Stop Wasting Money: How to Get the Most Out of Your Blogging Education

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!

wasting-money

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!

bookmark-course-logins

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.

facebook-groups-get-notifications

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).

facebook-add-to-favorites

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.

organizing-course-files

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.

paypal-preapproved-payments

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.

Some great upcoming events that have virtual passes include Content Marketing World in September and New Media Expo (formerly BlogWorld Expo) in January 2014.

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.

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!

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Kristi,

    This was an informative and resourceful post :)

    To be very honest, I’ve hardly ventured much into educational materials other than the free ones we might get online, yet those were a very limited few. Even the ebooks are often the ones we find at other blogs or perhaps the ones that our friends share, other than that I’ve not tried any paid courses, though I’ve heard or Jon’s and also visit his blog and attend the webinars sometimes.

    I guess there’s a lot yet left to do, though I wonder how I’d ever find the time to get started with all this. But I loved your tips shared here. I’m bookmarking this page and keeping it safe for going through the weekend :)

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice week ahead :)
    Harleena Singh just posted How to Boost Self Esteem in 8 Simple Ways

    • says

      Thanks Harleena! I’m investing in them for two reasons. 1) I’m not where I’d like to be just yet in some areas, so I know I need to improve them. 2) I’d like to do a course one day, and I’d like to know what others are doing so I make sure that mine provides value to make it worth it. :)

  2. says

    I’m a huge fan of actionable notes. A lot of times I’ll be having a team meeting and a topic will arise. I immediately recognize that it could make a great blog post and so I jot down the idea as well as some of the questions/conversation my team is having around the topic. Having these talking points written down with the topic or idea can help you start crafting the post, especially if you aren’t able to sit down and write, right away.

    • says

      That’s how I’ve been lately. I notice that when I go to a conference, if I just write generic “what the speaker said” notes, I rarely look back over them. If I come back remembering that I wrote down some things I wanted to apply to my blog or business, I will refer back to them and do it. Definitely more valuable!

  3. says

    Hi Kristi,

    You have just rocked this world. This is an amazing informative post for everyone, personally I found it very useful to me. I always love to read your latest stuff, and always get sometime to comment and share with my friends over the Facebook Private Groups, and secret membership areas. I really liked the stuff you have shared here. Keep up your good work!
    Hamza Sheikh just posted How To Fix Google Now for iOS Battery Drain Issue

    • says

      I generally don’t follow things I listen to exactly. I use them more as inspiration or ideas to modify my own strategy. Usually if you do put your own personal touch on something, it will work out better anyway. :)

  4. says

    Kristi, I enjoyed this post for two reasons. I sell e-courses to my niche market (financial advisors) and I purchase e-courses and programs in order to learn a new skill, behavior, or tactic. Your point about taking action is very important. The key to growth is application of what you learn and taking actionable notes is of utmost importance. I feel the same way about reading a book. Remember in school when you had to write book reports? This is how we learn. So when I read a book that will teach me a new skill, I make sure to write a brief book report when I am done.

    • says

      The groups for specific courses tend to be the best groups around. People are much more invested in them, therefore they’re more likely to interact about the topic at hand. The course creator usually does a good job of moderating those groups for spam as well, but there doesn’t tend to be a lot since people are all focused on one goal.

  5. says

    Great post, Kristi! What I usually try to do is to convert the info into a step-by-step process and then execute on it. Info products and books give you a good starting point, although I find that I usually end up creating my own variation and doing things slightly differently. I find that I learn even more when I actually start doing the stuff too.
    Brian just posted Blogging – How to Blog Effectively with Just a Few Hours a Week

  6. says

    Hi KRISTI ,Thanks for this informative post. I have come across the best post on this topic that covers all the aspects of using free and paid resources on the web. Internet is full of information and opportunities and as you have said here not everything is good. One should be careful while selecting resources either free or paid because free stuff will waste time and paid stuff will waste money along with time. These tips are going to be a real help.
    Suhas just posted The best blogs and top blogs based on their earnings and popularity

    • says

      You’re welcome Suhas. Yes, that is very true. Even if you can get your money back, you can’t get your time back. So you have to do some diligent research before purchasing.

  7. says

    Hi Kristi,

    Great tips. I have bought too many courses in the past and must admit that I did not take action on some of them.

    I had a bad experience with a refund recently. I bought some expensive software during a webinar but when I went through the instruction videos I found that it didn’t do what I thought it did. I asked for a refund and got back a reply that said “Do you think you know it all then? We are trying to help you make money here”. I was astounded by the rudeness of it.

    When I ask for a refund I am always polite and explain the reason why I am asking for a refund even though they often say no questions asked and for whatever reason. I think it’s helpful to explain your reasons so the vendor may improve the product.

    I have a book on Clickbank myself and I am always polite with my replies if people ask for a refund. It does nothing for your reputation to be rude.

    Sandy
    Sandy Halliday just posted Can Outbound Links Boost Your SEO?

    • says

      That’s awful Sandy! I’ve never had a bad experience before with a refund, and I’m always nice to the customers who ask me one for me ebook because I figure if I’m nice with that, they will still be interested in my future products. If I’m rude, then people will steer away from anything I have my name on. I’d guess you’ll never purchase from whomever gave you that rude response, and that’s a great example of why product creators need to be gracious about everything, especially refunds.

  8. says

    Yayy! What an AWESOME post, particularly suggestions #2, #7, #8 and #10. I’ve invested in so got-darn many of these things, and those recurring memberships to things that weren’t for me or those lost bookmarks are pesky, pesky.

    Copying to another device is something I’ve already implemented after a laptop of mine DIED with a $197 course on it. Sigh. Fortunately, the fella I bought it from sent me another digital copy but it was scary.

    I’d love to suggest just one more thing, kind of in the vein of Suggestion #4: participate in Facebook Groups. It seems to me that folks that have invested in a LOT of these programs could connect and share the best of what they learned AND IMPLEMENTED from more than one source. I see more than a few of my faves in your list above (Bestseller in a Weekend, Video Traffic Academy, piles of ProBlogger) but wouldn’t mind chatting with some folks that have used the others before I buy.

    Again, I’m wowed by your insight. Thanks for the post Kristi.

    Keep Stepping,

    Kurt
    Kurt Frankenberg just posted 19 Ways to Create Value out of NOTHING

    • says

      Ouch. I’m obsessed with having multiple backups of everything for that reasons – no piece of technology is crash proof.

      That would be nice to have more open groups for courses, but at the same time, the more open the group, the more spam is likely to come in. I have taken to emailing people I have seen write reviews / testimonials for products. You can usually find out in those emails whether the people are in it because they are affiliates or because they’ve actually taken and benefited from the course. People email me about things I’ve written testimonials for, and I’m happy to help them out regardless of the affiliate commission potential.
      :)

  9. says

    hello kristi,
    i love your blog, yes these are some cool tips but the 2nd one is my favorite because i do the same. i have made many labels like “login details”, important and personal. it helps me keeping my mails organized so that i dont have to search for a mail. it is a great idea actually
    prabhat just posted How to Claim a Blog on Technorati Blog Directory

  10. says

    I really don’t know how I feel about asking for a refund with an ebook. Even if it’s nice and goes smoothly, I still feel like a bad guy…

    • says

      That’s why the refund policy is there Alex. If you don’t get the value you paid for, then you deserve the refund. And I say this as someone with an ebook – I’d rather someone ask me for a refund then feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth.

  11. says

    This is a very topical issue and timely as well especially for me :-) All valid points especially the one about downloading material unto hard drive..i’ve learn’t my lesson with that one and now download everything.

    I also think this should be applied to free material as well…I actually print everything i have and file the into a fact file (another tip you can add)
    Greg just posted My passive income master plan?

    • says

      I don’t know about printing Greg. If I printed all of my ebooks, I would have a bookshelf full of paper. I do back mine up just in case something happens to my hard drive so I don’t have to download them all again later.

      • says

        LOL..it is not the most environmental thing to do i guess….but I personally can’t think unless it’s on paper. I want to be able to touch and write. There is an exception and that is video..if i watch stuff i just take down my own notes which i can put into my fact file.
        Greg just posted Mind blowing stuff

  12. says

    I didn’t realize that some digital download types of things offered a money back guarantee. I just assumed that once you buy it, it’s yours no refunds. Nice to know they do exist. I know there are a lot of them out there that don’t, and I make sure it is really something I want, or one that I can afford so I am not wasting my money.
    Ray just posted WordPress Plugin Clean Up

    • says

      Some digital downloads do not offer refunds – you have to be on the look out for a refund policy. I find that if the sales page doesn’t mention it, you can sometimes find it buried in the Terms of Service policy on the site. Or you can Google site:domainoftheproduct.com refund policy to find if. If you can’t, then think really hard about whether it’s worth it or not.

  13. says

    Hello, Kristi!

    Thank you for the concise and to the point post! I know for sure that (1) I have not taken ‘actionable’ notes but I sure do have a lot of notes taken in my google drive. So this post pretty much straightened me out to not just take notes. (2) I have a folder in my gmail that is titled ‘SEO and stuff’ and it contains most of the subscriptions that I have signed up for. I got that part covered:-) (3) I use delicious.com to bookmark the blogs, subscriptions that I signed up for, etc. I can pretty much be anywhere and update my list.

    As a matter of fact, I am bookmarking this post in my delicious to digest four through eight.

    Refunds? I never thought of that.
    Ramy just posted Day Five

    • says

      You’re welcome Ramy! I find that my regular notes of just what something said are the ones I never get back to. But if I remember writing a specific idea based on what I’ve learned, I’ll go back to it every time. :)

  14. says

    Thanks for this post. I am soooo guilty of not doing #6, organizing my email inbox. Need to set up those folders as it does get a bit overwhelming. Thank you for the reminder and this is a great post.

    Thank you for sharing it!
    Stephen Malan just posted Growing Your Email List

  15. says

    Kristi, thanks for these tips – I have been considering online education and courses myself, but haven’t signed up for anything yet. There are so many options, and it can be hard to discern which ones will yield the most education (and not teach me things I already know). Do you have any favorites concerning content creation/blogging that you would recommend if someone was to pick one?

  16. says

    Ooooh ! This is a rare type of post. How to be more organized and make the most of your education. Little tips but gold value. It is not so easy to find this kind of advice these days. Usually you have to pay. So simple! It makes me wonder why I don’t do these things. Most of the time it didn’t cross my mind !! Usually people are not so organized and lose a lot of information and opportunities. This is like a small time management course. Thanks
    Silviu just posted Fake Twitter Followers Can Hurt Your Business

    • says

      You’re welcome Silviu. It’s sometimes the simplest tips that we take for granted. I’m even guilty of reading something and thinking “Yeah, I know that” but then I don’t do anything about it.

  17. says

    Hey Kristi!
    I enjoyed your post that, as always, has a motivational “call to action” tone that makes me want to be more organized and do more with my time and blogs. From the tips you shared here I can say from personal experience that it helps having the eBooks or courses on tablet too- I always read on my way to work and I was impressed to see that I can read 2-3 books in a month. What I am not so great at is taking notes and applying them- but I am now motivated to try more! Thanks for sharing!
    Dragos just posted How to Clean Spam Scripts in a WordPress Theme?

    • says

      Thanks Dragos! I find I consume a lot more of my courses if I take them on the road with me on my two hour roundtrip weekly commute to the “big city” in our area. Otherwise I would take much longer with the courses, making it much longer until I get the results I want.

  18. says

    A few days of browsing through your blogs have made me a fan! I never thought about dowloading the ebooks to my hard drive because I always assume that the website will be there.

    And I never knew about the FTC guidelines on affiliate marketing. Thanks for the post. It is an eye opener.
    Antonio Solitario just posted Day Seven – The Canadian and American

  19. says

    Sound advice. I think the save feature is often overlooked when dealing with online learning. If you come across a helpful .pdf, article, graphic, anything, SAVE IT! Create a folder for reference materials to go back to when you need them. There are so many resources available online, and you can gather them as you go, don’t forget to do so!

  20. says

    Kristi,

    No doubt we all have been guilty of grabbing more ‘information’ than we’re ready to use or even view sometimes! Now when we go on buying ‘binges’ and just add more info to the mound it’s doubtful we’ve increased our chances of really reviewing & using what we have! Your share here is a terrific source for how to best ‘capture’ the entire value of what you’ve purchased as well as organizing it and putting it to use!

    Good solid and even ‘evergreen’ tips we all need!

    Thanks!

    TJ
    TJ Philpott just posted How the Need for Instant Gratification Undermines Your Business Success

    • says

      I’m definitely guilty of that TJ. I went on a buying spree because all of the stuff I’ve wanted to do this year (write a book, create a podcast, increase conversions on my blog) just happened to coincide with courses on those exact topics. Now I’m making a point to organize what I want to do first and take the course that is most relevant to that goal. :)

  21. says

    Hi Kristi,

    I learned a lot from this post.

    Personally, I am more on acquiring free educational materials on the web especially whenever I have a chance of stumbling very interesting. I am still on a work on progress human and I think I have still more to learn.

    Thank you for sharing this post. Have a nice day.

    Arwin
    Arwin Adriano just posted 5 of The Most Active Event Planners on The Web

    • says

      There is a lot of value in the free material that is put out, especially if you get it from a reliable source. Definitely not a bad way to go! :)

  22. says

    Yeah when I go to screenwriting conferences, I’ve learned to research the speakers that I’d like to know better and come with questions prepared. If it’s a writer or showrunner of a particular tv show, for example, I try to watch the show so I can follow along and get more out of it. And notes! I’m so thankful that I take notes. My memory is terrible.
    Matt just posted Verismo 580 Review

    • says

      That’s a great idea for capitalizing on the chance to talk to specific experts. I’ll have to remember that for the next conference I go to. :)

  23. says

    One of my goals for this long weekend is to get hold of my email inbox better and get it organized. Need to get a better folder system going so I can find what I need faster.

    Thanks for reminding me of this!
    Stephen Malan just posted TweetAdder 4.0 Update

    • says

      You’re welcome Stephen! My goal is always to end the day with an empty inbox. It usually means I don’t have to worry about anything hanging over my head for the next day. :)

  24. says

    I loved the way you’ve presented this list here !
    BTW, I’ve been using these techniques from a long time, but some of the points such as the “Keep a copy of files on other devices” …
    I’ll consider it !
    Thanks
    -Jon
    Jon Harthun just posted Portrait of a Dad

  25. says

    Great post Kristi! Blogging has a foundational role in any social media marketing campaign, which is why you want to make a commitment to blogging for your business. Blogs are the holding tank for everything that you want your target market niche to know about you and your business so we have to create our blogs correctly. With the help of the experts in the industry we can create a well and quality blog for our business.

    • says

      It’s a great course Sam. They don’t just tell you how to write a book – they give you actionable exercises to complete during the course so that by the end of it, you are well on your way to getting your first Kindle book published. :)

  26. says

    …Damn, I wish this post was quite older. Why? Because I’ve joined a webinar once – the first and only time – around 2 at night my time. I wrote down some things to do, but not really how to implement it into my blog. The result were, that nothing happened. The webinar was free, and I was just lucky to grab a seat, but I did wish I’ve gained more out of it than I did.

    Usually when I sign-up to a list to get an ebook, most often claiming that “This is the #1 thing the Gurus don’t want you to read”, and that it’s “bound to make me rich”… right.. I often end with a cheesy PDF telling me how to earn money selling an ebook telling one how to make money online.. Basically “Sell this book with no value, teaching others how they can sell the exact same thing, and thus make money online.”

    Nevertheless, great list. :)
    Jonas just posted Derfor skal du smide en kommentar herinde

  27. says

    I still have a SEO E-book back from 2004. I only wish it was somewhat valid to this day (haha). Overall, I do plently of online training for multiple areas in Internet marketing. I need to get better at organizing my emails. I deal with so many passwords on a daily basis, I often forget to store registrations in a single folder. Thanks for the reminder.

  28. says

    I spent so much especially buying stupid products and where there was too much hype and material contained nothing but basic tips. But good thing is I picked at least “one” tip out of them and it added up overtime in the back of my head.
    And nice post there kristi
    Webatbest just posted Best Laptops for Photography

  29. says

    Hey Kristi,

    If I’m going to buy an info product I like to make sure I schedule out time to read, study and put it into action. So many times I buy things, get half way through it and then I get distracted. Before I know it I forgot I even had it :-(

    It’s so important to set a goal for making sure you complete the learning task and then apply what you’ve learned.

    There’s so much to do online and so much to learn that if we don’t carefully plan and schedule we won’t end up accomplishing anything, That’s such an easy trap to fall into.

    Liz :-)
    Liz just posted 9 Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid & Fix Now!

  30. says

    Thanks for the amazing article!
    I have been reading your aricles to learn more about online marketing.
    A month ago I started with my own website with a blogg and this is very helpfull.

    Keep up the good work, I keep on following your articles.