Creating a Successful Online Course And Where to Host It

I've been listening to free webinars by Jeanine O'Neill-Blackwell about creating successful, profitable online courses. You can check out her site here. She offers a 7-module online course (I am not an affiliate, just have been enjoying her free videos and free webinars).

Some helpful tips I got from listening to my first webinar with Jeanine Blackwell:

First, in creating a course, you need to determine NOT what you want to TEACH your audience, but answer and address what it is your audience is ASKING.  You need to determine that SOLUTION (not simply what you want to share or think would be helpful).

  • Examine comments on your blog.
  • Create a survey.
  • Read comments on other related sites.
  • Review Facebook posts, questions, answers, comments.
  • Go to Amazon and read reviews on popular books on your topic and see what the customers valued and what more they were looking for.

Four key questions to get you started on outlining your online course:

1) If they complete your course, _________ will happen.

2) How will they do this? How will you help them achieve (give them the tools)?

3) What do they need to know (prior to taking the course)?

4) Why should they take your courseโ€ฆright now (create the urgency)?

In listening to her sessions and thinking about all my clients that want to create online courses/classes, I started searching for affordable options where there is minimal programming (or NO programming needed).  Then I came across UseFedore.com.

  • Click here to view a free demonstration on how to create your courses online!
  • Click here to visit UseFedora.com and get started today! It's free to sign-up and to create your online course!  If you then charge a fee for your course, they take a small percentage (so that's how they get paid for offering the hosting).

CreateYourOwnOnlineCourses

Companies like TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Bloomberg use this platform! 

So if you want to offer an online course and
want to find some easy, affordable way to host it,
check out UseFedora.com!

 

Happy Blogging ๐Ÿ˜€
Heather Wright-Porto
Blogs By Heather / Stamping And Blogging

5 Things to Consider BEFORE Launching Your Membership Site

In working with customers in setting up their Membership Sites, regardless of which type of membership "site" or "service" you use, you must consider the following BEFORE starting. Following these _____ tips will save you time, money and headaches!

#1: DETERMINE THE BEST TYPE OF MEMBERSHIP SITE FOR YOU!

There are many types of membership sites – that is a service in which you are paid for where your customers can enter to view information OR it may be where members sign up to receive information from you daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally.

What is good for one is NOT good for all.

Please read my past but recent article on the different types of membership sites and find which is best suited for you:

  • What are your goals? Is it a short term or long term commitment. 
  • What you are trying to accomplish?  Is there a series they have to go through step by step, is it that you offer many videos on a subjects that they can have access to in no specific order? Is your site a teaching-aide, a downloadable resource site, an advice column, etc.?
  • What are you promising to deliver to your subscribers (members) and when. This is CRITICAL in your planning!

Do Not Pay Yet

After reading and learning about the different types of memberships, do NOT purchase anything yet!!! It's not time yet!  At this stage you are not ready to pay for a service you are not yet using!

One of the main reasons is that for products you may purchase for your new membership site, there may be a Trial FREE period, there is normally one year support (or some duration and type of free support). You don't want to waste a free trial or any support you may need later once your site is up and running.

Click here to read my articles (it is a 3-part series) on Membership Sites – what they are, the different types, the time required, the costs involved and more!

#2: PLAN..PLAN…PLAN…FOR YOUR MEMBERSHIP SITE AND SERVICE!

I cannot express how important this is! You must, must make a plan and get organized.

  • What are you delivering?
  • How often?
  • What is the cost?
  • How much overhead?
  • How much time – as the administrator, as the developer, as the service provider – a day, a week do you have to work to deliver top knotch, high quality material, product or information that will keep your members ACTIVE?

During this phase you may also seek a graphic designer to design a professional, custom look for your site – regardless of what platform you choose, you will need a "look".  If you have an existing blog or website, then you can use those graphics, slightly modified as well.

Do a Trial Run

Go through a trial run with family and friends to help best estimate YOUR time in managing and administrating your membership site/subscription service!

Do Your Research

Find out and do research on what your competition is charging for a similar service!

  • What is the quality of their work? 
  • How is your site better? 
  • How is it different? 
  • What are you offering that will make people want to COME to you…and then to STAY with you!!!

#3: ARE YOU READY TO DELIVER YOUR MEMBERSHIP SITE?

After you've done your research and planning, now you have to build your content!  This, again, is a MUST.

  • You have to prepare. 
  • You have to be ready! 
  • You need to take the time to put together high quality content. Whether it is for a week, a month, a few months. Whatever you chose, but you must have high quality, good content to deliver to members who sign up! AND continue to deliver in order to keep them!

 #4: BUYING YOUR MEMBERSHIP SITE

Now, and only after you have done your research, set your pricing for members, have high quality content ready to go, is when you can now buy what YOU need to gt YOUR membership site up and running.

  • What platform will you be using for your membership site?  Many use a WordPress blog and the Wishlist Member Plugin. Others use phpBB Forum. Others use vBulletin. There are many, many options for your budget and comfort zone.
  • Do you require a password-protected, login SITE or is a password protected "page" enough?
  • Are you delivery content in the form a newsletter?

So, find your platform. Do the research on the different platforms and their cost – intial/setup cost, hosting, monthly fees, etc.

  • If WordPress/Wishlist Member, you will need to pay for WordPress hosting (monthly/yearly) as well as the WishList Member license (you could use the $97).
  • Graphic Design costs if applicable…estimate $100 for all that you may need.
  • If using a newsletter service, most have a FREE tria period (Constant Contact is a 2 month/60-day trial), some are FREE like MailChimp. However, on average most pay about $15-$30 a month to get started and then MORE once their list of subscribers grow.  So when pricing your newsletter service (to delivery content to your members if you go this way), be sure to see the costs associated with a growing list of members!
  • If using a password-protected blog, this may cost you no extra. Blogger is free, WordPress.com is free, TypePad is $8.95 for 4 blogs. If using a password-protected "page" tihs doesn't cost you anymore!

 

#5:  ADVERTISE YOUR NEW MEMBERSHIP SITE

You are now ready to go live! Make sure when you are in phase #3 you post on your blog or website that "something is coming". You may tell them about it or you may keep the suspense going!  

When you do actually launch it, promote it on Facebook, Twitter, your blog.  You may even want to take out ad/banner space on popular sites (depending on your budget) or use Google AdWords and related paid services.

 

I wish you much success in your new venture!

Heather Wright-Porto
www.BlogsByHeather.com 

3-Part Series: Membership Sites using Password Protected Pages or Blogs

Hi again!  I've been meaning to get this article out to you sooner, but the Google Sites problem had me backed up a few days. Glad that is all resolved! ๐Ÿ˜€ Then I had to do my monthly maintenance updates for Stampin' Up! demonstrators and such. Thanks for waiting for me! ๐Ÿ˜€

Anyway, this article is the 3rd article in the 3-Part Series on Membership Sites. Will will be discussing how to use Password Protected blogs and Password Protected pages to setup an online classroom or team area.

Recap

In PART 1 we discussed a full-blown membership site, a big investment of your resources and time, but one that can continue to bring you revenue and build your online community.  The solution discussed was using a WordPress hosted blog and WishList Member plugin (to control members, levels, logins, payment).  

In PART 2 we spoke about mini subscriptions and more short term solutions. This would be for those running a seasonal offering or offering a service for a few weeks, a few months.  In this solution I mentioned using a newsletter service, such as Constant Contact, to deliver content and links to "hidden" pages on your blog containing videos or PDFs you have stored. Whatever it is your are offering, you can have to showcased on a page on your blog and only those subscribers (member subscribers to your special newsletter) will have access of those pages and links.

"Hidden" Pages
A quick note here….a "hidden" page is the same as a regular page you create on your blog, but is NOT made public to your general audience. Only newsletter subscribers (members) have access to such page URLs. So there is not setting to set to "hide" the page. Hope that makes more sense now ๐Ÿ˜€

Password-Protected Blogs and Pages 

Let's get started with talking about password-protected pages vs. password-protected blogs. First, when to use which…

If you want to build a team area or an online club, a private area, but do not need a full blown membership site, then you would create another blog and have it password-protected.

  • In TypePad, create a new blog and then go to Settings.
    • Under Basics, click to password protect the blog.
    • You can then enter the username and password info.
  • In WordPress.com, go to Settings, Privacy and set to Private. 
    • Then add those people who have access to view your blog.
    • You can also protect pages and posts!
  • In Blogger, like you go to Settings, Permissions.
    • Then invite all those who are allowed access to your blog.

In using a protected blog, you can do all you are familiar with in your main blog – post, create pages, insert pictures and video, add photo albums, customize the design, etc.

This again would be preferrable if you are creating an online club or class environment or want to share information and have a blog specifically for a team (or downline for SU Demos).

To Password-Protect a Page

What if you don't need a full-blown blog and just want to hide or protect a page. This page may contain a bunch of videos or be a page you link to from your newsletter (such as if using a mini-subscription setup), that you want to force people to enter a password.

Keep in mind you have to email them the password! LOL.

In any event, it's easiest enough to do.  You can use this method below in Blogger and TypePad.  WordPress.com has it's own built-in method! When you create a page or post, on the right sidebar area you can set the Visibility to Password Protect (and then set the password there).

PLEASE NOTE HOWEVER, this is not the most secure way of password protecting a page! It's just the only way that is available for Blogger and TypePad.

In Blogger and Typepad:

  • Create your page as you normally would.
  • Finishing composing the page until the only thing left is to "protect" it.
  • Switch to Edit HTML view.
  • Copy and paste in the code below to the top of your page.
  • Edit the password (in my example it is TypePad) and the site to be directed to if hte password is incorrect (in my example it is my site).
  • Then you can Publish the page. 

When you the go to view the page, you will be prompted for the password. If it is CORRECT the page content will be shown. If it is WRONG then they are directed to your main site or another page you may have created for an "oops. try again".

JavascriptClick here to download the text file so you can copy and paste, edit the code for your page!

 

I hope this helps you in setting up some type of membership site that best suits your needs and business.

Happy blogging!

Heather Wright-Porto
www.BlogsByHeather.com 

3-Part SERIES: Do you need a Membership Site? Mini-Subscription Ideas.

This article is Part 2 of the 3-Part SERIES in discussing Membership Sites.  In the last article we discussed the full-blown Membership Site option using a hosted WordPress blog and the plug-in, WishList Member.

In this article, Part 2, we will discuss mini-subscriptions. In Part 3, the final part of the series we will discuss some other options and alternatives! In the end you should have plenty of ideas on how to build a membership site that best suits your business and business goals, short term and long term. Make sure you read all 3 articles before making any decisions!

Mini-Subscriptions or Short-Term Subscriptions

Before diving into or launching a full-blown Membership Site, you may want to give it a trial run – to see how much time it takes you to provide and keep up with the service and/or how your customers respond to it.  

Or what if you company wants to offer a seasonal package or service of some kind, especially around the holidays or for a specific cause or event, such as Breast Cancer Awareness.

These would be good examples for setting up a Mini-Subscription or Short-term membership, one that runs for a short period of time whether its a week, a month or a few months (for example).

Many of my fellow demonstrators and customers do something called "12 Weeks of Christmas" or "12 Days to Christmas". In either case it is a service they provide for a short, specific set time (12 weeks or 12 days) and only to those who sign up or subscribe.

Solution – Newsletter & PayPal

The best solution for this type of "membership" is to use a newsletter service and PayPal – the newsletter to delivery your content or service to a specific set of customers, and then PayPal to accept payments.

You can use your blog and setup hidden "pages" that have the special content you want to share, such as embedded videos, or upload PDFs to your file manager (or Google Docs for example if using Blogger).

So, after you have all your materials prepared (the services, digital content in this example) prepared, and have your pages setup or uploaded to a file manager, you are ready to get those subscribers!

Setup a List

If you have an existing newsletter service, such as Constant Contact, then create a new list and make sure you set it to appear on your sign up form. If you are using MailChimp (free) or Aweber, then you can create a separate list AND separate "sign up box" for that list.  In any case, once you have setup your list, put the Sign Up Box on your blog's sidebar, you are ready to start promoting!

Ready to Launch

When you are ready to launch (have all your materials and your newsletter list and sign up box ready), the last thing you need to add to your blog is payment buttons.  I would recommend putting the payment button in the sidebar with a promo ad, as well as a post announcing the new service (subscription) and details about what you will be providing, for how long, and what your amazing price will be!

Payment Buttons

You have two options to offer your customers (using PayPal in this example).  You can setup ONE payment button if they choose to pay for the 3 months upfront (for example if you are running a 3 month subscription).  Otherwise you can setup a SUBSCRIBE button in PayPal and allow your customers to pay x-amount over the 3 months (or whatever desired duration). Your customers will love the options. Some like paying it all upfront while others find it more affordable to pay monthly.

Summary

Now you are ready to setup your mini-subscriptions!

  • Prepare you service, materials.
  • Setup any "hidden" pages that may be necessary in sharing information pertaining to your service.  
  • Setup a newsletter, a list and put your Sign Up Box in your blog's sidebar.
  • Post about your new subscription and include payment buttons. Also add payment buttons to your sidebar for easy access as well.

Stay tuned for Part 3 where we'll discuss even more alternatives and options in setting up membership subscriptions!

Heather Wright-Porto
www.BlogsByHeather.com 

3-Part SERIES: Do you need a Membership Site? Build your online community and your revenue with a Membership site!

In this 3-part series, we'll be discussing different types of "membership" sites and how you can use each of them to help build your followers, relationships and revenue. This article is Part I – Building a Membership Site.

  • This article, Part 1 of a 3-part Series, is designed for those looking for a membership site for the long haul – a permanent monthly or weekly service site that you plan on offering your members for a very, very long time (WordPress and WishList Member).  
  • In Part 2 we'll discuss other types of short-term "membership" options and applications and that may fit your needs better than or compliment Part 1.  
  • In Part 3, we'll discuss some alternatives to those features and products mentioned in Part 1 and 2.

What Is a Membership Site?

A great way to continue to build your relationships with customers, friends, and followers is to create a Membership site.  Many of my fellow Stampin' Up! demonstrators use a Membership site to offer specific online classes to members/customers who have paid to sign up for their exclusive classes. Classes may be in the form of videos, tutorials (PDFs), or both, for example.

I use a Membership site for my blog maintenance program, Blogs By Heather Subscriptions. It's a little different from the traditional use of how other's use a password protected Membership only site, but it works for me. Stampin' Up! demonstrators join my maintenance program (which is a Membership site) for $12.50 a month for me to have their blogs updated every month with new, beautiful graphics of the latest promotions, catalogs, products and more!

The Purpose of Your Membership Site

So there are many uses to a Membership site, but the bottom-line is that it is a way for you to offer a service to customers who pay you for that service or exclusive articles or classes (whatever it may be); maintain your relationships with them; and in return you will see your revenue grow.

You need to give them
something of great value
at a price they can afford!

For me, it's offering Stampin' Up! demonstrators their time back! For $12.50 a month they can have their blog always updated, showing the best and most current promotions with beautiful graphics on their blog…and they do NOT have to fuss with all the HTML each month in swapping at all the old promos.  It saves them time and frustration.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This type of Membership "Site" we're discussing in Part 1 is a long term investment on YOUR part as well as your customer's.


How to Get Started

What you need is a site to maintain your members and with a login === password protected Membership site. 

Since we are all Bloggers (regardless of what platform you are using), I will discuss with you the most popular option for Bloggers. Use a blog (technology and functionality you are already very familiar with) and transform it into a Membership site!

What You Need

WordPress Blog/Hosting

First, you need a WordPress blog. No, you do NOT have to move you existing blog to WordPress.  I have a TypePad blog, www.BlogsByHeather.com.  But your Membership site is a separate blog and a WordPress blog! Mine is www.BlogsByHeatherSubscriptions.com (for my blog maintenance program for Stampin' Up! Demonstrators).

So again, do not have a panic attack! (LOL). You do NOT have to move your existing blog. You will simply create a new one, a separate WordPress blog to create your membership site!  

In June 2012 I will be offering WordPress hosting for Stampin' Up! Demonstrators (and others) with lots of bells and whistles and customizations…shhhh…coming soon!  If you don't go through me then I highly recommend Blue Host WordPress hosting.

WishList Member Plug-in

Next, you can use Wishlist Member which is a WordPress plugin. It can turn any WordPress blog into a Membership site! 

Although there are many tutorials on how to set this up yourself, I would highly recommend my partner, Michelle Laycock, she offers a "WordPress Subscription Site Install" package, or I can set it up as well. Either of us can do the Setup and Install of WishList Member.

  • So, first be sure to contact Michelle and get on her WordPress Subscription Site Install list, or myself. Yes, there will be a waiting list…but then again it is going to take you time to put together all your materials (videos, PDFs, posts, articles) that need to prepare before you launch! 
  • Next, you'll need a WordPress blog. You can have one with your domain name purchase (adding WordPress hosting to your cart) or use my new hosting packages or I would also highly recommend Blue Host (if not using mine – LOL).
  • Next, you need to purchase the Wishlist Member add-on here. Click the Get Started Today and you only need the Single License ($97) even if you are running multiple classes (you can use "Levels" instead – a feature inside WishList Member).

 

Domain Name

Last, but not least, you need to purchase and map a domain name to your Membership site. For example, mine is www.BlogsByHeatherSubscriptions.com.  My main, TypePad blog is www.BlogsByHeather.com. So again, I purchased a separate domain for my WordPress/WishtList Membership Site!

  • Purchase your domain thru me – www.BlogsByHeatherDomains.com or you can do it right when you purchase and setup your WordPress hosting account – thru my new WP hosting (available June 2012) or Blue Host. 

 

Bottom-line – What's the Cost?

These quotes of course do not include the time it will take you to get your materials together for you new membership site launch (time is money)…but here is the estimated cost to get the products and services you need:

  • Professional Setup – Setup WishList Member on a WordPress blog. Again, I would highly recommend you have someone do this for you, someone with experience and has done so for many of our customers – Michelle Laycock, WordPress Subscription Site License = $200 (one-time fee).
  • WishList Member Single License = $97 (one-time fee).
  • WordPress blog and Domain Name. Blogs By Heather Domains, Go Daddy, or other hosting company. Domains thru me are less than $10 a year; WordPress hosting ranges from $3.99 a month-ish and up depending if you purchase a shared-hosting or dedicated hosting package. You can purchase through me or thru Blue Host.
  • If you want training on how to use all of WishList Member features, additiona fees may apply.

So, out of all this…the $97 WishList Memer Single License and the WordPress blog/hosting is an absolute, necessary purchase.  All other options are optional, although recommended.

Estimates do not include any "design" work you may need – such as new banner, landing page, custom buttons, etc.
 

What Do I Get?

When purchasing and using WishList Member, you get ALL of these GREAT features for your Membership site!  For example, you can hide certain content from certain groups, and easily upgrade members to a new level. Best of all, WishList integrates with PAYPAL so you do not have to purchase a new credit card processor! 

  WishList Member Features

WishList Member Features

WishList Member Features

WishList Member Features

Summary

That's the end of this Part 1 of my 3-Part Series on Membership Sites.  I hope I provided you enough information to get your started.  You can also click here to learn more about Wishlist Member!  

Remember, this is the biggie, a big investment and commitment, hence the word "Site" in Membership Site.  This venture is not to be taken likely or is not a temporary solution. It is another "job" for you to do, a site (blog) for you to maintain.

If you are looking for something a little different, maybe a trial type of membership or something to offer seasonally, Part 2 may be a better solution for you!

Until next time…Part 2 to be published in the next 2-3 days! Again it is on mini-membership subscriptions.

Heather ๐Ÿ˜€

Heather Wright-Porto
www.BlogsByHeather.com