How do you build an art e-course? What topics should you choose to cover?

Hi, my name is Carrie and here on Artist Strong I help artists like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today I’m going to discuss the evolution of program offerings here on Artist Strong.

The first course content I created were many, many 1-2 hour long free webinars. I used these to start connecting with our community. I also tested different topics to see what people enjoyed. After doing this I decided to create a course called The Art Detox. It was 4 units and each unit explored a different medium.

I sold it via my webinars and email. I ended up selling 3 spots at all kinds of price points. I had offered Beta tester discounts and even had a pay what you want day. Prices ranged from 15 to 50 USD.

In the end, students told me they enjoyed the content but that it was too much. Content overload is a real thing. Because the altered books unit was their favorite activity I decided to create a 4 week program all on this medium.

Soulbrush Sessions Altered Books was initially called something else. I can’t even remember the original name! It started as a 4 week e-course. I again received feedback that there was too much to cover so I extended it into a 6 week program. I’ve sold this course 3 times now. First time I had 12 students, and most recently I had 4 students join me.

I started to see not all students were finishing the course, so I took a year off between the 2nd and 3rd time I ran it to repackage the content to have 3 levels of access. The first, or basic level, is a self-study package that runs for 6 weeks that people can invest in at any time. If artists finish the first level and want more content there is a second level that upgrades them and adds more tutorials. Finally, the 3rd level is one I run once every other year or so. It is a live version, which means students enjoy access to a private FB group where they can ask me questions and a Q&A session with me as they move through the content.

Despite repackaging it and selling it again to a larger audience I saw no increase in the number of sales. It made me think maybe it was time to give something else a try.

I reflected on the art I taught in the classroom and I absolutely loved my experience as an IB Art teacher. IB Art allowed me to work with student artists in a studio environment. I got to work with them over a prolonged period of time and help them build their art skills and develop and refine their unique voice.

So many artists I was working with online could use this kind of support. I thought, why not translate it into an online community?

Because of this I created The Circle. It was initially packaged as a monthly membership that you could join for as little or as along as you like. I modelled it after 6-7 artists joined me at the start and their problems and questions guided the creation of live and recorded workshops to support their unique and individual art goals.

I found creating all of the content and constantly promoting for a year round, never ending program was too much for me. I consulted with the wonderful and insightful Jennifer Lee of Artizen Coaching (another investment) and we repackaged The Circle into a 6 month program with two tiers of access. The first tier, the regular level focuses on finding artist voice and starting a portfolio. The second tier, or Gold level, is for artists who are in process of building a portfolio and ready to develop promotional strategies around their unique goals for their art.

I also offered an upgrade opportunity: any Circle artist could hire me for 3, 45 minute 1-1 session to be scheduled sometime during the 6 months of The Circle.

The second time I launched The Circle I had 13 sign ups and 1 person invested in the 1-1 sessions. Looking at long term vision for the program I may someday cap the number of students. I hope to sustainably increase sign ups every year to help me keep integrity of both content and my service.

online art courses, online art class, art classes, art lessons, free art lessons, art educationMost recently I’ve created Better Drawing Bootcamp.

For my entire teaching career I’ve been battling the pervasive myth that you need talent to be good at art. After the research of Anders Ericsson outlined a formula for deliberate practice (which is a specific formula for building skill in any discipline) I decided to apply it to drawing.

I created a system of deliberate practice to help anyone who wants to improve their drawing skills in a 30 day encourse. This program is available all the time. I also have two upgraded offerings for the program that offer more personalized access, feedback and support. These upgraded levels will be offered twice a year.

What I found with Better Drawing Bootcamp is everyone who signed up has already bought a course from me. I had 4 sign ups. I’m super excited to offer this program again, which I can show off and celebrate the amazing results of my students. I’ve sound a special sauce here and I can’t wait to share it with more people.

Better Drawing Bootcamp and The Circle are now my signature offerings. They will be the core of Artist Strong programming and help direct future decisions for Artist Strong.

I do have other offerings aside from courses on Artist Strong. I have a coloring book on Amazon, of which I’ve sold somewhere around 30 copies.

The other key piece of programming is my Patreon crowdfunding. People in our community commit to a low monthly contribution (as low as 1$) towards my work and receive bonuses and benefits as a result of their patronage. As of this recording, I currently have 19 patrons contributing a combined 173 dollars per month to my work. This currently covers about half of my monthly costs to run Artist Strong.

I have written about and shared workshops on the benefit of using Patreon as an artist. I knew this would encourage people in our community to sign up and try to use it themselves. For this reason I decided Artist Strong should not be a patron for any of my students. How would it look if I support some of my students and not others? So, right now, I am not supporting any. I’ve also decided not to support anyone until my business is at a profit.

There are two other pieces to this offering puzzle. They aren’t exactly Artist Strong, but they are other ways I can generate income. The first is: I sporadically sell my art. When I create a series I’ll put it up for sale. I’m looking forward to making this a more regular part of my life in the years to come.

Secondly, I have a private tutoring job where I teach studio art and art history.

Whew! Today was a long one, but I hope it offers you some insight into how I built and grew Artist Strong. The path is not linear. There are stops and starts. And I hope it helps you have a bit more patience for wherever you are at with your art goals.

Be Creatively Courageous: How has your art evolved over time? Have you given yourself permission to experience the inevitable ebb and flow of trial and error?