Instructor Spotlight: Jessica Brody

On top of authoring more than 15 novels for teens, tweens, and adults, Jessica Brody pays her writing knowledge forward. She turned her in-person writing workshops into dynamic online courses and now hears from students all over the world who attribute their successes, including some book deals, to the help she shared with them online.

Name: Jessica Brody

Location: Portland, Oregon, USA

Instructor since: 2016

Did you have any on- or offline teaching experience prior to publishing your first Udemy course?

I had experience teaching in person. At the time, I was traveling to speak in schools, bookstores, and libraries to teach writing workshops.

I was pretty wary of teaching on Udemy. My initial thought was that it probably wouldn’t work for writers, but I decided to try it out anyway. I took one of my existing in-person workshops and turned it into an online course; it was my shortest and punchiest topic, so I figured it would be a solid test run. The day my first course published on the platform, I blasted it out on my Facebook page, and by the time I went to bed, I had made $1,000.

So what did I do next? Immediately started work on my next course and my writer fanbase was born. Before I started teaching online, most of my fans were my readers, not fellow writers.

Biggest challenge trying to teach for the first time?

My biggest challenge was making sure my course was dynamic. I’d received feedback from my live workshops that I was a relatable speaker. But when I’m live, I can feed off the crowd’s reaction (hopefully, laughter) and adjust the training based on the audience. That’s obviously something you lose when you teach online, so I wanted to make sure my personality still came through on camera.

What were your goals for your course and yourself?

My goal was to pay forward any wisdom I gained that might be helpful to other writers. I never thought teaching online would become the side hustle it is now.

Any tips for people creating a course for the first time?

Remember you’re not creating competition. Don’t be afraid to share everything you know out of fear you will give away your own “trade secrets.” Every person is different, and no one is going to do the exact same thing you are. It’s our duty to pay forward knowledge we’ve picked up along the way.

Any advice for students?

Stay open-minded about learning. There are two mindsets students can have when starting a course: “Let’s see if this is actually worth the money,” or “I’m ready to learn what this person has to teach me.” With the latter attitude, you will ultimately learn something, regardless of whether the course is “good” or “bad.”

Have you taken any courses on Udemy or elsewhere? Favorite course?

I took a fun drawing course. I’ve always worn the I-can’t-draw label with pride but wanted to get into it anyway. The instructor literally said the words, “Now we’re going to learn how to draw a circle,” and I wanted to scream, “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED.”

What are the most rewarding aspects of teaching on Udemy?

It’s a surreal experience when I log into my instructor dashboard and see the map of countries where students are enrolled in my courses. I have to remind myself that those aren’t just numbers; they’re individual people around the globe I get to teach. I struggle to grasp it, like it’s happening to someone else.

That said, the most rewarding aspect is getting responses from my students; I often find myself with tears in my eyes. There was one student, in particular, who told me they had been struggling with a horrible disease and, thanks to my course, had started writing every day. I couldn’t believe I was the driver of that change.

Anything else you want to add?

There’s a saying that goes, “Writers without readers are just crazy people with pens.” The same thing goes for teachers; students are the other side of this equation. So, to the students reading this, thank you for continuing to learn and for being open-minded about what you don’t know. Thank you for closing the circle… which I now know how to draw.