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Holistic branding and marketing posts by Diana Chaplin.


Filtering by Tag: entrepreneur

Coursemania: A Brief History of Online Courses + How to Stand Out

Diana Chaplin

Have you noticed how online courses have become a commonplace phenomenon on the web? How practically everyone is stepping into a position of expertise on something? How information is being packaged in a way that makes experience and knowledge a widely-available and marketable commodity?

It’s a fascinating emergence from the evolving nexus of technology, entrepreneurship, and the demand (dare I say, hunger?) for learning.

Let’s unpack what’s really happening here - and why - in an effort to understand how we got here. Then we can follow the path to leveraging this information for the sake of benefitting both you as a business owner, and your audience as the people you hope to impact in a positive way through this delivery method – without getting lost in the shuffle.

The idea of virtual learning may appear on the surface as a fairly recent thing, after all it’s only within about the last 20 years that the internet really entered our everyday lives on a mass scale, but you’d have to go back, waaaay back to the real beginning.

We’ve been interested in a virtual model of communication that goes far beyond the physical classroom for centuries now. Long before the internet was even a glimmer in the minds of some of the scientists and engineers whose combined efforts came to the infancy of what is now a digital behemoth, humanity has had a timeless desire to learn, to develop our understanding of the world, and to infinitely expand our minds.

Over time we created the technology to satisfy this need, but the need itself is not a consequence of the technology. It is a primal aspect of the incredible and mysterious evolutionary unfolding that makes us human.

It’s the same impulse that caused the first human migration out of Africa, learning to make tools and creating written languages, expressing ourselves through art and music, exploring the invisible compositions of the environment and the workings of our own bodies, and following so many other curiosities in an effort to understand the extraordinary nature of reality.

Yes, I’m bridging the development of online courses to the highlights of human evolution. Bear with me here.

The idea of actively learning from teachers is timeless. But while this started on a small scale (one person in the village learning something and sharing that skill with a few other people, who then shared with a few more people, etc.) and grew to become more institutionalized over time (one person undergoes specialized training to maximize their knowledge over a certain subject, in order to then teach that to large groups of students as a life-long profession) what we are seeing NOW is sort of coming full circle.

We have grown weary with traditional education, with its structures, rules, and limitations (oh, and high cost). It’s just not enough anymore. The world is changing too fast and we have developed a taste for a far wider network of inspiration and information than ever before. We want to learn what we want to learn, when we want to learn it, through a media that is convenient and easily accessible.

How we qualify teachers has also expanded beyond the need for certain qualifications into the broader realm of experience-based wisdom.

Our unprecedented access to infinite amounts of knowledge has brought us back to learning desired or practical skills directly from each other. 

While it certainly helps to have credentials or experience to show that someone is qualified to teach something, that proof of expertise can be presented in a myriad of ways that leaves it up directly to the consumer/student to decide whether that course provider is going to give sufficient value or not. It’s all completely open to interpretation, packaging, and the individual belief of perceived quality.

This unraveling in our understanding of education has paved the way for open-sourced learning, and teaching.

Beyond that, the main reason online courses are becoming so popular boils down to two words: PASSIVE INCOME. Once you invest the energy, time, and money into launching your primary online course, much of the work becomes automated, allowing you the freedom to focus on other things while continuing to generate income as people sign up for your course – sometimes while you sleep! Of course you still need to devote time to marketing, communication, and other things, but you can also experience a much more expanded business and life.

Savvy entrepreneurs and developers in the tech industry recognized this paradigm shift and further accelerated the momentum by creating platforms and digital infrastructure – not to mention integrating the facets for essential marketing and commerce - to facilitate online learning in a streamlined way that is user-friendly for both provider and consumers.   

That brings us here and now.

The great news is that it’s easier than ever to create, launch, and earn a substantial passive income from online courses.

The not-so-great news is that because it’s so easy and “trendy” there are many people doing this, so if you really want to succeed you’ve got to make sure to do it right.

What does that mean?  

1.   Know what you’re talking about!

If you have some knowledge in something but aren’t genuinely an expert, don’t do an online course yet. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have a successful online business, but it’s more effective to focus on building your audience and sharing your topic in other, more easily consumable ways (such as via a blog, ebooks or mini-guides, group discussions, etc.) while you are still learning yourself. Do this for a few years while you gain expertise and you’ll be in a stronger position to launch a course that is truly valuable and already has a built in audience ready to buy.

2.   Provide genuine value.

The decision to launch an online course shouldn’t ever come from the mere desire to make money. That sort of motivation results in a low-value course where people don’t really walk away having learned much and therefore won’t be motivated to sing your praises, ultimately leading your course to flop. Make sure your course is chock full of juicy wisdom shared in an actionable way so that your customers can quickly implement it in their lives and experience real positive results. This is the part that trips up entrepreneurs the most because it’s not just about sharing a message, it’s about elevating, organizing, and communicating a highly refined and unique message in meaty yet bite-sized pieces that leave your audience transformed at the core level. Not an easy task!

3.   Invest in a quality delivery method.

While I don’t recommend getting caught up in perfectionism, if you really want a successful course it should be presented in a clear and organized fashion, with good design aesthetic, and delightful presentation so that the actual process of consuming your information is enjoyable and free from confusion. You can easily research “online course platform” to see if something already exists that you like (in fact, here’s a great resource for product comparison), or find a developer to help you integrate something structured into your website that walks buyers through the process of learning. Use images and design that looks neat and fresh to evoke a feeling of getting something thoughtful and special.

4.   Get the timing right.

As mentioned above, having an audience of existing fans is crucial for launching your course with enthusiasm and positive response. If you’re new to your field and haven’t done much in the way of content-creation or marketing when you launch your course then you’ll be disappointed because there are just not that many people who know that you and your course exist. Time your course in a way that rides momentum with your other offerings, that takes into account the seasonal time of year, cultural trends, or something else that energetically jives with your course in a natural flow of what people are looking for.

5.   Inspire and elevate your audience.

Whatever your course is about, remember that timeless motivation for learning we all share. As humans we seek to reach our highest potential, follow curiosities, and acquire knowledge that will somehow result in happiness in one form or another. Ask yourself how your content can inspire greatness, connect your audience to something powerful, or light them up from the inside out. If you can leave them feeling good in addition to learning new skills or gaining some form of self-awareness then your course will truly stand out as special.

Regarding the topic, make sure…

  • It’s a topic people really want

  • It’s a topic that hasn’t already been heavily covered by others, or if it has, then make sure your approach is different

  • It’s a topic you are uniquely qualified to lead

The biggest mistake I’ve seen is with entrepreneurs who want to go from a small and inconsistent blog to a successful online course in a week. It might be technically possible to launch it, but it's unrealistic to expect huge success overnight. To really make it fly you'll need some deep thoughtfulness, attention to detail, a long-term strategy for growth, consistent content, audience engagement, authentic communication, savvy marketing, and a sense of style.

It all starts with the commitment to creating something spectacular.

If you need help with all of that, get in touch, we’ll make course magic together. 

Genuine Entrepreneurs You Should Know: Ryan Robinson

Diana Chaplin

Queue Don LaFontaine (the “movie voice guy”)… IN A WORLD where everyone is an entrepreneur, where slick marketing gurus leave a trail of broken hearts, landing pages, and half-pursued passions, ONE MAN actually cares about helping you thrive in the creative economy….

Ok maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it’s also true.

If you’re tuned in to the entrepreneur world then you might be a little fatigued by all the experts promising winning strategies, formulas for success, and 6-figure income through endless forms of virtual offerings. It’s not that I don’t respect smart advice and valuable insights from modern thought-leaders in the business world, because I do, but I’ve come to recognize the qualities that set genuine influencers apart from the rest.

·      They have a personal mission that goes much deeper than making money

·      They think about big ideas, and share those ideas with their tribe

·      They seek to connect people to resources, and to each other

·      They are not afraid to show their real unscripted lives

·      They GIVE to their readers, whether or not those readers ever become customers

·      They are humble, kind, and respectful in their words and actions

·      They pay homage to their own role models and acknowledge the sources of their insights

·      Rather than telling you how to do things, they ask powerful questions and inspire you to dig way down deep within yourself to carve your own path forward

Ryan Robinson is an entrepreneur, writer, content marketer, and champion to freelancers everywhere. He works full time at Creative Live (a creative learning platform that is chock full of affordable and comprehensive video courses), has a handful of clients, and writes immensely thorough and actionable blog posts to help other freelancers elevate their potential.

But wait… there’s more.

Ryan also has some seriously great courses of his own that are actually worth your time, and what he’s learned comes from various ventures of starting side businesses through the years. When he’s not doing all that he also manages to write articles for fancy publications like Inc. Forbes, and Entrepreneur, and even get out in the sun to explore the great outdoors so he doesn’t turn into a laptop zombie.

How does he do it all?

I thought he was superman until he recently revealed in a podcast interview that he wakes up at 4:30am. Not sure if Arianna Huffington (the sleep evangelist) would approve but hopefully he balances it with an early bedtime and occasionally sleeping in… till 6.

Ryan’s newest course is F-R-E-E (possibly not for long) and really, really well done: How to Find a Profitable Business Idea. As a content creator myself I tip my hat off to how clear, concise, and well-guided all the information is. Idea courses can sometime float in the realm of la-la land but Ryan’s is very grounded and moves that idea energy downwards into manifestation-in-reality land.

 I swear Ryan is not paying me to write this post!

I’m sharing this because he’s a great example of someone who goes above and beyond in providing value to his readers, and I want as many people as possible to take advantage of his generosity before he comes to his senses.

I’m also sharing this because he’ll teach you things you probably won’t learn anywhere else, and he’s actually full of tangible substance. He’s not going to tell you what you “should” do, but he’s going to suggest some really good ideas in sufficient detail for you to implement them if you want to, and you’ll probably see results in a fairly short time.  

That’s what it’s all about!

This is what a genuine entrepreneur looks like, and the kind of person I want to support in a professional and personal way.

And I love this, here’s Ryan’s perspective on the idea of “following your passion”:

“You can’t afford to wait for elusive passions to just fall down out of the sky, and you won’t find an online quiz that can just tell you which path your life should take. Success in business is determined mostly by how well you can identify, activate, and build your strengths. And you know what? We tend to become passionate about the things we’re good at.”

Right on brother.

Ryan and I met through Twitter. Yeah, really.

Somehow he found me and followed me there, and I was intrigued enough to check out his website and sign up for his list. In one of the first emails I received upon signing up he asked if I had any questions or struggles and I wrote back, something I’ve done before without any replies. But this time, a crazy thing happened…

He replied with a very thorough and personal response directly addressing my question with helpful recommendations that completely shifted how I was looking at a problem.

Whaaaaa? Who does that?

From there we’ve stayed in touch, like real humans, connecting about freelancing, good content, social media, and other things. He’s a genuinely nice guy.

So I’m writing this post to share the love. Go check out what Ryan has to say, you won’t regret it.

Ryan, if you’re reading this… iStash, really? You're just full of surprises. Now I’m inspired in a whole new way!

Work as Art: The Rise of Creative Entrepreneurship

Diana Chaplin

There is something magical happening in our consciousness and economy, something that’s not totally new but has recently reached a level of critical mass that makes it more visible, more palpable, and more accessible than ever before.

The simple pursuit of things that light us up inside, relegated beyond the role of hobbies and secret passions to something front and center in our professional lives.

I’m talking about entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists, creators, business-owners, independents, those who are navigating the fine line between business and pleasure, and balancing their creative and logical minds with a newly refined level of expertise.

I’m talking about people who pursue cool things they love and make money doing it.

Yes, sometimes this balancing act requires that we take on work that pays in order to fund our ideas, but then WE MAKE THOSE IDEAS HAPPEN, and that often leads to invitations to do more of that, setting up an exhilarating (and sometimes scary) career where we are the masters of our time, priorities, and income.

The value system has shifted so that more people are inclined to think big, take risks, and follow their dreams.

Many are applying those efforts towards making the world better, healthier, happier, and more sustainable; towards helping others and expanding the possibilities for everyone to thrive with resources and support, not just the fortunate minority, and towards fulfilling some mysterious inner calling. 

Income is not the primary objective of work.

More and more are stepping up and saying “I refuse to spend 40 hours a week doing something that crushes my soul for a paycheck and benefits, I’d rather spend 60 hours a week doing what I love, earning less for a while, and forging my own path forward.”

Does such a career lifestyle come with it’s own set of drawbacks? OH YES, it does.

It’s hard, really hard sometimes. You have to hustle for clients, charge varying rates, barter for services, figure out taxes and other legal issues. It’s not for everyone, and I’m certainly not saying that it should be. But there are rewards too, and the point is that the world is ready for this and it’s happening.

This year I joined this incredible tribe, but it was only after years of observation of the pioneers who paved the way and showed that it was possible for the “average person” to succeed and thrive without the safety of the corporate structure I was previously attached to.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could just invent my own job but that’s exactly what’s happened.

My fusion of content management, strategy, copywriting, photography, wellness, and more recently co-founding a coworking space have fused into a career where no two days are ever the same.

The ability and freedom to use the entire range of one’s skills and talents not only creates a happier worker and more interesting work, it contributes to a shift in paradigm that will permeate all of our lives.

Clearly, I think this is pretty cool, and I just had to say so.

I will leave you with a book to explore this further. Zen and the Art of Making a Living was published in the 1970’s by brilliant author and thinker Laurence Boldt. It was ahead of its time then and in many ways still is, but we’re just starting to awaken to some of the ideas he shares there. I highly recommend it, and here’s a quote:

“The highest order of duty to self is to follow your bliss. To thine own self be true. The highest order of duty to society is to make your fullest contribution to its well-being. These duties meet in life’s work. They may appear (especially in the short-term) to be in conflict, but in the long run of a life span, they can be seen to be threads interwoven so tightly as to be almost indistinguishable.”

What I Learned at Entrepreneur Camp

Diana Chaplin

I have just returned from the most amazing weekend and will do my very best to condense the mindblowing and abundant implosion of love, inspiration, and motivation that I experienced.


Hang on, I’m workin’ on it.

Putting this into words is not an easy task.

I’ll begin with a summary of what this is all about.

Camp GLP (Good Life Project) is an organized event for heart-centered entrepreneurs where hundreds of like-minded people can get together to have fun and learn new concepts for successful business building. This is the second year it has taken place and it was held in upstate New York in a traditional camp setting - bunks, cafeteria, arts & crafts, nature, just like sleepaway camp – and is organized by an incredible entrepreneur, author, and all-around-visionary dude named Jonathan Fields.

Many entrepreneurs don’t have the pleasure of being surrounded by those who “get it” in our everyday lives.

Networking aside, we crave real connection, inspiration and validation that our ideas are not weird or crazy or impossible, that they are in fact AWESOME and should be pursued. We also generally don’t have access to brilliant leaders and teachers who’s guidance can not only help make our businesses more successful, but who remind us that self-care, creativity, play, relationships, and a deep connection to our true selves are just as important as understanding sales and marketing strategy.

So, what did I do/learn/take away from all of this?

Here are just a few of the highlights…

1. From Dr. Aviva Romm I learned that a little bit of pressure can ignite creation, but continuous stress-overload is not only unhealthy, but it will also stifle the creative process. She reminded me to PAUSE, breathe, and take care of myself every damn day, even when I’m “too busy.”

Here’s a breathing exercise she shared:

Breathe in for the count of four and think “I am”

Breathe out for the count of four and think “at peace”

Do that a few times in the midst of a busy day to quickly de-stress and get centered.

2. From a workshop on synchronicity with Monica Kenton I learned how the flow of energy moves from body to spirit, and was yet again reminded that good self-care creates the space and invitation for emotional balance and a soul that can fully express itself. Interestingly my partner exercise here was the most valuable in that it brought to light that the clarity of purpose I seek is rooted in my center, not the heart or mind where I have anticipated it to arise.

3.  From Derek Halpern of Social Triggers I learned that the key to creating a successful online course is to address pain points, launch a mini-course first, get feedback, and improve the content before investing too much time in something that might not work out. On a practical level this inspired a simple yet potentially brilliant content model for a client I'm working with.

4. From Jonathan Fields I learned the most. I learned about how to be present and loving and generous in both work and life, how to focus on what matters most, dance with fear, and do it with flexibility and delight. Jonathan inspired me to dig deeper and open myself up to far greater possibilities than I had thought possible. And through creating this event he taught me the incredible power of connection, compassion, and collaboration.

This is just a fraction of the experience though. In addition to learning I also made some amazing new friends and was reminded that you should never ever underestimate or make judgments of others. I was surprised again and again by what I learned about the beautiful strangers I met, their talents, their dreams, their vulnerabilities. The glow from the unexpected brightness of their inner lights – something hidden within all of us yet rarely witnessed beneath the veneer of our composed external shells – is still warming my heart.

There is magic that happens when you bring together deeply loving and conscious people who just want to learn and grow and share love. All our hearts were cracked wide open and for a few short days our souls intertwined in laugher and tears and elevation.

I could say more, give more details, share the vision I came home with or the lovely things I made with my hands. I could share my thoughts on how powerfully such soulful entrepreneurs are changing our economy, the nature of work, and the world itself, but to be honest I'm still processing. It's all still sinking in, swirling around my energetic field, marinating in creative blissful juices until a future time when I will bare myself again. 

I'm already booking my spot for next year :)