Friends, if you are on the fence about creating a Skool community, there are probably legitimate obstacles preventing you from taking the plunge.
In this post, I hope I can convince and encourage you to not only start a Skool community, but I’ll show you how to build a real, viable business, focusing on your expertise, without creating a course.
If you don’t know me, I was a music producer for over a decade working with Grammy Winning Artists from all over the world. From there, I started an online education company teaching people how to become music producers. That company grew (and continues to grow) to multi 7 figures. From there, I sold it and then started Kollege, where I find underground talent who want to get paid to do what they love by shifting into online education. I won’t bore you with details, you can listen to the story here when Sam and I met up.
After selling thousands of courses, running a cross functional team, and living in the online education world, I am sympathetic to the many challenges and obstacles you need in place in order to make millions of dollars online. Until now, in order to get paid to do what you love online you needed:
- Course: An online course with lots of content that got students or clients results
- Sales Calls: A stacked calendar constantly selling people into your course
- Paid Advertising: Money -> Ads -> VSL -> Survey -> Book a call
- Organic Content: YouTube videos, Podcast, Joint Ventures
- Team: Sales team, coaches, managers, operators
There have been some alternate versions of this that help the creator, educator, or expert in some way. This could look like having a successful YouTube channel so you don’t need to run ads. Or you find that there are people willing and able to sell on your behalf so you don’t need to be on sales calls. Or you find that a course doesn’t sell as well with your industry so you launch a mastermind with some events so you can focus on connecting authentically with people without worrying about selling. While these attempts have been helpful to the industry, you still need to compromise some version of you or some version of your business.
What if there was a way to make a substantial income doing only what you love with:
- No sales calls
- No marketing
- No team
- And best of all, no courses.
You play chess better when you are forced to remove your Queen. Removing sales calls, or advertising, or organic marketing is like removing a pawn or a bishop. But what would it be like to remove the Queen from the board? In this industry, the Queen = a course. What I am going to propose is a community driven business that doesn’t rely on a huge audience that comes from some other platform - Operated completely by and with Skool.
Course first vs. Community first.
Why do courses exist in the first place? Usually it checks the boxes of all kinds of people.
- Package your domain expertise
Let’s say you are an expert in something. Guitar. Brewing. Marriage Therapy. Business Development. Anything. A course translates all of your learnings on the job, in your world, and packages it into content that is consumable for your clients or students.
- Guru centered
It is also, generally speaking, centered around 1 person and their way of doing things. Every course is some sort of knowledge transfer from 1 guru. It is designed to be updated and maintained not only by this guru’s “real world” experience, but by the guru themself.
- Fixed fulfillment mechanism
Courses also check the box if you are an amazing marketer. If you can package fulfillment into a digestible course, that means you don’t have to worry about fulfillment with your clients doing calls, training, or DFY (done for you), because the course does all the work. This allows marketers to focus only on (you guessed it) marketing.
- Content feedback loop
This however creates a feedback loop. Eventually, gurus fall in love with the fulfillment mechanism (selling courses at scale), then shift all of their efforts to marketing and selling courses (because your fulfillment mechanism can handle the volume), and the guru picks up learnings about marketing and sales. From there, they usually transform their business (or course) into a course about how to market. So they market a marketing course to a marketer, by marketing a marketing course on how they marketed to the marketer. This introduces the feedback loop.
But let’s forget all that. Let’s say you are not a marketer. But you’re actually someone like me. Deep down, I was a music producer. Over a decade ago, all I wanted to do was produce music. And make a substantial living doing so. Online education unlocked that for me, and it changed my life. Now, after starting, scaling, and selling an online education business, all I want to do is help others do the same.
So here’s what I did (and I recommend you do the same):
- Be passionate about your talent.
- Listen to your community.
- Community driven content.
- Be passionate about your talent. This entire “model” will not work unless you are actually an expert at something. And that only comes if you are passionate about what you are great at. Meditation. Business Development. Guitar. Dating. Accounting. Painting. Cosmetics. Storytelling. Languages. LinkedIn. Recruiting. You must have a deep domain expertise. If your domain expertise is just marketing, or driving more traffic, or generating more leads, you might fall into that content feedback loop trap I was telling you about. The first premise is that you are truly passionate about your talent.
- Listen to your community. Assuming you are an expert because of your passion for your craft, simply start a Skool Community. What I did was create a website (Kollege.com) and put all of my messaging on what we do there. People could join my Skool community after they read up and watched what Kollege was all about. Now, this step is totally optional, but it helped curate the type of people who wanted to be in a group together. From there, I just listened to the community. I didn’t optimize for content or even engagement. I just started hosting 1 call a week, every week, to listen to my community members and see what they were struggling with. It was great for them because they got to “shake hands with the owner” and get their problems fixed right away. No paywall. No course. Just interacting with the person who could help them find the answer to the problem they had. I noticed a pattern. After listening and engaging with my community members, I saw that people had real problems that I could actually solve. So instead of selling them a course, I just genuinely helped them right there in the community. I was showing people I could help them by helping them (kudos to for that timeless principle). In the past, I was used to groups metrics of success being 1 of 2 things: Pragmatic. Or Faithful. Pragmatic = growing by numbers. "It’s working”. Lot’s of engagement. Etc… or Faithful = I keep showing up and I am just going to continue to show up and “put in my time.” However, a new metric emerged. Fruitfulness. I measured this by the quality of the engagement. This group quickly became more valuable than some of the paid masterminds the members were a part of. But this group was free! This also gave me unbelievable clarity on what I needed to be flexible on to help them! Imagine if I had a course that I could “sell them into” with this model. It would immediately be outdated as the group's needs were constantly changing. I would have to take my eyes off of community driven results and make an entirely new course.
I received multiple DMs from members in the community asking if they can have more help. I had nothing to sell them. No course. Nothing. Remember, I sold my business! However, because so many people were asking for more help, I created a paid community where we met more often and curated the people toward a few main goals. The energy of these calls were even better! Everyone was committed. Therefore we could explore unknown unknowns. It wasn’t centered around me, it was a variety of group members that collaborated with one another. They didn’t need (or want) more content or courses. They just wanted to be together and grow together with the right mentorship and guidance. There were some DMs of online education companies that wanted help with exiting their business or optimizing for a better quality life while they scale. So we curated a group of people from there into a higher priced engagement. These are multi 7 figure business owners who know how to ask the right questions and again, just need the right mentorship and guidance.
- Community driven content. To this day, there is still no course inside any of these communities. Yet, it has generated a substantial income for me in so many ways. More leverage. More efficient. More aligned to who I am. But more importantly, the community members are thriving. I constantly wanted to make course content, thinking this is where the real “value” comes from. However, I was proven wrong time and time again. All people really need are results and that comes from true mentorship. It was at that moment I realized something huge. If I fell into the trap of “selling courses”, it’s at this point where I would package my findings (that I am sharing with you here) and sell a course on “How To Grow An Online Education Business Using A Free Acquisition Funnel blah blah blah…” where I would become a marketer marketing marketing to marketers. I resisted my urge big time. I kept asking myself, how do we package all of the amazing interactions we are having on these calls into content? If I figured this out, it would be a game changer because it would actually be true community driven content. True user generated content. We are now working on taking all of the learnings of the community, and communicating them at the right level of awareness between all 3 groups. The essence is deep mentorship on our highest priced engagement, and then articulating those concepts to each member of the 3 groups depending on where they are in their journey. Mentoring, articulation, and personalization. This is what was missing from the old model. You couldn’t actually personalize anything to your client or student. By focusing on mentoring, articulation, and personalization, it will stop you from jumping from one model to the next, one opportunity to the next, but allows you to drill into bedrock and build a business with longevity, not subject to changes in the macro environment (FBs algorithm changing, inflation, platforms shifting). I imagine very quickly, we will take all of our recordings and learnings (that are completely centered around the needs of the community) and integrate this with AI somehow to generate content that follows us all along our journey.
I hope this has expanded your imagination to know that not only can you create a meaningful Skool community, but you can generate millions of dollars just focussing on calls. If you are a true expert in your domain, just start a group! Get people on calls! You don’t need to hide behind a keyboard. You don’t need make a course. You don’t need to run ads. You don’t need sales calls. No tech. No team. Just show up. Be you. And help people. And people will spread the word.
You can optimize your business in a way that makes sense for you and only Skool was able to do that for me. Let's focus on the essence of what really matters. Skool has allowed me to be in love and to do what I love here in New York City with my family.