How to Tell if a Product or Course is Worth Your Time and Money

How do you know which products and courses are worth your time and money? Which ones will be effective, and how do you know if your investment will pay off? I’m a budget-conscious freelancer and I want to get a solid return on my investment when purchasing other courses, just like you do. I get it! Here’s how I determine what courses are worth the time and money before pushing the “buy” button.

I recently co-hosted my first live webinar training with VA expert Gina Horkey, and over 500 people registered for it and of those 226 attended it live with 177 (and counting) who watched the replay.

We spent 75 minutes going through the training, giving out a free workshop packet (with a checklist, income reports, and slides) as well as a live Q&A session. It was an awesome experience, and we received a ton of great feedback!

At the end of the training we offered an exclusive bundle for participants to purchase for $97. It was a combination of Gina’s 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success ecourse and my Get Mentioned in the Media course.

During the Q&A, Bob wanted to know; with all the info-products out there for freelancers to quit their jobs and start earning money (ranging from $99-$900), how do you know which products and courses are worth your time and money? Which ones will be effective, and how do you know if your investment will pay off?

This is a question I ask myself often. I’m a budget-conscious freelancer and I want to get a solid return on my investment when purchasing other courses, just like you do. So I get it!

Here’s how I determine what courses are worth the time and money before pushing the “buy” button.

Buy based on the business model

As freelancers we tend follow other bloggers and entrepreneurs online because they inspire us. We want to be like them or create a business structure similar to theirs. I have my own aesthetic when it comes to how I define making money on my terms, and you have your unique ideas too.

If you want the monetary investment in a course or service to pay off, the first requirement is to find out if this freelancer’s business model aligns with yours (or the one you’re trying to build).

In other words, don’t just go after the results or promises from their sales page. Look for specific ideas and takeaways that resonate with you and the business you’re trying to establish.

Ask yourself this; is this person making money the way I want to make money? Or are they simply trying to make money off me? The answer becomes pretty clear.

Find proof in the results

Words and promises are nothing without hardcore numbers backing them up. People can swear that you’ll get all kinds of results, but you should be looking for cold-hard facts.

Don’t buy products or courses from someone who doesn’t have the experience to back it up, or proof that the numbers actually add up. Look for screenshots, templates of their spreadsheets, how long they’ve been in business, and proof that their claims work (from other customers if possible).

I live by this rule when purchasing courses from other people, and it’s why I’m completely honest and up-front with my own numbers. In my quarterly blogging reports I share the exact numbers, graphs, and screenshots from my earnings. I never promise what I can’t deliver, and neither should anyone else you buy from.

Look for case studies

Don’t be too trusting of other people’s word — remember that their ultimate motive is for you to buy something. Look for real-life examples and case studies from other people who have bought their products or used their services.

Ask a friend or colleague who you trust to give you an honest assessment of this person’s business model and products. If you don’t know anyone, browse through their website or follow them on social media and see who they interact with. Then reach out to those people and ask about their experience.

Not only will this rule help you determine if the course is right for you, it will give you multiple examples of how to apply the advice to varying business models. Every business is unique so make sure their formulas and takeaways can be applied to different scenarios.

guard your time quote

Consider the timing (and your schedule)

When purchasing info-products and courses it’s all about the timing. Your business may not be in a place where it can afford to plunk down $300 for a course, and doing so may cripple its progress in the future.

Take your time and give your freelance business a fighting chance. If you scale too big too fast you risk encountering more problems than the course is promising to solve. Consider the timing of where you’re at, your level of experience as an entrepreneur, and how long you’ve been in business.

Secondarily, look at your schedule during the time period of the course. If it’s a 6-week course, what do your next 6 weeks look like? Do you have the time available that’s required to read, apply, and complete the course?

How’s your workload? Will you be out of town? Are the holidays coming up? Your schedule is a huge factor when determining the effectiveness of a course.

Of course you’ll always have to make time for learning and growing, but don’t stress yourself out by taking on too much at once.

Finish other courses first

We’re all guilty of buying courses (or books) and letting them pile up in folders on our computers. Instead of continuing to buy more and never seeing results, vow to finish past purchases first.

You’ll only continue to waste money if you don’t take the time to read the course materials or watch the videos and take action on what you’ve learned. If you really want to see results, you have to put in the time and energy to take action on the knowledge you’ve obtained.

Don’t allow yourself to purchase anymore products or courses until you’ve tackled the other ones on your list. Prove to yourself that you have what it takes to stop procrastinating and start seeing results. You’ll be amazed at the changes — in your bank account and your business!

Measure learning time vs outsourcing

Money cannot buy what time delivers, so the last thing you want to think about is if it’s better for you to spend your time learning this new skill/technique, or if it’s smarter to outsource work to a freelancer who already knows how to do whatever it is you’re trying to learn.

For example, I’m not a web developer or tech person and I know I never will be. Instead of paying for tech-related courses that help me troubleshoot problems I’m having in WordPress, I pay a small monthly fee to have a tech expert manage all the site details for me.

It’s just not worth my time or money to invest in learning this skill, so I’d rather pay an expert or assistant to help.

On the flip side, if the course will increase the skills you already have, or help grow your business in the direction you want to go, this is your green light to make that purchase! It will be a smart investment in your business.

To sum it up, a course or product is worth your time and money if:

  • it aligns with your own business model and personal aesthetic
  • there are numbers to back up the results
  • it comes from a person you trust
  • it has been confirmed a success from other customers
  • you have the proper amount of time to invest in seeing results
  • you can easily afford the price tag
  • it makes sense for you to learn the skill versus hiring an expert

Please note that not all ecourses and info-products will tick all these boxes, but you want to take your time in deciding if it’s worth the risk by aiming to check off as many as possible. This will help you waste less money and feel less guilty about spending your time elsewhere.

How do you determine which courses are worth your time and money?

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10 comments

  1. Excellent advice, Carrie. As one who’s just now dipping his toe into the online freelancing waters, I was bewildered by the sheer volume of online coursework available. I had no idea how properly to evaluate these materials, so I just took a shot in the dark. Fortunately for me, I stumbled onto Gina’s 30 Days or Less course and found it to be everything it was promised to be, and more. But I’m sure not everyone will be so fortunate.

    • Carrie says:

      I can relate, Michael. It’s difficult to tell which products and courses will pay off and give you the results you’re looking for. I’m glad you took a chance with Gina’s freelance writing course and that it delivered on its promises! Sometimes you just have to give it a try and know that it may not always work out.

  2. Excellent blog Carrie. I often feel overwhelmed by all the offerings out there designed to “help me grow my business.” I did select one last spring and turned out to be really disappointed. It was the first time the course was being offered and I should have waited until there were “results.” Instead, I felt like I wasted nearly $400 🙁

    • Carrie says:

      Sorry to hear that you got burned, MaryBeth. In those cases it’s OK to go out on a limb for a product that’s new but then the price needs to be much lower to compensate for the risk. $400 is too much to lose. 🙁

  3. Denise says:

    Brilliant post Carrie, I’m also new to blogging and wanting to start freelancing too. There is so much information and courses available, it is very overwhelming. I was fortunate as your site was one of the first I found. Keep up the great webinars I’m soaking up all the information 😊

    • Carrie says:

      Thanks for the support, Denise! I’m honored that you found my site and are soaking up info from my experiences. I’ve learned a lot but continue to grow and learn more every day!

  4. Sarah says:

    Excellent advice Carrie! I often wonder what training courses and events are worth it and which aren’t. I’ll definitely use this criteria to help me decide in the future.

  5. Krystal says:

    I was guilty of buying courses without implementing them. I finally identified that as procrastination and committed to using the material I already have. Following businesses with the same business model I am trying to develop is something I will work on. Thanks for the advice!

  6. Marjie says:

    This is great advice, Carrie. I’m also guilty of buying courses and not finishing them. I love to learn, but I need to work really hard to follow through. I’m saying it out loud, here–no more course purchases until I’ve finished what I started!! Thanks again!

  7. Christine C says:

    Late comment but I wish I came across this post when it came out in September. I made the newbie mistake of trying spending money on books and courses that I thought would help. The presentation for some courses look a lot like get-rich-quick and lose-weight-fast ads but I was blinded by my desperation for answers/help. I’m glad I came across your site. Thank you so much for this honest and helpful post! Your message proves that you are more interested in helping clients and followers succeed rather than just making money off of them. Thank you, I appreciate what you do for us.

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