How I Went From Part-Time Tutor To Making $120K/Year Selling Online Courses
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jade, but my students call me Teacher Jade. I have two businesses that were founded from “ah-ha” moments. My primary business is an online academy that offers courses to youth ages 8-18. From the success of that business, I started my second business which teaches anyone how to teach classes online.
While working on my Masters and completing my teaching license, I started tutoring online as a side job. I was working part-time as a paraprofessional and had a one-year-old child. If you ever considered becoming an educator, you know they don’t rack in the dough. However, what started as a side job, the online tutoring, eventually became my career path and led me on my entrepreneurial path as a “teacherpreneur”.
I started off working for a few different companies that offered online classes. This was in 2008. From there I acquired private students. Again, this was in 2008, so I was using Skype to meet with my students. As the years passed, I was off-and-on teaching online. By the time I completed my license and received my teaching license, I realized I did NOT want to teach in a traditional school setting. It would have been great to have this realization before the tuition. Not only that, I didn’t want to live in Minnesota. So, I packed up my life and moved to Georgia on savings and a cashed-out 401k.
Even though I knew I didn’t want to work for the public school system, I still enrolled my daughter in a traditional public school. She was just about as fed up with schools as I was and asked to be homeschooled. You might wonder how any of this has to do with my businesses. Well, when she asked to be homeschooled, I needed to come up with a plan. I folder her I couldn’t homeschool because I had to work. She looked me square in the face and told me I was already making money teaching online.
That was my first “ah-ha” moment. I went from teaching online as a side job and earning a couple of hundred dollars a month to becoming a five-figure a month online teacher and I was working way less than my full-time contract hours.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was teaching online for multiple platforms, but none of them were amazing or bringing in a great income; that’s why I always considered teaching online a side job. However, when my daughter asked to be homeschooled, I started reimagining life. My plan, when I was younger, was to travel the world. I let college plans and becoming a parent put those dreams on hold.
I thought my plan was the one I needed to follow. Graduate, get a job, retire. The problem was the cost of living was higher than the lifestyle I wanted, so I was working all these side jobs related to education and not realizing the potential of turning the side job into a business. I had to figure out how I could earn money, travel, and homeschool.
To do that, I had to create a budget. I was teaching from home, but now I was going to be teaching abroad. I had to ensure that I would be able to connect with my U.S.-based students. This led me to create pre-recorded classes, just in case I didn’t have access to the internet, I still needed a source of income. I also didn’t want to be dependent on a platform because there were so many restrictions and constant changes on these platforms, some of which required living in the States. So, I quit all the platforms and created a budget and schedule for the thirteen private adult students I was teaching and everyone else was going to get prerecorded lessons.
The prerecorded lessons were going to be for the homeschooled families I had started to work with shortly after pulling my daughter out of school. I didn’t even know how big the community was. That led to my first business, Ashantae Academy which I later rebranded as Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy. I developed a writing course based on the needs of the students I had tutored over the years.
After traveling for a year, we returned to the states. I was scrolling through a Facebook page for digital nomads and came across Outschool. I applied and within three days had courses listed on their platform. This platform was different from the others as I had to have my curriculum, which I did, I set my prices, and set up my schedule. Adding my courses to their platform increased my enrollment tremendously. While I had been dependent on word of mouth and my role in the homeschool community, Outschool provided a new opportunity to connect with a larger audience.
Within the first three months of having my classes listed, I was earning triple what I made from all the side jobs. I decided to “put all my eggs in one basket” and left every platform for good. I reduced enrollment at Ashantae Academy and focused on growing my visibility on this (then new) platform. Within a year, I was earning six figures. I was making a five-figure a month income and only teaching 10-15 hours per/week. My next goal was to reduce my working hours by half, which I did! I was able to do this by rebranding as Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy, LLC. The rebranding just meant I was no longer going to teach classes. Instead, I would hire teachers to offer my courses and become the admin of my company.
Take us through the process of designing your courses and teaching services
The best part about this business is that there is no upfront cost. Anyone that has a passion or hobby can teach. There are no certifications, degrees, or licenses needed to teach online (unless you’re planning on teaching for an online accredited school). Even though I have a successful online business, my tech skills are not all that. I created all my class presentations using PowerPoint and GoogleSlides. I only recently started using Canva.
To develop my courses, I start with a lesson plan. Now, this is not required, it’s just my process and I don’t use lesson plans for all my courses. If I am teaching a social class or class where we play games, I include minimal visuals. But, for the classes that I do use lesson plans, I take each objective (the learning goal) and turn it into a slide. I include activities to ensure that the students can follow along and to gauge understanding. These classes can be taught live and prerecorded.
When listing a course, whether it’s on my website or another platform, it is important to have a detailed course description. People want to know what they are paying for. I will sometimes have previous students take a trial class or volunteer to take a new class so I can gather feedback and adjust the course before it goes live.
Don’t focus on what other people are offering, focus on what you are offering. I am not the only writing teacher in the world and even if someone were to teach the same class, because they do, I hired teachers to do just that, they will not teach it like you!
At the height of the pandemic, I had individual teachers and districts reaching out to me to teach teachers how to offer online classes. From there, I started my consulting business and created a Masterclass that walks anyone through the process to develop an online course whether it's for adults or children. That was the creation of my second business.
Once the buildout was complete, I had to add more courses. I originally priced my courses too low, I wasn't valuing my time. Fortunately, this didn't last long. I researched other programs that were similar to mine which helped me determine a price that I thought was valuing my time but also comparable to other programs.
My classes have several different pricing options so families can choose which pricing and schedule work best. My most popular course is a 4-week writing course that meets for forty minutes once/a week. This course is priced at $79. For families that don't want to make the 4-week commitment, I have a one-time class that acts as an introductory course to all my writing courses. The one-time class is $25 and meets for 45 minutes. In addition to having live classes, I offer these classes, at the same price point, pre-recorded.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Deciding to have classes on a platform and my website was a bit ambitious. I didn't have much experience with websites other than the blog I kept from when I was worldschooling, so I had to hire someone to help with the buildout.
Launching a course through a platform is somewhat easier because the plugins are already there. Launching the courses wasn’t too difficult as I already have a steady base of families enrolling. However, the launch of the second business was more challenging.
When I decided to launch my Masterclass, that was a whole different process. I hired a digital marketing company, which was a failure, and then hired individuals for each aspect I needed to cover (branding, marketing, SEO, content creation). This is the company that I am currently working on re-developing.
My Masterclass teaches people how to teach online and earn an income. I took all my knowledge and expertise developing this course for adults. The best part is when I tell people they don't have to have a background in teaching because they can teach whatever they want. Everyone has a passion or hobby that they can teach.
My Masterclass provides all the steps to develop a course and I provide live 1:1 consultation calls. This gives those that enroll direct access to me seven though it is a self-paced course. I am currently developing a second course that includes modules for marketing and running ads which are the two tasks I had to learn to help my business grow.
This covers two different parts of my business. Offering courses online through established platforms has zero upfront cost, it’s just the time it takes to develop the content for the course. There can be added expenses once you move into the realm of paid advertising.
For my online courses for youth, I had no startup costs. When I switched to my LLC and started hiring teachers, I had the regular costs for establishing a business, but I haven’t spent more than $1000. For the development and launch of my Masterclass, I spent money on marketing, branding, and social media content., but that was less than $3000.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
When I first started offering online classes, my audience was coming via word of mouth. In particular, I was working with a homeschooled student 1:1. After a month, his father, who was the leader of a homeschool co-op, enrolled the entire co-op in my course. A few months later, I was told that a popular mommy blogger wrote about my classes.
This led me to Google my name and I found several homeschool families wrote about my classes in their blogs. So, a majority of my enrollments came from word of mouth. I didn't start running ads until I expanded because I had to showcase the new teachers and course offerings. I didn't need to only gain the trust of my current families, I needed to add more families and reach a wider audience.
Since launching my courses, I have been able to retain my students by offering additional courses. I started with one four-week course, then I made a Part II. From there I added semester-long, ongoing, and pre-recorded classes. There are a variety of courses a student can take through my Academy from fourth grade through high school. I even offer discounts to returning students.
I utilize GoogleAnalytics and the stats page through my website to ensure that I am offering classes at times that best fit the needs of my audience.
Knowing when students are enrolling helps me determine the best times to offer the classes and knowing which types of classes have the highest enrollments helps with scheduling.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My current focus is on expanding Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy and relaunching my Masterclass.
I had to go where the money was and if I decide to go back to the products, I now have a financial cushion. Find the need and fill it!
The goal for the Academy is to expand the course offerings from writing to a full comprehensive English Language Arts program. I want my teachers to earn six-figure salaries too without having to work 40 hours/week. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the idea of how work and life are supposed to look when there are so many alternative pathways. If their goal of financial success doesn’t look like mine, that is fine. I want them to be comfortable with what they can potentially earn.
With the relaunch of my Masteclass, I want to add modules related to marketing and advertising. That will be particularly useful to those that don’t want to offer their courses on a platform. Plus, I’ve been telling everyone who knows me that I wanted to retire by the time I turned 35.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The most helpful thing I learned in starting my business was to go with my first instinct. When I was hiring a branding agency or hiring new teachers, I should have always gone with my gut feeling. Everyone you work with won’t always be a good fit. I would also recommend hiring a business coach or getting a mentor to assist with the parts that you aren't your expertise.
Before I launched my organization, I joined a business cohort. It changed the way I approached my business by helping me focus on where I needed to focus my energy. At one point, I wanted to start offering homeschool products, but I was already earning money teaching live classes. I had to go where the money was and if I decide to go back to the products, I now have a financial cushion. Find the need and fill it!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
If you want to launch an online course, I would recommend looking into Outschool, Udemy, or even Teachable. Of course, do some research to determine which platform would best fit what you want to offer.
I currently have my courses on Outschool and Udemy. I also offer courses on my website. For courses on my website, I utilize WPCourseware. Whenever I need to outsource, my go-to has been Fiverr. I use Klayvio for my email list and I send out a monthly newsletter with tips and advice for future teacherpreneurs.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am always finding a good motivational book to read and I listen to several podcasts in the morning on my way to the gym.
Here are a few I listen to regularly: The Side Hustle Show, Marketplace Tech, Parents Making Profits, The Clever Girls Know, and Your Money, Your Life.
I also take free courses through Verizon’s Business Solutions and EdX. Taking online courses allows me to learn about areas that aren’t my expertise. Even if I decide to hire someone to do my marketing, I want a good grasp of the language they are using. I need to understand what I need before I hire someone to complete the tasks.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
For those that have an interest in teaching classes online, especially to the youth, I would suggest that you first consider what you want to offer. What would you teach? What age range? How long do you want your classes? How much will you charge? You also have to adjust your mindset. Oftentimes, people think about education as being free. You have to focus on this being a service you are offering and you should be paid for your expertise. I have a blog and a YouTube channel where I share easily implemented resources. I also have a variety of consultation packages for those that want to go this route in their entrepreneurial journey.
My biggest piece of advice is to just get started. There has to be action. Don’t spend too much time reading every article, or watching every video, actually sit down, develop the course, and list it. Don’t focus on what other people are offering, focus on what you are offering. I am not the only writing teacher in the world and even if someone were to teach the same class, because they do, I hired teachers to do just that, they will not teach it like you!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not currently hiring, but I plan on hiring someone in the fall to take over administrative duties for Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy (scheduling, course updates, social media posts, and possibly payroll). That information can be found here.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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