Joe began in web development at the young age of 15, at the request of his church. He went on to study Information Technology and receive his Master’s degree in Software Engineering.
In June of 2017, after building enterprise level WordPress sites for Crowd Favorite and teaching at the University of Scranton for nearly 10 years, he broke out to pursue his own projects. Now, he has developed online courses for the likes of Scranton, Udemy, and Sessions. His own site, Creator Courses, outlines an in-depth curriculum on everything from how to use WordPress all the way to software development.
Determine the audience for your online courses:
Establish yourself as an authority in that space with a blog or YouTube channel with free advice and tutorials. This way, you can build your audience, and they can learn from you at no cost and grow to trust you. Blogging and speaking at conferences have been the most effective platforms for him to achieve this.
Decide and define who your ideal student is after they have taken your course. What new skills do they have? What can they achieve that they could not before?
Understand your users’ intent:
Through the CaboPress conference, Joe learned about ConvertKit which has helped him understand his audience. He can now tag his subscribers in what they’re interested in and track what they’re clicking based. Understanding their intent has allowed him to target his audience better. He also installed Facebook Pixel to get a good idea of who is visiting his site from Facebook.
Create content that resonates:
Although Joe admits his own path has not followed this direction, he recommends building your audience and understanding their needs before launching your product. (Listen to Andy Crestodina, Joanna Wiebe and Howard Mann’s podcasts for more information on how to tailor your content to your audience.)
He says that researching, tracking analytics, and answering questions that are being asked are key to determining the meat of your content and online courses.
Choose your location and pricing:
At this point in the process, you need to decide whether you are interested in a hosted solution or having the freedom that comes with your own platform.
Joe recommends Teachable and Teachify for more freedom. While he did not have a positive experience on Udemy because of the restrictions and low earnings, there is the upside of a large audience.
Your Own Platform:
WordPress has a good DIY system, and with the plugin LearnDash, you can create a very user-friendly site that is tailored to your needs.
If you have a huge curriculum in mind and plan on updating and adding more regularly, annual membership is the best structure. Joe recommends annual memberships instead of monthly memberships because it gives your users a more holistic perspective of your product.
If you only have 1-2 online courses, selling one-off deals can be financially successful.
On his site, he has a strict no refund policy. Through his free videos on YouTube and blogging content, he is able to introduce his students to his content and teaching style, without being taken advantage of.
Engaging students online:
The difficulty of an online classroom is that you don’t have the luxury of a typical classroom, where you have a captive audience and you can see them react.
Joe uses LearnDash notifications to send automated emails to students when they complete steps and online courses.
“It’s an automated email, but I respond to everyone. That’s the best way I can engage.”
He receives a 20-30% response rate from students to these emails, which allows him to illustrate that this isn’t passive income for him, he actually wants to teach them.
After taking the Masterclass by James Patterson, he was inspired to offer more forums for his students to connect and interact on Creator Courses. He is currently working to build these forums to boost engagement with his students.
“A lot of people view online courses… as passive income, and it can be… but the most successful courses are not.”