When I first started out as an entrepreneur I was desperate for two things: clients and knowledge.  At the time I could count my clients on one hand and still not use all my fingers, to make things worse I wasn’t sure what to charge or how to handle the few clients I did have.

I had lots of questions, but no answers.

I started looking online for help, using Google and I was quickly overwhelmed by the number of business advice articles and advice out there. I knew the big names that I should pay attention to Steve Jobs, Guy Kawasaki, and Richard Branson, but I didn’t know who else to pay attention to or what other advice I should take. One day while looking through Facebook I noticed an ad for freelancers who wanted to make a business building websites with WordPress. The ad said something along the lines of “Want to attract clients willing to pay you 10K for a website? Take our free course.”

Hell yeah, I want to attract clients willing to pay 10K for a website” I thought.

I fell for the bait hook, line, and sinker. After eagerly watching the webinar, diligently taking notes and trying to retain every bit of free advice I was given I was left wanting more…and, by George, they offered more! A FREE consultation phone call with one of their own “Experts.”

Awesome!” I thought “One-on-one advice from an expert, someone who has been where I am and are on the other side and want to help me.” I was so foolish. The scheduled time for the phone call came and they were prompt to call. The woman I spoke to listened to my problems and was very empathetic to them. Throughout the call, this woman affirmed my problems and kept saying how grateful she was for the training she had received in this unreasonably-overpriced course (my words, not hers.) and how if I just took the course I would be so much more equipped and well on my way to getting clients who will pay what I am worth. It wasn’t until then that I started to smell something fishy.

In a wave, it hit me–the theme of the free webinar wasn’t to help us get clients willing to pay $10K for a website the theme of the free webinar was to push us to pay upwards of $1,500 to take the online course and if you were still not convinced you can get a “Free” consultation phone call to go for the hard sell. The guy running the webinar wasn’t a guru who just wanted to spread the secret to getting good clients, he was a huckster operating on the old principle that a fool and his money are soon parted.

I felt like a moron, even the good points I had gleaned from their “Free” sales pitch webinar I already knew, I had just temporarily forgotten.

Unfortunately, I had wasted most of my afternoon on this “bait-and-switch” webinar. I felt like a moron, even the good points I had gleaned from their “Free” sales pitch webinar I already knew, I had just temporarily forgotten. (Those facts went to that place in my brain that tucks vital information away for safe keeping and then erases it from your short-term memory so that when you need it you have no ability to recall it.) The entire experience was nothing more than regurgitated facts in a shiny wrapper all for the express purpose of getting you to buy their “expert” training.

However, I decided one thing was for certain that afternoon and that is that I was never again wasting my time on a webinar for professional web developers unless it was taught by Ethan Marcotte himself.

 

Let me give you four key things to keep in mind before you click that link to the seminar with a title promising something that seems too good to be true.
1) Hard Work + Talent is Better than the so-called “Miracle” cure. 

I know you don’t just pick up a saxophone and start playing the sax solo from ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ (Yes, that’s my go-to example) Talent is rare, training is a lot of hard work; but you can only be taught the things that have been done, having that certain panache to do something extraordinary takes talent. Talent to do the extraordinary doesn’t come along every day that’s what makes those that have it special. On the other hand, there is a nuance that comes with training in something and pouring your heart, mind, and body into it. The once difficult task becomes less difficult and then less difficult again and so on. As cliche as it might be–at the end of the day, there is no substitute for hard work.

2) Attention to Details is better than Training.

I would have never made that statement 10 years ago, but the longer I have been in the design business the more I have seen amazing designs ruined by a misspelled word. Being your own proof-reader isn’t always easy to do but it’s always worth it, especially when you are the last stop before the printer or screen. If you have as much trouble with it as I do there are tools out there to help. Grammerly is an awesome tool that I rely on a lot.

3) Reading =Training

I am convinced that 90% or more of all business seminars are some variations of the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Think about it, have you ever been to a business seminar and NOT heard this book referenced in some form or another? Read that book, heck read anything written by Dale Carnegie and you’ve already learned as much, if not more than you’ll get from most business seminars. There is literally no shortage of good FREE resources out there. Follow an “influencer’s” blog (someone that’s a REAL guru, not one that puts “Guru” in their business name,) network, check out all the books the local library has on web design, running a small business and entrepreneurship.

4) Not all “uGurus” are Experts

A crucial skill in a debate is being able to separate opinions from facts. This skill is usually employed as someone giving their opinions as a fact. A skill that some people can use and abuse very well (think ANY presidential candidates) My grandpa Downey used to say “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” (Grandpa was a colorful guy) While the definitions of facts vs. opinions can get murky. (Read this article) The guy giving this webinar passed himself off as some kind of guru when nothing could have been further from the truth. Many so-called gurus will spout off their opinions, and because they are the “guru” we are supposed to take this as a fact–I don’t think so.

Three important questions to ask when you are considering any kind of business seminar are:

  1. Who is this person teaching?
  2. What makes him an expert in this field?
  3. Do you trust them?

If the answer to any of these questions is: “No” or “I don’t know.” Do a little research from all angles, assuming both good and bad and keep in mind these 4 things as you research:

  1. Not all growth is good,
  2. Having made a crapload of money may not mean anything more than they were lucky once.
  3. You can’t replicate someone else’s success story.
  4. Overuse of business buzzwords is a bad sign.
It is because of point number four above that you should only take my advice in this post with a grain of salt. Sure, I believe that most business seminars or webinars are a waste of time at best (or a bait-and-switch at worst), but maybe for you, seminars are a great experience that you learn a lot from, I say more power to you if that is the case. I don’t see how and that is not the case for me, which is why you’ll never find clicking that ad link with the headline offering something too good to be true.
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