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Indie Teaching

Publish/Launch

How do I launch my indie teaching gig?

Once you have created your learning product, you need to release it into the world. As teachers, it is not what we know that matters. It is what we help others learn that matters. The first step is to publish our creation. The process depends on what form our creation takes. The second step is to develop a relationship with our audience to develop a relationship that leads to them purchasing our creation. Support from our audience means we have the resources to create more.

How do I publish my writing?

The specifics of publishing depend on the form of your writing.

Blogs can be published on your blog, on Medium, LinkedIn, or as a guest blog on someone else’s site, or some combination of these. I recommend using Blog Spot (Blogger) from Google for blogging with cross posting to LinkedIn and Medium. Typically, this is content you are giving away.

Articles and white papers that are longer than a blog and shorter than a book can be published as a PDF on your web site or offered on an e-commerce site like Gumroad. These might be free or have a cost associated with them.

Books can be self-published using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. There are other e-book options, but Amazon is the largest. You can also set-up print-on-demand on Amazon. Amazon only charges you when a book sells.

How do I launch live events?

Speaking requires being invited to speak at an event. You need to make it known that you are available to do speaking events. You might need to begin with volunteer speaking opportunities to build your resume. Posting videos of you speaking to YouTube will also help gain visibility.

Workshops, conferences, and bootcamps are events that you organize. You will need to secure a conference center or meeting space and then get the word out about your event. Hotels usually have conference space available for this type of purpose. Live events like this are tricky because you are either serving a local market or creating an event where people travel to you. The first limits the size of your audience. The second adds to the expense for the audience. You should have a solid audience base before you attempt something like this.

Another option is to partner with an organization such as a college or Chamber of Commerce. When I started my first business, I partnered with a local college to offer workshops on campus, and they did the marketing. We split the revenues. Eventually they hired me as adjunct faculty and then full-time, which led to my career in higher education.

If you do live events, one tool that can facilitate collecting registrations and fees is Eventbrite. This service allows you to sell tickets and registrations. Free events are free to use Eventbrite.

How do I launch virtual events?

Courses can be published using a learning management system. Teachable and Thinkific are two options. Both have a free option where you only pay when someone pays for a course. I have a slight preference for Teachable. Another option is Gumroad. Gumroad is not a learning management system, but it will allow you to offer videos, documents, and other digital files for purchase. They also have a free option. All three options will collect payments and deposit your share of the fees in your bank account.

Udemy is another option for online courses. This site is a marketplace for virtual courses. They require that most of the course be video based. In addition, they do not allow you access to learner contact information. They also restrict prices, which is great for learners but can make it hard for creators.

Videos can also be published to YouTube. You can limit access to those with the address and/or a password.

Webinars require video conferencing. There are several options for this. The cheapest option is CISCO WebEx. Specialty applications include Zoom and Webinar Jam. WebEx includes the option to export a recorded meeting as a video.

Virtual groups including membership sites and mastermind groups functionally use the same functionality a virtual classroom. Some groups use Facebook or LinkedIn groups. There are specialty services for virtual groups as well such as Mighty Networks and Ning.

How do I offer my services?

If you are offering services such as writing/editing, research, grant writing, and other professional services, you have a couple of options.

First, you can use PayPal to invoice clients and collect fees for your services. PayPal charges a small fee for payment processing.

The other option is to offer your services through a freelancing web site such as Upwork or Fiverr. Clients pay the site, which in turn pays you.

How do I build a relationship with my audience?

In the beginning, your audience will be unaware of your creation and may not even be aware of you. The same thing was true for every relationship we have ever had. Just like building a friendship, we need to develop a relationship with individual in our audience.

This process involves three steps:

  1. Introduction – how do we meet them?
  2. Building – how do they come to trust us?
  3. Commitment – how do they come to support us?

The goal is to develop relationships based on trust and reciprocal value. Trust and commitment come from us providing value for our audience.

A disclaimer, there are many marketing and sales techniques that can increase sales. My view is that just because you can, does mean that you should. For example, many course creators will use the threat that the course will only be available for a short time. This creates a sense of scarcity and pressure to buy now. Another common technique is the upsell. You experience this in fast food restaurants all the time when you are ordering the cashier suggests another item.

People do this because it works. However, I do not believe that it helps create a relationship based on trust and value. Your path is your own, and you need to make a personal choice about your relationship with your audience. If you feel comfortable using these types of tactics, that is your choice. They are not things that I will cover. There are many courses on these techniques online, just be aware that the people who teach these techniques also use them in their own practice.

What are tactics to get an introduction?

The goal of getting an introduction is to create awareness for you and your creation. Your target audience are people who will find value in what you have to offer. The idea is not to sell ice to polar bears. If you have done your research right and created something of quality, you do not need to be a salesperson or act like one.

When we talk about audience, we do not mean a mass audience. When there were 3 television networks plus PBS, the audience was a mass audience. Today, even television has splintered into niche audiences centered on specific interests. One of the benefits of the web is the ability to connect with a community not limited by geography. eBay was started to sell Pez candy dispensers among collectors. As it happened it works for selling a lot of stuff, but it started very niche with a specific type of collector in mind.

When you start, your initial objective is finding 10 people to be in your audience. Think of these as your first 10 fans. Once you have those 10, then work on the first 100. But start with 10.

Search Engines

Organic search is the term used for non-paid advertising. When people search in Google or Bing, you want your message to come up in the search results so that your audience will click through to learn more. When you researched keywords, you were building a foundation for knowing what keywords people searched for on your topic. You can use these keywords to create web pages (landing pages and blog posts) that people will find when they search for those keywords.

Social media

Social media posts can expose your message to your audience. LinkedIn groups, for example, provide a natural audience that is interested in what you have to say. Social sharing when your existing audience likes and shares your posts with their audience is another way to extend your research. For some audiences, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are relevant sources of new ideas and connections. If there is not an existing group, you can create a new one in your area. You can also share with your audience. You need to be careful when getting introductions to not come on too strong and focus on your creation. You want to offer something free that will be of value for your target audience.

Guest Blogging

When you blog on someone else’s site or appear on a podcast or speak at an event it is an opportunity to introduce yourself to their audience. If there is some overlap with your own, that will drive people to engage with you directly. You will want to find people who are active in your topic and reach out to them about guest blogging or appearing on their podcast.

Publishing Platforms

People look for books on Amazon. They search YouTube for videos. Udemy is known for affordable online courses. Being present on these sites mean you can be found if your audience is looking. The keyword research you did during ideation will help you know that there is an existing audience searching or not.

Advertising

Advertising in social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) and search engines (Google) is one way to get your message in front of your audience. The message must be focused and clear since these are not long form communication tools. Your goal is to drive them to click through to learn more. You do not want to direct them to your creation, because you have not built trust yet. Advertising is not free, and you will want to do some limited experiences before investing significant amounts of money.

Affiliates

Affiliate marketing is leveraging someone else’s audience to share your message. The affiliate gets paid a commission on revenue that they generate. Usually you still want to use this connection to establish a relationship with your audience. The best way to do this is to have a joint webinar or have the affiliate direct people to other free content. Sites like ClickBank allow you to list your creation for affiliates to market, and you can also reach out to other creators in your space to see if they do affiliate marketing.

How do I find my audience?

A key aspect of finding your audience is being aware of where they are in the process of dealing with the problem that you are solving.

  • I don’t yet I realize I have a problem/need.
  • I realize I have a problem and am looking for a solution.
  • I know the solution and looking for best alternative.

When your audience does not realize that they have a problem, you must engage them about why they have a problem they are not even aware of. Social media, guest blogging, advertising, and affiliates will also be useful.

People who realize that they have a problem and are looking for a solution will be easier to engage as they are looking for you in search engines and on publishing platforms. You need to focus on how you can help them solve the problem.

When your audience knows the solution to the problem, then they again will be searching for you. Your focus, though, needs to be why you are the best option out of all the solutions they are considering.

Each of these requires different conversations with your audience, and it will serve you well to match where they are or create multiple paths for how they find you.

What are tactics for building relationships?

The objective of the introduction is to get someone’s permission to contact them. Usually this means an email address. The secret here is to create value for your audience so it is in their interest to give you permission.

To get an email address, you want to offer some sort of freebie (aka “lead magnets”) that provides a sample of your work. You can create a resource that will generate value to your audience and is connected to your primary creation. This can be a summary, the first chapter, a worksheet, or any of a number of mini-products including mini-courses. Access to the resource requires an email address and permission to contact them.

If you are offering courses, you can create a free minicourse in your learning management system. You can also create an email course where lessons are delivered by email. In Gumroad, you can discount a product to make it free, which can be a course, videos, or other resources.

A common approach is to offer a live webinar on a topic. The webinar is usually an hour long and should again focus on creating value for the audience. To register, the audience needs to provide an email address.

On your web site, you can also include a form to allow people to sign-up for updates. While this alone will generally not be enough, it does not hurt.

If you write a book, it is good to offer some free online resource so that your readers will give you their email address. Otherwise you know how many copies sold, but no idea who bought them.

In your introduction activity (advertisement, guest blog, etc.), your call to action is to recommend that someone access your free resource. They should do this because it will create value for them by solving a problem.

Once you have an email and permission, your objective is to build a relationship with your audience. You do this by continuing to create value by producing new content.

What do I do with my email list?

You want to capture email addresses using an email list manager. Mailer Lite and Mail Chimp are both great (and free) systems to start with. These systems will provide a list of email addresses. You can also send email from their servers, which is important to lower the risk that your email appear to be SPAM. They will also handle people who want to unsubscribe. They will also tell you who opens your emails and who clicks on links.

Once you have an email list, you want to provide updates to your list. I recommend once a week. This is not too much to be a burden on you and will not annoy people. You can do it less often, but the best practice is to be regular.

In your update, you want to provide a newsletter. This can be a summary of blog posts that you have written or other content. You can send links that you think will be of interest to them. You can annotate the list and provide your own thoughts. The key is that you are creating value for your audience.

Some people send individual emails to each person who joins their list. This is a great way to create engagement and facilitate developing your relationships.

How do I use blogging to promote my creation?

Personally, I dislike the term and format “blogging,” but I do not have the influence to change the world of online publishing. The term blogging is used for any online publishing where the posts are independent articles.

Blogging is important for a variety of reasons.

First, blogging is an opportunity for SEO. You write blog posts aligned to your keywords to get introduced to your audience. You include a call to action in your blog that points to your freebie or to subscribing to your newsletter. You also want to link to other sites and your own posts to rank higher in the search engines.

Second, blogging is an important tool for writing and publishing. Writing and sharing that writing with the world is valuable practice and will help you evolve your own thinking.

Third, blogging allows you to connect to what others are writing about. You can link to it, and you can provide your own editorial perspective.

Fourth, blogging helps you develop your relationship with your audience. Most blogs allow commenting, which fosters discussion. I personally do not use this feature, but most do. What I do recognize is that when someone is introduced to you, they are going to see what else you have written. Your blog will help establish your credibility and authority.

Fifth, you can publish your newsletter on your blog. This is a great way of re-using content, so that when people join your audience in the future, they will be able to access everything you have shared in the past.

You should have your own blog, and you should also re-post what you publish to Medium and LinkedIn. This will give you greater visibility, leading to more introductions.

How do I use my knowledge map for identifying free content?

In addition to using your knowledge map to identify what content to include in your initial and future creations, you can use the knowledge map to also identify content that you will give away. You can identify specific ideas and subtopics that can be developed into blog posts or other content, and you may also want to create other resources like checklists, infographics, handbooks, or white papers.

How can I re-use my content?

Often you do not need to create new content for your free resources. You can take content you developed as part of your creation and re-use it in a blog, course, podcast, webinar, a book, white paper, video, or other resource.

For example, books are generally sold for much less than a course. The content from a course can be used in a book, and the book can be given away. I like this approach because people who have read the book know what they are getting in the class and are less likely to register and be disappointed.

A chapter from a book can be edited to use in a blog post. Or if you have an active blog, you can collect your posts into a book.

What tactics do I use to create commitment?

Your audience is committed you when they provide value to you in the form of hard currency. For lower priced items, this can happen naturally with little intervention on your part.

You will want to make sure that you make the audience aware that you have products and services for sale by listing them on your web site and as appropriate including them as a call to action in your newsletter and blog posts.

For more expensive products and services, you will need to be more directly involved. A webinar is the common tool for building interest and getting signups. Another approach is to have a free phone call (strategy session) where you can directly discuss what you have to offer and how it can help someone.

How can I forecast my revenue?

To forecast revenue, you can use this formula:

Forecast = Total # Subscribers x Conversion Rate x Price

The standard conversion rate is 2%. That means that 2 out of 100 people on your mailing list will buy your service. Using webinars and personal phone calls will increase that percentage, but it gives you an idea to start with.

How do I price my offers?

Pricing your offer is always an interesting challenge. You want to make sure that you price high enough to make it worth your time. If you price coaching, for example, at $10 for a one-hour session, you are pricing yourself below the starting salary for a fast food professional. For a book or course, you must estimate how many people will buy and divide that by your time investment.

One way to price your time is to think that a full-time person works roughly 2000 hours a year. That is 50 weeks at 40 hours a week. If you take your desired salary, you divide that amount by 2000 to get an hourly rate.

Let’s say that you want to earn $100,000 a year if you were doing this full-time. That means that your hourly rate would need to be $100,000 divided by 2000 hours or $50 an hour. 

Not all hours are billable, though. A portion of the time we will be writing blog posts, surveying the audience, and doing other research. If we factor that as half of our time, our billable time needs to be double or in this case $100 an hour.

If it will take you 40 hours to build a course or write a book, then you need to price them to recover $4000. For a course if we assume that we will have 20 students, we need to price it at least $200. For a book priced at $9.99, we would need 400 readers.

We need to add in the costs for any advertising we do and the transaction costs for Amazon, Gumroad, and Teachable, but this gives us a starting point.

Most adjunct professors make effectively $10 an hour. An adjunct making $2000 to teach a class can expect at least 10-20 hours a week on a class. Using that time to create their own course can easily generate more income for the same level of effort.

Many online courses are sold at prices over $1,000. At that price, two registrations replace an adjuncts income. 

One of the benefits of indie teaching is that you price your time at the rate that is right for you.

How do I expand my indie teaching gig?

Expansion takes two forms.

First, you will want to continue to expand your audience. Once you are making money, you might want to invest some of that cash in advertising to generate more revenue. You will want to continue to create and offer new free content as well.

Second, you will want to expand your offerings. Return to your knowledge map and identify your next minimum viable product. Use feedback from your community on what you should do next. Most businesses thrive on repeat customers. Creating new value for people who are already engaged will provide your best opportunity for new offers.

Kevin Kelley was the first person to observe that you only need 1,000 true fans who will support you by buying your services on a regular basis to be a success. Start with 10 people that you can make a difference for, and expand from there to 100, and repeat until you make it to 1,000.

What next?

As with any new adventure, you begin by starting. Research an idea and follow the process here. Even if things don’t work out as planned, then you have gained experience to guide the next attempt. The only real failure is the adventure not started.

By Chris Davis

Chris Davis, PhD is an educator and entrepreneur. He has been teaching and designing online courses since 2000. In addition to his career in higher education, he has a background in information technology and digital media. He has worked with 1000s of faculty across multiple institutions and provided leadership for instructional and media design.

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