Project Management, Management

Online PM Courses - Mike Clayton

How An Educator Makes Knowledge More Accessible By Creating Content On YouTube For All To See

Project Management, Management
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June 25, 2022

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

My name is Mike Clayton, and I am a management and project management educator based in the south of England. Since 2002, my full-time business is on training and Project Management has always been my specialty. But, in 2014, I started to dabble in creating video courses to sell on platforms like Udemy. In 2016, I started work on OnlinePMCourses.com. This website sells my Project management video training. And the main form of marketing was organic marketing. I create a substantial blog post every week and launched the OnlinePMCourses YouTube channel as a further marketing stream.

Now, I create educational content, for managers and project managers. I have two YouTube channels, but the first and most successful is OnlinePMCourses. This offers two Project Management videos each week, in a variety of formats. The newer channel, Management Courses, sets out to create free management training courses as YouTube playlists. The hope is that long-term, these will create an evergreen ad revenue.

I work alone. This means everything from determining content strategy, writing content, presenting and recording it at the same time, editing and post-production, and posting to YouTube and social media. With 4 videos a week, that’s a full-time commitment!

My brand names did not take long to arrive at - maybe half a day each, with a few days of reflection to confirm. Why so quick? Because I work to the principle of using names that describe what the customer or user will get:

  • OnlinePMCourses offer online Project Management courses
  • Management Courses offers management training courses

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

I started my professional career as a Management Consultant in 1990. But I feel it’s important that I am a Physics Graduate and Ph.D. This means I have a clear-sighted and precise approach to the training content I deliver. I value accuracy, proper credit for ideas, and clear explanations.

After 12 years of leading increasingly larger projects for my clients, from Deloitte Consulting’s London Office, I left the corporate world and set myself up as a freelance trainer. I also joined with a couple of other local trainers to found a successful training company, which I later exited from.

From that, I evolved into a speaker delivering conference workshops, seminars, and keynotes. And, in 2008, I wrote my first book. I got the bug for writing and now have 14 print books with major international publishers like Pearson, Wiley, and Macmillan. Since then, I’ve also created a load of self-published Kindle eBooks.

It was in 2014 that I first started putting my seminars onto video, originally for the Udemy platform and then for my own (teachable) academy. In 2016, I decided to focus on my main professional expertise, Project Management. In that year, I created my three core Project Management video courses and launched the website, OnlinePMCourses.com

Initially, my OnlinePMCourses YouTube channel was simply a marketing asset. What better way to showcase my abilities to teach in video format? It was around summer 2019 that I really appreciated the potential of my growing channel. It seemed that it was possible that I could turn my whole business through 180 degrees.

Instead of a website business with a YouTube marketing channel, I pivoted to a ‘YouTube First’ business strategy, with the website as a primary way to monetize the channel beyond AdSense and other YouTube mechanisms.

At that time, I had been learning the craft of video filming from The Basic Filmmaker (who has also appeared on Creator Mindset). In early 2020, I joined Kevin’s New YouTube Academy. The information in that course is exceptional and I recommend it to anyone. I later joined his YouTube Pros mentoring group too.

One of the things I like about this course is there are no magic solutions to instant success. Instead, what it takes is hard work and doing the right things. I believe in trusting the process. Find the right process, follow it with diligence, and recognize that there will be setbacks along the way. But if you have a good product with integrity, there are always people who will value it. 

The other big decision that came along with my YouTube First strategy was to launch a second YouTube channel, Management Courses. This offers management training courses in video format. But the plan is to monetize them not by selling the courses on Udemy or similar platforms, but by earning ad revenue, affiliate revenues, and, eventually, sales of knowledge products.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and what is your advice in getting the creative juices flowing?

I have two main processes for generating ideas:

  1. The simpler is to ensure I capture any ideas, from any sources. I have many notebooks for capturing and working through ideas. But ultimately, I move all video, article, and book ideas to Scrivener, where I can organize them and work on them. It’s a great piece of software - designed principally for writers.
  2. To deliberately generate or work through ideas, I always start with a notebook and pen. And usually draw a mindmap to help me get ideas out and see connections.

When I need to really step up the creativity, I leave my office and work at the dining table. But, for maximum creativity, I take my notebooks to a local coffee shop. That separation from the day-to-day helps a lot - especially if I’m feeling a little blocked. But, the fact is that I have so many strategies for generating ideas that I have developed over the years, that this is rare.

If I want to capture a mindmap in software, I use a tool (Mac only, I think) that is not mindmap software, but more free-form: Scapple. I love it.

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I use a number of tools to help me with my content and my brand. Here they are:

Video editing: Mostly Final Cut Pro, supported by Screenflow (I’m a Mac)

Video Assists: Motion for editing and creating titles and effects, Creator’s Best friend for chapter markers, Handbrake for file size, Final Cut Library Manager for tidying up my FCP libraries. I also invest a lot in plugins - mostly titles and generators from FX Factory, MotionVFX, BretFX, and LenoFX

Photo editing: Mostly Affinity Photo, but I have a range of other tools that I play with like Pixelmator and Luminar

Livestreams: OBS and I replaced my Panasonic G7 with a Lumina webcam

Conversations and Interviews: Zoom

Idea storage and project tracking: Scrivener

Social Media platforms: YouTube (primary), LinkedIn fairly active, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Social Media Scheduling Tools: Missing Lettr

Website: WordPress with Thrive Themes and Yoast plugins

Email automation: Active Campaign

Favorite Utilities: I love UM Converter from Ulti Media, Audio Hijack, HemingwayApp, Post Haste

What were your fears when you were starting? How did you handle it? 

I’m a pretty confident and resilient person - after many years as a Management Consultant with a big firm, that kind of goes with the lifestyle. So, I didn’t really have any fears - just concerns that this was not the best use of my time. But I work incrementally. YouTube started as an adjunct to my main video training business, as a marketing platform. I only stepped it up as I saw engagement and ad revenue growth.

I had been training live and speaking for many years when I started recording videos. So, being on my feet in front of a camera was not a problem for me. That said, sometimes I do feel a reluctance to get started on a scheduled recording session. My solution is to grit my teeth and power through it. Too few motivational messages focus on the importance of plain old discipline: if you want it done, you have to do it.

It also helps that I am not vain (I think). Indeed, there are a few videos where I did not check my hair. My videos are about the content: I am just the delivery vehicle. So, I don’t angst about the way I look. However, I made one big innovation around 3 years ago. I ordered branded polo shirts with my channel logos, in multiple bright colors. This means I always have a suitable top to wear, without worrying about which shirt will avoid aliasing problems (yes, I have a couple of old strobing videos!). And they also create a consistent brand image. They are smart and neat, but not formal.

How did you build your brand to where it is now? Take us through your process.

I started the OnlinePM Courses with quarterly seasons of 10 videos that I would bulk film, edit, and post at the end of each quarter. At some point, I moved to weekly and then quickly to twice a week. That’s when my channel started to take off. So, when I started the Management Courses channel., I went with two per week from the start.

For both brands, I created the artwork and visual style. I have a strong belief in the power of simplicity:

  • Online PMCourses offers online project management courses
  • Management Course offers… management courses

For colors, I looked at color psychology and settled on orange and blue for OnlinePMCourses. A strong dark blue represents authority, credibility, and stability. A bright orange represents informality and ease.

I also used my knowledge of corporate style guides from previous work to settle on pretty standard fonts (Helvetica of OnlinePMCourses and Roboto for management Courses) and designed simple logos myself. As a teenager, I was fascinated by graphic design. I’m not very creative, nor super skilled. But I have enough to create simple icon-style logos. I can’t believe these will make the difference between success and failure.

Aside from the YouTube Pros mentoring group offering weekly sarcastic comments and general support (I love you all), I’ve done this pretty much on my own. That said, without my wife’s moral support and willingness to let me do it…

I started with simple gear and a little knowledge (which is a dangerous thing, if you look at a small number of comments about the sound in my early videos). But, I grew my knowledge and my gear slowly. My father started his business with minimal stock and a load of empty boxes on the shelves to make his shop look full.

I have always believed in starting small and not putting more money at risk than you can afford to walk away from. And absolutely no debt!

I now have all the gear I need (and a little more) and I manage with:

  • A 10-year-old low-end DSLR (Canon 700D/T51)
  • Budget microphones (Samson SAC 02 for overhead on videos and Q2U for live streams)
  • A prosumer audio recorder (Zoom H5)
  • A couple of large ring lights plus a small LED panel for hair light and two homemade green LED bank lights for the green screen

The only piece of equipment that is near the top end is my spec-ed out 2017 27” iMac.

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

My regular day job was a training business that I run. Offering video training was a natural evolution. And marketing that with YouTube content was an obvious evolution from that. When I realized my YouTube ad revenues were starting to rise towards the level of my course sales, transitioning to my current ‘YouTube first’ business strategy was a no-brainer.

Now, YouTube is both a marketing platform and a revenue source.

Tell us the biggest obstacles you have experienced in your content creation journey. And how did you bounce back?

Happily, there have been no serious obstacles. Just slow growth, with the typical YouTube staircase of steady views, then a rise, then a leveling off, then another rise…

Sorry, this is not a very exciting story. But there is a big piece of advice here. Yes, I’ve had a few setbacks and times when I could not create at the pace I wanted to. But, as a Project Manager, I plan ahead. And I build in contingency. As I write this, I have 8 weeks of content scheduled for both of my channels! And there is more content either edited or recorded for editing. This gives me a big buffer against life’s setbacks.

Is my lack of hard-luck stories just good luck? Maybe. But I also believe we create our own luck. I’m lucky with my family, my health, and my situation. But I have also made conscious choices.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The ‘big’ milestones come and go - although I don’t yet have my first Play Button! What lasts is the impression from people frequently writing comments and sending emails that tell me that I am doing good. They like my materials, learn from them, pass exams, and get jobs. And, when they get jobs, they feel well-equipped to do them.

In business terms though, a big moment was after I followed all the advice on creating upsell chains from a free product, to a low-cost ($7) paid product, to the main product, to a high-cost premium product. I created my funnels and, one day, I was checking my emails when I noticed a notification of a free product ‘sale’ come through. Then, a couple of minutes later, the low-cost product. Then the main upsell. And then the premium product. That was the real proof of concept. I could make a digital business work. I’ve never witnessed it since, but it does still happen. 

But let’s be honest, YouTube has not changed my life a lot. However, I had a successful business based on live appearances and consulting. I chose to move to YouTube first 6 months before Covid. What better time to de-prioritize live client work and focus on building two channels.

And, since I had deliberately built Management Courses as a money-earning channel, seeing that monetize was a great moment.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I hate marketing. And I don’t think I’m much good at it. Even though, I reckon I know a lot about it in principle. One of the reasons I like my YouTube first strategy is that I am placing the content I need people to see onto one of the world’s biggest marketing platforms. And YouTube/Google does most of my marketing for me.

Yes, I post to Linked In, Twitter, and Facebook. But I don’t enjoy it and don’t do it well because… I don’t enjoy it.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

Whilst I have a number of affiliate relationships with businesses in my sector (and Amazon), I have only received one paid sponsorship. I am still very much a starter at this and mostly turn down requests. I am more interested in the integrity of my channel and serving my audience than in paid plugs for products and services.

What is your monthly earning from content creation? 

It turns out that Project Management as a topic seems to attract relatively high RPM on YouTube. Disappointingly, the Management Courses videos have an RPM of around a third as much. I am sure my channels are not the only ones that are seasonal, with peaks in February-April and September-November - or, a big dip around Christmas/New Year and a smaller dip in the summer. And both channels are growing. So, as a snapshot, my ad revenue over both channels is currently (May 22) running at around $3,000 PCM.

Originally, I intended my Project Management YT channel to be a marketing platform for my online PM training courses. But now, I have a ‘YouTube First’ business strategy: my paid courses, books, and memberships programs are ways to further monetize the YT channel.

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