I decided to do this technology expense report for a few reasons. First of all, I was inspired by the financial reports that I saw on a few sites – not because of the income portion, but because of the expenses. I often go back to their earliest reports so I can see what software they began with and how they changed as their business grew. So i wanted to create the same resource for people who are interested in launching their own online course. If you are new, you might be surprised by the expenses that go along with creating and maintaining your own online course, and if you are not new, you might be interested in seeing how someone else is doing it.
- Designer: $559 (one time cost)
- Fizzle: $35 (recurring)
- Memberful: $25 (recurring)
- FlyWheel Web Hosting: $15 (recurring)
Total Expenses: $634
Coming from the world of academic and business course design, I didn’t have to worry about any of these costs. As I take on clients in the freelancing side of my business, they already have have their own way of processing client payments and have their own web hosting or learning management system.
But starting out as an entrepreneur who will be launching my very own online courses, these things are now a primary concern. I want to make sure that my site looks professional enough to be trustworthy and that the payment processing is seamless and secure. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the expenses that I have listed above as well as other technology and services that I use free of charge.
FREE: It’s a good idea to go ahead and setup Google Analytics now, so you can start tracking site visits. Later on you will need to setup conversions, and more complicated analytics but for now, it’s good to just get the foundation in place.
Graphic Design $500
I wanted to start out with a good professional appearance so I invested $500 in a logo. This was worthwhile for me because I have been freelancing for 2 years and wanted to change my visual brand for this side of my business, however, for entrepreneurs who are just starting out, this part might not be as important. However, it did give me a level of confidence that is hard to come by otherwise.
Web Design $59
I came across a nice, professional looking theme at Theme Forest called Jupiter, and decided to go with it. I’ve been very happy with this theme especially the support that comes with it. However, if you are not someone who is comfortable fiddling with wordpress plugins, you might want to pass, or at least shell out another $50 to have the envato team set it up for you. Another option is to go with Squarespace (or Wix) and choose a nice free template.
Stock Photos $0
I have been taking advantage of the 10 free Adobe stock images that come with my Adobe Creative Cloud account (my husband and I share the CC account) to use as featured images in my blog posts as well as the main image on my homepage. What am I gonna do when my 10 free images run out?! I will probably go with the monthly package that Adobe has for 10 images/month for $29.99.
FREE: I have built multiple sites with WordPress, and so I decided to stick with what I knew instead of reinventing the wheel. Besides the fact that I am very comfortable messing with the backend stuff, WordPress is free and it’s a very powerful system! And there is a TON of support available for how to use it. There are also free plugins for just about everything I could possibly need in the future for my course – student discussions, ability for students to submit documents and files, and the ability to conduct live webinars.
$15/month: I started with Bluehost, which is the hosting company I’ve been using for my wordpress sites, my personal site, and my husband’s art site for the past 5 years. But I decided to move my wordpress site over to FlyWheel because I wanted to have managed hosting instead of shared hosting – which oftentimes makes a site sluggish. All the research I did indicated that this would provide the best user experience on my site. I will have more about this in my September Expense Report after I have had a full month of using it.
2.9% + 30¢ transaction fee: I already use Stripe for my freelancing business as a way to send invoices electronically and have people pay with their credit cards. I did not want to move to something new at this point. Even though there are transaction fees, I did not incur any costs this month (because i don’t have anything for sale yet).
FREE: I was already quite familiar with MailChimp and thought it was easy to use. I knew that the most important thing for me to do during the pre-launch phase was to build my mailing list so that I could get to know my audience and ask for their feedback as I go about building my online course. I had a good idea of what their needs were, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions.
$25/month plus 2% transaction fee: I went about looking for a way to integrate all of these elements, and came across Memberful. Memberful seemed to be a good way to integrate my mailing list with my WordPress user list pretty seamlessly. In addition, it allowed my audience to sign up for free and be added into my system, and would make it easy for them to buy products in the future.
I also liked the simplicity of it all, and they take user security very seriously. At no time would users’ credit cards be stored on my site. They also make clear that if I ever decided to move to another system, I own all the data. I could easily export my users with all their relevant information without having to start from scratch. I am a little nervous about this transaction fee that they charge, but again, I will be able to switch to another system pretty easily if I have to break up with them in the future!
$35/month: I came across Fizzle, a great online community that offers hundreds of training courses for entrepreneurs. It goes from developing a business idea all the way to growing and scaling your business. This site has proven to be extremely helpful so far.
FREE: Undecided – I am currently in the phase of trying various methods of managing this project which has a ton of moving pieces. I have used Trello in the past to manage course design projects, but I’ve decided to try Asana this time around. So far, neither of them seem to the perfect fit, so I’m still looking… I might just go old school and use a paper planner!
FREE: Undecided – I have been using GoogleDocs and Day One to jot down ideas that I have for blog posts as well as notebooks, index cards, and sticky notes. Yeah, I really need to get more organized with this. At some point, I will probably need a more formal system for scheduling my blog posts and my YouTube videos. Do any of you have a system that works? I’d love to hear about it.
FREE: Slack/Email/Skype – I have found an awesome MasterMind group via Fizzle, that I use to brainstorm and get feedback. I have also taken on a few clients and communicate with them exclusively on Slack. I find that Slack, email, and Skype tend to be the ways that my audience prefers to communicate.As I meet with clients remotely and conduct customer interviews, I record the Skype meeting using a free program called Callnote so I can go back and make note of the important things that I might have missed during the conversation. I will probably need to upgrade to another system though because Callnote has been hella buggy.
FREE: Blankcanvas.io – I came across this great tool for visualizing ideas using digital sticky notes. It works quite well with The Course Canvas, which is the first tool that I created for effective course creation. I wonder if my audience would be interested in a subscription to this app? As of now, I am using the free trial, but I am staying open to the idea of offering this as a paid subscription in the future.