When you think of making money, teachers probably aren’t the first people who come to mind. In traditional schools, teaching isn’t typically a high-paying position. But not all teaching is done in schools.
Teaching is something anyone can do in any field. To teach, you only need to know more about something than any one other person. If there’s one person in the world who knows less than you about one thing, you have something to teach them.
The product spectrum we talked about in the last chapter applies to teaching as well. If you’re teaching something that makes money to people who have money, you’ll get money. If you’re teaching something that doesn’t make money to people who don’t have money, you most likely will not get money. Teaching can be an incredible source of revenue. If you’re teaching the right thing to the right people who are willing and able to pay you, it can be quite lucrative.
Teaching comes in many forms: consulting, coaching, workshops, classes, speeches, and more. Teaching is not limited to a classroom. It also doesn’t have to be your only source of income, but you can eventually support yourself exclusively with teaching if you want to. You can teach and record a course that continues to sell on a regular basis long after you’ve completed it. You can write a book that not only generates revenue but spreads around to many people. Your book may be how someone hears about you for the first time and eventually comes to buy your other products.
Teachers don’t teach because they’re teachers; they’re teachers because they teach.
Teach What You’ve Just Learned
After working with clients and selling products, you will have undoubtedly learned a lot. You’ll have valuable knowledge that can help others. You may feel like you’re not qualified, or good enough, or smart enough to teach. You might compare yourself to someone you know who is a good teacher. “They’re a much better teacher,” you say. “They know way more than I do. Who am I to teach?” This is a common feeling, but remember: you’re not teaching the masters. All you need to know to teach is more than any other one person.
Let’s say the person you picture when you think of a great teacher is a Level 9 in your field. Maybe you consider yourself a Level 4. You’re okay, but you’re certainly not a master. This is actually a great position to be in! You’re in a prime spot to teach the beginners, the Level 1 people, how to get to Level 2. If you’ve been there before, you’ve learned some things to get where you are now. If you’ve learned things, you can teach!
The disadvantage for the Level 9 person is that they’re so far removed from the Level 1 person they’re out of touch. If you ask a billionaire how to make your first thousand dollars, you’re not going to get very practical advice. Why? Isn’t a billionaire likely to be super-smart and knowledgeable about money? Yes, but the mindset required to be a billionaire is far removed from the mindset required to make your first thousand dollars. They would be nearly incapable of giving you any practical advice you can apply as a novice in business. The billionaire might be able to tell you how to make a million, but their mindset and context is so far removed from making that first grand that they really can’t speak your language. It would be like asking an average person how to make a penny. It’s so commonplace to them that they’d probably tell you to pick one up off the ground!
You understand the early struggles better than a master does. This is what qualifies you to teach. Similarly, you’re able to speak the language of the newcomer better than someone who hasn’t been in that position for many years. You intimately know the fears and struggles of this person because you were recently in their shoes. There has never been a better time for you to teach!
Teach Before You’re an Expert
You might still be afraid what you could teach is too basic. You might be worried that everyone already knows what you have to teach or that someone more knowledgeable is going to come along and ridicule you because they already know what you’re teaching. But you’re not teaching those people! The masters are too busy to spend a minute of their time correcting your teaching anyway. They have much better things to do than ridicule someone for teaching basic concepts they already know.
There’s always someone who can learn something from you. If you’ve ever learned anything in your life, you can teach. Don’t wait until you’re an expert to teach. Many people think you need to be an expert to teach, but it’s actually the other way around: leaders are seen as experts because they teach. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking they teach because they’re experts.
It’s easy to look at someone else who is teaching something you already know and pat yourself on the back for knowing it. But they’re reaching the people who haven’t yet learned what you have.
You shouldn’t be afraid to be wrong. Even if you are wrong, it provides yet another teaching opportunity. If you found out you were wrong about something you said, you now have the chance to correct yourself in public. It’s rare for someone to admit when they’re wrong. When people see that you’re transparent when you make a mistake, they’ll know they can trust you to be honest. They’ll want to continue following you because they know that if you discover an area where you’re wrong, you’re going to show them.
Let’s get one thing straight: don’t teach from inexperience. You have no business teaching if you have no experience. Gain experience first. But if you do have experience, don’t let age be a deterrent. Teach what you know. Don’t teach what you don’t know. If you know things, teach them. If you don’t know things, go learn. Iterate in public, share what you learn, and teach what you know.
Don’t Let Age Deter You
If you do know things and have experience, don’t wait until you’re “old enough” to be respected. Don’t hold back because you’re not “young enough” to be relevant. Age does not matter. If you have experience at age twenty, start sharing what you know now when you think nobody trusts you.
If you’re in your forties, you’ve had decades to come to wherever you are right now, and that means that you have experience. In many cases, you have financial resources, assets, and gray hair. Yes, gray hair is an asset. It’s a good thing. If you’re in your forties, you need to be teaching and you need to be writing. Why do you not have ten books written already? You’ve been here for four decades! What did you do? Were you in a coma? You’ve been out in the world acquiring all this knowledge and experience other people can benefit from. If younger people want to sell their experience, they’d better have the proof, the track record, and the case studies to back it up.
You just have to be forty!
Twenty-year-olds say, “I’m not old enough to be taken seriously.” Forty-year-olds say, “I’m not young enough to be taken seriously.” Thirty-year-olds think they have it the worst of all. No one is happy.
If you wait until you’re “old enough” to be trusted, you’re too late. If you think you’re not “young enough” to be taken seriously, you never will be.
If you have things to share, share them now. Don’t wait.
Teach What You Know and as You Go
There are so many benefits to teaching. As you articulate a concept, you’ll begin to internalize it. We go through stages when we learn. When we first hear something, it becomes head knowledge: we know it on a surface level, but it hasn’t yet been internalized. Full internalization occurs only after a long time of regurgitating. The less you talk about the things you know, the longer it takes to convert head knowledge to experiential knowledge. When you teach, you close that gap. You will start to accelerate your understanding and internalize things to a greater extent as you teach. This is why you shouldn’t wait until you have perfect knowledge to teach. The act of teaching perfects that knowledge.
Again, don’t teach what you don’t know. Teach only from experience. But don’t wait until you’re perfect. Teach as you go and share what you learn.
Teaching what you know forces you to go through everything in detail. When you articulate the steps, you come out of the process with a renewed sense of clarity. Being good at what you do doesn’t automatically mean you’re good at teaching what you do. There are likely many things you do without even thinking about them. Teaching forces you to break down your process into something that can be explained. When you do this, you’ll understand it better yourself.
For this reason, teaching is a form of learning. If you want to become good at something, teach others how to do it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” It’s not an either/or scenario; it’s both: teach and do.
Teaching helps you understand how you do what you do. Knowing why or how you do something is valuable. A lot of people who are good at something just do it—they don’t know how or why because everything happens on a subconscious level for them. Teaching forces you to uncover those reasons.
If you’re not teaching, many of the things you’re good at can actually be things you don’t fully understand. You have to understand why you do what you do in order to be able to break it down and teach it to someone. If you struggle with teaching, it’s because you don’t have a thorough understanding of what you do. This may be difficult to accept, especially if you’re good at what you do. To understand something is to comprehend it or make sense of it. If you can’t teach it or make sense of it, it’s likely you don’t fully understand it. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. As a form of learning, teaching requires auditing what you know and studying how and why you do what you do.
Break down your process.
Continue asking “Why?” Go back as far as you can. Ask “Why?” until the answer stops changing.
Don’t Pressure Yourself with Perfection but Assert Your Authority
The first time you teach is not going to be great. You have the permission to teach poorly. That sounds weird, but know you have permission to be imperfect. Your first lessons aren’t going to be perfect. That’s okay. You have to start somewhere. You’re not going to get there until you teach. Allow yourself to not be so great at first.
If you withhold your teaching until you can do so in a professional or perfect way, you’re going to lose the unique perspective you have in your current circumstances, and this perspective may be exactly what someone needs right now. When you teach as you go, you have the ability to look over the early material you produced and better understand the mindset of those who are in that place.
For people to see you as a someone they would buy a course or a book from, they need to perceive you as an authority. If you want to be seen as an expert, start teaching! Creating unique content around your subject is what will position you as an authority.
When you create content, something to keep in mind is the longevity of that content, its shelf life. How relevant will what you’re saying be in a month? How relevant will the topic be in a year or ten years? Do you use many examples from recent events? These might resonate with students now, but in the near future your material will appear dated.
You want to strike a balance between relevance and timelessness. There is no right or wrong approach. It simply depends on your goals. You can often make more money in the short term by capitalizing on trends and current interests. If you capitalize on a topic by teaching on it while there is a surge of interest, you have the potential to profit handsomely in the short term. The downside is that trends come and go, and the ebb and flow of public interest in those topics will mirror the ebb and flow of money in your bank account. As interest dies, so will your sales. This means you’ll have to work to come up with new material again and again.
For instance, while writing this book I’m taking great care to craft something timeless. I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid referencing specific technologies or recent events that would otherwise date the book because I want to preserve its timeless principles for as long as possible. References to pop culture and modern technologies may garner the attention of a reader shortly after the publish date, but they will render the book less interesting to future generations.
Everything will require maintenance. No matter how hard you try to make something evergreen, you will still need to update your material to make it relevant for the current age. The benefit of designing your curriculum in a way that builds off of timeless principles is that it will remain relevant for a long time to come. While you may not be able to generate large spikes of sales by capitalizing on recent trends, you will have created for yourself a more reliable source of income that will serve you for a greater length of time—without constant updates.
If you want to make a living with teaching, people need to perceive you as an expert. They need to know you’re the go-to person for your specialty. To be seen as an expert, you need to teach. The more you teach what you know, the more people begin to perceive you as an authority on your topic. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen with time.
By enacting the first two parts of the Trifecta—doing client work and creating case studies, and designing and marketing your products—you’ll have a great number of opportunities to share along the way, which will complete the Trifecta with teaching. You can write about client work, make videos of your design process, and show what it takes behind the scenes to launch a product. All of this builds your credibility and establishes you as an expert. Once you’ve built a reputation through sharing what you know, you open the doors to profit from teaching.
Before Teaching, Choose Your Niche
A niche is something that appeals to a specialized section of the population. If you try to reach everyone, you’ll end up reaching no one. You’re not trying to reach everyone. Instead, you’re narrowing your focus to a specific group. How narrow is too narrow? If you don’t have any competition, you’ve gone too narrow. When you find that someone else is teaching the same thing as you, rejoice! You want competition. Competition is a good sign because it’s validation of an existing market. It’s proof that there’s interest.
What you generally don’t want to do is go into an industry where no one else has been successful. When you’re more established in business and have a lot of capital, you can afford to take risks and try to be the first in a new market. When you’re starting out, it’s best to enter into an already-existing market. If there’s competition and you see other people successfully making money teaching in the area you specialize in, that means it’s possible for you too.
Spend some time thinking about your unique angle. Competition is important, but just because you’re teaching something other people already teach doesn’t mean you have to do it the same way.
- What can you do better than the competition?
- What makes your message unique?
- What are your strengths?
- What do people compliment you on?
- What are some skills you have that you developed a long time ago?
Leverage your unique advantage. If you combine aspects of the different skills you’ve amassed from your past, even if they may not seem relevant to what you want to teach, you can come up with a unique advantage. What is something you’re good at that most other people aren’t? How can you combine that skill with what you’re teaching now?
Let’s look at three methods of making money with teaching. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should get you thinking and give you some ideas of ways you can create diversified sources of income. There are many more ways to make money with teaching, but the three we’re covering in this chapter are very powerful.
To Make Money Through Teaching, Host a Workshop
A workshop is something you should start out doing locally and in person. Don’t wait until you’re invited to host a workshop—set it up yourself! Start by reaching out to someone with a venue. Find local meetups and join groups of people who are interested in the same things you are. Go to events, network with people, and invite them to your workshop. Not everyone will attend, but some will and they may know others who will as well.
Workshops are something people expect to pay for. Workshops are events where you go to learn a skill. People inherently understand that putting on an event such as a workshop is something that costs money—you typically have to rent a venue, equipment, and cover other costs—and they will be ready to invest.
Charge for your workshop. Don’t make the mistake of making your first workshop free. It may be your first event, but you’re creating value for people. It doesn’t have to be perfect for you to put a price on it. In fact, if you don’t charge for it, people won’t take it seriously. They may not even show up because they assume it’s not actually a professional event. Those who do show up won’t take it as seriously because they didn’t have to pay for it. By charging for your workshop, you’ll guarantee that the people who do come will not only appreciate what they learn but actually take the time to apply it. If you want people to benefit from your teaching, charge for it.
Start with a local workshop in your hometown. This will end up leading to many other opportunities. Document the event by taking photos or videos throughout the workshop. After the event has ended, write up a case study. This story will get people excited and generate buzz for your next event.
Let’s say you do a couple more of these events. Eventually, you’ll have a nice portfolio of workshops. This will allow you to reach out beyond your local region. Now, you can start talking to people in different cities, states, or countries and ask if they would like you to lead a workshop in their location. They’re going to say “Yes” because you have a proven track record. If you build a good-enough reputation for yourself, you can very well work your way up to the point where you continue to charge more and more for these workshops.
What do you do if only a few people come to your workshop? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t reach your attendance goal. If it’s a small group, don’t think of it as a failed workshop. Instead, consider it a successful consulting gig! If three or four people show up, then you’re getting three or four people to pay you for your time to help them do whatever it is you’re teaching. If you invest in these people, they will become your ambassadors. They’re going to spread the word about you. They’re going to tell a friend or bring someone with them the next time you do a workshop. Because they just had a great time and got a ton of personal attention from you, they’ll be more than happy to provide a testimonial. Use these testimonials to promote your next event.
There are a few ways to get a testimonial from your workshop attendees. You can send them a message after the event asking for a testimonial, or you can get it right there while they’re at the event. If someone during the workshop made a remark that would make for a great testimonial, ask, “Can I use that as a testimonial?” Almost every time they’ll say, “Sure!”
To Make Money Through Teaching, Write a Book
You don’t necessarily have to wait until after you’ve hosted workshops to write a book. In fact, if you write a book before you do a workshop, you can sell your book at the workshop to earn even more revenue!
You can get really specific when it comes to writing a book. Certainly, if you go the route of working with a traditional publisher, they’ll encourage you to choose a specific topic. If you go too general, you run the risk of not resonating with people. The thing about traditional publishers is that they have the final say in what you can and can’t talk about, how you price your book, and what percentage of revenue you’ll receive. Yes, they do some marketing and distribution, but not as much as you think. A lot of the promotional efforts will fall on you. While self-publishing and selling a book on your own can be more work, it also means more freedom. The biggest factor you get to control is the price.
When you sell a book on your own, you don’t have any restrictions. You can set any price you like. The more specific you go with your topic, the more tailored the solution is, which means you can charge more for it. Since you’re selling the book yourself, you get to set the price, and you can also create additional packages (or tiers) that include the book bundled with other resources, like bonus recordings, interviews, videos, templates, or guides. Bundling things together with your book and creating different pricing tiers can potentially bring you even more revenue than if you had gone with a traditional publisher—even if the book had sold in greater volume.
To Make Money Through Teaching, Produce a Course
The nice thing about a course is that you can go much more in-depth on a topic than you can with other mediums. While a workshop might be a few hours long, a course can be much longer because people can always go through it on their own time.
Creating a course is very appealing: you record your curriculum, lessons, or videos one time and then it becomes an asset for you. It continues to serve you, teach people, and bring in revenue automatically on a consistent basis. Who wouldn’t want this?
A course is very similar to a workshop. In a sense, you can think of it like multiple workshops strung together in which you teach in depth on related topics.
Before you create a course, it’s a good idea to host an in-person workshop. This might seem strange because a workshop requires you to be there in person: you have to show up to the workshop, teach people, and you make money only once. That doesn’t sound very flexible or lucrative. But the workshop is your testing ground. What you don’t want is to do is spend a bunch of time creating a course that doesn’t actually help people or address real struggles they have. Start by teaching the same things you would in a course at a workshop. Take note of what concepts or exercises people get hung up on. What do they struggle with? What parts of your presentation were unclear? What were the biggest hurdles for your students? Use this data to design your course in a way that helps everyone overcome those hurdles. Think of workshops as a way to get paid to research and validate your course idea.
Writing a book, hosting a workshop, and teaching a course are all topics that deserve entire books. My hope in sharing these three ideas is to get you thinking about the different ways you can make money by sharing what you learn and teaching what you know—beginning even today, so long as you know more than just one other person.
- To teach, you need only to know more about something than any one other person.
- Don’t wait until you’re an expert to teach. Many people think you need to be an expert to teach, but it’s actually the other way around: leaders are seen as experts because they teach.
- Teach what you know. Don’t teach what you don’t know. If you know things, teach them. If you don’t know, go learn.
- Iterate in public, share what you learn, and teach what you know.
- Age does not matter. You can teach if you’re young, and you can teach if you’re old. Don’t wait—and it’s not too late.
- Teaching is a form of learning. If you want to become good at something, teach others how to do it.
- Don’t pressure yourself to get everything perfect right away. You’ll make mistakes in the beginning; it’s natural and a part of the learning process. You have the permission to teach poorly.