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Amanda Farough

Web Designer & Developer

13

2

violetminded Labs - Technical Training for Technophobes

Technical training for the technophobe has long been a hobby of mine. I've been helping people fix everything from computers to printers to software pretty much my whole life. It pains me to think that there are folks out there that are too scared or inexperienced to start their own digital businesses because they lack the technical training to bootstrap themselves into Version 1.

So.

This is where I come in.

20+ years working with computer hardware, software, and various bits 'n bobs of gadgetry is more than adequate for teaching folks how to use the tools they need to start and run their digital businesses. (Without having to spring for a tech guy at every turn.)

Business Model: Freemium. Folks that want mo' training can opt-in for more. Folks that need the bare minimum can get that for free. The premium folks will fund the free content, which will eventually fund the violetminded Beta Tech Lab. (More on that later.)

Who's it for? Small business owners and technically-challenged digital entrepreneurs. These are the people that started their own businesses because the alternative was too ick (read: employment = BLEH) to stomach. They're light-hearted, fun, and love to learn. Even though technology isn't in their comfort zones, they're excited to learn from someone who's excited to teach.

Assets: Hosting, website, and preliminary content are all in the works. Purchased an ongoing subscription with Vimeo to upload all of the screencasts. For gadgetry tutorials, I'll need a camera, a tripod, some small scale lighting equipement, and a space to shoot in.

Hiring/Help: For the now, it's just me. Because I'm already a digital business owner (have been for five years), I already have the technical know-how to set up everything from the website to the copy to the content. In the future, I'd like to hire a few people to help with the screencasts and training modules, especially for the free content.

The Hard Part: Getting the word out that this exists in the first place. After all, a quick Google search drums up free vids on YouTube for everything tech-related anyway. 

The Unique Part: The guys 'n gals making those videos are stuffy and boring. I am neither. Therefore, my training will be a one-two hit of entertaining and useful.

The Repeatables: Videos, man. Lots of 'em.

Freelancer vs. Entrepreneur

All these years, I've been a freelancer. As a Creative Director & Designer for violetminded Media, I make websites. I stop making websites and the money stops coming in (which I've seen more than once).

For violetminded Labs, I'm an entrepreneur. I'm developing systems and scripts and all kinds of beautiful things that will allow me to take a backseat and let the community grow and flourish with minimal interaction from me. At the beginning, I'll be creating a good portion of the tutorials until I get the process down to a science. (So I can hire out.)

Funding

For violetminded Labs (the digital version), I don't require funding at all. In fact, funding would be a royal pain in the you-know-where for something as ephemeral as digital training. 

For the violetminded Beta Tech Lab (a physical training facility), I'll be seeking funding for things like space, equipment, and additional humans to help bring it to life. However, this is a five-year-plan and the Beta Tech Lab doesn't play much into things until year three or four. (So, a while in the future.)

Hiring


Who are the first employees I need?
A bad-ass developer to make our system is slick, secure, and stylin'. A communication star(let) that will help us get the word out about violetminded Labs. And, finally, a web junkie to research, plan, and delegate all future training bits.

Where will I find them? Online and at rad conferences for techs, nerds, and recent grads.

Why would they join me? Because they believe in my end-game plan of the Beta Tech Lab and want to be part of something bigger than themselves.

How will I tell the good ones from the convenient ones? The good ones will act, talk, and function different from everyone else. They'll delight in their work and be incurable optimists that truly believe that they can change the world. Sure, they'll be excellent at their skillset of choice, but it's the attitude that'll rock my socks.

What's my funnel? Everyone I'm interested in hiring has to go through a project with me or, at the very least, has to execute a standard set of tasks at their usual contracted rate. From there, I give them more to do and see how they react with a larger load of work over a longer period of time. If they click with me (and the existing staff, if applicable) and they dig the long-term vision, they're in. It's another instance of a slow burn so it'll take a while to really bring them onboard. 

After hiring people, how will I evaluate them? Partly from afar -- measuring deliverables on time and budget, as well as observing communication. And partly through direct communication. Are they happy? How's their demeanor? Listen beyond words to really get into how they're adapting. Great attitude = great fit.

How long after starting will I give people a formal review? Three months. (Standard job probation.)

What's my approach to talking about the uncomfortable? Broach gently and follow up with direct, straight-talk. No coddling. No acting like a dick (or tolerating such behaviour). 

Am I asking people to do work that's been done before, or to explore the edges of a new universe? It's old hat presented in a new way. It's the WHY that sets this work apart.

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