Jason Dion Tells His Journey into Creating a Wildly Successful Online Course Business

June 21, 2021
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In today’s episode, we have Jason Dion with us and he is going to talk about his journey into growing a wildly successful online course business.

You will also get to hear his tips on how to present information that people can absorb easily, why he had to transform from online course marketplaces to his own platform, and the important factors you should keep in mind when scaling your business with other employees.

Website: diontraining.com
YouTube: Dion Training 
Facebook: diontraining
Twitter: @JasonDion 
Instagram: @diontraining
LinkedIn: jasondion

Notes

In this episode, you will hear...

… Jason’s story on how he began creating online courses and how he grew a wildly successful online course business.

… helpful tips on how to present information in an interesting way that people can absorb easily.

… why and how Jason transformed from popular online course marketplaces to his own platform.

… why giving away free courses didn’t work for Jason’s business.

… Jason’s take on whether or not content creators should use Udemy or create their own website.

… helpful tips on growing and scaling your business, and when you should start hiring people on your team.

… Jason’s helpful advice on the hiring process, expectations, and important factors you should keep in mind when hiring other employees.

… how to do outreach and gain traffic on your online courses using a mailing list, Facebook groups, creating a community for your students, and much more. 

… how to choose the best online platform for your topic area to help your online courses thrive.

… Jason’s strategy in building a strong team, and how he strives to take care of his employees. 

… how Jason is expanding his online course business by moving into the Spanish and Portuguese language market.

Resources

Transcript

Jeremy Deighan
Hey, everyone, thanks for checking out the show. Today we have Jason Dion from Dion Training Solutions, who is in a realm of cybersecurity and IT and project management and really came on the scene just all guns blazing and has just done a wonderful job building this business. And I'm super excited to get into your story today and hear all the great things that you've accomplished. How are you doing today?

Jason Dion
I'm doing great, Jeremy. Thanks for having me. Great to talk with you and the whole Online Course Igniter community.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. This is going to be super exciting because I saw you come in and start creating courses, and you've just had some great success. And I know that you've got some great strategies that you can probably share with the audience.

But as I start every podcast, let's begin at the beginning and just kind of hear your story. You know, what were you doing before you got into online courses? And then what's the story that got you to online business, creating courses, and then creating this business that you've made?

Jason Dion
Yeah, definitely. So I started teaching in the classroom, back in 2014, through about 2020. And I was teaching as a college professor at the community college level, the university level, and up at the graduate level. I was doing that as a part-time job, basically, on my nights and weekends. And I really loved teaching. And in my day job, I worked in cybersecurity. And the company I was working for, I actually got moved to a different position where I was traveling. And because I was traveling, I couldn't teach in the classroom anymore.

So for my last class, I ended up recording it. And I took those videos, and I threw them up on YouTube, just to see how it would do and see if I could start maybe making some passive income, using my knowledge, using YouTube, and doing things through the ad revenue. Which, as we all know, doesn't make you a ton of money. I think I got up to about, you know, $50 to $100 per month. And I was like, "Hey, this is pretty cool. But it's not gonna be enough to ever quit your job."

One of the people I worked with at my day job said, "Hey, have you heard of this thing called Udemy?" And I'm like, "Nope, never heard of it. What is it?" He goes, "Well, it's basically like YouTube, but for video courses. And you can take all your courses and add quizzes and PDFs and make courses and sell them there. And you can make some money." So I thought, "Huh, that sounds cool."

So I took that same course that I had on YouTube and put it up on Udemy, added some quizzes, add a PDF or two. And that started selling, and within the first month, I made a whole $58. Now, most people think, "Oh my god, $58, that's horrible." To me, I was like, "Wow, this is awesome." I did pretty much no work because I already had the course filmed. The course was not very good, to be honest, just from the quality of it, and it was already selling.

And by month two, it went up from $58 to $150. Month three went to about $250. And it kept growing from there. And after this first and second month, I thought, "Well, hey, if this can happen with this crappy course that I have, what would happen if I actually put together a good quality course?" And so I started filming real courses, and it just really took off from there. And I think that's how you and I met each other, you know, four or five years ago was over on Udemy. But since then. I've kind of expanded beyond Udemy as well.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. And we will definitely get into the expansion that you had afterward. But that's really cool to hear. It's very similar to the story that I had, you know? I put my first course up. I think my first month was like $24 or $27.

You know, it's just amazing that you can just take your knowledge, take the information that you have in your head, record it onto a video, and put it up there and that people will pay you for that.

Jason Dion
Oh, yeah. And the interesting thing, I started in this trying to make some passive income and share my knowledge. But really, it becomes about the lives that you change. Nowadays, the money doesn't get me nearly as excited as hearing stories from my students about their success. Because you know, whether you sell one course or five courses or 50 courses at some point, it's just one more number.

But when those numbers actually represent people and the lives you've changed, and the new skill they've learned, whether that's teaching them how to play guitar, or teaching them how to use Photoshop, or in my case, I teach them how to pass certification exams so they can get a promotion in their jobs or get a new job. And hearing the stories back from students, really to me, is what drives me to continue to make more at this point versus just, you know, another number.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, there's been days where I've just been feeling kind of down, and you get those self-doubts, you know? You think like, "Man, why am I doing this? Like am I just beating a dead horse?" but then those days I'll open up those reviews. and I'll go through them and just hear the stories that people tell about how taking your course changed their lives, it helped them get a better job. That's very powerful.

So this first course that you put up there, you said it was from the classroom. So what'd you do, you just set up a camera in a classroom and recorded your training, and then put that on the platform?

Jason Dion
You know, that would have been a smart way to do it. But no, I actually didn't even do it that well. I actually just took a mic, which was a Snowball mic, which is made by the same people that make the Blue Yeti, and I stuck it on the podium as I was teaching. The problem is when I teach, I tend to move around a lot.

So as I was walking from the left side of the room to the right side of the room, the volume would get higher and lower. And so, like I said, the audio quality on the course was horrible. I recorded basically my PowerPoint slides that my students were seeing. So it's just voiceover PowerPoint, and the audio quality was just horrendous.

But because it was so bad, and I saw that people still bought it. And the reviews were still, you know, four, four and a half, five stars. I started learning that it was really about the content and not about the quality. But if I can increase my quality, it would then sell even more and help a lot more people because they can actually hear what I was saying the whole time. So that was the thing that kind of made me change. And so obviously, over the years, I have improved my quality.

My second course I filmed just for Udemy. I filmed it with an actual video camera and a microphone. So you can actually hear what I say and see me while I'm teaching, and the quality improved. But really, it comes down to teaching stuff in an interesting way and presenting information that people can absorb quickly. And if you're good at doing that, and I was good at doing that after doing it in the classroom for you know, three, four or five years. And that can translate very well into video if you know what you're doing.

Jeremy Deighan
Right, definitely. So that second course, how did that do? Did that one just really take off, or was it slow growth in the beginning? Like when you put out that second course, what kind of trajectory did you see?

Jason Dion
Yeah, so the second course was, it wasn't, you know, a rocket ship going to the moon right off the bat. It did pretty well. It did about what the first course did. And so it was doing, you know, 50-100, and then it went to 200, then it went to 500. And it kind of stayed around 500 a month for the life of that course, which was about three years, and then we retired it.

That particular course wasn't designed towards a certification exam like my first one was. And for me, I found that having something that was tied to a certification exam, especially when nobody knew who I was, made it easier for people to find the content. Because people weren't going to Udemy looking for Jason Dion. Nowadays, people go to Udemy, and they search the term "Jason Dion" quite often because I have a reputation in this industry now.

But back then, they were searching for the Network+ exam, or ethical hacking, or something like that. And so when I did that second course, it was on the subject of ethical hacking, but there's a lot of competition on that topic as well. So it didn't take off nearly as fast.

My third topic, my third course that I did, was really the one that kind of tilted the edge for us because it was a very popular certification. There wasn't a lot of competition on Udemy. And so we became the number one for that topic within about two months. And by the time we retired that course, it was up to five figures per month on Udemy, which is really hard to hit because Udemy sells things for, as you know, $10, $15, $20 per course. So to sell $10,000 of a course, you have to sell about two or 3000 students per month of that course.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. And then, at this point, you realize, "Wow, there's something to this. This could be a legitimate business. This isn't just a hobby anymore."

Jason Dion
Exactly, yeah. And at that point is when it kind of started. I started getting help in my team. So it became beyond just Jason, the one-man-show who was filming, editing, quality assurance, student support, and everything else.

And so, after that third course is when my wife started helping me out. We decided that "Hey, this can actually be a really nice side business." And so if she does the video editing, and I do the filming, then we can get more courses out and help more people. So that's what we started doing.

So she became employee number one of the company, and then over time, we've added and increased our support staff, increased our number of video editors. And we now have a full team for our little training company. There are 11 of us right now. And we're spread out all over the world. And we work together to be able to help a lot of students because I can't do it alone. I'm just one guy.

Jeremy Deighan
Right? Now, if my wife is listening right now, I still need a video editor. So just keep that in mind. Cool, awesome. So you start growing this team, you start producing more courses on Udemy. In those earlier days, were you sending any traffic to Udemy? Or were you just solely relying on Udemy's search algorithms to send people to your courses?

Jason Dion
So for the first year, I only had Udemy, and so I didn't have a website of my own necessarily or anything like that. It was just when people said, "Where can I find your courses?" I would say, "Go over to Udemy."

Over the second year, from year two to three, I started my own website. And I did what a lot of Udemy instructors do, and I said, "I'm going to try to make my own school." And I went to Thinkific at the time, and I set up a membership. And I was like, "Oh, for $10 a month, you can get all my courses." And you know, some amount of the students wanted that. But I found that that was just really more effort than simply sending them over to Udemy. And so we just started saying, "You know what, forget that. We're just gonna keep sending them to Udemy."

You know, one of the benefits of when you send people to Udemy if you're a Udemy instructor is that it kind of kickstarts that algorithm a little bit more. Because now you're bringing in traffic that is highly converting. And if they see that people are converting on your landing pages at Udemy, they're going to run advertisements and bring more students to your landing pages because they're in the business of selling courses.

If they have a page that's selling and converting, they're gonna keep pushing more traffic to it. So it does help to push things towards Udemy and not be in direct competition with them, which is what I was essentially doing by having my own Thinkific site at the time.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, I've heard other instructors do this with much success, Phil Ebiner being one of those people who really talked about the importance of what you just said, sending that traffic to Udemy and letting their algorithm take hold of that.

And then, like you said, when they would have a sale or something, you know, really promoting that course. So that's definitely a great strategy. Now, were you doing any type of marketing at that time? Did you have traffic? Or did you have a YouTube channel or anything like that?

Jason Dion
So I have a YouTube channel because that's where I started out before I got on Udemy. Honestly, I haven't done much on that YouTube channel in four years. Ever since I started doing things on Udemy, I kind of abandoned my YouTube channel, for lack of a better term. But it still has, you know, 10,000 or 15,000 subscribers. So I don't know if that necessarily drove any traffic to Udemy necessarily.

I did collect my own mailing list, and I did start my own Facebook group. And so I have a Facebook group called Dion Training, Dion Training: IT and Certification Study Group. And we have students who join that, and one of the things we ask them when they join is if they would like us to send them information about courses or free materials to give us their email. And that gives us about one out of two or two out of three people will usually give us their email. And so, we've been able to build up a mailing list.

And then once a month or twice a month, we will mail those people discounted offers to our Udemy courses, which helps drive traffic in there as well. So for us, promotion is usually about 10 to 15% of our Udemy revenue for the month. But it does help kickstart a lot more sales through the Udemy algorithm.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice, yeah, that's a great strategy. And you're building a community, which you know, on YouTube is great to have content that people are searching for. But I always feel like you need to have the community aspect too, because then you can really, you know, talk with the students, find out what they need help with, and so forth.

So, in the beginning, how were you getting people into that group? Were you sending them, you know, from the Udemy course to your group? Or were you using any other methods to get people into that group?

Jason Dion
Exactly. That's exactly what we're doing. In each of our courses in the introduction video, we would welcome them to the course, we would tell them what they're going to learn in the course. And then, we would give them our four tips for success. And our third tip out of the four tips was to join our Facebook group at /DionTraining because if you're in there, we give out free content, we have other students there, and we all can work together to help you in your careers.

Because if you ask a question in the Udemy q&a, for instance, if it's just me answering it, it may take me two or three days to get to it. But if you post to my Facebook group, which right now has 25,000 plus people in it, you're gonna get an answer in just a few minutes. And so, by doing that, I was able to do a couple of things.

One is I was able to get them into my group, where I have a way to communicate with them. Two is I'm giving them better customer support because there's a lot of people who are there to help them. Because I know that you're on Udemy, and a lot of your audience probably is, and maybe some of them aren't. But there is this q&a feature inside of Udemy.

The problem is, nobody really answers q&a as a student. Most of the time, it's the instructor that's answering the q&a because it doesn't feel like a, it's not like a Facebook group, right? With a Facebook group, we're all on our phones all day long. You're sitting at the doctor's office, you're scrolling Facebook, and up pops that question from another student. You're like, "Oh, I know the answer to that. Let me jump in and answer that."

But you don't think to go to the Udemy q&a as a student to answer somebody else's question. So by doing that, we're able to help more students and have students help each other too, which helps take off some of the load from me, so I can build more courses and help more people in other topics.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, and that's one of the things about Udemy is because it's such a lower price, you tend to get a lot more students who will enroll, and with those students comes questions. And that was always something I kind of struggled with was just keeping up with all those Q and A's and questions.

So did you have anyone helping you out on that aspect with student engagement and just answering questions on the platform?

Jason Dion
So for the first couple of years, no. As I grew my team, I did hire a virtual assistant was our second hire. And now we have a whole team of folks. But even when I hired that virtual assistant, a lot of the things that she was able to answer, were kind of the low-hanging fruit. It was the easier questions because she's not a technical expert in the things I teach. So a lot of the technical questions still had to be answered by me.

Now, we actually just hired somebody in the last month, or so that is very technically adept. And so he's taking pretty much all the questions except for maybe five or 10% of them. The other benefit of the Udemy q&a is it does archive them over time. So what I did find was a lot of students asked the same questions as other people. They just never bothered to use the search feature. So my virtual assistant will be able to go in there and see the questions that I answered before, copy and paste that answer and then answer the new student who asked that same question.

So it got to the point where over time, less and less had to be answered by me. Because we got the same questions repeatedly, and if we had the same questions a lot, we would actually add new videos to the course as well to try to answer some of those questions because that helps keep your questions and answers down as well.

If you're getting a ton of questions and answers, it usually means you didn't do a good job covering the material in the course. And you need to go back and add some new videos to help answer those questions.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's a great point too. And even in the Facebook group, I imagine if you see that same question popping up, you know, over and over again, you can always redirect them back to the course. "Oh, we answered this in lecture three, or lecture four," and you could send them on their way.

Jason Dion
Yep, definitely. And the other thing we use with our Facebook group is over time, as you get, your group gets larger and bigger, even students who aren't students of your course will start joining the group because their friend was in your course and they told them about the group. Or they just found you on Facebook because you had a name, like, you know, "the photography master course group" or something like that. And it can actually be a way to outreach and market to new people as well by using a Facebook group.

And this is one of the reasons why I still use Facebook, even though a lot of folks don't like Facebook. I have a lot of students who say, "Hey, can't we go to a private Discord server, or can't we go to a private community that you run?"

But doing it on Facebook does have that outreach component as well. We can bring in new people very easily. And like it or not, Facebook is in everybody's pocket, and we all spend a lot of our time on Facebook scrolling, and our stuff just gets put in that feed, and it brings it back up to people's attention again.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, and just like you know, the algorithm when you're sending traffic to Udemy, it works in reverse with Facebook. If you're sending people from Udemy to Facebook, Facebook sees people enrolling, they see people engaging, commenting, and sharing your information in that group, it will start showing that group to other people. It'll say, "Oh, you like this group, you will probably like his group also."

Jason Dion
Exactly.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay. So let's transition now because I know you started to, you know, your business is growing. And you are, you know, of course, making more money, putting out more courses helping more people, your team is growing, and you started transitioning to your own site. If you could just take a moment and just tell us about what that has been like going from Udemy and then starting to get more stuff on your own website?

Jason Dion
Yes. So what happened with us is I was kind of forced out of the nest. It's like the mama eagle pushing the eagle out of the nest, right? And that really did happen with us. About half of my courses are certification courses focused on this thing called ITIL, which is IT Service Management. And then, we also have a lot of project management courses, which are called Prince2 and Prince2 Agile.

All of those are owned by a company, by an organization known as Axelos. And Axelos decided to make a new ruling that you couldn't sell training anymore unless you sold the exam voucher with it. The problem is on Udemy, you can only price your courses between $20 and $200. These exam vouchers sell at retail for $363 and up. So even if I wanted to sell it with the course, I couldn't on Udemy.

And so half of our courses on Udemy were focused on training these topics. And basically, they said, "Hey, three months from now, on November 1, 2019, this is the drop-dead date. You can no longer sell your courses on Udemy unless you're going to sell them with an exam voucher." And so that forced me to have to go and build my own site, so that I could sell a course and a voucher and sell these things at $350, $400 $600, etc. And so that kind of pushed us out of the nest and made us do that. So that's what really started our own site, and our popularity of our own site is those courses bringing people over.

The other thing we started doing is we said, "Well, if we're going to build our own site, and we're going to be doing these courses that can no longer be on Udemy, do we also want to sell courses that could be on Udemy? And do we want to compete with Udemy?" As I said, you know, I don't want to be in the business of ever competing with Udemy because they do really good stuff for us. We do a lot of volume in Udemy every month. They are a big moneymaker for our company.

It used to be when this whole started that Udemy was 95% of my sales on a monthly basis. Now they're down to about 40% of my sales. That said, that 95% only represents about half of what I'm currently making at 40%. So we've increased the volume in Udemy of what we're selling, yet, it's a much smaller percentage of our company.

What we ended up doing was we started making a way to use Udemy as a lead magnet for those more expensive courses. And then on our site, we're selling courses that can't be on Udemy, such as the ones with the vouchers, as well as ones that have what we call the premium or additional content that you don't get on Udemy. So on Udemy, for instance, I have a Security+ course. There's a video course it's 20 to 30 hours worth of content, and you'll learn everything you would in a Security+ textbook. Then on Udemy, we also have a practice exam course where people can go and study for their practice exams by taking six practice exams.

On our site, we take both of those Udemy courses and put them together into one course. And in addition to that, we give them access to a cloud-based environment so they can actually practice those skills in the real world. And we also give them a pass guarantee on their certification. So if they take our course on our site, and they fail their exam, we'll pay for their retake or their voucher, which to most students is worth it because that's a $300 to $350 exam voucher. For that product, we charge about $200 to $250. So it's about 20 times more expensive than what they would pay on Udemy. But they're also getting this past guarantee and a more premium-level experience over there.

So I think that's really the important thing when you're dealing with Udemy is, you don't want to be in competition with them. So if you're going to do your own stuff, you should have something that differentiates the two offers.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's great. That guarantee is a great tip that hopefully, other people out there can think of different ways that they could do something different. Because you can always do like a, you know, 30-day money-back guarantee. But to have something like that, where you are guaranteed the success of that certification, I think, is really impactful.

And I do want to talk about the differentiation of your own stuff versus Udemy. But just going back to like when that first happened when you had to take off half of your courses, and now you realize, "Oh, my gosh, I'm about to lose all this revenue." What was that like? What were you feeling at that point?

Jason Dion
Yeah, it was definitely scary for us. Because the courses we had to take off, especially the ITIL course, that was our number one seller. At the time when that came off, we were doing between $10,000 and $15,000 a month with one course. And we had seven of these courses that had to come off. That one was doing, you know, more than the other six combined. But that course alone was just a huge seller for us. And it was a huge revenue generator. And we were just really worried when we went to our site that people wouldn't find us and there wouldn't be a way to bring that audience with us because so much of that audience was tied to Udemy and their algorithm and their search.

So what we ended up doing was we worked with Axelos, the company, and got permission. We convinced them that "Hey, Udemy is really this big marketplace, there are 50 million users, you want to be a part of this, you don't want to not have anything on there. So why don't you let us make a course that we can use as a way to market to students, and let them know that we exist and bring them over to our site to buy the full course where they will get with the voucher." And we were able to convince them after three months of negotiation to let us do that. And that course still exists today on Udemy.

So students go on Udemy, and they take this Introduction to Service Management course. As they go through this 90-minute course, they learn a little bit about the content of the exam and what the certification is, and why it's important to their career. And then we say, "Hey if you want to get certified, come over to diontraining.com, and we have the full course with the exam voucher with the pass guarantee. And we'll make sure you get certified." And doing that has made it essentially, it's a lead magnet on Udemy. But I get paid for that lead magnet because students buy that course. And then they come over to my site.

Originally, we offer that course for free on Udemy. The problem is we found that people who buy things for free don't value it. And so we had a very, very low conversion when I was giving away for free. And a lot of people complaining that it wasn't the quote "full course" where they can get certified. And so once we started charging, which we only charge, you know, $20 for this course, all of a sudden, the conversions went way up.

So it was kind of a lesson to me in that as you're building out your funnels and your customer journeys, a lot of times people say, you know, "Give free, give free, give free." A lot of times, free doesn't convert. And that's what we ended up finding is that when we gave it away for free, it just didn't convert for us.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's totally awesome. I've thought about that before. I've even had talks with other people on the same concepts that if you have this bigger course, you can offer a smaller section of it or, like you said, an introduction, and then push people over to that bigger course. And then, like you said, creating some differentiation, where you are adding more value on your own website.

Like you said, you have a place where people can practice as you have a better guarantee they have more access to the information. So yeah, I think that's really cool. So you put these courses up on your own website. And then, did you start off at a little higher ticket price for the course? Or did you try matching Udemy's pricing in the beginning?

Jason Dion
So when we did our own site, we did not match Udemy's pricing because what drove us there was those exam vouchers, and I have a cost on each of those exam vouchers. So for every course I sold, I had to pay for this exam voucher back to Axelos. And that's, you know, several hundred dollars. So when we sold these courses, they were at the $350 to $600 range because of the embedded exam voucher inside of it.

Jeremy Deighan
Okay, cool. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So you have this higher price, and then was all the traffic coming from Udemy, or at this point are you doing other ways to get people into your own website?

Jason Dion
Yeah. So really, the majority of traffic, I would say, was coming from Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. This same introduction course was also on LinkedIn Learning, which is another big audience pool for business people. And so, from those two sites, it brings them back to our site. They're both pointing back at us. So that's probably our main revenue generator and traffic.

I have never been very good with ads. I've tried doing some ads. When I started playing with ads, especially Facebook and even retargeting ads, I was seeing anywhere from $50 to $150 cost per acquisition. Whereas, you know, when I put this course up on Udemy, people were paying me to take it and then buying my course.

So, for me, that's just been a much better way. I think Russell Brunson talks about this as well. If you can have some kind of an offer if you're driving ads that liquidates the ad costs and then do the upsell, that makes a lot more sense. And I've just never been really good with funnels and getting all that stuff dialed-in right.

Jeremy Deighan
So let's talk about LinkedIn for a quick second because this is actually an area of expertise that I lack, and I haven't used LinkedIn a whole lot other than putting where I worked when I was a teenager 20 years ago.

So if you could just, you know, how does LinkedIn work for you? How are you utilizing that platform, and if you could just give us some information about LinkedIn Learning? Because I've heard about it, but I don't know much about it?

Jason Dion
Yeah, so LinkedIn Learning is specifically what I'm using. And LinkedIn Learning is essentially like Udemy for Business. There's individual and corporate memberships that people can have. And I think on the individual level, it's something like $20 or $30 per month. And people buy these memberships and have access to the LinkedIn Learning catalog.

In the LinkedIn Learning catalog, it is mostly content that they have built themselves and generate themselves. I started working with them about three years ago, and I did about 8-10 courses with them, where I actually flew to their studios and filmed the courses. And then they do all the editing, they do all the captioning, they do all the production once you finish filming it. So it's a really nice, easy experience. And we did several courses with them for that.

In addition to that, they do licensing of existing content if it meets a high enough quality in an area that they need. In the case of ITIL, they needed that content. So they had licensed our course. And then when this change happened going from where they were allowed to sell it, without the voucher to requiring them to then sell it with a voucher, they had to take out our full ITIL course from their catalog.

But because we were able to create this, what we call the marketing course, the Introduction to Service Management course, we were able to replace it with that to give them at least some content for ITIL. And again, that is a large audience of people that now gets driven back to our site.

Jeremy Deighan
And is this working the same way as the Udemy course where they're taking the introduction or a smaller segment of the course, and then you're able to promote your bigger course from LinkedIn Learning?

Jason Dion
Exactly, it's actually the exact same course that's both on LinkedIn and on Udemy. It is the exact same Introduction to Service Management course. And throughout the course, you know, I don't sell outright selling to the students. But I do use examples. This is a course on IT Service Management.

So we talk about customer journeys, we talk about the way you service a customer. And when I'm teaching, the best way for me to relate that is using the example of my company, which happens to be selling courses. And so all the examples throughout this, you know, hour and a half course is, you know, if when a student buys a course, here's all the things that trigger often happen in the automations. And we talked about that.

And so it's kind of subliminally telling them, "Oh, if you want to get the whole course, you can buy it from us and be one of the students that's going through this automation." So we've kind of, I think, smartly, pushed it through the content as well. So you couldn't really take out the marketing from the content. It's all together in one.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's totally awesome. And one thing I liked about LinkedIn, and like I said, I haven't used it too much myself. But you know, Facebook is more of a social platform, in my eyes, where you know, it's not just business and groups, but you also have people posting about their dogs and the relationships and all these extra things going on.

Where LinkedIn seems like more of a platform where people are a little more serious. They're business-minded people, corporations, you know, managers and things like that. And so it seems like if you're in a niche that would benefit from that, that would be a great platform to look at.

Jason Dion
Definitely, I think there are different platforms, depending on what you teach, right? So if you're teaching something like crocheting or knitting, then probably something like Pinterest would be really great for you because it's a very creative platform. If you do something that's like photography, then maybe something like Instagram works really well. If you're doing something that's more conversational or more about, you know, just everyday life, then I think that Facebook is a really good area.

Facebook kind of crosses all domains because it's just so large. It's in everybody's hands. LinkedIn is definitely much more of a business focus and much more professional focus. The other thing I find with LinkedIn is it's a lot more transactional. Most people only go to LinkedIn when they're looking for a job or trying to advertise you know what they do so that hopefully their next employer will see them.

Whereas I think on Facebook, it's just kind of where people live their lives. And that's one of the reasons why I personally like Facebook better, just because it's just everywhere, whereas LinkedIn is a lot more, I think people go there with a reason. It's usually something about the job market.

And so I'm doing a new course now that's actually a high ticket item that we're doing. And it's about getting a job in cybersecurity. We're looking very heavily at doing ads and things like that in LinkedIn because that's really where our target audience for that course would be. Whereas for our certification courses, we find people on Reddit, we find people on Facebook, we find people on LinkedIn, those are all great places for our type the topic area.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, and their ad platform seems really cool, too. I was working with a client, and he was running conversational ads on LinkedIn. And these ads, it basically looks like you're doing talking to someone. I guess it's kind of like a messenger bot and Facebook where it's an advertisement people, you know, can see it, but it looks like a message, it looks like a conversation that you're having with this person. And based on what they say and what they do, it'll keep the conversation going and then direct them into that place. Have you worked with those at all?

Jason Dion
I haven't yet. We haven't started exploring the advertising side of it. We're still building up this product line for a June launch that we're doing. And for our first launch, we're gonna be using my mailing list because I have 35,000 or 40,000 people already that are on my mailing list.

And so once we start exhausting my mailing list, and we're gonna expand into ads. But LinkedIn is one place that we're definitely interested in, because of that professional mindset there.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah. And, you know, like you said, with LinkedIn being kind of targeted and transactional. It reminds me of Pinterest, too. Because Pinterest people see as just an image sharing platform, but it's more than that because it's really people are looking for specific information generally. And the pins that you have on there can link out to like a blog post or YouTube video, versus maybe Instagram where it is just kind of more photos.

Jason Dion
Yeah, I definitely agree with that. Every platform has its benefits. And so, depending on what your topic is and what you teach, you can then figure out what is the best platform for you. I have a buddy who teaches game development, programming games, and so his audience lives on Discord. So that's where he does all his course support. That's where he does all of his outreaches through Discord.

But it's not as easy as finding people on you know, shared interest as you would on Facebook, or LinkedIn or some of these other sites. So it is you got to think through as you start thinking about what your customer journey is, and you want to go where your customer is because that's where you're gonna find them.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. Okay, cool. So let's talk about scaling and growing your business. Because I know that you have been able to get to a point where you've been able to invest back into the business, like you said, you have, you know, 11-12 different team members now working for you. So let's talk a moment about that.

Someone who isn't maybe newer, but someone who's been doing this for a while, and they're meeting that inflection point where they really have to start handing off some of these everyday tasks.

Can you give some tips or some ideas of the best way to do that? Because I know this can be, it's a whole job in itself, trying to find someone to replicate what you do. So what is your method for finding good people, finding VA's, you know, finding people who can take off some of this workload that you're doing?

Jason Dion
Do some introspection on yourself and say, "What are the things that I need to offload?" You're not going to be able to offload 100% of your business. You can eventually, but eventually, at that point, you're going to basically replace yourself completely, and you would just be out of the business. So what I found was, and I started, I said, "Okay, what are the things that only I can do that I should definitely keep on?"

And some of those things were dealing with the revenue, answering student questions, filming the courses, writing the courses. What things do I not have to do? Well, I don't have to edit it because I can just hire somebody on Upwork. And somebody you know, halfway around the world, can do that work for me, and I can pay them by the hour. And I don't have to worry about it, I can send them my raw video footage, and it comes back fully edited, ready to upload.

When I go and upload a course on Udemy, or on Thinkific, or any of the other sites out there, it takes a long time just to upload all those videos. Why should I waste my three or four hours that I could be filming a new course when I can pay somebody else to do that? And so you think about what are the tasks you want them to do. I think the most important thing is to realize that when you hire a VA, you're very rarely going to be able to find somebody who can do everything for you. There are some special unicorns out there, I have one on my staff, and she is amazing. But I will tell you that it is really hard to find those people.

Like I said, I have 11 people on my staff right now. And I have one person who I could probably throw her at any job I need, and she'll get it done. Most of the people are more specialized in certain areas. When you start looking for people, I think the first thing is you want to figure out what part of the world you want to target because this is a global economy now. It doesn't have to be that you're sitting in Florida, and you have to hire somebody who lives in your city.

My first VA was from the Philippines. She's still with me. She's been with me for over three years now. And she is just awesome and amazing. The things we outsourced to her originally, were things like answering student questions, answering student reviews on Udemy, we answer every single review with a comment, we read them and comment on them. She would go and make my slides for me after I have a script. She would take that and turn it into what people see on the screen.

Over time, I actually taught her how to do video editing, and she started doing video editing for me. She managed my Facebook groups, and she lets people into the Facebook groups and takes their email, and puts it in ActiveCampaign. All those types of back-end office stuff was stuff that she handles for us. And so I didn't have to. And then, as we kept growing, it got to be too much for her, and I filled up her 40 hours. So then we hired another person to help her out that became her assistant, essentially. And then that got too much. And so we added some more people. And we kept doing that as we had more roles.

As I started filming more, one of the things I hired was actually a scriptwriter. So I have a guy who works with me, his name is Matt, and he's awesome. And he actually wrote one of my courses completely, and he handed me the scripts, and I put them in my teleprompter, and I taught from the scripts that he wrote, changing very little. And then that video went to the video editor, and they edited the videos and published it.

And so, my whole involvement in that particular course was the 10 hours it took me to read through those scripts and film it. Everything else was done by, you know, Matt and Sarah and the rest of the team. And that's, you know, once you get your team and get your workflows done, you can do that kind of thing. But it's not where you start. I think you start out by picking one area that you want to outsource and get that off your plate first.

And for me, I did video editing, and that was originally to my wife, and then out to an outsourcer. And that was because it was the thing that I could easily show you how to do it. But it took a lot of my time. So if I showed you how to do it once I can then pass it off, and I didn't have to edit videos anymore because every hour of video in a finished course was taking me 10 hours of editing the computer. And so being able to give that to somebody else really freed up a lot of my time.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, definitely. That's awesome. And then what does your process look like when you're hiring someone out? Do you have like an SOP? Or do you have a set of rules that you give to someone when you're hiring them out for the first time?

This is something that I've learned along the way that the more detailed you can be, the better of a candidate you're going to get. But what does your process look like?

Jason Dion
Yeah, so one of the people that I really respect in the area of hiring VA's is Chris Ducker. If somebody is looking at hiring a VA in the Philippines or anywhere else, I would highly recommend checking out Chris Ducker's book, which is called Virtual Freedom. Excellent, excellent book. It'll walk you through the process from beginning to the end.

But essentially, when you put out your post, you want to be very specific in what you're looking for. You want to have in your mind what is your grading criteria? Just as if you were hiring anybody for any other job. If you're hiring somebody, and they're gonna be interacting with customers, one of our big things is they have to speak good English. It doesn't have to be perfect English, but it has to be good English because they're gonna be emailing back and forth with customers or students when they're dealing with things.

We now have a large population of our courses that are Spanish. So half my team is bilingual in English and Spanish because we're starting to put out Spanish language courses. And so we need to have Spanish language support for that. When we go and hire somebody, the first thing we do is we take all the resumes we got in, and we look through some basic things.

One of the things we always hide inside our job postings is we'll ask them to film a video of less than a minute and send it to us as part of that application. And usually, we'll ask them to film a video on a specific topic, like one of them we did was what is your favorite movie and why? It's a stupid question. It has nothing to do with your job. But it tells me, did you actually read my job posting and follow my directions?

And two, when you're talking, I can then evaluate how good your English is because we have a weekly staff meeting. And I give out a lot of my instructions over video and over me speaking English. And so I'll often record a Loom and send that over to one of my VA's and say, "Here's what I need to work on." And if they don't understand English from an audio perspective or be able to speak and communicate back in English, they're not gonna be a good fit with our particular team.

So those are some of the little things that we do to help filter out. Because when you're putting out an application, one of your biggest things is trying to narrow down the pile. The first job that I was hiring for, we had 100 applications. I narrowed it down to five people. We then did Skype interviews with those five people, picked our favorites, and then made job offers from there. As we went through that whittling down process and hiring is just such a challenging thing. And then there's so much more to it.

Once you hire somebody, then you have to worry about how are you going to get them paid? Because that's something. How are you getting money from one side of the world to the other side of the world? Are you going to use things like Remitly, or PayPal or TransferWise, or whatever it happens to be? Are you going to cover healthcare for them and take care of those people?

One of the big things that I think is important when you start hiring somebody is you need to be able to afford that person. I've heard horror stories from VA's where they started working for somebody, and they worked for a month, and they never got paid because the person went out of business because they hired too early. I think you need to have revenue coming in before you start hiring somebody else because you are now responsible for that person. And they're waiting for you to pay them to be able to feed their family. I take that responsibility very, very seriously in our company.

One of the things that we do is we have a savings account in our business with one year of salary for each of our employees, which I know sounds really crazy, but I am very risk-averse. And the reason I do that is because if stuff starts going down, and our business starts going downwards, because Udemy makes an algorithm change, for instance, or people no longer care about the course I'm teaching, that gives me a year to start fixing it before I have to start laying people off. Because in my mind when you hire somebody, you now have responsibility for them. They're working for you, and they're putting their faith in you. You need to do the same and respect that in return.

Jeremy Deighan
Yeah, that's definitely awesome, man. I'm glad to hear that. And you've got to make sure that you have enough money for that 13th month, right?

Jason Dion
Exactly. Yeah. If you're doing the Philippines 13th month is a thing, right? And that's one of the things that we do. We do the 13th month. We're not required to because we're not a Filipino company.

And for those in your podcast, you don't know what the 13th month is. In the Philippines, if you're a Philippine company, there's a thing called the 13th month, which is December 1. They get one extra month of pay. And it basically pays for Christmas for them to be able to buy gifts for their families.

As an American, we're not required to pay 13th month, but we still do. That's one of the benefits we give to our Filipino employees. One of the things we do for all of our employees is that every quarter, we look at how profitable we were, and based on how profitable we were, they all get a piece of that profit. And we do profit sharing with all of our employees.

And so that's one of the things we try to do to help the team be part of the team because we're all working towards the same thing and they're also working to help increase our profitability, which means we work harder, we cut costs, we sell more stuff. And that means they get a bigger paycheck as well. And so we all get to benefit from that.

Jeremy Deighan
Nice man, very good, very good to hear that. I think you're doing some great work, and you're changing people's lives, not through your courses, but through the people that you've hired. I mean, if you can grow and scale a company, I mean, think about those 11 people's lives who have been able to have stability and a company that's looking out for them and providing, you know, support and money for them to feed their families. I think that's tremendous.

We're gonna wrap up here, but I wanted to ask you the million-dollar question. This would be a good question for you. Knowing what you know now, and thinking about the beginner who's listening to this podcast, who hasn't created a course yet, is thinking about creating a course. This is a question I get all the time. Should they go to Udemy, or should they start on their own platform? What are your thoughts on that?

Jason Dion
That is an excellent question. And, you know, Udemy has been great to me. And in my topic area, Udemy is an awesome thing. If you're going to be in an area where there is a lot of need on Udemy, I think it's a great place to start. Now, on the other hand, if you have something like I don't know, underwater basket weaving, and there are only 10 people in the whole world who are going to want to buy that, you don't want to be on Udemy. Because even if you sold it to all 10 of those people, you're only going to make $100, right? Because it's $5 to $10 per student.

So if you have something that is going to be low volume, that's when you need to charge more for it because it is a unique topic, it's very niched down, that's when I think you need to get into the funnels and the marketing and selling $997 courses instead of $9.97 cent courses.

If you have something that's gonna be a very, very wide range. For instance, the guy who sells Java courses or Python courses, which are programming courses. They make about $100,000 a month on Udemy with one course because there's just such a large audience, and Udemy has 15 million-plus people there. So I think that's one of the first things you have to think about is, how big is the audience?

The second thing you need to figure out is how many students do you want to support? If you want to be doing high volume, lots of students, lots of questions at a low price, that's going to be Udemy. Now, if you want to be able to do high touch and give really in detail one on one. For instance, if I was gonna do an online course program, and I only wanted to let 20 people in per month, that would not be something I want to do on Udemy, I want to do that where I'm doing group coaching, and I'm gonna do it on my own site through Thinkific, or Teachable or one of those types of things.

So Udemy has a place, but off Udemy also has a place. And one of the challenging things right now is Udemy is such a large market. And there are so many instructors and so many people who got there first and early that it's really hard to take out the incumbent. If I tried to do an AWS course right now, I'm a pretty popular instructor, I still wouldn't be able to get to be number one because there are guys like Stefan who's there, and people like A Cloud Guru who've been there for 5, 6, 7 years, and they sell lots and lots more courses than I ever could. So, in that case, I may want to do that on my own site and try to do marketing where I can take a bigger chunk of it and help people more in a direct manner.

Jeremy Deighan
Excellent answer. Thank you so much for that. So, where do you see your company going forward from here?

Jason Dion
Yeah, so we are continuing to expand. Right now, we are actually moving into the Spanish language market. We are based out of Puerto Rico. So when we moved to Puerto Rico, I hired a lot of local residents, Puerto Ricans, who work for our company. And so we now have my courses being translated into Spanish, both video and practice exam content. And we have half our company now in Puerto Rico, who does Spanish language learning.

The next thing, if that does as well as we think it's going to, is we're going to be hiring folks in Brazil to start doing the same thing for Portuguese because the certification companies we work with have been expanding heavily into that market, and there's not a lot of training content in that market yet. So they've been asking us to expand into that as well. So that's kind of the next, you know, three to five years for us is trying to just, you know, continue to dominate in English and then add that into Spanish and Portuguese as well.

Jeremy Deighan
Awesome, man. Well, I hope it happens for you. And it's just been a pleasure having you on the podcast today and getting to pick your brain about all these questions. And hopefully, that gives some insight to the other people who are listening today.

And if people wanted to find out more about you and your company and what you're teaching, where can they do that at?

Jason Dion
The easiest place to find us is diontraining.com. If you go there, you'll see the offers that we have on our site, we have two tabs, and one is called Our Courses, that's the ones we sell on our own site. One is called Udemy Courses, and that's the ones we sell on Udemy.

And it is an interesting exercise for those of you who are online course creators to see how we've set up, where we're not in competition with Udemy and the difference that we have in our offerings, because it may be something, a model that you can emulate for yourself.

Jeremy Deighan
Perfect. Well, we'll definitely link that up in the show notes along with the books and all the other resources that you mentioned today. Jason, thank you so much for taking your time today to come on the show and speak with me and speak to everyone else out there. I just hope you the most success in the future.

Jason Dion
Thanks a lot, Jeremy.

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