If you’re in the difficult position of no longer being able to deliver your service or product in person due to social restrictions, you may be thinking about moving your offering online.
This is a short guide on a few ways that you could continue providing your service and, crucially, keep money coming into your business.
This guide will be most valuable for you if you already have a network of people, or regular clients, that are ready and waiting to be able to purchase your service online from you.
What if I don’t have a network of buyers ready to purchase from me?
You might sell a product or a one-off service that means that you don’t have a network of people lining up that are ready to move online with you. This is going to make things a little trickier for you as you’re going to need to invest time and money into promoting your service or product once you’ve taken them online – and getting new people to invest in you at this moment is going to be challenging.
Your first decision – What are you going to provide online for your clients?
This is the tricky bit. If you’re a yoga teacher, business coach, music tutor or a bespoke jewellery designer then it could be easy – moving your service online could just mean meeting with clients via an online video conferencing platform like Zoom or Skype, doing a Facebook live within a private group or creating an online shop using WooCommerce or Shopify. If you provide a “hands-on” service such as kinesiology or hairdressing then this could prove more difficult – and you may need to pivot on your current offering.
Group or solo?
Are you going to be providing a live online group session, a live one-to-one or can you make a bank of content that can be used by multiple clients or drip-fed in a learning sequence?
Super easy and quick to use – but relies on all users having certain tech setup.
Simply taking your service online using an existing tool like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or Facebook could be enough for you. You’ll need a way of taking payments from people (and be careful of Facebook rules about this) like Stripe, Paypal or GoCardless. Zoom is our tool of choice (for 1:1s it is unlimited and free) but if you’re running a group session then note that it’s only free for sessions of 40 minutes or less. Zoom also allows you to make a recording of a session which you could potentially reuse time and time again elsewhere.
Quick and free online courses – but limited features.
Thinkific offers a free tier to their awesome online learning platform. You can take payments via Stripe and you can host 3 courses to an unlimited number of students. You get fewer options than their paid tiers (your course will have an address at thinkific.com rather than using your own domain, no drip-fed content and no integrations with email services like Mailchimp or ConvertKit) but it’s a fabulous way to dip your toe into the online course market. If you’ve got people waiting to buy from you then this would be a good place to start.
Paid online course options – easy but more costly.
Apart from the paid version of Thinkific, if you need their premium tools, there is also Teachable. Fees and options vary between the two (and there are alternatives – but these two are our favourites) so it’s a case of looking at the features available to the various tiers and making your choice. Both are good tools that are simple to use. Thinkific starts at $49/month, Teachable at $39/month.
What about WordPress?
By now you know that we love WordPress and there are tools that are available to help you set up a membership area or online course.
Membership Areas – cost effective but not suitable for beginners.
If you don’t have the content for an online course or your content is structured in a way that doesn’t need it to be presented in a format like a course then a membership site could work for you. This is just a way of restricting specific content on your website only to people that have paid for a membership. Wishlist Member, MemberMouse and MemberPress are all great WordPress plugins that can do this. NB: If you’re not hands-on with your WordPress site then you might want some help setting this up.
Online Courses through a Learning Management System (LMS) – cheaper than Thinkific and massively customisable, but not easy to setup.
The best way of putting a course online with WordPress is by using an LMS tool such as LearnDash. Our clients have a lot of success using Learndash and they can take monthly (or one-off) payments from clients for access to their online courses. The benefit of an LMS over a simple Membership plugin is that you can manage enrolments, quizzing, certificates, badges, points, and learner reporting. There’s a video series on YouTube to help with using Learndash -> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcSTaMhZi64&list=PLMIlFhwbCGsLxz1aw2IUEJqjzt7HP2jJl&index=1
If you’ve got content but no network of potential customers
If you need to make money from your content (but don’t have existing customers waiting) then using a service like Udemy allows you to get your content out in front of the public in the form of an online course. You get the benefits of being listed on the Udemy site in front of a large audience but you’ll get hit massively by fees. Your alternative could be to use one of the other tools we’ve mentioned (like Thinkific, LearnDash or Teachable) but you might need to put some money behind some paid advertising on Facebook or Google to get people to find you.
The current climate for so many small businesses is little short of a nightmare. We’re here to help and would be interested to hear of any other challenges you’re facing surrounding getting your business online. Perhaps through further blog posts or videos we could offer help, advice, or just our opinion with.
Please email your suggestions or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org