:Creativity / Working from home

Start your year off right as an online course creator

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A fresh new year is just kicking off, and between the champagne toasts and recovering from holiday travel, you may be looking ahead at what this year has in store for you as a successful online course creator.

At Teachable, we love the opportunities the new year can bring—it’s the most exciting time of year to dream about how you can level-up your business. Since we’ve grown from a team of one to a team of over one hundred in the past six years, we’ve learned a lot along the way about making the most of this time of year, particularly when it comes to staying organized and planning ahead.

We wouldn’t be where we are today without some of the new year best practices we’re going to share here. We’re sharing what we’ve learned with you so that this year, you can get organized, plan for the new year, and grow your business like a pro.

5 Tips to Planning Your Best Year as a Course Creator Yet

This is the year you think of yourself not just as a creator, but as a business owner who operates like a pro. Following these tips will set you up for success, all year long.

1. Reflect back on your year like you’re your own boss

…because you are. We know that for many successful online course creators, being your own boss is a primary motivation for striking out on your own. However, there are big benefits that come with the performance assessment usually conducted by a traditional manager.

At Teachable, we help each other grow with self, manager, peer, and upstream reviews. Even if you’re your own peer, manager, and direct report, it will improve your problem-solving skills and your self-awareness to take some time to give yourself an annual review.

Not sure where to begin? What would you want out of yourself as your own employee? A peer? What would you want a really good manager to tell you about yourself and your work habits from the past year, and what do you need help with in order to keep growing in your business?

Writing a review for yourself doesn’t have to be complicated—just set aside an hour or so and answer the following questions:

  • What did I do well this year?
  • Are there things I could I have done better this year?
  • What were my biggest accomplishments in my business this year?
  • Do I need to reach my goals next year?

This process will help give you the clarity and structure you need to set goals and dive into the next year like your own best employee.

2. Set anti-goals (it’s as important as setting goals)

We’ve all heard about the importance of setting SMART goals, but what about setting anti-goals? At Teachable, we’ve sometimes used this idea to help focus our work. As a business there are hundreds of worthwhile things you could be doing, so defining what you won’t work on can help keep you focussed and minimize stress this year.

People sometimes use the term ‘anti-goal’ to describe the opposite of their objectives or something they definitely don’t want to do (i.e., my goal is to weed the garden, my anti-goal is to let weeds grow in the garden). However, we suggest seeing anti-goals as things that you acknowledge might be worthwhile goals for someone else or for you at a later time, but that you are consciously choosing not to pursue right now.

For example, if you’re looking to expand your online course catalog this year, you might consider dozens of potential goals under that subheading—developing ten new courses, launching a new category of courses, creating a membership site, or reaching a new target audience.

In order to ensure your scope is narrow enough that it’s achievable, it’s essential to identify which of these goals you will and won’t pursue during a specific time frame or project. To level up your goal setting this year, try brainstorming all of the projects and goals you might want to tackle this year, and then consciously go through your list and commit to table the ones you won’t prioritize for now. It’s all in order to become the successful online course creator you can be.

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3. Use project management tools to organize yourself like a big business

Big projects and organizations require project management of some kind. When you’re building an online course or business, your to-do list can get immense, and the dependencies between tasks can get overwhelming. But, sometimes it’s hard to tell when it’s time to transition away from a ‘to-do’ list on scrap paper and toward a tech solution. We’re here to suggest that this is the year you level-up your project management.

At Teachable, we have a secret weapon to help us with all of this—her name is Lauren, our project manager (Lauren, we’re not worthy). Since you can’t have Lauren, we asked her to put together a list of her favorite project management tools and hacks to share with you for the new year. Here’s what she recommends:

  • Asana (we use this for big marketing projects here at Teachable)—great for big projects with lots of deadlines
  • Trello—great for brainstorming, organizing your work into categories, and more
  • Google docs—great for collaborating on your content, outlining, and creating resources for students

Not so into learning another software? Lauren also loves some good-old-fashioned physical project planning—she recommends sticky notes and says she “also loves a good whiteboard sesh.”

Want even more project management ideas? Back in October, we asked our community to share their favorites and over fifty creators joined the conversation. Check out the post and get inspired here.

4. Organize your physical and virtual space

As you enter the new year, take some time to make sure your work setup is still working for you. When you think of New Year’s decluttering, go beyond wiping off your desk and throwing away old scrap paper. Think about all the spaces—physical and virtual—where you work, and give them a once over, too.

This can mean:

  • Cleaning off your desktop and giving yourself a new, inspiring background
  • Going through your old notes, brainstorming sessions, and “ideas” lanes in your project management tools and making sure your best ideas don’t get lost in the shuffle
  • Organizing your document space—whether that’s on your computer, an external hard-drive, or Google Docs

At Teachable, we’ve learned that virtual organization is especially important for a growing team where multiple people are working on the same projects. For those who might be looking to hire freelancers or collaborate with a VA or another course author this year, ensuring virtual organization is an important step.

5. Get your students involved in your mission

Now that you’ve learned how to get set up for the new year, consider paying it forward to your students. Create some New Year’s content for them that ties into your niche. New Years is an excellent time to get the ball rolling with new educational content because your audience will be in the midst of reflecting on their own year and making goals for the new one.

As a successful online course creator, consider sending out a newsletter that’s related to your content area. You could create a new mini-course or write a blog post. Whatever you choose, don’t miss the chance to ensure you’re at the top of their minds as they consider what they want to prioritize this year.

Author: Noele Flowers, Noele Flowers is the former Community Manager at Teachable and an expert in building communities. She's currently at Commsor building education for community managers. In her free time, she loves cooking, writing music, and home brewing kombucha.