Edit – since I am no longer with Freedman Consulting, this is no longer relevant. I don’t believe Ellen is offering CLE.
Now that Freedman Consulting’s online store is officially open for business (the email announcement goes out Monday at 1:45 pm) I thought I would share the steps that are necessary to create an online CLE store.
1. CLE Credit – I talked about this in a previous post. It is quite a process becoming an accredited provider. I think it should be a difficult process, since the provider is being trusted to give high quality seminars that meet the purpose of CLE, educating attorneys.
2. Topics – This was the easiest part for me. I knew Ellen and I could easily come up with topics. We have both been teaching seminars for years. I also knew we would have no trouble creating written materials to support those topics.
3. Seminars – I had to figure out how I would get the seminars from our heads into some format that could be provided to attorneys. At first I thought we would do some live webinars, but later I realized it would be better, given schedules and the CLE credit process, to record the seminars and then upload them. What we did is use Camtasia to record the seminars and then I used the same program to edit them together. Extremely time consuming. I plan on doing live webinars in the future using GoTo Meeting or something similar. I will record those and edit them as well.
4. Delivery System – This was harder than I expected. I started by researching the various ecommerce options and decided to go with Volusion. No offense to Volusion but this ended up being a mistake. I found the system complicated to work with, kludgy in terms of check out, and I had to manually approve each purchase. This meant if someone wanted to take CLE on Dec 31 at 11:59 I would have to be available to approve the purchase. This is a very likely scenario since December is a CLE compliance month. Also, Volusion did not offer a way for me to sell video of CLE credit length. So after more research I switched over to Shopify, which is an easy system, both in terms of administration and the end-user, and Fetch, which enabled me to store the videos and materials for purchase and download. The two work together.
5. Payment – Finding a credit card merchant account was another challenge, mainly because there are so many. In the end, since I was working with Volusion and most of the well-respected providers were similar, I figured I would go with them. Later, when I switched to Shopify I switched to Authorize.net, which seems to be the most popular of the merchant accounts. Keep in mind you actually need two things to sell on the Web, the merchant account and the gateway. One lets you take money and the other one lets the user submit the payment.
6. Marketing – I am using Vertical response to send out an email. I have, of course, also mentioned the store on my various social media accounts. All of my marketing is electronic.
So, how much does this all cost? Well, I won’t tell you exactly what we spent, but I will give you some guidelines.
1. If you want to be a distance provider in Pennsylvania you will pay $750 for the 5 courses you must complete and have for the approval process. After that there is no cost but for the $1.50 per credit that you pay for each participant in your seminars.
2. Topics are free. Good topics? Well who knows what that will cost you, right?
3. Camtasia is $299. If you need to hire someone to edit your videos, that gets extremely expensive. You can expect to either spend a lot of time or a lot of money on this part of the process.
4. Depends on the site you use, the level of service you choose and how much you store; anywhere from $25/month on up.
5. Depends on what you choose. The minimum will normally be around $20/month for one and $25/month for the other. There may or may not be a set-up cost. You can often get it waived or at least a portion of it waived if you ask. Percentages come out per sale and there are batch fees for each per day. So in other words, the ability to take credit cards costs a lot.
6. Vertical response is an inexpensive way to send out emails without having to invest in your own mass emailing infrastructure. Also, you don’t have to worry about your domain name getting flagged for spam. The various reputable email houses are very careful about spam and make sure you are too. The cost is either per month or per email. Here is the email I sent out.
What I haven’t mentioned
The key item I haven’t mentioned here is technical support/customer support, etc. That is because, for now, I will be handling that task. However, I don’t plan on taking any calls at 11:59 on December 31, sorry CLE procrastinators.
I have learned a lot from becoming an accredited provider, recording and editing videos, and creating an online store. It has been an incredibly time-consuming and valuable experience. If you are interested in providing CLE or another product online, perhaps the steps I have shared with you will help you begin your own process.