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Monetize Your Creative Hobby by Setting Up Online Classes

Monetize Your Creative Hobby by Setting Up Online Classes

Want to reach potential students, build lesson plans, and promote your courses? Here’s how to set up your own online creative classes.

As a creative, one of the greatest joys is teaching others your craft. It’s not only fulfilling to share your knowledge with aspiring creatives, but it can also be a potentially lucrative way to sustain your practice while connecting with people from all across the globe.

Now that remote work is the new normal and more internet users are accustomed to video conferencing, there’s an opportunity for you to market and teach classes from the comfort of your home.

But, how do you get started? What’s the best way to advertise your classes? And, how do you make it as seamless as possible for both yourself and your students? 

Here’s everything you need to know about starting your online class.

Develop an Audience

Natasha Feldman, a private chef, cooking show host, and food stylist, was at a crossroads when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

Describing herself as “restless” at home because she could no longer work in-person, she turned to social media for a solution and started teaching online cooking workshops using Zoom.

Though she says her classes started off as “bare bones,” she now has a three camera setup with lighting and teaches classes for Fortune 100 companies. 

While Feldman has found success with her online classes, she also had a base of Instagram followers to build off.

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Start by developing an audience through social media platforms. For instance, you can post tutorials on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok that succinctly explain your expertise and can lead you to accruing a wider audience.

A clever way to develop a customer base for your classes is by posting videos and how-to guides covering the basics of your respective discipline.

These videos can be sample lessons and demonstrate what’s in store. This strategy can help establish you as an expert in your field and assist with your SEO goals.

Invest in Lighting and Sound

Feldman stresses that a key to having a successful online class is to ensure that the lighting and setup looks pristine and professional. She recommends purchasing a ring light and to “curate your space so it looks neat and tidy.”

For ring lights, pay careful attention to whether the product is intended for Zoom (or other online classes), filming on a digital camera, or recording on a smartphone. You’ll want the one that fits your specific needs.

There are a myriad of cameras that are fantastic for DIY productions. For example, you should look into cameras that have in-body stabilization features so you can undo any shaking and seamlessly connect to Bluetooth and Wi-fi.

If you’re filming from your smartphone, you should take your production to the next level and get a tripod, microphone, and mini-light.

Online, you can find “creator kits” that can keep your production budget-friendly. 

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In addition, you need to invest in making your sound top-notch. To minimize outside distractions (traffic, family members in the other room, mowing of the lawn), purchase noise-canceling headphones to record your classes.

In the event of noise pollution, you can add royalty-free music to your video.

Set Up a Website and a Social Media Presence

You also need to know how you market and promote your courses.

If you’re inexperienced with social media and web design, or are simply looking to make the whole process more seamless, you can check out Shutterstock’s Creative Flow platform. It allows you to build off free templates for social media posts and web pages, and draw from Shutterstock’s vast library of music, image, and video assets.

Additionally, using predictive data-driven insights, you can make content that will most likely resonate with your target audience.

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Think About the Lesson Plan

When planning out your online classes, it’s best to start simple. Though you can surely build up to offering more advanced courses about your craft, you should first tap into the general need for basic, straight-forward instructional videos.

For instance, Christine Lindebak, founder of Sewing and the City, recalls how she began with introductory courses. 

“It just made sense to start with teaching beginners so that my students could grow with me,” she says. “So, not only does this class teach basics—like how to use a sewing machine and how to pick out your fabric—but we make a sweatshirt, too.” 

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You also need to consider what prior knowledge your students are coming to the course with. Claire Lobenfeld, a music critic, teaches a live four-week seminar or six-week workshop about writing about popular music.

She says that she doesn’t require any specific expertise to join, citing how there’s no requirement for knowledge of music theory or musicianship. Additionally, she came up with her course by identifying a niche in the online writing class market.

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“I came up with the idea because I had taken an online creative writing class the year before and came to understand that while there are plenty of classes on how to write a short story, personal essay, or even pop culture, there wasn’t anything that focused explicitly on popular music,” she recalls.

Your basics course doesn’t just have to be about developing a specific creative skill. You can also build off your niche by teaching how to monetize your craft.

Jessica Whitaker, a portrait photographer who runs an online photography community called Build and Bloom, teaches an eight-step class on starting a photography business that covers starting an LLC, contracts, and legal services.

“I came up with the idea after seeing so many posts in my Build and Bloom Facebook group requesting help on these topics, and seeing the comments of others feeling equally overwhelmed,” she says. “No one had taught a class that broke down these topics in a super simple, action-oriented way.”

According to Whitaker, “The best way to advertise is to have an email opt-in as a freebie that leads into a sales email sequence.”

She advertises on Facebook and Instagram, and uses an email opt-in as a call-to-action to sign up for her courses.

To accrue clients, she offers a free PDF of information that’s covered in her course as a sneak peek and then advertises her lessons via email. 

Ultimately, you’ll rely on word-of-mouth to spread awareness of your course. After students are done with the course, you may ask them to leave reviews or testimonials. 

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Manage Enrollment

There are various platforms to manage enrollment. While you can use Google Forms to manage enrollment, that may get a bit overwhelming and hard to keep track of, especially if you end up scaling up.

Lobenfeld says she started off the “DIY” way with Google Forms, but quickly switched to Podia, a platform that helps you build workshop websites and walks you through each step of the process—gathering an email list, uploading and designing your courses, etc.

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Feldman suggests that when setting pricing for your courses, “account for the time it takes you to coordinate the class, set up for the class, and break down from the class.”

In order for your practice to be sustainable and potentially profitable, you have to research and measure how much time you’re putting into making these courses.

Quality Is Key

We’re all still getting adjusted to teaching and learning online. You could expect that some students will be more generous than others and forgive some mistakes.

However, you should still prioritize quality and try your best to make your classes aesthetically pleasing and easily digestible.

Instead of improvising your course, you should follow a script that addresses specific takeaways from the class. You may need to rehearse your videos a few times so it comes off as natural and not stiff. 

Starting an online class is a good way to monetize your craft and develop a broad, enthusiastic audience.

With Shutterstock’s Creative Flow, you can find templates, creative assets, data insights, and other helpful resources to help you monetize your creative hobby by developing online classes. 

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