Building a community for thriving students: Creator spotlight with Jay Clouse

Building a community for thriving students: Creator spotlight with Jay Clouse
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In honor of Creator Month 2023, we’re sharing the story of Jay Clouse, a multi-faceted creator who is in the game of helping people become professional creators. As a podcaster, newsletter writer, and course creator, Jay embodies the word “impact.” Everyday his content reaches those looking to create and make an impact of their own.

Today, he is the founder of Creative Companion and host of Creative Elements, a narrative-interview podcast exploring how today’s top creators make a living with their art and creativity. He previously led the Community Experience team for Pat Flynn and Smart Passive Income, designing their paid membership community and cohort-based course programs.

Teachable’s very own Jonah sat down with Jay to learn about the power of building a community for thriving students. Watch the full video and see our summary of the interview below.

Building a community for students [0:24]

As a professional creator with a podcast, newsletter, and course creation business, Jay knows how to build a successful community for his students. His story goes back to 2017, when he started building a membership product in 2017. This led to creating courses with LinkedIn Learning in 2018 before eventually bringing his courses to Teachable.

His experience with coaching and group coaching helped him structure his courses independently and showed the value of the transformation he could offer—all before creating his first course.

Creating and launching a successful online course [5:22]

Jay shares that he was able to offer coaching services to creative freelancers, leveraging their expertise in business and content creation. Eventually, he was able to create three courses.

“I actually developed three courses all at once, which I wouldn’t recommend doing,” Jay says. “It’s all combined into one course on Teachable actually, I call it the Freelancing Masterclass. But originally, I developed it as three separate courses: Business for Freelancers, Selling for Freelancers, and Marketing for Freelancers, because I saw them as three different activities.”

Jay explains it was a 48-video, 48-lesson mega course broken into three courses. While he was able to put out great content, Jay notes it was a lot of work to develop three courses and release them simultaneously.

“I was really developing for a long time,” he says. “And I wasn’t getting market feedback as much as I should have along the way. So it wasn’t my most successful launch. By any stretch, it was actually my least successful launch!”

However, by refining the courses and changing the launch strategy, Jay was able to improve sales and make these courses an evergreen offering.

Building and selling online communities [9:58]

“If you think back to 2017, online community wasn’t a thing,” recalls Jay. “In 2017, as I was doing this group coaching exercises, I just recognized that if we’re meeting once a week, there are things I want to say to them and things that they probably want to share with each other between those seven days. And so I needed a way for them to communicate.”

This led Jay to create a private Slack channel for his students. He explains people were getting more value out of continuing to build relationships with their group members.

Today, Jay believes that creating a private membership community as a separate product can be a good option for course creators who want to provide additional support to their students.

Takeaway: Offering a separate paid membership community for students who have purchased a course can provide a higher priced product and allow creators to support students better. It’s also a great way to fuel sales.

Creating a successful community for students [20:11]

A membership can be a good starting point for creators without a full curriculum, as it allows them to showcase their expertise and build a following.

As far as a community, clear purpose and onboarding experience are crucial for community success. What’s more, a community reduces the pressure to create perfect content and allows for unpolished access to the creator. Once a creator has shown value through a community or membership, Jay suggests that a lightweight cohort-based course (think: group coaching with curriculum) could be the next step before creating a pre-recorded course.

Takeaway: Show up, offer value, and be real to build a thriving community.


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