Online courses are all the rage, but if you are a small business or a business of one, it can be tough to invest in a course. Today the plan is to take the guesswork out of picking the best online course for your business. By the end of today’s article, you should be well on your way to selecting an excellent course and teacher for what you need to learn.
1. Understand What You Need Help With
The first step to picking the best online course is to determine what you need help with. If you are worried about the investment it takes, you should not be taking a course without evaluating if you need it.
There are two routes you could go with this: stuff you need to learn at a basic level and stuff you need to get better at.
Depending on your goals and where you are in the learning process, you will need a different course or teacher.
Basic Level Learning
You may not know anything at all about a subject; you just know you need to learn it. In this case, you need to find a course that is fit for someone starting from scratch. Most likely you can take a peek at the course titles. Look for course and lesson titles that include words like:
- X for Beginners
- How To Start/Launch X
- X Jumpstart
- The Fundamentals/Framework/Foundation Of X
Know that a beginner course will more than likely require a future investment of a more advanced course. Beginner courses are great, though, as they help you get your footing and teach you the framework you need to know to be successful.
It’s tough to build a house without a solid foundation, so beginner courses are crucial.
Intermediate/Advanced Level Learning
In 2015 I decided to take a course on Pinterest. I had a solid foundational idea of how to use Pinterest. I had amassed 1000 followers on my Pinterest page, so I understood some of the basics. I knew that Pinterest could become a better traffic source for my blog so I decided to take the plunge and buy a course.
Sometimes, courses are not about basic level learning. Sometimes you want to invest in a course because you know that it will take you to the next level.
Eventually, we understand that we have hit a road block in our learning. We see that we have done all that we can do, and that’s where a course comes in. If you find a course teacher that resonates with you, it can take you to that next level.
2. Find Teachers Who Specialize In The Area You Need Help In
After you have found what you need help with, your goal should be to find all the courses for that particular area.
To do this, I would create a spreadsheet with information on the course and course teacher. Create columns for the following:
- Course Title
- Course URL
- Course Teacher
- Course Teacher Website
- Cost Of Course
- Description of Course
- Course Level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
I am a spreadsheet person if you can’t already tell. We are going to focus even more on this spreadsheet later in tip number four, so use this spreadsheet to your advantage. Add and subtract columns as they become relevant or irrelevant to your course search.
Consume Their Free Content
Once you have a solid list of courses and course teachers, it’s time to dig deeper. Your goal should be to consume the free content that they have before you dive into their paid content. So, how do you do this?
- Read their blog posts
- Take any free video courses or email courses they have
- Attend their free webinars
- Join their Facebook groups
Your goal should be to immerse yourself in their free content, but only as it relates to understanding them as a teacher. Free content can only get you so far. Obviously, a paid course and a free blog or email course are different. Think of a paid course as a mural while a free course or blog post could be seen as a brush stroke.
You can take the time to put together a million brush strokes from a million free posts, or you can purchase the completed mural. The mural is easy to get through because it’s all in one place. Reconstructing a mural with instructions in brushstrokes is going to be difficult, especially if you aren’t an artist.
3. Understand Your Budget, But Don’t Fixate On It
There is a phrase I am sure you have probably heard if you are in business.
You have to spend money to make money.
While this phrase is correct, you need a budget, but don’t fixate on it.
So, what do I mean by this?
If your teacher is amazing and provides great results for your business, you should go for it. Be smart about it, but go for it. If you love a person’s teaching style, their course seems to be well-worth the investment, they have a payment plan, etc. consider taking the leap of faith.
Obviously, if the course decimates your budget, you want to look for another avenue. On the other hand, if buying the course means you will have to brew coffee at home instead of buying from Starbucks for a few months, feel free to purchase the course.
I am not telling you to live in a box for two years to afford an online course, but if you only have to give up a few luxuries for a couple of months, then take the course.
You may be thinking about why I focused an entire section on money. Well, that’s because money is a huge issue. It’s one of the reasons that entrepreneurs often have payment plans for their courses. If you are a small business owner, it can be hard to justify a course purchase. Ultimately, it would be a disservice not to put an emphasis on budget because it is such a big part of the decision making process.
4. Weigh The Positives & Negatives Of Each Course
The next thing you need to do is sit down to weight the positives and negatives of each course you are looking at.
Once you have immersed yourself in knowledge of the course teachers and you have come to terms with your budget, you can begin to think about the course buying process.
Lindsey Hazel, who is a course creator who runs the blog Hazel Haven, had this to say about researching your courses:
Before you decide to purchase an online course, be sure to do your research. Research the instructor if you don’t already know, like, and trust them. If you know anyone who has previously taken the course, reach out to them and ask them about the course. This way you’ll feel better about knowing if your investment is worth it. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of course creators who don’t practice what they teach. By doing your research BEFORE investing in their course, you’ll feel a lot better about where you’re putting your money.
When doing your research use the spreadsheet we created earlier to organize your thoughts. Jot down any notes, bold courses that seem like the best investment as you go, and hone in on creating a document that is unique to your course search process.
Use Course Testimonials
Elaborating further on Lindsey’s point, let’s chat about course testimonials.Are you still stuck between which course to take? Check out their course testimonials. Most online courses (especially if they have launched before) have an ample amount of course testimonials to dig through.
Your goal should be to read or watch any testimonials available.
Check out the website for anyone who gave a testimonial to see if you can tell a noticeable difference in how they handle the course topic. So, if you are looking into a course on Pinterest, is their Pinterest presence up to the right standard?
Then, talk to the students. If you know someone who has taken the course, send them a nice email. Ask them about their experiences with the course teacher and the course in general.
When I took my first paid course (which was all about Pinterest), I knew a couple of blog friends who had taken the course. I saw their numbers on Pinterest sky rocket, but I still wanted to make sure that they liked the course. I asked them their feelings, and I even asked what version of the course I should purchase.
After talking with them it further solidified my feelings about taking the course, and it made the decision feel easier.
If your course doesn’t have enough testimonials, look elsewhere for testimonials. Have they created another course? Do they have a sizeable social following? Look around at the people that they teach. You should be able to find someone who has been impacted by them as a blogger, educator, or role model.
5. Pick A Course & Take Action
After you have done your research, it’s time to choose a course and take action on that course.
This step is pretty self-explanatory.
After taking all the steps of gathering your course options, you will probably have a clear front-runner of which course you should take.
If you do not feel this way, you are not completely done with the course research process.
The most important thing with any course investment is that you must take action. You are not paying the course creator to do the work for you. Thus, if you don’t do the work, the course will be a waste of time.
Your goal as an entrepreneur should be to make sure that your course matters.
Digital Branding University
Did you know that Digital Branding Institute offers a course called Digital Branding University? This course gives you all the information you need to build your online presence and convert your online following. Branding is so important, so if you are stressed out trying to gather branding advice from a million sources, Digital Branding University is an excellent way to take your brand to the next level.
Picking the best online course is essential, especially when you are spending so much of your hard earned cash on it. The purpose of today’s tips was to talk you through the process of picking a course that will teach you a lot about the subject you need the most help with. Doing proper research takes time, but in my opinion, it is important when you are trying to get the most bang for your buck.
What is your best tip for picking the best online course? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!