How to accidentally build an online workshop as slowly as possible
While creating a human, working a full-time job, co-hosting a podcast, and writing a weekly newsletter
👋 Hello! I'm Nate Kadlac, and this is #64 of Plan Your Next. It’s a newsletter that connects design, creativity, and how you prepare for your next thing. If you’re one of the 18 new subscribers, welcome!
Good morning from Los Angeles!
🎨 Approachable Design is almost sold out! Just 6 spots remain for the workshop on June 26-27th. We have writers, entrepreneurs, YouTubers, and more who have registered so far. I’ll be announcing it more widely tomorrow, so check it out if you want to know how to build your own design system based on your unique personality.
🎤 Episode 20 of It’s Gotta Be the Mic: Reza and I interviewed Charlie Bleecker who is the lead mentor for David Perell’s Write of Passage. She writes under a pseudonym which you’ll learn more about during the podcast and has a weekly newsletter called Transparent Tuesdays which is incredibly vulnerable and insightful. I recommend subscribing!
It all started with a question:
“What are you struggling with most when it comes to design?”
I asked this question to more than a dozen curious writers. I created a drop-in style office hours block on my calendar and titled it, Design for Writers.
Little did I know where this would lead me, but it was something I could offer to “real” writers.
This was during the middle of an 8-week course for writers, and I was using this as my mental shield to somehow cover the fact I didn’t consider myself a writer. Let’s be honest, 3-and-a-half out of 4 days, I still don’t.
But I was pelted with design questions like:
“How do I choose colors?”
“What font should I use?”
“Why does my website suck so bad?”
You see, when you study a specific skill for over 16+ years, you start to take it seriously. At some point, you might find yourself with a serious scowl solving serious problems. A scowl that shows how determined and damned good you are at your job.
I can only imagine a rocket scientist begrudgingly traveling to her parent’s house for Thanksgiving and having to answer questions about why the 30-year-old stove isn’t working, only to find out in the span of 300 milliseconds the pilot light went out.
She’s a serious scientist doing serious work. Not fixing a fucking flame the height of a fingernail.
And so here I am, sitting in 1:1 design sessions with talented writers concerned about how they’re presenting themselves online.
And something occurred to me. I’m actually enjoying talking about the fundamentals of design, like typography, color psychology, leading, and spacing.
It’s not that doing serious work is a bad thing, but I unearthed an interesting side effect of giving back to a community that was genuinely curious about design.
I realized I had discovered a bridge between the playful and the serious work. Both have their place, but sometimes the knowledge you keep stacking up needs to be emptied. You’ll learn more about yourself by giving back, and maybe make a buck or two along the way, opening new doors you never knew existed.
My step-by-step plan to building a small workshop.
Choose something you’re above average at
Learn where you can offer value. Pick a topic you have above-average knowledge about, and offer to help others without anything in return. By giving without asking for anything in return, you’re opening yourself up to invaluable feedback. Listen to the questions they have, and figure out where your knowledge gaps are. You’re also able to gauge whether this is something you enjoy doing. Buckle up.
Add serendipity to your life
Fill your life up creatively so you have more opportunities to share your ideas. You might even meet new people who could be the perfect student. Start a podcast, join podcasts, form a writing group, open up your calendar, host masterminds, find an accountability partner, join online courses, write online, support online creators, use Twitter, or start communities. Get out of your shell and make your mark. Easy!
Create a human to adopt the beginner mindset
Along the way, you might hear that to teach online, you must adopt the beginner mindset. I couldn’t agree more.
The easiest way to do this is to start small. With an embryo. Make a human.
No one said this was going to be easy.
Offer your above-average knowledge for $$$
Once you start talking about the thing you’re above average at, create a quick landing page and be clear about what you’re offering. Ask friends, friends of friends, LinkedIn friends, Facebook friends, Twitter friends. You get the idea.
Start putting yourself out there, using the feedback you received from your free sessions. Take the pain points people had, and address them with your solution. Test out your services for $25-$100.
You want to test the seriousness of your idea, and to see if people are willing to pay. The confidence you’ll get from the first few sales will hopefully add to the momentum you’re building.
Start writing and find your community
At this point, you should be writing AND talking about your above-average skill set. While you might hear that you should have thousands of followers to even think about sustainably running a course, you don’t need that to just get started.
An easy way to get around this is to start thinking about who your audience is, and where they hang out online. Start joining conversations online, without selling. Be helpful, start answering questions you have above-average knowledge in, and focus on giving as much value as possible.
You might find your community in niche Facebook groups, subreddits, Twitter, archaic online forums, or elsewhere. Keep scouring and hunting for where you can help out. Just don’t be annoying and come across as too salesy.
Build your curriculum
After hosting 5-10 free and paid sessions, you should have enough feedback on if you’re delivering enough value.
Now is the time you might be able to host a live 60-minute workshop and host more than one person. Go back to well if you need to and ask for favors from the people you helped. Be kind and start thinking about what pain points you could formalize and address in an hour.
Host a workshop!
After validating your services, the goal is to apply your teaching skills to more than one student. Aim for 5-10 students for your first cohort, and charge enough to get you out of bed. I’d aim for $50-$150 to make it worth your while.
By running these workshops live, you can always increase or decrease the pricing each time you run one.
Along the way, you should be listening to whether or not you’re having fun. This may seem too simple, but the reason why most startups or side projects like this fail, are because you lose steam.
The ability to scale your efforts is what you’re after here. Moving from 1:1 to 1 to many is directionally where you want to head.
Keep this in mind, and good luck!
⚡️ Inspiration for next week
Project Starline is a concept by Google aiming to make feeling like you’re in the same room with someone thousands of miles away.
“Imagine looking through a sort of magic window, and through that window, you see another person, life-size and in three dimensions. You can talk naturally, gesture and make eye contact.”
Packy McCormick on the similarities between Lebron James joining the Miami Heat and how we can build our own Liquid Super Teams. This is one of the reasons I had the confidence to leave my own job, and start collaborating with others. DAO’s are also making this type of collaboration inevitable.
👋 See you next Sunday
Have a great week,