Nick Stephenson is a USA Today Bestselling Author, course creator, and software company co-founder. Learn how to create and launch your own digital course at Create Awesome Online Courses.
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3 Value Bombs
1) It’s addictive to see people take material that you’ve presented, use it, adapt it to their own circumstances, and get great results with it.
2) Plan out what the end goal is for your students: where do they need to get to, what does their life look like when they have succeeded, where are they now, and what are the steps in between?
3) To launch anything, you need to have an online presence. And you have to have a marketing plan in place.
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**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: Building an Online Course Empire
[1:29] – Nick shares something that he believes about becoming successful that most people disagree with.
- You don’t need permission from somebody else to be successful.
[3:35] – What convinced Nick to quit his day job.
- He randomly took a marketing job for a large corporation.
- Like a lot of people working corporate roles, you often end up feeling like you’re just one cog in the machine.
- It took him years doing the wrong thing to figure out where he wanted to be.
[7:02] – The reason why Nick decided to be an author.
- He enjoyed creative writing and did really well at it.
- Just 3 or 4 books in, his income was the same amount he used to earn from a corporate job.
[12:02] – A timeout to thank our sponsor, HubSpot!
[14:23] – Moving from being an author to courses and software.
- He decided that it would be so much easier if he created training material that he could just give to people
- The same pleasure that he felt with writing existed in creating the training materials and talking to authors and helping them.
- It’s addictive to see people take material that you’ve presented, use it, adapt it to their own circumstances, and get great results with it.
- To serve customers in the best way, he had to focus on the courses. He phased out writing and doubled-down on creating more materials and helping more people.
[18:00] – The things that we need to know to make an online course successful.
- The number one issue is that the course is not focused enough.
- Plan out what the end goal is for your students: where do they need to get to, what does their life look like when they have succeeded, where are they now, and what are the steps in between?
- You can have the best marketing strategy on the planet, but if the cause doesn’t appeal to the right person, or if it doesn’t walk through it in a way that’s accessible, then it’s not going to work.
[21:02] – Nick’s recommendation for those who don’t have a budget for marketing on social media.
- Advertising is something that you have to do at some point.
- Have a free book on Amazon. It is a lot like your website on Google, but you have a far smaller number of products competing with you on Amazon versus Google.
[25:12] – Where do we start?
- Number one thing you have to figure out is, what is your product/service?
- To launch anything, you need to have an online presence and you’ve got to have a marketing plan in place.
[26:40] – Nick’s call to action for Fire Nation.
- Advertising is an integral part when you’re scaling up or at the beginning.
- Facebook Ads Mastery – Sign up and get a free 80-minute workshop about Facebook Ads Mastery!
Who's ready to rock today, Fire Nation. JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like Female Startup Club. Today, we'll be talking about building an online course empire from students to business owner in $10 million in sales to drop these value bombs. I brought Nick Stephenson into EOFire studios. Nick is a USA Today Bestselling Author, course creator and software company. Co-founder learn how to create a launch your own digital course at Create Awesome Online Courses. And today we'll be chatting about how it's still possible to build a successful online courses.
We'll talk about how to do it, even if you don't have a huge ads budget, and we'll talk about step one, like where do you start? And so much more Fire Nation. When we get back from thanking our sponsors, wondering what to do when you need motivation, wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnout tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Nick say what's up to Fire Nation and share something that you believe about becoming successful that most people disagree with.
1 (1m 25s):
What's up Fire Nation. And that probably sounds very strange in a British accent, but thank you so much for having me on the podcast. And this was, this was a question I put some thought into because there's so much out there in terms of kind of assumptions and misinformation that a lot of people kind of don't get their heads around. But I think for me, probably the biggest thing most people would disagree with is I believe that you don't need permission from somebody else or somebody else's kind of approval to be successful. You know, especially if you're starting your own business. So many people I hear from they get so worried that what they're doing might not be good enough or that they're not enough of an expert.
1 (2m 11s):
Maybe they, you know, they're not the number one person on the planet at something. So do they have permission to succeed in that field? And again, with authors is what I taught a lot of authors and they worry and worry about whether their writing is good enough. And who's going to tell them, yes, this is good enough. And from where I'm standing, I think it's up to you to kind of give yourself permission to be successful. So, you know, how have confidence in your own skills to get where you want to be. And don't wait for somebody else to, to kind of tell you what to do and to tell you when you're ready, because only you are going to know that. I think for me, that's something that a lot of people kind of assume has to be the case.
1 (2m 52s):
So, you know, that's, that's where I'm coming from on that.
0 (2m 55s):
Well, I can tell you if I was waiting for permission from somebody to launch Entrepreneurs On Fire back in 2012, when almost nobody heard of what a podcast is, I'd still be waiting Fire Nation. I'd still be waiting because nobody was going to give me permission. And I didn't look for it. I didn't ask for it. I just went ahead and did it, and guess what Fire Nation today, as I mentioned during the intro, we're talking about building an online course empire, and we got Nick here today who did a one point have a nine to fiver, or maybe it was like more like most people where you really do the math. It's like eight to six, or what finally convinced you to quit the day job.
1 (3m 33s):
I like to call it the DDJ or the dreaded day job. I mean, this, this is kind of what, what we were all conditioned towards at school was, you know, you do your schooling and then you go to university or college to go into a specific field. And I was one of these fairly useless students who was a kind of a little bit directionless. I didn't really know what kind of field I wanted to go into. So I ended up doing English at university English literature, which is, has almost no real world implication whatsoever. And then eventually switched to law, which I found, I thought, you know, this will be my ticket to a stable career that I'll enjoy.
1 (4m 14s):
And then it turned out I didn't enjoy law in the slightest. So ended up randomly going into a marketing job at a very large kind of multinational corporation. And it was okay for awhile. But then I think like a lot of people who were working corporate roles, you kind of often end up feeling like your, just one cog in the machine. Like there's many, lots and lots of machines in there and you're one tiny collagen. It kind of felt like whatever I was doing didn't have an impact overall. So that was kind of what I learned about myself as I wanted to be able to create something that has an impact.
0 (4m 52s):
Let me just break in here for a second, because I think this is an important point to sit on for just a minute Fire Nation. If there's some common theme I've heard over the years, it's that people want their work to matter. They want what they do to make an impact. If you're going to spend 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours doing something every single day or four days a week or five days a week or seven days a week, you want that thing to matter. And that's just a core human desire. You know, we were able to fulfill that pretty easily back in the caveman days. And we're just like, yeah, I spent all day today collecting food. Like that matters collecting firewood, that matters.
0 (5m 33s):
I'm improving my shelter that matters, but today, sometimes we can get caught up in this work that just doesn't feel like it matters. Like nobody even cares or notice if you did or did not do that thing. So Nikki Bon Gombe, I just wanted to jump in there with a little perspective.
1 (5m 49s):
Well, that's exactly it. I mean, my, my job was for all intents and purposes was to prepare PowerPoint slides for people. So it's like the, of my work was that either get told it was a good slide or a bad slide, you know, that kind of thing. So it was, it, you know, some people really thrive in that kind of environment, but it wasn't for me. And I knew that I wanted to, you know, this took me a long time to figure out, but I knew that I wanted to a be creative and, and be to have that work, have a positive impact in some way that I could see. So it wasn't an overnight thing. I mean, this, this is like 10, 15 years of self discovery and some people are lucky and they kind of know this to begin with, but it took me many years of doing entirely the wrong thing to figure out where I wanted to be.
1 (6m 37s):
And once I decided I didn't want to be in that kind of career, then I began looking for, for a way out, which was initially with, with writing.
0 (6m 48s):
No, I do want to talk about that because I want to know why I want to know why you decided to start with becoming an author because let's be Frank, it's kind of difficult these days to get noticed in a world where pretty much anybody can write something self-publish on Amazon and then sell three copies of a book to your mother and one to yourself. And it's, it's a busy, difficult, crowded, saturated markets where even if you do, by the way, make it big and have a really successful book. You're still not making much money. So why
1 (7m 21s):
Comes back to this idea of being creative? And I'd always really enjoyed creative writing. I mean, I did it at school. I chose classes at university and creative writing and I always enjoyed them and did really well at them. And the problem is, is, you know, you're at school and you have careers day, or you have careers. Advice. Author never comes up, no one ever sits down and goes, you might want to be an author is how you go about doing it. So the, the idea had never even crossed my mind that this was even a remotely viable career path. But around the time when I was starting to think, you know, how am I going to get out of this corporate job was around the time that Amazon's Kindle a self publishing platform, Kindle direct publishing really started kicking off.
1 (8m 10s):
So sort of 2010, 11 was when it really started to ramp up. And I started reading these blog posts from previously, traditionally published authors who are struggling, who had put some of their books up onto Kindle. And we're now making a lot of money, a lot more money doing that than they were with their publisher. And, you know, I kept kept coming back to this idea of writing and writing. I know I was reading a lot at the time as well, and I still do. And I thought, you know, I'm reading these novels and I'm thinking, you know, if I can map out kind of what a novel needs to include. And I was reading sort of thrillers at the time, sort of James Patterson type thrillers.
1 (8m 51s):
And I sat down one day and I got a spreadsheet out and I just mapped out every chapter and what every chapter, what happened in each chapter until marked out these main action beats. And I thought this is like a blueprint for a novel. This could be interesting. So I kind of went away and had a crack at writing a novel and it took about a year to get something that was vaguely possible out there. And I just thoroughly enjoyed the process. And I thought to myself, you know, on the one side, this could be a ticket out of the corporate world. On worst case scenario, I had a really good time. So I had this absolutely no regrets, even if this goes nowhere.
1 (9m 31s):
So I put the effort in to get a good cover. I got it. Professionally edited, got it out onto Kendall. And during this whole time I was writing a blog about the process when I was outlining, but I was struggling with what I was working on, what worked, what didn't work. And when I launched, I had this blog following of mostly other authors actually, but you know, authors read books, believe it or not. And a lot of them bought the book out of support. You know, it, wasn't trying to push a big marketing campaign or anything. I just mentioned it in a blog post and it sold some copies and then it continued to sell some copies and it, I bought a little bit of advertising and it sold more copies.
1 (10m 13s):
And then the Amazon algorithms picked it up and they started selling more copies. So I released another book and then started selling more and repeated the process and three or four books in it's snowballed to the point where I was making the same amount each month that I was making from the corporate job. And I was just lucky enough to be in a position where the company was restructuring and they'd offered like this redundancy package and with the money coming in from books at the time and the redundancy money coming in, it made a lot of sense to focus on what I was really enjoying and what was going places, which was the writing
0 (10m 52s):
Furnish. And that's where I want to jump in and really focus on the fact that sometimes when you do follow that passion that you have with obviously some mixing of expertise and skillset, you start to kind of like pull on this thread and then you don't really know where it's going to lead. And then before, you know, it you're like, whoa, this is actually kind of working because I can tell you being, you know, kind of unmotivated and kind of lousy at a job. Not that saying that you are lousy at your job, Nick, but I mean, it's just like, you can't be good at something that you're just so uninspired by. You just can't be good at it. Then you find that, wow, I'm actually kind of good at this one thing because I really enjoy it. And then before I know it, whoa, look at this, like, look at the revenue. This is bringing as a result and it doesn't happen overnight.
0 (11m 33s):
It happens over time, especially when you're putting in the work and the effort and being consistent. And we have a lot to get to Nick. So we're going to take a quick break to thank our sponsors and then dive in to the big shift Fire Nation stick around being customer centric means focusing on what matters most building and growing sustainable customer relationships, maintaining unique customer needs and personalizing the customer experience. If you can do this right then you're already a step ahead of the competition in a HubSpot CRM platform is designed to help you do this best build and maintain and personalize your customer's experience into a remarkable one. How do they do it with a CRM powered CMS?
0 (12m 15s):
This means both your marketers and developers can personalize the customer experience and ensure all engagements are timely and relevant, no more miscommunications internally or with your customers. Also, you can be connected to your shared inbox, no matter where you are. This offers secure customer portals to keep ticket conversations going between customers and reps offers access to your knowledge base, and it can be customized to fit your brands. No coding required. Learn more about how a HubSpot CRM platform can help build, maintain, and grow your customer relationships at hubspot.com. Nick we're back after you were really able to get some pretty legitimate revenue coming in from your passion of writing and being an author.
0 (12m 59s):
You made a move into courses and into software. Talk to us about that move. Like let's really get into the specifics there on that story.
1 (13m 8s):
Absolutely. So, I mean, you remember I had this blog that I was writing at the beginning where I was charting my ups and downs and failures and successes and people were starting to follow me and people were joining at the time was a little WordPress blog and, you know, people could follow your blog. And later on, it introduced an email signup, which kind of accelerated things. But I had this sort of audience of authors who were interested in how I was getting on and what was working and how they could do the same thing. And eventually I was getting so many questions via email all the time. And it usually the same topics by the way that I decided it would be so much easier if I just created some kind of training material that I could just give to people.
1 (13m 54s):
And it was at this point, I started researching online courses and I found David Siteman. Garland of create awesome online courses around this time via Pat Flynn and took one of the webinars and thought, you know, this, this is exactly what I'm trying to do. Although I hadn't realized that, you know, you could charge for this and quite, quite so much people would be willing to pay quite so much to learn something like this, which was surprising. And so I started going down that path as well, creating training for people free training at first, and then moving into paid training. And what was fascinating about this was the, the pleasure that I got from writing.
1 (14m 36s):
I got a similar pleasure from creating the training material and talking to authors and helping them with the added benefit of coming back to this idea of impact was that they would tell me when things went really well. So, you know, with the books, I might get an email from a reader saying, Hey, Nick, I, you know, I really enjoyed your book. When's the next one out. And that kind of feels nice, but working with authors and helping them build up their career, you know, I get emails saying, Nick, I quit my job yesterday to become a full-time writer. You know, my life has changed. I can't thank you enough. And that's just a whole another level of impact and helping people that way just became almost addictive.
1 (15m 17s):
Being able to, to see people taking the material that I'd presented using it, adapting it to their own sort of circumstances, and then getting great results with it just felt brilliant. And while I was working with the courses and the books at the same time, I realized that to serve my customers in the best way I had to focus on the courses. So that's what I did. I kind of phased out the writing and really doubled down on creating more material, more training, helping more people, introducing sort of email coaching to people and really trying to dig down into each student as a, as an individual. And that's what was, I think, really satisfying.
1 (15m 58s):
So it was an organic transition, as I discovered more about myself and what kind of drives me to get up and do work in the morning.
0 (16m 7s):
I had a lot of success and you've been able to now, you know, essentially co-found and now, you know, be the person behind create awesome online courses. So you see a lot of people doing a lot of things. You see a lot of people doing things, right? A lot of things, a lot of things that people are doing wrong. What do we need to know? And let's just get specific with one, maybe two things to make an online business course successful.
1 (16m 36s):
Sure. I mean, I was lucky enough to be able to go and work with David on create awesome online courses after years of working together on other projects. And so I've had a kind of this fascinating insight into people making courses and, you know, doing what they do on that side of things, not just authors. And one of the main things is focus. And this is when people first come in and they're thinking about creating a course and they, they kind of give me their ideas. And the number one issue I find is it's not focused enough. So for example, you know, someone would put up a link to a sales page and it would be something along the lines of, you know, how to, how to do marketing for example, and you'd look at it and you were like, well, this, this is, this is too broad.
1 (17m 24s):
Now this isn't specific enough to appeal to a specific person. And because, you know, there are a lot of courses out there now, the market is quite big. You really have to have that focus to differentiate yourself from other people. So my personal example was I taught marketing and email list building and email marketing to authors, specifically authors, not just anybody, specifically to author. So that meant that it had that appeal, that niche appeal to get noticed in that crowded marketplace. So the number one thing is focus. I would say after that, it's creating something that is going to have, it's going to have that impact is going to help teach people.
1 (18m 7s):
So really planning out what the end goal is for your students, where do they need to get to, what does their life look like when they have succeeded? Where are they now? And what are the steps in between? And if you can map that out now for a course, for example, those are your modules. Step one, module one, et cetera, et cetera, moving from where they are now to where they want to be with that focus. And that kind of underpins everything. So you could have the best kind of marketing strategy on the planet. You could have an amazing kind of ads campaign running all the time. Evergreen funnels all these wonderful technology, but if the course doesn't appeal to the right person, and if it doesn't walk them through it in a way that's accessible, it's, it's not gonna be
0 (18m 53s):
Now. What if we don't have a huge ad budget? I hear that as a concern from a lot of people all the time. They're like, okay, I understand I've got a niche. I've got a focus, Nick and John are always talking about that niche, my flipping face off. So I get that. I've got the process down, but I don't have a lot of money to advertise on Instagram, Tik TOK, Facebook fill in the blank, just don't have a huge ad budget. And, you know, I probably don't have like a huge organic audience, like some people that are out there as well. What do you recommend for those individuals?
1 (19m 29s):
So I start by saying that advertising is something you're going to have to do at some point, but everybody starts off small, you know, five bucks here and there to experiment and find out what works. And I have a link for that later on, but outside of advertising, what I found great success with is a couple of a couple of things. Number one is having a free book on Amazon. And this comes back to the author thing again, cause you know, this is kind of bread and butter stuff for me. But if you are marketing an information product or your product or service can be tied into an information product in some way, then having a free book on Amazon on Kindle is a lot like, you know, your website on Google, except instead of competing with 60 billion other websites, you know, there's, there's a fast, smaller number of products competing with you.
1 (20m 27s):
So if, for example, you, you know, you, you have a plumbing service let's say, or a plumbing business, you could write a short book all about, you know, how to plumb your own bathroom and put it onto Amazon, set it to free so that it gets picked up more often, free books on Amazon do tend to get a lot more downloads, paid ones. And inside the book, you have a lead magnet and a link through to your website where people can learn more about you, maybe get them, get a lead magnet bonus chapter or something. And this is what I advise to anyone starting out. If you can spend a few days writing a useful kind of pamphlet or short book, it doesn't have to be very long.
1 (21m 8s):
That's helpful to your target audience. If you make it free on Amazon and all the other e-book stores as well, we'll pick up a lot of organic traffic effortlessly. And this is, this is free stuff. This is free traffic and a proportion of these people will click through to your website. And as long as your website's set up in the right way, you can collect those leads and follow up with them. Later on. The other thing I always recommend people do is team up with other people. So joint promotions in every way, imaginable are some of the best ways that you can get things rolling, especially in the beginning. So finding other people in your market, you don't necessarily directly compete with and teaming up and pooling resources and going out there and sharing kind of the burden.
1 (21m 55s):
So for example, if you're starting to build an email list and you've got a hundred people on your email list, for example, if you can find four other people with a similar reach, you now you've got 500 people that you have access to, which is incredibly useful. When you've got a launch or a promotion coming up, you can rely on this sort of network of people to help you get where you want to be. And then later on, there's more complex things like affiliate deals and partnership deals and sponsorship deals, but it all comes from finding people to work with. And this is especially helpful for people who work at home all the time. You know, having this human connection outside of your home office is incredibly important on a sort of on a spiritual level, I guess, as well.
1 (22m 38s):
But those would be my, my number, my number one, and number two, kind of top tips. If you're just getting started
0 (22m 44s):
And Fire Nation, I want to bring in a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. heir, which is you don't have to see the whole staircase to take the first step. And that's the whole point of this. You take the first step with what you have, where you are and you see what happens. You see what is revealed for that next step. Like Nick and I were jokingly talking about the amazing weather here in Puerto Rico pre-interview and he was telling me all about the fog he's dealing with. It's like that when you're taking steps, it's like there's fog on the entire staircase, but you take that next step. Boom, the fog clears a little bit. And then you see that next step, especially when you have people like myself and Nick and others who have created great content for you to help guide you along the way, but even us, even we can't share with you exactly what that clear step looks like.
0 (23m 29s):
You're going to find that out for yourself with help and with guidance from us, but only so much take that first step. And speaking of step one, let's end with a bang neck, where do we start?
1 (23m 41s):
That's number one thing you have to figure out is what is product? What is your service? As we said earlier, that focus. So if you're a course creator, what is the topic of your course? What specifically is the outcome? People can get by taking the course, nail that down and everything will flow from there on a practical side to launch pretty much anything. You're going to need to have some kind of online presence. You know, a website that's set up in the right way to get you what you want. And you're going to have to have a marketing plan in place. So if you're going to go down the free book routes or the joint networking routes, or you're going to do some advertising and make sure you have a plan in mind for how you're going to get started with that.
1 (24m 31s):
But it all starts with, for course, creators, you know, the topic, the idea, the plan for other people, you know, nailing down, what is your product, having that ready to go is gonna make life a lot easier for you. So if you're literally just getting started, if you're sat at work, listening to this and you don't have an idea for a business, that's where it all starts, you know, having that idea and then kind of critically analyzing that idea to see if it's viable for the right people. Once you've got that nailed down, all the other stuff will come a lot easier.
0 (25m 4s):
Let's end with a bang brother, where can Fire Nation find out more about what you have going on in this world, connect with you, any call to action you have, and then we'll say goodbye.
1 (25m 14s):
Absolutely. So, as we mentioned earlier, you know, advertising is going to be an integral part of, especially when you get to the point where you want to scale up. But also at the beginning, when you're sort of feeling out the marketplace, trying to figure out, you know, who's going to be interested in what I've got, how much is it going to cost me to get clicks? So we have put together a mini free 80 minute workshop for you all about Facebook advertising. So we've teamed up with a Facebook ads, professionally handles over a hundred K US dollars of monthly ad spend. And in this workshop, he shares with us what he does with his clients. So when people come to him for his service, he walks them through the whole thing.
1 (25m 56s):
You know, it doesn't just jump in and start running ads. It's thinking about again, you know, what is the focus? What is the topic? Who is the perfect customer? Where do I find them? How do I appeal to them? And then how do I use that information to create ad campaigns that are going to be successful? So whatever stage you're at, you know, no tech experience required. This workshop's going to help you really nail down those ideas in your head. So we've got a link for you at nrdly.com/FIRE, which is NRDLY.com forward slash fire free 80 minute workshop. Enjoy the material is going to help you out no matter what stage you're at
0 (26m 37s):
Garnish. And you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. You've been hanging out with NS and JLD today. So up the heats head over to EOFire.com type Nick in the search bar. The show notes page will pop up with links to everything in one more time. Nick give us that URL for that 80 minute workshop.
1 (26m 56s):
nrdly.com/FIRE, which is nrdly.com/FIRE. Nick, thank you for sharing your truth, knowledge, value bombs with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you and we'll catch you on the flip side. Thank you for having me. Hey, Fire Nation today's value bound content was brought to you by Nick and Fire Nation. What can 3000 of the world's most successful entrepreneurs teach you? How about how to achieve financial freedom and fulfillment? My first traditionally published book, the common path to uncommon success is a revolutionary 17 separate roadmap that will lead you to the lifestyle that you've been dreaming about. This book took me 10 years of accumulating the genius of the world's top entrepreneurs. And you can get it all in one place.
0 (27m 42s):
When you visit UncommonSuccessBook.com today, I'll catch you there or on the flip side, wondering what to do when you need motivation. Wish you had a go-to guy when it comes to preventing burnouts tune in to Jenna Kutcher's The Goal Digger Podcast brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. Listen to The Goal Digger Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.
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