Every artist I know is looking for ways to increase their income. Often that means teaching art. Or finding new ways to teach art.
That’s what happened to me. . . For most of my career, my focus was on portrait work. Equine portraits in particular. But over the last couple of years, my focus shifted from painting portraits to teaching art.
And even more recently, I’ve started teaching art in a brand new way: through my paid email drawing class.
Wait—how do you teach a class by email??
It’s really not that hard! I choose the subject I’ll be drawing, and the method, and put together a materials list, a reference image, and a line drawing. I then write several lessons that build on each other, explaining how to draw that particular subject from start to finish.
Students who sign up for one of my email drawing class receive one lesson each week by email until the entire course has been sent to them. They can work at their own pace, too, since they can keep the emails for as long as they want.
Best of all (for me, as an artist) it’s fully automated and pretty much runs itself while I do other things.
Why did I start selling email courses?
The primary reason is income. Artists who make their living from art need as many independent income streams as possible, and for me, email classes are one stream among many.
If you set them up right, they’re also pretty much self-managing, and the emails send themselves according to the schedule you choose. Plus, you can create an email class once and sell it many times!
What kinds of things can be taught by email?
Honestly? Everything! My classes are all focused on colored pencil drawing because that’s my area of expertise—but you could teach any artistic medium imaginable.
Or, if you’re passionate about the business side of art. . . maybe create a class on how you run your art business! Or about balancing studio life and personal life. Or how to find clients, get your art ready for an exhibit, or create giclées and reproductions from your art.
Just look at the areas in which you have expertise—those are the topics that will work best. And before you say, “I’m not an expert. . .” You know what? You don’t have to be! You just need to know more than your students.
Chances are, if you’ve been doing art for any length of time, you’ve learned enough to be able to put together an email class. You might not have a doctorate in art, but you’ve got real world experience. And once you start putting together your class, I bet you’ll discover you know more than you thought you did.
Ready to get started?
The first step is to decide exactly what you want to teach.
Maybe that sounds pretty intimidating. It is, in fact, the thing that kept me from getting started for nearly a year. It wasn’t a matter of not having any ideas. . . For me it was sorting through all the potential ideas looking for the right one.
Don’t let either situation keep you on the fence as long as it did me. There are three easy-to-answer questions to get you started.
• What is your favorite medium?
• What is your favorite subject?
• What is your favorite method?
Answer those questions. Then put those three answers together, and you have the foundation for a number of potential lessons.
If you still want more ideas, here are a few other places to look:
Do you already teach live classes? If you do, those classes are the natural—and logical—place to look first. You already have most of the materials. You just need to convert what you tell students in person to written content.
Do you blog? If you do and if you happen to do tutorials, look at the most popular tutorials on your blog. Look for those posts or series with the most traffic, but also look at those with the most comments. They won’t always be the same.
Either way, the tutorials with the most engagement from your readers provide the seeds for email art classes. Do a similar subject in a similar way, but add more content in the form of extra tips, ways to correct errors, and insights into how you work, why you work the way you do, and the tools you use, and you have an email class!
Do you often field questions from other artists? What do they most frequently ask about? What do you tell them when they ask? Those questions and answers could be the key to an email class.
That’s how I came to be a teacher. If there are artists who already want to learn your techniques, don’t just give a short answer—or no answer—take the time to write detailed answers, organize those answers into a sequence that makes sense, and you’ve got an email art class!
If none of those ideas are working for you, then take a look at the videos on YouTube for your favorite medium, subject, or method and see what other artists are teaching. What’s popular? What areas are being under serviced or not serviced at all? Any one of those areas might be just the opening you’re looking for.
You can also go for the basics. I mean the real basics! An email class teaching potential students how to get started with almost any medium, method, or style, is going to find willing and eager students. Think back to when you were getting started. What were your questions? Write each lesson to answer one or two of those questions and help new artists bypass some of the trial-and-error experiences you had to endure.
No matter what you decide on, the truth is—you do have something that someone else wants to learn. And an email art class may be your perfect teaching venue.
But wait, there’s more. . . stay tuned for Part 2 in this series, coming soon!
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