If you’re short on time, here are a few golden nuggets from our conversation and the resources mentioned.
- Be resilient. You simply can’t give up after trying one thing that doesn’t work out.
- Involve other people. Expanding and nurturing your business doesn’t have to be done alone. Asking for help or hiring someone to help around the house while you work can make all the difference.
- Understand your audience. Match your product or service to the needs and skill sets of your students and customers. This way you can offer exactly what they’re hoping to receive in an easy, understandable, and timely fashion.
- Make it easy for your students to take action. Online learning is all about taking action because action produces results. Don’t leave your audience guessing at every turn–– if you do, they won’t last long.
- Make connections. Set aside time with others to fuel your journey. Sometimes all you need is a solid brainstorming session to get the creative juices flowing.
Continue the Conversation
After enjoying this episode, what are your top takeaways from Julie?
And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?
Get to Know Julie
Bob: Julie, thanks so much for joining me for this episode.
Julie: Well thank you, Bob. I'm so happy to be here.
Bob: We're going to get into more about what you do or your journey along the way, but I do always ask, how are the lives of your customers transformed by what your company does?
Julie: Gosh! It would be so amazing to talk about this for days, but in a nutshell, they are able to scale, they're able to generate more leads and they're able to take their business out of that one on one trading time for dollars mode of helping people and expand it to a one to many model.
Bob: And what life-saving really is that for people to get their time back?
Julie: Oh, my gosh. I mean, it could mean more freedom to be able to step away from your desk and not be chained to those one-on-one appointments. Maybe spend some extra time with your family, take that vacation that you've always wanted to take. It could also mean scaling into a larger situation, a firm's situation where you have additional employees because you can then afford to share profits. The sky's the limit with online courses because there are so many different tiers of courses or programs that you can offer. So your imagination is a good indicator of what that might entail.
Bob: Excellent. Let's go back to the beginning. How did you get started as an online course creator and consultant for people so they can step up their game?
Julie: Education has always been one of those things for me. It's always been my vehicle into how I will help transform the world and make it a better place. I've always taught, I'm an educator by trade. I have a master's degree in teaching with technology and I've traveled around the world to help people learn languages and do better business and all of those things.
“I have to do this. I have to go into online course consulting versus helping with general marketing. It's going to save a lot of people a lot of hassle and get them way better results."
I got started with online course consulting because I saw a vast need for my services and at the time I'd been teaching and consulting online for universities and other folks informally, and it hit me. I was looking at some sales pages and I was like, "Wow! These folks need my help. The messaging is compelling, but yet at the same time I have no idea what I'm going to learn in this course." So it was that linguistic association where the objectives were not clear and I was like, "Hey, let's take a look at the rest of this." Then I got called on to look at some big-name projects that were in the wings with the major influencers. The project hasn't rolled out, so I can't say names, but it was eye-opening. All the foundation was there for the potential. To educate and to produce results, that it was there was that little detail and I was seeing it in so many different places. I was like, "Okay, I have to do this. I have to go into online course consulting versus helping with general marketing. It's going to save a lot of people a lot of hassle and get them way better results."
Bob: The customers are always going to have better results too because they're benefiting from this instructional design that is being put in place on top of the expertise. Because you're absolutely right. A lot of folks know what they know but they don't know how to teach it. Coming from an education background myself, I'm in your boat. I can see how often it is the case that people are doing things out of order or not even addressing the needs of their students.
Julie: Right. In that long list of things, it's how to incentivize, how to get people past that 10% mark because so many people are attracting the clients, they're getting the sales and then facing attrition or dropping out. Basically, they've got a whole bunch of dropouts and they've got nobody getting to the end of the course so they can't get the results, and that sucks. Especially if you're a personal brand and you are trying to build that authority or that expertise level with your market. Also, if you are brick-and-mortar and your name is your business, so you don't want to have a bad rap. I live in a small town and I know a lot of people live in small towns and they're trying to differentiate by taking their businesses online, so you don't want poor results for your customers.
Don’t Market on Top of Quicksand
Bob: As you look at the growth of your business and the trajectory that you're on, some obstacles probably have come up along the way, some frustrations that you've had. Tell us a little bit about those and the lessons you have learned so that maybe some of our listeners don't have to go through the same ones?
Julie: In my path to bringing my consulting to where it is right now, I have tried a lot of things. I work for a university. I have a lot of work experience. I get people calling me for all different types of help because I'm a language teacher, from translation and interpretation to random consultations about language or travel type things. But the big challenge for me when I first started to bring my business online, because I do live in such a small town and I was thinking, "Oh my gosh, there's not going to be a market for what I do."
That was hurdle number one. I wasn't seeing the connection with a lot of the brick-and-mortar at the time. This is about two years ago. I wanted to make a huge impact. So online I was watching the space and there are all sorts of influencers and the general word out there was marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing, because you want sales and you want to connect and you want to convert and all these big buzz words, so I decided to get caught up in the languages that I was seeing.
I'm a language nerd, an applied linguist by trade. And I thought that my calling was in marketing and helping people with marketing. In fact, I had a number of clients at the time who were needing help with their funnels. This is another aha moment. I was going through a woman's funnel, analyzing her sales page with her, and then we get into the actual email chain and then she wants to get people into her course.
And I was like, "Well, there's a little bit of a disconnect here because you're selling one thing on your landing page. In fact, you've got too many calls to action. But then you get into this email chain and you're not laying the foundation to get into your course. In fact, I don't even know what your course is about or what you're trying to teach because you're using all these copy crutches to sell me your course."
When people want to know what is being taught, it has to be clear, it has to be concise enough that they can figure it out in a couple of bullet points. Beyond that, they need to know what transformation they're going to have after taking your course or at least what they should reasonably be able to expect to do. And by doing, I mean producing because online learning is so different from traditional learning. That's also one of the big problems that I see people take their in-person workshop and they throw their Powerpoint with a video online.
Those are some of the things that I had a hard time communicating at first. I was looking at marketing and I kept looking at it with the eyes of a teacher. Even in my own promotions, I was wanting to teach and I was being way too nice with the sales talk and things weren't converting for a while because of that. But with a little bit of help and coaching, I have definitely overcome those hurdles.
Bob: It's amazing what happens when you're a little bit more direct in what you're asking people to do.
What Holds You Back from Dreaming Bigger?
Bob: I would love to know next in your entrepreneurial journey that you've been having, the central advice you might have received about entrepreneurship. Can you think back to anybody who has been a coach or maybe a long distance coach to you who has given you a bit of wisdom that you keep going back to that served you as you started growing your business?
Julie: That's a great question. I have received so much good advice and it's all been relative to where I've been at the moment. But the one thing that stands out is that ... And it sounds cliché to dream big, but when you start applying that to your thinking, across the board, in the end, it’s the crux of scaling, growing, getting to that bigger place all the time.
I think, generally speaking, dreaming big is important, but I also think that with vision and that expansion of that vision, it comes down to mindset.
I think that in a nutshell dream bigger, but to bring out that mindset piece and to say how can you expand your mind in that way so that these myths aren't holding you back.
I was realizing what is real and realizing what is not real and influencing my thoughts along the way has been super important to me. Now I am no longer my inner critic so to speak, but that inner coach and I'm able to catch myself if I fall back into that mindset of, "Oh, that's scary," or "Oh, I have assumptions about this thing," and I can pick it apart and be able to say, "Oh, well do I need to be in control of this? Control is an illusion." Some other things might be around money because we all have these goals of scaling and getting to that place where we can financially do the things that we want to do or that time that we want to spend with our families and not have to be tied to a desk because we have that passive income stream providing us with that revenue.
The Magic of Resilience
Bob: Would you say anybody's ever given you some advice that you followed and it was some of the worst advice you might have taken?
Julie: I have also had bad advice along the way. Going with that, focusing on the bigger picture, it all fades away in the end because, yeah, you can try one thing and eventually figure out that it doesn't work. And resilience is what I think makes the entrepreneur because it's in those moments where you've tried that bad advice, you figure out that that wasn't going to work for you and then you move on with that positive growth mindset versus getting stuck.
I think that's why so many entrepreneurs do fail in the first so many months of business. I can’t tell you the stats, but in the first year or two of business, so many people drop off because they don't have that resilience and they get stuck in the bad advice like, "Oh, that didn't work I'm going to give up." But I've been doing consulting for over a decade, and whether or not that works in an online space or an in-person space better, it's always trial and error.
Entrepreneurs, we are resilient and that's pretty much where it's at. You try one thing, it doesn't work, you try something else, it's going to work.
Bob: Along the way, I'm imagining that there's been somebody in your life who's been a real champion for you and your business that you've turned to for accountability, support, etc. Can you tell us a little about who that might be?
Julie: I have two somebodies. One is my husband, Joseph. He's been a supporter from day one. He understands the frustrations and the things that have been going through in terms of my own professional goals. When I came to him with the idea of starting to market my services online and in our community, he said, "Yeah, that's a great idea." And he supported me in every single way possible.
He's in the kitchen, he's helping with the cleaning, he's watching our son, to give me that little extra time to think about things, to send out some messages, to connect people on the phone.
My mom has also done the same. This whole journey for me over the last couple of years to focus on my consulting with the online courses started at a time where we didn't have childcare for my son, as an actual provider. My mom was that provider during the day when I was needing to teach or be in the office. I couldn't have done without either of them.
Bob: Now, that you are further along in your entrepreneurial journey and you've been doing this for a while, obviously in various formats, is there any advice that you would give yourself if you had a time machine where you could go back to that earlier stage as you were getting started in your business now that you know some things that you know?
Julie: Yeah. I think I would tell myself to go for it and hire somebody. And by hiring, I don't mean spending an arm and a leg either, but as a creative, there are so many creative ways that you can hire people and as somebody who works with young adults in a university setting, who are craving work experience, yeah, that's one way of hiring. Also, to think about the hiring process, if it is scary, in a different way, to be more about that sharing the love and sharing the experience with other people.
Because I think, if you try to work in a bubble like so many online entrepreneurs end up doing a lot of times because they're in their home office and maybe they're getting out in the community, but they've got this big focus on the internet and posting and getting the marketing out there.
I think that it's important to involve other people, not just your stakeholders, your husband, and your mom. Yeah, expand sooner.
Bob: Expand sooner.
Bob: I think the asking for help is what I'm hearing from what you're saying, and hiring the first person could look hiring someone to clean your house a couple of hours a week, making some meal prep or something. It doesn't have to necessarily be someone in your business, but it can be someone who expands your ability to do what you do best. That's what I'm hearing from what you're saying.
Thinking Beyond the Box of Academia
Bob: There are a lot of different people that listen to this podcast, but I imagine that there will be people who are professors or educators who are wanting to take their side hustle towards a higher level. They may be thinking about entrepreneurship and have misconceptions. Do you hear of any big misconceptions of entrepreneurship that you would like to demystify right now?
Julie: This isn't something that I dwell on all the time. I think maybe one of them though is that when you are that high-level professional that you're in-person craft or trade or expertise is transferable in that way. What held me back from going down this road a lot sooner because my degree is in teaching the technology and this is clearly one of the gifts that I have that is applicable to the entire world. It's not just applicable to academia. What I think didn't allow me to do this right out of grad school was the fact that I was thinking about what I did in a certain way, attached to a classroom, be it virtual or traditional. I wasn't thinking about that bigger picture.
I think that academics in particular who have these massive skills, sometimes they do get called onto these consulting projects, but it's very much within the box. So to be able to think outside of the box would be the first step. Also, to reach out and ask for that help from somebody who has made that leap or who might understand business a little bit better because academia is, it's definitely closely associated in a business, especially the way that some of the administration and politics would us to be going in these certain directions with our work, with efficiency models and all these other things, that they try to talk to us about.
But it's different, it's way different. And I think that one of the ways that I have been able to easily overcome some of these challenges is the fact that I did right out of college, one of my first jobs was working as a personal banker. I started to learn a lot about business and entrepreneurship through that job. The experience that I had working with customers who were six and seven figure business owners who had large amounts of money that they need to invest or things like their house that they wanted to leverage. In that way, I think I had a little bit of an advantage. If you're an academic and you're wanting to make that leap or do something different with your skills, I think networking is also another big piece of it.
Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse
Bob: One of the things that I love talking to entrepreneurs like you about is how you're using Leadpages to grow your marketing because it's obviously an important tool in what you do. How is the software and our team here at Leadpages in Minneapolis helped you in your marketing?
Julie: Well, one of the features that I love about Leadpages is how easy it is to set up the page, because nobody wants to be spending a lot of time with that. Then if you're training somebody else to do it for you, it's important to be able to have the support and the examples there so that they can easily hop into that role. But what I love on the backend of it is the metrics. Assessment, and evaluation – these are key pieces to any thriving online course or program.
As that teacher self, I always look at my numbers to see what is working, what is not working. If I send out a campaign or if I go and do a bunch of pop-bys to local businesses, I want to know how that's converting because even though I might not be able to tell exactly who is making those cliques, I do see if there are new views, I do see if there are conversions and I'm about ready to launch an even bigger campaign right now.
I've got some free assessments for people wanting to get into online courses and programs and that particular feature is going to make such a big difference in my campaigns. Also, the fact that you have the split testing will come in handy, although I haven't taken advantage of that too much to date.
Bob: Along the tool kit line of thinking, you're an online course consultant, I'm sure you've seen a lot of different course platforms out there. A lot of people use Leadpages to generate interest in their courses and then they might use an external platform to run their course. So is there any particular course platforms that you've found to hit all of the right notes when it comes to the delivery of a course?
“My rule of thumb with technology is to match it to the needs and the skills of the entrepreneur as well as the students.”
Julie: I think it depends on the entrepreneur and their level of comfort with some of those things. For people that already have an established website and hosting or they're getting into online courses, sometimes for them, it doesn't make sense to invest in a platform that's going to cost you an arm and a leg.
My rule of thumb with technology is to match it to the needs and the skills of the entrepreneur as well as the students.
I think ease of use and the availability of support are two key features. And obviously, you see that with a lot of the major platforms. However, not everybody is in a position to be rolling out of course, especially if they're going about it the wrong way and they've already developed the course and they haven't validated that idea with their audience, they're not going to want to pay $100 plus a month or x, y number per student. For intellectual property reasons, I have personal qualms with a number of systems that then your content is part of their platform.
While it's easy to get started, set up, etc., I don't always recommend that people take and put their information on to certain platforms, especially if they're thinking maybe this first rendition is going to grow into something else. There's a lot of things to consider in terms of a platform. One of the big ones though is how easy it is if it's going to fit your budget, but that's not where I start with the course design process. I always am quick to tell people who want to develop courses that technology is putting makeup on. You get dressed first, you do your hair, etc., and then you… do your makeup.
Bob: Otherwise it would be a lot of smudging going on.
Julie: If you're a mom, maybe that process is going to be different. Because if you thought little dirty hands and things that, maybe you put clothes on right before you go out the door, but in the end, the technology is still not the first thing that we take a look at.
List Building Through Free Consultation
Bob: You're doing quite a bit of list building these days. What are you using to build your list? What lead magnet are you putting in front of people to get their email address?
Julie: I'm going into the high touch lead magnet. I'm offering a free online course preparedness assessment with myself. I'm offering a free call. Entrepreneurs can hop on with me and take a look at what it is they want to do with their business over the course of the next year. By the end of the call, we can determine which type is the best course or program to offer, which format is going to help them meet those goals.
A lot of times you can develop one and then produce the other fairly very effortlessly. We can also determine when to offer it, what to call it, the exact tools you'll need to get started, how much to charge. I can even help to crunch the numbers to give them an idea of what their earning potential would be based on those numbers. Those are some of the major stumbling blocks that keep people from developing their online course or program. I think it's best to get them out of the way as soon as possible, so you can say yes to making more money in your business.
Time Blocking for Getting It All Done
Bob: You mentioned your husband earlier and do you have a young child at home. How do you balance your personal time and family time with the demands of a business as you're growing it?
Julie: I have business hours and I have a routine that I stick to, maybe not religiously, but it's there. If I need to move one thing around I've developed a system for that. Basically, my son goes to preschool in the morning, so we have our morning routine and there's no budging from our routine. I get him to school and then it's work time.
In any given day, I'm taking calls or meeting with clients or I'm connecting with other entrepreneurs. I'm planning, scheduling, etc. And I block out those times I would if I were working for anybody else, and I do the same for teaching because I still am actively teaching for the university. I'm teaching an online course that I'm launching right now. I teach a big lab as well, hundreds of students are in the lab and yeah, it all gets done.
I create time blocks and I manage my time in that way. In a given week I have systems in place to help me to track my work activities as well as my successes and leads that I'm generating. I try to make sure that no bases are left uncovered and if it involves another person, then we schedule meetings so that we can make sure that they're hitting their goals and the business moves forward.
Asking the right questions
Bob: Tell me a little bit about somebody who's helped you out in your business has a mentor or as a coach? I'm assuming you didn't do all this all on your own besides championing from your family. Perhaps there's been something you've learned from or somebody that you've looked to, whether directly as a coach or from afar listening to or reading.
Julie: I'm currently working with a coach. Her name's Mariana Ruiz, and she is an impact-driven entrepreneur. In fact, that's part of her branding (ImpactDrivenEntrepreneur.com). She is somebody who I admire greatly. She's a mom. She has transferred her skills from what she was doing previously, working as a nurse to now working as a professional who is a certified business coach. She has helped me to focus on the things that are going to move my business forward, such as lead generation, sales, managing my time so it's going to fit my circumstances.
Everybody's got their own model, but when you do seek out that mentor or coach, it's an added bonus if they get you in that certain way. We connected a while back, not just on the business side of things, but I feel with her being from Venezuela and I have traveled to Venezuela, not to mention a number of other things in our daily lives. I've gotten a lot out of working with her, and I think she came into my life at that time where I needed that type of assistance. The connection that we made when she was working in my summit graduated into that, "Hey, well I can help you with some of your goals right now. Let's take a look at that," and it was a natural progression for me.
Modeling Other Effective Teachers
Bob: I imagine as a person who loves learning that you listen to a lot or you read a lot when time allows. Is there any book or podcast that you've been enjoying recently that you think our audience would geek out on?
Julie: Yeah, one of the things that I have constantly been revising with all the changes that I have been making to my business over the last couple of years has been messaging and how to speak to my ideal client, naturally. But a book that I've enjoyed on this subject is by Donald Miller. Maybe you've heard of him. He's got the StoryBrand Certified Guide Training and he's got a book that speaks to his framework.
“I found inspiration in some of the ways that Donald Miller set up StoryBrand because it enables people to come in and meet them where they are. That's going to serve your audience even better.”
And as that geeky academic, I get into his setup because it's super actionable. Not only does he tell you what he wants you to be able to do in the book and talk about it in a certain way, but he also has an amazing funnel and he's got a website set up to bring his framework to life.
I found inspiration in some of the ways that he set that up because it enables people to come in and meet them where they are. And I think that's important, especially when you are looking to create an online course or a platform or program that's going to serve your audience even better.
So I've been reading that and I revisit it every now and again and I've gotten a lot out of it.
Bob: Excellent. Well, of course, include info about that in the show notes.
Learning Is About Doing, Not Just Consuming
Bob: One of the things I'm curious about, Julie, in the consulting that you do is there's a lot of people that teach people, "Oh, you've got to have a course, you've got to have a course," and they work hard getting people to make sales.
But at the end of the day, it's the consumption of that course that makes a course creators business take off.
Can you speak to either a mistake that people are making or a must do when it comes to making sure that students who take an online course to go through and consume it and apply what they're learning?
Julie: A must do is when you are creating that course, it needs to be actionable. Not only does it have to be consumable, but it has to be actionable. Beyond the cute graphics or the nice videos that you have developed with your PowerPoint slides or your PDF downloads, the actual framework or course progression needs to be actionable the entire way. Somebody is not going to hang in there for 16 modules to find out in module 15 that they've got questions and they're not able to move forward with what they've been trying to do.
“Online learning is all about taking action because action produces results in their mind.”
If they're trying to, for example, learn techniques to use Linkedin, you need to be getting them small wins along the way, beyond update your profile and put this link here to your website or something like that. Those are small wins because they can accomplish them, they are actionable, but it needs to build into something a little bit bigger along the way. So if the ultimate goal is to be getting your student, your ideal student, more money, more leads, more referrals, then you need to make those actionable items speak to those goals.
Because they're going to read your syllabus or your objectives or your sales page, and they're going to think, "I'm going to buy this course. I'm going to invest this money into learning this skill that I need to market myself better. In the end, what am I going to get?" That's exactly how entrepreneurs look at things. What am I going to get after working with this person or taking this course? They want to know that they're going to get results.
Online learning is all about taking action because action produces results in their mind.
Or it should, because if you watch a video, and this is the what not to do, so many people, they sit there, they talk to the camera and they tell the person that is their student what they need to do. But it doesn't produce a result necessarily. Telling is not teaching. I can tell my students all day long, this is a verb in Spanish and this is how you conjugate it and this is how you would use it in a sentence. But until they're doing it themselves, learning does not happen.
I take that example because we've all been in school and we've all had that one instructor that lectured for days and we were like, "Why did I even come to class?" Because they didn't learn anything. So learning is doing and action produces doing, and I think that that's where it comes down to.
Connecting with Industry Peers and Leaders
Bob: Excellent. Julie, I have one last question for you. As you are becoming more and more successful as you already are, I'm sure people are coming to you and asking you for help, not just in online course creation so forth, but ask you about how are you doing this business thing. So when you talk to those kinds of colleagues, what advice do you give them as the key to success? What would be a key thing that they can be thinking about or doing in starting up or growing their business?
Julie: It's not just one thing. Maybe depending on who it is, I would have a different set of tips for them. I think figuring out who it is that you are put on this planet to help in terms of ideal clients or ideal students, and then figuring out how many people are potentially already helping this person so that you can also talk to them and figure out how can you be of greater service.
When I rebranded and niched down starting mid-2018 that's what I did. It maybe it took seemingly a long time. It wasn't a quick pivot, it was happening in the backspace for a while. That particular move that I made was instrumental in getting me to where I am now. That that's also going to continue to work in my favor because I have earmarked time in my schedule every week to be connecting with people on that level to learn more about where they are with their industries, how it overlaps with mine and how we can either work together, collaborate together or whatnot.
I'm an idea person and I know not everybody is, but being that creative idea person, having those sessions with other people to learn more really fuels my journey.
Bob: Excellent. Julie, thank you so much for being on this episode. Where can people find out more about the upcoming work that you're doing?
Julie: Well, you can check out my Lead Page. Right now I am putting the final touches on it. Right there on my page you can go and book that free assessment. It goes straight to my planner, scheduler. You can find a time that works for both of us. I'm also very active on Linkedin and I have a Facebook page for my business. Wherever you are, there is a way for us to connect and Leadpages is a great place to start.
Bob: Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Julie. Appreciate your wisdom as others of the Lead Generation here are learning how to grow their businesses and enjoy impacting the lives of people that they're working with too.
Julie: Well, thank you so much, Bob, and thank you so much to Leadpages for having me on the podcast.
Ready to take action?
What are your top take-aways from Julie?
And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?
Tell us in the comments section below!