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The Good Online Writer’s Workshop

By Lori Widmer

I’ve taken a few online workshops and seminars over the years. I can say that the majority have been okay, but there’s one that stands out as the largest waste of time and money I’ve come across.

The instructor was holding a 30-day seminar, which sounded great. However, I made it just halfway through the first lesson before I chucked it and cursed the money I’d lost. The lessons were regurgitated information that one could get for free on any Web search. Worse, the instructor cranked out 12K to 15K words for each daily lesson. Even worse, they were poorly written and extremely verbose (it was clear she really enjoyed the sound of her own typing). But the final nail in her coffin – the daily homework consisted of not one, but up to three exercises that generated the same amount she’d put in her lessons – or more in some cases. I was done.

That begs the question – what makes a good workshop? From my experience, the following has to be in place:

A good price point. That doesn’t mean cheap. That means priced in relation to the content and the freshness of the material. I’d pay $100 for a great seminar rather than pay $25 for garbage. Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for.

Innovative instructors. Read blogs. Read posted works by the people hosting the events. Your instructor(s) should have a Web presence. Read through their blogs, their posted works, and ask around writers forums. Find out what other people are saying about your instructor. Can you learn something from them?

Fresh material. You can determine just how fresh the material will be if you do your research. Ask your instructor – is the material aimed at mid-level or above freelancers, or is it more for the beginner? How many sessions are there, and what’s the goal of each one? Ask former attendees what they thought of the work.

The seminar parameters. For me, the 30-day seminar sounded great: I’d put aside an hour a day for it. However, the amount of work required would have taken up at least 5 hours of my time each day. For a working freelancer, that’s too much. Is it self-paced or are the session hours set? Is it entirely online or are there conference calls? What type of time commitment does it require? What are the course takeaways? Will you be able to download the lessons and refer to them later?

A workshop is a great way to breathe life into your creativity and your business. Just make sure the one you pay for matches your expectations and your time constraints.

Lori Widmer spends her days trying to innovate and create fresh material for her blog readers. She is co-hosting her first Webinar tomorrow with Devon Ellington . Lori blogs regularly at Words on the Page.

What do you look for in an online class, or webinar? (Comment here by Monday for a surprise opportunity – aw)

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.


{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Rae

    I look for a good teacher, after a couple of bad classes I always try to go for classes with recommendations. I try to find out as much as possible about the class before it starts. I check out the instructor’s blog to see if I like their writing style. If they’re active on any of my forums or yahoo groups I will lurk and see how they behave. If I don’t like anything I won’t take the class.

    • Rae, those are excellent suggestions. It’s true – if the teacher is more of the “Look at me and my accomplishments!” style, who’s learning anything from that? Well, beyond learning the instructor is a narcissist. 🙂

      I like people who partner with me, not preach to me. Teaching is different from preaching. Teaching – we’re learning something. Preaching – we’re being told what to do and to not ask questions.

  • Agreed, Carol. A good instructor understands how to put together an effective course that teaches, not just informs.

  • Hi Lori —

    This is well-timed, I’ve just been going through the materials in A-List Blogger Club on how to design courses. And one of the first points is “KEEP IT SHORT.” Break it into short modules, and be concise!

    I think if they want you to do that much work in the course, they should warn you about it up front.
    Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..Could Your Blog Make Money Get a Free ReviewMy Profile

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