The Guild of Indie Teaching is a free membership organization that supports teachers who want to share what they know with the world without being limited by traditional institutional gatekeepers.
This quick start guide for Guild of Indie Teaching members provides a four-step process for becoming an indie teacher, sharing your courses and ideas online. If you are not a member of the Guild of Indie Teaching, membership is free. For more information about Indie Teaching, visit: Chris Davis, PhD
A paid Professional Membership to the Guild of Indie Teaching is also available which includes coaching and technology services.
Step One: Branding
The first step is to establish the foundation for having an online presence. There are a couple of key questions to ask yourself that you need to ask yourself about what your goals are and what background you bring to being an indie teacher. Everyone has something to share and teach others, but what is your story?
What is your why for being an indie teacher?
What about your biography has prepared you for
To get started, you need two things:
A Domain name (web address) - this will be your unique online identity
A Professional email address (at your domain) - this will be your email address. You can always direct email to a personal account, but having an email with your domain sets you apart online.
The appendix "About the Technology Stack" gives you specific suggestions about where to find these things. A Professional membership in the Guild of Indie Teaching comes with both the technology and support in getting everything set-up along with coaching. Picking a good domain name that is available can be a process.
Guide to Indie Teaching Readings
The Guide to Indie Teaching is a free and publicly accessible resource that will answer most if not all of the questions you might have about becoming an indie teacher. The links are to individual chapters related to each stage.
Step Two: Ideation and Validation
The second step is to come up with at least one idea and validate it. You might have many ideas or still thinking about what you can do. The ideation process will help with either situation. You probably don't want to build a course that no one is going to take, and the validation process will minimize that risk.
What teaching/resources will you offer?
What are people interested in learning?
Keyword search (Google, Ubersuggest)
Guide to Indie Teaching Readings
Step Three: Developing Your Presence
Once you know what you want to offer, you need to start building a relationship with your audience, the people who will want what you have to offer. This can be done in several ways, but the focus here is in creating online content that captures people's attention either through web searches or through your presence in social media. You will want to capture email addresses by giving away free resources and follow-up with your audience.
How do you let me people know what you have to offer?
What content are you going to create?
Web site (Search engine optimization - SEO)
Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, etc.)
Freebie (permission-based marketing)
Guide to Indie Teaching Readings
Note: In the Guide to Indie Teaching, this step comes after creating your offering, but it makes more sense to establish your presence before creating your course or resource. This activity will inform you work and also help develop your audience before launch.
Step Four: Your Offer
Finally you need to decide what you are going to offer and charge for. It is totally fine if your goal is a hobby and a desire to share your passions, but it is also possible to make money sharing those same passions. You can create courses, coach individuals or groups, publish a book, or a variety of other options.
What are your going to offer (courses, coaching, etc.)?
How are you going to get paid for your work?
Delivery platform (virtual classroom, etc.)
Payments system (how you will collect money)
Guide to Indie Teaching Readings
Appendix: About the Technology Stack
I started my professional career working in information technology. My first business was doing web design and consulting back in the 1990's. I have spent many hours trying out software and doing research on other options.
My primary goal is something that is inexpensive with free being best.
I am also concerned about avoiding proprietary systems. For example, Teachable is a great platform. They offer great tools for teachers and just announced new functions for coaches. The base package is $29/month. That is not bad, but the risk is that if Teachable was to close or to raise their prices, and your work relied on Teachable, you would be in trouble. I look for software that is open source, so community supported and not dependent on any one company.
I also have looked for software that is relatively easy to use. You shouldn't need my technical background to use the tools that I list here.
Finally, some people earn a commission by referring people to a particular product. I do not use these affiliate links. My belief is that if I am accepting money from a provider, there is a conflict of interest with being able to give an honest recommendation. I want people to know that my recommendations are about what I believe in and use not about any commissions I receive.
The first step in any professional undertaking is a domain name. There are are several companies that do this, and I use GoDaddy.com. The standard price is about $9.99 for a year, but this varies by the suffix of the domain.
In the Guild of Indie Teaching Professional membership, a basic domain registration is included as part of the membership.
Once you have a domain, the next step is an email address that uses that domain name.
Microsoft offers an Outlook email account at $5 per month including Web-based Office applications.
Google Suite is also $6/month and includes a custom gmail address using your domain plus Google applications.
The Guild of Indie Teaching Professional membership includes email as part of the package.
The most recommended software for web sites is WordPress. An account at WordPress.com is $4/month but must be paid for an entire year in advance. You can also set-up your own web site using WordPress at any hosting company. A2 hosting company (as an example) starts at $11 month when paid month-to-month.
WordPress is open source software, so even if WordPress the company was to go away or raise their fees, the software would still be available for free. You have the option of exporting your WordPress site and installing it somewhere else. There are many companies that offer great services, but their platform is proprietary. They do not allow you to export your content, and you are locked into their system. They can raise rates or change features without you having any options beyond starting over.
Personally, I use software called Yellow for my web site. I have lost track of the number of hours I have spent evaluating software over the years. In one two week period I rebuilt my web site five times before finding Yellow.
WordPress was designed for blogging. The idea of a blog is an online journal or log. It is structured around the date that something was published and less concerned with how different articles go together thematically or might be linked. Yellow does not impose any structure on web pages. Like WordPress, it is open source. It is also much faster than WordPress, which is important for users. Yellow pages are text files with what are known as markdown codes. These codes tell Yellow what is a heading, what is an item in a list, and other formatting features. The Yellow editor makes this easy, and there are other Markdown applications for creating files or converting files from Microsoft Word to Yellow.
The Guild of Indie Teaching Professional membership includes Yellow as a web site for members.
Learning Delivery and Payments
There are multiple options for how to deliver a course or other services.
One option is Moodle. Moodle is another open source software program. It is used by colleges and universities around the world for a learning management system. It is possible to export your class from one Moodle instance and move the class to another one. You have many options for hosting your Moodle site. Moodle also offers limited options for learners to purchase courses directly within Moodle. You can also receive payment and manually add learners to Moodle courses.
KeytoSchool is one of the most affordable Moodle hosting companies. You can purchase a sandbox to being working on your classes for $9/year. Other options start at $15/month based on the number of active users. You can add payment options for a $100 set-up fee and $10/month additional.
Gumroad is another option. It lacks the features of Moodle, but it does allow you to post videos and other files. Gumroad handles payments and other back-office processes for you, and you only have to pay a fee on transactions. Free offers on Gumroad do not cost you anything.
If you want to offer coaching, Acuity Scheduling is $15/month and will handle both scheduling and payments.
Acuity and Gumroad will both allow you to offer monthly membership programs. Moodle on its own is limited in this regard.
Because Gumroad is free, the Guild of Indie Teaching does not include a learning delivery platform, but support is provided for any of the options of Moodle, Gumroad, and Acuity Scheduling.
Mailing List Services
The standard online entrepreneur uses a mailing list service to manage and send emails to their audience.
I have used Mailer Lite for this in the past.
Depending on how you use Moodle or Gumroad, you do not need to use one of these services. You can send email from within either system to your audience.
Currently I am using Substack for mailing newsletters and accepting subscriptions. You can even create paid subscriptions on the platform.
As part of a Professional membership, support is provided for how to use any of these options.
Surveys and Forms
For most surveys, Google Forms will be sufficient. You do not even need a paid account. I use Google Forms for my contact form.
The Guild of Indie Teaching Professional membership is a program to provide individuals with both the tools and the support to become an indie teacher.
Unlike the regular Guild of Indie Teaching membership, Professional membership has a $20/month price.
This is one of the lowest prices in a field where it is common to see courses for over $1000. Even services like Teachable are $29/month for their base package.
The $20/month fee can be canceled and re-started at any time. The technology services will be maintained for 12 months after the initial membership and will be renewed for another year if the membership is active on the one year anniversary of the initial membership.
As part of your Professional membership, you will receive 30 minutes of coaching per month. Additional coaching can be added at a discounted rate of $50 for 30 minutes. Normal coaching rates are $100 for 30 minutes. At $20 a month, Professional membership is worth it for the coaching alone.
As part of Professional membership, you will receive:
Your own domain name
Your own email using your domain name
A web site at your domain
Set-up of your Gumroad account for selling courses and other online materials.
Set-up of your Acuity Scheduling site
You will have ownership and control over all of these and can move your content anywhere you desire. Any revenue you earn will be paid from the site directly to you. The only transaction fees are those charged by the sites and payment processors.
The Guild of Indie Teaching Professional membership is based on a coaching and technology plan designed to walk you though the process described above.
Step 1: Review your purpose and background and research domain names.
My Homework: Secure domain name, create web site, and set-up email address.
Your Homework: Start thinking about ideas for what you will offer.
Step 2: Review your ideas and discuss validation
Your Homework: Validate your ideas.
Step 3: Review validation of ideas and discuss content plan.
Your Homework: Start developing content for your web site.
My Homework: Assist in publishing content to web site.
Step 4: Discuss creation of freebie resource
Your Homework: Prepare freebie resource
Step 5: Publish free resource to Gumroad
Your Homework: Promote free resource
Step 6: Discuss building course or other resource
Your Homework: Build course
Step 7: Discuss promoting course
Your Homework: Promote the course to your audience
Step 8: Celebration and next steps
The speed we go through those steps depends on you. It may take longer if you need more time at any step. You can also add additional coaching sessions to go faster, or do more of the work without assistance. This process is about, your goals, and what time and resources you want to invest.
What's the Catch?
You might be thinking that there is some catch to this price. Most online services cost more per month for just technology. Online courses are even more expensive. How can this only be $20/month?
First, my mission is not to make money doing this. My mission is to help others share what they know. The reality is that many people who buy courses or sign-up for platforms never follow through on that intention. I do not want the guilt of knowing that I took hundreds or thousands of dollars from someone. That is why I offer a monthly program at a low rate. It is also why I offer coaching to motivate you to finish what you start. Honestly, I used to give this away for free, but I found that when people did not have skin in the game, they were less motivated.
Second, I have invested hours and hours in researching technical solutions that are not costly. My goal is not to create a technology company that is out to make a great deal of money for myself or my investors. I have no investors. This is all me.
Third, it is all me. I do not have people who work for me. I do not have to worry about making payroll. All I have to worry about is helping the people I work with be successful at achieving their goals.
Fourth, I am not interested in selling you services or information that you are not going to actually use. I personally despise services that attempt to upsell you once you have made a purchase. It is a marketing cheat. The only upsell I offer is more of my time, and you only need that if you want it and can use it.
If you want to spend some serious money, I can refer you to some expensive classes and software. Just let me know.
Sign-up for Professional Membership
Monthly and annual membership options are available. Registration is through Acuity Scheduling, which is where you can schedule your coaching sessions, cancel membership, or add additional coaching time.
On your own, you could expect to pay a minimum of $115 a year in fees for a web site, domain name, and email, and you would have to set all of these up yourself. In the Professional membership, I handle the technical details of set-up and the expenses are covered in your membership fee. You could sign up for Professional membership and cancel your membership after a month, and you would still have the domain, email, and website for a year.
Without membership, in a year, your coaching bill would be $1,200, but with membership it would only be $200 if you purchase an annual membership. You would save a $1000 a year in coaching, and even more if you choose additional coaching time at the 50% discount.
All active members in the Guild of Indie Teaching under the free membership can use coupon code INDIETEACHING when scheduling coaching sessions at a 25% discount.
You do not need a professional membership to the Guild of Indie Teaching. The whole point is independence. Here are some alternatives if you do not want to invest $20 a month with me:
Do It Yourself
You can truly do it yourself. The Guide to Indie Teaching and other resources on the Internet should provide you with everything you need to build and launch your own online courses. Not everyone needs coaching and technical support. Really this is where I want people to be, and my approach is tp help people to get to this stage.
Teachable and Thinkific and Kajabi
Each of these companies provide great services and a platform for an indie teacher. I have used and explored the first two at different times. Teachable and Thinkific are $29/month for their most basic package. Kajabi is $149, though they bundle more services in their package. These are all great options if you want a platform to build courses. My concern, having lived through the first dot com bubble, is that any of these companies could go away overnight. They all have made changes in pricing and services. You are at their mercy. I also do not like that you cannot export your content from any of these into another platform. You will spend hours uploading and organizing your content, and you will be locked in. While they each provide courses, they do not offer coaching and sometimes technical support seems delayed.
I love Udemy as a consumer. They do sales all the time and drop classes to less than $15. From a creator perspective, they do not charge you to publish a course on their platform. However, they do require your courses to be video courses. They do not offer much flexibility in course design. Also, you do not have control over your learner data. You are limited in how often you can contact your learners. Then there is the low price, and that they are going to take a significant chunk of that revenue. The good news is that learners may discover you on their site, so it might help with marketing. At the same time, it can be challenging to stand out with so many course developers on the same site.
You can pay for a Moodle hosting service or self-host it. Moodle has many great features. It is open source, which is awesome. It is more limited than other systems for payments. For example, there does not seem to be a way to do subscriptions through Moodle. I was planning on using Moodle for this membership site, and then I ran into some odd technical problem. That was when I decided to use Gumroad, which while it lacks all of the features of Moodle, is also much simpler to work with.
Other Other Options
There are other options. You can self-host a learning management system such as LearnDash. You can post videos to YouTube. You can do webinars and charge for live sessions or recordings or both. You can also pay for a Professional membership to the Guild of Indie Teaching, and I can coach you on finding the right strategy and approach for what you are trying to accomplish. The technology that comes with the membership is to make it easier to get started, but it is not required.
Want to talk about it?
If you want to talk about membership by phone or by email, I am happy to do so.