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Teaching skills online is a way to make money while avoiding COVID

A woodworker inlays oak, rosewood, ebony, copper and abalone shell in a mahogany chair.
If you have a skill — such as woodworking — that other people want to learn, then you most likely have an online class that could enable you to profit from a distance.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

If the current surge in coronavirus cases makes you nervous about going to work, you should know that you might not have to risk your health to keep food on the table. Even if you have a physical job that normally requires in-person attendance, you may be able to profit from a distance by using online platforms to share your skills.

Remote work has been relatively easy for white-collar professionals. A host of consulting and professional job sites, including FlexProfessionals, WAHVE, GLG and Maven, are available to help find remote jobs for lawyers, accountants, engineers, human resources professionals and marketing experts, among others. Many big corporations also have been letting their white-collar staff work from home.

But it’s been a challenge for people with physical jobs — contractors, cooks, bartenders and personal trainers, to name a few. Because these jobs are traditionally done in person, many workers have either lost their jobs or been told to mask up and muddle through.

Teach what you know

The good news is that if you’re willing to share your skills through an online teaching platform, you can profit from your expertise without showing up in person.

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Online class platforms can help you generate revenue that can continue long after you return to regular work or even after you retire.

Before you dismiss the idea, arguing that you’re not a teacher, consider whether you’ve ever trained an assistant or apprentice. If so, you’ve already practiced the skills you need to put a course online.

Several teaching platforms, including Thinkific, Teachable and Udemy, help you handle the technical side of an online class — the software and sales. Better yet, there is no charge to design and post your class online. These sites charge a commission only when someone pays to attend the class.

All you have to do is talk into a camera — most likely on your phone — in the same way you’d talk to someone you were training in person. You can use a simple tripod to help you film. Upload your video, type in descriptions of what people can learn with your class, hit the publish button and you are an online instructor.

Baby steps

Keep in mind that you don’t need to teach people everything you know to sell a class. Quite the opposite, in fact. Classes are best when you break them into bite-sized pieces.

Consider teaching people to do one simple thing, such as building a wooden stool. And divide your course into relatively short lessons — 15 minutes to an hour — to keep it digestible for new learners.

Your first lesson on building a wooden stool might be about safety and the tools and supplies you need. Details are key. Explain the specific saws, blades, screws and wood type and why you’re using those. You might also demonstrate how to safely use and store the power tools. This information is probably second nature to an experienced woodworker. But to millions of people who haven’t built anything more complex than Ikea furniture, those details are revelatory.

In the second lesson, you might walk through cutting and sanding pieces. Lesson three might involve the assembly, staining and showing off the final product. Again, things you know — like the dangers of storing staining materials in a pile — are not common knowledge. Make sure your course covers all the basics.

Pricing

You don’t have to charge a fortune for your course to make this worthwhile. If you charge $20 for your video series, for instance, you gross $2,000 for each 100 people who buy it. Your profit — after costs — will vary based on how much you invested in materials and on the platform that you use to sell the course.

With Thinkific and Teachable, you pay a modest 10% commission on each sale. But they expect you to market the class yourself.

If you’re no good at marketing, you can sell through Udemy. Udemy does some marketing for you, but it charges dearly for the service: It takes commissions of 50% to 75% when it finds the customers for you.

You don’t have to pick just one platform. You can also publish your classes on Udemy and one of the other platforms to see which works best for you.

Using online platforms in concert

But that’s just a first step in using online platforms to profit. Since you’ve now built a beautiful wooden stool, you also have a stool that you can sell. Several websites, including Etsy, EBay and Amazon, can help you find a buyer.

And, if you want to take this side hustle to the next level, you could make kits — with all the materials a student would need to build your stool — and sell them on those same platforms.

More ideas

Naturally, it’s not just woodworkers who can use online platforms to make money teaching some physical skill.

Online cooking classes are highly popular. In addition to the other teaching platforms, Cozymeal, a site that normally arranges in-person cooking classes, has pivoted to offer its classes online. EatWith, which normally arranges dinners in the chef’s home, also offers live online cooking classes from all around the world.

Cooks also use Etsy, Nextdoor and Instagram to sell homemade foods.

Bartenders can use online teaching platforms to teach how to make beautiful and tasty cocktails. Fitness trainers can create workout tutorials. Artists can teach people to draw or paint. Teach crafts? You’re likely to have an avid following — and products to sell at the end of each class.

Need a class idea? Brainstorm with your friends. If you have a skill that other people want to learn, you most likely have an online class that could enable you to profit from a distance.

Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent site that reviews hundreds of money-making opportunities in the gig economy


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