Regular readers of the Direct Response Letter know that I tend to
favor lower prices on information products — both my own and
Yet despite that, I have to warn you that there is one major
drawback or risk of taking low-priced training.
And that is uneven and unreliable quality.
For instance, back in the day, I taught at the Learning Annex in
New York City, which offers courses on many interesting topics at
As an instructor, I could take the occasional course for free,
which I did.
And while some of them were excellent, a few were taught by
subpar seminar leaders — who, as a former Annex instructor
myself, I know were paid very little.
Outside of NYC, I’ve had somewhat less luck with inexpensive
courses offered at local high schools and adult education
For instance, pre-internet, I had a traditional mail order
business selling paper-and-ink reports and books, which I ran out
of my basement.
The reports were “typeset” on an ordinary IBM Selectric
typewriter in Prestige Elite and “printed” on my office
The covers were actually typeset by a typographer and photocopied
on green paper, to add a more “expensive” look to the reports.
Anyway, to improve my business, I signed up for what looked like
a promising course — “How to Make Money in Mail Order at Home in
Your Spare Time” — at a local community college.
But when I got there, the instructor picked up a textbook and
began reading in a monotone, “Mail order marketing is defined
And I realized: she was just a business professor at the college,
and she had never operated a mail order business in her life.
She knew nothing about mail order outside of what she had read in a
textbook, which became immediately apparent to the bored and — as
she nervously kept reading — increasingly dissatisfied students.
Finally, I got up the courage to raise my hand — and when called
upon politely asked her, “Do you actually have your own mail
She admitted she did not. I asked if anyone else in the classroom
did, and no one raised their hand.
“Well, I do,” I said, asking her, “Do you want me to teach the
She said yes, and I did.
Maybe I wasn’t great.
But my fellow classmates seemed thrilled to get first-hand
guidance in mail order by someone who had actually done it.
And the professor was obviously relieved at not having to fake
her way through material she clearly knew nothing about.
Now, if you take low-priced local training — which, unlike
courses you buy online, do not issue a refund if you are not
satisfied — you don’t risk much money.
But of course, you do risk wasting your time, which is arguably
even more precious.
So how can you profitably learn from “cheap” training in your own
backyard, without getting too badly burned?
Easy: Simply ask if the teacher is an active practitioner in the
For instance, if the course is about bookkeeping, is she or has
she been a bookkeeper? If it’s about training a puppy, is she a
vet, dog trainer, or even a dog walker?
If the answer is no, run.
Because if the instructor is a professor or other teacher, but
has never done the thing being taught, you are getting theory —
which in practical subjects like parenting, pet care,
bookkeeping, tax preparation, small business, or marketing, is
And the teacher being a great lecturer won’t make up for it: The
course might be enjoyable, but you won’t learn much that is
On the other hand, an instructor who is an active participant in
the field can pass on his “expensive experience” to you — giving
you a fast start and saving you from going down the wrong roads.
The expertise and rock-solid knowledge can more than make up
for the teacher perhaps not being the best seminar presenter.
And if she is not only a genuine expert but also a good lecturer —
as experts often are, in my experience — then you’ve struck
Online, you are a bit safer, because if the course is not to your
liking, you can — at least from an honest seller — get your money
Locally, though, you — as the old saying goes — “pays your money
and you takes your chances.”