Listed as Huffington Post’s ‘Top 50 Must-Follow Female Entrepreneur’s for 2017’. 11 years in the business in the education industry. Over 5,000 students in 121 countries. 2x international best selling author.
Whew! Sarah Cordiner knows a thing or two about building a successful online training business. Now she brings us her new book: The Theory & Principles of Creating Effective Training Courses. So we thought, who better to share their insight on what it takes to build an international education business.
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Your bio is incredibly inspiring. Having come from a background where your dreams of being a female entrepreneur were belittled. Yet you managed to go from homeless to building a 7-figure business in just a year and a half. How?
I started my education-based business over a decade ago at the wise old age of 19. It all happened when I actually faced redundancy in a job I absolutely loved as a trainer and training manager in the Welfare to Work industry. And as I was driving home it occurred to me that what I did still absolutely inspired me. It occurred to me that I was still good at what I did, that despite having no boss, there were still people out there that needed my support.
For me, it wasn’t a case of, “Well, what else do I do?” It was, “Well, how else can I do this?” I will never forget going home and saying to my partner, “Babe, babe, babe! I’m gonna be an entrepreneur.” And he turned down the television, and he looked at me lovingly and he said, “Don’t come to me when it all goes wrong.” Ouch! Yes, it hurt.
Hurt, but not deterred, I then remember getting in the car and driving to my mom’s house and I walked through the door and I said, “Mom, mom, mom! I’m gonna be an entrepreneur.” And she took a long puff on her cigarette and she looked at me lovingly, and she said, “Honey, what the hell is wrong with you?”
But in true entrepreneurial style, I did it anyway. I’d found something I had passion about, and I had already experienced and tasted what it was like to change somebody’s life. And I couldn’t let that go. I was hooked. It was like a drug, and I knew that I would stop at absolutely nothing to continue to do that for the rest of my life.
The adventure for me just kept getting bigger and bigger and more and more exciting. When I realized that I could get one contract, I wanted two. When I realized I could help 10 people, I wanted to help 50. When I realized that I could help people in 2 countries, I wanted to help people in 10.
There’s a number of strategies that I used to do that, and the first one really is that behind every successful business there are customers, and to have customers you need to have an audience. You need to have reach. Your customers cannot possibly buy from you, they cannot possibly get your services, they cannot possibly get your expertise if they don’t know you exist.
My number one mission when I rocked up here in Australia was to let people know that I existed. Not only let people know that I existed, but also how I was going to help them. Do they know explicitly how we help, what difference we make, what things we do to actually give them the product to create the different life, whatever is that we’re providing to our customers? And that was top of my agenda.
Now, traditional way of doing this is to find who our customers are, we can reach out to them via email, we can pick up the phone, we can try and get through and have a face-to-face meeting with them, book a coffee, try and knock on the door and get in and have a presentation with them. But I had no time, I had no money, I had nowhere to live. I had to get money quickly. I was literally in a situation where it was about survival. And I believe this is also a critical factor behind my success.
I knew I had to get in front of a large audience. I didn’t have one, so I had to find someone else’s, and I had to find one that someone else had built for me, great strategy that I still use today. What better way to get in front of thousands of people in one go than to attend a conference. Now, a conference is someone else who’s worked extremely hard, with hundreds and thousands of dollars potentially in marketing to put your target audience into one single room. There is no trying to call and get through the gatekeeper, there’s no driving all the way to the city, getting there, having a meeting, doing the meeting, coming back writing a proposal waiting for them to read it, waiting for them to respond, coming back doing a second presentation…oh, my goodness, you get the point.
When you rock up to a conference, you have a captive audience, you literally have hundreds of people in one room, all there who have turned up specifically to network, who have actually specifically turned up to do business, to have business conversations, and so they are open to this kind of communication, to meeting new people and to finding out what it is you have to say, finding out how you can help them.
Now, one of these particular conferences, my record was I walked out with over 300 business cards. It was a three-day conference and I met all these people, I introduced myself. I took their business cards. So by the time I walked out from three days, I had 300 prospective customers who knew my face, and knew who I was, and knew how I could help them, and they’ve given me permission to reach out to them by e-mail for more information and to then come and give a free presentation to them in their workplace.
So that was my first strategy, and I actually got, within three months of my first conference, which, I’d only been in the country literally for days, just a couple of days, within three months of that, I won a six-figure contract and had to employ nine staff to actually see that through. And so you really can do this.
Now, I wanted to take this to the next level so I knew I had to find a way to lift my credibility. I carried on looking for conferences to attend. Here’s the trick for doing this. Go onto Google, find the keywords of the kind of conferences you want to attend. And then in those square brackets, the little square brackets on your keyboard, type in “keyword,” square bracket, “conference” and then your city. “Keyword,” square brackets “expo,” “keyword,” square brackets, “workshop,” whatever words you come with, and it will actually come up with a list of directories of the events that are taking place in your area.
You can then literally reach out to those conference organizers and say, “Hey, I’m an expert in the following. Would you like a speaker? I’d be willing to come and deliver a presentation for you free of charge.” Yes, free of charge. It’s this whole “speculate to accumulate” scenario, guys. It’s really, really powerful.
A lot of the keynote speakers that attend these will only go if they’re getting paid. So when you do offer to speak for free, you do get a look-in sometimes even if you’re a nobody, and I did. By positioning yourself on the stage, immediately it gives you this automatically earned credibility. “If this person’s being positioned on this stage on this platform, they clearly are someone. They clearly know what they’re talking about.” And what you have to do then is stand on the stage and demonstrate that with your skills, your knowledge, and your expertise.
Now, every single time I’ve done that without fail. One hundred percent of the time, I always have people that come to the front and actually queue up to talk to me afterwards, people that come to me and say, “That was great. I learned this. Here’s my card. Please, can we meet?”
After a few months of doing that, I honestly, guys, I had thousands…and I mean thousands of people on my contact list. And that, for me, now is where, after all these network meetings I attended, conferences I went to, I built up also a massive referral network. Every single day, I was getting phone calls from people going, “Oh, hi. My friend gave me your number, blah-blah-blah.” Amazing, please do not underestimate the power of this.
There seems to be this concept right now that the more we hide behind our computers, you know, and get our words absolutely perfect in an email, the better business results we’ll have. It’s really not true. We do have to build relationships, we have to make friends with people. It’s the only way to make people trust us enough to then go on and recommend us to others. So get out of your office, get off of your chair, get out from behind your desk, go out to conferences, go out to network meetings and speak.
What is ‘edupreneurship’ and why does it inspire you?
If you want to become credible, if you want to become a leader, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to create something that people can follow. You need to create something that makes people go, “Me, too,” or “I agree.” That’s when you become a leader. So you need to make something worth following. You need to speak about something worth agreeing upon. You need to represent something that people can say, “Me, too. I’m with you. Let me follow you, too.”
The second you do that, this is where your credibility lifts. So I thought, “Well, how can I do this?” You know, business, entrepreneurship, everyone’s talking about it. Education sector, so many people talking about it. But then I looked at myself again, like, “Well, what do I have to give?” Remember the 19-year-old me that went, “I’m good at something, and I love something, and I have something to share about this something.” And for me, it suddenly became obvious. It was right under my nose. Entrepreneurship and education.
Now, I combined these two. “I’ve been living and breathing these two things my whole life. All I have to do is put them together, and this becomes my niche.” And so I created the term “edupreneur.” I feel like has given me something that better sums up what it is that I actually do, and I knew that if it made me feel that way, that there would be other people out there that I could find that would also feel that way, go, “Me, too. I’m an edupreneur. I have an education-based business. That’s me.”
And so it began, all I have to do now is continue to share all of my skills, all the things I’ve learned, formally and informally, about running and setting up an education-based business, about teaching, about training, about doing that in a way that directly impacts your own bottom line, as well as those that you’re serving, your customer. I realized that my definition of this new word was “educating your market profitably.”
People are sick of being sold to, people are sick of being dictated to, people are sick of feeling like they are the ATM of a business owner’s bank account. We want to learn, we want to know, we want to understand, and more often than not, we want that information before we start doing business with somebody. So instead of going out to the world and saying, “Buy my stuff,” which was the best way to do business in the past, we now have to prove to people that we know what we say we know, that we have the expertise that we say we do. We have to prove to people that we’ve got what it takes to deliver what it is that they need.
And the only way to do that is to demonstrate it to our audience before they’ve even started doing business with us. And there is no better way of demonstrating our skills and our expertise than by showing it to them through education, by showing it to them, by educating them.
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. it really doesn’t. You could be selling lawnmowers. If you do that, you can create educational content on how to create the garden of your dreams using this lawnmower. If you create web design services, you can create videos of online courses and training content, and YouTube videos, and live streams on the top tips of creating the perfect web design company by showing people that you have that skill and expertise. I’m gonna come to you and go, “Hey, I want my website designed and I don’t want to do it myself. Can you do it for me? Now, I know that you can. Now, I know that you’re the guy that can help because I’ve seen your training. I know that I can give my money to you confidently, and I know that I’m gonna have a great product at the end of it because I’ve already seen it for myself.”
So edupreneurship is educating your market profitably. No matter what industry you’re in, no matter what sector you’re in, whether you sell products or whether you sell services, you, too, can use the platform of education to educate people on your topic, on your industry, on what it is your business does, on how it is that you help, and by actually showing people the step-by-step process of doing what it is that you do.
At this stage, a lot of people say to me, “Well, Sarah, hang on a minute. If I’m about to teach people how to do what it is that I do for them as a service, am I not gonna lose all my business? Am I not gonna cannibalize my company?” And actually, very counter-intuitively, no. Absolutely, the complete opposite is true. The thing is, if I have shown you that I know how to do everything that I do, you’re gonna watch the online course, the more I show you, the more in-depth I go into, the more intricate I go into how the machine works and showing you how the machine works in an online course, for instance, the more it’s gonna show you it’s involved in the process. And, in fact, what happens when people go for my online courses, which literally teach you everything you need to there on how to create online courses, how to sell online courses, how to get yourself out to the world, the more people go, “Sarah, can you do this for me?”
People often look at a topic and don’t realize just quite how much goes into it. So when they see how much is involved, it certainly justifies paying you to do it for them. It certainly justifies your costs and expenses because they’re like, “Whoa! I didn’t realize just quite how much was involved here. I totally don’t wanna do that. Here you go, Mr. Expert. Take my money.”
In your new book you mention that quality online education is under threat. Why?
The online learning industry is absolutely booming. Education is becoming a key income stream for people, people who are creating their own online courses. Doing so opens up a global marketplace. Doing so means that instead of impacting the one or two people that you get to get in front of per day or per a couple of days, you are able to literally get in front of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people per day, because once your content’s online, it’s there available to the whole wide world.
But obviously with every gold rush, there comes the people who are trying to take the shortcuts. With every gold rush there are the diggers and there are the grafters, and there are the fat cats who sit back and take advantage of a lucrative industry. With the boom of the online learning industry, now over hundreds of billions of dollars per year in value, there are a lot of fat cats out there. There are also a lot of people who are there just money grabbing and using this is as a system to chuck rubbish quality content out to the world just simply to make a buck, simply to scam people of their money, of their cash, promising them transformation and information, and actually delivering very little.
And this is a shame not just for the students who are receiving low-quality training programs, but it’s also a shame for the people who are putting them together. A lot of work goes into creating them, and if you create a course that doesn’t transform someone’s life, if you create a course that doesn’t give them results, if you create a course that doesn’t fundamentally help people have a different outcome between when they started it and when they finished it, then they are gonna come away from your course unsatisfied. And that is not good for your reputation. It’s not good for your bottom line.
If people are taking your course and feel absolutely transformed by it, they’ve got great results to show for it, you know what they’re gonna say? They’re gonna say, “That course was amazing.” They’re gonna and tell all their friends on social media. They’re gonna go, “Go and take this person’s course. It really helped me. It changed my life. It’s amazing. You should take it, too.” That is fantastic for them, for you, and for your business bottom line. So you want to be making sure that your training is absolutely fantastic, that it really does engage them and make them enjoy that learning experience, to feel good, and feel powerful, and efficacious by the time they finish that.
My powerful message, my message now, what I’m fiercely fighting is not just anyone can create a course, because you can, believe me you can, but please, please, please do that in a way that has the principals of adult learning in mind. Now there are lots of courses out there now that teach you how to create a course. Let me rephrase that. There are lots of courses out there that teach you how to put together information, but that is not good enough if we want to create transformation. So I decided to write this book.
So in this book “The Theory and Principles of Creating Effective Training Courses: What to Do before Creating Your Course,” I’ve created this book because I truly believe that there is something monumentally missing in all of the content that’s currently out there right now. What these marketers don’t teach you, because they’re not qualified in curriculum design, because they’re not experienced or trained in curriculum development, is the theory and principles that underpin any great training program.
So that, my friends, is what is included inside this book, a whole range of principles of adult learning theory, a whole range of understanding how we learn why we learn, what impacts curriculum design, what changes and influence how and why we put together and deliver any training program. And I’m actually working on the second book that comes after this, which is then about how to commercialize that as an education-based business, and actually how to put the content together. So that book is gonna be called “Entrepreneur to Edupreneur” which is already open for pre-sales. If you go to my website, sarahcordiner.com/books, you will actually be able to pre-purchase that one as well as this one here.
A common struggle for edupreneurs is to get their business off the ground and hook a large audience. But you’ve definitely cracked the code, with a customer base of over 5000 students in 121 countries! Could you give us your top tips on how to appeal to such a large audience across the globe?
If you want to reach a big audience, if you want to reach a large audience that impacts people across the globe, there’s a number of different things that you need to do. Now, my first one is: Go back to making sure that you are teaching something that you absolutely love from the bottom of your heart. Now, with any type of business, with any type of product or service, if you’re not willing to contribute or invest significant amounts of time into what you’re doing, you cannot expect to get significant outputs or results from it.
If you want to create true success, if you want to have a truly sustainable business you have to be ready to invest a considerable amount of time into your message right now. The reason why so many people are not successful is because they’re not willing to contribute. They feel that when they put a little bit of effort in, they have to get immediate results. So people who don’t see immediate results just go, “Well, this isn’t working,” and they drop it and stop.
There were so many times I sat there thinking, “This isn’t working. Clearly I need to go and do something else.” But I had this little feeling inside of me that I just needed to keep going. I just had to keep going. I love this. I was passionate about this, and that fuelled me.
And this is another reason why your passion is so important, it fuelled me, kept me going, “I love this. I don’t want to lose this. I don’t want to stop doing what I can do for the world.” And eventually, this sort of magical 18-month, 2-year mark happened where I feel like a fell over a tipping point or I’d been trudging uphill without any form of recognition or anyone in the world knowing what battle I was going through. And all of a sudden, the, “Hi, Sarah. I’ve been following you for ages. Sarah, I’ve been reading your posts for ages. Sarah, I’ve been reading your stuff for ages. Sarah…” And I was like, Wow! People were listening.
Live & breath your topic every single day. Be present: blog posts, forums, podcasts, conferences, social media…
As long as you are doing, and giving, and executing, and being present, and having omnipresence everywhere, all the time, you’re doing something, and that’s enough.
You have to be writing blog posts, all the time. You have to be writing on other people’s blogs, you have to be speaking at conferences. You have to be speaking at workshops, you have to be speaking at events, you have to be putting on your own events. You have to be maybe doing podcasts, being interviewed on other people’s podcasts. You need to literally be living and breathing your topic every single day. Write posts on social media, do live streams, create your own group.
Build a tribe, get other people who agree with you and follow you, share helpful content with them. Be insanely generous with everything that you have. Don’t be afraid to give away all of your knowledge. Answer every question that people ask you. Go into every social media channel and find out which ones most resonate with you, which ones you build the best relationships in with people, and be present on them all the time.
Changing the world is not something that you just chuck a blog post out and hope that it happens. Please do not let virality trick you into thinking that you could do a blog post and a hundred thousand people are going to like it. It really doesn’t work like that.
Be committed and dedicated to what you do. Be obsessed with the outcomes that you give your people, with how much you can change and impact their life, and do it from the heart, every single time. Put a little bit of commercialization in there, a little bit of strategic planning and knowledge, and believe me, you will not only have a successful business, but you’ll have one that helps you feel good, but importantly can change millions of people’s lives.
With a 7-figure business and a crazy impressive resume, you could easily stop there and quit while you’re ahead. Yet you’re constantly growing and creating new content, online courses and books. How do you stay motivated to keep building on your initial success?
A lot of people who start in the world of business think that there’s a starting point, a middle point, and an end point. A lot of people think that the journey is gonna go from zero and slowly grow up to hero, and then eventually, one day, they’re gonna have a particular picture that’s in their mind of what being a business owner is, and whatever that is for you. But the reality is not like that at all. Entrepreneurship is a journey, it’s not a destination. It’s not somewhere you finish up. And people that start, that think that one day they’re going to be finished or at some kind of end point, other people that constantly feel frustrated because they’re chasing after something that doesn’t exist.
Entrepreneurship is something that you live. It’s a lifestyle. It’s something that has great days, bad days, awkward days, amazing days, life-changing days, and it never ends. It doesn’t grow straight up, it just goes all over the place.
I’ve now gotten to a point where I have a number of accolades behind me. I’ve won multiple awards, I’ve got my own TV show, I’ve got podcasts, I’ve got thousands and thousands of followers. I’m a three-time international bestselling author. I mean, these things, these things, you can only dream of having when you first start in business. You look at other people and you think, “Wow! I could never be like that.” But I’m walking, talking, living, breathing proof from the 19-year-old girl with no money, sat on the corner of table, with a 20 something young lady who found herself homeless in a foreign country, that you can, you can make something incredible from nothing.
Now, I’m not gonna stop here. I look at these accolades and some people would say, “Sarah, you know, you’ve got everything you need. You’ve got over 6000 students in 121 countries. You’ve achieved it. You’ve done it.” But why would I stop? I would say, if I could work the rest of my life, every single day, as hard as I am now, and I only change one more person’s life, that’s good enough for me because I’ve found something that I enjoy.
And this really is the purpose of business. It’s about what makes you happy every single day, because this is the journey, this is the life that you now have the power to make for yourself. You have complete control over the life that you live every day, of the existence that you do make. And if you have built one that keeps you as excited as I feel, that keeps you as happy as I am, if you’ve found one that challenges you, yet provides you with a reward so great that it was worth every challenge you went through, then that means that you will constantly be fueled with motivation, enthusiasm, and drive to keep doing more, to keep giving more, and to keep being more for the world and for yourself.
Any final words of wisdom for edupreneurs?
My final message is this: You really do have all the resources you need to be the greatest version of yourself. You don’t need money, you don’t need an investor, you don’t need people behind you cheering you on. You are the person, and the person and resource alone that you need to achieve whatever it is that you’re dreaming of.
You have all the skills, all the knowledge, all the experience, all the expertise that you need, right now, to take the next step. You’ve been training your entire life for it, so, please, for the benefit of everyone out there who doesn’t have the skills and knowledge that you’ve got yet, who needs your information, who needs your motivation, who needs your guidance, please, share that with the world, and importantly, do that in a way that transforms people’s lives and does it in a way that’s commercially valuable to your bottom line and your business.
Want more expert advice?
Uncover powerful tips to successfully hook and engage a worldwide audience. Dive into advice from expert entrepreneurs and get ready to go global. Get your free guide now.