Blogging Course Scams and Cons

Dreaming of living abroad as a blogging digital nomad, people are blindly handing over their money to a growing numbers of online experts.

One Woman’s Cautionary Tale

Staring into the stark light of my Mac in disbelief that September morning, I reread the email. I’d flown cross-country to San Francisco for a workshop I signed up for months ago. Now, hours before it was to begin, my online guru is cancelling it.

9 Months earlier 

The Initial Sales Pitch

I dabbled with blogging years ago, as a way to escape my isolation as a newly-minted expat in Costa Rica. So, I listened with interest to the video I’d come across on Facebook.

Chatting like a girlfriend, the disheveled-looking blonde says, Anyone can become a successful blogger with a six figure income. You can have it all; travel to exotic locations,  and work for yourself. Let me show you how. She looks away from the camera to redirect one of her children’s activities, chuckles, and intimately shares her frustration trying to make videos while nursing.

What she said, and the way she said it, made it all seem possible. Christina is a published author who began travel blogging when the term wasn’t even in existence. She left her high-powered job years ago and has been living abroad with her family, ever since. She ‘s living the dream!

Addressing The Prospect’s Objections

Not quite ready to sign up for her beginning blogging course, I emailed Christina, “Do you think someone older than a millennial, could successfully become a blogging digital nomad?”

Anyone can do can do it, and your life experience would only be an advantage. she assured me. Bait taken.

Week-by-week I completed every assignment in the blogging course, eventually cobbling together a website that looked good, functioned adequately, and had ever-improving content. This dream was becoming a reality!

The Up Sell

Before I received the last course module, I got an email from Christina.

She fawned over my success so far, and said now was the time to get some subscribers. I only had one subscriber at that point, and he was sitting next to me switching from one channel to the next, so I considered her advice.

Closing The Sale

Once bloggers create their products (courses, ebooks, etc.) they need subscribers, who will buy those products. It’s the next step you need to take if you want to become a successful blogger (like me, a six figure earner Christina insinuated.) I hadn’t completed the first course, so I wasn’t sure I was ready to move on to the next. This new course promised 1000 subscribers in 100 days, and she was offering an incredible deal to her current students, but only for the next 3 days!

Address The Prospect’s Objections (Round 2)

It seemed, my dream could only become reality by taking her next course. Christina assured me that I could work the courses simultaneously, and in doing so, the material would be enhanced. Bait taken again.

The other students in the next blogging course, and I became friends. We’d cheer each other’s successes and commiserate at our common frustrations. By the end of week 7, I increased my subscribers from 1 to 100+, had created a small e-book to give away, and was thinking about other products I’d create. Half-way through the 100 days, and no where near the 1,000 subscriber goal, I still felt that number was achievable based on Christina’s encouragement.

The Up Sell (Round 2)

That’s when the enticing email came in about a series of 2 day workshops Christina would be holding in six cities across the globe. The promise of a one-on-one time with my mentor, where, together we’ll formulate a long-term plan for my blog, would be amazing, but the cost was daunting.

 

Whether you’ve been blogging forever (without earning much) or you’re just starting out (and want to make a living) this weekend-long crash course will teach you how professional bloggers make a living from blogging with integrity and how you can fast track your way to a full-time income.

WHO THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR?

Bloggers who want to make a full-time living from their blog but don’t want to compromise their voice or integrity to do it.

WHAT DO YOU GET?      

Two days of instruction, planning and in-group brainstorming on how to best integrate the monetization strategies into your blog. At the end of the weekend, you’ll have a fully formed plan with specific steps for you and your blog with actionable steps to reach your goals in the next year. “
 
How could I possibly rationalize the workshop cost to my ever-supportive husband, who yesterday pointed out, I had yet to bring in a dime from my blogging venture. I couldn’t find reviews of Christina’s courses, or workshops, except the glowing reviews included on her website.
Christina’s bio is impressive and she seems to know what she’s talking about in the course videos. I told Christina that the workshop would be my husband’s birthday gift to me this year, because I believed that she could provide the roadmap I needed to make our dreams a reality. A day later, I signed up. Bait taken, yet again.

Crickets

That’s when Christina began disappearing. She’d cancel our weekly course group chats at the last-minute, and promised content never materialized. Trying not to upset her, or seem ungrateful, I asked privately about the missing modules. She’d promise them soon, yet nothing materialized. I was in a holding pattern, and the control tower had gone dark.

Promise, excuse. Promise, excuse. Week after week. My fellow students and I all felt adrift, but kept drinking the kool aid. Surely she’d rally, once they landed in a Mexican rental house with better WiFi. Surely she’d get us the lessons, once they got over the 5 weeks of flu that ran through her family. Surely, she’d prioritize her current student’s needs over the magazine she was trying to launch.

 Slowly reality began to sink in for us…we were victims of a con.

“September Morn” In San Francisco

The cancellation email, written by Christina’s assistant said, “… in the last 12 hours…”  Christina is in the, “…darkest of dark times.” She is in no, “…condition to interact much with the world...You will get updates on refunds and the state of everything…in a separate email, once she is able to make any decisions beyond those vitally necessary while she deals with this emergency.

This didn’t sound like the same person, who just two days before was happily posting on Facebook about co-planning her daughter’s birthday party, with her nanny in Mexico.
Ironic post by Christina in the workshop FB group page, 2 days before the workshop that never took place.

There were two registrants for this workshop. The other flew up to San Francisco from Mexico.

A day later, the same assistant, sent an email saying our registration fees would be reimbursed soon, and three days later they were. This covered her with PayPal, but we’ve heard not a word from Christina. No apology or explanation, and when asked for reimbursement for our expenses, she refuses to respond.

What I missed while I was in San Francisco – my daughter’s senior year homecoming.

Making Lemonade

This has been a difficult, yet valuable learning experience for me. Even though I face the wrath of Christina and her followers, it’s time to speak out about the ever-growing number of people who so easily treat people so poorly.

Gurus ‘mine’ each other’s followers and target them on Facebook. I now have a feeding-frenzy of gurus populating my feed. The script is always the same, “I’m making six figures and you can too!” So many people long for a ‘location independent’ lifestyle, there’s an unending market of gullible people lining up to be relieved of their hard-earned cash. There’s even one ‘guru’ who says, The ONLY WAY to make money as a blogger is to sell blogging courses to want-to-be bloggers. Let me show you how!

Victims of online scams are often too embarrassed to say anything. But for those who do, gurus delete their comments, ban them from their feeds, and threaten them into silence. Flaunting their many powerful connections, gurus  tell victims they’ll destroy their blogging/writing career if they dare speak out. Because of this, most want-to-be bloggers and writers, chose to slink away quietly. A fact gurus count on.

Some honest ‘gurus,’ who over time have successfully created and sold quality content, offer money-back guarantees, but the most do not. So buyer beware.

There’s no ‘Trip Advisor-type’ of forum that potential consumers can check before handing over their money to these so-called experts, so it’s time to shine light on all the gurus (the good and the bad) and their practices.

Have you been burned by an online ‘guru,’ or are you benefiting from someone’s blogging courses? Please share your experiences in the comments sections. Let’s help future consumers make good decisions. Threats and bullying, are common for those who are afraid of the truth, so I will honor your anonymity.

Pura vida, Penny

61 comments on Blogging Course Scams and Cons

  • Andi

    You are one brave gal!

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you Andi.

      “We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters… that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.” Michelle Obama

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Roxanne

    Oh crap sorry this happened to you. There’s no shortage of people like this on the web. Hopefully, you’re getting the information you seek (I read articles posted to Pinterest or webinars posted to Youtube, but I haven’t seen anything that I feel is worthwhile paying for yet. Here’s wishing you great success!

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your kind and supportive comment!

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Danni L

    What blog does Christina run? I admire your bravery in sharing this. The truth is, there is 0 need to ever pay for any blogging course, all the tips are there for free on people like Melissa Griffin’s blog or Sharon Gourlay’s. Backlinko has everything you need on SEO too.

    • Penny (author)

      Great advice Danni. I’ve watched my share of free videos, but the inevitable pitch and subsequent email flood, are a high price to pay for it.

      Pura vida, Penny

      • FLORENCE @ VintageSouthernPicks

        Absolutely agree with you there…always a catch on those “free” courses, which are then big bucks after. Personally, I’m fed up with all the free courses, free videos, and what not. I delete all of them.

        • Penny (author)

          As a friend said last weekend, “Weekends are for weekending.” Let’s start now 😉

          Pura vida, Penny

  • Brittany

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I haven’t spent a ton of money on blogging courses so far, more on tools like Tailwind, etc. As a travel blogger I’ve found Travel Blog Success to be useful, as it’s at your own pace and almost like an encyclopedia of blogging info that can be accessed indefinitely. There’s also a lot of great, free help online, but, again, sometimes hard to figure out which advice is GOOD advice.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your suggestion Brittany. It can be challenging to figure out the value of the hundreds of ads that flood a blogger’s feed. Hopefully, folks like yourself, will contribute more suggestions of sites they like.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Ozzy

    Commendable job on calling her out through your post! Well Done!
    What goes around does come around!

  • francisca

    It’s common these things to happen….. sadly. How much did you pay for the unhappened two days workshop?

    • Penny (author)

      More than I should have. 😉

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Sarah

    That is a great article about the scammers out there! Sorry it happened to you, but glad that you have chosen to alert people to the pitfalls, snakes and sharks out there!

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your response and support Sarah.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Jean Neuhart

    Ugh, sorry this happened to you. My email inbox receives many blogging course pitches on a daily basis. They all seem to promise the same thing, huge following, huge ROI. I have recently signed up for one – but it is specific to my industry, & I’m familiar with the people offering it, so I’m comfortable that the info will be worth while.

    • Penny (author)

      Thanks for your compassionate comment Jean. Good luck with your upcoming course and business!

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Matt

    Wow, Penny…wow!!! This was a super interesting read, thank you for sharing this. Without a doubt many victims feel ashamed as you pointed out at the end. Thanks so much for sharing this experience. I hope it will help more people to learn from this mistake!

    • Penny (author)

      I appreciate your kind comment Matt. Perhaps these types of practices will become a thing of the past, once people have to be accountable.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Rob

    What a terrible experience. I can not believe she cancelled the workshop at the last minute and after people had traveled such long distances. There really is no excuse not to have the materials ready for a course that you are selling. Shame on her!

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your supportive comment Rob. I know that there are more honest people in the world, than the alternative. My experience informs me, but does not make me lose hope.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Sasha

    Thanks for the article. My wife got burned on the same course. Thankfully she didn’t book one of the in-person events, because I convinced her it was not a good use of money we don’t really have to spend to begin with. Really sorry that happened with you. At this point I’m ready to take it up with the credit card company and see if we can fight the charge for the course that has been a total joke, but I don’t have my hopes up.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for sharing Sasha. With a commitment to remain peaceful in life, this was a bit of a challenge 😉

      “Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.” Mahatma Gandhi

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Mary

    Wow penny. I cannot believe that. Actually I can of Christina that’s the sad part. So sorry you went through but that was a great article full of bravery and great writing!! Thabks so much for stepping up and being honest!

    • Penny (author)

      I appreciate your kind comment Mary. I’m blown away by all the successful writers, like yourself, who have taken the time to reach out! Renews my faith.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Valerie

    Preach, Penny! I was repeatedly conned by this person and know you are not alone! She was manipulative, bullying, and failed to deliver on every promise. Thanks for sharing so others might not feel so alone either!

    • Penny (author)

      I’m sorry that you too, went through a similar experience Valerie. I hope that since that time your writing career has flourished and been a source of joy for you!

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Alyson Long

    LOL. Well done. Yes I know all about this. But she’s not a blogger, she’s somebody who makes a lot of money by selling courses and e-books. That isn’t making a living from blogging. It’s what failed bloggers do. I do actually, make a living from blogging and despise the course industry, greed, rip-offs, up-sells and sales funnels generally. Well done for sharing this. And a long subscriber list is NOT what you need to make a living bogging.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your insight Alyson. This experience has been surprisingly encouraging and opened my eyes to a world of talented and caring people in the travel writing/blogging community.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Roger

    But.. are you making money yet from this blog?

    • Penny (author)

      Not a dime, but a girl can dream!

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Esther

    Since I am Dutch, blog in Dutch and my audience is Dutch, most courses provided by North Americans really don’t apply to me and my audience. Western Europeans behave differently only than North Americans, search for different things in blogs etc (joining ‘successful’ US based influencer networks is useless for me, as my audience simply doesn’t shop there). Plus, my audience is quite a bit older and defintaley not the millenial that most of these courses aim for. So what these courses promise hardly ever applies to me, sadly enough. I do take free courses/webinars and simply unsubscribe from all the sales patches afterwards and take some ‘basic’ hints and tips from these courses, but that’s it. I have been a web editor for years and a SEO specialist and I trust on my knowledge and work experience rather than on ‘make a six figure income blogging’ promises. I hope you haven’t lost your fun in blogging because of this thing.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for providing another point of view Esther. Hearing from so many experienced writers and bloggers has given me hope.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Maureen

    Really great post, Penny. Completely understand where you are coming from. I’ve thought about joining one of these as well, but continue to just delete. I think there should be a trip (scam) advisor version for things like this. Thanks for speaking out.

    • Penny (author)

      I appreciate your comment and support Maureen.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Maureen Fitzgerald

    I’ve been blogging 10+ years and actually DO make a full time living at it (and not by selling courses) and even I had a similar experience with a guru. I knew I needed help in one specific area and signed on for a course that slowly evaporated into nothing. Luckily, I wasn’t even tempted when the guru offered a conference once I saw the lack of accountability with the class. But that’s just a long way of saying it happens to all of us I guess. I hope you continue blogging and don’t let one or two bad apples steal your joy. The community overall is really supportive and some of the best people I’ve met – even if it’s just virtually.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for sharing your experience Maureen. I hope it will ‘happen to all of us’ less and less in the future! 😉 I am overwhelmed by the support of this community.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Sugarbear

    Penny, unfortunately you are not alone. I have also purchased courses from this person.

    She consistently over promises and under delivers. I’ve involved for a while now and it’s the same repetitive behavior every year: excitement and a big sales push, lots of energy starting off the course, and then after 6 to 8 weeks the energy slows: the content comes two weeks apart instead of 1.

    Very quickly there’s vacuum. No communication, no new lessons, nothing. And then at some point months later, she comes back. And usually with a new product to sell or a relaunch of an older product. It’s false advertising, and it’s immoral.

    Most large companies do risk assessments and have business continuity plans for disasters. If a company relies solely on one human for the work, all the more reason to have a continuity plan, however difficult it may be to create such a plan. But a simple thing like pre-building the course content prior to sales so that it drips out in a timely fashion is a really fabulous way to deliver on one’s promises. Hosting an in-person event is more complicated, but one option would be to ask a local guru to take your place in case of emergency.

    Clearly Christina hasn’t thought of this, and doesn’t appear to care about actually delivering on her promises. It’s an important lesson for all would-be bloggers and online businesses.

    Thank you for publishing this article and sharing your experience. It’s important to share this message with the world!

    • Penny (author)

      What can I say, but thank you. Thank you for helping me speak truth to power.

      “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Kirsten

    Penny, I am so sorry you were scammed by Christina. She and I started blogging around the same time. And I once looked up to her + considered her a friend. But after signing up for a tour she was going to lead in Mexico and being scammed to the tune of $2,000 + that I’ve never seen returned — I’d never trust her again and I’m appalled when others do. But sadly, she’s a tough one to speak out against because so many people do fall for her good marketing. Kudos to you on having the courage to speak up!! Thank you for doing so. And I’m so sorry that this happened to you.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your comment Kirsten. I’m blown away by what you’ve shared and sorry you were treated so horrifically.

      Hopefully no others will have to go through anything like that in the future.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Jane

    I know so many people who have been ripped off by her, myself also. It’s not just course participants. She scams bloggers and creatives who go into affiliation with her. That is what happened to me. She gets people to make content, capitalizes off it and then burns the relationship. Takes the money from vulnerable and trusting people. She deserves exposure for what she is doing, along with the bulling and manipulation she uses to silence. It’s abusive on so many levels, and yet I see her online dressing down others on feminist stuff, telling off men for mansplaining and giving people condescending 101 lessons in feminism. Her army of followers like and agree. All the while she is privately manipulating or emotionally abusing vulnerable, hopeful women (and men) HERSELF, damaging their trust and stealing their money. It’s gross. It’s seriously creepy. . It’s sociopathic behaviour.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your comment Jane.

      “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” Mahatma Gandhi

      Thankfully we are no longer a minority! 😉

      Pura vida, Penny

  • John Mulindi

    This very helpful to new bloggers who can easily fall for scam.

    • Penny (author)

      I appreciate your response John!

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Nooraina

    That was really brave of you to call her out like this. I felt so sad that you missed your daughters homecoming because of this!!

    • Penny (author)

      I appreciate your kind response Nooraina.

      pura vida, Penny

  • FARAH

    So sorry this happened. You are really brave for sharing your story. This will def help others!

  • Jen | My Healthy Homemade Life

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have to admit, I have had fears myself about signing up for courses and not getting my money out of them but I never really thought about getting scammed in this way.

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for responding Jen. Don’t lose hope. There are some good people who offer quality content out there. We just need to take the time to do the research required to find them.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Mind The Travel

    That is a sad story indeed.
    However, there are blogging courses and the BLOGGING COURSES. With a great difference between these two. At the same time, bloggers are really a vulnerable group as they travel a lot and should always to keep their eyes open! Thank you for sharing your experience with us, I had no idea such scam in fact existed.

    • Penny (author)

      Unfortunately, people who would take advantage of others, can be found in every industry. Without the normal judgement filters we’d have in a face-to-face scenario, we are at a huge disadvantage when we make online purchasing decisions. Stay alert and try not to lose hope…I haven’t 😉

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Leah | A Relaxed Gal

    Wow. Sorry to hear this happened to you. I’ve been wary about paying for these courses and after reading this I’m not going to. I’ve taken several free courses and most of them don’t share anything new. Plus they end up being one big sales pitch. Really frustrating.

    • Penny (author)

      Frustrating is an understatement, but I applaud your restraint 😉 I will tell you, there are some talented people out there, offering quality products and coaching. I’ve met some since I shared this post.;) If you do decide you’d like some help in the future, take heart, due your due diligence, and you’ll have a much better chance of success.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • kasia

    Thank you for sharing this. I get quite a few of these “opportunities” sent to me. I must admit that some of them appear very real but I am so paranoid that I always pass. I’m sorry this happened to you.

    • Penny (author)

      If this post has alerted you to people who would take advantage of you, I’m very happy to hear that. Stay safe.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • Sim @ Simslife.co.uk

    Oh my gosh, that is one hell of a read and you totally have my sympathy on this one. Christina sounds like a horrible con woman and I am so glad you called her out. Preying on people who want to learn and get on in the blogging world and in turn pretty much taking their money and going silent. If it were a relationship, the term would be ‘ghosting’.
    There are so many vultures out there like Christina trying to get away with the exact same scam – apparently we have now moved on from emails from Nigerian princes it appears. How people can be so cruel is beyond me, however it seems you are blogging just fine my lovely xx Sim

    • Penny (author)

      Thank you for your kind comment. I’m confident that the truth will always rise to the surface, so hopefully others won’t have to go through what I, and it sounds like dozens of others, have had to.

      Pura vida, Penny

  • jan

    Thank you for writing your story. I know it takes A LOT of courage. I think Mrs. Gilbert’s cancelling of workshops and not providing all material that she promises is just the crack in the pavement.
    I think there are too many people too scared to raise their voices, to share their story, to come out and say it happened to them because she’s a master at manipulation, scare-tactics and intimidation.
    Enough is enough.
    I hope your words provide the courage for others to stand up to her and come together. How can others who’ve been coned and cheated unite? Report what happened? Report things together? Are their lawyers reading this?
    Please Please Please continue to share this blog post. More people need to see it.

    • Penny (author)

      In a word, YES! Thank you for speaking up and out. More people are talking and fewer people are still living in fear. Truth will always rise to the surface. Tick tock.

      Pura vida, Penny

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