How Can I Do More of What I’m Actually Good at?

There’s DIY, and then there’s DTWTY — Doing the Wrong Things Yourself. Doing it Yourself is great if it’s actually saving you either money or time, and you are enjoying the acquisition of new skills. It’s also helpful when you find that you have a knack for it. In this post, I’m going to write about how my DIY approach to self-producing my online video classes is costing me more than it’s worth.

I Should Have Been Done 2 Months Ago

It’s been since early June that I last seriously kept up with this blog. I took a break so I could focus on producing my next Skillshare class, which was supposed to be launched in late June. It never happened. It’s now past mid-August, and I’m still editing the class! While I love teaching on Skillshare, I am not a fan of the recording and editing part. In the past few years, I’ve hired out these parts, but it’s quite expensive, so I can’t do it every time I have a class. Or so the thinking has gone. As I’ve been slogging away with this latest class of mine, I’m realizing that it may actually be worth every penny to hire out, even when hiring a professional film company costs anywhere from 15–20% of my annual revenue. (My classes are long, which makes them expensive to edit).

Bringing in other people may cost more up front, but it saves me both time and lost opportunities.

I was up the other night after a full day of editing, and I realized, this is not what I should be doing with my time. I have had to turn down work, and my class has been delayed by at least 2 months now (representing a significant loss in potential Skillshare revenue). I’ve also sidelined my big goal for 2021, which was to write my book. Instead of doing what I’m best at, I’m spending most of my time doing something I neither love nor am really that good at. I don’t mind pushing out homebrew YouTube videos, but my standard for Skillshare classes is a lot higher. And compared to my professionally produced classes, the class I’m currently working on falls short.

The False Economy of DIY

There is a false economy about self-producing classes, at least for me. When I self-produce, sure, I save a ton of money up front. But when it’s just me, I am not beholden to my own schedules, and dates can just keep getting pushed back. I end up self-doubting and re-shooting, and re-editing, and otherwise, just being a dumb perfectionist, and the time spent in just writing/recording hemorrhages. On the other hand, when I set shoot and launch dates with a video team, I have no choice but to get my content ready, and to just be satisfied with what I have by the end of the shoot. Bringing in other people may cost more up front, but it saves me both time and lost opportunities. It also gets my classes out sooner, meaning I am earning more sooner as well.

How Can I Do More of What I Love?

What do I love about teaching? Writing the content. Connecting with students. Seeing how my classes help and even transform the lives of those who take them. I don’t even mind being on camera. Getting stuck in trying to shoot and edit my longer classes is preventing me from doing both. In fact, my Top Teacher status on Skillshare is in jeopardy, since I haven’t met the required minimum of 2 new classes per year. Becoming a Top Teacher and earning my solid reputation on the platform is one of my most prized accomplishments. I take a lot of pride in this. (Maybe too much?) It would break my heart to lose my Top Teacher designation. Maybe it’s just a “blue checkmark” type thing, but it matters a lot to me. Also, I’d have to change my intro to just about everything I make!

The parts that get me stuck are also the parts that I don’t enjoy anyway.

But back to what I love and don’t love about teaching: the parts that get me stuck are also the parts that I don’t enjoy anyway. How can I focus more on writing and connecting with students? My dream would be to have a team around me, so that making classes can come easier, and the quality can only keep getting better. To this end, I am happy to say I have started the process of searching out such a team. I’m in the early stages of working with an editor on my next class. And I’m actively keeping my eyes open for someone (or a team) who can be my go-to video people — for both shooting and editing. There are many details to work out, including a more formal business plan, an operating budget, and stuff like that, but I’m certain that, if I’m going to teach in the longterm (and enjoy it), I need to have a team. I love the writing part, and I like the speaking part. I enjoy being on camera. If I can focus on these things, I think I can keep doing this.

What Am I Going to Do About it?

Meanwhile, with or without a team, how can I streamline my process so I can at least stay somewhat productive? Is there any fat I can trim? My only strategy right now is extreme focus. Taking on too much at once makes it hard to do any of my tasks well. So from now until the end of September, I’ve had to put a stop on all incoming client work, so I can get stay on track with this class and get back on track with my book (I still have some hope to write the first draft by the end of the year). This is only adding to the cost of Doing The Wrong Things Myself, but it’s really all I can do to recover my sunken costs and meet my emergency goal of retaining my Top Teacher status.

So that’s what’s happening right now. I’m still hopeful my Color Class (now called The One-Palette Illustrator) will be out by the end of the month, but my goodness, what a journey to get there!




Illustrator. Creatively Empowering Teacher/Speaker. Represented by Making Pictures/UK & Dot Array/USA. Top Teacher on @skillshare.

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Tom Froese

Tom Froese

Illustrator. Creatively Empowering Teacher/Speaker. Represented by Making Pictures/UK & Dot Array/USA. Top Teacher on @skillshare.

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