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Create Quality Content, the rest will follow

Jerad Hill Udemy Courses

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that you can’t just start creating things and expect people to pay you money for them. I have worked for myself since I was a teenager and the only time that I could ever get money instantaneously out of somebody is if I had a physical product that they were interested in buying. When it comes to selling services or information you can’t just put it out there for sale and expect people to pay for it, especially if you’re wanting to charge a premium.

Jerad Hill Udemy Courses

One of the great things about the Internet is that if you provide valuable information, people will find it. That is been what I have found over the years. Every time I attempt to launch something ahead of providing value through producing information and making it available free, that product fails. This is why I produce so much content and give it away for free. I’m a firm believer in giving away 80% of what you know in order to charge a premium for that 20%.

Udemy 100,000 students - Jerad HillThis past weekend I surpassed 100,000 students on Udemy.com a platform for online education. My photography and social media courses, most of which are free, have been pretty popular. When I share statistics about how many students I have achieved on that platform, the first question I get is how much money have you made. Most people don’t understand because they are led by a different mindset than I am. My goal is to share information first and foremost. The money will always come. If revenue generation is the first thought when deciding to create content, you have already lost. There is no way that you can sell somebody on something if you are number one driver is to make money off of them.

Those who are making a lot of money from their content most likely had a sizable following from the beginning. Perhaps a small percentage of them were just in the right place at the right time. However, for most of us it is a long road of creating content, building trust and making friends along the way. After you have created enough value it makes it much easier to ask people to pay you for further instruction.

Though you can create on a minimalistic budget by opening up your laptop and using your WebCam, I didn’t feel that taking that approach would result in the type of following I was looking for. My courses are reviewed highly because of the production value put into them. My content is not groundbreaking, it is all stuff you could easily figure out on your own with enough time and patience. I do believe that there is value in getting instruction from a professional who understands what he’s talking about but if the quality of that production is low, that professionalism gets lost in the lack of production value.

Beyond simply producing high quality content you must find a way to connect with those that have consumed your content. Most platforms have this type of functionality but it is usually limited because their goal is get your students to buy more content. I have no problem with this, it is their platform we are using, but you must encourage people to keep in contact with you in some way if that platform limits you. Find a way to be able to communicate with your students or viewers outside of that platform that does not break the rules that platform has put in place.

You must also know what you are talking about. I don’t post or publish anything that I can’t back up. If somebody wants to know if I am actually a decent photographer, they can easily find that information out online. The same goes with my social media and online marketing courses. I have found that many educators who create these paid courses can’t even be found online. They then wonder why their course does not sell.

One of the reasons for adding production value to your content is that it makes your content look like it is a brand. When you position yourself as a brand, it makes people want to look for you outside of that platform to see if there is any other information out there. Take my Ditch Auto Photography course for example: The brand is “Ditch Auto.” I own and operate DitchAuto.Com. I also have a popular podcast I started a few months ago in iTunes with the same name. To top it all off, I admin a Facebook group for Ditch Auto, which has over 1300 members. During my course videos, I also encourage people to engage with me on the platform and on social media. People search for me by name and follow me.

Jerad Hill Google Search

The spelling of my name is pretty unique. Though not all of these search results are for content I have created, a large percent of them are.

Why do all of this, and do it for free?

I am in this for the long haul. Back when Myspace was the popular social network, I told everybody that they were nuts for posting all of their content in one platform. Your website should be the hub in which all of your efforts pour into. My online courses are no different. I use a couple of different online platforms for education and monetize 10% or less of the content I post to those platforms because I believe in giving first. Education is not all that I do. I own a professional photography business and an online marketing agency that keep me pretty busy. I would love to teach full time, but I only get about 4-5 hours each week to generate video content. I am lucky to have a studio that I have built from the ground up that can stay setup and ready to go whenever I am ready to film.

I never stop refining and making my content better. Even though my Introduction to Facebook Pages course is a free course, I re-filmed the entire course a few months ago because they content is out of date. That course has resulted in multiple consulting clients over the past few years. Should I have a paid followup course on Facebook Pages? Yes, totally. However, I have not yet created one.

What platforms like Udemy has done is made it way too easy for people to publish content. Everybody is a content creator, and while that is fantastic that it is that simple, not everybody should be a content creator until they get themselves into the right mindset. The best teachers do not decide to teach so they can make a ton of money. All of the teachers that have had the biggest impact in my life have not made much money in their lifetime. The most valuable knowledge I have obtained over the years, has came from books that I have read that were written by people who’s success came before they wrote the book, not the other way around. Am I doing Udemy and platforms like it any justice by putting up paid content that nobody ends up buying? I don’t believe that I would be. Though Udemy has not made much money from my courses, their numbers have increased a lot due to the people I have driven to their platform. Once I do begin releasing more paid courses, those numbers will start to level out and it will happen much faster than it would have had I started out with only paid courses.

All of my free courses are nothing groundbreaking. You could easily teach yourself what I taught in those courses if you spent some time bouncing around on Youtube. In teaching these courses, I am also getting better myself. When you teach something, you have to know enough about it to explain it well. This has helped me be a better photographer and provide better services to my clients. Beyond that, it also helps solidify the fact that I am a professional in my chosen fields. There is a lot of competition out there and you need to do whatever you can to market yourself well.

I see every student who signs up for one of my courses as a person who is interested in a subject and is eager to learn about it. Whether they are trying to learn something for business related purposes or simply for enjoyment, I am touching their lives and helping them achieve something. I spent countless hours making mistakes, so they don’t have to. The countless emails and reviews that have been written tell amazing stories of how my courses have allowed someone to start a business and allow their spouse to stay at home with their children. If I had put a pay wall in front of everything I produce, I may not have been able to have that affect on as many people as I have had. Once you generate that much change in the lives of others, you can ask them to pay for future content because they are now fans.

Now that I have reached this milestone, I plan to post more about my process of educating. I waited to do this because I felt that I needed to be at a professional level before weighing in on how to educate others. I am still far from a professional but I have had many people contact me asking how I was able to achieve 100,000 students on a single platform. More to come. Please follow me on Twitter or follow this blog to keep in touch.

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What do people want from me?

I have been blogging for years. I started blogging in 2005 and have written about a large variety of unrelated topics over the years. My blog started with updates about my life and my opinion on things that I was experiencing at the time. Though I have not always been a consistent blogger, this blog has over 1,100 posts. I am a very resourceful person. If I need to do something, I will figure it out on my own or I will find someone who has written about it online and follow their instructions. This is how I taught myself how to be a website designer and a professional wedding photographer. Whenever I can not find an answer online and figure it out on my own, I post about it. I feel that it is my way of giving back to the internet which has given so much to me. The only problem is that each article I write on a problem that I solved is unrelated to the other articles. Articles I have written have ranged from resolving problems with my Mac, video editing, photography, Photoshop, fitness, traveling and the list goes on. Some of those items could be categorized together but if I was to organize it, the list of categories would be so long they would run off the page. I have always envied niche bloggers who solve related problems all day long on their blog. Many of them do it so well that I don’t want to enter the space and be just another person writing about the same situations.

I have considered writing about Photography many times. Through tutorials and workshops, I taught myself how to be a professional photographer by trying things I read online refining them until the end result was appealing to me. The problem is that there are many websites that teach photography and even more websites that curate great photography related content. There are a lot of voices online regarding photography. Though I have been producing some online photography courses, I have not felt lead to produce a blog and attempt to write original content all week. I have also considered writing about Website Design. Designing and building for the web is a lot harder to teach than photography. I feel that there are also a lot of great sites out there that teach website design and curate fantastic content on being a better website designer.

I think that my problem is that I don’t consider myself as much of a professional as I am in my chosen crafts. Those of us who are professionals in a certain job or function have professionals that we look up to. There are photographers who are much more knowledgable than I am and there are website designers who could code into a corner. It’s not a matter of self-confidence. I am confident in my abilities to produce quality work even though I practice two professions. I get bored easy, so I have to keep myself learning different things to keep my attention.

I envy those who find one craft and are all about it. Our world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Many will completely change careers more than once in their lifetime doing something completely different than what they were equipped to do after the completed their schooling. People like me, who did not have the attention span for school left on their own path and may even see more career changes over the course of their lives. So how do you decide what to focus on when you are focusing on so many things?

What it comes down to is that I want to add value to the world in a similar way that it has added value to my own life. If I was born in the 50’s it would have been much harder to do what I am doing today because the information was more difficult to come by. Back then you had your local library, today we have the internet and Youtube. There is no excuse for not knowing how to do something anymore.

What I have found that is unique to me and very few others is the understanding that when you set out to do something, you need to own it. When you commit to something, you have to be the best you can be. When I say that I will do something I do and when I want to do something I figure out how. I am one of the most resourceful people I know and I can say this because all I hear from more than 90% of people I come in contact with is words confirming their inability to do something. Most people are convinced that they are dealt certain cards. They know that they have more ability than some but less ability than most. People accept only a small amount of responsibility for things these days. Job descriptions are very specific and if it falls outside of what is on paper then that person most likely won’t do it. We live in a world where people take very little responsibility for anything anymore. Two weeks ago a guy side swiped my wife while driving down the road and he denied responsibility. Every day people complain about being given tasks stating that it is not their job. We all sound like kids who was just asked to clean the dishes when our only chore was to take out the trash. On top of that, we all feel that we are entitled to so much but will take responsibility for so little. No wonder our Grandparents shake their heads at us.

Now I don’t want this post to turn into a tangent on what the world should be but I do find that I take responsibility for what I say I will do and I own every task. Sometimes I may take longer than anticipated but I always get things done. I encourage my clients to think big because I want them to go big and achieve goals now that they thought were a couple of years away. We live in a world where you can go big now and achieve great things in a fraction of the time it used to take even ten years ago. I had a thriving wedding photography business in less than six months after shooting my first paid event. I started an app discovery website for the iPhone that took off a few months after starting the site and has been a constant income source since then.

I often buy into the glamorized appearance that are most publicized  Sometimes I think that my businesses are to small to talk about but in reality they are big enough to support a relatively comfortable lifestyle for my family and I have two full time employees on payroll. The only consistant goal I have had for myself other than to try to stay in shape is to be able to have a family and support them and so far I am doing that. Honestly, I don’t know where life will take me as far as that goes, I hope that I don’t cause any struggle or hardship for my family but I believe that I am a hard enough worker and resourceful enough person to not have to worry about that very often.

Perhaps what I should be blogging about is personal responsibility. The idea of taking ownership for your actions and promises is dying. People blame any easy target for their situations and it is why our nation is having so many issues. What I don’t want is to be some soap box guy touting my thoughts as if they are some sort of religion. I don’t want to sound like I am preaching to people and I definitely do not want people to feel judged by me. Earlier today I posted a photo on Facebook of a giant “We accept EBT” sign on a Papa Murphy’s Pizza simply making the joke that I would love an EBT card so I could get free pizza. Many people took my post as a jab at the less fortunate and the comments under the post turned into two sides: One side recognized that the welfare and assistance programs in the US were flawed and agreed when I stated that if you are needing assistance that you should choose a more humble way of feeding your self and family. I mentioned that things like buying prepared pizza is a luxury item that should be seen as a treat. The other people attacked me with unemployment details and disability situations that were obviously one of a kind situations. Don’t get me wrong here, I am all for a system of assistance that is well moderated. As long as there is accountability in place, the system should operate fine. The problem is that it is too easy to take advantage of the system so people are doing it. The result is ever increasing taxes and burdens on those who do chose to work. I am all for helping those who are unable. As a child, we had to accept assistance for a short stent due to extenuating circumstances. It just happens, but you do what you need to do to get off of it as soon as possible. It was hotdogs and chili for months but we survived…

With that said, there are many things that I am passionate about and some I even get emotional over. Some of you know me pretty well and many of you do not know me at all aside from what I post on this blog. Most people enter this blog from a Google search that resulted in a link to a post or article on this website. Not nearly as many people enter this website because they anticipate what I have to say next. This is what I want to change. I love the open-ness of the internet. I am a very transparent person and do not mind sharing aspects of my life to either help someone who is going through something I did or inspire someone to do something they did not know how to do. I am not perfect, to be honest, I am just as flawed if not more flawed than the average person. The only difference is the decisions I make and the responsibility I take for my actions. I have drastically change my life from the course that it was headed in my late teens and early 20’s. I am personally responsible because of people who have either shared their lives with me either personally or online. The only thing I have to get over is the fact that I often think that I don’t have something unique to offer. Each of us have something unique to offer, it’s just hard to find a comfortable way to display that publicly and honestly.

If you made it this far, what do you think? Should I pick a topic I am considered a professional in and chronicle my experiences and lessons learned into educating articles, posts and videos? Should I try to bring back personal responsibility by showing the world that if you take ownership in what you do you will already be 3 steps ahead of the rest? Or should I just post cute pics of my kids and make jokes like I do on my personal Facebook profile? Most probably don’t want anything from me at all, and I am ok with that, but I know that there are some people that I would connect well with out there. Those are the people I want to create for.

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Our Trip to the Children’s Museum of Stockton

We have these friends of ours who also have two young boys close to the age of our two boys. We planned this family play date to the Children’s Museum of Stockton and had such a great time. It’s an old museum filled with basic every day life stuff that little kids can experience first hand. For example, there are decommissioned emergency vehicles, a small scale grocery store, recycling center, post office and so much more. You can climb in the ambulance, police car, firetruck and explore to your hearts content. It’s basically a playground filled with stuff we typically tell our kids not to touch. Today was a very rainy day so it was perfect that we would get to spend it indoors exploring with our little ones. The four of us with our four kids walked around each exhibit and let our kids try things out on their own. It was also a lot of fun to help them with things if they were confused or did not know what something was for. Kids are amazing. If you let them do their own thing, they will figure it out. Their little minds are fascinating.

Of course I had a camera with me. I was playing with my new Canon EOS-M camera which is Canon’s first mirrorless camera. It took some getting used to. I only had a 22mm fixed lens with me and the camera does not have a built in flash, so I had to get used to the touch interface for adjusting camera settings when I am very used to buttons and knobs. Below are some of the photos I took from today.

If you are in or near Stockton, CA and have kids under the age of 10. I highly recommend you take them. The cost was $5 per person over the age of 2, so Cohen got in free.

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Importance of Sharing Information

Part of the way I learn is trying to teach it to someone else. I find that challenging myself to reteach what I just figured out how to do writes it deeper into my brain. Besides that, I enjoy giving back. I have no formal education beyond high school. Everything I do for work and in many cases in life, I attained through some sort of resource. Earlier on in my life, it was books. As the internet expanded, it allowed me to learn anything I wanted to at a much faster pace than traditional education could allow. Because I took the route of consuming shared information or online courses over formal education, I wanted to give back. Over the years I have posted Photoshop tutorials, snippets of custom code I wrote, photos and countless hours worth of information. A few of my tutorial videos have received over 100,000 views on Youtube each, which is pretty cool. I still get emails just about weekly about some of them, today I actually received a phone call about one of them. I love sharing information, my problem is that other things get in the way from me being able to do that on a regular basis.

This website, JeradHill.com, has been many things since I purchased the domain name in 1997. At that time, very few people owned the domain name that was their name. In 1997, I wanted to start an online business and I knew that if I was going to be able to do this with the $400 I had in my bank account, I would have to teach myself. This is when I started consuming online information and browsing forums for assistance. The internet is a fantastic place filled with information, you really can learn how to do anything you want online. After a few of my online tutorials took off, I decided that I wanted to spend more time teaching. I love to teach. I realize that even though the same information exists for all of us, not all have the patience and resourcefulness to make use of all of the information. I am fortunate to be a nerd with communication skills. I can break down the difficult processes of technical tasks into simple/actionable English. When I realized that I had this gift, teaching became fun for me.

We all have things we know how to do and there are people who consider us a professional in this area. Even though there are people we consider professionals over us, there are people who want to learn what we know and consider us a professional. I am a professional wedding photographer and even though there are photographers that I look up to as having reached a higher level of professionalism than I have there are still many who want to learn the ropes and could learn that from me. I do this because I want to give back somehow. I have consumed countless hours of free or close to free information to learn and become what I am today, I want to offer someone else the same luxury.

Right now I am in a place where I want to be teaching more, but have other obligations. I keep all of my ideas in Evernote, which is a great way to capture your thoughts in text, photo or audio note. However, the ideas are stacking up and as more time goes by the less relevant the idea becomes. My desire is to be able to work on teaching more, but I did such a good job building my business over the years that word-of-mouth referral business keeps coming in and I don’t like turning people away who desire to work with me.

There are many places that I share information. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Udemy.Com and soon I will have my own website containing my tutorial videos and training resources.

So how do you start on a journey of information sharing?
It’s actually quite easy, and free.

I started by blogging on this very website. My earlier posts consisted of me writing articles about how I figure something out that I could not find an answer to online. I never wanted to repost something that I had found from another website but if I couldn’t find something online, I had to figure it out myself. When I did figure it out, I would write about it. These posts were mostly posts about programming. When I started to learn Photoshop, I would record short videos on how I performed a certain edit or style. Over the years I have started several podcasts as well. Now I am in a place in my business where I have to figure things out for myself. I don’t know anybody else personally who has several different things going on and uses the web to market themselves like I do, so I take bits and pieces of information I find, mash it up with some of my own ideas that are relevant to what I am doing and if it works, I teach it. Great teaching moments also come from failures, I am big about mentioning the things that I did that did not work. I believe that the reason I have any success at all is due to the fact that I learn from my failures and do not let them become an excuse to quit. Quitting is one thing I do not do. Even though sometimes I am forced to slow down on things to direct my time elsewhere, I don’t give up. This website is a perfect example of that. There have been seasons where I have blogged daily and some where months go by without an update.

If you wanted to start blogging, you can set up a free blog at WordPress.Com. They have a few premium features to make your website more professional, but you can use it for free. I like WordPress.Com because if you decide to take what you are doing to the next level, you can merge your content with a customized WordPress website such as my website you are on right now.

Becoming a curator of information is a popular thing right now on the web. Since Pinterest has came along, curation has blown up as a way of sharing online. By no means is Pinterest the first to do this but it sure is fun. My wife shares a lot of fun ideas and inspiration she finds on Pinterest. Check out her Pinterest boards to see what I’m talking about.

You can start a Youtube channel, for free, and start uploading content there. It does not have to be broadcast quality. I am sure you have watched some home-brew tutorials on Youtube before. With time you will want to increase your production quality but you can do that over time. My website DailyAppShow.com started out pretty shabby and now we have high quality HD equipment we record our reviews with and I even have a full time employee helping with this process. DailyAppShow.Com started as an idea in the spare bedroom of my house and turned into something that requires employees to run. The DailyAppShow Youtube Channel has over 2 Million Channel views to date.

My most recent teachings can be found on Udemy.Com. I chose to use Udemy because I wanted to see how my content performed next to other professionals out there who are creating content. I have two free and one paid course at the time of writing this post. I could have uploaded my free content to Youtube but I feel that there are to many complainers who are not serious and just looking for a chance to give you a hard time. I wanted to be a part of a teaching network where people who are serious go to learn. Udemy is that platform. They also allow you to charge for your courses which is great if you have your own content that us unique and worth paying for. I plan to use the Udemy network to release future paid courses in hopes to move most of my focus toward content generation as an instructor. My first course on Udemy is an Introduction to Facebook Pages for Businesses which will hit 3000 subscribers by the end of this week.

There are countless ways to share information online. Slideshare.com, Howcast.com, About.com and many more. I am a fan of having something everywhere. You don’t want to have the same content in a hundred places but you do need to have a presence everywhere. Use the web to your advantage and share something you know about and have a passion for with others.

Do me a favor and check out some of the channels I share information on and if you see something that you find interesting or that you think would be interesting to someone else, share it. Sharing is what helps the flow of information continue.