I taught my first Japanese Calligraphy workshop in October of 2014. About 12 students joined me in Worcester, MA to learn the basics and fundamentals of Japanese Calligraphy. While the majority of the students were local, there was a few that crossed stateliness to get to the workshop. Special shout out to Nora who came all the way from Argentina!
I had a blast that Saturday. I really enjoyed teaching a live workshop. When I set out to do it again a few months later I received a ton of emails from people all over the world asking me if I had an online version. Everyone who contacted me said that they’d love to attend my workshop, but the number one reason they couldn’t was because of traveling.
“You should offer an online course!”, everyone told me. I know, I know.
Back in 2014 the online course fever was spreading. I toyed with the idea of building one, but every time I sat down to draft it I was overwhelmed by the scope of such project. I also had no clue how to even make one. Where do I host it? How do I take payments? How will it look? Do I have to design it? How much will it cost me?
Every time I got to this point I shut down my computer and ran away.
I did explore a bunch of options. I opened accounts with Udemy and Fedora (now known as Teachable). While exploring their settings and features, I didn’t understand anything I was looking at. I could’ve very well be staring at the screen of the Matrix. I wanted to do things, like setting up my logo, or putting up a lesson, but I just didn’t quite get it. Then, there was Woocommerce’s Sensei: a WordPress plugin to create online courses. Sensei was appealing because, one it was affordable, and two the course would live on my website; allowing me total control of it. The downside? In order to customize it to make it match the look and style of my website I’d need to get deep under the hood and mess around with code. This was beyond my WordPress abilities. I had no interest in spending hours learning how to code. Worst of all, Sensei works best if your website runs on a Woocommerce theme, which mine didn’t.
I was about to give up on this online course business. But then, in August of 2014, I saw a tweet from Jason Zook: “Anyone in the process of building an online course and want to try a new platform for free? Fax me an email”.
I had just started following Jason after listening an interview with him on a Podcast. I liked his unconventional approach to online business. One of Jason’s first articles I read was about how he built his website using a Genesis Theme in a matter of minutes. Needless to say, I bought the same theme he used, and I was able to quickly customize it to my style. I loved just about everything this guy had to say. And now he’s building an online course platform? The very thing I’ve been struggling with for months now?!
I emailed him and I was put on the list to be notified of when Teachery was available.
As soon as I got my hands on Teachery I was excited to see how easy it was going to be to put this thing together. All the technical burdens of creating an online course were taken off my shoulders and all I had to do was focus on creating the content. Within a few months Learn Shodo: Intro to Japanese Calligraphy Online Course was enrolling students.
These are my favorite things about Teachery:
- Teachery is focused on the content, not the look of my course. You can do pretty much just about any customization to the look of your course without knowing any code. However, understanding a little bit of CSS styles will come in handy when dealing with pictures. The interface is simple and efficient.
- Selling a course on Teachery is super easy. All transactions are done seamlessly through Stripe. Recently, they made it possible for course creators to take payments outside of Teachery. This is a great feature for me because sometimes I am able to sell my online course while teaching a live workshop. All I have to do is give the new students a promo code to get in or I can add them manually.
- The best part of Teachery is their support. Jason and Gerlando truly care about the course creators using their platform. Every time I needed technical support they answered promptly. They’re always available for any questions, concerns, or advice that you may need to make your course successful.
Though Teachery is the best platform out there to host an online course here are few things I would like to see improve.
- The sales landing page is great and I was really excited when that feature became available. However, it does take a little bit of unconventional thinking to make it look unique and not like a template. I would like to be able to move around the order of things. For example, I would like to be able to move the testimonial block to any position I want, instead they are set to a specific position in the landing page.
- The number one reason I contact Gerlando is because a student accidentally wrote the wrong email address when signing in and now they can’t access the course. In the back end I can see the list of my students and their emails, but I can’t make any changes. It would be really helpful if I could fix this myself instead of telling the students that I’ve contacted Teachery’s support and the issue will be resolved soon.
My course is in a super niche category, so I have no “I made six figures with my online course” story to tell. It’s been a slow steady growth for me. I open the course four times a year so that I can give each student the attention they need, get them on board and on my course’s Facebook group. The amount of students enrolling has been higher each time the course opens and this is very exciting for me!
Japanese Calligraphy is a very traditional art settled in strict traditions. Learning this beautiful art online is somewhat unorthodox and has never done before. However, every one of my students is so thankful that I have created this course because finding a Japanese Calligraphy teacher in the west is practically impossible.
The next course I have in the works that soon will be up on Teachery is Learn Shodo: Advanced Technques. This course is designed for students who’s taken my Intro Course or have learned the fundamentals of Japanese Calligraphy elsewhere and are ready to go to the next level. In this course students will graduate from the basic and fundamentals of Japanese Calligraphy and learn new techniques to make their calligraphy more personal and expressive. Learn Shodo: Advanced Techniques will be available in the Spring of 2016!