By Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director
For years, Brett Stevens and James Talbot have talked about real estate investing. Stevens, the White Coat Investor’s Chief Operating Officer, ran a construction company, and Talbot—WCI’s Chief Technology Officer—has long been interested in the asset class that has become even more popular as a hedge against recent stock market volatility.
They’ve been friends for more than a decade, long before they started working at WCI, and the ins and outs of real estate—what to invest in, what properties were a possibility, how it affects their tax returns—have been a constant source of conversation between Stevens and Talbot.
In many ways, those conversations were the catalyst for The White Coat Investor’s newest (and perhaps greatest) product, the just-released No Hype Real Estate Investing course. This week, Dr. Jim Dahle laid out everything you’ll get in the course, the most comprehensive real estate 101 session that’s ever been produced, which includes more than 200 lectures and 25 hours of teaching by more than a dozen instructors.
Today, we’ll show you how we created the No Hype Real Investing course out of thin air and how a decade-long discussion between two behind-the-scenes guys could lead WCI readers on the path to financial freedom—without all the hype.
Here’s how it happened, told in the words of those who were involved.
The Idea for a Real Estate Course
James Talbot, WCI CTO: Brett and I have been friends for a long time, and we’ve been talking about real estate investing for 10 or 15 years. Brett and I had done rental properties before. Jim had done rental properties, but he didn’t like being a landlord, so he started investing in other parts of real estate. Jim had done all of it, and Brett had done a lot of it.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: It really began even before I was employed here 2 ½ years ago. There were always questions from readers for Jim about where he was investing in real estate and how he was doing that.
Jim Dahle, WCI founder: We get LOTS of questions on real estate. Everything from how do I get started doing this to how do I vet these private deals. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a handful of emails about real estate investing. There are other real estate courses out there. But they typically only cover one niche of real estate, like doing short-term rentals or doing fix-and-flips or evaluating syndications. We wanted one that was both introductory but also comprehensive. We wanted to cover it all but then provide resources to learn more about whatever your favorite niche turned out to be. We wanted our course to be the first stop for all real estate investors at a price point that is a huge value for our audience, available in an evergreen manner.
Katie Dahle, WCI Chief Product Officer and the course's project manager: There was a need for this course. Readers had been asking for it.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: Before I took this job, they started with the real estate opportunities group, which was just an email list of people interested in knowing about opportunities with real estate. As I began working on that group, I realized there was a lot of interest there. The further we’ve gotten on that, we understood the need for education—to give more insight and to let those people understand how to invest in real estate. So, in February 2021, Jim and I decided to start a monthly real estate newsletter
James Talbot, WCI CTO: It just seems like something a lot of people want to get into. The people who really get rich in our country, they often do it through real estate.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: But people just want to shortcut the process of vetting deals, partly because it takes time and effort and work and partly because they don’t know how to do it. Part of the reason we wanted to do this course was to teach them how to do it. It’s not a get-rich-quick, no-effort-required kind of thing. We wanted to get all that hype out of there.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: About a year and a half ago, we were doing some brainstorming about our courses, talking about some changes to make to the Fire Your Financial Advisor course. That was where the discussion came with James and me. We had seen in the market that there were lots of courses. But we knew we needed to provide something so that readers can get the best information from the right source. It was in another meeting with Jim, Katie [Dahle], and Cindy [Remke, WCI’s Director of Sales] where it was just a decision: “Hey, let’s do a real estate course.” That was something worth making an investment of time into. It was a one-meeting decision. Then, the ball started rolling.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: This does require work. It takes risk. But we know real estate investing actually works.
James Talbot, WCI CTO: It’s like Ray Kroc, the guy who made McDonald’s so big, said. He was telling somebody, “You have to remember what our business is.” That person said, “Oh, it’s hamburgers.” Kroc said, “No, no. It’s not hamburgers. It’s real estate.”
How to Create a Real Estate Course
James Talbot, WCI CTO: We had talked about it so many times. We talked about it at meetings, but there were already so many other things going on that were priorities at WCI above that. At some point, Jim wanted to do it. Once that happened, then, it started to become a reality. All the tumblers in the lock fell into place, and it started to roll.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: We started a breakdown of subjects that needed to be covered in a real estate course. That was a shared Google document between a few of us with content being added by Jim.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and the course’s project manager: There are so many moving parts. This is a course we’ve talked about doing for almost two years. We really started working on it a year ago. It was figuring out the process of it. That took a little bit of time.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: Some of the areas in real estate, I know more about than others. I’ve done some direct real estate investing but not a lot. I’ve read a lot about it; I’ve talked to a lot of real estate investors. On the passive side, I’ve looked at dozens and dozens of deals and watched a bunch of them go full circle. All the stuff I’ve talked about there is from personal experience. I’ve lived it. I’ve lost money. I’ve made money. I’ve encountered fraudulent operators and done better than I thought and done worse than I thought. I’m somebody who has gone in and invested and really knows how they work and what you really get out of it a syndication or a fund. That’s a real strength of the course.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: My role was to be the project manager. I oversee the flow of the project, communicating with the guest lecturers, which we haven’t had before in one of our courses. I’m managing the content, coordinating with Wendel [Topper, the WCI Audio-Video Guru], creating the course on the platform. I’ve done the initial production side of things including doing the video and audio recording and then passed the raw files off to Wendel to work his magic.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: At first, I was totally in charge of everything, including the content. Jim was just like, “The course is your baby so you get to control it. You can do the scripts and I’ll read them for the video.” But I wasn’t capable of doing that, of writing all those scripts. I eventually told him, “No, you have to create that content. You have to write the scripts.” After that, it went better.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: The primary role for content was Jim’s. He took it by the horns.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: Come about January 2022, it was finally like, “You know what, you have to do all the content.” I said, “All right, I guess I’ll get going on that.”
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: That must have been a daunting moment for Jim, realizing he had to write thousands and thousands and thousands of words. Not to mention all the research he was going to have to do.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: He began creating scripts of information and content layouts. Some of those would get run by me and others to review and add the things we wanted. The areas where he didn’t have an immense knowledge of the subject, he would read books and research and do what he needed to do to become an expert in those areas.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: I reread about four books and read four books that were totally new to me. I did a fair amount of book research and tons of internet research.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Jim did all the script writing. When he was done with that, I would sit with him and video him, and we’d send it on to Wendel to edit. He’d upload stuff to Teachable [the online platform where the course is hosted and where viewers can watch it]. Then, we’d have to coordinate with the graphics.
Wendel Topper, WCI Audio-Video Guru: I did A/V production and editing. Basically, I took all of the raw audio and video from Jim and all of the other presenters and turned it into the final product that viewers will see and hear. I cleaned up the audio, edited the videos, added the intro and outro bumpers, added the music, added the overlay graphics throughout the video (and made sure they appear/disappear at the right time), created the thumbnails for each video, and uploaded the final videos to Teachable.
Katie Farley, WCI Designer: My work on the course didn’t start until the end of June when I came up with the title slide graphics. I worked all day on putting designs together and then took off for vacation that night for the 4th of July. I came up with three designs. Once Katie Dahle chose a look, I pushed that into the different slide layouts and charts that they needed. From there, Wendel ran with that for the whole course. Here’s what that final graphic looks like.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: We have over 200 lectures. Every one of those has to go through a process to make it happen. It was a LOT of work.
Creating a Course While Also Doing the Rest of Your Job and Living Your Life
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Coordinating this while also working on WCICON23 (which will occur March 1-4, 2023 in Phoenix) is also tricky.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: This is not our first course. We knew it was going to be a challenge. The problem with this is that our lives—Katie and me—are so intertwined with the WCI, so bringing on a project like this requires sacrifices somewhere in our lives.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: It’s an ebb and flow. Some days it’s just putting out what the next fire is. It’s planning ahead. With the conference coming, we have a really good schedule for when stuff needs to happen. Having Chrislyn [Woolston, WCI’s Conference Director] takes off a lot of the pressure. But I’m overseeing the content of the conference with all the speakers and whatnot, and she’s doing a lot of the mechanics. But sometimes, the course had to wait, because we had WCICON stuff to do.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: Twenty-five plus hours worth of materials is the equivalent of a lot of blog posts. If you want me to come up with 40 blog posts on real estate in the next two weeks, I can do them for you. I already have them written.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Here’s how we do it. I look ahead at the calendar. When does Jim have an opening? When do I have an opening? I’d have to put it on a calendar and block three-hour chunks so we can record him on video. There are 17 modules of material. We’d try to get through a module or two at a time. But we’d have to take breaks. Sometimes, we didn’t go three hours. Sometimes, we did.
Wendel Topper, WCI Audio-Video Guru: I always work with several other people in WCI to coordinate the workload. Jim and Katie will let me know when to start expecting the raw recordings. For this course, they started recording (as I remember) in June. Cindy, Jim, and Disha [Spath, WCI’s Ambassardor] will work with me to record several podcast episodes early, so I can complete them before working on the course. We publish a new video on YouTube every weekday. Mondays are Milestones to Millionaire podcast episodes, and Thursdays are WCI episodes. But the other days have videos as well. In total, I think I ended up spending about 120 hours on the course over the last 5-6 weeks.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Mostly, we recorded videos during the day when the kids were at school and it was quiet with no distractions. But we actually had to do a lot of it during the summer when the kids were at home. In previous years with the FYFA course, we’ve had to record later at night. Jim was working more shifts then than he is now. And we had young kids. You couldn’t leave a 1-year-old running around when trying to record.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: It’s a family effort. The kids see us less. We’re trying to keep everything balanced, going to their activities and meeting their needs. For the FYFA course, it ate up two months of our lives. This time, it was more than that. We steal the time from everything else in our lives. Look at the blog posts: I wasn’t writing eight a month like I should have been so we've been dipping into our reserve. We were probably six months ahead on blog posts when we started this. Now we're probably only a month ahead.
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: At the beginning of the third quarter of this year, I told Jim that I needed him to write a few more blog posts than he did in the second quarter. I felt like we were getting a little bit low on our backlog of new Jim blog posts. He actually did write a pretty good amount of blogs in the early part of Q3. Now, I feel kind of bad. I wasn’t thinking about how much time he was going to need for the real estate course.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: I had to determine some of the other players that were going to be in the course. Katie and Jim were involved in that. There are other professionals in the industry, and we wanted to share their insights.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: We brought in some of our advertisers who run funds and had them answer questions and even walk people through deals. I found those to be really eye-opening.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: Somebody who is focused on syndications, they could give us case studies and give us real information on syndications.
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: Having a bunch of other people’s voices who can supplement all this info from Jim gives the course a really nice change of pace.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: We thought we would have had all of this course stuff done by late July. But I had to have surgery on my ankle this summer, and I was on bed rest. It’s hard to work when you’re laying on your back. That slowed things down a little bit when you’re getting prepped.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: The course is always in the back of our minds. You’ve always got something to do. That part kind of consumes me. But I still went to the hospital for my shifts. I still saw patients. I still went on vacation. But our WCI working time, this course consumed it for months. I still had to record podcasts, and I still had to write a blog post every once in a while.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Originally, we talked about releasing the course on September 1. But after working with the content team, we realized it was better for the blog post that we’d announce it after Labor Day.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: In the beginning, when there’s this huge thing hanging over your head, it causes conflict and disagreement. When we made progress toward the end, it drew us closer together. Out of all of that comes a better relationship.
Setting the Right Price and Then Selling It to the Masses
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: The Fire Your Financial Advisor course has been one of our very successful educational tools that’s also provided a nice revenue stream. We see the real estate course doing the same. When we’re talking about courses, we talk about how we can better meet the WCI mission. But we also talk about, financially, what would make the most sense. WCI is a for-profit company that wants to provide products that are financially successful. It's my job to make sure it stays profitable so we can make payroll. No margin, no mission.
James Talbot, WCI CTO: I already enrolled in other real estate courses, back like three or four years ago, before I started working at WCI. These real estate courses, they weren’t that expensive but the people who were running them were making a ton of money. If you remember the no-money-down real estate craze way back when, people were making tons of money. They were making way more teaching people about real estate than they were actually doing real estate. I was thinking, “We already have this course on how to write a financial plan. It’s not always super exciting, but people need it.” But really, people want to know how to make money in real estate.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: Part of it is looking at what other things are going for. Price-wise, this is one of our premium products, but it’s also, by far, our longest course on any one topic. It was pretty easy to make a decision on price. It was a short conversation. We’ve been in this space long enough to know where people are at. You can charge more, but that means it sells less. But you also want it to be worth your while to make the course. It’s trying to find something that’s a fair price much lower than the value you are providing. You want to give readers the info they need.
Wendel Topper, WCI Audio-Video Guru: The course turned out to be way bigger than I imagined it would be. And there's no fluff.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: This is an accumulation of all the information and understanding of real estate that I’ve acquired over the last 15 years. It compiles the information out there into one place and puts it into an easy-to-understand framework. This will shorten people’s learning curves dramatically. Students aren't paying just for the information, but for having the information organized into one easy-to-understand, well-taught package.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: There are some people out there who only come to WCI for the free blog posts and podcasts. Some are happy with just going to the library and checking out a book and reading the blog. Other people find the blog and podcast overwhelming and want it all condensed. They like to be walked through stuff. The idea is we have a wide range of products to meet people in whatever their learning style is. To each their own. The content in this course isn’t anything new. It’s compiling information from all over the place into one source. Instead of having to read 20 different books, it’s all been combined into one place.
Brett Stevens, WCI COO: The marketing plan for this course was a collaboration between Katie and myself. With white coat investors spread in so many groups—the segments of the WCI audience are all over the place—it was a matter of determining how to make sure the people in all of those groups know about this new resource. That’s done by hitting all the different channels in a manner that gets the word out, but also doesn't feel like we're over monetizing our community. It can be a tricky balance.
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: You’ve got the blog, you’ve got the podcast, you’ve got all of our social media accounts, you’ve got YouTube, you’ve got the monthly newsletter, you’ve got other partners in the physician financial space who can promote the course as well. All of these places are where we want to let people know about the course.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: It’s definitely a group effort across WCI.
Lauren O’Brien, WCI Director of Digital Marketing: Across our social media channels, we want to provide free education. Our goal is to educate, inspire, and help WCIers engage with and learn from each other. Sometimes, there's an invitation to dive deeper with a product or service. Or we want to introduce you to a company that could fit your needs and goals. But hopefully, readers who follow us on our social media channels have already walked away with some sort of value, even if they're not interested in spending money.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: With a course like this, there are a lot of moving pieces. Everybody has something involved. It’s working with sponsors, getting involved with legal for content rights, managing graphics. Our social media team has started promotions. There’s lots going on.
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: I wrote a bunch of editor’s notes that we could start placing on the blog in August and September. We coordinated the content calendar for Quarter 3 back in mid-June, and we wanted to have at least one real estate blog post per week in the leadup to the course and for after its launch. So yeah, readers are going to see a lot of real estate content this month and for the next few months. We want people to be excited about real estate, and we want them to be excited about the course. Between the podcast promotions and the marketing and even the blog posts and what’s in those blog posts, it all has to be very symbiotic. Since I was in journalism for so long, where I was taught to be objective and where there was a clear line between the content side and the advertising side, all of this is still somewhat new to me. It’s a new hybrid situation for me. But then I had an idea to write this very column you’re reading, so I could promote the product without seemingly promoting the product too much. But now that I've told you that, I guess that subtlety has been lost.
The Final Sprint to the End
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: The tension for the last month, as Katie and Jim and Wendel have been sprinting to get this thing finished in time for September 6, has been palpable. Katie and Jim have a vacation scheduled for September 2. I hope they get everything done. Because if it’s not done in time, I guess they’re not going on their vacation. People have been burning the candle at both ends.
Wendel Topper, WCI Audio-Video Guru: Burning the candle at both ends sounds about right.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: I have never seen Katie work so hard in my life. Since finishing my part with the scripts and recording, I've been doing all the household chores and running kids around the last few weeks while she has been holed up at WCI headquarters, working on this thing.
Katie Dahle, WCI CPO and project manager: I’ve been getting up at 6:40am and helping get the kids out the door for school. Then, I’m sitting at my desk working until 1am the last couple of weeks.
Jim Dahle, WCI Founder: It’s a massive relief this is just about done. This will be Katie’s third day in a row of putting in 16 hours. Tomorrow, it’ll probably look the same. We were trying to leave for vacation on a Friday, and if we didn’t make it, I guess we would have been here Friday and Saturday still working on this.
Josh Katzowitz, WCI Content Director: Luckily, they made it on vacation. You know, they started planning this course so long ago, and it barely gets done in time. And even then, it’s not really done. It just never ends, you know?
[Editor's Note: For comments, complaints, suggestions, or plaudits, email Josh Katzowitz at [email protected]]