How I launched my e-course on WordPress and relaunched it on Zenler

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The Fast Start Up was my first ‘proper’ video course. I’m delighted to tell you that after 7 months of being on the back burner it’s now up and running on a new platform! Hurray!

In this post I’ll tell you the story behind the course, the tools I used to create it and what I learned along the way.

First of all, let me tell you a bit more about why I created The Fast Start Up

When I was looking for a home business idea a few years ago, I did what everyone does and Googled it.What I found was pretty useless, actually. It was collection of people trying to recruit me to multi-level marketing schemes (tried that – I lasted less than 2 months), textbook business advice that applied to bigger businesses but less to tiny ones, entrepreneurial biographies that were inspiring, but with very little practical information and a world away from my own experience, plus advice from business coaches about how I should follow my passion.

There were ‘live’ courses in my area but these aren’t easy to get to if you’ve got small kids or you’re working around a full-time job. Plus most of these have now gone due to funding cuts.

Five years on I had muddled my way through and found out what did work and what didn’t. But I was frustrated to see newbies still facing the same problems I had a few years before.  So I decided to put what I’d learnt in a course.

So what does work when you want to start a part-time business?

1) Work out what you enjoy doing and what you want from a business. There’s no point in doing this if you aren’t going to enjoy it, but on the other had it doesn’t need to fulfil your life’s purpose either because that’s way too much pressure at this stage.

2) Work out what you have to offer that fits within what you’ve decided in step one. Make sure it’s something that people actually want to buy.

3) Test it out by running a quick, cheap and easy pilot.

4) If it works and you enjoy it, scale it up.

The beauty of this system is that you don’t have to invest tons of time and money in someone else’s system or planning only to find it fails and you’re back to the drawing board. You’re testing your business out for real. You can work through steps 1 to 3 in a few weeks, even if you’re doing it part time and have a tiny budget.

The Fast Start Up takes aspiring business owners through this process in much more depth. They find out which type of business they’re going to enjoy, will fit in with their lives and give them the income they want.

Then they find out how to test out their business idea, including the kinds of low-cost marketing methods that work best for very small businesses. Plus I’ve added some advice on staying productive and keeping on track.

Here’s a video from the course:

Here’s how I set up The Fast Start Up

I wanted to set it up quickly and easily, but I also wanted control over my own mailing list so I chose to set up my own platform rather than Udemy.

After quite a bit of research, I used WordPress with the plugins WP eMember, WP eStore and WP Affiliate, so I could issue passwords to a protected area of the website, take payment and have an affiliate programme too. Plus I integrated it all with Aweber so I had both a list for the course members plus another list for people who took a section of the course as a free taster. None of it was technically that difficult to set up, but it was fiddly, there was a lot of work to do and it took a good few weeks to get it all working reliably and exactly as I wanted it to work.

This was my first proper video course, so I also had to learn video skills such as lighting and editing. I actually enjoy this kind of thing, which is why I chose to do it myself, but looking back I could have sped the process up by paying someone to help me.

All of this meant that I learned some really useful skills that I’ve used a lot since, but it did take me months to get this course finished. (I had a few family and health issues going on around that time that also slowed me down – life always gets in the way of your plans, doesn’t it?)

The Fast Start Up also included tutor support from me in an online forum, so I wanted it to have a start and end date so we would all walk through the material together. We started in May 2014 and went through to July. I considered running it again in September but wanted a bit more time to evaluate it and maybe change the structure a little, so I decided January 2015 was a better date to aim for.

fast start up on sale again

Why I couldn’t use my WordPress site any more and what I did instead

In November 2014 I found out about the changes to EU VAT, which meant I needed to collect sales tax on any cross-border European sales of digital products unless I used a 3rd party marketplace.

The Fast Start Up was probably exempt because it had tutor support (although nothing was 100% clear at that stage), but the EU said that this rule would be extended to online classrooms in 2016 so I needed to fix it eventually anyway. I had to work fast and hard to make sure all my other products complied with the new rules so I had no choice but to put The Fast Start Up on the back-burner.

So now, half-way through 2015 I’ve finally had the chance to upload The Fast Start Up to my new platform of choice, Zenler. And it took just a few hours , WAY faster than setting up my own platform last time.

Zenler is a 3rd party platform that collects and pays EU VAT for me, but unlike Udemy it doesn’t have a marketplace. If you’d like to know more about why I chose Zenler over Udemy and how I set up my own training academy there, I’ve covered this in detail in June’s training in my Online Business Club. There are several reasons, but big one is that I can build my own customer list with Zenler.

What I learned from all of this

First of all, I spent such a huge length of time on my WordPress set-up that I took my eye off the ball in terms of marketing, so I didn’t have as many course members as I would have liked. I knew in future I had to make course creation faster so I could shift the balance back towards marketing.

Another big lesson is that the platform you start with may not be the one you stick with, so I now make my videos with that in mind. For example, I don’t say “Welcome to this Udemy course on…” because I may move platforms later on, or put the course on multiple platforms. I don’t put the URL of the course in the videos, either.

Also, I don’t put the video number (e.g. section 2, video 3) inside the video itself so I can rearrange and renumber the videos if I add another lesson later on. You can always add this information to titles and lesson descriptions. Making videos that don’t depend on the rest of the course to make sense is also a good idea if you want to upload one to YouTube as an example, or take out a section of a large course and turn it into a smaller one.

Online courses are booming now, so the platforms are improving all the time, sometimes even weekly. Also, the rules are constantly changing, including the national laws around what you can and can’t sell online plus the internal rules of 3rd party platforms, for example Udemy. So as a small course creator you have to stay flexible if you’re going to avoid a lot of re-recording and editing.

The main lesson for me was that the best way to learn is to DO. So if you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, force yourself to make whichever decision is right in front of you and keep moving forwards!

If you’d like to know more about how you can create your own online products and courses, you might like to take a look at my Online Business Club

Please share!

8 thoughts on “How I launched my e-course on WordPress and relaunched it on Zenler”

  1. Great post Helen, thanks for sharing – and especially useful, as I’m currently looking at how to bring my online courses back into play, following the EU VAT rules. Will check out Zenler – thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Great post Helen. Yep that’s what I do never brand the videos for any platform – but put my logo on the videos. I have two different strategies – One for Udemy and one for my own websites. How are you finding Zenler? I am using Fedora x Really hope you’re family are feeling better

  3. Brilliant post! I cannot tell you how long I’ve been googling to find the right information regarding EU VAT and online courses. I’m trying to put together an online course and abide by the new EU VAT laws, you have given me all the information I need to go forward. I like that Zenler can distinguish between the EU and International and charge accordingly, not just one rate applies to all. Thank you!

    • You’re very welcome, I know how you feel – it’s bewildering trying to Google through it all and a huge relief when you finally find a solution. Happy to help and good luck!

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