More and more I’m hearing from friends and other acquaintances on social media that they regret having invested in coaching, books, courses, and other programs. They don’t believe the investment ended up being worth the money. This saddens me because consumer dissatisfaction with coaching and online products can give people a bad impression of the industry. However, I can understand where they’re coming from.

I’ve run an online business where the bulk of my money has come from writing finance content since 2014. I’ve invested in conferences, blogging courses, marketing courses, and books galore. All of these investments add up to thousands of dollars spent.

Was all of it worth the cost? I can honestly say some of the investments paid off and others didn’t pay off as much as I’d hoped. Through the process of investing in my business, I’ve learned how to make smarter investment decisions. Here are some tips to help you:

Build the Foundation First

Be careful of putting the cart before the horse. Business investments related to marketing and sales strategy are cool and flashy, but you need the foundation of your business figured out first before these types of courses and coaching programs will truly be helpful.

For example, in the very beginning of my career I took a fairly expensive blogging course from a well respected pro blogger. The course was excellent. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of monetizing your blog and making posts go viral.

The problem was I had no blog business plan. I may have gotten more out of the course had I waited a few years after getting clear on my purpose and product offerings. At that point, there was a serious learning curve when I tried to make tweaks to my website. And I had no real product or way to collect money. It all felt very overwhelming.

You can’t expect to go into a coaching program or course thinking it’s going to be the answer to all of your prayers when you haven’t build up a solid foundation (unless the product is teaching you how to build that foundation). Choose a website provider, set up a business entity, and think about how you’re going to get paid for whatever product or service you’re providing first.

Sleep on Investments Before Buying

I have a test. If you run into a coaching program, course, or book that solves a problem that you weren’t actively trying to solve before finding it, give yourself some time to think over the investment before moving forward. I would suggest at least sleeping on it. Don’t buy it if you wake up and realize it’s not going to help you reach your most pressing goals. Put it on your list of things to invest in later if necessary.

You Have Many of the Answers Already

I find that the most common reason for disillusionment with business strategy information products is discovering you already know most of the information covered. I can understand the frustration there because I’ve spent money on products hoping to learn something new only to find out I already knew most of the information. This happens when you’re not trusting yourself or thinking there’s a magic answer to your problems. At some point, you have all of the answers. You need to start acting and experimenting with what you already know. Don’t be scared of failing when you try either. Failure and pivoting comes with the territory.

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Taylor K. Gordon is a personal finance writer and founder of Tay Talks Money, a personal finance and productivity blog on hacking your way to a happier savings account. Taylor has contributed to MagnifyMoney, The Huffington Post, GoGirl Finance, Madame Noire, and The Write Life.

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