Best Online Courses For Writers & Creators | #19

In this episode:

  • Are online courses right for you?
  • The types of courses available
  • Course platforms (and technology)
  • How much I spent on courses last year
  • Reviews of courses I’ve taken including B-School, writing courses, and even courses to create courses

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Best Online Courses For Writers & Creators
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There are a multitude of online courses out there and deciding which ones to buy can be challenging. Here are some things to consider. (*NOTE: I will add to this post as I complete more courses or remember previous ones with value.)

Have you taken an online course before?

If not, it might be challenging for you to learn and be proactive in completing assignments and homework. You really need to motivate yourself and set your own deadlines to push yourself, and it might be a transition to get used to online courses.

Is a specific online course for you?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering buying a course:

  • Do you need the course? Might want it, but do you need it?
  • Do you need the course right now? If not, will it be offered later? Many courses are offered at least once a year if not more. If you’re not sure, reach out to the course presenter and ask.
  • Do you have time to commit to this course?
  • Is this course actually providing a solution or information to a problem you’re having?
What type of course is being offered & does it match my learning style?

Is it a challenge that lasts a few days or a few weeks (like my How to Write Faster in 14 Days Challenge)? Do you have lifetime access to the course so you can dive in anytime or do you need to work on it right away? Is it a course that offers live support during a set period (like 6/8/12 weeks)? Or is it a course that is offered year-round? Based on the style of course, will I be able to learn from it and focus on it?

Where will the course be offered?

Will it be offered on a course platform (like Teachable or Kajabi)? Is it offered through a forum like groups.io? Is it an email only course? Can you learn from the course delivery method offered?

Courses I've taken

Writing Courses/Books:

  • Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula
  • Save the Cat
  • Books by K. M. Wieland
  • Nick Stephenson's 10K Readers (I've tried other courses from him as well, including Dream Team and his Author Cats website templates, but those didn't work out as well for me)
  • Inkers Con by Alessandre Torre. This is actually a conference, but they have a completely online version for those who need to stay close to home or can't travel. Good sessions and actionable information, so I'm including it here.

Creative Courses:

  • Inkstain Design Studios by Nadège Richards. Learn how to format your book in Word or Adobe InDesign.
  • Pretty Fabulous Designs by Lisa Siefert. Create your own planner, worksheets, and more using Adobe InDesign.
  • Photoshop Essentials by Brendan Williams. I've taken other courses from him too and he always provides great instruction (and I recommend his YouTube channel and blog as well).
  • Zack Kravits’ Filmmaking Course. If you’re a total beginning photographer or filmmaker, I would not recommend it; wait until you know more before using this course to dive deeper. His course is currently closed, but you can find him on Instagram here.

Courses about making your own courses:

Memberships I'm a part of:

Business & Finance courses:

  • B-School by Marie Forleo. I go into detail about this course and how much it helped me focus and get clarity on my business, even as an author and creative entrepreneur. B-School is opening soon and you can get access now to Marie's limited time free training to get a glimpse of B-School.  You can also check out her book Everything is Figureoutable and her YouTube channel.
  • Copy Cure with Laura Belgray at Talking Shrimp.
  • Rachael Cook. She's behind the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast and provides really great actionable content for marketing, managing your business, getting clients and customers, and more.
  • Melyssa Griffin. I've been a long-time follower of her and have several of her courses. Her Blog to Biz Hive gives you info to maximize your blog and also create a course. She's also great with Pinterest and list building strategies.
  • Entrepreneurial Bookkeeping. Great course to help you understand your business finances. As an author and creative entrepreneur, numbers is not my strongest suit, but this course really explains everything and provides templates to help you.

Mindset Courses:

  • Money Bootcamp by Denise DT (aka Lucky Bitch). Good to get you thinking about your money blocks and how to really open yourself up for success. It's definitely an investment but it can be helpful. This course isn't about managing money; it's about reframing your mindset around money.

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****TRANSCRIPT*****

[00:00:00] Today, I'm talking about online courses, whether they're right for you, and giving you a review of some of the ones I've taken that might benefit you as well. If you're thinking about taking an online course this year, please keep listening.

[00:00:36] You may write alone, but you are not alone. Inside the Writer's Soul focuses on how personal experiences can inform your writing and help you speak from the soul to really connect with readers and other authors as well. Your writer's soul doesn't need to take the writing and publishing journey alone. Join me, your host M. Khan, and let's move forward together.

[00:00:36] Hello and welcome! Today we're going to be talking about online courses. If you're thinking about taking an online course, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is whether online courses are even right for you. Now, the thing about online courses is that a lot of times you might be doing them alone. So you're either going at your own pace or you're not really with a community of students all the time. Now, there are some exceptions to that and I'll talk about that in a minute, but generally you need to be able to learn without someone pushing you or motivating you to get the work done in those courses. It's not just about listening and learning some new information. A lot of times you might also have work you need to do, homework you need to do, so you need to be proactive and do the coursework. Now, a lot of times the courses will have an online community. They might be on Facebook, for example, there might be a Facebook group associated with the course that you can go and ask questions and meet people there, but you're communicating all through the online realm. You won't be meeting other people in person. And if you have that type of personality that really needs other students around you, then online courses or certain online courses may not be for you.

[00:01:50] Now, I'm someone who really likes learning in a classroom setting. I have multiple degrees. I love to learn. But I found that there was a little bit of a transition period for me when I moved from the traditional academic world into taking online courses. Now, the thing of it is a lot of universities or even adult learning centers, they don't have the types of courses that I need, you know, courses that will help me with specific types of research for my writing, with things that will help me with specific tasks I'd like to do for my business or just specific business courses for me as an online entrepreneur and an author and a creator. You don't always find those in traditional settings and that's why I first branched out into online courses. But there was a transition period as I tried to get used to really motivating myself, pushing myself for deadlines and really just making sure that I was invested in the courses that I bought and I was working on those courses.

[00:02:49] Now, something else to ask yourself is if a specific online course is for you. Maybe you have a course in mind that you're looking at. Maybe there's something that you're interested in taking or a subject you'd really like to learn more about. Here are some questions to ask about a specific course. Number one, do you need the course? You might want it, but do you really need it? Here's where I'm going to share a pretty staggering personal statistic. I spent over $17000 on online courses last year. I know. It's unbelievable. Some of those were absolutely worth the investment and some of them definitely weren't. They were impulse buys or they were buys I made when I was just feeling insecure about my business or about what I knew about business, and so I splurged and I bought them but I really shouldn't have. I should not have spent money on them. So before you ask yourself, you might want that course, but do you really need it?

[00:03:45] And if you're not sure if you need it, but you think you might, do a little bit more research into the course itself. You know, just Google search it. Try to find reviews of it from bloggers. If there's a Facebook group for the course and you don't need to be an enrolled student to be a part of it, then sign up and see what other people are saying about the course. I've actually been able to stop myself from purchasing courses I initially thought were right for me because I joined the Facebook group and I learned, 'oh, well, actually, you know, this course is only for five days and I don't have time in those specific five days to take that course. And I don't get lifetime access to it, which means I can't come back to it later'. So me investing in a course like that would just be throwing money away. But at other times I might have room for those five days, I might have time to devote myself to the course, to the homework for that course. So do a little bit of research.

[00:04:39] The second question to ask yourself is, do you need the course right now? If not, will it be offered later? Many courses are offered at least once a year, if not more. A lot of people will say, well, we're not sure if we're going to offer it again. And sometimes they might not offer it again. But you really have to weigh the cost of the course to whether or not you're actually going to be working on the course right when you sign up for it. Now a lot of times - and we'll get into this more in a minute - but you might not have time right then to do it, but it's on a really good sale price, so you go ahead and buy the course to work on it later. That might be okay as long as you're really dedicated to actually doing the work in the course. You can get really course-happy when it comes to online courses and just buy and buy and buy. But then you never really dive in and actually finish the courses you're signing up for.

[00:05:30] The third question to ask, which I've kind of talked about a little bit already, is do you have time to commit to this course? Again, you may want to take the course. You might want the knowledge it's going to give you. But if you don't have the time for it, is it really worth your investment right now?

[00:05:45] And a final question to ask about a specific course: is this course actually providing a solution or information to a problem you're having? A lot of times, I know I feel so insecure when it comes to certain aspects of business that I feel like I just want to learn and learn and learn. But sometimes even after I've taken a course and I've learned, I still don't feel confident. So I'm feeling insecure. So then I go out and I buy another course on that same topic. But the thing is, all of these courses might be providing me some information, but they're not necessarily solving the problem that I'm having. The problem I'm having is that I already know what to do, I'm just feeling insecure about doing it. I just need more confidence to do it. And that's a different issue. So really think about the course that you're looking at and if it's going to provide you a solution to the problem you're having. And will you still have this problem - let's say you didn't buy the course - two weeks later would you still have this problem? A month later would you still have this problem? Think about what you really need it for and think about if this is something that can be solved with a course or if it can be solved with just a lot of Googling that might save you more money.

[00:06:54] Now something else to consider are the different types of courses available. So I'm gonna go over a few here. There are more than this, but a lot of courses I've seen tend to be laid out in one of these four or five methods. So one type of course is a challenge course. So this could be something that lasts a few days to a few weeks. My "How to Write Faster in 14 Days Challenge" is like this. It's two weeks and it's delivered entirely by email. Some challenges might actually have you sign into a course platform to take it. I've taken courses like that as well that were maybe five day challenges or even more, maybe even less, but they're for a specific set of time, so it might be a Monday through Friday thing. It might be you sign up for the challenge and you take it at your own pace. In the case of my email challenge, it's just an email delivered to your inbox nearly every day and there is homework and things associated with it. But if you don't have time right then to do it, you could come back to it when you do.

[00:07:52] Now, online courses, a lot of them will tend to be at your own pace, and you might have a planned course. So you'll have maybe a lifetime access to the content. But the main support, the live videos might be only during a set period of time, maybe six weeks or eight weeks or 12 weeks as an example. And lifetime access is something else you want to really think about. So I love having lifetime access to courses because even as the creator of the course updates the content, I will then get those updates, which is really great. Another thing is maybe I don't have time to work on the course right when I sign up, but with lifetime access I can go back to that and start doing it whenever I do have time. Or if I need to go back and reference something in the course, then I can go back and reference it anytime I want to as well. Now there are other types of courses that tend to be only at set times. So I've spoken a little bit about this already, but they may only be for a weekend like a retreat or a specific masterclass where you might meet just for maybe a day or you might meet for a few hours each day.

[00:09:00] And even with all of those challenges, there are a lot of different course platforms and technology to consider too. Now, if you are not tech savvy, most of the teaching platforms out there - or course platforms, I guess I should say - tend to be really user-friendly so you can pick up fairly quickly how to navigate the site. So a few teaching course platforms out there are Teachable, which is the one I'm currently using for my courses. Kajabi is another popular one. They tend to be fairly user-friendly. They can host things not just like videos, but they can also host text, they can host PDFs if you have downloads with the course. There are also custom solutions that some people or course creators might make as well. Some of those other course platforms include Thinkific or Podia and those also might take a little bit longer to get used to if you're not very tech savvy, but they're both good platforms to use as well. Some courses might take place on forums so you won't have a teaching platform but you log in to a site like groups.io and the whole course will take place over that group. A lot of the writing courses I've taken actually have taken place on platforms like that or the old Yahoo! Groups. Others might be just e-mails like the challenge that I mentioned earlier, so you just get an email nearly every day or for a certain number of days, maybe even for a month, that goes over challenge details and gives you information and even homework that you might need to complete.

[00:10:25] So now I want to spend some time talking about some specific courses that I have taken in case some of them might benefit you as well. So first, since I am a writer, I'll talk about the writing ones. So I have taken so, so, so, so, so many courses for writing. A lot of them have just been about specific research. So I've taken ones on writing authentic military characters, for example, because I had a military character in one of the books in my pen name series. I might have other ones that are about writing book descriptions or ones on how to maximize different marketing tools for authors. A lot of the courses I've taken for, say, research and things like that have been through actually RWA chapters. So RWA is the Romance Writers of America and you do not need to be a member to take courses from one of their many chapters. It's a membership organization, they have chapters all over the country, even online chapters and so I found it really useful to take a lot of those online courses and a lot of them were just in forums and things like that. But RWA, especially recently, has had a lot of issues, so I would actually not recommend them. But you can still go and reach out to the individual presenters of those courses and see if they'll be offering it on another platform. But because of some of the racist things that RWA is recently doing, I cannot promote them or I just don't want to promote them.

[00:11:52] There are a lot of books out there as well if you like to read about craft rather than maybe doing an online course. There are books like "Save the Cat" or by K.M Weiland. I mean, there are just so many books out there that can help you with what you're looking to achieve for your writing. I'm a pantser, so as a pantser there aren't a whole lot of books for me out there. There are tons of books if you're a plotter, but I did do a podcast about my writing process as a pantser so be sure to check that out.

[00:12:19] If you're looking another great resource for writers is Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula. He has several courses. He has his basic self-publishing 101, which is great if you're just looking to get started in self-publishing. He also has a few other courses. One is Ads for Authors, which is really great. It gives a comprehensive look at, you know, how to do Facebook ads or Instagram ads or Pinterest ads, things like that. And he also launched a cover design course, which was teaching you how to make covers in Photoshop and even Canva so he is also a really great resource.

[00:12:55] And there are lots of other authors who are out there and offering things even like I'm offering like coaching and courses and things like that. So just reach out to your favorite author and see if they'd be willing to even just provide you some advice. I know I've done that in the past and I've had tons of people reach out to me as well in the past, just asking some questions and wanting some more information about either the self-publishing process or the writing process or something in between. And I'm always happy to spend some time just talking with them or just even emailing back and forth a little bit. And a lot of authors are the same way. So don't be afraid to reach out as well.

[00:13:33] Now, if you're a filmmaker or photographer, Zack Kravitz's filmmaking course is great. I actually signed up for the one last year and I'm still working through it. But there is a lot of knowledge there. I will say, if you're a total beginner photographer, filmmaker, I would not recommend it. Wait until you know more before using this course to dive deeper. He also has a podcast called Rambling Radio, I believe. So you can also check that out.

[00:13:59] Now, someone else I really like is Rachael Cook. She has a podcast as well called Promote Yourself to CEO and I've taken her course. Actually, I've taken a couple of things from her. But her big flagship course, I think she's actually going to retire soon, is called Sweet Spot Strategy and it's all about finding your sweet spot to really help get, you know, maybe the coaching clients, which is what one reason why I signed up for it, to help you get those coaching clients or other customers or clients as well. And she always has just tons of great information. And she is really about promoting female entrepreneurship. I just had a good experience going through that course and I signed up for her CEO retreat. I did the online version, so it was all virtual. She does have an in-person version in Richmond, Virginia, where she's based, but she is also great. So I do recommend her.

[00:14:50] And I just want to preface by saying I am not an affiliate for any of these programs or any of these people. these are just my recommendations. These are just my opinions. But if you want to know more about them, I'll have links on my blog to them as well.

[00:15:03] Now, if you're interested in making a course yourself, I've also taken several courses to create courses, which sounds kind of funny. But this is one thing I've really wanted to do for a long time so I signed up for a bunch of different courses last year on how to create courses. So I'll start with maybe the most cost-effective and one of the useful ones that I've taken, which is from Beta and Beyond, which is Create Your Starter Course. So this is run by Regina and Ali, who are two women entrepreneurs. And this was very cost effective. It was very affordable. And it was basically how to create your starter course in I think 20 to 30 days. And it was something really helpful. They give you lots of actionable, practical tips. And I just generally recommend Regina and I just generally recommend Regina and Ali, I think they do a great job and I always find useful content in their emails even when they're not selling something.

[00:15:57] Another course is called Course from Scratch by Danielle Leslie. And there were there was a lot of good information in her course. But the main thing that I was not fond of was that it involved making a lot of cold calls to different people and I am not a phone person. So I did get a lot of good information on creating the course and kind of some of the messaging around the course from it. But that was a course where I don't think that I was maybe the best target market for that. But she does provide a lot of support to the community that she's created so that's another option.

[00:16:30] Another course I took was Ultimate Course Launch, which is by Luisa Zhou and I'm a fan of Luisa you as well. I think she also does a great job with her messaging and the emails that I received from her. And this course was actually the most helpful for me to really drill down, break my course up into different sections, break those sections into manageable pieces, get all of my workbooks and worksheets and PDFs and all of my course resources together. It really helped me to get organized. And she also has a really great tracker you can use to help manage where your sales are coming from, how your sales are doing, things like that. And her thing is she uses webinars and ads to drive sales so she talks about that. And of course, I think all of these talk about ads a little bit. Not everyone talks about webinars.

[00:17:20] Amy Porterfield has a course called Digital Course Academy. So this again, gives a really good framework to help you choose a topic to get started. I'm currently still working through this. I just signed up for the fall one last year. And she also talks about the use of webinar to drive sales. Amy Porterfield generally talks a lot of great things about business. She also has her own podcast as well. I forget what it's called, but you can search for it and easily find it. But she also gives a lot of good information for business owners and things like that. I don't agree with necessarily everything she says, but I think she's a great person to follow as well.

[00:17:57] Now I am also part of a couple of different membership's societies as well. One is the Female Entrepreneurship [Association] or FEA by Carrie Green. And I'm also part of Amber McCue's PowerUp community. So I've been a member of FEA for oh I want to say maybe at least a year. And I am a fan of Carrie Green. I think she also does a good job of providing information and actionable items. Actually, it's through her membership - so each month you actually get a new-each month focuses on something new. So there's a new topic, there's a new masterclass that you can view and get information from. And I have found tons of good resources, so much good information from those masterclasses. That's how I first learned about Rachael Cook, because she has a masterclass in there and that's how I got connected with her community. I actually found a lawyer through that as well, because a lawyer, one of the lawyers who has done one of the masterclasses I actually reached out to for help as well and she's been great. I just recently joined Amber McCue's PowerUp community. So she also has a more VIP Freshly Implemented community, which is more per month. I'm on kind of like that middle-tier with the PowerUp community, but so far, I mean, I've only been in two sessions, January and the February one so far but they have had really actionable items, really great information. There's basically a monthly masterclass that Amber herself leads and she gives different information each month about a specific topic. Now in FEA by Carrie Green, there will usually be a guest speaker hosting the masterclasses. Not always. Sometimes Carrie does it herself as well, but there are times when you'll have someone else doing the masterclasses.

[00:19:40] Now, the last couple of courses I want to talk about are business courses and copywriting. So I've taken more than a few different business related courses, but I have to say that B-school by Marie Forleo is by far my favorite. Now if you haven't heard of Marie Forleo before, I recommend you definitely go check her out. I'll have links to everything in my blog post, but she has some really fantastic YouTube videos to help out different aspects of business about marketing, about motivation, mindset, just life and I just learned so much from her. She's also a New York Times best selling author of the book "Everything is Figureoutable", which I also really recommend if you haven't picked that up. I would recommend you read it. And B-School is her core course. So I did B-School in 2019. I actually spoke to another author who said that she had signed up for it and had found parts of it useful and I was really looking for help really on the business side to help me hone my marketing, hone my communication, hone my processes to make sure I was working on the right things. And I just found it so useful.

[00:20:48] It's work. It is a lot of frickin' work. FOr sure, it will definitely take you work. You will definitely have homework here. There are a lot of worksheets to go through. There are six core modules, at least there were last year that cover topics like the profit plan, the website, communications, list building, your offerings, and marketing. There were tons of bonus content, even a couple of bonus courses that you got along with it to help you make sure you're starting the right business and help you follow through. And at the end of the course, there were also tons of bonus modules on everything from Facebook ads to how to set up a WordPress website or a Shopify website or different things like that. And I got so much help out of it. I got so much clarity from it. And I think that's what I really needed at that time. You know, I have my full time job and then I basically have two side businesses that are basically full time businesses. I have my pen name brand and then I have me under this brand - I call it a brand, but it's just me being M. Khan - really making sure I was spending my time working on the right things really helped me.

[00:21:58] And I have to tell you, the website module. Wow. Completely helped me change so much about what I was doing based on that. I actually redid all of my websites. And wow it made such a difference, I can't even tell you. So using that, plus the bonus trainings on how to set up your website, just so much help. I didn't hire a designer. I had for my original website, but now I just did it myself. And yes, it was work. It was time. But I did it. And now anytime I need to update my website, I just do it myself. I don't need to wait for someone else. I don't need to wait until a web designer has time in their schedule to help me with this piece or that piece. Sometimes I do contract out for some bigger things that I don't want or have time for. For example, under my pen name, I had a separate site with a blog and then I had my main author site. And so I hired someone to move all of my blog posts over to the main site so everything was consolidated under one site. So that was definitely worth one hundred and fifty bucks I paid to get that done because it would have taken me hours and hours and hours to do it, and it took them literally less than a day to finish it all.

[00:23:07] So those six core modules really help you focus and get clarity on who you're serving. Who are you helping? Who are your customers and your clients? And what are they really looking for? And it is tough, but you can do it. I did it while working the full time job and trying to manage both of these businesses, even though I hadn't officially launched, you know, the M. Khan brand, I was still working on the website, was still building it. But you can do it. You just need to set aside that time and make time for the homework each week. And there are buffer weeks built in, they're called implementation weeks or something similar where you have kind of like a week to kind of catch up on everything that you're doing. So I highly recommend Marie Forleo and I do recommend B-School. It is definitely an investment. It was a few thousand dollars to invest in the cause. I don't know what the pricing will be this year. And again, I'm not an affiliate, so I just I don't know anything. But what I do know is that this course really helped me and I'm actually going to go through it again because you get lifetime access to this course. So I'm gonna go through it again now, a year later, knowing what I know about my businesses now, knowing what I know about myself now and where I would like to go with my businesses. I'm going to take it to get to see if I really have the clarity I need to move forward.

[00:24:21] Now, another course from Marie is called the Copy Cure. So this is a copywriting course that is led by Laura Belgrey at Talking Shrimp. This is also definitely an investment. And I'm not sure if she's gonna be offering it this year, but it was incredibly helpful for me to get the right copy for my website and for my landing pages. So once I go through B-school again, I'm actually going to go through the Copy Cure again, too, even if it's not being reoffered just to really set me up this year and to make sure I'm doing everything I possibly can to really help the people that I really want to help. You know, I want to help authors. I want to help other creators out there. And I want to make sure that my message is getting across in the right way.

[00:25:02] Now, those are just a few of the courses that I took last year. I took a ton. And again, not going to mention the number again because it was a lot, but I spent a lot on courses and I got a lot out of it. But you really need to be strategic. And like I said, you could get really course-happy because you'll buy one course and then you'll see another course you think will be helpful and you'll just keep signing up for courses. And before you know what, you have 20 courses and you haven't done any of them. Really think about the questions to ask yourself before you buy a course. Really think about what you need this course for and really think if this course will provide you a solution to something that you're looking for.

[00:25:39] Now I want to hear from you. What courses have you taken or will you take this year? What kind of course would you love to take but can't find? Head to the blog or join our community on Facebook to let me know, the link's in the description. I'd also be very grateful if you could leave a review for this podcast wherever you like to listen. Thank you.

[00:26:34] Thank you for listening to this episode. Check out the show notes for links to my blog and our community where you can get involved in the discussion and support others. While you're there, don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get to free and powerful tools to help you. One: access to my growing library of free resources for authors; and Two: you'll also get access to my exclusive writing challenge "How to Write Faster in 14 Days" where I share all my tips and techniques that helped me finish over 20 works in five years. Check out the show notes for all the links and thanks again for being part of this community.

M. Khan

M. Khan, host of the Inside the Writer's Soul podcast, has authored over 20 novels/novellas/short stories under a pen name, and is now writing under her own name as well. She loves to explore creativity in different ways to share soulful (and sometimes sweary) stories, and provides guidance, coaching, and courses to authors.

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