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How Jennifer Hancock is Building a Business Around Hope
- Who: Jennifer Hancock
- Website: humanistlearning.com
- Course Topic: Human Resources
- Interesting Stats: 2,500 Course Enrollees
Who are you and what digital training company have you created?
My name is Jennifer Hancock and I’m the founder of Humanist Learning Systems. My courses will give you hope. They will help you simplify your life by reducing the complexity of the problems you face, which will in turn – help you reduce your anxiety. Finally – because this is all science-based – it will work.
The vision for Humanist Learning Systems is to gather together the top Humanist educators from around the world to provide courses that will help people think better, have better relationships, and get better results so that they can love themselves and help make the world better by approaching others with compassion.
What market does your digital training serve?
I offer personal and professional online training. Most of my clients are HR professionals as my company is an HRCI & SHRM approved provider. I also get lawyers and offer CLE and MCLE through the FL and CA bars. Finally, I also offer EEO Refresher and Settlement training.
The main focus of most of my training is how to stop bullying/harassment using humanistic philosophy (be kind) and behavioral psychology techniques (how to train a bully to leave you alone).
I also teach humanistic business management and leadership programs.
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your online courses?
What I teach, most people have never been taught. It’s a very practical skill and it really helps people become more confident that they can handle difficult situations. The combination of ethical philosophy and practical behavioral skills really helps people personally and professionally.
The biggest benefit, is learning how to handle difficult people compassionately, ethically, and effectively.
How did you get into the market?
I had been doing public speaking and traveling and I realized, I didn’t like being away from my family. After I floated around trying to figure out what to do, a friend recommended I offer my training on how to stop bullying to HR professionals. I did some research, thought about it, and then realized I could combine both my humanism and my behavioral knowledge into a single holistic approach. Not do either or, but both! And, provide it as professional development training.
Here is why this is so important. To get the bullying to stop, we need to teach parents, how to make it stop. Where are the parents? In the workplace being subjected to harassment training that doesn’t teach them how to make the harassment stop. If we can change that – we can change the world.
Why did you decide to create a digital training company?
It combined 2 things I needed, scope, and time. I don’t want to spend my time traveling just to speak for 1 or 2 hours. It’s not a good use of my time. So, I just don’t anymore, unless someone wants to pay for me to go someplace cool.
Instead, I use my time to create the online courses, and deliver them once, and record them. After that, the rest of the work is at home, managing the online learning program, and finding customers.
It also helps with scope as I can now reach people all over the world and in larger numbers than if I was doing one-off talks.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you launched your training company?
Nope. The struggle all occurred when I realized I didn’t want to travel anymore and was trying to balance my time between teaching how to stop bullying and my passion for teaching about Humanism. When I finally realized I could do all 3 (not travel, teach how to stop bullying, and teach humanism) all in one project, I was elated. Problem solved.
The only problem I had is my epiphany on how to do all this occurred on the Friday before spring break so I had to wait a week to get started putting it together.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
In hindsight, the 6 months of not being sure of who exactly I wanted to be and what exactly I wanted to do, was time well spent. I have clarity now that I don’t think I would have if I had not spent time defining what I definitely didn’t want to be doing and why exactly I didn’t want to do it.
What are your online courses like?
I use a Moodle delivery system. My courses generally include a video lecture. Lecture notes for reading and a comprehension quiz.
My courses generally run 1 to 2 hours, though I do have 8 and 16 hour bundled certificate programs (where I bundle smaller courses into a more comprehensive course).
Depending on the course needs, my video lengths on my courses run anywhere from 15 to 30 to 55 minutes long. The times are set by the needs of the certifications I offer on my courses. One hour is pretty standard. My free introductory classes are often shorter, 15, to 45 minutes. Those are not certified.
The videos are done through video capture software that allows me to record my screen and my audio and my video (of me speaking) all at the same time on my desktop. I create the presentation in PowerPoint, then record a live delivery of it on my computer.
How long does it take you or your team to create a new course?
I do have courses offered by other Humanists on my website. I generally coach them on how to create the course using my methodology.
Most of the process I do on my own. I usually create a presentation for a live in-person job I’ve been asked to do, and then I turn around and record it for the website. I also do the same for live video sessions I’ve been asked to do. Once I create the presentation, I record it for online distribution through my channels.
I do have people who help me with some of the post-production work I do. For instance, I have someone help me turn my lecture notes into book format for sale online. I have someone help me strip out the audio and edit it to sell as an audiobook or audio course through other online retailers. And I have people who help me with social media marketing.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your first course and getting your first enrollment(s).
My first course was a comprehensive 6-hour course on workplace bullying for HR professionals. The hard part was figuring out how to get it recorded and getting the online course system operating.
I did cold calling and got my first group fairly easily actually. After that, getting the 2nd client was more of a slog. Turns out – I hate cold calling, and the cost of the 6-hour course was prohibiting uptake.Making smaller shorter courses and providing some free 1 hour courses to get people into my system helped A LOT! - Jennifer Hancock Click To Tweet
Now my intake flow is – encourage people to take one of my free courses, upsell them.
Do you have a lead magnet?
Yes, I have a few free online courses that I offer with HRCI and SHRM recertification. One is a 2-hour free course on how to create sexual harassment training that actually works. It is designed to help people understand what it is I teach and recruit people for further learning and also encourage people to use me as their harassment training provider.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Offering free training for recertification credit was the best thing I did. It’s like having a calling card that is more than that. The hard part is where to “advertise” the free course to make sure your leads are qualified. I am an active user of LinkedIn for this reason.
What online course platform are you using?
I use Moodle as my course delivery system.
Do you like it?
Love it! My customers do too. It’s important when doing group lessons that I guarantee the project leader that participants view all the required course content and are on for the required amount of time and that they pass a final exam BEFORE issuing the certificate of completion. Moodle lets me do all that and it’s automated.
Are there any features you wish it had?
Nope. It’s open-source and the updates over the years have pretty much filled in the holes the system had when I first started using it. I’m very happy with it. It does require a background in tech skills. But I was able to learn it so it’s not too hard.
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
I choose Moodle, because it was free. I was starting up on a budget. My only real cost is hosting.
What other tools do you use to run your digital training business?
- Wufoo forms for registration
- Stripe for payment processing
- Automate for integrations
- Moodle for LMS
- GoDaddy for hosting
- Skype phone for my phone
- Google sheets to transfer registrations into my LMS
- ZohoCRM to keep track of customers
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
This is going to sound odd, but I didn’t read any books or view any how-to programs. I just knew what I wanted to do and researched the tools I needed that would allow me to do it.
Most of my innovations have occurred as I realized, I don’t like doing that or something is taking up too much time, I need to find a way to automate it.
I’ve had to strike the balance between spending to have the tools I need and not spending and seeing what I could do with free tools.
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?
Not really. Mistakes are just learning opportunities. What do I like doing, what don’t I like doing? What is working, what isn’t. How can I do this differently? These are all questions I ask myself all the time, especially when something isn’t working.
The biggest problem I’ve had is – how to spend marketing money and whether or not to spend marketing money. I realized at some point, most of my clients were finding me organically and my cold calling wasn’t yielding anything. So, should I advertise and do cold calling or not?
It’s all about learning how to get customers.
Please share some idea of revenue for your digital training company.
The sales ebb and flow. I view this mostly as supplemental income. Although it could build into something substantial.
Two years ago, for instance, I was having a great year. I was bringing in about $600 to $800/month. For about 6 months. Then. Nothing. Zip. Nada for 6 months. Absolutely NOTHING! Sometimes I will have 2 decent months and then 2 months where I maybe make $35. Literally, sell 1 one-hour course and no one registers for the free courses either.
Group training is a bit more regular, but also far and few between with ups and downs. I’ve had several groups this year, ranging between $900 and $4,000. The previous year – I only had 1 group.
I view this as building the business. Building a reputation. The mere fact of existing for more than 5 years gives my business credibility and makes the next sale easier. I try not to get discouraged when things get slow or non-existent. And I’ve also learned that laying the foundation is important. I had a client come on 3 years after I first pitched them. And I hadn’t heard from them in 2 years. They had kept me in mind and when they had the money and approval from their boss, that’s when they took the course.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from running your digital training company has done for you.
For me, it’s helped that I view this as supplemental. As long as I don’t lose money, I’m fine. My break-even is about $6k for the year, anything above that is a bonus.
I guess the way I think of it is, it’s bonus money that I can put towards saving or that helps cover insurance etc.
The potential for more is good, and the longer I stay in business and offer courses, the easier it becomes to get the bigger clients and be seen as a valuable partner for those projects. It took me 3 years to get my first government contract. Now I’ve had 3. I take a long view. Money is secondary, but I realize saying that is itself a form of privilege.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
According to my CRM I’ve had over 2,500 people sign up for individual courses and 3,800 on my mailing list.
How did I do this? Through consistency over time. Just plodding away and creating awareness. Radio interviews. Vlog Interviews. Responding to HARO and getting free publicity. I am sure I could be bigger if I had money to spend on advertising. But this was all done without any advertising budget. Just – making myself available and social media promotion and the freebies.
What has creating your digital training business done for you personally?
It’s definitely made me a respected authority. Not everyone owns their own business. It’s kind of funny that being financially successful is NOT a requirement for people to perceive you as an authority. Just being in business and plodding away, at some point – for me the 5-year mark, and people realized, I was not fly by night but real.
The 2nd thing it’s done for me is provided me with structure and purpose. I can’t overestimate the importance of this.I am doing important work helping to make the world better through this company and I have something to take up my brain time and space and it’s worthwhile. - Jennifer Hancock Click To Tweet
In fact, whenever I thought about giving up, like when our financial situation was bad and my company didn’t really have clients, my husband said no, my work was important and we would figure it out.
What advice do you have for people just starting out?
Don’t do this to become rich. I have worked for big companies and little companies and startups. It takes a few years to become stable and most businesses fail. If you can break even by year 3, you are doing good. You will not get rich quick. Most people don’t. Focus on building this for the long term and you will be more successful than if you are focused on needing money right now.
This isn’t just about being realistic about what it takes to ESTABLISH a reputation. It’s also about making sure that you aren’t being an ass about your marketing.
If you are selling snake oil that won’t help your customers, you are an unethical person. Be ethical. Spend time really thinking about what problems you want to solve in the world, why you want to solve them, and really ground yourself in a mission that matters to the world. THAT is what will help you get through the downtimes.
If you are in it to make money – you won’t and you won’t do anyone any good. Your reputation is your calling card.The way to build stature and get people to help you build your business and invest in you is to be an ethical person doing work that really matters. - Jennifer Hancock Click To Tweet