Episode 67: What Therapists Should Know When Creating Online Courses [featuring Melvin Varghese]
Even though you may love being a therapist, do you ever feel burnt out and tired of trading 60-minute increments of time for money?
Have you ever thought it would be nice to have some passive income or just another revenue stream, in general, to take some of the pressure off of always wondering if you’ll have enough clients this month to foot the bills?
Do you want a way to scale your income and stop trading dollars for hours?
Well, this episode is for you!
In this episode, I talk with Melvin Varghese, psychologist, founder and host of the Selling The Couch podcast, and online course creator.
Top 3 reasons to listen to the entire episode:
- Learn how to take your existing knowledge and skills and create a scalable online course.
- Understand what common pitfalls and obstacles arise in course creation and how to overcome them.
- Learn different ways to set up your courses for monetization and how these worked (or didn’t) for 2 successful online course creators sharing their personal experiences.
So, if you are starting to feel like just doing therapy is starting to lead to burnout and you need another source of income to help you relax and invest in more self-care, or if you just feel like you have the drive to put your knowledge and skills out into the world on a larger scale and help tons of people at the same time, online course creation might be the way to go.
Check out this episode packed full of some of the most helpful tips and perspectives about online course creation.
More about Melvin:
Melvin Varghese, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Philadelphia, PA.
In 2015, Dr. Varghese also founded Selling The Couch, a podcast to help private practitioners grow their impact and income in and beyond the therapy room.
On the podcast, he interviews successful practitioners about how they've built their businesses, and social media/marketing experts to help us learn the lessons we didn't in grad school.
Mel also shares lessons as he uses our clinical skillset to create an online business powered by podcasting + online courses.
The podcast is one of the top Career podcasts in Apple Podcasts, has been downloaded over 1.4 million times, and is heard in over 125 countries.
Mel also founded several resources for therapists transitioning from the therapist chair to online income including:
The Healthcasters-A podcasting community for therapists (https://sellingthecouch.com/jointhehealthcasters)
STC Elite- A mastermind for therapist course creators (https://sellingthecouch.com/mastermind)
Selling The Couch: sellingthecouch.com
DOWNLOAD THE FREE ONLINE COURSE GUIDE FOR THERAPISTS: sellingthecouch.com/onlinecourseguide
A Thanks to Our Sponsor!
I would also like to thank The Receptionist for iPad for sponsoring this episode.
As you prepare for the new year as a private practice owner, one area of your business where you might be able to level up your client experience is from the moment that they enter your office and check in with you. For many private practices, the client check-in process can be a bit awkward and confusing.
Clients often enter into an empty waiting room. And chances are you're wrapping up a session with someone else, so there's no way of knowing when they arrive. With a visitor management system like The Receptionist for iPad, you can provide clients with a discreet and secure way to check in for their appointment while instantly being notified of their arrival.
What's more, The Receptionist offers an iPad list check-in option where clients can scan a QR code to check in, which negates the need for you to buy an iPad and stand. Go to thereceptionist.com/privatepractice and sign up for a free 14-day trial. When you do, you'll get your first month free. And don't forget to ask about our iPad list check-in option.
PATRICK CASALE: As you prepare for the new year as a private practice owner, one area of your business where you might be able to level up your client experience is from the moment that they enter your office and check-in with you.
For many private practices, the client check-in process can be a bit awkward and confusing. Clients often enter into an empty waiting room. And chances are you're wrapping up a session with someone else, so there's no way of knowing when they arrive.
With a visitor management system like The Receptionist for iPad, you can provide clients with a discreet and secure way to check-in for their appointment while instantly being notified of their arrival.
What's more, The Receptionist offers an iPadless check-in option where clients can scan a QR code to check in, which negates the need for you to buy an iPad and stand.
Go to thereceptionist.com/privatepractice and sign up for a free 14-day trial. When you do you'll get your first month free. And don't forget to ask about our iPadless check-in option.
Hey, everyone, you are listening to another episode of the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I'm your host Patrick Casale, joined today by friend and colleague, Melvin Varghese. He is a psychologist in Pennsylvania and also the host of the Selling the Couch podcast, Selling the Couch community, course creator, I mean, extraordinaire, so really happy to have you on. He also has the most enjoyable voice on podcasting to listen to. So, really glad to have you here.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Patrick, I'm so grateful for you. And I don't know, I listen to your voice and I'm like, this is a really nice voice. So, I might have some competition here.
PATRICK CASALE: You remember when we were in Ajita's summit and someone told you that you would be someone they would want to read nursery books for kids on air?
MELVIN VARGHESE: I do remember that.
PATRICK CASALE: And I remember thinking like, "Oh, you're right. That would be a really good side hustle."
MELVIN VARGHESE: I had never even heard of this term, ASMR. Like that, yeah, right? I had somebody recently on Twitter say the same thing. Like, "You should do ASMR videos." I mean, I had to look it up because I didn't know what they were talking about.
PATRICK CASALE: Melvin just eating an apple into the microphone, or crinkling some paper, or…
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: Well, that it is a good segue into what we are going to talk about today, which is creating successful online courses or successful courses in general, and what kind of things to look out for when you are trying to create other streams of revenue.
I think you probably have heard many, many times that, "Oh, I want to make passive income without having to do a whole lot of work." Because I think a lot of therapists are getting to the point of burnout or just looking to grow and scale their businesses.
So, tell us a little bit about course creation and the passion behind it as well.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think this pandemic has altered so many people's lives. And I think as clinicians, I think many of us are thinking, like, what does our career look like? I feel like, maybe in a much more intentional light, and yeah, for me, you know, my course creation journey started in 2015. At the time, I was full-time, five and a half days of clinical work, split between a day of assessments, and then the rest therapy clients.
And I, you know, launched my podcast back in 2015. And I would say, a couple of months afterwards a handful of folks started reaching out to me wanting consultations on launching a podcast, and I had this idea of like, I wonder what it would be like to just like turn that knowledge into digital form. And I was like, "Oh, maybe I can create an online course." Never created online course, I had no idea what I was doing.
I have definitely made a ton of mistakes, I think a ton of, like, really good things in hindsight, but a ton of mistakes as well. And my course this year passed the $300,000 revenue mark, and we just passed, I think, our 272nd student. It's a podcasting course for therapists and yeah, it's been a journey.
And I'm like, so grateful to be here and just happy to be a resource as we even think through this because, yeah, I think you're absolutely right. Like, I think there is this space of passive income, like many of us, are thinking about it, and then the natural thing is like courses, "Oh, I can do a course." And as you and I have talked about, like, courses have a passive element, but the maintenance and even the building of them are not passive at all, so…
PATRICK CASALE: Yeah, I almost cringe when I hear, like, passive income, not saying that it can't be done, but just the amount of legwork that has to go into creating a product that can sell and is valuable, and you know, that people want to purchase and have something to offer.
Also, congrats, by the way, on hitting the 300,000 and counting mark, that's really exciting.
Do you ever see yourself, like, graduating with your Ph.D. or PsyD thinking, "This is where my career is going to take me?"
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, yes, remember I finished up my postdoc and got my Ph.D. the year before in 2012. So, this is actually 10 years since I got fully licensed. I did my internship and postdoc in Nashville, in Tennessee, and then we moved up here to Philadelphia.
And short answer, absolutely not. I was actually talking to my partner about this the other day. And it's crazy because, Patrick, to be honest, like, I thought I was going to be a university counseling center psychologist. Like, maybe get up to like training director, assistant director, and then, like, do like a handful of private practice clients on the side. And I thought that was going to be my career. Never did I imagine like in 10 years it would shift to this.
PATRICK CASALE: That's amazing and something to really, really celebrate and be proud of. I mean, I always assumed getting my master's was the finish line, and becoming a therapist in a community mental health center was it. And I don't think I saw the possibilities. And I think that's the beauty in what we're talking about today is that there are possibilities and that therapists and mental health professionals have so many skill sets that are so applicable in so many different arenas and they can also be monetized. And it's just about a lot of different factors going into it. But really understanding that there is a market for course creation, a big, big market right now, especially as people have moved into a virtual era of psychotherapy and mental health care.
So, you were talking to me about some mistakes that you often see made. And I'd love to talk about common mistakes before kind of going into how to create something successful because I see a lot of those too. And I made my fair share of them as everybody will who's listening to this, you will definitely make mistakes and stumble along the way.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm so glad, like, we can talk about this because, yeah, one, I think it is really important to talk about, like, one, normalize that the journey is not like this, you know, exponential growth up. I think, especially like in the online space, at least, I sort of saw this, and then I kind of fell into it. Like, well, you know, like so and so had a six-figure launch, you know? Their first launch. And I'm like, "Well, what's wrong with me?" Like, "Why is mine not working out?"
And I suspect of the folks that launch successful courses, I think the vast majority actually have very slow, and sort of like boring growth is just that they kind of show up, and iterate, and tweak over and over. And that's what it was for me. I mean, it's been a seven-year journey, you know, to get to this point. So, I think that's probably the first sort of mistake that I see, which is, I got to like, get up to this revenue marker by this amount of time. And it's usually measured in like months as opposed to like, trying to measure it in years, right? And yeah, I mean, I would love even to hear, Patrick, like your thoughts on that because I think that's really interesting as well, you know?
PATRICK CASALE: I'm really glad that you started with that point because I think it's so easy to get into the comparison trap of, like you said, "What is wrong with me? How come this isn't going the way I thought it was going to go? I was assuming I was going to make half a million dollars this year. Nobody even bought it or only one person bought it."
And I think social media plays a role in that, right? Like, we're seeing like everyone's successes posted all the time, and good, I'm glad for that. I'm all about that mentality of like, we can all be successful. But I do think it can also create this insecurity and this imposter syndrome, too, of like, "What the hell am I doing wrong here?"
But you're right. I mean, a lot of this is trial and error and tweaking things as you go, and learning from mistakes. And I know when I launched my first Taking the Leap course, back in August of 2020, I had done a beta test with some friends here in Asheville, and I was like, "Could this really be a thing where people would pay for me to teach them how to build their practices like…" You know, Allison Puryear is here, she's a friend of mine, but I think to myself, "Why would anyone hire me if Abundance Practice Building is in the same city?"
But did a six-person Zoom for six weeks and just like beta tested and the feedback was like, "Yeah, I would probably pay you like a couple 100 bucks for this." And then fast forward to, you know, just wrapping up my four months Take the Leap program, which had a price tag on it of about 5000. And just the fact that it took a lot of trial and tribulation to get here. And even now, there's still bumps along the road where you're still like, ironing things out, and improving, and editing, and learning from mistakes and, you know, scratching things off the list of saying, like, "I am not going to use that again." Or, "I'm not going to do that again." Or, "Ooh, that worked really well." And the ability to improvise, and kind of create, and learn as you go is really important, I think.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, absolutely. I think like, it speaks to the mindset, which, for me, it's like, instead of, I guess, the best sort of images is like, you know, like in undergrad, one, this is going to be such a… might be silly, but one of my, like, I loved my art class that I took, and one of my most favorite memories was actually on like Saturday evenings when people were partying. I'd be in the art studio just like painting away on canvas. And I think that's the sort of mindset or the image to embrace, right? Like, you're an artisan, that's like finally crafting something over time [PH 00:11:14] instead and over time, right? The combo of you crafting and getting feedback, you know, from students, all that, that's what makes it a beautiful product.
For me, like, initially, I thought like the pressure had to be all on me to craft it, right? Whereas I think shifting it and saying like, "Hey, maybe this is something we can co-create together and that co-creation is likely going to happen over a long time." I think that was very eye-opening because, I mean, to be honest, Patrick, like I made… when I first launched that course, I know where the idea came from. I was like, "You know what I'm just going to do, I can see podcasting is starting to take off. But there's not really a community for like health care professionals." And so, I was like, you know what? Maybe Healthcasters will first just… it'll be a podcasting course and community, and I called it for health, wellness, and fitness professionals, right?
And, in my mind, right, again, I launched Selling the Couch April that year, and I launched this course in November of that year. I'm like, that is so niched, like oh my gosh, like that's… because I had seen that some other courses that were just like general podcasting courses, right? And that was a big mistake I made too because I mean, how in the world do you talk to that big of a population, right? Health, wellness, and fitness, right? So, everyone from surgeons to therapists, to I don't know, like somebody's interested in keto, right? Like, all on one sales page. And that's like one mistake I made. And definitely, something I would always recommend is niche down and layer it. Like, layer it down to almost a level that you're uncomfortable. And the way that I like to do it is, I like to say like if one person looks at my sales page can they see themselves in that sales page?
PATRICK CASALE: Love that. And that's such a good reminder of how important niching down is, and even if you're listening to this right now, and you're thinking about your private practice, I know that it can be really challenging to say, "But I'm going to exclude people." But what if this isn't for everybody?
And what I think, you know, circling back, you know, fast forward from that time when you launched both of those simultaneously till now, how many downloads have you had on your podcast? I mean, it's in the millions.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, it is crazy. I mean, the very first day I had nine, and I'm pretty sure four of those were like me on multiple devices. So, yeah, and we recently passed 1.4 million, which is kind of crazy, so…
PATRICK CASALE: That is amazing. Congratulations on that. Do you think that happens, though, if you hadn't niched down and gotten really specific about what you wanted your vision to be?
MELVIN VARGHESE: I don't think so. I think almost like, you know, I talk to a lot of like online creators outside of our space. And the ones that have like large followings, like I have a good friend, he's got like 200 plus thousand followers on Twitter, right? And he always tells me like, he niched down to a very specific population. And then, as he sort of started to like, hit a certain threshold, and I don't know what that number is, I think it just varies depending on the platform, depending on what it is, then he started to expand out, you know?
But what's interesting is, the more recent conversations we're having now, he's like, you know, maybe it's not about just these numbers, right? Maybe it's about the quality of people that I'm attracting too, right? Because if you attract a whole bunch of people but they're not actually interested in products or services is that really worthwhile kind of thing? You know, it just becomes a vanity metric.
PATRICK CASALE: That is such a good reminder, again, like circling back to that comparison mindset, even if you're only in it for the follows, or the likes, or the downloads, or the shares, is that really doing anything in terms of monetizing? And maybe it's not because you're not attracting the right people. And I think, quality over quantity, for sure, and especially, as you're growing at first, and really trying to get an idea of what you're trying to create because it's really easy to get caught up in the like, "Oh, I'll just fit one more person in this course, oh, here's this one extra sales." They're not really a good fit, but like, the dollar sign is in front of me and then you can disrupt the milieu of something that you've created as well. Have you run into that at all? Or have you seen that happen for people?
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, I mean, I can even share a personal story of this, absolutely. So, this was probably about three and a half, four years ago… yeah, three and a half years ago. I think it was like a podcast coach or a podcast editor, someone else in the podcasting space that was not a therapist reached out and was like, "Hey, I'm really interested in your course, you know, love."
And so, initially, I was like, you know, hey, this is really built for therapists, it's probably not really like, you know, really good fit for you. But they were pretty insistent. So, I was like, "Okay, that's fine. And we can talk about this later." But you know, from pricing like, I've gone the gamut, you know, from a 297 is when I first released the course, then I went to a membership model because everybody kept saying, like, the money's in recurring, right? So, at that time, this person had signed up. And I think it was like, I'm going off a memory, but like 47 a month or something, right? I didn't value myself to say like, you have to commit for an X amount of time, right? So, this person literally paid 47, they were super gung ho, then, right before they got to the next payment thing, like the two days before they cancel. I'm like, "What in the world happened."
And then I look at the analytics, and basically, they had gone through all of the material. And I think, like, taking it for their own sort of benefit. And that felt so bad. Like, I mean, I share that because like, I don't know, it's going to happen, I think just as you sort of share your course with others, but it also doesn't represent everybody, but it's just sort of the nature of the things that I think sometimes people don't talk about. There are people that, you know, sort of try to game the system or are more about, you know, trying to learn, but not really thinking like, "Oh, yeah, that's somebody else's business." You know?
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely. And I think that happens a lot of the time. I see that in membership sites, especially, where you can go in and cancel at any time and download everything the person's created, and then make it your own. And then all of a sudden here's so and so selling their own, like templates, or packages, or coaching programs. And it's unfortunate, and it does happen. And thankfully, it's not happening constantly. But it does happen. And you have to protect your intellectual property for sure.
I like that you named like, starting your program at 297, and a membership program and pricing really evolves over time. And that's also kind of a beta testing point at first to kind of get a sense of like, there's so much stuff that we have to work through financially, right? Like money mindset work, and our own narratives about who will pay for what, but really trying to figure out how to value something. And do you have any advice or suggestions for people who are like, I want to start this course, I know I have this great content, but I really don't know how to price it.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, so I would actually say [INDISCERNIBLE 00:18:59] this, like a little controversial, but I would say like, don't focus on pricing first, focus on validating the course with paying students. And then, the second thing also is thinking about, like, what your vision is, right? And the vision may change, like it did for me.
You know, my initial thought was like, the course is an important part of it. But what I wanted to do was really create a community. And what I realized is I needed a core group of people that were invested in podcasting in order for the community to thrive in the long term, right? So, my goal initially was not necessarily revenue, it was actually quality students. And then I think once we sort of had quality then we could kind of play with the price. I mean, you asked about like tips.
So, it's interesting, right? Like, the folks that will say, like, pay one-off, you know, pay, you know, 497, 99, 1497, whatever dollar course, right? They will say, the advantage of that is, you know, somebody pays you one time, you're not sort of obligated to them over, you know, multiple months, whatever. They can do whatever with the course content, right.
The disadvantage of that is, one, there can be more refunds, right? Like, on larger transactions. The second thing is, you know, ultimately, especially in the early stages, and I would say even throughout, you know, as course creators we can get stuck on revenue being the end goal, and that is an important metric. But actually, people completing the course, and having success, and being willing to share it with others either via direct testimonials, or just word of mouth, right? That's what ultimately drives future sales. So, you could have like amazing sales, but if nobody actually completes the course, right? Then you're setting it up where it's going to be hard to get those future sales. So, that's the one disadvantage, I think of, you know, the one-off payment.
The disadvantage of a membership is exactly what you said earlier, right? You can have a ton of content, you can put your heart and soul into this, but you know, if you're charging 47 or 67, you know, what's stopping somebody from, you know, canceling in one- or two-months stuff that you've learned over the years?
And so, I mean, where I've kind of arrived with my courses, and again, this is evolving because, like, you know, yeah, this is all like evolving over time. So, like, where I arrived is, I have a cost for the course. And then they can upgrade if they want community and coaching access, right?
PATRICK CASALE: I like that. I think we're seeing that more and more in a lot of courses and programs of like, here's the cost for the course, and here are some a la carte options, if you want to have more communication, more support, more coaching, more involvement because all of this stuff takes so long to build. Even a community, like you're mentioning, a community takes so long to build. And I know a lot of people, myself included who have created membership sites in the past who just could not get the engagement going. And people would fall into this membership but there's not a whole lot going on. So, there's not a lot of engagement. And then ultimately, it kind of crumbles.
And, you know, I kept thinking, like, "How can I have a Facebook group of 7000 people engaged all the time? They've paid to get into this membership and nobody's engaging?" So, it's just interesting when you start to see that stuff happen too. And I think being able to adjust and pivot is really important because it would be very easy to say, "Well, I tried. This clearly isn't for me, and I don't know how to become a course creator now."
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And to that point, I mean, this was actually a mistake that I made is, I mean, I know why I did it, again, in the moment, right? Like, you have the data and it makes sense. I started my community, the community aspect of the course on Facebook. It was a Facebook group, right? And this is back in 2015, Facebook groups were brand new, right? So, Facebook was heavily promoting Facebook groups. So, pretty much anytime anybody posted in that group everybody could see it, right? Literally, I posted something the other day to my free community, which is like 9900 people. Can you guess how many people saw that?
PATRICK CASALE: Hmm, that's a good question. I don't know. I would say depending on the content, maybe a couple of hundred?
MELVIN VARGHESE: 31.
PATRICK CASALE: 31, yeah.
MELVIN VARGHESE: 31, which is crazy, right? Like, I mean, because we're at the mercy of these algorithms now. Like, you put your heart and soul into these courses and communities that we build. And, you know, it's very disheartening. I think one thing I learned from that experience, and this is something we've done, you know, with this mastermind that I run now, we actually took a completely off of Facebook and just put it on like circle. And just because I didn't want to keep like being pulled by these algorithms, you know?
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely. And that can get really discouraging too, what you're saying of like, creating this content that you feel really good about and sharing with the world. And you have this audience, but because of the algorithm, maybe 99% of the audience never sees it.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Right, yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: And then that can be very frustrating, so being able to move off-site off of a major social media platform can be really advantageous for people.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah. And I mean, that comes with its own downsides, too, you know? I labored about, you know, going off of Facebook to Circle. Mighty Networks is another one I know that a lot of folks use. And even like, two, three months into it this year, I was like, "Maybe we should go back to Facebook." Right? Because the other side of that is right, like something like Mighty Networks or Circle, it's not natural for folks, right? To be like, "I got to log into another platform that's not Facebook." You know, even though so many people don't like Facebook, right? So…
PATRICK CASALE: You're so right. I told my VA that when we were moving to, I can't remember, I think it was LearnWorlds or I don't remember what platform we were using at the time to try to do a membership. And I was just thinking, I was like, "I think the complication is that it is one more thing for someone to have to remember to log into and people are so used to just opening their phone or their laptop, and they're on Facebook and there it is."
But then you're right, so many people also hate Facebook. And there is, like, that dilemma there as well. But it sounds like you've figured it out of how to make it happen. And that is a good testimonial for people who are listening to here because, like you said, this was not an overnight thing. This was years of trial and error, and figuring things out, and learning, and making mistakes, and having support and resources around you to get to a place where you are now in a place where you've passed, like you said, 300,000 in sales and revenue. And that is not a small undertaking.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah. I appreciate you saying that. I think I heard something years ago from, I think it was from [INDISCERNIBLE 00:26:48]. And he said, "You know when you build an online business you have to think of it in stages." And I think he said, "Year one is learn, year two is earn, and year three and beyond is scale." And I think a lot of times, I mean, I know I fell into this, like, I think a lot of times therapists can be like, "I want to be at that earn stage." Or, "I want to be at that scale stage." When we haven't even learned about the market, we haven't validated the course idea, we haven't had one-on-one conversations with potential students, we haven't run beta groups like you ran, you know? We haven't gotten any sort of survey data, anything like that.
And, yeah, I think it's just a good reminder, you know, don't always remember the stage you're at, and especially, don't compare the stage you are to what you may see on social media.
PATRICK CASALE: It seems like that's going to be a theme here, of not comparing yourself to social media, or what people portray themselves, or their businesses to be on social media, really, really important. I can't tell you how much coaching I do around that. But that's really great advice, learn, earn, then scale. And even with private practice, people are so ready to just open the doors and like, "How come I don't have these like, you know, six-figure months?" Or whatever the case may be right off the bat? And here's a lot of testing that has to happen at first to figure out who your niche is, who your clientele is, what your marketing strategies are, what works, what doesn't. I mean, there's so much that goes into this. So, really important to remember that as well.
You had written down a few other tips or some things that you saw as common mistakes. What else kind of comes to mind?
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, I would say the next one I would say is like gear, specifically, I think, it's very easy to like see some really nice courses, right? And so, I'm going to kind of say gear/marketing, maybe. So, it's so easy to see certain courses and see like the video quality or the audio quality, and be like, "Man, I want that." But a lot of times we don't see what the first version of that course looked like. I mean, I can even share with my, you know, no one gave me a memo of this stuff.
So, I recorded, you know, the first version of Healthcasters and one of the videos was about how to set up your podcasting mic so that you get really good sound, you know? Because most of us don't want to spend thousands of dollars on soundproofing and all that stuff, right? So, I bust out with a dark knight-like Batman t-shirt. And my mic has like a purple light on it instead of me like putting tape on it so it's not shining all over the camera and I'll make sure like it's wide exposed so it looks like the Batman symbol is like on my shirt, you know, like the purple whatever, right?
And then, I totally forget that, you know, I've got a webcam and I totally forget to like, look around and make sure there's nothing that's distracting. So, like, half my window is exposed, and it just looks so awkward. And it's like, you know, super, like, intense sun coming on one side. So, my face looks completely washed out. And I'm so glad I was so naïve in those early days because like, and I think I say it, and like to be funny, but I think a little bit of just curiosity and just being naive, I think, it's actually a good thing in the course creation space because so many of us like, we worry about the perceptions of others. And I struggle with this a lot. And because of that, we never actually even put the first product out there or the first iteration to get any sort of feedback, you know?
And I know that video helped a lot of our colleagues, you know, set up their mic. Was it the most aesthetically pleasing? No, right? You know, but I learned, and then, you know, I think it took probably another six edits because I tried to like edit the course like once, I mean, like update the course, like any relevant sections, like once a year. And I think it took six of those iterations to finally get to like a halfway decent-like recording, you know? So…
PATRICK CASALE: That's such a great, great tip and reminder of like to really pay attention too. And what was the first thing I asked you when you got on here? Like, I saw your setup, and I was like, "Oh, my God, your setup is so beautiful. "And you said, "Yeah, this is like seven years in the making." And that's kind of what people need to try to remember right now is it really, I mean, there's resources that go into this. And there's a lot that goes into this. And you grow. And as you're making money, you reinvest it, and you learn from some of this stuff, too.
And you're so right about just like offering quality off the bat instead of the thing that looks like really shiny or really nicely done because that's really much more important, especially, in the beginning stages as you develop a reputation. And people are going to trust you enough to pay you their money to really, really deliver.
And one thing that stood out to me when I was starting was that I was doing coaching at the time with someone and I had only had like six people in one of these courses instead of the eight that I wanted. And I was really like down on myself. And they were like, "Listen, give an absolutely incredible experience to those six people." Going back to what you said about testimonials and how that is really what starts to build that momentum and that audience at first there's other people who have taken your courses or your products, and then, are recommending them elsewhere, and how that spreads. And now, I mean, I buy into that 100%. And I think it's really easy to get into the mindset of like, "But I didn't sell it out. Oh, but like, I didn't make the…" Like you said, "… the revenue that I wanted it to make."
So, really remembering that your first year you are really trying to deliver quality product, and quality courses, and quality information for people because those people who take your initial courses and the first offerings are going to be the ones who are also telling other people, telling their friends, telling their colleagues, sharing your stuff. So, developing those relationships are really, really important.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, 100%. You know, I'm like a big believer, I know you are as well. Like, I think authenticity and integrity, I think, matters so much, especially, in the early stages. I mean, throughout of course, but like especially, in the early stages, and then, you know, I think a lot of times as course creators we can be like, you know, a well-edited video is what matters, but not really, right? It's can they see you as a person? Can they trust you? Right? And all of that stuff like and I mean, I've never heard someone tell me like, "Mel, I so appreciated that you made that like B-roll edit, you know, at the 130 mark on that second video because that's what made me realize I wanted to share it with somebody else." You know?
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely.
MELVIN VARGHESE: You know, like, it's so, yeah.
PATRICK CASALE: Nurturing those relationship's really important. I was on your podcast talking about networking and nurturing relationships. And I think that same thing goes for course creation, like nurturing the relationships, the people who have paid you for your time or who have been participants in what you've offered, really ensuring that they have a good experience and that you address concerns and answer questions, and are open to feedback. I think the feedback process is so, so important and I heard you say something about surveys and of course completion, and it's really important to gain that and not take offense to criticism too or feedback that comes in. It can be easier said than done sometimes but it's really important to try to be open-minded to that as well.
Are there other tips or mistakes that you wrote down before we started talking?
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, yeah. I have another one, which is like, related to the marketing one. And that's, you know, I talked to somebody recently, a friend recently that got to go and witness like a big online entrepreneur and their course launch, they got to go witness it live, right? And this is somebody that typically, you know, pulls in, you know, six, if not seven figures in every launch, right?
And I was like, "What was that experience like?" And they were like, "Well, you know, it's really surprising because when you look at the videos, it looks like it's just them talking and teaching. But they had like a staff of like 12 people that were there, and everything was down to like the minute and it was kind of stressful being there."
And so, I think one thing I just took away is, you know, for most of us, right, like, we don't have these, like, humongous marketing teams to launch these courses. And so, it's just being like graceful, and kind to yourself, and saying, like, "Hey, like, I'm where I am and that's okay, you know? I'm not trying to compete with them. Maybe at some point, I'll get there. But it's okay if I don't." So…
PATRICK CASALE: Love it. Yeah, I think that's really important to keep in perspective. And that can go from anything as simply as, like you were saying about the setup as well as, "Oh, I know other people have Vas, or I know other people have marketing people, I know other people have these people in their corner." That can happen. And that will happen as you grow.
But at first, most of you are not going to have the budget to hire an admin assistant, and a virtual assistant, and a social media person, and someone to transcribe podcasts, or whatever the case may be. It takes time. And it really is, again, about delivering the product, not comparing yourself to other people, and what you think that they are doing. I can't stress that enough.
And for those of you who want to create courses that are listening, it's totally within your wheelhouse. And please don't allow yourself to go into imposter syndrome mode of, "But there's already a course on this." Because again, like Melvin said, authenticity and integrity, your authentic personality, and voice, and how you show up is really, really important. And that's really the selling point here, too.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah. And the other side of that is, and that thought you just shared Patrick, like crippled me because when I was initially thinking about launching the course, this is a little embarrassing to admit, but the person I learned podcasting from I actually emailed them to get their permission to launch my own course because I felt like, I was like stepping on their toes or something like that. But fortunately, they said yes. I don't know what I would have done if they said no. This is something I've learned is if there are existing courses out there, and you're seeing like on sales pages, like one they're charging like premium prices and two… by the way, our daughter woke up, I hope you're not hearing that, and if they're charging premium prices for those courses, and they're getting sales, like that's a gray validator of a course idea, right? It shouldn't stop you, it should just more be about like trying to find the best niche, you know, like, can I niche this down to a certain population, you know, or in a different way than they're presenting it? So…
PATRICK CASALE: For sure, I think that's a great validator, that's almost like market research in itself to say, "Okay, there's already a target audience here, there's already a need, there's already something that I need to fill from my own perspective or from my own lens."
And I want to just circle back to what you said about asking that person for permission. I did something similarly with a colleague of mine, like, "Hey, I'm thinking of becoming a private practice coach, and I know that you're a private practice coach, and I just wanted to make sure you were okay with that?" And, again, I don't know what I would have said if they were like, "No, I'm not okay with that." But I think that's a totally valid, valid thought and feeling and experience. So, just wanted to name that.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, I think so many of us, like, you know, I know the folks that listen to your podcast or listen to my podcast we, have genuine hearts, right? And we are so conscious about not intruding on anyone's space or anything like that. And I know where it's coming from. And at the same time, like I feel like all of us have unique gifts and abilities, and there's going to be people that you will attract maybe that another private practice coach will not, right?
PATRICK CASALE: Absolutely. I mean, and that's a good thing to remember. I am not recreating the wheel, I did not create the idea of private practice. So, I think we can get into this mindset of like, "Am I allowed to recreate the wheel? Am I allowed to kind of like, take something that already exists and just put my own spin on it?" And like, yeah, I can teach you how to build a private practice. But my coaching is much more about the psychological and emotional side of being an entrepreneur. And that's my own take on it. And someone else is going to have a very different perspective on that. And we can both teach you how to get an EIN off the IRS website, like that is not something that I need to learn or teach you how to do. So, I think that can be said for a lot of courses that are out there. Like, it's going to be your take, your ideas, your influences, your content, your creation around this that really makes it special.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, absolutely, 100%.
PATRICK CASALE: Any other last-moment tips before we kind of end that you want to leave anybody with?
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, I've just like one more, which this is actually a newer realization. So, I used to think like, a lot of these big course creators, 100% of their revenue came from course sales, like the sales of the course. But what I came to realize is, many of these course creators, and this is something you should think about as a course creator, is many of these course creators, their revenue actually comes on the back end through some sort of higher ticket offering something, right? And so, like, as you're thinking about your course idea, think about whether you can teach something, but then think about if there's a next level for a student of that course that they could participate in? Whether it's coaching, a mastermind, an intensive retreat, or whatever it is. Ideally, that should be a recurring thing if you can make that sort of happen, you know? It's just something to think about.
I didn't realize it because I was like, "How are these people like scaling like this?" And, you know, I did like, the traditional launch. And, man, that was so exhausting. I did like two of those. And I was like, "Yeah, I don't know whether I can do this, you know?" And I really beat myself up over it, you know? And until I realized this very fact, as you know, they're really thinking about, like, a suite of offerings related to that course, and doesn't mean you need to have five different offerings, you know, on the back end. But like, just ask yourself, like, hey, as someone is going through this course what's the next level of support they need?
PATRICK CASALE: Fantastic advice. And that is so important to remember. And like Melvin said, you don't have to have five offerings, you can have one really good offering, you could have two different pathways that you could help support someone, lead them down. But ultimately, knowing that once the course is done, they're probably still going to need support in some way or another. So, if it is a mastermind, if it is coaching, if it's a small retreat, if it's something like that, that's really where you're going to make more of that money, in terms of where you're funneling people who already trust the work that you've created. So, you've got the relationship established, you've been nurturing it, you are also continuing to support them on their journey, and now you're offering something different that's going to be a little bit more high touch too, right?
MELVIN VARGHESE: Right, yeah, absolutely.
PATRICK CASALE: Well, I just want to say thank you so much for making the time and coming on here. I mean, I really, really admire what you've created. And to be able to have you here as a guest on my podcast feels pretty surreal. So, I just want to say thank you for that. And I really appreciate all the great information and wisdom as well.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Patrick, you know, I feel the same about you. I'm just so grateful for our friendship. You're one of the most kind and authentic people that I've ever met. And you know a ton about travel, and you give so much advice for that. And, you know, beyond just, I think it's such a beautiful thing, this medium of podcasting, right? Because it's like, colleagues become friends and that's such a beautiful thing. And who would have ever guessed, right? Like, what is the chance we would have ever met, but except for this medium, right? So…
PATRICK CASALE: You're 100% right. And I can't wait until you do go to Maine and take those suggestions. And I love the Northeast. But I appreciate that. And I think that has been a really big blessing in terms of podcasting and just honestly everyone kind of shifting to being more virtual, meeting a lot of people that you probably never would have met in any other capacity.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Right.
PATRICK CASALE: And also, please tell the audience where they can find more of what you're offering or where they can find your newsletter. I know that's a really good source of information as well.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we spend a lot of time on that newsletter just trying to share like authentic and helpful information. So, I created a free A-Z online course guide specifically for therapists that want to launch a course. And you can find that over at sellingthecouch.com/onlinecourseguide.
And then we also run a mastermind, it's a year-long mastermind for therapist course creators. I know that so many of us want to launch a course, but just want to be with other therapists who get it and want that accountability, and also a clear framework, and also want access to, you know, people that are living and breathing in the course space. And if that's something that you're interested in, you can learn more about that at sellingthecouch.com/mastermind.
PATRICK CASALE: Great information. And all of that will be in the show notes for everybody who is interested. And again, Melvin, thank you so much for making the time. I really appreciate you coming on.
MELVIN VARGHESE: Patrick, thank you again for having me.
PATRICK CASALE: For everyone listening to the All Things Private Practice Podcast, there are new episodes coming out every Sunday morning on all major platforms. Like, download, subscribe, and share.
If you're interested in more of what I have to offer, you can go to allthingspractice.com where you can get your free private practice startup guide, learn more about my entrepreneurial retreats that are happening all over the world, get more podcast information, and course information. You can also join the all things private practice Facebook group. Doubt yourself, do it anyway. See you next week. Thanks, everyone.
FREE PRIVATE PRACTICE GUIDE
Join the weekly newsletter for private practice tips, podcast updates, special offers, & your free private practice startup guide!
We will not spam you or share your information. You can unsubscribe at any time.