#526 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Cindy Nicholson

WHAT I DO: I help Entrepreneurs, Business Coaches & Consultant increase revenue, scale their business and save time by providing online course and e-learning consulting services.

WHAT MAKES ME UNIQUE: As a former high school math and phys-ed teach AND as a corporate trainer, I’ve spent the past 15 years translating concepts and theories into teachable, ROI-driven trainings. I know how important it is to get real results for my clients.

WHY IT MATTERS: If you’ve decided you want to create an online course so you can scale and add an additional income stream to your business, but aren’t sure how to make it happen I can help. I help entrepreneurs create courses that are effective, engaging and gets the transformation that the students are looking for.

I help my clients in three different ways:

1. Course strategy session: helping clients create the outline and structure for their online course

2. Online course – Do It With You: similar to a book editor I provide coaching, advice and feedback on the development of the course

3. Online course – Do It For You: similar to a ghost writer, I design and develop and create the online course (with my clients as the subject matter expert)


‘I can not recommend Cindy enough!! I am blown away and moved to tears with the ways she is helping me craft my zone of genius into a super clear, super smart, and super EFFECTIVE program with her zone of genius! 10-star recommendation!’ Carol Egan, carol-egan.com

‘Go to Cindy Nicholson, if you want your next course to be more student experience based, more structured and of a higher level. Learn it together with a gentle, warm and wise teacher. Your next course will shine!’ Anneke Camstra, annekecamstra.com


If this sounds like you and you need to create a course that your clients will rave about, let’s chat.

Book a call: https://bookme.name/cindynicholson/30-minute-intro-call

I look forward to speaking with you to see how I can help.

Jonathan: Welcome back to the WP tonic show, this is episode 526. Unfortunately, my cohost Adrian has not been able to be with us today. He’s absconded the rascal, but I’ve got a great guest folks. I got Cindy in the back. She’s come back from her journey. So, Cindy Nicholson, what do you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?

Cindy: Hello, Jonathan. It is good to see you again and hello to your listeners, it’s been a while. Yeah, so I was a former cohost with Johnathan a year ago, and I gave up my duties so that I could take a trip around the world with my family. But before I did that, I am well and I currently do now is I help online entrepreneurs who want to create online courses and create online courses. So, I was working, you know, I started out as a high school teacher and a corporate trainer and decided to… I discovered this wonderful world of the online and thought I would build a business in nutrition. And while I was doing that, I of course started taking a bunch of online courses. And as a former teacher who kind of did that for a living, I really struggled with the quality of the courses and I just wasn’t getting the value out of them, so I thought, well, maybe I can help entrepreneurs who really have a good message to share create a course that really resonates with their students.

So that’s why I did a pivot. I got out of the nutrition side and then started building a business to help entrepreneurs create online courses because it’s easier said than done in terms of building something that makes sense, gets a real transformation for your students and it’s quality so that you create people raving fans, right, so they’ll come back for more. So that’s been my journey so far.

Johnathan: That’s great. We’re going to like Cindy said, she is the coolest whisperer. So, we’re going to be talking about getting all your bells and whistles down before you delve into the technology park, which is what WP-Tonic deals with. You should have all your courses outlined and Cindy’s going to give us all the info that you would want, and she’s got plenty of additional info on her website. Before we go into the main part, the show, I want to talk about one of our main sponsors, that’s Kingsta hosting. Kinsta only specialize in WordPress hosting. They have been my major hosting for over two years now, and their sponsorship is most welcome. So, what do you get from Kingsta or what would your clients get from Kingsta? Well, if you’ve got a WooCommerce, you’ve got a learning management system, you’ve got anything that needs more humph to get it in front of your clients or customers, you should look at Kingsta.

They use Google and cloud technology, so the actual backbone is superb. You get a fantastic interface to get all the bells and whistles like the most modern version of PHB, get great support as well. Everything you’re looking for from a premier WordPress hosting provider, you get from Kingsta at a very reasonable price. So, if that sounds interesting for yourself or your clients go over to Kingsta and sign up and also tell them that you heard about them on the WP-Tonic show. So, Cindy, I’ve got to ask you this before we go into the main topic of the show is that you went on this world journey to get away from me Cindy, your mental health was deteriorating and your husband’s done intervention and said you’ve got to get away. So, I totally understood why you had to get away from me Cindy, but on your travels is there any one particular country, city that really sticks in your mind that was a big surprise, a big pleasant surprise for you?

Cindy: So, we traveled to probably 12 different countries. We had to cut it short because of the Corona Virus, so we missed visiting some of South America, but we did do a lot of Asia and New Zealand, Australia, India, and then some parts of Africa. So, we did get a really good taste of what the world is like outside of North America and it was truly an eye opener. Some of my favorite places were both Japan and Vietnam and Thailand. I loved how easy it was to travel and to get around, so it’s really convenient from a traveler’s perspective and then I love Vietnam and Thailand in terms of how cheap it was to travel. So, you could get by with very little, I had my two boys with me so everything adds up, especially if you’re traveling for eight months. So, I think my favorite was Southeast Asia and Vietnam and Thailand and just really the opportunity to just see how different people live. We had done some pretty conservative traveling up until then. We’d been to Europe we’ve traveled quite a bit in the U.S but nothing can really prepare you to go to places like that, just to see how differently people live. So, it was truly an extraordinary experience from that perspective.

Johnathan: That’s fantastic. Yeah, I have a lot of people that work in in Vietnam and Thailand but I’ve got a few people that I know that work in Vietnam and they’ve been very happy there. They say that the people are very welcoming, very hard working and really the country deserves a break really for they had a period of over 50 years that were really quite awful. So, it’s great to hear that Vietnam is really growing and prospering really isn’t it, Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah. And they just get by with… they don’t have to have a lot of stuff to be happy and I think that’s one of the biggest messages we came home and had to unpack all of our stuff and I just kind of was like, we just don’t need all of this. You saw so many people living around the world with so little and yet they were still so happy and welcoming and proud of where they lived. It was quite an eye opener for sure.

Johnathan: So, on to the main topic. So, let’s say you’re the course whisper, got any tips or insights to start this conversation off? Because producing content and really… so let’s give you a more simpler question. If you’re doing your first course, A, what are your recommendations in how many lessons should be in that course and B, what is a realistic timeline to get a reasonable quality to your first course up, getting all the materials done and finished and ready to go into whatever online platform you’re going to use?

Cindy: Yeah. Okay, so that is a bit of a loaded question, Jonathan, you haven’t changed a bit. Anyway, so, in terms of how long should a course be? Well, that’s a really tough question to answer because it depends on what you’re teaching them, what is the outcome that you’re looking to get your students to learn. I would recommend if this is your first stab at taking a course, keep it simple. So, maybe you start with maybe a free course that you’re teaching or really understand what a particular pain point that your clients or your students or your audience is having, figured out what that specific pain point is that they’re struggling with and put something together for them now. So, I would say, because I’d like to keep my lessons short, I will always, always, always, always recommend keep it simple and keep it short.

So, whatever lesson that you’re teaching, have just one teaching point within that lesson, allow them to master that particular milestone before you move on to the next outcome that you’re looking for. So, when you look at whatever you’re trying to teach them, this is what I recommend to my clients is brainstorm, identify what it is. You want them to overcome, what challenge they’re having, identify what that is, and then brainstorm all of the things that they need to be able to do in order to achieve that milestone and those are going to be all of your individual lessons. So, I usually have the clients that I work with, they’re generally doing like bigger courses so I would say never more than five modules with five lessons in them is kind of what I like to say in terms of creating a course and for each lesson.

So, if you’re creating a lesson, which is part of your overall course, this is to answer your second question about how long should it take you to create it? I usually like to give the ballpark of about five hours per lesson that you teach. So, even though your lesson is going to be if it’s a video, even if it’s going to be five to 10 minutes long, all of the elements that go around it will take about five hours, so that’s what I’d like to give people the ballpark. And granted you can do it shorter than that if you want to, people can just… you can bang off a 10-minute video and be fine with it if that’s what your priority is. I really look for quality courses, so you’ve got your lesson that you’re teaching, you want to do your research, you want to do your recording, you want to do your editing, you want to create your whatever worksheets or handouts that you want to give them. So, I usually say ballpark around five hours for each lesson that you teach, that’s usually takes me now between four and five hours to do it, so that’s usually what I recommend for new people as well.

Johnathan: Alright. So, you said before you started the course whisperer, you did a few courses yourself and you weren’t happy. So, what are some of the basic mistakes that you often see people making Cindy?

Cindy: Oh, I have spent thousands of dollars on courses and I would say 90% of them, I have not finished. And I think that’s the real risk we face right now is just so many people are putting courses out right now that are not high quality that people are getting discouraged with creating with taking online. So, biggest mistake is that they’re trying to cover too much information. That’s hands down the biggest mistake that people are doing is they all have 45-minute lessons, one-hour lessons where they just ramble on and share really interesting information and information that is helpful, but not necessarily relevant or pertinent to that particular learner. So, that is probably the biggest mistake is that they just talk at the screen but don’t share any…don’t tailor it to be a teaching lesson so that’s probably number one.

And then the number two is just because you have said it doesn’t mean your students have learned it. And what I mean by that is often it’ll be a video and then it’s like, okay, go on to the next video and learn the next thing and then it’s okay, watch the next video. What I find in a lot of courses is they don’t have… after that five to 10-minute lesson, I always recommend that you have some sort of action item. So, get them to do something, to apply or internalize the content that they have just used. And so, those are the two mistakes I see. Number one is they ramble on for too long they don’t get to the point. And then the second one is that they just have them go on to the next lesson there hasn’t been no learning taken place they may have found it interesting or insightful, but they haven’t actually learned, so what I often see is there’s no action items or follow up or worksheets or application exercises after each of the lessons.

So those are kind of the two main ones and I’ll say a third one because it obviously just always comes up as well is the courses tend to be too broad. They haven’t really narrowed down or honed in on who the course is for, because they’re worried about excluding too many people, so they keep the topic too broad and so therefore a lot of the content that’s in the course doesn’t apply for a good chunk of the people that are taking the course. And so, as a result, as a student, if there’s so much information in the course that I don’t really need or doesn’t apply to me, I don’t end up finishing the course. And that’s probably where when I talk about a high percentage of courses I haven’t completed it is because there’s so much content in there that doesn’t apply to me that I don’t want to waste my time going through these 45 minute lessons to pick out maybe the one or two salient points that resonate with me. So, there’s my three biggest things that I would say I see with online courses these days that I find very difficult to get through.

Johnathan: That’s great. We are going to go for our break, when we coming back, we’ll be delving more in this world of getting your course up to standard, which you’ll be proud of. We’ll be back in a few moments’ folks.

We’re coming back, got old friend back on the show, more than old cohost. She looks very relaxed; it’s probably not being my co-host that’s done that. Totally understandable. Before we go any further in the second half of the show, I want to talk about one of our other great sponsors and that’s WP-Fusion. Now, if you got a customer relation manager like Active Campaign drip, there’s a lot of them out there Groundhogg, if you got one of those and you’ve got your WordPress website, you need WP-Fusion because it’s going to make how your WordPress website, communicate with your marketing automization platform so much more easier and more powerful. I’m not going to go into everything it can do because it’s just mind blowing basically and we’ve been using it for our clients for the past year, and we’ve built some fantastic automization with WordPress, with WP-Fusion, and then with Active Campaign and all the other ones I’ve just named.

So, go over to WP-Fusion, see what they can do for you and for your clients and you’re going to be blown away. Buy one of their packages and also tell them that you heard about them on the WP-tonic show. So, Cindy, before we went for our break, we were quickly discussing some of the problems you regularly see. Are there any people that are regularly producing courses that you think are doing a really fantastic job? Are there that come to mind that you might be able to refer the listeners and viewers to that they might be able to adapt some of the things they see. Any course producers that come to mind?

Cindy: Well, it’s interesting when I say a large percentage of courses that I haven’t finished, the one that really sticks out for me her name’s Jenny Shih, so S H I H, and she has a course called make it work online that I took probably maybe four years ago. But it’s interesting because you talk about creating these courses so that people will learn something, but also in terms of being really specific as to who your audience is, but it also helps from a marketing perspective and I’ll just tell this story because it really resonated, really hit it home for me. At this time when I was taking a lot of courses and getting really discouraged with the quality of the courses I had begged off and said, okay, I’m not taking any more online courses because I keep getting burned because these people, they have amazing marketing, so they suck you in to get you to buy the course, and then you get in there and the quality isn’t there so I had just begged off, I’m not taking any more courses. And so of course I get an email from Jenny Shih and it was one of her marketing emails and I still read the emails because I’m quite interested in marketing online. And so, I read through her email just for interest’s sake, not like I was interested in taking this course and I read through it and by the end of her email, I was decided to look in more whether or not I should take her course.

And one of the key things about her course is she was super, super specific as to who the course was for. So, she identified how much income you probably should be, have made, she identified how many clients that you would have worked with that would be ideal for this course, she identified what stage you are at in terms of creating your website in terms of your marketing materials. So, she clearly outlined who the course was for such that, by the time I got to the end of her email, I’m like oh my gosh, this course is exactly for me because she’s identified exactly who I am. So, of course I decided to sign up for her course and it was the only course that I’ve gotten all the way through, because she was so clear on who her audience was, that all of the content that was in it was directed to me, there wasn’t any stuff that was either above or below where I was at in my business. So, all of the content was directly applicable, but she also had these short videos that she really hit on a particular target each week or a particular outcome. So, she had short videos and then she also had action items.

So, after every video we had to do something so that by the end, we were always working on our business. So, that course really stuck out for me in terms of being kind of having all of the elements that I think that you need to have a really good quality course, and it helped her marketing because it really kind of spoken, identified to me, but also helped me get through her course and here I am talking about it, right? If you create something of quality that people get real value from, they have no problem talking about it to other people. So, I think that that’s one of the other main reasons why it’s important to create something of quality rather than just record for 45 minutes and call it a course kind of thing.

Johnathan: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting Cindy, because a lot of people I’ve talked to, they tend to mix quality and value up. So, they see offering quality that they’re going to offer more. More videos, more lessons, more of everything and by that it has to slightly get less focused and especially when it’s your first course. Now, how do you see the value of getting your first actual live users and then actually getting inputs from that first batch of users? How important in is that in making your course better, your first course better or your second course better?

Cindy: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting because I find that people, when they’re wanting to create a course for the first time, they’ll come to me and be like, I want to create a course on this. What do you think? And I’ll be like, I have no idea. I am not your target; I have no idea if that is something that would resonate. What does your audience say? And that’s when I kind of get the blank look that they don’t know. So, number one, you want to have at least worked with clients for a little bit so do you understand what kind of challenges they have they’re having, but number two, what, before you create that course, you have to ask your audience what’s going on and what they’re struggling with. It’s so important because what you may think the problem is may not be what they perceive the problem is.

And so that is so… you could go down a path, if you don’t find out at the beginning, you could go down this path and spend hours creating something, and then it doesn’t hit the mark. And so when I came back from our trip, because up until this point, I’ve worked one on one with client before I came home, I worked one on one with clients, help them build their courses and everything like that, I hadn’t actually created a course about how to create an online course yet. But when I came home, I was getting a lot given the environments, people being at home and everything, I was getting a lot of people interested in my services. And so I thought, well, now’s a perfect time to create my own online course and so what I actually did is I, because I had taken a break from work for eight months, I hadn’t really worked with my audience or anything, I reached out to a partnership that I had who he kind of has the Udemy, he has a platform that’s Udemy but for nonprofit companies, anyway, so he, he, he hosts this kind of Udemy type site.

Anyway, I reached out to him because we have very similar target clients and I said would any of your students, or would any of your clients be interested in taking a course, an online course about how to create online courses? So, what I would recommend is if you don’t have your own audience to reach out and ask questions to, that would be the first thing is reach out to your own audience to find out what they’re struggling with. The second thing would be, go online and see what people are talking about. Or third one is to find a synergistic relationship with somebody who has a similar target market and find out how you can support them. And so, what I ended up doing was I created a webinar for his audience and at the end of the webinar, I offered a beta launch of my online course to create an online course. And that was super valuable, I don’t think I realized until I went through it myself, the value of A finding out the information before you create the course, but B do a beta launch as you’re creating it. And what I mean by that is have students go through the course as you are creating it. I…

Johnathan: It’s amazing, no matter how experienced you are, you know, somebody like yourself, you’ve helped people, you’ve spent many hours studying, you know your subject, but it’s still amazing how having other eyes going through something because it’s well known in web design that after you’ve looked at a website so many hours, you don’t see the obvious you become blind. So, it’s always a good idea to have some people haven’t looked at the website as part of your friends, it doesn’t matter who it is, but get some eyes on it that haven’t seen it before and I think the same applies to course, doesn’t it?

Cindy: Yeah. So, it was super valuable because what I thought some students might have difficulty with. I realized that it was actually pretty easy and then they had questions with things that I hadn’t spent enough time on. It’s that whole curse of knowledge, right. You know the content so well, it’s sometimes difficult for you to kind of put yourself in a new learner shoe. The other value I found with creating the beta course or doing the beta launch was it really forced me to get the course done because I was committed, right. I had a group of people that were interested in taking this course and I had no content created. So, every week I would launch my next module and I had better get it done.

Johnathan: Funny how that motivates you isn’t it?

Cindy: It worked wonders because I tell you when I came back from our trip, I certainly wouldn’t have created an online course on my own volition but once I had that beta group of students taking the course, I got her done. And it helps you because so many people, when they’re creating a course, they get hung up on making decisions. You probably see it with people trying to decide on a platform or whatever and you just get hung up on the smallest things usually because there’s some other underlying thing holding you back, but you’re finding all these other reasons to not do the work. But a beta launch of a course is certainly a way for you to overcome all of those issues that you have because you just don’t have time, you just make a decision, go on and you always have the opportunity to go back and fix it. That’s the beauty of the internet, everything is changeable. So just get her done, get it out there yet people experiencing it and see how it lands. And then you can always go back and change it or create another course or something like that.

Johnathan: That’s great. Well, we’re coming to the end of the podcast. Hopefully Cindy’s going to stay on for some bonus content, are you’re up for that, Cindy?

Cindy: I’m up for that Johnathan.

Johnathan: Oh, that’s great. I’m going to be asking Cindy about having courses in more than two languages because I’ve had a lot of people who approached me about that. The difficulties and also the benefits of having a multi-lingual course base. I’m also going to be talking to about any resources about the science building, effective courses, are there any online resources that she knows. So, we will be covering some interesting stuff. Now, if you want to watch this bonus content and the whole interview, the easiest thing is to go to the WP-Tonic YouTube channel because that’s where I placed the interview with the bonus content the quickest on.

And just go to WP-Tonic, just search in YouTube WP tonic, we got over 500 interviews on the channel and you just subscribe, please subscribe to the channel and you’ll be notified when I’ll put a new video on. And just finally me and my cohost Adrian, the founder of Groundhogg are going be doing a joint free webinar on September the first. So that’s Tuesday, September the first at 9:00 AM. And we’ll be covering how to utilize marketing automatization on a course website and the most effective ways of using marketing automization to reduce people dropping out of your course. It’s going to be a totally free webinar; you’re going to learn something fantastic from it. How do you register? You just go to the WP-Tonic website on the top navigation there’s a button that says free webinar, click it and you’ll be able to register and you’ll be able to join us. And that’s at 9:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday, the 1st of September. So, Cindy what’s the best ways to find out more about you and what you’re up to?

Cindy: Sure. Well you can come visit me at thecoursewhisper.co, that’s where I’ve got my online course there now, but also in terms of reaching out to me, you can contact me from there. So, thank you very much, Johnathan.

Johnathan: Well, that’s great. So will see you next week folks, hopefully with my cohost Adrian and we’ll have another fantastic guest like Cindy. And we’ll give you some quick tips, insights about a subject that relates to you. We will see you next week folks. Bye.

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