How teachers are making up to 6 figures using their expertise to tap the boom in subscriptions, podcasting, and content production

  • As the pandemic forces teachers to rewrite lesson plans and adjust to remote learning, some educators have spotted an opportunity.
  • Luke Rosa, Phil Black, and Kayse Morris tapped their skill sets to join the creator economy, each finding unique ways to capitalize on rising interest in remote-learning resources.
  • The three education entrepreneurs offer examples of the ways teachers can monetize their expertise through subscription services, podcasting, and content production.
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In April, the website Teachers Pay Teachers, which educators use to exchange feedback, ask for advice, and purchase learning materials, experienced a 1,400% spike in searches for the phrase "distance learning materials," according to documents reviewed by Business Insider.

As the pandemic spurred the world to find remote alternatives for learning and training of all kinds, enterprising educators have found themselves well-positioned to capitalize on the rising demand for online resources.

"Teachers are expected to rapidly adapt and innovate, often with materials that are out-of-date and not versatile enough to meet today's changing instructional needs," said Teachers Pay Teachers CEO Joe Holland. "Specifically, as teacher demand for digital resources … has skyrocketed in recent months, our teacher-authors have quickly innovated to meet this need." 

Indeed, teachers have joined a cohort of professionals who've found a lucrative niche in what's called the "passion economy," which describes an economic landscape where software has made it more accessible for people to charge money for their unique skill sets and try their hand at entrepreneurship. 

Joe Holland, the CEO of Teachers Pay Teachers, says that teachers have turned to one another as a response to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.Joe Holland

As other teachers scrambled to adapt to web-based programming, educators whose offerings already catered to distanced learning have benefitted from being serendipitously ahead of the curve, and many of them are enjoying windfall years financially as a result.

Below are three examples of educators who combined their backgrounds and subject-matter expertise to turn an unexpected shift in the world of education into serious revenue. 

Monthly subscriptions or discounted bulk purchases

Luke Rosa, the founder of Students of History, started his online-resource-sharing business in 2012. Rosa sells lesson plans for world history, US history, and US government classes through his Kajabi website, where teachers can use his lesson plans for $33/month or purchase an entire year's worth of course material for $300.

When the pandemic struck, Rosa quickly updated all of his lesson plans to accommodate remote and hybrid learning, though much of his material already existed in a digitally distributable format. To make the lessons more digestible for autonomous learning, Rosa trimmed them down to their essential components, focusing on communicating one key takeaway per session and minimizing the amount of time students spend listening to lectures.

He has nearly 1,500 paying customers, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider, though Rosa declined to share his total revenue. The pandemic has generated an unprecedented level of interest in Rosa's resources, and his current customer base is the largest he has ever had. 

"Interest has steadily grown over the last five years, but this last year has just been ridiculous," said Rosa. 

Video lessons for college-prep and personal development

Phil Black, the creator of PrepWell Academy, has an non-traditional background for an educator. The father of four began his collegiate career as a Division I athlete, before earning a bachelor's degree from Yale, becoming a Navy Seal, working as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, receiving an MBA from Harvard, and appearing on "Shark Tank," twice.

Like many parents, Black first took notice of the shortcomings of the education system when his own children began approaching high school. A lack of career counseling resources in the public school system, combined with the competitiveness of college admissions, spurred Black to take matters into his own hands. He used a Kajabi site to launch PrepWell in 2015, and now offers his college-prep services to thousands of students across the country, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider.

Unlike Rosa's educational materials, the resources Black shares are designed to prepare high school students for the personal and psychological demands of the college admissions process. Interested students begin the program in their freshman or sophomore years of high school by self-selecting which plan best suits their ambitions: Pathway, Ivy, Military, or Elite. Each program costs $14.99/month, which provides students access to one weekly video, most of which are less than five minutes long.

Once a student signs up, they embark on a three- or four-year journey of videos, the order of which Black constructs specifically to coincide with key events that occur in students' lives as they progress through high school. 

"I like to describe it as if I'm your uncle, and I come to your house every Sunday, we go to the front porch, and I give you five minutes of wisdom that I would tell my own sons," said Black. "I would tell them about what they should be planning for, what they should be thinking about, and what they should be aware of, based on what plan they signed up for and where they are in that four-year continuum." 

Coaching others to turn their skill set into a business

After teaching for eight years, Kayse Morris experienced severe postpartum depression in 2013 after giving birth to one of her four sons. While struggling with her mental health, she purchased a lesson plan from another teacher and realized how beneficial teacher-shared resources can be. 

The experience prompted her to begin selling her own teaching materials, which then blossomed into a coaching business wherein Morris helps other teachers learn how to monetize their teaching expertise. In 2020, Morris' online Kajabi store has generated more than $750,000, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider, and she estimates that her company will surpass $1 million in total revenue by the end of the year. 

Now, Morris runs the "CEO Teacher" podcast, is the author of "First 10 Steps to Selling Your Teaching Resources Online," and focuses on helping other teachers find audiences for their resources. She believes that the pandemic will be a watershed moment for the online education industry, which positions her to help a new generation of digitally savvy educators share their experience.

"I say this half-jokingly, but I think that teachers make the world go round, and now they will finally get to make what they're worth," said Morris.

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