1. Maintain a Network
Last year I did something daring. For the first time in my life, I quit my job and decided to start my own company. If you talk to anyone who has done it before, you’ll know that there’s a familiar story of freedom and sheer terror. It helps to have a network and I knew that I’d have clients who needed help learning how to use their technology. Referrals are a main engine of growth within my company. The majority of my business comes from a direct referral from someone I know, usually through clients that I have worked with in the past. Good service goes viral. One good session with a client can spread to their contacts and eventually to third-level contacts. It’s important to maintain an email list and email updates of what you’re teaching. Let previous clients know about your upcoming classes. Students who’ve taken you classes can turn into clients down the road if you keep them up to date with your current events.
2. Organize Events
When I left my job, I knew that I wanted to make group training a big part of my business. Without really knowing how to go about teaching, I started to organize Meetups to look for potential clients and test out the content of my class. I hung out at a coworking space that had events and was able to meet organizers of meetups that way. That lead to speaking gigs at other meetups and the ability to organize larger group meetings through existing meetups. This sort of IRL long-tail is crucial to getting your name out there. Everyone you meet isn’t always a client but they can become part of your network and generate referrals. Remaining active in groups whether social or explicitly networking-focused gets your name out there and broadens your prospects not only for individual clients but also for prospective students.
I spent my the first month of my freelance career writing a 100+ page manuscript called Website Bootcamp for Creative Professionals. I’m not exactly a stranger to writing. I’ve maintained a WordPress blog since 2005 and have been equally fascinated by the technology to run a blog as well as what you can do with it. This was the first time, however, I sat down to write a book and for the most part I was learning while doing. Through my network of connections I pitched and got a guest spot in Mashable, writing on how Skillshare forms the backbone of my consulting business. Whether writing regular newsletters to keep people up to date or posting blog articles on subjects related to your classes, writing should be an important corner-stone to any teaching career. By writing your not only telling prospective students you know what you’re talking about but also ensure that you remain relevant and up-to-date in discussions on the topic. As an instructor I’m always trying to make sure I have the most relevant info for my students. Writing forces me to research and fine-tune a topic that I’ll be teaching about.
4. Teach a Class on Skillshare
While Meetups are great for getting people to come out for a discussion and Q&A, Skillshare for the first time was a place where I could offer up a real class and people, by virtue of being on the site, could come and find my class surreptitiously. I still host up Meetups as a way to get together prospective students for a presentation on subjects related to the class or just to meet socially. Through Skillshare, however, I’ve been able to expand my single topic class into a broad range of topics focusing on specific areas of interest — for a more learning-centric experience. For instance, rather than just one 3 hour class on everything that goes into building a website, students might take a 90 minute class just on WordPress. I’m excited as well to expand upon the content with courses, multiple session classes. The class feeds the clients, the clients and events feed the classes and they both feed the writing. If all goes as planned it’s a virtuous circle that’s generating income at the same time you’re increasing creative output. Even if the class only breaks even, you’re able to build reputation and a network through putting yourself out there.
5. Chase the Long Tail
While my classes, clients and mailing list have all grown, I’ve been unsure what to do with the growing written manuscript of material — until now not publicly available. Recently I approached my friend Kim Gee, who runs a successful Brooklyn-based, e-comic business and asked her what it would cost to convert this into a comic. I was blown away at how excited she was by the project. Like a lot of the students I’ve met over the past year teaching my web concepts class Website Bootcamp for Creative Professionals, Kim also needed to learn how to build a website.
It seemed like now was the time to release my written content to the world and to do it in a fresh and entertaining way. So we’ve launced a Kickstarter to build my book and class into a comic. For the first time my material will be available via the internet. I hope this helps expand my local network here in NYC and outside. In addition the comic will be something of valuable for students to refer back to after completing a class. Pre-order the comic today on Kickstarter!