People create online courses for a number of different reasons. Some people do it simply because they are passionate about a specific topic and want to share what they know with others. Some people do it to make some extra money online to supplement their current income. And some people do it to build to teach and inspire thousands of people around the world, and build a highly lucrative online business in the process. Elizabeth Rider is one of those people.
Best known for her fun and accessible approach to food and healthy living, Elizabeth Rider is a leading nutrition and whole living expert who teaches women around the world how to become healthier and more successful. And to say that she’s doing a great job would be, well… an understatement.
Elizabeth’s blog, where she shares healthy recipes and straight-forward nutrition advice, draws over 2 million readers per year. The Psychology Of Eating named her website as a Top Health Coach Blog, and List Nutrition called her site a Top 20 Nutrition Blog. She’s a Certified Holistic Health Coach (Integrative Nutrition), a TEDx speaker, and she’s been featured on numerous publications including The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, and TheDailyLove.
Elizabeth is also a very successful online instructor. Thousands of people have taken her online courses, including her signature programs Clean Up Your Diet™, Purpose To Profit™ and The Wellness Business Bootcamp™. And she doesn’t just teach people online. Elizabeth has also built a successful direct sales business, which has given her the opportunity to speak on stages around the world and mentor scores of business owners each year to live life on their own terms.
Inspired by her success, we decided to speak with Elizabeth to learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur and online instructor. After all, anyone who builds seven-figure online business from scratch using an iPhone and a laptop is bound to have learned some valuable lessons along the way.
So how did she manage to build such a successful business and design an amazing lifestyle in the process?
It turns out that it all started with her blog…How @elizabethrider built a 7-figure health and wellness business online. #teachonline Click To Tweet
Turning her blog into a business
Elizabeth has been a health coach for five years, but her passion for health and wellness began before that. That passion led her to start a blog seven years ago, which at first was just a way for her to share her insights, nutrition tips and healthy recipes with anyone who was interested in reading them. “I have been blogging for about seven years, so blogging is what really started my business”, she told us.
In the beginning, her goal wasn’t necessarily to build a business from her blog, but as her articles began to attract more and more readers, she started to look for ways to monetize that exposure. “I realized I needed to start selling something in order to stay in business”, Elizabeth explains. “People think that bloggers get paid a bunch of money, but they don’t. There’s no magic blogging God paying us.”
With a background in health and nutrition, Elizabeth didn’t have any formal training in online business or marketing, so she started looking for resources to help her learn how to build a business. When she stumbled upon an online course by Marie Forleo, it was exactly what she needed at the time. “I didn’t know a lot about online marketing in the beginning”, says Elizabeth. “I took a course from Marie Forleo called B-School. I’m actually one of her affiliates now, so I take people through her course every year because I learned so much from her.”
Around that time, Elizabeth was considering monetizing her blog by placing banner ads on it. This way, each time one of her readers clicked on an ad on her blog, she would earn some money. The problem with this strategy, as she learned from Marie Forleo, was that it takes a lot of traffic to generate significant ad revenue from a blog, and more importantly, whenever someone clicks on an ad, they leave your website.
“I never really understood how people made money with ads because the pay per click is so low. You have to have a very high-traffic website”, Elizabeth explains. “What Marie taught me was that the reason ads are so detrimental to your business and your blog is because they take people off of your site and they forget about you. So not only do you not get paid very much for them, they take people off of your site.”
Instead of trying to monetize her blog with ads for other people’s products and services, Elizabeth decided to leverage her existing knowledge and experience by creating her own products and services. “It was when I took B-School that I was introduced to content marketing, and the whole idea that you can use your knowledge to create a product”, says Elizabeth. “I had just taken my health coaching course right before that so it all kind of came together at the same time for me.”From blogging to teaching online. An inspiring story of @elizabethrider #teachonline Click To Tweet
Offering 1-on-1 coaching services
One of the first steps Elizabeth took towards monetizing her expertise was to offer 1-on-1 coaching services to her blog readers. Coaching others was definitely more profitable than placing ads on her blog would have been, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that by trading her time to coach people on an individual basis immediately placed a limit on her earning potential. “I was offering health coaching services, and I only did 1-on-1 coaching for about 6 months because I realized it was very time intensive and you don’t get paid a lot because you’re only helping one person at a time”, she explains.
But the time she spent coaching her clients 1-on-1 did prove to be beneficial because it basically provided her with an outline for creating her first online course. “I realized that I was saying the same thing to everybody I was coaching, and that’s what my online program turned out to be”, says Elizabeth. “So it was good to do 1-on-1 coaching for a while but I really just left like a record on repeat because I was answering the same questions. So I just took everything that people were asking me in the 1-on-1 sessions and turned it into an online program.”
Once she had her first online course created, she stopped offering 1-on-1 coaching services in order to focus exclusively on creating and selling more online courses. “I don’t do any 1-on-1 coaching any more, just my online program”, Elizabeth explains. “And I always tell people when they ask me about 1-on-1 coaching that it would be about 10-15 times more expensive to do the 1-on-1 coaching and you’ll learn more in my online program because every time somebody asked me something new, I added to the online program. I haven’t had anybody go through the online program and still have questions afterwards.”The problem with coaching is you only help one person at a time. @elizabethrider #teachonline Click To Tweet
Creating and selling her online courses
Before Elizabeth started using Thinkific to create and sell her online courses, she was using various WordPress plugins to add her course content to her website. After receiving the payment for her course from a student, she would email them the links to her video lessons. “I actually started selling courses about four years ago”, she told us. “I tried some different WordPress plugins and then that got really complicated. I was using MailChimp email auto responders but it was a very manual and time-intensive process.”
One of the reasons Elizabeth made the switch to Thinkific was because so she no longer wanted to use her WordPress website to host her courses. “I liked that Thinkific was hosted outside of my WordPress site, because I already get so much traffic and adding to the traffic would bog down the site”, she explains. “I love WordPress and it’s such a great platform for blogging, but when you try to add plugins it can get a little challenging.”
Another reason why Elizabeth chose to use Thinkific was because it was very user-friendly, both for her as a course creator and for her students. Spending less time dealing with the technical aspects of creating online courses gave her more time to focus on creating new content and marketing her business. “One of the challenges with content marketing is not only do you have to come up with the content, you have to find a way to deliver it that makes it easy for the user”, says Elizabeth. “If the delivery is challenging for a user it doesn’t matter how good your content is. So I needed something that was user friendly for me as the creator but also for the student.”If the delivery is challenging, it doesn’t matter how good your content is. @elizabethrider Click To Tweet
The video lessons in Elizabeth’s courses were created by recording her computer screen as she spoke into her microphone while presenting PowerPoint slides. “The videos in my courses are actually screen recordings”, she says. “I would just create a PowerPoint with the information and then I use Snagit from TechSmith to do screen recordings.” This method of course creation, according to Elizabeth, is easier than recording live video footage. “Creative people tend to create on the fly, so it gets really challenging as a creative person and somebody who is creating content when we have to stop and wait for someone to come over and video us. I would like to that kind of stuff in the future but right now it’s mostly screen recordings.”
A part of the decision to do screen recordings for her video lessons instead of live video footage stems from Elizabeth’s desire to provide her students with an effective learning experience. “Most people are watching me from their iPhones or on a tablet or a laptop or something. So doing the whole high definition and professional video shoot can be beneficial, but people want your information”, she explains. “I think people learn really well with the PowerPoint slides and your voice because they’re reading and they’re hearing you at the same time.”
That being said, she doesn’t include all of her content in her PowerPoint slides. Instead, she includes bullet points and then expands upon those points vocally. She also includes images throughout her presentations to make them more engaging and visually attractive. “I don’t put all of the words that I’m saying on the PowerPoint slides – just some high level bullet points and maybe some images or examples to show people things”, she says.
Marketing her online courses:
Creating a great course is one thing, but marketing your course is another. And as all successful online instructors will agree, you need to have a marketing strategy in order to attract new students to your course. We asked Elizabeth to share some of her most effective marketing strategies with us. Here they are:
1. Blogging and social media
Publishing articles on her blog and sharing them on social media has been Elizabeth’s primary strategy for building an audience since she first got started online. She also has a YouTube channel where she publishes free videos on a regular basis. Her YouTube videos have helped her build her personal brand and also send traffic to her website (she includes a link to her blog in her video descriptions). One of her videos – The Most Common Juicing Mistakes – for example, has received over 400,000 views since it was published 4 years ago. “I have been blogging for seven years already, so I have a pretty good social media following. I use social media a lot”, she says.
2. Facebook advertising
Elizabeth definitely shares a lot of free content on Facebook (for example, links to new blog posts and videos). But when she wants to promote a course, she will spend money on Facebook ads to do so. “I use the promoted posts in Facebook a lot if I’m selling something”, says Elizabeth. “I don’t think it’s really worth promoting posts if I’m not selling something, but if it is leading people straight to a program I will pay to promote it.”
3. Email marketing and Joint Ventures
In addition to sending emails to her own list of subscribers (something all online course creators should be doing, by the way), Elizabeth often partners up with other people who have email lists. “I also do joint ventures with friends who have big email lists”, she says. “We will do a trade and include each other in our email list.”Top 3 strategies for marketing online courses. @elizabethrider #teachonline Click To Tweet
Tips for other online entrepreneurs and course creators:
Elizabeth has definitely learned a ton of valuable lessons from her experience as an entrepreneur and online course creator. And since success leaves clues, we asked her to share some of her best tips for other online entrepreneurs and course creators. Here is what she shared with us:
1. Know who your target audience is
Before you create your first (or your next) online course, make sure you understand the needs of your target audience. Take the time to ask them what they want to learn from you, then create your course based on their feedback. This will ensure that you create a course that you know people want, and not a course that you think they want.
“Always make sure that you know who your audience is before you create a course. Know who it’s meant for, and then find a group of those people and survey them and poll them and ask them what they want to learn from you”, Elizabeth explains. “I’ve seen people spend like 6 months creating a course and then have very little sales because they didn’t know what they were creating or who they were creating it for.”Know your audience before you create a course. Ask them what they want to learn. @elizabethrider Click To Tweet
2. Build your email list
Building an email list of people who are in your target market gives you the opportunity to sell your course before you create it. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you have an email list you can literally ask people what they want and then based on their feedback, create a course to sell to them.“You want to sell a course before you create it”, says Elizabeth. “Even if you’re not actually collecting the money, get an email list of people who are interested.”
When it comes to building your email list, the key is to consistently provide value to your subscribers for free. Send them information that helps them solve their problems or get the result they want. When you promote your course to them, they are more likely to purchase it if you’ve earned their trust by helping them for free. “Building an email list is a value exchange, so how can you provide value to people in exchange for joining your list?” says Elizabeth.Building an email list is a value exchange. How can you provide value to your list? @elizabethrider Click To Tweet
3. Build a business you’re passionate about
Lastly, if you’re an online entrepreneur or an online course creator, make sure you are building a business that you are passionate about. If you don’t have a passion for teaching your topic and for helping your customers succeed, you should probably do something else. Get clear on why you are doing what you do, and use that as your motivation. A great book on this subject that Elizabeth recommends reading is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. “Motivation comes from doing something you love”, says Elizabeth. “If you’re not motivated, you’re probably doing the wrong thing.”
Motivation comes from doing something you love. @elizabethrider Click To Tweet