Get Over Creating Your “Signature Course” and Create a Just-In-Time Product Instead

It's time to put your big, ambitious dreams of creating a

This is a guest post contribution from Shelley of TeacherToo. Enjoy!

So you’ve been convinced that building an online course is a great way to monetise your blog. You’ve got a few ideas for a course that you’d love to create, and maybe you’re even picturing your signature course, packed full to the brim with actionable content, beautifully-produced videos and heaps of bonuses… with a sizable price point to match the value…
That’s such an awesome picture, right?
It totally is, but I think for most of us, that feels like a picture that we really have to squint to see, because it’s so far off in the future. And for others, it’s something we’ve attempted but were disappointed with the results. And so, our signature course becomes a dream, something that we’d like to do “someday” — but sadly never becomes a reality.
So today, I’m going to ask you to (and you won’t hear this from too many motivational speakers) dream smaller. Yep. Let go of the idea of creating a massive all-bells-and-whistles signature course.
Have you let it go? Do you feel the overwhelm going with it? Good. Now let’s replace it with a plan that’s actually going to get you results. It’s what I call a “just-in time product”.

What’s a just-in-time product?

It’s a paid info-product that is packaged in a way that is both the simplest, quickest, and most natural way for you to teach, as well as a convenient way for your audience to consume the information.
I’d gravitate towards putting together an e-book. Writing is very much in my zone of genius and I’m pretty good at doing a bit of desktop publishing to make the whole thing look good. But maybe you teach best when you can demonstrate what to do, and you’d much prefer recording a simple video or screencast of you actually doing-the-thing you’re teaching. Or maybe you’ve got a handy bunch of templates or resources that you could package as a digital download or swipe file.
The trick is to think really small and to solve just one (very urgent or important) problem for your audience. A just-in-time product will be highly actionable and your students will clearly see results immediately after they’ve gone through your product. It’s made just-in-time by you to solve a problem just-in-time for your audience.

Why should you build a just-in-time product?

There are so many reasons why a just-in-time product is great for you and for your audience:

  • You’re testing the market and validating your ideas.
  • You solve your audience’s problem “just in time” rather than them having to wait months for a solution to their problem (and probably losing interest in the meantime).
  • Your just-in-time product can become part of your suite of products. Later you could use this product as a tripwire (a low-priced product that demonstrates your value and acts as a gateway to your other products) or as a bonus that you could offer as part of your signature course when you develop it.
  • You get to practice being an online teacher and implement the online teaching business model – from marketing to design and development, all the way to interacting with your students and getting feedback from them.
  • With the information and feedback you gather, you’ll be able to come up with a very compelling and results-driven signature course.

    How do You create a just-in-time product?

    OK, so by now I hope you’re convinced that a just-in-time product is a good idea. Next let’s get into some nuts and bolts of how to actually create your just-in-time product.
    I’m going to use an example of a just-in-time product I created recently – a tutorial video that demonstrates how to set up a website or landing page using a great new website builder called Carrd.

    Choose your topic and format

    Start by choosing a topic for your product. Think of questions people in your audience have asked you recently or things you notice them complaining about on social media.
    Refine your topic so that it solves one clear problem, or helps your audience members to make money in one specific way. You’re really looking for a highly-targeted offer here, not a catch-all.
    Next, it’s time to choose your format. As I mentioned before, you should choose a format that is easy for you to produce that will also be convenient for your audience to consume. Examples of formats include: an e-book, a tutorial video, an (edited) replay of a webinar or live stream, a mini-course (audio-based), a mini-course (video-based), a swipe file pack, a template pack, or a set of worksheets.
    A little tip – don’t throw out your idea for a topic if you come across other resources that solve this problem for free. Remember, the fact that you’re giving people a solution “just in time” is already value in itself. And you’re going to be injecting your own experience and unique personality into your product.

    Design your just-in-time product

    The design step is what sets a just-in-time product apart from a “rush job”! My tutorial video is primarily made up of screencast videos where I talk through what I’m teaching on the Carrd interface. I also used some PowerPoint slides to introduce the topics I was talking about.
    But instead of jumping headlong into recording the screencasts, I first sat down with PowerPoint to put together a basic course mockup – I call this my storyboard. This is what my storyboard contains:

    1. Section Header slides to break up my video into sections.
    2. Content that I want to teach using slides – think bullet points, screenshots, photographs, single-sentence slides, etc.
    3. Point-form notes of what I want to say in the voiceover. I type these into the Notes view of the slide.
    4. Also in the Notes view of the slide, I write down any instructions for the next phase (development). For example, adding an animation. The idea is that you don’t want to spend too much time on the production details now in the design phase.
    5. Screencast Slides – these slides won’t be shown in my final production; instead they contain bullet-point explanations of the points I want to cover when I’m screencasting. While this may seem like a lot of work, it greatly reduces the number of retakes I have to do when I’m recording, and the amount of time I have to spend editing out mistakes.
    It’s at this point that you can start selling your course. Yes, seriously! You can start pre-selling your course now. And that’s why this course creation process fits in perfectly with the strategy that Krista will teach you in her new course, Your First Course Launch.
    The other important thing you should do at this point is send your storyboard off to one or two “trusted advisors” in your audience and ask for feedback. Explain that you’re looking for feedback on things like the progression of the course, the points you’ll cover, and any questions that they feel are left unanswered. It’s important that you get this feedback in a quick timeframe, so you may need to do some “pretty pleases” when you ask!
    Once you’ve received their feedback, you can make any changes to the structure of your course, perhaps add more content to answer an important question, or take away content that isn’t necessary.
    I hope you see that making changes at this point is a whole lot more efficient than making changes further along the line when you’d need to re-record screencasts, or re-design fancy graphics, or haul that yellow top you were wearing out of the wash so that it looks like you’ve recorded your video on the same day!
    By the end of the design phase, you’ll have a storyboard for a product that you know will be useful to your audience, that you can forge ahead and develop with confidence, and most importantly, that you can start selling!

    Develop your product

    The last phase of this product creation process is development. This is where you refine your product, apply all the pretty graphic design touches, and do production work like video recording and editing.
    This is what I did for my tutorial video development phase:
    1. Refined my storyboard into a final slide deck. This included adding animations to my Section Header slides, making some overall design changes to the DaringTwo template I was using, and adding in screenshots and other images.

    2. Recorded the screencasts using Camtasia. Camtasia is one of the more high-priced screencast and video production tools available. If you’re looking for more budget-friendly options, then be sure to get my Online Teacher’s Toolkit. I recorded all the screencasts in one go, at a time when I knew my surroundings were going to be quiet (and these are few and far-between)! That’s just one of the many benefits of getting this all prepared ahead of time.

    3. Recorded the slideshow bits using Camtasia. You could open up your PowerPoint slideshow as a new window, and then set the Camtasia recording area over this window. Or, what I’m enjoying at the moment is opening the presentation in Presenter View and then setting the recording area only over the slideshow itself. I can then see the Notes section so that I know which points to cover in my voiceover. I can also see which slide is coming next – so if it’s a screencast slide, I stop before progressing to that slide.

    4. Recorded the “talking head” video. I think a talking head video is a nice touch to add a bit of personality to something like a tutorial video. So I recorded a short talking head video to say hello and introduce the tutorial (again, while I had a quiet house and some nice natural light available).

    5. Edited the video clips and put them together in the right sequence. I edited out any mistakes from my videos and trimmed the beginnings and ends of the screencasts (which consisted of me opening and closing Presenter View). Then it was just a matter of putting the clips into the right order.

    6. Exported the video to MP4. Camtasia has many export options. I generally just use their default options and save the video to my hard drive. I then checked the video, and it was ready for distribution!

    So by the end of this process, I had a high-quality product that I could distribute to my audience. The best part about it is that I could start my marketing efforts long before the product was finished! Krista explains exactly how to do this in her “Your First Course Launch” program, so head there for more information.

    Get your Free copy of The Online Teacher’s Toolkit

    If this post has inspired you to even start thinking about creating a just-in-time product, I’m thrilled! I have a resource for you that will come in so handy as you build your just-in-time products, and even that signature course you’re going to build next (not someday!).
    It’s called The Online Teacher’s Toolkit and it contains pros-and-cons reviews of tools you’ll need as you’re building your teaching business.
    What’s more, I’ve included budget tips for each of the categories of tools, so if you’re starting on a budget, I can give you some quick hacks for getting premium results out of free or widely-available tools.
    Get more details about The Online Teacher’s Toolkit here, and let me know where I can send your free copy!

    So what’s your Just-in-Time Product going to be?

    If you’ve decided to create a just-in-time product, let us know about it in the comments! If you’ve already created a just-in-time produc, how did you go about it?


    Shelley is the founder of TeacherToo, where she equips bloggers and online entrepreneurs with practical online course-building skills and strategies. She is an experienced instructional designer and a trained teacher who also has a website design business. Shelley is passionate about helping other independent online entrepreneurs make a living teaching what they love.

    Posted by Krista in MAKE MONEY

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