Two Top Skillshare Teachers on Owning Their Identity as Creative Business Owners

We are so fortunate to have a fantastic community of talented Creative Teachers who share their passion and expertise on Skillshare. While our Creative Teachers are incredibly talented artistically speaking, they are also savvy business people with fabric lines, licensing deals, client work, and more.

Therefore, we have been incredibly excited to see more of our Creative Teachers launch classes where they share their business skills with our students. To better understand how Creative Teachers approach the business side of their career and how they’ve parlayed this experience into Skillshare classes, we caught up with Top Teachers Peggy Dean and Dylan Mierzwinski.

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Your channel is mainly creative classes and we were so excited to see your more business oriented classes! Can you tell us how you decided to teach a business class? How did you choose a topic that fits in with your existing channel even though it is a slightly different topic?

Peggy: I form my classes around questions that I get from people that reach out to me. My biggest passion is to provide accessible resources to anyone that has a passion and a motivation to pursue it, with REAL answers and not blanket statements. Because pricing and publishing are things I deal with regularly, these questions often come up from up-and-coming creatives. Creating curated content in classes around these topics was an easy step in providing people a direction to answer all of their questions, and offer information that they may not have even knew they wanted/needed.

The measuring stick for any class I teach is ‘what would I have found truly helpful 6 weeks/months/years ago?’

Dylan: The measuring stick for any class I teach is “what would I have found truly helpful 6 weeks/months/years ago?” It’s really easy to focus on teaching the actual software because there’s so much to dive in there, but the project work is only part of the whole process with working with a client (sort of like the tip of an iceberg) and there are almost no conversations/classes out there about it. I felt so uncomfortable starting out with clients and having no one to shadow or show me how to handle all the emails associated with a project, and how to adjust your pricing, etc, and so I knew in our day of self-education that others must be feeling that pain too. On top of that, I learn best from specific examples, so I wanted to provide totally different examples to illustrate the important points. Ideally it would be nice to have a channel that fits into a neat little box, but literally nothing in my life has been that way, so why force it? I think by basing things off of my actual journey I’m creating a thread that is cohesive, even if on the surface it can look like it spans various ground.

What advice would you offer to other Creative teachers thinking of teaching a business class?
Peggy: Teach what you wanted to learn at some point. Give tools and resources that you, yourself, had a hard time discovering in earlier stages of your process. The more classes you provide on Skillshare’s platform, the more people get to know you, whether you know it or not. Your personality isn’t ever hidden, even when it’s focused. You build a silent rapport so when you take it a step further to validate that some (or many) of the people engaged are looking for a next step, they already trust you and the knowledge that you can offer people is that much more valuable. It’s targeting their focus exactly, giving them answers all in one place.

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Dylan: It’s easy to want to show people something more polished, ideal, or systematic, but it’s better to show them how you REALLY do things. If you’re going to show them behind the curtain, show them what’s really back there. I think it’s also important to constantly be asking yourself if something is fluff or essential. My classes before “Watch Me Work” have the fat trimmed, so you only see the things that are absolutely pertinent to what I’m talking about. In “Watch Me Work” there’s a lot of time where the viewer is watching me move text around or resize things. It isn’t exciting, but it was important for them to see that I don’t know where the text goes right away, I have to work it out! So in that case the fat % was higher but still for good purpose. As for choosing a topic and tackling how to produce it, first ask yourself what’s something that was a game changer for your business? What has changed from when you first started? Start outlining the idea, then let the idea lend itself to what kind of filming you should do. “Watch me work” was content heavy, so I had a lot of slides for the viewer to watch, followed by screenshares of me doing the work. If you find that getting your actual supplies organized was the biggest help in your biz, then slides probably aren’t the best vehicle for teaching that topic. Instead a doc style video that captures you actually showing your organized closet and bins you use will probably work better. Use your voice and creative brand to unite the class with your others.

There can be a misconception that working in a creative field means that you spend your days on your craft and that the “business side” of things is merely a passing afterthought. However, you clearly have some business acumen (licensing artwork, self-publishing, and managing client projects). Can you tell us more about the business side of your career?

Peggy: The business side certainly takes over as a creative. Sadly, there are weeks that go by at times without ever touching art supplies. That said, when you want to start your own creative biz, you naturally go all-in. Your thoughts are always racing and you feel a drive like never before because it’s driven by passion. So as much as your focus is strongly on the business side of things, it’s worth it because every step you take a step further into your very own little empire.

Dylan: I think with branding and being a business owner there’s pressure to work it out perfectly from the start, when in reality you can start somewhere imperfect and grow. When I first started I didn’t have any systems setup for how I would handle customer projects, track income and expenses, market myself, etc. I just got my LLC and started. It’s easy to know what to work on because pain points make themselves noticeable fairly quickly.

If you start your business trying to figure it all out right away (when you’re doing it alone) you may never move forward; instead it’s best to just take it one step at a time, focusing on the little amount that you can.

What business advice would you offer to other creatives? Any resources that have helped you develop your business?

Peggy: Research and NEVER STOP LEARNING. As creatives, we’re natural learners. We have an inner pull that forces us to DIO (do it ourselves.. See what I did there? You know.. cuz “DIY…”). The more we learn and practice, the more we continue to learn. Learning by doing is one of the most valuable resources of all, so taking our failures and seeing them as opportunities will squash any gross fear and doubt that we have and allows us to see what we’d do better next time. There’s a lot of time that goes into researching… how to create, how to form skills, how to develop a reach, how to teach, how to form the best learning practices for oneself, how to figure out so many next steps, how to figure out what we even want, how to be okay with changing our minds, etc. etc. etc. It’s a lot of time. And that’s okay. It’s better than okay. Knowledge is power.

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Dylan: Adopt Amy Poehler’s motto “Great for you, not for me.” There are about a million ways to run your business, and as you befriend and get to know others who are in your world, you’ll come across plenty of unsolicited advice, success stories, and productivity apps. I encourage you to try new things to find what works best for you, and shed whatever doesn’t serve you with glee. If another business owner has a ton of success doing one thing but you DREAD that thing, don’t do it! It’s okay to be different and be successful in new ways. Also lookup your local chapter of the SBA (small biz association) to see what free resources they have. Mine has free workshops on setting up your business, learning Quickbooks, marketing on social media, etc.