7 Money Mistakes World-Changing Teachers Make

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Today’s guest contributor is my friend, Jennifer Louden. Jennifer is a best-selling author of six books, teacher, and a “curious soul who is learning how to savor and serve the world these days.” She teaches an on-line program with Michele Lisenbury Christensen called Teach Now.

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Information overload is a constant these days. But transformation overload? Obstacle removal overload?  Never gonna happen!

We need teachers and guides: What do I eat? How do I raise happy, kind kids? How can I be more peaceful? We’re a curious hungry bunch these days.

Which is good news for all you know-it alls teachers out there. You have information learning we’re hungry for. You know how to help us turn “good ideas” into bright new realities. And we want to pay you for what you know.

Only sometimes, perhaps, you find yourself not being paid. I’m with you! Here is what I’ve learned to help us stumble a bit less.

Psstt… this isn’t just about making more money – it’s way bigger. When you make your way of serving sustainable for you – financially and energetically – you will serve more, better, and easier.  That will help more people. That’s really good news.

The 7 Most Common Money Mistakes and Their Antidotes

1. Not charging enough

Do you fear being sucked dry? Do you find yourself feeling too tired or overwhelmed to get the word out? Once teaching, do you feel resentful when a student asks for some extra attention? Sirens! Flashing lights! Time to up your price or adjust your boundaries.

Undercharging hurts your students more than it hurts you, because you aren’t properly resourced to teach. So you either don’t get the word out or you don’t serve your students, thus not building your tribe in a way that works for everybody.

Antidote: examine your beliefs about what your work is worth and give time to pricing like you do content development.

2. Charging too much

This is where you decide, “So-and-so is charging a small fortune, and I have far more experience, richer content, better hair, so I should charge that, too.” Ego, pride and comparison are not great pricing strategies. You’ll know you’ve been charging too much if you aren’t getting buyers, you have to sell your face off or it feels that only a fraction of your students will get what they need to, given what they paid.

Antidote:  Settle in, let go of any sense of entitlement or outrage or fear (even just a bit), and check in with your heart. What feels fair to you? To your students? Not comfortable, not collapsed, not taking care of the world but fair.

3. Scheduling a class but not filling it

Otherwise known as “I told people once, why didn’t they register?” Yesterday, I was on the street in my little town and saw a poster for an upcoming barn dance. Fun! But with no website listed, my interest probably won’t translate into attendance. You’ve read a million things about marketing but are you skipping the basics?

Antidote: Tell your people six to seven times over a period of at least two months. Tell them about only that offer. Make the what, where, when and how to pay super clear. Include a refund policy. Keep telling your people, different people, and more people, till your class is full.

4. Cramming too much material in

“Appropriate dosing” means giving your students just the right amount of learning and giving them time to digest. Yes, you are in love with your content – it’s brilliant, I know – and you want to share it all! Doesn’t work, not for learning, not for making a living.

Think about your students. What size group would serve their learning? What length of time can they concentrate for? How much time are they able to devote?  How complex is the material?

Antidote: Step away from your content and consider your students. Get intimate with their needs.

5. Not creating a progression of offerings

If you’ve been doing appropriate dosing, then students are going to be left a little hungry. Are you ready to offer them the next bite? If not, you are leaving them in a learning lurch (sorry for the mixed metaphors)

Part of making a good living – and being a great teacher – is stepping up with your next offer.

Antidote: When designing a course, keep a notebook of ideas for next offer (often the stuff you can’t shoehorn in), and be ready to tell your current class in a way that serves their hunger to learn.

6. Reinventing the wheel each time you teach

Also known as “I taught this once, now I’m bored” or “It didn’t go perfectly, so back to the drawing board.” If boredom is your weakness, try leaving plenty of room for Q&A so you can riff. Remind yourself that it may not be new for you, but it is for your students. Be sure and document by recording your teaching, and have a friend take notes.  Use this documentation to repeat the class without allowing yourself to invent more than 10%-20% new material. Consider creating a “home study kit” so your knowledge can earn income without your repeating it over and over.

If you’re running the “I suck and should never teach again” story” – a personal favorite of mine – read The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer. Present your evidence that you should never teach again to a trusted friend or coach. Seriously, what are the facts? Did someone die from your faulty teaching? If not, take that material, tune it up and teach it again immediately! Even if you have to teach it to your pets.

Antidote: Bright shiny and new is fun for the you but needs to be tempered with care for your students.

7. Not establishing a concrete take-away

Each and every class – and sections within a class – needs a take-away. Ask your students to name what it is for them, then reflect back what you heard. The human mind remembers most what it hears last so end with a summary and a call to action – what do you want your students to do? The biggest reason you might resist doing this? You are afraid there isn’t a take-away. The only way to know if there is? Ask.

Antidote: Be in vulnerable dialogue. Be open to your students take-aways. Design your material to help those take-aways happen in the future.

Teaching makes my heart expand to fill the universe
And it makes me want to hide under the bed. That’s normal – every teacher struggles with loving it and hating it, triumphing and crashing. Every single teacher.

What’s not normal is being poor and not reaching the kind and quantity of people you want to reach.  Think of addressing these mis-steps as part of your learning as a teacher. Employ your natural curiosity to these areas and you will earn more money, and be of greater service. I’ll be doing the same.

Now please, tell me your take-away in the comments.

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Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of six books, teacher, and curious soul who is learning how to savor and serve the world these days. She teaches an on-line program with Michele Lisenbury Christensen called Teach Now.


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52 responses

52 responses to “7 Money Mistakes World-Changing Teachers Make”

  1. Thanks Jonathan for sharing this and for being you.

  2. Jeremy Long says:

    Great info! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great article, Jennifer. Really appreciate the insights and I’m visiting your site right now.

  4. As someone who has spent over a decade teaching software and who now does online blog coaching, all I can say is: “Home run!”

    Well, that’s not all I can say, but I’d start to sound redundant. 🙂

  5. Thanks Jennifer. Your balanced approach is perfect for me. Charge enough, but don’t be a piggy. Give people what you’ve got, but not all at once. Show them how to find you and join in the learning.

  6. Nona Parry says:

    Thank you, Jen, for this very useful and clear article!
    My takeaway is I can move Byron Katie’s The Work in the world in a sustainable way — and it will take trial and error to discover that way, and that’s OK. I don’t have to do it “perfectly” from day one, and I will will get better at it if I am Willing to Learn.

  7. Christopher says:

    Took the last 2 months to finish “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Realizing that I want to earn based on what I give, based on my ability. Appreciate your first two mistakes, especially because I’m guilty of the first.

    To move the world, you have to provide a force to move it. Teaching is a great way to do that.

    Thank you Jennifer.

  8. Really liked the summary. Of all of those issues above, how much to charge may be my hardest one. Don’t want to undersell but then again I also don’t want to price myself out of the range of the kind of new startups and enterprises that often have little resources. Tricky.

    I also really appreciate the “given them an assignment”. Amazing how few speakers leave the audience with a “what to do next” and without that–the talk is just that–talk.

    Thanks.

    Kendall

  9. Elissa says:

    Loved this Jen, and thanks Jonathan for the guest series.

    WHY do we make these mistakes? I think many of us enjoy invisible superhero status – making our clients successful from behind the scenes is far comfier than getting visible.

    It’s as if we slow ourselves down with obvious mistakes like these in a misguided attempt to get some control over it.

    Luckily we can make these mistakes and more and still have success…if you can’t avoid them – you’re in good company.

  10. Brava, Jennifer. It’s not been put like this before and these are brilliant insights. Well said and helpful!

  11. HeatherO says:

    Great post Jonathan. The pricing issue is huge (not just for teachers). The big challenge (IMO) clarifying the value. In other words, when you’ve put it in front of 10,000 eyeballs and no one signs up, there is clearly a problem. The price doesn’t ‘jive’ with the perceived value. The question then becomes whether the value isn’t there, or if it wasn’t articulated well?

    • well said! I have often fallen into that hole – with book launches, programs, etc. I often get very frustrated at having to put into words what i offer — so yes, the value can be there but we can’t always see it or put it into language. Cue copy writers.

  12. Jennifer,
    Long-time fan and reader of your books. So happy to see you here on one of my favorite blogs! Perfect fit all around. 🙂

    My takeaway from your post (without looking back to cheat) is that you need to design your course, your materials, and your pacing to fit your students.

    I’m in the midst of transforming myself and my business in a way that will definitely involve more teaching. I have been coming face-to-face with all the demons you allude to above (and I’ve heard you speak of on calls), but one of my biggest epiphanies has been realizing how much of my knowledge I take for granted.

    Big Mistake.

    When I take my knowledge for granted, two things happen:
    1. I either skip over it or fly through it with students – which doesn’t serve them well, and/or
    2. I don’t assign it the value it deserves – which tempts me giving it away.

    I’m no expert, but my advice to all newbie teachers like me is to take a deep breath and step back … all the way back to the very beginning. Teach what you know (even the very basics … sometimes most importantly the very basics!) with care and thought. And listen – listen to the questions your students ask in order to find the “holes” in your curriculum and opportunities for new products and programs.

    Thanks, Jennifer. Love your wrap-up of these 7 mistakes. I’ve popped this post into my Evernote files for future perusal!
    🙂

    • Jamie, so well said, I must quote you for Teach Now – that’s exactly it. and a very good lesson for me to remember, too. Good to be connected.

      • Quote away!
        Just signed up for your preview call. Can’t make it live 🙁 because I’m in mid-move (to a 300 yr-old antique!) and will be CRAZED this week & next, BUT can’t wait to curl up with a cup of tea and your recording once I’m settled. Hope it goes well & I’ll see you on the other side.
        🙂

  13. caitlyn says:

    For those who didn’t see the neon sign around the name “Parker Palmer”, let me say it again. “The Courage to Teach” is breath-taking. A true teachers teacher, not a guru, not snippets and sound bites. This is a book to make you cry and believe … all at once.

    And, Jennifer, I think this is what you were telling us about. Deep, meaningful, and valued teaching.

  14. Jennifer, great to meet the teacher who teaches the teachers.

    At one time or another, I have been guilty of all 7 mistakes. Getting bored is a big one for me too:-)

    Another one in the past was not to even get started, something about being too scared to let my light shine. Maybe that should be the first step – get started!

    I just visited your website and have signed up for the introductory class. Thanks for a great post.

  15. Amy Oscar says:

    Well, that was important. Having just launched a book and, two weeks later, a blog series, I am right in the sweet spot for this kind of information – and I’ve found ‘takeaway’ in almost all of it. Thanks, Jonathan for presenting this post from one of my favorite teachers. Thanks, Jen, as always, for sharing your wisdom with an open heart. <3

  16. Excellent, concise guest post, Jennifer!

    My take-away is that you need to work with students who care, really care! That way, a dynamic, meaningful curriculum practically creates itself with the right directed action coming from yourself in concert with your students.

    When you position the teachings in a way that has everybody learning – you about your students’ needs, the students about the knowledge you provide – you can’t lose.
    Thank you for your wisdom!

    Peter

  17. nora says:

    Though the entire post was useful, my big takeaway has to be this:
    “Teaching makes my heart expand to fill the universe
    And it makes me want to hide under the bed. That’s normal – every teacher struggles with loving it and hating it, triumphing and crashing. Every single teacher.”

    I’m SO glad to hear that. I experience this each and every time I go into a classroom, and I know it sounds strange, but I seriously thought it was just me.

  18. John Sherry says:

    I think when we make a real contribution of ourselves and what we bring to life, we activate a strong contribution back in return, chiefly in financial ‘rewards’. It’s like some unwritten law of nature. Love the vibe here Jennifer. Be brilliant!

  19. Anne Wayman says:

    Excellent, and timely for me. As I move more into giving webinars I think I’ll post a paper copy of this where I can see it often.

    And it’s got some wonderful criteria for my freelance writers too – for working with clients.

    Thanks

  20. Sukhi says:

    Thanks Jennifer! Really enjoyed this post.

    Deep, meaningful and high value service is what it’s about. Pouring our hearts into it and not being afraid to ask in return to stay in balance. Let’s not overindulge nor deplete ourselves. Will be checking out your site this evening.

    Keep rockin it!

  21. Kat Tansey says:

    Loved the part about teaching it to our pets. I have always tried out my material with my cats. They listen, don’t judge, just allow me to work things out for myself:) Great post, I’m putting together a new webinar series and I learned a lot from it. Thanks!

  22. Clare says:

    Fabulous post. Do you all know that Jennifer is teaching in the Pacific Northwest this fall here at Hollyhock (www.hollyhock.ca)? Find out more here: http://www.hollyhock.ca/cms/index.cfm?Group_ID=4698. Scholarships are available.

  23. LaurieR says:

    Jennifer, I love this article! It’s a fantastic summary of I what I learned in your TeachNOW course last fall (which, by the way, is the best eCourse I have ever taken)! You and Michele model everything you describe above in this course. I have signed up again! This course beautifully modeled “appropriate dosing” … the teleclass formats were diverse and experiential (not simply didactic lecture/presentations) … the recorded interviews with revered and highly effective teachers were amazing! If teaching is part of your work, and you have experienced any of the above challenges, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I am saving this article too. Thanks Jen and Jonathan.

  24. WOOHOO! I am teaching my first class with my newest group of ideal students this coming Thursday night. I got so many takeaways that apply RIGHT NOW while i am in the preparation stage
    1. Don’t try to cram it all in
    2. Have a call to action and prepare the students for what is next
    3. Ask them what they need and want and what they got (and do it in a way that they truly feel safe and understand the value of giving honest answers)
    This was a REALLY REALLY helpful post, Thank you J and J!

  25. Marie davis says:

    I taught adult art classes for 12 years and I’m happy to say I used each of those principals and ran successful booming classes until was ready to do something else. Take it from someone who knows, each of these ideas are excellent!

  26. AJ Leon says:

    Great post, Jennifer, thanks for the insight. This speaks to something I am working on right now so thank you. 🙂

  27. Jennifer, thank you for your on target post with the seven ingredients. honest, helpful,expanding. Kudos and gratitude to Jonathan too for letting you share your wisdom.

  28. Ed Gandia says:

    Excellent post, Jennifer. Numbers 5 and 6 are especially overlooked by many, including myself at times!

  29. “What’s not normal is being poor and not reaching the kind and quantity of people you want to reach.”

    I love this post! What a gift. I’m at a cross-roads right now with my teaching opportunities and this post has given me the encouragement to start brainstorming about my next six months of offerings. In the past, I’ve gotten so burned out getting one class/program off the ground I just want to recover instead of moving on the next. And I find myself thinking that the next offering will magically appear in my mind if I knock the current one out of the park. Having a detailed progression in writing might make it a lot easier to pace myself. And that relaxation is always good for the work (and life).

    Thank you!

  30. Julica says:

    Brilliant, Jen. Thank you, Jonathan.

    My take away is “don’t reinvent the wheel b/c you’re bored.” Stay with it, and keep plugging away at marketing basics.

    But more importantly, what speaks to me about this post, Jen, is how aligned it feels, how it focuses on working from our hearts. Our best work comes from this centered space, I believe.

    And I echo caitlyn’s enthusiasm for Courage to Teach. It rocks.

  31. Very useful advice, Jennifer! I find your tips very inspiring as well as assuring. I’ve a teacher inside me but he’s afraid to step out. But your words are luring him out although not entirely. Thank you!

  32. Julie Daley says:

    Jen,

    My take=away? You are a brilliant teacher! Your post is a teaching and an example of my take-away, even in a form that can be so difficult to be relational.

    okay. My take-away is teaching is a relational, co-creative process. (Like coaching) It only works when the relationship between teacher student(s) is alive and active, is considered on all fronts, is honored as the most powerful channel for learning and transformation for everyone concerned. Teaching is a relational model- the more relational we can make it, the more powerful it is (including pricing, marketing, etc.)

    Love,

    Julie

  33. Dianna Duke says:

    I love this post in its entirety, but particularly the parts that touch on the angst of those who choose the “helping professions”, and their striving for both
    authenticity and perfection.

    Perfection is an evolving pathway and one that is difficult to ignore when we are putting our very essence out into the world with our work. But it can, as you
    so beautifully suggest, become a lesser goal in favor of taking inspired action.

    Authenticity, however, is never an option. The more we touch into the very core of our being for what feels right (financial exchange) and the importance of what we have to share — however shaky the steps to presentation mastery — the more juicy (and refreshingly downhill) our journey becomes.

    Thanks for this post that contains a number quotable quotes!

  34. This was so helpful, Jennifer. I think my blind spot was revealed – mistake #5 – having the next offer in place. Doh!

    Full of great ideas and in your great style, gently told so one doesn’t feel chastised! 🙂

  35. Great post, Jennifer. I teach a lot and it’s helpful to be reminded of these points.

    I appreciate the Parker Palmer resource and the #7 reminder. If someone mentions that they got a lot out of a workshop or class, I always ask what THE most valuable piece of info was for them. I need to be more proactive and ask everyone.

  36. This is a great post for me today as I work on my next workshop. Even though its so tempting to cram every bit of knowledge I want to share with my audience (so they really walk away with so much!), it really IS important to remember #4. If you pace the information for the group, it really gives them time to digest it and then be ready for more. A timely reminder, thank you!

  37. Thank you Jonathan and Jennifer. I couldn’t have read this post at a more perfect time…my first group workshop is Saturday and I am really excited but sort of freaking out.

    • Kristin, trust yourself. Most important advice. And we just did the free first class for Teach Now – it would be really calming and helpful to listen to.

  38. Hugh says:

    Great post. My takeaway from this is to teach with your audience in mind. Just like writing, you have to constantly think of how your teaching will be received and how it will benefit the audience. Audience-centric, not self-centric.

  39. This was a great post, I feel very contributed to. I’m ready to get back on the teaching horse so these words of wisdom could not have come at a better time. Many thanks to both of you!