8 Unusual Ways to Make Money Online in the Education Field (+ EXAMPLES)
Making money online in the education industry? This is absolutely possible. What’s more, it can be extremely effective. Diversification of income is essential in this day and age, and relying on online sources will give you peace of mind in case of problems with offline services.
There are many methods of earning money in the virtual world, however, the following are 8 unusual ways to make money online in the education industry.
How to make money as an online educator? 8 ways
1. Paid newsletter in education sector
E-mail marketing is a great way to build a relationship with your audience, maintain engagement, or close sales. We are accustomed to the classic approach to newsletters, where we sign up for a weekly dose of free knowledge by filling in a form on the website. Mirek Burnejko, CEO of Akademia.pl, an educational platform with online courses for entrepreneurs, approached the matter quite differently.
Apart from the free version, Mirek also provides a paid version of his newsletter. If you want to get special messages from Mirek, you have to pay a fee of PLN 390 (USD 100/ EUR 85) a year.
In Poland, this approach is still quite unusual (although it is promoted by Bartek Pucek or Artur Kurasiński), but based on the success and importance it has gained in the United States, I am sure it will grow in popularity. Substack, an American paid subscription management tool, has over 250,000 paying customers!
What elements of this approach can you implement in your educational business?
- The first question to ask is whether you already have an e-mail list and send out a newsletter regularly. If not – this is where you need to begin.
- Start with sending out a free newsletter. Collect new e-mail addresses meticulously and send e-mails with valuable content regularly, e.g. once a week.
- Get feedback from your readers on the topics that interest them most. Solve their problems and interact with them.
- Invest in a paid newsletter to see how others do it (take a closer look at some newsletters in English). Draw conclusions and implement them in your mailing.
- Plan which materials to send in the paid version of your newsletter, what it will be about, and how it will differ from the free version (and why it will be worth paying for).
- If you are ready to start a paid newsletter, offer a pre-sale to your recipients. This will be the best validation of your idea.
2. Online store with themed materials and gadgets
The so-called merch is a very popular method of increasing revenue in the U.S., especially among online creators. Typically, the merchandise includes T-shirts or mugs, but you can also take a more topic-oriented approach and support your company’s mission with themed gadgets and materials. This is exactly how Ola Budzyńska, also known as Pani Swojego Czasu, works.
On her website, Ola Budzyńska sells a wide range of goodies related to productivity, creativity, and online creation – the topics she specializes in.
The product range includes:
- course books.
What can you implement in your business based on the PSC example?
- If you don’t have a gadgets store yet, consider what merch you could sell. Perhaps branded clothing? Cases for laptops? Bookmarks? The possibilities are limitless. If you lack ideas, do some brainstorming (or use the Design Studio method – a reversed brainstorm) with your team.
- The second step is to calculate how profitable it will be for your company to introduce merchandise, especially if you plan to sell physical objects. This is a very important issue, because it may turn out that the production and distribution of e.g. high-quality T-shirts with a customized print are low-margin or totally unprofitable (on the other hand, it may be beneficial to your image, which is also worth taking into account).
- Check the target group’s interest, e.g. by sending out a survey or questions in a newsletter.
- Design the first product, find subcontractors, produce the first version of a product in small quantity, launch it and monitor how it is received.
3. Educational online workshops
Can trainings be delivered only on-site? Certainly not. Workshops, trainings, and presentations can be easily organized online! You can provide educational value even from the other side of the world. Or from your living room. 🙂
In 2020 and 2021, Project: People conducted several hundred hours of remote trainings, mainly on strategy, validation of business ideas, and lean methodologies in organizations.
With tools for remote work, such as Miro (our favorite virtual board for team collaboration), Zoom, Discord, Metro Retro, or Google Workspace suite, we can conduct wholesome trainings and workshops for our clients without leaving homes (or office).
How do you introduce online workshops into your educational offer?
- Provided you already conduct on-site workshops, going online should not be a big challenge. It is important to adapt the content of the training and the tools you use to the nature of online work.
- If you are not familiar with the tools for organizing remote workshops, be sure to check out Joanna Ostafin’s e-book.
- If your educational activity is not strictly about trainings, consider what topics you can present in the form of a remote workshop. Such a workshop should be centered around your expertise, it must be based on real-life experience and delivered in an attractive format.
- Now all you need to do is create a training offer including an agenda and description of the scope of knowledge the attendees will acquire.
- Present your workshop offer to the world, e.g. in a dedicated tab on your website, in an email to clients, in subject-related Facebook groups, etc.
4. Mystery Box
A Mystery Box is a great way to tap into human curiosity. It works great especially in e-commerce and in companies that offer a large number of products.
In their newsletter, OSMPower presented the Mystery Box, i.e. a surprise set of books – the buyers didn’t know what books they were getting until the very moment of delivery. The first edition was so successful that the publisher decided to repeat this action.
On the Polish market (not in the education sector, though) a similar product is offered by Diamante.
How can you use the Mystery Box?
- First of all, consider whether your business allows for this type of solution. If you provide trainings – you can sell a set of 3 trainings. If you run an EduTech startup, you can collect additional features (extended subscription, consultation with a specialist, more storage capacity, etc.) as a Mystery Box. If you create online courses, you can make 3 surprise lessons available for a fee. There are many options.
- Divide the products you want to provide into Mystery Boxes (ideally, the products in a box should be complementary – so that the set is more valuable to the recipient).
- Make it available to your target group – first, run a test with a small number of people, and see what effect and feedback you get.
- Remember to write a great copy – it’s extremely important! Especially with this type of innovative methods.
5. MP3 files
Content recycling, promoted by e.g. Gary Vaynerchuk, is a great method that helps build brand recognition. However, this is not the only benefit – old content can be “repackaged” and sold again in a different format. Pomelody used a similar tactic.
Pomelody is an app for parents who are looking for valuable materials to develop their children’s musical potential. The creators of Pomelody, Anna and Adam Weber, apart from a mobile app, offer MP3 Albums available for purchase outside of the app, in their online store.
I’m a great fan of the “no waste” approach used in lean methodologies. I like breaking products and services into smaller pieces and selling them in different forms (preferably scalable, as in the case of MP3 recordings), so I appreciate how the Pomelody team applied this tactic.
How can you apply this tactic?
- Think what products or services can be broken down into smaller chunks and offered in a scalable form, like MP3s, and start making money in the education industry. Or the other way around – what products or services can be combined and sold online? For example: if you record a podcast, you can sell unpublished recordings as MP3 files. If you regularly send out a newsletter, you can compile it and sell it as an e-book. If you provide templates and checklists as a service to your clients, you can also sell them as separate products. This is what I do in my little project Wesele na własnych zasadach where I provide an e-book that includes access to additional tables and documents, but there is also an option on the website to purchase the templates without the e-book.
- Extract specific products (or merge them), create descriptions, and make them available for sale online.
- If you already have some community (Facebook group, newsletter, Linkedin profile, etc.), be sure to let them know about the possibility of purchasing additional formats.
6. Sale of additional items
Selling the core service is an obvious thing. There’s no doubt about that. But perhaps there is something you can… upsell? Maybe you could expand your product or service, provide additional elements that refresh the product and bring new value to users? Let’s take the example of KodujMata.
KodujMata is an educational mat for learning programming for preschoolers and kids in grades 1-3. The mats are their primary product. What do they upsell? They grant access to a premium base with nearly 1,000 additional items that you can use with their mat.
If you have a core product and some additional payable products that provide value to the recipients, you can try upselling. Customers get to use our product in a more expanded form, and you get to enjoy a higher LTV (Lifetime Value) of the customer. It’s a win-win!
How to do this?
- Identify your core service.
- Write down ideas for services/products you could sell to your current customers. It seems trivial, yet so few entrepreneurs do it. At one of the business conferences I attended in early 2020, somebody posed the question: “How many of you cross-sell or upsell?”. 70% of the attendees in the room didn’t raise their hands. That’s what this section is about.
- If you already know what you can upsell, try doing it on a small scale first, e.g. by sending an email with a proposal to your customers.
- Only if the reception is positive, it is worth adding a purchase option e.g. on the website (as KodujMata did).
7. Unconventional online courses
Online courses are no longer an innovative product on the market. They are becoming a standard. But is it still possible to stand out in the online courses business? It certainly is. Let me give you an example of a rather… unusual course offered by an educational company from Poznan.
Go4Robot is a company that organizes courses for children in Poznan and other cities, for instance online and offline classes in programming and robotics. Apart from courses such as programming for kids in Python or creating animations, Go4Robot offers… MineCraft Online Course. Kids learn through play.
This example shows why it makes sense to create unique products and combine two different things you are knowledgeable about. If you teach programming and are a fan of MineCraft, why not combine these two? If you conduct remote workshops and have extensive knowledge about online collaboration tools, why not write an e-book?
How can you apply this in your business?
- Divide a sheet of paper into 2 columns. In one column, list the products/services/knowledge you have in the given field. In the other, list all other skills you have.
- Merge the two columns by matching the items together in a meaningful way to create an online product like a course. For example, you provide trainings on social media marketing and have a strong understanding of gastronomy. You could develop an online course on social media marketing for the foodservice industry.
- Of course, you should validate your business idea before creating the course. You can read more on this in our case studies.
If you create valuable educational content and have a group of loyal fans, you can consider Patronite. There are many options of promoting and leveraging such a profile, but I would like to give you an example of Maciej Okraszewski of Dział Zagraniczny who uses Patronite for educational purposes.
Every patron who pays at least PLN 50 (USD 13/ EUR 11) a month gets a weekly dose of knowledge in the form of a recording in which Maciej comments on current world events that are not covered in his podcast. This is a kind of membership model. It allows the author to provide additional education to his listeners. The recordings are accessible only to the patrons, so the rule of unavailability also applies here.
How can you use this?
- Ask yourself if you can provide your community with regular, targeted educational material (in any form). Those could be your commentaries, discussions on industry news, Q&A sessions…
- Ask your community what they would like to hear about and in what form.
- If you don’t have a community yet, you’ll need to start with building one.
- Since you already know that Patronite might be something for you, be sure to read more about this platform.
- Create your profile, share it with the world, educate, and make money. 🙂
I hope you find something actionable among the above ideas for making money online in the education industry. You probably won’t be able to put everything into practice. However, all you need to do is use one of the methods to tap into a new source of revenue from your education business.
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