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INTRO From Academia to Fastlania: Second Act in my Life

Discussion in 'Forum Introductions (Who are you!?)' started by Second Act, Oct 15, 2018.

  1. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Growing up in Brisbane, Australia, I always wanted to be a scientist. Well, that's not quite true, but it's the story I've told myself for years now. I loved learning things, loved doing experiments and despite hating the idea of 'fame' I thought it would be cool if my name was in one of those textbooks we would use at school. Buuut, I was also fascinated with money, business, entrepreneurship (didn't know it was called that back then), compound interest, the stock market and computers. I also knew I didn't want to be like everyone else - I wanted my life to be extraordinary. I'm sure that's not uncommon here!

    The great thing is, I got to do much of that. I excelled at university. I took a broad range of science subjects and intro programming. I tossed my mind between being a computer programmer or a research scientist. In the end, I fell in love with organic chemistry. I also reasoned that I "didn't want to be stuck in front of a computer all day" and I enjoyed the hands-on experimental side of organic chemistry. As an aside, ironically, as the years passed I eventually ended up being "stuck in front of a computer" anyway!

    I lived my dream. I applied to do a PhD at Cambridge in the UK and got in! To be honest, I was just as interested in the new opportunities to chase girls as the prestige of a big name degree. I loved most of it. It was hard work, but I loved taking on big challenges, expanding my horizons and the thrill of occasionally discovering something unexpected.

    I came back to Australia and eventually got a tenure-track position at a great uni. Settled down with a girlfriend, paid of my student debt and earning good money. The early years in academia were exactly what I wished for. I really didn't pay attention to money or my childhood entrepreneurial ambitions - the saying I kept in mind was "if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life". But things started to erode... As my research group grew, I had to be more strategic, more of a manager. Plus, it's totally true that the reward for success is more work! Working nights and weekends on lectures and grant proposals was killing me.

    Then, hooray! I was head-hunted for an academic role back in Brisbane with much less teaching load (for a period of time). We packed our bags and headed back to our home town. Things were great again. It was all about research and I re-claimed my nights and weekends. Things were good again. Bought a house, got a mortgage. New car.

    Then, a baby. Whoa, that changed things. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall, but once a kid is in your life, you start noticing so much more if your relationship with your wife isn't so great. I started resenting my work - it was keeping me away from being with my kid. Obscenely, at work, I was getting into negative habits. I would waste time on un-related hobby interests. I started playing the stock market. I learned to code and designed trading systems, thinking that if I could trade myself to a fortune, I could escape from a job that was already starting to feel more like a noose. And I hadn't even gone back to a regular teaching load...

    Child #2. OK, now things were even worse at home. Helicopter vs free'n'easy. So much conflict. Teaching workload started to climb. Research group shrinking. Funding drying up.

    To cut a long story slightly shorter, divorce happened a few years ago, but was way overdue. Best decision I ever made. The sense of freedom was amazing. And then, well before anyone else would think is reasonable, I met an amazing woman with whom everything is so easy and so 'right' it makes me see how a real, functional relationship can work!

    I throw myself back into my work, re-engage and rise to the challenge of bigger and bigger teaching loads by trying to innovate and be the best teacher I can possibly be. I take courses in web programming and a bunch of other things on Udemy and embrace technology in my teaching. I'm amazed at the new face of learning - a $10 course can give you all you need to be competent at a real skill. Unfortunately, it's too late to get my research career back on track - once you've fallen off the funding boat, it's so hard to get back on, and the headwinds at my university for attracting research students are just too strong.

    My enthusiasm starts to decline as the teaching continues to pile up. Well, it's not really the teaching, it's the admin associated with it. "Cost cutting" leaves the profs to do dirty work that anyone could do. I spent more time shuffling student names on excel spreadsheets than actually teaching. And then, a restructure. My mind had been heading this way already. They offer voluntary redundancies. I enquire, express interest and then accept. My payout, after taxes, is roughly equal to ~ 2 years living expenses. If I adapt my lifestyle and/or find additional income, I could stretch it for much longer.

    When I accepted the redundancy, I was a little nervous, but every time I talked to someone about it, there was genuine shock - they didn't expect I would be one of those to go. Every time a colleague, peer or supervisor says I'll be missed and I can see it's genuine, I feel more confident. When I first decided to leave, my mindset was framed by scarcity. How long can I make the money last? What is the minimum I would need to live if I pursue becoming an entrepreneur? How long do I give that approach before I would give it in and get a 'normal' job again.

    Slowly, though, I've been realising - there's no reason for me to have that scarcity mindset. Unscripted and Fastlane have been such a great boost to my mindset. F*ck you, I'm not going to aim to survive. I'm going to thrive. I'm getting into the Fastlane. I don't need to follow the scripts. Instead of limiting myself to what I have been, I'm opening my mind up to all the possible opportunities, and I know I have the skills and dedication to succeed. I really feel like this is the second act of my working life and the possibilities are exciting.

    The first scene of this second act of my life, I am producing online content for organic chemistry students. There's a big need and large market. One particular niche that I am targeting is North American pre-med students. They normally need to pass two semesters of organic chemistry to go to med school. There is a high failure rate - indeed, organic chemistry is often called the "weed out" course. Often the Professors teaching these courses are useless, and students are desperate to get external help to pass the course. I have a website - Organic Chemistry Explained and a YouTube channel. I aim to soon make an online course about one particular sub-topic that is often the most difficult for students to pass. My key differentiator is that I will have lots of interactive 'stuff' - 3D molecules that can be manipulated, web-based practice questions, etc. I also have an augmented reality (AR) app - MoleculAR that I will tie in with this. I also have a prototype Virtual Reality (VR) app for HTC Vive to work out a good strategy for.

    Beyond that and more courses, I see great potential for AR and VR in teaching and learning. At the start of next month, I'm taking a course in this area. My plan is to apply that to make some AR/VR courses or content for chemistry, then use the skills I develop to create a course about making AR/VR content - aimed at people with no coding experience.

    Technically, I have two further weeks with my employer, so I still don't have 100% of my time available to pursue my new goals, but I'm looking forward to it.

    Would love to hear any comments and feedback and I'm looking forward to absorbing much more from this forum in the months and years to come!
     
    karnn, evanascent, Filippos and 12 others like this.
  2. The Abundant Man
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    The Abundant Man Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    [​IMG]
     
  3. amp0193
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    amp0193 Legendary Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR Summit Attendee

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    Same thing happened here. Kids were a powerful motivator to leave my teacher career track as fast as possible.


    I think you're onto something good with the courses. Such a high barrier to entry, when you have to leverage 20 years of experience in the subject to be able to create the content. It sounds like you've found your niche!
     
  4. The Abundant Man
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    The Abundant Man Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    Will be using your Website and Youtube service even though I don't take Organic Chem
     
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  5. rogue synthetic
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    rogue synthetic * Not actually Rutger Hauer Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Great story.

    I'm in a similar boat right now, though I'm not nearly as far into the University Machine as you are... seeing lots of careerists blindsided by cost-cutting and restructuring, entirely unprepared for a more entrepreneurial spirit.

    It occurred to me several years ago that there wasn't much of a future there without adopting a Fastlane mindset -- and if you're going that far, why keep working for a bloated bureaucracy?

    I dig what you're doing here. Best of luck moving forward!
     
  6. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thanks for taking the time to respond!

    Yes! And it seems ubiquitous. My sister has worked in the public service her whole life. Moving 'permanent' jobs to contractors is so last decade. Now they're moving to labour hire and the results are disastrous - no continuity, expertise, commitment to the job. And the 'permanent' staff below middle management are all moving from crisis to crisis, doing tasks that could be done by staff on 1/4 the salary.
     
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  7. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

    The world of courses is huuuge, and some of those $10 Udemy courses are nothing short of amazing.

    Have you sold any of your courses yet?
     
  8. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    No, I'm all talk and no show at the moment! Formally, I would need to disclose and get approval from the university (for 'outside work') for listing any courses for sale, and I wasn't set up for doing quality recordings at home. So, I steered my last term's teaching towards providing YouTube videos as part of the content, to gain my first couple of hundred subscribers. I'm set up for recording at home now and my teaching finishes tomorrow. I officially cut ties with the uni at the end of the month, so my aim is to get my first course up at the start of November.
     
  9. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    That’s not all talk and no show. Good work.

    Teachable, Thinkific, and Gumroad might be good places to host your course, certainly to start with. I went with Thinkific based on how active the Facebook support group was, but there’s not much between it and Teachable. Gumroad looks interesting but I’ve not used it.
     
  10. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thanks Andy Black. I did look at the options. One of many things I could easily get stuck in analysis paralysis over. I was leaning towards Teachable. Didn't really look into Gumroad.
     
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  11. Andy Black
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    Andy Black Any colour, as long as it's red. Staff Member Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Yeah. Just pick one and go. Teachable is good enough.

    Getting people to your course and then buying is more important at this stage.
     
  12. Sevan
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    Sevan New Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Great story, I really love it, because it reminds me of my personal story. It's incredible how much you achieved in your life and are still thriving for more success in that case financial independence and this is what all of us are looking for in this blog.

    I'm a son of a single mother how immigrated to germany. I finished university, even my PhD and now working in the consulting industry. And I do it for the money and the experience, but hate the idea that I'm trading time for money.

    But here is the story why I choose this way. And I actively did. A finance professor of mine, became millionaire during the ABS (asset backed security) hype. He became a professor for finance after a few years in the banking industry. Beside teaching finance he became an advisor for mid cap firms and closed deals with large banks. I don't know exactly how the deals looked like, but he received an advisory fee on the deal size committed on the ABS.

    To make a long story short: He became millionaire and so busy that his assistants continued teaching. Therefore, the dean forced him to stop with his business or leave the university. Guess what he did? He left university and is now full time managing his wealth.

    My personal conclusion is that I will use teaching in the future to cover my expenses and look for other opportunities to hit on the big deal or in my case automated business models.
     
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  13. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    Thanks for the comment Sevan. Sounds like you've got a solid plan - good luck!
     
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  14. Suzanne Bazemore
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    Suzanne Bazemore Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Why not target all North American science majors, and some engineering majors (biological, chemical)? I was a biochemistry major, and I had to take organic chemistry. I think most science degree plans require organic chemistry, and not all science majors intend to be doctors.

    The 3D molecules that can be manipulated sound like a very helpful tool for students.

    Welcome to the group!
     
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  15. Practician
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    Practician Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane

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    Hey, I just saw this post and wanted to comment. I almost never visit this site, but saw your thread in the weekly email. Your background is similar to mine.

    I'm really reluctant to provide advice, since I don't want the burden of sending someone in the wrong direction. I also know how important it is to commit to your dream and believe in it. Being distracted by everyone's well-meaning but utterly useless advice isn't helpful. I would know.

    So I will tell you some stories and opinions in the hopes that you may find something useful. If it doesn't jive with you, forget it.

    It took me one year after leaving my job/field to finally make it. I tried all sorts of things, and while there were some moderate successes, none of them were good enough to pursue long-term. Just a little over two months ago, I finally launched my most recent business venture. I recovered my costs and have been making $500/day passive profit for all of September and October. It's an industry that doesn't stand still, so passive means I don't pay attention to the old product at all (like zero time, really) but I do spend all of my time working on the next product. The field is stable and not a fad (i.e. not crypto), and there's plenty of room to scale up. So I'm finally digging in for the long haul.

    Here are my opinions, to be taken with a kilo of salt. This is about my thought process and not meant in any way to criticize you or other academics. As I said, you have to pursue your vision and commit, regardless of what others say.

    Okay, here we go.

    The academic market is very tiny. Spending a lot of time in academia really distorts your commercial sense of markets. I would have people in academia make suggestions about what products to sell to academics. I did the market research. The numbers don't compare at all to more mainstream endeavors. We're talking orders of magnitude. Many orders of magnitude.

    The barrier to entry from advanced knowledge seems like a good thing, but in my view, it isn't as useful as you might think because the demand is low and the supply isn't really that low either. There are tons of PhDs who have left academia, and you can find them doing everything you would imagine them to be doing. As for demand, consider how much new PhDs make compared to what a successful small business owner makes. That tells you something about the economics of demand.

    So what I did was abandon any academic credentials and start fresh. I looked at all markets that I thought I could enter, whether that was based on a hobby, interest, or other factor. I looked at large markets, where people were spending a ton of money on small businesses.

    What about barrier to entry?

    Here's the the real barrier to entry, again, in my opinion. It's not your degree or your knowledge. It's you. If you made it to a tenure-track faculty position, it's not only from your hard work and social skills. You have raw intellectual talent, or more to the point, the ability to master complex intellectual skills.

    You have to believe in yourself. I believed that I could quickly master a new skill and achieve commercial viability based on the moat of pure talent. It's scary as hell, but that's what I did.

    The book Talent is Overrated really changed my mind about this. It goes against the Fastlane's focus, since talent-based endeavors are left out with an asterisk. But I now firmly believe that pursuing talent is the path forward for the future. Real talent cannot be outsourced or copied. It simply can't. It is always in demand. It is always in short supply. It depends on nothing but myself. As for the 10,000 hour rule, I achieved commercial viability in under 1000 hours by finding the right match between myself and the market.

    The concept of deliberate practice is key for a talent-based endeavor. It takes focused work, and for many fields, you have to invent your own lesson plans. But that's what academics are good at, right?

    That's what I did. I found a large, hungry market that is fed by independent business owners based on talent. I developed and sold that talent.

    While basing a business on your talent might seem like it doesn't scale, if you're creative, you can find multipliers and other ways to grow beyond yourself. More realistically, low to mid six-figures is achievable in many industries. That's enough for me, although I realize that's not for everyone. In return, I do gain flexibility and freedom. A few paths can hit seven figures a year and even higher, but things become less certain in that range.

    To put it another way, the salary of a doctor or lawyer, with a fraction of the stress and much more freedom, is achievable in many talent-based industries without having to be world famous. If you really put in the time and find the right opportunities, you can go higher.

    One more thing.

    I picked a difficult industry, perhaps one of the hardest you can find. That's because I believed in myself, and the more difficult the industry, the more separation between talent. It's like a standardized test where everyone decent gets a perfect score versus the test where 50% is the highest grade. I wanted separation from those who wouldn't practice their talent. My aim is to improve my talent continually to increase my payout, while at the same time testing multipliers and other ways to scale. Talent + Business.

    That's it. I wanted to share that here, because that shift in mindset was what got things working for me coming from a similar background.

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
  16. fizzteemo
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    Good stuff, mate. My twin brother (college dropout) recently purchased a $2 million home in Beverly Hills. His income didn't start to skyrocket until he changed his mindset from "how can I get more customers / make more money?" to "how can I help more people?" You should find forums where your potential customers frequent and provide value. Check out Snapchat's story: "Things remained slow for several more months, but later that Fall, Snapchat began to show a pulse. As the company reached 1,000 users, an interesting pattern emerged - activity consistently peaked between 9am-3pm. School hours. Apparently, Spiegel’s mother told her niece about the app, who then spread the word through her Orange County high school. Since facebook had beened banned at the school, students began embracing the app on the high school iPads. And the rest is history." Maybe you can do something similar...
     
  17. DustinH
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    DustinH Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    Well, well, well. All this time I was thinking I was the only one in this forum who has a biochemistry degree. Now we have some fellow chemistry comrades.

    My two cents: I always thought there was a need for instructional videos on lab skills. Even the really basic stuff. i.e. How to use a pipet or how to have basic sanitary skills when using biological samples. Then, some more advanced stuff like how to perform electrophoresis gels, a western blot, or how to setup and run an HPLC. With all the laboratory techniques used today it could be valuable info.
     
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  18. lowtek
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    lowtek Platinum Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass Summit Attendee

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    Cool story dude. I'm a physics PhD and went the industry route, instead of academia. Laid off in 2015 and haven't looked back. I'm creating content in Machine Learning / AI and my best advice to you for creating courses is to start building an audience first. YouTube is a great place to start, as it gets you into making video right away.

    Alternative is to reach out to one of the publishing mills (Packt, etc. - I went with Manning for my first course) to produce a course for them to see if you like it.

    Could also start with Udemy, but it's a pretty bad platform for creators. Always pushing for cheap sales.... and you don't really own the audience.

    Look forward to watching your progress!
     
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  19. Second Act
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    Second Act Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER

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    @Suzanne Bazemore - I guess I have pre-med students in mind as my target persona, since I know they are particularly motivated to do whatever it takes to pass the courses that are pre-req for medicine. And, looking at this online organic chemistry teaching space, the most successful monetized blog has stated their his target audience in interviews. I'm keen to be non-degree specific, so I don't say anything about pre-meds and I certainly have had engagement from other science majors. I think I will keep my content as nonmajor specific, but will try some targeted marketing once the site is more mature.
     
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  20. Second Act
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    @Practician - thanks for the detailed and very interesting post! It's very generous of you to share :) I get the feeling you were hesitant to provide advice against going down the path I outlined above. Please don't be - you're words and advice are really valuable. That's why I came to this forum - to get no-bs feedback on my ideas and path, and get inspired by others.

    The bottom line is that I've thought quite a bit about what you suggest. As far as being a successful fastlane entrepreneur, I don't think organic chemistry online materials is necessarily going to be the best way forward. But, I think it might be the best thing for me to start with. I have other ideas in mind, but I think I'll do better at them if I cut my teeth on something very familiar at first. Some of the stuff I want to do with online organic chem education involving learning new skills that may be where my real future business lies. I have set myself a date to evaluate progress and then determine what is the best opportunity going forward. My aim is to make that appraisal based on the kinds of factors that you mention and then develop the skills that are best suited to making a commercially-viable business in that domain. I feel at this stage I'd make a better decision if I had even a little bit of real-world business experience in a market I already understand.
     
  21. Second Act
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    Hey @fizzteemo - thanks for the comment. Yep, MJ's books drove that home. My efforts so far had been to post YouTube videos with free content on organic chem, but since reading MJ's books, I have been getting involved helping students in some Facebook groups and on the chemistry stackexchange. I also had a quick look at Quora, but haven't engaged with it yet. I'm still hunting the best places to find my potential customers and try to help them. Maybe I should start engaging with reddit or quora...
     
  22. Second Act
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    @DustinH - Comrade! Although, I have to admit to being not much of a biochemist. My background is synthetic organic chemistry - I've never even touched a gel or 'done a western'! I had exactly the same thought a few years ago. I really wanted to set up a website for people to share instructional videos of lab techniques - it's crazy the amount of time wasted by scientists all over the world in one-to-one training (babysitting) when video-training would be so much more efficient. Before I decided to leave academia, I made and posted to YouTube a series of (silent) lab techniques videos for a synthetic organic chemistry course. Went well and the students thought they were useful. Not sure how 'monetizable' it would be, but might be good as a traffic driver.
     
  23. Second Act
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    @lowtek - Thanks for the comment and glad to hear things are going well for you as an entrepreneur! Machine Learning / AI are such hot topics now. I was even thinking that re-training in that area might be where I could go in future. Were you involved in those areas in your PhD and industry roles?

    Yes, definitely, building an audience on YouTube is one of my top priorities. I decided to get experience there by posting free content while I was still in academia. Currently 272 subscribers, but many of those are students from the academic courses I've been teaching, but I do see a steady drip of new subs even after my teaching has finished.

    I hadn't really thought about a publishing mill, although I have signed up to create a set of online study aids for an online-only study and learning content provider.

    Udemy is an interesting conundrum - the best content creators there get so many students that even the constant sale prices generate them good revenue, but they're in areas I don't see myself creating content in, eg. programming, web dev, etc. In chemistry, there are a small number of courses that are very old-fashioned in delivery style and not too inspiring in content. But student numbers are low. I can't see much of an income stream for chemistry courses there. If I was a student struggling with organic chemistry, I wouldn't be going to Udemy for help. Nevertheless, I am planning to list something, of high quality, on Udemy and see if that could funnel to other things. So more of a marketing endeavor than source of revenue.
     
  24. DustinH
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    DustinH Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    My thought on the monetization would be market to the chemistry teachers/professors who, in turn, tell their students about your videos. Eventually the goal would be to make them buy the videos like a supplemental material to the textbook.
     
    Second Act and Suzanne Bazemore like this.
  25. Suzanne Bazemore
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    Suzanne Bazemore Bronze Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass

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    @DustinH,
    That's a great idea, @DustinH, especially since a recommendation to buy from a professor would be a strong incentive for students to spend money.
     
    Second Act likes this.

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