Somehow I ended up where it had all begun, life goes in circles, I guess. The post featuring the ant and the grasshopper seems to have struck the nerve of the edupreneurs out there, it even landed on the agenda of tomorrow’s review:ed with Christopher Dawson.
What caught my attention and what serves as a basis for this post is a blog post by Dr. Nellie Deutsch over at the WizIQ blog titled “Make Money Teaching Online Now!”. Though probably great for search engine ranking, I have to say that the title and blog post are somewhat misleading. I am also not sure which kind of online educator it tries to target.
Before switching gears into rant mode, I want to make sure that I respect Nellie and her work. She has built a great brand online and really does a lot for the online education community. But I have to disagree with her point of view and I even with my own post from three years ago. Here is why.
First of all, let’s talk about the “now”. Everyone who has tried to sell something on the Internet knows exactly that there is no way that you can make money online now. Even on eBay you need to wait at least a couple of days until someone buys your old shoes. This is even more true when you try to sell your own products or services. So, let’s stop with this marketing BS and tell people like it is. It is hard, very hard, but it can pay off in the long run.
If you start building your brand right now (or after you finish reading this post) it will probably take you at least six months of hard work every single day (no weekends) before you’ll see any kind of relevant traction. Sure, there are always exceptions may it be because they narrowed down a lucrative niche (which takes time for research before the launch, mind you) or they were lucky. But in my playbook luck is not a business model.
Then, what is the definition of “money”. Is money $1, $10, $100 per month? If I am not mistaken, Dr Nellie still is a faculty member at the University of Phoenix which I suppose means that she receives a salary. That leads me to the conclusion that for her “money” means “additional income” whereas for most readers “money” is equal to “full-time income”.
Dr. Nellie also mentions some successful edupreneurs in her article, but nearly all of them are, like Dr. Nellie, in a very lucrative niche of the online education market: telling other people how to market themselves / make money online or who provide material to educators. En101 is the only one in the language teaching space which is probably the biggest group of aspiring edupreneurs and it seems that even this example sells materials, correct me if I am wrong.
And all the talk about social media marketing etc, yes, it’s great if you run a consulting business at the side like I do and like Dr Nellie does. Getting clients interested through LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora, Facebook works, no doubt about it, but for an ESL / French / German / Math teacher? Forget about it, at least with the hope to sign up students. There are LinkedIn groups for education professionals in which a freelancer can get a speaking or consulting gig. And yes, there are LinkedIn groups of content creators targeting English teachers to sell their materials. But show me a LinkedIn group of English learners, searching to hire English teachers.
Yes, there are ways to create marketing funnels through Facebook and YouTube but again, this takes time, a lot of it. In April my Deutsch Happen project goes in its 4th year, without providing me with a full-time income. Do you have the guts to invest time = money in a project that takes that long because it targets a small niche of online learners? And if you are an ESL teacher, do you feel confident enough to compete with tens of thousands of other teachers on the global market place? Do you have a product that is different and will attract students?
Now, of course all that does not mean that you won’t be able to make money teaching online. If you want to swing for the fences be sure that you have enough runway, e.g. money in the bank to survive until your product or service sells.
If you don’t feel ready to quit your day job yet you might be able to make some money at the side and yes, it might even happen that you will be able to turn this into a real business one day.
But don’t believe that it will be easy because there is a platform out there that will take care of all the rest, e.g. getting you paying customers. No one buys from a “rookie” online teacher with no references, online presence or evaluations. It’s a constant up-hill battle.
Really successful edupreneurs, the ones who make a full-time income or more, run their businesses like a startup. It’s built to scale and sooner or later they will hire employees or interns to grow it. And all of them rely on their own infrastructure in the first place, platforms, ebook stores etc are all secondary revenue streams or means of delivery.
To sum this rant up: there is no magic bullet, no easy button, no short cuts. If your aim is to make money = full-time income online prepare for the marathon. If you want to make some money at the side you still need to invest a minimum of time and effort to get the ball rolling. Sorry.