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How I Earned $15000 from The Problogger Job Board

This is a guest contribution from Andy Nathan, of Smart at the Start.

I have a secret formula for using the Problogger job board that will enthrall many, and bring others to tears with their boredom. That is OK! I do not want everyone to use what I am about to explain below, because that just means more business for me. 

In fact, I struggled with whether I should even share this information to anyone, because…well… human greed being what it is. Over the past year, I have automated the process on the Problogger job board to the point where I spend roughly 5-10 minutes prospecting for every new client off the board.

Pardon my laziness, but I don’t want to work to get clients business. I want to work to keep their business by focusing on awesome content. This is why the Problogger Job Board is simply the best, as we will discuss below in my step-by-step tutorial. 

My Ideal Client

Before we get into what I did to earn $15,000 from the job board here on Problogger, I want to step back and explain what I believe my ideal client should look like. This is important, because if I did not have a picture of what my ideal client would look like, then I would never know how to use the job board correctly.

First, I do not want to spend time talking to clients if possible. It is not that I don’t like people. I sometimes go to networking events as much for the socialization now as I do for the business referrals. The fact is, speaking with a client is time that I am not writing for other clients or playing Video Catnip and watching my cats go a bit crazy.

20130813_065310Time management is huge as a freelancer. This was something I did not understand when I started. I used to be a “good” salesperson who met every client face to face. Somehow seeing my beautiful mug (see selfie) would magically turn prospects into sales. 

What I realized was that for a 10-20% drop in my close rate, I could do a few less coffees and accomplish a whole lot more for my clients.

As of today, 50% of my clients are people I have never spoken to once in the entire relationship. All communication is through email and social media. What a difference it makes.

Another 25% are people that I connect with over the phone as well as email. 

The remainder are my networking clients. Clients I met through various networking events over the years. Generally, those ones want to meet me face to face and make sure that I am a “real” writer. 

Second, if I have to explain the benefits of blogging this is probably not going to work. I have spent too much time in the past explaining to general contractors, attorneys, and other professionals why blogging is important. 

If you don’t get it, I am sorry. I am not your blogging messiah. I write ridiculously awesome content for you (sometimes in your own voice) optimized for search traffic. However, you go ahead and keep cutting and pasting articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, (old time newspaper fill in the blank), etc. See how well that works! 

Third, I have written close to 3000 blog posts over the past five years. Not saying that to impress you. I am telling you this, because I want compensation for my experience. I personally like having money in my account. The wife is much happier (aka happy life), my bills are paid, and that creeping sense of dread fades away. 

Now for the ProBlogger Job Board info you crave…

Now that we got this little rant about ideal clients out of the way, what did I do to earn money from the Problogger job board? Automation.

First:

I would recommend opening a new tab, so you can follow along while I discuss how I use the board. It is not that you have never seen a job board, but this is my unique twist. You might just want to set this up as you read this post.

Problogger Job Board

Second:

Take in the board for a second. Notice that there are only about 3-5 listings per day. It is not an overwhelming horde of listings, but a constant stream of leads. This is important. When I used this process on Craigslist, the nonsense chatter on the site, even after using the filters, made it an extreme waste of time. Plus, no one likes worthless emails coming into your email box all day.

Third:

Notice in the bottom right corner, there is a subscribe button. This is crucial to my laziness. A RSS feed of all the job posts in one spot. 

Copy the RSS feed below: 

http://feeds.feedburner.com/ProBloggerJobs 

Problogger Job Board RSS Feed

Fourth:

Open a new tab, and type in IFTTT.com. This is an automation site. You can use this for a variety of purposes online. If you don’t have an account on IFTTT, you will need to set one up in about two minutes. Fear not, accounts on the site are free. In fact, for freelance writers this entire process is free. 

When you login, you will go to your dashboard. Below is what my dashboard looks like currently:

IFTTT Recipes

Fifth:

To automate processes you need to create a recipe. Recipes are easy to create. The site’s real name is “If This, Then That.” The entire automation system runs on one equation that you can use for a multitude of purposes.  

IFTTT-IF This Then That

You create recipes that trigger one online platform to perform a task on another online platform. 

While this might sound confusing, the truth is this is simple to use. For our purposes, all you need is the Problogger Job Board URL that you copied and an email address. If you do not have an email address then you can use Gmail. 

Step 1: Select the Feed symbol. 

IFTTT Step 1

Step 2: Decide what type of feed you want to use. Personally, I use the new feed item, because I find the keyword too limiting for my needs. However, if you are looking for targeted terms, then use the “new feed item matches” as a trigger.

IFTTT Step 2 

Step 3: paste the Problogger Job Board feed.

IFTTT Step 3

Steps 4 and 5: choose email icon for your action. You will need to have your email address connected to IFTTT for this to work, so do not give them a spam account. They do not email people a lot, so do not worry about spam.

IFTTT Step 4

Step 5: Click the “Send me an email” link.

IFTTT Step 5

Step 6: make sure you are receiving the best information for the post. Generally, they will include the information you need already. Just double check that the “EntryUrl” is in the email body. 

IFTTT Step 6

Step 7: The finished recipe will look like the one I created last September for Problogger. Confirm that you want to set up the recipe.

IFTTT Step 7

Since last September, I have received 532 emails. While most of the listings are never answered, over the course of the past nine months I probably responded to somewhere between 50 to 100 posts. Out of these posts, I received about 5-10 new jobs that brought in around $15,000 in revenue. 

Now you have the recipe for an automated lead generation process; however, we still have to convert the leads into clients. For that, let me take you behind my conversion process. 

Conversion Time

Now that we have these leads coming in, let’s look at how to convert them into clients. 

Below is the template I use for all leads. I save this as a draft with an attached resume (available on Google Drive for your convenience.) 

While each article is usually a little different, most follow a similar pattern.

I am following up on your request for a (name type of writer needed here). Based on your description I believe I should (put in relevant information you requested in your job board listing about the position here at the top, showing that I do listen to what you requested)

Here are a few articles I wrote recently to give you a feel for my writing style:

http://technorati.com/business/advertising/article/weird-email-marketing-subject-lines-can/

http://www.jeffbullas.com/2014/01/20/53-ways-to-market-your-google-plus-hangout-on-air/

http://www.steamfeed.com/using-wordpress-to-turn-website-social-network/

http://basicblogtips.com/better-social-media-results.html

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-hangouts-air-affect-search-traffic/68138/

Additionally, check out my LinkedIn profile with 13 recommendations. www.linkedin.com/in/andrewmarcnathan

Finally, attached is my resume. 

Please feel free to call me at 847-710-7093 or respond via email with any questions you have for me. 

Thanks!

Andy Nathan

Right now, this email has about a 1 out of 15-success rate. Therefore, I spend two minutes on each email then I will spend 30 minutes total for a new client. Considering some of the clients I brought in have produced thousands of dollars in revenue that is worth it in my opinion. 

Final note: I do not write free sample articles that will determine if I am paid in the future. If someone asks you to write a free article for him or her, run like the dickens

What are the downsides of the ProBlogger job board?

Now, I hate when people give this story about too-good-to-be true stories about a tool, without letting you know about any pitfalls. 

Here are the three downsides that I have found using the Problogger job board:

First, with only five or so leads coming in every day, you will have a number of days where you get no leads. In fact, sometimes I have seen up to a month stretch where I did not feel it was worthwhile to follow up on any of the leads. 

Second, this means do not quit your job and expect this to bring you a full time income right away. I still do other work for clients. The job board just made it easier for me to make money. 

Third, this is a tool to help you find prospects. It is up to you to make sure that they are the right fit for you, as well as a source of potential income. When I started in this industry, my first assignment was for $5 articles. I will never look at laser hair removal the same way again! More importantly, I will never write an article for $5 ever again. My time is more valuable than that. Determine what you believe a fair rate is ahead of time. This is where understanding your ideal client comes in.

Additionally, if you do not have the experience, go out and get it.

Do guest posts to build traffic, and use them in your portfolio. Start networking online and offline to find new clients. Be aggressive when you need to be, and then you can take the easy way out later when you have a healthy portfolio.

This process works for me, because I put in the time and effort to master my craft. Do the same, and do not expect this to be a quick fix. 

Now go forth and be a lazy freelance writer!

That is the process. You are now an expert, so get started with this process right away, so you can discover how easy it is to make money with the Problogger job board. Or if you want to make sure that I have more money in my pocket, you can just go back to your daily activities like nothing has happened. 

Either way, let me know in the comment section below what you found to be the most useful part of this tutorial? 

Andy Nathan is the founder of Smart at the Start, an internet marketing agency. He is also the author of the upcoming book, Start Up Gap. However, since he keeps getting distracted by writing guest posts, responding to Problogger job board inquiries, playing with cats, and other shiny objects, the book is not available until August. In the meantime, you can get a free copy of his eBook, 101 Online Tools: Tools you need to succeed.

Creating Products Week: How to Create Products for Your Blog

Theme Week (1)

Darren  says: Today is part 4 in our ‘creating products’ week here at ProBlogger and now that we’ve done a lot of the ground work and decided on what product to create, we’re moving onto the all-important challenge of actually creating the product that we want to sell on our blog.

This is a huge topic and one that we can’t possibly go into great detail on, as it really does depend upon what kind of product you want to make – but below Shayne gives a great insight on how we do it at ProBlogger.

As usual – I’ll chime in with my perspective along the way.

When I suggested this as a post topic to the ProBlogger team for product, I perhaps underestimated the true breadth of what I was saying. The reality is, to give you all the detail you’d need as a blogger to create a product of your own, it would be multiple books’ worth!

So what I’ll do today is give a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the ProBlogger product-building machine – so you can then adjust what we do for your own specific circumstances.

I’m also going to assume that you’ve read both what to do before you create a product and what product should I create so we can focus purely on the construction side of things.

Think About ‘Selling’ First

When we agree on building a specific product (it might be an eBook, a service (like our SnapnDeals site), a private community (like ProBlogger.com, or even an event), the very first thing we do is: ‘sell it‘.

By ‘sell it’ I don’t mean to our readers, but sell it to ourselves.

This can either be in a team discussion or more formally in what I call a ‘sell sheet‘ – a document that contains all the vital information around the product (drawing on a lot of what you would have done in yesterday’s post).

The reason I like to sell first, build later is sometimes you can get so swept up in the romance of an idea that the practicalities and benefit to your readers get lost in the excitement.

Darren says: Today when we create a product, we go through a more intentional process as a team of ‘selling’ the idea to ourselves as a team.

However, for my first eBooks I didn’t have a team and the ‘sell’ was largely an internal dialogue that I had in my mind.

I remember for my first photography eBook I had three topics that I was considering creating an eBook on. I was tossing up between eBooks on landscapes, portraits ,and something more general on techniques.

I took myself through some of the things that Shayne talked about in yesterday’s post to help me narrow down on the one I’d choose, but also as part of that process, began to think about ‘benefits’ of each eBook and how I’d sell them.

I listed each of these on paper and found by doing so I not only worked out which one I thought we’d sell more of – but by listing how I’d sell the eBook, I was then able to go and write something that would fit those benefits (i.e.: doing this improved the product).

I didn’t know it but in many ways I created the ‘sell sheet’ that Shayne talks about above.

Learn more about how to create a ‘sell sheet’ in this video. It’s a short excerpt of a webinar that Shayne and I ran for ProBlogger.com members last week on the topic of creating and selling eBooks. The full webinar goes into more detail but I thought this little section might help you work out what to put in your sell sheet.


Planning

Once we’ve created our ‘sell sheet’ we lock in a date for launch.

These dates are not just chosen to be when the product is ready – we also take into consideration other factors such as what else that’s happening on the site content wise, what else is happening in the wider business and other seasonal factors. We typcially allow for 4-6 months for creating an eBook and much longer for things like the ProBlogger community.

One of us, depending on the type product we’re developing, will then start to plan out how to create the product.

We don’t over-formalize this process, but rather focus more upon identifying:

  • the key stages of product creation
  • the resources well need
  • the costs we’ll incur

We know that having a plan is important, but also that plans change so we don’t want to be too regimented.

If you’re building your first product, you might not actually know all the different stages. That’s when I’d be going and looking for advice. Find a mentor or mentor group that’s got experiences with these types of products. Pull a favour with someone you know that’s some a similar thing before. Get them to go through all the critical steps and be making lots of notes.

Doing this might create more questions than answers, but a least now you know the questions!

Darren says: Our planning process today is more complex today than when I first started. For example when we create an eBook Jasmin (who manages all the production) will map out key dates and deadlines for all our different processes.

So ahead of time we know when the eBook outline will be completed, when the writing needs to be complete, when the content will be handed over to our designer, when we need to have a title and cover concept finalised, when we need to start creating sales pages, when we need review copies for affiliates, etc.

Having these dates in place even before we start creating the product is really important. We have multiple eBooks at different stages of production at any one time (plus other projects and events on the go) so without timelines like this projects stall.

For my first eBooks, I didn’t have quite so formal a process but I still created a basic timeline and listed out the things I’d need to complete. I also listed the things I’d need to research (eg. shopping carts), the help I’d need to find (a designer) and the skills I’d need to learn that I didn’t yet have (e.g. writing a sales page).

My list was basic and written on a notepad next to my computer. I had to add a lot to it as I went but by at least having something in front of me each day I kept momentum going.


Outlining Your Product

Once you feel comfortable with the plan, it’s time to start outlining your product in more detail.

If it’s an eBook, it will be your table of contents, if it is an e-course outline, the structure and modules, if it’s a community or service, start to map out and wireframe all the different sections and moving parts of the site.

Think of it like drawing up the plans to a house you’re about to build yourself, or hire someone to build it for you.

Now it’s time to build. This is either going to be yourself or you’ll give the green light to someone else.

If it’s yourself, you need to allocate some time. It might be a specific day you allocate, or one hour a morning, or you might be lucky and be able to just bunker down for a few weeks at a time to write.

Figure out an approach that you’re most likely to stick to, and make sure you block out that time in your diary. Once you have done that, it’s up to you to stick to it.

Whilst in creation mode, you should continually check in with your ‘sell sheet’, to make sure you’re still driving towards solving the same problem you set out to, but don’t let it slow your progress. We’ll have time to review later — just keep building and building.

When you get about halfway through the writing or building stages, if you’re anything like me you’ll get a case of the mid-build blues.

You’ll probably start to feel fatigued, disillusioned, distracted, and will wonder if anyone is going to buy what you’re creating.

This is the stage that a lot of great products die – and that’s a real shame.

When you feel those emotions creeping in, I want you to dig deep, find any motivation or inspiration you can, and keep going! Just push to that 60,70, 80% completion mark and you’ll feel closer to the end.

When it’s done you’ll be thankful you did!

From Darren: I won’t lie to you here… some of my least favourite moments in the last 12 years have happened midway through creating products.

The reality is that it is hard work to build something like this, and that to get it done, you need to find a way to focus and be disciplined (something that this blogger with a very short attention span and little will power struggles with).

For me it meant asking those around me to keep me accountable, setting aside time to focus (I’ve been known to lock myself in motel rooms for weekends) and setting myself little rewards for meeting milestones.

The other challenge that I often face mid-product creation is that of fear and doubt. How will people perceive what I’m creating? Will anyone buy it? Is it any good? Am I wasting my time?

I’ve written here about some of how I deal with these fears and doubts.

Lastly, try to keep the WHY of what you’re doing in focus (see yesterday’s post for more on why WHY is so important).


Polish Your Product

Just when you think you are finished… that’s when I can give you the bad news… you’re not!

It’s time to polish.

This is the final 5% that can really make your product stand up.

At this point you need to switch your mind from make mode to review mode, and I’m sure you’ll come up with a few small changes that will make things better.

Involve some of your friends, family or even some of your readers in this review process and you’ll significantly improve your product.

Listen to the feedback you get from and act on what you hear, but be aware that there is a trap.

The key is to remember that you’re ‘polishing’ not ‘perfecting’. There’s no such thing as a perfect product – you need to let that idea go.

There will be always things that you want to change and add to theoretically make things better. It will be never-ending and I can tell you with 100% certainty, you’ll never make a single dollar if you don’t finish your product, so loose ends or not — ALWAYS BE SHIPPING!

Darren says: I think most people fall into one of two categories when they’re at this point.

The first group ‘finish’ creating and never want to look at their product again. The result is they do little reviewing/polishing and ship products that could be better.

The second group spend so much time polishing and perfecting that they either don’t ship anything because the product is never ready or they end up with a product that is over engineered.

Identifying ahead of time which group you’re in and coming up with strategies to combat your weakness is important.

If you’re in the first group (like me) involving others in the review and polish can be helpful. Also blocking out time for this important task is important before you rush off to your next idea.

If you’re in the second group setting a deadline for shipping can be important too. There has to be a point where you stop!

My last advice for this stage is to echo what Shayne says about involving others. If you’ve authored your product yourself you are probably too close to it to be objective and will miss obvious errors and deficiencies – so whether it is by paying others for editing/proof reading or by giving a small group of readers free access in return for feedback – get others’ feedback before you launch your product.


Outsourcing

A special note for those using suppliers to create your product: for a lot of you, the biggest resource you’ll use will be yourself. However, technical services you might create, or online courses and communities, might involve a wider team.

Your choices on who works on your project can have a huge bearing on the end result. Don’t just pick someone at random, or the cheapest resource you can find.

Make sure they understand exactly what you are trying to achieve, make sure they have the skills and experience to deliver what you want, and make sure they have the commitment to see it to the end.

At the end of the day it’s your name attached to the product not theirs, so choosing the right person is so important.

Be Proud

Above all – be proud of what you create.

Even if the product isn’t as commercially successfully as you hoped it to be know that by creating it you’ve achieved something only a small number of people will in their lives.

For that, you get a hat tip from me!

30 Lessons from Selling $30 Million Worth of eBooks

This is a guest contribution from our very own Shayne Tilley.

class snapshots

Before you hit me up for a loan, let me preface this post. That number represents eBooks sold in for various masters and partners in the last decade. Yes there are a couple of mine in there, but it’s a tiny fraction of a % of the total.

Okay, with that out of the way, a big part of my digital life has revolved around eBooks. I’ve been trying to sell eBooks before anyone really knew what they were. I’ve tried just about every approach, channel, launch strategy there is, and made pretty much every mistake in the eBook. I’ll admit, a lot of the time I was making it up as I went along. There were no rules to this eBook game.

If you’re about to start your own journey with eBooks here are 30 lessons I learnt along the way…

1. Good eBooks sell eBooks

When it comes to selling eBooks, there are lots of techniques and tactics that will people motivated to buy, but there is none more powerful that a great eBook.

True word of mouth will sell more copies than your marketing copy ever will.

2. Page count doesn’t matter (when it comes to pricing)

People are happy to spend a $100 on an eBook that solves a problem they put a high value on. Higher than the eBook price anyway. The length of your eBook should be as long at it needs to be to deliver the value you promise.

Don’t pad for price.

3. Some people are great at explaining things, some are not

I read and listen to people like Darren and my friend Kevin Yank and I know they are better at explaining things than I am.  It’s the truth but it didn’t stop me writing two eBooks. It did teach me that I needed to focus on the skills I wanted to improve on.

4. Momentum early pays off immediately and in the long run

Every eBook I’ve launched that has gained great early momentum (and was evergreen) has always delivered the most over a long period of time.

Don’t think about what you’ll earn from great launch now; think of the impact momentum will carry over the life of the eBook.

5. You’re not actually selling content

I’m talking about practical eBooks here. You can read / listen / watch for free on the web a how-to on any topic.  EBooks organise things for us into a nice little bundle and often have a higher editorial standard. That convenience and quality is what we buy, not the content. There are exceptions to this I’ll admit, but it’s something to think about

6. The story matters

People care about why you wrote the eBook just as much as what’s inside. When you tell a story and share emotions, people will be a lot more inclined to listen to what you have to say.

7. Marketplaces find buyers but screw with your pricing

If you want to play in the sub $10 eBook market then getting your eBook into places like iEBookstore and Amazon are a no brainer.  But they’ll work against you if you want to aim higher than that.

Used well, these marketplaces can reach millions of readers but if you have your own audience you might not need to bend to their will.

8. Reviews matter

Bad reviews can kill eBooks – legitimate or not. Sometimes there’s not much you can do about a bad review but you should know what people are saying. Don’t just look at Amazon reviews, Google ‘[your eBook] review’ and see what comes up.

Chances are your potential customers already are.

9. Print is still prestige

Whilst this is perhaps fading, printed books carry more prestige than an eEBook. You might consider printing a small batch of books so you can give them to your clients (and your mom).  This is even more important if your eBook is the bait not the fish (we’ll talk about that later).

10. Evergreen lives longer, relevant launches bigger

If you want your eBook to live a long life then evergreen content is the way to go. If you want a big win now, a timely eBook is an option as long as you remember that the clock on the longevity of your sales is already ticking.

11. You’ll sell more than anyone else will

You just stick your eBook on Amazon and let Amazon work it’s magic, right?  Wrong. Don’t expect to create an eBook and just magically sell your way to retirement.

You’ve got to continue to sell you and the eBook at every moment, if you want it to pay the bills.

12. If there are 100 of the same eBooks on your topic, you need an audience

The amount of times people talk to me about their social media eBook does my head in. Honestly. There are so many eBooks on this topic already – why would someone buy yours?

If you’re going to plonk your eBook into an open marketplace with a bunch of similar eBooks that already have history, sales and reviews, you might be wasting your time. But if you already have your own audience and can launch it to them, you might just get some instant momentum.

13. Invest in an editor, and or a proofreader

People expect quality in eBooks. I don’t care how good a word nerd you think you are. Get a second opinion.

14. There’s not such thing as a perfect eBook

Don’t expect to create the perfect eBook. It doesn’t exist and probably never will.  For the perfectionists, call it done and ship!  You won’t make any money with it in draft.

15. Even the niche of a niche can be profitable

Don’t think you need to create the next 50 Shades of Grey to make good money.  Even the super niches are large enough to create a volume of buyers and well worth your while.

The wider the niche the more potential customers but the more competitive it will be, so it’s a balancing act.

16. Write your blog post / press release first

This is a technique I use to understand who my readers are and what they want.  Your sales page should be full of benefits and promises. Write those promises first, then make sure your eBook delivers on them as you create it.

17. You might have an eBook and you don’t even know it

Two of the most successful eBook publishers I’ve worked with created their first eBook as a collection of posts – with a few extra bits wrapped up in a nice design.

Remember what you’re selling, then look at what you’ve created already and you just might find an eBook in there.

18. Think in launch month, not launch day

I’m not going to talk much more about launches, as there’s another 30 lessons in there.  But if your launch plan is only one day – you really need to talk to me!

19. Get someone else to review or write your sales copy

Of the hundreds of eBooks I’ve launched, the only sales pages I didn’t write were for my own two eBooks. Why? Because I just couldn’t be objective.

You’re likely to focus on the hard parts to write, which probably are not the part your readers care about. You’ll infer and miss stuff — it’ll get messy. Get someone else to do it, or, at a minimum get someone else to pick it to pieces for you.

20. Sometimes you just can’t pick ‘em

I’ll guarantee you this, there’s no guarantee or sure fire success when it comes to eBooks. Sometimes you can pick ‘em and other times, they’ll come out of left field.

But you’ll never know if you don’t try.

21. You’ll be surprised who doesn’t help spread the word

When you launch you eBook, there will be a bunch of people who you’re convinced will help you spread the word. You’ll learn a lot about the people who do and who don’t.

22. Your perfect launch day was probably yesterday

I’ve spoken about this before, there is no one size fits all perfect launch day (or every single eBook would launch on the same day!). So just get it done and stop worrying about when.

23. Your eBook can be the bait, or the fish

You can write eBooks, charge money and that’s your income. You can write eBooks, charge money and open doors. Or you can give away eBooks to sell other products and services.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these plans however, you need to understand your objectives and focus on them – rather than trying to get the best of every world.

24. Lots of people will tell you it’s easy

Creating an eBook isn’t easy. There are lots of things to think about and anyone who tells you it is easy probably has a product to lead you to. That said, it’s hard work done once and can be extremely valuable. At a minimum, it’s something to be really proud of.

25. It’s not a forever investment

There is a time-limit on every eBook. Well, maybe not all eBooks – but most. Don’t expect that in a decade, you’ll still be selling the same eBook in the thousands.

If you want to keep the revenue flowing, think about new editions and new titles.

26. Procrastinators need a stick

My stick is my partner Justine, and Problogger’s stick is Jasmine, our eBook creator (she’s a wonderful person!). If you procrastinate, you need help. Find it in any way you can, or you’ll never ship.

27. Titles and cover images matter (even digitally)

Think about what your title means to a reader, now and tomorrow. Think about how they will remember your title and how they will describe it to others.

Coming up with a great eBook title is a bit of an art form like email subject lines and headlines but you don’t have as much chance of running A/B tests to get it right!

28. Split your selling and your writing

This is really a tip about your mindset. When you’re writing, you’re delivering a message to your reader and you need to focus on doing the best possible job. Immerse yourself and be narrow-minded.

When it comes to selling, you need to approach it as objectively as you can. Try to think like your selling someone else eBook not your own — or get some help

29. What worked for them, won’t always work for you

If enough people try something, eventually someone will get it right but that doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Someone else’s success is probably during a different time, on a different topic with different readers – and you’re a different writer.

Your perfect launch story is your own.

30. Just go with it

Of all the things that scare you about putting an eBook out on show, the reward (even if it’s just a personal one) will be worth it.  I’m a two-time author who got D’s in English.  If I can do it then you can!

So there you have it, 30 things I learned selling a crap load of eBooks.  I’m sure there are more so I’d love to hear about some in the comments!

5 Tips for Launching a Product On Your Blog Without Annoying Your Readers

“Darren, I have written an eBook but am struggling with how ‘pushy’ to be with my readers in my marketing of it. I want to sell some but don’t want to annoy my readers. Any tips?”

This question hit my inbox today and I thought I’d share some of my reply here.

Great question – I remember these feelings vividly when I launched the first eBooks on ProBlogger and dPS.

On one hand, you want to sell as many copies as possible to make the long writing process worthwhile. You know that to sell those copies you need to let your readers know you’ve got something to sell….

But on the other hand, you don’t want your readers to all disappear because you never talk about anything else than what you’ve got to sell.

The answer is annoyingly… ‘it’s a balancing act’. There is no right or wrong answer but here’s what I’ve learned:

1. If you don’t promote it – nobody else will (at least in the beginning)

Most of us have the fantasy that we’ll release our eBook and that before we know it, word of mouth will make it viral across the internet and we haven’t had to much more than tweet that it’s available.

The harsh reality is that unless you’re Oprah (or you have access to Oprah’s Twitter account) – this is highly unlikely! While things do go viral and word of mouth can be an important factor online, the sooner you face the reality that you are going to be the one who will be needing to spread word of your new product … at least initially (and probably longer than that).

Down the track you might find that the people who buy your product begin to tell others about it but you need to be the one to seed that and to do so you’ll almost certainly need to promote it to the readers you’ve already got.

2. Make it an Event

When I first launched ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog‘ I remember being really concerned about a reader rebellion taking place. Not so much because I was going to annoy readers by promoting the eBook but because I was selling them something for the first time – after years of providing free content.

What amazed me was the good will of my readership. The first time I mentioned I was developing something to sell on my blog (about a month before I launched it) the news was actually celebrated by some of my readers.

There were many congratulations and lots of requests for more information about when it would launch – how much it would be, what would it include etc.

There was no real strategy in mentioning it, except perhaps softening the blow with my readership. However, by doing so I inadvertently created some anticipation among my readers about the launch of the product.

As I got closer to launching the eBook, I began to talk about it more and more and in doing so the anticipation of the launch grew. I realised that I was not only not annoying my readers – they were actually enjoying the process.

The launch of the eBook became something of an event on ProBlogger. It was celebrated by my readership rather than something I had to convince my readers to put up with as a necessary evil.

I realised the eBook was something my readers be part of. That fact that it was very practical and useful helped in this but for me, I learned the power of bringing readers along on a journey of releasing your product.

3. Develop a Multi-pronged Launch Campaign

When we release an eBook on Digital Photography School we generally launch over a 3-4 week period and take a fairly multi-pronged approach.

During that period we map out a series of communications that will go out.

For example, we’re currently launching our brand new Landscape Photography eBook (as I write this we’re about to enter week #2 of our launch) and the launch will probably play out like this:

Prelaunch: we use social media to build a little buzz before launch by showing the cover, running some competitions to get readers guessing the topic etc. We send a few key affiliates advanced copies of the eBook for them to review.

Launch Day: on launch day we email our full list with a sales email, post an announcement on the blog and do a series of status updates on social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest). We also typically email our affiliates about the eBook and our eBook author promotes it to their own network. The strong message in the email, blog post etc is about an Early Bird special.

Week 1: Over the first week we promote the eBook a number of times on social media but don’t write about it again on the blog unless it is a ‘by the way’ type mention when we touch on a relevant topic. We also mention the eBook in our weekly newsletter.

Also during week 1 (and sometimes each week during the launch) I’ll run a ‘challenge’ with readers to get them taking photos on a theme related to the eBook and showing those photos (here’s an example from this last week).

7 Days After Launch: We typically email our list again and post on the blog with a 2nd communication about the blog. This week we’re launching a competition for buyers of the eBook but other times we’ve emailed other messaging.

Week 2: we try to post some posts on the blog during week 2 that are guest posts on the same topic as the eBook, often by the same authors. It is important to me that these posts don’t just promote the eBook but they also deliver value whether people buy the eBook or not.

We also again mention the eBook in the weekly newsletter.

14/21 Days After Launch: Depending how the launch goes we may send a ’1 week to go’ email at this point to let readers know that the Early Bird Special is coming to an end. We might also include some testimonials from readers at this point and might also link to the posts that the author has done on the blog.

Week 3: often we’ll post more guest posts on the blog this week and will continue to pepper social media with occasional messages.

Last Chance Email: with 48-24 hours to go until the early bird offers end we send a very short ‘last chance’ reminder email. This is usually just a few lines.

Every launch is different and we’ve done a variety of other things for different launches like posting interviews with authors, running webinars, giving away excerpts from the eBooks, running competitions in the lead up to launches and much more.

The key here is to think about what messaging you’ll do through out the launch and not just to send the same message out each day over and over.

You’ll see in the above that each week has its own theme that helps take readers on a journey.

We also make sure that a fair few of the blog posts that mention the eBook during the campaign are actually valuable to readers whether they buy the eBook or not. My goal is not just to sell readers eBooks but also to equip ALL of my readers in the topic we’re exploring during the launch.

4. Keep Delivering Value Outside of the Launch Communications

A key objective for me during all our launches is to continue to deliver high value to readers during the launch period that is outside of the launch. So while we’re certainly promoting the eBook during the above launch there’s also the normal level of blog posts going up on the blog about other topics.

On a typical week on dPS I publish 14 tutorials – during a launch week it remains at this level. The same thing is true on social media – we continue to share great content on social that is not related to the launch.

So anyone who doesn’t want to buy the eBook still is getting other value out of the site during the launch.

This takes concerted effort as you get excited about the launch and tired from creating all the messaging for the launch – but it is very important. I’ve seen many bloggers fall into the trap of only ever talking about their products on their blog for a month while they launch something and in doing so the momentum of their actual blog stops.

Don’t let this happen or you might just find that after your product launch you have no readers left!

5. Listen to Your Readers

During your launch sequence, pay a lot of attention to any feedback you are getting from readers.

If they begin to complain about the launch, this might be a signal to take the foot off the pedal slightly. If they’re excited it’s a signal that you’re hitting the mark.

Also watch your sales numbers. Generally, there comes a point during a launch when your communication starts to be less effective. This is a signal that you might want to draw the campaign to a close.

When we launch an eBook we never quite know how long the launch will go. We may put aside 4 weeks but if things slow we might cut it back to 3. If there is momentum we can always extend it.

Over time as you release more products you can also compare one launch to another to help identify whether you are onto a big launch or one that might be worth calling to an end sooner than later.

What Would You Add?

The above process does involve promoting your eBook and the reality is that any promotion will annoy some of your readers. You are likely to get some pushback every time.

But I’ve found if you make your launches relevant to readers in terms of topic, you promote something of high value and you work hard to deliver value during a launch that most readers will not only put up with your launch – but many will celebrate it and participate in it with you!

I’d love to hear your tips and experiences with launching products. What have you done to launch without annoying your readers?

What If We Put As Much Effort into Writing Blog Posts as Public Speaking?

In just under 2 weeks I’ll be standing on this stage at the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, giving a keynote at World Domination Summit in front of just under 3000 people.

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It is an incredible honour to be invited to speak at this event and I’m very grateful to Chris for the invitation – but honestly – the thought of standing in front of 3000 to give a 45 minute talk make me a little nervous!

As a result, you can imagine that over the last few months I’ve been putting considerable time into preparation!

I have:

  • Filled many pages in notebooks with ideas and notes
  • Mind-mapped the talk many times, on whiteboards in my office
  • Spent hours fine tuning my keynote/powerpoint presentation
  • Talked with family and friends many times about the points I’m sharing
  • Read many articles, books and watched many videos on the topic I’m talking about
  • Started practicing the talk and honing how it flows. This is something I’ll do a lot more of.

I’ve already put 50+ hours into preparing for this 45 minute keynote and I’ll put more in over the next couple of weeks.

Yesterday, as I was working on the talk I found myself comparing the preparation of this talk for 3000 people to the process I go through when writing a blog post. There are some definite similarities (and I’ll cover them in a future post) but there is one difference that hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I spend considerably less time on blog posts, despite the fact that they have the potential to reach a lot more people.

Here on ProBlogger this blog receives around 20,000 visitors a day.

While a single blog post doesn’t get read by all of them… over its lifetime it has the potential to be read by many, many more.

However, I’ve never ever spent 50+ hours on a blog post!

A blog post certainly is different to a keynote. For starters, there is a lot less content. I have written some long posts in my time but none would take 45 minutes to read! Even so, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we put as much effort into crafting each blog post as preparing for a public presentation.

What do you think?

EXERCISE: Deep Dive into Your Content Analytics

Today I spent a couple of hours doing my monthly deep dive into Google Analytics.

While hardly a day goes by that I don’t check my blogs stats (usually just to see traffic levels and sources of traffic etc) I try to set aside a longer period of time, at the start of each month, to do a little more in depth analysis.

I find these deep dives are always insightful, and they often shape the coming month’s blogging.

So here’s a little exercise for you to do today.

It will require you to have an analytics program. If you don’t yet have one, installing one is your first exercise for the day. I recommend Google Analytics.

If you already have some analytics installed, look at your stats for the last month. Looks at which blog posts were the most popular, with the objective of learning something to inform your next month’s publishing.

There’s any number of things you can do this analysis including looking at:

  • What was the post about – can you do a followup post?
  • Was there something about the content that made it attractive to readers? A provocative title,  a great image, the voice/style of the post?
  • Where did the traffic come from? Is there an opportunity to build relationships with other sites to see this happen again?
  • Did traffic come from a social media site? What made the post shareable? Can you replicate this in future posts?
  • What kind of comments were left on the post? Were their questions you could follow up on in a new post?

 

I did this same exercise earlier today with content on Digital Photography School. Here’s just a taste of some of the observations I made on my top 5 most visited posts on the site last month:

1. 3 Stupidly Simple Reasons Why Most People’s Photography Does Not Improve

This was an older post I updated and reposted on the site.

  • The lesson: sometimes posts from years ago can be given a new lease of life.
  • I suspect the title on this post had a ‘curiosity factor’ that intrigued people into clicking to see if they made the mistakes being talked about in the post.
  • The post had a strong call to comment with directions on the type of comments I was looking for. The result – loads of comments.
  • The post was not advanced reading – it was 3 simple ideas/tips that many people could relate to. Sometimes simple posts perform the best.
  • Traffic came from a spread of sources but it did particularly well on Facebook with little more than a link on our Facebook page. We also saw 2000 visits from a photography forum that I’d not heard of before that I’ll go exploring in.
  • There were 30+ comments with questions asked – I’ve made a list of these to consider for future articles.

 

2. Getting Landscapes Sharp: Focus Stacking

This one was a bit of a surprise for me when I saw it ranking as the #2 most visited post in the last month because ‘Focus Stacking’ is a topic that is a little more nichey/specialised than many of the posts we cover.

  • My suspicion is that the title probably saved the day on this one as it states a clear benefit of reading the post in ‘getting landscapes sharp’. Benefits in titles often work well!
  • When I looked at the stats, I noticed it had two quite distinct spikes in traffic coming into it. This is unusual. Digging deeper it seems that the first spike was due to our newsletter being sent and the second spike, almost a week later, was when it saw a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon.
  • A few of the comments on the post ask for tips on the same technique in other types of post production software – these could make good followup posts.
  • People reading this post stayed on the site about 40% longer than the average visitor to the site – it seemed to get people reading through the post at a deeper level.

3. My Most Common Portrait Mistake

I had a feeling when we published this post that it would do well.

  • The reason being… the posts about the mistakes I make seem to draw readers into the blog.
  • This post did pretty well on Facebook. I’m not exactly sure why but I suspect it was shared by someone with a good following as Facebook sent quite a bit higher numbers of traffic than a typical post.
  • The idea of ‘mistakes’ posts has given me ideas for a series like this but with some of our other regular writers.

4. 20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

This post succeeded for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly – Travel photography is a hot topic for us on the site. We try to slip in a travel related post every couple of weeks.
  • The title was another reason this post did so well. It signals a ’20 tips’ post, which sounds comprehensive and it makes a claim of everyone needing to know what it contains. These kind of claims always makes people come to see if they know all 20 (you need to be able to back up the claim though with solid content).
  • This post also had some strong imagery, which always enhances the post and helps make it more shareable.
  • Traffic sources were pretty typical on this one (Newsletter and Facebook were most) although it also did quite well with Google+. I managed to track down who shared it and have followed up with that person to thank them.
  • Traffic was also strong because another travel related blog linked to it. I contacted that blogger to see if they might be interested in us writing a guest post for them – it could be a good relationship to have for both sites.

5. 15 Fantastic Freckle Photos

  • These ‘image collections’ always do quite well on dPS so I’m not surprised to see it in the top 5. Our readers love inspirational photos.
  • Having said that, I am a little surprised it didn’t do even better. We often see quite good traffic on these types of posts from Pinterest and traffic from that site was next to nothing. I guess freckles don’t hit the spot over there!
  • Again, this post saw some nice traffic from another blog that I’ve not heard of before which gives me a great opportunity to get to know that blogger and explore how we can work together in the future.
  • Interestingly the ‘time on site’ for those viewing this post was about half an average viewer. Obviously people just scan the post and then move on so while they can be good for traffic they don’t stick around as long as a text heavy post.

That’s just one of the areas that I dig into when I deep dive into Google Analytics. I’d love to hear what you do when you look at your stats and to hear what you’ve found today by doing a similar content related deep dive.

Do You Make These 6 Domain Name Mistakes?

I’m regularly asked about the mistakes I made when starting out with blogging and the first two words that usually spring to mind are  ‘Domain Names’.

Most of the early mistakes I made (and some of the more recent ones) have revolved around domain names. Let me run through a few:

1. Not Getting My Own Domain Name

The first mistake I made was not to get my own domain name at all.

The year was 2002 and a couple of hours after reading my first blog, I was ready to start my own. After looking at how everyone else was doing it, I decided to use Blogspot (Blogger) as my platform because it promised me that I’d have my own blog up and running in minutes. At the time I’m not sure Blogspot allowed me to use my own domain (you can today) but within a few months of starting that blog I was already regretting not using one of the other hosted blogging services.

I felt trapped on the Blogspot domain and realised how little control I had, especially in terms of design. So began to research switching. I initially switched over to MovableType and later to WordPress and at that point I registered my first ever domain.

Having your own domain name is beneficial in many ways. It shows readers you’re serious about what you’re doing, it helps build your brand and credibility, enables you to have an email address with that same branding and can also help with SEO.

Lastly, having your own domain name gives you more control, which means you’re not going to be switched off for breaking the terms of service of whatever host you’re on.

Switching my blog to a hosted blogging platform and getting my own domain name was a big part in my blog’s growth in the early years. At the time of switching, I was nervous that I’d lose all my readers and any search rankings I achieved but I need not have worried – it only grew my readership!

2. Getting an Aussie Domain

OK – so I’d made my first big decision to switch my blog to my own domain. This helped my blog a lot, however in doing so I inadvertently made another mistake (in fact, two mistakes).

The first one was registering the .au extension for my domain name. Now this may not be a mistake for everyone but for me it was.

I’m an Aussie but at the time of choosing my domain most of my readers were in the US. I didn’t realise it but by choosing an Australian (.au) domain name I was making my blog more findable in search engines to Australians – but not to a global audience.

This was both a blessing and a curse. It meant I got some nice traffic from Google.com.au as there were fewer Aussie sites competing for that traffic however, the overall number of people searching the web in Australia is much smaller than the global number of people searching the web.

If you’re looking to build a localized audience by all means consider a local domain. If you’re looking for a global audience I’ve found .com domains to be much better.

3. Not getting a .com domain

The other mistake was choosing the .org domain. At the time legally entitled to use the .org domain as I was involved with a church and a leader of that community. It seemed appropriate as part of what I was doing with my first blog was related to that church but in time, my goals with the blog changed to become more commercial.

Using the .org.au domain and running a commercial blog wasn’t really a good idea. It probably didn’t comply with the rules but it also wasn’t very good for my branding either.

4. Conflicting Brands

By this point I’d only been blogging for 18 months but I saw a real evolution of my blog. I started blogging about church, spirituality, almost as a personal blogger. As I developed my voice and began to experiment with different topics and with making money from my blogging, I made the mistake of keeping all my blogs on the one domain.

My domain name was livingroom.org.au (it’s still live today if you want to take a look) but on it I hosted a number of blogs that didn’t sit well together as an overarching brand.

I had a church information site, my personal blog, a camera review blog, a camera phone blog, an olympic games blog and more – all sharing the ‘livingroom’ brand.

It was messy, particularly when I began to try to grow my readership and start talking with potential advertisers for my main blog – the camera review blog.

Having said all of that and having made all of those mistakes – the blogs did grow to a point where I was able to make a decent living from blogging. This should hopefully serve as an encouragement to those of you who might have made similar mistakes – you can still have success!

5. Not Getting the .com for ProBlogger When I Could Have

In 2004, I decided I wanted to start a blog about blogging where I’d share tips on blogging and how to make money from blogs (something I’d been doing for almost a year). I’d previously been writing on the topic of blogging in a category on my personal blog but wanted to bring all those posts over onto a domain specifically for bloggers.

I decided upon the name of ProBlogger but someone had already registered the domain ProBlogger.com (they were originally developing a tool for bloggers) – so I got ProBlogger.net.

At the time, I didn’t reach out to the owner of that domain because they looked to be building something and what they were building was quite different to my intentions for ProBlogger so I thought we could co-exist.

In time, the owner of that domain stopped developing their tool and ‘parked’ the domain. At this point I reached out to see if they’d sell it to me. I don’t remember exactly what they asked for but it seemed steep (it was somewhere around $1000 from memory).

I reached out to the owner numerous times after that initially approach but the numbers they asked for got higher and higher (mainly because I was growing demand by having success with my blog and the word ‘ProBlogger’ began to be commonly used to describe people making money with blogs).

It was important for me to get the .com domain, mainly because I wanted to defend the brand. Having ProBlogger.net was ok, but .com was more common and I knew everyday readers were ending up on someone else’s site looking for me (note: ProBlogger.com is coming up for a big overhaul in the coming months).

Eventually, they put the domain up for auction and after a roller coaster of a ride I purchased it (for quite a bit more than they’d originally asked).

The lesson I learned was that if I am serious about a brand, back myself and buy the domain early.

6. Hyphens

The last mistake I made with domains was when I started Digital Photography School in 2006.

The site was started as something of an impulsive experiment so I didn’t put a lot of thought into the domain – but I wish I had.

While having hyphens isn’t a terrible thing in terms of search engines (although lately I’m wondering if that is changing) it is a real mouthful to communicate to people when you’re telling them the domain of your site.

As with most of the above mistakes – this wasn’t a mistake big enough to sink my sites development, dPS is my biggest site today, however it is/was a regret of sorts!

What ‘Mistakes’ have you Made with Domains?

I know I’m not the only one who has made mistakes with domain names – help me feel better about mine by sharing yours below!

9 Steps to Creating a Successful e-Course

NewImageIt seems so effortless from the outside: Record some audio, shoot a little video, schedule a few emails, throw in a live call. Shaazam! You’ve got an e-Course.

But when you dive in to actually create your own course, you may get:

  • frustrated – ‘What do people actually need to know to get started on Pinterest? I thought I knew:,’ or
  • overwhelmed – ‘I know so much about eating paleo. I have to include everything, but it’s too much!’ or
  • despairing – ‘Everybody knows everything about marketing, why would they listen to me?’

Welcome to teaching! It only looks easy because you’re looking at someone else’s finished product.

But, if you have the desire to share what you know, here are the steps you can take to create your own successful e-Course – without hiding in endless hours of Angry Birds or eating a pint of triple fudge cookie dough ice cream.

1. Dump Your Brain

First dive into the question, ‘What do I MOST want to teach?’ by writing non-stop for 10 minutes. If you lose steam, repeat the question but keep your hand moving!

Stream of consciousness is the key.

Don’t try to restrict your choices too soon. It’s comforting to make decisions – it makes us feel safe – but do it too soon and a lot of juicy bits may get left out. Or you just might find yourself teaching something you aren’t invested in – which is a quick way to exhaustion and burnout.

Take a dance break to get the creative juices flowing, then ask yourself:

  • Since nothing is off limits for me to teach, I could include:
  • The best learning experiences I’ve had included:
  • The worst learning experiences I’ve had included:

Write for 3 to 5 minutes for each question. You are diving deeper. You’ll repeat ideas, get bored: just keep writing. You are investing all of 25 minutes tops. No big deal.

Reward yourself with another dance break. Or coffee. Or a walk. Taking a break from thinking is essential. From my own work and from working with teachers I know that your results will simply be MUCH, much better.

2. Find the Core

Your next job is to find the one core idea of your course.

The biggest reason a course never comes together or doesn’t work is because the teacher tries to cover too much. Put yourself in your students’ shoes – they want a problem solved. Help them learn one thing. And then help them learn the next one thing. Restrain yourself from drowning them with a fire hose of too much material and they will reward you with loyalty and repeat business.

Now read through your brain dump. Look for the frustrations you most want to solve or the outcomes you most want to lead people to. What themes keep showing up? List those.

Now look for the uber-theme – Which idea has the most energy for you or encompasses all your other themes?

Not sure? Pick one theme and brainstorm 3 to 5 takeaways people would learn. Be as concrete as you can. Now ask yourself, ‘What is the core idea behind these takeaways?’

Write your core idea on a post-it note and keep it front and center as you continue to work on creating your course. This is your critical content filter and focus-er. Only content and exercises that fit this idea – and support your takeaways – go into this course.

Everything else is for another course. Keep a notebook or computer file open to jot those other ideas down as a jump-start for next time!

3. Befriend the Critic

This is usually when your negative inner chorus chimes in with helpful comments like, ‘Nobody will ever buy this,’ or ‘Everybody knows this stuff already,’ or simply, ‘This sucks.’

Instead of believing these voices and losing momentum or ignoring them entirely – which drains your energy because they are still yammering in the background – write down what they are saying. Get this repetitive chatter onto paper. Then use it to improve your course.

Here’s how:

Take the list and cross out every word that is pure meanness, that sounds like your 7th grade English teacher, or that you no longer believe – in other words, old news and not your stuff. Use a big black Sharpie.

Look at what’s left. Ask yourself, ‘Is there any insight here that can help me create a course that I love to teach and that helps people?’

For example, if your inner mean chorus insists your design is hideous, get curious. What design tweaks could help this round of your course, tweaks that you have the time and resources to implement?

If your critics shouts, ‘Nobody will buy this,’ make a list of where your just-right students hang out. Ask for guest posts now, comment on related posts (use Google Alerts to find them,) comment on Facebook. Use these insights to take action.

Certain you have nothing original to say? When I wrote my first book proposal, I was 26 and felt like a fraud, so I wrote in a stuffy pretend-therapist voice. Everybody turned the proposal down.

I rewrote it in my authentic voice and two of the world’s biggest publishers wanted it. If your critics are whining about originality, check in: Are you valuing your voice, your stories, and your ideas, or are you trying to be like everybody else?

Here’s the SECRET to using this process: Your inner critics worship perfection. Perfection kills creativity and stops forward motion. ‘Good enough,’ and ‘What serves my students?’ are your mantras here. Use what you can and leave the rest!

4. Steal like A Teacher

I teach a writing retreat every year in Taos, New Mexico, and one idea that gets everybody excited – and makes writing for them so much easier – is learning to see and ‘steal’ other writers’ structures.

The idea is simple – read to find how a piece of writing is organized and then use that structure for your own content. You can do the same thing when you are developing a course – steal structure and pour your content in (No stealing content!) The structure helps you remember what you know because the mind likes to know where to put things.

Look for structures like ’3 videos, 7 emails, 4 live calls’ and dig deeper to understand how the structure supports the material. For example, in TeachNow, there is a class and transcript for each module, and then short audios and videos that build out or supplement a few ideas from the class, for people who want to go deeper.

Go hunt for structures that fit your core idea, as well as your just-right student’s needs and lifestyle.

5. Name the Steps

Effective learning is broken into incremental steps that build on each other. But it can be tricky to name these steps because you are so close to your material.

Use your imagination to go back in time to when you were first learning your subject. Feel into one aha moment – maybe when your first understood how to grip a golf club or how to listen to your partner with an open heart. From this place, describe one thing you want your students to learn.

You don’t have to create the steps in order; you can order the steps afterward. Let beginner’s mind guide you and start wherever you feel the most ‘juice.’

Before you write or record a step, ask: Does this fit with my one core idea?

6. Tangible Takeaways

Learning is elusive – and people are so overwhelmed with information overload already – it’s damn hard to get concepts to ‘stick.’ Think about it: How much do you remember from the last course you took? The book you read or listened to last night?

You can up your course’s ‘sticky’ factor by asking students to name what they have learned – throughout the course, if possible.

  • Ask students to take one concrete action today based on what they just learned.
  • Prompt people to share one takeaway per module or per week on a private Facebook group.
  • Ask students to record a video or audio sharing their top three takeaways from the entire course.
  • Ask students to send in one takeaway after a live call and include their website address.
    • Compile an email that goes to all your students or that you share on your blog with live links to their sites, as an extra incentive.

Most e-Course designers skip the takeaways because they assume nobody wants ‘more work.’ Make a case for how much benefit they’ll receive from doing so. Challenge them to try it once, just to ‘prove you right or prove you wrong.’

Takeaways also teach YOU what people are learning. Knowing this will help you rejigger your course and your marketing because you will see how people are actually using the material. And it will give you ideas for new courses. It’s precious stuff!

7. Beta

The only way to learn to teach is by teaching. The only way to see if your material works is to test it on real people. This why teaching is so scary – it’s like performing, even when you aren’t offering anything live.

Here’s how to make it easier: talk to other people who have created courses. Ask them:

  • How did they deal with their fears?
  • How did they weather negative feedback or unhappy students?
  • How did they market?

Peer support normalizes so much!

And remind yourself you are NOT your work. This has kept me sane for 21+ teaching and writing years. You are amazing – you, separate from your work. How your work lands or is received is no reflection on your worth as a human.

8. Build in Regular Feedback

I send out an email three times over the 3-month TeachNow course, asking for student feedback about the course. I ask these questions:

  • What has been your biggest takeaway in TeachNow so far?
  • What has shifted for you because of this learning? How have you applied it?
  • What did you think you would learn by now that you haven’t?

I offer a gift if feedback is given by a certain date. By doing so, I gather feedback when it’s fresh for people and encourage a sense of ownership in learning. If your course is delivered all at once, you can ask for feedback several times via autoresponder, and include gentle nudges to use the material if they haven’t already.

9. Keep the Momentum Going

The more often you offer your course, the more input you’ll garner about how to improve it and what other courses to create. But that’s hard to do if you’re not getting the sales – or rave reviews – you want. You get discouraged and think, ‘What’s the point?’

Give yourself a few days off – a real rest, away from marketing and technology – and then assess.

Ask yourself:

  • Did you fall in love with content creation and not put equal time & creativity into marketing?
    • If so, pour your energy into marketing for the next round.
  • Did you try to create a course that filled a need but lost your voice in the process?
    • Go back and tweak – just a little – to add your stories, experiences and voice.
    • Add that to the sales page, too.
  • Did you consider your students’ needs?
  • Did you describe clear benefits on your sales page?
  • How many people did you get your course in front of?
    • Did you promote it in the places your just-right students hang out?
  • Did you make clear requests for feedback from current students?
    • What tweaks can you make to the course and your sales page to address these requests?
  • Did you enlist peer support from other course creators?
    • Share your challenges and successes?
    • Swap best practice and sales ideas?
  • When can you offer the course again?
  • What are three fun ways to get the word out?

Creating effective learning courses and marketing them is a giant undertaking. What’s helped me is to devote myself at first to creating great content, then refine the content while putting lots more energy into marketing, and then for the rest of the life of the course, my energy goes into marketing and into any live teaching component.

I so hope these steps help you get into action and share what you love! – not next month or next year or when you feel you know enough – but NOW. Get into action, find your core idea, and beta, Baby, beta.

Shoot me a line and tell me how it goes!

*image credit: Odette Mattha Design, www.odettemattha.com

Jen Louden is the best-selling author of 6 books, including the pioneering best-sellers The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Woman’s Retreat Book. Her retreats are world-famous. She’s the proud mom of a college freshman (How did that happen??), and the creator of the popular TeachNow course. You can sign up for free samples of TeachNow, including a Library of free resources and a live call on April 4th, here http://theteacherspath.com

Would You Buy or Sell a Blog? [Discussion]

This week, we’ve looked at the blog sales market from all sides:

We also spent some time yesterday putting a value on your blog.

So today, I wanted to open the blog up to discussion.

  • Has a blog or site you loved ever changed hands? How did it feel for you as a visitor to that site?
  • Did yesterday’s challenge change how you felt about selling a blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Have you ever bought or sold a blog? Share your tips and tales with us.
  • Many of you have mentioned over the course of the week that you’d like to see more on this topic: what kinds of information do you need?
  • …and if you’d like to see a series like this one on another topic, let me know below!

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on blog buying and selling.