My old friend George has just rebooted his Edupunk / My ESL Friends venture with the premise to finally earn a living from teaching English on the Internet. Hurray to that!
Of course, offering live classes on the web that have a price tag attached to them is a magnitude more difficult than offering them for free and even free classes are often not overbooked if we take a look around the various platforms that still exist.
So he asked for some ideas to market the classes in our Edupreneurs Club on Facebook (if you are interested to talk about making money teaching online and professional exchange in general, that’s the place to go and we are always happy about new members and their input).
My advice was to use YouTube as a marketing funnel, and as I think the reasoning behind might be of interest to the readers of my blog as well, here is a slightly extended version of my answer.
When I started with video lessons on YouTube back in May 2008, the idea was to build a library of short lessons for my offline and online students which I could share with them after our live lessons / course.
I just realized that I used the flipped classroom model so many are raving about now, already four years ago! Darn, I should have been more outspoken about this..
The other idea was to actually make some extra income. I learned the basics of “passive income” via Google Adsense from Joel Comm whom I discovered on YouTube in early 2008. The idea was to build a website around my video content (www.deutschhappen.com), embed the videos and display Google ads on the rest of the page. In the short term I also envisioned to become a YouTube Partner to directly monetize my lessons via instream ads.
Well, it took a while longer than I had expected until YouTube finally made me a partner but back then the process was far more complicated. Admittedly, due to the fact that I live in France, make videos in English that teach German and target the US, it must have been quite a challenge for the French YouTube Partner Program fellows to figure out what I was up to. Only when I stopped uploading videos they reacted and made me a partner.
Today, it is all far more simple. As soon as you have uploaded a couple of videos you will get the option to monetize these via Google Adsense which makes it far more easy to start earning some ad revenue on your lessons. If they get views, of course.
So reason number one to start a YouTube channel: make some extra cash from displaying ads in your lessons.
The second reason is building an audience. On the one hand, the audience will of course help you with reason number one. If they watch your lessons, you will earn money from the ads. But an audience is also important to find potential students.
Two years ago, I made a small experiment to see if YouTube viewers can be turned into customers. I set up a little site with a summer school, consisting of 10 live lessons via WizIQ. Nothing fancy, I called it beginner’s German I and II. I had about 1000 subscribers at that point, and in one week and with one short announcement video I got 5 students sign up. Not bad at all.
If I had the time I would probably do the same today to see if the conversion rate is the same with about 4600 subscribers and 2000 Facebook fans. The point is, the larger your audience, the higher the chances that someone in that crowd will sign up for a paid product / lesson.
Side-note: as my audiences on YouTube and Facebook are growing I now get regular donations from people who want to support the Deutsch Happen project. Again, this took several years to get over the bump of getting an occasional donation $10, but you have to realize that you’re in for the long run.
Call it the 1% rule or whatever (the ones that will buy from you, donate or become regular students), but growing your audience is crucial. It’s a fine line between testing new concepts that bear the potential to grow your audience and thus make you some money and keep your old audience happy so that they stay with you.
Another important thing most people forget is that YouTube is actually a mix between social network and search engine. People use YouTube to discover content the same way they do on Google, Bing or your search engine of choice, they just expect to get video content in return instead of text. To my mind, that is a very powerful combination.
Now I will say that you need to take all this with a grain of salt. Just because you upload your lessons on YouTube won’t make you rich. Not even wealthy. It might pay for your pizza one day and later on maybe for more. With more and more content being uploaded it has gotten increasingly difficult to get your share of attention. But if you succeed and, probably more important, if you upload content regularly you should be able to achieve one or both of the goals above.