I’m in the midst of re-thinking major aspects of my own business, and this naturally got me focusing on the major challenges we all face as we seek to grow our edubusinesses. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts in this post with the hope that they will helpful to you.
In the early days of launching an edubusiness, things are challenging, but I’d argue they are pretty clear. You need to build an audience, come up with a valid product idea, pick a platform, launch – all things that I have written extensively about on learning revolution.net and many others have written about as well.
There are many people who will never do these things, who will just never get started at all, and some who will start, but then not follow through. But it’s hard to argue that we don’t know what the steps are, even if the decisions within each step aren’t always easy.
But then what? You are out there day after day and you somehow have to keep it all going and make it work. The five areas I keep coming back to in my own business are:
1. Continuing to build, but also develop and narrow your audience
You have to build an audience in the first place, if you expect to have success selling courses (or anything else, for that matter), but once you start actually selling to that audience, you have the opportunity to engage with real customers. Take every opportunity you can to do that and learn in the process. And, over time, start to focus in on the customers and prospects that really get what you are doing. Grow your list, but also narrow it by getting rid of people who aren’t really tuning in (and learning to love unsubscribes), and keep refining your offerings toward those who are.
2. Revisiting your to market, means, and motivation on a regular basis
It’s easy to get distracted, discouraged, or both as time passes with your business. Revisiting your market, means, and motivation – the trio of factors that helped you decide to go into business in the first place (whether consciously or unconsciously) – can help you stay on course, correct course if necessary, or even decide it’s time to quit and move on to a different opportunity.
3. Looking beyond courses for new opportunities
Many years of experience have taught me that most edupreneurs are unlikely to build a successful, sustainable business off of online courses alone. Even if you are incredibly successful with online courses, though, there are likely many other ways in which you could be serving your customers and creating more impact. We need to continually review our Value Ramp and consider not just what new courses to add, but also where we might move beyond courses to create new value.
4. Consistently investing to develop your own expertise
We usually become edupreneurs based upon our expertise in a particular area – and our value as edupreneurs is tied to that expertise. But however knowledgeable or skilled we may be in the first place, there is always room to sharpen the saw and elevate our value. And, of course, there are really no areas of knowledge and skill that are static these days. We have to change to keep up with changes in whatever our area of expertise is.
5. Continually tuning and pushing the potential of the business
This is an area that can be particularly tough for some edupreneurs. It is the “entrepreneur” part of the package. As much as we may love our topic of expertise, we are also business people, and that means continually exploring how to scale, how to put better processes in place, whether to outsource things like course production, and understanding what can’t really be outsourced. And, we have to think big. Not just, or even mostly in terms of the size of the business, but in terms of the long term impact it can have and the value it can create. What are the limits of the possible, and how will you reach them?
Those are my thoughts, and they represent areas I am thinking about deeply right now. I’d love to hear yours. What do you see as the long-term challenges of being an edupreneur, and what are you doing about them? Please comment and share your experiences so other can benefit from them.