However, I quickly realized that much of what I was teaching could be taught online using both asynchronous (online) and synchronous (videoconferencing) technologies. So I quickly got to work trying to setup an online photography training course. I used Academy Of Mine to help me get the course up and operational since my technical expertise was lacking and I had very limited knowledge of online promotional tactics.
SETTING UP AN ONLINE TRAINING COURSE IS FRONT HEAVY WORK
Putting my course online was much more work than I thought, but the good news was that much of the work was front heavy. I was resizing images to meet system requirements, “chunking” my course content down into “courses”, “modules” and “units” and then setting up social and interactive features that would allow me to grade and review my students’ work.
I didn’t know what my bigger goals were at the time. I just knew it made sense to offer my course online in conjunction with the courses I was offering at the studio. But if you asked me what my larger goals were or how much I expected to make I wouldn’t have a clue. Maybe in the back of my mind somewhere I thought I could earn $800 – $1000 / month on top of what I was earning from my photography studio. I thought it would be a cute side gig. A way for me to learn a new skill. And I was curious to venture into the world of online entrepreneurship. I was doing okay in the “real world” but how would I do in the “online world?”
Academy Of Mine helped me get my eCourse set up within about 4-6 weeks. They handled all of the ecommerce, hosting, Learning Management System (LMS), security, site speed, social elements and so on. It was a pretty overwhelming amount of work for both them and me.
After around week six I was ready to get started selling my eCourse. I opened my digital doors and…. nothing. Absolutely nothing. A cool digital breeze blowing by.
The folks at Academy Of Mine assured me that this is very normal. I needed to be patient. I was, after all, building a legitimate online education company, not a here today gone tomorrow get rich quick scheme.
So I patiently navigated through their “pod system” which walked me through the A to Z’s of getting my eCourse online and getting my program known by internet users. Academy Of Mine has a very “big picture” outlook on how to grow successful online training courses. It’s actually a very similar approach to building a company in the real world. It’s a very logical and systematic approach to growth.
They guided me the entire time and within a few months I was earning money! Not much at first. My first month I think I earned a few hundred dollars. But it felt great. I was accustomed to earning money in the “real world” through my studio, but this was the first time I earned anything online. But most importantly, I knew this was the beginning of something bigger.
So now that I knew I could make money selling my course online I had to start asking myself new questions. Like “what will I do if my online course takes off?”
NOT TRADING TIME FOR MONEY… WE’LL NOT LIKE BEFORE
I loved teaching online. It came very naturally to me. I didn’t hire any outside teachers. I did all of the admin work, content creation, student interaction and grading myself. In a lot of ways I preferred it to teaching in the studio. The part of teaching online that I liked the most was that I was introduced to new faces, fashions, neighbourhoods, cultures and problems.
I had students from all over : a journalism student from Paris, I had a mother living in working class neighbourhoods in Columbia, a pair of Greek grandparents looking for a new hobby in their retirement, a Seattle based entrepreneur looking to make a living by starting a small photography studio like the one I was running in Vancouver.
And then it hit me… why do I need to be in Vancouver to teach someone in Greece? I don’t. So what if…. just what if…
A DREAM OF MINE
I told myself that if my online course made me $2500 / month or more I would pack my bags and head away to a tropical island and learn how to scuba dive. That has been a dream of mine for a long time. I said it as a joke to myself at first. 1) I didn’t think I would actually do it and 2) I didn’t think my online course would ever earn that much. So it just existed in my head as a sort of cool fantasy. One which I didn’t take too seriously. Just a fun daydream.
However, at 16 months into the process… I hit my target of $2500 / month. That might not seem like a lot of money, and it was far less than I was making running a photography studio in a high end area of Vancouver. But my lease was about to expire so I thought if I’m going to do this, then now would be a good time. So I let go of the studio (and subsequently a huge chunk of my monthly income) and focused on building my online course from abroad.
After some research I decided to make Roatan (Just off the coast of Honduras) my new home base. This area has the second largest coral reef system in the world, I could take my diving lessons there and then hopefully find a place to live with a decent enough internet connection to keep my online course up and running.
WITH FREEDOM COMES FEAR
I was scared about everything at first. This was my first time doing something like this and I had no idea if it was even possible to do. I read about lifestyle entrepreneur examples before, but I never really thought of myself as one. If anything I would probably think of myself as a workaholic.
So part of the goal of my new island life was to transition me out of my “workaholic” habits and into my new lifestyle entrepreneur habits. I didn’t think it would be very easy for me. Not just because of my personality type, but because my eCourse was still small and I was doing everything on my own so I was still required to “be there” to some extent.
At the end of the day I still had a business to run so I needed to be responsible and ensure that my course was operating like a professional company. Striking that balance was critical for me.
Surprisingly, I found the transition fairly easy. I didn’t have a place of my own at first so I worked at the local cafe beside one of the dive shops where I was taking my diving lessons. I had to work for about 1 hour each day. On heavy grading days I would need to work for 2-3 hours / day.
AND THE TRAVELS CONTINUE!
I loved it. I was doing it! I even got brave and after a long stretch of time in Roatan I traveled to Patagonia and then after that, I was off to a little surfing town in Uruguay!
In total I was gone for a year. I live very comfortably, I ate very well, I was physically active every day, I learned many new skills, met some amazing people, lived in some really cool homes and unique little towns, spent most of my time in or on the ocean and I felt great overall.
Not only was I really impressed with myself to learn how to be a lifestyle entrepreneur, but I was also happy with my performance as a responsible entrepreneur. While all of this was going on I didn’t let my students down, I didn’t slip on my admin duties and I even spent about 3 hours each week promoting my online course and growing my student base. When I returned home my online course company was bigger than it was before I left.
I write this today because I’m planning to do my next adventure later this year. Where? I’m not sure yet. But I wanted to write this to let you know that it’s possible. It’s not a 100% vacation… but as an entrepreneur you probably wouldn’t like that much downtime anyway right?