Why you should just hire an expert instead of paying for an online course

Shaun H. Ruff

This might shock you, but the e-learning industry will kill millions of businesses. Before you buy an online course, you should consider your options. I’ll lay it out for you and you can decide for yourself.

I’m not against e-learning or online courses. In fact, my company offers courses and we have several trusted partners who offer courses. But digital education is not always the answer. 

Seeing trends before they crest

In Zero to One, author and legendary investor Peter Thiel asks a question that is now part of every entrepreneur’s preparation process before raising money. He asks, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

Thiel asks this question because those who view the world differently often see the biggest business opportunities before everyone else. Professor Rohit Bhargava writes about the power of trend-spotting in his latest book, Non-Obvious Megatrends, and I’ve written about it in my books as well. I call it “Getting in Early.” 

[Read: Here’s how to make your virtual meetings more efficient]

Those who react quickly to a trend usually thrive, while everyone else scrambles to catch up. In the business world, catching up could take months or even years, and at that point it’s often too late. In a nutshell, correctly identifying trends separates the winners from the losers.

Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and I fear the vast majority of the working world is following a false trend that will put them on the loser end of the equation. Don’t let that be you. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard this line at least once: “COVID-19 has changed the world forever.” 

It’s a true statement. Many brick and mortar businesses will fold. Digital content and online services will explode. Immersive gaming, interactive media, and virtual reality will go mainstream. Working from home will be the new normal. And yes, the learning economy will flourish.

Companies like Verses, Zoom, and Teachable are bridging the gap and paving the way forward, but we need to understand how to navigate this new world properly. As with any transition, there are pitfalls.

E-learning pitfalls

The problem with e-learning is that we aren’t living in the Matrix. We can’t plug ourselves into a training program and become experts in the blink of an eye. There is still no silver bullet to replace the power of experience.

The e-learning industry is also full of lackluster courses created by people who aren’t actually accomplished at whatever they are teaching. So now we have an industry that promises you can become an expert in anything, via courses taught by anyone who cares to make one.

I’ve started multiple businesses that have collectively generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue. I’ve also started countless businesses that never got off the ground. I know that when you’re scrambling to get your product or service launched with limited time and resources, buying courses seems like a smart idea and potentially the only option.

You figure, “This stuff isn’t rocket science, and I don’t have enough money to hire a new employee, so I’ll just learn how to do it myself.” A few weeks later, you realize you’re drowning in courses and not getting the results you need. 

So what are you supposed to do? You don’t have the money to pay for all the third-party products and roles you need to fill, but you also don’t have the time to learn how to do it yourself. Thankfully, every tragic event in history has a silver lining if you look hard enough. And COVID-19 is opening up a whole new playbook for how entrepreneurs can be successful.

Welcome to the Creation Age

Let’s look at how COVID-19 is affecting the workforce from a macro view. Tens of millions of people are out of jobs, and most companies aren’t hiring. The new trend that hasn’t crested yet is a marketplace for people to help each other directly — vs. buying and selling lectures. 

I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve used Upwork and Fiverr, but it’s hard to find talented workers who can do what I need.” I’ve experienced this before as well, but times are changing. Among the millions of people entering the gig economy are highly skilled experts who were laid off. Startups and small businesses have never had access to this level of talent before because they were all tied down by full-time jobs at blue-chip corporations.

I call this new work environment the Creation Age. I wrote about it in Authorpreneur, which I published in early 2019, and we’re now standing at the precipice of this new era. The Creation Age will be sustained by an economy of individual Producers and Consumers. 

The norm will shift from working at huge corporations with thousands of employees, to a fragmented but highly skilled workforce of consultants and small agencies who know how to do specific tasks. Companies will hire these experts for one-off projects or as contractors. The economy will revolve around the self vs. the corporation.

Because of the influx of skilled workers, companies will be able to hire talented individuals to perform the work they need vs. potentially wasting time and money with zero ROI trying to learn how to do something and failing to execute. How many times have you bought a course and never done anything with it?

Buying and selling courses the right way

Not all courses are bad. Companies like Smart Passive Income, founded by Pat Flynn, offer high-quality training that will give you actionable next steps and meaningful results. If you’re thinking about offering a course, do it the right way. Companies like Mirasee, founded by Danny Iny, teach proven strategies for creating courses that actually work.

When you’re faced with the decision of buying a course, think about what tasks or role you want to own in your business. You can’t be an expert at everything. Pick one to three areas where you want to excel and buy courses for those things.

For everything else, consider hiring an experienced veteran for one-off projects as needed. Now is the time. 

Harness the trend before it’s too late

All of the changes brought on by COVID-19 were already happening: working from home, the gig economy, AR/VR etc. The pandemic just accelerated it.

The balance between hiring and learning is shifting, so be sure to ask yourself this important question before taking a course: is this something I should learn how to do, or should I just pay someone else to do it?

Full disclosure: Some of the businesses and experts mentioned in this article are clients of my company, LaunchTeam.

Published June 12, 2020 — 12:03 UTC

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