6 Tricks to Sell Out Your First Skillshare Class

October 26, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Tricks for building a successful Skillshare class and how to sell out your first Skillshare class.

1. Promoting

If Skillshare already exists in your city….  great!  You can leverage their lists for distribution.

If Skillshare is new to your city or doesn’t really exist yet, ask:

What other business networks exist locally?

What other networking platforms exist where you can post your content?

For example:

  • EventBrite
  • Meetup groups
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Biznik

Be careful of terms of service, but what I did is I pointed the other services to my Skillshare class link.  It’s all extra promotion (and SEO) for Skillshare and they encourage you to promote via social networks.  Leverage what you can, as long as it drives people to Skillshare, it’s a win/win for everyone.

Also, for the first class, keeping the costs low ($15-$25) and the class size low (5-7) will guarantee higher success.  Saying your first class “sold out” with people on the waiting list helps create demand.

The first class is hardest.

2. Build Interest

Tip: “seed” a few people in the class.  Nobody likes to be the first person to book the class.  People who are passing by and think the class looks interesting are more inclined to come if they see that others are also interested.  This validates your class concept and gives social proof, which is a must for the first class particularly.

Create a few promotion codes and give them out to friends and influencers.  Having 2-3 influencers in the community you’re targeting on the list will guarantee that your class will fill up.

Be sure to post the class a few times before it begins, for example:

  • 2-3 weeks prior make the first announcement
  • 1 week before the class, post on a day where your target audience will be most active (have your seeders planted by this stage)
  • 2 days prior make a post about how excited you are about the class to continue to build excitement
  • the day of (for those last-minute attendees)

3. Create Networking Opportunties

Potential students are likely looking at the profiles of those who signed up.  Having people who have interesting profiles helps because the potential students are going not just to learn but also to network and to create a network around a similar subject.  Encourage the students to meet other like minded people in class.

4. Focus on Great Copy:

In your class description:

  • what is it you’re teaching and why?
  • what will the student walk away with?
  • how is it applicable to them?

Don’t use tech terms that nobody will understand.  But don’t be a used car salesman either and play buzzword scrabble.

> You’ll learn: 

In this section, instead of saying

“how to use social media to grow your audience” (very generic and non-unique weak promise)


“how to increase your Twitter following to 1,000 quality followers in the next 30 days”  (realistic target, high quality, great ROI on class)

> You’ll walk away with:

Make sure these are practical skills.  The student should see themselves having actionable items immediately from this course.

  1. a twitter account (if you don’t have one already)
  2. the knowledge and tools to go from 0-1,000 twitter followers in 30 days

> About the Teacher:

Next, they want to know why you are qualified?  Have you done this?  Why you?

Self-promotion is SO hard but it’s necessary.  Students want to know and believe that they will walk away with the tools and knowledge to do what you did – this creates a WOW factor and will help also drive attendance.

5. Select a Great Location

Having a great location, one that resonates with your audience, is also key.  If you’re talking about tech issues to a tech crowd and you plan to meet at planned parenthood, it’s probably going to affect the turnout.

Remember, you are still selling your skills and a new class.  If you hold it at a reputable location, your credibility increases.

6. Connect with Students

This is less about filling seats, now, and more about quality.  You want to build value.  Send the students an email, a survey, take an interest and interact prior to class.  Tailor your content to the needs and interests of the eager learners.  They want to learn and they are taking time to come see you.  Give them so much value that you feel like you’re getting ripped off.  They will walk away feeling like they got their money’s worth and then some.

The result?

Powerful endorsements and “street cred” on Skillshare.  Your next class, while still following similar principles, will be easier to sell and you can increase the size of your class, and price.

At least that’s what I did.

Where Will the Next Best Tech Talent be Sourced?

July 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Not the United States.

Not the UK.

Guess again – it’s Eastern Europe. This may not surprise you if you’ve worked in startups who’ve outsourced tech talent and will tell you that the best talent comes from Eastern Europe. Even Victoria Ransom of Wildfire Interactive started this Silicon Valley VC-backed company with two Engineers from Estonia. Coincidentally, Estonia is ranked no. 1.  


Here’s a piece of Victoria’s story from her Mixergy interview

What we did though is we found some very small teams. Our first team of developers were in Estonia. It was a team of two guys. So we were dealing right with the developers themselves. And we were able to get very high caliber developers at a price that you could never have got in the US. Having said that, it was still more expensive than we probably would’ve got if we’d gone with an outsourcing firm. So we did pay for high talent.

I’d say that’s a key learning. Don’t skim on your development costs because you can end, it can end up costing you a lot more if you have an ineffective or inefficient developer.

But the other challenge is we found these two guys, I believe it was — giving away some secrets here — but it was on a website called workingwithrails, which I’m sure others have looked at. It’s a great rubyonrails site where you can find different developers and see how they’re ranked by their community, their peers.
But nevertheless we found these two guys in Estonia who we never met, and we’re not developers ourselves, so how could we know that the code they were producing was good? So what we actually did is — we were in Boston at the time — we found a local developer, someone we could get to know in person so that we could get very comfortable with him. And we had him not code for us, but just take a look at the code that these two guys in Estonia were producing for us in order to just…

You know, we could judge the end product, but what about what was under the product. The last thing we wanted to do was just create a product that was just a mess underneath. So this guy worked with us for about six weeks just looking over the code. These guys were producing it and the honest truth is, after a little while, he said you know what, these guys are brilliant; they’re even better than me, don’t worry about it.

And we worked with those guys now I guess it’s been two and a half years, but it’s been fantastic. They’re a core part of our team and then we were able to find other developers overseas to work with. But you know, that’s how we did it. Neither of us, that’s how we did it in a cost effective way without having any needs for a developer background ourselves.

Where will you look for your next tech talent?

FreeConferenceCall.com launches StartMeeting

July 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I’ve been using FreeConferenceCall.com and FreeConferencing.com to connect remotely with clients.  I have been happy with my service from FreeConferencing and had switched from Webex after testing it.  But, I was wondering how FreeConferencing was planning to monetize with all calls and conferences being free and zero advertising… but today I found out how – with a sister company called StartMeeting.  A premium service for audio and web conferencing.  I haven’t checked it out yet but I am confident that, based on their track record with me, it will deliver.  I’ll let them tell you about it below.  If anyone has experience with StartMeeting, can you share your experience?

Premium Services from FreeConferenceCall.com

It Took a Conference Calling Company to Get Screen Sharing Right:
StartMeeting Offers Conference Calls or Conference Calls with Screen Sharing

StartMeeting.com Logo FreeConferenceCall.com has launched a sister company, StartMeeting, to allow you to Share Better at a fraction of the cost! StartMeeting is a new audio and web conferencing service that incorporates state-of-the-art features including screen sharing; easy-to-use meeting recording; and a customizable online Meeting Wall.StartMeeting is offering customers the audio and web service for significantly less than similar services. Prices for screen sharing start at $19.95 per month for a 50 participant capacity. This is compared to $39 for 15 participants at GoToMeeting and $49 for 25 participants at WebEx.For more information, visit www.StartMeeting.com


  • Cloud-Based Recording: User-friendly simultaneous recording of screen sharing and audio meetings, and files can be shared via Facebook and other platforms (Windows and Mac).
  • Synchronized Audio Conferencing: Reservationless calls include toll, toll-free, and an integrated high-definition VoIP platform — all with a dedicated access number.
  • Dedicated Meeting Credentials: Unlike some other audio/web services, hosts are given exclusive credentials to set up their meetings that never change.
  • Screen Sharing: Unlimited screen sharing of content. Subscriptions are offered with 50, 200, 500, and 1,000 participant capacities.
  • Meeting Wall: Customize it with colors, logos, profile pictures, and upload files or links that support the online meeting (without emailing the documents to participants).
  • Audio Web Controls: Mute, lock, identify or disconnect a caller; enter lecture mode (one-way communication); and hold Q&A Sessions with participants.
  • Enhanced Audio Features: Customize hold music and a greeting for participants entering the conference.

Stephen Covey Began with the End in Mind

July 19, 2012 at 10:04 pm

While teaching my very first Skillshare class, I was in the middle of crediting one of my heroes, Stephen Covey, when someone in the class raised their hand and said “Did you know he just died?”

The day before class, Stephen Covey had passed away at age 79 due to complications from a bike accident in Utah a few months prior.

We all stopped mid-class and did a symbolic pause and toasted a great human being, now passed.

On my Kindle app on my iPhone I’ve been re-reading Habit 2 from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which I pull up generally on a New York subway to pass the time, as well as learn and continue to be inspired by Covey’s teachings.

The greatest impact, though there have been many, from Stephen Covey, for me, was “Begin with the End in Mind”.

Covey said to imagine yourself at your own funeral (we did this in class, just after the news, and it was powerful).  There you are, at your funeral, lying in your casket.  There are people around you.  Like a fly on the wall you can buzz around the room and hear what each person is saying.

Covey asked “what are they saying about you?”

The question then becomes… “what do you want them to say?”

Thus begins your journey.  Always know where you’re going before you get there.  What’s your roadmap – based on your values, your principles, your knowledge of your strengths, and based on your own imagined script.  Who do you want to be?  Really think about it.  Any one of us could be in that casket tomorrow and it’s never too late to think about how to make a change today that can impact your own life and the lives of others.

Begin with the End in Mind.

Thank you, Stephen Covey, for touching my life and the lives of so many others.  No doubt that as people are talking at your funeral, they are giving thanks.  Your legend will live on for many years to come.  RIP.

Guts Not Grades

May 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Having a startup is about conviction.

The most appropriate synonym that comes to mind when I think of entrepreneurs and startups is resiliency.  I compete with Ivy League grads, who disturbingly, many people look at in awe.  Book knowledge and street knowledge are very different things.  But, beyond knowledge are instincts and guts.  Two things that can’t be taught.  I believe there is such a thing as “Startup DNA”.

A startup is like a newborn baby.  It needs nurturing.

People tend to get hung up on titles and labels.  They mean very little, especially in the beginning when building a product.  The product matters, your early customers matter.  Not quitting matters.

It’s difficult to see the view from the top of the mountain when you’re climbing uphill and the top is hidden in the clouds.  But, entrepreneurs know deep down inside that if they keep at it, keep climbing, eventually they’ll see the clouds clear (and return, and clear, and return, etc etc until they reach the top).

People have said entrepreneurs are special in the sense that they are illogical, unreasonable, or downright insane!  It’s true that an entrepreneur is unique.  Most people aren’t interested in extreme sacrifice.  They would prefer to be comfortably led like sheep.  The job of the entrepreneur is to convince the sheep that he/she isn’t crazy, but there’s a process that takes place to get to that point that involves many sacrifices, overcoming doubts and challenges, and infinite bouts of courage.

As with a sick baby or trudging uphill exhausted, what it’s not about is running when things get tough.

Some people are cut out for startups; many are not.  There is an excitement, even a cool factor, that people get caught up in.  But when the hard work kicks in, 50% drop out.  When there are tough days or funding is running low, the strong are separated from the weak, and the last standing are the ones with conviction.

The true test comes when things are difficult.

Giving yourself a pseudo title to get attention or to get into certain events or companies doesn’t actually change your DNA into a startup person.  Skipping a night out with friends or a family function, even with all the pressure and guilt, to hit a deadline, is true dedication.

This is exactly what I mean by sacrifice:

“The workload of a start-up is ridiculous.  It’s really not healthy.  For eight years of my life, there were very few waking moments that Tripod did not completely consume.  I rarely returned the phone calls of good friends.  I routinely missed important family gatherings.  I couldn’t keep a steady girlfriend.  To put it plainly, I didn’t have enough time to maintain the sort of normal relationships typically associated with the human race.”

- Bo Peabody, Greycroft Partners, in his book Lucky or Smart

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  If you ever wonder if the daily grueling grind, the ups and downs, the mental anguish, the ramen noodles, the amazing days followed by crushing defeats, is all worth it – take a look at Bo’s story.  Are most people willing to stick around for EIGHT years, with few friend or family interactions?  It wears on you.  You question things – a lot.  Sounds borderline insane but it takes guts.

There has to be a balance, don’t get me wrong.  I’m a huge believer in “sharpening your saw” as Stephen Covey says.  Too much for too long causes productivity to diminish relative to time output.  But what I am saying is that you have to have chops.

A final great quote from Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch, and active angel investor:

“It’s a cliche, but early-stage startups are really all about the people.  Had you taken any company I’ve been involved with and drawn a straight line extrapolating forward, I don’t think you would’ve seen why it was an interesting company… what ends up happening is that the environment changes, you discover flaws in your original concept, and good entrepreneurs adapt and change.  The only way you would’ve seen it is if you’d understood the passion and the guts of the people involved”.

- Chris Dixon, quoted on Founder Collective

Passion and guts.

I’ve had business partners, developers, salespeople, interns, clients, deals, and so on, come and go.  Recognizing that this ebbs and flows, that startups are in a constant state of flux, is the key to overcoming the bad days and learning resiliency.  Behind every cloud is a silver lining, after every crushing defeat is a rewarding accomplishment.

Everyone Has a Story

May 1, 2012 at 3:55 am

Everyone Has a Story … It’s your story, you write it.  

These words echo often in my thoughts.

Similar words were said by Internet Entrepreneur Chris Michel when talking to a Harvard Business School class about entrepreneurship.

As the story was told to me, there was a student, from Brazil, who said he planned to copy a business idea from the US and bring it to Brazil.  Chris’s response was “well, you can make a lot of money doing that, but at the end of the day when it’s no longer about money and you have enough, you will have to have a story to tell.  Everyone has a story”.  This is paraphrased but the lesson was strong.

There are three famous brothers, Germans who created Rocket Internet, an incubator company built to clone popular startup ideas, including Groupon, EBay, Facebook, VeriSign.  The Samwer brothers have been called unethical parasites.

A startup exists to make money, yes, but that’s not the basis upon which it was created.

Startups are temporary companies that solve a larger problem  - Steven Blank

Startups are created by innovative problem solvers who see something they don’t like, wish to change, or could improve and they come up with a solution.  Entrepreneurs work nearly 24 / 7 (even in their sleep!) and take great risks and sacrifices to solve these problems effectively.  They are artists, scientists, creators, persistent optimists, and childishly naive.  They are dreamers and world changers.

Copying someone’s idea has nothing to do with innovation.  It’s a cheap way to get rich.

Look at your life from the end to present.  What do you want people to say about you, alive or dead?  Is your life filled with happiness or emptiness?  Write a book about your life that you would want to read.  About YOUR life, not someone else’s.  It’s not that hard to be creative.  It’s harder I would think to live with yourself for blatantly stealing from someone else and calling it your very own.

Giving credit where credit is due and true innovation is what inspires more innovation, more entrepreneurship, and progression.

What chapter are you on in your book and how does it end?

Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

July 16, 2011 at 12:32 am

Working remotely means remote communications: trainings, conversations, interviews, sales meetings, presentations, tech support, and so on.  I was using webex at $49/month until freeconferencing came out with their webinar software.

Benefits of freeconferencing:

  • FREE (really, it’s free, and so is the conference call line you use to dial in – I’ve been using this for a couple years and it works great)
  • simple setup
  • browser based
  • recording, screensharing, chat
  • connect to Skype - For an international traveler who is conscious of international roaming, this is a big one!

I’ve been testing it side by side with webex and there’s no downside, even for a newly released product it’s been great.  If anyone has had any other experiences, please let me know.  Otherwise, highly recommended not just for cost savings on the software, but also on phone call costs for the world traveler.

Web Conferencing for Traveling Professionals

Women 2.0 Startup Lessons Learned: Beer2Buds

July 8, 2011 at 1:39 am

From Women 2.0 article

“If only I could drink that!” Beer2Buds was born after my friend from Sweden sent a virtual beer in an email on a long Friday afternoon while stuck at the office. Not only was the idea of the beer great but also we were able to rediscover great memories we had made years before, while studying abroad together.

Most ideas start with a problem that you personally wish to have solved and you realize there does not exist a good way of solving it now. In this case, I wanted to solve the problem of buying a friend a beer from 4,000 miles away. The second part is determining how many people have that problem (ie. what is your addressable market). If it’s not enough, though you may love your idea, it’s reality-check time -– what is the amount of energy you intend to spend and for what result? Make sure there is a market.

Sure, there are a lot of beer drinkers, but how many actually:

  • Have email/Facebook/iPhone?
  • Will send a friend a beer?
  • Can we reach?
  • And how often will they do it?

Next, how much are they willing to pay for it?

Nobody likes to hear this but your first idea won’t likely be the one that sticks. You will be forced to make iterations until you find a product/market fit in a market large enough to make sense. Getting to the product/market fit as quickly as possible is the goal.

To quote Steve Blank’s “No Plan Survives First Contact with Customers”, there is no replacement for real market validation. Want to know if your product will work? Get real users to test it, as they won’t lie. The true test: will they pay for your product? The next test: will they keep coming back?

Before spending too much time in development or iterations, you absolutely have to scale down to a MVP (minimum viable product). That is, what does it take to get from A to B. No bells and whistles in V.1 or you’ll end up playing pin the tail on the donkey wondering where to focus.

Testing and Traction

Measure and test assumptions! I hate to say “throw it to the wall and see what sticks”, but throw it to the wall and measure the results to see what customers really want. Take an educated guess after you narrow down your target market and try a variety of marketing ideas, generally one at a time, and compare results. We have tried many different tactics and none resulted in what we originally expected. For example, we found that an urban professional is more likely to send a beer to congratulate a friend on a job promotion than a beer aficionado would send his beer-drinking buddy a random beer to say cheers (an incorrect assumption based on the original motivation for creating Beer2Buds).

Pivot to a New Product

After making several product iterations, measuring results, and scaling our team up/down, we realized that Beer2Buds was going to need mass volume and cash to reach desired revenues, and we wouldn’t have enough resources to fully support that in the short term. We decided a pivot was needed.

With limited resources and now a team of two, Tessa and I sat together and asked ourselves what was next. Generally speaking, I am the business side and Tessa is the technical side. Running out of time and money, we analyzed 4 different business models that could work, how long they’d take to implement, and which had the highest income potential, was the most scalable, and would produce the quickest return.

We chose “Promotr” which became PromoBomb a few weeks later. PromoBomb exists as a B2B2C product where we leverage the customer base of our network to help them grow their own customer base and increase our visibility and revenues. Shifting the business model and creating a new product while running on low fuel was scary, but it turned out to be the right decision. The product was created from a large amount of feedback and to address a larger market, but also from instinct. At a certain point, you have to trust your gut.

I created the first wireframes and specs, and graphics, and Tessa took on all of the development and future product mocks and specs. I sought advice from our bar/restaurant network and trusted unofficial advisors in the restaurant and tech industries. We went to the drawing board several times and asked “What is A to B” so that we only created an MVP and not unnecessary features.

With paying clients, we have found a repeatable, scalable, sales model and are planning to methodically build out our product and team. Real customer validation helps us keep a pulse on what’s working and what isn’t.

Lessons learned so far (with many more to come)

A startup feels like you are Harry Houdini and you’re underwater, trying to break free (figure out product/market fit) and make it to the surface (grow revenues) one lock (one challenge) at a time before you run out of air (cash).

  • Tenacity and perseverance are key. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day.
  • Don’t scale too quickly.
  • It’s ok to say “no” to a customer. General rule of thumb: wait until 10 customers.
  • request the same thing before it goes from ‘noise’ to ‘noteworthy’.
  • Be bold but take calculated risks.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket –- you need 20 leads to close 1 sale.
  • Trust your gut and learn from experience.
  • Focus on your core value proposition. Be specific. Don’t be all things to all people.
  • Stay the course; persevere. An idea is only worth the amount of effort you put
    behind it.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure means you’re one step closer to winning.

F ail fast.
A ct.
I terate.
L earn.

Be ready to overcome challenges – daily. Just don’t give up.

About the guest blogger: Libby Tucker is Founder and CEO of Beer2Buds. Prior to Beer2Buds, she was the COO of Seattle startup TalentSpring.com (acquired by TalentTech) and a former Adobe employee. Libby blogs at AnywhereProfessional, focused on traveling whilst pursuing her vocation. Libby speaks fluent Spanish and conversational German. When she’s not creating web products, you’ll find her kayaking, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, playing beach volleyball, or discovering new lands. Follow her on Twitter at @libtuck and her startup at @beer2buds.

Definition of a Startup

April 25, 2011 at 3:50 am

A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

- Steve Blank

What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

March 13, 2011 at 3:52 am

“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”

Ideas occur every second. Innovation only happens when an Entrepreneur does something about the idea.
Entrepreneurs are thought leaders, doers, thinkers. People who take risks. One of my favorite concepts is by Paul Graham, where he likens Entrepreneurs to a lion in the wild – you never know each day if you’re gonna eat, but you’re gonna fight. We were meant to be free.
“Vocation is where the world’s deep hunger and your deep passion meet”
Being happy is about being free, being your own boss, taking risks, creating, and carving out your own unique path. Being an Entrepreneur to me means to wake up every day and know that I have a fight in front of me, that there are a lot of fears and unknowns, but just like the lion, that’s my destiny and not my choice.
There are a lot of ups and downs as an Entrepreneur. One day everything is going great and you’re on the way to realizing your vision; the next day – that partnership falls through, a new competitor launches and is featured on TechCrunch, the industry prices go up, your sales guys quits, and on and on. That’s just part of the deal. Someone once compared obstacles to bugs on your windshield – the faster you go, the more bugs you get. Just having a tough windshield, tough skin, and the faster you can resolve and move forward, the better you can control your car, your business.
Entrepreneurs aren’t always the top in their class.  But what they possess is an undying will and relentless optimism that drives them forward.  There a lot of people who say ‘that’s a good idea’ or ‘that would be cool but’ or ‘that could never be done’ – but you can be sure there’s an Entrepreneur who woke up and saw the idea and say ‘hey, I can do that’. Then, they strap on a seatbelt and hold on for the ride – it’s a bumpy but rewarding one.
“Imagination is the Preview of Life’s Coming Attractions”
- Einstein
If we can dream it, we can make it happen.  Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your vision come to reality.  Getting there means facing daily challenges and overcoming them with perseverance.