What It's About
A choir instructor strikes a perfect, passive income chord with her digital choir workbooks and membership site.
Words of Wisdom
According to Erin, teachers are a wealth of valuable information that can easily be turned into a side hustle. In her words, “Teachers are famous for not valuing their own worth. They don't realize what they have to offer.” Whether it’s a series of creative math exercises, engaging history lessons, or wacky science experiments, she believes teachers should take their original lessons and try packaging them in some way.
The Practice Room started as a Wordpress site, transitioned into a custom PHP site, and is now about to migrate back to Wordpress. According to Erin, Wordpress plugins for learning management have simply gotten too powerful and flexible to ignore.
Notes from Chris
If you had music class in first or second grade, you might remember the workbooks that you sight read from. Or you might not remember them because they were boring, unoriginal, and—unknown to most students—strangely expensive. But Erin Lowell, a school choir teacher in the state of Main, knew how expensive they were—and it was a point of discord for her. The cheap books were $4 a piece, and for a school of 150 students, that meant it would take $600 to give each student their own workbook. Or actually, they loaned them the workbooks and would then collect them for the next year. What music program has $600 per year to spend on workbooks alone? Erin knew there had to be another way—and she couldn’t stand using those same boring books one more time. So in 2004, she made her own. Using a musical notation program called Finale and a simple word processor, Erin created her own set of sight reading exercises on her own time. To her surprise, it really wasn’t much treble. Once she had a few dozen lessons for the upcoming year, she pitched an idea to her school. If they would provide the materials and let her use the binding machine, she would do the work every year before school started to put them together. Her school agreed to give her the $100 needed for the materials, and the following year was a musical success. The kids were learning faster, they were paying better attention, and other teachers around town were starting to notice. After creating more workbooks and selling them to a handful of teachers each year, one of Erin’s principals suggested that she sell them online as ebooks—and thus, The Practice Room was born! She had already proven that the workbooks were effective, and she knew that her customers would come back year after year. It seemed like a no-brainer. Eventually, Erin even decided to transition her ebook series into an online membership model, and the transition really paid off! Erin doesn’t remember exactly when it happened, but within a couple months she was bringing in $500 per month with the membership model. The next year, her monthly average was just over $800 per month with virtually no marketing at all. For the past several years, Erin has brought in about $20,000 per year through her site, minus about $100 per month on website expenses. It’s been mostly passive, other than answering emails from time to time, but Erin remembers those early days when she spent most of her evenings after school creating sight reading lessons. It was quite the sweet prelude to such a successful side hustle!
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- The Practice Room: If expensive choir workbooks have you singing a melancholy tune, head on over to Erin's website to check out her offerings
- Wishlist Member: The plugin that Erin used to setup her membership program. Fun Fact: it's also the same plugin that we've used to create the Side Hustle Society!
- Wordpress: Erin used Wordpress to setup The Practice Room, and here you can learn how to install your own Wordpress site in 5 minutes
- Finale: The music notation software that Erin used to setup her choir exercises
- High-School French Teacher Earns $8,000 Writing & Selling Curriculum: A busy high-school teacher uploads more than 600 digital products to a peer-to-peer sharing site, where she’s paid a royalty for each sale
- PE Teacher Makes $11,000 with Membership Site: A PE teacher starts a blog that makes more than $11,000 through a sustainable revenue model that will likely grow with each passing month
- Teachers Join Forces To Launch Nerd Summer Camp: Three teachers create an alternative camp for kids who aren’t interested in sports. The school keeps the profits the first year, but they get creative and find a way to pay themselves in year two
Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work! Yours in the revolution,
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