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Is Thrive Apprentice + SendOwl REALLY the Right Online Course Setup for You?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate/referral links which means if you click one and subsequently make a purchase I get to pay my bills on time at no extra cost to you. Seriously though, I only mention products and services I use on a daily basis and feel could be a potential good fit for you as well.

If you are running an online business chances are you have entertained the thought of promoting an online course. It is a great way to diversify your revenue streams, grown your audience and pass on your knowledge to others.

There’s only one problem…

Too many options and too costly so you avoid it like a trip to the dentist.

Thrive Themes members (not a member yet? read my 2019 Thrive Themes review) were recently presented with a solution to get their online course put together and ready to sell quickly and economically utilizing Thrive Apprentice and SendOwl.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this integration and determine if it is indeed a viable option let’s take a step back.

Update: Feb. 2019

Some of the 'bugs' I mention later in the article have been addressed. I checked the support forum again on Thursday Feb. 14, 2019 and some users are still experiencing login issues after a purchase. You can see Thrive Themes' current fixes and updates via their changelog.

If you aren't a member, for a limited time you can get access to Thrive Apprentice along with a premium course on how to launch your own online from Shane at Thrive Themes.

Those of you that are currently Thrive Theme members or at the very least on their mailing list know that they regularly put out helpful content. More recently they published a series of blog posts around the content of online course creation.

This led many people to think they would soon be announcing the release of their own online course plugin or learning management system.

They already had Thrive Apprentice, which at the time was a ‘member’s only’ plugin, but just recently became available for public sale. In a nutshell, Apprentice makes it easy to setup and structure course pages properly between modules, lessons and chapters.

(You can learn how Shane Melaugh, Thrive Theme's co-founder, launched his own course with this exact setup by taking a look 'behind the scenes')

All that was left was a membership solution to properly protect the course content and a checkout cart function to handle payments.

Imagine our excitement when we received an email asking to sign up for a new webinar to announce their recommendation to build ‘your own info-product empire’!

Of course, the time of the webinar didn’t allow me to attend/watch live so I anxiously awaited the replay.

For the first time in years I actually sat through an hour plus webinar – well truthfully on 1.5x speed because my attention span can’t handle regular speed - mainly because this wasn’t your typical ‘I’m going to pretend to teach you something for 30 minutes then convince you to buy my voodoo doll for the next 30 minutes’ webinar.

It was to show us why after years of anguish Thrive had figured out the magic formula of online course creation within WordPress. The only suspense was ‘what are they going to name this new plugin?’.

Drum roll please…

Thrive Apprentice PLUS SendOwl is ALL you need to create an info-product and sell it to the masses!

Is it though? Really? You sure about that?

In true Thrive Themes - Shane Melaugh - fashion this integration is more about his ‘rapid implementation’ concept than it is about this being a very good solution.

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot of holes in the boat but if you keep plugging them fast enough you can indeed put together an online course, protect who has access to it and received your hard earned payment for your knowledge.

An important aspect to consider is that you own your platform. You have probably noticed that neither Thrive, nor I, have suggested that you just use a platform like Teachable or Thinkific.

YOUR course is being housed on YOUR site and YOU control the products that put it together. If one solution isn’t fitting your needs then pick another.

I understand that the bulk of Thrive Themes members are European - I am in the US but could potentially have EU clients/customers/students which makes this something to consider for all of us - so a big part of Shane’s pitch for utilizing SendOwl is the fact they make EU VAT tax reporting easier.

I am not going to begin to get into EU VAT tax, one because I am not a tax professional and two because I don’t understand it even a bit other than the fact that Shane insists we need to take this into consideration to run legal business.

I can’t argue with that!

The other things that SendOwl provides this integration is the payment platform, the option to add an affiliate program for your course, and protection of who has access to your course content - although not on the level a dedicated membership plugin would provide.

These are all important factors and again why the Thrive Apprentice plus SendOwl ‘stack’ enables you to get your info-product published with no excuses.

It’s only when you start thinking of all the features you would like to include in your course that you take a step back and analyze the bigger picture.

  • Do you want to offer payment plans for your students?
  • Do you want to track your student’s progress through their course journey?
  • Do you want to provide gamification - apparently people these days needs to be tricked into learning?
  • Do you need a forum for interaction and/or question and answers?
  • Do you want a subscription feature to setup your content as a monthly membership instead of a one-off payment system?
  • Do you want to drip-feed your content instead of students having access to it all at once?

Ok, I’ll stop there…

Again, I will stress the fact that I know Shane’s message is about getting your product out there instead of fretting over ALL the possibilities.

It is a daunting task for sure.

I have ‘almost’ put out no less than three courses now to only be turned off mainly by the costs associated with all the ‘features’ I feel are important.

You will be looking at…

  • Around $200+ per year for a membership plugin
  • At least $100 per year for an affiliate management platform
  • Around $160 per year for a well integrated learning management system plugin
  • All of that, along with your Thrive Themes membership, website hosting, ssl certificate and video hosting puts you close to $200 or more per year over what we will take a look at now.
  • US Dollar Square
    Quaderno to handle the recording of EU/VAT tax (you are still responsible for the filing) at the low end will cost $49 per month ($588 per year)
  • US Dollar Square
    The total will be around $1500 or more per year plus getting all the products configured and working together properly

He does kind of low-ball the associated costs in the webinar - which is available in Thrive University for members.

Sure SendOwl has a $9 per month plan but realistically you will want at least the Standard $15 per month option that includes the affiliate program and most likely the Premium $24 per month plan that adds in SendOwl’s cart abandonment feature - trust me, you want to do everything you can capture those people that almost purchased but for whatever reason didn’t.

Then there is the topic of hosting your course videos.

It’s 2019 so if you are doing your whole course with just text then you are doing it wrong.

Honestly I don’t understand SendOwl’s ‘video streaming’ feature within the Premium plan so I am discounting that as an option.

Sure, you could just use YouTube, make your video unlisted and embed it on your lesson page. But keep in mind that anyone could just share that video link and all of a sudden your hard work is available for FREE!

My suggestion is Vimeo Pro. I have used Vimeo Pro for 3+ years now and prefer it over the Plus plan for a few reasons…

You get more upload room per week - 20GB/week for Pro vs. 5GB/week for Plus. High quality videos are large files so keep that in mind. When I have put on or helped put on virtual summits in the past I have had to actually space out my uploads because I was reaching the 20GB/week limit.

You can customize the colors and add your own logo to the video player more via the Pro plan - probably not a deal breaker for most though.

The bigger benefits comes in the analytics that Vimeo provides.

In the Pro plan you get engagement and duration graphs. This is very helpful so you can see where your students are dropping off in any of your videos. With that information you can further fine tune your content to maximize their engagement throughout and make for a more enjoyable learning experience.

The most important feature in my mind is included with both Plus and Pro though and that is ‘domain-level privacy’.

You are able to define which domains/urls are allowed to play your videos. Even if someone gets your video link when they try to embed/play it through another site it will not work.

Even at the Plus plan pricing, $84 per year (current pricing as of Dec. 2018) that is a small price to protect your content!

Alright, so now let’s look at our running tally for our info-product empire…

(all prices are as of Feb. 2019)

  • Thrive Themes membership which includes access to Thrive Apprentice - $228 per year
  • SendOwl Premium because we want affiliates to help promote our course AND ‘just say NO’ to cart abandonments - $24 per month ($288 per year)
  • Vimeo Plus at a minimum - $84 per year
  • Your website hosting (low cost estimate) - $10 per month ($120 per year)
  • US Dollar Square
    Your course domain - $10 per year (you should also purchase a ssl certificate but not 100% necessary since SendOwl’s payment checkout is secure for you)
  • US Dollar Square
    For a grand total of $730 for year one or roughly $61 per month your new info-product empire is being built.

There are not many business you can start for less than a thousand dollars.

Plus, if your knowledge is worth its weight in gold then you should be able to make that amount back with just a handful of students at the least.

Now that we have some of the justification for this ‘rapid implementation’ solution out of the way let’s gander into the realm of why this setup might not be good for you.

I purposely waited a couple of weeks after this announcement to put this post together.

Having been a Thrive Themes member for almost four years now I have been through a lot of up and downs with their products and announcements. Don’t get me started on the debacle that was the switch from Thrive Content Builder to Thrive Architect for current members.

The moral of that story is that I have learned to not implement any new offering of theirs or even update any of their plugins until at least several days have gone by but more likely a week or so.

Although I do agree with their ‘Rapid Implementation’ mentality for entrepreneurs, I wish they would take a more reserved approach with their product releases and recommendations. People’s businesses and livelihoods are at stake and things like this have a negative effect on your bottom line.

It never fails there are always bugs or issues that seem like they should have been taken into consideration before a new release.

This leads to a lot of angry support threads or new customers left scratching their heads thinking they FINALLY found the perfect solution to only realize they got a Ford Fiesta disguised as a Ford Mustang - sorry Fiesta owners.

I have scoured hundred of support threads for Thrive Apprentice and read through hundreds of blog post comments (mainly on this recent article of Thrive's) to gauge people’s reactions for this piece.

Overall everyone is happy and positive so I am not trying to be a Debbie Downer here.

But there have also been customers that have ditched other platforms thinking the Thrive Apprentice plus SendOwl solution was the end all be all setup for WordPress online course creation.

One new Thrive Themes member stated... 

I came here from ClickFunnels thinking I was going to save money, which I did, but now I can’t offer a monthly subscription plan to better serve my clients.

In the long run I think this person did the right thing. I used to be a ClickFunnels user but managed to break free from that cult and I’m glad this individual did as well. But his point highlights an important factor to consider…

This isn’t a membership or subscription service solution and I think a lot of people thought that it would be.

Did I mention I don’t like bugs? I literally have a bottle of Ortho Home Defense bug spray within arm’s reach at all time!

Right off the bat many users have been faced with an issue of people that have paid not gaining the proper access to the course content they purchased.

That is a BIG bug!

You only get one chance at a first impression and if your first impression is ‘thank you for your money but you can’t have what you paid for…’ then you will not be in business long.

Here is just one instance of this…

"Also, even though it’s set to automatically log in after purchase, when I do test purchases it doesn’t log in and just sticks you into the cycle we’re talking about here. Basically this means that there is no way for people to log in to my course at all right now. A bit hard to sell a course like this at all at the moment.

I was so excited when you announced this integration as it was literally just in time for my launch and I quickly switched everything to apprentice. But as I am ready to go live now and have no way to actually get people into my course this is posing quite an issue."

There you have it…

Some food for thought when it comes to putting together you online course.

Shane’s solution of Thrive Apprentice plus SendOwl is by no means perfect. Honestly there is no ‘perfect’ solution available.

It’s all about what you need at this moment to get your course out there instead of over thinking it. You might have even noticed I didn’t even touch on email marketing and integrating that channel into your course.

That would have opened a whole other can of worms that is better served for another day.

So if you are a current Thrive Themes member I say go for it and test it out yourself. The fact that SendOwl has a trial period means you really have nothing to lose.

The membership is more than worth it even if you don’t plan on putting out an online course in the near future since you get access to ALL of their plugins and future plugins - a new theme builder is in the works as well.

What are you waiting for?

Start building that damn info-product empire today and while you are at you might as well learn how-to straight from the Thrive Themes co-founder!

Fellow Thrive Themes members, have you tried this new integration yet? Let me know your thoughts…

Did you purchase a Thrive Themes membership JUST for this reason? If so, congratulations for moving forward and let me know what obstacles you have faced so far!

About the Author Andrew

Hi, I'm Andrew, your Flight Director at Launch Your Damn Website and I appreciate you stopping by! Just like you, I have no formal IT or technical background but 6 years ago I discovered WordPress and have not looked back. Before that I was an endurance sports coach for over a decade and planned adaptive cycling events/programs around the world. So if I can tackle this then I have plenty of confidence you can too. I look forward to having you on board for what will no doubt be an amazing journey!

  • Leo Ravera says:

    I am in the exact situation you described in your article: I subscribed for thrive membership, joined sendowl, moved all my courses in Thrive Apprentice (it took about 30 hours of work) and now the integration is not working… people get the loop you’re talking about.

    I tested everything on a staging website and my old website is still working, otherwise it would have been a desaster for my business.

    I wonder if they released the integration before it’s actually read. Remind me of Gutenberg…

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Leo,

      Thanks for sharing your recent experience with the Thrive Apprentice SendOwl integration. I’m sorry to hear it’s caused you some frustration. I was checking out the support forum again recently and noticed some threads of yours so I hope everything is being fixed properly.

      I think Shane’s (Thrive’s) intentions were good putting this option out there but I think it should have been stressed that this is a bare bones – just get your course out there – type of solution. Even though it will work for a good portion of people I believe folks thought there might be more features that are useful in delivering an online course or membership site than what are actually available through this setup. Not to mention the huge bug that you and others experienced that inhibited people from accessing content they may have paid for.

      That’s why I usually caution people to sit back a week or two after these type of announcements are made to let the dust settle on the initial excitement to make sure all the kinks are worked out and the features/benefits fit what the individual or business needs.

      Best of luck with your courses and feel free to reach out if there’s anything I may be able to help with!

      • Leo Ravera says:

        Hi Andrew, thanks for your answer. TA+SendOwl won’t work for membership sites, I mean if you want to charge a monthly subscription. Seems pretty good for just selling courses, that’s what I do so I really hope they will manage to fix it in the next few weeks. Time will say! Thanks again and good luck to you, too. I will keep an eye on your nice website

  • Catherine Pope says:

    Thanks so much for this post, Andrew – it was incredibly helpful. I’m currently deciding between Teachable and TA. You’ve made the decision much easier!

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