In part I of our series on How to Make Money with Blender, we covered what you will need to get started. In part 2, we discussed the different types of employment you can find. Read on to learn about your possible career paths...
Create Training Materials
As many others have shown before, creating training products can be a great way to make money with Blender. From CG Cookie, BlenderGuru, CGMaster and even the Blender Foundation, there are tons of venues to sell training online - and I’m not even mentioning analog venues that offer training for Blender.
If you've really put your time in and learned Blender, you have probably also found a niche in Blender that you enjoy more than others. Whether it’s animation, rigging, texturing or modeling. Figure out what you want to create training for and find out what is already available.
Creating your Training
Instead of having me talk to you about what software to use and what the best mic is I thought I would ask a tried and true Blender educator for some of his top tips for creating Blender Training. Here are the things that Kent Trammell, CG Cookie Educator, says you should keep in mind when creating Blender training material. To begin with, it may be tougher than you think. “Before making my own training, I absolutely took for granted the difficulty of recording educational content," says Kent. "I ignorantly thought it was an easy thing to explain how to create 3D art. But the reality is it’s not easy. At least not for me. In my case, it’s take after take after take of recording the same scripted section or having Blender crash or tools seemingly not do what they did during rehearsal.”
Creating video training material didn’t come naturally for me. I learned through trial and error, lots of negative feedback, and experimentation. Over the past few years I’ve learned some key things:
Cater to your audience
"I'd say the most important principle with training content is to understand and cater to your audience," says Kent. "After all, if your content isn’t the path of least resistance to learning for the viewer, then it’s not doing its job. With my first tutorials, I thought I could simply explain what I wanted to explain and leave it up to the audience to glean whatever they could from it. So if “mesh topology” was a basic concept to me, I would not explain it and would expect the viewer to figure that out on their own if they didn’t already know. Ultimately this approach proved counterproductive because I alienated beginners and intermediates, which is the vast majority of people who learn from online training. To this day, I cringe when I watch one of those videos, unable to make it through more than a few minutes."
Be cautious about what you assume
Have you heard the adage, 'When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me?' Kent stresses that assumptions can be dangerous: "This is true when it comes to training content but they can also be necessary depending on the skill level you’re targeting. So the more you assume, the smaller your demographic becomes. The less you assume, the less information you’re able to convey. It’s important to strike a balance according to what you’re teaching and to whom you’re teaching."
Blender & 3D are complex
"This makes it very difficult - if not impossible - to teach general topics successfully," continues Kent. "So if you’re teaching something that takes you 8 hours but your video is only 15 minutes long, chances are you’ve oversimplified the material and it will be very difficult to learn from - especially for beginners and intermediates. Remember back to when you were learning Blender/3D. Figuring out how to relate and teach to that version of yourself will help improve your training material."
Attention span is a real enemy for the instructor.
Kent also advises that you keep your videos as short as possible: "Aim for 3-10 minutes each to maximize viewer engagement. Statistics show that videos 20-60 minutes have a much lower engagement rate."
The WHY is almost always more important than the HOW.
Anyone can be trained to follow along and press buttons. But that rarely results in the viewer understanding how to apply button presses to their creative aspirations. So what approach does Kent recommend? "Teach WHY you’re pressing the buttons: WHY it contributes to the workflow and WHY it helps you achieve your creative goal. I say “almost always more important” because if you’re making a training course about switching from Maya to Blender, the how is arguably more important in that case." Jonathan Gonzalez, CG Cookie's Unity trainer, agrees: "My biggest recommendation to someone creating online education is to be prepared. Know what you’re talking about and be completely comfortable with teaching it. Go through the process once or twice fully before recording. Know any weird glitches or pitfalls you may discover along the way and point these out to people. Don’t rush through the process, people want to learn. Don’t go through the motions but explain what you’re doing and why.”
Kent recognizes that advanced training content is a tricky thing; ironically, users who are capable of understanding advanced content usually aren't the people who watch training material. They probably already know how to do the stuff that’s being taught. "But advanced training is often accompanied by an impressive visual result," says Kent. "This may inspire beginner/intermediate users to start the training, but unfortunately, statistics clearly show that few of them will finish it. So if your goal really is to teach these advanced topics (instead of suckering them into buying something that’s way over their head), it will bum you out to learn that most viewers don’t finish, which also renders them less likely to invest in other training from you."
Where to sell?
Now that you know how to create training that makes an impact, how can you start selling it? To get initial feedback, consider giving your training away for free at first. In that case, throw some videos on YouTube - and make sure to turn on ads. Don't expect to make big bucks from YouTube ads, but it may pay for your coffee or even lunch. Rather than a meaningful income stream, consider YouTube a great place to cut your teeth and get valuable feedback; read viewer comments and accept them with an open mind: remember, successful people love criticism and use it to improve and learn. Once you feel confident in the quality of your training and have a solid following, it's time to move on. With so many ways and places to sell your training, you need to research where you want to take it. It could be your own Wordpress site or a training website like Skillshare, Udemy or Gumroad. These sites make a living by taking a share of your revenue: Gumroad is very transparent and lets you calculate your expected earnings, minus their cut.
Have you tried selling your Blender training? What was your initial experience? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for the final part of our series.