Megan Hardy had been a stay-at-home mom of four for years when her husband lost his job at a park in their hometown of Mobile, Alabama. Hardy had previously enrolled their kids in a history course on Outschool, a platform offering classes in a variety of subjects for kids ages 3 to 18. She decided to pitch the company a few ideas for new classes she could teach, thinking maybe "we can earn a little money on the side and it could hold us over," she says.
Hardy proposed three classes to begin with: a "Goosebumps" themed scary-story writing workshop, a medieval history class, and a class about how to play fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. "I'm a geek," she says. "I do geeky gaming stuff that [I thought] kids might be interested in, too."
Turns out, she was right. Although her "Goosebumps" and medieval history classes didn't see many sign-ups, the D&D class took off and continued to fill up. In her first month on the platform, April 2018, Hardy made $147. By September of that year, she was making $7,000.
Today, Hardy teaches as many as 40 classes per week, and between eight and 12 hours per day, mostly focused on D&D. She pulls in about $10,000 per month from the site. Here's how she was able to grow her side hustle and her advice for anyone keen to replicate her success.
Hardy had hoped to teach a variety of class topics. "But the demand was in one area, and it really was taking all the attention," she says. So she followed demand and expanded her D&D offerings.
"I have my Fun Adventure class, which is like my primary intro to Dungeons & Dragons," she says. It's "a six-week campaign that's probably my biggest and most popular." She also has classes geared toward older kids and a D&D summer camp. Class prices range depending on their length. A typical six-week course will cost $65 per kid altogether, of which she makes $45.
Even as more people have started teaching D&D on Outschool, Hardy's classes keep filling up. "There's more requests than I have time for," she says.
In part, Hardy's success comes from the connections her students make with each other. "You get kids that maybe aren't as socially connected," she says. "They struggle a little a bit because they're geeky or nerdy." But in her classes, they were "finding kids that were like them."
And so "I get to a point where a class is going to end," she says, and "the students ask if we could continue."
Many of the classes she now offers are new campaigns with the same groups of kids who simply want to continue playing with each other. For some groups, she's run classes "for over a year," she says.
The coronavirus pandemic has also proved to be an important time for kids interested in the game to play and connect. As fans were forced to stay at home, they used the time to teach family and friends how to play as well. D&D sales jumped 33% in 2020.
"When all of this hit, the pandemic," she says, "it was really nice to be able to provide an outlet." A lot of cooped up and isolated children needed a diversion. "I had kids who said they hadn't left the house for five months," she says. Her classes were their "getting out time."
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Hardy's advice for anyone who wants to find success on Outschool is "trial and error," she says. Come up with different ideas, pitch them, teach the classes, and see what sticks. "Even if it seems silly or out there," she says, "try it."
"The class ideas are limited by your creativity," she says. "If you have this interest that you're really into, find a way to make a class out of it." It's entirely possible a group of kids online will be just as into it as well.
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