In this information packed episode of LMScast we discuss professional online course production with Grant Weherley of Monetize My Expertise. Grant and Chris Badgett of LifterLMS dive into all of the details behind Monetize My Expertise and how they operate, and they talk about the different aspects of course building. They also talk a bit about where courses are going in the future.
Grant is the founder and owner of Monetize My Expertise, which is an online course production company that works with experts to monetize their expertise, as the name suggests. Grant got into building online courses when he tried it out and some other people asked him for help on theirs, and it has since evolved into the course building business he runs today.
Chris and Grant break down the four main components of course building and explain why each one is important. First, you have the topical expertise or knowledge on a subject. Next you have the production of the course, which is the assembling of materials and lesson planning. Third, you have the technology behind the course building. And finally you have the marketing for the course.
When you offer a product or service, it is generally better to be really good at doing one thing rather than to be just average at doing many things. Grant uses this philosophy in his company, and he has zeroed in on what he is good at, and that is the production of courses. His company does not do the marketing or expertise for the online courses.
Technology is the third element to building online courses, and modern technology has made this aspect easy. LifterLMS is one example of a piece of technology that makes it easier to build courses online. A lot of people confuse the technology and production of courses for one skill, and since the technology is so easy they assume that the production is just as easy. Chris and Grant talk about how people often don’t finish their online course, because they hit a wall where they couldn’t get past the production aspect of courses. Production is a valuable skill, and it is critically important to not overlook it.
When building courses or products in general it is important to play to your strengths so that you can gain a competitive advantage. This also allows you to be different and unique in your industry establishing yet another point of leverage. Most people are afraid of public speaking or even teaching in front of others. So if you are afraid of being on camera, then slide based courses with possible voiceover do just as well or in some cases better when information needs to be laid out visually.
To learn more about Grant Weherley check out MonetizeMyExpertise.com, and you can find the webinar they’re hosting at MonetizeMyExpertise.com/webinar.
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Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name is Chris Badgett from LifterLMS. In this episode, we’re going to be talking with online course production specialist Grant Weherley from MonetizeMyExpertise.com. Grant is the founder and owner of Monetize My Expertise, which is an online course production company.
There’s a ton of value in the show. I can’t wait for you to check out what’s in here. The audio … some of my audio is a little not at the highest quality, because I was traveling. But please, bear with that. Grant is a leader in our space. I’m so excited to have him on our show today.
Grant, thank you for being here.
Grant Weherley: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Chris Badgett: I talk with a lot of experts, as I’m sure you do, too. When I come across somebody else who is just as obsessed with the online course industry as I am, it’s always a lot of fun because we can get a little meta about what’s going on in the industry and stuff like that.
I’m on the technology side at LifterLMS in providing tools to make it easier for course creators to build and own their platform. In our pre-chat before the call here, we were talking about a blue ocean you discovered, in terms of what course creators are challenged with and what they’re facing. What is that blue ocean? Can you tell us about your story stepping into MonetizeMyExpertise.com?
Grant Weherley: Sure. I guess when you think about courses, there’s three … or depending on how you count it, maybe four components of it, right? There’s the topic and the topical expertise. There’s the production of the course itself, which is a different process or skill set. Just because you’re an expert on a topic doesn’t mean you know actually how to deliver it through a course or build a course around that. Third thing is the tech. Fourth thing would be the marketing. Those are four entirely different things. You can be good at one or all or none, or what have you.
The reason I ultimately got into what we do … Actually, let me speak to the second part of the question first. Way back when, I built some courses on my own, just ’cause the whole online course thing was very interesting. Wanted to explore that. It was very enjoyable. People started asking me for help with theirs, and then kind of just through lots of interesting trial and error and testing stuff out, and doing things for random people, it’s kind of slowly iterated into what it is today.
The reason we made that strategic decision way back when … It wasn’t like a particular point, it was, again, very iterative. We’ve done things on all sides of courses. But at one point, we did make the decision to focus on the course production side of things because there’s a lot of tools out there nowadays, like yours as well, that makes the tech stuff quite simple. There’s a lot of companies out there that do marketing, like marketing agencies for example. There really wasn’t any good company that helps you build the course materials itself. There’s a whole lot of book publishers, or ghost writing services for example, or whatever. But there’s nothing very comparable to that for courses.
All these, probably millions at this point, of people trying to make courses, they’re kind of just trying to do it. They maybe take a course about courses, and then try and do it on their own. There’s really no good service providers that actually help people do it, or took over some of that work. I kind of recognized that opportunity couple years back and started exploring that and kind of went from there.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I talk about a lot on this podcast, the four-legged stool of what a course creator has to be good at. One of those, of course, is just having some expertise or mastery. The other thing, where you sit, has to do with the instructional design, the actual creation of the content. Then you have to be a technology delivery person, and a community builder, and a marketer. These are all very different skill sets.
Grant Weherley: For sure.
Chris Badgett: When you talk to an expert, how do you bring order to the chaos that may pull a course out of somebody who wants to do it, but maybe needs help?
Grant Weherley: Yeah, you’re asking about the process that we go through to actually build the content?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Grant Weherley: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. I’m happy to explain it. One of the things that’s kind of interesting about it is because there really aren’t very many parallel companies doing what we do, it’s kind of hard to explain it and have it really fully click. But once people start to go through the process, they’re like, “Oh. Wow, this is really cool. I recognize the value in it.”
I’m happy to explain it verbally, but just fair warning, it may not really fully click with people, like why it’s useful, without some further elaboration. Basically the process that we go through is … It’s a couple of different phases. The first one is, “Okay, what do you want this course to accomplish? What’s the high level of goals for it? Who’s it for?” Some basic introductory stuff to sort of set the overall direction of the project.
From there we move into building what we call a course curriculum, which is like a high level overview of … maybe it’s gonna cover these 10 topics. Here’s a little bit more further elaboration about what it’s gonna be about. We do that through people on our team that we call content developers. Our main one right now, his name is Matt. He’s awesome. He’s got an MBA. He used to be a consultant. He’s basically really, really good at sort of a mix of interviewing people, listening very carefully, and asking the right questions to help them clarify things. Poking holes in maybe … in things that don’t make sense, and kind of also weaving along the best way to turn that topic or expertise into an actual course.
We do this over a series of several calls and a couple of different phases. There’s like a kick-off call, a couple of course curriculum development calls. From there, we move into developing individual lesson plans. That’s mapping out what each individual lesson’s gonna cover in terms of the topics, anecdotes, calls to action, if there’s gonna be a quiz, things like that.
Basically, from the client perspective, the way we try and structure it, because the most common person that we work with is like a super busy consultant who speaks in a new city every week, for example, or like a speaker or an author or somebody like that. That’s one of the common avatars, if you will. They kind of just have to show up on the calls that we’ve booked with them to go through this content development process. Then we kind of do all the leg work of building out the materials for that. We go on to building the slides and worksheets, and editing all the videos and stuff.
So basically they just have to show up on the content development calls where we’re interviewing them, and then do a run through of the lesson plans in terms of recording it. Usually, 95% of time, they still want their voice and face associated with it. Although, we’ve done a couple projects where we provided voiceovers as well, but that’s very uncommon. They just have to run through the content once we’ve built out all the lesson plans. Give us that file, and we do everything before and after that.
Chris Badgett: With the way you guys work, is it possible to do what you do with anybody in the world? Does it happen remotely? Or is there a component where there has to be film crew or something like that that’s on the ground?
Grant Weherley: No, actually, no. We do it all remote. There’s some specific reasons behind that. Because it’s a huge pain, and it’s sort of a deal breaker if we’re like, “Hey. Fly out to our local studio in LA. It’s more expensive for us, so we’re gonna have to charge you a bunch more as well.” It’s a lot of consequences of using that model. But we use a different model where it’s all remote, kind of like Skype and Zoom and whatnot like we’re using now.
There’s a significant aspect of that, which is, we focus more on slide based courses versus talking head base courses, although some of them are. A lot of them will incorporate elements of that. But obviously, since we’re not flying people out to physical locations, we can’t exactly record them from our side of things. But, sometimes we help people book a local studio. Oftentimes people wanna record a little 30 second introduction to their lessons or their modules, or whatever. We kind of edit that in.
But at the end of the day, some people have it in their head that they should make this super flashy talking head base course with a professional film crew and crazy animations and stuff like that. It’s actually usually counterproductive. I’m sure probably 20% of the people listening now have that in their head that that’s the best way of doing it, and that’s the highest value way of doing it. It’s actually not. There’s a lot of courses out there that are insanely successful, which are slide based, or screen cast based, or what have you. Oftentimes it’s a better way of communicating the information. If you’re teaching a course about programming, if you’re talking about programming to the camera, that’s not gonna help anybody. You gotta show your screen. There’s some different things there to keep in mind.
But yeah, it’s all remote. That makes it a lot easier for our clients as well. We work with some Australian clients, but we don’t have any employees in Australia. That makes that possible. We’ve worked with people in quite a few companies, which is pretty cool.
Chris Badgett: That’s amazing. Let’s talk a little bit about experts, and the ones who succeed and the ones who fail, or get frustrated a little bit. I would imagine if somebody has some resources, and they really want a professional to come help with the course production part, what does that person who goes through your process have that allows it to all click for them, as opposed to somebody who’s like an expert, but not really a teacher, not really a technologist, who gets kind of frustrated? Another way to ask that is what kind of mistakes do you see course creators making that your business solves?
Grant Weherley: There’s a couple different problematic areas for courses in general. Some of the most common ones are just the general project as a whole. Not understanding that there’s at least four different main components of a course, and probably you’re not good at three of them, to be honest, if you’re trying to make a course. Again, 25 years of being a fitness trainer, that doesn’t mean you can build a course about it. It also doesn’t mean you can build a course website about it. It also doesn’t mean you can necessarily market it, right? So those are three very important things.
Most people don’t really think that far ahead and realize the complexity involved there. We have a 10 person company right now. We do some of those other things as like an add-on. But in terms of our primary service, we do one of those four things. That’s very intentional, because in the past we tried to do some website set-up, some marketing stuff as well. Even with like a 10 person team, it’s almost impossible to do that well with all of those different things, ’cause they’re entirely different skill sets. Basically you have to have a different team or company around each of those different things.
Let alone an individual course creator trying to do all four of those things themselves. It’s really hard. That’s something people underestimate. It’s worth kind of thinking that through, and thinking where you might get stuck. What you should get some help with, ’cause there’s probably very specific areas that you’re definitely gonna need help with. If you don’t anticipate that ahead of time, you’re just gonna run into a brick wall and get stuck there, or get frustrated, or whatever. That’s one thing.
The second thing … there’s just a couple points along the way where people often get stuck. Another common thing that we see as well … and this often happens. It’s funny, ’cause people come and talk to us. We’ll have some calls with them and explore working with them. They’ll be like, “I don’t know. I could pay you guys, or I could just do it myself.” Sometimes they’ll go off and try and do it themselves. I was actually thinking about this yesterday. I’m not sure. I can’t think of a single example … I mean, I’m sure it’s happened, but I just didn’t know about it. But nobody has ever come back to me and said, “Oh, we went off and tried to do it on our own and we actually got it finished.” That’s never happened, but the reverse has happened quite a few times. It’s like, “Oh, we’ll do it on our own. It’s fine. I’m an expert on this topic. That’s cool. It’ll get done.” But then it doesn’t end up happening.
There’s been some funny scenarios where that’s actually played out. I have a case study about a client that we ended up working with who spent literally a year and something crazy like 50 grand, thousands of hours of work, and yet did not have a course by the end of it. He had like an Evernote full of hundreds of pages of notes and sketches and stuff. He was really no closer to making a course. Part of what we did was boil all that down. Let’s clear out all of the fluff. What should this actually be about and get it done. That’s another thing that happens a lot as well.
The other sticking point people have is … it all kind of comes back to the theme of not having a plan for each of these four important things. Another one people get stuck with is how do they market it once it’s up. It’s a pretty common question. Actually, there’s some pretty straightforward answers to that, to the marketing bit about courses. It’s not as hard as sometimes it seems. But it’s worth figuring out what your plan is for that. You need to get it in front of a certain number of people to make it a viable product or revenue stream. You should have a plan for how you’re gonna do that. It’s not overly complicated. You don’t have to be an expert in Facebook ads or whatever. There’s a couple simple ways to do it. But it’s worth, again, having at least some kind of idea, or service provider to help with each of those four areas, just to make sure you don’t get stuck somewhere along the way. Those are some of the common things that I see most commonly.
Chris Badgett: For the course creators you work with, and the ones that you see spending way too much time trying to do it themselves, what is the quicksand that people get stuck in where they lose those 5000 hours that you avoid?
Grant Weherley: Yeah, actually, to speak to one of the things you said before, which I thought was quite funny. I used the analogy, just to rewind real quick, about how it’s similar to building a house. It’s actually funny, ’cause we use that exact same analogy. It’s like, “Okay, I wanna build a house. Am I just gonna to go in and try to build a house? Even if you know perfectly what you want it to look like, that doesn’t mean you can actually do it. You should probably hire an architect and a construction crew.” Sometimes we kind of jokingly refer to us as your course architects and construction crew, ’cause at the end of the day, there’s a reason why people go to architects. Get a degree in architecture, and people pay quite a bit to construction crews to build stuff ’cause they specialize in that. Even though you might have the vision for what your house … what you want it to look like or function, or how many floors or whatever, they’ll make sure it actually happens and it doesn’t fall down once it’s done. So anyways, I thought that was a funny analogy that we use as well.
To answer your other question about where do people get stuck when they do get stuck in the course creation process? Actually there’s a couple of sticking points. Actually, quite a few, but some of the most common ones, at least on the top of my mind right now … First off, it’s very hard to build a course in a silo. You’re by yourself behind your computer, and you’re saying, “Okay. I wanna make a course.” Again, maybe you have 25 years of experience doing XYZ, like a sales trainer. And you’re like, “I wanna build a course about sales. I have a blank screen in front of me. Okay. Let’s go.” Probably you’ll get somewhere with it, but it’s very hard to do it that way, which is why people get writer’s block and things like that, because you’re not really getting feedback. You’re not really sure where to start. It’s very hard to even know how to teach something.
Actually, it’s funny, ’cause sometimes people are like, “Well, I’m so experienced in this. I should be able to build a course in it, right?” Actually that can be counterproductive ’cause it can be very hard for somebody who’s very, very, very experienced in a topic to sort of dumb it down to somebody who’s not as experienced. Right? Which is why, think about the … Like a nuclear physicist trying to explain something to a second grader. It can be hard for them because they just know too much. It’s hard to think about, “Okay, what do I know that they don’t know, that I have to like start from scratch with?” That’s something that I think is interesting to keep in mind. People kind of get stuck with that.
Easiest solution there, which, it kind of is built into what we do, is just kind of interacting with other people, as you’re trying to build the course, you can sort of make it a fun thing where maybe if you have a community, you’re kind of engaging them along the way, getting their feedback. Sending them little drafts of lesson plans or whatever, just to spark some ideas. They’ll point out where things don’t make sense. They’ll help just jar you out of writer’s block, which you’ll probably hit at some point.
Other things that … Another thing that people get stuck with as well is, again, this is most common for the people that we work with, is again, they’re super, super busy. Very few people who are trying to build courses, only have courses in their business. It’s usually something that supplements the main thing that they’re doing. Like in consulting, a service, speaking, writing books, whatever it is, or podcasting, for example. They got a lot of other stuff going on. It’s very difficult to stay focused long enough to build a really good course, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing it. There’s gonna be a learning curve. There’s a lot of moving parts. You’re juggling that with the other stuff that you’re doing. It’s kind of an accountability aspect as well. If you’re just trying through will-power to figure it out along the way and keep yourself on track, a lot of people don’t make it through the process. It can take like three months, six months, sometimes even longer, especially if you’re doing it part-time, and you’re juggling your main business. That can be a huge sticking point. It can really derail people. Those are some things that come to mind off the cuff.
Chris Badgett: That’s really good stuff. Another thing, just to build on our whole building a house construction. I think part of the issue is when a construction crew shows up to the house, there’s all these tools and materials. You can see people making things. It’s very visible. The course building, I’ve got a Mac. I think different. I got this stuff. It’s more … the process is more hidden. It’s [inaudible 00:18:14] the various stops or the processes. It’s just not as visible as something … I mean, it’s an online course. It’s not an in-person like university or building.
Think about how hard it would be to build a schoolhouse and put teachers in there. Building in the real world kind of makes you think about how much goes into it.
Grant Weherley: Absolutely. Right.
Chris Badgett: Tell us about your webinar. I know you have a webinar that helps people. What do you teach in that?
Grant Weherley: Basically I just try to go through a lot of the things that come up very, very commonly in the conversations that we have with people. I also try to focus it on important messages that aren’t commonly covered elsewhere. We have a very particular perspective about building courses, which is different than most of the perspectives you hear about building courses. The most common thing you hear about courses is from somebody who offers a course about courses. They’re very much incentivized to make it seem very overly simple. They don’t want to make it seem complicated, because then it deters people from doing it. They’re like, “You can make a million dollars a course. It’s really easy. You just do this, this and this.” Right?
Those are still helpful, for sure. But, we have a different perspective, ’cause we know what it actually takes. It’s quite a bit of work. We have the other perspective. I tried to build the webinar on things that I haven’t seen covered elsewhere, but are super, super important. We cover some of these things like where people get hung up in the process. Certain concerns people have going into it, and how to get around those … I’m trying to think now … a common one is, “Is this gonna be good? How do I make sure it’s good? How do I get this done without this taking an extremely large amount of time or energy?”
Regardless of whether they work with us, we give some ideas about how to approach getting some help with your course. Even if it’s finding a freelance designer off Upwork or something, it’s still a step in the right direction versus trying to design the slides, edit the videos, record the videos, build the lesson plans, doing everything yourself, which is just … It’s pretty much impossible, to be honest. Or at least to do a good job at it. People do it. But doing that well by yourself, pretty much impossible, unless you’re gonna take like two years to do it.
Covering a lot of the things about that, and basically the idea being that if they go through the webinar, then they have everything that they need to be able to just get started and skip a lot of the initial sticking points that people have. Also, solving some of the concerns that people have going into it, where they’re not really sure how something’s gonna work. It makes them kind of hesitate about certain things.
For example, another common one is what’s the ROI on this project gonna be? How do I know people are gonna buy it? How do I know … I’m gonna invest all this time. Even if I’m only investing my time, and no actual money into this project, there’s still an opportunity cost associated with that. If you value your time at 50 bucks an hour, and it takes you a 1000 hours, that’s pretty significant. It’s like 50 grand that you’ve essentially invested into this. You wanna make sure that ideally your course makes at least 51 grand over a reasonable time frame. Right?
How do you think about that going into it? Even if you don’t have an audience, and sort of make sure it makes sense to even start doing from the get-go. I cover a lot of things like that, that I just haven’t seen elsewhere, but really hang people up. Even people who’ve studied this stuff a lot, but they just have a couple of sticking points and the idea is just to help them get through that.
Chris Badgett: So go check out MonetizeMyExpertise.com and find the webinar link. Is that the best place to get it?
Grant Weherley: Yeah. It’s on the menu. Or you can just go to MonetizeMyExpertise.com/webinar.
Chris Badgett: Perfect. I wanna ask a few more things about your offer.
Grant Weherley: Sure.
Chris Badgett: But, before we get into that, I just wanna take a step back. Go up to 30,000 feet and look at our industry, this whole online course, online education industry. I just wanna kinda … would love to hear just some high level thoughts about where you think the industry is, where you think it’s going. Are these early days? Is online education going mainstream? Do you have some high level kind of takes on this whole industry of where it’s trending?
Grant Weherley: Yeah, it’s a good question. I remember something that actually came up in a conversation like a year ago. He was like, “Well, there’s so many courses nowadays. Is it saturated? Is it even worth getting into at this point?” Which actually, I remember saying about a couple other fads, like Key Spring and Amazon FBA, and stuff. In some cases, the answer is yes. In some cases, it’s no.
For courses, I would say it’s no. Obviously, I’m biased in saying that. But I actually have a couple of data points as to why that are pretty straightforward. I saw an actual study on this, which was making projections about the industry coming up in the next 10 years. It had a lot interesting numbers. I forget what it was off the top of my head. But it was like from 2005 to 2015 it went from like something billion to like a 100 billion. And then from like 2015 to 2025 it’s gonna go up to like 320 billion in terms of the size of the overall e-learning industry. So that’s one interesting thing, also, obviously, just think about what colleges and universities are doing nowadays, and what other countries are starting to do as well.
I think, obviously, United States and other developed countries are probably more of the first movers in this. But, more and more people are getting computers, getting internet, things like that. So there’s gonna be a tail end of that, even just in terms of how it currently exists. People joining existing platforms and e-learning marketplaces. All the people in more developing countries are gonna be joining that as well, which is pretty cool and fun to think about. Then yeah, just so many things are moving into this e-learning space. Again, from universities, to companies doing fun little things for employee onboarding. Or SAS companies providing courses for customer onboarding, for example. There’s a lot of interesting ways this is branching out and becoming more and more significant.
Again, I’m biased, but I don’t see it really going anywhere anytime soon. It seems still very much trending upward. What’s gonna replace it? It’s not like it’s gonna disappear. It’s gonna evolve overtime for sure. It’ll be interesting to see what that takes shape as, but it’s not gonna go anywhere anytime soon, in my opinion.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. I love … a lot of great points in that. I like your point about what’s gonna replace it. Because, I mean, books were a new thing several thousand years ago, but they’re still around.
Grant Weherley: Yeah, exactly.
Chris Badgett: Using the internet to learn, it may get a little better. We may get some artificial intelligence involved in the process-
Grant Weherley: And virtual reality, and gamification.
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Grant Weherley: But that’s modifications on the existing industry.
Chris Badgett: Exactly. Exactly. So I’m really fascinated to see where this goes from here. MonetizeMyExpertise. Who’s the ideal type of person that works with you? Can you just throw that out there? What type of person is a perfect fit for your services?
Grant Weherley: It’s a good question. Basically, any person or company that wants to use courses to expand or grow what they’re currently doing. In some cases, they already have courses, but they just want to expand that part of their business. They don’t have a department already developed towards doing it.
For example, there are companies, which might have an e-learning department, because it’s currently a core part of their strategy. We can augment that, but maybe it doesn’t make sense to work with us. But anybody who needs a course built, and they don’t already have an existing pipeline, or team, or whatever built around doing it, it makes a lot of sense to work with us. At the end of the day, if you just think about what service businesses are, you’re essentially paying for quality people, a track record, efficient processes, things like that.
You could try and go out, for example, say you wanna build one course. Actually, this is one of the things I cover in the webinar and elsewhere. Some people come to us and they’re like, “Eh. I don’t know. I don’t know if I really wanna pay for this.” Okay. What’s your alternative? You can do it all yourself. Even if you just value your own time, chances are, it’s not gonna be any cheaper, if you just think about the opportunity cost. The other thing is, if you wanna build out your own little course development process or department, or team or whatever, that’s really hard to do, to be honest. I’ve done it multiple times now. It’s very challenging. A lot of work goes into that, especially if you want it to be good. What are the chances that your first course that that new team develops is gonna be up to your standards? Pretty low.
Those are some things to keep in mind. For whoever values producing a high level course, and doesn’t have a team already developed to do that within their business, or people that they work with, that’s the main broad category. What that often looks like is, again, a high level consultant, a speaker, author, podcaster, sole entrepreneur, sometimes SAS companies or whatever. But again, the main thing is they have a need for courses. It’s objectively of value to them, and what they’re trying to achieve, but they don’t have a existing way of doing it and doing it well.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, if that sounds like you, go check out MonetizeMyExpertise.com. Grant Weherley, thank you for coming on the show.