It may take years to hone your craft, decades to perfect that special skill, but only moments to decide you love it. With Teachable, it can take as little as a few days to launch your online knowledge business. And there’s never an idea too out there, a passion too niche, or a skill too specific to share. In fact, it’s your corner of the world that will set you apart. These real life Teachable creators have taken their unique areas of interest and built successful businesses around them. They perfected the art of carving out their spaces and are actively sharing their passions—and getting paid to do so.
Owning your “what”
For creators and entrepreneurs looking to launch online, it’s one thing to identify what makes you tick. It’s another to totally own it.
“I actually try to narrow down my niche every time and understand that's the way to go. When you narrow down to be more specific, your target audience recognizes themselves in your offers and it's easier to convert. A few years back when I started doing Instagram training, people were still coming to me for social media training. Now they got used to the fact that I only focus on organic engagement and go pretty specific on my courses, like my course that only covers Instagram post captions.”
-Manu Muraro, Your Social Team, Caption Copy That Engages
“Well, there is niche and then there is niche. Teaching music is a pretty huge space overall, so big it's hard to make much of a splash. I don't see having a big market as necessarily a plus. It means there is also a ton of competition and it can be hard to be noticed. Not that you can't find your own angle, but operating in a smaller space gives you more of an opportunity to be that big fish in a small pond. ”
-Marc, Mastering MuseScore School, Mastering MuseScore: Complete Online Course
“The more specific your subject is, the more likely that people will need to come to you to hear about it. It’s better to teach something that may be different than to teach something that 300 other people are already teaching. Find what makes it unique to you and run with it.”
-Amanda Steed, Enneagram Unfolding School, Enneagram Unfolding
Fear of being too niche, fear of being too under the radar, fear of taking the leap into the unknown—it’ll always be there. But it’s not something to hold creators and entrepreneurs back. In fact, it should be what motivates you to carry on and overcome.
“At times I still struggle with imposter syndrome—who am I to teach this when there are so many with more experience? But at the end of the day, I know this is a calling I have placed on my life to share this wisdom tradition with people and help them transform their lives and relationships. I believe my passion comes through when I’m teaching, my ability to teach complex systems in simple language and my training in social work makes me uniquely capable to teach to a new audience coming to the Enneagram.”
“The biggest [hurdle] was just convincing myself that this was something I could build a business around. My formative online experiences were in the days when the Internet was almost entirely non-commercial—a place for the free exchange of information. Somehow I think that mindset stuck with me even as the web became big business. Making money online was something for other people. I left the software industry shortly after the publication of my Primer to pursue music full time, but to me that meant, performing and teaching in person.The big turning point came three years ago when I lost one of the part-time university adjunct teaching jobs that was providing most of my income. Twenty-five years after I started teaching online, for the first time I started thinking about the possibility of making a career out of it. Upon launching my first online course a year later, I almost immediately found myself making more than I had in that university job.”
“I had already been building an audience who cared about my business and had a lot of experience teaching. However to me the sales launch sequence was something completely new and not something I was super comfortable doing. The daily emails I was advised to write for the launch didn't feel like myself and the fear of being too ‘sales-y’ made me uncomfortable. Luckily, I got over it because I did have a pretty good first launch, which I wouldn't if I had been 'myself' while selling my course.’
Calling all students
Creators are experts in their topic, and many times, they’re already active in the community surrounding it. This makes them primed to tap into an audience and grow their student list without even realizing it.
“When I started my own business I had been working full time jobs for many years. I had a good network, but they had no idea of what I was doing in my own business, so I organized one event myself and literally messages 1:1 everyone I knew who had a small business or worked on social media. I also posted on my personal social media but the 1:1 messages were key to get me started. I think we tend to forget the power of personal messages versus social media and emails. I still reach out to people one-on-one so much, especially in the last days of any launches. After that, I continue to grow my audience with partnerships with other brands and influencers.”
“Since I had already been part of the MuseScore development team for several years before I launched my course—and had been active on the forums for a couple of years before that—my audience was in that sense ready-made. But, I wouldn't necessarily look at this as saying, 'Gee, how lucky I was, most people don't have that advantage.' It only looks that way because I only had the idea of launching a course after building the audience. Had I started with the idea of the building a course, the same basic approach would have worked: get involved with the community that already exists, contribute my experience and expertise, gradually earn the sort of respect that comes from being ‘that guy’ who is always there providing help. If anything, having a goal in mind from the beginning would have just helped me reach that point sooner.”
“I primarily use social media to reach my audience, but I also have a strong support network I’ve built over the years of people who have attended my courses and workshops or hosted events for me. They’ve been very supportive and I feel thankful that this isn’t a brand new business for me during this time.”
A trio of advice
Because starting an online business yields endless learnings and takeaways, it’s never enough to share just one tip.
“Use your authentic voice, there is only one you, and even if others are talking about your subject they’re not talking about it in a way that you would. Remain open to continue learning—you can be an expert in your subject and still be a lifelong learner. Workshop your ideas before creating new content—teach it to a trusted group of friends and get their honest feedback before putting it out there permanently, it’ll allow you to get the kinks out.”
“My first tip would be, identify your audience and find out where they naturally go for help and community, whether it's a special-purpose online forum, a Facebook group, some other social media channel, or whatever. Second, start participating in that space, be seen as ‘one of them’, but one who has much to share and loves to help. Third—and this was my biggest mistake—start building a mailing list as soon as you realistically can. I heard this advice a thousand times, and tried a couple of times before but never really followed through.”
“Be different from your competition. Don't teach the same way everyone else does. There's room for everyone, but people will be drawn to you for your style of teaching and unique view. [Second] treat your own brand like your highest paying client. I know so many course creators who don't learn or spend time building a social media presence or an email list. Lastly, show your face and collaborate. Instagram lives are such a great way to show your value and reach a broader audience, especially if you invite guests!”