Can You Sell Your Knowledge as Part of Your Business?
I’m sure you have heard that creating and selling online courses can be a fantastic way to generate revenue in your business. You’ll probably have seen claims from big shiny business owners about passive income, evergreen funnels, and amazing sales figures, right?
But in reality, can you and your business benefit from selling your knowledge in this way?
Read this blog post to find out the answer and for some hints and tips on where to start with selling your knowledge as a part of your business.
Before we go any further, let me introduce myself. I’m Claire Collis, one of the expert one-to-one providers for BIPC Devon. I have built a business helping entrepreneurs and small business owners to get their knowledge out of their heads and into high quality saleable formats that work for them, their businesses, and their customers.
I do this by supporting people with the strategy, mindset, technical knowledge, accountability, and practical skills that they need to create their own knowledge-based products including books, eBooks, online and offline courses, webinars, workshops, and membership communities.
Throughout this post I will talk about knowledge products, by which I mean any product that you create that allows you to sell your knowledge including courses, workshops, eBooks, and webinars. I have written a very long list of the different types of knowledge products you can make here if you wanted to get some inspiration on what might work for you.
Can I sell my knowledge?
Yes, is the short answer.
Everyone has some knowledge that is valuable to other people.
Everyone has some knowledge that can be packaged up and sold in some way.
Even if it is on a topic that is already widely taught, the way you teach will be unique to you, and that will make it uniquely valuable to some people.
What do I mean by that? We all take in information best in diverse ways, the way you explain something may suit one person far better than the way someone else explains something.
Do you want to sell your knowledge?
Seriously, just because you can create a course or run workshops or create a PDF eBook on something doesn’t mean that you have to.
Sorry if that seems obvious to you but creating an online course that you can sell repeatedly is usually positioned as an incredibly viable business growth idea, but it is only one option for adding revenue to a business.
With the popularity of online courses and ‘passive products’* growing (especially in the world of social media entrepreneurship) it can seem like you must create these kind of knowledge products to guarantee business success. You don’t. If the idea fills you with dread, then it might not be the right choice for you and your business, and that’s ok.
Equally, teaching and selling your knowledge doesn’t have to be scary. There are ways to ease yourself into it all if you want to do it – read more on easing yourself in later in this post.
* I say “passive products” because there is a certain amount of work involved in creating any kind of knowledge product. After which there is a certain amount of work involved in selling those products, providing ongoing customer support, and so on. The business owners you see online who sell high volumes of the same courses repeatedly usually have large teams of people supporting those sales.
I don’t tell you this to put you off, far from it. I think everyone can and should get their knowledge out into the world and helping people. Teaching the things, you love and have a passion for can be uplifting, exciting, and profitable. I personally, love that part of what I do! But I also think that it is important for you to understand that realistically, this can take a bit of time and more work than social media may make it seem.
Selling your knowledge as a STRATEGIC part of your business
Many of the most common issues my clients run into before deciding to work with me stem from them not thinking about their course and their business together strategically, before jumping in and creating.
The key to success when planning to sell your knowledge as a part of your wider business is to think about how it will fit into and alongside the rest of your business and if you will be selling to the same customers as you are with your other products and offers.
Your customers for your knowledge product will likely be the same customers that you already have. In fact, you might want to include a product like this for free in any premium photography packages you sell to help your customers to get the most out of their time with you.
What do I mean here?
If for example, you have a photography business, you could sell:
- A product, such as an eBook or video course, which prepares your customers for a photo shoot with you. It might contain styling tips or information on how to relax in front of the camera. Here you are adding a knowledge product to an existing service.
- A product, such as an eBook or video course, which prepares potential future customers for a photoshoot (with you or with other photographers). This might contain similar information to the suggestion above, but your audience here probably wouldn’t be the customers who are buying from you already. This product would be more popular and more useful for people who need to make the most of their future investment in professional photography and who want to know what to expect so that they can prepare well in advance.
- A product, such as an eBook or video course, which helps other photographers to set their own customers up for a successful photoshoot. Again, this might contain similar content to the options described above but here the audience is other photographers and not the current or potential customers of the photography business. I know that this might worry some of you but remember that other people are rarely our direct competition – as small business owners we deliver our knowledge, products, and services in highly unique ways. That is a big part of what our customers are looking for when they shop with us.
Can you see that in all these examples the knowledge being sold is probably similar, but how it fits into the wider photography business is quite different?
The way the photographer would talk about the same knowledge in each product will be tailored to a different audience. Each option has pros and cons. And there is potential to make all three options work for the same business. In the end, the right strategic fit would depend on the photographer, their current business state, their future business goals, and their customers wants and needs.
The questions further down this post will help you to think about this kind of strategic planning for knowledge products in your own business.
Selling your knowledge doesn’t have to be a part of your business!
Yes, I know that was the title of this blog post (and of the original workshop) but if you can share your valuable knowledge on some other subject alongside growing your business then don’t limit yourself by thinking that everything must fit together within your business.
Starting and growing a business is hard and takes time. Finding ways to support yourself whilst you do it is important and should be talked about more often.
A good example of how this can work comes from a lady I was speaking to at a coworking session recently. She is growing business in the health and wellbeing sector, but her previous job required her to be a whizz at Excel. She is highly personable, approachable, and patient. She could consider offering one-to-one support or workshops for new business owners on the basics of using Excel for bookkeeping. This would not be tied to her growing business but would be an effective way to bring revenue into her business whilst it was growing. She would be selling her Excel knowledge in the short-term to support her core business development goals.
So, where do you start with all this knowledge selling?
If you have got this far and still think that selling your knowledge could be a promising idea for you and your business work through the following questions. Being honest with yourself and your answers should allow you to ease into the next steps of selling your knowledge.
I would personally write my answers to these questions down, take a break, and come back to them later to review them. Talking these questions through with a coach, mentor, peer, or friend might be a good option for some of you instead, depending on how you prefer to process things.
1. What is your current goal for selling your knowledge?
What are the immediate and short-term results that you are hoping to get from creating and selling a knowledge product? Why are you even considering doing this?
This could be as simple as an injection of cash, or to retain or attract customers, or that you just want share something useful with more people. It could be that creating a course would make your work more accessible or affordable when compared to your services. Or simply that you want to work fewer hours and are hoping that an online course will shift you away from the time for money business model that you currently have. This last one is more of a longer-term aim, but if it is what sprung to mind, write it down. There are no wrong answers here.
2. What is the longer-term goal for selling your knowledge?
What are the 1-5 year and beyond results that you are hoping to get from creating and selling a knowledge product?
Not everyone reading this will have an answer for this one, especially if your goal in the short-term is a quick injection of cash into your business. That’s ok, not everyone forwards plans years into the future. Just take a minute to consider what you might want your business and your work within in it to look and feel like a few years down the line. A short-term cash injection could be turned into a more stable or regular source of income in the future, for example.
3. How does this fit with your wider business?
Going back to the strategic planning part – where will selling your knowledge fit in with your existing products and services?
Will your courses sit alongside your services? Will your course be foundational and then led into your services? Will your workshops help people to DIY their own versions of your products or allow them to enjoy the process with you?
This bit is highly individual, so start with how you make money now and how you want to make it in the future. Then look for the gaps. Then think about it all from the perspective of your customers – what gaps in support or access might they notice?
4. What knowledge can you sell?
This one stumps a lot of people so asking others can be useful. We are often great at things without even noticing. Ask your peers or customers what they learnt from you or what they enjoyed learning from you.
You can also try asking yourself; what do customers often ask you for or comment on when working with you? What are the main products or services that you sell? What is popular about them? What do you know or do that is unique or sort after?
You might produce an extensive list here. Remember you only need one idea that you like to get you started.
5. How can you package up your knowledge to sell it?
There are lots of options here. Read this huge list if you are stuck otherwise ask yourself the following questions.
What would be the easiest thing for you to create? This is often a one-to-one session, a workshop, or a PDF eBook. What would be easiest for potential customers to learn from? What would be easiest for you to sell? What would fit into a price bracket that you would feel comfortable selling in? What can you create in the sort-term and what can you create in the long-term?
You also might want to think about the kind of learning that you enjoy. This is especially true if you didn’t enjoy school. Take a look at this blog post and journal prompts if you want to figure out your teaching identity.
6. How do you know what to include?
Begin by thinking about the end goal of what you are teaching? What do the people who will be buying this thing from you need to be able to do, think, or understand at the end of it?
Then think about where people are likely to be with that same thing before you work with them – where are they starting from?
The things in between the two are what you need to include.
If it is a workshop that you are creating then this blog post might help you prepare.
7. How can you test all of this out?
You will need to find a way to validate your ideas, ideally before you put too much time or energy into creating a new product.
You can do this by asking your potential or existing customers if this idea would appeal to them, taking presale orders, or running a BETA or test run version of a course or workshop among other options.
This makes business sense but it also an opportunity for you to build your confidence and to bring your audience on your business development journey.
8. Where do you start with technology?
Wherever you feel most comfortable.
I could talk about technology and education for a very long time. There a so many options out there right now, each has pros and cons. I do help my customers choose and set up the tech that is right for them and their customers, but I always begin with this question: what technology are you already comfortable with? Can you use that to deliver this knowledge product to your customers? What help or support will you need to make that happen?
The thing that holds most of us back with creating knowledge products is usually ourselves.
I include myself in this statement because despite helping other people with this kind of work every day I am far behind where I would like to be with creating my own eBook series. Why am I sharing this with you? Because it is true – the reality of creating a knowledge product alongside running a business does mean that it can take some time.
We are all human. We are all slower than we want to be at getting things sometimes. I’m trying to actively admit this kind of thing more often, especially to other business owners – it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Growing my business has taken time, has meant juggling a lot of different priorities and is ongoing. Most of the time I do still love being a business owner too, but it has its ups and downs.
The only tangible way to know if the idea you now have for selling your knowledge can work for you, your business and your customers is to try it. Like everything else in our business, a bit of trial and error will be necessary.
So just start. Pick one small step you can take today towards your creation and go for it. And then pick another small step tomorrow.
Remember to be kind to yourself along the way – as small business owners and freelancers we are the foundations of our business and taking care of ourselves is vital.
If you need a bit of help, you can book a free expert one-to-one session with me (or any of the other fabulous experts) through BIPC Devon here.
And you can sign up to my mailing list (to be the first to know when I do finish that eBook series) here.
The Art of Business and Other BIPC Devon Resources
You can access the recording of that workshop, and the many other sessions delivered by experts in their own fields for free here. You simply need to sign up for a free account with BIPC Devon to see these resources and many more.
I highly recommend this as a place to start if you ever have any questions about your business. It is a truly valuable resource – you can read about how BIPC Devon has helped me to start and grow my business over the past few years here.
You can find the webinar recordings I mentioned here.
Devon BIPC also offer Intellectual Property support which can be very useful when you are creating these kinds of products.
You can see a full list of your knowledge product options here.
Here are some journal prompts to help you discover your teacher identity here – this is especially useful if you did not enjoy school!
And finally, you can see the full list of experts available for free one-to-one sessions through BIPC Devon here.
Thanks for reading.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this blog post and how you get on with selling your knowledge.