Monetizing your blog can challenge us, online teachers. This is where our scarcity mindset kicks in:
- I can’t monetize, it may turn off my readers.
- I want to monetize, but I don’t know how.
- I want to launch a product, but would people buy it?
- Not too many people are reading my blog, how can I sell anything?
- But what will my colleagues say?
- But what if my readers think that I’ve turned into a gremlin extorting money from everyone?
- Can I charge that?
I used to be quite skeptical of growth vs. scarcity mindset theory, but having been an online teacherpreneur for 7 years now, I know that it’s not the lack of our expertise that keeps us from reaching our dreams. It’s our fear of failure.
It's not the lack of expertise that keeps us from reaching our dreams. It's our fear of failure.Click To Tweet
I first discovered Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat’s blog English with a Twist several years ago, and just like many of you, I fell in love with her vibrant personality and her effortless teaching.
It took a year or so to pluck up the courage and introduce myself. Incidentally, I just told her how much I loved her blog and how I, too, enjoyed reading and then recommended a book that I thought she might like.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Shanthi is one of my clients in the Small and Smart Product Lab (now Smart Teacher’s Hub), working on her first ever minimum viable product (MVP), or a “small and smart product,” as I call it.
This is Shanthi’s story of product creation and growth as a teacherpreneur. Based on her responses, I’ve added a couple of key lessons that will help you when you plan to launch your first product. Enjoy! ~ Elena
The Pains of Monetizing a Blog
How long had you been blogging before you decided to monetize your blog?
I started blogging in 2013 and decided to monetize my blog last year (2016). It took me 3 years to go for it.
What did you do to monetize your blog (program? Course? e-book?)
I started with an e-book but I should have launched it on its own. Instead, I gave it away as a freebie to hook my readers into my first Masterclass course on presentations. This went against your advice (given during our coaching).
The course was marketed as a four-live class program with assignments in between. It was limited to 15 participants only. I ended up getting 5 clients which was disappointing. In hindsight, I think the live-class formula wasn’t what people wanted even though the feedback I always got was that learners crave the live interaction with a teacher.
However, when it came down to it, the need to commit to attend class at a certain time ended up being a barrier.
Also, I don’t think people were ready for that program to be my first offering to them.
Key lesson #1:
When monetizing your blog, start by changing your mindset, specifically the well-known conventional assumptions, like: students only like 1:1 lessons; students can only learn online via skype lessons; courses and e-books are a waste of time and money, students may not like a program with no “live” interaction, etc.
Once that is in place, start small. No matter how great your 300-page manual and 50-tutorial video course is, your readers want a quick win that a small product can give them.
Small Product Experience Launches a Teacherpreneur
Please tell about your small product: what it was, why you created it, how many copies you sold and how did this experience help you grow as a teacherpreneur?
It was an ebook and workbook on business small talk in English.
I surveyed my readers in November asking them what topics they wanted me to create a course on for 2017. I gave them four options to choose – business emails, business writing in general, engaging in small talk and presentations. The unanimous vote was small talk.
Once the topic was decided, the next stage was to decide what to create – an ebook or ecourse. And this is where you, Elena, helped me focus. You told me that I should start small, therefore, with an ebook + workbook. After the summer’s debacle, I agreed.
In terms of content, you suggested I should keep it simple and to combine my love of cooking with small talk. And that’s where the idea of an ebook of 10 must-have recipes came about.
I wanted to give learners the “ingredients” to create their own recipes. I created 10 scenarios/recipes divided in 5 business situations (business lunch, conferences, meetings, corporate hospitality, training courses). 2 recipes per situation (Business Lunch: Discussing the Menu & Talking about Restaurants and Cuisines).
Each “recipe” was divided into setting the scene, the ingredients and putting the ingredients together. The third part was to show learners how a conversation could start, evolve and end using the ingredients.
I called the book “Small Talk To Go” to give the idea that this is a resource book learners can refer to time and time again just like recipes in a cookbook. The “to go” element is aimed at busy professionals who, pressed for time, can simply grab a recipe, go over the phrases and use them in their next business small talk situation.
During the launch period where I offered a discount to my small talk clubbers AND larger list, I sold 42 books. I’ve sold a further 4 books since because the book is available to buy on my website and I’ve shared it in the emails of my weekly lessons.
The experience taught me to focus and the importance of starting small and manageable. It also taught me to subcontract certain tasks like book cover design, illustrations and formatting and setting up my shopping cart on my WP site.
I’ve learned that to get something out within a certain deadline, I need to focus on the content and marketing and get others to do the techy side. Basically, I’ve learned I cannot do everything myself.
I also learned how crucial it is to ensure a seamless user experience for your buyers and to make your sale page crystal clear especially with the payment and delivery process.
Key Lesson #2:
When monetizing your blog, engage with your audience to learn what their main pain point is. Find the easiest and less-techy format to deliver your product and focus on the content.
Keep it simple and practical. This is the main tune I sing with every one of my clients. When in doubt, edit. Take the frills out. Keep it focused and task-oriented.
Shanthi could have written a series of blog-looking chapters on the importance of the small talk in communication,but it wasn’t her goal, and who benefits from lengthy explanations?
Think of your client (in this case, a Business client who may not have the time to watch lengthy videos with explanations), and create the content she will appreciate.
The Ups and Downs of Product Creation.
What were some challenging/exciting moments that you experienced at the time of product creation and launch?
The challenging part for me was setting the deadline and sticking to it. I originally wanted to launch the product in the first week of January. That meant that I had to start creating the material during December.
I was spending Christmas in Malaysia with family and had it all planned to work on the material a couple of hours every day whilst on holiday. Of course, my plans were blown out of the water (between family commitments and husband getting ill during the holiday).
So, I found myself at the beginning of January with only the bare bones of an outline! That would have been fine but I had already primed my readers telling them that the book was going to come out in January and I didn’t want to go back on my word.
I set myself the deadline of 25 January to launch and worked backwards on what I needed to do. I also had a full immersion client for a week which added to the stress but I was determined. I decided that if I didn’t do this, delaying would be too easy.
Imposing the deadline was the best thing I did because it made me focus on the job in hand. I was determined to prove to myself I could complete this project and I did!
The book launched on 25 January and I sold 25 books in the first 2 days and that was super exciting because it showed my pre-launch marketing had worked.
By the end of the launch, I had sold 42 copies and had made a small profit (after deducting all my setting up costs). This means that further sales would be part of my profit margin and income. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Making an honest profit.
It was also my first time using my shopping cart (Woo Commerce) and there were a couple of teething problems that I had to put right.
And it made me realise that staying on top of these issues, responding quickly to buyers and solving their queries are crucial to build their confidence in you and in their buying experience of your product. I wanted to ensure the user experience was as seamless as possible.
Key Lesson #3:
Set a deadline. Nothing will get accomplished unless you have a specific time frame you’re working with. Remember the Parkinson’s law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Nothing gets accomplished without a deadline.
#Online #educators: Monetize your #blog. A case-study + 4 key takeaways. #teacherpreneursClick To Tweet
How did the Small and Smart Product Lab help you get this task off the ground?
It was invaluable especially in keeping me focused and constantly reminding me to keep things small and manageable and above all, to get something out there that didn’t have to be perfect.
For instance, when thinking of what content to create I kept asking you if I should include an audio version to the ebook. Then I asked if I should add short video clips to get more engagement. I was constantly getting sidetracked and would end up procrastinating.
You would bring me back to my senses and force me (in a positive way) to stay focused and for that I can’t thank you enough. There’s so much noise out there to distract you and sometimes it gets overwhelming.
You look at what other teacherpreneurs are doing and you think to yourself “oh, maybe I should do that too”; “oh maybe I could include this in my ebook/ecourse”.
It’s exhausting! You need to have the strength and confidence to say enough. What you’re doing is good enough and ‘good enough’ is perfect for you at the moment and is exactly what your audience needs from you.
The Small and Smart Product Lab gave me that confidence.
Exploring New Horizons
What do you think your next steps might be?
I am on the next project already! I’ve sent a survey out to my email list asking them what ebook they want to see next from me. I’ve given them 4 options again. (I added my Small Talk Book in the email and got an extra sale!)
I am going to do another ebook and this time I will add the audio format.
I’ve asked my email list if they want an audio version as well. So far the response has been overwhelmingly for both the e-book + audiobook.
I am not quite ready to create a program. I want to test the market with another ebook.
However, I am also making some changes to my email marketing strategy. I am going to introduce a 90-day autoresponder series for new subs where I showcase my top 30 posts and introduce them to my two ebooks (the one I wrote last year is for sale on Amazon). I got this idea from Shayna of Espresso English.
I am also making changes to my website to make my ebooks more prominent. I am lucky in that I have very high traffic on my website but have never capitalised on it properly.
My biggest problem is not making the Call To Action clear and also a very slow self-hosting provider. So that’s being changed as we speak.
I am going to launch a specially designed mug and maybe a couple of T-shirts that visitors to my site can buy. The mug is especially exciting because it will match my Business Idioms and Coffee To Go video series and my Wednesdays with EWAT live lessons concept (Grab a coffee in your favourite EWAT mug and let’s start!)
I am on a roll….
Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat is an independent Business English Trainer and Blogger with a background in finance. Through her business English with a Twist, she teaches professionals 1-1 offline through her home stay full immersion courses in the UK and online through her specialist online programs on business skills.
She has developed her online presence by delivering regular online content through her blog, English with a Twist, her Business Idioms and Coffee To Go video series and weekly live lessons through her series “ Wednesdays with EWAT” series on Facebook.
She can be contacted via her website: http://englishwithatwist.com/
Key Lesson # 4: Invest in Your Business.
Investing in my business hasn’t always been easy for me. I felt like unless I could “hold it” (i.e., a piece of equipment, a camera, a laptop), it wasn’t really an investment. Investing into programs, some help with tasks I knew little about or strategic coaching seemed like a scary waste of resources.
That all changed when I realized that in order to get new perspective, I had to un-clench my fists and let the fears go. I invested for the first time, and it was scary, but the wealth of information, new resources, networking opportunities and support I received from a 6-week program was way beyond the money I had initially paid.
That first investment changed my entire business. With every new investment I became more comfortable letting go, and the returns overwhelmed me. It’s not just the money (although, surprisingly, money was being replenished), it’s the network, the exposure, the people I met, the new workers I hired, the feedback I received, and the new mindset I’ve adopted.
I know how scary investment can be. I am an online teacher like yourself, but in the case with a small product, this is something that continues making money for you in the future. Creating and selling your first small product will make you a teacherpreneur.
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