We reached out to education entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world and asked them the secrets to their success. Here are their answers…
1) Solve painful, expensive problems. Bigger value = bigger $. It has worked well for me to create an enormous amount of value both in money and lives changed. Then instead of selling time, you make a bigger impact and can charge more for outcomes, without working harder.
2) Test and build. Learn what works and get case studies. Do it for free if you have to if you are just starting out. Find common problems to solve so you can find more scalable ways to offer value. Then build tight systems to create these big outcomes. Then you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. It’s also easier to train staff to do it for you.
3) Develop selective hearing. Carefully guard your attention and time. Be careful who’s advice you take. Find someone else who has already reached the outcome you want, then hustle like crazy to take the right steps in the right order to do what they did. Trust your intuition when you feel you need to deviate from their advice, and ignore every other distraction. Invest in yourself only when the tool or mentor directly contributes to solving your current challenges. Otherwise save your cash and attention.
Mandi Ellefson is the founder of The Hands-Off CEO. As a Scalable Freedom Strategist she works with owner-managed 7- and 8-figure consultancies, agencies, tech businesses, and B2B service business owners to first recover 20-40 extra hours per month.
One of the most powerful lessons for me as an entrepreneur has been learning to wear different hats, and do each of those roles as well as possible. When I’m a teacher, I’m the best teacher there is. When I’m CEO, I dream big and make things happen. I make time for each of those roles every week and only try to be one at a time.
Kelli Pearson has been an educator for more than 20 years. She is the author of Miss Brain’s Cool Math Games and founder of Artful Math, and is passionate about turning math into play.
1) Start — Stop talking and planning. Get off your butt and do it. 🙂
2) Build relationships — I spent much longer to build my course than needed spending time relationship building at the same time. It felt like it was slowing me down. It wasn’t. It was the springboard that enabled me to reach 500K people in 4 months with my course.
3) Joint venture — It is THE best way to grow your audience, to gain a high volume of leads without spending a dime up front, and is a relationship building machine.
Charles Byrd is a Silicon Valley veteran with a deep background in technology, marketing, and education. He has founded and led multiple enterprise-wide departments at a billion dollar software company and managed programs with budgets exceeding $5MM. Charles produces impactful productivity courses – teaching and presenting to thousands. He is also the founder of the company Byrd Word, LLC – specializing in productivity training, marketing, and technology to expand his reach. He specializes in the tools and workflows that will organize your team, reduce your anxiety, and X2 your business.
Really understanding my students is the #1 secret to my success as an online education entrepreneur. I put in a lot of time doing research and getting to know what freelancers need and want. Doing a pilot of the course before the full launch, another form of research, enabled me to develop a course that really helps freelancers transform their businesses.
Lori DeMilto is a writer who helps hospitals and other clients engage, inform, and motivate their audiences through targeted medical content. She teaches other freelancers how to market their businesses with her site, The Mighty Marketer.
1) Above all else, the first thing you have to have to be clear on is to ‘know what you want.’ Everything else stems from this.
2) Focus: Keep your eyes on the prize. Let everything you do revolve around knowing what you want. When opportunities arise, ask yourself, “Will this distract me from my end goal?”
3) Surround yourself with people who are better than you at certain things. Play to your strengths and hire people to do the other stuff.
4) Take action: Even if it’s not perfect, imperfect action is better than none at all.
Troy Dean is the founder of, and a teacher for, WP Elevation, an online program designed specifically for WordPress consultants. WP Elevation teaches you how to improve your workflow, business practices, and client communication, with the support of an active online community.
1) Simplify your marketing with the new social media MARKETPLACES.
2) Create and ENERGIZING story selling PRESENTATION as a course.
3) Get your story in front of the RIGHT people. Be humble, and be available.
Mike Hayes is the founder of On Demand Gig Economy. He uses his background with NBC in NY, CNN in LA plus 25 years in TV and radio infomercials to help others with the clarity, awareness, and understanding of how to simplify client attraction in the new social media marketplaces.
1) Test a small (scaled-down) version of a new product before you build out the whole thing. Often times, the product we think our market wants is different from what they really want. Testing small versions saves time and money while you’re testing what the market wants.
2) Write and publish articles frequently (weekly or monthly). This helps keep an email list interested and allows prospects to build trust with you before they purchase. It’s great for SEO (especially if you make the articles keyword-dense on a particular word or phrase).
3) Buy paid traffic. Have at least one source (but several is even better) of paid traffic. That can be AdWords, display network, Facebook, etc. These sources of advertising provide tons of data and feedback. Split test ads regularly, and you’ll soon have cost-effective ads that reach your precise, target market.
Brian Willer is a Nationally Board Certified teacher, vocational education teacher, and entrepreneur. Brian co-founded SOAR® Learning, Inc with his wife Susan, and has specialized in learning and soft skills (study skills) since 1996. He is a member of Leadership Oakland XXV and recipient of the Oakland County Excellence in Education Award.
I think what makes for success online is to first create an online community by being helpful, responsive, supportive, and giving great content away for free. I think video is an important piece of the equation these days, having people see you helps create a bond. After that, it’s just about creating offers that will solve problems for your audience!
Mel Karlik is a Web Designer and WordPress Theme Developer. She has been making custom WordPress themes for over 10 years. She created A Prettier Web to share her WordPress knowledge with fashion bloggers, mompreneurs, lifestyle bloggers, foodies, and other online women entrepreneurs.
The MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Have a customer before you start your business. This is a corollary of the phrase ‘ideas are a dime a dozen.’ You get money by having a customer. You get a customer by satisfying a need that’s so important to them they would be willing to pay for it. If you have a customer that’s willing to pay you money, then execution becomes a lot easier. Life as an entrepreneur is hard. Why make it harder for yourself?
James Altucher is a trader, investor, writer, and entrepreneur. He has founded or co-founded more than 20 companies and has authored 16 books. Read more of his tips on being an entrepreneur here.
Invest the time to fully understand your audience and their needs before offering a solution. Far too many online entrepreneurs take the Field of Dreams approach: ‘Build it and they will come.’ So they release their brilliant online course or product to the sound of crickets. Why waste time answering questions that aren’t being asked? Instead, take the time to listen to your audience, learn their pain points, and discover how others have overcome those hurdles. Then, and only then, you’ll be in a position to create a compelling solution for your audience — one they’ll be more than willing to pay for.
Shawn Hesketh is the creator of WP101®, one of the most popular WordPress video tutorial series for beginners. Since 2008, their tutorial videos have helped more than a million beginners learn how to use WordPress to create their own website.
The secret to success that I’ve discovered as an online entrepreneur is that there are no secrets, just a lot of hard work and a willingness to accept that you don’t know what you don’t know, but that what you don’t know can be learned. There are literally tens of thousands of lessons and formulas and success stories shared online for free by people who have achieved success. All of them will require hard work, a willingness to learn, and the discipline and determination to see failures and mistakes as proof for what doesn’t work, to see those events as necessary steps toward a specific goal. The first step, however, is to have a specific goal.
Raam Dev is a writer, technologist, and outdoorsman. He has been self-employed for most of his life and works online from a small, WiFi-equipped cabin that he hand-built on a lake in New Hampshire, USA.
When it comes to being successful online, consistency is key. I’ve found that if I slack off for a few weeks, my page views go down, and my social media following slows. By staying consistent, whether it’s working on a new blog post or repurposing an existing post each week, I’m able to continue putting myself out there.
In some ways, repurposing helps me not feel overwhelmed when I have a lot going on, like in the middle of creating a new course that requires a lot of my time. I might create a 5-minute video for my YouTube channel based on a blog post I did. Here, I’m reaching a new audience, while also driving traffic back to a post that may have been published 6 months ago.
Holly McCaig is a Graphic Artist & Creative Brand Strategist at hollymccaig.com. Based in Denver, Colorado.
First and foremost, being a successful entrepreneur means be on top of trends. Knowing what is trending for your customer and understanding how it fits with your work is essential and will help you to create the best product for your customers. Following this important step there is the marketing of your product, and from my point of view the best type of marketing for course creator is the inbound marketing, where you can show your skills and how you’re able to teach them.
Andrea Barghigiani is an Italian web developer in love with teaching how to develop a website and mobile applications. In his LifterLMS-powered website, skillsandmore.org, he has hundreds of happy students learning each day how to make the web a better place!
Know your audience and test your products on beta users. The feedback is phenomenal and makes for a better product. Never ever think you know what others want, as it’s pointless offering a course that is for beginners when your peers or contacts are already experts. Start Marketing 3 months prior to launch with teasers and samples, and a webinar is always a great way to get interest, too.
Andrew Palmer is a SEO and Digital Marketing Consultant and co-founder of the Elegant Marketplace. He is a Divi Fixer, and he makes sure people’s websites are search engine ready. Andrew is also a migration expert, making sure all things are right before launch, and then he helps people get to market with social media, AdWords, and organic SEO.
An important key to success is actually caring about your students. I’ve seen a lot of online course creators come and go because they try to capitalize on a hot topic, yet they are not experts on the topic, nor do they care if their students — customers to them — are any closer to THEIR ultimate goals.
Jason Cannon is the founder of the Linux Training Academy. Jason is a Linux expert and best-selling author. His books include Linux for Beginners, Command Line Kung Fu, and Python Programming for Beginners.
Transform people/businesses in a truly meaningful way. That is the very simple answer — the only thing that counts. If it is not done, the caring really is just faking it…also, if one knows the ‘audience,’ then one should know how to make it happen. Then the marketing will become extremely simple. Be extremely clear in what is offered and for whom. If this is not extremely clear, then go back and make sure it is clear and that you are sure you can deliver. Also, consider if it can possibly be seen as unclear/deceptive, insofar as it may over promise.
Peter Fallenius is an advisor and innovator and founder of the Outlier 360 project.
The most important keys are already said: Caring about the students and actually making a measurable difference.
What I would also add: The focus should always be the development of your students. It’s so easy to get lost in trying finding the perfect software, making perfect videos, making it, and so on. This time often would be better invested in giving the students more attention. The most perfect course doesn’t help if you don’t connect with the students. 🙂 I even got the feedback of the beta testers that exactly my un-perfect videos are what makes me human and makes them connect with me. So I prefer going on making un-perfect videos and use the time to write them emails, be available in the forum and the comments section, doing webinars, etc.
Elisabeth Krüger is the owner of Dardo Consulting. She is a certified work psychologist and a mediator. Her business, Dardo Consulting, provides serves in mediation, coaching, personal development, and more.
Bradley T. Morris and Andy Freist
1) Do something that’s fun. If it’s not fun, then you’ll get sick of it eventually. If it is fun, then your work will be play. (Best life ever!)
2) ABC = Always Be Creating. If you’re always creating, then you’ll always be improving. This is the quickest path to self-mastery.
3) Don’t be a D-bag. Treat people how you want to be treated and only sell things you yourself would pay money for.
Bradley T. Morris has taught more than 500 meditation, business, and personal growth workshops and led retreats around the world. In 2012, he launched his first meditation course, which has since spanned more than 40 countries. Andy Freist supports visionary entrepreneurs in creating powerful eCourse platforms and potent customer experiences. Together, they are transforming online education with their site, The Great eCourse Adventure.
If there was a well-worn path to success, everyone would simply take it. This means success and how it works is often misunderstood.
For me, success is a byproduct of working with and serving great people. It’s a byproduct of loving our work and the impact it has.
Success is not just about money.
Success starts with asking yourself: “What does success really mean to you? What would it look like? What does the ideal day look like? What does a meaningful work process look like? How do you want to be remembered?”
My 3 biggest secrets of success to share with you are having my own personal clarity on what success looks like, a commitment to working with great people, and my 4-hour morning routine that starts at 5:00am.
Chris Badgett is the co-founder of LifterLMS, which makes it easy to create, sell, and protect engaging online courses from a WordPress website. He’s on a mission to empower education entrepreneurs around the world to create greater impact and income through online learning platforms.
What’s Next …
Step 1) To connect with other like-minded education entrepreneurs on a journey to success, join our Facebook group full of smart education entrepreneurs. This is a community of people who care about creating meaningful learning experiences.
Step 2) Before getting into the course building technology with a powerful tool like LifterLMS, I invite you to do some high-level organization around what type of course you’re building by getting this quick training on the 3 course archetypes.