Date: June 3, 2021

It doesn't have to be video

I have a very clear memory of those hectic few weeks.

I was working in a friend’s London flat at a temporary standing desk made from an old ironing board and a stack of cardboard boxes.

And I was desperately trying to finish an online course - the first one I’d ever been actually paid to create.

The course was a complete reinvention of a popular course about guest blogging (writing for popular sites to get traffic) that was getting long in the tooth.

Jon Morrow, the entrepreneur I was working for, was onboard with the idea of rebuilding the course from scratch, on one condition…

That he didn’t need to be involved in creating it.

On the one hand, that gave me free rein, which was great. On the other hand, Jon was the voice behind all of the current materials, and while I can do a passable Yoda impression, that’s the limit of my impersonation skills.

So we decided to make it a text-based course. Because while I couldn’t mimic Jon’s voice out loud, I was pretty good at doing it on the page.

Now, most online courses are based around video lessons. And if they’re done well it gives your course a level of prestige it’s difficult to achieve with text alone.

But… text-based courses can work great.

(The one I mentioned above sold well for several years and made over a million dollars.)

And one of my favourite course creators (Andre Chaperon of Tiny Little Businesses) creates his smart, thoughtful courses around text and simple diagrams.

In fact, text actually has a few advantages over video:

  • Students can consume the materials at exactly their own pace
  • Text lessons are easier to review, print out, highlight, and so on
  • Text is easier for you to modify and evolve over time

And the truth is, some learners just prefer reading to watching.

So if you hate being in front of a camera (or behind a microphone) you do have an alternative.

It’s definitely the less glamorous, less showy option. It’s definitely going against the grain.

But there’s nothing to say you can’t create an engaging course that gets great results simply by using words on a page.

If you do go that route, here are a few things to consider:

  • Even though the core material is text-based, use images and the occasional embedded video (e.g., from YouTube) to add variety.
  • Make sure your writing is as conversational and personality-filled as possible. Use short sentences and paragraphs to keep lots of white space on the page.
  • Use eye-catching and curiosity-inspiring titles and headings to grab attention, and lots of examples, analogies and stories to keep it.

Personally, I’m still a fan of video. Most people expect courses to feature videos these days, and they’re great for bonding with your audience.

But I wouldn’t be telling you the full story if I pretended it was your only route to success.

See you soon, Glen

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