Finding Resources to Help Your Art Business: Online Courses

Until recently, I’ve always thought I preferred to take classes in person vs. online. Aside from not loving to stare at a screen for long hours, I like having the teacher in front of me in real time to answer a question or demonstrate a lesson. But since I finished college, and especially now that we find ourselves in various stages of quarantine, I’m realizing the good side to online classes, and even find myself enrolled in a couple.

I’m not talking about university classes; I’m not ready for that level of commitment or gravitas again (though there are lots of universities offering not-for-credit open online courses). Instead, I’m finding courses put out by various online learning platforms and creative entrepreneurs.

All Fairy Tree Studios-related notes and ideas go in the Grumpy Cat notebook. Also pictured: my 2020 planner (remember that cover image?) and of course, coffee.

One class I’m taking, called “Start Your Own Arts and Crafts Business,” is a more structured six-week course (with two lessons released each week to be completed at your own pace). It’s one of the classes offered through Gale Courses, which I have free access to through my library (I’m telling you, libraries are stepping it up during this shelter-in-place thing. They offer SO MANY online resources, and many libraries allow you to get a temporary card online so you can access them.) Gale has course start dates every four weeks, with the next being July 15.

So far I’ve completed the first two lessons (each with a short quiz and optional discussion activity at the end) and started the third. It’s concise and informative, with practical info on the nuts and bolts side of naming and registering your business, finding your niche, and even creating your ideal workspace. Gale offers other classes in art, business, technology, design, language, etc. If you complete and pass the final exam (the only graded part of the course), you get a certificate, which I imagine could be added to a resumé if you felt so inclined.

The other class I’m taking is a much more relaxed structure. Basically, you pay once for the five modules and work through them at your pace, whether that’s five months or five years (in other words, you buy it once and get lifetime access). It is Jenna Rainey’s online course “Instagram for Creatives,” and each module multiple lessons, from learning how the IG algorithm works and how to interpret your stats, to how to generate content and “sell without the sleaze.” She also includes handouts for defining your business and your ideal customer. I’m about halfway through now, and have already applied a lot of what I’ve learned. She also has a Facebook group for the course members, in lieu of a discussion board (and she does actually go in and answer comments/questions).

Lessons in the course generally range from about 5 to 25 minutes, depending on the topic.

Unfortunately, enrollment isn’t open for this particular course right now, though you can get it as a “bonus” with her (more expensive) “Brand + Brand” course. If, like me, you’re on a tighter budget, she also has tons of free resources, including a podcast (“The Jenna Rainey Show“) and a YouTube channel. I’d recommend checking her website or signing up for her mailing list if you’re interested; she does frequently update her courses and then reopen them.

I’ve tested the waters of a few other online arts/entrepreneur classes, including Master Class, Brit + Co, and The Bundle Co., with mixed results. For example, the Bundle Co. groups together 30+ classes on a similar theme and sells them for a massive discount for a limited time, and I bought one with courses on starting a creative business. However, I found signing up and keeping track of all the enrollments a little overwhelming, and of course when you enroll, you end up on the mailing lists of all 30 different instructors. So, it’s probably more ideal for someone who’s committed and completing 1-2 classes at a time, rather than a casual signer-upper like I was.

Have you tried online classes before? How did you like them? Did you end up completing them?

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