My path to becoming a “Creator”
As I was taking a look at my results and learnings from my time as an online creator, I asked Ela, my girlfriend who is a graphic designer, owner of design firm Pixelchen und Karton and creator of my website, if we could take a look at my Google Analytics, which we set up a couple months ago for my website. I was pretty excited to see what the traffic looked like so far…
As it turns out, we had used the wrong one of a couple of long numerical codes, so no data had yet been gathered! But as of now it should be collecting data that will be helpful going forward.
It’s a learning curve, to say the least!
Luckily I do have some data about the various services I’ve been using, and I’ll be sharing that along with my key learnings and resources I have found helpful on the journey. I hope this will be useful for other aspiring creators, whether they be bloggers, vloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, or sharing through some other media, as well as provide insights for others who may be consumers or students of such resources.
More than anything, I am grateful to YOU who are here reading, witnessing, and engaging with my creations, whether it be on the blog, podcast, YouTube channel, in live online classes, over email and/or social media! It is wonderful to be on this journey with you and I hope you will find new ideas and opportunities through my content. Please let me know what you want to see more of in the future!
To make it as simple as possible to provide helpful feedback to help shape my creations going forward, I created a little Survey Google Form here, with just 5 short questions. Thanks for your presence and input 🙂
In many ways I have always been, and identified as, a creator or an artist. But in the sense of online content creation, as long as I have been reading blogs (at least since at least 2005 with Zen Habits), watching YouTube videos, and listening to podcasts, the educator in me has wanted to learn how to use these means to convey what I know and evoke inquiry in others.
Ever since I began building an international network of friends, students, and clients, I’ve understood the value of online communication and collaboration. My coaching credential, a mix of in-person and telephone meetings, and my teaching credential in particular, hybrid in nature and with many classes over Zoom, taught me more about online teaching.
I was introduced to UDL, or Universal Design for Learning, and the value of providing multiple means of engagement, action, expression, and representation in serving all learners. I have been working since then to integrate these methods into my own teaching practice, making it more inquiry-based, student-centered, diverse, and accessible.
My move to Germany naturally also developed further flexibility in communicating through language and other means, in-person and across distances.
Then, 18 months into my experience teaching dance in Europe, global pandemic hit in the form of COVID-19!
How terrifying that has been, on a very physical and existential level as a threat to our health, and also damaging to our social and financial well-being. Suddenly we were all wearing masks, rationing toilet paper, disinfecting everything, and events and classes were being cancelled. We worried for our well being and that of our friends and loved ones, and we wondered how to carry on, how to get by?
For a while, we were simply shut down. I used that time to plot possible next steps and the studios I work with were scrambling to problem-solve, to learn the skills and set up the equipment and systems to try to keep serving students, suddenly teaching and interacting as online businesses. I remember one yoga teacher training weekend when we had to cancel the second day, and I had suggested that we may be able to still continue the workshop on Zoom. Another student shot me down, insisting that wouldn’t work! Laughable to think of the early resistance now.
We were soon able to start providing online classes everywhere I was teaching and learning and everyone jumped on board to do their best to become effective online teachers, in live and synchronous classes on Zoom as well as on video through YouTube and other portals. I polled former students using Surveymonkey for feedback about what would best serve them at this point, and used this to help chart my path.
YouTube & Me
You could say that it all started with YouTube. Just about as long as I have loved watching YouTube videos (so years now, I wonder how many?), I’ve toyed with the idea of starting my own channel. I started to casually put up a few choreography videos during my MFA and also used it in my teaching starting at that time, especially at The Movement Center and Kaiser High School, recording progress on choreography by and for students and helping improve the works.
In the fall of 2019 I met videographer Gustavo Mendoza Canales in an Expats in Cologne group on Facebook and he created a trailer for my teaching and coaching, then on March 10, 2020 I threw together and shared my first new tutorial video “Ankle ABC’s” to support my students who were now quarantined at home in keeping up their strength and stability. I was still learning my German ABC’s, using my built-in webcam and microphone, and it was all new.
Since then, I have posted 137 videos, having started off posting sporadically, ramping up to producing 2-3 videos per week, and then settling into consistently uploading one each week. None of my videos have yet gone viral, but a few have been gaining traction over time and I hope serving people along the way, including the “Port de Bras Story” video (809 views), “Ballet Second Port de Bras” (651 views) and “Seven Movements of Ballet” (472 views).
There are now 59 Subscribers to the A Blythe Coach YouTube Channel, almost 60! Then we’re aiming for 100, 500…because at 1,000 I’ll have access to even greater possibilities! This is your cue to subscribe now if you haven’t yet 🙂 There have been a combined total of 112 hours of public watch time on my channel, which is a fun metric to watch along with numbers of views and subscribers.
For context, in order to access YouTube Lives and certain other services as well as monetize a channel, a creator must collect 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours. It’s so gratifying to get “likes” and comments along the way!
Equipment for Filming & Editing Video for YouTube
I started out recording videos using the built-in webcam in my ASUS VivoBook PC, which is not great, as well as some from my iPhone, but pretty soon Ela helped me research what what live-streamers use and make some modest investments that made a big difference in the quality of my videos.
I invested in a used Sony a5100 digital Camera on eBay, Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod, CamLink 4k to connect the camera to my PC, and the Plantronics Voyager Legend cordless Microphone helps me get good sound in dance and yoga videos at a considerable savings comparted to the trendy iPods. A Toshiba external drive stores all of my video footage and a digital camera battery adapter thingie connected to the pc means I don’t have to worry about keeping camera batteries charged.
At some point soon, I’ll probably add some sort of compact ring light to the setup so that I’m better lit close-up (less shadowy). Eventually a computer upgrade, video and audio editing software and/or professional assistance with these technical areas will probably be in order, but for now, this pretty simple, compact and mobile setup is working well for me.
Processing through Podcasting
I published my first podcast episode, “Finding a Grounded State of Being for dance & life” on April 30, 2020. Trying to determine what my students and clients needed most (as well as what I myself longed for), I decided a sense of groundedness and stability was a good place to start.
Part of my motivation to start my Podcast when I did was my yoga teacher training (another thing it’s amazing I accomplished last year!) and the desire to grow that part of my life and teaching business. I wanted accountability in reading and digesting the required texts to get the most out of them and to share key learnings with my existing “audience” of students.
Using these insights for my own enrichment and for needed “credit” in the certification program was all well and good, but even better if others could benefit, too. Getting comfortable with recording myself speaking was another potential benefit.
The early podcasts were spoken drafts of the later essays on my key learnings about yoga and the teaching and learning process. I also wanted a free place to play with ideas that span the disciplines I love, to apply knowledge to dance, yoga, creativity, and life.
I love the freedom of the podcast format and have a couple regular listeners, but as it is not a search engine like YouTube and does not promote “organic” traffic, I have learned from my own experience and the wisdom of others that it can be a particularly slow audience to build. Still, the process of producing the podcast supports my other creations, such as the blog and videos, and as I enjoy podcasts so much myself, I want to keep on producing and expanding upon it.
Equipment for Podcasting
One of the cool things about starting the podcast was that it didn’t cost me anything, I simply began with what I had. My Microsoft Lifechat headset/microphone that I bought in 2019 in anticipation of teaching and coaching online during my move has been good enough for my podcast as well as coaching and courses on Zoom. The Voice Recorder program included on my trusty little Asus VivoBook PC captured my podcasts and Anchor.fm, which I think I originally heard about Anchor from the Optimal Living Daily podcast provided incredibly simple and free distribution so I could get started right away without any further investment.
Experimenting with Asynchronous Online Courses
Through participating in online webinar trainings, I got access to a free course on Teachable, and after that I created a free course of my own on the platform called “Five Ways to Find a Solid Foundation.” This mini-course resource serves as my freebie/lead magnet on my website. I will definitely continue to create online courses and curricula, either through the Teachable platform, as email sequences, or other formats. What’s your favorite way to engage in online courses?
Live Online Classes
In the last year, I have been teaching live classes on Zoom through my existing Cologne-based studios, as well as branched out to teach my own classes and have experimented with scheduling and payment using Livefitstream (drop-in group classes), Calendly (to book private consultations, classes, and coaching sessions), Paypal, Patreon, and most recently, Convertkit Commerce, and all have been a part of my learning this year.
While I have not yet found success in gaining patrons on Patreon, I do now have students enrolled in automatic monthly payment plans for unlimited online ballet and yoga classes through Convertkit and that is proving wonderfully convenient on both sides, so I’d like to expand in this area going forward.
Teaching and filmmaking at the same time is complex and there are a lot of moving parts, but it has also been so worthwhile to be able to continue to connect and support students and clients through pandemic lockdowns and across oceans. It’s so special to be able to teach folks here in Germany as well as in Hawai’i and everywhere in-between, and also to be able to attend classes taught worldwide online!
10 Key Lessons Learned:
1. Just start!
Research alone will not make you a creator, and some things you must learn through trial and error. Learn as you go, and don’t worry about it being “too late” or having somehow missed the boat. Part of me wished I had started sooner, but the other part believes in divine timing, and I’m super glad I didn’t wait any longer to get going!
I believe that there are certain mistakes that you just have to make, and there is no time like the present to take a step towards your dream. If you’ve been there for said mistakes, I deeply appreciate your patience with my learning process! Better incremental progress than delayed perfection.
2. It quickly gets less awkward
Although it is very painful at first for most, taking and editing video or sound recordings soon becomes more comfortable and less horribly awkward. I was super-excited to share and have a lot of experience teaching and performing, but it was still scary and outside of my comfort zone to be regularly recording myself, and therefore having to experience my voice, image, mistakes and all, again and again in the editing process.
But I’ve gotten much more accustomed, comfortable, and at ease with practice! It will be exciting to see where increased confidence in this area can take me.
3. You can train for free
It was humbling to see how many new skills I would need to acquire in order to create online content. The good news is there’s lots of free training available to assist you in discovering the tools, equipment, and skills you need, whether you want to start a YouTube channel, a blog, a podcast, a course, a community, or even publish a book!
YouTube provided a great resource to learn how existing bloggers, YouTubers, and other creators do it. Some of my favorites have been:
Gillian Perkins, YouTuber
Amanda McKinney, Marketing Yoga with Confidence podcast
Shannon Crow, Connected Yoga Teacher podcast
Melyssa Griffin, Limitless Life podcast
Courtney Carver, Be More with Less blog
Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists blog/podcast
Matt D’Avella, YouTuber
Adriene Michler, YouTuber
I’m also glad I got turned on to Convertkit, especially their podcast “The Future Belongs to Creators,” free trainings, and free email marketing software for up to 1,000 subscribers & Teachable, with many courses and resources for course creators to help “Share what you know.”
4. Hire help strategically
It also helps to hire/get help from specific professionals with key pieces, such as a website and other technical requirements. As nonprofit founder and mentor of mine Virginia Holte advised in Podcast 50, a graphic designer/web developer and possibly a bookkeeper are important professionals to employ to provide a positive first impression whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, larger corporation, or nonprofit.
5. Be generous with your creations
Give, give, give! Is the motto of Amanda McKinney of Marketing Yoga with Confidence, and I couldn’t agree more. As teaching artists, we are motivated by being able to empower others, and making a living is secondary. It takes time to build consistency and grow an audience, but one of the most powerful ways to do that is to provide lots of value for free!
I’m committed to reaching the folks who need my content and message, but I understand that for most it’s not an overnight phenomenon. No matter how excellent and experienced we may be in our field, there are specific skills of marketing and so forth that take practice, and we can get that practice by offering our expertise lavishly and often.
6. Creating is a great outlet
As I had hoped, making videos, podcasts, and blogs has indeed been a great outlet for my anxiety in the last wild year! I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve managed to remain healthy and use this powerful impetus to take action on existing intentions to create and to share my process as a teaching artist and coach through writing and video and providing resources to my students. Through creating and sharing, I have realized that there is a huge well of ideas within just waiting to be expressed!
7. Creating provides accountability
Making my plans public ensures that I follow-through, and additionally may inspire others to take action, too! Working in public like this, sharing the process as well as products has provided a high level of accountability and inspiration to act on declared projects. While I often jump into new endeavors with energy and enthusiasm, that can wane with time, and I believe I have followed-through with what I have declared more powerfully than ever knowing that someone might be watching! What might you do if you knew it might inspire others?
8. Online connections are gold
A sense of connection to global community is indeed possible. Working with clients and students internationally has been such a blessing to me this year, both personally and professionally. Circumstances have made in-person contact extremely limited, so having these opportunities to be together online has been truly precious, whether catching up in a chat, breathing together in our yoga practice, or dancing!
In an effort to connect with more folks who resonate with my mission and offerings, I set up a professional Facebook page which now has 317 likes, and a business Instagram that has reached 62 followers. I find it fascinating to weave current themes through the various media, and my social media accounts and YouTube Channel grow, I look forward to discovering how to most effectively reach my community, through membership, groups, or what makes sense to us.
9. Email is important
Along the lines of worldwide connection, I have learned that while social media is great, one thing that has become clear in studying online marketing is that email is super important, as it is the only platform for which you “own” your audience. I had become an unenthusiastic email-user in recent years (a hangover of corporate and graduate school burnout), but I now realize that if Facebook or IG were to one day disappear, I would sadly be left with nothing in terms of the connections I had made there.
So, I also started an Email Newsletter by personally inviting friends, family, colleagues, current and former students and clients to join. I currently have 81 subscribers, and will continue to focus on serving them, as they are my most engaged students and clients and in a sense, a board of directors for my baby business. It means so much to hear from you through email and all of the ways you reach out!
10. Creativity leads to more
The accountability and accessibility of online publishing has allowed a noticeable accumulation of my work to occur (52 podcasts, 37 blog posts, 130-something videos, 39 emails…) and is making bigger goals, such as publishing articles and books in the future, feel much more attainable.
Creating the blog naturally followed my YouTube Channel and Podcast, as Ela made me my gorgeous website and I knew that posting there regularly would help tie together all other media and provide a landing page for potential students and clients that represented the work I am currently making as well as my past projects.
Gratitude for One Year, next steps
I have enjoyed pursuing themes of interest through my teaching, speaking, and writing in all of these formats. I will continue to investigate how best to serve my students going forward.
It’s hard to believe that I already have a year of Podcasting, YouTubing, Newslettering, and Blogging (and maintaining business accounts on FB and IG) under my belt!!! I’ve learned so much about online teaching and content creation, as well as myself and my professional pathc, and am grateful that I “went for it” with all of those new projects, riding the energy of anxiety during pandemic. It was a very scary time, and I know we each coped in our own ways!
Here’s to learning, growth, and success in the coming year! I hope you enjoy as I share my subject-area knowledge and also transparency during the process of figuring it all out, and may it serve you in achieving your goals whatever they may be.
What will you create this week and in the coming year?
Blythe Stephens, MFA
she/her or they/them
A Blythe Coach: Dance Education & Coaching
move through life with balance, grace, & power