Welcome back to The Digital Product Blog! I'm super excited because this is the 10th installment. And if you've been reading from the beginning, I want to thank you. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day to read along (or listen to the accompanying podcast episodes), and I hope you're enjoying the blog.
Today, we are going to continue talking about writing: as an online business, and in the digital product space. Today I want to talk specifically about educational content.
Last week, we talked about creating an ebook, including ebooks that are educational. So you can create ebooks to teach readers how to do something; it can be training material, for example. But ebooks can be other things too, even fiction if you want to write and sell that.
Educational Content: Choosing a Topic
But today I want to talk specifically about educational content that you can create and sell online. So we're going to talk about things that you can write based on any kind of hobby, passion or career experience that you have. Everyone knows how to do something, and whatever that is for you can be the basis for your writing.
Everyone knows how to do something, and whatever that is for you can be the basis for your writing.
It might be that you can play a video game really well or throw an ax. Maybe you know how to program, paint, play an instrument, or cook. Perhaps you can do accounting, personal finance, or online business. We all have something we love to do, or that we love to talk about.
When you go out with your friends, what is it that you talk about the most? That's how I came up with this blog series idea. People would always say, "Find your passion, talk about your passion."
But I felt like, "Well, I don't know what I'm passionate about." I like a lot of things. I like to surf and play music. And I like good design and some movies. All these different things. So what should I talk about?
It wasn't until I was having lunch with a good friend of mine one day, and we were sitting there talking, and it hit me. "Do you know what I talk about all the time? It's online business and digital products."
Whenever I'm hanging out with my wife or my brother, or I go to lunch with my friends, the conversation usually evolves into what I'm doing online, and how I'm growing my business. So I started realizing this is what I love talking about.
I am deeply passionate about surfing, it's like meditation for me. I love to be out on the water. I love the sun beating down on a nice beach, summer in Florida. Just being out there in the ocean and getting the salt and the vitamin sea and everything.
I love surfing, but I don't talk about that in conversations with people. I don't sit down for lunch with someone and go on and on and on about surfboards and waves. If it's a good surf day, I'll bring it up and say, "Hey, it's good out there, go surf." But it's not a topic I can talk about over and over again.
And I remember a friend from elementary school who was really into baseball. I never really got into it, but this kid could talk for hours and hours about baseball. He knew all the stats of every player: batting averages, all the techniques, pitching, and everything. We all have that thing we can talk about for hours.
When you're with your significant other, your family, or your friends, what's your conversation around? What do you like to talk about? Start thinking about that: pay attention, because you can take that information and package that interest up into a digital product you could create and sell online.
Developing Educational Content
I want to give you a couple of ideas about different things that you might be able to create. You could create a how-to manual, an educational ebook to help readers learn something. Baking, cooking, and recipes are a really good example of this. If you're teaching, say, a programming language... or even if you want to teach someone how to surf as in the example I used at the beginning, you could do that. You could write out that information and teach people in a step-by-step process.
When I teach, I usually do it with online courses. The only difference is that my online courses are in video form rather than the written form. But it works in much the same way.
What I like to do is start by thinking about the end goal: what I want my audience to be able to do. And then I go back step-by-step, thinking about the next thing that happens to get toward that end, or the next step.
Say I was teaching someone to surf. The end goal is I want them to stand up on a surfboard and catch a wave. So I have to think about what would be the thing to happen right before they got to the point where they were standing up on the wave? Well, they would have to catch the wave. I would write these down, and I might start with the end goal at the bottom of a sheet of paper, and write from the bottom upward.
So I would write the last thing is the person would catch a wave. The second to last thing is that they would stand up on the board, or to be able to balance on the board. And the thing before that would be that they were able to stand up. Maybe before that, I got them to get up on their knees before getting up on their feet... And before all that, they had to learn how to get the board out in the water, and before that, they learned how to put the leash on and wax the board.
You can do that outlining process with anything. Just start with the end goal of where you want the reader to be after finishing your book and work backward. If I was teaching you how to make a pancake, I would think to myself, what's the end result? I want you to make a pancake. Well, what did I have to do before we made the pancake? What was the next to last thing? We put the batter on the griddle. And before we put the batter on, we had to mix it up. But what were we mixing? We had to put in the pancake mix, eggs, and milk; the ingredients. You get the idea.
Fleshing Out the Details
Once you come up with these major points of instruction, they can become sections of your book. Next, you write more detail into each of those sections.
In the surfing example, the first thing that I want readers to learn is how to wax the surfboard, because you can't get on a surfboard without surf wax or you'll slip off. That might be a chapter of my book. Chapter One, Waxing Your Surfboard. And then I go into detail about what that entails. I can explain the kinds of wax (there's hot wax, cold water wax, warm water, and tropical wax). I can explain how to pick the right wax, and how to apply the wax to the surfboard.
Then I would write Chapter Two, about leashes. If you surf you may know that a leash is your lifesaver, and you need to learn how to put it on your foot, and how to choose which foot goes in front, etc. Chapter Three might be about how to get the board in the water, or to paddle out or something like that.
Once you’ve figured out these main points and written them down, your book is created by talking about those individual points in-depth. This is an easy, fast method to create educational content.
Later on, we're going to talk about online courses, which is the thing that I do the most, and I use this same technique when I develop my graphic design courses. If I want to teach students how to design a web page, I might start with the major web page I'm trying to get students to learn to design. I work backward to create the major points, and then flesh out each point with detailed instructions.
Translating Your Ideas into Different Formats
Start thinking about different ideas that you could teach, things you're passionate about. You could put those in an ebook form or a how-to manual. There are other types of educational content you can create as well.
For example, you could make a worksheet. You can create a template for certain types of information and let your readers fill that information in for themselves. You might give them multiple choices, or provide some way for the reader to research that information. This can create a new way for readers to interact with the information you have provided in a more active way. Some people just like to read, but others like to apply that knowledge as they go.
In the example where I'm teaching someone to surf, I can teach them about waxing the board. On the next page, I could have a little section where readers can fill in the blanks about their surfing environment or multiple choices that allow them to actually participate in the educational content. I was listening to another podcast recently, and someone had been very successful online with workbooks and worksheets, just by prompting people to answer questions.
So there are a lot of different things you can do with writing in the educational space. I want you to start thinking about whether there is a worksheet you can create based on your passion. Are there prompts or templates that you can also create?
Something I talked about last time is that you can create patterns for making or building things. I always thought this was really interesting: people buy these books that contain sewing and knitting patterns. It's educational content because you're teaching them step one, two, and three until they have completed the project according to your design.
Educational material is very powerful, and popular, in online business. When you break it down in the way I just explained, working backward from the final result to the beginning, it becomes easy to create. Whether you want them to learn to drive a car, knit a sweater, bake a cake, stand up on a surfboard, or program their own website… Whatever it is, you can work backward from the end result, fill out an outline with bullet points, and then plug in the detailed information about each one of those bullet points.
So education is lucrative in the online world. When we get into online courses, later on, I'll talk about this a lot. This is one of my favorite topics, and writing educational material uses the same principles as online courses. And what's great is--we will talk about this in more detail later too--you can repurpose content all of that content.
So if I were to create an ebook on how to surf, I can take that same material and repurpose it into an online course. So I could have an ebook for people who like to read. Then I can make videos using the same outline and information on how to surf, for people who like to watch videos. I can do the same thing for an audiobook, creating an audio version for people who want to listen in the car. I can create three separate products from the same basic outline.
So, start thinking about something you can teach. Something that you enjoy talking about, or you know a lot about... Is there a digital product you can create and put online and start selling today?
So that's your goal. That's your assignment: see if you can come up with something. And I look forward to hearing about what you will create.