How to Repackage Your 1:1 Lessons Into Passive Products
“If you work on the awareness of the space you inhabit, especially the negative space, you will easily be able to imagine what’s not yet there, what there is for you to bring.”
Repackaging your 1:1 lessons into a passive product sounds great. But how do you do it?
If teaching was about transferring knowledge from the teacher’s head to the student’s head, it would be easy. You would just wrap all you know into a nice package in the form of an online course or a book and sell it.
But that’s not how it works.
Teachers do so much more than just pass information and wrapping all you do for your clients into a package that they can buy and consume on their own while getting similar results is, well, not so easy.
But then again, many online teachers and coaches do it successfully. Let’s talk about how you can do the same.
Why products, anyway?
I’m a big advocate for creating products as a part of your online teaching/coaching business, even if you love teaching live classes more than anything and can see yourself doing it for years to come.
The thing is, having multiple streams of income, some of which don’t require your physical presence, means that whatever happens, you won’t lose 100% of your revenue. And the peace of mind you get from knowing that is priceless.
Besides, products allow you to help an unlimited number of people, not just your direct clients. And that’s priceless, too. Your voice and your message are too important to only share them with the few people that you can fit into your schedule. There are many more people who need you.
There’s a negative space that only you can fill — a space created by your customers’ unfulfilled needs.
So, what does this space look like? What’s the thing that’s not there yet?
If teaching was about transferring knowledge from the teacher’s head to the student’s head, the void would look like a lack of information. So your job would be to fill it with the missing information and your clients would be good.
But lack of information is just a tiny part of the negative space, and it’s also the easiest gap to fill — people can read books or watch YouTube if they just need to know something.
But your products can help them in many other important ways. So, how do you find out what people need from you?
Your voice and your message are too important to only share them with the few people that you can fit into your schedule. There are many more people who need you.
How to find out what people need
There’s only one way to find out what real people need, and that’s listening to them.
That’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea to build products in the first year or two of teaching online. In the beginning, you’re still figuring things out, and at this stage, working directly with clients is crucial, because if you listen carefully, they will:
- Tell you exactly what to write on your website. (The best way to write the texts for your website is to steal the words from the mouths of your clients.)
- Tell you exactly what to write about on your blog, social media, and newsletter. (Just answering their questions will give you an unlimited amount of content ideas people want to read about.)
- Tell you exactly what they need from you, what’s helpful, what’s unhelpful, and what’s missing. In other words, they’ll help you map out the negative space so you can “imagine what’s not yet there, what there is for you to bring.”
In summary, working with clients and being intentional and mindful about listening to them will help you figure out their needs so you can create the right kind of products.
It will also help you leverage the time you spend together so that it’s not just hours you got paid for in the past, but also an unlimited source of inspiration for your future work (content marketing, copywriting, products, programs, packages, events, and more) that will pay you again and again.
6 kinds of unfulfilled needs (with product ideas and examples)
1. Self-limiting beliefs
I know this may sound like a self-help cliché, but bear with me. If I know anything for sure, it’s that the stories we tell ourselves shape our reality. Often, our clients don’t need more information or feedback; they need to stop telling themselves there’s something wrong with them.
So the question is: What are some limiting, self-sabotaging stories that your clients keep telling themselves? These may sound like excuses, but the difference between a limiting belief and an excuse is that you don’t believe in your own excuses.
When you make an excuse, it’s because you don’t want to do the thing.
When you create a negative story, it’s because you believe you can’t or don’t deserve to do the thing although you want to.
While listening to your clients, look for statements like “I’m too [old, busy, lazy, shy, …]”, “I’m not good at [languages, learning, dealing with xyz, …]”, “I don’t have [willpower, talent, courage, time, access to xyz, …], and similar. Keep track of them.
To help them reframe their self-limiting beliefs so they no longer sabotage themselves, read more about mindset in general. Here are my recommendations:
Carol Dweck: Mindset: The classic book about the difference between the fixed and the growth mindset and how it influences every area of human behavior, including our ability to learn.
Simon Sinek: The Infinite Game: A fresh look at the influence of our mindset, with more practical advice on how to implement the knowledge than the previous book.
Product ideas to help people reframe their negative stories:
• Reflection journal with coaching questions
Coaching questions help people challenge their beliefs and the stories they’re telling themselves so they can reframe them. And I’m sure that if you’ve been working with clients for some time, you have an arsenal of great coaching questions that work. Why not take advantage of it and create a reflection journal?
• Audio coaching pack
And if you think people need more of your guidance, you can do both: Create coaching worksheets and accompany them with audio guidance so people can feel as if you were there with them.
• Positive affirmation stationery
Positive affirmations are another way of dealing with negative self-talk. So if you’re into positive affirmations or quotes and are good at design, you can create branded stationery such as notebooks or journals (and put your art on the cover), bookmarks, stickers, and more.
• An autobiographical case study book
When trying to make sense of your own story, there’s nothing like hearing someone else’s story — someone who has been there. If that’s you, and you have overcome the same challenges your clients struggle with right now, you can help them by sharing your story.
Example: Elena Mutonono’s book Flowers in the Frost, where she talks about her experience with starting an online teaching business (which is what she teaches people how to do now).
2. Lack of motivation, willpower, or self-discipline
I’ve heard many of my clients say that they’re unable to move forward because: “I’m too lazy.” “I know what to do but I just can’t make myself do it.” “I never finish anything.”
Now, of course, the first step would be to help them work on their mindset so they no longer believe that this (lazy, disorganized, undisciplined, …) is who they are.
Then they’ll need some practical tools and strategies to change their behavior. From the countless productivity and procrastination books I’ve read, I find the following one most helpful:
Petr Ludwig: The End of Procrastination: On a first read, I found the book a bit simplistic, but only until I tried the strategies and tools and found out there’s something genius about how simple they are. Anyone can create and use the tools from this book — or use them to help other people fight their inner “procrastination elephant” (which will make sense after you read the book).
Product ideas to help people stop procrastinating:
• Planner with motivational reminders
What if you could create a planner with motivational quotes, productivity or learning tips, or reflection questions to help people find or make time for learning, set the right kind of goals, and stay on track?
• Habit tracker
A habit tracker is one of the ingeniously simple tools from the above-mentioned book. All you do is set everyday habits that lead to your desired goal and then try not to break the chain. So why not create a nicely designed and branded PDF that people can print out and hang on their office walls to stay motivated?
• Motivational prints
Speaking of walls, a beautiful motivational poster that reminds people of their goals or of the fact that they aren’t doing it alone can help them find the courage to start, too.
• Learning logbook
Similar to a habit tracker, but here, you’d give people more space to track their progress: For example, if they learn a language, they can track the hours they spend learning (or watching movies in the target language, and similar), practicing, talking to native speakers, reading, and so on, depending on your niche.
3. Lack of structure
Learning a language (or anything else) on your own is a messy experience, but as a teacher, you can see it from the other side and realize that your clients’ learning journeys are in fact surprisingly predictable.
If you’ve been working with clients for some time, you can always see a few steps ahead. You know where the student will most likely struggle, make a mistake, get stuck, or reach a plateau before they even get there.
The more clients you work with, the more patterns you’ll notice — because although each of your clients is different, they’re on the same journey, fighting the same dragons. This is especially true if you have a teaching niche (and I hope you have one).
And here’s your opportunity to map out the journey and turn it into a roadmap that you can turn into a product, like for example:
• Learning planner
This time, I’m not talking about a general planner that’s meant to be used for everything plus learning, but a planner that’s specifically designed for the thing you teach – with all the milestones, deadlines, habits, and mistakes to avoid along the way, based on your experience with your clients’ learning journeys.
• Action plan
If there’s a path you follow with your clients to help them achieve their goal, you can turn it into an action plan where you outline the steps and tell people what to learn first (and how and where) and what to do next.
Checklists work well when there’s a specific outcome — for example, your students want to get ready for a presentation or an interview, write a book, create a website, and similar. Help them avoid overwhelm by creating a checklist of tasks they need to complete.
You can also create a template for that specific outcome — a template for a book/talk outline, a fill-in-the-blank writing template, a CV template, and similar.
• Learning challenges bundle
Many people don’t learn languages (and other things) for a specific reason (like getting a different job, traveling, and so on), but for the fun of it. And even if they do have a reason, gamifying the process can never hurt. So what you can do is create challenges with instructions, progress trackers, and resources.
Example: Language Learning Challenges Bundle by Sofía Muñoz Sahady (Blissogirl on Etsy)
4. Not knowing how to learn
About five years ago, I took an online course named Learning How to Learn (on Coursera, here’s the link) that made me feel really… resentful. Not because of the course itself, which was awesome, but because no one taught me these things before.
It was the first time in my life when I realized that I went through all the years of studying and being evaluated for my ability to learn things without ever being taught how to learn.
Chances are, no one has ever taught your clients how to learn, either. And that where you come in.
Spaced repetition is one of the most effective ways to learn new things. If you’re using flashcards with your clients, you can turn them into a product – physical flashcards, printable flashcards, or even an app.
• Learning journal
A guided learning journal that teaches people how to learn and keep track of their progress, with cool creative activities and prompts in the target language. I’d like to see that one day!
• Tools or resource guide
A guide that teaches people how to use learning tools and resources – for example, how to learn from TV shows or movies.
Example: Cara Leopold is teaching other teachers how to teach languages with movies
• Your own learning tool
And if you know of a method that seems to be working for your clients, you can turn it into a product, too.
Example: Tomáš Bednář has created a visual mind-map-based workbook called Vocabulary Maps to help people learn vocabulary.
5. Lack of practice or feedback
When learning English as a second language, I once asked one of my college teachers how I could improve my accent. She told me: “You can improve your pronunciation, but not your accent. You’re too old for that now. You just sound how you sound. You need to accept it.”
I told her that actors were also able to change their accents even as adults, so it must be possible, but she cut me down again: “Actors have accent coaches that spend hours and hours with them every day. That costs a fortune. You will never have the time or the money to afford that. You are going to be a teacher, not a rich actor.”
Very motivating, right? Talk about the fixed mindset…
But anyway. I was lucky enough to come across Elena Mutonono who was an online accent coach at that time, and it turned out, I was able to afford hours and hours of practice with her even as a “poor teacher.”
It didn’t cost a fortune and I didn’t need her 1:1 time because she created a product (an online course) that taught me how to practice by myself: In the course, she taught the students what to practice and how to self-correct and self-evaluate by recording and listening to themselves.
What a revolutionary idea, right?
I’m telling the story to show you that it’s possible to create a passive product with built-in practice and feedback. You just need to be open-minded and creative.
Here are some more ideas:
• Workbook with exercises or prompts
This is pretty straightforward. If you already have worksheets that you have created for your clients, you can repurpose them and create a workbook. And if you think people will miss the feedback aspect, you can always include a key with correct solutions or a section where you list common mistakes.
• Book of common mistakes
And speaking of common mistakes, you can also create a whole book where you explain the mistakes your clients tend to make and help people avoid them. The thing is, when the same kind of people learn the same thing, they also tend to make the same mistakes.
• Card decks with prompts
Instead of a workbook with prompts, you can also create a card deck. It’s perfect for speaking activities.
• Self-assessment journal
So this may sound a bit boring, but what I mean is a journal with prompts that help people reflect on their learning and see if they’re making progress. As a teacher, you probably already have a way of telling if your students are getting closer to their goals, so you can translate that into something people can use on their own.
• Graded reader book
A graded reader book is an “easy reading” book for language learners. There’s a lot of them to be found on Amazon or even for free all over the internet, but most of them are poor quality, boring, or copyrighted. So there’s a lot of space for pretty, high-quality graded reader books like this one:
Example: Silvia Perrone’s book/journal for learners of Italian Marta in Italia
6. Lack of knowledge or information
Finally, let’s talk about “the easiest negative space to fill” — information products.
Now, I’m not saying that writing a book or creating an online course is easy. I’ve done both, and I know first-hand how much time and hard work you need to put into it.
Creating a good “teaching what I know” product isn’t easier than any other product, I just think it’s the default product option for online teachers, and therefore also the most conventional and comfortable one.
Which, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t do it creatively.
Here are some examples of products that fill the information gap:
• Handbook (textbook)
People are tired of traditional school textbooks. There’s a lot of room for creativity and nonconformity here. You can use your personality and your teaching experience to explain the subject matter and come up with tests or exercises, based on your niche.
• Full-length book
Or, you can put what you know into a full-length book…
• Online course
… or an online course. But that’s a topic for another article.
Now… are products worth it?
I’ve heard many people who went through the hard process of creating a product say it “wasn’t worth it,” and what they meant was that it wasn’t worth it for them financially.
In other words, compared to services (like 1:1 lessons), the money was little and slow. And in this sense, I have the same experience.
Then again, I’ve never expected any product to be able to pay my bills on its own.
Product creation is an investment you make into the future of your business. With every product you create, you learn invaluable skills, you learn more about what your customers need, and you add a little bit into your body of work (and your passive income).
And in my experience, every new product helps me sell the older products and my services. So if you persist, you will see it all add up, not in a linear, but in an exponential way.
So my answer to the question would always be yes. Products are worth it. You just can’t expect one product to fix your financial situation and to do it quickly.