Want to start an in-person or online class teaching students about baking or even cake decorating? Today’s guest Michelle Green has done both successfully for years and will teach you to transform your baking expertise into a class in today’s lesson.
Best of all you can adapt Michelle’s approach to teach in any setting from your home kitchen to online using nothing more than a Facebook Live and iPhone. The basic process for teaching a successful course is the same whether you’re online or off.
What I love about Michelle is that she doesn’t hold anything back and makes the entire process of organizing and selling a class seem simple to do. Michelle proves you don’t need tech knowledge, fancy video production skills, or expensive software to launch your first successful class or course.
If you want to learn more about Michelle, check out TheBizofBaking.com. Michelle has a podcast, a book called The Business of Baking, and about 20 online classes you can explore. Click play on the audio lesson to learn what it takes to start start, create, and sell a baking class. This podcast is brought to you by our awesome sponsor Gusto.
Table of Contents:
- Intro: Will Classes Work For You?
- The Art of Listening for Winning Class Ideas
- Creating a Baking Class Outline
- Building a List of Potential Students
- How to Sell a Cake Decorating Class
- What Should You Charge?
- Wrap up
Intro: Will Classes Work For You?
Is doing some type of food class right for you? If you’re reading right now it’s obviously something you’re thinking about. Before diving straight into the tips here are some guidelines you should keep in mind to make sure your expectations are in check.
Teaching Isn’t Easy: It may seem fun to teach a class about a topic you’re passionate about. You’re spot on about this expectation because it can be both exciting and rewarding. But keep in mind that there’s more that goes into an in-person or online class than showing up for the presentation and going home.
For one, you’ll need to field student questions and support them throughout the course. If you’re not someone that has a lot of patience or enjoys multiple ways of explaining the same concept this might not be the right choice for you.
Related Reading: How I Started an $1,800/Month Booze-Infused Baking Business
You’ll have class students emailing you multiple times about the time of a course or cancel at the last minute because they’ve got a sudden trip to France scheduled. No matter how good you are there will be people that think they know more than you or leave bad reviews about a class experience. This is something you’ll need to be mentally prepared for.
Prep Time: According to the OECD, high-school teachers spend between 3 – 6 hours per work day actually teaching. This stat might seem alarming at first, but makes sense when you stop to think about it.
There’s a whole lot more that goes into the typical teachers day than instruction. Lesson planning, responding to email by email, offering office hours for questions, and (hopefully in your case) setting up a way to accept payments. All of these little time sucks add up over the period of a week or month.
Are You Only Doing it for the Money? Money is fantastic and makes life easier. Make no mistake about that. But is the dream of making easy money the primary motivation for putting on a class? Then you might want to try something else.
You can make good money with low expenses by doing a course. But it’s not as easy as it seems when you watch a YouTube video. It will require days if not weeks to create a course outline, dive into the specifics of what you specifically plan to teach in each class, creating materials (written content, video, audio), and of course marketing the course. Believe it or not, many successful class creators spend more time selling the course than teaching it.
Unless you have a strong motivation to help others learn a particular subject that goes beyond making a few bucks there other strategies that will get you there faster than doing a class.
Will People Pay for Your Class? Good news! People will pay for cake decorating and general baking classes (beginner, intermediate, advanced). People will also pay for things like BBQ or other cooking classes. There’s a proven market for these kinds of courses so you’re on the right track here.
But you won’t be able to sell every class idea possible. In the past, I spoke with an entrepreneur trying to create and sell a class on how to make artisan popsicles. But this person was struggling to get anyone in the class and couldn’t figure out why.
The main problem (in my opinion) is there was no market for that particular type of class. In other words, no students wanted to learn how to make gourmet popsicles! It doesn’t matter how good you are at marketing or how terrific your course is. It’s really hard to sell something people don’t already want or realize they have a need for.
Don’t beat yourself up too bad if your first or second class idea isn’t a winner though. Anyone with a full class has probably had a half-dozen planned trainings that no one attended outside of close family. It’s frustrating, but it happens to everyone.
The Art of Listening for Winning Class Ideas
The funny thing about coming up with a winning class idea is that you actually don’t need to come up with something unique or even on your own. Instead of brain-storming class topics, you should stop, listen, and think of ways to solve other people’s current problems with your class.
Join Baking Facebook Groups: Private groups in Facebook are an excellent resource for listening to other bakers challenges. Michelle recommends joining a few groups to understand the common problems that your audience has. Big problems like making cloud-like buttercream frosting could be a major struggle to this market.
Listen to People You Know: If you’ve got friends or family members trying to accomplish the same objective as a class you want to teach, listen to their struggles. The struggle is where you can uncover a winning class idea.
Research on Amazon: A simple way to confirm there’s people that want to learn what you’re teaching is to see if there’s books on the same subject being sold on Amazon. If there isn’t a book already covering the topic you want to create a course around it’s a sign there’s no market for the topic.
Once you find a book topic that’s covered on Amazon (there are plenty on baking tips) then look to the negative reviews for that piece. See what people are saying is the gap in the book or what could be improved. You can take this feedback and use it to make your home-based class even better. Michelle credits the author Ramit Sethi with this approach.
Creating a Baking Class Outline
At this point, let’s say you’ve identified two classes you think people will be interested in attending. One on Beginning Cake Decorating 101 and a second on Christmas Cake Pops due to the upcoming holiday season. The next step is to create an outline for the course.
You can think of a class outline, sort of like the syllabus for the class you plan to teach. It’s easiest if you start out with a bulleted list of all the subtopics students will learn during the session.
An introductory baking class outline could be as simple as the following:
- An overview of baking
- The Ingredients of a Baker (Eggs, Butter, Yeast, Sugar)
- Popular baked goods (cookies, cakes, breads)
Keep in mind that you will have serious time constraints. A two-hour class might seem long, but time flies once you get to work. There’s only so much content you can get through in each class and you’ll want to leave extra time for student questions or special help. If you have a complex topic then you’ll want to break the class into multiple weeks.
Be sure to identify who this class is for in the class description as well. You can run introductory courses for beginners and specialty courses on the art of the croissant for advanced students. This is important for expectation setting and will lead to happier students.
There are two big benefits to creating a course outline. First, you’ll be confident in knowing exactly what you plan to teach each day. Second, you can use the outline to help sell your cooking class. Feel free to publish the outline and course description on your website so prospective students know the details.
Building a List of Potential Students
Now that you’ve got a class outline created along with a web page or flyer that describes what people will learn in your class, it’s time to figure out who might actually want to buy it.
Related Reading: How a Culinary Student Built a $26k/Month Pastry Shop
In the ideal situation, you’ve already have ideas of who might want to enroll in your class. If you own a pastry shop, maybe you’ve got some customers that have told you they’d love to learn how to make a wedding cake like the one you did for the Johnson family. Maybe you’ve got a blog or Instagram account with a few followers interested in what you do.
Email Marketing: Sending emails to people that might want to join your class remains an effective way to get the work out. You can encourage people to join your email list by letting people know that they’ll be the first to know about your classes here. Michelle uses MailChimp to send updates and information about her classes.
Social Media: Everyone is on social media. This is a way to market your business for free with nothing more than sweat equity. Tell your followers and fans about your upcoming classes.
Guerrilla Marketing Tactics: There are all sorts of ways to get creative about getting the word out about your class. Think about where your target market hangs out. Put up flyers in community centers where other food classes are held. Tell people in Facebook groups that you have an online class for sale in a non-spammy way. Use sidewalk chalk to get the word out in a high-traffic area of your community. If you own a bakery, tell your customers about the classes.
Michelle stresses the importance of building a list of potential students before selling the course in today’s interview. This is a critical step because you can’t have a successful class without students.
How to Sell a Cake Decorating Class
If this is your first class, one of the scariest things about launching your own program is going through the process of selling it to students. This is where the rubber meets the road. The icing hits the cupcake. The cake gets baked. This is where you will soon find out if anyone wants to take the class you’re selling.
What makes Michelle’s process so great is that you don’t need a BA in computer technology to start accepting payments for a class. Michelle makes it super easy by essentially putting a buy button and writing a brief description of the class. You can see exactly how this looks at Michelle’s course directory.
Assuming you don’t want to take payments for your class in person with cash or a personal check, you’ll also need to setup something called a payment processor. These are affordable and easy to use. Michelle uses PayPal to sell classes. PayPal is free to use, but will take a small commission each time you make a sale. It’s totally worth it for the easy of use and will allow you to create buttons and links for free on your website so people can pay online. You can also create an account with EventBrite if you plan to teach in-person classes.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to be teaching the class from your home or even online, make sure to limit the number of students that can participate. If you are doing the class in your house, you’ll have a limited amount of space so five students may be all you can handle.
In addition to making sure you don’t book more students than you have space there’s a psychology benefit to limiting the number of students in any given class. It creates a sense of urgency that students need to enroll now or potentially miss out on the opportunity to learn from you.
What Format of Class Will You Create?
After you’ve come up with the class idea and outline it’s time to establish the best format to present this information to students. Here are a few ideas that discussed in the audio lesson:
- 30 Day Course: You can write a series of emails that provides a piece of advice each day for students. These emails can be automated in an email service like MailChimp. This is a terrific way to start out with an online course.
- In-House: Invite people into your home kitchen for a couple of hours. This is an intimate and easy way to get started with classes. Keep these classes small unless you’ve got a large kitchen.
- Online Video Course: With tools like Facebook Live and YouTube Live you can conduct a live course from your home kitchen with nothing more than an iPhone.
What Should You Charge?
If you’ve never held a class before figuring out what exactly to charge can be a challenge. You might also be stressed out that people aren’t going to get enough value from your class to be able to charge $50, $75, $100, or $200 per student, per class. After all… Can’t everyone just learn this stuff on YouTube for free anyway?
First off, if you’re stressed about not providing enough value… You shouldn’t be. Don’t feel bad about it. If you’re planning to teach an artisan pie baking class, you’ve probably invested years mastering your craft, perfecting the crust, and refining the recipe. You’ve invested years of time and energy to master a skill that other people want to learn. You deserve to be compensated for sharing the secrets to a blue-ribbon pie.
Second, by offering a class you’re delivering a much different experience than someone that’s selling a book or teaching on YouTube. Your meeting with them in a more personal setting (whether that’s in your house or on Webcam). You’re able to answer their questions directly. Your students have direct access to pick your brain and get to know you, unlike other forms of teaching. You can provide them with direct feedback so they don’t need to spend time guessing.
Bottom line, you’re worth it. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to charging money for a class.
With that being said you can check to the local rates for baking classes in your area by heading to EventBrite.com. In this case enter the keyword “baking” into the search bar and see the similar classes in your area. I live in California and the most common cost for a two hour baking class is between $50 – $150 for a two hour class. Longer 6 – 8 week classes will charge between $1,000 – $2,000 per student.
Referring to the prices of comparable cooking classes in your local area is a good place to start if you’ve never charged for a class before. Remember, prices aren’t set in stone and it makes good business sense to test increasing the average price per student over time as your name grows.
As you can see, you really can create a profitable class around all sorts of baking topics. This is a subject many people are passionate about learning and mastering. As long as you can build a list of interested students and are qualified to teach the subject, there is proven demand for classes on the topic.
But as you’ve hopefully learned in the interview and post putting together a successful class of any size is going to require a lot of work and planning to execute well. Make sure your goals and expectations are in the right place before embarking on this journey.