Ecourses: What they are and how to create one

I’ve been running ecourses for several years — mostly for my clients but sometimes for the brands I own (like the free course at GraphiteInvesting.com).

One of my clients heard me reference this ecourse and she asked me for a quick primer on what an ecourse is and whether it might benefit her business. The email I wrote her was long and after writing it, I thought I’d paste it here. I’ve made a few changes to make it a little more general for all audiences (instead of specific to her business).

DEFINITIONS

The definitions are (in my opinion) a little fuzzy but GENERALLY fall into the following two categories:

  • Ecourses are usually courses delivered by email
  • Online courses are usually courses delivered in a learning system that the student signs in to

These aren’t official definitions but fairly common practice. So the courses I’m talking about today are ones delivered through email.

The best kind of email course is one that you write and set up to send at regular intervals in a sequence starting the day someone signs up. The software to deliver these ecourses are sometimes called autoresponders. The advantage of using this system is that you only have to create the course once and then it gets delivered in the same order to your students, regardless of when they sign up.

HOW LONG SHOULD THE ECOURSE BE?

Courses should have a definite number of lessons or number of days. I have always been a fan of doing a 10 – 12 email course over 20 days, so you’re sending an email about once every 2 days or so. There are other configurations (shorter, longer, greater frequency of emails, lesser frequency of emails) but I really like the 10 emails/20 days configuration.

Some practical observations: If you decide to make your course shorter, I wouldn’t make it shorter than 5 days. If you decide to make your course longer, I wouldn’t make it longer than 30 days. You can if you want but I think courses that are too short will not feel like courses, while courses that are too long will lose their allure after about week #3 or week #4 (depending on how frequently you send emails).

HOW DO YOU DELIVER THE ECOURSE?

Go to Google and type in “autoresponder system” or “email marketing system”. That’s the easiest and most straightforward way to go. Don’t run a course from your personal email. I use Aweber; I’ve used Streamsend; I have clients who use ConstantContact. There are others but these are good.

In Aweber, I go in and create a “Followup email” (they might be called something different in other systems), I add the lesson, and then I set email to be sent a specific number of days after the previous message. So in the GraphiteInvesting ecourse I mentioned earlier, I have the first lesson going out on day 0. Then the second lesson going out 2 days later. Then the third lesson going out 2 days after the second lesson, etc. That way, it doesn’t matter when someone subscribes, they will always be on that sequence.

THE BIG QUESTION #1: WHY ECOURSES?

An ecourse is a great way to build your business because people will give you their email address in exchange for the course. Then you send them the ecourse and you have quickly and easily built your list to market to them later. It’s simple and very cost effective.

THE BIG QUESTION #2: FREE OR PAID?

I get this question a lot. “Should I offer a free email course or a paid one?” Free courses allow you to build your list more quickly; paid courses bring in revenue.

I think: If you are already a credible authority on a topic who gets a bunch of traffic to your site, then try a paid ecourse. People will pay because they trust you already.

But for most of us (me and maybe you, too), we don’t yet have that level of credible authority and we are competing against many other people who offer free ecourses. So my advice is usually this: Start with a free ecourse. Get people putting their email into your system. (You’ll get more people responding because it’s free). Then market to them afterwards — offer the paid ecourse you want to offer; offer your books, coaching, seminars, whatever. You’ll have more people to market to if you start with a free course… and they’ll be more likely to buy because you’ve spent some time building your credibility with them.

WHAT SHOULD MY ECOURSE BE ABOUT?

Over the next few blog posts, I’ll give you a few ideas and I’ll talk about some specific audiences that I write for.

The only secret to success you’ll ever need

This is one of my shortest blog posts ever but I feel like it’s probably one of my most important blog posts ever!

If you want to achieve something…
If you want to enjoy success in your business…
If you want to make more money or have more time…
If you hate your job…
If you want more out of life…
If you are feeling overwhelmed by a project…

… Then do your work

That’s it.

Do the work.

Get off your ass, roll up your sleeves and act.

DO YOUR WORK

There are plenty of tips and secrets about how to be successful and how to hack your life to be more efficient. Those ideas and tricks are useful but they are no substitute for actually doing something.

When I think of the times in my life when I’ve struggled, it was ONLY because I did not do the work. Yes, I convinced myself that it was an external reason (I have no time; I have other things to do that are more important; etc.) but the truth is: I didn’t do the work.

Your ability to work will outpace any challenge that seems to get in the way, just like a constant dripping of water will carve stone.

DO YOUR WORK

… and amazing things will happen.

Want a place to start? Look at your agenda and find the oldest things on it — the thing you’ve been avoiding or procrastinating. Now stop reading this blog and work on it. Right now.

DO YOUR WORK

What I’m working on this week (Dec. 3 – 7)

Exciting week! Lots on the go and a bunch of bigger projects are wrapping up.

At the top of my mind: I’m teaching a course about technical writing this week. It’s a course that has been in the planning stages for about six months (because it’s a full day course so we had to hammer out a date that worked for me, the attendees, and the training company that is hosting the event). Anyway, it’s FINALLY schedule for Thursday (barring any last minute changes, of course) so I’ve got some finishing touches to put on that event.

Here are a few other things I’m doing:

  • Wrapping up a sales letter for a real estate investing client. He’s doing a lot of work on the financing side of real estate investing so I’m helping him launch some products specific to that goal.
  • Wrapping up two ecourses — a free one and a paid one — for a credit repair expert who has been looking for new avenues of monetization.
  • The regular variety of blogging and article writing that I try to knock out every week.
  • Also wrapping up a couple of personal projects that I have been chipping away at for a few months (i.e. home renos and that kind of thing).

I’m excited about jamming out all this stuff this week. There’s so much to do! And I’m starting to get amped up for 2013, which is already shaping up to be a pretty exciting year.

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