Put Underutilized Skills to Work by Teaching with Dabble


You don’t have to go far to find a PhD tending bar or a bachelor’s degree holder folding clothes at a retail shop. In fact, a recent study by the non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity reveals that nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are working jobs that they are overqualified for. According to the study, the problem is that the number of college graduates (41.7 million) in the workforce is now larger than the number of jobs requiring a college degree (28.6 million).

So how can we put our professionally honed skills to work to earn a bit of extra cash on the side? One option is to share those skills through Dabble, an online platform that connects students and teachers in real life. Dabble currently offers classes in a handful of U.S. cities – classes that run the gamut from Indian Cooking 101 to Basic Bicycle Maintenance and Make Your Own Piñatas.

The classes are a great way to learn a new trick or two, and if you have a specialized skill of your own, Dabble can help you share that skill and earn a bit of extra cash in the process. Teachers don’t need any formal training to teach. In fact, all you have to do is submit your idea to Dabble, prepare your lesson plan and, last but not least, teach. Listing classes is free, and teachers receive 75% of the total ticket cost. Dabble recommends charging $20-$60 plus materials for classes.

We spoke with the company’s co-founder Erin Hopmann to get the scoop on how teachers can put those underutilized skills to work by teaching and earning with Dabble.

What kind of background do teachers usually have in their subject matter?

EH: It varies, really. Our teachers fit a few different profiles. There are formally trained teachers, but we also have a lot of “everyday experts” who may not have formal training at all. Hobbyists are common, too. We also have people who use Dabble as a marketing program for their business, for example a coffee roaster who invites students in for a roasting lesson to show off the product or space.

What makes an online class listing appealing?

EH: Classes have to be specific enough to fit into one session, but not too specific. You want a good combination of both, kind of like when you sit down to write a paper. We also encourage teachers to find something hands-on rather than lectures.

Be sure to kick off your online class description by mentioning what students will walk away with, as well as any prerequisites that they might need. For example, if someone has never picked up a knitting needle, is your class a good fit?

What sorts of classes tend to sell?

EH: It’s funny…when we first had the idea a few years ago we thought hobbies like art, painting and foreign languages would be the focus. But really, classes have run the gamut from things we would have expected to trendy stuff like terrariums, kimchi and beer brewing. There’s a definite long tail effect – core classes do well but lesser known ones also make it.

Do teachers often return to teach again?

EH: We’re really lucky in that we have a pretty loyal teacher base. I don’t have an exact statistic, but I think it’s about 60% of people who come back and teach again. And as teachers get more experience and reviews, they are able to up their class prices.

Do you have any tips for maximizing profit as a teacher?

EH: We have a teacher who has taught with us many times – she’s actually a full-time teacher who does a few Dabble classes on the side. She encourages new teachers to keep going – even if your first shot doesn’t go well, try again and make a few tweaks to the class.

Also, don’t overprice or underprice yourself; browse through comparable classes to find the right number. In terms of the class itself, start slower. Don’t try to take on too many students at once, and don’t try and cover too much. After the class, make an effort to communicate with people. Act interested in knowing how you did, and read and comment on student reviews.

If you’re interested in teaching a class with Dabble, get more information and start the process here. And for more tips on earning extra cash, check out our full e-conomy series.

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