Today’s guest has helped create a huge number of courses and has 9 years of experience in the online course world. It was a pleasure to speak with Randi Buckley on all sorts of interesting topics from refunds and customer satisfaction to outsourcing and more

Just go for it. You might have to test out what works for you… take what works and see what sticks.

-Randi Buckley

Randi’s passionate about what she does and had plenty of great advice for aspiring course creators. I hope you enjoy listening in on this conversation with a seasoned veteran of online courses!

In This Episode, We Talked About:

  • (2:45) Randi’s online course offerings and how she got started
  • (4:51) The timeline for creating and marketing her first course
  • (7:03) Where Randi hosts her courses
  • (7:46) Her take on course availability and scarcity
  • (9:09) The secret behind where most of her traffic comes from
  • (10:45) Her thought process on using her name as branding
  • (12:09) How Randi approaches outsourcing
  • (13:49) What she would do differently if she were starting over today
  • (16:59) Her advice for beginner course creators
  • (18:54) Randi’s unique take on refunds and maintaining customer happiness
  • (22:58) An example of a recent refund I gave and Randi’s thoughts on how she would have handled it

That wraps it up for today, but don’t forget to subscribe so you can keep up with all the latest episodes. Until next time!

Jacques Hopkins: Regular people are taking their knowledge and content, packaging it up in an online course and they're making a living doing, but not everyone is successful with online courses. There's a right way and there's a wrong way, and I'm here to help course creators actually succeed with online courses. Hi, I'm John Hopkins, and this is the online course show.

Hey everyone, jock Hopkins here, and welcome to episode 91 of the online course show. I'm coming at you today with another interview of a successful course creator. And today that is Randy Buckley of Randy who has been creating courses for nine years and has created at least 45 courses. So she definitely knows what she's talking about.

But before we get into that, I want to tell you about my program for helping beginners succeed with online courses. It's called the online course accelerator. It's an online course, but there's also a Facebook community, and you get to ask questions to me and get feedback from me anytime as you're going through the process.

So this program is designed to take you from a complete beginner to actually making your first course sale within eight weeks. Now you get lifetime access to the program, so you can always go back and review and you'll also get any. Updates I made to the program. So for example, I just released version two and everyone who had signed up for version one got access to the newest version.

So this program will take you step by step through the things you need to know and to do to be successful with online courses. And I'm so proud of this program that I'm offering a free seven day trial because I want you to actually see it and know exactly what you're getting into before you commit and send me your hard earned money.

A lot of people have been signing up for the free trial lately since I've been mentioning it on the podcast, and I'm pleased to see them. Most people are sticking around after the trial, so if you're ready for some handholding as you try to make a successful course, check out the online course accelerator at the online course,

So like I mentioned, today's episode is focused on my conversation with Randy Buckley, who is a seasoned veteran with online courses today. She has courses that she presents live. She has courses that are prerecorded and can be purchased any time, but either way you can tell she just has a real passion for this stuff and anyone anywhere on the online course journey is going to enjoy listening to this one. So with that, let's go ahead and jump into the full conversation with Randy right now.

Randi Buckley: Hey.

Jacques Hopkins: Randy, welcome to the online course show.

Randi Buckley: Thanks for having me, shack.

Jacques Hopkins: Appreciate it. It's my pleasure. So let's talk online courses today. A friend of mine introduced me to your site and it's very impressive. Tell us about your online course or courses that you have out. Sure.

Randi Buckley: I actually realized in thinking about talking to you today, I've actually done about 45 courses. Somewhat stuck more than others. But the ones I do mostly now, one is called healthy boundaries for kind people. And I also have maybe baby, which is from women who are ambivalent about motherhood. But here's the whisper, maybe in their hearts, and then one called the Viking woman workshop.

Jacques Hopkins: So when you say you name those three or those kinds of your most popular, the ones you liked the most out of the 45.

Randi Buckley: Yes. Some of those were for very small groups of people at different times, so they're not for public consumption than the other one.
Jacques Hopkins: So how did, how did you, I mean, this is kind of a, a big question here, but like, how did you get started? Like, when did you first say, I need to make an online course?

Randi Buckley: So I had been doing coaching now, when we didn't call it coaching for about 30 years. And then, when we've called the coaching for about the last 15, but for the last 30 years, I've also been involved with the Concordia language villages, which we have 16 different languages where kids come through a total immersion program. And I learned experiential education right away at a pretty young age in learned not just how to teach foreign language, but global citizenship and really how to do a lot of reflection and who you want to be in the world.

So I took the coaching skills and I married that with what I learned about experiential education and I want to reach more people. So the course seemed like a really good way to, because my clientele is all over the world to, Have it be a portal if it live or life program, but then also for people who didn't want to work one on one with me, but wanted to do the work such as with maybe baby. So it provided, it has provided an excellent solution.

Jacques Hopkins: So really a good transition as somebody who started out as, as doing coaching and into just being able to impact more people with the, with an online course.

Randi Buckley: Yes, absolutely.

Jacques Hopkins: So when was the, what timeframe are we talking about when you maybe launched your first online course?

Randi Buckley: The first one is probably about nine years ago. Eight or nine years ago, maybe, maybe.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay. And from the, obviously you knew what you were talking about from the content perspective, but did you know what you were doing at the time nine years ago as far as how to create and marketed online course.

Randi Buckley: I had a pretty good idea, actually, not the marketing part, that was, that was not fun at all. But in terms of the creation I did. So that was, I mean, there were certainly hit or miss, but I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do to make the course, you know, the online course similar, different, not better or worse, but. Similar to interacting with me is if some people were working with me one on one.

Jacques Hopkins: You know, when I, when I was getting started more like six or seven years ago, even just having like a password protected membership site threw me off back then. You know how, how did you know how to just create the technical side of a course.

Randi Buckley: The technical aspect was terrifying. I, at the time, was running off a WordPress site and I met somebody who you have to install plugins that I didn't, which made it a function course. So we had a little bit of a community. It was much more like a message board and almost list serve S at the time, but so I had to hire that out after. Probably trying to do it for weeks and weeks and crying. Yeah. The coaching part was where my genius list, it wasn't in the technical aspects by any.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay, okay. That that makes more sense because not a lot. A lot of times, not, not a lot of times when somebody is just starting out with the course, do they really understand the course creation process? Obviously they know. What their, what their topic is. You know, I knew how to teach somebody piano, but all the other stuff I had to go learn. It sounds like it was so similar for you, but that was nine years ago. So you're probably the course creation expert at this point.

Randi Buckley: I don't know about expert. I mean, I have understood the pedagogy of learning and in, in all the aspects of what needs to have to create meaning to content, which is also very important. But, I have come a long way in this for people who understand technology.

Jacques Hopkins: So where, where do you host your courses today?

Randi Buckley: Right now I'm on wazoo. I've used several different formats being teachable, and I do some on Ruzuku and some on teachable. Actually, I should say I'm in two places right now.

Jacques Hopkins: It's spelled that for me. Are.

Randi Buckley: Are you Z U K U.

Jacques Hopkins: And is that a like a WordPress plugin or is that its own platform?

Randi Buckley: It's its own platform.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay. So what's drawn you to resu?

Randi Buckley: I've kind of gotten in on the ground floor when they first started. When they were really just getting up and running, and I have found the customer service to be excellent. Anytime I needed something, they would almost go and create it. So they've been very responsive in that sense. And that's been really helpful when you're navigating.

Jacques Hopkins: This. So I'm curious, your take on. Running a successful online course, and let me, let me add to that in that I go to your page on, let's say, healthy boundaries for kind people one of your courses, right?

It says next, next cohort begins September, 2019 right? Right. And I've certainly heard of launches. Some people are doing evergreen launches, but September, 2019 is a long, a pretty good ways away before it actually starts. Right? What's your thoughts behind waiting so long to, to actually allow people to. I'm assuming even by your course.

Randi Buckley: Right. So that, that particular course I've run live, and do a lot of. Open office hours so people can come in, ask questions, and do a lot of coaching. Some of the other courses, like maybe baby or Viking woman are more evergreen. People can do them on their own, but I, for that particular course, it felt like, at least in my evolution of it with myself, I've wanted to run that live. So I have a wait list right now. We're in session, so that's why I'm not opening it up and when that closes, then I'll open up registration for the. For the next round.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay, got you. So that's kinda your one that you do live and when you're doing it live, what's the technical pieces? Use their Facebook live zoom.

Randi Buckley: Zoom. Zoom gets used daily in my work, I assume. And then I use Facebook groups. I've used many networks sometimes and also Facebook groups.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay. So how are people finding you? What, what kind of marketing are you doing to get people into your courses?

Randi Buckley: It's mostly word of mouth, actually, at this point. Podcasts have been really, really helpful. Once that I've done, I'm starting one that's debuting next month, but mostly it's been word of mouth and that's something I'm actually pretty proud of have done. Initially I started off doing webinars, trying to get people interested in going to get a taste of what the content was, and that's been great, but a word of mouth has been the primary venue or vehicle, I should say.

Jacques Hopkins: I think a lot of people would be jealous of that.

Randi Buckley: Huh?

Jacques Hopkins: You know, people are always trying to find the right strategies for Facebook ads or get on the right advertising platform or SEO or YouTube or whatever. And you're telling me your number one traffic sources, word of mouth. What do you think the secret behind that is?

Randi Buckley: My course is a really personal and can have a lot of vulnerability when we're talking about really things that are close to the heart. And so I think there's a level of trust that needs to happen in that particular content. For people to go there. And so, you know, if I were teaching French in a region or something along that line, I think it would require less trust.

But I go really deep with the people in the course. And so that word of mouth has been really, really helpful. I have done Facebook ads, I find they don't work for the courses where we're doing really deep work, but rather much more of a technical course has been, that's been fine for that. But. Yeah, I have. I've been very fortunate that people have gotten a lot out of it and then wanting to tell their friends about.

Jacques Hopkins: It too. Well, that's a more power to you on that. That's a, that's amazing. So, next question for you here is, I notice everything that you have on your, I mean, your, your, your site, all your courses and everything are [email protected] right? So what is the thought process when using your name versus a brand or something else.

Randi Buckley: You know, I played around with that for a long time. And ultimately I am the common thread in all that I do and the perspective I hold in the way I look at things. And so it made a lot of sense just to, for me. You know, I'm, I'm, I think part of what people are coming for that perspective in the way I view things and how I'm going to take them through the course. So it made sense to just use my name.

Jacques Hopkins: And your site itself is very impressive. I think I told you that at the beginning. What, did you, did you design this yourself? Oh.

Randi Buckley: Gosh, no, no. This is about the fifth iteration of websites. The first couple I did by myself. and then actually a group of coaches came together and said, we want to basically all chip in so you can have a better site.

And that was my first real professional site, which is an amazing thing to have happen. And since then, I've now worked with the designer alley, right. Dapper Fox design. And she is a designer and built the site on Squarespace.

Jacques Hopkins: Okay. Very cool. I know people are always looking for resources for that type of thing because you know, we're, we're all experts in our own kind of niche, and that's usually not also web designer. So you mentioned kind of these people you outsource to. Do you have like a team of people that work with you on this stuff, or is it mostly just you.

Randi Buckley: It's becoming more of an ad hoc team, so they're not on payroll, so to speak, but when I need things I can, they're a little bit on retainer, so more verbal retainer than anything that I can go to them and say, okay, are you able to do this?

And that's been great. That's actually been the way I've been able to move forward and get much done. Otherwise, it was me. And you know, me spending 15 hours wanting to cry through things where somebody else can do it. Four minutes is money well spent.

Jacques Hopkins: So you, so you mentioned though the web design stuff. Can you give us some examples of other things you might outsource ad hoc here and.

Randi Buckley: There? Sure. I'm starting a podcast. I have hired a producer after finding out that that was another one of my non strengths and that's been really helpful. Just knowing I had somebody there to can help get it up and running.

So the producer for the podcast is going to do the editing and uploading and et cetera, et cetera. The graphic design, I outsource some of my, I have a virtual assistant who helps me with more of the admin things. It's new then the airy every now and then here and there. People have helped me out, but it's going to be more regular.

Jacques Hopkins: Yeah, so let's take this a podcast producer that I guess that's about to start up. How did you find that person.

Randi Buckley: That was through a referral through a friend. I, put it out there to some friends who have, very successful podcasts and they were kind enough to give me the name of somebody who they feel works magic for them. And, we're getting up and running. So that's, it's.

Jacques Hopkins: A real relief. Very cool. Yeah. So let's look back to about nine years ago when you launch, when you launch your first course, knowing everything you know today will go done different that back then with, with that first course and kind of the direction of all your courses.

Randi Buckley: I would have gotten help much sooner. And at the time I didn't think I could because I didn't think I could afford it. So it was very much a bootstrapping, do it yourself type of thing. What I didn't realize that was the huge leap was it was actually costing me more to do it myself. Then get, you know, 15 hours of crying versus somebody taking four minutes to plug in the right thing.

I wasn't able to see, for example, so it was very cost effective. So getting support where I needed it and knew I could do the other parts that I could handle or that I wanted a different level of control over.

Jacques Hopkins: Well, let's talk about that a little bit more because I think it's, it's easy or it's hard for people to, to kind of let go of that control. And then once people do actually get help, start outsourcing, get help, and team members, it can be addictive and you and you, it's one of those things, you don't really see the advantages of it until you actually do it. Right. So, Oh my gosh, looking back. Yeah. Looking back to back then, how could you have convinced yourself to get help back.

Randi Buckley: Then. I thought you had to have a certain income level to be able to even afford it. And I think, you know, if I could go back and tell myself something is, it's not that expensive just to have somebody do some basic things for you to cover your butt, so to speak. That was huge cause I was really blocked by thinking I had to have started to make a lot of money before I could afford to get any support at all.

And it actually did not cost that much compared to what the story I told myself in my head of what it needed to be. So that would, and then the other thing is, you know, some people are people, everybody has a genius and let those people dip into their genius and do it. And you focus on the part that you really get at.

Jacques Hopkins: Yeah, I know. I think, I think there can be some ego involved too. I know for me, like I just really wanted to spend money on my business. The money that I spend be the money that I make as well. So like I didn't, I didn't want to spend money that I hadn't made yet, even though I had like personal money savings, whatever I could have spent on it.

And enlightened, to your point, I thought, I thought it was probably more expensive to get help than it actually is. You know, fast forward since day, I've got people. That are doing different things from me all over the world and all kinds of different economies. A wage in, in one country is completely different than a wage in another country. And I didn't know to take advantage of those things back then either.

Randi Buckley: It's, we have, we make up these stories of what things have to be and what they. what we're capable of or can't do. But I think your points of having ego in there, some of us are really proud of being DIY or is to the point where it becomes a real issue getting in our own way.

Jacques Hopkins: Yeah. But, but like you said earlier, I mean, at the end of the day, you can do more and you can impact more people. You know, once you can kind of exponentially, like almost exponentially expand yourself. If you're only focused on the things that you really need to be doing and everything else you can outsource, then you can impact more people. Plain and simple.

Randi Buckley: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jacques Hopkins: So what other advice would you have? You know, there's a lot of people listening to this podcast that are much more in the beginner stages. Either they just got their, their idea, or they've, they've started down the path of online courses, but they're just struggling to market themselves and make sales. So other than, you know, outsource what, what other advice do you have for those people?

Randi Buckley: Make your course good. And that sounds really obvious, but I think I. I actually taught course creation for a while because I saw so many courses that had potential and just were not living up to that potential. And it was easy to make a couple tweaks in making them better.

And one of those big things was to build in reflection into the course so people actually understand what they're learning. They're taking a moment to acknowledge how far they've come and because people can feel like, I'm not learning anything. But when you have moments of reflection or reflective learning in there, even if it's just a couple of questions for people to ask themselves, it makes a big difference and helps them create meaning to the content that they might not have otherwise.

And we know that when you have a group greater sense of meaning to what you're learning, first of all, you're much more interested in it, but you're much, much more likely to bounce back and be resilient if you fall behind, which is a huge mindset. Issue. We're attrition is shoots up on people. As soon as people think they're behind, they tend to not do the course as much. So I would say be really thoughtful and build in just a little bit of reflective learning into the course that people are aware of what exactly they are learning. And also they can take pride

Jacques Hopkins: in that. Yeah. I mean, you, you say make your course good. A lot of times people will spend significantly more time Mark trying to market their course than they do on actually creating their course.

So I think that's, that's good advice. And especially if you have like refund policies then, then when somebody actually gets in the course, then, then they'll, if it's not good. In the last for their money back. I mean, what other, what other tips do you have to make a course good and to get less refund requests and get as many happy customers as possible?

Randi Buckley: Okay. Well, the first thing that I'll say is actually I don't do refunds for my courses, which I'm happy to speak to. I did for awhile and I changed that. But in terms of make it good, you know, maybe run a beta test group, get feedback from people you know. What makes, whether it's helpful about this course, what is making it pull you into the content?

What is really interesting of wanting to engage with it and find out what those things are. So it's not just another worksheet, content worksheet, but again, building that reflective learning so people have a real sense of what they are learning and understanding why that's important to them. That in and of itself.

And I think, I think you are exactly exponentially correct that there's far more going into the marketing and getting you getting your course out there than it is of quality of the course. And that's why I have word of mouth. That's why, you know, people send their loved ones to do with is often really deep work because it is very substantial. And that's something I'm really proud of.

Jacques Hopkins: Actually. Yeah, that's, that's awesome. And I mean, they're both extremely important because on the other side of things, you could have the world's greatest course, but if, if nobody ever sees it or finds out about it or signs up, it just doesn't matter. So obviously both are important, but I certainly am not just going to skip over the no refunds thing either. So I'd love, I'd love to hear your thoughts there and why you've used to offer refunds and now you don't.

Randi Buckley: Right. So initially offered refunds because that was generally it's.

Jacques Hopkins: Everybody does it. Right? Right.

Randi Buckley: And so, you know, a lot of my work is around boundaries and I was realizing I was showing up differently than I wanted to, thinking there could be a refund that I was feeling like I was mini catering a little bit too much to what people wanted as opposed to what people needed.

And that was a big difference for me. I also had people who initially with the refund period. Who had never opened the course. Cause you know, of course you can see it. Depending on the platform you're using, you can see the level of engagement and people who never opened it and say, Oh, it didn't work for me or me fun.

And so for me to be my best at it, having the no refund policy allowed me to show up in a different way or allow me to put up the course in a different way. Just like you might buy a ticket to a concert. You know, at the end, at the concert, if somebody is like, no, no, do it for me. The musician still has, you know, X amount of years experience.

They still had to put on a production. All of these things still, they still showed up and did the work and so I find what I have no refund policies. People are more likely to show up and do it because there's not an out. So

Jacques Hopkins: it doesn't necessarily get more people in. It's just that the people that get in you're saying are more likely to actually go through the material.

Randi Buckley: I actually found it didn't alter the numbers at all, really? People say.

Jacques Hopkins: Well, I, yeah, it's hard to directly test that, but I just feel like that's, I use that as kind of the last resort from people and it's like if at the end of the day, all of this marketing didn't work for you, then just try it. You can try it. There's no risk. You can sign up. If it's not for you, you can get your money back.

Randi Buckley: And I have done things where I'll do like put the live courses or even the other ones, the evergreen, I'll give them the first week that they can just try it. And so there's no exchange of money, and I find a lot of people then do buy at that point.

So there are different, different ways in, you know? No, I really didn't want to deal with the money part at the end of it either. That was something that I just really didn't want to have to deal with, so it's worked out for me, and I think it's also going to be unique to everybody. What the right. Way of doing it isn't, it's finding what works for you, what has you feel comfortable.

If you're really concerned, if you really feel confident getting people in the door and you want to lower that barrier of entry, maybe then maybe having a refund policy is great, then.

Jacques Hopkins: Yeah, I, you know, it hasn't been a huge problem for me and my business, to date. I will tell you, I'll, let me give you an example that happened within the past week and I'm curious how you would've handled it.

So I had somebody and I have a 30 day refund policy. So this, this, this case wasn't a problem for me, but I had a woman who emailed me within a few hours of signing up for my piano course, 500 $500 it's not cheap. Right, right. She emailed me. She was so, she was so desperate. Because she had bought the course without talking to her husband.

So she then talked to her husband. He was all upset with her and was like, you have to get your money back. This is not okay. I mean, it was, it was this long email and she was just begging me for a refund because her husband didn't approve. You don't even have a refund policy. What would you do if you got that email?

Randi Buckley: I totally would've refunded her. You know, my, my rule of thumb is if I were in their position, what would I want somebody to do for me. And so while I don't advertise that I don't have this, I don't advertise in a refund policy, life happens. And I'm not going to be, you know, such a stickler to where I'm sticking to somebody just because they, you know, and sometimes I've seen, I've seen some course creators actually get punitive, no, you did this and now I'm slapping you with all these these are, or just really make them totally said, you know what? I really hope this makes your dinner better tonight. Maybe it will work out in the future, but you know,

Jacques Hopkins: well, that's good to hear that you're not just so rigid with that and there is flexibility there as well. So that's, I'm glad to get that feed back from you on that particular topic. So, Randy, this has been great.

A lot of great nuggets here for, for the people listening. So, look to wrap things up. Just let us know if there's anything else you want to share and where people can find you online.

Randi Buckley: You can find me at Randy R a N D I dot com. I think there's something really cool and a little bit magical about when you create your own course and I continue, I encourage people to just go for it.

You might have to test out what works for you and find, you know, all of the advice. I think out there is a little bit like a smorgasbord tape, take what works, play around with it, and then see what sticks. It's a pretty cool thing. Thanks

Jacques Hopkins: Randy. Thank you. All right. Thank you out there for listening to another episode of the online course show, and thanks again to Randy for joining me on the podcast today. Remember to check out the online course accelerator and that free seven day trial. If you are interested in all in creating and being successful with your own online course, and you can find all the detailed show notes and links from today's episode by going to the online course, 91.

Thanks again for listening and we'll see you next time.