A few people have asked about how I built OnlinePMCourses and the tech that makes it work.
I’ve written a comprehensive guide to the Project Management lessons I have learned along the way, called: ‘Building an Online Business: Project Management Lessons’.
But that doesn’t speak about the technology I used. Well, here, with some unashamed affiliate links, is the technology I use, and my brief assessment of it.
I produce a lot of free content for OnlinePMCourses, so if you are interested in trying or buying any of these products or services, I’d greatly appreciate you using these links. They won’t add to your costs, but they will give me a little funding to help keep the free stuff going.
This site is built with WordPress, an open source content management system (CMS).
Web Hosting: WPX Hosting
My web host is WPX Hosting, and this was the second big decision I made. And it is a decision I have not regretted for a second. Their customer service and technical support are everything you could wish for and put any other online tech support service to shame. Their strengths are in WordPress hosting (they don’t host any other website technologies) and the security that goes with it.
Website Development: Thrive Themes
You can do a lot with WordPress out of the box (or, to be more accurate, from the base installation), but its huge flexibility comes from the vast ecosystem of Themes and Plugins. Themes set up the way your website will look and plugins add functionality.
A brilliant investment was to become a member of Thrive Themes. Their themes are solid (this site uses Rise) but it’s their plugins that deliver the punch.
- ‘Architect‘ allows me to build custom landing pages and
- ‘Optimize‘ allows me to A/B test any elements
- ‘Leads‘ captures email contacts in many ways (and integrates brilliantly with my email marketing solution, below)
- ‘Ultimatum‘ creates time-limited offers
- ‘Ovation‘ captures and displays testimonials
- ‘Quiz Builder‘ is brilliant fun with a serious edge
- ‘Comments‘ enhances the native WordPress comments functionality
All of this comes with the Thrive Membership package. WordPress and Thrive were not decisions I consciously made for OnlinePMCourses. I already used both and was confident they would work well for this project. Becoming a Thrive Themes member was a choice I made, knowing I was building a major business asset.
Website Security: Malcare and Wordfence
Years ago, another website of mine got compromised. The host was next to useless, and the long term consequence is my move (via another host) to WPX Hosting (see above). But much as I trust WPX to provide good hosting security and great support, I am keen to do what I can to secure my site.
Wordfence is a security plugin that provides a firewall and blocking against attack. There is a free version, but I use the paid version.
Malcare scans for and can clean up malware that may get onto my site.
Course Platform: Teachable
There are many course platforms available now. The first big decision I made was to host my courses on Teachable. And, while the range of competitors has grown and strengthened, I’ve not regretted my choice. I like their technology and I like the ethics of the people who run the business. While other platforms may work for you, I’m very happy with my choice.
And, more to the point, so are my students, who find it easy and appealing to use.
Email Contact: Active Campaign
The third big decision I made, after my course platform and web host, was what email service I would use to stay in touch with my community. I wanted something that could automate some quite sophisticated logic. This ruled out appealingly simple solutions like MailChimp (which I also use and love). On the basis of several recommendations, I tried Active Campaign.
It is astonishingly capable (almost as sophisticated as Infusionsoft but much easier to use) but at an exceptionally affordable price point, below any of its realistic competitors, and on a par with simple mailing software like MailChimp. It’s been brilliant.
At the start of 2019, I sacked my expensive accountant, and moved my record keeping from spreadsheet to Xero. This reduced the time it takes to calculate my quarterly VAT from 15-30 minutes to one minute! And I can use a local bookkeeper to convert my records into an annual tax statement, without having to do one to two hours of preparing my spreadsheets. The driver for the switch was the UK’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ program, but the benefits are a considerable saving of time, an improvement in data quality, and a small saving in cost (Xero subscription + bookkeeper < accounting fees).
Making the Course Videos
Video-making has become a passion and a pleasure for me. I’ve discovered a new hobby as well as a part of my business.
I built my own home studio, on a budget, and am continuing to make incremental upgrades to further improve the quality of my videography. You can see the gear I use for video production at kit.com.
Learning How to Make Videos
Over the years, I have learned loads from a large range of YouTube Channels. Many are specialized. And others are geeky gear review channels. The very best for learning the basics of film-making is the well-named Basic Filmmaker channel. Kevin has a wicked sense of humor and his background and approach make the content accessible to beginners, valuable to me still, and rock solid.
He also has paid courses that are well-worth the investment, if you are serious about using video.
I edit on an iMac, using Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Motion to customize titles and effects I buy from various vendors. There are a lot of independent plugin creators whose work I like and support: Ripple, CrumplePop, Jon Belew, Stupid Raisins. The resources I use a lot are from:
But I would never have been able to do the kind of editing I do, without the solid grounding I learned from Ripple Training. Their videos are not just a model of good technology video training, their business has been a model for how I am trying to grow and operate OnlinePMCourses. I love their generosity.
Marketing and Promotion
A business like this would be nowhere without marketing and promotion. And I am ever a learner in this arena. It does not come naturally to me, and the landscape is forever shifting. I work to the principle of building the best content I can; both for sale and promotional. That way, if I can promote it in any way, my hope is that the word will get out. This is, I am sure, the philosophy behind many of the best online training businesses.
I used to use a lot of tools to manage and automate social media promotion. I do much less of this now and I suspect the tools I used (and even those I still use) have been eclipsed by better alternatives.
I also use YouTube extensively – as you’d expect for a provider of video-based training. Check out my channel.
Good quality images are a huge asset for any website, and especially to liven up an article. Two paid sites I use a lot are:
- Lifetime Stock
I used to use them, but they disappeared from the web suddenly with no compensation. If I find their assets on another site, I will update this, to warn people off that site.
And my favorite free sites are:
Sometimes it pays to be alert for bargains. Two sites frequently offer hugely advantageous deals and I have bought from both of them:
- Slanted towards internet marketers and entrepreneurs: AppSumo
- Targeted at designers and creative professionals: Mighty Deals
Reminder: some of the links above contain affiliate codes. You won’t pay more and will possibly pay less. But I will earn a small commission on any purchases you make, which will help me to keep providing a stream of free content.
Disclaimer: I use all the products and services listed above. This means I have assessed them carefully against my needs and preferences. This does not mean they are the right products and services for you, and you must compare them against alternatives on the market before making your own selection.