The Design Business Show 129: Navigating Online Courses Using Terrain with Eman Zabi

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | February 8, 2021

Eman Zabi is the founder of The Scribesmith – a launch copywriting agency that specializes in research-based strategy and conversion copy for digital products. As a part of The Scribesmith’s umbrella, she created The Conversion Kits, brainstorming decks to help entrepreneurs raise conversion, and Terrain, a curated course marketplace for entrepreneurs.

Eman graduated with a degree in International Politics from Georgetown University (which explains her love for the nerdy stuff) and has been writing for as long as she can remember.

When not working, she can be found drinking copious amounts of tea, playing with her cat, Cat, and cooking up new ideas for the Scribesmith team to take on.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

  • How Eman and I both knew of each other but had never spoke and how I heard her speak on The Copywriters Club Podcast about Terrain, which I thought was interesting because there are so many courses but no one really checking them to see if they’re good
  • When Eman posted on Facebook and asked if anyone had a web design course, a couple people tagged me, so I applied to be part of Terrain
  • Eman tells the story of being an unemployed grad who was trying to make money online, who had never heard of copywriting until someone sent her a link to Rob and Kira’s podcast, The Copywriter Club—she binged all the episodes in a couple weeks and decided copywriting was what she wanted to do
  • Shortly after Eman was introduced to the podcast in 2017, Rob and Kira started their Accelerator Program, so she took the opportunity to be part of that and things really took off from there
  • Before Eman started her business in 2017, she graduated from University in mid 2016, and did blogging here and there, making $20-$30 for work and then got a full-time job that she ended up leaving when she moved to Canada, which is when she went full-time with her business
  • Eman shares that she was doing a lot of outdoor copy when she first went full-time and shares that she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2015, so she used that as a distinguishing factor, that all her branding was outdoor themed and she was writing for the outdoor niche
  • How Eman’s first paid gig was writing about training for Mount Kilimanjaro
  • While in the Accelerator program, Kira, who is in the personality driven launch space subcontracted some work for Eman, which is when she realized how much she liked the launch side of things
  • When Kira was sending clients Eman’s way, she still had the outdoor branding but was taking on launch clients by early 2018
  • Eman shares that 2018 was a weird year for her business due to her mom being hospitalized and shares that she signed her first big client at the time and everything she made from that client was paid to a VA she hired in order to keep the business afloat
  • 2019 was the first year Eman felt she could take her business seriously, grow and invest and says she hired another person, making it a team of 3 and launched the Conversion Kits that November
  • The story of how Eman decided a week before Black Friday that she wanted to launch the Conversion Kits after only having the 3 cards that were going to be on the landing page, so they put together a landing page and presold 100 which paid for the manufacturing and production
  • Once they started getting the decks out, they started getting a lot more clients and since then the team has grown to 11 people, plus some contractors here and there
  • Erman got the idea for Terrain a few weeks after coming back from TCC IRL but sat on it for a while because she didn’t have any background in it and she knew hiring a developer would be a significant investment
  • The story of how 3 weeks after speaking to developers and putting a deposit down, things went crazy with covid and the developers got furloughed and had a non-compete, so Eman couldn’t hire them as freelancers
  • Because Eman had already announced Terrain to the world, they decided to build it themselves after losing the developers and the deposit
  • Eman explains on the agency side, she usually adds a person to the team for every 1 or 2 retainers that they take on and explains why she hires fresh grad students and trains them to where they essentially take ownership of these projects and run with them
  • How Terrain was a byproduct of frustrations in this industry for Eman because personally she takes a lot of courses and has spent $20K on bad courses from well-known business owners with glowing testimonials on their sales pages
  • After realizing that this industry had a big problem with quality control, Eman wanted to initially create a vetting service for courses but says then it exploded because she realized the problem went deeper than quality control and wanted to create something that tackled all the problems at once
  • Eman shares that she and her friend, who’s an UX designer built the platform for Terrain where she was doing a lot of the back end workflows and he was doing the front end design work and shares they used a platform called Bubble, which is an interesting hybrid between coding and a no-code platform
  • When looking for courses that were good versus ones that needed a little more work, Eman and her team created a rubric that looked at depth, clarity, video/audio quality, if it was up to date because things change quickly in this industry, relevance to the audience, etc.
  • The idea, Eman shares is that they would look for courses that would help entrepreneurs level up in some way, so they have included courses on mindset and leadership skills, diversity and inclusion, courses on email marketing, specific sales courses, plus way more
  • Many of the courses have come from ones Eman has taken personally, and have been great or from people in the industry who are well known and confident enough in their courses to put them through the vetting process
  • Eman shares that 200+ people applied and they have put up 45 courses as of December 2020
  • How a lot of what went into Terrain was created because Eman isn’t a great course taker herself, and how this platform is great for people who normally struggle to finish courses because they built it as a very focused learning tool
  • A week leading up to the Terrain launch, Eman shares that everything that could have possibly went wrong, went wrong and shares some of the stressful things they had to deal with, but says once they officially launched, everything was fine and they haven’t had any major problems since
  • Eman tells us their goal was to acquire as many users as possible until the end of the year and then aggressively market Terrain at the start of the new year
  • How they have started onboarding the next round of course creators and their plan for making the process more efficient so they can upload more courses
  • Where people can go to sign up to be a user for Terrain is, know the terrain.io just click the purple sign-up button to join for free—Eman also says they will be offering some free courses starting in January
  • Eman explains what Peak Points are for Terrain, which are completion points for purchases because they want you to actually finish the courses—then you can trade Peak Points in for discounts at their store, the conversion kit.com  or donate them to Kiva, a Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund
  • Two things Eman learned is that she could have built the platform more efficiently if they built the front end first instead of building the back end first and understanding that everyone wouldn’t use the platform the way she intended them to, and think about all the ways people might use it while building
  • The name for Terrain came to Eman while she was taking a walk in the woods with her parents and says she likes the idea of knowing the terrain because the landscape can be challenging but once you know it, you’ve got a handle on it
  • Terrain’s logo is a mountain that has an arrow in it, which Eman’s UX designer came up with and shares that they voted on the color palette
  • Connect with Eman on Twitter or Instagram

Links mentioned:

The Scribesmith

The Conversion Kit

Terrain 

The Copywriters Club Podcast

The Copywriters Club-Accelerator Program 

Bubble 

Kiva- Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund

Connect with Eman on Twitter

Connect with Eman on Instagram

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