How I Earn $17,000 A Month Taking An E-Learning Course
- Jasmine Katatikarn is a tech-artist manager for Amazon who runs a sideline e-learning business.
- His company, the Academy of Animated Art, sells courses that teach industry software for up to $736.
- She spends three to four hours a week on the side and earns an average of $17,700 a month.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jasmine Katatikarn, tech-artist manager for Amazon who also runs an e-learning company, Academy of Anime Artslike a stampede in new york. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I work 40 hours a week at Amazon as a tech-artist manager, a position I have held since January, and at the same time I run a business. My side business, the Academy of Animated Art, helps people learn the skills they need to become 3D lighting designers and get jobs in the animation industry. 3D lighting is the process of lighting in animated films, games, visual effects, commercials, etc. For example, if you have a scene with a haunted house, lighting helps create that spooky vibe by adding shadows and soft lighting.
My online Classes cost between $244 and $736 each and teach industry software like Maya and Nukewhich are widely used in the film industry — films like “The Avengers” and “Frozen” were created with Maya.
My best-selling product is the Lighting set which combines seven core courses and workshops into one package. The main added benefit of the set is personal and professional feedback on student work through the Academy’s community channel. After graduating from the Academy of Anime Arts, my students were hired by companies like Disney and Sony. Over 5,700 students have completed all of our paid programs so far, and the majority come to us as they are new to the industry.
Money was never the main reason I started my side business
I’ve had an entrepreneurial side since I was a kid. It’s my passion and I like to create something out of nothing. One of the other reasons I started the Academy is that it’s very hard to succeed as a light artist if you’re not already in the industry.
I started my secondary activity in May 2012. The idea of teaching others my craft came to me when I was working full time as a 3D lighting designer on films like “Ice Age” and “Rio” in major studios like Nickelodeon and Blue Sky Studios.
Based on sales from January to October 2022, I averaged $17,700 in revenue per month. My highest month was June when I made over $30,000 in revenue. We recently launched our diversity programwhere I partner with leading studios to make animation accessible to children from diverse backgrounds, which has generated additional revenue.
What motivates me is the impact of the Academy on our students: it changes their professional and creative lives. Many of them come from creative industries – from traditional lighting designers to photographers, video editors and engineers – but we also have students from diverse backgrounds, such as medical professionals. Few things top that feeling of receiving a message from a student who has found a dream job through the Academy.
The challenges I faced when I started my side business were allocating enough time to it and finding the best format for the lessons.
I had to decide if the classes should be live or pre-recorded, figure out the schedule, and decide if there was even a market for my niche, which is very small.
To create the lessons, I (or a teacher I collaborate with) research the curriculum extensively and create the models and 3D scenes we need to teach the skills. Teachers are usually contacts within my network or connections through my contacts. Sometimes they are elders who are part of our community. We also record, edit and create additional material.
The process of creating a course can take anywhere from three months to a year depending on the course and other time commitments in my full-time job. I set up all my courses on Teachable and sell them through the platform.
The first thing I did after finishing my first class was post about it on LinkedIn and Reddit. When the first student signed up it was so exciting and gave me proof that there were people who wanted to buy the course.
At first, I ended up pre-recording lectures that came out on Sundays with assignments due the following Monday so students could get feedback and ask questions. Today, we use a similar format with open registration, so students can join the course at any time and submit their assignments at their own pace.
When I first created the Academy, I had to devote more time
The Lighting Bundle was built over the span of two years. Even if it’s a lot of work up front, it’s less intensive in the long term and sustainable to create a business that pays a lot and allows me to work in other areas, like my full-time job.
It took me six years with a one-year break to go to six figures, then to multiple six figures. However, I was very flippant about my hustle and bustle for the first five years. I didn’t promote it much and even quit the Academy after fifth year because I wasn’t sure if I would continue working on it.
After this one year break, I brought it back due to high demand. It was during the sixth year that I decided to focus on improving the Academy financially and seriously double the increase in sales with Facebook ads, SEO, podcasts, etc.
Today, when I use external teachers to create course content, I can limit my time to three to four hours per week. The rest of my time is spent managing and mentoring.
Product creation takes more than three to four hours per week if I personally create the program and videos – in this case, it takes me more than 10 to 15 hours per week to work on my side, with one to two hours per night on weekdays and five o’clock on weekends. This creation phase occurs on average once a year for two to three months.
Often we think the goal is to leave your day job to work on your own full-time – and I thought that too. But now I see everything I do as an extension of myself and an opportunity, not a chore. I love my full-time job and I love my business, so I keep them both. They help me design my professional life so that it suits me perfectly.
For others interested in starting and scaling an online side business, I would recommend creating a minimum viable product so you can test your idea first.
To find this idea, look at the things you’re already good at, whether you learned skills in your job or have a hobby you enjoy. Then you can iterate on your offer instead of creating the “perfect” product or service for the first release, which only leads to overwhelm and stress.
Then, build a profitable business before scaling it. Especially if you do it on the side, you need to be very focused and work on the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your business: course creation, marketing, and sales.
I took my business to the next level when I was able to reinvest the income from my side business into a team that helped me grow further. Currently, I have three part-time employees: one person who works on our SEO and content creation, one who helps manage our social media channels, and a business coach who supports me in growing my business.
Ask yourself, “How can I make this easy and fun?” instead of thinking, “It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to do it.” A side hustle should be fun. This is how you will be able to support yourself and motivate yourself to work on it after a long day at work.