Another day… another day… another day… another year. Wait! How did that go by so fast?! 2015 has been an amazing year here at Video School Online. I thought it would be fun to look at the top 10 highlights from the year, including how we got there and what I’ve learned from each.

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10. Creating 18 New Online Courses

Starting the year off with a bang, we launched our biggest and highest quality course to date – The Photography Masterclass. Most recently, we released a free crash course on Kinetic Typography. Between, we’ve launched a number of courses related to video production, photography, and building your own online business. Since this was our third full year of creating online courses, I’m happy to say that these are some of our best courses yet. The quality of the courses is much better than our first courses from 2012/2013 when we were just learning the ropes of teaching online.

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Another great thing about this year’s courses is collaborating with some of my best friends on some really great courses (Caleb Negassa, Sam Shimizu-Jones, Will Carnahan)!

Here’s a list of all the courses we launched in 2015:

9. Meeting Great Online Course Creators

As an online teacher, I spend a lot of time by myself working. At it’s core, it is a lonely adventure. While this aligns with my introverted personality, it doesn’t have the social benefits of a regular job. This year, I’ve spent a good amount of time interacting with a core group of all star online instructors including Dennis Smith, Matt Bernstein, Dave Espino, Rob Cubbon, Tim CooperTimothy Kenny, Scott Duffy, Jeremy Deighan, Jack Wilson, Joe Parys, Ali Mirza, Dragos Stefanescu, Nick Moy, and a number of others.

These people have become kind of like co-workers. From Google Hangouts and Blabs to mastermind groups and Facebook, it’s nice to interact with other people following a similar journey to mine. I look forward to learning from, being inspired by, and working together with all of you and other friends in the coming year!

8. 12k Subscribers and 1 Million Views

Many of you have probably seen some of my tutorials on YouTube. When I started Video School Online, I made it a priority to post videos consistently to my channel. Since 2012, I’ve posted over 300 videos that related to all of the topics of my online courses. This channel also includes some fun videos that I enjoy making and sharing, including a series on personal finance, an experiment with baking bread, and fun video montages from my personal life.

In the middle of 2015, I looked at my channel and saw the continued exponential growth of views and subscribers. SocialBlade predicted that I would hit my 10,000 subscriber at some point in 2016. That inspired me to push harder and publish even more videos in the second half of the year. As a result, I surpassed 10,000 YouTube subscribers in November and am chugging along to my next goal of 50,000 (a stretch goal for 2016). I also hit my 1,000,000 view (combining all of my videos). This is quite amazing. Without any real viral hits, it’s the consistency that has paid off.

youtube 10,000 subscribers and 1,000,000 views

2016 will be another year of working on YouTube. I’ve collaborated with two of my favorite YouTubers, the husband/wife team of Mike & Lauren to co-create a YouTube Masterclass that teaches you how to build a brand with your own successful YouTube channel. Look forward to this class launching in January!

7. Website Re-Designs

freelance kickstart coverIf you’ve been a loyal VideoSchoolOnline.com reader, you’ve probably noticed a number of changes since the very beginning. As someone who prefers to launch then tweak rather than perfect then launch, I’ve been constantly changing (optimizing is the word I like to use) the structure and design of my website. Finally in 2015 I landed on a design and structure that I’m happy with.

The key thing I was trying to accomplish was giving new and returning visitors a clear way to get to where they want to go. People seem to really enjoy the Get Started page that orients people to this site. My Free Guide and Resources pages help visitors with great tools and resources that I use every day.

The home page saw the biggest changes with a new opt-in box at the top for people that want to get my 47-page Freelance Kickstart Guide. Below the main opt-in box, I’ve tried to direct visitors to some of my most popular posts and resources. You’ll also notice that the design (fonts and images) have been dramatically upgraded to give a more consistent and high-quality feel.

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Recently, I did a major update of PhilEbiner.com, my personal website. For the longest time, this was just a place for people to see my work as a videographer, video editor, and motion graphics artist. As the amount of freelance work I’ve committed to has decreased and the amount of time I spend building Video School Online increases, I thought it’d be a good idea to adjust PhilEbiner.com accordingly.

Most people searching the internet of ‘Phil Ebiner’ are probably looking for Phil Ebiner the online instructor, and not necessarily Phil Ebiner the video creator. Hopefully my website is a great introduction to who I am for anyone trying to find me. My favorite part of the website is my new Impossible List!

6. The 2015 Photo Competition

Since launching the Photography Masterclass with my good friend Sam Shimizu-Jones, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of engagement the students have with the course materials. Throughout the course we have a number of exercises and action items that encourage students to take photos, practicing a specific skill, and post them to the discussions on Udemy.

Almost every day we see new posts by students practicing their photography skills. Some of their work is quite amazing, so we thought it would be fun to have a little competition to see their best work. 64 students submitted 181 photos.

All of the photos showcase the tremendous abilities of our students. What makes it so special is that a lot of these students stated that they learned their skills from our course. At the end of the day, that is why I teach online courses. That is why I created VideoSchoolOnline.com… to not only share my knowledge, but to also see people take action with new skills.

5. My New Home Office

When my wife and I moved back to Southern California after living in Berkeley, CA for two years, we made it a priority to find a place with two-bedrooms so that one could be my office. I was tired of working 2 feet from where I slept and relaxed. We moved into a great little spot with two bedrooms. One is now my office (about 15 feet from my bed) and it is a great place to be productive. My favorite parts about my office are my stand-up desk  (watch my video review – it really helps keep my back and legs from aching), my video setup (lights and a new Heil PR40 microphone that is always up and ready to record with), and my trusty glass white board (keeps me on task and on schedule).

I encourage everyone that is trying to run their own business to set up a space in their home dedicated to work. I know that not everyone will have the luxury of an extra room that can double as an office/video studio, but it’s important to separate your work life from your personal life with both space and time. What I mean by time is that I’ve set up a schedule so that I only work certain hours each day and make sure that evenings and weekends are for relaxation and fun.

Equipment-for-Online-Course-Creators

Here’s the complete list of equipment I use to create online courses.

4. Incorporating as an S-Corporation

Doing  taxes sucks. And it really sucks when you’re dealing with so many streams of income as a semi-self-employed-employee. In 2014, I must have had at least 10 different ’employers.’ Some were full time employers. Some were freelance employers. Some were online marketplaces where I earn money like Udemy, Skillshare, or Amazon.

Needless to say, I was hit with a hefty tax bill for 2014. Finally, I let go and allowed myself to see a professional accountant to get his advice on my situation. Typically, I’m a DIY do-it-yourself type of guy who dreads taking cars to mechanics and teeth to the dentist. But from the advice of a good friend Will Carnahan, I had to let go and realize that it’s okay to pay a professional to do a job. I can’t be a pro at everything.

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This was one of the best decisions of the year because our accountant was able to show us how much money we could save by incorporating Video School Online as a s-corporation. The main savings comes from the fact that as an s-corp, I’m actually paying myself (Phil Ebiner) through the company with a set salary. This decreases the amount of self-employment taxes I owe and allows me to invest money/save on taxes with tax-reducing accounts like a Solo 401k. Read more about why S-Corporations are great for freelancers here.

Aside from the tax benefits, it’s just awesome that Video School Online is an official business! I can say that I am a business-owner, a business-creator, a successful entrepreneur! In fact, I don’t just own a business, I own a corporation! How cool is that?

3. Launching our Courses on VSO

One of my biggest projects of the year was figuring out a way to self-host my online courses. I love hosting my courses on places like Udemy and Skillshare. They have an amazing student base that I could never find on my own. They have amazing teams that have supported me throughout my entire online teaching experience. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Udemy. I would probably still be working a 9-5 job in 6-figure student loan debt. Thanks to them… to all my friends currently and formerly at Udemy (Linos, Nupoora, Danielle, and so many more)… we’ve been able to pay off all of that student loan debt and now invest in ourselves and save for a home.

That being said, I’ve felt that it was important to also offer my courses right here on Video School Online. This way, there is a more seamless experience for students coming to VideoSchoolOnline.com

hosting courses on teachableUsing Teachable (formerly UseFedora), I’m hosting all of my courses right here. Students seem to really be enjoying their experience so far. I’m getting 5-10 signups per day. The best part about this setup is being able to bundle my courses together. Since I teach so many different topics, it’s always been hard to direct VSO visitors to the content and classes that might interest them most. Now I have course bundles for video creators, photographers, and online business builders – my three biggest target audiences. These bundles help you save a hundreds of dollars. Each bundle is priced at a one-time fee of only $497, or a monthly fee of $9. This incredibly low monthly fee is a ridiculous deal that gives you access to my best courses all at once.

So far I’ve enjoyed my experience using Teachable. There have been a few minor hiccups, but nothing that would keep me from continuing to use their tool.

2. Leaving My 9-5 Job

Anyone with a side-hustle knows how hard it can be to juggle a regular job, an entrepreneurial adventure, and everything else that life offers (family, friends, entertainment, sleep, food, spirituality, etc). That’s what I did since graduating from Loyola Marymount University in 2011. I had a full-time job and worked on other projects in the evenings. When I started creating online courses in 2012 and 2013, I would literally come home from my 9-6 job and work for another 5-6 hours on courses. But if you have a partner or spouse, you know that this won’t work if you want to happy and healthy relationship. It was fine before we lived together, because at my own place I didn’t mind eating dinner in front of a computer screen while I edited video. Since we moved in together and got married, though, I really wanted to have a better schedule that allows for more ‘us-time.’

phil Ebiner surfing

Luckily (and through a lot of hard work) after we moved down from Berkeley where I had a stable 9-5 job as a video creator at U.C. Berkeley, we decided that it was okay for me to not look for another full-time job and focus on Video School Online and any other freelance projects that I wanted to work on. To be frank, our income from VSO and freelancing was greater than any of my full-time jobs, so it was kind of like ‘why wouldn’t I quit my 9-5 job‘ to work for myself. But it’s still scary to leave a job with great benefits and paid vacation to enter a world where people don’t quite understand what I do for a living. Thanks to many of you who have taken my online courses, read one of my ebooks, or watched a YouTube video, I’ve been able to do just that.

From June to the present I’ve spent all of my working hours working on things that matter to me. I wake up every morning around 6:45. I start working around 7:15. I work till around 4:00. The best part is knowing that everything I do (and don’t do) affects my business. If I work hard, my business will grow. If I slack off, my business will stutter. Thankfully by personality thrives on this kind of work, and I’m so happy to be able to do this full time.

Read more about my thoughts after 3-months of freelancing full-time.

The last half of 2015 was the most productive and stress-free time since starting in late 2012. I look forward to 2016, a full year of focusing my attention on bring you, the student, the best content that I can.

1. Teaching 115,000 Students from 196 Countries

When I tell people that over 100,000 students have taken my courses, they generally respond with a wide open mouth and a glazed look in their eyes. It’s hard to comprehend the power of the internet and the modern forms of communication that we have. Many of these highlights have had to do with the success of my business, and all of that success comes from the ability to share my knowledge with the world through video and text. Udemy ended 2015 with over 9,000,000 students. About 1.3% of those students have enrolled in one of my courses (either free or paid). According to WorldAtlas.com, there are up to 196 independent countries in the world today. And at least one person from every country has taken a Video School Online course.

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Does this blow your mind as much as it does mine?

A traditional university professor might be lucky to have taught 100,000 students in a life time. But most never will. And of course the experience of an online student (and teacher) is much different than that of a student in a live class. Still, that number is astounding to me. It inspires me. It makes me want to teach even more students. It makes me proud. It makes me thankful. Each and every one of my students is special. And at the end of the day, the student is why I created Video School Online. The student is why 2015 has been such an amazing year. The student is why I will work even harder to make 2016 even better.

Bonus Highlight

2015 was a big year for Video School Online, but even with all of these highlights it was an even bigger year for me personally. In the middle of March, the love of my life married me in front of our closest friends and families. Without Isabel,  I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wouldn’t be as joyful and spirited, as grounded and strong. I would give up all the highlights on this list for just this one, and I thank you (Isabel) for making me the luckiest person alive.

THANK YOU

To all of my followers and students, I want to say thank you for being here with me on this journey. I look forward to another great year in 2016.

What were your highlights this year? Please post a comment below with some of your successes!

Cheers,
Phil