The 4 Fatal Flaws in Your Online Course Project & How to Avoid Them!

I’m going to be introducing Cindy Nicholson “The Course Whisperer”  to the listener and  viewers to the show as the new co-host of WP-Tonic Show plus we going to be discussing these four main mistakes, see below, that I see regularly connected to people trying to develop their first online course. I have also produced a pdf of webinar that I did recently with Chris Badgett CEO of LifterLMS where we cover this subject in more detail.

The 4 Fatal Flaws in Your Online Course Project & How to Avoid Them!

1 – How to build a pre-launch audience.

2 – MVC (minimum viable course).

3 – Speed is really important.

4 – Security is boring until your course gets hacked.

Download The Free PDF  Here

Watch My Full Webinar With Chris Badgett CEO Of LifterLMS  – HERE

This weeks show is Sponsored By Kinsta Hosting 

Here A Full Transcription Of Our Discussion

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 313. This is going to be a great discussion between me and Cindy Nicholson, my new co-host for the WP-Tonic show. Cindy, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?

Cindy: Absolutely, Jonathan. Thank you very much. Hi, everyone. I’m Cindy Nicholson. I’m from I help entrepreneurs who are wanting to scale their business and create an online course. I help them with the creation and the development of that content so that they can scale and create raving fans. Thanks for having me here Jonathan.

Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to go straight into the meat of this episode folks. We’ve had some technical troubles this morning. We normally record on Wednesday morning. And also, Cindy’s in a room where she’s got no air conditioning and I think she’s suffering a bit, folks. So, we’ll hopefully get the meat of this show done and then have a bit of a chat with Cindy about her agreeing to be my new co-host, which is great news. I’m really excited. Before we go into the main part of this episode which will be about some of the mistakes I see a lot of people making when it comes to doing their course with WordPress. It was a presentation that I’ve done recently with the LifterLMS team, Chris Badgett and I got a great response so I thought it would be something to share with you the listeners and viewers.

But before we go into that, I want to quickly talk about our sponsor Kinsta. Kinsta Hosting manages WordPress hosting and they’re just fantastic. We host the WP-Tonic website with Kinsta. They provide staging sites, daily backups, great support and they’ve got a great interface design. You can select what version of PHP you want to run. You don’t have to send a message to your hosting provider. And also, a number of other features which will be too long to list in this advert for Kinsta.

We run the WP-Tonic website on Kinsta and some of my clients’ websites. They’re just fantastic. If that’s really of interest to you, go to the WP-Tonic website. There’s all kind of banners and links on the website to Kinsta. They are affiliate links. If you use one of those for your own website or for client websites, you’ll be helping the show. So, let’s go into it, Cindy. Like I say, I did this presentation, the 4 Fatal Flaws of Your Online Course Project and How to Avoid Them. I really see a pattern Cindy with some of the mistakes that people make when it comes to getting their first course done. First of all, would you agree with that, that you’ve also noticed a pattern?

Cindy: Absolutely. When you’re creating a course for the first time, there’s a lot involved so it’s inevitable that things are going to go wrong or there’s going to be hiccups along the way, shall I say. The beauty is, is that you’ve got people like you that can kind of help you sort through them so you don’t have to be alone as you go through the process. So, maybe Jonathan you can share with us some of those technical struggles or even just any struggles that people have when they’re launching their course for the first time.

Jonathan: Well, I think the number one thing I’ve learned by helping clients with their course is that they get hung up about the technology. It’s very similar to websites really Cindy, a general business website. They’re all about finding the right platform, WordPress or you know if somebody in amazement would choose anything rather than WordPress but they do but they get really hung up about the technology Cindy. And what they should be concentrating on is do I have an audience for my course? That’s what they should be really concentrating on. Would you agree with that Cindy?

Cindy: Absolutely. That’s really where you want to start is having the audience but also knowing the right audience that you’re directing it towards too.

Jonathan: Now, that’s easy for me to say but it’s gotten easier to see if there is an audience and they might be interested in what you propose to provide in your course because there’s a host of Facebook groups, websites from influencers in the area where you’re going to build your course. You could do like with SurveyMonkey, you could ask questions in specific WordPress, not WordPress, Facebook groups and saying that you’re thinking of doing a course, what would be some of the areas that people would be interested in. There’s just a host of ways that could do some pre-research before you decide to build out this fabulous and spend hours of time building something with the possibility, I’m not saying this would be the case, but the possibility that you’ve built a really fantastic course for yourself but your target audience isn’t really that interested in it. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah, absolutely. Not only do you want to build your audience, you want to build the audience of the right people and really getting to understand who they are, what their struggles are, what is it that you’re specifically going to help them with. That kind of goes hand in hand with just building your audience in the first place.

Jonathan: Another part of this is that we’ve got to be realistic. The environment for courses has changed over the past 5 years. It has become a lot more competitive. But the Web itself has become a lot more competitive. Look at the amount of email that you receive. Look at the different social media channels, that 5, 6 years ago just weren’t there. Slack, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. There’s a host of competing areas of the Web and they’re competing basically for your time, basically. So, how do you deal with that? What I mean is, just doing a course in certain areas you’ll be entering a very competitive area. Unless you’ve got a very established, large audience and you’re offering very excellent value, it is going to be difficult. A lot of people deal with that is by inflating the value of their course. What I mean by all the bells and whistles in the course.

What you should be looking to overcome this is finding a niche in a market. What I mean is that you’ve got to find, you know, the beauty of the Internet is that something that you might be passionate or be the expert on your local city or region, there wouldn’t be enough people to provide an interest level or income that would sustain this business but we’re dealing with the Web here so the possibility of the audience that you can touch is much wider. So it comes to what we just previously said. You really want to do ask questions. Join online groups. But then, you can also find, by doing that research, a niche. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah. I agree 100 percent. When people are putting a course together, they end up putting something that’s too broad. And as a result, when you build a course for everyone, you’re building it for no one and it’s too hard to solve a particular pain point for your audience unless you get very specific in what you’re solving and then you won’t get the audience to take your courses if you haven’t really honed in on a specific pain point or challenge that you solve for your audience. Because that’s what they’re looking for. That’s why they’re buying your course in the first place, I feel.

Jonathan: That’s great. Find out what your, intended niche audience by joining Facebook groups. You should have been doing this 6 or 3, you know, 4 months before you even consider what course you might build just to confirm that you’re on the right track. Based on my experience and I think Cindy was totally agreeing with this, is that people tend, they think they’ve got a niche but what they should do is, I’m not sure this word exists Cindy. I have a habit of creating words when I like the sound of them. They should nichify even more. They need to look at a niche of a niche. Would you agree with that Cindy? Can you hear me, Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah. No, I hear you. I hear you. I’m sorry Jonathan. I don’t know if that’s coming from my side.

Jonathan: It’s all right. So, how do you build an audience? That’s the other factor. A lot of people will build a course folks and then they think people will come to them. Obviously, doing your research and finding a niche of a niche does help because obviously, there will be less competition, online competition in that niche. Your message is more targeted. Those things do help folks. But on the other hand, it’s still probably a crowded market to some extent. What I mean by crowded is that there’s a lot of shiny objects out there, even for your targeted audience.

There are bombarded now by online messaging offers. Even doing all the things that I’ve just outlined, you’re competing with all that barrage, all that sound, right? So, how do you build up a pre-launch, course launch audience? I think one of the most excellent ways, I’m going to recommend some things here and they’re time intensive but they’re not financially intensive. I would say, number one, if you’ve done what we’ve previously outlined, is podcasting. It’s how I’ve built an audience over the past 3 and half years, touched many people. It has the power or radio. You get a very loyal audience and it’s just a way of meeting and becoming seen as an expert in your particular niche. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Absolutely. It’s really another avenue for people to get to know, like and trust you. So it’s a way for them to kind of understand who you are, how you can convey your messages and for them to get to know you so that they feel comfortable signing up for one of your courses.

Jonathan: That’s great. Another thing that’s really very, very powerful is YouTube, especially in the educational area. A lot of people say, “Well, why should YouTube and offer free content based on my knowledge and experience?” Well, it is a balance folks. In my experience, I’ve found there is a lot of good content on YouTube but I also have had loads of frustration with the information shared by people on YouTube because you don’t know their experience. When I’m dealing with a particular subject, you do a search on YouTube about a particular problem, you have no idea if they really know what they’re talking about. But as just an opener to show people and to publicize yourself, producing videos on YouTube in that niche area properly tagged in the right way so they do show up when people do searches in YouTube, is a great way of building an audience. What do you think Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah, absolutely. If I’m ever wanting to learn how to do something, I’m always going to YouTube to figure it out. So if you’re in the business of teaching people how to do something, YouTube is a great platform to kind of convey your message but also get found as well.

Jonathan: Another area obviously, is Facebook. But Facebook, obviously because of so many people wanting to advertise on there, it’s becoming very congested and expensive, especially if you’re not prepared to pay for advertising and I’m aiming this at people that are time rich but might be financially trying to build up a business so you’ve got to watch the pennies. But the good news is Instagram is a great of way of building an audience. A lot of people forget about the power of Instagram. Tagging your images correctly, hashtagging them correctly and it’s a growing medium and it’s a medium to publicize your content. You should not forget about it. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah. I agree. So, Jonathan, here a question for you. How do they decide what platform that they should try and build their audience on?

Jonathan: That’s a great question Cindy which I’m going to answer when we come back from our break. We’re going for our break folks. It’s amazing how the time goes and we’ll be back in a few moments.

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Jonathan: We’re coming back. It’s really gone quick. This is going to go quick. We’re probably not going to be able to go through every part of my presentation. But in the show notes, I’m going to have links to the full webinar that I did with Chris Badgett, CEO of LifterLMS, a few weeks ago and you’ll be able to watch the whole thing if you found this interesting. To answer your question, that was a very insightful question actually Cindy. You get top marks.

Cindy’s the smartest part of our duo. So, that is a great question because you can’t do it all folks. It would be better to select one of these platforms and building up an audience before you go on to the next one. The good thing about video is a lot of people say produce content and push it out to multiple social media streams. It really doesn’t work that well. The only thing that does work which is video. Funny enough video is very exchangeable on different social media networks. Other content because of the way that that particular social media works and its audience type and that, multi-purposing content isn’t so effective. To answer your question quickly Cindy is choose which one that you like the most, that you feel comfortable using the most because it will be a much more easier process for you to build that initial audience. Did I answer that question, Cindy?

Cindy: Absolutely, Jonathan. Thank you.

Jonathan: Right. I think it made some sense, didn’t it? On to another main topic of my presentation with Chris a couple week ago is what I call a minimum viable course and really, I’ve taken it from startup methodology, a minimum viable product and I just call it the minimum viable course is that people do tend to get fixated about having the perfect initial course. But we’ve got to be balanced here. Your first course has to be of some standard and offer some value but there’s a balance here. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Absolutely. What you just said is exactly it Jonathan. People often get hung up and don’t move forward with getting that course created because they’re worried about it being perfect and you aren’t going to be able to assess whether it’s perfect, it’s going to be your audience. It’s best to get what you can out there and then be open to the feedback so that you can massage the course based on the feedback that you get from your audience. Something out there and done is better than not at all. A good way to look at it.

Jonathan: Cindy’s just said the magic words there. Feedback. And it’s really linked to what we said in the first half of the show folks is that you might have a course, a subject and you might think it really gives value to your target audience. But without research and without some back and forth input from your target audience, you’re making educated guesses. Like your course, even if you’ve done, you’ve nichified, I hope that word does exist, I just love it, and also joined Facebook groups, you’ve done all the things that we’ve mentioned and also you started to build your own audience for your podcast, in YouTube or Instagram, you need feedback about that initial course. With all the things we’ve just mentioned, you don’t know which parts of the course are really working and which parts aren’t. This is a new enterprise for you and it’s going to take a little while for you to really judge what works and what doesn’t. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah, absolutely. You don’t need to worry about perfection. The beauty of the Internet is everything is changeable and modifiable and fixable so nothing is etched in stone when you put an online course together. So just getting it out there is the most important thing.

Jonathan: I’m not a great believer of offering a free course. I’m more happy with you doing some YouTube videos and your first course to be good value to be at that minimum viable course and it to be fairly priced and not to be at a price that could stop people from considering it. But I’m also not a great fan of your first course being free because free tends to be very undervalued. But after you’ve built your first course and you might be on your second and third more developed courses, you could then offer that first course as a free course for some information from people, their name, their email, just to get people into your Marketing funnels where then you can market to them for your more expensive courses. What do you reckon Cindy?

Cindy: Yeah. I think the challenge with offering free courses is your clients don’t have any skin in the game at that point. Chances are they may not finish what you create. They may not take the steps that they need in order to get the transformation from the course because they haven’t got anything invested. And so, by charging them something is actually a good thing for your clients. You’re more apt to get a better outcome if you actually charge something from your clients. Still provide the free information through the platform as you kind of discussed. But if you’re looking for them to actually get a transformation from your course and get the raving fans that you’re looking for, it will be harder if you’re offering it for free.

Jonathan: Now, on to another main subject and this will depend if you’ve gone for hosting yourself and using the great power of WordPress and building something that you really own or you’ve decided to go to a SaaS solution like Kajabi. If you’re going to something like Kajabi or Learnable, you have no control over the speed and we’re talking about speed of page loading and your website loading.

Obviously, when you go to a SaaS, I’m sure that Kajabi has invested a lot of money into their server network and when you go, it loads great. But as a SaaS becomes more and more popular, it has to invest a lot of money in its hosting infrastructure and that costs a considerable amount of money. If you’re going with the self-hosted and using the power of WordPress and some of the great Membership and Learning Management System plugin solutions in that ecosystem, speed is of importance because people are busy, especially on mobile devices, I’m not saying that we use a mobile device to actually take your course but to actually find out about your course and come to some decision about them wanting to join.

A lot of the people that are going to come to that website are going to be on mobile devices and with desktop, tablet or mobile, speed is really important. People are impatient. They will not stay on a site that’s really a laggard and that won’t load. But I see so many people that come to us that are using shared hosting plans from, I won’t name the providers, but very cheap shared hosting providers and it just will not work Cindy. I’ve got some recommendations. If you are on a tight budget and you’re looking for a good value plan, I think SiteGround and their medium WordPress product which I think is GoGeek, that could be their top one but the medium one which is normally around $14 a month but for the first year, they offer it at around $5, that really is a bargain.

It is shared hosting but SiteGround doesn’t put as many websites on their shared hosting servers as some of the other very popular services do. And the way that a Membership website, a Learning Management website works, it’s going to require more resources than the average website. Do you think I’m right about that Cindy and it is something that people don’t think about?

Cindy: Absolutely. I think the assumption is everything has the same speed and speed is important when it comes to doing any type of learning like this online. Like more and more, people have very little patience for delays and stuff. I think that the assumption is that everybody is the same.

Jonathan: It really is. There’s a lot more detail but I’m going to go on to the last main subject and that’s security. And security is like insurance. It’s dull. People don’t see the value. “Who would hack my little course website? Doesn’t my hosting provider deal with all that?” I hear these things and it’s understandable because you’re dealing with a lot of things here. But just like insurance, when you have a road crash or a health issue, the value of, initially, it’s just price. We all do it. But when something happens, you find was it as good value as you initially thought and it comes with security. Dealing with a really hacked website, even if you bring in somebody like WP-Tonic to help you, it’s still going to be an extremely frustrating, painful experience which you will not want to happen again to you. The best way to avoid getting your site hacked and it’s not individuals out there that are hacking, sometimes it is, but 95 to 98 percent of hacking is done by scripts, bots, automatic processes that are scanning for weaknesses in your WordPress or self-hosted website. It’s an area where one of the other reasons why people probably look at SaaSes like Kajabi to host their site but it shouldn’t be a main factor if you do the basic things around security. And by doing that, you will avoid a lot of pain.

I can’t, in this actual podcast, go into great detail on that. Like I say, there will be links in the show notes that will take you to my webinar with Chris. And also, we’ve got some great blog posts that go into a lot more detail around security and some of the things you can do to avoid getting your site hacked. We’re getting close to the 30-minute mark. It’s gone quick, hasn’t it Cindy? How well have I done Cindy?

Cindy: I think that each of the four topics that you’ve talked about probably could be broken down into its own podcast in and of itself because there’s so much more that you can learn or share with your audience about how to kind of overcome some of these things.

Jonathan: So, are you excited about becoming my co-host and are you looking forward to, even though you’re melting at the present moment?

Cindy: That’s okay. I’d rather be melting than freezing. No, this is great. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to meeting with the guests on the show and learning more about it and having a real good discussion about it because ultimately, for me, it’s all about leveling up the quality that we got in memberships and online courses that we’ve got out there and this is a great medium to offer to allow that to happen.

Jonathan: Yeah. I think together we’ll be able to cover some great areas. It’s a little bit of a dirty secret in the online course is people bailing out on courses. I think there’s a lot we can talk about, about how to manage your course, the onboarding process. There’s so many areas that we can discuss in the coming months, Cindy, to really help our listeners. We’ve got a very diverse listening and viewing audience. I know a lot of you are designer, developers. I know a lot of you also have your own online courses, online businesses or people in general that are interested in WordPress to start an online business in some way. And hopefully, the course learning area is a great way to build, even in 2018, if it’s done in the right way, build a sustainable great business. Do you still think that Cindy?

Cindy: I still do Jonathan. All good hear.

Jonathan: All right. So we’re going to wrap it up. Cindy, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to Cindy?

Cindy: Absolutely. They can visit me at You can send me a message if you want to chat more about what your course options are.

Jonathan: And if you want to talk to me, you can book a time on the website. I’m always available to have a 15 to 30 consultation. If you want any advice about courses, Learning Management Systems, which technology recommendations, I’m there for you. I love chatting to our audience and helping people in general. And we’ll see you next week where we’ll have an interview or somebody on the Online Marketing space or in E-Learning in the Education online area as well that will offer you some value, some insight to build your business and have success in 2018. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.

Cindy: Bye.

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