Today I want to do something a little different than usual. Today I want to walk you through my business—specifically, the processes I use for creating my online small business courses, programs, and free content.
To begin with, it’s worth mentioning that my business is basically divided into two main components: the freelancing side of things (where I have clients) and the business strategy/coaching side of things (where I have students).
(Curious about how much time I spend on each part of my business and where my money comes from? Check out this article featuring an income breakdown of how I make money online)
For our purposes in this article, I want to focus primarily on my work as a small business strategist.
At present I have a variety of ways that I teach students:
– This small business tips blog
– My email opt-in freebies and weekly newsletter (I love sharing behind-the-scenes stories of life as a home-based business owner)
– Begin Your Biz Challenge (free community featuring daily 15-minute action items for your business!)
– The Business of Writing & Editing e-book
– Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success e-course
– Goodbye 9 to 5 masterclass
– Biz Bestie one-on-one coaching program
The first three on the above list are free programs; the latter four are paid online small business courses and the book I published.
If I could make everything free and accessible to everyone who needs and wants it, and if I did not have to worry about paying bills, then I would LOVE to do that!
Unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
(Because I do, ahem, have to pay bills ;))
In just a moment I’m going to go over how I determine whether to make something a free or paid program, and how I choose my pricing for paid programs and online small business courses, but first I want to discuss how I go about choosing what programs and content to create in the first place.
How I choose what programs and content to create
My content creation process for blog posts, freebies, online courses, etc. primarily comes down to two main things: what my readers are asking for, and what I’m excited about.
Take The Business of Writing & Editing e-book, for example: I wrote that book because of all the questions I was getting from other new freelancers who wanted to learn how to do what I do for a living.
The Biz Bestie one-on-one coaching program was also born out of people asking me if I offered one-on-one business coaching.
The Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success e-course and Goodbye 9 to 5 masterclass were inspired by what questions other people were asking me, but more than that, they were what I WISHED I would have had access to when I was in that position of starting my business—which is ultimately the main reason why I created those programs!
My free Begin Your Biz Challenge was created as a direct result of the sheer number of questions I saw come up again and again from solopreneurs, pleading for tips on how to grow their businesses when they have so few hours in the day to do it. I am ALL about creating action-oriented material, so it just made sense for me to share actionable business tips that are perfect for people who are super busy and on a time-crunch—because, aren’t we all? So that’s why the Begin Your Biz Challenge is all about the super quick, 15-minute daily action steps you can take to make progress with your business every single day, no matter what else you have on your plate.
I definitely *should* create more of my content based on, for example, what people are searching in Google, but to be honest, I get so excited about certain topics and specific questions students ask that sometimes I dive rather deep into those areas which perhaps aren’t the most SEO-friendly.
(Um. Like THIS article. ;))
The plus side of that is this: when we create what we love and what we are passionate about, then we produce something truly amazing and super high-quality—and our own excitement over those topics can sometimes be infectious!
So: what makes me decide whether to make something a free or a paid program?
After all, I give away a LOT of free content.
Daily action items in my Begin Your Biz Facebook group.
Daily business tips on Instagram.
Weekly blog posts here on this small business blog.
Weekly newsletters (which are basically mini blog posts, sharing a behind-the-scenes peek of what it’s like to work from home full-time as a solopreneur).
Occasional guest blog posts, webinars, and Facebook live videos.
…And probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting about right now!
Providing piles of free content is the way I like it.
Frankly, one of my favorite things is to get emails from people asking questions about their businesses. I love best the relationships that are built out of online communities and platforms—my students aren’t *just* my students. I would count many of my students as my friends by this point!
I seriously cannot stress enough how much I adore connecting with people and having meaningful relationships with others who are of a similar mindset. I’m happy to make suggestions and brainstorm ideas with people when they have questions.
But—as I mentioned above—I DO need to pay the bills. I can’t spend all my time giving away free content!
So: how the heck do I navigate that balance of offering free vs. paid content?
One of the classic “rules” to follow when it comes to creating online programs is that you are *supposed to* give away the WHAT and the WHY, and charge money for the HOW.
To an extent, I follow that “rule.” But typically I like to share some of the HOW for free, too.
I know that new small business owners are often strapped for cash (I was there, too!). I know that you probably don’t have much disposable income. And I want to be able to give you enough free content that you can work with and make progress with it—especially if you are severely limited when it comes to funds, or if you just aren’t quite sure yet if you’re serious about starting your business yet.
For me, my paid programs walk through the much more in-depth step-by-step processes of HOW to do something.
Paid students in my online small business courses get detailed guides for exactly what they need to do and how to create actionable strategies that work for them and their unique businesses.
My paid students also get the cream of the crop from me: if they are struggling with something, I’m there to walk them through it, to give feedback on their work, to help them brainstorm ideas.
And more than that, in my paid online programs, I provide more intensive trainings and instructional guides, as well as plenty of worksheets and workbooks and other goodies so students can make my programs their own.
(After all… every business is unique and requires its own set of systems and strategies!)
I’ll be honest—before launching the Begin Your Biz Facebook community earlier this year as a free group, I had already started drawing up some pretty serious plans for making it a paid monthly membership program.
In the end, I decided that (for now, anyway!) it’ll be a free program because it truly provides new solopreneurs with something small and tangible that they can complete every single day, and it gives them a little something they can work on even if they’re broke and can’t afford any of my paid programs.
Once I know whether something will be a paid vs. free program… how do I figure out how much to charge for it?
Ah, the age-old question of pricing!
My pricing decisions typically come down to four main things: a) the value that the person is getting in the program, b) the amount of time/energy it takes me to create the program, c) the amount of ongoing time/energy it takes me to maintain the program (or more specifically, what students will get from me on an ongoing basis), and d) making it affordable enough for solopreneurs to be able to purchase.
Pssst… something important I do is offer VIP pricing: people who sign up for my email list get limited time VIP pricing on my e-courses to make even my paid offerings that much more accessible!
For example, my most premium program is the Biz Bestie one-on-one coaching program. With that program, you get unlimited access to me via email plus weekly video chats, and I’ll basically outline exactly what you need to do with your business and keep you accountable by checking in with you on a regular basis. In addition, you get a backstage pass to my signature program, the Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success e-course, plus a few other goodies.
Because the Biz Bestie program is such a personalized, one-on-one program, it took me relatively little time to set up the program… but the amount of value you get as a student, and the amount of time/energy I put into it when I’m working with a student, is extremely high. So that’s why it’s a $497/month program.
Then we have the other end of the spectrum, with The Business of Writing & Editing Deluxe Package, which is something of a steal for $39. Again, it took me relatively little time to put together because all the materials had already been created (I already sell the e-book by itself on Amazon), and it requires virtually no ongoing maintenance on my part.
The Set Yourself Up For Freelancing Success e-course, on the other hand, is another higher-priced program at $397 (the cart is closed at the moment but you can click here to get on the waiting list for VIP offerings!). That’s because it’s a comprehensive 7-week program detailing exactly what you need to do to get your profitable freelance business up and running (which I update every few months based on student feedback). Plus it includes a 6-week follow-up email sequence, worksheets and cheat sheets, private community group, office hours, and access to personalized recommendations from me for your business.
And then we have the Goodbye 9 to 5 masterclass: it’s entirely video based, with a workbook and some other goodies, and it walks students through exactly how to successfully, seamlessly quit their 9 to 5 jobs and start working from home full-time within just 3 months. Although the value of that online small business course is quite high, I’ve deliberately chosen to keep it very affordable at $149 because I know how hard it is to save pennies when you’re trying to escape the 9 to 5 and make the leap to become a home-based business owner!
There are so many factors that goes into figuring out pricing to accurately reflect the value of a program while still making it affordable and accessible to the majority of students. Someone else might choose to operate their online programs in terms of pricing very different from what I have done here—there are a lot of ways you could do it!
Ultimately, I want my programs to be accessible to as many people as possible, and I also want my students to feel like they’ve really gotten their money’s worth from my programs—which is why I also like to set my rates at a very affordable rate for what the students actually get. Over-delivering with my online small business courses is extremely important to me.
So, there you have it: that’s the process behind how I go about creating and pricing my online programs!