When Karen’s book deal evaporated over lockdown, she moved into the online learning market

It all started as a result of a conversation with a friend. He has spent the last few years building a reputation (and a lucrative income stream) as a prolific online course creator. As a journalist and author who has never done anything other than write for a living, Tim’s suggestion that I create a course on how to become a successful writer for a global online learning platform initially fell on deaf and highly sceptical ears.

Me, teach other people how to write? Where would I start? And why would anyone be interested in learning from me? The idea of stepping into teaching territory scared the wits out of me. However, that was before the book deal I’d cleared the decks for during lockdown suddenly disappeared into the ether, leaving me with an unusually and terrifyingly blank work diary.

I did the research and discovered that online learning has exploded in recent years. In 2015, the global online learning market was worth an impressive £80 billion. Last year, even before Covid-19 took hold and working and schooling from home became the norm, it was estimated to grow to almost £250 billion by 2025.

Since lockdown, many more people have turned to online courses as they reconsider their career options, having realised how well the WFH culture can work for them, while furloughed staff have learnt new skill sets while not working. So with Tim’s encouragement to ‘teach what you know’ ringing in my ears, and several deadline-free weeks stretching out before me, I decided to haul myself out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

The hardest part was working out how to distil a 30-year plus writing career into effective, relevant and informative lectures that would teach people of all ages, from all walks of life and career paths, a new skill without boring them.

I sat down at my PC and started tapping out lecture titles off the top of my head. Within minutes, the headings were coming in thick and fast. Getting Into The Mindset of a Writer, Identifying Your Strengths, How to Land Your First Paid Writing Gig…suddenly, the skeleton for The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer was taking shape.

Turns out that converting what you know or love into a course is not as difficult as it might sound. Identifying your target market and tailoring your course to appeal to what’s known as their ‘pain points’ is crucial. So for people working full-time, explaining that your course can fit into weekends and evenings is attractive. Ditto letting them know that they don’t need to spend a fortune on the materials necessary to complete the course.

You need very little equipment – a PC, a blue ‘snowball’ ice microphone (as built-in PC mikes are not powerful enough) and a subscription to video editing software are the only pre-requisites, apart from, of course, a cracking idea. Continental knitting, running a marathon, confident public speaking, even learning to juggle are all online courses.

As a Luddite with an irrational fear of technology who only feels confident using about five functions on my MacBook Air, getting my head around filming and recording myself delivering the lectures while trying not to look like a rabbit caught in the headlights was another monumental challenge.

I had to ditch several attempts when the dog started barking in the background, the doorbell went or my husband ambled into shot to make himself a coffee. I’m sure I’d have got there in the end but my 21-year-old daughter Issy kindly offered to be my video editor and PowerPoint creator. She became a formidable and fear-inducing executive but ended up raising my game to the point where, two months later, I took a deep breath, pressed ‘publish’ and the course went live.

I’ve now got almost 2,000 students enrolled and on a personal level, I’ve found it hugely satisfying to help frustrated and budding writers of all ages build the confidence to give something new a go.

Words: Karen Hockney

The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer by Karen Hockney is available here

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