Eight months ago I decided to start teaching online, after almost twenty years as a design professional. Short classes, in video format. Until then, I had never considered the possibility because, of course, “that was someone else’s thing, I was not prepared for it, I had nothing to teach,” etc.
Twenty years dealing with clients, colleagues, collaborators, students… learning from many, instructing others. Always around issues related to my activity. Many hours and accumulated experiences. Sometimes my role has been literally — and often unconsciously — that of a teacher. You can possibly say the exact same thing as you read these lines.
The possibility of teaching online became especially feasible at a time in my career when I began to consider serious changes, focusing on areas that I had little explored and voluntarily exposing myself to fields or sectors where I had everything to do. A new beginning, to say the least. Uncertainty does not always lead us to inaction. Sometimes just the opposite happens. Nothing to lose.
So why not taking advantage of the possibilities offered by technology and do what, in fact, we have already done in other contexts, targeting a potentially larger audience, while all representing a series of interesting personal advantages?
As a result of my brief but growing experience as a teacher, I want to share with you five good reasons to offer your knowledge to other people, working as an online teacher.
1. Earning money
Let’s start from here. Sometimes I have the feeling that many people find it hard to admit that money can be a motivation to teach online. As if in any way that dirties their work as teachers, even when there are real passion and commitment behind it.
Money is indeed one of the reasons why teaching online, although it is seldom the most important to most teachers I have met. The reason is that generating educational content is complicated. It requires research, work, and a willingness to make them truly useful to a listener.
Generating income on any e-learning platform — owned or from third parties — requires dedication, patience and perseverance. Few people get an obvious financial reward overnight.
A person interested solely in the economics of online training may either give up early or simply find more lucrative options for earning income in less time. I think I am not mistaken when affirming that something else is required.
However, it is equally true to say that online training can be very lucrative. Today there are not a few people who have found in their passion to teach and create valuable content for students a way of life, not only acceptable but truly dignified, to the point of redirecting careers completely and permanently.
So yes, getting money and turning your motivation as a teacher into a sustainable way of living is, without a doubt, a good reason to teach online.
2. Acquiring (self)knowledge
Overcoming the barrier of self-affirmation is one of the most complex steps for someone who decides to teach online. The most recurring statement by people who consider the possibility is: “I have nothing valuable to teach to another human being.”
Which is obviously false and a spectacular way to underestimate our own experiences.
My grandfather, who lived through times of civil war — and fought in it — with hardly more education than the essential to survive in a devastated country, had an incomparable knowledge on the fauna and flora of the forests that surrounded him throughout his life and an amazing ability to reuse old furniture and materials he found on his walks, transforming them into useful items for his home. I wonder how many people would pay today for all that precious knowledge.
Deciding to teach involves personal analysis. Be aware of the knowledge that is possessed and that can be useful or interesting for others, in addition to developing the necessary skills to transmit that knowledge adequately. Often this examination leads to unexpectedly positive results. The discovery of an unexplored skill or passion or the rediscovery of others, long forgotten.
Some people started giving classes on topics that had never been related to their profession but to some of their passions, curiously developing a certain professionalization with it.
Have you dedicated three hours a week for ten years of your life to a certain activity that you adore? Do you think those 1440 hours have been useless? You would be surprised if you carefully analyzed everything you have assimilated and the level of knowledge and skill obtained with it. Do you think that knowledge would be useful to others? You’re right!
Definitely teaching is an amazing way to learn. Often about oneself. Any teacher would agree with this fact.
3. Developing topics of your interest (helping others in the process)
This position may seem selfish, but for me, it is a scenario in which everyone wins and without a doubt, one of my main motivations to teach online.
Personally, I have an interest in character creation, but I am not technically a character designer, as understood in the animation or video game industry. I have not developed this interest as a specific profession. However, I have spent a lot of time creating characters and making them particularly remarkable in my work.
Exploring this area as a personal exercise, to learn, advance and have something else to offer has been, in itself, the seed of valuable content that can be useful for certain students. Literally turning your learning process into the content.
Through the autonomous development of topics of your interest, students gain teachers who are truly involved in the topics they cover, while they explore new territories, they do so with real passion and, probably, requiring less time and effort.
4. Connecting with an(other) audience
As a designer or illustrator, my audience has generally been divided between colleagues — people who carry out an activity similar to yours and who are interested in your progress or your work — or clients — people who may potentially be interested in hiring your services or buying your products.
Developing content for potential students is something quite different. Both the tone and objectives are different. Establishing a dialogue with people who expect something different from you can be refreshing and productive. You may even feel that your way of being and your skills connect better with this type of audience than with another.
From a business perspective, a group of beginners in an area that you master would be willing to pay for valuable educational content that you probably couldn’t sell to a customer.
A much younger audience — or, why not, much older — would allow you to connect with a group of people with whom you may not be so used to talk to, allowing you to better understand their points of view and needs. Not to mention that your personal reputation can grow because of it.
Certainly, a different audience can bring with it exciting new possibilities on many levels.
5. Making your work more flexible than ever
Flexibility is a concept that now, more than ever is here to stay. Whether you learn or teach online, flexibility is clearly one of the key factors. Yes, creating valuable content takes time and dedication, but beyond that, you define your limits, including the pace of publication.
Some people work better dedicating many hours or days in a concentrated way, producing classes or complete articles, then rest, take a breath and continue after a few days, while others maintain a much less intense but absolutely constant routine, dedicating a number of hours a day to it, no matter what happens.
Be that as it may, you define your life as an online teacher. Your rhythm, your spaces, your routines, your planning and your dedication, be it partial, as an activity that you carry out apart from your daily work, or complete, as a teacher fully dedicated to it.
Although this scenario may be relatively common for freelancers working in sectors like mine — design, illustration — for people from others, it can represent a real liberation and a different way of seeing and living their lives.
Teaching online is an activity that ties multiple motivations. From essentially material interests to the common good of those who start their own path, through self-knowledge.
Teaching online can be a way to:
- Get to know your skills better, even those that you didn’t know you had.
- Develop topics that are of your full and genuine interest.
- Connect with a different type of audience.
- Potentially live well from it all.
- And do it with considerable flexibility.
If at any time you have felt like digging into your role as a teacher, I encourage you to develop it at your own pace, in the format you want. You have multiple platforms through which you can offer this content.
Do you like writing? Are you good at finding the right words to convey a useful and effective message? Medium may be your place. Do you prefer a format in which you can express yourself orally, without the need for visual support material? How about a podcast? You have multiple platforms for this, from very small to massive ones, through more than a dozen free and paid options.
Are you good at creating audiovisual content and speaking to people face to face? You can from creating a YouTube channel to compiling your courses in the form of small lessons that you can offer through e-learning platforms or even as direct downloads. Or why not? All this at the same time!
Fortunately, technology and access to it is becoming less of an issue. Your knowledge, your talent and your unique personality are and always will be the fundamental elements in your journey as an online teacher.
Written and illustrated by Raúl Gil of Two Tale Tellers. Thank you for reading.