154: An Easy Roadmap for your Online Program

Welcome to the Expand Online Podcast, I’m your host Jaime Slutzky; a lifelong techie taking bold action to help art and music educators create the online studios of their dreams. This is episode 154 and the focus is on creating a roadmap to get you from where you are right now to having your own online program launched and with students.

When we’re expanding online it’s so important to keep moving forward towards our goals, getting stuck is just not worth the extra effort it takes to pick up after a pause and so I want to provide you with the necessary nudge to stay in your lane and make steady progress. To do this, we are going to build a visual roadmap that you can reference daily.

When we’re creating this initial version of our roadmap, it doesn’t matter how detailed or how vague it is. It’s really all about seeing the next most logical step towards your goal.

I like to do this on a big piece of butcher block paper with a ton of colorful markers and sticky notes.

A good visual roadmap is going to have a number of milestones on it. These milestones can have different levels of importance and different levels of effort. The idea is that the roadmap will help us make continual progress because we don’t have to make decisions what to work on when we’re in the thick of it, we do that now and then just follow the journey we create for ourselves.

I think we should start off with an example…

Let’s call our sample teacher “Julie.” Julie is getting ready to teach how to paint your first portrait painting using acrylics on canvas. Right now, she has figured out that she wants to teach this as a three-part workshop via zoom with an additional work session between the three parts. Which means it will take place over 5 weeks.

And that’s as far as Julie has gotten to this point. She knows she wants to run this workshop several times a year, so she wants to create reusable content and also have some fresh content and interaction each time.

The milestones that Julie needs to write on her roadmap are, in no particular order:

  • Goal setting
  • Identify ideal students
  • Determine pre-requisites
  • Outline workshop sessions
  • Content draft
  • Content recording
  • Content production
  • LMS / Content repository
  • Purchase equipment
  • Purchase supplies
  • Payment processor setup
  • Decide on outreach and promotion/launch methods
  • Landing page/Sales page, if relevant
  • Zoom meeting setup
  • Create promotional material / social media marketing
  • Welcome and in workshop emails
  • Promotional emails, if relevant
  • Outreach and promotion

The order in which these appear on Julie’s roadmap doesn’t have to match the order I shared (and truthfully, I can probably come up with a number of other tasks that she would put on her roadmap, but those can come later)

The idea is for Julie (and you) to take the list and plot them on a sequential line in a logical order for you. You could draw a nice big, curved line or squiggly line or a ruler straight line to plot them on, it doesn’t matter… the idea is to get a roadmap down, so that you can confidently use this to help yourself progress.

Notice that I didn’t have Julie put dates on the milestones… there really are only two dates that need to be on this roadmap: today for the start and a launch date. The launch date can be anywhere from 2 – 12 weeks from now and most likely towards the latter part of that range. I want you to put a date that you feel is a bit scary but also achievable. We want to march along this roadmap, not race through it.

Now that you’ve got these points on your roadmap, it’s time to make that roadmap something you are excited to tack up on the wall and look at every day… so grab your markers and your sticky notes, it’s time to bring this roadmap to life!

I like to use different sizes of sticky notes and different colors too. Grab a sticky note or two and post it right under each of the milestones. These sticky notes can be used as you work to flush out ideas right there on the roadmap – if you suddenly get an idea for something on a milestone you’re not currently working on, you’ll be able to jot it down on the relevant sticky note and get back to the task at hand.

With your markers, create steppingstones between the milestones – I like to include a few rewards along the way… so between milestone 3 and milestone 4 there might be a simple “do a happy dance” or between milestone 6 and milestone 7 it might be get a fancy drink from Starbucks. (Incidentally, that’s one habit that I have completely abandoned during the pandemic – I used to sit at Starbucks and other coffee shops almost daily, and I haven’t even order to go coffee once since March!)

If when you look at your roadmap you know that there are some parts of that journey that you cannot do alone, like maybe deciding on your LMS, I would back up one or two milestones from there and add a little steppingstone that says “Book a call with Jaime to determine LMS.” Or if you’re looking at the launch method and realize that you’ve never done a launch like this before, back up 4 weeks or so before your promo launch date and add a steppingstone for outreach to a launch strategist or to binge listen to a podcast series or YouTube videos or otherwise to get yourself ready.

Plan on adding more steppingstones to your roadmap because things are always going to come up and nobody needs to do all this in a vacuum. We just don’t know what we don’t know when we’re starting on the journey. It’s really helpful to create space to add these steppingstones.

I didn’t really talk about how to use those color markers yet, so let’s do that now.

I like to write the milestones in black. Then draw a shape around them in a color (that generally matches the sticky notes associated with it). Then when I add steppingstones, I do them in the color of the milestone they are connected to.

Other people I know like the create uniformity on their roadmap, so each milestone is written in black and then they have four steppingstone placeholders in four different colors between one and the next to bring lots of color to the roadmap from the get-go.

How are you going to use color? Are you a curved line or straight-line road-mapper? How are you feeling about creating that online program now?

This exercise is something you can and should do as part of every new online program. If we go back to our sample teacher, Julie, let’s look back at her roadmap for a moment.

Let’s assume she listed them out in the exact order that I listed them earlier (and have in the shownotes) if she’s completed milestone 5 (content drafted) and absolutely cannot deal with starting on milestone 6 (content recording) what is she to do? She needs to get her recording done before she can start to produce it. But what if this is her roadblock… she has three options:

  1. She can sit on her heels and not move forward with this project, which I obviously don’t recommend.
  2. She can push through and record her content knowing that it’s likely not going to be as good as she wants it to be.
  3. She can peek ahead on the roadmap and find some steppingstones for later projects to pull back in and fit between milestone 5 and milestone 6.

She can setup a call with me, or determine her promotion and launch methods… and by doing these steppingstone tasks it gives her breathing room for the big tasks but keeps her moving forward on the project.

A roadmap is a great vehicle to use when working with your mentor or coach. Add dates when you need to give yourself deadlines. Add steppingstones as often as you need to for forward progress. Make this visual a regular part of your program creation because it will remind you how much you have gotten done and prod you along to and through launch.

When you create your roadmap, pop it up on Instagram Stories and tag me @jaimeslutzky so I can see it.

And with that, check off “Listen to Episode 154 of the Expand Online Podcast” on your list because we’re wrapping up.

As you know, I love conversation, go to http://callwithjaime.com and book a complimentary connect call. I would love to know what you’re working on and what you would like more of on the podcast.

Have a great rest of your day and I’ll be back with a new episode next week!

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