Inspiring Women in Business Podcast - Episode 22 - Building an Online Course With Gemma Bonham Carter

podcast Feb 28, 2022

There comes a point in your life when you realize that your usual daily living needs a shift. Do you need to be on top of the game to venture into something different from your usual expertise?

In this episode, former blogger and Online Business Strategist Gemma Bonham Carter talks about creating and launching courses, the right mindset around launching a course, how she started, and the lessons she has learned. 

It's a great episode packed with value that you're going to love.



  • Finding the right thing for you does not happen overnight. You sometimes have to take different gigs to find what will best suit you. 

  • Everyone may think that they should be experts and have all the credentials to be able to start a course, but it is easier to grasp lessons from a peer-to-peer kind of mentor than that of an expert.

  • Hesitations also include the idea that the market is saturated, but the fact is, it's continuously growing, which gives more opportunities.

  • Commitment, persistence, genuine care for your students and long-term visions are some of the most important things you should consider for your course to be successful.
  • It is normal to have hesitations and sit in discomfort, but the success will be worth it.


Episode Timeline:

00:00 Intro

00:22 Episode Intro

01:39 About Gemma

02:14 How Gemma ended up with her business and how it started

06:26 Gemma's advice on people who are hesitant to start launching a course

09:37 The business opportunity in the growing online marketplace

11:57 Gemma's advice on how to keep the motivation

17:26 The right mindset for a course creator to keep

21:09 Gemma's advice for someone who's just starting or growing a business

23:39 How Gemma kept going to find what business she really wanted to build

26:01 How to connect with Gemma

26:50 Outro


About my guest:

Gemma Bonham Carter is a former blogger turned Online Business Strategist. She is a mom of two wonderful kids. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs create profitable online course businesses so they can have more freedom in their lives.

Connect and know more about  Gemma and her business here:

Passive Project (affiliate link ) 


More about Ruth:

Hi, Im Ruth, a business coach specializing in helping freelancers and business owners adjust their mindset and marketing so they can get fully booked with clients they LOVE to work with. Ive helped hundreds of self-employed women achieve the time and money freedom they craved.

Ive started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize Id created a glass ceiling for myself.

In 2017, I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time that I wasnt doing what I loved and fulfilling my true potential.  It took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call.  I dont want the same to happen to you.

You can expect practical advice, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments as we uncover and kick to the curb all the obstacles you have been putting in your way.

Im on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business.


Connect and know more about Ruth here:


Free stuff:






Ruth Gilbey  00:00

Hi everyone, in today's episode, I'm interviewing Gemma Bonham Carter. She's talking about creating courses, launching courses, your mindset around launching a course, how she started her business, and the lessons she has learned. It's a great episode packed with value that you're going to love this one. 

Ruth Gilbey  00:22

Hello and welcome to the inspiring women in business podcast. My name is Ruth Gilbey, and I'm a business and marketing coach. I'm on a mission to inspire women to start and play bigger in business. Now I started this podcast because when I first went all in and left the corporate world to be a freelancer, I was just grateful for any work that came my way. After over 20 years of freelancing and working for other people, I started to realize I created a glass ceiling myself. It was in 2017 when I finally started listening to that voice that had been telling me for a long time that I wasn't doing what I loved, and I wasn't fulfilling my true potential. It took a critical illness to give me that wake-up call. And I don't want the same thing to happen to you. You can expect practical advice, interviews, inspiring stories, and a lot of aha moments as we uncover and kick to the curb. All the obstacles you've been putting in your way 

Ruth Gilbey  01:26

hi everyone, welcome back to the inspiring women in business podcast. I'm absolutely delighted today, so I've got Gemma Bonham Carter with me today. Gemma, do you want to introduce yourself to everybody? Tell me who you are and who you help.

Gemma  01:39

Absolutely I'm really thrilled to be here, Ruth Thanks for the invite. Well, I do. I'm Gemma Bonham Carter. I'm based in Canada, and I really help entrepreneurs create, launch, and then grow and scale online courses and group programs and so really leveraging that kind of business model to see incredible growth as in your business, so I do that in a few different ways. I've got a few different programs, and I work with clients one-on-one as well, but that's the short version.

Ruth Gilbey  02:09

amazing how did you end up with the business that you've got today? Because I know it wasn't how you started, was it? 

Gemma  02:14

Absolutely not. Now, how much time have you got? Long story? No. Okay, so there was kind of this just like bring me back to this one moment that happened that I feel was a bit of a point of time for me that was like a shift. And so I had been on this path of becoming you know, having a career in public health I've had I got my Master's of Public Health, I had worked for lots of different NGOs. I was doing this nine to five career, and which I thought was the dream, my dream anyway. And I became pregnant with my first child, and I was driving home one day from the office. It was the middle of summer I was due with my daughter in August, so you can imagine I was like giant my belly touching the wheel in a car with no air conditioning windows rolled down sweat dripping off of my forehead, and just thought to myself like oh, when this baby comes like is this what I want to be doing? Do I want to be stuck in an hour commute on my way home every day, trying to rush to get home to squeeze in 30 minutes with her before bedtime? And I really kind of decided like, No, that wasn't it. And so, really, once I was on maternity leave with her, I just started to like experiment with all the things that I could do to make money so that I wouldn't have to go back to that nine to five job. And this did not happen overnight, you know, but I started doing all these different things I had are actually already started a blog, a home decor, and a design blog just to kind of utilize my creative side because my job was very much not creative. And I needed something like a fun hobby. But I started to really monetize that I did all kinds of things. I did DIY workshops, like in person, I decorated weddings, I decorated people's houses, I built websites for people, I just took any gig I could that would make some money just to kind of figure out where my footing was how this entrepreneurship thing really works. And eventually, that led me to courses, and that is a whole other story like my first course was around was for bloggers because, at that point, I had been able to monetize my blog. I even started a shop selling physical products. Oh yeah, that was one thing I didn't talk about. I went to craft fairs. I sold things at craft fairs on time. And so my first course was to help other bloggers kind of do what I had done. And over the course of, you know, three, four, or five years that ended up shifting into me now teaching people how to leverage courses as a business model. Because I kind of cracked the code, I kind of figured out how to do it and so and in a way that felt good for me as a business owner, especially being a mom and having other kinds of things in life. I was passionate about wanting that balance and that lifestyle that I think sometimes some entrepreneurs might look to for advice. They don't model it so well, you know, they're like working 70 hours a week and off, I kind of had this realization. I don't know, Ruth, if this has happened to you, there was one point where I was like soaking up all the information and trying to learn all the things. And I suddenly realized everybody I was learning from at that moment did not have children. And I was like, I need to find a mentor that has figured out the lifestyle and balance that I want. Because if I'm just trying to replicate these other people's systems, I don't want the end result that they have, which are these like insane work hours. So anyway, that long story, but you know, that got me to where I am today.

Ruth Gilbey  05:40

Yeah, it's interesting because, for the listeners, I'm in Gemma's membership, the passive project, which is brilliant. And I actually remember all those messages, and you really stood out for me, because you were like, you're you've got a family, and you share about your family and your values. But also, what I really loved about what you did is you everybody seems to make it this secret thing that you were like, no, I can break it down for you. Easier steps and you go by behind the scenes and show people that, and I really think that's what really drew me to working with you. What would you say to someone who's like taking that step, like maybe thinking about launching a course or quit their first-time course creator of this? They don't feel like an expert if they're thinking, and they're talking themselves out of it? What would you What advice would you give to them?

Gemma  06:26

Well, the first thing I would say is that everybody feels that way. So don't feel like that's, you know, your intuition saying you shouldn't do it. No, it's just actually your fear of talking. And we all get that level of fear. Whether it's launching a new course, giving a talk, for the first time doing a podcast interview for your first time, all you know, that little negative Nelly imposter syndrome is very normal. But what I would say is this whole idea of thinking that you need to be an expert, be the top of the field, have, you know, all these credentials in order to launch a program is actually really not the case at all. And if you think about some of the times in your life, when maybe you needed to learn something, learning from someone who was like 20 steps ahead, sometimes it was really challenging because it wasn't relatable anymore, they couldn't break it down, like to your point with me being able to break it down for all of my students, maybe they're so past that same point, that it's now hard for them to put themselves back into the shoes of their students. And sometimes, just being 2, 3, 4 steps ahead is actually to your advantage. And if you can, one thing I love it when people share when they're building something, or when they're like learning a new thing. And if you actually just start sharing about learning that new thing, when you do become two or three steps ahead, because you've been sharing about her all that time, people are gonna want to know that how you did it, because they've watched you get some success in that thing, right? And so your audience will actually be very ready to jump into a program with you. And so an example that I Ruth, you've probably heard me get this before and I've said it on a couple of different videos and stuff. But my mom is like, an award-winning internationally known geochemist. She's a scientist, okay, ran a lab like published in a huge number of journals. And when I was a teenager, I struggled a little bit with my chemistry homework in high school. Could she help me with my chemistry homework? Absolutely not like she was way too far gone at being an expert chemist. And so it was much easier for me to have a peer to peer tutor, like someone who was up two grades ahead of me in high school who could teach me what I needed to know for Chem 101, you know, and if you can actually just flip the script a little bit for yourself and consider yourself more of that peer to peer mentor, rather than the expert sometimes that can just release some of that pressure that we put on ourselves to need to be the top of the game and there are other people who teach about online courses. I am not the only one in this see. There are many others, many who have much larger followings, much bigger numbers, all those things that need, but why is it that people choose to learn from me? It's because I understand what I bring to the table that's different from all of them. And I make sure that those differentiating unique things about myself, some of which are my story and values, and those types of things are everywhere in my messaging and marketing because it attracts it in the right people.

Ruth Gilbey  09:28

Yeah, I love that. I absolutely love that. And what would you say to someone who's listening to this, who thinks, but surely there are so many courses out there there isn't room for mine?

Gemma  09:37

Yeah, it's funny. Like I think we think that the market is so saturated, but in actual fact, it's just growing at like an unprecedented rate. And more than ever before, people are looking to learn things in an online way or in small online group communities. And so the opportunity is there, and I could go on and spout stats, you know that of how this marketplace is growing. But just trust me when I say it's growing big time. And so if you're ready to get your foot in on a little piece of that pie like I would do it now and not, you know, continue to wait, start to carve out your little niche now. And the other thing I would say is like, you're only thinking that way if your plan is to launch something that's in the sea of sameness, as everybody else if you can really understand what you are bringing that only you can bring because only you can bring your story and your background and your experience and your skillset. And the way you teach, only you can bring that to the table. And it's actually I this is something that I see a lot of people make the mistake of in the beginning is trying to whether they intentionally did it or not. Still, they've been watching other people in their industry too much. And so they put out their first thing, their first offer, and it just sounds too much like everybody else's. So sometimes, we actually just need to put our blinders on and forget all of that and come up with an offer that brings all of your unique stuff to the table. And that will be your kind of special sauce. And let's be real, like, you know, do coffee shop, say, Oh, the markets too saturated. No, like in my neighborhood, I can, in this in two blocks, we have 1, 2, 3, 4,  6 coffee shops in two blocks, you know, come on, like there are probably 1000s, if not hundreds of 1000s of people out there looking for information on what you have to offer. You just need to find those people and get in front of them.

Ruth Gilbey  11:35

I love that. Yeah, it's like near me, lots of coffee shops and lots of nail bars don't stop more opening. I'm like, What is going on? One of the things also for my listeners and my audiences. Someone puts their course out there for the first time, and they don't hit the numbers they want to hit. What advice would you give them to keep them motivated?

Gemma  11:57

So this is such a good question with lots of like, I could go lots of different ways in the answer. So apart, I'm gonna apologize in advance if I take a few tangents. Still, the first thing is that this is kind of why I recommend starting with a higher ticket kind of group coaching style offer where you're delivering it more like it's not like you've been recording videos for three months, you've prepped the whole course, and then you're going to launch it. You're not sure how it's gonna go, I flip the script on that and get you to launch something when you haven't even recorded a lesson. Because we want to put the offer out into the marketplace, see if you get takers, and then you can actually make the decision. If I only got two takers. This is telling me that, you know, there maybe it was a traffic problem, maybe not enough people saw the offer. But it could also be that the offer didn't quite fit my audience's needs. And so let me actually just refund those two people not spend three or four months creating the content for this program that didn't really hit the mark. And let me just go back and tweak things a little bit. So that's like Thing number one thing number two is if you do start with that, say higher-end group coaching sale offer, we're not selling something for $97, we're selling something, say for $500. It's like a six-week thing that we're taking people through, well, if you even get 10 students into that $500 program, in my opinion, that's a pretty decent first payday to give you the encouragement to see this thing through because you need to think that this is step one, this is you just cracking the door open on this new business model, and you building out a really leverageable asset, this is something that you are then going to be able to sell and launch over and over and over again, without reinventing the wheel every time because you're gonna put all that work into building it out with that group live. So if you just have the vision that that's where you're headed. Well, having a smaller initial payday isn't the end of the world, right? Because we have the motivation of where we're going. And I think part of the issue with, like, the income claims that we see so often people making in the digital marketing space is that people expect that launched one is going to be $50,000 $100,000, something crazy. And I try actually as much as possible to use testimonials from my students that talk about the 3k first launch or the 5k first launch and show the excitement because people are genuinely so excited when they've come up with an offer for the first time. And they've made $5,000 from it and like they are through the roof excited. I want to show those testimonials because it's more true of a newbie, where unless you're coming in with a big, big, big audience like I've had a couple of clients, one in particular who started working with me and launched her first course with me, but she already had a giant audience. So yeah, her first launch was 50k, but that's not the norm. So I think it's really important to see The whole picture. I don't even know that I've answered your original question. I went off on some realty evidence there.

Ruth Gilbey  15:05

I think it's really helpful because there are so many, you know, wild claims. And you know, to keep your mindset in check, you do have to have a reality check as well about the numbers. And I think that's a really sensible process. That is a process, isn't it? Yes, launching a course is a process. It's not going to happen overnight, but absolutely get the wins along the way.

Gemma  15:29

I made it in the first year of launching courses, and I'm not just talking about one launch like I did it several times. I was trying to figure it out whenever I thought I made $13,000. That was back in 2016, or 17. And that felt like I had cracked the code. I was like, Holy smokes, I made $13,000 from something from teaching online like I was out there hustling, doing so many odd jobs to make money. And that one was the most like. I felt like the opportunity was the most amazing because I could see the potential for scaling. And you know what this could mean for my business. But I needed to have that longer-term vision and the persistence to know that if I just kept going, because if you look at all of those people in your industry that are at the top, well, my guess is they didn't just start, they have been doing this for a long time—relaunching always talking about the same stuff over and over and over again. And you need to get ready to do that if you are serious about building a brand around online courses because you need to build that awareness. Like Nike didn't have an overnight success story, right? They kept going with their marketing and eventually built out a giant company. It's the same thing.

Ruth Gilbey  16:50

Such good advice. So what if someone, is there a kind of a sense check that you would advise people do what to do when they're thinking about going all-in, not going all-in but thinking about launching a course?

Gemma  17:03

Like a check on? What do you mean by whether? Yeah, mindset.

Ruth Gilbey  17:07

Yeah. And you're kind of reality check that it is an amazing thing. But I think I suppose I've had a few people saying it looks easy. And I don't want to say it's difficult as a fellow course creator. It isn't difficult, but it is a longer game, isn't it? I think you've said it before slow and steady wins the race, yes, commitment,

Gemma  17:26

Its commitment, its persistence, it's having that long-term vision. I think for the mindset piece. One thing I actually put out a piece of content about this recently, and of course, I won't remember all 10. But it was something like 10 signs that you're meant to be a course creator. And some of those really did dive into some mindset shifts. So some stuff around, you know, you genuinely need to be okay with getting visible, and like sharing your opinion and showing up and building a course like. However, there are lots of introverts who are course creators and personal brand entrepreneurs, you can't actually hide behind your computer screen always like because people buy from people. You need to be able to create a connection with your audience and community to encourage them to want to come and learn from you. And they need to understand what you're like as a teacher. So if you're someone who's sitting there who's like really not ready to do that, I don't think it's a good time for you to launch a course if you are not ready and willing to get through some of those obstacles or those bumps in the road that are going to come your way. You're really just if you're feeling like too desperate that you need to make some quick money like this isn't the option for you either book some one-to one-clients, first, get some retainer clients on your business like on the books that are going to be your buffer so that you can then start to do these things slowly and steadily the poor stuff, but knowing that your bills are paid for so you know, that's something that I like to talk about, it's definitely something that I did was like, I didn't put all my eggs into that basket right away, I have way too risk-averse for that. And you have to if you're going to be successful as a course creator, you genuinely need to care about getting students results because if you create a program or offer a digital product that does not work and does not get people results, it's just going to take eventually, like maybe you'll have a successful first launch, but then you won't get any testimonials. You won't get any word-of-mouth marketing. You won't get people talking about how great your stuff is. And that is really what helps you to build this momentum, and of course, business, it's like you're pushing the car up the hill for the first while, and then eventually the car just starts to go down the hill with ease. And part of that when that happens is when the word of mouth marketing just like happens organically for you. Like I've had several people land in my DMs this week saying Gemma, I just heard about you from my friend Jackie, and she's going on and on about how amazing your program is. And I really need to learn more like that when that starts to happen. That really feels like a real turning point too. So I think you just yeah, you need to genuinely care about your students and making an impact and helping them if you're going to be successful as a course creator to and then from like a technical I guess the point of view, I really recommend that people have 200 subscribers on their email list before they launch a course. So if you are not anywhere near that, if you haven't really started putting content out there building an audience, you know, started to like, get the wheels turning in this new niche of yours. Start doing that now. Like, just start doing the thing started growing. And then when we're at that 200 number, that's when we're going to do our family launch.

Ruth Gilbey  20:38

Yeah, that yeah, that's so important, actually. Yeah. Such great advice. I just got one last question. Which is more for people who are, say, any of my listeners who are thinking about leaving the corporate world, or they're freelancers, and they're thinking about growing their business? What was the best advice you would give someone just about starting a business or growing a business?

Gemma  21:00

Oh, my gosh, that is a brilliant question!

Ruth Gilbey  21:05

Do you have advice for them? What do you wish you'd been told when you were younger? 

Gemma  21:09

Yeah, I think the thing for me was that it was okay not to know where I was going. Like that, it was fine for me to test lots of things, and to not really know and to maybe feel a bit embarrassed about that, you know, like someone saying, oh, like, what's this new thing, you're doing, Gemma, and I'm like, I don't know, just like trying out a whole bunch of things. And that's okay. So and you know what, anybody who's like, who may be judging you, or has something negative to say about it, in the beginning, they will be the ones eating Crow, when two years down the road, you have to figure it out, and you are doing the thing you love doing, and you're making money doing it, and you're, you know, those things that you wanted in your life you've made happen, they will be the people eating Crow and probably coming to you and asking you how you did it. And so just being okay, in sitting in that discomfort of not really knowing what your thing is right now. And this idea that you could just test and test and test and pivot and pivot and trial and error. And that's okay, because as long as you when we talked about vision before, it wasn't even that I had this vision of being a successful course creator or like teaching other people it was I had a vision of what my business kind of looked like on a day to day basis and what it meant for me in my life, so it meant me not having to commute into work, not having to do stuff that felt boring. Frankly, it meant me being able to spend more time with my kids and then me being able to never ask for a vacation day because I can just take a vacation when I want and travel. We're big travelers in my family, so like really be able to explore the world and not feel constrained by that kind of like nine to five corporate box and all of those things and more and having that vision but not knowing how I was I could be a wedding decorator for all you know, I put it that could have been my thing. Who knows, but I knew that ultimately where I wanted to be from a lifestyle perspective. And I think just like hold on to that. 

Ruth Gilbey  23:14

Yeah, first of all, I've never heard the expression eat crow. Love that.

Gemma  23:21

It was like a Canadian thing. I don't know,

Ruth Gilbey  23:24

I have Canadian relatives, but I've not heard "eat crow." Love it. So my next question is just to follow on from that since I've been trying the things out, or did you feel you did? That's great because of some pressure. I've got to make this thing work. But you have

Gemma  23:39

Right, I had lots of fun with it. And that certainly there were certain gigs that you know, weren't as good as the others. So, for example, building websites for other people's businesses, like I built websites for artists, I built websites for a record store, I did it for a scientific association, you know. Those are a little boring. I just knew how to do it because I'd already built my blog, and I understood WordPress, and I could do it. So for me, that was one of those things that I'm going to do in the meantime, even though maybe I don't love it. But if making some each little contract was a chunk of change that you know, bought me more time to like really kind of figure out what I was going to do. So being okay with doing those like I think I didn't hate them because I knew it was serving kind of a greater purpose. And there were other things that were fun but didn't fit the lifestyle. So this whole idea of like decorating some weddings, well I have fun doing them. I was standing up on ladders, putting things up in the air decorating little tables. I'm crafty like I loved all of that, but it's a working weekend. And it's working weekends in the summer, like the best time in Canada. So that didn't you know, quick I quickly realized oh, hang on, like this isn't actually building the business that I really want. And so, although it was fun, it wasn't the right thing. So yeah, it just kept going.

Ruth Gilbey  25:02

so you are building out your non-negotiables. These are things I want. These are things I don't want that's great actually exactly, and also it sounds like all the things that you learn I've also helped your business now anyway.

Gemma  25:13

Absolutely like, and I think that's the other thing when you see people in your industry who were really successful. It may be for some of them It feels like it happened overnight ask yourself did they have five businesses before this because if they were someone who kind of figured out business and marketing and all that stuff like I if I wanted to start a new blog let's say having just done a blog for 10 years like on home decor and stuff I could come in and do what I took me 10 years to do with that blog and do it in one because I understand it so much more and so same thing with just overall business building is that it happens so much faster when you have that experience, and there was like foundations in place.

Ruth Gilbey  25:56

Yeah, so it's good advice. Thank you, and lastly, How can people find out more about you, Gemma?

Gemma  26:01

Well, and if they want,l if you are interested in launching a course for the first time, I do have a 60 minute class that is jam-packed full of takeaways for really how to do those couple things that we talked about that founding launch idea and also that that idea of like what do I launch first for maximum profit I go through something called the profit early method in that class so they can head to will take them there and if you just want to head to will take them there and if you just want to head to Gemma Bonaparte calm you can see all of my other programs and freebies and the podcast is there the YouTube channel's there and you want to come to say hey on Instagram it's at @gemmabonhamcarter

Ruth Gilbey  26:42

Amazing. Thank you so much, Gemma.

Gemma  26:45

Thank you so much for having me.

Ruth Gilbey  26:46

It has been a pleasure having you. Thank you.

Ruth Gilbey  26:50

Thanks for listening to the inspiring women in business podcast. I hope you found this episode helpful. If you did, I would love it if you would leave me a review. Also, I would love to connect with you on Instagram. That's where I hang out most of the time. I'm @Ruth_Gilbey. I'll put a link in the show notes for you as well come and connect with me. Tell me about your business. And also tell me what you'd like to hear next on the podcast. And lastly, go and check out the business building hub on my website. There you can find more amazing free resources to help you take the next step in your business. And you can also find out other ways that you can work with me. I'll see you soon.