During the early wobbly days of lockdown I decided to keep showing up.
Can you remember what it felt like at the end of March? Like we were walking through fog, adjusting to the idea that we were going to have to do something mad and counterintuitive. The whole non-essential world was going to shut down and were would be forced to stay at home, for weeks. It seems the stuff of wild folk lore already.
For some, it meant taking time out to sort out their heads and home situation. My way of coping was to keep working. I told myself that I had started an online community, so I was going to stay visible for them.
Selfishly, it also gave me a way to feel helpful.
As Tesco workers and NHS staff and waste collectors purposefully kept us going, my role in fighting the spread of COVID-19 was to sit on my arse at home, apparently.
I teach people how to do Instagram. How can I be of service?
Pre-covid my ‘business plan’ was to coach, organise real-life workshops (I’m good at it, actually, but financially it’s not glamorous) and work on that digital marketers unicorn ‘My Big Online Course Idea’.
All the real life stuff, naturally, had gone straight into the bin.
So I decided to start skill-sharing with others, who were also stuck, sitting on their arses at home.
I began to organise free live online workshops on Zoom (where else), teaching people about The Gram. And they came.
I had a inkling it was a good time for it. How many people were asking themselves why they hadn’t taken more of their business online already? Spent more time nurturing an online audience?
Pause; at this point I must acknowledge my friend Jules-who’s-in-marketing who told me at least a year ago that this is the most effective way to teach now. Jules, you were right, I should’ve listened.
Bookings came in in their hundreds. Hundreds! I’ve hustled my arse off to sell 12 places at a real life event in the past.
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This is great, I thought, I’m blown away. Bookings are flying, but can I charge?
It feels great to do free. I do lots of free. I believe in the power of free and recommend you try it. But it’s unsustainable to keep giving over so much time to creating workshops without charging for them.
The deep uncertainty and discomfort of early-lockdown meant money was a difficult issue.
This played out on Instagram where some accounts were criticised (completely unfairly) for ‘still selling at a time like this’.
There were options, should I try a ‘pay what you can afford’ pricing scheme, maybe? I don’t love it as a policy, though, buyers are drawn to clarity. So I struck a balance of charging for longer, more substantial workshops and keeping others free.
My advice, if you’re considering this kind of thing; it’s tempting to charge not-such-a-lot. A tiny meagre amount for your work. Be bold. Go to the number you want to. People will pay and value it more (note. to. self).
Online learning is easy to offer at a more accessible price point anyway, fewer overheads (can you tell I’m converted?).
I mean, how could I not see it?
My big learning is that people probably prefer to access their learning this way. I was stuck in the mindset that in-person is always best. But lockdown or no lockdown it’s so much easier to commit to a course without the additional hassle of having to find childcare and face the general inconvenience of leaving home (so 2019).
Also, I didn’t appreciate how much of a hurdle it is for some to walk into a room of people they don’t know.
It’s not a problem for me, bring on the strangers! But I now understand that it is a barrier for others. No such problem exists when you join an online classroom.
And (and, and, and) if you are (like me) growing an online community – which is so marvellous exactly because we can all be together, online, no matter where we live. Then why would I restrict access to my classes to those who can make it to a certain geographical location?
You don’t need tens or hundreds of thousands of followers to make money from your Instagram. Just a clear purpose and a thriving community.
And communities can be small and perfectly formed.
Brands work to scale, they’ve got great big costs to cover and wages to pay. That’s why they value huge followings. Once you find the right product, something that people want, you can start selling it – for profit – in relatively small numbers.
I’m absolutely buzzing with the potential of this format. It’s easy to try new ideas, and if they don’t work, noone notices and little has been lost.
And did I mention the prospect of earning great money?
It’s good, yes? More of this in 2020 and beyond.
Yeah, I do look forward to running events in real life again.
You cannot beat the quality of a real life human connection. The down-side of online meets is the lack of networking between attendees. That’s where the magic happens.
But, realistically, when? It can’t be part of my medium term plan at the moment, of anyone’s plan. Who knows when a group meeting will be something to be excited rather than reticent about?
So, fed up of it all as I am, I will always be a little bit grateful for lockdown. It gave me a quiet moment to action things I’d been meaning to for so long, and learn some big lessons about lessons 🙃.
Before I go, thanks to Lara Sheldrake at Found and Flourish for inviting me onto a seminar and showing me value of online classrooms. Go and find Lara on Instagram she is growing an inspiring business community. And thanks to ace audience-builder Janet Murray who introduced me to Zoom way pre-lockdown (no flies on Janet), go follow her too! We are better together.
I’d love to know what lockdown lessons you have learnt. Jump into the comments 👇, and thanks always for reading, Hx