My next novel – the second in the Ruby Sixpence series – is progressing slowly. Probably because I am spending all of my time creating courses for my online school. It is a steep learning curve and I am loving it. Lessons learned the hard way are often the most valuable. I am becoming an expert on how not to create online courses!
I have completed all the right steps, but not necessarily in the right order, so I have made life difficult for myself. I became overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what I had taken on and wasn’t quite prepared for it. I put the cart before the horse in some cases and had to go back and change things far too many times. It has been a bit like writing a novel without planning, whilst shifting genre and main characters at the mid-point. I have done a lot of research, and a new platform and technology had to be learned. I began to think that I would never get there. I signed up for every webinar I could find on the subject, I followed videos and signed up for newsletters.
The first thing I had to do was to create an online school which I had already researched a couple of years back, and parked because it was too big a topic for me to consider at that time, but with perseverance …
I now have an online school HERE ✅
And this year, mostly during lockdowns, I have set about populating it with some courses.
First up was Unlock The Block – Unlock writers’ block in 3 simple steps. Create writing fluency, develop a writing habit and generate a constant stream of ideas, so that you no longer fear that blank page or getting stuck.
This mini course was based on workshops I had already delivered and a book I had already written, so the script should have been easier to write? It wasn’t even though I decided to deliver this course as text and images only; no videos, so no recording or editing. It took ages.
The second course is far more ambitious. It is a bigger subject with more sections and I wanted to make slides, record video and voice over, and edit the whole thing together. Which meant even more technology to learn.
I have now uploaded Write Your Life to Teachable – ready to launch in the New Year ✅
Sounds easy? 2 simple steps? As always, the devil is in the detail.
It took 10 Steps to Launch My Online School …
from ‘I think I will create an online school for my workshops’ to being finally ready to launch Write Your Life.
Here are my 10 Steps
- Decide the platform for your school: I am using Teachable (there are others; Google it!) because when I started out a couple of years ago, they had a basic plan which you didn’t have to pay for. Now you do. You also have to pay a transaction fee for every student who signs up, so it is worth doing some homework; decide what you want your platform to do and which gives the best value.
- Develop your course Ideas – what do you know about? In my case, it is writing!
- Structure your School – Writing is a huge topic; break it down into smaller chunks. Don’t be put off by too many options of course bundles and all the other advanced stuff. My advice? Dip a toe in; keep it simple; leave room to grow. Pick one bite sized course to start with, leaving plenty of room to grow your school and build progression into your courses
- Audience – think about who your audience is and what they will want from your courses. Test the water. Ask them! In my case, I was responding to the feedback I have had from my live workshops. If you don’t have this, you may need to do a bit more research.
- Develop a marketing strategy; begin to build interest in your courses; build a mailing list; build a buzz. (I neglected this stage and am now playing catch-up.)
- Decide on your format; how will you deliver your course? Will it be text and images? Or Video recordings, slides, PDF downloads? How frequently are participants going to receive lessons: weekly, daily, all at once? This will depend to some extent on the structure of your course. The format and content usually work hand in hand.
- Structure your Course: In Write Your Life I have used 4 sections: Curating Your Story; Plotting your Story: Writing Your Story And What Next? Each section has a varying number of lessons. Easy lesson may cover a number of subjects, so there are 30 steps in 12 lessons. Tasks are important: each lesson has 1-3 tasks which build gradually into Your Life Story. There is an introduction to each section and a summary at the end of each lesson.
- Script / Create Slides / Record / Edit / Upload. This is a sizeable chunk of work. I found that I was putting barriers in the way to getting it done by thinking that I needed to have a lot of fancy equipment. I didn’t. In the end, I used the very simple set up of my laptop camera and a lapel mic. I edited using the free iMovie software on my computer.I have also decided to create a beautiful, full-colour Workbook to go with my courses which participants can download, lesson by lesson or buy as stand-alone from Amazon. This is because I am a writer and I love creating beautiful books, but it is optional. This process went hand in hand with the script writing and slide creation.
- Marketing; this is always a significant part of the process. You have already made sure that there are people out there who want the course you are creating. Creating a mailing list before you launch is a good idea, and you shouldn’t wait until you have completed the course before you begin marketing. Make sure you can identify high learning outcomes for your course which will help to sell the solution to their problem. Let people know that there is something missing in their life and that this course is the solution. Consider pricing.
- Launch your course! Think up an innovative way to do this. I am using New Year; New Resolutions; Make 2021 the year you Write Your Life Story
I don’t think I have done everything right and I made a lot of work for myself, but I have learned a lot and continue to learn. I am now in a place where I can try new ideas and grow my school.
Thanks to Arts Council England funding, in 2021 I will be developing A Month of Writing Adventure for children in Essex schools. This is a hybrid programme with some live workshops, plus a series on daily on-line writing prompts and of course, a beautiful workbook which I will co-design with an artist! It will be new way to tackle the issue of moving my workshops online but one which I am looking forward to.