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The allure of teaching online is strong — the freedom of both schedule and location, the joy of working for yourself — there’s so much to love that it’s no wonder why the rise of online education sites like Udemy and Live Lingua are growing.

There’s just one problem when you first start out. What the heck am I supposed to teach?

The answer is to teach what you’re really good at. The following exercise is designed to help you identify what it is you’re qualified to teach, and design an outline for creating lessons or an online course from there.

I urge you to stick with the exercise — it’s very big picture and — especially at first — might seem a bit abstract. But it all ties in together at the end, and you should walk away with a solid idea of what you need to do to begin teaching what you’re really good at.

The other goal of this activity is to turn you into a “hindsight master,” which we’ll talk more about below.

Bring your passion to the table

We’re talking real passion — a lifestyle, not a hobby. For example, someone who is very dedicated to skiing might describe themselves as “a skier.”

Not just someone who has skied and maybe goes once or twice per year, but someone for whom skiing is a major part of their life and as such, it has become part of their identity.

This is what you are eligible to teach to others. While they may be initially attracted to learning from you because of your knowledge and experience, it is your raw passion for this topic that keeps them interested.

That’s what people want. They want to feel the excitement, not be preached at by a teacher. They want to feel like they are becoming part of something.

If you can give your students that feeling, you have a long (and likely profitable) road ahead of you as an online teacher.

Create a list of steps

So you’re ready get the process started.

This is the most important step. Once you’ve identified a passion that others might take value from, it’s time to figure out why you are qualified to teach it and how to go about doing so.

I suggest turning this part into a game. Open a Google Doc or Word doc and title it “How I Learned To X.” (“X” being whatever it is that you hope to teach.

The doc will be broken into three sections. First is the “How I Got Started” section. In a bulleted list, write down your process of getting started with this activity.

  • How were you introduced?
  • What was the first thing you learned?
  • What was the first piece of equipment you obtained, and how did you obtain it?
  • What was it that made you fall in love with this activity?
  • Anything else that comes to mind regarding how you got started and how it became a regular part of your life.

The next section is all about progression. Here you’ll note the concrete steps along the way that took you from being a beginner to being an intermediate and advanced player in this field.

  • What pieces of feedback or advice have you received that really stuck with you and made you better?
  • At what point did this activity become a regular part of your lifestyle, and what steps did you have to take to incorporate it into your schedule, buy anything necessary to progress, and/or
  • Describe the moment when you knew you’d graduated from “beginner” to intermediate. Then, describe the moment you became an expert.

The final section is about this activity’s legacy in your life. You may get a bit more long-form on these answers because this is where the big picture really starts to come in.

At what point did this activity become a “lifestyle” more so than just a hobby

Creating teaching points

Now that you have this list in front of you, save it. Back it up on the cloud. And then close your computer for the day.

For real.

It’s time to let this sink into the page and into your brain. Your mind is likely reeling, and this is a good point to take a break and let everything settle. If you think of anything super important between now and the next session, jot it down on paper or into a note on your phone.

Ok. Onward to the next session.

This time, we’re going to think forwards instead of backwards. Open that same doc, and on a new page, create a section called “The Next Level.”

Here, I want you to start by noting the next level of progression in your activity. For a skier who is at an advanced level and looking to progress even further, that might be to venture into the realm of backcountry skiing.

Underneath this, create a bulleted list of the actionable steps it would take you to get there.

  • What research do you need to do?
  • What equipment/skills do you need?
  • How long will it take?
  • What else is necessary to get there?

Now that I have you daydreaming about your favorite activity, we’re going to switch course and go back to square one.

Starting at the top of your document, go through and apply this same line of thought to each step along the way, that took you from fresh beginner to where you are now.

The idea is to apply a progressive method of thinking and growth to each step along the way, and get you thinking about exactly what was needed in each step.

This is what you will be teaching to your students. This will turn you into the “hindsight master” that I mentioned above. The student doesn’t have the benefit of being able to look back on years of experience to ensure they learn this activity the right way.

You are giving them that chance. That’s what they’re paying you for, and that’s how they are going to progress in an efficient, productive manner.

Your doc is likely to get quite long as this is going to be the building block of your lessons, course, or whatever medium you choose to teach through.

Bring this concept to life

Now that you have the completed doc, it’s time to figure out how to go about teaching this material to someone else.

There are a number of ways you can do this, and I suggest you do thorough research to determine the best platform and strategy for your situation.

Perhaps you create an online course, and market that to people in your niche. Maybe you contract with an online school, or offer 1-on-1 lessons to students on your own.

How to teach what you’re really good at

The following articles will provide a solid base of understanding of the different ways out there to teach online, and how to go about getting started.

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