After launching my company four years ago, I started to get messages from aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to turn their own ideas and talents into profitable businesses. Early on, I actually enjoyed those messages.
The reason was that I found joy in sharing the lessons I'd learned through launching Headbands of Hope to help other entrepreneurs; I felt good sharing the business ideas I believed in. However, the quantity of requests eventually got too high for me to handle and run my business.
So, I looked for, and discovered, a solution that would help me address my problem (and make some revenue from it along the way): I teamed up with Brit + Co to create a short 38-minute online class called How to Be Your Own Boss and packed it with everything I had learned about starting and running my business.
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Brit + Co, which is selling the class that I put together, is a digital media and commerce company that provides millennial women the inspiration and tools to light a fire under their creativity. In May 2014 the company started offering online classes, to supplement the company's “how-to” content with a deeper look at particular skills that interested them.
To create each class, Brit partnered with an expert in the topic at hand and gave that expert a platform from which to teach -- and, in cases like mine, to grow their own businesses.
Anjelika Temple, executive creative director at Brit + Co, told me that the company's mission is "to ignite the creative spark in everyone." Online learning, she said, "allows us to do this by helping women to learn new creative skills, and giving makers a platform to share their expertise with others while sustaining and building a business around their passion.
"We believe this is only going to continue as technology improves and more people utilize the internet for educational content and entrepreneurship," Temple added.
Of course there are many sources for online learning and mentoring: Coursera, Khan University, Mogul, edX, Moz (and more) are well known. And, chances are, your local universities offer courses online. So, check them out. And, if you’re thinking about offering content through online classes for your own audience, I can't recommend that action enough. Here are some reasons I discovered why so many people are pursuing online learning:
Take it on your own time, in your own place. Especially if you're targeting millennials, understand that we want to do what we want, where we want and when we want to do it. Online classes grant the participant 100 percent freedom in choosing the time and place. Taking a class that can be set up around your own schedule is a lot more appealing than committing to show up at a designated time and place.
Have adult "homework." As much as people love freedom, they also love structure. With the business class I created, there’s "homework" after each lesson, using downloadable PDFs for participants to fill out. Having actionable items for class participants helps them channel the lesson content to their own lives, which is ultimately the end goal.
Target very specific interests. Brit + Co’s most popular classes have been Watercolor Painting, Hand-Lettering, Calligraphy 101 and Photography for Bloggers. I doubt you could find these class topics at your local college. Online learning has such a wide reach that it’s possible to offer classes for very specific interests, which makes these classes rarer and more special for potential attendees who share a particular passion or interest.
It’s not a huge commitment. Depending on what class you take, your time investment doesn’t have to be huge. An online class could well be a great way for you to "test the waters" before you really dive into a topic and spend more of your time and money. Modern learning doesn’t have to cost you a four-year commitment and thousands of dollars; the fee can be small (or even free) for a short class and an easy way to decide if you want more.
Make it social. Instead of raising your hand for a question, find your instructor’s handle and tweet him or her. Online learning creates a social network beyond the classroom, and in some cases allows for social media interactions and connections with the instructor and other class participants.
Brit + Co plans to continue to expand its online class offerings to help as many people as possible discover that they can be creative and even turn their creativity into a business. If you have a topic or area of expertise you believe people could find value in, consider creating your own online offering.