just to slow down and develop, and just give yourself permission to start becoming a marketer, or start becoming a better curriculum designer, but anyway.

Devin: Yeah. I like identifying all 3 of those. It’s very key to the whole process. You have to do all of them as a course creator, unless like you said, have a team that’s doing it for you.

Chris: Yeah. Absolutely. If you’re not an expert, let’s say you’re just an awesome marketer and sales professional, you can become a publisher of courses. You can go find experts and let them do what they do. There’s so many different ways to approach it, but it’s important to see all the roles.

Devin: Totally.

Chris: You want to shift to the other 5, or?

Devin: Yeah. Let’s do that. I think that would only be fair just in case … Okay. We mentioned the first 5 here and then the last 5, and this is not necessarily in a particular order. I attempted to put that in an order but it’s not like this was the number 1, number 2, exactly. Okay, so another key topic, number 6 is authenticity and that’s my language really, but it’s about that marketing and engagement these days is about being real and if we try to be perfect and all that stuff, people feel it when we’re not being totally authentic. Authenticity and being ourselves and shining in our actual gifts, and even being transparent about what’s working, what’s not working goes a long way. That’s number 6.

Number 7 was automation and probably more importantly, segmentation. It’s like the piece of actually tracking user participation and what’s working, what’s not working for them, and actually if it’s before they’ve purchased the course, finding out what people are really interested in and then targeting them with only specific things. If it’s after they’ve purchased a course and they’re engaging, using the technology we have to really target them and what’s next in their journey. Number 8 is, oh this is funny because it’s the first time I’ve looked at it since the keynote, but tech platforms, so let me actually look at my notes.

Okay. You know, finding … Choosing a tech platform, there’s many options, but finding the one that actually plays best with the things that you already have going on in your business and that matches the way you think, it matches the things that you want to do in your course, and probably most importantly, matches the things that are the needs of your participants and help them get the results because it all comes back to that. We have 2 more. Number 9, live engagement. All of these live stream platforms, webinar platforms, but actually finding ways to engage live with your potential participants before they join the course or even with your current participants after they have been engaging in your course, but whether you have a prerecorded course or not, finding live ways to interact, at least at some level.

The last theme of the top 10 for the Online Course Creation Summit was certification. Having a way to certify people in what you’re doing so that they can go out and either teach what you’re teaching them or just have a badge or some kind of certification to say, “Look, I completed this. I have an education in this, and I’m ready to serve you with this certification.” There we go, top 10.

Chris: That’s awesome. All right. Nice job. We could definitely go for hours on all of that. I want to pick out a few things. Just in my experience for all you online course creators out there, some of the platforms, one of the things that I see that separates good ones from really exceptional ones is when you do have that certification element, and it’s like a desirable certificate or maybe it’s not even that desirable, but it’s mandatory, like somebody has to get continuing education requirements fulfilled for their profession or whatever, from a business perspective, I see some of those and there’s just a lot of opportunity in that industry going really well, and I think people are just expanding, in terms of being more open to having online versions of different types of certification. That’s a big one. What else are you seeing around certification?

Devin: Yeah, well, okay. This is interesting. I know that LifterLMS has a certificate piece in it which I love, that’s so cool, and I think I learned this from the guys at Digital Marketer that one of the things that, and I don’t want to scare people away from creating courses because it’s such an incredible opportunity that we have right now as experts, or as people with something to share with the world, but the only thing that’s really stopping people from taking your course and then taking that content and creating their own course, I think it’s a very low percentage of people that will do that, but one of the things that certifications do is they stop people from doing that because if you have a certification that’s really powerful and you have a brand that you’re developing and it’s recognized, the certification from your brand, somebody else can’t go out and create a course and then have their certification be better than yours, or they probably, first of all, won’t create a certification, but it’s this thing that distinguishes everyone.

In terms of Digital Marketer, people can take their courses and then go create a course based on what they learned, but they’ll never have Digital Marketer’s certification program to be certified in whatever that subject is my Digital Marketer, so it’s a way to stay ahead of the curve and really have your content be recognized in associated with your brand and as a leader in industry. I think that’s the main opportunity but that’s more of the negative side of it. I think the positive side of it is when people are certified in your training or your course, then they display that on their website, they are going out there and they’re talking about, they’re proud of it, and essentially that ends up being a referral back to your training and your course, for people who respect them and want to do the same thing that they did. I think that’s the easy win and the positive aspect of having a certificate included with a course.

Chris: That’s awesome. Let’s talk about segmentation a little bit. This is a huge topic. I could just rattle off, like I see certain niches in the online course space that just have a lot of activity. There’s things like health and fitness, there’s so many niches within that. Everything from yoga to detox, lifestyle, cooking, all kinds of stuff. There’s a lot of business/internet marketing stuff out there. There’s real estate is a strong segment, and real estate education. There’s people who have SaaS products who use courses for customer onboarding. There’s people using internal training for courses. That’s the kind of segmentation that I’m used to, just from a software product, and I need to communicate differently to these different segments, but tell me more about what you find with segmentation through the summit and through the experts, as it relates to the online course entrepreneur.

Devin: Yeah absolutely. The segmentation, this is an interesting one and the preface that I’d like to share with it is that if you are somebody who’s getting started in course creation, getting started in this process, just consider the topic of segmentation but don’t feel like it’s something that you have to focus on and get overwhelmed with because it’s … I mean, there are some basic ways that you can apply it but it’s more, I would say it’s more of an advanced or intermediate tactic or way of relating to your audience or potential network that you’re reaching out to. That’s the number 1 thing I want to say right there, is if you’re overwhelmed by what we’re talking about, then don’t worry about it. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

Segmentation is really about in essence, I would say tracking the likes and the interests or actually surveying the likes and the interests of your audience, whether they’re people that haven’t purchased your course but they’re on your list or in your network, or have purchased the course, and may want to continue to work with you, and so segmentation with the features that we have of a lot of platforms and email automation services, things like that, we can actually track the data around that, or track data, even sites we’re visiting, things like that with Google and Facebook pixels, but anyway, to bring it all back in, what segmentation is really about is noticing patterns of what any given user is interested in, what excites them based on their actions and then giving them content and offers that are related to their biggest interests.

A really simple way of implementing that, and it’s going to depend on the email providers options that they include, it’s usually at the higher level platforms that include this, but just tracking what are people clicking on? What links are people clicking on? If they are in a certain category, a link, then tag them. For instance, I’m going to be promoting something on email list building and so people that click this link and open this email related to email list building, they will get a tag that says that they’re interested in list building. That’s one way to do it. Another way to do it that I think is easier for people just getting started is to include a survey or a questionnaire to their email list and for people to select which category best fits them, and based on that, whatever category they choose, then you’re sending them offers and resources related to that, to the stage that they’re at.

It’s sort of easier said than done because if you think about it, let’s say you have 4 categories of your email list, then all of a sudden, now if I’m sending an email, I either have to make 4 different versions of that, or I’m only sending emails to that certain category.

Chris: Take it slowly if you’re just starting out. There’s tools out there, especially in the email marketing space, like ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, InfusionSoft, MailChimp. There’s different tools out there to help you segment.

Devin: Totally.

Chris: I know we’re running short on time and I just want to get into a couple more things before we go.

Devin: Cool.

Chris: One of the things that’s really fascinating to me and I was really excited to see this on your list, is live streaming. There’s a couple of points on that I just want to note. One of them is that I’m one of the owners of a company called “Codebox” where we do client services and build custom learning management systems, allow them on top of LifterLMS and extend the functionality and bring in all kinds of stuff. One of the things that we’ve been getting a lot of interest in lately is custom live streaming solutions. Now for the beginner, and we’ve been building some of these, but for the beginner, you want to use something like Facebook Live or YouTube Live. There’s some easy to use tools, or even this tool that we’re recording this podcast with, which is called “Zoom” is a great way. You can do webinars and things like that.

Live streaming is an important path of the future, and if you look across the industry at platforms like Udemy where there’s downward pressure on pricing, the passive video course concept is pricing pressure down, it’s becoming commoditized, the market’s getting saturated, but what’s not getting saturated is you, and I want to tie it into your authenticity point, and your time. You can charge a heck of a lot more for a course if you have a live component, and you can do it intelligently so it doesn’t eat your lunch for time. For example, once a week or once a month you could have group office hours where you know your only resource boxing an hour to do a presentation or to have you available live. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on call 24/7.

I’m just really fascinated with the concept of live streaming. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re trying to make your online course into a viable business. It’s a great way to increase the price and just add more value to the course, but what else are you seeing related to live streaming, Devin?

Devin: Yeah. I love what you just shared about that, because I totally agree and I think a lot of people, we come into online course creation because it allows us to scale ourselves. We get an opportunity to stop trading our one on one time or one to small group time for getting paid by an hour. It’s like people can come learn and get results and they can do it on their own time, and I don’t have to necessarily even be there for it if they were working with me. That’s the cool part about it, but like you said, yes, it becomes a commodity. The prices lower for automated aspects so how can we bring a live component in and still be able to live the lifestyle that we want to live and do the things we want to do?

Just like you said, I highly recommend thinking through what’s realistic for you. When I say you, someone as a course creator. What is the time commitment that you feel like you could offer to your course that would allow you to have the flexibility, but also to contribute? I think a lot of people, when I’m running a bootcamp where it’s like a start to finish, it starts this date and ends this date, it’s an online course but start to finish, I like to do that once a week, a once a week interaction live. But, if it’s an ongoing, evergreen offer where there’s no real start to finish for everyone, then I generally like to do it once a month. You could do once every 2 weeks. I just find that once a week I start to feel overwhelmed, and it’s every week, I’m on.

That’s my recommendation in terms of live interaction for people who are taking your courses. For marketing courses with live platforms, it’s something that’s a learning process for me, but I can say on the user end, and this is more of a question. This is more of a question than an answer to marketing your courses with live streams, but my question is, how will you catch and truly engage your people with your live stream? I ask that question because this is my experience. I’m not sure what your experience is, Chris, but I see a lot of live streams happening but I’m like, “Oh, this is cool. It got my attention,” but I don’t stick to them because they’re usually someone just talking and they’re not really giving me a presentation of what I want to hear. That’s like the negative side of it.

I totally agree that live streaming is a key component, but my question is like if someone’s doing a live stream, how would they actually connect and keep not only stop the person from scrolling, but actually to engage and stay on the live stream?

Chris: That’s a really good question. I just want to add, that’s why the company Blab, the live streaming company, decided to shutdown or just transition, pivot their product, because they found that people were just hanging out. They weren’t really using it to really broadcast. It was more of a social thing.

Devin: Oh, interesting.

Chris: Yeah, it’s just an interesting time. Like, figuring out how to use live stream intelligently, both on the marketing and the frontend or the educational experience on the back end is definitely a big opportunity.

Devin: For sure.

Chris: Well, Devin, tell us what you’re up to? What’s next for you? What projects are you working on and what we can expect from you in the future and where can people find out more and connect with you further?

Devin: Absolutely. Yeah, thanks for asking, Chris. Probably the biggest new project that I’m currently working on is the Course Creation Network, which is essentially an online hub for anyone who is interested in creating online courses and interacting in that world. Like I said at the beginning, what sets it apart from a lot of other projects that I see is that it’s not about me promoting my courses solely. It’s what’s really working in the online space and featuring the best of the best. Like yourself, Chris, we’d love to feature you on that, so that’s what we’re working on, is the Course Creation Network, and for anyone who is excited about creating their online course, I also lead the Course Creators Bootcamp which you can check out at CourseCreatorsBootcamp.com, and we walk through the whole process, start to finish, of creating, building, and launching your own online course. Those are the 2 things that I’d love to share with you guys here.

Chris: That’s fantastic. Well, we’re honored to have you on the show, Devin, and we’ll definitely have to do this again …

Devin: Absolutely.

Chris: … So thank you for coming by and joining us on this episode of LMScast.

Devin: Such a pleasure, Chris. I love what you’re doing here, and look forward to our next interaction, next time we get to hang out and talk about these cool things.


Advice for Confronting Imposter Syndrome

Is self-doubt keeping you from doing the awesome work you’re meant to do? In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett and Marcus Couch talk about confronting imposter syndrome and turning your negative thoughts into positive momentum.

Imposter syndrome is a sense that you don’t know enough to consider yourself an authority in your subject area. Marcus likens it to “stage fright” and recalls having thoughts of, “Why am I the expert? What makes me so qualified” when he first began his WordPress Plugins A to Z, WordPress Weekly with Jeff Chandler, and Membership Coach podcasts. He and Chris have both learned through doing online courses, podcasts, and blogs that uniqueness defines expertise, and failure is where valuable experience is gained.

Just because someone else is already doing what you want to do doesn’t mean you’re out of the game. Any knowledge or experience you have right now is greater than countless other people who will benefit from what you know. And because your failures and subsequent solutions are different from anyone else’s, they’re valuable. Even if you’ve learned most of what you know through observation and working with others who are active in your area of interest, your sharing of their knowledge is completely credible.

So how can you tell if you have imposter syndrome? It can manifest as delays, excuses, or self-sabotage whenever you begin a new business, course, podcast, or blog. You may freeze up in making content because content is the core of your endeavor. You may become obsessed with your competition and start thinking you should copy what they’re doing. Of course, that’s the last thing you should do, because it’s your own authenticity that’s required here. Being yourself and doing things your way keeps you from being an imposter. And it’s that quality of open, honest disclosure that will resonate with your audience. The very thing you fear most is the key to your success.

There are several ways to get perspective on your capabilities. Visit other forums in your subject area and match what you know against what they’re discussing. You’ll probably be surprised how many of their questions you can answer with confidence. You don’t need to be advanced yourself to start teaching at a beginner level. Just take action to boost your creative mindset.

In short, once you decide to dump your feelings of inadequacy and move forward you’re on your way to confronting imposter syndrome. Just knowing about it allows you to spot it and disarm it. We’re biologically engineered to feel fear, question our abilities, and internalize our failures, but you can choose to learn, adjust, and move forward. The more you do, the better you’ll get.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined today with special guest Marcus Couch. How are you doing, Marcus?

Marcus: I’m very well, Chris. Thank you for having me today.

Chris: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show. Today we’re going to go deep, and we’re going to talk about a topic that confronts a lot of people who are building membership sites, online courses, or just stepping out as entrepreneurs in general. That’s called impostor syndrome. A lot of people are in denial about that, that it exists or maybe that they’re experiencing it, but there are some tell-tale signs of impostor syndrome. Maybe we can start there. Marcus, in your experience with yourself or with other people or anything like that, what are some signs that somebody may be experiencing impostor syndrome and may not be aware of it?

Marcus: Well, impostor syndrome is really just a degree of self-doubt that you have, that you doubt that you can do something. For example, I have two podcasts, and when I started these podcasts in the WordPress community for me, I thought to myself, “Why am I the expert? What makes me so qualified to talk to other people within the community about WordPress plugins, about themes, about different things?” It was just kind of this stage fright that you get, that you convince yourself that you’re not good enough. As human beings, I guess that’s kind of the default that we all have, that we think that maybe we’re not the ones.

Maybe that it should be somebody else and that’s just not true because, believe it or not, if you have any experience whatsoever, believe me, there are 1,000 people behind you that don’t have that experience even if you’ve got just a day of experience. That’s the basis of impostor syndrome, is that degree of self-doubt, of thinking that you’re not the one, that somebody else should be doing it and not you. I’ll give you a classic example. I know someone who is in the restaurant business and they failed a couple of times at restaurants.

However, when I approached them and said, “You know, you should really put together a program about starting up a restaurant, getting all the rest of the equipment, some of the procedures that you need to do.” They’re immediate response was, “Well, I’ve failed at this a couple of times.” My point was, “That’s exactly why you need to do this because you need to highlight and stress some of these things that you did even on the failure side, and if it did fail, what did you do to make sure that it didn’t happen again or that the second time, it wasn’t to the same degree?” That’s the basis, I guess, of impostor syndrome.

Chris: That’s awesome. Yeah, failure is valuable. I’ve heard a lot of venture capitalists, if they’re looking at an entrepreneur, they actually care way more about the failures they’ve already had, you know? As opposed to what are their successes or even what’s the business idea. If these people have been through failures, experience, a lot of experience in life actually comes from things not working out; not just when things go well. That’s awesome.

Marcus: Yeah. It’s interesting. Actually, one of the things that when I’m hiring outsourcers or freelancers, I asked them to describe their failures and if somebody says, “I’ve never had any” then I don’t want them.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, because they’re perfect, right?

Marcus: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris: Yeah. That’s a really good point. Being open and honest about failures and simply having been in the fire and experiencing those things is so valuable from an experience perspective. A framework somebody gave me once about getting over impostor syndrome had to do with just looking at a scale of 1 to 10. Like you said, you only have to be like one day or even one step ahead of somebody to be able to …

Marcus: Right.

Chris: … provide value, so you may not be a 10, but if you’re a 4, there may be a million 3s or 2s out there that can be benefit from your experience. I think it’s important to get outside that mindset of, “I have to be the best in the world before I can help somebody.”

Marcus: You just have to best in the moment. You have to be the best at the content that you’re creating. Now I gave you a great example, okay? I started a site called membershipcoach.com where I’m training other people on how to do membership sites. I based that upon my own experience dealing with clients, yet I never ran my own membership site for myself. Even with that, there were some nuances involved in mistakes, delays, that kind of thing. The one thing that I think I learned from is … Well, first let me back up a second. I’m not the only one out there that’s doing the same kind of training, like in terms of how to start and run your own successful membership site. However, I’m the only one in my position that’s ever done it. I’m the only one that’s got the prominence in the WordPress community that’s ever done it.

I’m the only that has multi, almost billion dollar clients that’s done it. There are other people out there that are just online marketing experts or maybe they’ve serviced a couple of clients before, not to the degree that I have, not to the talent level that I have, so though you may not be the first to do something, your entry into it is going to be completely different than anybody else. When I present something, let’s just say I’m going over iThemes Exchange or some sort of thing, I have the ability to go just call Cory Miller from iThemes, the CEO, and say, “I need somebody from your team to demonstrate that.” Maybe somebody else wouldn’t have that kind of power. Those are the kinds of things that you need to think about, whereas if you’re doubting yourself, if you think, “Oh, somebody else is already doing it, somebody else is already teaching that particular course” that may be true, but this is the first time that you’ve taught the course.

Chris: Yeah, everybody is unique and can bring something unique to the table. Also, like you mentioned, a lot of your experience may come from observing or helping others in something. It may not have been your success, but you help somebody make success or you are simply a fly on the wall and for whatever reason you’ve been obsessed or interested in the particular topic that your experience, while you don’t demonstrate it, comes from having just absorbed and researched and seeing patterns and trends, and what works and what doesn’t at the time.

Marcus: That’s right.

Chris: That can be supremely valuable. It’s not always like all based on your experience. In fact, your experience can be much more exponential if you leverage the experience of others.

Marcus: Right. One of those things too is if you think about it, “Okay, so there are these other training programs. Have they made the mistakes that I’ve made?”

Chris: Right.

Marcus: “Have they encountered the client mistakes that I’ve made? Have they gone through the mud” so to speak, “to do that?” Now there’s one course in particular that I’m teaching in my Membership Coach school where the only way that I know about those things is because I lost a client around it and I figured out what those mistakes were, and kind of reverse-engineered it and went back to square one. You can even teach things based on mistakes that you’ve made too.

Chris: Yeah, turning lemons into lemonade, I mean, super valuable. Super valuable.

Marcus: Yeah. What else is it going to be worth? Right? It’s just regret. Otherwise, if you turn it into something positive, at least you’ve got a silver lining around that cloud.

Chris: Yeah. You could vent and be frustrated and disappointed and depressed over it, or you could turn it into some marketable thing, so that’s awesome.

Marcus: Right.

Chris: Let’s talk a little bit about how people behave when they’re experiencing impostor syndrome. This happens to me. This happens to me the very first time I did a podcast episode. The first time I started a new business. When I publish a blog post. It happens all the time. I’m open and admit to the fact that it happens. I’m sure it’s still happening sometimes in my subconscious where I’m not aware of it, but I am, because I’ve been through the fire, a little reticent and accepting of it. One of the things I notice in myself and others, when people experience impostor syndrome, is they start sabotaging the project. It’s delaying the launch, it’s making excuses. It’s just diverting getting it done or whatever, but what would you say? How does it manifest itself?

Marcus: Like you said, delays in projects. Holding off on actually getting it done. Not even starting, to begin with. I noticed a lot of people that I’ve started to talk to, one of the things with the Membership Coach program that I do is the first thing out of the gate, before you even get access to the site, is that you have to schedule one call with me, because I want to assess people as to where they’re at, what their mental state is at the time, how much fire they’ve got in their belly to make sure that it can get done. If I see that they’re ready for advanced level stuff, I’ll unlock those courses ahead of time for them so that they can just get started right away.

I think one of the biggest signs of impostor syndrome is when you freeze up in making content, because content is … Some people say content is king. I always say content is the kingdom. That is everything for you. It is not just some hierarchy thing. It’s everything. It’s absolutely everything that you do, is content based because if there’s no content, then there’s absolutely no reason to even be on your site to begin with, okay? When you start to see those kinds of delays or those hesitations or you end up surfing YouTube or whatever, or you spend too much time focused on the competition and you start to become obsessed with what they’re doing and maybe you start to think, “Oh, I maybe should just copy what they’re doing and do the same thing instead of developing my own curriculum,” those are the first kind of signs of impostor syndrome.

Chris: I get that. That’s like, by trying to imitate somebody else, you’re not being you, which we talked about as one of the most unique things you can bring to a crowded market, is you and your experience. Yeah, it’s a clear way to sabotage it. Of trying to be like somebody else, not getting it done, not being open and honest about admitting like, “Hey, I have this knowledge because I failed.” You have to publicly admit failure or you have to talk about how you messed up or how somebody else messed up, which you may not want to do.

Marcus: Right, right.

Chris: That kind of authenticity is not being an impostor.

Marcus: There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve done wrong or that you’re having a hard time in something. A couple of weeks back, I think three weeks ago, I was on WordPress Weekly and discussed some of the hard times that I was having. Believe it or not I got more feedback and more resonance about opening up myself and talking about my own failures and my own shortcomings than I ever did talking about anything WordPress related. There’s something to be said for that, and it’s very freeing to be able to admit those things. If you’re having a hard time, here’s what I do if I think I’m an impostor. I go to Yahoo Answers. I go to things like the advanced WordPress forums, on Facebook. I go to those types of things.

I start to look at some of the questions and go, “Yep. I know that one. I know that one. I know that one. I know that one. I must be an expert. I’m really not an impostor.” That’s a quick like, five minute fix that you can understand where you are in this whole role. If you don’t think that you’re advanced, fine. Teach the intermediate stuff and the beginner stuff. By the time you get through with those two courses, then you’re ready for the advanced.

Chris: That’s a really good point. By going to the places to validate, “Oh, I actually do know something” because especially if you’re continuously trying to improve and you’re a 4 or a 5, you’re probably studying and looking at things happening on at the 6, 7, 10 level. It’s almost like people forget, but I help people who are at 4, 3 and 2. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of the journey. I think a lot of people too get caught in entrepreneurial hustle and just life gets busy and you forget how far you’ve come.

Marcus: Right.

Chris: You know? That could be for bad reasons like just you’re operating under battle fatigue, low grade stress, you’re just trying to survive the day or you just forgot.

Marcus: Often, when people start this, when they start doing online courses and that kind of thing, they’re at a stage in their life where they may be still holding down a full time job. Sometimes you’ve lost your job or lost clients or something like that, and you’re trying to desperately cling to something that will give you residual income. You do start to self-doubt yourself, not around the project that you’re working on, but around the other things that are in your life that are going on. That snowballs itself and manifests into this icky kind of gray cloud that hovers over you. Impostor syndrome is like a backpack full of bricks. You only have to carry that stuff as long as you want to. The moment that you decide you’re going to just heave–ho and get rid of it and move forward without those burdens, it’s so freeing and it makes the content so much better.

Chris: Absolutely. I heard a great metaphor from a friend once who said, “Just because you’re on a train, it doesn’t mean you need to carry the luggage.”

Marcus: That’s right. Yeah. Exactly.

Chris: Another situation I see a lot with people and impostor syndrome is like the situation you mentioned. It’s become popular in pop culture or especially in the startup entrepreneur scene, that people are trying to quit their day job, they’re trying to start this side business, whether it’s an online course and membership site or whatever it is, but ultimately when you do that, a lot of people are driven from wanting to exit the day job because they don’t like it or they’re tired of it or they can’t be themselves at the job. Then you create this dream online course. It’s all in your niche. You’re being you. You’re having fun, so ultimately, you have to cross that bridge and go on the record in the public, and launch the real you, which I can imagine can be really challenging if you’re living that double life. It’s exhausting to live two lives at once.

Marcus: Yeah.

Chris: I’ve definitely seen that one before.

Marcus: In my case three because I’ve got to be the WordPress guy, I’ve got to be the membership guy, I’ve got to be the guy who services membership clients. Those don’t often overlap.

Chris: Right.

Marcus: You have to almost have three kind of work and drive mentalities based on what hat you happen to be wearing at the time. Now for me, I’ll tell you. The one thing that I do all the time that helps me get into that mode is if I want to squeeze myself into Membership Coach mode, the first thing that I do is I create a piece of content. That’s about that. That could even be something I’m sending kind of from the heart email to my subscribers. That gets you in that mindset to where, “Okay, I’m telling other people on my list how to the best membership site administrator.” How the avoid specific mistakes. What to do in specific situations or even just talking about new things that you’ve discovered that you don’t think that the list knows about.

That funnels you into the mindset that you can continue working on that thing and really almost make yourself bulletproof from yourself, from the self-doubt and the self-destruction. I would say that’s a really good technique if you want to … It’s almost like the preparatory phase in yoga. You know, you’ve got to get your breathing done first before you can start to do all the moves. That’s what I use. It could work for other people. I hope it does, if people are stuck in a rut. Just tunnel yourself into that mindset before you just boom, heartbreak and, “I’m done doing the client work now and now I’ve got to go into doing this.” Ease yourself a little transitionary period.

Chris: I like that. It’s almost like coming out of the mind and into the art.

Marcus: Exactly.

Chris: It reminds of, I make a book recommendation here. There’s a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He talks a lot about the resistance and this impostor syndrome is a manifestation of the resistance. All is just a part of creating art and being your most true authentic self.

Marcus: Another thing is this. If you really think that you’re impostor, go google yourself for that topic. Does anybody out there say that you suck? Does anybody out there say that you’re unqualified? I don’t see any references to that. Google doesn’t say it. The only person saying it is right in here.

Chris: If you do find some haters out there, I actually recognize that as a form of success or it’s a milestone. Like, “Okay, I’m big enough. I have some haters or some crazy people that are saying stuff or stealing my product or sharing my log-ins or whatever.” That’s actually a sign of success. Yeah, a lot of it is in our heads. As human beings we’re designed to survive in the wild. We’re designed to have fear, to be scared, to keep the low profile, watch out for the saber-tooth tiger. That’s a very different world we live in today and with these tools that allows us to connect all over the world, to create content, to share that worldwide with our community. It’s just a different world. Our biology is still trying to connect up, so this emotional response is natural, but it’s not necessarily in alignment with the world of today. It’s not as dangerous or as risky in most cases as our biology is designed to predicate.

Marcus: Another point in which impostor syndrome comes about, you may not have impostor syndrome while you’re creating all of your content, but once you launch and you realize, “I’ve only got three people on my site. I’ve only got two people” whatever happens to be … You make two or three quick sales in month and then all of a sudden it goes by with another month and you don’t see anybody. Then you start to think, “It’s me. It’s me. My course sucks. It’s me. I’m not doing something right.” When that’s not it at all. It could just be you’ve got a bad message on your landing page or you need to just adjust your pricing a little bit more.

For me, I always raise the price instead of going the other way. “Oh, maybe I’m not showing that it’s worth enough value. Maybe I need to go a little bit higher in my pricing and see what’s going on.” Or maybe go the other direction on certain things. Maybe I need to trim down and have an introductory or a trial package that people can at least try it out before buying. There are certain stages where that gets triggered. If you recognize that and understand that at no point should you ever have impostor syndrome, you should just learn from delays or mistakes or anything that happens to you that gets your mindset in that bad state, and just adjust. Learn, adjust and document what you did so that the next time that something like that happens, you can adjust with the same procedures.

Chris: Yeah. Another variation of that, like a screen writing professor would tell you to slit a vein and let the blood go on the page. You really got to let it out, so maybe if you’re having … It’s not a marketing problem. Maybe you’re not putting enough of you in the product. Maybe you need to add live office hours. If you’re not doing video, start doing video so people can hear you talk or hear your voice in audio. Yeah, maybe they just need more you. You’re keeping it a secret. You’re scared to get out there in front.

Marcus: Right. For me, I’ve been a podcaster, an audio podcaster for 10 years. The times that I’m on video is probably 30 minutes, I think, grand total. Not a lot. Not a whole heck of a lot. That’s something that I’m going to change and get out of my shell a little bit. I’m a little apprehensive even about that. It’s like, “Are people going to think the same way about me, hearing my voice versus actually seeing me talk and seeing me enunciating and things?” I had a little bit of a curve in that sense, but then again, I look at it as, I’ve got a heart, I’ve got passion. I’ve got a lot of compassion for the subject, for the community, for the resources that are involved and why not? What do I have to lose?

I’ve seen videos on YouTube that absolutely suck for production quality. They get 2 million views. Why can’t something that I do have the same results? There’s no sense in that, so slowly I’m starting to come out of my shell in that sense. I don’t think it’s an impostor thing. I think it’s just internal nervousness maybe, but that can lead to impostor syndrome if you let it.

Chris: Absolutely. Yeah. The opportunities for video or some life streaming, that’s the new thing, like Facebook Live or YouTube Live or whatever. When you bring that to a membership or a course or learning environment, that’s a whole another level. Like, “I’m going live.” It’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to redo this video lesson” or, “I’m going to chop it and make it look all fancy and take out all my ums and ahs.” Going live, you have to get ready for that and be ready for that. My experience, when I’ve done webinars and things like that, when I first started doing it, I used to be much more nervous. I think it came from impostor syndrome, but over time, just after doing it, you just have to … That’s another strategy I would recommend, is like, do it once and it just keeps getting better because it’s never as bad as you think. Once you have that history, it’s not such a mental exercise of what it might be like.

Marcus: Right. And recognize and self-congratulate yourself on those incremental successes that you get. If you had a good feeling about the webinar that you just did and you see it translate into more sign ups and to more people opting into your list, write that success down and remember it the next time that you’re starting to get those sick feelings in your head about being an impostor. Is that really it’s just process and maybe you’re just afraid of the process. Maybe it’s that you might even be afraid of the people. You just might be afraid of, “You know, I want to be a perfectionist. I want this audio to sound absolutely flawless. I want this PowerPoint to move perfectly and animate absolutely everything that I wanted to within this course.” It doesn’t have to be that way.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it’s good stuff. Well, excellent. Marcus, tells us a little bit more just about where you are, where people can find you on the web and what’s going on in your world.

Marcus: Sure. You can find me every week, twice a week, with two different podcasts. Once is WordPress Plugins A to Z. I record that every Monday. Then every Wednesday night we do WordPress Weekly with Jeff Chandler and I. That’s the official community podcast of the WordPress community. It’s over at wptavern.com. I also do the Membership Coach podcast. You can find everything that I do over there over at membershipcoach.com.

Chris: That’s awesome. Yeah, I first came across you, Marcus, on WordPress Weekly. I don’t know how long ago, so it’s great to connect with you in person. Thank you for coming on the show. Let’s do this again some time.

Marcus: Absolutely. Happy to do so.


How to Build an Audience For Your Membership Site or Online Course with No List

If you’re active in social media, you’re ready to start your own online course or membership site. In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett talks with Esther Marie of Esther Marie Creative about how to build an audience for your membership site or online course with no list and no funds. If you’re a beginner in online business, then this podcast is for you!

Esther is a military wife with a background in teaching, software products management, and software training. She’s using her experience with curriculum design and course launching to create online courses for clients. She started her business with a membership site based on her active contributions to a niche Facebook group.

Esther started her Virtual Assistant Internship membership site as a beginner with no email list or internet marketing experience. What she did have was expertise in her subject area, curriculum design ability, and a platform like LifterLMS to deliver her service. She knew her target niche market and where to find them, and had established herself there as a thought leader by interacting and sharing value. Her next logical step then was to start her own Facebook group.

After spending 6 months creating a skeleton beta test site, Esther did a couple of webinars that converted into her membership, and selected just 3 women as her first students. She advises starting small with a beta test to build a sustainable course. You make your mistakes here, your participants feel good about being involved in creating the course, and they become your first testimonials and referrals. She cautions against making your group about yourself, but to make it all about what your clients are looking for.

You’ll need to experiment with pricing. Esther set a founding member price with special incentives, then lowered membership fees once she was established. She also learned to limit enrollment windows to avoid cancellations and other drawbacks of rolling enrollments. Esther regularly updates content and resource materials to keep her offerings fresh and relevant. She stays responsive and experimental, and doesn’t hesitate to move forward at every opportunity.

This is not about pitching or selling. It’s about sharing value, building a community and acting as a thought leader for a niche you’re already part of. If you know what you want to do you, can learn how to build an audience for your membership site or online course with no list, just like Esther did. Start with a bare framework and let your first participants help you build from there. The sooner you start generating income, the sooner you can grow your business.

Esther is launching a free course all about outsourcing, and you can find out more on her Esther Marie Creative Facebook page.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My Name is Chris Badgett, and today I’m joined by Esther Marie. And we’re going to be talking about how to build an audience for your membership site or your online course with no list, so it’s for the beginner. Thanks for coming on the show, Esther.

Esther: Yeah, I’m really excited to be here. I love doing these kinds of things and taking knowledge and experience and passing it along, so happy to be here.

Chris: Awesome. We’re glad to have you. I came across Esther in a Facebook group, and we were just rapping about being online course creators, and I wanted to get her on the show because of all the experience she has with curriculum design, launching courses, building courses and she’s got a lot of nuggets of wisdom to share with you today. First Esther, tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us your back story. Where’d you come from, and what’s your jam. What are you up to these days?

Esther: Yeah, sure. My primary business is Esther Marie Creative, and I create online e-courses for clients. I’ll create workshop materials for them for their workshops. A lot of repurposing of content, so if somebody has a lot of audio from something they did, I can turn it into a lead magnet or blog post. I’m really a content creator in the e-course and workshop curriculum space. How that came about was, I’m actually a credentialed teacher, so I went to school to be a teacher and all that good stuff. I taught for a couple of years and I did a lot of curriculum design. I worked at schools believe it or not who had no curriculum and I had to write it all myself. I had a lot of experience in that and I really loved it. Then I also worked in software products management and software training, so all of that just merged together and being in the right place at the right time. I started working for an online course and content creator agency and she went off to do some other stuff and I just continued on it because it really was a merge of all of my passions.

From that, I’ve created them for lots of clients and then I also did my own. I branched out and started doing my own as well because I know how to do it, so I wanted to do it for myself. That’s turned into some different kinds of membership sites and things that I’ve been able to put together and put out there. Still learning, still growing, but also trying to give back and give some of the information out there too.

Chris: That’s awesome. Yeah, we talk about it a lot on the LMScast Show and in the LifterLMS community that you really need a three legged stool. One of those legs is expertise or knowledge. The second leg is to be able to package that knowledge or the curriculum design, the instructional design that you do and then the third is to have some kind of system, online course or membership site or LMS system to actually deliver all of that. If you’re weak in any one of those three areas, you’re just missing out on the opportunity to go from pretty good to awesome. I think a lot of experts make the mistake that they don’t need help with curriculum design or they can do it themselves or they know how to do it properly. I’m sure some have already figured out that it’s great to get help from someone like yourself to do that, so that’s awesome.

Let’s talk a little bit about launching an online course and I know you had a membership site, I get this question all the time at LifterLMS, people are wondering, how do I launch, I’m a beginner, I have no email list, I’m not an experienced internet marketer. My stuff is awesome, but how do I launch with no list and we wanted to talk to you about what are some ideas and some strategies that have worked for you to make that happen?

Esther: Yeah, so that’s what I did basically. My membership site is called Virtual Assistant Internship and it’s closed for a moment until October when we’ll be relaunching. Not relaunching, but open of enrollment again and I teach my target market is military wives and moms who want to be able to work from home, but they don’t want to sell anything. I’m going to actually be telling you from my exact experience what I did and then I’m going to tell you what my results are. It’s so funny because I was just on a webinar yesterday by a lead membership building expert and he was saying to do exactly what I did and what I’m going to tell you. I was like, “wow, I was ahead of the curve a little bit. I know my stuff, okay.” You’re going to be getting some good little tidbits here.

Okay, so I had zero email lists, at all. I don’t really like marketing that much. I’m a creator. I like to create the course. I like to create the content, but the marketing part I’m like, “okay.” That’s part of why I didn’t really want to do any email list. The other part was, I really know my target market and I know that they’re just not in email as much as they’re in other areas. While I totally know email is not dead, it’s a great thing to do, I get all of that, but I had to be realistic about where my target were spending their time and where I was going to have the best reach and maximizing my time that I was putting into it. I could go down the email path all along, but if nobody is going to sign up or read it, what’s the point. I focused on Facebook. Facebook groups. That’s where my girls are at. I’m a military spouse myself, that’s why I created this, so then you have flexible, where I started at the VA years ago, I knew everything that there was to do.

I will say too, preface this with, I did a six month beta test and a six months of creating content as I went along with the beta test. I just want to put that out there. I didn’t just hodge podge this together and launch this. There was work that work that was into it. Because I think that that’s a misconception sometimes, like no, I did a beta test and you really want to make sure you do that.

I’m in the Facebook groups for my local base, my military base in the area and it was for moms, there’s two military bases here, so that’s my niche. Then I expanded to do military groups for military wives and also for moms all over the United States. I’m not a shadow lurker in there. I don’t just post my link to something and then peace out. I’m in there contributing, giving value, commenting, being in communication with different people all the time. I post value stuff that’s not selling things as well. That’s step one. Know your target market. Know where they’re at. Go to where they’re at. These are the basics, the foundational stuff.

Chris: For your example, was your target market military wives looking for new careers? Have they thought of the VA career yet or you’re coming in like, “hey-

Esther: They don’t even know what it is.

Chris: Okay, that’s awesome.

Esther: Yeah, they don’t even know what it is, yeah. One of the best groups I got feedback from was my local base is Camp Pendleton, which is a major Marine Corp base and it was who’s hiring on Camp Pendleton, so I just posted my stuff in there. Here’s what I did. I posted a couple of different things. One was, I started my own Facebook group and a failure that I see a lot of people doing, not a failure, but an issue is they make it all about them like, “Coach Bernadette here with my Facebook group, come join and learn all about me and the crap I’m going to post about myself.” No. I named my Facebook group how to work from home without selling anything because that’s what they’re going to type into the search box and that’s what they want. If I put virtual assistant, they’re not even going to know what that is, so I’m not going to put that in the title of my group, so that’s something to think about too. What are you people looking for?

That group has grown organically to almost 500 now in just a short time. I don’t advertise it, I just do what I’m telling you. I just advertise that group in other Facebook groups where I knew my target market was at and it just grew. It just grew and grew and grew. I offer value in there. I gave them Facebook lives and videos, some little e-books, some junk, whatever. Not junk, it was good stuff, but it wasn’t hard for me to do this, that’s my point. Then I just pitched my webinar to them and I had them sign up for the webinar that I was going to give to that Facebook group and to the other targeted Facebook groups and for my first webinar, I would have between 20 and 50 that would register via the events. I would have around 15 or so show up and I would have a 50% close rate. I did pretty well and I only did two or three webinars for my first launch and I had a very cheap membership site and I think I made two or three thousand dollars.

Chris: Let me pull out some nuggets there. On your last point there, 50% conversion rate on 20-30 people or whatever, it’s not about these giant numbers of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, you don’t have to start with these huge numbers. If you do get good conversion on three, five, ten, twenty people, you’re onto something and that’s a really big validation point. The other point that I wanted to highlight on was you mentioned with these Facebook groups to use some terminology from a friend of mine Chris Lema, you didn’t make it about you, you made it about them and also people who are in their buying journey, they’re either problem aware or solution aware. There’s multiple steps on that journey and you very astutely realized they don’t even what VA, a virtual assistant is, so you start with a problem aware. The key words they would type in when they’re looking for solutions. Then the third point I wanted to bring up is you’re also launching into a community you understand as you’ve been through that journey or you lived the same lifestyle, so you know the lingo, the ins and outs. It’s easier for you to communicate. You’re not selling to niche or a market that you know nothing about, so that’s awesome stuff.

Esther: Yeah, it’s worked really, really well. Even when I’ve done webinars and I hardly even got people signing up for my current group, because it’s the same webinar over and over again, so after a while they’re not going to keep coming, so I’ve just marketed this webinar into other groups. I had 50 sign up just from that too, so there’s so much that you can do on where your target market are at that doesn’t have to be connected to an email list or a long list.

I was looking at somebody else’s numbers, they had an email list of 700 and the amount of people that they had sign up for their webinar and convert was the same as mine and I don’t even have an email list.

Chris: Right.

Esther: I was like, “all right, high five.”

Chris: Yeah, absolutely and like you said, the email auto responder, lead magnet thing maybe it wasn’t really the jam for this group of people, but it was Facebook groups. For somebody else, it might be Youtube videos or Snapchats or whatever. It’s very different depending upon what your target market is.

Esther: Exactly.

Chris: That webinar converted into a course of a membership? Is that what it was?

Esther: Yeah. It’s a membership site and I played around with pricing. I had them buy at a founding member price where they would have lifetime access and I think I charged $197 for it and I had a good amount of people join. Then I dropped the price down to- because it’s for military and so I wanted to make it affordable. I dropped it down to $30 per month. I tested it $50 per month, but what I didn’t do, this is a mistake, I didn’t limit enrollment. I just always have a rolling enrollment and you can cancel whenever. I had incentives if they signed up right then on the webinar. They got some calls with me, so you didn’t have to create anything else, just another tip. That worked great for them to sign up right away, but then when money got tight, they were cancelling. I’ve totally changed the way I’m doing it now and I’m just limiting enrollment to certain times and we’re going to go through it as a group, go through the content together, but I am changing it a little bit now. That’s one mistake that I made.

That’s how the site works. It’s a ton of content. I think I have 12 modules and worksheets and all that stuff. I do new content on a reoccurring basis. That’s how it works.

Chris: Awesome. Just to tie into something you said earlier on, I just want to make sure I understood you correctly when you said you had a beta period, that would be like a pilot where you let some people into your membership to make sure that or just workshop the material with them, got feedback and that sort of thing or did you mean a beta period on your marketing efforts?

Esther: No, not on the marketing.

Chris: Or on the product?

Esther: On the product, which is so important and I find even with my clients it’s the number one thing that’s overlooked. You’ll have a few people go through it, but you don’t realize how valuable that beta test period is. I did it with three girls. Every week we would have a meeting together and I would give them another bit of content just like on a thing like zoom here. It would be a power point deck or I’d do it-

Chris: Would you do that live?

Esther: Yeah.

Chris: Yeah, so it was live.

Esther: Just with the three girls and I recorded everything I did. This is the key. By the time it was time to go, I could’ve just put that stuff right into the membership site, but I re-recorded it because it wasn’t totally applicable, but I had my slide decks already done, so that was easy. Then those three girls were my first testimonials. That is huge, so now you have testimonials when you go into your marketing phase. They’re my biggest fans. They’re my affiliates, they refer people to me, so that’s why that beta testing period is so important.

Chris: Yeah, I 100% agree with that. It’s important to get that concept of like, “oh, I’m going to do a hundred seats or a thousand seats in my first launch.” Why not start with three or five and really make sure you have the best possible product and workshop or ideas. Make sure you can communicate what you’re trying to train effectively.

Esther: Yep.

Chris: How long did it take, after you got through the beta period, what was the timeline with working with the Facebook groups and everything into when you started launching and getting conversions into your webinar? How much time did you spend in these Facebook groups before you launched and pitched it-

Esther: I’m laughing because I’m a little crazy. I just go for it, so that’s the biggest lesson I hope that people can take away. I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes and I’m like, “I think this is going to work.” I just go for it. Imperfect steps. I just keep going and then when it doesn’t work out, “okay, I’ll just change direction.” When the price point, people weren’t really buying at this higher price point, “okay, let’s test a different price point and see how that goes.” That’s why I’m laughing.

These Facebook groups, because I’ve been a member of the community for song, I’m a military wife, I’ve been in these groups for a really long time. Have I been super active in them? Not a 100%, but I’m just a normal person that’s in there. If your target market is very similar to you and you’re already in those kinds of communities, those can be the first people that you start to pitch some of your free content to to lead into this more bigger site that you want to do eventually.

In terms of how long did it take me to start to send the webinar info out and then build up my group and get people on the webinar, maybe a month. Not that long (laughs).

Chris: Yeah, yeah, that sounds good. That sounds good and I like what you said earlier too about in social media you’re not just like, “hey, look at me, here’s my stuff.” You’d been a part of the community, been part of conversations of a non-sales nature or whatever.

Esther: I didn’t have anything to sell.

Chris: Right.

Esther: I was just being myself.

Chris: Yeah, I think that’s really important. Social media is designed to replicate real life or in person life and if somebody were to walk into your house and immediately just start sales pitching, it wouldn’t go over so well, but if you’d already known them for a while and you’re just sharing what it is that you do and offer it’s a totally different experience. That’s awesome.

Esther: Yeah, even giving free content in those groups that’s not some long post that you wrote with a picture of yourself attached to it. Nobody cares, it’s all about you. If you did a Facebook live, so I’ve done this, Facebook live what kinds of jobs you can do from home for free, no pitching, nothing. Just here’s a whole bunch of stuff you can do from home. Then if you want to join my Facebook group that’s all about how to work from home, I do job postings in there, blah, blah, blah, cool, come and join. It’s just giving value and building up that community and you’re a leader in that group, right? You’re a thought leader now. You’re starting to turn from just being a member into being a strong member and for groups that have even just 500 people in them, that’s pretty powerful. That’s a lot of people that you’re getting in front of.

Chris: Absolutely and they’re self selected in that, “I’m in a group, that means we have a lot in common.” At least some decent overlap.

Esther: Exactly.

Chris: Just in general, what percentage of your time, with this project, would you spend on the content and then versus the marketing or the networking and so on? Marketing versus content.

Esther: I have decided … when I launched I didn’t even have all of the content up on the site yet, which is another great way to do it.

Chris: Which is fine, yeah.

Esther: With the first one or two weeks and then I did it just to re-record things and got them up as I went, which was great and the members were all fine with that. In fact, the member, this is the thing, get over yourself, because the members felt honored to be a part of it. They were like, “wow, I didn’t know that you were still building it and you’re taking my feedback into account. That’s cool.” They thought it was rad, so don’t think that, “my things not done, I can’t launch it.” No, just go for it because you need the money so that you can reinvest it into your marketing, so there’s that.

I hate marketing. It’s my least favorite part. Like I said, I’m the creator. I can hop on a webinar and kick ass, I’ll do great. Filling over the webinar and writing the emails and making the landing page and making a marketing plan, I would rather die.

Chris: Yeah.

Esther: It’s just not my thing. Some people I think are more one or the other. I say that now, I’m trying to be more focused. I would like to say 50/50 percentage wise. I’m trying to be more focused and say, “okay, this is my creation time and this is my marketing time.”

Chris: It’s two different brains.

Esther: Yes, and they’ve been so interwoven and I was like, “I got to create more content and I go to market.” I just didn’t like that. I’m trying to get out of that and say, “no, the content is in a good spot right now. Let me take a break for three months from that and now this quarter is going to be focused on marketing and filling it up and then we’ll go back and add for content.” That’s a different way that I’m trying to get into it now.

Chris: Yeah, just to pull out what you said about having your founding members. It’s important to, because you can easily go down the mindset of like, “oh, I’m an impostor, it’s not even done,” or you can get all of these negative self taught going to like, “it’s not finished, therefore, I can’t sell it or people are going to think it’s weird that I’m still making it while I’m in there,” but that’s all negative stuff when the reality is, you can put a positive spin on that. You can be a founding member or a pioneer or the early bird people or whatever and like you said, that reason that you do that is not to sell something that doesn’t exist, it’s to sell something that you’re passionate about that you have some progress on, but then to get real time feedback and just make it better and better as you go instead of making all of the assumptions, build this giant course and launch it and find out you needed to make serious corrections earlier in the program.

Esther: Right, and I would say too remember I had done that beta period with three people, so I had testimonials, I had great success stories, so it’s not like I was forcing them to buy into something that I was like, “I don’t really know. I don’t have any credibility being me.” No, they saw that, they even talked to some of the girls, so yeah that’s the difference is yeah, what you said.

Chris: What are some common mistakes that happen to you or that you see other people doing in terms of launching an online course as a beginner with no significant email list or resources.

Esther: I would say that the couple of things. One was what I said before of getting stuck and not moving ahead because it’s not perfect. It’s not how that guy is doing it. I don’t have all the stuff done. I don’t have any money. I don’t have all of that stuff. In stead of just continuing to take steps forward, so it’s almost just like constant problem solving. I don’t have any money for marketing. That was me. What can I do? I can go into some Facebook groups. I can provide … That’s why that came about. Just taking some kind of steps and seeing where you can move forward and just not letting anything stop you.

The other thing that I see a lot of is that your lead magnet, what’s attracting people to want to be on your list or in your Facebook group is crap. Nobody wants a check list anymore. Nobody wants blah. You have to give away something that’s actually valuable. Something that really is going to be helpful to people and not constantly trying to sell them stuff. Even if once they join your email list, please don’t just start pitching them five things per email after that. Just continue to give them good value, build that report with them and the more, I find this, the more good stuff that you’re putting out, the more you’re going to get back in general. Whenever I’m starting to feel like, “I don’t have clients” or “what’s going on, my members are leaving?” I say, “calm down. You need to get some good content out there.” I need to start giving them some stuff because then they’re going to feel like they want to reciprocate or that’s just how the world works.

That’s one thing too and then not wanting to invest any money at all. My problem was that when I finally made that money from initial founding members, I did reinvest some of it, but some of it I needed to use to pay the rent.

Chris: Right.

Esther: Which happens sometimes, so things have grown slower because of that, but that’s okay. That’s just how it’s going to go. Also, just realizing that in order to build that list and build that Facebook group, sometimes I would have to do some $5 ads here and there, so you are going to have to invest a little bit of money in order to build that, but you don’t need $2,000 to get people to sign up for your webinar. No, please don’t do that.

Chris: That’s awesome. Good stuff there. Go ahead and get out of the negative self talk and don’t use the money excuse. That’s a big one. I see it a lot, so I just want to give a few strategies on that and I want to tie it back just again to the importance of doing a beta or a pilot, whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t take a lot of money to send somebody a PayPal invoice or even a check in the mail, cash in hand and then manage the whole training through Skype and email, free services to get your validation and figure out what you’re going to build and then to launch without having the full major course created. It’s not something that you necessarily have to go upside down on and go into debt to start and really you shouldn’t. You should validate it small and then reinvest like you said as you go, but take care of yourself too. If you got to pay the bills or go celebrate or whatever, you should absolutely do that.

Esther: Yeah. I think that’s an important one. I didn’t go into debt with this. I didn’t go upside down ever and I made a point of doing that because it’s validation too. If I’m not progressing and if this isn’t making money, then I’m going to have to find some free options to keep it going if I really believe in it, but yeah I didn’t ever have that kind of an issue with it. If I made some money, okay so I’d reinvest some of it and some of it I’d use to pay the bills.

Chris: That’s awesome. Well, I’d like to do a bonus round with you, Esther, because we’re talking about launching with no lists, but I want to see if we can get some nuggets of wisdom out of you about curriculum design or instructional design. If somebody is an expert at a topic, whatever that may be, what are some of the mistakes that you see people making when the expert transitions over to creating content for an online training? Then what do you recommend as some frame works or some tools that people can use as a beginner to start increasing their instructional design shops and creating valuable training content that makes sense?

Esther: Sure. Okay, so probably the biggest issue that I see and this is with some of my high end speakers that I work with. They’re almost the worst because they’re amazing at speaking, they’re brilliant, but it’s all in here and they’re used to just speaking like as a keynote or really more of selling from stage type things, not interacting, so when you transition that into a course, a workshop, any kind of instructional design, it’s not going to work. I can’t talk at you for two hours and you take notes and this is going to be a really valuable thing. Your learners are not going to retain it. They can’t retain that. Our attentions spans as human beings are not that long and also we have all different kinds of learning styles and so me sitting here listening to you is not going to work. You have to get out of that way of doing it. It works for when you’re a keynote maybe because you’re only up there for an hour and a half, right, and you can’t interact with thousands of people. You could. I do, but when I speak I’m very interactive, but not everybody, you can’t always do that if you have a lot of information to get across.

When you transition into this world of an in person workshop or an online course or whatever it may be, you want to make sure that your learners, even if they’re watching it, are having actually things that they’re able to do and that you’re also getting the information across in a variety of different ways.

One thing I’ve been learning that I really want to enhance and I’m trying to find some more resources on this is how to make my presentations even more visual. Even more compelling, so that it’s not just words on a power point. That’s one thing you can do to enhance. Your worksheets and your workbook, please do not make fill in the blank worksheets. This is my nemesis. You don’t want people to just be listening for words to put in. This is not worksheet. The worksheets and materials are supposed to help the learners take it deeper. How can they apply it to themselves, so yeah there’s going to be some spots where the main points where you want them to note down, but the rest of this content should be, how are they applying it to themselves. Take a minute and stop and say, “hey I want you to fill out number two. I want you to think about x,y and z, then talk about it with the people at your table. Then lets come back and keep going.” That’s how you have to change how you’re used to writing or speaking or whatever and make it more interactive. Make people able to really apply it to themselves and take it to the next step. Those are probably my biggest tips.

Chris: That’s awesome. Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. You could be in the rhythm of just delivery content and then this person is just being passive, “okay, I’m receiving this information,” but then you can make it personal and then you can also make it active, so they have to do something and then apply it to their exact situation. That’s really good. Well, I appreciate that. Well, Esther where can people find out more about you and all the goodness you have going on?

Esther: Sure. I would love it if people would come to my page, Facebook.com/esthermariecreative, I always have goodies on there and I’m actually launching a free course all about outsourcing, so how you can outsource your e-course and get it done. All of the tips and tricks that are from me. There’s all kinds of good stuff on there, but that’s the thing that I would love to offer you guys. You can sign up for that on my page, esthermariecreative, easy.

Chris: That’s awesome. Well, thank you for coming on the show Esther and we’ll catch you in the next one.


How to Level Up Your LMS, Online Course, or Membership Website Business

You want your online course business to be as professional as it can be whether you’re already successful or just beginning. In today’s LMScast Chris Badgett and Thomas Levy talk about how to level up your LMS, online course, or membership website business with tools, support resources, and teams.

If you’re just starting out with a low budget, you can still build a great course with an inexpensive hosting account, a WordPress site with a free theme, and a course development platform like our free LifterLMS system. This is your simplest and least expensive starting point and will allow you to deliver and sell an online course. But it is only a starting point.

At the high end of the spectrum you can hire a service like codeBOX to build a complete custom LMS from scratch and deploy it through Amazon Cloud on Amazon Web services. You’ll have a complete discovery session to evaluate your needs and preferences, with a detailed timeline and estimate. It’s expensive, but it’s professional. Today we want to look at what you should be working towards in between starting out and reaching ultimate success.

Probably your most important consideration is hosting as that’s really the foundation of your online existence. GoDaddy and Bluehost are fine lower-cost web hosting services, but there are support systems you’re going to need that they simply don’t provide. Your next hosting upgrade should be to something like WP Engine which offers managed WordPress hosting. That means your WordPress-based online course site will have database caching and backups, package management, on-call support, and a staging site where you can do testing in a safe environment that won’t affect your live site.

Over time you’re also going to build a team, because on your own you simply can’t properly perform all the tasks your business needs. You need overall management, systems administration, web development, sales, content development, design, and project management. You’re probably proficient at one or two of those jobs, but not all of them. Plus, every upgrade you make will depend on your courses generating enough income that you can afford those upgrades as well as professional support services.

Tools like WordPress and our LifterLMS platform have made things so approachable and affordable that you might not think about going to the next level, but that growth needs to be part of your plan for how to level up your LMS, online course, or membership website business from the start.

Post comments and subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett, and I’m joined here with Thomas Levy. Today, we’re going to talk about how to run your website as a business and to do that professionally. We’re going to talk about where we all start and where we all ultimately can end up, and we can also talk about some of the benefits of upgrading some ways we approach what we do, and look at some roadblocks that might be holding us back from progressing and becoming a more professional, established website.

To start it off, I just wanted to talk about where we all begin if you’re building a learning management system, membership site, or an online course. If you want to start at the simplest starting point, which is one of the reasons in our mission to democratize education with LifterLMS is so that it’s really accessible, you can get in the game really affordably and almost for free. You can get a very inexpensive hosting account. I’m talking, depending upon what sales is going on, $3, $5, $10 a month. You can install WordPress, and you can install a free theme and a free plugin like LifterLMS, and you’re up and running within a learning management system and a website that’s possible to deliver and sell an online course.

That’s like a beginning point. At the far end of the spectrum, you can have a custom LMS built from scratch, whether that’s on top of Lifter or not, on top of WordPress or not, but you can do all that and just anything is possible. You do a custom development that’s going to be very expensive. It’s going to take time, and it’s going to be tailored to exactly your vision. That’s a totally different story. I think it’s important to look at all the stuff that can happen in the middle on your journey from just starting out with a cheap hosting account, a theme or … a free theme or a paid theme and a plugin like LifterLMS.

One of the areas we want to focus on is let’s just look at hosting. If you get a GoDaddy or a Bluehost hosting account, those are really affordable. They’re cheap, and you can install LifterLMS and WordPress and things like that, but then you can get up to more of a mid-grade area. My top recommendation these days is WP Engine and then, for our custom builds at LifterLMS, in another Podcast episode we talked about our discovery session where we get ready for custom membership sites and learning management systems and spec out what it is we’re going to build where we can do a detailed timeline and estimate and that sort of thing. That’s a custom build. We deploy those under the Amazon Cloud on Amazon Web services. That’s a whole another level of hosting, but what a lot of people aren’t doing that should … but should consider is, perhaps, going to that middle level with WP Engine.

Thomas, what do you like about WP Engine? What makes it a good Web host even though it’s more expensive? It can be $30 US a month for 1 site.

Thomas Levy: Yeah. There’s a lot to say about WP Engine, and there’s a lot of things like WP Engine, too, so, for some reason, you have an aversion to the particular product, we’re talking about managed WordPress hosting. A lot of these managed WordPress hosting platforms have a lot of the same features.

The most advantageous part about them is, and we’ll talk about WP Engine specifically, is that with the click of a button from your WordPress admin panel, you can scroll up a complete clone of your website, a staging site they call it, where you can do all of your testing and in a safe environment that’s not going to affect what’s goes on in your production website because the fear here is that you get those 10 little icons on your plugin screen that say you need to update that little 10 in the red circle and you just start clicking all those buttons because you trust the developers, and then there are some new conflict introduced and, now, your Website crashed or critical a feature of your website is down. Like you maybe can’t take payments anymore because something broke with Stripe, and now you’re losing money.

If you do everything in that neutral testing environment, you now have an opportunity to work out all those bugs, figure out what’s going on, contact the support representatives of whatever plugin you’ve updated that caused the problem and, now, you’ve also made their job a lot easier because, now, they can go in and do their job without the fear of breaking what’s now potentially already broken or breaking something new in your production environment.

That’s one of the clear advantages. When you start to think about like what happens on your journey as you grow, you add team members. We all started, I started, Chris started kind of as a 1-man-shop, and then you start to supplement your skillset with the skillset of other people. I’m a Web developer. Chris is a product marketer and … a man of many, many, many talents, but he’s not a Web developer, so that’s where we’ve kind of joined forces. I don’t really like selling things. If anybody ever tried to buy something from me, I’d much rather give it away to you, than convince you to give me money for it, which doesn’t really maintain profitability.

One of those people you’re always going to need is a systems administrator. At codeBOX, we have one for our highest clients. We have somebody that handles the Amazon Cloud for us because, even as a Web developer, I’m just not that good at it.

Chris Badgett: Just to jump in, like when you’re on the cheap plan just at the beginning, your systems administrator is the GoDaddy or the Bluehost support person you get on the phone, but you don’t have to stay there.

Thomas Levy: Yeah.

Chris Badgett: Go ahead.

Thomas Levy: Anyway, so what the managed WP Engine type WordPress hosting does is it kind of gives you that person. Now you’re paying a little bit more than if you were paying $3 a month and you have to call technical support all the time. Now, you kind of have that person that’s taking care of the WordPress Core for you and caching and database caching and all that stuff that is maybe a little bit scary to some people. It’s just kind of done for you. Plus, you get the ability to scroll up that staging site and test all your things there. You get backups.

One of the really, really important things about backups, everybody knows you got to run a backup, not a lot of people know how to get your backups back when you have that critical failure. Like what do you do? It’s like, “Well, I have all these backups. What do I do with them?” WP Engine makes that kind of thing really, really easy from your hosting panel. From my perspective, one of the greatest advantages of that is you gain a team member, like an invisible ghost team member that really gets to do that high-end development stuff for you or systems administration for you without having to actually have that person paid under your team.

Chris Badgett: Absolutely. I just want to add that this is just an unintended consequence of these tools like WordPress and LifterLMS who have made things so approachable and affordable that you just miss out on the fact that you do need to spend a little bit of money if you want to take it to the next level.

Thomas Levy: Exactly. Yeah.

Chris Badgett: Yeah, and then we get in this situation at LifterLMS or WordPress learning management system and online course membership site product where we provide pro level support. We have a pro Support product. Our pro membership with some other features, some graphic design assets and promotional discounts and things, but, a lot of people, their main reason usually for buying Pro is to get direct access and private priority access to us to support the product, but there’s a difference between supporting the product, helping a user navigate like, “How do I do X?” or, “I can’t find the documentation on X,” or, “I’m having this conflict.”

Product support is really about supporting the product. It’s not necessarily about supporting whatever hosting environment you’ve chosen or … and even I believe that … At LifterLMS, we go above and beyond and, if we can, if it’s obvious, we help people if there’s a conflict that we didn’t necessarily create, but we can help identify where the issue is coming from, we’re more than happy to help, but there is a time where you do need to hire a Web developer to help you or you need to get a systems administrator or go with a hosting company where that’s built in to the price.

Give us an example, Thomas, of some things that are common for LifterLMS where somebody is … we have our support product, but they’re really asking above and beyond what is considered supporting LifterLMS.

Thomas Levy: Yeah, I mean one of the greatest examples or most common examples with that is going to be people that have or users who have been on some of these … I’m not going to call them cheap, maybe less expensive hosting platform, where maybe you’ve had that GoDaddy account of that Bluehost account for 4 or 5 years, and they don’t proactively upgrade your packages for you, so …

Chris Badgett: If I could jump in and just clarify that point, and I just really learned this recently myself, I didn’t quite understand the full ramification, but when you buy your cheap hosting account, I mean there is a piece of hardware that holds your website, and they’re not upgrading that piece of hardware proactively necessarily.

Thomas Levy: Exactly. Yeah, and you might not know that and it might not cause any issues for you for years and years and years. We’ve actually had this problem internally with some of our own websites where we just weren’t keeping up to date with updates on the server level, which is things like PHP or TLS, which is an encryption software that help … or package that helps deal with the little green lights you see on the browser bar that secure for HTTPS and things like that. If you’re not proactively upgrading those packages on your own, they’re not getting upgraded, so, again, if we want to toot WP Engine’s horn, and that’s managed, you don’t ever touch your server. They take care of keeping that stuff up to date for you.

Back to your question, Chris, one of the more common things we see is somebody who has one of those older servers that’s maybe still working on Version 5.3 of PHP which is now several years deprecated and we’re now on PHP 7 is the common standard. I’m not, off the top of my head, I don’t know what version of PHP WP Engine work runs on. I’m willing to bet it’s PHP 7, but it might be like a 5, 6. Anyway, so we’ll see that, and it’s understandable that if my response to you then is like, “Well, you’re having issues because you’re on PHP Version 5.3. You need to upgrade that.” We get a lot of people that are like, “Oh, well, please upgrade that for me.”

Chris Badgett: That’s not necessarily part of LifterLMS. That’s part of you …

Thomas Levy: Yeah, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. The reality is like we could absolutely do that for you, but if you think about the scope of what we’re responsible for, it’s … There are so many unknowns that I can’t go in there and just click a couple of buttons for you and expect everything to work perfectly nor can you. That’s the difficulty here and why, as you level up, you want to add people to your team or continue to consider other hosting options because upgrading from PHP 5.3 to PHP 5 or 7 or any later version might not cost any issues at all, but it might cause issues. You might have some weird plugin installed on your website or you might have other websites installed on your same server and you might have some unanticipated bug crop up as a result of the upgrading.

Now, in most scenarios, they’re not, but, in some, you might, so what the Web developer would do, to deal with your Web developer would be to create a bunch of backups and know how to restore them, create a staging website where they could test the upgrade and then after they’ve tested everything and made sure there’s no problem, then upgrade those in the production environment.

That’s a lot. There’s a lot of steps involved in that. As you ascend and grow your business, taking those steps makes more and more sense because it’s more financially responsible to have your site online and offline because of bugs. You’re hopefully making more money, so you can afford to pay people to do that kind of thing. Again, we’re just going to harp on WP Engine because they make all of those steps just kind of not essential because they’ll take care of it for you and you have that staging site and they’re managing your packages, but-

Chris Badgett: You might be paying $20 more a month, but that’s really worth it. You don’t realize how much it worth until that site goes down, until you start having those conflicts, until you need to call somebody and you’re on hold for a long time or getting somebody on the other end that doest know how to help you.

I mean, when you start out, it’s just you or maybe you and a freelancer is helping set things up, but if I were to design the dream team as a startup, if you’re building your online course or your membership site, you may have a very limited budget and you may need to do it all yourself, but that means you’re going to need to be the … do all the content. You’re going to need to be the designer. You’re going to need to be the developer even if that’s just installing plugins. You’re going to need to be the person setting up the hosting account.

If you need support, you can use the plugin support to a degree, but there’s so much room to grow from there. You can get a professional designer of low budget or high budget to help you. You can get an affordable Web developer on something like Upwork or kind of graduate up into the Codeable area. We recommend Codeable. They’re just vetted WordPress developers. Then there’s other services like we at codeBOX, creators of LifterLMS. We do complete end-to-end solution. If you’re stuck or you’re having problems, you might be ready to move up, and it’s really important to … You look at that when you’re creating your course and everything is … For it to be really sustainable, you need to be … Your course needs to be generating revenue. You need to be able to afford the basic team. That’s really key.

What am I missing from the team? What else?

Thomas Levy: I think there’s different stages of it, like you’re saying. At the beginning, you’re wearing every hat and figuring it all out. I think the dream team is really going to depend on you. If you’re starting as a solo entrepreneur building a website, you might be more inclined towards the management side or the content side or the development side or maybe you’ve got skills in 1 or 2 of those areas, but you’re weakest in the 3rd.

The way I see it is there’s really kind of the management of the website. We can call that person a project manager. There’s the developer who manages the technology side and executes on the technology side, and then there is, in my mind, content creation and designer kind of hand-in-hand. That design aspect might be a fourth person. It might be the developer who’s also a designer. It really depends. When we get to our largest projects, we have a dedicated designer, a dedicated designer, a dedicated project manager, and then our client is generally that content creator because they’re coming to us because they have content that they want to put out into the world, but they don’t have those other 3 members to execute on it.

Chris Badgett: Just to piggy-back on that point, the people who are ready for that, already have some success. You may want that or even feel like you need that, but a company can’t help you unless you can afford them. In order for you to be able to afford them, you already need to have some level of success looking to the next … to grow from there. If you’re starting out and you’re starting up with constraints, you need to grow into that.

Thomas Levy: Exactly. Yeah. I think you really just need to take a look at yourself and take a look at what you’re best at and what you’re worst at. I think whatever you’re worst at … and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad at it. It might mean you’re just uncomfortable with it. I can write. I am a writer, but I’m just not as great at executing on the content as Chris is, and so that’s a natural addition to my team. Of course, it’s our team. I didn’t say like, “Hey, Chris, you’re going to come and write content for me. We’re a partnership here,” but … so I mean, I think, you just need to kind of look at what brings you the least amount of joy and what’s the hardest for you to get your head in to accomplish it.

For a lot of people, that’s going to be the technology side of things and like the doldrums of testing plugins. That kind of stuff is great for me. I love it. I’m great at it. I can do it all day long, and that’s why I’m the Web developer, but you might not be. Yeah, so I think you just need to take a look, but I think those 3 areas are really like the content, design, the development and then the overall management.

I think that overall management is one of those hats that can be worn by you for the … I see at least most commonly for the longest period of time, and that project manager is maybe the last thing that gets added into the mix, but, yeah.

Chris Badgett: Just to close it out, if you’re at the very beginning and you’re that crappy startup where it’s pretty much just you, the roadblock or the mistake that we see people making, and our call to action for you today is to get a good hosting account. Get something with a staging environment like WP Engine and then also get a … look into finding a developer resource. If funds are tight, there are freelancers out there. You can got to website like Upwork. Look for people with WordPress and even specifically LifterLMS experience if you’re using our software and start building your team because that’s where it starts, a good host, which is going to give you that better red phone or systems administrator and then a developer that could help you. If you’re ready for even a little more than that, start experimenting with some freelance design help.

Yeah, most people try to wear all those hats too long and they get themselves into trouble and, essentially create more … You can create more inefficiencies just by not letting go and kind of growing.

Thomas Levy: That concludes this episode of LMScast. Thank you for listening, and we’ll catch you in the next one.