Digital information products such as online courses and templates have become the "get rich quick schemes" of the 21st century. We've all seen clickbait tweets and video titles like "I started a 6-figure business in a weekend" or "5 easy steps to 6-figures with online courses". It can be a minefield, and I'm treading carefully to avoid the 'scamminess' and coerciveness that plagues the space.
In addition, the cost of online courses has skyrocketed. It doesn't compute that some online courses cost as much as Master's programs. There's no doubt that some courses pack a ton of value, but they have no accreditation, and my guess is that the majority are poorly curated minimum effort offerings.
With this being the landscape I'm playing in, I thought I would write a little bit more about the thinking behind my pricing decisions (No, I didn't just suck the number out of my thumb 😋)
Pricing is more art than science, and I've been going back and forth in my mind trying to figure out the best pricing for the course. There are four basic things that I was trying to solve for when pricing the course:
1. Arriving at a fair exchange of value for someone taking the course.
2. Valuing the time and effort I have put into the course materials.
3. Making the course sales financially sustainable for myself.
4. Making sure the course is not prohibitively expensive.
That's a lot to pack into a single number 🙈 I 'll unpack each below.
As much as money is a mechanism for exchanging value, pricing is a symbol of value.
I am guilty of defaulting to thinking of price as "cost", i.e. the barrier to entry. Cost is an easily accessible concept of value - it's a known quantity, tangible and comparable. However, on the other side of a conceptualisation of value is the potential upside. The price can also be the first indication of the potential value that you will get from something. If you cast your mind to a professional qualification, the four years of study translate into a lifetime of increased earning potential. The university will charge you some nominal fee, but it does not equal your potential future earnings. This is difficult to quantify and is largely intangible.
Mastering Logseq has had an enormous upside for me, beyond the fact that the course is now a source of income. It changed the way I interacted with information, and made me more effective in my various roles, both personal and professional. It isn't easy to put a dollar amount on that, but if I think about the benefit only in terms of hours saved, leaving all creative projects aside, and I apply a dollar amount to those hours, the number would easily go into the thousands.
Going back to the cost side of the equation, it's helpful to consider the hours that you will save scrolling through random YouTube videos, trying to find the kernels of wisdom that will take your use of Logseq to the next level. How much is that worth? For each person the number will be different, but I'd imagine that it is significant.
I'm not going to get into topics of self-worth here, because that is a different matter altogether. What I'm thinking about rather is the cumulative hours of iteration developing my approaches in addition to the hours (weeks?) of effort in producing and editing the course materials.
I see many creators who talk about creating a course in approximately 30 hours. I can tell you that that is definitely not the case with Logseq Mastery. I have watched (literally) hundreds of hours of videos, figuring out the best ways to do things for myself in a graph database, and I am trying to distil those elements down as simply as possible in the course curriculum. This also relates to the point above, where as a result of my efforts, I'm hopefully saving you many hours of YouTube tutorials.
Initially, I expressed to a Logseq community member that I may have overpriced the course. He assured me that this was not the case. I've come 180 degrees on that position, as I now believe that I initially under-priced the course. I've been working on it for the best part of two months, and there's still a lot of work to be done.
In the short term, my goal is to cover my expenses. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I'm not a trust fund baby so there's the practical matter of rent, food and and and... I can't ignore the reality that what I'm currently I'm doing is not financially sustainable, unless something drastic changes. Some people think that YouTube pays well. If that's your plan to generate income, then you'll have to target millions of views. My total revenue from AdSense after seven months of monetisation has finally exceeded one month's rent 😁
Making the course sales sustainable in the long term is an interesting extension of this. I'm not trying to benchmark what I was earning before (trust me, I'm deep in the red in comparison) but it would be nice to have some money at the end of the month. At the moment, as a single person living alone, my expenses are fairly low. But the future holds many interesting stories and adventures, and to completely disregard future circumstances would be unwise. I would love to have enough to share with and provide for others, either 'charitably' or for a family / significant other. How much is enough? It's a difficult question with a lot of assumptions. This is why organisations have boards that decide what fair remuneration looks like for the executive team (although they're usually earning far more than enough 😋)
I'm still in the process of figuring this out for myself, but there's a very real possibility that my definition of enough might make the course prohibitively expensive, given current sales numbers. Those numbers may yet grow, so I guess we'll see how things evolve.
Pricing is ultimately still a barrier to entry as discussed in the first point. In the case of a course, it is the barrier to entry for people to access knowledge. Many believe that knowledge should be free, and there are some instances that I could not agree more with. If scientific studies are funded by taxpayer money through grants, the results of those studies should one hundred per cent be free. If, however, someone is building a product or body of information on their own steam, supporting that endeavour commercially is one of few viable ways to make it sustainable. Another model is for one person or organisation to provide grant or donor funding to enable the many to enjoy the results. I haven't investigated that model, and I'm not sure I have the boldness to ask.
That being said, if going for a commercial model, it must still be accessible to a broad market. There is a very real issue of purchasing power parity. One dollar in Europe or the United States is not the same as a dollar in South Africa or Indonesia. I am investigating the potential of including some parity pricing when the course comes out of beta, but this will take a while, and I still need to do further research.
But Logseq is free and open source?
Yes, Logseq is a free and open-source application (FOSS), but that is only because of external investment and the contributions of early users. I have been giving monthly via OpenCollective since January 2021, before there was ever a OneStutteringMind YouTube channel. This is not some virtue signalling exercise, but an acknowledgement that there has been an exchange of value. The team has put together an incredible product, and my contribution is paltry compared to the value I receive from the product (see above).
Most of my content is also freely available. I have posted over 9 hours of content on my YouTube channel, as well as older versions of my templates which are available on GitHub (these will be updated soon) and diagrams of my workflows are available on diagrams.net. It's unfortunately impossible to provide everyone with the same level of access to content, as it would not be financially sustainable.
If you ultimately decide to purchase the course, a transaction will take place. My goal is for this transaction to be a pleasant experience rather than a coercive one. Unfortunately, most marketing advice emphasises driving the sale - squeeze pages, countdown timers, upsells - all tactics that drive a false sense of urgency or scarcity. There's enough anxiety in the world without me telling you that you need to buy my course now. If you decide that you would like access to the materials and you judge the price to be fair, I will be grateful for your purchase. I will let you decide for yourself if it's worth it or not.
This is also why I've decided, at least for the time being, that I will not be offering discounts. Yes, the price of the course is reflected as being a discount off the final price, but it will not be reduced further than that. I want to be mindful of those who invested in the course in its early stages when it was still much rougher around the edges. Offering discounts now means that they are in effect disadvantaged - why would I buy the course early on if I knew I could get it cheaper when it was polished? In that way, discounts can act as a 'punishment' mechanism for early supporters, and I want to avoid that.
Secondly, getting back to the idea of a pleasant transaction, if someone sees that a product sometimes has discounts, they may wait for it to go on sale so as to avoid disappointment. Alternatively, if someone buys the course for the full price and then sees it available at a discount, they wil most likely feel disappointed. All of this is easily avoided by not offering discounts. Yes, I know - offering discounts drives more sales, but sales are not the only thing that I'm trying to solve for here.
Nothing exists in a vacuum, so I looked around to see what other courses in this 'tools for thought' space are selling for. Obviously, it's difficult to compare like for like, and each course creator is trying to solve for something different, and the levels of effort invested in the courses are different. However, I don't want to be playing in a different ballpark altogether. Here are some other courses available for the standout 'tools for thought', Obsidian and Roam.
- To Obsidian and Beyond by Mike Schmitz - $297
- Obsidian Flight School by Nick Milo - $129
- Effortless Output by Nat Eliason - $197
- Roam Untangled by Jamie Miles - $129
And, finally this brings us to the actual price.
The price for the full Logseq Mastery course bundle will be $149, or $89 for the separate units of the course tentatively until the end of 2022. There is still lots of work to be done and content to be completed and refined, so the prices will increase steadily from the current prices as illustrated by the diagram below.
Edit 31st May 2022: Logseq Mastery Workflows & Systems will remain in early beta for a few more weeks, and will increase to $59 on the 15th of June. The full course bundle will increase to $99 on the 1st of June, and to $109 on the 15th of June when Workflows & Systems is updated.
Edit 1st August 2022: The price of Logseq Mastery Workflows & Systems has increased to $69 and the full course bundle to $119. There are already 5 hours of high-quality original content in Workflows & Systems, but it still needs some polish to get to the same level as Logseq Mastery Tutorials. The next price increase will likely be at the beginning of October.
Addressing a few things that have weighed on me during this process.
Despite realising that perfection is an impossible ideal, I can't but help myself try to achieve it. Well, not so for this course! To get the updates out as soon as possible, I embraced the 'beta' approach, adding screenshots of the curriculum materials in my personal Logseq database instead of full-blown re-recordings / well-formatted text. All the old videos are still available in 'Tutorials' and are mapped to the new structure as much as possible. Therefore, the user experience is rough around the edges, but I believe the content is better than before. The 'Workflows and Systems' content still needs more work, but I've included what is already there in this update, as I believe it is valuable, even in the current raw state.
It's an old trope, but done is better than perfect is a great way to think about publishing materials. You will be pleased to know, as mentioned above, that the pricing does account for this. The current price reflects a discount off the final price, whilst I continue to refine the content.
Doing this challenged every perfectionist bone in my body. However, I've realised that there is more to lose by not sharing than by someone coming across 'imperfect' work and criticising it. Therein lies a deep fear, that someone will judge my work harshly and therefore think less of me. My self-worth gets wrapped up in some tangible 'product' of the work that I put out in the world. Maybe the 'rebellious' act against my inner perfectionist can help me reframe my perfectionism?
Derek Sivers has this essay titled "Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake". It's in reference to a diner owner who posted a comprehensive set of aggressive warnings on the diner door, obviously in response to incidents that had occurred over the years of being in business. Sivers says, "When one customer wrongs you, remember the hundred thousand who did not. You’re lucky to own your own business. Life is good. You can’t prevent bad things from happening. Learn to shrug. Resist the urge to punish everyone for one person’s mistake."
I'm grateful that I'm now in a similar position and have had overwhelmingly positive feedback, both on YouTube and on the course. However, I'm only human and, like most, it is all too easy to anchor on the negative experiences. I'm even more grateful to report that there has only been one interaction that has left me feeling downright negative. At the risk of 'punishing' the masses, I think it is worth addressing for my own well-being.
Once a transaction has taken place, people sometimes start to feel a sense of ownership over the content, which is fine to some degree. However, I see no circumstance which gives anyone the right to be rude or demanding. Bringing this back to pricing, the course is far from a premium price range. In fact, a one hour 1-on-1 consultation with an expert in any technical field would far exceed the cost of the course. Paying for the course does not give any ownership of my time 🙂. If you are unhappy with the course content or my actions in any way, I am very open to receiving a considered email with your concerns, and I will do my best to address them where possible.
This sounds a vague, so let me give some examples that might help bring it home.
- "When is the beta version going to be updated?" Welcome! There is clearly no malice in the question, and it's okay to wonder how the course is progressing.
- "Why did you publish another video on YouTube before finishing the course?" Not welcome. It implies that you have ownership of my time, which is not what you purchased when you bought the course. If you would like to get some of my time for yourself, you can email me and ask about one-on-one consultations (see above for indicative pricing 😉).
- Using CAPITAL letters to imply shouting, or using rude language in your emails. Not welcome. Enough said.
It's worthwhile saying again that nothing is set in stone, and things may change. I won't hold myself to an impossible standard of doing things perfectly the first time, and I want to create space for change and growth in my own journey. If that happens, expect another long blog post explaining the rationale 😄
If you've made it to the end of reading this, I appreciate you taking the time. I hope it's given some insight into how I've gone about building and pricing the course, and hopefully some of my underlying values also bubble up to the surface. As always, I'd be happy to receive your feedback and comments. Please feel free to email me at dario 'at' combiningminds 'dot' org.
Wishing you all the best,
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