About six months ago I was asked in an interview: “have you ever paid for a course on online business?”. I had to admit, I hadn’t. In the same interview, I described my thoughts on online business:

When you’re doing something which is so different to everyone else. Having a mentor or following the herd is kind of the opposite of what you’re doing….

I’m a big believer in being self-taught, learning yourself, trial-and-error. Nobody can tell you how to do it. People can point you in the right direction and you can do lots of research but you’ve gotta apply it yourself.

But after listening to the interview back, I think that I was wrong. While I do 100% believe you need to forge your own path and do something different, I also think you should learn as much as possible. Learning and building on what others have done before.

I’ve written a lot about the need to continue learning and the importance of investing in your own development. Why shouldn’t that extend to online business as well?

So I started to research, looking for the best course on online business. I ended up investing in quite a few. Once I got past the sales pitches and exaggerated promises to the meat of the material, I was actually quite impressed.

I began with the biggest marketplace for online courses, Udemy.

Udemy

udemy online business course

Anyone can create a course on Udemy, and sometimes it feels like everyone does. Whether you are looking for a course on online business or a course on bodybuilding, Udemy will have hundreds to choose from. But in my mind, that is a good thing. There is a review system that seems to work. And as there are so many competing courses on each topic the cream rises to the top.

I purchased a few different courses. One on general writing, one on copywriting, one on marketing through Facebook adverts, one on PR and one on WordPress software development.

A pretty eclectic bunch, but I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just browsing. If I found a course that sounded interesting and had a high rating I purchased it. None of them really blew me away, but they were all pretty good. And for just £19 each they were well worth the money. I learnt and applied something from each one.

I also purchased a few courses on starting an Amazon FBA business. I’ve long been telling people not to bother paying loads for a course and that my article on Amazon FBA has everything they need to know to get started in it. So I thought I should actually see if that claim backs up.

I purchased “Amazon – FBA – Private Label Products – A step-by-step guide” and “Private Label Products: Create Brands & Sell with Amazon FBA“, the two highest rated courses. The first was my favourite and even contained some information that hadn’t really thought through before. It doesn’t tell you everything, but well worth the £19 I spent.

The section on importing filled in a few gaps my article was missing.

amazon-fba-course-udemy

The low cost of courses on Udemy also meant that I didn’t feel the need to watch every video or read every lecture. I could pick and choose the stuff that suited me, and fast forward the stuff that didn’t. Because I’m quite impatient I also found myself watching the videos at 1.5x or 2x speed which helped blitz through lots of material while I was looking for the gems.

Advantages:

  • It’s cheap. At the moment all courses are under £20. Compared to some other places where the courses can run into the thousands, that is a bargain.
  • It’s peer-reviewed. You can tell how good a course is without relying on a sales pitch and hand-picked customer testimonials.
  • There’s lots of competition so the quality of the highest rated courses are generally very good.

Disadvantages:

  • The course creators don’t make much money per customer, so it is in their interest to make the course as broad and wide appealing as possible.
  • There is a lot of choice. I got very trigger happy and purchased more courses than I really should.
  • The courses with the most ratings can sometimes be out of date. In the fast moving world of online business, a course on Facebook ads from two years ago might not be that useful.

Lynda

Lynda at first glance looks pretty similar to Udemy. But whereas Udemy is like blockbusters where you pay per course, Lynda It is more like Netflix, a monthly fee and then all you can eat courses. Currently, it costs about £20 a month for the standard subscription paid on a monthly basis.

There are thousands of courses put together by Lynda’s ‘experts’. But I found there really wasn’t the depth that I wanted. A search on Udemy for ‘Amazon FBA’ returned 5 pages of different courses with some really in-depth walkthroughs. On Lynda, there was just one course and to be honest it was pretty poor. More ‘how to use the site’ rather than a ‘how to create a business’.

lynda-amazon-fba

Lynda does have lessons on loads and loads of topics, but while it’s quite cool that there are 131 different courses on illustration, I don’t really have any interest at the moment in learning illustration. It’s like how at first glance Netflix is great with hundreds of shows, but when you go browsing you realise you don’t really want to watch any of them.

I must at admit though that the layout and ease of use is pretty awesome. It took me about 2 minutes from signing up to stumble across a ‘pathway’ of courses that apparently would teach me how to become a digital marketer.

lynda-digital-marketer

Ok great, I thought. I’m interested in digital marketing. But when I started I quickly found the courses on the ‘digital marketer pathway’ were all either too basic or on a subject I had very little interest in.

Whereas with Udemy I found myself purchasing too many courses, I was left a bit underwhelmed by Lynda.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great site, great value for money and from the browsing I did the courses seemed pretty well done. I just preferred Udemy.

Advantages:

  • It’s even cheaper than Udemy provided you do more than one course a month.
  • The website is very easy to use and the courses run smoothly.
  • The all-you-can-eat education meant I found myself wanting to get my money’s worth and learn as much as possible.

Disadvantages:

  • There are no peer reviews of the courses so you need to actually start watching to decide if they are worthwhile.
  • The people who create the courses are ‘experts’ in the most traditional way. Lots of degrees and academia, but I felt like they aren’t quite on the cutting edge of online business.

What about Those Really Expensive Super-Hyped Courses?

Lynda and Udemy are both marketplaces of courses. But even with their huge libraries they barely scratch the surface of what is available. Most courses are sold on dedicated websites or on really spammy looking sales pages.

I started my research into these by looking at which courses the bloggers and podcasters I follow are promoting. And boy did the prices range. Everything from a few dollars to many thousands. I couldn’t believe it, how good could a course on online business possibly be to be worth $4,000?

No idea. I couldn’t bring myself to pay that much for one. But I did sign up for one of the cheaper ones.

Affilorama popped up quite a few times. It is a course and community that teaches you all there is to know about affiliate marketing… or so they promise.

affilorama course on online business

There are a lot of paid-for services that you can buy from Affilorama. From educational material to one-to-one coaching for $5,000 a year.

I signed up for the premium monthly membership. It cost $1 for the first 30-days and from then on it is $67 a month.

To be fair, I think that’s pretty good value. It comes with hosting for the websites, all the educational material, a customer support helpline and a community of people all trying to do the same thing as you.

The community aspect is something that is really missing from Udemy and Lynda. Online business can be a really lonely road. Most people in the real world don’t understand what you’re trying to do and think you’re wasting your time. It can be really encouraging to have other people who are all in the same boat.

But it wasn’t for me. I already have hosting and affiliate marketing isn’t the type of online business I am most interested in. Plus I get plenty of community from this blog and the friends I have made from it. So I looked through all the educational material, took which parts I liked the most and then unsubscribed before the month was up. What a bargain for just $1.

Affilorama also has a separate course on online business you can pay $197 for. I didn’t buy it and am not entirely sure whether it’s worth it or not. If anyone out there has taken it, how was it? Worth the money?

Advantages:

  • By joining Affilorama you also join a community. Online business can be lonely and an active community is great.
  • You can start from scratch and launch a successful site using only the tools on Affilorama. No need to find separate hosting or themes.
  • There is a customer support service who you can contact at any time for help.

Disadvantages:

  • The education is pretty specific to do with affiliate marketing. There is no education on other forms of online business, even those that can tie in well with affiliate marketing.
  • You are limited only to what the creators of the site think is important. There isn’t the constant competition that keeps the Udemy course top quality and relevant.
  • The way the site is laid out gave me the impression they are always trying to upsell something. It grated on me a bit.

So, Should You Invest In a Course On Online Business?

So after buying all these courses and spending many hours ‘studying’, what did I get out of it all?

Well, I read lots of sales pitches with tag lines like:

“The only course on online business you’ll ever need”

“Zero to $1 million profit in 90 days with this course”

And none of them lived up to those claims. Not even close.

But actually, I got a lot more from them than I expected. Particularly from Udemy. From every course, I took something useful away and ended up learning a lot. I think the money and time I spent was well worth it.

I also really liked buying lots of different courses and mixing and matching. It made me feel like I was building an overaching course that was unique to me. I wasn’t just following one guru and trying to copy his methods like every other person out there.

Which leads me to reiterate what I said at the beginning. A course on online business can teach you specific skills, or help point you in the right direction. But to succeed you need to go beyond that, build on what you have learnt and forge your own path.

Personally, I have kept my membership at Lynda and am currently working through some more courses on Udemy. But I don’t think I am going to be forking out thousands of dollars for a course on online business anytime soon.