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What’s it like to jump into entrepreneurship in the middle of a pandemic? Is resigning from your job amidst stay-at-home directives a wise move? I’m in the thick of it right now, and while the future is still uncertain, things appear to be off to a good start.

I was hesitant. I’d already taken one stab at self-employment in 2016 after watching one too many “Build your empire NOW!” videos one night. I sucked at working for myself, and blew down $30,000 — my entire life savings at the time — along the way. So I had no plans to leave my startup gig’s steady paycheck; submitting a notice as millions of unemployment claims rolled in each week seemed like a voluntary cannonball into shark-infested waters.

That said, limited outlets for entertainment or distraction have an enormous number of people rethinking their skill sets and employment security, and demand has exploded for learning new tools in the form of online products, programs, and services.

This spiked demand is an opportunity and a massive expansion of the already-proven market of online learning, really. It’s a fishing hole that’s been blown out into an enormous lake that stretches for miles in each direction. Keeping the whole world cooped up inside for four months straight (And more to come for some of us) acclimated millions of people to the notion that paying to learn something online is worth it. When opportunities like this appear, it’s time to jump.

The online learning space was already growing at breakneck speed: The e-Learning market surpassed $200 billion in 2019 and is now accelerating faster than ever. From live workshops on Zoom to mini-courses, consulting packages, and membership models, there are many options on how to package your skill set digitally.

That said, some approaches achieve liftoff faster than others. And I needed to act quickly. By moving forward with one value proposition in three different formats, I was able to close clients more rapidly, and in my first 30 days my total haul came in at $20,836.25 with a 74% profit margin.

(I know we love receipts. Here are the PayPal and Stripe screenshots so you know I’m not pulling your leg.)

Here’s what to take into consideration if you‘re thinking about online learning as a future revenue stream.

Consumers are simultaneously cost-conscious, bored, and paranoid about their financial future right now; $20–50 mini-courses and swipe files continue to be hot, especially if they have a “buy now, benefits now” quality to them. There’s a lift in information product interest across the board, and course creation software Thinkific reported a dramatic lift in user activity across multiple industries since the arrival of COVID-19.

Don’t let online courses that offer tens of hours of video content or a hundred downloadable files intimidate you — those courses often actually have a very low completion rate. As long as you’re helping a consumer solve a problem, you don’t need a huge amount of material. Remember: Your #1 value proposition in an information product is to give your clients the right steps in the right order.

My mini-course on how to write articles has under 60 minutes of content, was recorded in my living room and my closet, and blends a mix of screen-recorded videos, written lessons, and templates. I say “um” at least thirty times in the voiceovers. But the info is solid. At a $47 price point, this raked in about $2,000 in the first month.

The best part? After it’s all set up, you’re done and can move on to other projects while an income stream hums along in the background. This is why I chose to build out this income stream first. Each week I see new sales come in, and on my end I don’t lift a finger.

Lastly, online courses are having a glorious reframe at the moment. A $997 flagship course on how to make money online suddenly feels like a steal compared to a $50,000 semester of tuition at Harvard, eh?

There’s opportunity here to pull money out of the internet and into your pocket; consider exploring it.

Why does hustle culture often shun trading dollars for hours? When the alternative is no dollars for hours, I prefer the dollars-for-hours option personally. You’re also getting paid to test out and offer that you may later want to productize. Implementation services will always be in demand, and whether you’re a copywriter, a designer, or a systems whiz, there are people online looking to hire you for your skills.

When positioning one-on-one services, you’ll command higher price points if you focus more on the results and benefits that your package will deliver. Customers don’t buy a product, they buy a feeling or a transformation. This positioning helped me land a 60-day, $6,500 consulting package I developed for a brick-and-mortar business owner to help them pivot during the shifting economy. (For a tutorial on writing consulting packages, go here.)

This wasn’t a whole new product; in fact, much of the strategy presented in this package consisted of steps I had just completed myself to put together for my course. I showed this prospective client my mini-course, said “I can build something like this for you,” and learned later that that detail was part of what sealed the deal.

Map your process as you go, then find ways to get paid to test and refine your process over time.

What do people want right now, regardless of industry? They want to be around other people, particularly like-minded people with similar goals, and are starved for it during quarantine orders.

My final offer was a $597, 10-week live group program to help consultants and small business owners learn how to market themselves with content. I also offered in-program upsells to do 1:1 strategy calls with me for clients who wanted some extra hand-holding; 25% of the participants took me up on that. Altogether, this launch yielded $12,292.

Live group programs do best with a set beginning and end and a class of participants. I love both facilitating and purchasing this offer format because the expert can really support clients and help them generate the results they really want, and it’s more cost-effective for the client.

I didn’t know what my enrollment numbers would look like for the first go-around, so I designed a program that would be the same amount of work on my end whether I had five enrollments or 50 enrollments. Live group programs are a great offer if you’re looking to test-drive something new, because you can build and adjust your curriculum on the fly based on the needs of your participants. I discovered which concepts and tips really delivered the biggest results, and now have all the material done for future launches.

Live group programs are also a great incubator for clients who might consider wanting to work with you one-on-one down the line, because they get a taste of your style and approach in a lower-risk, lower-cost setting.

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