The Unsexiness of it All
(Things the don't tell you when you start creating content)
I've just come off of an 18-hour day filming my third online Udemy course.
At home. Alone.
My dining-room-converted-production-studio is filled with books and dishes hastily pushed to the side, and my partner was shushed repeatedly before finally being ushered out of the apartment for the day.
Two ring lights and one naked bulb inexpertly circle the iphone I'm filming on in a failed attempt to eliminate shadows, and my makeup runs quietly down my face in the 92 degree heat, sweat pooling under my blazer as I struggle to land take after take of my 40 page script, losing pace repeatedly with the teleprompter.
"But how do I get into creating online courses?" A colleague had asked me over zoom the week before as I took a sip of my coffee. "You know, passive income? Trainings that sell themselves? How did you start doing it?" he asked, leaning in, genuine curiosity blooming in his face.
I don't know how to answer him. Or what version of the story he wants to hear.
There's a version where I insist this work found me - a one-off email from a company I'd never heard of who wanted me to develop a leadership course for their B2B audience - and I just followed passively along.
There's a version where I set it all in motion - years of training in professional communications, in writing articles on leadership I thought no one would ever see, in building lists and contacts and posting on social media even when it felt like shouting out into the void.
But there's also a version that I realize I've been holding back most of all - the unglamorous real real - where I share about too long nights and conflicted days; the pennies that trickle into my bank account from these online courses, an actual labor of love; the harsh public comments left by reviewers that make their way into my subconscious like weeds; the feeling that I've said everything I need to say in this format and maybe it's time to move on to something new.
In truth, I've never personally felt content creation to be a means to any kind of end. I've only ever done it because I think it's inevitable when you're committed to creating and leading out front in your world.
But there are a few tips and tricks I've learned along the way which may or may not be useful as you contemplate what you want to create in your world:
1) It's not about the money. I've never made a sale through Instagram. Udemy retains the vast majority of profits from my online courses. And more often than not, I need to pay to publish my writing, not the other way around! Whether we're talking about online courses, social media posts or articles you publish, you're not likely to get rich with these schemes. Find another reason you're committed to doing it - visibility, brand, dynamic content creation - and hang onto it for dear life.
2) Make yourself accountable to someone. For most of my professional career as a coach, I've had a monthly publishing deadline - set by myself or by my partners - that created a forcing function for writing each month. Forbes, CTI's Blog, newsletters, HBR - even a very short lived monthly column in LA Magazine - all have helped create a commitment to keep my writing practice going.
3) Outsource the bits you can't stand. Two years into my business, I met Gina G. who does my social media. Every. Damn. Day. This partnership - one of the most seamless of my career - is why my social media exists all these years later. Cullen is my fantastic article editor (and before it was Cullen, it was my parents and girlfriends), and I hired the talented Gracie S. as editor on my last two online courses. Worth every dollar.
4) Creating is your responsibility. There are many days I want to hide. To phone it in. To go off the radar and stop posting or even creating (today started out as one of them). And there are equally as many days I wonder: Does anyone really read/watch/notice this? Where newsletters and courses go out and crickets come back. But I just keep creating. I keep tuning in with what is real and present for me and what wants to be shared, then I put my best effort forward with as little attachment as I can possibly muster.
Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements points to agreement number four as always do your best. He says: "When you always do your best, you take action. Doing your best is taking action because you love it, not because you're expecting a reward."
So as I get ready to put my next course out in the world, take it for what it is intended to be: My best, in all it's unglamorous, unsexy, real, momentary truth; an offering, an action step, a cry into the void; a from-this-time-and-place gift until the next creation opportunity steps forward. Happy creating!