How to Choose Your Next Course Purchase Effectively

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How to Choose Your Next Course Purchase

How to Choose Your Next Course Purchase

Hi. I’m Amanda, and I am a courseaholic.

I’m subscribed to multiple newsletters announcing when new courses will be coming out on sites I follow...and I’ve spent oodles of money on them.

We’ve all heard both sides of this issue.

We’ve been told that courses are a distraction, and we need to stay strong and believe we already know what we should do. (Now we just need to do it!)

However, we’ve also been told that the very best thing you can do is invest in your business by taking targeted courses.

What if I told you both sides are right?

Now, what if I told you both sides are wrong? *gasp*

Seriously though… If you’ve ever followed me on social media or my blog, you may have heard me harping on about happy mediums. I’m a huge fan of them. (For the record, my dad says he thinks of Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost when I say happy medium. My mom and I both think of the Happy Medium from A Wrinkle in Time.)

Courses are a fantastic way to invest in your business, especially if you’re just getting started, or are transitioning to a new niche. That said, there does come a point where you’re just beating a dead horse.

But there’s also a third option: taking a course to round out a creative skill, or for sheer pleasure.

The one word that helps me decide whether to buy that course

As an entrepreneur, I’m super guilty of trying to monetize everything I learn. (You, too?)
Lettering? I could add that to my site! Watercolor? I could mesh that with lettering, and learn to make paper by hand, and craft the most darling cards to welcome all of my new clients, complete with my watercolors and lettering skills!

Okay, so I haven’t gone quite that far…but close. One of my dear friends and mentors is constantly trying to remind me that I don’t have to sell everything I do. And yet I still ponder whether it can be integrated into my consulting business, or if I could sell it on Etsy. #thestruggleisreal

She’s starting to get through to me though, because I’m eyeballing courses with a keener eye now. And I’m learning to not just ask myself, “do I want to learn this” -- but “do I want to learn this now.

That one word makes all the difference. There are so many things on my list of future learnings, but I don’t have the time (or funds) to learn everything right now.

How to evaluate the ‘why’ in your course decisions

When you’re deciding whether to buy another course or not, here are three great reasons that will validate your decision, two not-so-good reasons you might list, plus a bonus one that could go either way. (Happy mediums, like I said.)

Good reasons for buying that next course (all three of these need to be in place to make it a solid investment):

  1. This course is something I’ve wanted to learn for my business, recreation, or family, and can put to use almost immediately.
  2. I can afford to take it! (And by afford, I don’t mean “If I take on a second mortgage.”)
  3. I am excited to learn from this course instructor, in particular. (There are dozens of teachers for any particular topic. The subject of the course may be perfect, but the teacher may not be to your taste. Both subject and “teacher” need to align for you to get your maximum benefit.)

Not-so-good reasons you might come up with:

  1. All the cool kids are taking this course, and I don’t want to feel like I’m missing out. (FOMO is real, but it’s a terrible reason for spending money.)
  2. So-and-so said I should take it. (So-and-so may not know what’s best for your business, or what you’ve already taken courses on.)


  1. Buying a course because you’re a huge fan of the creator.

As mentioned, that bonus reason can truly go either way. If it’s something you’re stoked to learn, and you love the teacher, that’s the best. If you’d just like to be a good friend and support them, that’s where it gets sticky.

I’ve had friends buy courses of mine, because they wanted to show support. I appreciated the thought (really), but if the course wasn’t a solid fit for them, they struggled to give me helpful feedback on how to improve it. Additionally, this meant that if the course flopped, it was hard for me to tell where the failure was.

I’ve also been on the other side of this, and paid for courses that I really couldn’t technically afford, but I wanted to show support. So, I ponied it up anyway. I didn’t fault them for this, but I did feel personally guilty when I saw my budget.

So how can you show support for a friend who’s made courses without breaking the bank or ignoring your solid criteria for taking a course? Here are a few ways:

  • If they’re local, buy them coffee (or send them a digital Starbucks card as congratulations)
  • Send them a quick letter/postcard/card in the mail to congratulate them on their launch…everyone loves real mail!
  • Tweet/FB/Pin/IG/whatever their latest-greatest, if it’s a fit for your followers.

Courses we need + courses we don’t: Why we need to effectively discern the difference

As solopreneurs, it’s up to ourselves to invest in professional development to sharpen our skills and keep growing, but it’s all too easy to fall into the shiny object trap with each new course that comes out. Effectively discerning what you can use, afford, and are excited by is key to keeping that budget in tact.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments…what’s the big question you ask yourself before taking on a new course?

P.S. -- Here are four sites for easy access to online learning. Plus, four more.

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Amanda Sue Howell is the unicorn behind Magic In the Mess, and a homeschooling mom of 5 (soon to be 6!). She teaches creative biz-moms how to combine their business, craft, and home into a magical blend that satisfies their soul AND their bank account. When she's not creating content for her blog, you can find her crocheting, coloring, or listening for TARDIS sounds in her backyard. Join the fun at!

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