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Why Pay for an E-Course When You Can Google the Information for Free?





Today I want to address a misconception about e-courses – and what you’re actually paying for when you buy one.

You and I have both heard people say it – heck, you might have said it yourself:

“Why would I pay for an e-course when I can just use Google to find the information I need for free?”

Why indeed?

I am the QUEEN of ‘Google it’. When I started making jewellery, and selling it, I had very little knowledge of how to do either.

Most of what I’ve learnt since then, I have learnt by doing that very thing – Googling it and figuring it out through trial and error. It’s a good way to learn.

It’s also a VERY SLOW way learn.

I have also done courses (e-courses and in-person courses). My core silversmithing knowledge came from doing a short course in-person that taught me the basics. I’ve attended conferences, bought books/e-books, asked questions of those further along the path than me.

My point is – Googling it is a perfectly valid way to learn – particularly when you’re just trying to solve one very small, focussed problem.

That said – it’s not the smartest way to learn. Why? Primarily, because you don’t know what you don’t know.

When you buy an e-course (or a book, or attend a workshop, etc) you are NOT just buying the content. You are not just paying for the information you will receive.

You are paying for four things: the content, the experience, saved time, and the expertise of your teacher.

Let’s talk a bit more about each.


The Content

This is what most people think they’re paying for – the content and nothing but the content. Wrong.

You are, of course, paying for the content. But you would be 100% correct in thinking that that very same content is absolutely available for free somewhere on the Internet. It is. Somewhere. In lots of different parts, phrased lots of different ways, from lots of different perspectives, in lots of different places.

It’s there, but YOU have to do the work of finding it, analysing it, trialling it to see if it actually works or is just rubbish, AND you might not even know what you’re looking for.

How can you learn something if you don’t even know you need to learn it?

Enter the other three things you are paying for if you buy an e-course.


The Experience

When I undertook my third degree – a Bachelor of Education (yes, I’m either indecisive or I REALLY like learning) I had to study externally because I was living in a remote country town.

I did all the work by myself. Reading books, reading lecture notes, doing assignments, sitting exams in a room all by myself in the local community centre.

By the time I finished that degree, yes, I was a qualified teacher. I had done the pracs (thank goodness – actual real learning on-the-job!) and passed all my assignments and exams. The content was no different to what I would have learnt being an on-campus student.

But I feel like that degree was a HUGE waste of money. Why? Because of the experience.

Comparing that to my previous degrees, where I was on-campus, working with my classmates, making friends, learning from my peers, having actual interaction with my teachers… there was an enormous chasm between the two experiences. I honestly wonder what I was paying the university for – someone to mark my exams and assignments? Because apart from that, and them posting me the readings I needed at the beginning of semester, that was pretty much all the interaction I had with the university.

The experience matters.

When you consider doing an e-course, look at the experience you’ll be getting. Does it allow you to interact with your classmates? How will the content be delivered? Do you get actual feedback from your teacher – can you ask questions?

Choose a course that gives you the experience you want, as well as the content you need.


Saved Time

Imagine – instead of spending years stumbling around in dark caves, trying to find your way to the treasure hidden deep within the mountain, someone came along and gave you a light and a map. Not only that – they’d reached the treasure in the past, so they offered to actually take the journey with you and show you exactly where the treasure lay. All they asked in return was one piece of gold from your haul.

Would you turn them away… or would you throw your arms around them in immense gratitude? Yeah, me too – take me to the treasure, thanks!!

The time they have saved you is without value. It’s immeasurable. Every minute of our lives is precious – and not just because ‘time is money’. That’s a misnomer. Time is LIFE, and when you spend money on something, you’re exchanging a little slice of your life for it.

The question to ask yourself when you’re considering exchanging a little bit of your life for an e-course is – “Will the time I SAVE down the road outweigh the time I SPEND right now?”

The answer to that question is heavily dependent on the last part of our value equation.


The Expertise of Your Teacher

This is possibly THE most important part of the equation.

Does your teacher have the knowledge and EXPERIENCE to teach you what you need to know in a way that you will find enjoyable, challenging, and truly useful?

This is where you really need to use your discretion. Because, as much as I, as a qualified and experienced teacher, HATE the phrase ‘those who can’t do, teach’ (ugh)… I have to also grudgingly admit that it’s sometimes true.

Especially online, where anyone can throw up an e-course and make any claims they like, with no qualifications or gatekeepers to ensure they’re telling the truth… you need to make sure that you really trust your teacher.

Do your due diligence. What qualifications do they have? What experience do they have? Have they actually successfully DONE what they are promising to teach you?

In short – do they really know their stuff? Does what they teach come from a place of hard-won experience? Do they have an insider’s perspective, or are they just regurgitating what they’ve learnt from others?

Think of it as a short apprenticeship. When you do an apprenticeship, you learn at the right hand of a master of their craft.

Is this person a master of their craft?

If they aren’t – go find someone who is. Someone who is generous, kind, positive, realistic, strong, and honest.

One small test for you to apply: if they tell you that achieving success will suddenly be guaranteed, fast, and/or easy if you just do their course – they’re lying.

Yes, it might help you learn vital information. It might give you invaluable insights. It might inspire you to reach new heights. It might save you a TON of time compared to working stuff out by yourself.

But you still have to apply what you learn. Success is in the application. YOU are the key.

You are the one who has to do the work. The hard, endless – but hopefully also awesome – work. No-one can give you a magic formula for success – because success looks different to everyone, and can be reached in so many different ways.

So – the next time you consider exchanging a bit of your life for an e-course, ask yourself: is the content something I need to learn, delivered in a time-saving format that will work for me, by someone who walks their talk?

If it is – buy that course and reap the benefits.

If it’s not – walk away and hold out for a course that ticks all your boxes.


If you want to get all these benefits, why not check out our courses? Set Up Shop if for those just getting started selling their craft online, and SHIFT is for those who’ve been in biz for a while, but need to take things up a gear.



Van Den has written 318 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



I think I am starting to agree with you. I very much like to google and learn things myself but I am learning my limits and finding out that I really don’t know much about marketing and need to find someone who does!
I am currently doing a business course and as it is a monthly fee it doesn’t seem as bad as forking out a lot of money – it is very useful information so well worth the plunge to get someone to help me.

Dawn Kotzer

Good information, good REminders, taking the time to read it was a good experience. Really good post, Jess.

Laura Burlingame-Lee

Very good post, and very good tips for buyers. I also think it’s an important reminder to be ethical for those of us wanting to offer or who are already offering products online. Thank you.


I much prefer an e-course to finding information myself. Although it is rewarding to work something out through investigation, as you say ‘ you don’t know what you don’t know’. There’s also the backup of getting your questions answered by someone who knows their stuff & relates completely to what you’re trying to learn.


Thanks Dawn, Jenny. Joan, that sounds like a good way to go! Laura – absolutely.


Love it! Thank you for the beautifully summarizing everything I’ve been trying to convey to my clients 🙂

What say you?