Read This Before You Buy That Online Course

The internet is a great place to get information on virtually anything, and I do mean ANYTHING. Ask your most absurd question and your search page will be populated with countless articles, forums and social media mouth pieces that have an answer. Thing is, it’s not always the correct answer. Just think of all the times you’ve done a Google search while looking for relief from a stomach ache only to be led to believe by WebMD that you have an ulcer (or worse); or even the epidemic of ‘fake news’ -  people sharing information without having a point of reference or doing their due diligence, all for the profit of some shifty web developer making money off of all the clicks. Sorting through all of the BS on the web can be a tedious task, so when it comes to figuring out how to make moves for your future, it’s natural to want to turn to what seems to be a trustworthy and easy fix that’s right at the reach of your fingers: the online course. This article isn’t about legitimate online college courses, but rather those expensive lesson plans that ‘teach’ you how to make money while traveling the world and other get rich quick gimmicks.

We’ve all seen them: ‘Learn How to Become a Digital Nomad’, ‘Random Dropshipping Course’, ‘I’ll Teach You How to Be A Freelancer’, and so on. Well, I call shenanigans. Online courses are a big business, and while I’m not here to knock anyone’s hustle, sometimes business is just that, and folks shouldn’t buy in. Let’s look into it:

  • Not Everyone is An Expert. I’ve been freelancing for about 13 years now, which makes me as close to an ‘expert’ on the subject of remote work as you can find. But there are also people who have been doing it for far longer than I have, and even some who have been doing it for less, all of whom have different yet equally valid experiences and approaches. Because there are so many factors to consider, freelancing isn’t a one-size-fits-all lifestyle, so a general ‘how to’ course may leave you no better off than where you started. If you’re looking for career advice, opt for a course that offers coaching that’s industry-specific - such as ‘how to become a freelance writer’ or ‘learn how to code’ - from someone with a proven track record in the field.


  • You’re An Easy Target. Being able to work from home and travel the world is the dream. The thing is, you don’t need to pay someone to tell you how to make a packing checklist, look for a remote job or buy a plane ticket - not while there are FREE resources out there like this site, Digital Nomad Girls, and this free book by And.Co. And if you want to do some serious learning, more than 200 universities offer free (or almost free) courses on a range of topics - there’s even a course that prepares you for international travel.


  • Things Aren’t Always What They Seem. When you buy or download a course it’s with the expectation of learning something new. But sometimes when you sign up (and this happens a lot if it’s ‘discounted’ or free) you’re greeted by a talking head that offers no new insights, but instead directs you to pay for something else entirely. It’s the ‘ole Affiliate Marketing hook. That’s when you get lured in with the promise of one thing, and get offered something else that will translate to a bigger commission check for the seller. Be warned.


  • There Are No Guarantees. This applies to anything in life. But when it comes to online courses, be wary of anyone who promises that you’ll make $10,000 overnight, or that you’ll triple your profits in a month. We all like to present the best version of ourselves online, and an entrepreneur offering a course that only focuses on the profits you can make by following their “five easy steps” isn’t telling the full story. With all the right knowledge and access to resources, anything is possible in business, but no one can guarantee that you’ll even make enough money to recoup the costs of the course you signed up for.

I will contend that not all online courses are completely useless, as plenty are served up with an element of coaching that some people need to keep them motivated. What I’m saying is that a lot if not all the information these courses provide can actually be found for free on the internet…all you have to do is put in effort and do some research with the right keywords and legitimate sources. Of course, the time one has to invest into reading articles, taking notes and creating a to-do list on their own may be reason enough for them to just go ahead and spend $300-$500 on an online course that does that work for them, and that’s fair enough. But before you make that purchase, particularly if your finances are tight, rest assured that you don’t NEED that online course, you just need the will to succeed and a solid internet connection.