Happy New Year! Let’s use this fresh start to build a (side) business, teach everything we know, and make the world a bit better.
Forget cold outreach. By learning and teaching your way to a niche, you can build relationships and a business for a lifetime.
But who am I, and why do I write about growing small businesses with email courses?
My name is Ramses, and I’ve been teaching with email since 2007. That’s when I started a blog and newsletter about learning languages without taking classes. Over 1,000 emails and a decade later, I decided I had enough of writing about language learning.
That was in 2017, but I couldn’t keep my hands away from the keyboard.
After a while, I got into Stoicism and started a newsletter. Then after a year or so, I got deep into Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) and again started a newsletter that I ran for several years. Here and there, I've also written personal newsletters and a few (free) email courses.
As you can see, I've been a fan of email for a long time and think it’s one of the best tools for learning new skills and habits. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of junk out there, and I want to do my part to change that.
But first, let’s start with definitions.
What are email courses?
While the name speaks for itself, many people have preconceived notions of what email courses should look like (and cost).
First, email courses are not new; they’ve been around since the early days of email. And for over a hundred years before that, correspondence courses were a big thing.
(Why do I know about correspondence courses? Well, I’m obsessed with old stenography systems. Many of my old study books were initially sold via postal mail in the late 1800s and early 1900s — often a few pages at the time.)
Second, email courses are not just to get business leads. While most are half-assed junk mail to sell a product, not all email courses are created equal. For example, you’ll see emails pop up in many types of courses. From self-paced video courses to multi-week cohorts, email is essential to direct people’s attention to content or learning activities.
Finally, there are email courses that cost money. I’ve taken more than a handful of courses that cost anywhere from $5 to $500 and were primarily delivered via email. Why? Because I’ve found email super helpful to slowly digest knowledge and build new habits.
Email courses come in all shapes and sizes. And the fact you're reading this tells me you have the open mind needed to see their value.
But why would you go through the trouble of creating email courses?
Why build an email course?
In the rest of this week’s lessons, I’ll dive into why email courses are so powerful and you should consider creating at least one.
But I also believe in giving an overview to prime learners, so here’s a quick overview of my top reasons to go all-in on email courses this year:
Emails are a habit. One of the biggest problems with self-paced courses is their completion rate, which is between 3% and 10% (according to Udemy). Compare that to most email courses’ average open rate of 60%+ and click-through rate of 20%+ (numbers are my experience and of creators I know). That’s because email is already a habit for people; most of us check our email inboxes at least once per day.
Emails are personal. One common criticism I hear about email courses is that lessons have to compete with other emails in people’s inboxes. But this doesn’t feel much different from the dozens of browser tabs most of us have open or our endless social media timelines. The advantage of email is that you have permission to send people a message, there's no algorithm to compete with, and readers can easily strike up a conversation with you by replying.
Emails are convenient. Almost every course asks to create a new account on a platform I've never seen before. Sounds familiar? Not with email. Everybody knows how to use email, and everybody can use email as it's mostly text. From screen readers to annotation tools, emails are the perfect format to learn from.
Emails let you learn by teaching. Because text is so easy to produce and maintain, email courses are the perfect medium to teach while you're still learning. You can repurpose your study notes, share your reflections, or simply curate the best learning resources. Plus many email platforms have generous free plans, which makes the bar to teaching online the lowest for emails.
In this week’s lessons, I’ll dive deep into each of these reasons. But I’ll be writing for all of 2024 about how to create life-changing email courses. So, enough time to get into the nitty-gritty details.
But don’t you worry; lots of what I talk about will apply to teaching and creating online content in general. Not just to email.
Why are you here?
That’s enough babbling from my side! Tomorrow, we'll get into why emails are great to learn new skills and habits. (Yes, we’ll get started with the learner’s perspective as we’re doing all of this for them.)
For now, I’m leaving you with a single question to chew on:
Why are YOU interested in email courses?
Grab a pen and paper (or your favorite note-taking tool) and journal about that question for a few minutes. I hope it’ll help you think through some of your own reasons (or hesitations) for diving into the world of email courses.
I hope to hear from you!