Between 2% and 10%.
Between 2-10% of students who purchase an online course actually finish it.
That’s pretty shocking, isn’t it? Especially when you consider how pricey these online courses are getting.
Speaking of which...I’m going to be completely honest here: My name is Lois and I’m a Course-Junkie. (Phew, feels so good to write that out loud). Yes, I’ve bought an embarrassing number of online courses to help me grow my blog, but how many have I actually finished?
How many have been a complete and utter waste of money?
Quite a lot, sadly.
So over the past 18 months I’ve developed a list of questions that helps me decide whether or not to purchase a course. This list has already saved me a fortune and I’d like to share it with you today.
If you’re about to fork over fistfuls of your local currency for that tempting online course to help you build your blog or grow your business, why not take a look at these questions before you press 'buy now'. .
1 | Is this a course I can use now in my season of business?
If you’re just building your website or dreaming up a cute domain name, don’t bother buying a Facebook ads course or a masterclass on sales funnels. Things will have already changed by the time you get to use it (if you ever go back to use it).
2 | Can I find this info for free anywhere else?
Check YouTube and Pinterest. Do a good-old fashioned Google search. Get in Facebook groups and ask for help. There are simply oodles of free information out there and you don’t necessarily need to buy a course.
3 | Have I already tried to do this myself?
Thinking about buying a course about Canva? Take the free information you find and give it a go yourself. At least give it a go. You might surprise yourself.
4 | Can I actually afford this course?
Don’t get sucked into the bullshit that says ‘you can afford it if you really want it’ or ‘you have to pay for premium courses to invest in yourself’. Sometimes it is a choice between buying a course and putting food on the table (and my vote will always go to food #TeamGluttony).
5 | Is a course the best way for me to learn and apply this topic?
Courses seem to be the default option these days but that doesn’t mean that a course is the best way to learn and apply that information.
Perhaps you’ll learn better by:
- doing a 30 day challenge;
- joining a mastermind group;
- hiring a coach;
- hiring a Virtual Assistant;
- joining a membership site,
- or buying an ebook.
Courses are a very passive option (the online equivalent of sitting in a lecture theater). If that suits your learning style, great. If not, perhaps look elsewhere.
6 | Is there a Facebook group or some other way to interact with other students and the teacher?
When you start to work through a course, you’ll definitely have questions. So, check to see if the course creator has a Facebook or Slack group or some other way for you to interact with other students. This is a great way to stay motivated and to network.
7 | Do I have time to do this course?
How busy are you today, mamma? Do you actually have time to spend hours and hours working through that course? Pull out your diary and figure out when exactly you are going to work on it. Schedule it before you buy it.
8 | Is the course creator really an expert?
Do they actually have the credentials to teach this course? I’m not talking about a fancy university degree or an alphabet soup of letters after their name (although those will be necessary for some topics). No, I’m talking about quantifiable, repeatable, independently verified results.
9 | Are the course creator’s claims believable?
Make 6 figures on ebay in the next 30 days….go from 0-10K a month by doing this course….If it sounds too good to be true...it probably is. Sorry. #PartyPooper.
10 | Is there an affiliate scheme?
If you love the course you could promote it and perhaps make some money back in the future.
11 | Is there lifetime access?
You may plan to work on the course immediately but life happens and if there’s a time limit on access, you need to know that before you buy.
12 | Have you given yourself a cooling off period before buying the course?
There’s a reason those course creators practically pee their pants trying to get you to attend their webinars live...people get carried away with herd mentality. People are in the chat typing, ‘I just bought’, ‘I’m in’ and you’re thinking:’I’m missing out’.
Cool your sweatpants mamma. Take a deep breath, a big sip of your rosé and at least 24 hours to consider the offer.
13 | Am I suffering from FOMO?
A too-good-to-miss-sale, a ‘never to be repeated offer’, ‘on sale for 3 days only’. These are copy writing tricks that tap right into our primal brain's nether regions. Don’t get caught up in the artificial urgency. Walk away, better yet, run away.
Believe me, Black Friday comes every year and there’s always something else on the horizon if you miss that offer. There’s more than one copy writing course, more than one Pinterest course etc
14 | Are you a rabid, foaming at the mouth, fan of the course creator?
I’m an Elna Cain-iac, I love her blog, I love her FB group, I love her email list, I love her hair...wait.. Is that creepy? I’ll stop.
Basically, I love this mama-blogger and when she put her first course on sale, I rushed to buy it. She has an outstanding track record of producing great content, and I felt confident that I wasn’t going to be buying tips and hacks cobbled together from Pinterest.
The lesson here is to follow along with the course creator's blog for a while and see how you like their content and the way they do business; read their free content and act on that first. Then if you like it, sure, put a ring on it and go buy their course.
15 | Is there an ethical return policy?
Always practice safe buying because there are a lot of unethical return policies out there.
Some course refund policies state that you have to produce some kind of evidence that you’ve worked through the course before you can have a refund.
Doesn’t that seem weird to you?
When I return a pair of trousers to a shop because they don’t fit, the shop assistant doesn’t demand that I put on the trousers there and then to prove to her that they really do make my butt look huge.
16 | Does the course actually exist?
Pre-selling is big but beware. I’ve been burnt twice. I’ve bought two courses in pre-sale phase and those courses were both aborted long before their due date. I lost time (though I did get a refund) and missed other opportunities. So now it’s my personal policy not to buy anything until it exists...you make your own choice.
17 | Is this course mostly ‘mindset’?
Oh God, preserve us from high-price courses that are 90% mindset. OK, I get it. Mindset is important. But if the sales page has a heavy emphasis on ‘getting your mind in the right place’ you need to think carefully about what you’ll actually learn from this course.
18 | Is this course a sensible sturdy pair of shoes or a pair of skyscraper satin heels?
(AKA Is it a want or a need?)
Hmmm, this can be tricky. It’s difficult to make rational decisions when we’re practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation to buy, buy, buy. But ask yourself, can my business move forward without this course? Is it a nice to have or a must have. I’m not saying don’t buy the nice to haves, just be aware which category this course fits in.
If you do decide to buy a course…
Please do remember to use the refund policy if you genuinely need to.
Pounding heart, sweaty palms, glorious anticipation...it’s a fact that we love to buy, it gives us a rush of dopamine.
And I love a good dopamine rush as much as anyone else. So I'm not against online courses. I just think we need to be cautious and wallet-clenchingly selective about who we give money to.
Don’t be seduced by slick copy writing, flat-lay photo-porn or buxom testimonials. The next time you consider buying a course, give yourself some thinking time, grab a glass of rosé and go through this list. Your kid’s college fund may depend on it.