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Behind The Scenes of Creating an E-course: Part 2: Brain Dump & Outline

Brain dump.

Don’t you love that phrase? It’s also my favorite part of every project. Why? Because it doesn’t require much effort. It doesn’t need any focus and it doesn’t really need to make sense. (Does that make me sound lazy?)

Brain Dumping is simply pulling everything that comes to mind out of your head and putting it on paper (or google docs). And it’s the next step for me in creating my e-course.

If you didn’t see Part 1 yet of this six part series, it’s about how to find out what your potential customers really need. You can read it here. Once you know what they want and need, you can get started with the brain dumping.

You’ll remember that I found 2 very obvious problems that my readers struggle with.

Streamlining Your Process/ Getting More Clients

I have a lot to share on both topics, so I decided to develop them a bit side-by-side. I went through the braindump stage with both of them. Throughout the process, I realized that you can’t successfully implement my strategies for getting a steady flow of clients until you have your processes in place. So that made it easy to decide which to release first.

On to the brain dumping…

Creating a some-what organized brain dump space.

Start by creating a google doc with a few general column headings.

What do my customer’s struggle with? In their words.
What do I know about this topic?
What’s the solution to this problem?
What’s the over-arching theme of the course?
What are the big picture topics (modules) related to this theme?
What are the sub-topics of these modules?

These are just general guidelines I used for my course braindump. Many things can overlap in multiple columns, but having them gives your brain a little direction and helps avoid “brain dumper’s block”.

Now grab some coffee (or wine past 5 :)) and list EVERYTHING that comes to mind about those topics. It doesn’t matter if it’s not clear, doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t really fit. Just get it down on paper.

P.S I’ve created a template for this you are welcome to use. You can check it out here.

Organizing the brain dump.

MODULES:

After you’re fresh out of things to write down, it’s time to start organizing. Create a new document and pull from the braindump the over-arching themes. These become the modules. I personally started with about 10 of them. I knew that 10 modules will be way too much, but I kept them there to see how many sub-topics (or lessons) I had to go under them.

This is what I came up with:

Your Website & Packages
Hire Me Form & Consult Calls
Contracts & Invoicing
The Secret of the Welcome Package
Project Management
The Secret of the Goodbye Package
A-Z Walkthrough of my Process
Client Boundaries
Blogging & Social Media for the time-starved
Tech Tutorial Videos

SUB-TOPICS:

I then added sub-topics under each module. Most of these sub-topics also came from my brain dump. Here are a few to give you an example:

Module: Your Website & Packages

  • The essentials to have on your website to get clients saying “Yes Please!” faster.
  • Secrets of package creation
  • To list or not to list (your prices)

Module: Hire Me Form & Consult Calls

  • Why your Hire Me form is wasting your time.
  • How to do a Hire Me form the right way.
  • Don’t do consult calls without this.

Module: The Secret of the Welcome Package

  • Why you need it.
  • What to include
  • How to build it.

I started out with way too many sub-topics. But then narrowed it down by considering which topics I knew the most about, what I enjoyed teaching about, as well as what made the most sense to get my customers from where they are now to where they need to be.

I created a template for this as well that you are welcome to use: Course Module Template

And there you have it.

Going from tons of ideas (brain dump) to knowing exactly what the course will cover, in only a few steps. I have my modules, each lesson, and just need to fill in the information for each lesson.

Breaking down everything before starting the actual work, makes the rest of the project super smooth and fairly easy to put together.

Now for the Result!

Over the next week, I’ll be brainstorming a name, decide on which format (email, videos, slides, etc) and get a sales page up to send people to. Stayed tuned for some behind-the-scenes on how that goes.

Your Turn!

What are your secret strategies for brainstorming? I want to hear them!

Continue reading with the next part in this series: Behind The Scenes of Creating an E-course Part 3: Delivery Options of my course building adventure!

-Leah

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Thanks Leah,
    I sometimes suffer from “brain dumper’s block” so will use the general headng and that will help give the thoughts a lot more shape!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes- really helps! Glad you like the idea!

  • Oh, so excited to see what you land on! You’re good at brainstorming, pulling out themes and taking what looked messy and turning into calculated actionable steps! Thanks for the template 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      It definitely starts out messy! Breaking it down makes a huge difference!

  • I love reading about other people’s process! I’ve done brain dumps before, but I don’t think I’ve ever started with specific questions- I’ve just kind of started going (although they were mostly for client logo’s so there’s not as much question there). I like that idea! Next time I do one for myself I’m going to start out with some questions like that. Thanks for sharing!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, the questions are key. All you have to do is adjust the initial questions and it works for anything, even logo design I’d think! Thanks for stopping by!

  • “Brain dump” is both one of my favorite phrases AND one of my favorite things to do. But occasionally, I totally forget to do it. I worry too much about having it come out perfectly the first time and so I don’t get started until my thoughts are organized. I need to remind myself to dump more often. 🙂 That’s where some of my best ideas and work have come from.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Haha, glad I’m not the only one that love the term! And I know exactly what you mean about thinking too much about perfection in the beginning- but that comes later!

  • Amy

    I love your more organized approach to the brain dump – I definitely go a little willy-nilly when I’m brainstorming and it can get overwhelming. I’ll try this method next time. Looks like the e-course is going to be fantastic!!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Willy-nilly…another awesome term! Organized brain dumps- the cure to the willy-nilly 🙂

  • Right, a brain dump. Sounds like such an obvious when tackling anything and yet, like Amber said, I totally forget to do it most of the time. Thanks for the reminder and template! Can’t wait for my next organized brain dump (that that contradict itself?).

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, a bit of a contradiction- but it works!

  • When I read your blog posts I get inspired to work on my own course. When you break it up like this I feel like its so manageable. And my marketing mind thinks “she’s a genius” because I WANT this course and I don’t even make websites.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Ohh I’m glad! I do think it’s manageable. I may make it sound too easy, and should have mentioned that it didn’t happen in a week 🙂 I’m glad it’s starting to sound appealing- processes are something everyone needs, and my methods will work for any type of service providers, not just web designers! Genius- that’s a big word, but thanks for makin’ my day with it regardless 🙂

  • I seriously love your approach to brain-dumping! I frequently suffer from “brain-dumper’s block” and find that if I don’t already have some boundaries set in place (like your awesome spreadsheet, which I am super grateful for) than I just get stuck in the “I don’t have any ideas…what the heck am I doing here?…I don’t know what I’m talking about…I’m going to go find some cookies…”spiral of doom. I am looking forward to trying this out soon!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Hahaha. It always ends in cookies 🙂 Glad it seems helpful for ya!

  • I’m totally a brain dump person. I just write reams and reams of lists and then arrows, highlighters and post-it notes happen.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I feel ya Elizabeth! I had a few notebooks before I realized it was getting out of control, and better to move to google docs. But either way it’s all part of the process!

  • This is fabulous stuff, Leah!!

  • Love a good brain dump! I use Trello and create rough topics as separate lists- it helps me visually to see all the topics alongside each other, and then when it comes to organising more thoroughly it’s just a case of moving info between lists at the click of your mouse.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Great idea Rebecca! I need to try that out, thanks for sharing! I like the visual idea of it.

  • I’m so glad you are sharing your process. I’ve been wanting to create an ecourse myself and it’s nice to follow along in someone else’s process for creation. Love the templates, too!

  • Leah!
    I cannot begin to thank you enough! Your blog is so totally easy to follow, yet full of clear guidance on how to create a course. And the fact that you also included your templates is amazing! I just completed my outline for Holistically Treating Diabetes using your template and I feel so empowered now… you are on too something girl! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!

  • roe

    Leah, I literally created a course in 40 minutes.
    You’re amazing and this guide worked wonders for my thought process. Currently building a sales training for my team that emphasizes relationships over conversion and I had no idea how to break down my “special sauce”, as it were. In fact, I’ve been procrastinating for 3 weeks on it. Welp, there you have it: a 2-page module and sub-topic outline and a clarity on exactly what to do next. Thanks again for this perennial post. <3

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis

      YAYA! So glad it was helpful and congrats on moving forward with your course! I’ve got a full course as well that can help you further inside the FTF Membership 🙂

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