Integrating Live-Content in to Your Course Design Process with Brennan Dunn

"You can't buy cameras and become a better photographer. You have to take pictures to become a better photographer."

Brennan Dunn says this when referring to his tendency for purchasing the best tools before even starting a new hobby. Equipment is no substitute for real experience.

Gathering real experience is critical when it comes to creating a recorded course. It will be very likely that you have gaps in your teaching if you go straight to recording your course and releasing it without getting any kind of feedback.

This is why Brennan likes to host live workshops when planning a recorded course. They're perfect for being able to immediately see where learners are getting stuck, what questions they're asking, and learn why they're trying to learn what you are teaching.

And while the personalized experience of live-content can be the most valuable to the learner, it does come with some tradeoffs. On your end, you lose time by having host the workshop consistently, and your reach is more limited to the amount of seats in the workshop. And for learners, they lose the ability to go back and reference the content of the workshop, and they also aren't able to learn at their own pace.

But, a lot goes into creating a course. And one of the more difficult decisions will be deciding on a platform. There are some significant disadvantages to using an existing platform. Weaker marketing features, inflexible payment models, and a rigid lesson first structure to your content.

All of this added up to Brennan deciding that he would build his own platform. He wanted to be able to take a learner first approach when designing the content, have teaser lessons in courses, and build better marketing pages. It was the right choice to make for what he needed.

And so remember, before jumping right into recording a course, try to teach in front of a live audience. You may be surprised on how much you might be missing. And, when you do finally have something solid, make sure to weigh your options when picking a platform. Making your own might be right for you depending on your content and marketing needs.

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Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Joel: Hey Brennan.

[00:00:01] Brennan: Central.

[00:00:02] Joel: Pretty stoked to talk to you today. I've been, we've worked together like a a Fisi and auto of your courses in particular. And I send a lot of people to them because they've radically changed how I think and operate and do business. And I think that's fantastic because I don't know that there's a lot of courses out there that you can say that about.

How Brennan Learns Complex Subjects

[00:00:20] Joel: But before we dig into all that I wanted to ask you how you personally approach. Complex subject or something that you want to learn.

[00:00:29] Brennan: I'm super novice. And when I've been going about learning view, my approach with that, which is pretty, for me across the board is just to do the basic bare minimum. Learning through whether it be videos on YouTube or, written blog posts or whatever else, but also to jump in headfirst and break stuff. So I'm very much like I've I have friends who will do a crap ton of academic learning upfront before they even dive in headfirst into a new, whether it be a new technology or a new subject or something like that. But I'm very much personally. Very driven by cause and effect. So can I, can I learn just bare minimum, try something out, like a hello world, see it in action. See how it works and then iterate on that with more, more educational material and then apply and, or, and apply and so on and so forth. So I don't know that answers the question, but I'm very much a let's break things quickly kind of guy.

[00:01:30] Joel: I've seen you. You've been recently in the wood shop too, which I think is a similar kind of

[00:01:34] Brennan: Yeah, exactly.

[00:01:35] Joel: and start sawing and measuring and cutting and building. And

[00:01:37] Brennan: Yeah. and With the stuff coming out of it it's shit. I'm like I'm doing a Playhouse in the backyard right now. And Yeah. I mean, it's I've learned the hard way, the importance of what all these YouTube videos I saw and the importance of squaring is with if it's not square, then you're just going to have like weird offcuts of your decking boards And stuff like that.

[00:01:56] So, yeah. I mean, I but that's how I thrive. I think I do better, like screwing up a lot and then, learning that way versus somebody telling me don't, be aware of this, don't do this otherwise, whatever.

[00:02:10] Joel: Like finding the pitfalls yourself

[00:02:12] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:02:12] Joel: having them all pointed out to you in a tidy roadmap.

[00:02:15] Brennan: And I'm just impatient. I mean, I just like to, I couldn't imagine like sitting through too much training on woodworking before I actually got out there with a saw niches on did stuff.

[00:02:27] Joel: Yeah. So, I mean, in that respect, you probably wouldn't watch one of your own courses. You would just do the work and then.

[00:02:34] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:02:34] I mean it Yeah. because I would probably like if I were, if I came across my own stuff, to be honest, I would probably pass on it for a bit in favor of just going in and trying weird shit until something works. But that being said, I have more recently, I did invest in a proper to go back to the Woodworking theme and a proper comprehensive course.

[00:02:55] Now that I've got that itch of like discovery out of me, I'm now willing to dive deeper into learning from people who have obviously been doing this for a long time. So I would say like at first I like to jump in head first and, cut myself a few times, but

[00:03:13] then I'll, then I'll go through the process. Stuff once. I think once I see that, okay, I do enjoy this. I do want to continue down this path. That then, and only then will I usually then jump into something with a bit more rigor, if that makes sense.

[00:03:29] Joel: Yeah. Woodworking is tough. Cause you end up with all the tools too. Like I have, I own a table saw. I don't use a table saw, but I have a table saw. And that was like my own adventure into woodwork. And I'm like, oh, I need a table saw. I took a class and we used one and I was like, oh, I definitely need that.

[00:03:44] And then I ended up, then you end up with a table saw, and then what are you going to do with that

[00:03:47] the digital stuff where it's a lot easier to less takes up a lot less space, in the garage.

[00:03:52] Brennan: But tools are fun, so,

[00:03:53] Joel: on every time I hear the table saw spin up because somebody needs a table saw in my house, I get so excited.

You Can't Buy Experience

[00:03:58] Joel: I'm like, oh yeah, the table saw is getting used. It's so fast and efficient. We can cut with nobody's business. So it's you gotta have the tools to do the thing. So there's always that trap of tools, right? Like you can't buy cameras and become a better photographer. You have to take pictures.

[00:04:13] To become a better photographer. And it's the same street for like web development or building things with wood or whatever, to actually do the thing is how you become good at it.

[00:04:21] Brennan: And

[00:04:21] that is to be honest, to go back to that earlier, that first question you posed to me, one problem I definitely do have, is I try to get to mastery ASAP.

[00:04:30] Think so, I went out and bought probably every matchable woodworking tool that I'd need ever upfront and then just started playing with them all and doing stuff with them rather than what I should have done, which is only acquire new tooling. You have something, a project on hand that needs as well. But I, I don't like to, I don't like to be at that amateurs phase, or stage too long. I like to.

[00:04:55] Joel: I mean, you could see what the pros use, so why not just jump right to

[00:04:58] Brennan: Yeah, exactly.

[00:04:59] Joel: I'm the same way we won't talk about synthesizers. But so when you if you're evaluating a course or creating your own course what goes into it? What makes a really good course in your opinion?

Iteration is key for making a good course

[00:05:10] Brennan: I mean, I think for me I've, I think I've produced med courses, but also really good ones. And I find that the really good ones tend to be things that I'm really confident at that. And teaching. So, case in point with the, probably the one that I've done, that, that has had the most kind of effect in terms of the people going through It writing to me saying this has been monumental for me that would probably be like mastering converted at this point.

[00:05:38] And where. That came from was really having done a V1 of that course titled mastering direct before I, I ditched drip. And then before that was doing a ton of individualized consulting work and own and personal experimentation, but I think most. Consulting work, where I was actually hired by a few companies to come in and do some work, but also more importantly, relayed onto their marketing team to show them like, what's going on and why is this useful and how do you do it?

[00:06:11] And so on. So that act of needing to communicate what I wanted to, what I knew internally to someone, somebody else again and again, made it. So when I went into the cave and hit record, I think I was much better equipped to To do that because otherwise I think the products that have done worse for me in terms of like success rates have been the ones where I might know some subject fairly well, but my ability to translate what I know to help somebody with, who wants that knowledge.

[00:06:45] Ability to transfer that knowledge is pretty subpar. So. For me I've found that the things that I've done best with, if, in things that I've iterated on with previous versions of, that course or done, whether it be live group workshops or individual consulting and just, done it again and again, like, I think you if you remember my consultancy masterclass, Nine years ago now or something I

[00:07:10] did.

[00:07:11] Joel: changed my life.

Rapidly iterate with live-content

[00:07:12] Brennan: Yeah. And I did like that. I did that 15 times, I think. So 15 weekends or whatever it was a two day, all day workshop. You do that 15 times. And I mean, frankly, the 15th class got the best version of the class.

[00:07:26] Right. Because you, you keep doing it better and better each time. Cause you, you get to learn what am I saying? W what's what am I teaching that is falling on deaf ears? What is, being challenged? What, where do, where are people still confused at the end of it? And then you can just use that. Better teach it in the future. So I think, mistake wise, whenever I've gone first into recording, say a video course without doing that live discussion based component multiple times. Um, those courses, those products always tend to not be nearly as effective. And I ended up probably redoing them after learning that.

[00:08:04] Joel: Yeah, and I think it's interesting because to me, consulting. A format of teaching, right? Like you're doing it and you're implementing, but it's a format. And then, you go to instructor led workshops and maybe co cohort based courses. And finally you get to, like a book and a self-paced course and that sort of thing, but it's not drawn from.

[00:08:21] You're not doing research on the internet and then create an a course. Really you are, like you, you have to iterate. And between those, between consulting and workshops and self-paced courses it's feels like there's trade-offs and what, what's the trade off that you're getting between a live workshop and, like a self-paced course for your,

[00:08:41] Brennan: Well, you can't talk back to a self based course,

[00:08:44] right? Maybe you can through

[00:08:46] like

[00:08:47] Joel: can send

[00:08:48] Brennan: Community group or something. Yeah.

[00:08:49] Yeah.

[00:08:49] But it's not as the thing I keep thinking about that I was actually thinking about. I did a live workshop, uh, two weekends ago, and I mentioned, this is, I don't know if you remember that thing.

The importance of personalized information

[00:09:00] Brennan: Patrick Kenzie said once where a lot of his consulting gigs were basically dramatic readings of blog posts he's written already. And that's so true. I think with,

[00:09:08] Joel: context.

[00:09:10] Brennan: Yeah, exactly applied his, 10,000 word blog posts applied specifically to this company's situation. Where if it, the recommendations, the prescriptions are all still the same, but examples might be different and the language might differ and so on and so forth. And I think that's something that, I used to write that off as how important really is that, um, why not just go straight to like, why pay for the dramatic recital of Patrick's blog posts when you could just read the block list. But I do think now, especially since I've done many of these workshops, that it is more important than I initially thought to

[00:09:50] feel as you're receiving the information that. The that the examples resonate with you and that the references are meaningful to you In the language being used, applies to, it's that whole, that worldview thing that I know Amy talks a lot about. I never. Internalized, I guess how important it was for that. And I think that's, frankly for me, one of the biggest benefits, whether it be hiring a consultant or doing a live discussion-based workshop is the ability to have that student context.

[00:10:26] Be incorporated into the teaching itself.

[00:10:29] Joel: So when you're teaching that and you're dealing with students and you're hearing their context, or you're dealing with consulting clients and you're, immeshed in their context as well. At some point you probably get to the tipping point where you've heard enough and can see the similarities or have divided it down into, it's these four things generally.

[00:10:49] Are you learning like the teachable moments as well? And through this experience of figuring it out, as you developed, you start thinking self-paced course is eventually going to come from this, or is it more like an experimentation and evolution through the

Self-Paced vs Live Content

[00:11:01] Brennan: I think lately I've been thinking that self-paced core. So the workshop I did two weekends ago when I sold it, I basically made it very clear that I do want to turn this into a self-paced course eventually, but I want to have the students have the first few iterations of it. Be. The Guinea pigs that I need to figure out what to teach in that self-paced course. And I also actually made it a bit of a twofer. One saying when it does become a self-paced course, you'll get it free. So not only do you get the course eventually, but you're going to help me by getting something more valuable than you will out of a self-paced course, because. Your specific needs addressed and so on.

[00:11:43] Rather than needing to watch some sort of model log that is. Very intentionally designed to apply to probably a large swath of people, which is the, the underlying requirement. I think of of a prerecorded course where it is a monologue. It's me, to them, me to the whoever happens to be watching this and that necessitates me generally, unless it's super niched to. To be intentionally broad about certain things and not, dig into specifics or anything like that. Whereas with a live workshop, I can have somebody pipe up and say, Hey here's my unique situation. How does what you're saying apply to this? And that's why I think it's a student live workshops are a lot more valuable than the pre recorded.

[00:12:29] Joel: Yeah, I'm always on the fence cause I love live workshops, but then I feel like it fades where, and mastering convert kids is interesting to me as a, just an example, because I've used it so much and I've gotten through, I was a consultant seat client of yours and I remember drip dot JS from, I think it's still in my code base.

[00:12:46] And I've seen the evil. It's interesting. Cause I returned to it and I'm like, I go back and I go back in, in different phases. Like I come back to the material because I'm like it's always you're you have to build. And I'm able to return to it where some of the workshops I've been to, it feels like I, I go and I do it.

[00:13:02] And then I'm no, maybe I have some notes or my little project that I did, but I'm left in kind of a alert. So it's always there's, that's one of the trade-offs that I think grant, like I can revisit this and at my own pace, like spiral back through this content or learning stuff reapproach exercises, that sort of thing.

[00:13:17] But I can't do in a live scenario. So it's really, I mean, there's benefits to both formats in my

[00:13:23] Brennan: Well, I think to to extend on that, the one thing I tried to do with this, the latest workshop I did I developed it right after reading Rob Fitzpatrick spoke on yeah. On live workshops.

[00:13:33] And the thing that I think I made mistake of early on was treating a live workshop as a live video course. In fact, the lady right

[00:13:43] where it's just me

[00:13:45] during

[00:13:45] Joel: he's got that flow, that he suggests.

[00:13:47] Brennan: So, so what I did was I did the, like a 10 minute, very short introductory lesson, really just to ground us all on. So we're on the same page and speaking the same language and then got into discussion and then got into a, what I call the action part, where it was more of I want to make sure by the end of the workshop, you're walking away with a Google. Of all these bullet points that are going to get you going. And then what I'm doing now is I'm following up over the span of about two months with additional material on additional context that

[00:14:17] relates to that. So like the idea is. What can you get from a live event like that, that you can't get from a prerecorded video course?

[00:14:25] With that, I can, as the host and facilitator, I can encourage you and make sure that by the end of it, you walk away with this Google doc of like action items to do tasks, but you need to know how to execute on the to-do. So my thinking is, what I'm doing now is I'm sending out, like it's simple, it's a little loom videos okay.

[00:14:42] So in the first learning module, we talked about X, Y, and Z. You have in your task list for that module stuff. And here's some videos on how to implement and execute on the high level things that you outlined in that doc. So I didn't show them. We stick to, it was like with roadmapping, where we stuck to high-level outcome based stuff during the workshop, didn't get into any of the technical weeds, but now what I'm doing is I'm drip out, dripping out Material that is helping them technically execute on the big picture, directional stuff that we focused on during the live event, because I think where be no sense in me getting on a, like a live zoom call and sharing my screen and like walking through our cane technical convert kit stuff. it Doesn't make sense.

[00:15:27] It's better off as a video. But for the discussion, like probing kind of stuff I find a lot. Event So much better for that. So I wanted to really make it. So if this is going to be a live event, let's actually make it what let's leverage the uniqueness that we get from something live meant ignoring entirely technical execution, all that kind of stuff.

[00:15:52] Joel: So I've done a lot of workshops in my life and Rob Fitzpatrick's the workshop survival guide is the name of the book that you mentioned has, was like, it's one of the most succinct and interesting, and it's his book that follows that as is write useful books. And I'm like, and then he has the mom test.

[00:16:07] And as a sequence, the mom test workshop, survival guide and write useful books is like the best. Primer of practical implementation of like I'm an expert, I'm going to see people's problems. I'm going to teach them live and then I'm going to codify it. And he stops at useful books. And I'm like, I read, I don't know if you've read the right useful books, but

[00:16:27] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:16:27] Joel: to me, it's you could say Great courses and just replace the title.

[00:16:31] And really if you think about the value proposition of books versus courses to me, like he's written just absolutely like the basic, get in and understand and start doing this. And it's like on our recommended list, if I was making a box set,

[00:16:43] uh That's then Amy hoist just fucking ship is in there as well.

[00:16:46] Uh, just as a, like here's the set and you can go and you can teach, but his workshops, survival guide. It was great in that it's not just lecture, it's multimodal and you're switching back and forth between showing, doing and telling. And I really enjoyed it and

[00:17:01] Brennan: and I think that's the thing. Like you can't you can't do that with something prerecorded, you can't get that depth of multimodal anything. And I think that's why I really wanted to say when I do this workshop that I really want to use really, frankly, selfishly to pioneer. The eventual video course, because I don't like having things on my calendar that I need to go to. So I'd much rather replace it with something that people could just buy on their own. I, Yeah. I wanted to just, I wanted to make sure that I do this right. It'll be truly discussion-based and truly a true dialogue where I'm learning just as much as they're learning. And then, so we the host and the attending. Gets equal value out of the event. And then I can then use what I learn to then create the right video course, not just a video course. So I think that's a big thing that I think I've been trying to think about a lot lately, which is the distinction between successfully making a video course or something with like X mini lessons and blah, blah, blah, versus the right video course where it actually succeed. And the, in the fullest sense of the word at solving the problem that led somebody to buy it.

[00:18:14] Joel: Yeah. At the end of the day, like if the course isn't making that difference in the learners lives, right? If that's the success is that it's actually effective and then you get the financial success and there's other outcomes that are important to you. But like at the end of the day, the course itself has to

[00:18:28] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:18:29] Joel: and successful for the people that are taking it for it to.

[00:18:31] Brennan: And let's face it. If it's more successful, there'll be more word of mouth referrals. And it's just it's good for, it's good for everyone when that

[00:18:38] happens.

[00:18:39] Joel: Yeah.

[00:18:39] People are succeeding. They talk about it, right? And I'm, I'm out waving to fly for master in convert kit, not because of the affiliate program, which I appreciate, but I'm waving the flag because it's really been effective for me. And I think people should watch it because they learn a lot.

[00:18:52] And I'm going to go out and do that. And the more successful you are with a book or a. Then the more you're likely to share it. And that's really the best. I think at the end of the day, that's the best marketing you can get as people having success with your product. Do so there's a lot of off the shelf kind of course, platforms out there.

[00:19:10] And I was throwing the air quotes around my, my, and I don't want to drag them too hard, but do they encourage successful courses from the learner's perspective? I guess what my real question is, like why? Cause you've built your own course platform now over the last, what year and a half. Or so you've actually left kind of these generic course platforms and built your own.

[00:19:32] And why would you do that? And like, why wouldn't you just use something off the shelf?

UX and Marketing Advantages of a Custom Platform

[00:19:35] Brennan: Let me answer that first question that you had about

[00:19:37] to the, to the hosted platforms, help deliver actual good courses. I think they, they attempt to in their content marketing I think, you go to blog or podium blog. I'm sure there are articles on like how to develop great courses and stuff like that.

[00:19:53] But I do think that with the, with I mean, you, you and I are both rails people. So I don't know if this will make sense to everyone else. But it does seem like most courseware platforms tend to really just go down the, the scaffolding route for everything

[00:20:10] of like I scaffold adolescent and I can create lessons.

[00:20:12] I can update lessons. I can, retrieve and delete them. And what I'm getting at is, they're very much like placeholder. Like you got a lesson as a title. Let's, it might have a video attached lesson might have this you click save, you reorder it, you filed them neatly under modules and so on and so forth. And I mean, technically Yeah.

[00:20:31] if you want to look at like a feature stage that that ticks the box of what a courseware platform is expected to do. But I do think though that. At the end of the day, these are simply tools and tools can be used correctly or incorrectly. And it's I would question like what job does ConvertKit have and helping people send really good emails.

[00:20:53] And I think that's difficult as a software company to be really good at educating and really good at delivering good tools to,

[00:21:01] Joel: It behooves them to try, but that's not

[00:21:03] Brennan: Yeah, but I think, I think they tend to try through like lead generating blog posts, if that makes sense,

[00:21:08] Joel: Yeah. Yeah. Like general content marketing, right?

[00:21:10] Brennan: It's not built in and integrated into the product itself. It's just like a blog post about, five things that you should do in your course or something. I think is unfortunate. Cause I think like you, it'd be interesting to see. How can the platform itself be less crud, like or less scaffold and more something that's more I mean, I can't imagine what the UX would be Like, but something like.

[00:21:31] Let's define first what we want the outcome to be for your students, and then helping you work backward and lay out the right lessons and lay out the right material and sell them. So I don't know. I don't know if any platform has done that or has attempted to do anything like that outside of like basic first-time onboarding or, blog posts or whatever else,

[00:21:50] Joel: Where you get, we get us, you get an email sequence or. I go read this blog post. This is, like you should read this or study this but the platform doesn't really drive

[00:21:58] Brennan: It's not built into the platform and into how it's designed,

[00:22:01] Joel: It would probably annoy people honestly, and be like less mass market. If you're like, oh you're going to have to do this stuff before you can make your course, people are gonna be like,

[00:22:09] I recorded all these videos already.

[00:22:10] So can I just post them please?

[00:22:12] Brennan: Yeah, exactly. So, but to answer your question about why I'm not just using a hosted platform I built my own and the reason I built my own is. There's the user experience angle. And there's also the, I want to make money angle for reasons why I did it. I'll start with the money.

[00:22:29] One. I've always, subscribed, I think to the multi-tier. Way of thinking about products um,

[00:22:37] Joel: and approach.

[00:22:37] Brennan: the Dell Keon approach.

[00:22:39] what was it? One X, 2.2 X, five X or something

[00:22:42] insane. Um, but yeah, if you remember back, like all of us, 10 years ago, we were doing the like ebook videos, full package, three pricing

[00:22:51] Joel: I'm still doing that, but.

[00:22:53] Brennan: but the issue I've always had is that, whole the saying it's easier to sell more to existing customers. And why, like, why I haven't seen any coursework platform that makes it easy to say, like here, add your basic content and then tease the premium content, but grayed out if they don't own that package.

[00:23:13] And then if they click it, maybe have a big, like one click. thing or something, like I wanted that kind of functionality and I just couldn't see how to do that with any of the platforms I looked at. And I wanted to be able to do things like if somebody shares a public lesson, maybe do something like I do this with double your freelancing, what were, they were mostly text courses, but I would have the first, 200 words. Visible. And then I'd have a little grading overlay and it would fade out within, have a up upsell or buy now joined the course, unlock content, a call to action. So I wanted stuff like that. I wanted to be able to do things like that. I want it to integrate things like, um, let's say I eventually want to attach like a product, a one-off transactional product to a lesson. So say it's a lesson on something about liquid and I come up with a something that's outside of the chorus, maybe like the temple pack I did. And I want to promote that somehow I wanted to eventually be able to do that nicely. And I just it seemed like the way that all these courseware platforms were set up is you'd have a storefront and then. Buy a course. And then you'd have like your dashboard of courses you have access to, but there wasn't any like intercourse relating stuff, which is what I wanted. So I, even though I'm not fully there yet. I'm starting to work toward that with the create and sell stuff I'm doing now. I want it to be able to eventually be there.

[00:24:37] So that, was one, that's probably the selfish money-making reason. I wrote my own. From the UX perspective though. I always thought it was weird. I won't name names, but.

[00:24:47] like certain platforms would would do things like make it so you can't easily have resources attached to lessons. My lessons are usually very long video lessons and I want it to have like a associated Google doc, like that you could then duplicate and mess with, or this or that. And. It was always awkward to do that. Both from like me as the course creator going and actually setting it up. But also as the student, like seeing that and I wanted to do little things, if I have a 45 minute long video, which I know like a lot of people, my, the biggest complaint people have is that my videos aren't two to three minutes or something.

[00:25:24] Um,

[00:25:25] Joel: fine, Vernon.

[00:25:26] Brennan: I agree. Cause I actually, I can't, I hate going through a video course

[00:25:30] that is in these small little chunks, especially if I'm casting it to my TV, because then it just throws off Chromecast and it just never works. Mine are long. Many of my lessons are long, but I wanted to be able to leverage, I'm using whiskey as the video host and I want it to leverage their chapters. So. Built onto my coursework platform recently, the ability to have a chapter list within a lesson, so you could just click and it would jump directly to it and stuff along with highlighting transcript stuff. So I have the transcript for every lesson now, and I want it to be able to add this subtitles, but also give you a nice transcript that you could either read on the page or download as

[00:26:05] I, I, it's just, I couldn't find a platform that ticked all the boxes. Both from the sales perspective. Um, and what I just mentioned the UX perspective, I just didn't see anything I liked. So I did the thing that probably wasn't isn't the right business move to make and dedicated time and risk bug exposure to roll my own thing from scratch.

[00:26:29] Joel: I feel like just from a purely business perspective, like long-term, if you're talking long games, right? Like you're thinking about it, this is what I'm doing. This is my job. This is what I do. It makes it, it makes a ton of sense to me, but it's not, and you, I think the, your progression, right?

[00:26:44] Cause you use the off the rack stuff and then it progressed to this because it didn't meet your needs. Like that makes a lot of sense to me. And particularly about the UX, because if like you're seeing your students need a certain experience and you're not able to deliver that.

[00:26:57] Also I imagine, I can't imagine how frustrated it is from you're as a, like an expert marketer and, like personalization and segmentation and all that fun stuff that you do. And just not being able to, has to be incredibly frustrating.

[00:27:10] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:27:10] I mean, it's just it all seems I hate to say it, but it seems like a lot of these tools were designed by developers. I was just looking at a really big one the other day and I was looking at a sales page or something and The call to action. You could tell was there's of like other access the course, or, a button that says you don't have access to it, buy it. And the button that, cause I, I obviously didn't buy the course. I was logged in anything was that else, that, that said you don't have access by it. But they were speaking to me as if I was a logged In, user who didn't currently have access to the product rather than something. I think that could have been more effective to get me to, as somebody who is not authenticated, not a customer of anything, get me to be don't make it just so I don't know if, what I'm saying is making sense, but it was just very much like you could tell it was a literal FLS that the button copy is the same.

[00:28:03] If you're logged in and

Marketing and Delivery

[00:28:03] Brennan: bought something else, but didn't buy that. It's the same copy for them as it would be for somebody. Totally unknown and it hasn't bought anything. It's just little stuff like that, that I would, as a marketer, I'd be like, ah, there's some copy differences. I probably want to include show one, one set of copy to somebody who's already a customer, but not a customer that versus somebody who's not a customer at all.

[00:28:22] Joel: In programming lingo, you would have a switch statement versus an NFL statement, right? It'd be a nice, a beefy

[00:28:29] Brennan: Could probably get away with it If else

[00:28:31] that might work too, but

[00:28:32] Joel: Flip, flip it on its head, but like more options. And just it's just, it's the little things. It's the details at the end of the day. And I think that a lot of times, if I'm just going to get something out there and push it, and I think people are ended up disappointed also because they'll think about it.

[00:28:43] I'm going to create this course. People tell me I should, I'm an expert. I'm going to record the videos. I'm going to post the videos. And then they land on crickets. And this is why to me most. Almost everything I see out there is really focused on the marketing, right? Like marketing will fix your problems.

[00:29:00] And I sometimes think that's maybe not the approach that like marketing isn't, it's important, but like the stuff we were talking about earlier where you're developing and you're consulting and you're working with students and you're doing the live stuff and you're iterating and developing over time.

[00:29:13] And then. You're posting it online for people to go you'll, like it ends up marketing itself. Like we were talking about right. With the word of mouth versus, like just creating something and then you get nothing. Why aren't people buying my videos. It's because they don't understand it or, it doesn't feel like it's for them or that sort of thing.

[00:29:29] So you've been able to go in and create a platform that accomplishes both from a marketing perspective and a delivery perspective, and you can iterate on it and. The structure of any future courses that you might want to put out there and you can change it up. Do you do everything yourself, like technically,

[00:29:46] Is that challenging?

[00:29:46] What's your tech stack currently? How did you build, create and sell? Is my

Technical Stack

[00:29:50] Brennan: so I build so historically I'm a re I'm a Ruby guy, right? So rails is my new thing that I've been using for many years, but I

[00:30:00] Haven't touched it. Haven't kept on top of. I haven't really done anything with Ruby and I haven't looked at any new stuff in rails for probably five or six years. Cause before or the last time I really touched rails was with plan scope, which is a SAS site I used to have. And then I moved on to double your freelancing, which is just a WordPress site. So I moved off of. Needing Ruby. But I'm actually, so the create cell stack is a Statamic, which I only use.

[00:30:29] Cause I thought the site was nice. And I think like Justin Jackson or somebody had tweeted it and I looked at it and I was like, oh, this looks like an ICM. And it was built off alarm bell, which had heard things about

[00:30:41] so yeah it's, uh, built on us to Statamic, which is really a layer, a CMS layer on top of Laravel.

[00:30:49] Joel: Is it, you said you're using view. Are you doing like the full front end or is it all just template it and related to the framework that.

[00:30:57] Brennan: No I'm using. So I'm not using view for this. I'm actually using because there's not a lot of JavaScript on the, in the courseware itself. So I'm using Alpine JS to do all that.

[00:31:06] Which gives me view stuff with,

[00:31:09] Joel: Kind of reminds me of a little bit like jQuery or something, maybe less robust, where you get just a little bit of interactivity, but it's lightweight and you're not sending a bunch of JavaScript to the client.

[00:31:17] Brennan: Yeah. You're not taking a bunch of like event listeners or anything like that. You're just adding to dominoes. It's like, when this gets clicked, do this or whatever. So I'm using Alpine JS for things like toggling less completion stuff and making it. So like when you click a chapter, it'll then tell Wistia is AP JavaScript API to jump to this chapter or whatever in the viewer and the, in the player. There's not a lot, not a ton of JavaScript going on the front end client side. There's some other stuff too, like I'm using, know you have thoughts on this, but I'm using paddle Selling stuff, because I, now that I'm in Europe, I think VAT collection is nightmare. And striped still doesn't make it easy. I just didn't want to think about any of that stuff. So I went with paddle and so, I'm needing to do stuff like that because, if you think about technically, if I'm selling a course, I've got a Statamic CMS. Page and ended up building my own, like it's effectively like a repeater if you've used advanced custom fields with WordPress or anything like that, where I can add like the testimonial block and I can add a CTA block and I can add a. Comparison or a right for you, not right for you block and all these different things. And then just it'll then be fed into the CMS and then spit out the compiled HTML. So, every course has a sales page that I host and then you click the buy button and it prompts a little paddle popup. And then there is also like the web hook stuff. So when paddle. Somebody buys, I had to have a controller that has a Laravel controller, that when they buy, gets all that information and then finds her finds or creates their user Statamic. So you can log in and access the course adds them to the thing they just bought and also phones over to convert kit and segments them the right way. So I had to roll all that For to make it work. So it's not just the course where it's also the like sales page, the purchase flow and everything in between.

[00:33:11] Joel: How do you balance the content creation, like actually creating the courses and then working on the platform itself? Because I really two different, two totally different products in

Time Spent on the Platform

[00:33:22] Brennan: I don't actively tend to the platform. I mean, it's really if I'm adding a new feature to like, when I added the chapter stuff, I mean, I just spent, a day or something that, but it's not some, I'm not like dedicating X, many hours a week or anything to the platform. It's just, It works and it's there.

[00:33:38] And I read it once. And then when I need to add new content, it's just a matter of going into CMS, backend. And going to the course and adding content. Changing stuff or whatever else. And, I've built it in such a way where like, when I'm adding Sam adding a new lesson it's and this is where it's similar to a hosted thing.

[00:33:55] I type in the nit title lesson. I give the Wistia ID for embedding. I give it length since I didn't, I could have coded something that would query Wistia and say, how long is this video? But I didn't bother writing that. So I manually enter in how long the video is.

[00:34:10] Joel: Change. So,

[00:34:11] Brennan: Yeah, exactly.

[00:34:12] And but if I was doing a platform, teach more or something, yeah.

[00:34:15] I would write that.

[00:34:16] Not make people need a

[00:34:17] type

[00:34:17] Joel: there's like this idea, because you've built a personal platform and you are currently the sole creator, but there's, then there's like the platform. As a platform as a service. And then there is like the marketplace, right? Like Gumroad or something where they're providing like the Bazaar where you can browse and go through, so there's like different layers. And I think personally in my experience, create something for yourself where you're the only user is much, much simpler

[00:34:44] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:34:44] Yeah.

[00:34:45] Joel: a marketplace for

[00:34:46] Brennan: And that that I think is one of my frustrations too, with the hosted stuff is like they try to do, they're all trying to be kitchen sinks. And they're all trying to come up with their own sales page builder thing along with they want to capture payments and this and that, and even do email I'm much prefer I just want my sales page to be a normal webpage that I, I. I don't want to be constrained into your things cause I've seen a lot of the sales pages that they hosted platforms have. And they're also like you can tell they're all the same template. They're not very, in my mind, they're not really always that optimized for actual, for sales.

[00:35:19] It's like title short description and then like a table of lessons or something. And I guess he can do other stuff probably, but it just seems like a lot of the courses I see, it's just very much like it's not the Amy Hoyt three by 500 style sales page.

[00:35:34] Joel: Yeah.

[00:35:34] Brennan: You and I favor

[00:35:36] Joel: Pain dream fix.

[00:35:38] Brennan: yeah, exactly. It's just it's very featured feature.

[00:35:41] Like these are the features of this product kind of thing of these are the module, this is the module hierarchy. These are The lessons that are each module and

[00:35:48] so on.

[00:35:49] Joel: you shall get.

[00:35:50] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:35:50] exactly.

[00:35:51] So I just I would much rather just say like a sales page, it's just a webpage. I'm going to develop it. I. Going to find out how to capture money from people.

[00:36:02] And then, yeah. So I think if I were to use a hosted one, I would basically just use it simply for the hosting part, ideally,

[00:36:10] and yeah, For the delivery.

[00:36:12] fulfillment. And I'm not a basic ignore everything.

Long-Term Goals

[00:36:16] Joel: What's your most audacious goal with Create and Sell or your courses in general? Do you have anything like a longterm audacious goal that you have in your mind?

[00:36:26] Brennan: I mean the only thing with Create and Sell it's it's interesting. Cause when I, so I started last February February of 2021 and it was really just a place for me to Rant about stuff that wouldn't be appropriate to rant about under the right message block. I started writing that stuff and they're really the only product it really could put cause mastering drip, mastering ConvertKit, we're all technically housed under wr freelancing.com, which made no sense because. Most of the people buying it, weren't buying it to better, their freelancing. You'd have software shops buying it or something like that, or, creators or whatever. I just thought, okay I'll start a website. I'll send out a weekly newsletter and I'll move over this thing from w freelancing to it. So that's where it started. The problem is it's a very expensive and premium course, and it's very specific to. An advanced level thing to do with one software product.

[00:37:13] Right.

[00:37:14] it. So what I'm doing now is I'm trying to fill in the gaps and think what are other products that can create the product funnel that lead to something like mastering convert kit. So that's what I'm working on now. Hence like that workshop that the workshop I referenced earlier, which was really a beginning, marketing workshop, which is something I've never done before. I'd never done anything on like how to start doing email marketing from scratch the right.

[00:37:38] way. You wouldn't jump in head first in a. Of course like mastering convert kit. If you were just started sending your first email or whatever

[00:37:47] Joel: You could, it's going to be, and I've seen people try but it's like a lot of information to

[00:37:52] Brennan: exactly. Yeah. So I'm just trying to think of I'm trying to be maybe more modular or not. Modular's the wrong word, but more. Like mastering, ConvertKit's a big product. And I'm now thinking of oh, wouldn't it be fun to do like a west boss' style, like a liquid for marketers type thing. Where it's just like a proper thing on all the stuff you can do in the limitations of liquid, but not targeting devs, but treating it like, like a learning to code course. But the coding language happens to be liquid. Yeah, so that's something I'm gonna, I'm gonna probably do at some point soon. And it's like little things like that. That won't be like a massive 20 hour course, like mastering ConvertKit it will instead be like a shorter primer on Hey, if you're not a coder, but you want to do more than sticking somebody's first name at. Here's what you can do. And here's how, and here's how you go about learning, how to code by making your emails look a little more dynamic.

[00:38:52] Joel: Do you consider. Are there other experts into create and sell, or just mostly going to focus on Brennan.

[00:38:59] Brennan: I think I'd like to, but I just don't know how to be honest, if that makes sense. I'm not sure from the. Partnership level how to do all that stuff. And from like the th that I need to figure out, like, how do I trust that they'll do what I need them to do rightly in,

[00:39:18] based on how

[00:39:19] would do

[00:39:19] Joel: I mean, it adds a ton of complexity, right? If you're doing it, I mean, you can mostly trust yourself. And then the quality levels, and then it'll meet your goals and all that fun stuff. But as soon as you bring anybody else into the mix, partners or partners are hard, right?

[00:39:30] Brennan: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I think like I wouldn't be opposed to it, but I, and especially if I ever, one of the interesting things I'm doing now is I'm capturing what ESB somebody uses when they sign up. So email service provider and convert, it's 30%, but I'm getting a.

[00:39:44] lot of like active campaign and stuff.

[00:39:46] And

[00:39:46] I don't know anything about active campaign. So. Would it make sense for me to partner with somebody who does know something about active campaign and do like a mastering active campaign probably. But I I just don't, I don't know if I have the energy to deal with that, to be honest. And

[00:40:00] Joel: It's almost a little bit of management at that point, right?

[00:40:03] Brennan: Yeah.

[00:40:03] exactly. Yeah, exactly. So, Yeah.

[00:40:06] but I wouldn't write it off, but I just haven't put much thought to it.

[00:40:11] Joel: Brandon. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and I can't express my gratitude enough in terms of how your courses and your just willingness to share and let people explore and even sometimes piggyback off of your work. And I think it's just generous and I love the spirit and I look forward to seeing what you do next.

[00:40:32] Brennan: Of course, man. Yeah. Thanks.

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