While many of our WP Courseware customers are just getting started creating a business around their content, we have a number of successful entrepreneurs already earning a full-time income from their courses.
Some of these “solopreneurs” have courses which have accumulated tens of thousands of students. And I’m not talking about our corporate training or university clients, but entrepreneurs who just realized that they had some knowledge that other people might actually pay for.
I know of several WP Courseware users who are single-handedly running training courses delivered to more than 10,000 students and at least one that has over 40,000 enrollees.
Offering a digital product (such as a paid training course) is a great way to leverage content to develop passive income, separating your input from your income. Most people work one hour to generate $XX.XX per hour in income. But one hour invested in creating content for a digital product like a training course may provide income for several years!
But let’s face it…
All successful businesses reach a point where they can no longer function with an owner/operator model. And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but as many of you are already aware, even passive income is never truly passive.
I’ll use the case of one of our successful WP Courseware users who is delivering a handful of specialized training courses in a lucrative niche and earning well into six figures a year. I can’t disclose the niche or the site, but let’s take a look at what tasks he may be responsible for on a daily basis after reaching somewhere around 15,000 paying students:
*New content creation and current course content maintenance
*Financial reconciliations and accounting duties
*Current customer support…yes, for nearly 15,000 customers!
*Email and social media marketing
*Regular blog posts for existing and prospective customers
*Developing and maintaining joint venture partnerships
*Managing an affiliate program for the course
Oh, and trying to have a semblance of a life outside of work is kind of important, too, since after all this is supposed to be passive income, right?
But I think we’d all agree…this is a very good problem to have! If you’ve arrived at the point that you’re delivering paid online training and starting to earn a solid income, it would be a tremendous benefit to begin outsourcing some of the small moving parts as soon as possible.
As Michael Gerber clearly drives home in his best-selling business book, The E-Myth, any entrepreneur is going to go further, faster by working on a business and not in it.
Outsourcing to the Rescue! Well, Maybe…
As with many of the personal connections we make now, finding someone to help you out with your budding business can happen entirely online.
No, the interwebs are not just for wishing someone “Happy Birthday!” or seeking a new soul mate. As many of you are already aware, hiring part-time employees for any task from customer service to coding is only a click away. Well, a few clicks, a clear job description, a proper interview process, expectation setting…ok, I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll get to that.
After several years of running online businesses and going through dozens of outsourced contractors, I’ve come up with a few questions which I ask myself when I consider outsourcing anything.
If you’re ready to start working on your business and not in it, follow along…
1. How far do I want to take this business?
For quite a few of our WP Courseware customers, the training course itself is actually just an extension of an existing blog or content. It’s a way to monetize a passion project without PPC advertisements and provide a little extra value in the form of a paid training course which goes above and beyond the free content. So generating a little income each month from a few paying students is a good result and completely manageable for one person.
But for some, there’s an opportunity to deliver training that may have a massive uptake, and even if that’s at $50 or $100 per student then the potential is there for a full-time income a few weeks or months down the road. We’ve written several case studies on six-figure a year earners who use WP Courseware to deliver their training and every one of them realized early on that they weren’t going to achieve the success they dreamed of if they didn’t hire someone to take over some of the nuts and bolts that would prevent them from delivering a great learning experience.
2. What do you need to outsource and how much time will it save?
Once you’ve made the decision that you may have identified parts of your business that you could outsource, write them down.
I usually begin by putting together a list of things I think I could realistically train a virtual employee on via a Skype call or a series of pre-recorded screencasts. After that, I try to estimate how much time I spend on each of these tasks per week.
You can then begin to get an idea of how complex a task is versus how much time you’re spending on it. If you’re spending four hours a week on a simple task that would require little training or wouldn’t influence your customer experience much, that might definitely make the “someone else could do this” list. If you find you’re only spending 30 minutes to an hour a week on a task that has a huge impact on your business or customer experience, then it’s probably worth you doing yourself.
Again, this is going to be unique to every business or niche, but this process will help you shave off the most waste of your time for the lowest cost…but we’ll get to that shortly.
3. What else would you be working on?
This is another question to ask yourself which is going to be unique for you. It comes down to what you have in mind for your time if you can eliminate some of the tedious tasks associated with running a successful training course.
I’ve spoken with some of our WP Courseware customers for whom, as mentioned above, focusing almost entirely on content would add the most value if they were freed from mundane, daily duties.
I’ve also chatted with customers who had almost completely neglected marketing their courses on a large scale because they had picked up a couple of dozen paying students early on and then spent all of their time on retaining those customers through support. For those entrepreneurs, having a skilled and focused right-hand customer service superstar would give them time to test FaceBook ads or craft email follow-ups.
However, as any business owner knows, at some point you just want to stop investing blood, sweat, and tears, so it also becomes a question of quality of life at some point. If you’re answering simple customer emails while skipping your daughter’s violin recital, well, it might’ve been worth training someone up for $12.00 per hour.
4. How much more revenue could you generate?
This relates to the discussion above, but asking yourself this question can help to fine tune what tasks would be best for you to hand off. I’ve done this exercise several times and it’s not easy. At best, it’s guesswork. But just give it a shot.
Let’s say you’re running a paid training course on a site which also has a frequently updated blog to provide some free, valuable, and actionable content to your visitors. Let’s also say you’re spending 2 hours per blog post 3 times per week (6 hours/week) to post up that free content to anyone who might just pass by your website or to pick up the occasional long-tail keyword search.
Now you decide to hire a decent writer who has some experience in your niche to write blog posts for $40 each. I know it may sound expensive to some of you, but you get what you pay for and that’s probably an average rate for a quality 300-400 word piece which your audience deserves. So you’re spending $480 per month for someone to keep the blog on your site alive and active.
That 6 hours per week now goes to you writing 3 guests posts per week for other sites in your niche (linking back to your paid training, of course). If you could publish 12 guest posts per month while your new assistant handles your blog and you could focus those guest posts on sites with an average of 10,000 monthly unique visitors, well, even if math isn’t your strong suit you know that’s 120,000 sets of eyeballs that you’re getting in front of each month.
If only 5% of those 120,000 visitors read your guest post and click on your link, you have 6,000 new visitors to your site in one month. If you can convert even 2.5% of those 6,000 visitors to paying customers (150) and you’re charging $19/month for your training course, well, would you be writing content for your blog? Probably not if you can invest $480/month for someone else to take over for you and conservatively generate $2,850/month in new revenue.
5. Can I trust someone to hand this off?
This is another very serious question to consider. We have one WP Courseware customer who currently charges $4,995 for a professional certification course…no kidding. He has to be incredibly sensitive to the demands and feedback of his customers. That’s more than the median annual income in many countries. Is it worth it for him to hand off customer service and support to anyone regardless of how qualified they are or how much he pays them?
Probably not. When it takes only 20 customers a year to provide a nice living, I’m guessing he wouldn’t hand off his customer touches to anyone.
If this is a moving part within your business which is highly critical, no matter how much time it requires you should probably only trust yourself to handle it.
Alternatively, there are many tasks successful course creators take care of each and every day which have what we might call a “high tolerance for error”. They just don’t matter that much in the long run.
It’s going to come down to the contractor you hire and what you’re hiring them for, but I’d recommend starting with the things which won’t have a massive impact on your business if they’re not carried out to your exact specifications.
6. What type of contractor do you need?
Now that you’ve identified tasks which will save you time to focus on other parts of your business to generate more revenue and determined that you can trust someone to hand them off, it becomes a question of quality versus quantity.
I really struggle with putting it that way. However, in my experience when it comes to virtual outsourcing there are really two types of people you’re going to find:
These are often people who have worked in customer service, executive assistant positions, and other roles who are just looking for some flexibility, like working from home. They’re going to command a premium but can be delegated any number of tasks and will often follow through no matter what. You can communicate with them often, having regularly scheduled meetings, and even if they’re only committed to you for 5 hours a week they can generally handle a range of tasks with quality results.
A VA might be a great fit for something like customer service/support for your online training course. They can see the same few common questions coming up over and over, assess what they need to do, and become more and more efficient as they go along.
If the task you need to outsource is somewhat repetitive and high-volume, has a “high margin of error” for your business, or may have a high burnout rate, you might consider finding a task-specific contractor.
The benefit of this outsourcing strategy is that you reduce your dependency because the train-up time is low, the hourly wage is generally low, and should you lose someone you can quickly find a replacement.
I’ve used many task specific contractors in the past for repetitive things, such as data entry, where I could record a 10 minute training video, set a budget of $12/hour, and check in with them once a day.
7. What kind of budget or rate should I set?
Again, this is going to depend entirely on your outsourced tasks. If you’re asking someone to manually grade quiz submissions from your course students and those students are seeking some sort of professional certification, you’re not going to post a job description listing $12/hour.
Alternatively, if you are running a very successful course with 15,000 students and are manually processing 25 login password resets per day, you don’t need to pay someone $40/hour to handle that task.
Take a look at what comparable tasks and expertise are commanding on some of the various employer to contractor/VA websites and try to set a rate which will attract a quality applicant no matter what the skill set might be.
8. So how do I find someone for my tasks?
First of all, as you might guess you need an accurate and thorough job description no matter what level of expertise you’re looking for. And I’ll be honest, you can post a job description on any contract or VA listing site and you’re going to get applications from people who didn’t read a word of your post.
But if you’re clear and concise about what you need help with, the chances are better that you’re going to get a few diamonds that shine through the rough.
The next step would be to find a site appropriate to your needs. There are dozens of sites out there to find virtual employees, track their progress, and get them paid. But they usually tend to attract a specific type of job-seeker. For example, Zirtual is a great place to find longer-term virtual assistants who can handle advanced administrative or customer relation tasks. Elance may be the best place to go to find someone very technically-specialized who can work on code customizations for you. And Upwork (formerly oDesk) has generally been a good place for me to find contractors for the simple and more repetitive tasks (although there are many great writers, developers, and designers there as well).
If you’re at a point where you think you could use some assistance in getting further, faster with your online training course I hope this list of considerations is useful. And if there are strategies for hiring outsourced contractors which you’ve found beneficial, please feel free to share them below.