Teaching Online


Teaching online

Maartje Simons    3 December 2020

Many professional musicians got into serious financial trouble since the Covid 19 outbreak. Live shows have been cancelled or reduced to a very small live audience. As a consequence it has become impossible to earn enough money to pay the bills. Rehearsals and studio recordings are more difficult to organize, but even if musicians have the time and space, there is no money left to pay the rent or the studio engineer.

Thanks to the internet there are various platforms that can help you to continue making music, but can they help you to earn money to keep your musical career professional?
I’m interested in how this really works. How much time does it take to set up your online music channel for example? And there are so many people (professional or not) making music online, that it can be somewhat overwhelming.

From the months October to January (4 blogs in total), I will explore a couple of platforms in different categories to see how they work and hopefully this will answer my questions. I will write a 5th blog with a conclusion of my findings in the end.

I need to say this before I start: I’m not a professional journalist or blogger or writer.. I can only speak from my own experiences and findings, and so they will never be complete. It’s simply too complicated to cover everything. I hope this article gives you some insight. If there is something you miss, or if you have your own experiences with creating an online music career, please share it with us in the comments section! We can all learn from each other!

Online courses are big right now, although it is not new. During the Covid 19 crisis it’s the best way to get yourself educated. On Youtube (and other sites also) free tutorials, in every topic you can think of, are available. Universities have their own online courses and there are a variety of apps you can download to learn something new. In this blog I will only focus on a couple of ways to become a teacher yourself and which ways are the best to teach music specifically. Basically most of these sites works for any other skill as well.

Most people probably figured out how Zoom or Skype works. Of course this is a way to teach online. When you already have students you can set a date, they can pay you money and you can start teaching. But how to reach more students? And how to reach students all over the world? What if you don’t have to worry about building a website from scratch with an online store and enough space to upload pre-recorded tutorials? There are many websites that can help you set up your site as a teacher in various ways. I have been an online course student for about 6 years now. In my case I’ve learned guitar, a lot of Adobe programs, drawing and animation. I’ve seen many websites and learned various things online from teachers all around the world. You can call me a course addict. It’s great!

As I’ve already mentioned before to some extent, there are 2 ways to share your knowledge online. By teaching live (one on one or to a group) or by selling pre-recorded lessons. There are so many websites out there that it is too much to cover. I’m only gonna cover a selection of sites, which I have gained experience with.

  1. Lessonface

  2. Teachable

  3. Udemy

  4. Skillshare

1. Lessonface

At Lessonface you can find 2 categories: Music and languages. Let’s focus on the music department. As a student you can choose a teacher first. Then you can select a date and time in the teacher’s calendar, you pay in advance and after that you will get a link. On that date and time you can log in and get a one on one live lesson with your teacher (sometimes it is a group lesson, they’ll let you know before you pay). You’ll only need a computer and webcam and make sure you have good internet connection.

There are several teachers for each instrument, whom you can choose from. They all have their own way of teaching, their own price and they are all qualified. When you sign up to become a teacher at Lessonface they will screen you first. Not everybody will get accepted. You need to prove that you are a qualified teacher and have had at least 2 years experience as a teacher in the specific skill you want to teach. This makes the site valuable. As a teacher you can choose your own price. It varies between 15 to 60 dollars each 30 minutes. The account is free, but Lessonface will keep a percentage of your income. The good thing is that students all over the world can easily find your profile at the website. It’s very accessible. Besides that you can always do some advertising yourself to get people to come to your Lessonface page.

I took some guitar lessons at Lessonface (by Duane Denison) and have learned a lot. Duane happens to be a very punctual dedicated teacher. A day before the next lesson he always mails new material he wants to discuss. The only difficulty I’ve found, was the time difference (Nashville, US – Tilburg, The Netherlands). I could only get lessons late at night. Even though I was able to record each lesson and watch it back later, it became a problem for me in the long term to continue. Therefore you want to become a teacher at Lessonface, make sure you are available in different time slots, so that students are able to book you for a lesson wherever they are.

You can create a course and pre-record them. The common thing to do, is to record short lessons between 5 to 10 minutes each and sell them all combined as a course with a certain topic. This means that you can sell more different courses. For example: ‘Guitar for beginners’ and after that ‘Guitar for beginners part 2’ and then ‘Advanced guitar skills’, and so on… The following websites I’ll discuss, make it easier for you to sell pre-recorded courses online.

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2. Teachable

Teachable is essentially a website that takes care of the back end of your online school. You don’t have to worry about technical stuff like a store, payments and you can upload videos endlessly. You can link your own domain to your page at Teachable and the students are able to find you under your own url. It’s quite straightforward to make your site look the way you want to. A Teachable account is not free. There are three plans you can choose from. The cheapest is 29 dollars a month and for every course you sell Teachable gets 5 % of the fee. The second plan is 90 dollars a month and the third plan is 249 dollars a month. In these two cases you keep all money you earn by selling your courses. Read the differences of all three plans on their website if you like (you can find the link below in this blog).

You set up your own price for each course. Teachable provides you with some fun extra’s, like being able to set up a quiz or add a discount coupon every now and then, if that’s what you want. I’ve taken a couple of courses from sites that are made with Teachable and I’m sure these teachers earn serious money with it. Nevertheless it takes at least a year of hard work and dedication before it pays off. You are 100 % responsible for doing your own marketing. It is possible for people to find you on the official Teachable site, though it’s not easy. To test this I’ve tried to find a school that I’ve taken some lessons from in the past, using only some keywords.. Honestly, I couldn’t find the school. Imagine, for example, a person looking for drumming lessons and not all online drumming schools created with Teachable are there to be found at their own site! Hence again, do your marketing! The good thing is that Teachable helps you a great deal in setting up your site, starting your marketing campaigns, etc. If you are serious in starting your own online music school, Teachable could be very interesting! Just remember you need to invest a lot of time and money before you get your first serious paying clients.

By far the easiest and fastest way to teach and sell online courses, is using a site that hosts all the service you need: where you can set up a page and upload your courses without the need of your own url/website. I’m talking about sites like Udemy and Skillshare.

All you have to do is upload your course for free and sell them at these sites. You can teach anything you want. From art lessons to coding to cooking to whatever you can think of. Just imagine how many courses you can find here. In both cases (Udemy and Skillshare) a part of your earned fees goes to the site owner.

The way of earning at these sites is slightly different. That’s the reason I want to discuss both of them separately.

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3. Udemy

At Udemy everything you upload, will become their property. You can set up your price, yet if Udemy decides to give people a huge discount on your course, they can do so.. And trust me…they do that a lot. This makes Udemy extremely successful for users, not necessarily for you as the teacher. When you have many courses on Udemy and start to have thousands of students, you will get an interesting monthly income. Besides, I’ve seen many online schools (for example Teachable schools) that make one or two of their courses available on Udemy also. When students like these courses, they can easily find your school and are more likely to pay for your other courses. For this reason Udemy could be a very good place to get attention and lead students to your own (Teachable) site.

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4. Skillshare

Skillshare works with memberships. Students pay a monthly fee of 15 dollars.With this membership they can endlessly watch any class – Skillshare calls courses classes – they want. This makes it very accessible for students to find your classes too!

The payments are as follows: you get paid by the amount of minutes your classes have been watched. Every month Skillshare adds up all paid memberships. They retain a percentage of that. They share what’s left of the revenue with all teachers whose classes have been watched that month. This means that every month your fee as a teacher, if you get any, will be different. Skillshare helps teachers a lot with providing links for their classes to get huge discounts for new students without affecting the income of the teacher. Not only that, all classes you upload remain your property.

More than a year ago I’ve uploaded two classes of my own. Both are about learning basic stop motion animation. I was curious how this whole thing works. I didn’t do much advertising. I’ve only mentioned it once on my social media accounts and you can find links to my classes via my website. I was very surprised that even with my poor advertising, I’ve earned between 6 to 50 dollars a month. People find my classes anyway. Imagine what would happen if I’d pay more attention to advertising and set up a serious campaign?!

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Some thoughts about starting as an online teacher:

A lot of people are getting insecure by seeing so many online courses already available. Therefore they decide not to start building a course themselves. However do not worry about this. Every teacher is different and there will always be people who like the way you teach (or not). If, like me, English is not your native language, don’t be afraid. Many of your students probably have their accents and imperfect English language skills as well… Who cares?! As long as you teach something they want to learn, there is nothing to worry about! And you can always let someone help you with your writing. Be creative. Don’t try to copy others. Stick to your own style and beliefs. Teach something that you are passionate about. Learn how to market it. And of course it’s good to go see how others are doing it.. Write down what you like and what you don’t like and what you would do. What names do others give their courses? Do your research before starting out yourself. In case of Lessonface; when they accept you as a teacher it means you are qualified and the chances of people finding you, will improve.

Don’t forget it will take at least one year, but most likely three years before you are able to enjoy a full income with teaching online. You need to work hard and be dedicated. It’s serious business.

In my opinion, live lessons are better when it comes to learning a musical instrument, because it’s not just about learning some notes. If you want to be sure your students hold their instrument correctly and not getting long term injuries, you can correct them. You can listen and help them improve their sound and timing. Those things are impossible when selling pre-recorded courses. You can always arrange for your students to contact you of course. You can also organize a live Twitch session so your students can ask questions (why not combine live lessons and pre-recorded lessons!)

The good thing about pre-recorded courses is that, after you’ve spent time recording and editing the video’s, you can endlessly sell them and in the meantime spend your time doing other things. It’s up to you!

Useful links:

And there are many many others….

Ok, I’m gonna shamelessly advertise myself now: Here’s a link to my Skillshare classes. When you sign up using this link, you’ll get 2 months worth of free subscription! https://www.skillshare.com/r/user/lifeonmarzj

If you don’t want to pay, you can easily unsubscribe before these two months are over 😉

You can also use this opportunity to search for similar courses (as the one you’d like to create) See how they work and learn from it. I’m just saying 🙂

Maartje Simons

Maartje Simons

About the author: I’m Maartje Simons, a professional drummer, composer and animator from The Netherlands. I got into trouble since the Covid 19 crisis, because my main income derives from playing live shows. Therefore I’m looking for other ways to keep on doing the things I love and also learn new skills to keep me from being dependent on performing only.

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