Welcome to episode 105 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks to Randle Browning from Teachable about creating courses to generate income and leads.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Cathy Derus about taxes for bloggers. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
How Food Bloggers Use Courses to Build their Businesses
What are you an expert at? Maybe it’s cake decorating. Maybe it’s vegan cooking. Or maybe it’s cooking with the ever-so popular Instant Pot.
Regardless, you can make a course about it. And creating that course is a great way to build your online presence and business.
Randle Browning works for Teachable, a site that helps you build and sell your own online courses. She has so many tips that will help you pick the perfect course topic, create your course, and then successfully launch your course.
In this episode, Randle shares:
- Why you should pre-sell a course
- How to segment your email list based on a course
- How to gauge interest in your course idea
- How to price your course
- How to pick a topic for your course
- What “expert” means and how to feel confident enough to teach a certain topic
- Why you don’t need to be the “Ultimate Expert”
- The Waco Vegan
- Liberty Harbor RV Park
- 097: How to Create a Full-Time Income from Blogging Using The Egg Carton Method with Bjork Ostrom
- How to Create a Mini Course to Build Your Business
- Make Fabulous Cakes
- The Raw Academy
- The Creative Curator
- Tim Ferris
- Tasty Food Photography
- Follow Randle on Instagram and Twitter
- Get 1 free month of the Pro Teachable Plan with promo code food (valid until August 15th, 2017)
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Be sure to review us on iTunes!
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, we talk to Randle Browning from Teachable. We chat about things like living and traveling in an RV for four months, the most common structure type for online courses, and strategies for figuring out how much to charge when you’re creating content online.
Hey everybody, it is Bjork Ostrom, and you are listening to the Food Blogger pro podcast. Today, we are talking to Randle Browning from Teachable. The fun thing about Randle is that you’ll also learn that she has a food blog, so not only does she work for Teachable, and have this wide and the deep knowledge about online courses, but she also understands this world of food blogging. We’re going to talk to her about all things online courses. Teachable not only is a great platform for online courses, but it’s also a great resource for people that want to learn about creating an online course. We’re going to dive deep into that conversation today with Randle, and we’re going to use some examples from the food blogging world. It’s great because Randle has a food blog, and so she’s able to use some examples specific to her blog.
We also actually talk about some of the things that we’re doing with Food Blogger Pro and Pinch of Yum, and we reveal some numbers, and talk about specifics of one of the courses that we recently did, the recipe video bootcamp, and we talked about her strategy behind that. So really excited to share this episode with you. Here is Randle Browning. Randle, welcome to the podcast.
Randle Browning: Thank you, so happy to be here.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s going to be great to chat about courses, but as we’re aligning this up, one of the things that I found out that’s really exciting for me, and I’m sure it’s exciting for the people that listen to this podcast as well, is that not only do you work at Teachable, and have a vast knowledge about courses and online classes, but you also have a blog, and not only a blog, it’s a food blog. I’m curious to hear about your food blog story before we jump into the online courses and classes part.
Randle Browning: Sure, so probably like many of your listeners who are food bloggers, I’ve had a couple of iterations. I started blogging, gosh, almost six years ago now, and it started out just like a food diary. I was really teaching myself to cook, and it was everything, all kinds of cooking. I didn’t really have a focus. Then over the years, I’ve evolved, and my current blog is called The Waco Vegan. I started it when I became vegan while living in Waco, which is a town in Central Texas. I love Waco, but it’s not really conducive to veganism, so that was the exciting part. Yes, I’ve kept it going even though I don’t live in Waco anymore. I use it to share some of what I was doing while I was living in an RV last year traveling around the U.S.
Now, I blog about being a Texan moving to New York, but it’s definitely evolving.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re born and raised in Texas, and then made the transition to New York?
Randle Browning: Yup.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice. In between, you spent four months in an RV. Again, that’s not necessarily related, but I’m always curious to hear about peoples’ adventure. Why did you decide to do that, and what was that like?
Randle Browning: This actually might be relevant to bloggers, so I had a remote job at that time. I worked remotely for three years. I was sitting there with my husband one night like a lot of people do who work remotely. It was 8:30, still working on my laptop, and I just looked at him. I was like, “Why are we even doing this? I’m sitting here. I’m working. I’m at home by myself. We could be anywhere. We could be in an RV at the Grand Canyon.” He was like, “Well, let’s do it.” The very next week, he was shopping for used RVs. It took us about four months. We finally found an RV, and we renovated it, and we just left.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s one of those things where … We just got back from a trip to Alaska. We flew into Anchorage, and then we went to Seward, and then we went to Denali or as people Alaska say Denali. One of the things I realized was how many people will rent an RV and just drive around. Actually, one of the people that we work with to do design for a lot of the stuff that we do has renovated an RV and his family of six. It’s him and his wife and four kids live in an RV as well. That’s what they do full time. You did it for four months. Obviously, it wasn’t a long-term thing. Did it come to a period where you’re like, “Okay, we did this. We checked this box, and now that we know, we have experienced life as remote employees, and have been able to do this, and it’s not something we necessarily want to do forever or even a couple years.”
Randle Browning: I actually think we’ll probably go back to it at some point.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, you will.
Randle Browning: Really, we planned to be on the road for a full year. We could still be on the road actually, but when I was in New York, I interviewed here at Teachable, and I had to choose, “Take this chance and move to New York City, or finish the RV trip.” We just decided, “We’ve been on the road for four months. Let’s do the New York thing. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it now.” We actually still own the RV in Texas.
Bjork Ostrom: I was going to say, it’s probably not the kind of thing where you want to store in New York.
Randle Browning: No. We did stay in an RV park in New York on a trip. It’s called Liberty Harbor, and it’s under the Status of Liberty.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh nice. You had this interesting period, where you’re doing the four months. You’re doing a trip in New York, staying at this place, and then at that point, you interviewed for the job with Teachable’s. Is that right?
Randle Browning: Yup.
Bjork Ostrom: Interesting. You got that job, and so you made the transition and said, “We’re going to …” It’s like one adventure to another. You’re not going back to where you’re from, and resetting life as it was. New York in and of itself could be adventurous all the time, I would imagine. In January, we’re talking. You started out at Teachable.com. For those that aren’t familiar, can you explain a little bit about what Teachable is?
Randle Browning: Yes sure. Teachable is an online course creation platform, and it allows you to build a career teaching online. You can teach any kind of course based on your expertise, your knowledge. With Teachable, you can create your course, market it, and sell it.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. This is one of those things where a lot of people that are listening to this podcast have heard about courses. They’ve heard about classes that you create online, and it seems like one of the ways that Teachable is being used or the problem that it’s solving is this really big question that people have of like, “How do I go about creating a course or creating a class?” Before we get into talking about some of the specifics around that, I would love to dig into the idea of courses, or the idea of classes, or even like should I be calling it a class? Are those interchangeable, and what are the different ways that people can create these online courses?
Randle Browning: I guess, you mean particularly for food bloggers, what does this look like?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. We could talk about it at a high level, so let’s assume that if we need to use an example, we can use Food Blog as an example, but maybe to clarify my question a little bit, so there’s all different types of ways that people are using online education. Sometimes, they can be doing a membership site. Food Blogger Pro is an example of a membership site. Sometimes, people call it a course, but we’re like, “It’s not necessarily a course. There’s multiple topics. You sign up, and you become a part of it.” Sometimes, people will do maybe a free class. We just did one of those recently talking about recipe videos, where we did … We called it a bootcamp. With Teachable or broader, not even just limiting it to Teachable, what are the different ways that people can use like the education space to help to build their business?
Randle Browning: I get what you mean now. Definitely all those ways you mentioned, so you can create a subscription school like Food Blogger Pro, where people pay a monthly fee, and you continue to release new mini courses over time. There is a school on Teachable that releases a new really small quick easy Photoshop demo once every week or so. That’s one way, and you just keep creating content, and it’s a way to get paid for the content you’re creating, and make it exclusive. Another way, and I think probably the most common way I see instructors on Teachable using courses is it’s really like the cornerstone of their business. They do open-close launches, so they’ll spend a month or two months putting up amazing content on this topic, building out buzz around it, and then they’ll open the launch for say a week or two weeks, really push the course, and then close enrollment.
Then during the time when it’s closed, they focus on building another course or working with their students. Another way that you mentioned already is using a mini course or a free course. Those can work in a couple ways. You can just create a mini course. I usually define a mini course as something that’s two hours or less when you take it, but it’s something quick that it’s either free or you wouldn’t charge a whole lot for it, like probably less than $50. You can use it for a list growth, so you can try to get people on your list by offering them a free course. You can also use it to promote a larger course. If you buy early access to my course, I’ll give you this mini course for free right now. You can just use it as one of … I think, on one of your previous podcasts, you mentioned like filling the egg crate or something like that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup.
Randle Browning: You can use it like that. Maybe you do a sponsored content. You have ads on your site. You do recipe development for clients. You also have a mini course, so you can use it as just one of your many income streams.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup, for sure. It’s interesting. I would love to break this down a little bit for how we’re using some of these strategies, because even just recently, we started to implement some of these. That episode that you were talking about was number 97, so it’s food analogy, right, bonus points for using a food analogy, where we talked about this idea of filling the egg carton, and the idea being that when you’re looking to create an income from your blog, it doesn’t have to be necessarily with just one source. You can do lots of different way. You can create an income from lots of different sources, and what happens is if you break that down, you can see like, “Okay, let’s say we’re trying to get to $40,000 as a baseline.” I don’t know if that’s officially the average, but an average income in the U.S.
Not probably super standable in New York, but in a place like Minnesota, it would be. The idea is that you want to fill those egg carton spaces in with eggs, eggs being the income sources, and one of those can be courses. I think, like you said, that’s a great idea. Maybe you have advertising, and you also backfill one of those spaces with a course, so it’s not necessarily all of your income, but it’s a way that you add an income source to your blog or to your online business. To back up a little bit, I think it would be helpful maybe to use a couple examples. I would love to look at one of these. I will give an example, and then maybe you can give an example of somebody. You don’t have to use names if it’s private, or if they can’t talk about that.
Mini course, I actually just mentioned this. We did a recipe video bootcamp for Food Blogger Pro recently. We encouraged people to sign up, and we did three different live parts, and I actually watched what Teachable is doing, because you had recently done a summit there. I thought it was really interesting how you’d done that, and so used that as inspiration to do this recipe video bootcamp, smaller scale obviously than what Teachable did, but what we found is it was a really great way to connect with people that we haven’t connected with before, and then they would be bale to become familiar with us, and we could say, “Hey, as the next step, if you’re interested, you can sign up for Food Blogger Pro.” Obviously, a lot of the people that take the free course aren’t going to sign up for Food Blogger Pro, but what we found is we had 4,500 people sign up for this little recipe video bootcamp that we did.
It was super fun to do. That’s part of it too is it doesn’t have to come down to income generation for everything. It was just really enjoyable, and it was super fun to teach people. It was a great way to again like you talked about, do list growth, connect with new people, so it was really beneficial. Is there another example that you have of somebody that’s done a mini course, or if you don’t have an example, you could even talk about Teachable summit and they went about doing that?
Randle Browning: Yeah, I have a couple of examples. I asked the team here, “What are your favorite food and health schools before I came to talk to you?” I actually just published a blog post on the Teachable blog last Thursday about mini courses, and it had some example in it, but a couple of food related ones are … There’s one called Make Fabulous Cakes. That’s actually based on a blog that was started in 2008, so she’s really evolved over time. It’s all about buttercream cake decorating. I think, one reason that worked so well is that it’s very specific, so when you look on there, there’s a mini course on how to make a fondant rolls. It’s a really targeted audience, like people who are Googling how to make fondant rolls. Another one is the Raw Academy. That’s a good example of a free mini course used to build up an audience.
I was actually just talking to a Teachable instructor today, Eve. This isn’t a food business, but hers is the creative curator, and she has a free mini course right now. She promoted it entirely through Pinterest and Facebook, and she’s doing really well. I think, that’s one really good … We might talk about this later, but I think, that’s one really good thing to note upfront is that you don’t have to put paid advertising in this. You can do it all organically.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Especially for people that are influencers that have that following of people that they’re able to connect with. The idea again for the mini course is that you are creating this, and it’s a way to offer people content. They can go through a course. You’re able then to maybe follow up and offer another course after, or it could just be a way for you to connect with people to establish trust. It’s a different type of free content. Usually, we think of free content as content hat we publish, and anybody can access it at any time, but then there is this next level of free content, where it’s free still, but maybe there is some type of exchange or you’re signing up and giving an email address, or giving your contact information, which is that next level of free.
Then you said there is a blog post that you published. I actually just pulled this up, so what we’ll do is we’ll link to that in the show notes, so people can check that out, because there’s a lot of other great examples that you included in that, which is great.
Randle Browning: Yes, I actually have a couple of, in this blog post, good scenarios in which you might create a mini course. Maybe that would be helpful.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure.
Randle Browning: One is if you don’t have an online audience yet, you can use a mini course to build up a list. In this case, you would probably offer it for free to try to get people to come hang out with you. Another is that you’re not sure what your course topic should be, and I think, that’s a really common … That’s probably the biggest worry people have when they think about creating an online course. When you create a mini course, you cam gauge demand for the topic. You can also see if you like it. That’s something I always try to throw in there is that you’re probably creating this business around online courses, because you want to change your life in some way, or your career, so you can find out if you like teaching it.
You can also start earning money before you’ve created a full course, so say maybe it’s going to take you a little bit longer to get a really robust course off the ground. You can start pre-selling a mini course, so that can keep you going.
Bjork Ostrom: Idea with that being, that was one of the questions I was going to ask, is that somebody would say, “Hey, I’m, really good at let’s say iPhone photography, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to create a mini course, and that’s not going to be super extensive, but I’m going to offer this as something that people can sign up for, and I’m going to teach them about using your iPhone to take photographs.” Then people would sign up for it. They would pay for it, and then they can go through this course once you create it, but sometimes, you won’t even have created it yet. You’re just using that as a way to gauge audience’s interest as well as to maybe bridge the gap if you’re in a place where you need to create some of that income.
Here is the question that I’ve heard people asked before, and I’d be curious to know what you have to say about it. Let’s say that you do this mini course. You try and get people to sign up for it, but then you realized two things. Maybe you get into it, and then you’re like, “I really don’t like talking about this. And it’s not as enjoyable as I thought,” or nobody signs up for it, or maybe three people sign up for it. In a case like that, how do you go about … Do you just refund the money for those people, follow up? Is that an option? How does that work?
Randle Browning: Honestly, I haven’t seen it happen very much, where you pre-sell a course, and people don’t buy it, because when you pre-sell it, you have a new pressure on yourself to make it really good, but I think, the idea with a mini course is that you’re really using it to test the waters. I think, that people tend to worry. If I create a mini course, and then I don’t like it, I’m sort of pegged in this one topic that I didn’t like. That’s just really not true. This is an example that’s in that blog post actually. We have an instructor who has a whole business around farming and DIY, and natural products, and her mini course was on copper deficiency and goats. It’s really specific, and it just happened to be a group of people that was really interested in it. It gave her a reputation as an expert, but she doesn’t have to stick to that forever.
She can move on to how make soap with goat milk or other things. I think, that let’s say you do pre-sell your course, and three people pay for it, and then you don’t want to create it, I think, you could totally refund them.
Bjork Ostrom: Yup, that’s maybe one of those things that is a problem that people will create in their mind that actually isn’t a huge thing, so if it doesn’t work out, if you don’t like it, if it doesn’t turn out for whatever reason, then you can always go and follow up with those people and refund those people, which makes a lot of sense.
Randle Browning: I think, you can really avoid the worry by figuring out in advance if there is an audience for it. You can do things like just ask your list, “I might create a course on this. If you’re interested, click here, and I’ll make sure to notify you,” and you can add them to a different email segment, so if you can just see how many people clicked interested.
Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about that for people that aren’t familiar with email segments and how those work? The idea with this is you have a list. Let’s say you have 1,000 people, and these are people that follow you along on your vegan blog, so these people are interested. You know right away they’re interested in vegan food. You maybe are creating a course. What would an example of a course be for a vegan blog?
Randle Browning: Breakfast smoothies to take with you to work.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. You have this niche, and you’re focusing on people that are busy. They want to eat healthy. They want to eat vegan, and they want to take this with them to work. You email these people using your email list, and you could say, “If you’re interested in this, click here.” Then you said if they do, then you can segment those people. Can you explain what that means, and how people can set that up with their email provider?
Randle Browning: You’d probably have to just look into it in detail, how to do it exactly with your email provider. I know with the one I use, you can just set up a separate group, and have a link that allows people to sign up for this separate group.
Bjork Ostrom: What is the email provider that you use?
Randle Browning: I use MailChimp.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Randle Browning: A lot of people here at Teachable use ConvertKit. It works really well with online courses.
Bjork Ostrom: But the basic idea is you want to segment these people and say, “Hey, now I know these people are entrusted in this potential course that I’m going to create.”
Randle Browning: You can also probably in a lot of those email clients go look at how your email performed, and see how many just click the link, and then tag all the people who clicked, and mark them in some way as a different group. There’s probably a lot of little ways to figure it out, but even if you didn’t create a segment, you could go into your email analytics and just see how many people clicked the button as an indicator.
Bjork Ostrom: The idea being that you’re wanting to gauge interest a little bit before moving forward with something, it’s a really common strategy I’ve heard people … The first person I heard talk about it was this guy named Tim Ferris, 4-Hour Workweek. He talked about gauging interest by using paid advertising to an affiliate page or not to an affiliate page, but to a landing page. He would set it up all the way until the payment button. If people were to go through all the way to fill out their information, and click pay, then he knew that those people were interested in doing it. On the payment page, it said, I don’t know. I forgot what it was, like, “Product is unavailable yet, sign up to be notified when it is.” He used that as a way to gauge interest, same idea. I love that, because it allows you to be a little bit more confident moving forward with a topic, because you know that people are interested in it.
Randle Browning: Another really great way that I recommend to gauge interest in your topic, especially if you just happen to be really worried, so for me, my blog is about a lot of lifestyle things too. I post about how to find vegan restaurants, how to renovate an RV. I’m not sure what percentage of my audience wants to buy a course on smoothies. Another way to do this is to sell something really small, so create a PDF. I could make a really basic but beautiful 20-page eBook with smoothie recipes. Put any price tag on it. Maybe it’s $6.99. Just to see if people are willing to pay at all for that topic, because they might click something, but they would never pay any money for it.
There’s this psychological thing, like, if people would pay any money for this topic, they would probably pay more for something even more robust. If you’re really nervous, I think that you can create something like that to see if you get a response.
Bjork Ostrom: I have a friend that has a personal finance blog. He called it Tripwire. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that term. This is the first time I heard that term, but this idea that you create something that isn’t necessarily going to be a really big moneymaker for your business, but you create it, and it allows you to see, “Are people interested in this? Are people willing to sign up and pay for this?” A good example for Pinch of Yum is we have an eBook on food photography, tasty food photography. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we realized, “Oh, we know that these people are really interested in food photography,” and so we use that list whenever we email about a workshop that Lindsay has, which is obviously much more expensive.
It’s much more hands on. It’s much more personal, but it’s a great way to not email our entire list, right? We’re not going to email thousands of people about a food photography workshop when only a portion of those people are going to be interested in it, but it’s a really great way to have a targeted audience. That’s an interesting strategy. Not necessarily one that we’ve used yet, but I really love that idea. You said one of the most common ways that people use Teachable is this open and close launch. Can you talk a little bit more in detail about how that works, and why that’s such a common way for people to use Teachable or to do courses?
Randle Browning: This gets into the psychology of selling things again, but if you can build urgency around your course, like, “It’s open for a limited time, and it’s going to be closed for the whole year, or for who knows how long.” That builds in more urgency for the customers, but also for you because you can make your content really targeted during a short period, so say … Let me try to think of doing this for my smoothie course. If I’m going to have a course on breakfast smoothies, I could start publishing content that would get people ready for it, like, how to get out the door faster without sacrificing breakfast, 20 super foods you don’t need in your pantry, but five you definitely do, like great ways to make smoothies without fruit, just lots of focused things around that topic, and get the audience really engaged in that.
Then when you launch, it’s like they’re just ready for your course, because they’re thinking, “Okay, just give me the recipes now,” or whatever. I just think it makes your product more valuable. If it’s always there, people can always get it. They can put it off, but if it’s something that is only open for a short time, and only the group of people who jump on it are going to be in there. It just makes you seem like more of an expert, like your time and your expertise is more valuable.
Bjork Ostrom: One of the things we’ve noticed too, and I think about this with movies. That’s the analogy that I’ve drawn with our … Because for Food Blogger Pro, it’s an interesting set up, and that we’re a subscription, but we also do an open-close. One of the things that I’ve noticed is it allows us to have marketing seasons like movies, where if there’s a really big X-Men movie coming out, you’ll see ads all over the place. They’ll be on YouTube. They’ll be on TV. They’ll be on billboards, but if that was just there year round, it would start to wear off, and people would get to be like …
Randle Browning: Yes, you wouldn’t see it.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, you wouldn’t see it, and it would like, “X-men, this is advertising all the time.” It allows us to have an ebb and a flow with our marketing where even on the podcast as an example, during enrollment season, I talk about it. I mention it. I’ll email people about it. I’ll be really intentional with the marketing side of it, but then during the off seasons, I may lay off it a little bit. I don’t mention it a lot on the podcast, so it doesn’t feel like people ar being inundated and always asked to sign up for Food Blogger Pro. That’s the other thing that we really like about the open and close. Maybe movie is not the perfect example, because it’s not like a move would come back out again, and then they would market for it, but …
Randle Browning: Maybe like you have to move your post-its around, or you stop seeing them.
Bjork Ostrom: Exactly right, so top left corner to top right corner for sure. The last thing that you had talked about was this subscription school. That would probably be a little bit like Food Blogger Pro, where you sign up and pay a monthly or yearly recurring fee. Is that possible to do within Teachable?
Randle Browning: Yup, definitely. You can give people access to your school, and then you can release courses inside the school. It’s just kind of a naming thing, so the course is like, 10 breakfast smoothies. The school might be veganism for busy people. I could create lots of courses inside that, and you can create bundles of people who subscribe. With this plan, we’ll get access to these courses, these modules, so you can really customize it.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Let’s talk about courses in terms of content. When you create a course, what does that mean? Is it videos? Is it a forum element? Is it live content, PDFs? What goes into creating a course?
Randle Browning: The idea of creating the course is daunting, so before I get into what it is actually made up of, I think, the very first thing you should think when you’re going to create a course is, “What can I repurpose?” You’re probably not going to be starting this from zero, so for me, I have a big post that’s like 18 smoothie recipes that I have made all time on The Waco Vegan blog. I can start there. See if people commented about any. See if I can reuse them. See if I can tweak them and repurpose them, or just start with that list, and add 18 more. You want to start with some content you already have ideally to make this easier for you. Then in terms of what the course is actually made off, it can be a combination of videos, downloadable PDFs.
In Teachable specifically, you can also have quizzes if that’s something, depending on what kind of school you have if quizzes would be engaging. You can do audio, so if you have more of a coaching business, that can be helpful, or just text depending on your topic, and usually a combination of all these. My general rule is to explain big ideas and concepts in short videos, so three minutes or less. This is how you’re going to use your blender, and here is a few things you need to keep in mind, but then if I get into all the things you actually need in your pantry, I would probably just make that a list and text. In Teachable, you just click a big arrow to go to the next screen.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The idea is you’re building this course curriculum, and I would assume you want to deliver that information in whatever format is best. It might be a video if you really need to show visuals. If it’s just a list, you would want to create a PDF.
Randle Browning: Yes, if you’re doing cake decorating, it’s probably important to have a how-to video, maybe an overhead of the whole thing, but if it’s smoothies, you probably don’t need to see me blend 20 smoothies the exact same way.
Bjork Ostrom: With Teachable, one of the things that I know especially with the subscription school, that’s common, is that there will be some type of engagement or interaction with members. Is that something that for the most part, people are saying, “This is content based, so it’s not necessarily a place where there is a forum, or live videos, or chat, or something like that?” How does that work for people that are a little bit more on the engagement side of things?
Randle Browning: You can do commenting in Teachable, but we actually don’t recommend it, because it becomes another thing you need to moderate. If you’re a bigger school, that might make sense, but most of us, it’s just one or two people, so you might not want to add another spot where you have to check comments. We also just tend to recommend that people start a Facebook group, a private group around their course or something like that. This is already built up to be something that fosters a community, and then that makes it easier to separate cohorts or keep them all together if you want, so you could have all the people who signed up in Spring 2017 in one group, or you could put them all together. The good thing about Facebook too is that depending on if it’s a private or public group, you can get a little buzz going with people talking about it on social media.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure, and the nice thing about something like this book, especially if you have a smaller community, let’s say it’s maybe 100 people that are taking a course are going through a class. Most of those people are going to be going to where you are and checking that, going to Facebook, and checking that if they have a Facebook account. Probably, you’re checking it at least once week, right? A lot of people, multiple times a day. As opposed to trying to get people over into a new place, with Food Blogger Pro, we have a forum, but one of the advantages is that we’re at a point now where that conversation is sustainable with the community itself, but when we were first starting, we’d have to go in, and we’d have to post questions that we’re getting from email, and then answer them.
It takes a lot of work. The nice thing about Facebook especially when you’re getting started is that you can automatically have that built in for people to go and check in, and have those conversations. One of the questions that I had about creating a course or even a subscription school is this idea of pricing. It’s so interesting to look at courses. You see courses all over the place, right? You see them from $29 to the super expensive 2,000-dollar level courses. When somebody’s first starting out, how and the heck do you go about figuring out what your price is going to be?
Randle Browning: I used to freelance doing web development before I ended up in content marketing. This was the big question there too, “How much does it cost to build a website?” One thing that I think people discover really quickly is it costs as much as you charge. My first website, I think, I charged something like $200. As soon as I finished it, I was like, “That was way too much work.” It costs $2,000.
Bjork Ostrom: Not worth it.
Randle Browning: I think, the same thing probably happens with courses. You’ll probably charge too little for your first course, because you’re nervous or whatever. In your next course, you’ll go, “This is so much work. This is so valuable. I feel confident charging more.” It’s okay to feel nervous, and probably low ball at your first course, which is another good reason to do a mini course, because if you would charge $26 instead of $59, that’s better than charging $199 instead of $999. In terms of it being all over the map, I think, that that’s just true. At Teachable, I haven’t actually checked in the last couple of months, but the last time I checked, our average course price was around $175, which I think is probably higher than most people who are new to online courses would guess, but we have discovered that you make as much money as you charge.
You can use your common sense here too. My smoothie course would not cost thousands of dollars, but I could probably … My instinct is to do $99, but I could probably do $129. I think, that really, you just have to do one and sell it, and see how it goes. Look around the other courses, see how much they are, but you can charge more if you’re offering a bigger transformation as well, so some of the courses that you’ve seen that cost $2,000, you might notice they have really long sales pages. It’s a really big deal. You’re going to learn how to become a health coach, a major life change.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s almost like … As I’ve thought about pricing it, this is how to inform how I think about things. It’s almost like thinking about going through, not necessarily a college. You’re not giving a college education necessarily, but it’s this idea of getting education that’s going to allow you to have maybe a similar transformation, or similar impact on your knowledge, and like you said, maybe if it’s a smoothie course, that does have an impact. You can become a lot healthier, and maybe you’re getting healthy food for breakfast, which is super important, but it’s maybe not, like you said, like you’re becoming a health coach.
Randle Browning: Yes, or you can do all kinds of things. I could calculate how much you would probably spend if you bought a smoothie every morning, and then cut that in half, and use that in my marketing. You would spend $299 a month buying these healthy smoothies. You can learn how to make them yourself or whatever.
Bjork Ostrom: That makes a lot of sense. Even you saying that is a great way for people to think about how they’re producing their content, and how they’re marketing it as well, and that there is a lot of value for people. It’s not just the idea of like, “How much does it cost to distribute this,” because the distribution part isn’t really that expensive. It’s the knowledge that people gain from going through it, and not the impact that that has.
Randle Browning: A lot of times, if you’re really stomped to what you can do is think, “How much money do I need to make to justify doing this, and how many people do I think will buy it?” These many people clicked on that link in my email. I want to make this much money, so you can just say, “Okay, my course needs to cost this much to hit that goal.” A lot of people approach it really practically that way, but for me personally, it works better to think about that transformation. How is somebody going to be different after my course, and how valuable is that?
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Just out of curiosity, is that a course that you’re actually thinking of doing for your blog?
Randle Browning: The smoothie course?
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Randle Browning: It’s so funny. I created a practice smoothie course, so I could do a webinar on how to make a course sales page, and then people kept asking me for it.
Bjork Ostrom: You’re like, “Hmm, I’m on to something here.”
Randle Browning: Yes, so I’m probably going to make a smoothie many course.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, and I know it would make sense being that you have a food blog, and you work for Teachable.
Randle Browning: Yes, that actually might be a really helpful thing to talk about with people is how to pick the topic of your course. If you’re like, “Okay, I know that this revenue stream would be really awesome, but what am I an expert in?”
Bjork Ostrom: I would also love to hear your thoughts on what does expert mean. Let’s go ahead and jump into that a little bit, and maybe that would be a good place to have a final section, have a final conversation around this is this idea of feeling confident enough to tech and figuring out what that topic should be. Let’s start talking about topic. Let’s say you have … We’ll use the example of vegan food blog. How do people go about figuring out what they should produce content around for a course or an online class.?
Randle Browning: If you’re already a blogger, this is really simple. You just look at your analytics. It doesn’t even have to be that in depth. You could just look at if you’re on WordPress, your basic WordPress analytics, and see which posts are the most popular in terms of traffic. You can also look at which posts are generating the most comments, so there’s a conversation around it that implies people are engaged. The traffic also implies that there’s demand for it. Maybe people are Googling for this, or it’s appealing just to your list. If you have a lead magnet, sp if you’re asking people to give you their email address on a certain blog post, so as an example, I have a blog post about how to make nut milk at home. It has download where it’s like a printable guide for ratios for pistachio milk and a bunch of different kinds.
If I got a lot of downloads on that post versus how to make vegan cream sauces, that can indicate to me that people are more interested, because they’re willing to go through the download process.
Bjork Ostrom: The lead magnet that you’re talking about, people are willing to click on something, and then once they clicked on it, they’re willing to put in their email address to download that, and get access to it. That being an indicator to you that people are willing to move forward on something, or to give their email address over for that. They’re interested in it, and they want that.
Randle Browning: I think, the same thing can work for YouTubers, Instagramers, podcasters, just looking at what’s the most popular and what’s generating a conversation.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, and it’s interesting too when you say that part of it is the thing that people are looking for, and people are interested in, but it’s also the place that you have traction. The easiest thing to market or to promote is going to be the thing where the most attention is. Even if that’s maybe not where … We talked about this idea of one hate wonders, and a lot of blogs or content sites are like a band, where you write 20 songs, and you have one that people know. You write 100 songs, and then you have three that people know. You have these really popular areas of your site, and those probably are going to be the best places to focus on, because you’re not going to be having to redirect attention. The attention is already going to that place. A great thing to do with that, and it sounds like what you did is create a lead magnet, or some type of content for people to engage with that then allows you to take that next step.
Randle Browning: I’m looking at my analytics right now. You don’t have to pick the very top one if it’s not something you care about. This is all figuring out the balance of what’s popular, what are you excited about, and what do you feel like an expert in. My very most popular post is the before and after photos of our RV renovation. That’s cool, but I’m not really passionate about RV renovation in general, so I’m not going to take that up, but my vegan smoothie is not to far down the list, and that’s more consistent with what I feel like I’m an expert in, and what I would be excited to do.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it.
Randle Browning: You don’t just have to take the very top one if you’re not into it.
Bjork Ostrom: There’s this equation or these different variables that exist, and one of those is, “Is it something that’s popular? Is there attention there?” The other one is, “Am I actually interested in teaching this, or learning more about it, or becoming an expert in it?” And using both of those things to weigh whether you take it to the next step and create content about it. Let’s talk about that expert side of things. What if you feel like you’re not an expert, but a lot of people are coming to you for information? You have that part where, “Hey, a lot of people are coming here.” You have the part where you’re interested in it, but you still feel like, “I’m not really an expert in this, or people won’t pay to learn from me?”
Randle Browning: I think, if people are asking you, you already know that you’re considered an expert in this space. This can be as simple as when I post recipes or when I post photon on Instagram, do people ask me for the recipe? If you’re getting that kind of engagement, it shows that people in your scene see you as an expert, but to get into his worry of, “I’m not really an expert. I don’t know enough.” I think, that’s a common worry, but the truth of it is you don’t need to be the ultimate expert. You just need to know more than your students. You need to know enough to be able to help them. I’m not a registered nutritionist. I didn’t go to culinary school, but I’m really good at making smoothies really fast. I’ve been doing it for a long time.
It’s easy to me at this point, and people want to do it. I don’t need to have this crazy amount of training to do something. When you’re just trying to help people get one step past where they are, so that’s … Another way I talk about it sometimes with instructors is you just have to be one or two steps beyond your students. You don’t need to be 20 steps. If you need somebody to help you make a career choice, you don’t need Oprah. You just need somebody who made that choice two years ago.
Bjork Ostrom: I really love that concept. We talked about this idea of the expert enough to help people. A lot of times, it can be a strategic advantage if you aren’t the ultimate expert, because you’re going to be able to talk to those people in a way that is going to be easier for them to understand to take two steps forward versus being overwhelmed and not moving forward at all. Lindsay talks about this with food photography. She’ll come out and say, “I’m not the ultimate expert on photography.” Her background is teaching, so it helps even more. She said, “I’m going to be the kind of person that’s going to be able to talk to you in human terms that’s going to allow you to take the next steps forward, and it’s going to feel really good to make those steps forward than to make that movement along the path of becoming a better photographer.”
I think, that’s a really important takeaway for people is that not only do you not need to be the ultimate expert, but sometimes, being just expert enough to teach the people that are coming to you and asking those questions is what you need to be. That’s the other point that I wanted to make sure that people heard was you talking about being aware of what people are asking you about. That could be on our blog. It could be when you get together with friends and family, but chances are there are people that are asking you questions. That’s a leading indicator of something that people view you as an expert in, or know that you have information about that they would like to know that they don’t have information about. That’s a really important takeaway as well.
Randle Browning: As your family get togethers, are you always the one who takes the photo? It can be things as simple as that, or do your co-workers ask you for feedback on their writing all the time? That’s another side thing is that if you’re running a food blog, your course doesn’t have to be about food. It could be about blogging. There’s a lot of different directions you can go.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, and again, with Pinch of Yum, we have that with Food Blogger Pro. Tasty Foo Photography is another example of that, but then also, there is the possibility of if you aren’t interested in that, you can go into a specific food and topic. You had shared some example of those for the people that are using Teachable to do like cake designing or cake decorating, and using classes and online courses for that, which I think is another great example. We’re coming to the end here. I think, people have gotten a lot of information, hopefully a lot of motivation and then inspiration to move forward with creating their own course. If you were to say, “Hey, here is one piece of advice that I give people that haven’t done this before,” what would that be?
Randle Browning: I think, my biggest advice is to not over think it. I would look at your blog, or whatever kind of content you create, or think for a minute about what your friends ask you you’re an expert in, and just get started. I would create something really simple, and offer it to your list for free or for sale, so a PDF, a really short mini course, and just start doing it. I think, that’s the biggest thing that is a difference between just thinking about starting a course and being successful is the very first step. Just get started basically.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s so often the hard part, right? It’s starting, and then after that, it’s continuing, but to jump in and to move forward on it, and to learn as you go, and not necessarily to feel like you need to learn everything before you press that go button, which is also I think important for people to know. Randle, I’d love you to share … We can talk about Teachable a little bit, but where can people find you in your personal site?
Randle Browning: Sure, so you can find me at thewacovegan.com, W-A-C-O, The Waco Vegan. I’m on Instagram a lot more at Randle Browning. It’s like candle, R-A-N-D-L-E Browning.
Bjork Ostrom: Nice, you have one of those names where you have to have a little tagline for it. I do as well. It’s Bjork rhymes with New York.
Randle Browning: Yes, it’s funny because I always say it’s like candle, and then people spell it like sandle. I’ll just keep trying.
Bjork Ostrom: Maybe refine the tagline.
Randle Browning: I’m the same on Twitter, Randle Browning.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. And then, we had talked a little bit about before that Teachable has a little promo that they’re offering podcast listeners. Do you want to talk about what that is, and we can link to it in the show notes as well?
Randle Browning: Yes, so right now, if you sign up for Teachable using the promo code food, you can get one free month of the pro Teachable plan just for new Teachable users. This will be valid until August 15th. I’m really excited about this, because I want to see a bunch of new food courses.
Bjork Ostrom: For sure, and if you are a podcast listener, and you move forward with that, let us know. We would love to track along with that, and see podcast listeners that are creating their courses. Randle, thanks so much for coming on the podcast today. I really appreciate it. I know people will get a lot out of it, so thanks for taking the time to come and chat today.
Randle Browning: Yes, thanks for having me. This is really fun.
Bjork Ostrom: Thanks. One more big thank you to Randle for coming on the podcast today, and sharing all that she knows about online courses and online content creation. A big thank you to the Teachable team for all that they’re doing to make online courses easy and accessible for creators. They had a great product, and they’re a really great team. Thank you to you for tuning into this podcast. It’s been a really fun thing for us to watch this slowly but surely grow over the years. That’s the name of the game, right, so we are eating our own dog food in the sense that we are going through and applying what we believe, and what we talk about here on the podcast, so the podcast itself. We’re consistently putting out content over a long period of time. It’s not a hockey stick growth, but slowly and surely, we see growth with this podcast, and that’s a really fun thing for us, so thank you for continually tuning in.
If you haven’t yet, I would love it if you subscribe to the podcast. The easiest way to do that is to on your phone, either download a podcast app, or if you have an iPhone, there is probably the podcast app that’s already downloaded, and you can take that ans use that to search Food Blogger Pro, and then just hit the subscribe button. That would mean so much to us, and it would mean that every time a new episode comes out, you’ll be notified on your app. Thanks so much for tuning in. Make it a great week. Thanks guys.