How to Move Your Classes or Programs Online – Tips for Small Businesses
For most businesses, it is time to rework … everything? Adapting to coronavirus is challenging, especially if your livelihood relies on in-person interactions or you don’t have an existing online setup for your business. If you’re reeling, feeling uncertain, and don’t know where to start, hopefully it’s slightly comforting to know you’re not alone.
It’s been incredible to witness the nimble, creative ways small businesses have responded and adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic. To name one inspiring example out of likely millions:
Practical Martial Arts, run by husband-and-wife duo Mike and Karen Valentine, is a dojo in California, which like many regions around the world, is in a shelter-in-place zone. It’s been in business 27 years, teaching boxing, kickboxing, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, and self-defense, with a side of life lessons to hundreds of students of all ages.
On Saturday, March 14, the school closed its doors at the recommendation of the CDC and state officials in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. By Monday, the shelter-in-place order had gone into effect. Tuesday, the family-run operation took to their basement for their very first livestream class on Facebook. By Wednesday, the teachers posted nine videos to the dojo’s social media pages to keep their students engaged and working toward their next belt. By Thursday, they had upgraded their operation a tad, with the help of a couple volunteers, and successfully hosted four live classes of 25 gleeful students each via online conferencing platform Zoom.
“Self defense is about adapting and anticipating your opponent’s next move. And that’s what we’re trying to do,” owner, black belt, and now social media rockstar Karen Valentine said. “It’s empowering in a time that feels so unsettled and so uncertain.” A week before it ran several online classes, Practical Martial Arts didn’t have a video strategy or an online conferencing platform, and the couple was terrified about what the stay-at-home order meant for their beloved business, their customers, and their employees. But in a couple days they were able to pivot. And you can, too.
If you’re looking to offer online versions of your in-person business or are simply looking to connect online while we ride this out, below are some tips and resources to help you go virtual, too.
Pick a Streaming or Meeting Platform
You’ll need to decide if you want your online yoga class, workout, or study group to be private or discoverable to folks on social media. There are lots of apps and tools for meeting online or streaming videos to platforms, each with its own set of features. Here are the apps our community is using most often.
- Zoom: The preferred platform for small businesses. Best if you want to host a large number of participants for webinars and video conferencing. Note that Zoom is Hippa-compliant, making it the preferred option for health professionals. However, your region may have regulations in place around how mental health professionals can practice teletherapy.
- Google Meet: A good option for those who want to use other applications in tandem with video conferencing. It’s integrated into many Google products and allows you to take advantage of your G Suite subscription at no additional cost.
- Re.Stream: Perfect for the business or individuals who want views, but are ok with a lack of privacy, this app allows you to stream across 30 social networks at once!
- Adobe Connect: Adobe is offering a free 90-day trial in light of current events. Adobe Connect is an enterprise solution that allow employees to join meetings, virtual conferences, and trainings from their homes, where they can continue to be productive and socially engaged. Government agencies, school districts, or any company dealing with sensitive information have also found Adobe Connect to be helpful thanks to its extensive security measures.
- Houseparty: A web and mobile app that allows you to see everyone’s face at once and even play games together. Perfect for playgroups, supervised kid entertainment, and connecting with friends and family.
- Teachable: Has everything you need to create, host, and sell an online course. It handles everything from the concept all the way to the payment process.
Set Up a Process for Collecting Payments
If you don’t already have an online payment system, consider asking clients to pay via Paypal, Stripe, or Venmo. Upon receipt, send them a link to where they can log on to join the conference call or virtual hangout. You could also set up a Patreon account to monetize your content offerings on an ongoing basis.
Payment Apps to Consider
- Paypal: One of the more widely known and trusted platforms in the ecommerce industry. Many of your clients will already have their own account. It does not require sign-in for payment.
- Stripe: Offers a globally integrated payment gateway. Stripe becomes most necessary when you are ready to set up payment renewal, whereas the other two do not offer this option.
- Venmo: Venmo has made a name for itself for being easy to use and give you quick access to your funds, all on mobile. The main thing to note is that Venmo is only available for your clients in the US.
- Patreon: Designed specifically to make it easier for artists and creators to get paid. It’s a crowdfunded membership-based platform.
Get the Word Out
Another important part of the success of your move online is to get your customers on board! Make sure you’re communicating the when, where, and how–and even the why! This is a great time to rally your most devoted customers and provide a service of connection. People need to move, interact, and connect more than ever before. Adobe Spark templates allow SMBs to blast the word out on social media, via text, email, or on your website.
Don’t Forget to Record the Virtual Class to Promote Later
You could potentially earn more income by offering the recording to those who couldn’t make the live hangout. Simply hit record on your meeting or use your preferred screen-recording technology. This allows your customers flexibility and gives you the potential to build a passive revenue stream. Consider offering different price structures for your live and recorded classes if your clients are considering tightening their budgets.
Amy Copperman is editor and community manager at Adobe.