I’ve gotta admit something – I’m a bit of an online course hoarder. I love learning new things, especially if it can help me grow my business as a digital artist. Whether it be tiny tree courses like Pinterest Academy, or big thousand dollar blowouts like The Photo Editor’s Guide – I’ve just gotta have it!
But what do you do when the course you’ve been secretly side-eyeing across the bar is just too expensive for you? Throw in the towel? Of course not! We are gonna squeeze the knowledge juice out of what IS available to us. In a totally legal and above the board way, of course.
For this article, I’m gonna specifically be referring to the course I’m currently crushing on – The Profit by Design Academy by Jen and Elke Clarke, which I hope to buy sometime in the near future! It’s a course to teach you how to be a success in designing print-on-demand products for Zazzle.
Alright, let’s get started!
Determine Why You Want This Course
Why do you want this course? It’s easy to want to jump in both feet and just say “Coz it’s cool! Coz it will help me get better!” But that’s just too vague. You’ve gotta get into the details about what the course offers, and whether those are actually things you want and need to learn about.
So, I want you to go on the course provider’s website, and go to the page for the course you wanna buy. In this case, elkeclarke.com/startandscale is the page I’m going to. Now, I want to to carefully read every bit of text on that page. What are they actually offering you? I want you to write down these offerings in a Word doc or other notetaking app. (I recommend digital instead of handwritten coz these notes are gonna grow as we progress).
For my example, the Profit by Design Academy, these are the sorts of things the course offers:
- store setup and intentional products posted for sale
- nail your niche
- build brand reputation
- set up store categories
- Process of making products
- Desireable designs
- Create customer avatar
- Zazzle design tool
- Organic promotion – titles and tags
- Cross promote with collections
- Pinning on pinterest
- Marketing on Instagram
- Affiliate income
- Productivity techniques
- Set and track goals
- Elke’s ESRD Goal Setting Technique
- Positive mental outlook
- Visualisation and imprinting
- Decipher sales data
- Keep yourself accountable
- Analyse social media
- Sales Maximiser Strategy
- The 5 Strategies
Create Your Syllabus
I want you to think of these points you’ve created as section headings in a school syllabus. They are sections of knowledge that we want to gain. Highlight the ones that you really want to learn more about. This will help you stay focused during future steps.
Now consider this: Pieces of the knowledge in these sections will be sprinkled throughout much of the content that the business produces, in order to entice people into buying the full course.
Which means, if we are focused and looking with purpose, we can do research into the business’ existing free materials to learn some things in this syllabus, without needing to lay out any money this red hot minute.
Research: Promotional Materials
The prime source of info about the course will obviously be the materials promoting the course.
First, videos. Find any videos on this course’s webpage, and watch them carefully. In particular, pay attention to any screen sharing of the course content. Look very closely, and see if there is any info on that screen that reveals something about the course, and especially the sections you highlighted earlier.
I had to go off-site for my research, but I found this video on YouTube: Day 5 – Scale Your Zazzle Business Challenge with Jen and Elke Clarke. In the video at time signature 56:23, the team shows us the modules of the Profit by Design Academy within the course software, Kajabi. I was blown away when I first saw this! Just to summarise what they show included in Module 1: Set Up Your Business:
Module 1: Set Up Your Business
Module Overview video
Set Up Your Zazzle Store – Tutorial video
What is zRank and How It Can Help You
zRank Score – Chat video
zRank Score – Tutorial video
Set Up Your Zazzle Store For Success
Stand Out Build Your Brand – Tutorial video
Elke’s Store Category Strategy TM – download
Store Category Strategy – Tutorial Video
How to Take Screenshots on a PC & MAC – text tutorial
I added all this info underneath the Establish heading in my syllabus document, and repeated for each module. Now the syllabus is getting bigger and more detailed, yay!
You can repeat this process for any other promo materials they have for this course, be they screenshots, PDFs, etc.
Research: Course Website
Now we are going to dive into the website as a whole. What other things are they publishing here. Do they have other cheaper courses available? Look at the info on those courses. Do they contain info that is also addressed in this course? If so, you may be able to research the promo webpages and videos for those courses and get more items to add to your syllabus.
Another great section to delve into is a blog, if your provider has a blog. They can serve as deep dives into specific questions and topics. If the blog is searchable, do a search for keywords you have seen in your research. Read any blog posts that share these keywords, and write down anything useful you learn from it.
For example, I was checking Elke Clarke’s blog, and I found this post: Trending Products to Sell in 2021. A little bit outdated, but this could still provide some valuable ideas for what products I could consider making. One product category they mention as popular is ‘outside entertaining.’ That could include pillows, blankets, and paper plates.
You should also take obvious trends ebb and flow into consideration. For example, in this blog post, Hand Sanitizer is flagged as a big seller. But that was because we were deep in the throes of the pandemic in 2021. The hand sanitizer would have gone way down in popularity now. And I can provide data to back that up by using Google Trends to search for ‘hand sanitizer.’
Download Their Freebies
Many course providers will offer a tasty freebie to get you to join their mailing list. For Elke Clarke, that freebie is the Nail Your Niche worksheet, which you can get via a link in their website footer. If niche research is something on your syllabus, you can get some useful info for free!
And if it doesn’t interest you… maybe sign up anyway. Because then you will get emails with updates about new course releases and sales.
Research: YouTube Channel
Another great source for information is if the business has a YouTube channel. Go to their channel’s homepage, and do a search for your keywords of interest, using the little search bar next to their navigation bar. This will ensure you are only searching within their channel.
Then you can pick a video and see if it gives you the info you need.
My three big tips when scouring a video for useable information:
- pick a video with a more recent date, so the info will be more revelvant
- Don’t be afraid to turn up the playback speed to 1.2 or 1.5. These videos can often contain some waffling on about the course, that you already know, so you can get past that quicker
- If it is available, read the video transcripts. Sometimes I’ll read instead of listening to the video, if I’m in a quiet room or just feel like reading instead.
Research: Social Media
The next place you can get data from is the business’ presence on social media. Sometimes this will just be linking you to existing things on the website, but other times, you’ll get lucky and they’ll have a Facebook group where people can have real discussions about your course. And I was lucky! Elke Clarke has a free Facebook group called The Creative & Ambitious Entrepreneur with Jen and Elke Clarke. I’ve joined that group and gotten some good info from it. Although you aren’t permitted to specifically talk about paid course content, you can still search it for keywords in your syllabus.
The big benefit – and potential drawback – of info from something like a Facebook group is that you are actually getting the ideas and opinions of people other than the course provider. There will be a mix of good, neutral, and bad advice, and it will be up to you to decide which is which.
For example, I just read a post about whether to put signatures and/or URLs on all your Zazzle products. And there are arguments for (good for referral sales) and against (visually distracting, esp on multi-items like a bunch of bathroom tiles). But it still stimulated my mind to consider it as a topic, and I can add the note to decide on such a choice in my Create section of my syllabus.
Research: Satisfied Customer's Websites
The real proof of a course’s value is in the results of it’s participants. So let’s really look into those smiley testimonials!
At this stage I just want to really emphasize, we are NOT going to be copying and stealing the designs of successful Zazzle designers! That would not only be violating copyright and generally being a shitty person, but you are not gonna be able to maintain their style if it is not your own, or promote it effectively. We are just using this research step to understand principles and concepts.
On the course page for the Profit by Design Academy, there were a couple of testimonials, including one by Christine. It claims “As of June 30, 2023, I am at a total of $510k in lifetime earnings on Zazzle.” So let’s find out more about Christine!
I went to Elke’s blog, searched for Christine, and found that her full name is Christine Factora.
I then plugged this name into Google along with the word ‘Zazzle’ and got some hits, including one for her store, Pangga Designs.
It looks clear, easy to navigate, and has nice products. So clearly the course has taught her how to make a good website. You could use sites like this as a resource for ways to lay out your own website. For example, a nice header with 2-3 customised products, in a simple colour scheme (white black and gold was used here, which looks nice and classy). Followed by links to your store and to specific collections. And all of this being visible without scrolling, since people usually won’t spend more than 7 seconds on an unappealing site.
Let’s click through to the Monogram Collection and check out one of the first products in the list.
This is a beautiful three ring binder for recipes, with a custom name and monogram letter on the front. It matches the color scheme of the other items promoted on the website, which is good. It’s available in 11 different color schemes. That’s a good thing to note, providing a variety to customers who may not like black, who may want a more girly or more colorful option.
All the text is customisable, do they don’t even have to have it be a Recipe binder if they have a different idea. That’s good, allow the customer to be in control.
And most importantly, we can see that this product has been very effective in it’s promotion, because it has has 71,800 views! You don’t get to a number like that accidentally. They must have used some kind of marketing correctly – be it SEO in their title and tags, or Pinterest, or Instagram, or other promotion.
So, what other research can you do using this product? You can make note of the types of words used in the title. They are all related to the product.
Elegant. Monogram. Black. Gold. Script. Name. Recipe. All things that exactly describe what you will get. No putting in irrelevant words like ‘green’ or ‘horse’.
We can also look at the keywords.
“monogram, monogrammed, script, name, recipe, cookbook, recipe book, black white, chef, gold.”
We can see that these keywords are often repeats of the title, and that is a good thing. There are also words that aren’t in the title, but are related, like monogrammed. Sometimes similar words do have different search results, so it is good to include both. And words that relate to who the item would be a good present for – in this case, chef. You could maybe go further and have other words like cook, baker, caterer, etc.
Another section of the page you can look at are the product reviews. Here, you get to see people’s geniune thoughts about the product, and sometimes even get ideas for new products.
For example, one buyer replaced the word ‘recipes’ with the name of their company, which was related to house construction. Boom! Now we know that house constructors would be interested in big ring binders. That is a niche you could research, to find their specific needs and cater to them.
Other Aspects of Their Store
You can also get much more in depth in looking at the successful person’s store, including aspects like…
- What does their store’s category tree look like
- How many collections? What is in the collections?
- What other social media do they have linked in their profile?
- What do they write in their product descriptions?
And so on. Be as detailed as you want to be in your research.
Look at the Competiton
Who else is offering courses in this niche? What materials do they have on offer?
If you are interested in learning about Zazzle, maybe there is info to be gained from other Zazzle experts like LeahG at her website leahgcourses.com
Again, do your research focused on the syllabus you established, to prevent you going down a windy confusing road of information overwhelment.
Purchased A Cheaper, Related Course
Once you have successfully identified the things you want / need to learn, you can look at other courses offered by the business at lower price points. And if there are things you want to learn, that are contained in that course, it may be worth settling for that course for now.
As far as courses offered by Elke Clarke, the Print on Demand Starter Kit is much more affordable than the PDA. It is currently $497, regularly $997.
Wait for a Sale
Tired yet? Is the pain of all this research just too much to bear? Do you just need someone to hurry up and tell you the secret to success without having to dig around for crumbs of it? I don’t blame you, doing this research can be tedious, and you may not even have time for it.
If you still have your heart set on that big course, then I would advise looking out for a big sale date. Black Friday is normally a good bet. See if your course has a page specifically for sale and promo info. For Elke Clarke, it’s https://elkeclarke.com/promo. For the Profit by Design Academy, during Black Friday they take $1200 USD off the price, bringing it down to $3444 for both the one-off price or 12-month payment plan. You have to note down the coupon code to get this deal! For the payment plan its its PDA12HOLIDAY, and for the one-off price its PDA1000.
Save Up For That Dream Course
And now, there’s nothing left to do but earn the money you need to afford the course. Good luck!
I’ve shared all the secrets I have about delving into the freely available materials offered by your course provider. Now it’s up to you to choose your path.
I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below!
Peace, love and sunshine,