One of my favorite shops in New Orleans where I live is called Scriptura – it’s a 20-year-old business that sells unique products: hand-made cards, leather journals, notepads, fountain pens (!), hot-wax seals and other writer’s joys.
What I love about this brand is that each product tells a story. When you take a leather journal and thumb through its thick, hand-bound pages you know that whatever dreams you write in there will come true. Such products empower you to go and be.
When I first created my unique product, the Opted Out e-book – remember – I felt like anything was possible. I finally became a teacherpreneur with a completely different mindset, who sold her e-books to people all over the world. This small product helped other teachers be transformed into teacherpreneurs as well.
And then I thought how great it would be to share this empowering experience with other online teachers helping them create their first unique product! In this post I decided to ask 3 new small product creators how this experience has changed them.
This is a beautifully crafted post featuring 3 unique “hand-made bound” products, and my hope is that reading these stories will help you start changing your mindset from a skype-lesson manufacturer to a solid brand-builder. Go get your coffee and enjoy! ~ Elena
Cara Leopold: a Listening Test
Cara Leopold is an online English listening teacher at Leo-Listening. She helps nonnative speakers get conversation-ready by training them how to listen and understand fast conversational English.
My small product is a listening test that students can purchase on my site for 5 €. They access the test via a password protected page (it’s embedded in my site), listen to 5 conversational English extracts and transcribe them. After I send my feedback and corrections along with some listening tips.
The idea came when I took Express Email List Builder course with Elena. Elena asked me about the goal of my automated email sequence and I said that it was to sell my online listening lessons. It was all I had and I’d already succeeded in selling them to one student. She suggested that I start with something really small and simple. It got me into the whole sales funnel idea and I loved it.
The most challenging part about product creation for me was the technical side. And also just putting aside any worries and just getting on with it. I had to figure out some technical stuff – how to use Classmarker, how to link PayPal and Mailchimp. And some pedagogical stuff – are these extracts too easy, too hard? What marking system am I going to use?
What requires the most work, focus and mindset work though is the actual launch process. Now that I’ve done one (huge) launch with Elena’s help, the subsequent launch was much easier. I just replicated the steps that we put in place together.
The most rewarding for me was the feeling of seeing people who you’ve never met in person or even over Skype trust you enough to actually pay you via your website. It’s such a high. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that. And then of course there’s the amazing feeling you get when you’re then able to help these people further by selling them the next product or service.
I had a ton of support from Elena during my launch. I was amazed at the growth on my Facebook page and on Instagram during this time. I also got to work with influencers in my industry like Jason R. Levine aka Fluency MC.
Launching really helps focus your efforts in terms of content too. You don’t need to worry about what you’re going to write in the weeks leading up to the launch. You know that you have to start educating people about your product or service so you plan your editorial calendar around that.
The creation process showed me the power of the minimum viable experience as a launchpad for future courses and programmes. Two of the people who bought my listening test enrolled on my new group programme, Dictate Your Listening Success. They went from paying 5€ for the test to 50€ to be part of a group dictations programme that takes place on Whatsapp.
I think we can waste a lot of time searching for the magic bullet course or programme that we want to create for our students. But really, it starts with a small product or service that gives them a quick win and builds trust. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have clients (the most important part, right?) and a springboard to creating other products and services that will satisfy them.
Currently Cara’s small product is the audio course Movies on the Run.
Create and sell your first unique product. 3 inspiring stories by #teacherpreneurs who work smartClick To Tweet
Veronika Palovska: The Homepage Analyzer.
Veronika Palovska from DoYouSpeakFreedom is a writing coach and brand strategist. She helps female entrepreneurs from around the globe turn their expertise and creativity into words that connect and sell. Her clients are teacherpreneurs and creative experts who want to monetize their knowledge or skills and evolve their businesses into sticky personal brands.
I have too many ideas.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you know what I’m talking about, and you know that it’s not such a good thing.
Your brain doesn’t let you sleep. It keeps coming up with new things you can do. New topics. New strategies. New products.
Entrepreneurs need ideas, but the trouble is that ideas don’t pay your bills. Products do.
But if you want to create a product, you have to be disciplined enough to pick up just one of your ideas and pursue it until it’s… perfect? No. Complete? No!
You have to work on it until it’s viable – and share it with the world.
Here’s the story of how pursuing one of my ideas has changed the way I see – and do – business.
The Homepage Analyzer
It wasn’t my idea. I don’t do small ideas – it takes experience and practice. It was Elena who prompted me to think about one problem or frustration my clients have. A problem that is painful for them, but easily fixable for me.
And there it was. Many of my clients – teacherpreneurs and other experts who sell their knowledge – have trouble turning their web visitors into subscribers and paying clients.
The problem has deeper roots and causes, but if I can think of one aspect, the first thing that I’d look at if someone hired me to help them figure out why their website doesn’t convert would be the homepage.
And that’s how the Homepage Analyzer was born.
The most challenging task for me was keeping the project small. When you look close and deep enough, any problem, even the smallest one, becomes colossal. Overwhelming. Unmanageable.
And that’s where Elena came in again. She helped me go back to the core of the problem I was trying to solve. And when I cut through the overwhelm, I found my confidence. I knew I was able to see it through, and that this wasn’t going to be another infoproduct that just adds to the noise.
And I knew I’d just entered the next stage of my business.
Create and sell your first unique product. 3 inspiring stories by #teacherpreneurs who work smartClick To Tweet
The Liberating Power of Small Products
At the beginning, Elena said that creating a small product was going to be liberating. At first, I thought the liberation was in having a (more or less) passive income stream. But financial freedom isn’t the only kind of freedom – and one small product doesn’t bring you financial freedom, anyway.
The liberation was of a different kind.
My first small product freed me from my self-imposed boundaries. I thought I wasn’t able to create a product in a month. Turned out I could – in fact, I created three products: a free challenge for teacherpreneurs and two things that together form the Homepage Analyzer: Homepage Audit and Homepage Copy Workbook.
Are they perfect? Not at all. But they exist, and the reactions I received on both parts of the project – the free challenge and the Analyzer as such – were amazing. During the launch month, I got more subscribers, more love letters (I mean, people writing me to say thank you), learned more things, and made more money than ever before.
But the result isn’t about money. Creating a small product opens many doors. You get to know your clients better and you meet people – not just your future clients, but also friends. And as I’ve learned, business friends are the most important thing if you want to make things happen online.
Lessons Learned While Creating My Small Product
To sum up, here’re my takeaways – the things I learned during the creation and launch of my product that changed my view of teacherpreneurship:
- When creating a product, start with the problem in mind. This will help you cut through the overwhelm and stay on track. It will also keep you from making the product too generic or too big for your audience to absorb and actually use.
- Take notes. Creating a small product gives you an opportunity to experiment, test, and learn without having to invest too much. Take notes on what worked and what didn’t so you can improve your strategy. Seeing the product creation as an experiment also helps you keep the fun in it.
- Done is better than perfect. The whole idea of an MVP is that you have to share your project when it’s still a beta. This is scary, but once you do it, you at least know that you can do it. Next time your inner critic tries to stop you, you won’t let him stay in the way.
- Don’t try to do it all alone. Cooperate with your clients and fans, ask your friends for help, outsource and automate, and if possible, hire a coach. Not because you can’t do it alone – you can, if you have a lot of time and the right resources – but because the experience will take you much further, much faster.
Ready to launch your product? I walk you through the process in this mini-course.
Anastasia Skrydlova: Russian on Autopilot (a 5-day challenge)
Anastasia Skrydlova is a Russian grammar & speaking trainer at JumpStartYourRussian. She helps busy and adventurous learners of Russian boost their speaking by turning grammar from an obstacle to a communication tool – so they can connect with Russian speakers on a deeper level.
I teach Russian. I believe, grammar is important as it’s the glue that connects words together and makes it possible to express our thoughts clearly (perhaps, even more so in case with Russian which is a highly inflected language). At the same time, many learners of Russian struggle with grammar.
The problem is that many students think learning Russian grammar is about memorizing rules and case charts or doing written exercises. But that doesn’t automatically transform into speaking skills. More speaking practice doesn’t necessarily help too.
So I decided to create Russian on Autopilot – a 5-day email challenge that teaches the steps to turn one grammar item from a source of frustration to a micro speaking skill. These steps are universal, and applying them in everyday learning leads to speaking fluent Russian with fewer mistakes.
I usually teach about 25 lessons a week, so lack of time was definitely a challenge when I joined the Small Product Lab. I was afraid it was going to be overwhelming but I went for it because I knew that this experience was going to help me earn more time in the long run.
When I received Elena’s email with the Small Product Lab curriculum, I felt instant relief – it was so clear and strategic. I knew what to focus on each week and it looked like small but powerful action steps.
Yet I didn’t know what was ahead of me. 🙂 The thing is, at that moment I had no list and no website. So I had to work in several directions at the same time to make up for it and it doubled my workload.
Because of that, it took me longer than planned to create, market and launch my program. But thanks to the deadlines, I learned to focus on the essentials and cut off the nice but not so necessary bits (which I would’ve never been able to do on my own).
Incredible stories of 3 #teacherpreneurs who put their fears aside to create their unique productClick To Tweet
The process of creating my small product and marketing it felt like a roller coaster – moments of happiness doing something meaningful and giving value to people, the joy of creation, hours of flow vs. falling in the depths of despair, self-doubt, fear of putting myself out there (all that could happen in one day).
Here are the two most important things I learned in the process:
- Sleep is the number one priority to better deal with stress and be more productive even if the time is limited. 🙂
- Pushing through and doing what needs to be done no matter the fear, negotiating with my inner critic and letting go of perfectionism is possible and rewarding.
When my launch date was approaching, honestly, I was expecting 0 sales or maximum 1 sale. I was saying to myself: “OK, it’s a messy, not perfect launch, you should’ve done so many things that you skipped, so probably it won’t work out. But it’s OK, you know, it’s still a valuable learning experience”.
Imagine my surprise when I made 6 sales, 4 people out of 6 buying a more expensive version of my program with personal support!
I may not have made too much money but it was almost enough to reinvest into the coaching with Elena.
But the most important thing for me was not the money. It was the realization that there are people who are interested in what I have to offer even though it’s about grammar (which is not in trend nowadays).
Coaching my group of students in an asynchronous way was a unique and exciting experience too. I was surprised to see that there’re people who can and are happy to learn independently with some support.
Thanks to working with Elena I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of.
- I created and ran my first small program! I saw that the sales funnel and copy writing works (even for beginners like me who struggle with writing!).
- I got the skills and the framework that I can apply again and again.
- I got even more clarity on my niche and what to do next.
It was a truly transformational experience, and in such a short period of time. I felt like I finished a university)) and my mindset shifted. And I know it’s just the beginning.
Small product creation can be stressful and messy, but it’s definitely rewarding, empowering and liberating. You create an asset that becomes the mouthpiece of your brand. Most importantly, such creation process will transform you into a teacherpreneur over a much shorter period of time, not through video tutorials and endless exercises, but through the hands-on experience.
Most teachers however focus just one one online teaching mode, 1:1, which limits them from reaching a larger audience and providing value in various formats. If you would like to learn more about creative online teaching formats, please check out my Smart Teacher’s Kit below:
The post was updated in March, 2021.