At Thinkific, we’ve become convinced that there is almost no topic that can’t be taught online. We’ve witnessed individuals from practically every industry and walk of life create online courses to share their knowledge – from hoop dancing, to flying drones, to teaching photography – and just about everything else in between.
Even if your primary business is offline, it is very likely that you can create additional value for your clients (and potentially an additional source of revenue for your business!) by creating online courses to share some of your hard-won knowledge and experience with others.
Lizzie Lasater, a yoga practitioner and teacher from San Francisco, California is just one of many examples of someone who has accomplished this in an industry that is traditionally offline. Working alongside her mother, an internationally known yoga instructor with 45+ years of experience, Lizzie has successfully created numerous online courses and resources to share their combined knowledge with yoga instructors all over the world.
And since Lizzie has been using Thinkific to create and sell her courses, we decided to interview her to learn more about her story and have her share a few tips to help other online course creators succeed.
The written case study below captures much of what was shared in our conversation with Lizzie. And if you want, you can also watch the video interview with Lizzie here.Inspiring story of Lizzie Lasater teaching yoga instructors online. #teachonline #yoga Click To Tweet
Joining the family business
Lizzie Lasater often jokes that yoga is her family business, and understandably so. As the daughter of Judith Hanson Lasater, who has been teaching yoga for over 45 years and is the Co-Founder of Yoga Journal Magazine, yoga has been a part of Lizzie’s life for as long as she can remember.
Growing up, Lizzie had the privilege of learning yoga and traveling with her mother to numerous yoga centers all around the world. Naturally, she became an avid practitioner of yoga, and by her early twenties she was already teaching it to others.
In addition for having a passion for yoga, as a young adult Lizzie also had a passion for design. Fortunately, her hometown of San Francisco (ranked #1 by Forbes out of the top 10 cities for yoga in the U.S.) was the perfect place to continue teaching yoga and study design at a local university simultaneously.
Combining her skills to create online courses
Shortly after completing a Master’s Degree in Design, Lizzie decided to put her newly acquired product design skills to good use. By combining her design skills with her experience as a yoga teacher, Lizzie decided to work alongside her mother to create online training for yoga instructors.
“In our culture we all think of yoga as going to a yoga studio, and there’s 20 or 30 people and you’re doing this flow together, and maybe there’s music, and it feels great afterwards. But that’s actually a relatively new incarnation of yoga”, Lizzie explains. “Traditionally, yoga was taught one-on-one. It’s a huge luxury to have the teacher’s time and your time to go daily or weekly and have a personal connection. And that’s always what I would preference.”
Believing that yoga instructors should always have a personal connection with their students, and also recognizing that there was already an abundance of resources and training online to teach people how to practice yoga, Lizzie decided to create online training specifically for other yoga teachers rather than for yoga practitioners. “What we really focus on, which I think is a niche”, explains Lizzie, “is that we are interested in training yoga teachers.”
According to Lizzie, there are many aspects of yoga instruction that can easily be taught in an online setting – like the topic of touch, for example. “We’re talking about issues like touch. As a teacher, how do you think conceptually about touching your student? How do you enter that space? What are the ethical parameters? What are the boundary issues? What do you need to look for?” All of that can be taught really well online”, she says.
Another reason she wanted to create online training for yoga instructors was there it was becoming tiresome and inefficient for Lizzie’s mother to fly to locations around the world to teach other instructors. By moving the training online, they could reach more yoga instructors around the world without having to physically be there to teach them. “I was emboldened to try to move the work online because my mother doesn’t want to travel so much any more”, says Lizzie. “It just made a lot of sense to get online.”
Launching her first online course
Unfortunately, a lot of online course creators get caught up in trying to create the perfect course before they share it with anyone. And because they want their first course to be perfect, they often spend significant amounts of time, effort, and money creating their course, sometimes never even finishing it. Big mistake!
Lizzie didn’t have this problem. She learned in design school not to try to create a perfect product the first time. Perfection (or at least, something that can be considered a final product), is achieved through continuous iteration and improvement.
“The thing I learned in design school is the process of going from zero to one. So having an idea, and then turning it into first a prototype, and then many prototypes, and then finally something that you’re willing to share with people”, says Lizzie. “And that process is how I started with the digital courses.”
“Before we even found Thinkific, I had the idea of start before you’re ready. Just make something and test your concept”, she told us. “People who don’t have a lot of design experience think that designing something is like sitting around and thinking of the perfect thing, and then you make the perfect final thing. But in my experience, and what I learned through trial by fire in design school is designing something is like thinking of it, making it as quickly as possible out of popsicle sticks, and then saying eventually this is going to be a driverless car. It’s iteration.”
True to her training as a designer, Lizzie’s first online course was created and sold as quickly as possible. She recorded a series of interviews with her mother, and organized those recordings into an 8-part audio course. The course was called Living Your Yoga Audio Course, which became a companion to her mother’s book Living Your Yoga. They promoted the audio course to their existing email list of yoga instructors, making their first 50 sales in the process.
Each customer was sent a DropBox link to a folder that contained the audio files (this was before they discovered Thinkific). “Those 50 customers covered our production costs”, Lizzie recalls. “So then I was ready to start spending more money, looking for a more professional platform.”
Creating more online courses using Thinkific
Having successfully launched their first online course, validating demand for their topic in the process, Lizzie started making plans to create additional online courses for yoga instructors. Plus, with the revenue they generated from the audio course sales, Lizzie could now justify the cost of setting up a proper platform for their courses.
She started by listing her criteria for an online course platform, and from there, she began her search. “I remember looking at 2 or 3 different platforms”, says Lizzie. “One of the things I remember looking at was I wanted to be able to have affiliates. I wanted there to be very integrated affiliate tracking. And I really wanted it to be white labelled. I wanted to have a fixed monthly cost, not a percentage. I didn’t want to give away to the hosting platform a percentage of every sale.”
Customer service was also an important consideration for Lizzie. If she ever had questions about the platform or questions about setting something up, she wanted to be able to talk to someone that could help her. Fortunately for us, we have some incredible customer service reps on our team. “Your customer service is really great”, she told us. “I love that you can send an email and a real person writes you back. That’s a tremendous experience.” Thanks Lizzie!
Lizzie soon started working with her mother to create a second online course for yoga instructors. The course, called Teaching Yoga, is more comprehensive than the first course they created, covering different aspects of teaching yoga. The course includes a mix of audio lessons, video lessons, text lessons, and downloadable PDFs. They launched the course using Thinkific, charging a higher price for it than their audio course.
They started promoting the course to their audience, and soon enough, they had yoga instructors from all over the world enrolling in the course. “Every time I get an email from Thinkific that someone bought a course or enrolled in a course, it’s thrilling”, says Lizzie.
They also decided to add a subscription plan to their online school. In exchange for a nominal monthly fee, their students are invited to a monthly live phone call with Lizzie and her mother. “It’s like monthly live mentorship for yoga teachers. There’s a topic each month and you can call in and ask questions”, Lizzie explains. “We have teachers from all over the world, and in places that are really remote and they’re teaching in a little studio and they have 10 students. This gives them a monthly injection of teaching, concepts, and ideas to bring to their students.”
Learning how to market her online courses
For many online course creators, marketing their courses is a challenge. After all, creating a great course is just part of the equation. The other part is finding and enrolling students, which is a completely different skill than course creation. With limited sales and marketing experience, Lizzie has had to learn to overcome this challenge in order to ensure the success of her online courses.
“The biggest challenge for me is just understanding the magnitude and the importance of marketing”, Lizzie told us. In fact, before she started creating courses she started her own line of 3D printed jewelry. From experience, she learned that just because she created something didn’t mean that people would find it on their own and buy it. She needed a sales and marketing plan.
“For about two years, before I did this, I did a 3D printed jewelry line. As a designer I thought that if I design a bunch of beautiful stuff, great, I’ll have a business”, Lizzie recalls. “It was almost like a dark spot in my brain that I didn’t even realize about sales and marketing. I thought that was beneath me or trashy to try to tell people about your work.”
Fortunately, Lizzie has learned to embrace the reality that every business, whether online or offline, needs a marketing plan. And she’s taken full responsibility for the marketing of the courses that she creates. “As I’ve transitioned into doing these courses I’ve realized that if I want to do this and take it seriously I need to figure out how I’m going to show it to people. So that was the biggest challenge”, she told us, “swallowing the fact that I was going to need to focus on it. And now I consider actually that that’s fifty percent of my job.”
Once Lizzie committed to embracing sales and marketing, she discovered that marketing her courses actually came quite naturally to her. She’s even learned to enjoy it. “What I’ve been enjoying doing and cultivating more of is tapping into my creative powers and abilities and ideas and turning them towards marketing”, says Lizzie.
Whether she is creating a sales page for a course, emailing her list, or creating a Facebook ad, these marketing activities were not as difficult as she thought they would be, mainly because she “speaks the same language” as her audience. As a yoga teacher who creates courses for other yoga teachers, she is naturally able to communicate with them in a way that they can understand and relate to.
“It’s not as hard as we make it out to be. The mountain is not as tall as we think. I think course creators have a wonderful positioning to do great marketing because I am also my customer. The languaging is all extremely natural”, says Lizzie. “I’m not thinking of writing marketing copy I’m just writing some people an email.”Inspiring story of Lizzie Lasater teaching yoga instructors online. #teachonline #yoga Click To Tweet
Marketing strategies to her promote courses:
We asked Lizzie to share her top marketing strategies with us, and it turns out that the majority of her course sales come from just three places:
1. Email Marketing
Since Lizzie’s mother has been teaching yoga for several decades and is the Co-Founder of a yoga magazine, Lizzie did have the advantage of being able to email their database of yoga practitioners and yoga instructors from around the world. “We have the advantage of already having a brand”, says Lizzie. “My mom already had students and a list. So using the list and growing our email list has been huge.”
So whenever Lizzie wants to promote or launch a course, one of the first things she does is send an email to their list to tell them about it. In many cases, a single email can generate dozens of course sales or more. This just goes to show how important it is to have an email list of potential and existing customers that are eager to learn from you.
If you’re a course creator and you don’t have an email list to promote your course to, don’t be discouraged. Every business starts with a list size of zero.
If that’s you, there are two things you can do. You can start building your email list (check out our Complete Guide to Build An Email List to learn how), or you can find someone who does have an email list and partner with them. This second option is often called a Joint Venture, and we have a Complete Guide to Using Joint Venture Partners to promote your courses as well, so be sure to check it out.
2. Facebook Ads
Although we’ve heard of several online course creators using Facebook ads to promote their free content, grow their audience and build their email lists, Lizzie prefers to only use Facebook ads to promote her courses directly. This allows her to directly track the ROI (Return on Investment) of her ads.
“I don’t put ads for anything where there isn’t a cash register. I don’t put ads to grow my list, or for YouTube videos. All of that I want to be organic”, Lizzie explains. Using Facebook, Lizzie target people based on specific demographics and interests, and creates ads that lead directly to a specific course that is for sale. Apparently, this approach has been more effective than running ads to fans of her Facebook Page.
3. Content Marketing
Publishing free content online has helped Lizzie to build an audience and increase visitors to her website and courses. On her YouTube channel, for example, she regularly publishes videos and interviews with other yoga experts that focus on various aspects of yoga. In her video descriptions and at the end of her videos, she includes a link to her website where viewers can learn more about her, subscribe to her email list, and purchase her courses. “We have gotten tremendous feedback from them”, says Lizzie, “and the list is growing.”
Lizzie also posts pictures on her Instagram account, and she uses her bio to link to upcoming workshops and/or course launches. In the screenshot below, for example, you can see her using her bio to promote a yoga event in Spain:
One of the reasons Lizzie loves to publish content is because it doesn’t cost her anything (other than her time). With each piece of content that she publishes online, whether it’s an image on Instagram, a video on YouTube, or a post on Facebook, she makes it easier for her target audience to find her and learn about her courses. “Technology is so magic now”, says Lizzie. “That cost me nothing to do. It cost me a little bit of time.”
How teaching online changed her life
As is the case with all of the online course creators that we’ve featured on our blog, the decision to start teaching online has dramatically changed Lizzie’s life and business.
“It’s completely opened up a new way of thinking about not just my business and my career but my lifestyle”, says Lizzie. “Being able to work from everywhere, being able to earn money when I’m not working. I think that’s the future. And I think that has been a tremendous way of freeing myself up to structure my days the way that I want them.”
Creating online courses has also enabled Lizzie and her mother to reach and serve more people than they could if they only taught others in person. They’ve been able to scale their business using a model that has only recently become possible thanks to the internet and technology. “What Thinkific and online teaching has allowed us to do is decouple the one-to-one nature of teaching workshops in person. I have to be here at the same time the student is there, I need a yoga studio, I need all these components”, Lizzie explains.
Final words of advice for other online course creators
To wrap up our conversation with Lizzie, we asked her to share one final piece of advice to help encourage and inspire anyone who is considering sharing their knowledge with others by creating online courses. Here is what she told us, and we couldn’t agree more.
“Get out there. Just jump. Start before you’re ready. You’re not risking anything except for your own time, and I think it’s a great way to try and find your voice.”Inspiring story of Lizzie Lasater teaching yoga instructors online. #teachonline #yoga Click To Tweet
If you’d like to get in touch with Lizzie or learn more about her courses, visit her website at www.lizzielasater.com
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