In today’s episode, we have Jaime Slutzky with us and she is going to talk about her journey from creating websites with WordPress to helping private music teachers with one-to-many programs.
You will also get to hear how choosing the right niche is important to the alignment of your goals, why you should always focus on the student experience when building an online course, and the top mistakes new instructors make when creating their first course.
In this episode, you will hear...
… who Jaime Slutzky is and how she got into the online business world.
… Jaime’s journey from creating websites with WordPress to helping private music teachers with one-to-many programs.
… how choosing the right niche is important to the alignment of your goals.
… why student experience is so dependent on what your course goal is.
… why you should always focus on the student experience when building an online course.
… the top mistakes new instructors make when creating their first course.
… the importance of structuring your courses so that your students can reuse them and grow from them.
… why Jaime says that course creators are to help people get through the program, and implement whatever they’re teaching.
… why you should understand marketing, your brand awareness, and your student needs before you start mapping out your course.
Hey, everyone, thank you for joining the show today. We have special guest, Jaime Slutzky from tech of business who has come on the podcast today.
I think this is going to be a great episode because we're gonna talk all things online courses, including creating a great student experience, which I think is so important. You know, there are so many people out there creating courses, and we typically focus on the marketing and the sales.
But a lot of people really lack the idea of making sure that the experience for that student is the best that it can be, so that they complete the course so that they get the goal that they're trying to achieve.
And it really helps with word of mouth. Because if someone is excited about your course, they will go and tell other people.
So I'm excited to have you here today, Jaime, how are you doing?
I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, definitely. I'm excited to have you on the show here today and kind of dive deep into your niche, which I think is pretty interesting around the music industry, but in a different way.
And I'm super excited to just kind of hear your story. So if you could just maybe take a couple moments and tell the audience about who you are and how you got into online business to begin with.
Okay, awesome. Again, thank you so much for having me, I am going to start at the present and move a little backwards.
So right now I help music educators create online courses, group programs, membership sites, workshops, and so on. Anything that allows them to expand online. I came to this by saying, "I can't be there for everyone," which is what I had been doing for five years, seven years beforehand as a WordPress freelancer and Thinkific expert.
I found the Thinkific platform really early on and became an expert when they opened up that marketplace. And then all of this stemmed from my desire to be mom first and to be home with my kids.
So I left my corporate job when my youngest was two and my older one was about four and a half. So just before she started elementary school, and I did that because I wanted to be able to work and provide that mom connection with my family.
My corporate job was in the IT department at a Fortune 100 company. So I learned a lot about how business works from that perspective. And I got into that from my degree in computer science back in the 90s.
So I kind of opened a door into a lot of things online before online was really a big thing. So that's kind of the short story of where I am now and where it all came from.
Okay, awesome. Very cool. So, you're doing your IT corporate job, and then decided that you wanted to be there for your family. So what were those early days like?
Did you know what you were going to do when you left that IT job? Or did you just leave and then say, "Okay, I'm gonna figure this out as I go."
So I dabbled, as most people do. I dabbled in the fitness industry. And I also dabbled in the WordPress freelance space. So the WordPress stuff came super easy to me, I thought that everybody who left their corporate job kind of went to something completely different.
That's why I went into the fitness space. And I continue to play around in the fitness space for quite a while, probably a lot longer than I should have. Because the WordPress space, especially back in 2011, when I quit, was like booming and it was just such a great opportunity.
So I really knew that I wanted to do something. I didn't necessarily know what and when I left my corporate job, I had already been building websites for clients and so I left with a roster of clients to start with.
Okay, cool. So you leave you start working on these WordPress sites. And then you have clients which is you know, the next question I was going to ask you because, you know, that's typically the hardest place is finding those first clients.
So it sounds like you already had that setup ready to go. And you're creating these WordPress sites. How long did you do that for?
Oh, how long did I spend before I left my job was at least six to eight months. And then in the freelance space, frankly, I still take on some freelance clients.
I don't take on a lot of freelance clients, but it's been something that's just kind of been on the back burner if there's been a good fit or otherwise, you know, those first few clients, they were not easy to get.
I don't even remember how I got anybody who was not local, actually interested in me. But I think that it was that I planted myself in a development space, like there was a specific WordPress theme that had a community around it.
And I kind of jumped into that space. And I think that that's actually one of the things that I've done most consistently, in this entire journey is found something liked it and delve really deep into the community that whatever software or solution that's out there has created for their users.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I've had similar experiences, it turned out to work very well. Because if you find that strong community, you definitely have those like minded individuals that you know, they get together, they're really supportive of one another, and it can really help out your business.
So you are doing these freelance WordPress designs? What At what point did you start moving into more of the education and the online courses?
Ah, yeah. So, I mean, I always really work with service providers. So it was a logical step. For some of them, they wanted to get into virtual summits and things like that. And that was probably 2015 to 2016, that I really got into that stuff more.
And it was really based on my clients, they're like, "I need to move into this direction. Can you come with me? Can you guide me? Can you learn the tech side so that I can do what I need to do?"
Okay, so about how long ago was it that you started creating this educational material?
You know, I never considered myself a content creator in that way of like, actually creating content for people to be able to do stuff with it was always really like serving my clients.
It was always the one-one-one, until probably just a couple of years ago, when I'm like, you know, I have had all of this experience, it's time for me to put something out there that is informative and educational.
And I think that that was something that I really took to heart last year, in 2021, with my podcast was really putting out a lot more of the educational content. So I'm not actually putting together any courses myself right now, a lot more of it is programs and free content. And then I get to work with people.
You've worked with the Thinkific platform so you've used that to help your clients get their educational content online?
Yeah. So I started with Thinkific back in like 2016, I think it was, and what it was, again, it was one of my clients who said, "I want to use Thinkific to house the content for my virtual summit. Can you help me with this?"
And it was, I just started dabbling in their code, I started dabbling in what they provided and made available for their creators. And I just, I loved it. I was very excited about the platform, and what it could do for people.
They are based in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. So I knew that I'd have the opportunity to meet some of them face to face, because I can always crash on my parents couch.
And so I've been to their offices a few times. And it's been great because that's how you make connections, you make connections online. And then you reinforce the connections by making yourself available in their environment.
And so I have like, fantastic rapport with so many people at Thinkific now that I just kind of get to see the back end of things a whole lot and to help influence and discuss and things like that.
And even this year, I got to speak on their summit, they do a summit at the end of January, you know, and this year in 2022. I got to be one of the speakers. And so like it just continues to open doors.
Yeah, Thinkific truly great platform. It's one of my favorites. Typically when I'm recommending some type of online learning platform for someone that's at least in the top three, typically the number one just because I feel like they have a really good company.
I feel like they really care about their instructors. I love the actual interface. You know, it just feels natural. It's easy to get around and they provide a lot of training material, which is also really great.
So, you are doing these WordPress sites, you start using Thinkific, and getting people's educational content up online. And then you came around to, you said you were in the fitness industry, but now we know that you actually help people who are music educators.
So how did you make that transition? Going from fitness and just doing some freelance work to saying, "Okay, I want to work with this specific niche of people."
Oh, I love this question. So I kept trying to get in, in the fitness industry. And as much as I love it, I love the ability to move your body and all of these other things.
I just didn't have the passion for the cut throat-ness to be completely honest. And so I found myself in a space where I was working with some fitness professionals, I was working with some coaches and some consultants, I was working with a couple of music educators.
And I looked at my my portfolio, and I said, "When I get an email from this person, or when I get an email from that person, how do I feel?" And when I kind of looked at how I felt when I was working with the music teachers, it was vastly different. I was like, "Okay, what can I do? What can I do? How can I help?"
How can I help them bring music into other people's lives? And I realized that there's so much opportunity online, I didn't have to take on the clients that I dreaded their emails. I didn't have to worry about somebody else's problem. I could decide.
And I found that, because music education is something that is a little bit of a luxury, I mean, not everybody has the opportunity to buy private lessons. By helping music teachers create something that is at a lower price point with these courses, it allows more people to be able to get into their music.
And it allows these music teachers to diversify their income, so that they can then you know, grow their studio, grow their student base, grow whatever other opportunities, and it's just been so much in alignment, I love it.
And I'm just really glad that I had those couple of music teachers that I got to work with earlier on, who helped me see the opportunity that online could bring to their industry.
Yeah, that's pretty amazing. It goes very strong to the point of making sure that you are in alignment with who it is that you want to be working with. Because, you know, the common trap for a lot of us is that we want to help everyone.
And we put our information out there. And we say that they can be for anyone. But when you do that you really don't ever drill down a target audience that is really getting any help.
And therefore you don't really help anyone at all. So I feel like this is a really cool subject. Because I feel like when you do something like this, when you say I'm going to help this specific group of people that has the same values or morals or alignment as me, it just is more exciting, right?
Like, you're just more thrilled to go and do the work because it's someone that you want to be working with. They're appreciative, they can see your motivation to do it. And I feel like this is just a really cool topic that not enough people think about to be honest with you.
I totally agree. I mean, I would rather see 40 people exactly like me doing the exact same thing in 40 different verticals, you know? I will give them, give somebody like who wants to work with real estate agents, you can do the exact same thing as I'm doing with real estate agents.
I want to give somebody else like you could do the exact same thing with Visual Artists, you could do the exact same thing in any one of these like 1000s of different verticals, and it makes it easier to stand out and to be noticed.
Let's move over to the student experience, because this is something that we were talking about before the podcasts. And I feel like this is another topic that is very important to me.
I feel like there is a lot of great marketers and salespeople out there selling really bad programs. And I feel like that we could use a little more information on how to make sure that we are creating a great experience for the students so that they are, you know, accomplishing the goal that they're trying to get to and that they are happy and satisfied.
So what does that look like for you when someone has you work for them, or you know, you're freelancing, or you have a client, and you want to create a great student experience? What does that mean to you?
Oh, goodness, thank you for opening that door. Because that is like one of my favorite favorite things to talk about.
Let's just give you a really quick example of what I'm talking about. With music education, the lesson is only 10%. It's the practice, it's the repetition, it's the feedback if there are a lot of other things that go into learning what needs to be learned in order to move on to the next lesson, or the next video, or whatever it is.
And so when I work with my clients, we really figure out, okay, what does it look like to be the student to go through that video? Okay, what do they need next, in order to be able to internalize what they learned in that video? Okay, what do they need next, in order to apply this to their practice sessions or to their repertoire or to add this or to do that?
And so instead of it just being the video, and maybe you know, a chord sheet, or you know, or whatever it is, instead of it just being the physical entities that we're instructing them on, it's more about how does the student take what we're teaching them and do something with it before we move them to the next thing?
I think I learned this from actually one of my music teacher clients. The cadence of her program, is every two weeks, she releases new content every two weeks for her students. And then she has a lot of entry points for them to come in and engage with her between those. And that works because of the way that music education works.
If you were writing a course on how to build a website, in WordPress, that does X, Y, and Z, you can have a different cadence. You can have a different user experience, it's not going to be all this practice stuff. It's going to be a lot more of implementation so that the student can then come back to the material as they're doing the work.
So in that case, the student experience is something that is really streamlined. But really the table of contents is probably the most important thing, because they're going to come back to that time and time again, when they're implementing what they learned.
So understanding who your student is how they're going to use your content, and how you can make sure that the content and the structure of the program is set up so that they can actually use it and reuse it and grow from it.
So that somebody who's come back to your course three times after they've built three websites, maybe they come back on the fourth time, just to review and make sure that they did everything right, and not as an instruction manual.
And then the fifth time, they don't, you know, they come back to two sections instead of six sections. And then by the 10th time, they're not using your course anymore, because they've mastered it.
So the student experience is so dependent on what your course goal is. What are you trying to help people do? And how are we best going to walk them from where they are to that goal?
This is something that I think a lot of people make a mistake when they're creating a course, is they they kind of have an idea of what they want to teach.
But I don't think that they give enough thought to what the goal of the actual course is or how it's really helping the person, if that makes sense.
So I like to, you know, tell people that like, for instance, if you're creating a WordPress course, people don't necessarily want to learn WordPress, just for the fun of it. You know, like, there's a reason why they're learning WordPress.
Maybe they're trying to advance in their career or maybe they're trying to be a WordPress freelancer. So there's an underlying goal that that person is trying to achieve to get to that point.
And I like what you said there because if you're thinking about that goal, then you can tailor that program to what that goal is trying to achieve. Is that what you're saying?
Exactly, exactly. And the nice thing is, is that let's say that you are creating In this course, for that person who wants to become a WordPress freelancer, then you realize, okay, well, there were like a handful of people who came in and because they wanted to build their own website. Well, you can restructure your course for that different goal.
And you can use 70-80% of what you created in that first course that was for the person who wanted to become the freelancer and repackage it into something that works for somebody who wants to use WordPress and DIY their entire site.
And then you can grow your course library in that way, where you are taking the student goals, and packaging the content in such a way that they will be able to absorb it and use it and continue to succeed.
I mean, our goal as course creators is to help people get through the program, and implement whatever it is. Whether you're in fitness, and somebody wants to do a 90 day workout program with you.
Whether you're a music and you want to teach someone so that they can play one song for their mom, whether you're you know, in the WordPress space, and you want to teach somebody how to start their own WordPress, freelance business.
It doesn't matter what it is, it's always about the student, the student is what matters most they're coming to you, because you are the expert, they're staying with you, because you showed them that they can do it.
I love that, that's a great way of explaining it. You know, we we tend to think about ourselves, right? We tend to think about our course and what we're selling and how we're going to make money and provide for our family.
But it really does come back down to the student, it comes down to that one person out there that you're trying to help. So that's an amazing way of saying that.
When you're creating these programs, and you are creating, say your curriculum, you mentioned a cadence before that one, you know, instructor was using every two weeks? Are there any methods that you find work really well? Or is there a certain way that you like to style your curriculum, whenever you're creating it?
I like to have self assessments or teacher assessments or assignments or things like that. And it really depends on the type of course, because I want people to know where they are at with internalizing the content.
So I don't always say okay, it has to be drip content. And it's one week, three weeks, whatever it is, like I don't say that as an absolute, because sometimes it doesn't need to be with that much space and time.
But we need to have something between the lessons for people to be able to determine that, yes, I'm ready to move on, I'm ready to add more to my plate so that I can become better. And I think that that's really a lot of it.
I mean, I have this one client that I'm working with on an introductory Ayurveda. I mean, they're not in fitness at all they're you know, in Ayurveda and, you know, yoga and you know, it all sorts of, you know, other stuff.
And we put in quizzes, we put in like self assessment quizzes, "Did you understand this concept? Did you understand that concept?" So that they could be like, "Oh, yeah, I did. I did. I did. Oh, but I missed that one. Let me go back and watch that video again."
And then they can read retest and check it again. And then when they feel like they can move on, they can because they've given themselves permission, by going through the self assessment, going through the test.
Making it so that we're not packing so much content into a period of time and space as possible. It's okay, if a course is four lessons long. It's also okay, if a course is 40 lessons long. You have to use the right amount of time to get the students the results. I mean, that's really what it's all about.
Yeah, this is a major mistake that I made earlier on in my online course career. I made a Photoshop course one time, and it's 15 hours long. And I just tried to jam pack as much information into this course as possible.
Totally wrong way of going about it. You know, I wasn't thinking about that student experience, I wasn't thinking through the goals, I wasn't thinking through how this information would translate from one lesson to the other.
I just wanted to make a big giant Adobe Photoshop course and put everything in there. I guess it's okay if you're using it as a reference manual, and you just need to look up a tool.
But I don't feel like it really helps educate anyone. And so I agree with you that, you know, really thinking about that student journey, how you're getting them through, and then it doesn't, like you said, it doesn't have to be a giant course to get a result for someone, right?
Exactly. I mean, I have a program that is creating your first micro course. It's a four lesson course. You know how little you need to teach in a four lesson course for someone to get results and for them to then say, "Okay, now I want to take your 16 week group program."
Your course can fit anywhere in your customer journey, it can fit at the beginning, like a micro course, or it can fit somewhere in the middle, or it can fit at the end where your courses for your upper level.
And people have to go through a bunch of other things before they can get to the course. The course doesn't have to always be for beginners. And it doesn't have to be super long.
Yeah, definitely. So if someone is out there, and they haven't created their first course yet, and they say, you know, I want to create a course on let's say, even playing an instrument, I'm a guitar player, and I want to create a course on guitar playing.
And they've never done this before. What would be some of the first steps that you would recommend for them to try to figure out what to teach and how long to teach and so forth?
Yeah, so my philosophy is actually I call it the bounded rule. And this is where your course has a beginning, a middle and an end.
So the first thing you want to figure out is, where is the student that you want to teach? Like, where are they at? Have they held a guitar? Have they been strumming? And they want to go to something else? Are they wanting to be able to play, you know, really sophisticated stuff? Like, where are they at at the beginning of this course?
And then we want to say, okay, and where are we taking them? And sometimes people actually figure out where we're taking them, and then they back into, okay, so where do they need to be right now, in order to, for me to be able to take them to this goal in the right amount of time?
So you kind of want to start with either one and or the other. And then you want to just think about the highlights. What are the highlights that you want to take them on on that journey.
By example, so with guitar is that you want them to be able to take out the guitar at the campfire and be able to, you know, play so that other people can sing. Okay, they just have to be able to learn how to strum five or six different tunes or something like that.
That's going to be a far different course, than somebody who is wanting to get into a band, and you know, and want to be able to play, you know, lead guitar and things like that.
So they may start at the exact same place. But where are we taking them because the journey is going to be completely different.
Right? Okay. Yeah, I like that. And it can go in so many different directions. Like you said, the guitar player who is playing at a campfire with some friends and family, much different than the person who wants to join a band.
And so those outcomes are going to be a little different. But I was thinking back to what you said earlier that some of that stuff could be reusable, I mean, you know, strumming patterns and so forth, is going to be the same pretty much. But there might be some different information and one course versus the other course, correct?
Yeah, absolutely. There's no rule on how long your videos need to be, or how long a module needs to be. If you have something that you know, you're going to be teaching in pretty much every course, make it once and put it into every course you're gonna use.
That's something that I have told my clients time and time and time again, I'm like, nobody's gonna care that this is from that course versus the other course, as long as it's the information that they need your methodology, those kinds of things. Reuse them from one course to the next.
But going back to this person who's never done it before, think about what you enjoy. Think about what lights you up about playing the guitar, about teaching the guitar, or whatever your discipline is, because that's where you want to start.
If you have no experience in something, then you're not ready to teach it. And that's okay. It's okay to stay in your zone of genius.
Love it. And yeah, that's awesome. So we've talked about, you know, a lot of things to do, and some ways to help out first time instructors who are creating their courses.
What are some of the mistakes that you see a lot of online courses or new course instructors, people who are starting out? What is something that, you know, is a mistake that you just would love to tell the world out there to watch out for once they begin?
Well, what you did, which was creating way too much in a course, I mean, that's definitely one thing that I see happen a lot is when people are like, "Well, I need to teach everything, I need to be able to have this, they might need to learn this or they might need to learn that."
Breath. It's okay for you not to give everything in a course that is the first thing. And the second thing that I would have to say is that we don't want to create a course for nobody.
That's why Jeremy brings on a lot of people on the podcast to talk about marketing and sales. Make sure that your marketing and your brand awareness and your student needs are things that you understand before you start mapping out your course.
If you start mapping out your course, and you're only subject or the only person that you know, who'd be interested in this is you, then your sample size is too small. So we want to make sure that we know enough people who are going to be excited about the program and actually say yes to coming in. Those would be my two big things.
Awesome. I love it, Jaime. That's totally cool. So just thinking about your business going forward into the future. Where do you see yourself in the next two to five years?
Well, once my kids are out of school, I really hope to be doing more conferences. And speaking in front of larger groups of music teachers, I definitely see that there's some of that, and some retreats and things like that.
So we can create these courses faster. So just really a lot of facilitation. I come from such a tech background, that it's easy for me to help with the website side, it's easy for me to help with the learning management system.
It's easy for all of that stuff. But my joy really comes from somebody saying, "This is my course. This is what I'm teaching. This is who I'm teaching it to." So I really see myself in that position of helping people get out of their own way and realize that there are so many opportunities online. That's really where I'm at.
Oh, I love it. Yeah, we tend to get into our way too much. So I know that from personal experience, so I can attest to that one.
Well, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you today. If people would like to get help from you or find out more about what you have going online, where can they go to do that?
My social media that I use most often is Instagram. I'm at JaimeSlutzky over there. Jaime Slutzky. And whatever freebie I am promoting at the time of this will be sitting at expandonlinenow.com.
That is my home base for whatever it is that I'm sharing. Because I want the URL to stay out there and be good always, always always. So depending on when you do listen to this, it may be my make money teaching music courses online or teaching music online. It may be something else that I have created, magically, because sometimes I just get on a whim and start creating.
Perfect. Well, we will make sure that we link everything up in the show notes so that everyone has those links and they can come find you online.
I recommend checking out Jaime. She's a wealth of information and knowledge and really knows her stuff. And yeah, I just appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing this information and just hope the best of luck for you going in the future.
Thank you so much for having me.
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