The Online Courses Industry That Is Filled With Junk

The online courses industry collectively stands at 100s of billions of dollars per year. It is a fact that most of these courses are junk. The ‘fake gurus’ sell you a ‘dream lifestyle’ that can be seen in the backdrops of their videos. Of course, the gurus spent some money to lease that Lamborghini or to fly to the Fiji islands but the lifestyle that they have built is often coming out of your pockets.

My friend Faisal Khan, shared this video that you might find interesting.

Most of my working career, I haven’t touched a course with a 10 foot pole. Because there’s so much junk on the internet, it’s rather difficult to find real value from the junk.

The first course I bought was in 2013. It was a scam. The founder of the course has lost the case against the FTC and is paying $17 million dollars in fines. Hopefully I’ll get some of the funds back.

The second course I bought was in 2020. I found a lot of value in it. I recouped my investment within 10 days of buying it. One of the reasons why I chose that one was because it was for professional marketers, there was a long interview process and they didn’t accept everyone.

While there’s no hard and fast rule on what to buy and what not to buy, I wanted to write a bit about the red-flags you should always watch out for. There can be real value in the courses, but it is a bit like finding needle in the haystack. Read below.

  1. If there are membership level upgrades, it’s a flag. It isn’t necessarily a scam but it could be. Most sellers whether in courses industry or not are trying to raise the average order value. In e-commerce we often do that by offering bundles and tiered discounts. But it’s a flag. So you can think of it as strike # 1 and drop it if you don’t find any other dirt.
  2. If you can’t upgrade membership levels, without skipping a level, it’s a big red flag. E.g if the coaching offered is gold, platinum, diamond and to buy diamond you first have to buy gold and platinum, you’re just setting yourself up for a big disaster.
  3. If the core niche of the trainer is that he makes money by telling people how to make money, get out. Don’t pay him anything. If he makes money by running X and Y businesses that you’ve real evidence of, but also does coaching on the side, then you should be safe.
  4. If you are encouraged to earn revenue by being an affiliate for his course after learning from his course, get out. It’s multi-level-marketing. You buy his course and to recoup your investment you sell his course to someone else and the loop goes on.
  5. If at any point during the sales pitch, he makes the business sound easy, quick or having a too good to be true returns, get out. What seems too good to be true is often too good to be true.
  6. A course with true value will have a trainer that has a proven record of maintaining a certain business, does coaching/course on the side to replace consulting in order to maximize return of his time. A true trainer never over-commits or over-promises. He paints a true picture of how the returns could look like. For example in the Facebook marketing industry, I’d go for trainers that teach 2-4X ROAS instead of the trainers that teach 10-30x ROAS. Real gurus will tell you it’s going to take time, blood and effort and despite that you have 70% chance to fail.

Remember, vultures capitalize on your insecurities. Real coaches don’t do that.

My Life Right Now

I don’t like doing these posts too much. I like to talk more about meaningful things that could potentially help others and less about myself. But I don’t feel like talking about meaningful stuff today. I want to talk about myself.


2 days ago, Pakistan reported more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in a single day. The government of Pakistan so far is claiming that 100% of the cases are imported ones, and there are no local transmissions. The problem with Pakistan is not the virus itself, but the healthcare system which is over-loaded and in a mess even without the virus. The second problem with Pakistan is that with lockdown more people will die of hunger and poverty than the virus will kill without the lockdown. Hence, Pakistan has adopted a mid-way strategy with regards to social distancing.

Mental Health

For the past few days I kept reading to learn more and more about the virus in order to be more aware of the virus to protect myself and others not only in health terms but also in the markets and to create the right investment strategy. The good thing about consuming all that information is that it kept me busy while I was distancing socially and I learnt a lot of things. The bad thing about consuming this much information on a pandemic is that it induced fear, anxiety and panic in my mind. Today, I’ve decided to pull back. The important stuff will reach me as it will reach everyone. The details, I’m not interested in anymore.


My work is a mess. For the past 15 years, I’ve only known two ways to make money. I either sell ads to make money i-e publishing, blogs, ad-breaks etc

Or I buy ads to make money i-e e-commerce, influencer marketing etc.

Both are in a mess right now.

The CPMs are down as much as 75% depending on the industry you are in. So selling ads is 75% lesser profitable as before. This in theory means this could be a good time to buy ads. While that’s true that CPMs are lower for buying ads too, but that’s because the demand for buying things except for certain essentials is down too. In addition to demand, the supply chain is disrupted too as most things are manufactured in China which is not fully functional even now.

In summary, both e-commerce and publishing are largely affected.

As I was spending more time at home than usual, and do not have much work to do except for reading about the virus, it has been a bad combination for me. So I’m taking a step back.


The options that I can personally think of to keep me engaged are Netflix, reading, courses etc. I don’t think binge-watching Netflix will be too helpful in restoring the right state of mind for me. So I’ve decided to enroll in certain online courses. Work has been absolutely essential for me always to keep me in the right state of mind. I think getting educated further about digital marketing is going to feel as an extension of work to me.

What are you guys going to do if you are in a similar position?