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Are you ready to buy an online course for your business? Courses are a great way to learn the skills you need. But, it’s so important to buy the right course. To help you think through this, here are five important questions to ask before you purchase a course.
I’ve taken so many courses since I launched my freelance business. Some were amazing (Gina Horkey’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success is still my fave…) and others were a bust.
Since experiencing some course failures, I’ve learned so much about vetting a course and setting my expectations. There are five questions I now ask myself each time I’m tempted to buy a course.
These questions help me avoid wasting money on a course that won’t be a good fit. They also keep me from buying so many courses that I’ll never be able to work through them.
So before you purchase a new course, take the time to ask yourself these questions.
1. Can I Afford This Course?
Online courses vary wildly in price. Some are really low, others are astronomically high.
Since everyone has a different budget, there are people to purchase courses at all different price points. The important thing is that you consider your budget before you hit buy.
When I was in my second year of business, I decided I should take a high priced course on list building (worst purchase I ever made…). It sounded great and looked like it’d give me all the secrets.
And, I had enough (barely) money in the bank to pay for it.
I should have just done that. Instead, I opted for the payment plan. I told myself that this way I wouldn’t drain my savings account.
That was a bad decision.
It took me a while to wise up and do the math. After paying a monthly payment for several months, I wound up paying nearly double the initial price.
Talk about sticker shock. That made me hate this course even more. I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about the stupid purchase I’d made.
And I eventually stopped logging in.
I decided to learn from this. And I refuse to take a course if I can’t pay in full, up front for it. If I can’t pay for it all at once, I can’t afford it.
(Note: We worked really hard to get out of $100K in debt, and I don’t ever want to go back to that place…you may not feel the same way about debt, so do what works for you…)
Money isn’t everything, I understand. But, if you’re working hard to bootstrap a business, you don’t want to spend money you don’t have.
And what happens if you can’t afford a class right now?
Keep saving. It’ll be back. And hopefully by then, you’ll be in a better financial situation. If not? There will be other courses.
You can also:
- Find content you can consume for free on the topic
- Look for a lower priced course
- See if there’s a similar course included in a low-priced bundle deal
2. How Will This Online Course Help Me?
Why do you want to take this online course? How will it help you in your business?
Sales copy is very tempting. It’s designed to create an emotional reaction that makes you feel like you can’t live without this particular course.
But, before you fall for the master copy of experienced writers, stop to think objectively.
Think about your business, and where it is currently. Before you purchase, you need to have a reason to buy the course. You need to know how this information is going to help you.
You really want to see an ROI on any online course you purchase for your business.
So, will you be able to use this information to increase your profits, diversify your offerings, or streamline your current process? Will it help you be better in your business?
Or, is it a shiny object?
If it’s something you plan to use eventually, I’d recommend you wait. Remember how quickly online things change. There will be a better, up-to-date class that you can find when you’re ready.
3. Who Is Teaching the Course? Is Their Style a Good Fit?
Yes, I know that this is technically two questions in one. But, they really go together.
Before you buy a course, take a few minutes to look at the author. Who created this course? What authority do they have to create this content?
If the creator is someone you’ve followed for a long time, you probably won’t need to do as much research. If it’s a creator you don’t know as much about, take some time to peruse their free content.
Is this content you feel excited about reading? Or is it dry and boring?
If you plan to work on this course while your kids are home and awake, is this stuff you’d feel comfortable with them peeking over your shoulder at or listening in on?
Does the content feel like it’s at an appropriate level? Or is it too advanced or simple for where you are?
You won’t be able to tell everything about a course and a creator by looking at their free content, but you can get a better picture of their style.
While we’re talking about style, it’s essential to remember that there are different learning styles. To get the most out of each course, you want it to be a good fit for you.
How is the content presented in this course? Videos? Audio? Text?
Is that a format that you are comfortable learning with? Do you have the internet bandwidth to consume this content? (I live in the boonies and this is a real struggle with video based courses for me!)
4. When Will I Complete the Course Lessons and Activities?
There’s no sense paying for a course that you don’t have time for. So, before you purchase, get some time blocked out to work on it.
When you have a plan for your time’ you can get so much more done.
Remember that you won’t only need time to complete the lessons, you’ll need time to work on any homework or activities. Even if those aren’t included in the course, you’ll need time to implement what you’re learning.
If you don’t know when you’ll fit this stuff in, you might need to work on time management before you do anything else. (My course can help with that!)
Here are a few ideas for making time for a course:
- Do a lesson every morning
- Work on the course during Family Writing Time
- Stay up later and work on it each evening
- Block out several hours each Saturday for the course
- Spend quiet time working on the course
Take time now and put it in your planner. Or on your online calendar. However you keep track of your time, write down time for the course now.
Otherwise, you may soon forget about the course in the hustle and bustle of life.
Knowing when you will work on courses will also prevent you from an endless stream of course buying without ever working through them.
5. What Are Your Expectations?
You already answered the question about how this course will help you. Now, it’s time to think about this course in another way.
What do you expect to gain from it? What take aways do you need to make the purchase worthwhile?
In other words, when you finish the course, what do you expect to now have that will make you happy that you spent money on this course?
Do you need some ideas for finding new clients? Or tips for setting up a website?
Do you want to learn a new type of writing that you can charge more for?
Whatever key result you desire, make sure it’s covered by this course. Scan the table of contents carefully.
Is the outcome you desire covered?
If this topic isn’t, I’d recommend waiting on the course and finding one that’s a better fit.
Buy the Courses that Will Help, Skip the Rest
These five questions will help you decide what online courses you should buy for your business.
If you know that the course will be beneficial and is in your price range, go for it. If not, skip it.
Ignore the clever marketing and scarcity tactics used to make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t buy this course right now. If necessary, opt out of email lists talking about a course that’s not a good fit, or unsubscribe altogether.
You get to pick what classes you take. That’s one of the amazing parts about running your own business. It can go in any direction that you decide.
And if you’re ready to start a home business as a busy mom, here are some courses I recommend:
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.