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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.

ProBlogger Challenge: Put a Value on Your Blog

This week we’ve heard from blog sellers, and blog buyers. Whether or not you’ve been inspired by what they’ve had to say, I’ll bet that the conversation has raised one key question in your mind:

What is my blog worth?

Price tag

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ba1969

These days, we’re seeing blogs being recognised as valuable business tools, both for business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer connections. So if you own and run a blog, it makes sense to understand its value.

Today’s challenge is to do just that.

The basics

If you’ve been following along this week, you’ll already have a few of the key metrics for a blog valuation in mind:

  • the age of your blog
  • uniqueness and quality of blog design
  • traffic levels, sources, and quality
  • visitor stats: bounce rates, time on site, conversions, and so on
  • current monetization approaches and levels
  • associated social media footprint.

Andrew Knibbe of Flippa recommended that we use the marketplace as a yardstick by which to value a blog, but what other factors should we take into account before we start doing research there? Let’s step through the process of getting a rough idea of your blog’s value.

Vital stats

First, make note of these vital stats for your blog. You could do this on paper, but I recommend a spreadsheet, because that’ll make it a bit easier when it comes to comparing your site to others down the track.

  • Blog age: Andrew from Flippa mentioned earlier in the week that older blogs tend to be given higher valuations.
  • Domain: If you’re selling the domain with your blog, a shorter or more memorable domain is probably likely to be looked on more favourably than a longer domain, or one that contains hyphens, for example.
  • Platform: The platform on which your blog is hosted might not in itself raise or lower your blog’s value, but it might impact the types of buyers who’d be interested in it.
  • Theme: If you’re on a WordPress blog, paid or unique themes are more likely to attract more serious buyers.
  • Alexa rank: We saw earlier in the week that Alexa rank also contributes to a blog’s value, so if you don’t know where yours sits at the moment, find out.

By this point, you should be off to a good start.

Traffic stats

Next, it’s time to open up your Analytics tool and take a critical look at your blog stats not just for the last month, but over the last few months.

  • Monthly traffic: Note down the total traffic levels first.
  • Traffic sources: Next, allocate portions of traffic to the relevant sources of those visits.
  • Landing pages: Look at your key landing pages. Shahzad mentioned yesterday that some of the most popular landing pages on the blog he was buying were off-topic posts. How relevant are your main landing pages to your blog’s brand and niche?
  • Bounce rates: It’s important to look at this data over time, and to work out which traffic sources have lower or higher bounce rates. This can help you get an idea of the overall value of your blog’s traffic.
  • Time on site: This is a good measure of engagement and, again, it’s worth looking at the average time on site for each different traffic source, to see which visitors are more engaged.

This information should help you get a feel for the value of the traffic your blog attracts, and the content you’ve developed. It might also help you identify places where there’s room for improvement, but for now, let’s keep going with our valuation.

Monetization

If you’ve monetized your blog somehow, you can be sure that potential buyers will be interested to know how you’ve done it, and how successful you’ve been. Let’s pull together the data—if you don’t already have it at your fingertips.

  • Monthly revenue: Add up your revenues for the last three months and divide by three to get a monthly average.
  • Monetization sources: Make a note of the ways you monetize your blog. Have you created unique products from scratch? Do you use certain advertising or affiliate networks?
  • Conversion rates: Look at your conversion figures for the last three months, and compare them with your last three months’ traffic to calculate your average conversion rate.
  • Value per visitor: Take your average revenue figure for the last three months and divide it by your average traffic figure for that time period. This will give you an average visitor value, which will be really helpful in assessing your site against others for sale in your niche.
  • Profit: You might not be able to calculate this figure until you complete the next section, but do be sure to subtract your costs from your revenue figure to get a profit figure. Again, this will make for easy comparison between your blog and others. If it’s good, it could also go a long way to tempt potential buyers.

Note that at this point, you can calculate a valuation based on a multiple of your revenue—either 12 or 24 months, say. This will give you a good reference point for the research we’ll do on Flippa in a moment.

Costs

Whether or not you’ve monetized your blog, potential buyers will want to know how much it costs to run, so they can compare it with other blogs they might be considering buying. Make note of the costs you pay for:

  • Hosting: Note monthly or annual figures.
  • Design and development: Unless you have regular maintenance charges, you might want to add up what you spent on your blog’s design and development in the last year as a more objective figure than your expenditure for the last three months.
  • Content: Do you pay writers? Buy content? Add up those costs—along with your own time cost for writing and editing your blog’s content.
  • Marketing and customer acquisition: If you spend money on advertising—or time on guest-posting and content marketing—again, add up those costs for the last three months.
  • Time: Don’t forget to tally your time for other blogging tasks, like social media, affiliate and ad management, and so on. Try to get a clear and honest picture of how much time it takes you to run your blog on a monthly basis.

Comparing blogs in your niche

This basic information shouldn’t take you too long to collate. And once you have, the real challenge begins! Try to find at least two other blogs for sale in your niche to compare yours with.

  1. Go to Flippa.com. You can, of course, search for sites for sale in your niche on Google too. That can be a good way to find out what’s for sale, but as those sites may not give you an indication of how much they’re hoping to sell for, a visit to Flippa for research is a good idea.
  2. Find sites for sale and auction in your niche or a similar niche. I’d recommend you look at finished sales, since that’ll give you the figure the sites sold for, rather than just their current bid price, or Buy It Now price. Recent sales will give you the best indication of what the market is actually willing to pay for a blog like yours.
  3. Assess the sites. Go through the checklist above again for each of the sites you’re looking at. Make a note of the prices they sold for. See if you can spot any trends that can indicate what the market values in blogs within your niche, and think about how your blog stacks up on these points.
  4. Settle on a price range in which you think your blog might sit. Rather than picking a single figure that you think you’d accept for your blog, I think it’s probably a better idea to use your research to work out a range in which that price might reasonably fall. You’ll have a figure you wouldn’t sell below, and a range in which you can set your expectations.
  5. Compare the range with your multiple-of-revenue price. If you calculated a multiple-of-revenue price above, compare it with the price range you’ve arrived at to see if the figures are in the same ball park.

By the end of this challenge, you should have a rough valuation on your blog. If you’re game, share it with us in the comments below. Or, if you’d rather, you can just let me know if you were surprised—or disappointed, or inspired!—by the price range you arrived at.

Melbourne Food and Wine Blogging Event

I’ve been excitedly sitting on this one for a while now and am relieved to finally announce a new ProBlogger event that is coming up for Melbourne Food and Wine Bloggers (and anyone else who wants to travel to Melbourne for an evening).

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The event is being held in collaboration with my good friend Shane Delia, an amazing chef and co-owner of restaurants including two of my favourites—Maha Bar and Grill and St Katherine’s, Kew.

Shane and I have talked for some time now about organising an event for bloggers and are today releasing tickets for the first of what we hope will be a series of events for foodies.

We have lined up what we hope will be a fun and informative evening that will feature three delightful speakers, an insightful panel discussion and a delicious three-course meal from the team at Maha (including wines to match each course).

Here are the event details:

  • Date: Tuesday 17 July 2012
  • Time: 6pm arrival
  • Venue: Maha, 21 Bond St, Melbourne
  • Inclusions: Event ticket with three-course meal and wine matching (served on communal tables)
  • Cost: $120 per person

Our speaker lineup for the event draws on three fantastic people from different areas of the food and wine writing fraternity in Melbourne. We’ve chosen a wine writer, a food writer, and a blogger. Here’s who who’ve lined up:

Dan Sims, The Wine Guide

dansims.jpgA fresh perspective on wine writing

Cool, calm, and collected without pretentious frippery is how Dan likes to keep the world of wine. He’s an award-winning Sommelier and the engine room for many of The Wine Guide’s clients and for their events that happen around Australia and beyond.

Dan’s excitement for good wine is palpable whether in front of a camera, or in front of a room full of bloggers, and his even-handed approach to wine has drawn plenty of praise from the press and trade.

Dan will share his insights on how his no-nonsense approach to writing can be applied to your own blogging.

More about Dan | @dansims | Facebook

“Jetsetting Joyce”, MEL: Hot or Not


joyce.jpgSuccesses and learnings from my food blogging journey

Jetsetting Joyce started blogging in 2007 when she lived in London. Back then, LDN: Hot or Not was a simple Blogger template with hardly any pictures and maybe one or two paragraphs about where she’d eaten, what play she’d seen, what shops she’d visited, and the places she stayed. It was a way of keeping in touch with family and friends, and was more of a travel diary than something meant for a wider audience.

When Joyce returned to Melbourne 2009 she was going to quit blogging … but found that it’d become quite an addictive habit. So MEL: Hot or Not was born and has continued to thrive for over three years with Joyce’s honest and informative reviews about everything Melbourne—restaurants, bars, theatre, festivals, events, shops, and businesses. All posts are written with one decisive criteria in mind: is it hot or not?

Joyce’s blogging addiction has meant she now also writes TOT: Hot or Not, a blog about parenting which started in August 2010 with her first pregnancy, plus a blog filled with cycle chic inspiration as part of her online bike shop CycleStyle. She fits all the blogging around her day job as an intellectual property and IT lawyer. (Yeah, she’s a busy lady!)

Joyce will share her learnings and successes and how she’s applied them to her blogging career.

More about Joyce | @jetsettingjoyce | Facebook

Hilary McNevin, Broadsheet, The Age


hilary.jpgThe art of writing a review: expressing your opinion, with context and effective, thoughtful communication

Hilary McNevin worked front-of-house, managing restaurants and studying wine in both Australia and the UK for 15 years before shifting careers. She studied Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT and, during her study and since finishing the course at the end of 2007, has freelanced for “Epicure” in The Age as a regular contributor, and fills in for senior reviewer Larissa Dubecki on the “Espresso” column.

Hilary has reviewed for and sub-edited The Age Good Food Guide 2008 and 2009, and continues to review for the guide. She is a reviewer for The Age Cheap Eats, The Age Good Cafe Guide, Good Food Shopping Guide and Good Bar Guide. She is the restaurant reviewer for The Moonee Valley Weekly, a Fairfax publication, and is a contributing food writer for Broadsheet.com.au.

She contributes regularly to Winestate magazine and the James Halliday Wine Companion magazine, and in July she’ll begin writing Melbourne food news for Delicious magazine. Hilary had her first book Guide to Fish: Choosing and Cooking Sustainable Species published by Fairfax in October 2008.

Hilary will share her extensive experience in writing reviews, providing key journalism hints and tips on the fine art of review writing.

More about Hilary | @hilarymcnevin

Tickets are limited: get yours today

This evening is going to be a lot of fun. Not only will you hear from these panelists (and Shane and myself), you’ll have the opportunity to connect with 100 other Melbourne foodies (and might even get the opportunity to meet Mrs ProBlogger who is eying off a ticket too).

Tickets for this event are limited, so register today to reserve a spot yourself and your friends (a maximum of four tickets is available per person).

Please Note: Registration is free via Eventbrite but will reserve your ticket only. Your seat at the venue will only be confirmed once payment is collected. A representative of Maha will make contact with you to confirm your payment details once you have reserved your seat via Eventbrite.

View more event details and a list of attendees at http://probloggerfoodwine.eventbrite.com/.

My Best Product, My Best Launch, My Best Month – Ninjafied

Last week the mysterious Web Marketing Ninja released a free PDF mind map here on ProBlogger (with accompanying video) that walked readers through his in depth strategies for turning a Blog into a Business.

The feedback from that MindMap and video were great and I had a steady flow of thank you emails over the weekend from readers working through it.

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Among the feedback from readers was some people feeling a little overwhelmed – so the Ninja has put together a second shorter video with some practical case study examples of how we’ve implemented some of the strategies in the Mind Map on my own blogs – yep, the Ninja is picking on me today!

See the video here

The 3 case studies are:

  1. A/B testing – how we significantly increased the revenue from a product launch through split testing emails (and how we could have done even better had we done more testing).
  2. Product Development Made Easy – the back story behind my biggest selling ProBlogger eBook
  3. The Art of the Campaign – the story behind my biggest earning month ever

Our hope is that these practical examples will not only bring the Mind Map to life but that they might also give some practical ideas on how you can transition your blog into a business.

See the video here (along with the previous video and the Mind Map).

Also be watching out for a brand new ProBlogger Resource created by the Ninja in the coming days.

Who Else Wants to Sell More Ebooks?

This morning I was doing some reports on eBbook sales over the last few years and it struck me how much difference there can be in terms of numbers of sales from one ebook to the next—even ebooks sold on the same blog.

On dPS we have now launched six photography ebooks (and have another about to launch) and the variation in sales numbers is quite amazing.

Transcending Travel

Of course there are many factors that come into play that could determine an ebook’s success, including:

  • marketing
  • timing of release
  • price
  • cover design
  • author’s profile
  • and many, many other factors

However there’s one factor that I’m coming to see is extremely important (at least in my experience)—topic.

Of course that’s a pretty obvious thing, but not all topics are equal and even those that you think might be most appealing to people are not always going to succeed.

One illustration of this point are two great ebooks that we’ve launched in the last year or so. They were both written by the same author, and released to the same audience, at the same price, with much the same marketing strategy, and even similar sales copy—yet the results were quite different.

The ebooks were:

Which one do you think sold more?

I’ll tell you in a moment.

Both ebooks were written by Mitchell Kanashkevich and their quality was fantastic. Both were beautifully designed, very practical, and full of useful information.

The travel one launched first and we were a little unsure whether it was too niche-focused or not. While most people do travel and take trips, it’s something that most people only do occasionally.

On the other hand, color was a topic we identified as something every photographer really, really needed to know about and understand. It impacts every image a photographer takes, and understanding it can make a massive difference to the outcome of a shot.

Comparing the topics in this way we fully expected the color ebook to outsell the travel one, however, as you may have guessed, this was not to be.

Both ebooks performed well and were profitable but the travel photography one saw almost double the sales of the color ebook during its launch.

Now there could be a number of factors at play here, but as we’ve analyzed the results, one of the things we’ve realized is that while we thought that the color ebook should have been more useful to more photographers, it was somehow less tangible than the travel ebook.

While important, the topic of color was perhaps too wide and general in its focus to actually drive as many sales as we’d expected.

On the other hand, the travel ebook was narrower in focus, but it was going to lead those who bought it to see results in a specific area of their life. It would solve a specific problem that they faced—disappointing travel images.

We have since tweaked the marketing on the color ebook and have seen a rise in sales, but the two launches reminded us that not all topics are created equal.

That’s not to say that we won’t do more ebooks on topics like color, but we’re certainly looking for topics that solve specific, felt needs, too.

The other thing that this has taught us is to think more about marketing our ebooks even before they’ve been written. While we don’t want our marketing team to determine the content of a resource or to compromise the integrity of the authorship process, we’ve realized that if the author has been involved in talking about marketing even before they start writing, they’re more likely to produce something that is not only helpful but will also be easier to sell.

Thinking of Creating an eBook? Here’s a System to Guide You Through It

If there’s one question that I get asked more than any other at the moment it is about eBooks. In fact there are three main questions that I’m asked on the topic of eBooks more than any other:

  1. How do I create content for eBooks?
  2. How do I design beautiful eBooks (covers and internal design)?
  3. How do I market and launch eBooks to maximise their potential?

Over the last few years selling eBooks has become a larger and larger part of my business (in fact its now the #1 way I earn a living) and these three questions have been the same three big issues that I’ve had to grapple with time and time again.

To be honest I’m still refining my systems even now after years at it but in the early days the process was very very messy and quite hit and miss.

The learning was slow – nobody had written a comprehensive guide to walk me through the process, so I had to really develop my own way forward.

This week Kelly Kingman and Pamela Wilson have released a fantastic guide to walk eBook publishers through a great system of creating, designing and launching eBooks.

It’s called the eBook Evolution.

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Having just reviewed it today I can safely say it is what I needed a few years back when I was starting out – it would have paid for itself many times over by now.

Pamela and Kelly bring some great skills and experiences to this eBook. Pamela is a graphic designer with many years of experience and Kelly is a published author and experienced eBook creator. I’ve been so impressed by Kelly’s previous eBooks that we’re actually working together on a photography eBook to be released in the next weeks – she knows what she is doing!

Together they’ve created eBook Evolution which is divided into 3 areas corresponding with those 3 common questions about eBooks:

  1. Write it – from choosing your topic through to writing your manuscript
  2. Create it – eBook Evolution gives you some great templates to use to help you create a beautiful eBook. You also get a Cover Recipe book to make attractive covers. This section has some great screencasts as well as templates you can use to do your own eBook design.
  3. Launch it – some fantastic tips on how to get word about your eBook out there to the right people to help you promote it.

On top of that you get some great bonuses including a Quick Start Guide, a brainstorming guide to help you come up with ideas and some useful interviews.

The eBook Evolution is available for $147. It comes with a 30 day money back guarantee.

If eBooks are on the horizon for you (or even if you’re already publishing them) but you’re unsure how to develop a system to write, create and launch the – this is a guide that you’ll seriously want to consider.

As I said above – if this had been around 2-3 years ago I could see that it would have returned the $147 investment many times over (all I’d have had to do is sell an extra eight $19.99 ebooks over the last few years from what I learned to make the money back).

Learn more about what the eBook Evolution includes and secure your own copy here

Disclaimer: While I am an affiliate for this product I am also a big fan of Kelly, Pamela and the wonderful resource that they’ve created.

Note: This post has been updated after the initial launch special of this product ended.

Inside the Life of the Other Kind of ProBlogger

This guest post is by Paul Cunningham, blogger, internet marketer, and author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger,

I bet that you could easily name at least a dozen blogs that dispense blogging tips to other bloggers. The so-called “blogging blogs” vary in many different ways, but they all tend to give out the same basic advice: start a blog, build your audience, monetize, and maybe one day you’ll reach that six-figure income that defines you as a “problogger”.

But what about the other kind of problogger, the one who gets paid simply to write blog posts? You might think of them as freelance bloggers, or staff writers, or maybe you’ve never actually thought about them at all.

Consider this: while you work hard to build up your own blog, writing post after post and trying to find the traffic and monetization strategies that will work for you, those freelance bloggers are out there getting paid for every blog post they write.

So, is it really that easy for freelance bloggers to make money while most other bloggers make nothing? Let’s take a look inside the life of these other probloggers.

Skills and experience

A freelance blogger isn’t all that different from someone who publishes their own blog. The freelancer is a regular person who knows how to use WordPress to write and edit blog posts, just like any of you reading this that have used WordPress before.

They certainly don’t need to be a WordPress expert, because someone else is responsible for all of the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes of the blogs they write for. Installing plugins, dealing with comment spam, and performing upgrades are things that don’t eat up the freelancer’s time and energy. They’re free to concentrate on the writing.

The freelancer also either has strong experience in the topic they’re writing about, or uses simple research techniques to write with authority on almost any topic they wish.

This is more common than most people realize. After all, the biggest audience for most blogs is the beginner level, so freelance bloggers only need to be at intermediate level—or be able to fill in their knowledge gaps with research—to be able to write about the topic.

Discipline and time management

Make no mistake: that image you have in your head of a freelance blogger sitting in their pyjamas at home or relaxing at the local coffee shop while they work is true in a lot of cases. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t professionals too.

Freelancer blogging is a business, and has to be treated as one. The clients that you write for depend on quality blog posts being submitted on time. A freelancer can’t just spontaneously take the day off when they’ve got a deadline to meet. If they did, their reputation would take a hit, and reputation is one of the biggest assets a freelance blogger has.

Because most freelancers work from home, there are numerous distractions throughout the day that can easily harm their productivity. Successful freelance bloggers develop excellent time management skills and create routines that have them writing at their most productive times of day.

Money, money, money!

By now you might be wondering just how much money a freelance blogger makes, compared to the typical problogger. Naturally, this depends on a few different factors.

The ability to find and win good paying work is the first challenge. Freelance blogging opportunities are in plentiful supply at the moment (just take a look at the action on the ProBlogger job board as one example), and the trend seems to be towards more work rather than less.

Now that blogging has become mainstream, it plays a big part in the web strategies of a huge variety of media companies. The top blogs in the world tend to be high-volume, multi-author sites using a mix of staff writers and freelance bloggers to turn out the amount of content they need to compete in their niche.

All of this means that freelancers who are able to present a good portfolio of work, and have the discipline and professionalism to do the job, can virtually pick and choose exactly how much work they want to do each week. This puts the earning potential of a freelance blogger almost entirely within their own control.

It’s no surprise, then, to find that freelance bloggers can be anything from hobbyists who do it one or two nights a week for a bit of side income, all the way to full-time freelancers running their own six-figure business writing for multiple clients.

My experience in freelance blogging

I’ve spent the last two years freelance blogging. For me it was a side income — some extra money that I could reinvest into my own blogs as I was building them. It meant that I didn’t need to dip into our family savings to pay for the WordPress themes, plugins, ebooks, and other products that have helped me along the way.

While I was blogging, I met numerous bloggers who spend most of their time doing paid freelance work. A lot of them also run their own blogs for fun, and some make good money from those blogs too, but for most of them the attraction of freelance blogging is that it gives them a steadier income and almost instant return for their effort.

What about you? As you work to build your own profitable blogs, would a freelance blogging income help you get there faster?

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, internet marketer, and the author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger, the ebook that teaches you how to turn your knowledge and passion into a real income stream. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Blogging Tips from Pro Triathletes

This is a guest post by Mike CJ, co author of Beyond Blogging.

One of the businesses I consult with organizes triathlon events. Although my work is based around their blog and social media presence, I also enjoy getting stuck in as a general volunteer on the actual events.

The triathlon we run is called Ironman, and it consists of a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike ride and finished off with a 42.2km marathon. Our triathlon is renowned as the world’s toughest, as athletes have to endure our searing heat and a mountainous bike course.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know several world-class, professional competitors, and it was while talking to one of them that the similarity between what they do and what bloggers do dawned on me.

It’s the details that count

Steve was explaining to me that the difference between being a winner and an “also-ran” in triathlon is about improving a wide range of factors, bit by bit, over time.

He said the mistake most amateurs make is to focus on what he called “The big one”— the biggest challenge. In triathlons, that’s almost always the bike discipline, or the marathon. Amateurs tend to work hardest on those areas, believing that there is a lot to be gained from the two longest legs.

He told me that they’ll work and work on one area, and then lose all the time they’ve gained in those legs on other parts of the race.

As a pro, he told me the secret to his success was to focus on improving every single element of his race by a small amount every week. As well as the obvious key phases of the race, he also concentrates on small details:

  • the swim start, running into the sea and getting into a stroke fast
  • stripping his wetsuit off while running to the transition area
  • getting sun cream on quickly
  • leaving his bike shoes strapped to the pedals and doing them up while riding
  • changing his seat height for the final few miles to get his legs ready for the run
  • dismounting from the bike and racking it fast
  • putting his running shoes on while running
  • planning his fluid intake during the race.

These are just a few examples, but he told me that he seeks to improve the efficiency of each of those factors by several per cent every year. In real terms, he may make up only a few seconds on each, but when they’re all added together, he improves by minutes every single year.

How to blog like a pro triathlete

We bloggers love to focus on the big stuff—changing our themes, writing an epic series of posts, or perhaps creating a new ebook or course.

But actually, it’s all the little things that add up to improve our traffic, increase our conversion rate and really move our blogs forward over time. Lasting progress is achieved in many small ways:

  • revisiting old posts to add internal links and improve them
  • adding new follow-ups to keep our email lists engaged
  • testing placement of adverts or calls to action to improve response rates
  • taking the time to follow commenters back to their blogs
  • creating sneeze pages to help new readers find relevant stuff
  • adding links to relevant past posts when we write new ones.

None of these tasks are interesting, fun or sexy, but find me a successful blog and I’ll show you a blogger who does them. All the time.

Mike CJ is a full time blogger and writer who lives in the idyllic Canary Islands. He’s co author of Beyond Blogging and you can find out more about him at Mike’s Life.