Why Successful Online Course Creators Crash and Burn

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There is a big fat assumption that we make about people we see as successful online course creators. We assume anyone making money knows how to run a business.

Let me tell you..that just isn’t true

Online business owners fail for the same reasons as offline business owners. When you’re first starting out with your online course you might find yourself looking for reasons as to why this amazing opportunity to run a business in your jammies, work your own hours and be your own boss is just a fantasy. Seeing others fail will only help cement your fears.

If I was starting my online course adventure now I think I would be nervous too. There are lots of blogs and posts about the rising cost of Facebook ads, the over crowded online course marketplace and low barrier to entry (meaning you don’t have to spend big to look fancy). Reading those blogs might shake your confidence. But it shouldn’t. Here is why…

The (super fast) rise and fall of online course creators

The hard reality is many online course creators are imploding because they’re failing to do the basics in business. They often can’t see why their businesses are struggling so they lay blame on what they can’t control – too many competitors, rising ad costs, declining email open rates, saturated markets, dis-interested buyers and the list goes on.

But some of those reasons are valid right?

Yes and no. Online courses are just like any other business. People seem to forget this important point. They have ALL the same struggles and frustrations. Go ask a local business owner, someone, who has been around for more than 7 years if they have noticed a change in the way customers buy, marketing costs, the number of competitors etc. and they will likely say yes. Business is business, it doesn’t matter if it is online or offline.


Big launches, big cash, big splash

Isn’t it funny that the things we most desire can be the most dangerous to our success? The percentage of lotto winners who are broke within 3 years of their win is astounding. It’s up around 80%. I dreamed about having six figure launches like people dream about winning the lotto. I wanted a flood of cash to rain down on me. I even had a plan to take it out of the bank in crisp $100 notes so I could throw it all over my bed and roll around naked in new money while I sipped champagne.

I am so glad it never happened. I would possibly have made the same mistake I see others make. Splashing big cash on big things instead of managing my money like a responsible business owner.

Lesson: Be careful what you wish for


Yes, Facebook Ad costs are rising but…

Facebook ad costs have certainly risen over the past few years. For me, the increase is about 30-40%. The flip side of that coin is sites like Pinterest are kicking butt in generating free traffic. Facebook now have live video so you can really connect with and build your audience and Instagram ads popped up too. Facebook Group use has surged and podcasts downloads are sky rocketing. You have to be willing to change and adapt to the latest trends.

Lesson: Marketing is always changing, you need to adapt to new trends

Outsourcing most of your business

I can’t help see the glaring similarity of many of the rapid rise and fall course creators. They outsourced massive chunks of their businesses right from the start. That means they can’t change opt ins, downloadables, worksheets, sales pages, Facebook ads etc.. without paying for a professional. They can’t recycle anything. That is really costly, leaves you at the mercy of contractors and means you can’t quickly pivot if you need to.

It is a nice idea to outsource everything you don’t love doing but the reality is you will end up with a business mostly run by other people.

Lesson: Know how to run your own business

Spending money on fancy stuff 

Professional photo shoots, videos, websites, graphics and the rest are lovely to have, but not essential. I still don’t have professional photos. I built my own website and I use a budget friendly set of studio lights from Amazon, a second-hand Canon camera from Gumtree, an entry level microphone and low-cost editing program. I started with just my iPhone and some lights. Yes, it takes me more time than I would like and eventually, I will hand over some of the stuff above to contractors, but only when I have the cash flow to support it.

Check out Denise Duffield-Thomas videos. She bought the pro’s in after she had hit a million bucks a year. It wasn’t that long ago her videos were a simple set up of her in front of her laptop and they worked beautifully.

Lesson: Learn to uplevel. Invest in better equipment and tools as you grow

Slow your roll… on spending cash

In every business cash flow is the lifeblood. Put simply, cash flow is the money that flows into your business in sales and out of your business in expenses. It is a basic business skill that is essential but for some reason, online business owners don’t give it the respect and attention it deserves. If they did they might be less likely to burn through cash so quickly.

Lesson: Business basics like managing cash flow and expenses is a must

If watching the rise and fall of others (and to be very clear I HATE seeing anyone fail) has taught me anything it is that when you create an online business you need to stick to all the same rules as any other business. You need to know your numbers, move with the market, consistently learn and evolve, manage your money and grow at a rate you handle.

My advantage is most definitely the fact that I am a business strategist first and course creator second. I took everything I knew about running multi million dollar import/export business and applied it to my online business. When you treat your online business the same way you would treat an offline business your chance of success is through the roof!


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