Over the last couple of years, I have consumed a lot of educational materials – free downloads, ebooks, paid courses, webinars, etc. Chances are, you have too. While it’s OK to toss free downloads to the wayside as far as your wallet is concerned, it’s not OK if you do this with the stuff you pay for. You want to get the most out of your ebooks and courses, otherwise it’s like chucking money in the garbage on a regular basis. And who wants to do that!
Photo Credit: Tax Credits on Flickr
Here are my top 12 tips for making sure you get the most bang for your buck when purchasing conference passes, courses, and ebooks for your blogging education.
PS. Some of the courses mentioned throughout this post will have affiliate links. They are all courses I have taken myself and have found valuable for my blog and my business. You have been warned as per FTC regulations.
1. Take actionable notes as you are reading or listening.
Notice I didn’t say take notes, but take actionable notes. Instead of just writing down a tip, write down how you will apply that tip to your blog. For example, while taking the Bestseller in a Weekend course, instead of writing a note about how to come up with great ebook titles, I wrote down several ebook titles that I would like to write. Chances are, you are going to be most inspired to take action as you are reading or listening to course material, so take advantage of that moment of inspiration.
2. Organize your emails.
When you purchase an ebook or course, you are usually invited to sign up for a mailing list. While some can be spam fests, others can be very helpful in terms of keeping you up to date about bonuses that come with your course, Q&A calls, and other relevant news. When you sign up for a course, organize all of the emails into a folder for that course so you can find your login information and other related content quickly. If you have Gmail, you can create a main folder called Courses, Paid Courses, Education, etc. and then create sublabels under it for each course.
I would also suggest creating a label / folder just for your logins. That way you don’t have to hunt through all of the update emails to find what you really need. Again, if you have Gmail, you can have multiple labels for one email so you can have your login details in multiple labels. You can even search for the following in your Gmail to find logins for courses (and products) you may have forgotten about.
- subject:(“Congrats – You are registered”)
- subject:(“welcome to”) login
- subject:(“login details”)
- subject:(“access”) password
Just select all of the results applicable and add them to your logins label to reference them down the road.
3. Bookmark membership logins.
Many courses give you access to a membership community where you can find all of your course materials. Bookmark this login page so you can quickly access it and learn. Put your courses folder on your bookmarks toolbar so you don’t forget about them!
4. Participate in private Facebook groups.
One of the trends for online marketing courses is to create a private Facebook group for students. Some courses that include this are Bestseller in a Weekend, Podcasting Pro System, Blog That Converts, and Video Traffic Academy. Be sure to participate – not only will you make new connections with similar goals, but you will also get answers to questions that may arise while you are taking the course. Make sure you get notifications for the group so you don’t miss out on announcements from the course creator.
Also add the groups to your favorites (click here to see all of your Facebook groups) so you see them in your newsfeed sidebar (until Facebook changes the newsfeed again).
By participating in private groups for the courses you invest in, you will get the added benefit of building relationships with the expert as well as the other students. Those relationships alone can be priceless!
5. Take advantage of live Q&A calls, email support, etc.
Some of the bonuses that come along with courses include live Q&A calls, email support, and other ways to interact with the expert. You paid for them, so you might as well take advantage of them. Guest Blogging by Jon Morrow, for example, has a few live calls per month.
To get the most out of these opportunities, write down questions you have while going through the course and save them up. Also, don’t be shy about giving the course creator some feedback via email. They’ll probably appreciate it and it will put you on their radar!
6. Save files to your local hard drive.
Even if a course comes with a membership site where you can enjoy the materials online, you will want to download everything you can to your local machine. Why? This will give you access to it whether or not you are on the Internet. And if the site goes down one day, you won’t lose what you paid for.
Many courses have downloadable transcripts, audio-only versions of videos, checklists, action sheets, bonus reports, and so forth. When you save the files, change the filename to something you will recognize. I like to include the title, author / speaker, and other pertinent details. Also, be sure to group them together in a folder so you can find all of the related materials when you need them.
7.Copy PDFs, videos, MP3s, etc. to other devices.
Don’t keep learning materials limited to your laptop or desktop. Copy any downloadable educational materials to your iPad so you can read or watch them away from your desk. Copy your MP3s to your iPhone or iPod so you can hear audio recordings where ever you go. The latter especially helps if you have long daily commutes or go on frequent road trips.
8. Create reminders for recurring memberships.
Some courses are not one-time only payments. If you join a membership course that has a recurring monthly membership fee, then you will want to remember them so you don’t keep paying for something that you may not be using down the road. Set up monthly alerts in your calendar, Remember the Milk, or other organizer to revisit your recurring memberships to ensure that you are, in fact, still using them. It can serve as a great way to get you back on track with your goals or a great way to free up some budget in your wallet.
If you’re having trouble remembering all of the monthly recurring memberships you have signed up for, or you’re having trouble canceling a particular one, there’s an easy way to handle it all if you payed via Paypal. Just click on My Money under the Profile menu. Then click on the update link for My Preapproved Payments. There you will see all of your subscriptions, installment payments, and automatically billed payments for courses, tools, and anything else you’ve purchased.
9. Get the virtual pass.
Virtual passes are great for a couple of reasons. For starters, if you can’t go to a conference for whatever reason, the virtual pass will give you all of the education from a conference at a discounted price.
If you are able to go, the virtual pass still comes in handy as you can use it to catch the sessions that you missed. This gives you more time to socialize while you’re attending a live event – something you can’t take advantage of later. You won’t have to be torn about not being able to attend one session over another when good ones overlap in the schedule. And you won’t have to stress about getting every interesting tidbit you hear down on paper.
10. Apply what you learn.
There are two ways you can apply what you learn to your blog or business: immediately or over time. It’s not all lost just because you take a course on how to write a book and don’t actually write the ebook right away. While it would be great to apply what you learn from a course, conference, or ebook immediately, you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you can’t.
The best way to make sure you take full advantage of everything you’ve learned is to set a goal to apply it. You may be able to set a goal to work on things daily, weekly, or even monthly depending on the amount of effort that is needed.
11. Don’t be shy about asking for a refund.
From the perspective of a buyer, there’s nothing worse than buying something that doesn’t meet my needs. That’s why I tend to only purchase things that have a money back guarantee. I also set a calendar reminder for a few days before the specified return time (usually 25 days) so I can make sure I have reviewed the course to determine if it is valuable to me.
From the perspective of an ebook author, there’s nothing worse than knowing someone was unhappy with something I created. That’s why I offer a 90 day money back guarantee on my Blog Post Promotion Guide. I would rather someone return the ebook and have an overall positive experience than feel like they wasted their money.
So far, I’ve never had a bad experience with asking for a refund for something. Don’t be shy about it – if it doesn’t live up to your expectations, contact the seller directly (preferably by email) and ask for a refund. If the seller doesn’t get back to you in a couple of days (most do within 24 hours), then you can always use Paypal’s claims center. Only resort to this if the seller hasn’t communicated with you in a reasonable time frame and no, within one hour is not reasonable.
Let the seller know (politely) some feedback as well. This can help them with future revisions and updates of their product.
12. Recoup your expenses through affiliate programs.
Affiliate marketing is not evil when you honestly believe in the conference, course, ebook, or product you are promoting. If something has changed your blog or business, then you’ll probably want to share it with the world. So why not share it with the world and make some commissions while you’re at it? I know that when I’ve recommended courses via email sans an affiliate link, people will often ask me for it so they can register.
Many courses offer an affiliate program for students to participate in and make earnings off of. Each time you make a recommendation or mention of the course in a blog post, share your affiliate link. If you write a compelling review, your affiliate may completely cover your cost for the course and beyond.
Some ebooks I have purchased and courses I have taken that have affiliate programs (hence the affiliate links) include the following.
- Bestseller in a Weekend – Intense course that helps you create a Kindle ebook from start to finish in one weekend.
- Podcasting Pro System – Learn how to create a successful podcast from conception to promotion.
- Guest Blogging by Jon Morrow – A complete course on guest blogging to build authority (not cheap links).
- FBInfluence – Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook All-In-One for Dummies, teaches you how to gain traffic, leads, and profits from Facebook.
- LinkedInfluence – Lewis Howes, well-known LinkedIn expert, teaches you how to build traffic, revenue, and authority through LinkedIn.
- Video Traffic Academy – James Wedmore teaches you how to take advantage of video marketing on YouTube to grow your blog or business.
- ProBlogger Ebooks – Darren Rowse has a collection of great ebooks that can help you with all aspects of your blogging including your first week of blogging, building a better blog, business blogging, copywriting, online marketing, and even productivity.
Be sure to adhere to FTC guidelines about letting readers know that you are using an affiliate link like the ones above. I notify readers before they reach an affiliate link and in the sidebar site-wide to cover posts where I may not have annotated them clearly. Some will mark each link as an affiliate link as well – it is really your preference.
How do you get the most value out of the education you pay for? Please share in the comments!