Transitioning to Full-time Freelance work with Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon isn’t your average web developer. An early adopter of the internet, Chris coded his first website back in 1999. His affinity for working on the web continued throughout his career, whether that meant channeling his skills for an employer or working on a personal project for fun and practice. These days, Chris is freelancing as a web developer and teaching full-time. His straightforward and friendly style has earned him a place in Skillshare’s Top Teachers program, so we chatted with him about the route he’s taken to teaching.

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Let’s start with your career path. How did you get your start? What are you currently working on?

My web development journey began when I was 15 and learned how to build a website in school. Ever since, I have always worked on website projects either full time, or in the evenings, whenever I had spare time. When I had a business importing car and go-kart parts, the company website was always a big part of the business and something I personally looked after as an asset.

Most recently, I finished creating a large Web Development course. In the next few months, I plan on going through some of my older courses and bringing them up to date, along with creating some new content.

What role does Skillshare play with regard to your career?   

Skillshare plays a big part in my career. In addition to allowing me to teach a wide audience from all over the world, it also gives me the benefit of a regular income. This allows me the freedom to able to create my own schedule.  

How has teaching on Skillshare enabled you to expand your professional brand? Why do you think now is a good time to teach?

Skillshare’s large user base has allowed me to get my content out to a wider audience, which is really important when you’re teaching courses online. This following, and the regular income that the audience has provided has played a big part in my decision to dedicate the majority of my time to creating courses, rather than client work. The income I’ve earned from Skillshare has made the transition really smooth and less of a risk overall.

Creating these courses and passing on my skills has been very rewarding. Having a profile and destination for my courses outside of a personal website is a great way to establish a personal and business brand that can really grow as you release more content.

Why Skillshare (as opposed to other online teaching platforms)?

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I have found Skillshare to be very welcoming and personal. Teaching on the platform allows you to feel like part of the community, rather than just another instructor. All courses are given a fair chance to succeed on the platform and the students are great. Many take the time to leave a comment in the discussion section if they are enjoying the class, which is really motivating and encouraging.

I also find that my Skillshare students tend to be very proactive in solving problems they encounter. They at least give it a go, which is a really important skill to have in the tech industry.

What advice would you offer someone looking to start their own business?

Focus on something which interests and excites you. There will be times when you will need to work long hours, or encounter problems which land on you as the owner, and this is difficult if you do not have the passion for your business. For example, I choose to teach subjects I am passionate about, because it keeps me motivated during that final push to complete the course.

Secondly, there is a huge temptation to do everything yourself (I am guilty of this sometimes too). By focusing on what you are good at, and outsourcing what you aren’t good at, you can prevent burnout and achieve a better work / life balance.

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What advice would you offer a new Skillshare teacher thinking of teaching a Tech class?

Focus on production quality. As the industry grows, so do expectations for good audio and video quality, but this still can be achieved through relatively inexpensive equipment.

Finally, you don’t need to quit your job to find time to create quality courses. You can become a teacher and keep your regular job too. You may just have some fun along the way too!

Try not to take it personally if a student does not like your content, every student has different learning styles and expectations of a teacher. Plenty of students will like your work if you are friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Create quality content, be passionate and knowledgeable, and students will be loyal and come back for the new classes you create.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Teaching on Skillshare has been a great experience both personally, and for my business. When I first started on Skillshare, I had no idea that I would reach thousands of students, or that it would also be a major contributing factor to ultimately making teaching my main source of income.

Lastly, I often find that while I’m creating a course, I usually learn something that I didn’t know before. There is always something I discover when diving deeper into a topic and during the researching and planning of a course. If I’m still learning new things myself, teaching others can only be a good thing.