Episode 29

How to Monetize your Blog with Online Courses

If you are a blogger you naturally have information that you want to share, but at some point you may also want to realize some income from it. Today’s LMScast focuses on how to monetize your blog with online courses.

You are already creating content for your blog regularly and consistently. Offering your content for free is admirable and indicates that you have expertise and passion for your subject. But maintaining a quality blog takes time, energy, research, resources, and commitment. Realizing some payback from your investment is reasonable and attainable.

An online course is an effective way to present your information in depth and to enhance retention and understanding through interactive devices like exercises, quizzes, and gamification. Plus it allows you to monetize your content by charging for your courses. If your blog is successful then you are already doing content marketing and maintaining a publishing schedule, so you have already demonstrated proof of your worth.

The next logical step is to benefit from your efforts and monetization is the best way to achieve that. There are many options for doing this, and deciding what you want to do and how to approach it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately there are simple systems for building your course modules and making them accessible to your audience. A WordPress plugin LMS system like our lifterLMS makes it easy to create and sell online courses through your blog site. The challenge is to design your courses to be inviting and compelling for your users.

Because you have enough interest in your subject to always be learning, researching, and keeping current on advances, you may have lost sight that many of your followers are new to the subject and need to start from the beginning and progress in steps. Your task, then, is to create introductory material for them to get started with, followed by intermediate, and eventually advanced course offerings. Your beginner’s market is actually your biggest customer base, so you want to make sure you have information that is accessible and understandable at their level. You do have the option of focusing on an advanced audience, but that is likely a smaller niche market.

No doubt you have seen membership sites that charge a subscription fee to access specialized content, but the success of online course offerings is rapidly replacing the membership approach. ELearning offers an interactive experience for structured learning and evidence of achievement that mere access to stores of information cannot match in terms of motivation and engagement. And the more courses you build, the better they will become.

You are involved in your subject area and you want others to feel that same excitement and interest. This is the reason you put so much of yourself into your blogging. Providing stimulating, integrated online courses that present your subject in step-by-step increments while allowing users to clearly see their progress gets your audience involved with your content in a personal way. ELearning delivers a satisfying experience on a level that your audience will be willing to pay for, and they will keep coming back for the progressive courses that follow.

Remember that you can post comments, and also subscribe to our newsletter at LMScast.com for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us.

And if you’re an already successful expert, teacher or entrepreneur looking to grow, check out the LifterLMS team’s signature service called Boost. It’s a complete done for you set up service where your learning platform goes live in just 5 days.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

joshua millage: Hello, everyone. We’re back with another LMScast episode. I’m Joshua Millage and I’m joined with Christopher Badgett. Today we’re talking about how to monetize a blog using online courses. Chris, how do I do this, man? I create content all the time over at infusioncast.co and it’s a community-driven blog. I don’t have a monetization idea, so help me out here. How do I take what I’m doing and monetize it?

chris badgett: The first thing I want to do is congratulate you for creating free content – that’s a big roadblock – and any education entrepreneur out there who has taken the step to give away information for free. Maybe it’s a passion, but I know sometimes creating a blog post is a lot of hard work and really polishing it and researching it can take time. First off, congratulations. You’re already far beyond a lot of entrepreneurs out there looking to market and do content marketing because you’ve actually done it.

joshua millage: Thank you.

chris badgett: That’s awesome. Hot tip: whenever I see somebody who’s been blogging consistently for a while there’s a huge celebration in congratulations do. What ends up happening is after you get into that cycle where you’ve built good habits of content creation, whether you have a weekly publishing schedule once, twice, three times a week, daily, whatever it is, you get in this cycle of free content and you almost forget about monetization or you overcomplicate monetization by just having one offer.

If you’ve been blogging consistently for a long time, then either you’re the subject matter expert or you’re researching and you’re getting that expertise across from others and that sort of thing. You’re curating the best stuff on the web. You’re developing this expertise that you could totally monetize in an online course. You just have to get going on that.

joshua millage: Yeah, you’re right. I do have a lot of information that I want to monetize. What do you do? What system do you use? How do you do that? There’s so much noise I feel like right now around creating online courses. There’s so many options. How do I think about my course and then how do I think about building it?

chris badgett: Of course we created the lifterLMS plugin which makes it easy to create and sell online courses, but before we even get into how to create it, I think there’s a couple psychological roadblocks we have to get through first. I think the number one thing that happens I noticed is people who do write all this great content and are constantly researching their industry and evolving themselves, they get caught up in always being on the cutting edge, cutting edge, cutting edge, when there’s all these people back at step one who just need to get to step two.

joshua millage: That’s good.

chris badgett: That beginners’ market is often the huge, big market. For creating an online course, I recommend go super advanced or go after that beginners’ market. Don’t get caught in the middle. If you’re always improving yourself, you forget about those beginner people. I think it’s important to celebrate what you’ve learned as an entrepreneur and a subject matter expert and then turn around and go back to the people who are at step one and just need to get to step two and step three. They’re not trying to go from one to ten, that kind of thing.

joshua millage: I love that. That’s really good. That helps me think about the content. What do you look for when you’re choosing a system? I know we’ve developed lifterLMS so we’re more on the LMS side of things, but is there any reason for people to be looking at the membership sites anymore if they want to sell courses, or do you think that the time is gone?

chris badgett: I think we’re seeing the death of the membership site for online courses, because a true online course takes somebody through a series of learning engagements and also motivates them along the way, as opposed to a membership site which is just like a pay wall and you put stuff behind it, which of course people organize. But you can do so much better with a true learning management system.

joshua millage: Totally.

chris badgett: We have a post coming out soon, and by the time this post goes live it might not be out just yet but it’s going to be out very shortly. This is being recorded in January of 2015. We’re doing a roundup post with thought leaders all over the internet about the biggest mistakes that people make when making an online course and what to avoid. These are from seasoned online course pros. One of the trends I’m seeing in people’s comments is not focusing on really the content. They get caught up in the system like the membership site plugin or the LMS without focusing in on the content.

If you’re looking to monetize your blog, you’re asking yourself how to monetize a blog with an online course, you want to really be thinking about taking somebody through that journey. We have another episode about the curse of knowledge where as you become an expert you start internalizing all these things and taking the step by step stuff for granted. You need to bring that stuff back up to your consciousness and really create that flow of taking someone from wanting to either achieve a desired outcome or escape some kind of pain, and take them step by step by step through that course.

One way I like to tell people to help conceptualize it is start thinking about, if you are going to use video, to teach bite size chunks, so less than ten minute videos. Create an outline and then think about if it can’t be broken down into ten minute video chunks, you need to probably break it down again.

joshua millage: I think that’s great. The average attention span is so short. People want to also feel progress. There’s something about checking things off a list and going through courses bit by bit that motivates people to get momentum and complete the course and get through your content, which has a number of great benefits. One, they might come back and hopefully will come back for the second course or the 2.0 or whatever you want to call it. And it also creates a better relationship, and that’s what this is all about is creating relationships with students and people who buy into your knowledge.

That’s awesome, Chris. I think this has been a great episode. This is just the start of these types of episodes. I know we’re going to go more advanced here in the future with this sort of topic. Do you have any closing thoughts for the people who are listening at home?

chris badgett: Yeah, I would just say if you want to monetize a blog and you’re going to create a course, you don’t have to get it perfect the first time. Once you get students in there and you see people are maybe struggling with a particular lesson the way you’re teaching it, you can change it later. Let go of that perfection. Take all this awesome knowledge you have from blogging and mastering your subject and go create an online course.

joshua millage: That’s awesome. Until next time we’ll see you later.

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