In August 2013 I launched my first ever online course called How To Make Money On Your Travel Blog (this course is no longer being offered), and recruited 17 sign ups for around $3k in profit.
This might not be “big” time, but for many people an additional $3k would be a nice addition to their savings account. Additionally, as a result of the course I ended up undertaking a venture with one of the students that then led to another $9k in profit – but that’s another story.
I’d like to bring this case study to the readers of LukePeerfly.com where I know it will be appreciated and while it is still fresh.
Topics I will be covering are:
- How I came up with my course idea
- How I developed the course materials
- How I priced my course
- How I marketed my course
- Advanced strategies I used to make it a success
- The results of the course (# of sign ups, total time invested, total money earned)
- What lessons I learned and what I would have done differently
- Why I stopped marketing the course even though it was making me money
How I Came Up With My Course Idea
The course was about how to make money on your travel blog. Yes, it was specific to travel bloggers, as that was the audience I had at the time and I wanted to make the course as niche as possible, since I didn’t feel that we could compete on a large scale.
For the most part, I decided to do a course because I thought it would be interesting for me and beneficial for the people who signed up. I had been earning some serious cash on my travel blogs (around $5k-$10k a month) and I was prepared to share in detail the methods we were using.
The course topic was extremely niche. It was about link selling on travel blogs (which is when companies buy links back to their websites). It was not widely applicable and as far as I could tell there was not a single course equivalent. Sure, there are courses about making money online, and making money blogging, but this was fundamentally different due to the nature of how we were teaching people to make money. It was specific to travel bloggers and it was a specific way of making money. I knew that it wouldn’t appeal to a large group of people, but that our audience, who had grown to know us as travelers who were making money on their blogs, would be interested.
How I Developed The Course Materials
This course was targeted at beginner travel bloggers who either did not have a blog yet or had a blog but were not sure how to monetize it.
As such, I wanted to show them in depth how to grow their blog’s authority, find and pitch advertisers, make deals, and then grow the number of websites they had through purchasing them. Essentially, it was everything I was doing myself. I wrote the course packets myself. I broke it up into 8 chapters for a total of around 30k words. They were:
- Introduction to SEO
- Finding and Connecting with advertisers
- Sponsored Posts and contextual links
- Buying Blogs
- Working with virtual assistants
- Business failures
- Expanding and diversifying
- End Game
Chapters 1-4 were the crux, and 5-8 were additional chapters to help solidify your online empire (buy more blogs, essentially). Each packet was very dense, spanning several thousand words and including a lot of reference material. It did take quite a bit of work, but as with most online courses, there was only marginal ongoing work.
Additionally, since I was not sure that course materials alone would be enough to seal the deal, I offered some additional perks, such as a Private Facebook Group where we would share industry contacts. At the end of the day, people want to make money, so the closer you can bring them to that goal, the more they will be willing to pay.
Lastly, I offered one hour skype lessons, as I did not think that people would pay the money I was asking without some sort of personal interaction. As it turned out, many people did not even bother to follow up on this.
How I Priced The Course
There are three ways to price something (cost, value, competitors). I will discuss all three, and the intersection is where I came up with my pricing.
Cost – The course cost me nothing to make, however, it did take time, which is even more valuable. I estimated that it would take me about 30 hours to write all the material, market the course, and then run it. I was offering 1 hour skype lessons to all the people who signed up, so that was potentially a serious time investment. If I assume 30 hours of my time, then I probably want to have a guaranteed $1k to even run the course, and in an ideal scenario make at least $2k-$3k.
Value – The value of the course is thousands of dollars, if you consider what we were earning on our own travel blogs. Of course, for most people, they would not make thousands, but this is the reality of what people are really willing to put in when they sign up for a course. It is fair to say that there was potential to make thousands, and, as it turns out a few people from the course did make some solid money, in the thousands even.
Competition – As I said before there were no other courses exactly like mine, but there were two courses which appealed to a similar market, they were:
- Green Global Travel – How To Be A Better Blogger ($299)
- Nomadic Matt – How To Be A Better Blogger ($800)
These courses appealed to a similar audience (travel bloggers) but were fundamentally different in what they offered. My course was going to talk about a specific monetization strategy, that was probably not going to be addressed in either of these two courses, however, it did not offer the aspect of being a better blogger that these did.
When all was said and done I decided to charge $200. I think this was the absolute minimum and I certainly could have charged more. I felt that $200 was a healthy amount that would yield good returns from me but also not break the bank. Perhaps I wasn’t 100% confident on how the course would go and if I could deliver. Additionally, I felt that both of these bloggers had more authority than I did and therefore I had to price lower.
At the end of the day, customer willingness to pay is the only thing that matters, but everything should factor into your consideration.
How I Marketed The Course
I did a very below average job marketing the course.
This is in part because I was running the whole thing myself. To be fair though, I felt that the people who were most interested in this course would be the people who have been following my blog the whole time because the course was pretty much being marketed on the back of my own credibility as someone who was making thousands a month off my travel blogs. Therefore, I simply needed to put together a pitch and post it on the blog.
Had I been a bit more savvy I could have done:
- Guest post on travel blogs and advertise the course
- Create an affiliate program where people could refer me for commission
- Personally message bloggers who I thought might be interested
- Create a series of posts leading up to it, to gain momentum
- Run a free webinar series to provide upfront value and answer questions
I also went into a few relevant Facebook groups and found some threads where people were talking about making money on their travel blogs. I messaged a few people who said they were interested in learning how to make money on their travel blog, but didn’t know where to start. Most people were not interested in the course (even though it was the exact answer to their question) but I did pick up one client through that.
At the end of the day, I think if anything held me back it was my own lack of confidence. This prevented me from trying to take the course bigger, because I was worried as to how it would turn out, seeing as it was my first offering of this kind.
Advanced Strategies Used
While I was not an expert marketer this time around I did implement a few strategies I thought would help conversion rates.
Money back guarantee – The first thing I did was offer a money back guarantee for 90 days.
Discount for early sign ups – I also offered the first 5 people a discount of $50 so they only paid $150. This was helpful to get some quick sign ups. In fact, within one or two days I had my first 5, which was the minimum number of people I felt I needed to run the course.
Minimum sign ups – Lastly, I set a minimum number of sign ups to 5, meaning that if I didn’t get at least 5 sign ups I wouldn’t run the course. The material had not been written when I started offering the course, so if I didn’t get 5, then my time loss wouldn’t have been much at all (just the initial pitch really).
All and all, nothing fancy aside from some standard marketing techniques. I did have quite a few people jump early on and ask me if they “got the discount” so I do believe that had some effect in expediting the sign up process.
The Results Of The Course
For the most part the course turned out to be a good investment for everyone. In total I received 17 sign ups which netted me about $3150 for around 30 hours of work. However, I did have two times where the money was refunded, one on request, and one where I proactively refunded the money, because I did not feel that the person was getting enough out of the course, which brings the total to $2750.
Better than that though are the success stories I received from the course. For example, one of our students wrote their first income reports in December and specifically thanked us.
Being In Awe – Blog Income Report December 2013 and several others sent personal messages too thanking me for the information they provided and sharing their success.
I am confident that out of the 17 people at least 6 have done very well for themselves, which represents more than 1/3 of the people who did not ask for their money back. It is very possible too that others have done well.
Of course, I would have loved it if it was a success for everyone who signed up, but that’s just unrealistic and in reality depends a lot more on the individual and their attitude than the course. Certainly some people were in a better position to capitalize on the course than others, but I think the opportunity was there for everyone. You have to realize that you can only provide the information, they have to decide what they are going to do with it.
Lessons Learned And What I Would Do Differently
Know your value
In retrospect, I definitely could have charged more for the course, something closer to what my competitors were charging. $400 would not have been outrageous for the value that was being provided, and it would have made it so only the most committed people were joining. I would rather have 10 people sign up and pay $400 and all be successful, than 17 sign up at $200 and only have be successful. That said, I really grapple with charging people that much money, even with a money back guarantee, but I suppose it is something I will have to get over in the future!
Great opportunity to network
Several of the people who signed up for the course and were successful ended up becoming partners with me on other projects. With one I have directly made thousands. The networking through the course has been great and even having just 5 other people I can call on has really expanded my online network and who I can turn to for advice/favors. Don’t assume just because you are the teacher that you have nothing to learn.
Create a premium version
I think it is a good idea to create a premium version for those who are interested and willing. For example, as part of the course I offered two 1 on 1 skype lessons for 30 minutes each. Surprisingly, barely anyone took me up on this (only 3 total and they only took one lesson). This would have made for a good upsell for those who were really interested. I thought that everyone would want this but I was mistaken. Some people clearly valued it over others. Moreover, since it directly relates to more of my time, it nicely lends itself to a premium version.
As this was my first course I didn’t really know a lot about what I was doing. I didn’t think about how the course was going to be presented or delivered. I just wrote up packets and emailed people as they signed up! For my next course I will definitely look into how I can make it more professional and automated.
Why I Stopped Marketing The Course
It might seem surprising that I did not make a stronger attempt to market the course, even after there were some clear success stories and testimonials I could have leveraged to draw in a larger following.. The short answer is that I felt the course was too good.
Yes, I thought the course was too good.
One of the “mistakes” I made with the course was that I made a course in the field that I worked. Essentially, I created competition for myself and my business.
For example, part of the course teaches people how to find and buy travel blogs on the market place. As people began to make money and build confidence, I actually found that some of my students were scooping up blogs that I would have liked for myself!
Yes, I understand you have to share the wealth, but I had to be careful, as this was already a delicate market that was on the verge of being flooded.
Moreover, during the time period of the course, I learned a few things on my own, namely how to build exactly the kind of blogs that I would buy on Flippa. This was extremely valuable and I couldn’t give it away at the $200 price tag. On the other hand, I hated withholding this information that was so relevant to the course, so I was sort of between a rock and a hard place.
Lastly, I no longer feel that the course is relevant, at least not to the extent that it was when we first started offering it. The market has really calmed down, or should I say, Google has really calmed it down. I don’t want to be teaching outdated information, or something I don’t think will be relevant 6-12 months from now, so I was forced to stop.
While I wasn’t a complete noob (I was an expert in the information I was providing) I had very little idea on how to create and market a course and I still managed to make almost $3k (a rate of about $100/hour).
Courses are an awesome way to try to make money online, and it’s worth it to try to think about your own niche and what value you can add!