how to decide whether an online course is for you

We are living in the Age of the Internet Course.

I just made that up obviously but doesn’t it feel true?

The levelling quality of the internet means that anyone and everyone can create an online class and send it out into the world and enrich people’s lives with it.

I think that’s awesome.

I also get totally overwhelmed by what’s available and how much of it I want to do!

Obviously I create my own courses, and that takes a big chunk out of my time right there, but I am and always will be a student as well, so there’s ALWAYS a course or three I’ve got my eye on, or am in the middle of doing.

I know I’m not the only one who experiences overwhelm with not just choice, but with signing up to things and then finding yourself double and triple booked and ending up with classes unused and nagging at you.

So I thought I’d share with you how I determine whether or not I’m going to spend my time and money on an online course, and share them with you here in case you could do with a similar checklist!

I know in a way it seems kind of silly and a great example of a “#firstworldproblem”, but with so much choice and only 24 hours in a day, if you’re of an endlessly curious mindset like all artists, it could be helpful to have a frame of reference for your decisions.

I’ve looked at what needs to be true for me to say yes to a course, and although sometimes my heart is so completely certain that I sign up before I’ve even finished reading the sales page, sometimes I need a bit more time to ascertain various other factors.

So these are my criteria for whether or not I go ahead and sign up for a course.


Obviously the desire is there, either because I admire the teacher, want to learn what they’re offering or both.

But I’ve noticed there are degrees of desire; from “oooh that looks interesting, but…” through to “Quick! Where’s the Buy Now button?!”.

There is also the desire that is my magpie eye seeing something that looks cool, but that on closer inspection is more of a fantasy that can stay a fantasy, rather than something that I really need or deeply want to do.


This being also the Age of Busyness, I fall prey to ‘running out of time’ as much as the next person.

Although in truth what it really tends to mean is I haven’t prioritised what’s most important to me.

You must have noticed how things that are top of your inner list of importance always get done; I always manage to fit eating into my day, for example!

Now obviously an online course isn’t quite on a par with staying alive, but I think you know what I’m saying here.

If you really want to do something, you WILL create space in your day or week to do it.

Another thing to consider is whether there is a live component to the class.

Joining a class that’s still open but no longer involves the input of the teacher is no good for me.

I find that if the group’s still active everyone ‘knows’ each other already, I feel behind before I’ve even begun, and being faced with the entire course content in one go is overwhelming in itself.

I’m not so great at allotting time to things, so it works best for me to have the daily focus of classroom time and live assignments.

If you work best at your own pace, want to sign up while it’s available and do it later, are more disciplined than I am, or don’t require feedback, this won’t be a problem for you of course.


This is usually either a big factor or not an issue.

It’s not an issue when your whole being is calling for you to do this course, because you somehow know it’s going to enrich your life beyond even what the course description tells you.

It is a factor when you’re less ‘all in’ but still keen.

So how do you decide?

I have two bank accounts; one personal account, and one for my business.

All the online courses I take are either art related or business related, both of which contribute to the growth of my work, so unless I decide that it’s a gift to myself {which sometimes happens if my biz account can’t take that kind of hit 😉}, it comes from my online earnings.

This helps me decide because this account is still fairly fledgling, and therefore provides some limits!

Maybe you don’t have separate bank accounts, but you can still create a container; for example, a monthly budget for investment in your personal and/or business growth, or use birthday money, or save up for a course you know is happening later in the year.

And many courses offer payment plans too.

the bigger picture

One thing I like to ask myself when deciding whether to sign up for a course or not, is

“Does this serve my bigger picture?’

What is it going to teach me that pertains to expanding my offerings or my skills, either artistically or in business terms?

Is it something concrete or really just a bit of fun fluff?

Not to knock fun fluff, but for me any course I take needs to serve a dual purpose, in that although I of course want it to be fun and interesting, I also want it to serve my bigger picture.

I consider the big picture of my work – by which I mean both my art and my offerings:

  • where I want it to go
  • what I want to focus on right now
  • what I still need to learn
  • and also what’s most interesting to me

…and then see if the course I’m looking at fits into that in a way that makes sense.


I make all my decisions ultimately using my intuition, since as we all know, it will always steer you right.

I sit with the course concept and everything involved, and see how it feels inside.

If certain questions come up I investigate them until I’m satisfied, or not, as the case may be.

My intuition is like the glaze over the whole painting; after all else has been taken into account, even if it all points to yes, if my inner voice says no, it’s no.

other considerations

Sometimes I’ve done all of the above and I’m STILL wavering.

This generally means either that it’s not the right time, or it’s not the right course.

When this happens I will sleep on it, sometimes for a couple of weeks if there’s time before the course begins, or before the earlybird deadline if there is one.

I will see if the course is likely to run again.

Be careful though why you’re asking this; are you really going to be less busy/have more money/feel less scared next time?

If it is going to run again, and I feel relieved that I can wait, it tends to mean I’m not that invested and probably don’t need to do it at all.

Of course sometimes later is better for me.

I can check in with my intuition for that one too.

Another thing I sometimes do is see what other similar courses might be out there, and compare the feel of them, as well as all the practical elements like timing, pricing, length etc.

This can help give a clearer perspective of the course I’m considering.

Sometimes I make a mistake.

I have signed up for classes that turned out not to be for me at all.

While it’s disappointing, I try not to dwell on the loss of money or time invested; I approach the material with as open a mind as I can, I take what sings to me and leave the rest, and then I let go and move on.

There’s always a jewel or two to be found if you look carefully.


I hope this is in some way useful if you’re struggling to decide whether to take a course, either mine or someone else’s!

I know it can be hard to decide and there are many factors to consider.

Ultimately though, I think we do know, the same way we know about other things about which we need to make choices.

Cultivating our ability to hear our ‘inside wisdom’ will always be our best guide, but if that’s not always easy to hear, it can help to consider the possibilities in a more ‘outside logic’ kind of way too.

Do you find it hard to choose what course to take sometimes? What works for you in the decision making process? Let me know in the comments, and if you know anyone who might benefit from reading this post, please do share it using the buttons below.