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Last week I was invited to chat with Rachael Roberts on her monthly LinkedIn Live. Rachael helps ELT professionals develop their mindset and business skills and she’s one of the main reasons why today I’m doing what I am!

As I shared in the live chat (you can watch the replay here: https://www.linkedin.com/events/diversifyinganddevelopingdiffer7104726426666287104/theater/ ) I almost started my current business by accident. I’d thought about maybe self-publishing a book on inquiry-based learning, which is my current educational passion but I hadn’t really given it much thought.  

My initial idea was to create a new version of a book I wrote and self-published back in 2012. This was a book of lesson plans for 5 to 7 year-olds based on a soft CLIL approach.

I bet you didn’t know that, even if you are in my close circle of ELT friends! Because I didn’t really share it with anyone. I put it online for free and I even created a dedicated website for it. But I didn’t promote it at all. I didn’t really tell anyone about it. And as far as I can tell, I only even mentioned it once on the blog I had at the time.

The passive income paradox

Unknowingly, I had entered the passive income paradox, as I like to call it. I had a passive product: a resource book for teachers. I had a static website and a blog (albeit completely unconnected). And that was it. I just waited for people to download my book, which of course they didn’t. How could they? They didn’t know it existed!

Fast forward eleven years and I now have a new set of resource books, my Inspiring Inquiries Resource Packs. Another passive income product which I don’t promote enough! Have I learned anything since 2012?

Actually, yes. And one of the things I’ve come to realise is that back in 2012, I was doing a lot of self-sabotage. I didn’t really want to make any sales. I didn’t want people to download and read my book because I had gallons of imposter syndrome. Although I was proud of creating a book from scratch with no help, I was too scared to really make a go of promoting it. What if it was terrible?

I’m not scared of promoting my passive income products any more. I have learned a lot since then, particularly from my role as a materials writer, and I’m able to create carefully structured and well-designed materials. But I do struggle to commit to long-term strategising and planning. Because passive products require a lot of action, particularly in terms of marketing.

Three different jobs? One is enough, right?

In the chat, I talked about the three strands to my business. Having three strands can be a challenge – how do I fit them all into my marketing plan?

Well actually, the different strands all intersect to some extent.

I’ve developed Inspiring Inquiries into a brand of its own. Under this brand I have the inquiry-based learning training pathway and the resource packs. This is also the name of my YouTube channel, where I share videos mostly related to learner-centred approaches, including inquiry-based learning.

My other course, Inclusive Approaches for Primary Teachers actually feeds into Inspiring Inquiries. While its focus is on inclusion in the young learner classroom, it leads teachers towards taking a learner-centred approach. 

Then of course, the knowledge and skills I gain in my work as a materials writer are fundamental and help me with both writing my resource packs and developing my teacher training courses. 

My lessons learned

I’ve learned a few lessons since I completed Rachael’s Flourishing Foundations group programme, and some of them have been the hard way. I’d like to share them with you so hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.

1 Don’t be in a rush to get things out there.

I’ve realised that before I started creating and launching products, I should have worked on building up an audience first. There’s no point creating a product if you’ve got nobody to sell it to! I made things difficult for myself by doing too much too fast. The good thing is that now I do have things to sell so when people are ready for them, they’ll be there. But it means I’ve spent a lot of time creating launches, spending far too much time on social media (and on Canva) for very little in return.  It can be hard to go slow when you have a new idea and are fully invested and excited to start creating something. But I have to remember that I don’t need to be putting stuff out there all the time and I can take things a bit more slowly. Everything doesn’t need to be available immediately.

2 Do SEO.

I’ve included this here for a bit of accountability. I’m one of those people to whom SEO sounds too much like maths. In my ideal world, everything would just happen organically but that’s not how the system works. So, I’d suggest getting into the habit of making sure you include high-ranking keywords in all of your content, especially if you have a YouTube channel. In the chat with Rachael, we discussed how not many ELT teachers are even aware of inquiry-based learning so they certainly won’t be searching for it! This means I need to work extra hard at finding out exactly what teachers are searching for. So, if you’re a teacher who likes to find out about different teaching approaches – help a gal out and tell me what kinds of things you search for! 

3 You don’t have to do everything alone.

As an introvert who works from home, I love working on my own! However, some of the best ideas develop when I talk to others, which is one of the reasons why I love being in The Confident Freelancer Collective. In fact, I’ve just joined forces with Eloise Vivanco to create a Facebook group for young learner teachers. I don’t want to give too much away yet but we’ll be launching the group with a mini-workshop later this month. It’s really exciting and I’m so used to working alone that it’s great to collaborate with someone else – I’d highly recommend it if you’re a freelancer.

Finally, a couple of tips if you’re thinking of developing passive income streams yourself. 

Start with something that you already do or repurpose something you’ve already created. You’ll probably need to adapt it and look at it from another angle to make sure it’s different from what’s already out there. For example, say you’ve done some teacher training workshops on a certain topic. You could use the content to create a guidebook or a series of videos. If you’re a teacher and you have lots of materials you’ve created, you could try redesigning them and selling them to other teachers or make them self-study and market them to students. 

In terms of getting started, just do it. Create one thing and then share it with people. Get people to sign up to your mailing list, if you have one. If this is new to you, I’d recommend doing Rachael’s lead magnet training (I’m not sure if this is still available – ask Rachael for more info!) And then you can offer the next thing you create as a paid product. You don’t need to have millions of things on your website. I started selling my resource packs when I had 2 or 3 and that was because I’d given the first one away to quite a lot of people for free. 

If you want to know more about my experience doing Flourishing Foundations or about how I developed my business, drop me a line. I’m always happy to talk about the various mistakes I’ve made, especially if it will help you avoid the same ones!