Thinking about taking an online course during the lock down? It might be worth reading this first.
In these unsettled times, one thing I have noticed is the huge increase in online courses being offered, particularly those promising to teach you how to market your artwork. Most of them will tell you that they made $1m in their first year of trading. That is not entirely true. I will explain why in a moment.
Having taken a few of them myself I just wanted to take this opportunity again, to help you understand what you are getting when you part with your hard-earned cash. I did write a piece a few months back about this, but this is slightly different.
Fortunately, there are a number of people offering courses, or a part of their course, for free. If you find something like this that interests you, take it. Free is free and you will find out if you like the delivery style of the course host.
So far as the high-priced courses are concerned please take my advice and don’t jump in until you have read this.
You will be given all the information you could possibly need to be a success on these courses. But it is not that straightforward. Often you will need to go over this information time and time again. And the people selling these courses have been doing this for years and most importantly, they don’t do it alone.
They never tell you this, but behind the scenes there are lots of support staff who have tech skills, marketing skills, IT skills, copy writing skills etc. These people are not selling art as their main business. They have learnt about how to build and sell courses and they make their money predominantly from selling these or by having membership groups.
Membership groups can be fantastic. You pay a monthly fee to be part of the group, you get to meet online with a bunch of like- minded people, information is shared – usually very generously – and being part of a community like this is great. Again, these groups are not run by one person.
I have shared here before one of my favourite sayings, ‘It takes a whole village to bring up a child’. Well, it takes a bunch of people with different disciplines to promote you and your work OR it takes years of you stretching yourself this way and that to get there on your own. Of course it can be done, I know people who have plugged away for years and eventually got there, either through sheer determination or because someone eventually spotted them and used their marketing skills to promote them.
I want you to be aware, be realistic and fully understand that none of these courses are going to make you that $1m overnight unless you have money behind you and people working for you to make it all happen. If you have that kind of money at your disposal though, it would probably be best to find a good advertising and marketing agency and have them do the work for you. That is their area of expertise, after all.
You should also know that most of these courses have what is called an affiliate programme. What that means is that if a friend recommends you take a particular course which they have taken themselves then they will get about 20-25% of your fee paid to them so long as you complete the first month/six weeks of the course.
The course owners will mostly likely have taken a marketing course of some kind and they understand that people will be more likely to buy from a trusted source, e.g. a friend. They encourage their members to sign people up to their courses with the affiliate fee as an incentive, thereby increasing the numbers who will take the course next time around.
I am not complaining about this; it is a marketing strategy and a very clever and useful one and I will no doubt use myself in the future. I just want you to be aware of what those promises will really give you.
What do you get for your money? If you seek out the best courses you get a lot. And I mean A LOT! Trying to take it all in and achieve what they suggest is often a different story and you will probably need to repeat the course at least once.
It is in the course owner’s interest to give you more than you expect, to keep you happy and to encourage you to bring your friends along to the next course, receive the affiliate fee and possibly help that person go through the course. This is because in order to succeed you really do need to surround yourself with like-minded people. You generally can’t get there….on your own.
One of the best art courses around gives you 12 full weeks of online live training, three times a week and costs around $2000. You also have access to all the course materials, a huge library of information where they have thought of every conceivable problem an artist might have. They have it so wrapped up you can’t fail to improve your art by taking the course.
It also gives you a community to belong to. Other artists at different stages of their journeys working in every conceivable medium and with a multitude of different problems and needs. This community has your back. No problem is too small, no question is considered stupid and when you get that sale which you don’t feel you can talk about to your friends, these people will be incredibly supportive and truly delighted for you. But to continue to get that support and that community you will need to retake the course. Not a bad thing at all, you will continue to have access to all that information but it comes at a cost.
I have also taken marketing courses. They come in at a similar price and yes there are a few good ones here in the UK but the Americans have been generally doing it longer so have a bit more experience. These courses will take you through every step you need to take to increase your online presence, show you how to produce good copy, great ways to advertise your business and with the best courses that community is included.
Please be careful and don’t be fooled by courses which say you have lifetime access. You probably will have the information from that course sitting on your computer for years to come, but it becomes pretty worthless fairly quickly.
An updated version will be presented each year and the community element will disappear if you don’t stay involved after the first year.
Once you have finished your course, a good one will give you a yearlong access to all of the materials and you will be invited to stay on as an alumnus at a vastly reduced fee, normally about 10-25% of the full cost.
Staying on as an alumnus does a few things. First, it keeps funds trickling into the course owner’s bank account. What you get is the new, improved version of the course. This could be critical when you consider just how quickly things change in this information age. Software, hardware, social media platforms and much more, change really quickly so staying within the group is a good idea. You will also get the continuation of the community support.
As you move through the ranks from beginner to intermediate to advanced level within the group you learn from people at different stages in reaching their goals than you and you get to help those behind you. Why would you do that? Because teaching people what you know, sharing that information helps you to cement the knowledge and understanding. It is truly a win, win.
In general we humans don’t like change, we are frightened of success and often we have a limited belief in our ability to succeed. Its not your fault. Our whole lives we are taught what to do, how to behave and that you will never make any money being an artist.
So when people tell me that they can’t justify taking what they see as a really expensive course, I often ask why wouldn’t you want to invest in yourself. Why don’t you believe that you can become better than you are? How can I help you overcome your limiting self-belief? How can I help you understand that by investing in yourself you can become a better, more successful version of you? Why wouldn’t you want that for yourself?
However you need to be aware that there is no course that will help you make that $1m in your first year without additional help from others. Taking different marketing courses is simply throwing your money away. Stick with one, follow it to the letter and know that it will likely take you two or three years before you fully understand all that is needed to market yourself successfully.
Finally, beware. There are courses out there that don’t deliver. There are people who have taken a course and think they can deliver the same course without fully understanding what is needed and there are some real rubbish courses, too. Thankfully, there are also some amazing courses with brilliant content but do your homework.
If you are interested in taking an online course for art improvement or marketing your art business please contact me and I will be happy to share details of courses which are worth looking at and a few it might be wise to stay away from.