Have you been thinking about adding an online element to your equine business? It’s not just equine retailers who are using the internet to reach a global audience with their business. Equine professionals are also using online courses as a way to expand their customer base and move away from trading hours for dollars by sharing their equine expertise.
Perhaps you are a riding instructor. You’ve worked hard to develop your skills and have established an excellent reputation locally. You work long hours in all weathers and can’t fit any more clients into your days. The usual next step in your career of establishing a riding school or training centre doesn’t appeal because of the big investment and ongoing overheads. Plus you’ll be even more tied down by managing staff and horses as well as your existing coaching career.
You’ve seen other coaches successfully launch an online training business and you’ve decided it’s the perfect way to expand your business so you can grow your income whilst freeing up time.
So now that you’ve decide to go down the route of selling online courses, what tech are you going to need to bring your vision to life?
There are three main elements you need for your online course:
1) The course content – this will typically be a mix of videos and written content. You might also have downloadable materials such as PDF workbooks and audio files. These need to be hosted on a reliable server that can handle the bandwidth (especially for video) and you need to be able to protect your content so that only paying members have access to it.
2) A payment system – so that you can charge customers for your online products. You also need to take into consideration how you will charge (you might want to charge a one off fee, offer payment plans for more expensive courses or a recurring subscription which might be weekly, monthly or annual). You also need to think about the tax implications of your digital products. If you sell your online course, ebook or audio download in the European Union (EU) you may have to register for VAT Moss. This still applies even if you aren’t based in the EU. I’d strongly advise talking to a tax expert or accountant with experience of digital product sales, because how you format your product can make a difference in the tax you will have to pay.
3) A way to contact your course students and deliver access to your online course. Typically you will use a CRM (customer relationship management) tool to store your customer database and keep in touch with them via email. How sophisticated you want to make this depends on your course format and how much automation you want or need. You could keep things super simple with a paypal payment link, a spreadsheet of your customers and a Facebook group. It’s easy and low cost but the trade off is that you will have to manage it manually, adding or removing students from the group as they pay to join or cancel their membership. Alternatively you could go for full automation, so that someone can buy your course and get instant access whilst you sleep (or ride your horse!).
If you are serious about making online courses a big part of your business income, then in my opinion it’s worth investing in online tools which make managing your business easier and provide a great experience for your students.
Here are two of my favourite platforms for running your new online training business:
Ontraport is an all in one solution. You can use it to host your WordPress website, store and stream your video content, build landing pages for your ad campaigns, manage your members area, take payments including one off courses and monthly recurring subscriptions, hold your member database & send email newsletters. Prices start from $99 a month. We use it at the Equine Business Association to run the members area of the site, add signup forms (such as the one at the end of this blog post) and send the weekly members newsletters.
Ontraport has a huge amount of customisation and flexibility but the trade off is that it takes some time to master the platform. Whilst you can host your WordPress website through their platform (or link your existing WordPress site if you already have it hosted elsewhere) you need to design & build all the elements of your online course portal including course pages, order forms and sales pages.
If you don’t want or need this level of customisation, then another platform to consider is Teachable. It’s quicker to get started because you are working in a fully hosted environment. If you have used drag & drop website builders like Wix or Squarespace in the past then you’ll have experienced how easy it can be to work with this sort of system. With Teachable, a lot of the tech work is done for you, all you need to focus on is creating and uploading your course content.
The disadvantage with Teachable compared to Ontraport is that you have far less flexibility to customise your online course platform. It also operates as a standalone course platform rather than building it into your existing website like you can with Ontraport. You will also still need a CRM / email service to keep in touch with your students. Teachable can be a cheaper option than Ontraport with a free level but keep an eye on the 5% transaction fee on the lower cost plans which can quickly add up.
Whichever platform you pick, adding an online training element to your horse business is an exciting step to diversifying and increasing your income through sharing your equine expertise. If you have more questions, pop them in the comments section below or join the Equine Business Association today so you can access our support community and learn from other members who are already successfully selling their expertise online.
Founder, Equine Business Association
Christina Jones is the founder of the Equine Business Association. Her background lies in digital marketing, as the MD of the specialist agency Blacktype Digital which works with some of the biggest brands in the equine, rural & veterinary sectors. She’s also the owner of an ecommerce store in the equine industry which has been trading since 2001 so sees things from the other side of the table too.
Christina is the geekiest horse person you’re likely to meet but takes pride in making digital marketing accessible, easy to understand & most importantly, profitable! She is based in Gloucestershire & is originally from Snowdonia, so understands the unique challenges (& benefits) of running a rural business. Outside of work, she’s normally to be found at the stables with her 2 horses or at a horse show (which is technically work but never feels like it!).