In this episode, Julia looks back on her copywriting journey and becoming an expert in online courses.
Connect with Julia at https://twitter.com/julia_saxena
Find out more about Superlearning at https://superlearners.traverse.link/.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the super learning professionals interview series. Today I'm joined by Julia Saxena. Julia is an expert in copywriting and online courses, and she helps experts scale their cohort-based courses as well. I met Julia in the OTC on that course creator fellowship where she was a peer supporter, actually. So welcome Julia!
Thanks, Dominic. Thanks for having me, so glad to be here.
Yeah. So let's jump in Julia. So what was your learning journey to become like a copywriter and an expert in online courses as well? Like, how did you get that?
Yeah, that's a great question. So it's kind of like it all started, I used to be a project manager. I used to work in Papua New Guinea and the job was quite stressful and not very fulfilling for me. So I was looking for a couple, a different way, a different something different that I could do that would give me more, more freedom. So eventually I just discovered that. I just discovered copywriting and that I really went down this whole rabbit hole of learning to be a copywriter. And I discovered a ton of content. So it was like my phone blogs and books and podcasts, PDFs, and courses. And I started really diving into those and I took notes about pretty much everything I consumed.
I am like a notorious note taker. And so, my library in Evernote started growing. That's still my favorite note taking tool actually, and I started to Catholic set up a notebook for every different type of copy that I would write for clients. Be it landing pages or sales pages or emails or Facebook ads. And so, and that started growing and growing. And so now whenever I write like a certain type of copy, I can really just go back and refer to my notes there. And I can easily go back to those best, best practices. And the same that happened really was online courses and starting to work with online course creators, where I started to collect like all resources I could find. And now I can really dive back in into when everything, whatever I need to.
Yeah. I think that's very interesting. So, of course, we always find more and more information and the information is always growing. Right? You said you have some kind of a system of organizing that, like for different types of copies. So how do you keep track of all that, all the new information coming in and merging that into the knowledge you already have?
So I guess I haven't, my system in Evernote; a subset up in a way that everything that I kept newly captured is going into an inbox. So I have set it up in a way that I use the Evernote web clipper a lot and Chrome with a Chrome extension. So whenever I come across a blog article, even PDFs or anything at Clippard by the web clipper, and it goes automatically into my, notebook called inbox in Evernote. And then kind of like on a regular basis, I work with my inbox and go through the material that I found there. I would read the articles and maybe make some highlights or if it wasn't that useful, I will just delete it again. And from there I'm, I'm sorting it into the different other, different other notebooks that more best fits into.
Right. I see. So, it's like a process that you've set up for yourself. I think that also helps with processing the information a bit, rather than just copying it as it is because then you don't really internalize it, right?
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, for sure. And that way I've kind of adopted the progressive summarization technique that I learned, in building a second brain. So they're kind of like the first level is that, so we kind of like you read through an article and then you stop bolding, certain paragraphs or passages that you found that you find useful. And then maybe you come across this note again and kind of like the second layer would be then adding like a highlight was a highlight color is the most important areas from, from those bullets parts. And then certainly might be then actually kind of like taking that content and kind of like writing your own version of that and we remixing it to into something else.
Right? Yeah. I think that sounds like a very good method. And so to go back a bit to like the copywriting thing, you said you have different like different sections for copywriting, different types of copy, basically. And I'm trying to learn copywriting as well. Cause I needed a lot for like building websites, courses, everything. So yeah, it's maybe are some principles that you found are the same for all kinds of copies are, or is the key really to make it very specific to the type of content you are writing.
Yeah, I think the basic principle really applied to any type of copy that you write, for sure. So I think, and it really, I think it pays off for everyone really much in pretty much in business to invest into learning those basic as those basic principles. So for example, one of those basic principles that you can always remember would be it's never actually about you. It's always about the art, about your audience. Like they are, they are the hero. So because when, when we are writing to sell our own products and offers, it can be very tempting to try to tell people like how, how great that is and what all we've done and our expertise and everything. But we have to remember that they don't our audience; they don't really care about us. As they care only about themselves. We care only about ourselves and what other things can do and other people can do for us. So keep that in mind to always show to always make the reader, the hero and show what's in it, in it, for them always talk from their perspective. And so, whatever, whatever copy you write the word, you should always heavily outweigh any I or we in your case.
Right. I think that's a very good tip. And maybe does that also apply to like the other area? You are a specialist in online courses where you maybe place more emphasis on the students than the teacher. Are there any similarities there?
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely! The students are in an online course, the students are the heroes and everything. Everything is built around serving them and helping them learn. And it's not there to, online courses weren't there to stroke the ego of the course creator or the instructor and make them kind of like the guru on the stage. And, as teachers, we always have to find the best way to help our students learn.
Yeah, definitely. So maybe a bit about how did you decide that copywriting was the thing that you wanted to learn and then afterward, how to decide, oh, I actually want to get into online courses? Like what, what was the process of making those things?
Yeah, so I always liked writing actually. It always came somewhat naturally to me, like in, for example, when I did my MBA, I was always the one in the team writing the report while making the presentation. So I naturally kind of like took on those walls to be the writer. And then what I discovered when I was on my search for like, kind of like how to make money on the internet, what can I do? I found that the thing copywriting exists and then I was immediately kind of like intrigued and dove into that, into that further. And from there, then I just covered like to learn copywriting. I also took grad two courses and I took, especially a lot of self-paced courses actually. And while they were definitely helpful and I learned, I learned a lot I wouldn't tell them or describes them as life-changing or anything. Mostly I didn't, I didn't finish them. I didn't really finish them completely. But then last year in the pandemic, I, firstly I discovered cohort-based courses for the first time and I took building a second brain and then Rite of passage and those truly had a pretty big impact on me. And in those courses, I also found a sense of community. Like I found, I feel like people like I found my tribe and so that I became really passionate about cohort-based courses, cohort-based learning. And I thought like more people should, most people should do that. I felt like I knew like a secret now to learning to better learning and progressing. Yeah. And then I decided I wanted to work only exclusively with online course creators and help them launch and run their courses.
Right. Yeah. That's, that's very inspiring. And yeah, so you talked a bit about how you used to take online courses like self-paced paced courses and they didn't really work. And then the cohort-based courses worked out much better for you. So kind of developed a system now that works for you to keep like lifelong learning and to keep developing yourself. Is that something you're still working out and back?
Yeah. I feel like the lifelong learning piece that somewhat comes naturally to me, I always want to know more and be better. And that's always, I always have a few books that I'm reading at the same time. And usually, I'm always enrolled in one course or the other, but actually, right now I'm taking a little bit of a break from cohort-based courses because I've been constantly enrolled in those courses for a year now. And they take up a big chunk of time because you really have to, the more you put into it, the more you get out. So now I'm taking a bit of a break from cohort-based courses and I'm catching up on some self-paced courses that have been collecting a bit of digital dust on my shelves. But then, but I also know that I have a limited amount of time. Kind of like what to learn and what to dive into. So I'm careful not to dive into every rabbit hole because I totally could. It's very tempting. So that's why I mostly choose what to learn as in kind of like, what problem do I need to solve in my life? Like, what question do I need to solve? Well, where do I want to develop further in a particular area? So I don't want to be learning for learning's sake. I want to learn to take action and get results and that is leading to what, what I need to learn next.
Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense. And I also noticed like in the on-deck peer supporter sessions, you were always exactly telling us the thing we needed to do in that moment. That teaching us just that in the same for like your Twitter account like you have a lot of posts, a lot of very, very useful resources, which is like exactly what you need at that moment. I wanted to know a bit more about how the choosing process. How? You know, like this is the thing I need to take action on. This is what I learned right now.
Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Good question. But in general I think the general way of kind of approaching that is that in, so you kind of decide, or I've decided that I want you to do this. So I decided that I wanted to become a freelance copywriter. And then I thought they were to have like big areas or two buckets there; the first kind of like how to learn copywriting, like as in the writing itself. And then the second part was learning how to be a great freelancer and how to run kind of like a business of moment of my own. So those were kind of like two big buckets there. And then I noticed that those two big areas have like, broke down into different, like, smaller, smaller pieces. For example, in freelancing there was, I needed to learn that, oh, how do I get clients? Or how do I organize a project and make sure that my client is having a great experience or do I need to learn about pricing and negotiation? So that's those couple of big areas broke down into a lot of different, smaller parts. And then I'd kind of like dove into those areas as I needed them. And it was really kind of like, just in adjust in time, just in time learning whenever I needed to solve a problem, I would seek out the right information, the right information to do that.
Yeah. I think that's, that's very sensible, like another way. I mean, you're not only learning it exactly when you need it, that you already were teaching us exactly where we needed it. Yeah, cause that was very good. And also, I guess, as you were in your role as a peer supporter, you need to inspire others to learn like basically don't have this lifelong learning process as well. And maybe you have also colleagues or family, friends that you work with that you want to inspire as well. So how do you, how do you go about that?
Hmm. Yeah, this has been a challenge. I would at work, I always found it most useful actually to give someone a challenge or a task. And then of course, kind of like this, give some instructions or tell them like, so what do you want? What I want the outcome to look like roughly, but then let, let them figure it out on their own because everyone has kind of like a different way of arriving at a, at a solution. And I always found that learning by doing is still kind of like the best way is still like the best way to learn, to make mistakes and to try out different things. So yeah, to, to give people, especially in a workplace to allow people to have the freedom, to, to figure it out on their own and choose their own paths, how they want to arrive at a solution.
Yeah, definitely. I think like learning by doing is definitely if possible that's always the best way, right? Yeah. And so in your journey from this, the copywriting to online courses to becoming like this level of an expert, what has been your biggest learning challenge
Yeah, for me, the challenge was really from going from theory to practice. So do you feel a concrete example there? I had no problem writing for my class. I found that easy, because they will take my writing and then put it out there and I would always give them the advice I'll be like, yeah, you have to kind of like put yourself more out there. Be active on social media, just publish and kind of like giving them the best practices for like audience growth. But I noticed that I wasn't following my own advice, like at all. Because like in theory, I understood what I had to do also for my own business to have like, be more, be more out there. But I had a hard time putting that into practice for me. Because I like up until still last year, I wasn't writing for myself and, or growing an audience myself. I was very still kind of like under-staying under the radar. I wasn't active on social media or anything. And it was a mindset issue for me because I saw. What could I like to add to the conversation out there? I thought I saw all those copywriters that had so much more experience than I had, and they were already publishing a ton of content. And I thought like, what? I'm just still, I felt like still a newbie. So what could I add to that? What could I add to that? Why would anybody care to listen to me?
Okay. That only kind of like got sold or I overcame that when I joined Rite of Passage last year in July and are the community really helped me get over that because so I took course Rite of passage, I really took it seriously. So like, okay, I have to do this. I somehow have to figure this out because I know I have to overcome this challenge to ultimately have like, go where I want to go. And being part of the Rite of passage community, they encouraged me to start publishing and I was publishing also with other people there in the same boat as I was. And tell me it wasn't as scary anymore. You didn't felt alone on this journey anymore. And I just discover that what I had to say was, in fact, valuable for other people and say validate, they validated that for me, that my writing was, useful. And that really helped me overcome that and kind of like go from knowing in theory what you do to actually putting it into practice and living it.
Right. Yeah. I guess that's where our cohort-based courses and especially the peer support and accountability you got there can really help. Yeah, In this online course space, what do you see as for the future? Like where, where is it going? And what's your vision? How are online courses in let's say 10 or 20 years going to help a much larger part of the population to learn in much more effective ways than we've been doing so far?
Yeah. I hope that online courses become the norm really. That it is not necessarily any more to go to college. Because they, I mean, I went to college and I also got an MBA, but I felt like I didn't learn a lot of practical knowledge. Like when I then entered the workforce and started working at it companies afterwards. I felt like I couldn't really, apply much of what I learned in practice. And in practice, everything was so much more nuance and then different. And so I hope that the norm will be that there will be a lot of specialized, very, very specialized online courses with really the top-notch experts in their field, teaching their way of doing things. And that people are, especially by their companies or in the learning journey are encouraged to take those courses to solve very specific challenges for their business or their life, or in general on their journey. And this is really becoming, becoming the norm for everyone too, to keep learning, to keep taking, keep taking those courses. And I think also what, what is really needed to make that happen is to to have kind of like more curators I would say. Because there's like so much, that's like a ton of information out there and we really need people to who curate the, just the right information for the right use cases for us. Because for example, suppose you wanted to actually start an email course. So, where could you go to easily find the best practices on starting an email course and launching something like that? And that is Google, actually doesn't really help that much. Google is still too broad. So we need more curators who kind of like get us the right information and curate the right resources.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I think that's I ended up. What's also interesting as you mentioned this specialization, right? And I think that's a lot, of course, like creators myself included struggle with how do I actually niche down? It's this broad thing that I want to teach. And do you have any tips on that?
Yeah. And niching down is really important. And so counter-intuitive that you, that you first start serving a smaller audience in order to be more successful and go bigger in the end. So yeah, that's her. What would be the best practice on that is I feel like it's really to teach something very, very specific. The most specific thing that you can, you can think off and to niche it down by like certain areas, maybe. I mean, that's sort of the ways you can niche down. For example, you can reach down by geography because maybe you don't want to teach in English, but you want to teach in, in Dutch, for example, for you, for example. So that could be a way by language to make content only available in a certain language and then have like rich, only the people in that way. Where do you want to just teach people who have like a certain who are in a certain profession? Or yeah, just keep kind of like going down little rabbit holes there.
Yeah, definitely. I think everyone agrees that niching down is hard. So, Julia I mean there's been a lot of really useful stuff in an interview. And who do you think, should I interview next for this series?
Next? Yeah. So I was actually thinking immediately of Glen. So he's also an online course creator. And I think his course is called "Be Your Own Best Coach". And he really talks about what everyone needs to needs to do or whatever, like mindsets we need to adopt in order to make the most of what we learn. So his course is almost a course that we should take before taking any other courses.