I’m doing online business ‘wrong’ and I 100% don’t care

My people get better results with one-on-one coaching + live courses. So that's what I'm doing, even if that means I'm doing online business "wrong."

Is there a ‘right’ way to do business online? If you’ve watched a few webinars or listened to any marketing podcasts, you know the formula for a Successful Online Business by now:

Facebook ad for ‘free training’ > 1-hour webinar that includes a 20-minute pitch at the end with expiring bonuses > we all buy a self-paced online course.

I am not knocking this! I do it, too! Look at my free training that includes a pitch and expiring bonuses!

But this formula isn’t working for me, emotionally or psychologically. At least not right now. Here’s what I’m changing:

1. I’m offering 1-on-1 coaching

If you follow anyone who’s Big On The Internet, you’ve heard the refrain before: “One-on-one coaching doesn’t make sense; I’m not going to exchange my time for money. I want to help as many people at once as possible!”

And I get it. Truly.

A lot of people start off doing one-on-one coaching, get burnt out, and then turn the most-often used aspects of their coaching into evergreen online courses. And maybe I’ll burn out on individual coaching clients next year. I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO BURN OUT, FRIENDS. 

But for now, I find one-on-one coaching fun. And invigorating even!

I like hearing how things have progressed since we last spoke. I like hearing that you put in your two-week notice and that your husband is joyfully sticking to a budget.

So even if exchanging my time for money is “wrong,” I’m doing it anyway. If you’d like help changing the way you think about + spend money, build habits, or navigate your business, you can read more about my coaching here
If you need permission to do business in a way that works for you, this is it. Click To Tweet

2. From here on out, I’ll be running all of my courses live at least once a year, at no extra cost

Did you know that 90% of people who buy online courses don’t complete them? When people buy my book How To Put Yourself On A Spending Diet + Earning Spree, they bring in $200 – $300 extra dollars.

When I covered this exact same material in a live course format called Bank Boost (with a Facebook group, live q & a, weekly emails and accountability check-ins) people started bringing in $700. $1,500. $7,000.


I know all the reasons I ‘shouldn’t’ run my courses live: It requires more hands-on work. It’s a bigger time commitment for me. It’s not truly “passive” income. I have to do my hair and put on makeup so I can appear on camera and make space in my evenings for live q & a sessions.

But you know what? I don’t care. I LIKE seeing how much progress everybody’s making. I LIKE answering questions from all over the world via a tiny camera in my computer. I LIKE sharing my little wins (“got three free Hostas from my neighbor!”) and cheering everybody else’s.

If you’ve already purchased Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is or Make It Stick Habit School, you’ll always have the option to join us in the live version – for free.

So if you want to join Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is now, do it! And then get accountability during the live version in early November.

If you want to join Make It Stick Habit School now, do it! And then take part in the live version in September.

If you want to be the first to know when we run Bank Boost again (mid-August, heyo!), join my list! You’ll also get a copy of my workbook How To Stop Buying Shit You Don’t Need

Also, just as a tiny side rant: Where did we get the idea that it's okay to sell things that don't really work for the people who buy them? Click To Tweet

If 90% of people who buy a self-paced online course don’t complete it – not even close – shouldn’t that tell us something?

Sure, in a perfect world, people would know themselves well enough to know that an independent, web-based course isn’t the right learning environment for them.

And, yes, plenty of people drop out of IRL classes. We’ve all joined gyms on January 2nd and abandoned them by Feb 5th.

But, if you knew that your product could truly change people’s lives if  you tweaked it just a little, wouldn’t you want to do that?

If you could spend three more hours every month chatting with your students in real time and dramatically improve their results, why wouldn’t you?

And if you’re not willing to do that, how committed are you to helping your people after you take their money? Hmmmmm? #notsayinjustsayin

And with that, I’ll climb down off my soapbox and put away the bullhorn. For now. 😉

I’d love to hear from you! What’s your experience with self-paced online courses? If you’ve taken any, how could they have been better? Tell me in the comments so I can improve my own books and courses!

P.S. Want to work together one-on-one? Click here to learn more about my coaching offerings!

Photos by rawpixel and Johnson Wang on Unsplash

Welcome to Yes & Yes!

Want to spend your time, money, and energy on purpose? I'll show you how.

You might also like…

How To Get Over Comparison + Why We Should All Try

How To Get Over Comparison + Why We Should All Try

“Oh my God. Becky, look at her house. It’s so big! She must be, like, one of those people who shares photos that trigger my comparison envy.” ($5 if you get that reference) If you’ve ever felt jealous or wondered how to get over comparison: Congratulations, you’re a...

read more
5 Google Calendar Tricks That Will Help You Save Money

5 Google Calendar Tricks That Will Help You Save Money

If you’re looking for advice on budgeting spreadsheets, coupon codes, or investing apps - this is not the blog post for you. ? When people ask me for money tips, they’re pretty surprised when I tell them that one of my favorite money-saving tools is … Google calendar?...

read more


  1. Anna

    I don’t make a living online so this is just a layman’s perspective… but I think you’re really onto something. I think the passive income advocates overlook the fact that, once you’re in a position where you’re financially solvent and not living paycheck to paycheck, most people like working. Work isn’t just about money – it’s a way to stretch your limits and contribute to society and connect with other people, which are things we all crave as humans. A “passive” life doesn’t sound like a very exciting or, well, active one.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! I created courses on these topics BECAUSE I LIKE TALKING ABOUT THESE TOPICS. And I want to help people succeed in these areas! And it just make good business sense to help your students succeed. The better results your students get > the more people they’ll tell > the more people will want to take your classes.

  2. Samantha

    I am a long, looongtime lurker, but I needed to comment on this post, because this is precisely the kind of stuff that makes me SO GLAD you are an internet person. Thank you for consistently putting good, genuinely useful content into the world. This is such an honest and sensible and simply kind thing to do for your students, and I appreciate your ability to always suss out the truth buried underneath conventional wisdom. Wishing you and your students the best!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, you’re so kind to say so, Samantha! Thank you!

  3. j ortiz

    Hi! If we already purchased Put your Money where your happy is, (which I did a year ago, 3% complete!) how will we know when the live event occurs?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I’ll send out an email to all former students 🙂

  4. Claire O'Connor

    Oh my goodness, this article needed to be written!!! I bought one of those self-paced courses during a webinar – the sales pitch was fantastic (I knew their tactics, and was still totally sold, lol). But it’s a self-paced, online course – and I’ve done NONE of it. I know that’s my issue, but I couldn’t help getting a slightly bitter taste in my mouth for the people who sold it, and the general sales tactic. (Incidentally, the course was also available “for life” – and yet many of the sites contributing to the course have since closed down… adding to the bitterness, haha!) THANK YOU for writing this article, Sarah. I hope it’s shared widely 🙂

  5. Astrid

    So question – I just bought the “make it stick habit school” course and am super excited to take part in the “live” round in September, but in the meantime, it there any sort of community page for students of the course? I thought I had read or heard that there was, but maybe I made it up?

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      There’s space for commenting and chatting within the Teachable learning platform but – to be honest – not many students use it! We’ll have a six-week Facebook group for the live round!

  6. Kamina

    “I know all the reasons I ‘shouldn’t’ run my courses live: It requires more hands-on work. It’s a bigger time commitment for me. It’s not truly “passive” income. I have to do my hair and put on makeup so I can appear on camera and make space in my evenings for live q & a sessions.”

    Thank you for saying this. It’s such an encouragement to me. I wince a little every time somebody says in my hearing “Well, fee for service obviously doesn’t make sense because you can’t scale it.” It makes me feel small and stupid. I LIKE doing fee for service! I don’t want to scale it! I love working one-on-one and I love that I can shut down the entire operation in five seconds by putting an autoresponder on my emails and flying off to Bali with nothing left running in the background. Maybe I’m stupid for not generating a passive income. But to me, the way I work is ultimate freedom. Thanks for reminding me that that is ABSOLUTELY FINE.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yessss. Also: I think it’s good to remember that outside this very small corner of the internet EVERYONE EXCHANGES THEIR TIME FOR MONEY THAT’S HOW JOBS WORK. Surgeons. Scientists. Chefs. Teachers. Social workers.

      This is one of many reasons I think it’s so important to have friends who work in different fields!

Pin It on Pinterest