How small businesses are using their expertise to sell virtual classes

The pandemic has encouraged a spike in demand for virtual learning materials as people are stuck at home and craving cultural stimulation. Entrepreneurs have stepped up to fill that need. But learning how to make the most money off your expertise online, especially if you sell services or experiences, can […]

  • The pandemic has encouraged a spike in demand for virtual learning materials as people are stuck at home and craving cultural stimulation. Entrepreneurs have stepped up to fill that need.
  • But learning how to make the most money off your expertise online, especially if you sell services or experiences, can be a struggle.
  • Four entrepreneurial ventures — Students of History, Rumble Boxing, Maestro Match, and Serrano Wines — all adjusted by figuring out ways to turn their expertise into a source of revenue.
  • These small businesses all employed different methods for their pivots, but their examples provide four blueprints for how to turn a skill set into revenue during the pandemic.
  • This is article is part of a series called Small Business Ingenuity, which is focused on helping small businesses digitally transform.

When the pandemic forced small businesses across the country to shut their doors, those that could sell their products online through ecommerce began promptly doing so. Small businesses that provided services, however, had to get more creative — finding ways to turn their expertise into revenue when in-person experiences were off-limits.

Thanks to advances in technology, turning a skill set into income has never been easier. Talented professionals with a knack for the camera can monetize their knowledge through platforms like YouTube, but the problem with selling only on YouTube is that it relies on generating massive audiences. This can be tricky for the non-famous. 

Luckily, using websites like Teachable, Kajabi, Udemy, and others, small businesses that sell services have been able to pivot to online offerings. These business-owners can create videos or other content, then charge customers per item or via subscription for access to their material. This way, entrepreneurs with a small but engaged following can leverage their client base into a meaningful stream of income. 

Business Insider spoke with four entrepreneurs who found success selling their expertise online. Below are tips on how to turn a skillset into an income.

Use platforms that make it easy to organize remote-friendly content for newly distanced professionals.

Luke Rosa, the founder of Students of History, started his online-resource-sharing business in 2012. He sells lesson plans for world history, US history, and US government classes through his Kajabi website, where teachers can use his lesson plans for $33/month or purchase an entire year’s worth of course material for $300.

Luke Rosa

Social studies teacher Luke Rosa created Students of History so other teachers could purchase pre-made lesson plans, an option that has become more popular due to the pandemic.

Luke Rosa


When the pandemic struck, Rosa quickly updated all of his lesson plans to accommodate remote and hybrid learning, though much of his material already existed in a digitally distributable format. To make the lessons more digestible for autonomous learning, Rosa trimmed them down to their essential components, focusing on communicating one key takeaway per session and minimizing the amount of time students spend listening to lectures.

He has nearly 1,500 paying customers, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider, though Rosa declined to share his total revenue. The pandemic has generated an unprecedented level of interest in Rosa’s resources, and his current customer base is the largest he has ever had. 

“Interest has steadily grown over the last five years, but this last year has just been ridiculous,” said Rosa. 

Livestreaming can help you recreate the experience you always offered, now in a remote-friendly way.

In 2016, Noah Neiman and his three cofounders opened their first boxing studio, Rumble Boxing, in New York City. The business expanded to 14 locations along the East and West Coasts, but when the pandemic struck, the small business pivoted to offering Instagram Live workouts. 

“Our inability to train our beloved clients live left us with a void,” Neiman told Business Insider. “We love to provide our clients with an incredible fitness experience that makes them feel physically challenged, and mentally amazing!”

Noah Neiman

Neiman launched RumbleTV in response to the pandemic, which allows him to charge customers for access to his videos and coaching.

Rumble Boxing


Neiman said Rumble saw hundreds of thousands of streams and countless messages from clients, thanking the company for helping them cope with their stress. 

The response pushed them one step further to start RumbleTV, a platform that allows Neiman to offer classes and coaching sessions for a fixed price or monthly subscription. 

Create a community aimed at remote learning together, and find friendly ways to monetize it.

Professional musicians had few reasons to be optimistic about their pandemic-era job prospects. COVID-19 forced venues to close almost immediately, and most performance spaces are still shuttered today, erasing a key source of revenue for bands and professional musicians.

In a pivot, musician Steve Whipple decided to create MaestroMatch, which offers lessons from world-class musicians at a safe distance. Quickly, says Whipple, other musicians flocked to the platform, looking to hawk their skills in exchange for a much-needed source of revenue.

“A lot of people are stuck at home,” Whipple told NPR. “So I thought if we could connect those two populations, you know, we’d help employ the musicians who don’t have work.”

In addition to offering lessons himself, Whipple also makes money by hosting the platform. A “Buy Me a Coffee” button follows users as they navigate through the website; when clicked, the button gives users an opportunity to tip Whipple for his efforts in creating and hosting the site. The tip function is an elegant way of avoiding a sign-up charge or revenue split, while still giving fans a way to put money directly in Whipple’s pocket. 

Add extra value to your product with a remote-friendly service.

When the pandemic forced winemakers Sarah and Brice Garrett to close their physical space, they knew that the decline in foot traffic would lead to a decrease in sales. Rather than simply push their wines online, the Garretts bundled their wines with tasting sessions. 

The small business, Serrano Wines, now offers a variety of packages for customers that include bulk orders of wine, wine-tasting sessions, discounts, exclusive tastings, and access to tours when the pandemic subsides. The tactic allows them to continue selling their physical product, but the service they offer adds extra value to the purchase. 

Plus, who better to explore Serrano Wines with than the people who made them? The knowledge that the duo offers in their wine-tasting sessions helps customers enjoy the wines more, as well as broadens their familiarity with fine wine.

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