Learning Curve

If you think you've got the skills to teach others, here are four ways to take advantage of your talents.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the January 2001 issue of . Subscribe »

Whoever coined the phrase "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" obviously wasn't a teacher or an entrepreneur. Teaching others about what you know best-your business-is a great way to publicize your company, attract customers, boost your credibility, get in touch with future captains of your industry, find employees and maybe even make a few extra bucks.

Take Leza Raffel, 33, president of Communication Solutions Group in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Raffel gives 30 seminars per year on "Mega Marketing on a Shoestring Budget" for associations, chambers of commerce and trade groups. "I present the programs at no charge and get great business leads from students of the workshop," she says.

If the thought of teaching gives you flashbacks of yardstick-wielding nuns, you need a refresher course in this business booster. Here are four ways to cash in on teaching:

1. College courses. First and foremost are the universities. For instance, Steven Anderson, 35, CEO and co-founder of the Internet technology company Viathan Corp. in Seattle, jumped at the opportunity to lecture on his business plan at the University of Washington's continuing education for MBAs program. "It sounded like a great recruiting opportunity," says Anderson. "It was a group of highly motivated people who had an interest in technology start-ups."

2. Seminars. Kelly James-Enger, 34, a teacher and freelance writer in Downers Grove, Illinois, gives a program called "Get Published." The program promotes her writing business and generates income. "I charge $85 for the program," she says. "To promote it, I do presentations to local writers' groups on the top 10 mistakes mag writers make."

3. Training. If you don't want to deal with the hassle of getting students to come to you, go to them-by offering on-site training sessions to corporate clients. Gwendolynn Gawlick, 35, owner of the book publicity firm prdiva.com in Vancouver, British Columbia, gives workshops on how to use the Internet for publicity and trains staff on how to handle Internet publicity in-house. After just one year, Gawlick's workshops have landed her four new clients and numerous inquiries.

4. Internet courses. Even entrepreneurs who are too busy to trek to a university or the client's homebase can don a teacher's hat. Virtual University, for example, solicits experts to teach six-week online courses in everything from HTML to home improvement. You can also create your own online courses.

Follow these expert tips to create a learning experience that will have your potential customers on the edge of their seats:

Get a clue. Not sure what to teach? Brainstorm about fun classes that relate to your business. A restaurant can give quick courses in healthy cooking or wine tasting. A Web design firm can teach a class on "How Not to Build a Web Site."

Get a room. For a seminar, you'll need to find a place that won't eat up your profits. Kelly James-Enger, for example, has held her seminars on college campuses and at health and wellness centers associated with hospitals. "The rooms are cheaper than hotels," she says, "and the facilities are very nice."

Get the word out. Publicize yourself through the Internet, newspaper and magazine ads, and mailings to your contact list. And don't forget networking: For college courses, become familiar with the professors and deans. If you're VC-funded, "Go to your VC and say you want to go on the speaking circuit," says Anderson. Gawlick suggests contacting networking groups like Toastmasters or the Young Entrepreneurs' Organization.

Get ready. Creating a customer-grabbing teaching session draws on the same rules as public speaking-like knowing your audience, practicing, and adhering to the old saw "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em."

Get going. The sooner you set up your courses, the sooner you'll earn new clients and attract employees. Once you tap into these benefits, you might want to change your classroom motto to "Those who can, teach."

Linda Formichelli has written for Redbook, Writer's Digest and Nation's Business. She also writes marketing columns for Entrepreneur's HomeOfficeMag.com. You can reach Linda at linda-eric@lserv.com.

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