Case study: An innovative use for digital downloads

Case study: An innovative use for digital downloads
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Birgit O’Connor has spent more than 30 years honing her skills as a watercolor artist. For 20 of those years, she was traveling and teaching live, in-person workshops. She even expanded her reach by bringing the art of watercolor to DVD-recorded lessons.

Although she already had in-person classes and workshop experience, she was looking for a way to take her product online. Her goal was to be able to better serve her audience and spend more time in her studio and with her family. It took finding Teachable for her to have the tools to do it though. “A lot of people told me when I stopped teaching and traveling that I was going to lose my audience base,” she said. “I also know that a lot of people underestimate me.”


Bringing her courses online

Online courses have given Birgit more freedom, both creatively and in her life outside of watercolor. “I’m able to explore more, be a lot more productive and experimental, and cover so much more information than I ever was when I was traveling,” she said. Plus, she can be home more to spend more time with her family, especially her grandchildren.

When she found Teachable she knew it was the platform for her. She loved the way Teachable allowed her to lay out the content for herself and for her students. Whether that be videos or PDFs, she explained. “Everything that you need, it’s all there,” she said.

She set up her online courses years ago and has seen success with both self-paced and cohort-based courses. So when we released our digital downloads functionality, she wasn’t initially interested—why would she need another product when what she had worked so well?

Hear from Birgit herself:

Experimenting with digital downloads

Birgit first dipped her brush into digital downloads by offering a free download as a lead magnet to bring more students into her sales funnel.

Once she did that though, she found she really liked how the product looked. “It looks really clean, really slick,” she said “And I like how it looks different than the course. I think the course option can be a little overwhelming for people.”

After seeing success with her free lead magnet, she took her downloads to the next level. This involved pricing them and offering an exclusive link to a live painting session right in the PDF download she was selling. Essentially, students were purchasing access to an exclusive, one-time event and all the information necessary to access and enjoy that event all through clicking buy on one single PDF download.  

Now when users go to her sales page, they see courses as well as her digital download offers, which unlock access to an upcoming live paint-along lesson.

Finding the right use for downloads

But Birgit’s downloads offer more than a link to a paint-along session. In her PDF download, she provides an introduction to who she is and provides a workbook to help her students prep for the session too. She includes a materials list for students to prepare, photos of what students can expect to paint, practice exercises they can do beforehand, screenshots of instructional videos, and more.

“I’m finding it pretty sweet doing those little digital downloads,” she said. Her students love it too, as it offers them an entry point into her products at a lower price. For example, those who might be unsure about committing to a multi-week course can instead try out a single-day session for less than $50 before they take the plunge.

Her course offerings traditionally consisted of self-paced courses that students could take on their own time and live courses. Those cohort-based live courses consist of weekly live sessions that take place over six weeks. They’re great for students looking for a slower-paced more in-depth course. But running those courses is time-consuming and takes a lot of work on Birgit’s end. With the cohort-based course set-up, her earning potential was capped by how much time she was willing to spend running live courses.

“But you’ve got to work smarter, not harder, we all know that,” she said. This is where the digital download lessons come into play. “I still put a lot of energy into developing it [the digital download] and then being there, but it’s one and done. And that’s great, and I can recycle it,” she said.

Looking to the future of her business

Offering these downloads has changed how she’s thinking of her business on Teachable going forward. “I get excited about everything that I do,” Birgit said. “I loved doing what I was doing before, but I realized whatever I’m doing, if it’s just not bringing in the success that it was originally, or if I’m getting burnt out, then it’s time to transform it,” she said.

While she would be happy to only offer her paint-alongs through her digital downloads, she recognized she would lose customers who like a slower pace. Multi-week courses offer her students who prefer a different learning pace the opportunity to dive into deeper projects and take more time. So, she’s using her downloads as a way to balance serving her audience in multiple ways.

Embracing downloads

When it comes down to it, Birgit has one piece of advice for other creators considering digital downloads: Overcome the fear.

While it may sound easy to just put a new product out there, it can feel like a daunting step. She’s found that having an idea, running with it, and getting it out there has been the most successful strategy for her. “If I need to tune it up later, I’ll tune it up as I go,” she said. But she doesn’t let fear keep her from taking the first step and trying something new.

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