With a staggering unemployment rate and an uncertain economic future, 2020 has been a challenging, stressful year for many. Though some freelancers have experienced an uptick in client work, others have struggled to attract or retain consistent contracts to make ends meet.

It’s always smart to diversify your content offerings, explore lucrative niches, and of course, never give up. The pandemic has paved the road for a new revenue stream for writers: educational resources.

After all, more professionals than ever are dipping their toe into the freelance lifestyle, and they are eager to learn from those who have already figured it out.

4 reasons writers should create digital educational content

From courses and classes to evergreen programs, digital information from trusted experts is more in demand than ever. But how can you tap into this market and bring in more income?

Here, writers share the benefits of this approach:

Digital content can create a passive income for writers.

1. It can create a passive income.

In July of 2019, Kate Kordsmeier launched The Six-Figure Blog Academy, or as she calls it ‘6FBA.’ As you may have guessed from the title, this digital course teaches aspiring or current bloggers how to make money. To create the content, she referenced her own experience growing her blog, Root + Revel, which she turned into a six-figure business in three years.

As she puts it, she did it “without selling her soul,” and instead, focused on what her audience wanted to read while ensuring everything she shared was authentic. She also didn’t have millions of followers, and she didn’t pay for advertising, and yet, she was able to make a living. In her step-by-step course, she instructs others on how to follow in her footsteps.

Has it been successful? Beyond her wildest dreams, she says. In her first year, she made $200,000, and, currently, she’s making $10,000 per month from the course alone. In addition to being lucrative, it also gives her more time to focus on new endeavors, pitch, and write stories she wants to tell and develop business ideas.

Kordsmeier says:

“Creating online courses and educational content is one of the most fulfilling and profitable ways to monetize your passion, expertise and knowledge while making a profound impact on peoples’ lives. And it’s much more passive income than freelance writing!”

Digital content allows you to share what you’ve learned, for profit.

2. It allows you to share what you’ve learned, for profit.

If you can think back on those early days of freelancing, can you remember how terrifying it felt to branch out into the unknown? Leaving a steady paycheck because you want to be your own boss is admirable, but it also presents learning curves that most navigate on the fly.

This experience is what inspired freelancer Alex Frost to create a workshop geared toward newbies.

It covered a landslide of topics:

  • How to craft a pitch
  • How to pitch new editors
  • How to find new clients
  • How to understand legal jargon in contracts
  • How to build a portfolio
  • How to set up your business and more

In the beginning, she attracted 31 women who connected in real-time for more than two hours. An additional 30 were interested, but couldn’t make their schedule work. “They had so many questions that we all chatted for two hours and had a great time. From there, I realized I needed to continue on with many of them, and developed one-on-one and small group coaching opportunities,” she explained.

Now, she continued supporting them and teaching the basics of beginning their careers, as well as hands-on help with the pitching and writing process. You can consider her a mentor, that, well, is paid.

Though the course itself was free, she charges for consulting and coaching and received five new clients for 120 minutes of her time. When developing your own educational resources, Frost says to trust your gut and remember writing is as much an emotional journey as it is a professional one:

“Much of the process involves emotions and overcoming them, especially for new writers: imposter syndrome, being afraid to pitch, working through concerns about how valid their ideas are. Go there with the writers when it comes to building confidence and eliminating fear, so they make it in this industry.”

Creating digital content allows you to create a teamlance.

3. It allows you to create a teamlance.

In 2019, Kat Tretina and two other six-figure-earning freelancers joined forces to create The Freelance Writer Academy. There are three course series available, from beginner level to advanced, all focused on increasing income and taking your writing business to the next level.

They recently launched in July, and they’ve already enrolled their first round of students. As a teamlance, Tretina and her partners were able to use all of the information they’ve gathered as individuals and create additional income for themselves. Plus, they get to help generations of freelancers find success with catered advice, concrete, real-world examples, and plenty of confidence-boosting dialogue.

Tretina explains:

“Whether they’re new to freelancing and want to learn how to build a client base from scratch, or they’re a seasoned freelancer, and they want tips on commanding higher rates and maximizing their efficiencies, we have courses to help them expand and grow their business.”

Part of the benefit of working with other freelancers to build educational content is navigating issues together. In fact, part of Tretina’s advice is to choose a platform carefully if you want to attract and engage an audience. “Not only do you have to deliver useful and engaging content, but the platform has to be intuitive and easy for your students to use — but it also needs to be simple for you to manage your courses and payments, as well,” she adds. Among other decisions, these are easier when you have others by your side — even if it’s just digitally.

Digital content allows you to combine expertise with passion.

4. It allows you to combine expertise with passion.

When you start to brainstorm the educational content you want to offer to the world wide web, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do I confidently know a lot about?
  • What do I enjoy discussing with others when it comes to my career?
  • What inspired me to become a writer?
  • How did I find my calling?
  • What is my niche?

The best type of content combines expertise with passion, and that’s where freelancer Kelly Boyer Sagert found a new opportunity. She created a four-week class on ‘Making the Past Come to Life Through History Writing,’ running every Tuesday in the summer of 2020.

Her topics included researching, copyright/fair use consideration, writing and publishing options. The class was hosted by a community college geared toward adults aged 55 and up. Sagert was paid an hourly wage, and the number of sign-ups didn’t impact her fee. However, it was a hit — and she’ll be conducting a four-week part two of the course in November, as well as another class about ‘writing your life story’ for another college.

When you determine where your expertise and interest meet, an income funnel is created where you’ll find your course material. Then, you can organize it for perfection.

As Sagert notes:

“I gave detailed handouts for each class and then showed a PowerPoint with relevant images. It’s also important to pace yourself so that you finish on time — not too early and not too late. Most of all, be upbeat — and have fun!”

How to get started creating your own educational resources

To tap into this new revenue stream, start by making a list of all topics you feel you can strongly talk about and offer expert-level advice about. This may be pitching new editors or bringing in new clients, perfecting your editing skills, content marketing 101, and many, many other areas.

Once you have settled on your direction, research what current class offerings are available online, and start to brainstorm ways you can stand out from the pack.

Lastly, consider offering your first course for free and then asking participants for feedback so you can perfect before going ‘live.’ When you’re ready, you can build a profile, submit course ideas and wait to get approved by companies like Coursera and Udemy.