One of the ways I recommend authors build a sustainable writing career is to create digital products or offers in line with their knowledge, message or expertise.
One of the most important things an author can do for their career is to set up different revenue streams linked to messages and meanings in their books. This means you’re not just waiting for your royalty cheques to come in and it actively contributes to the success of your book.
Here’s what I mean: my friend Ruth Clare wrote an award-winning memoir called ENEMY, about growing up with a Vietnam Veteran father who suffered from PTSD. It’s told from a child’s perspective which is incredibly rare (I haven’t found a similar memoir). Ruth used to be an actor for a time, and enjoys public speaking, so since ENEMY came out (way back in 2017) she has given many talks to Rotary Clubs, Veteran Groups, and High Schools around the messages in her book about resilience, healing and trauma. This both serves to keep the interest and awareness up of her book, despite it being out for 4 years now, and also is another income stream which allows her to teach her message and legacy.
For me, personally, I love teaching and creating online courses about the power of memoir writing. My legacy message is about the transformational aspect of finding someone’s story, and so this aligns with my values. I find public speaking pretty terrifying yet creating a video at home in my own way, I can do!
Something interesting for you: The e-learning business is a 5 billion dollar industry in 2021, and that figure is set to quadruple by 2025. Personally, I’ve done about 30 online courses in the last few years. I love that we can now access teachers and training that once were location-specific.
I truly believe if you can write a book, you can create a course. If you want to create an online course around your book or your message, I wrote this post for you and I share my online course creation journey.
In this post I want to break down how I set up online courses on Kajabi, and why I chose this platform over the alternatives, mainly Teachable.
Please note that this post does contain an affiliate link for Kajabi, so if you decide to sign up using my link, I make a commission. I only ever recommend products that I know, love, and use personally to this day.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin,”is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails…you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics. There is only one thing for it then, to learn.” T.H. White: The Once and Future King
Why I love teaching online courses and programs
Authors are smart cookies, and it makes sense to share our knowledge via associated products and services other than just our books. It’s a similar creation process, mapping out a course curriculum and a book, too.
The beautiful thing about online teaching is that you can make it work with your strengths and your values and your unique expertise. Unlike waiting to be invited to your alma mater to give a lecture or get tenure as a professor, you can literally create a lesson or program on your niche while you are at home, in your own time, in your own way. It’s very empowering!
I’ve taught in the traditional classroom model and I have to say, I thought I hated teaching because of the way traditional face-to-face learning is structured. Digital learning gives you so much more freedom, which is why I love to sell courses and programs rather than face-to-face in-person workshops. And more importantly – you can reach more people! I love that I have students all across the world. You learn better that way, I do believe. And it is a completely pandemic-proof business model. You can do a course from bed, if you want.
What I’ve personally loved about creating online programs is that SO much of the traditional publishing industry is closely-guarded and locked up behind agent introductions and closed doors. But with my programs and courses, I get to share information that took me years to learn, nobody is censoring me and I get to create the course that I always wanted to do, but couldn’t, way back before e-learning was a thing.
Whether your expertise is editing, freelance writing, plotting historical fiction (Natasha Lester’s plotting masterclass comes to mind!) or like me, teaching memoir manuscript writing, thanks to advances in digital course hosting platforms, the set-up is getting simpler and simpler. Which is GREAT news if, like it was for me, tech is a little daunting.
What is an online course platform?
There are a few well-known online course platforms where you can ‘host’ your course or teaching program.
When I started teaching online courses in 2018 there was simply the choice of Kajabi, Teachable or Thinkific. There are a few more now (namely Kartra and MemberVault) but Kajabi and Teachable are still the better-known course platforms. The teacher pays a fee and then hosts the course on this platform or membership site and students log in to get their product.
The beauty of using an online platform like Kajabi is that if you can learn a few simple steps, you can make yourself a little school and set your course up on that so that your students get the BEST of your teaching, and you’re not repeating the same lessons over and over as you would in a classroom or a one-to-one coaching format or even a live webinar (in which tech inevitably fails or your internet drops out). It’s evergreen, you can reach more people, and you’re really leveraging all the time and energy it took you to create your course curriculum by setting it up to play on repeat to your students.
You can still give students interaction with you via a Facebook group or member platform or monthly zoom calls (like I do), but by setting your program up on a course platform like Kajabi, you know that the ‘lessons’ are all taken care of and students can watch or listen in their own time, and come to you when they are ready to ask questions.
So if you’d like to teach a class or program online, I recommend using Kajabi to host your course over some of the other platforms and plugins. I’ll share why I chose Kajabi over Teachable and the other options in a minute but first I’ll explain what Kajabi is.
What is Kajabi?
Kajabi is one of the most advanced all-in-one course platforms that you could choose online. You pay an annual or monthly subscription fee to host your program with Kajabi, and they take care of the tech. The monthly subscription fee starts at 119 USD a month, but you can sign up for a free extended 30-day trial here.
This simply means: you create the videos, workbooks, audios or trainings, you upload them and make them look pretty, and Kajabi rolls it out in a ‘program’ format. You can drip your content (ie. set it up to go out at a certain time or day) and you can interact with students under your lessons, if you leave the comments on. It really is a virtual classroom.
Why host a course on Kajabi?
When I created my first online course (journaling for memoir) I was too scared to invest in a course platform so I simply delivered the program via email with links to you-tube videos I had uploaded as ‘unlisted’ and a downloadable PDF. That’s it. I think they were purchased via a paypal button I embedded onto my website. I was very new to the online world and i didn’t really know if it was something I wanted to do.
All I’d ever known was writing, and my bad experience teaching in a live classroom setting at my alma mater (RMIT), which I hadn’t enjoyed.
But I delightfully learned how much I do love teaching online, if i can do it in my own way.
My students still gained what they needed from that first iteration of the journaling course, but as I grew, I wanted something more polished and professional, and something that would provide an all-in-one student experience of a really high quality.
I’d done courses via Thinkific which was a very basic experience, and was not actually able to see some of the text on each lesson (!). The two courses I’d done on Kajabi were beautifully professional experiences and that made me have much higher faith in the teacher too. As soon as I decided that programs and courses were something I wanted to grow and scale, I invested in a subscription to Kajabi.
How much is Kajabi?
You can get an overview of the different pricing options for Kajabi here and sign up for a free 30 day trial (yes that’s an affiliate link) but it starts at $119USD per month for the basic plan.
- 3 Products
- Unlimited Landing Pages
- Unlimited Emails
- 10,000 Contacts
- 1,000 Active Members
- 1 website (yes, you don’t even need a separate website, you can host everything on Kajabi).Ultimately, if you compare it to paying separately for a website, email provider, landing page builder and webinar host, it is incredibly good value and a simple way to keep everything streamlined.
Why I chose Kajabi
I knew how attractive it was from a student experience. I was also overwhelmed with the cost and the options for webinar hosting, email software, sales pages and checkout systems. I wanted something that included all of that, because I was already on a tech learning curve as it was!
With Kajabi, all of that is included. You can program emails, set up your checkout pages, sales pages, webinars and technically, you can even use it as your website (you don’t need a separate one, as I have), so in that way, it is real value for money. The design options are plentiful, too, and if that overwhelms you, you can actually outsource the design. Loads of designers specialise in Kajabi, and you can find them in the member community on Facebook you join when you join Kajabi.
Yes, there’s a little bit of a learning curve to figure out how to set it all up, but delightfully, I had my own ‘concierge’ when I joined Kajabi and he booked in a call to talk me through it. This was a real value add for me because it’s always great when you purchase a subscription product when someone talks you through the features. They also have an enormous amount of help articles and videos so I could just look up how to do something, plus it’s almost like an Apple product: made to be playful and fun, like a beginner. I made you a little loom video of what it’s like to create a product in Kajabi here.
Why choose Kajabi over Teachable, Kartra, Thinkific?
When I looked at the price comparison charts with Teachable and Thinkific, Kajabi was by far the easiest to understand. Kajabi simply charges you a monthly fee to host your courses and programs with them. They are still, as far as i know, the only course host NOT To take a cut of your revenue.
Teachable had some complicated sliding scale fee that I couldn’t understand, AND they take a percentage of each of your course sales, AND they didn’t send you your earnings until the end of each month. Quelle complicated!! They may have changed some of these rules since 2019, when I joined Kajabi, but it was an easy choice for me because i really value simplicity.
Importantly, I didn’t like the visual experience of Teachable’s checkout function. I really value aesthetics, and when i’m investing in something at a premium price, i want it to look and feel simple and seamless. I feel like I trust the tech more when it’s visually appealing and the experience of login in is seamless, and it makes me feel like the course provider knows what they’re doing, too. Aesthetics matter.
I’ve since completed many courses on Teachable and found the login glitchy, too. Many times I’ve been locked out of a Teachable course and had to wait for someone from admin to help me get back in days or weeks later. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to do your course around other things and the whole reason you’re learning online is so you can do it in your own time… and then their tech fails and you can’t login!
Teachable also doesn’t offer email or webinar hosting, in your subscription fee, unlike Kajabi. So while you might think that Kajabi is a little more costly than Teachable, if you’re using their features like email and webinar and sales page hosting, the value for the cost is much higher.
The Student experience with Kajabi
Natasha Lester once shared with me that she originally hosted her Scrivener course on her own wordpress site with a plugin (possibly Learnpress, I’m not sure), which meant managing passwords and logins for students and fielding endless enquiries about lost links and passwords. She eventually sold her Scrivener course to The Australian Writer’s Centre, most probably because she was tired of fielding admin every day!
The great thing about using a subscription platform like Kajabi is that if a student loses their login (and yes, this is THE most common reason I see people not completing courses that they buy!) they can just go to sign in and get a new password sent straight away.
From the business owner’s perspective, I love that I can see when and how often students log in, where they are at inside the course, and you can have as many sections, modules, or lessons as you want. Kajabi handles subscriptions, payments and invoices, and they are adding to the experience all the time.
It’s a very professional experience for the user, and under each video, you have your downloads and your transcripts or lesson outlines, whereas with Teachable it seemed a little too clunky to make it look so smooth.
I also love the checkout function on Kajabi. Many course creators I know who use Teachable integrate it with Samcart instead of using the Teachable checkout. More complication!! More expense! The checkout pages on Kajabi are lovely and seamless and safe, you can embed contracts and forms, terms and conditions etc. and I receive the money straight away in my Paypal account when someone purchases. I don’t know if they’ve changed it, but Teachable was only paying course creators monthly when I signed up to Kajabi (and Teachable takes a fee from each sale).
With Kajabi, you pay your subscription then anything you earn is yours. It’s much easier to budget and price your course this way.
What does Kajabi cost?
Kajabi isn’t cheap, which is why you wouldn’t want to join unless you’re sure you will be hosting a program that you do want to sell as an online course or at the very least have as an evergreen source of extra income for your business. The starter plan is 119 USD a month (and you get a 30 day trial before they bill you).
Another delightful part of hosting your courses on Kajabi is that if, like me, you have neglected to back up your course videos and materials, you can simply go in as an admin and download them later on. You can also set it up so students can download their material. This is helpful if you don’t think you want to offer ‘lifetime access’ to a course.
As I said, I started delivering my programs via email with the video links and PDFs embedded into the emails, but as I got more confident that this was something I really wanted to do (and enjoy doing! I’ve created four courses now, and i have 3 more in the works!) and something I wanted to look as beautiful as possible for the student, I upgraded to a Kajabi starter account. I’m now on a Pro plan so I can give my students their own affiliate referral fees (fun! This means if a student tells their friend about my program and the friend ends up signing up, Kajabi tracks that so I pay them a commission for the sale) and create more programs and products.
Why choose Kajabi?
Ultimately, you’ve got to decide if you want your program to look and feel a certain way, and the design options with Kajabi are really lovely. I currently use the Premier theme, but there are many more options, and if you’re really into customising your brand and your aesthetics, that’s super simple to do. The nice thing is that once you set up your course with its videos, audios, transcripts, booklets, emails and checkouts, you really are done, and can focus on marketing your course and interacting with your students rather than sorting out tech glitches.
This is the ultimate appeal of Kajabi for me – I don’t want to be checking page load speeds, endlessly sending my students their login passwords or showing them how to navigate from one lesson to another: it’s all laid out so much better on Kajabi and they can even track their progress through the course.