Teaching art online is a great way to grow your art business and become a better artist.
In this article, we're going to focus on the teaching art branch of your art business.
Essentially, teaching art can come in many forms. The most common is making your own video courses or written guides.
My courses have helped over 3,000+ artists. Helping them improve their businesses and introduce them to new ways of drawing. The price of my courses ranges from $39-300 each. My main guides and courses are Art Launch Blueprint and Illustration Essentials.
Start teaching art before you build a course
Before you set out to make a course. It helps to build an audience around the topics you envision yourself teaching.
You can get a feel for this by writing an article at least once a week. While having a signup form at the bottom of the blog post. A signup form with a call-to-action related to the topic you’re teaching.
For example, let's say you're sharing drawing tutorials. Your call-to-action for your email list signup form could be, “Get my best drawing tutorials sent to your inbox every Tuesday”.
Teaching art makes you an authority
Teaching online can make you question yourself and create self-doubt. This is known as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is where a little voice inside your head tells you, “You’re not qualified to do this, you’re no expert!”.
When in fact, you don’t need to be an expert to teach. You teach to become an authority. I first heard this from Nathan Barry and it's forever influenced how I think about writing and teaching.
As long as you’re a few steps ahead of someone else on a topic or skillset, you are qualified to teach. You don’t need a special certificate, a college degree, or permission from some secret organization.
If you’ve dedicated a lot of time to learning about a topic, spent time going through an experience, or dedicated yourself to growing a skill. You are qualified to teach.
There is always someone who is a few steps behind you who would enjoy your knowledge.
Ignore anyone who is critical of your teaching. The funny thing about critical people who make you second guess yourself is that they’re always someone who is doing less than you.
Picking a course topic
After you’ve spent time growing your email list. You can start thinking about offering a more comprehensive resource for your audience.
A natural side effect of teaching is getting questions from your audience. You'll start to see a pattern of frequent questions. A hint to guide you in figuring out what you want to make a course about.
As an artist, you can offer courses about anything from business strategies, technical topics, and creative processes.
I recommend making your course topic focused on. Offering a clear solution to take someone from point A to point B in a direct way.
For example, instead of a course on ‘how to draw’. A much better course topic would be ‘how to draw birds with watercolor’. Or ‘how to sketch wild animals’.
“But there are so many courses already on the topic I want to teach?”
It’s easy to think that if there are many courses about your topic there isn’t any room for you.
In fact, it’s the opposite.
If there are many courses related to your topic. Such as a lot of drawing courses, it only means there is a viable market for it.
What’s going to make your course unique from the others out there on the same topics is that YOU are teaching it.
The audience you’ve been building an email list around, sharing insightful tips with, will what to learn from you.
Tools to make your course
While there are thousands of tools for making a course online. (Seriously, Google it).
The reason I chose the tools I did was that they work well with my existing art website. Which runs entirely on WordPress.
Diving deeper, my store runs on a WordPress plugin called WooCommerce.
There is an extension of the WooCommerce plugin called Sensei. Which is what I used to manage the actual transactions, course content, and membership access for paying students. To deliver emails and make forms for people to signup for my email list I use ConvertKit.
Creating the lessons for your course
Once you’ve nailed down a course idea, You can start building your course.
Course content works best as video content.
For my courses where I teach business topics for artists, I record my voice and computer screen with Quicktime. Going through slides I made on Google as I record my voice.
For my drawing courses, I film an over-the-shoulder shot of myself drawing and add a voiceover on top of it later. (It’s impossible for me to talk and draw at the same time).
The structure for your course should look like:
Welcome students to the course and give them a birds-eye view of where you’re going to take them.
Craft the lessons to build upon each other. 10-15 lessons are a great lesson count. With each lesson being no more than 10-20 minutes.
Rehash everything they learned and deliver your final thoughts.
- Bonus Materials
You can also include supplemental materials. Such as templates, scripts, real-time videos, etc. Anything that would help your students.
It helps your students if you build each lesson upon each other and guide them into the next lesson.
For example, the basic structure of each lesson can be broken down into these five steps:
- Summary of what they learned in the previous lesson
- Talk about what they’re about to learn in this lesson
- Teach the lesson
- Revisit the main points in this lesson
- Hint at what they’re going to learn in the next lesson
Pricing your course
Determining a price for your course should come down to the value of the outcome your course offers.
Business courses often mean your students will be able to earn more money in their art business after they go through your course.
Courses on technical how-to’s and new art techniques often give your students new marketable skills.
When I set out to make a course I make it 10-15 lessons and l sell it between $100 – $300. The price fluctuates based on launch discounts, adding more content over time, and bundle deals.
Some courses out there can be $1000-$2000. But they typically have 6+ hours of content and dive into extreme detail about a subject.
The more your course costs mean the more time you have to invest in marketing your course. I’ve found a 10-15 lesson course on any topic, can sell without too much hands-on marketing for $100-$300.
How to launch your course
You’ve been growing an email list before building your course. 500-1,000 email subscribers who are interested in the topic you’re teaching. This range is good for having a decent course launch.
What is the course launch?
A course launch is a small window of time where you offer your course for sale the first time. Often the first day it’s available you can offer a launch discount or other added incentive.
At a minimum, you can expect 2% of your subscribers to buy the course during launch. If you’re selling your first course for $250 you can expect to earn $2500-$5000. During the launch.
People buy things from you because they know, like, and trust you. Consistently putting out great content is what generates trust in your audience. Replying to emails, answering questions, and all-around being a good mentor and teacher. If you are more hands-on with your audience, you can expect closer to 5-7% of your audience to buy your course during launch. Especially if you’ve been consistently putting out weekly tutorials.
For the first few years of my offering my courses, they were all evergreen. Evergreen means they were available to purchase 24/7. As an experiment, I began using timed launches. Which is where a course was only open for enrollment twice a year for a total of two weeks.
I prefer timed launches because it helps me segment my time throughout the year. The sales are higher because of the added urgency to enroll in the course. Also, when I do a timed launch I'm more focused on student on-boarding, answering questions, and reviewing work. When I'm not doing a timed launch for a course, it frees up my time to focus on illustration work and personal art projects.
Final thoughts on teaching art
I would not have reached 3,000+ students, or even earned the amount I’ve earned if I had chosen to teach in a traditional college, art school, or really anywhere in person.
However, before you set out to make courses you have to realize, you’re being a mentor to people. You have to be willing to answer emails and questions from your students. Taking time to look at their work and give honest feedback.
Genuinely caring about their success and being there for them.