As an enneagram 4w5, education is one of my most treasured values. I loooove learning—especially when growing my business is involved!
So, it would come as no shock to you that I love an online course; in fact, I wish they had been more popular in the early 2010’s so that I might have considered doing courses instead of college! But, life plays out how it’s supposed to, and here we are.
It’s also no secret that online courses get a bad rap. If you’ve spent any time on TikTok, you know how critical people can be about courses and course creators. (It’s all a scam, they just want you to spend money, yadda yadda.)
And they think that for a reason. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of a scammy course & creator that wasn’t up to snuff (and instead, just had a really really good sales page).
BUT. I love courses. Courses have helped me build a business & a life I’m proud of. And I’m the kind of person who really thrives from an educational setting, especially when there’s a community attached. However, I’ve also never had a negative course experience, and I attribute that to being really good at scoping out a bad course when I see one.
So, without further ado, here are 5 questions & criteria I look for before purchasing an online course.
Will the course content solve a direct problem you’re already having?
If you’re anything like me, you’re easily influenced by a sales page. (And yes, I’m a web designer, so I understand how wild that sounds!)
The thing is, if the copywriter has done their job right, you’ll be wanting to click “add to cart” before you even have time to question whether or not you need the info.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading through some sales page copy and thought to myself, “wow, this sounds amazing!” only to realize later that I’m not even the target audience. (I’m really telling on myself here.)
So, before you take out that CC, sleep on it and ask yourself, “Will the content in this course solve a problem I’m already having?” Or, were you convinced you have a problem by the sales page itself?
Is the course creator established in their field?
I’m a part of a lot of business facebook groups, and something that I’ve picked up about the coaching & consulting world is that “you only need to be one step ahead of someone to teach them something.”
That’s all fine and good, because of course, how does one define an “expert”, anyway?
However, when purchasing a course, you’ll get a bigger bang for your buck if you go straight for a course (or creator) that’s tested and true. (Plus, the people who are deemed industry experts usually bring in some knowledgeable guest teachers to speak about adjacent topics.)
So, before you buy that course, poke around on the internet. Is this person established? Have they been doing this a while? Do other people validate their skill?
And along with that…
Have they solved this problem for themselves (or others) before?
And by that I mean, do they have case studies that show actual results? Have past students made their investment back by using their tried and true methods?
If so, this info won’t be hard to find. It’ll be all over their sales page. But if you can’t find any stats (or even qualitative!) results, then you might want to be a little more critical.
If you want to do some *real* due diligence, you can reach out to any past students that were featured on the sales page and ask if the course was worth it. (One time, I was used as a “success story” for an acting class I took and absolutely hated. I wish people had reached out to ask me if I actually thought the class was worth it.)
Do they have a content breakdown on the sales page? And if so, does it excite you?
Any good course creator knows that potential students want to know exactly what they’re gonna learn. So, if the sales page doesn’t have a breakdown of all the modules, I would see if you can email to get your hands on one.
If the sales page does have a module breakdown, does it excite you? Will it help solve your original problem? Will you enjoy the process of learning?
There’s too many courses on the internet now to be bored while learning. You deserve to learn the info from someone who you not only respect, but are inspired by as well.
Do you have a plan to make your investment back if it doesn’t end up being a good purchase?
You could check off every question in this guide and still end up with a bad course. That’s because buying courses (just like buying… well… anything!) is a gamble.
But, the difference between buying a bad course and buying a bad brand of mac and cheese at the grocery store? A lot of money. While some online courses run for cheap, others run for thousands. Can you afford a dud?
Bonus Tip: Follow & Wait
If you’re really going back and forth on whether or not to buy something, follow the creator’s content (either on Instagram, their email list, whatever!) & wait a week.
That way, you can scope out how much value they provide for free and get a good gauge on how valuable their paid content might be.
And if you’re still thinking about the course a week later, that might be a good sign that it’s time to take the leap and hit “purchase”.
When you know what to look out for, online courses can be an incredible way to learn new skills, grow your biz, & expand your network. If you found this post helpful, reach out and let me know! I’d love to connect.
Hey, I'm Sarah Kleist.
Brand builder, website designer, and performing artist on a mission to help creatives and business owners step into their digital spotlight.
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