One thing I’ve heard over and over again throughout most of my life is, “You should be a teacher.”
I’d usually cringe when I heard that. When I think of a teacher, I think of being overworked and underpaid. Of standing in front of a classroom of children who have no interest in what you’re trying to teach them and who only think of you as a nuisance when you have their very best interests at heart. No thank you.
Not that I don’t have the utmost respect and admiration for teachers. They are some of the most amazing human beings on the face of the earth and they deserve our undying support and devotion. And a tremendous pay raise.
I have some traits that would make for a good teacher. I love learning and reading. I like helping people. I’m patient. I have an understanding of different learning styles and am usually pretty good at trying different ways of explaining something until it clicks.
What I’ve learned is that if you’re meant to do something, it’s going to find you. What I’ve also learned is that you can still do your something on your own terms.
Over the years, teaching and I have had a few meetings. In high school, I volunteered to teach an arts and crafts class for kids. I signed up with the learning center at my university and tutored other students in subjects they were having trouble with. I volunteered with a literacy organization, originally wanting to teach an adult to read, but they had a greater need for teaching English to immigrants, so I got free ESL training and taught English to a Kazakhstani family. I worked briefly at a branch of Michael’s craft stores as the Event Coordinator, which involved leading demonstrations, teaching the Kids’ Club weekly craft project, teaching a knitting class, and teaching crafts to kids at birthday parties.
Lately, I’ve been interested in focusing my passion for web development and design into teaching. In my freelance work over the past six years, I’ve mainly been building web sites for small businesses. Over and over again, I’ve met small business owners who were being taken advantage of by people or businesses claiming to be taking care of their web sites. I had one client have her site black-listed from Google after she unknowingly hired a black hat SEO company to boost her rankings. I had one client whose web host had told her that he owned her files and that it was illegal for her to move her web site to a new hosting company. One client was paying $150/month in hosting for a small 5-page brochureware site.
These kinds of stories break my heart. I know first hand how much small business owners sacrifice for their businesses. A web site has become a vital tool in promoting a small business and an online presence is increasingly important for winning trust and new clients.
These business owners are trying to do what’s best for their business, but they’re missing most of the pieces of the puzzle. They’re not sure who to hire, exactly what that person should be doing, or how much they should be paying them. They have no tools for evaluating the skills and expertise of a web developer. They get advice from practically everyone they meet, telling them they should be using Twitter, their site should be search engine optimized, they should get their site on Digg, all kinds of things – and they have no way to determine if the advice they’re getting is good or bad, useful or harmful.
So I’m stepping in. I took over the Los Angeles WordPress Meetup group and have been offering workshops and facilitating discussions between experts and beginners. I’m also working with some partners to found a cooperative of creative professionals called Purple Pen Productions, and part of our mission is education. To that end, we’re sponsoring workshops, teaching small business owners and individuals the things they need to know to have a successful web presence. Our first workshop, Help! I Need a Website will be held on September 10, 2009 at Loyola Marymount University. RSVP to attend.
I’ve also submitted a panel proposal to SXSW. In case you haven’t heard of it, SXSW is one of the largest interactive conferences, where geeks from the world over come together to learn from one another. It happens in Austin, Texas each March, and the 2010 conference will mark my fourth year of attendance.
My proposed panel is titled “Smartest Clients in the World” and I plan to encourage lots of other people like me who are in the know to educate and empower small business owners so they, too, can make a wise investment in a web site and online presence that is a perfect fit for their business at a fair price. Won’t you take a few minutes to vote for my panel so my chances of being picked are greater? You must create an account – without it your vote won’t be counted – but it only takes a moment and you won’t be spammed.