Carl Olson has a deep background, including using video, creating online courses and joint ventures. In this podcast I talk with him about his background and where he’s going. I’ve gotten to know Carl over the years and he is a genuine guy. He loves helping people and he has his own podcast, which I’ve been featured on. He not only continually learns from others, but he’s in a constant state of learning himself as he describes in the interview. Carl and I have a LOT in common in that we both video producers, podcasts and love learning more about our craft. We also both love using video, online courses and media to create quality content in entrepreneurial ways. We’ve had many conversations over the years and I count it a true honor to have him on the show. Carl has a wealth of knowledge and he’s very generous with his wisdom and advice, which he freely gives in his podcast.
My Notes of what I learned in the interview:
- Carl is a continuous learner…and we should be too
- He loves video, audio and as an entrepreneur looks to use these to create content
- The Digital Convergence Podcast has been running for years and it’s a chance for Carl to learn from others
- Carl is a great guy, whom I am privileged to know on a personal level
Find Carl Here: CarlOlson.tv
Have a question for the podcast?
Podcast Interview with Carl Olson:
Jeff: In this episode, I talk with my friend Carl Olson, who used his skills in video production, web design, eLearning, and entrepreneurship to build a million dollar company.
[Welcome to the Online Course Coach podcast, brought to you by TrueFocusMedia.com. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, this is the podcast for the latest in online course creation tips, news, interviews, and ideas. And here’s your coach, Jeff Long.]
Jeff: Welcome back to another episode, and I’m really excited about this one, because I get to interview somebody that I know, like, and respect. And it’s somebody that’s doing business in a similar way that I do. In fact, we have a lot in common that you’ll learn here in the show. And I know there’s a lot of takeaways that you can learn. So Carl gives his background, his experience, but then he goes into how he’s been able to leverage his skills in video, web design, online training, and his entrepreneurial skills.
You know, it’s interesting, because I think the door is wide open. You know, there are so many people that have intellectual property, they’re thought leaders, they have a following, they have a platform—but they don’t have the technical expertise to get the work done. So maybe they have an idea, maybe their audience is, you know, clamoring for a product or something that can help them be more efficient or save money or learn faster or take a new approach, and Carl has come in with his extensive background in video production, web design, and he translated that into a really cool eLearning, or online training system that would help customers improve their systems and improve their businesses and it was a bargain what they were getting for the price.
You know, so many times I hear from what I call “technicians.” They’re good that their craft, maybe they’re an amazing web designer. Maybe they can make the bet videos or build the best learning portals or build courses or whatever, but they don’t know how to add long term value. And think this is important because this is something that I transitioned from a while ago. I was going these one-off projects, and I still do some of those to some extent, but there’s a time where I know that my company’s value is greater than just a single one-off video or website or eLearning portal. So it’s very cool to see Carl and I are kind of on these parallel tracks. I’ll tell you more about what I’m doing here in the future, but I want to bring you think interview with Carl, help you get to know him, and see where he’s gone, as well as where he’s going. Because I think he has a really cool story.
Now, just to let you know, I did have some technical issues with my main microphone, so I actually had to use the backup mic that I was also running. So my audio quality isn’t what it normally is, and what it normally will me, but the content was so good, I didn’t want to scrap it. So let’s get right to the interview.
Jeff: So, Carl, thanks for being on the show. Go ahead and tell us a little bit about what you do and what your background is in.
Carl: It’s my pleasure, Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah, so—for the listener—Carl and I have been communicating and talking and trading ideas for a while now, and I really like Carl’s mindset and where he’s going and what he’s done with online training and eLearning. So, Carl, tell me a little bit about your background in video and media.
Carl: Well, I’m a bit of a polymath. I have an interest in many things. So sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad, bad thing. But my first foray into video was back when I was in my early twenties—well, in fact, I think I was twenty years old. I had a brief stint as an intern camera operator at WATL 36, right here in Atlanta. And I was a solo cameraman for Larry Munson, the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs. It was a sports show, which was ironic because I absolutely hated sports. So Larry and I had an interesting relationship during that year that we worked together.
And then I also did a live show as a cameraman for—it was called the Entertainment Page, and it was hosted by, at that time, a well-known DJ by the name of Jim Morrison. And what did on that show was a cameraman, and I did all the show notes for Jim Morrison. So each time he’d have a guest on, I’d do the research if I knew in advance who it was going to be. So I met a lot of interesting people that way. I met AC/DC, I knew the B-52’s before they were famous. They were there regularly, so we were hanging out at the station regularly back in the early days of their existence. And I met a lot of different people. So I got a good exposure to television at that time, and live television, but the ‘80s came along. That was when the computers were really taking off, and I made a detour into software development.
In the ‘90s, I did a lot of multimedia development, and that’s when it really started getting interested in using software as a tool for learning and teaching in marketing. And so that’s where that genesis was, and I worked with a—one of my clients was a gentlemen who oversaw the training department for this large paper company, and he and I really hit it off and we did a lot of work together. That’s when I used Adobe Premiere, when it first came out. Adobe Premiere 1.0!
Jeff: Oh, nice!
Carl: But anyway, he had a great big classroom with expensive projection equipment—and remember, this is the mid-90s now, so this was uber expensive equipment, but it was a lot of fun to play with. And so, I really got interested in learning and training using multimedia at that time. And then, of course, as the years went on, I transitioned to a fulltime web services company. And then part of the challenge with developing websites is content. Really, the website’s the easy part. It’s the content that was difficult.
So I started doing video work back in 2007, I think it was, bought my first copy of Final Cut Pro because a customer of mine had had a video shoot, and all they got was a bunch of video but nothing to show for it. So I used the—they asked me a question. They said “Can you do something with this?” and, of course, my answer to that is “Yes.” They didn’t ask me if I had experience doing it, they just asked me if I could do it. You ask me that, I’ll say yes 99.99% of the time, because I know I can figure it out. So that’s how I got into video.
And then, of course, 2009, had the Canon 5D Mark II came onto the scene, and now everyone started wanting that bokeh look back then. So I did a lot of client work, and that’s where my life started to diverge quite a bit with doing client work, video work, at that time.
Jess: Yeah, and tell the audience—because I know your background and your experience and where video had taken you. I know there was a point in your life and in your career where maybe you were somewhat happy with video and media and making them, but what was that turning point where you realized “Okay, these one and done projects…they just aren’t cutting it”? Or it wasn’t a long term sustainability. Tell us that story and where it brought you.
Carl: Well, I’m a slow, slow learner unfortunately. So my first business I started in 1984. I’m dating myself now. So I did client work, and of course the way I did client work was—a lot of it was just word of mouth. The economy was good and the referrals were coming in fast and furious. But, of course, as the economy started to slow down, that became more difficult to do. And the thing that really aggravated me is when I would do the work, it would take so much of my time, I really felt like I couldn’t market. I couldn’t be filling my pipeline with new customers. And when I brought on new customers, I was juggling their time. You know, who’s more important? Every customer that you have, they want to feel like you’re giving them your full attention, and I found that very frustrating. Because I couldn’t give them my attention, and I felt like sometimes I was juggling too many balls.
And then when I finished projects, sometimes it’d just be an empty pipe. It’s like somebody turned the water off, and it’s not even dripping anymore. And that was frustrating. Because your cash flow, you never know what your cash flow was going to be. So I guess I had a genesis of a thinking that there’s gotta be something better than just trying to find your next client. You go through the euphoria of finding a new client, get busy with the work, but then it would wear off quickly, because then you got into the slog of doing the work, and knowing you needed to be marketing and you couldn’t do it.
Jeff: So—and it’s funny. You and I are in similar industries in several different ways, both in the video side, the marketing, the web, the eLearning and online training stuff. What—how did you get into doing online learning, and what was maybe a spark or something that was a lightbulb moment where you thought “Man, this could be something”?
Carl: Well, that started back in 2010, I started something unusual—at least for me. I decided I would start a podcast. And in 2010, I didn’t know what I was doing. I just said “Well, I need to do a podcast.” I figured it would be a great way to interview a lot of smart people, and get some ideas along the way, and I was also using it as a mechanism or tool to help build my own authority to get more clients. There was certainly a marketing aspect to it. I’m not trying to be cynical with it, or seem like I’m using people or that sort of thing, but I really wanted to do a podcast. One, to teach me and, two, if I could share it with others, that’s great, and then, three, build authority.
The fringe benefits of podcasting are tremendous, and I did not realize just how much podcasting would affect my business. I had two podcast guests in particular that affected my mindset. So the first, I did an early episode with Rodney Charters, who is a director of photography. Right now he’s a director of photography for the show Dallas, but when I interviewed him, he had just lost his job on the show 24, which had a long run. I think it was like eight or nine years. And he was lamenting how—I forget how many people that he had on his team, but they’re all out of work including himself. And I asked him, I said “Do you get residuals when the show goes into syndication?” And he just—oh man. You can almost hear the bitterness in his voice, but he said because he was a director of photography, he was below the line. In other words, he wouldn’t receive any future revenues from that show when it would go into syndication.
And then he made this offhanded remark, “I guess you just have to own the content if you’re gonna make money with it.” And that little nugget stuck in my head. Own the content.
But now the real credit, when the lightbulb went off—I guess with Rodney Charters, it was kind of like—you know how a fluorescent light, where the ballast is getting old and the lights are getting old and they’re just kind of [makes flickering noise], they’re just kind of flickering there. So that’s where I was. I was that old ballast going [flickering noise]. But now, Izzy comes on, man, and he shoots 240 volts into those lightbulbs and they just go BWAH! He was—I interviewed him and he turned the cards on me. He was asking me “What are you doing?” and I mentioned the client work that I was doing at the time. I had actually had a water damage restoration company, was doing work for them, client work, producing marketing videos. And he turned the tables on me and he said “Why don’t you offer to shoot the videos for free and then offer to share the revenue?” And I thought “Wow…!” “Well I don’t do anything free!” and I had to kind of overcome that prejudice there.
But then I thought about it, and I thought “This is a good idea.” This guy was very successful with offline training. He had a customer base, he was very enthusiastic about his presentation, the way he taught, and the students loved him. So I thought “This really is a good combination.” So that’s where I got the spark to fire the lightbulb. And that was from Izzy Hyman of IzzyVideo.com.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s great. We both know him and respect him. He’s a great guy. So what are some lessons you learned through the early stages of putting these video training courses on the website, marketing it, and offering it to potential buyers?
Carl: Well, one of the biggest lessons, I think, is just getting started. Just get started. It’s—and I admit, I’m guilty of this… Back in 2010, when I started this, it was easy to fall into analyses paralysis. There weren’t a lot of good tools. There was a plethora of tools, but none of them did exactly what you wanted, so you’d go into this mode of “Okay, what can I use…” and you’d spend days researching stuff. And I mean, come on, you’re talking about a two hundred dollar plugin or three hundred dollar plugin. You could just go crazy trying to figure it all out. And I finally just realized one day, “You know what, let’s forget all this trying to build a platform. Let’s just see if our customers even want this thing.” And so the lesson I learned from that is you can presell a product, and that’s a great way to test it without spending a lot of time, spending a lot of money, and that’s what we did with this product. We just tested it to see how people—whether or not they would want this product.
Jeff: You know, that’s such a great point. And that’s something I recommend as well. In fact, just this week, I got a phone call, today, from somebody who had an idea and proposed that we build a website and the eLearning system and all that. And I said “Well, it sounds like you might have an idea, but let’s try to test it out.” Ask ten businesses, call some entrepreneurs, or whoever’s in your target market, because I think, you know, as entrepreneurs and idea people, which is me, and it sounds like that’s you, Carl. You know, we get excited with our own idea. We fall in love with is and we think “Oh man, I’ll make a million dollars!” and—
Carl: And most of my ideas aren’t any good anyway!
Jeff: Well, I think in our own minds they’re genius ideas. At least in my mind. And so I think that’s such a crucial takeaway for the listener. I’m guessing a lot of you are idea people, or you have one idea. Before you get ahead of yourself, try to presell it. You know, so call people. Talk to people in your network. Carl, what is one of the ways you did a presale of that product and that idea to see if it was a valid idea?
Carl: Well, the first thing we did is we took his curricula for his offline course, and just wrote out a brief outline for what some of the topics would be for an online course. And, of course, my partner, he had a good idea of some of the challenges that businesses face. One of those was systemizing, training your techs. Companies would have a high turnover in techs, which means when they would hire, they’d have to train quickly and get them to get productive as quickly as possible so they could increase their margins for their business. And that was the other thing, is a lot of the little things that could be done were big things that could be done, but maybe were not obvious to a business owner. How could they raise the margins or increase the margins for their business? So we created an outline of topics that we felt the audience would be interested in.
But this idea of having a system for—you know, everybody talks about it, and a lot of people spend a lot of money taking courses to learn that they’re supposed to have systems in their business and have SOPs—standard operating procedures—and have them all documented and have your techs access those for different procedures. But it’s easier said than done. It’s actually a very labor intensive thing sometimes, especially when it’s a very technical job where there are a lot of different variables, like water damage restoration is. So we took that approach.
Well, the biggest pain point seemed to be systems and training technicians so that they could quickly be profitable. So I suggested “Well, why don’t we do a webinar? Let’s do a webinar.” I said, “You got a great, big email list.” I think he had like five thousand customers in his email list. I said “Why don’t we send out an email campaign? Say ‘Hey, we’re gonna do a free webinar,’ use ‘Go to webinar,’ and let’s just do a keynote presentation. Just show people what we have in mind. I know we don’t have any videos made, we don’t have any manuals made, but here—what if you could do this?”
I think it was about two hundred people—I can’t remember the numbers now, I have to go back to my notes. I think it was around two hundred signed up, I think, when we did the webinar there might have been a hundred and twenty-five people online. So that was good. That showed us a lot of people opted into this. I guess about half of them didn’t show up, but half did, and those are highly qualified leads. Well, out of those hundred and twenty-five or so—you know, I may be off on some of these numbers. I could be plus or minus, I gotta go back and look at my notes to see. I wrote these things down as they were happening.
But anyway, out of the hundred and twenty-five—we’ll just go with that number right now—we had twenty—I DO know that number because this was remarkable. We had twenty attendees sign up for the product, sight unseen, no product existed—and we explained that. Because you don’t want to get into FDC fraud and all that stuff. So we just, you know, we let everybody know that this doesn’t exist, but this is what’s coming. “It’s in development right now.” Twenty people signed up, and each laid out one thousand nine hundred and ninety-five dollars. So almost forty thousand dollars proof that people wanted this product. And if we didn’t make another dime, we knew that even if we put forty thousand dollars into it, we weren’t gonna lose anything, except our time. But I didn’t feel like, with that type of interest, that we were gonna lose.
So that’s what how MVP’d our products—minimum viable product. Of course, we didn’t even have a product, but…
Jeff: It was so minimal, you didn’t even have one!
Carl: It was the back of a napkin, or in this case, a keynote presentation.
Jeff: Now, did you give any discounts to those people? Or was the price you gave what you were gonna sell it for anyway down the road?
Carl: Well, we didn’t discount it too much. We did discount it. We sat down and thought “Okay, how much is this product worth to the business?” and the number we came up with was two thousand one hundred and ninety-five dollars. So we only discounted it a couple hundred bucks. Maybe we should have done more, I don’t know. But you don’t know. And the fear that I have would be underpricing something. And that’s our tendency. We tend to want to price things too cheaply rather than right price it. But the metrics we had were, you know, the offline classes—depending on how many days they were, they could run from anywhere from eight hundred dollars to fourteen hundred dollars or so, per person. And you take that, plus the airfare, the hotel, the meals, all the travel expenses, by the time they take a class here, they’ve flown all over the country to Georgia—they’ve spent well over two thousand dollars per person for the conference. Or the class, I should say.
So we felt that twenty-one ninety-five was a good price for the product. It wouldn’t cannibalize the offline classes, but it would give them value. It would actually augment the value of the offline classes.
Jeff: Hm. And why do you say that? Or how did it augment the value of the offline classes?
Carl: Because they came—they would go home—if they bought this product, they would have a system. We literally gave them a template that was several hundred pages of SOPs. Which is was in Word format, so they could download this SOP manual, or systems manual, and update it, edit it. It was white labeled so they could put their own logos and all that. But they could adapt it to their company. And that right there was one of the big reasons why people bought the product, was just to have access to this systems manual.
Jeff: That’s great. What were some of the things you learned as far as length of the videos for the video content specifically? Did you try to have a target length? You know, a seven minute or a ten or twenty—what was your thoughts behind that, and what did you eventually land on?
Carl: Well, it depended on the top. You had to do whatever was appropriate to the topic. But seven to ten minutes was my target, and we didn’t always hit that. But most of them fell in the seven to ten minute range. Most people, they—seven to ten minutes even in video world is a long time for people. So—but some episodes, it was just difficult. I’m sure if we went back and redid them, or reedited them, we could make them shorter. But we had several that were even in the ten to twenty minute range because of the complexity of the show.
I mean, have you ever seen the show This Old House? I mean, that’s the way a lot of these episodes were. They were very much like This Old House. In fact, we had a place called the Flood House where we filmed it. That was our set. So we had an entire house that we could flood and we could apply the different techniques. And it took—there was a lot of set up time to do that. So some of the episodes were very complicated to film.
Jeff: I bet. As far as the website platform, give a little peak about behind the scenes. What are some of the tools you use, some of the systems or the CMS—or how did you end of building the thing?
Carl: Well, I built it on WordPress. WordPress was by far the easiest—well, I shouldn’t say easiest. It’s hard to categorize WordPress. Sometimes I think it’s the best think in the world, and other times, I just pull my hair out wondering why I have to do some much fiddly stuff. But it—keep in mind, about the time we were doing—let’s see, by 2011, I think, is when we really started to build a platform. And there wasn’t much available. I mean, there were some high-end platforms that were geared toward corporations, so that they can have their internal marketing—not internal marketing—internal training, that sort of thing. Those things were very expensive. It was difficult to set up a sales funnel so they could purchase a product, and then they’d be issued a login and password and all that for them. What I needed was more of a linda.com type model than what was commercially available.
So those things were very expensive. So I—what I did was I took WordPress, and looked at the different options there. and one of the things I did—going back to Izzy Video, what he did was he used aMember, which is a piece of software that manages the membership access to their website, and then he built it in WordPress. I figured, “Well, okay, if he did that, then that would probably work for me.” Now, I did not use the same tools that he did. I ended up using something different. But he used a tool—he got a much earlier start, so he used what was available at that time and would work.
So I had WordPress as the platform, or the CMS. I took a commercially available them, and I modified it. I customized it myself to match what we wanted in the website, and then I used a membership software product called Digital Access Pass. And that turned out to be a very good tool. It’s not the prettiest tool, but it’s very capable. It’s a very capable tool. And it gave us a lot of what we needed in a membership system. So that’s what I used. The price was—I think I paid for the concierge service. The owners of the company were very nice. They spent several hours with me. They actually installed the software, they helped me figure the software, and they provided excellent tech support. And so that’s what we used to membership side of things. So it handled the payment processing—well, it integrated with authorize.net, which was the payment platform that we used. So it integrated with that very nicely. It was very good about handling automatically sending out emails with their user ID and password, and it was rock solid as far as protecting the content within the website itself.
Jeff: That’s good.
Carl: Now there’s another piece to that, though, that we did have a bit of a learning curve with. Video hosting in 2011 was a surprisingly immature thing. It doesn’t sound like it was that long ago, but it was difficult. I mean, this is—so now you have your smartphones starting to take off. When did the iPad come out? What that 2012? 2011? It was just—it was right at… So mobile devices was becoming big, and the very first time I released Reets TV, I was hosting the video on our Amazon S3 account. And I had a video player—I can’t even remember what we used. But as soon as we launched, I started getting a ton of tech support issues. “The videos won’t play!” “They’re taking forever to download!” “They’re stuttering!” So this was a rookie mistake that I made.
So, “Okay, so how do I get around this…?” So I started looking around and they said “Oh, you got to have adaptive bitrate, blahblahblah,” and it was just like all Greek to me. So I was like “Wait a minute, you mean I’ve got to write code to detect what kind of advice I’m on and then adapt the stream…which mean that I would have to have multiple codecs…” I’m just going—my heart is just sinking. Because this is meaning that what should be a simple task has turn complicated. I stumbled upon a company—I looked at a number of video content delivery networks. So these are companies that would take the video, do multiple end codes, have a player that would detect what kind of device it was on, and then deliver the experience that’s appropriate to the device and appropriate to the internet speed connection that they had.
So in 2011, Bits on the Run was the least expensive thing I could find. And it worked reasonably well. So that’s what we used the video on. That was our single largest expense, though, because Reets TV just exploded. I mean, we go—people just started buying it and the bandwidth of the videos just skyrocketed. So we were spending upwards of two to three thousand dollars in one year for video hosting cost.
Well, there was a young upstart company called Wistia that came on the scene. And there was another one called iPlayer HD, which was pretty good, and I even tested them. But Wistia was—they won my heart. Because they were very aggressive with their tech support. They gave us a great deal. They helped us get the right account, gave us a great break on pricing, and I moved everything from Bits of the Run to Wistia, and that’s where it is today. On Wistia.
Jeff: That’s great. Yeah, no, and I—I challenge everybody, when they’re thinking about the tools to use to create their online training or eLearning platform, and it can be overwhelming. So my encouragement is to not get overwhelmed, try to pick some tools that make sense and just move forward with them, knowing the technology’s gonna change in a couple years, and hopefully it will get easier and better as time moves on.
Carl: Well, I think part of the problem that we have, we get stuck in this paralysis analysis because we’re afraid we’re gonna make the wrong decision. The point of my story is you’re not locked it. I mean, sure, it was not convenient to go from Bits on the Run to Wistia, but we were making money. Since the business was becoming profitable, it really wasn’t that difficult of a thing. And that’s the thing. You’re not locked in. and who knows, tomorrow, there may be a complete, self-contained platform that will do the job! I don’t know! I don’t know what’s available. The important thing is the content and selling the content.
Jeff: So what did you like the most? You know, you handle the video side, the web side, even the IT side, and even some pieces of the marketing. Did you have a favorite part of it? Or was it just, as an entrepreneur, you liked that you were using your skilled and talents to make a decent amount of money?
Carl: I liked MacGyvering it, that’s for sure. Like I said at the beginning, I have many interests, and so it kept me interested. Because I don’t want to just shoot video, I don’t want to just edit video, I don’t want to just do coding and web development. But if I do a little bit of each of those things, I’m happy. I enjoy those things. And of course the things I enjoyed even more was getting to know the people that was using the product, how they were using it, learning the process of teaching—the art of teaching. Just really digging into the people side of things was a fascinating piece of this.
Jeff: That’s great. You couldn’t have said that any better. It’s virtually exactly how I would have said for my own life and business. Is, you know, we do video, we do web, we do eLearning. And I love all of that. I love that my team can bring that to fruition and help companies and individuals, but I like the people aspect. I like taking a concept from just an idea to completion, and it’s a blast. It’s a blast to see where things go.
Carl: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I agree.
Jeff: So what would you say to people that doubt the effectiveness of online learning? They think “It has to be in person. That’s the only effective way to do training.” What have you found? Is it possible to do online learning effectively?
Carl: If they doubt it, I’d say “Are you nuts?!” [Both laugh] I think there’s a balance though. I think there’s benefits to both. I don’t think one completely replaces the other. However, education’s expensive. Traditional education is hugely expensive. It’s a big business. Colleges are big business. But it’s amazing to me that you can learn so much yourself, if you’re so inclined, and online learning is a great way to do that. Especially when video is involved, you can see with your eyes the techniques, you can ear with your ears the explanation—I think online learning makes expensive education affordable for a lot more people. And a lot more accessible. It becomes global. It’s kind of a leveling effect. Education is available to anyone, easily.
Offline learning does have the benefit of you can do Q&A. Like I was recently at a live event, and I just had a blast because I could ask questions, I could—I was a participant in some of the exercises. So that had benefit too. But online learning really is the primary way I learn my crafts, from software development, video production, learning how to build membership sites—all of those things. Most of it I did learn through online learning. So I think it’s a very valuable and viable and perfectly acceptable way to learn.
Jeff: That’s great. So it sounds like you did some online learning on how to do online learning, is that correct?
Carl: That is correct. [Laugh]
Jeff: Well, hopefully no one’s brain exploded, but that’s good. What are some people or businesses that you have seen out there that are using online learning, online training in a creative way? You mentioned Izzy and Izzy Video. Have you seen others where “Wow! I wouldn’t have thought this industry or this type of segment of the market would have this!”
Carl: Yeah. One closely on the hells of Izzy is Don McAllister of Screencast Online. Back in 2007, I was a Windows guy for many, many years. I was a Window developer, and it was an extraordinarily painful process. And finally, one day, I just switched to Mac, that was in 2007. I just went and bought an iMac, and I didn’t look back, but of course when you do that, you have to learn stuff. And so I did a search and I found Screencast Online, so I subscribed to Screencast Online. And you never seen Don on camera. It’s all screencast. And so I started looking at—I got interested in how he did it. It was all done with a piece of software called Screenflow—well actually, I don’t think he was using Screenflow in the beginning. It might have been, I think, Snapz Pro X or something. But anyway, he was doing screen capture of a Mac, and I was just amazed at how much I learned from watching his screencast.
So that’s one. And he’s still going strong to this day. And, of course, I was a very, very early adopter of linda.com. I still subscribe to that, so they’ve made a lot of money off of me. So it’s good. Out of curiosity, I’ve looked at some courses on Udemy. That’s an interesting eLearning platform. It’s not interesting to me as an author, though. I think their rates are onerous. I think it’s 50/50 and I’m not willing to part that much with my product.
Jeff: Well, it’s less than that if they sell the course. I think it’s 80/20 so something—I know they’ve changed in the last couple of years. So if you sell your own, you get a bigger chuck, but if they sell it, you get a tiny sliver. I had added some courses to their site early on. They were brand new out of the gate, and I had some courses that I had created and uploaded there. And it’s fun. Just the other day, I got a check. You know, not a huge one, because I don’t put a lot of thought or effort into that. Maybe I should. But it’s just fun to experiment with new platforms, new systems, and see what else is out there.
So where do you see this online education thing going? Do you feel like we’ve hit a plateau? Do you feel like we’re just beginning? Or where’s it gonna go in the future?
Carl: I think we’re at just the beginning. I think it’s—I’m trying to think of the name of the author—that came up with this phrase. He called it the “learning economy.” Jeff Cobb, I believe? I can’t remember. But anyway, the learning economy. And I think that’s what—I think the future is really bright for it. I saw ourselves with Reets TV just grow each year. And that’s just one small, very niched down market. Think about all the other things that are out there. People need certifications, people are learning new skills, and they’re retooling. I think college has become exorbitantly expensive for people, and I think they’re coming around to the idea that “You know what, if I learn a trade, if I learn a specific task”—what do you call it? Just in time learning. “If I do that, I can expand my ability to earn income of some sort,” whether it’s through a business or being a better employee or something like that. So I just think this thing is gonna continue to explode. If I was a college, I’d be really worried about it.
Jeff: That’s interesting. Yeah.
Carl: I really would. Because, going back to Rodney Charters, that was one of the thing he said in the podcast. He says “I’m gonna say something that’s really controversial! Somebody that wants to go into filmmaking, they should take the fifty thousand dollars they give to the New York School of Filmmaking and just make a movie. Forget college. It won’t do you any good!” [laughs]
Carl: I don’t know if everybody would agree with that. I’m not saying college is useless, but I do think that the way we learn, online learning is more in tune. It’s more flex—it’s easier to experiment and come up with ways that are more effective for people.
Jeff: Well, I think it’s faster to iterate. You can make a change to an online course in almost no time, whereas, at least with traditional education, you probably have to wait a semester at minimum and some professors don’t change for a long time. And so they might be teaching techniques or philosophies that are sometimes decades old, whereas the online world is just movie so fast that it’s a benefit to everybody, because it is moving so fast and it can be updated even faster.
Carl: Well that’s one of the things that frustrated me with my children’s education. My daughter went to school to learn software development—which we never went into. She never went into that, I wonder why. But she had come home with her homework, and they would be teaching her language that hadn’t been used in five years. And that frustrated me as a father to see her struggling through this stuff because it wasn’t relevant. Academia does not have the agility for today’s economy. They just don’t have it. It’s sad.
And, as a developer, I’m completely self-taught. I never went to school—well, I shouldn’t say that. When I was at the Florida Institute of Technology, I took one quarter of Fortran Programming, and that’s what opened up my eyes to a lot of things. So, see, there is some benefit to college.
Jeff: There you go. To the listener, don’t feel like you have to know all the answers. Carl has talked about he was learning as we went for a lot of this. So don’t be scared if you have an idea or even a market or people asking you to provide online training. Don’t get weighed down in the details. And then also, don’t be afraid if you don’t have the credentials, the certification, the college backing behind you, just get started. There are things in my life where I don’t have a college degree in certain pieces that I offered my clients. And you know what, I don’t think I’ve had any clients say “Jeff, can I see your degree?” They just say “What have you done lately?” and so that portfolio is more important than that degree, that certification. So I think—yeah, we could talk for hours just on that topic alone, but that’s for another time.
But, Carl, I want to thank you so much for being on the show. I mean, we’ve—we have talked at length about all these ideas and could talk a whole lot longer. I love what you’ve done, I love where you’re going, and the fact that you aren’t afraid to get started. You take ideas, you go with them, even though you don’t know the exact ending of where it’s taking you. And maybe part of that is some mirror images of me and my business and my career back when I started. I didn’t know all the directions I would go, but here we are today, having a blast, learning from each other, and hopefully teaching and educating and helping the listener.
So, Carl, where can people find out more about you and what you’re doing here in the future?
Carl: Well, the best place to go is on the web, of course. My website is carlolson—that’s spelled O-L-S-O-N—dot-tv. So that’s my website there. You can catch up with me on Twitter, @thecarlolson—I know that sounds very pretentious, but that’s the only name that was available with my name in it. So that’s what I took.
Jeff: That’s great. Now I know you’re a lover and a student of this online training. You’ve done a lot of great things, these last few years especially, but where are you going personally? Are you building any courses or thinking about building any online courses yourself?
Carl: Yes. I recently left Reets TV after having a really, really good run there. Turned that business into a million dollar business, which I’m really proud of, and now that I’ve left that, I’m looking towards doing something different. Doing something that I can have some fun with. So, yes, I am working on a course right now. I have a deep love of podcast, so I’m getting back into podcast. And I feel like I have my own take on how to podcast and what it’s all about, and so I’m going to be sharing that in an upcoming course that should be available soon.
Jeff: Well, that’s great! Well, hey, Carl, thanks again for sharing, and thanks again for being on the show.
Carl: It’s been my pleasure, Jeff. I really appreciate you having me on.
Jeff: So there you go, there’s the interview with Carl Olson. I knew he would bring a lot of value, and I know that his story is very encouraging and motivating. And so if you have an idea, whatever it is, do what Carl did. Test it out. Try to presell it as much as possible, and then build it with the existing tools that you have. If you don’t know the tools, let me know. Maybe I can help brainstorm some ideas for you to help you take that idea from something that’s just in your head to something that might be a success.