WORKING AS A
CERTIFIED ZENTANGLE TEACHER
Are you interested in becoming a Certified Zentangle Teacher? Do you feel uncertain about how to become one or how it is to actually work as one? Working as a Certified Zentangle Teacher has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Read this blog post to find out about the rewards, but also about the challenges and issues to consider.
I wrote about my my Zentangle journey a while ago. Since then, I often thought about writing this blog post, but I felt some fear about the possibility of being misunderstood. However, I feel compelled to share my experience. If this blog post might help answer some questions to any of you, it was worth writing it. I want to cover the harsh business side of being a CZT, as well as all the benefits.
My Background Story
Before going further, I feel that it is important to start with my background. If you have read the post about my Zentangle journey, you already know a lot. If not, please read it. You might wonder why I think that it’s important to read my story. Well, because your experience and level of satisfaction will depend significantly on your expectations and your own background (you have probably read about happiness being the difference between reality and expectations).
So, knowing that I come from a strong analytical, financial background, might explain something about my approach. Having all the operational knowledge about managing companies, dealing with strategy, planning, the financial and technical aspects… that’s all a piece of my CZT business puzzle. Bear in mind that being over-analytical can be a burden, too. 😀
This is not to imply that you need the same background. Surely you might have a wonderful and successful business with a whole different set of skills and experiences. Maybe you are a teacher and know how to best approach the student. Or perhaps you have a strong creative background that gives you more confidence to teach tangling. Even being a native English speaker is a huge advantage in today’s business world. But knowing about my starting position might shed some light to the way that I see things.
Becoming a CZT – Is It Worth It?
If you have ever thought about becoming a CZT, I would strongly advise visiting a seminar, meeting the Zentangle team and experiencing all the enthusiasm shared with instructors and other tanglers. To find out how to get certified, please visit Zentangle’s website. Certified Zentangle Teachers are allowed to teach the Zentangle method, but only Zentangle Inc. and their licensed partners (so far there are two, in Europe and Asia) are organizing CZT training programs.
Back to the title and “is it worth it?” part. This is the time to think about your expectations. What do you expect from the CZT seminar? If you enjoy tangling and want to learn more, meet like-minded people and experience the seminar, it’s so worth it. I would certainly recommend it to anyone as it was one of the best experiences in my life. If you are thinking about the cost, already calculating the number of classes that you will have to teach in order to get the return on your investment, I’m not able to answer this question for you. It was certainly a worthwhile cost to many of us, even looking at it from a purely financial perspective. But no one can guarantee that it will be the same to you.
I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher at the seminar in Providence, US, in November 2018 (CZT 32 seminar). It happened three years since I started tangling. Additionally, I was active as Zen Linea on social media way before even imagining that I might turn my passion into business. I stepped into the journey towards becoming a CZT from a pure place of joy and love for this method, without ever thinking that it might become a full-time job. Even if you decide to start a business, doing what you love and working with passion is a huge advantage.
CZT Community – Now and Then
The business world today differs hugely from the one we knew just two years ago and the same (or even more) goes for Zentangle. Only two years ago, CZTs taught mostly live local classes, with only a few exceptions who taught online classes.
The pandemic has changed it all. People started teaching online because of the lockdowns, first to their local students. But then many CZTs started giving online classes, even for free, as a means to fight the anxiety caused by the changes in our lives. That’s also when we saw a surge in live online classes. I was among those who jumped that train and in April 2020 I started teaching through Zoom. The second step were video classes – on-demand content for those who are unable to attend live online classes because of time difference or the students who simply prefer to learn on their own pace.
I don’t think that I’ll be overstating the facts if I say that suddenly the CZT community exploded. We all lost at least some relationships in everyday social life and found some comfort in our online classes. We got to know each other, strengthened our feelings of belonging to the Zentangle community and found true joy in teaching and attending classes. Additionally, for many of us, the Covid crisis almost helped us jumpstart careers outside of our local markets.
But there is also a different side of the same coin. Before, sharing knowledge was less encumbered with fear of copying because in a way there was almost no competition while everyone was teaching within their local community. Suddenly there were talks about copyrights. And there is a huge competition, too. Back in the past, I don’t think that many tanglers went to CZT seminars thinking that they might turn Zentangle into a career. Now, looking at all the changes that happened in 2020, I believe that many are. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing negative about that, it’s just different than it used to be.
CZT Business – Working as a Certified Zentangle Teacher
I want to address some aspects of the CZT business that you might consider before making some of your decisions. Please take into consideration that these are only my views and experiences. Additionally, bear in mind that I only teach online classes (I wanted to start teaching locally in Croatia but I’ve postponed those plans due to the circumstances). If you plan on offering classes as a side business, teaching only locally, or offering only live online classes, some of the points below will not apply to you and your life will be much less complicated. 🙂
- Lesson Plans – With so many of us offering online classes, you have to find a way to stand out. Think about your strengths and weaknesses, maybe even make a SWOT analysis (you can make one for each aspect of the business and for the business as a whole). How will you draw the audience? What is it that makes you different? We are all unique and the market is big enough (hey, let’s only think of all those people who don’t even know what Zentangle is) but this is an important question to consider.
- Model of Teaching – Some CZTs have their tangle clubs that meet each week/month, while the others offer only sporadic lessons or on demand content. Is teaching free classes or competing with free classes given by others in line with your vision? Some CZTs teach individual classes, while others don’t. Live, live online, video classes or eBooks? There are many questions to answer and options to choose from.
- Social Networks – Even if you have experience with social networks, managing business profiles is a different ballpark. There are so many details to think about. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… Knowing which one is best used for different business goals is the key. You have to decide whether you’ll spend a lot of time on it, follow the changes in algorithms, always use new tools (think IGTV, Reels, carousels, saves, comments, personal messages, shares… and how they all influence visibility). You can also make a conscious decision to worry less about insights and followers – it’s all a question of strategy and you have to come up with one.
- Technical Knowledge – Even if you only plan on teaching live online classes through Zoom, you need to have some technical knowledge. Do you want to have your own website? Sure, having strong social media presence is a great thing, but building an own website is almost a must for a serious business. What if your social media profile is hijacked or their policy change? It’s dangerous to rely only on them. Can you build websites, did you ever do any web design? Or do you plan to outsource it? If so, who will do the maintenance and add new content? Who will work on SEO (think ranking on Google search)? There are so many nuances to consider. Surely, many tasks can be outsourced but then you have to account for the costs and time that you’ll spend to explain someone what exactly you want from them (and you’re still the one to decide what that is). Do you know how to film and edit videos? How to create eBooks? Are you able to take good photos? This is a visual business so photos and videos are your sales tool number 1.
- Equipment and Supplies – Fortunately you don’t need a whole lot of equipment and supplies to teach tangling. For online teaching you might be just fine with a good laptop, a smartphone and a phone stand. Original Zentangle supplies are not cheap and for some of us they are even more expensive and difficult to purchase (hello, life in a small country and ever-increasing shipping costs!). I prefer to use original Zentangle tiles for teaching. If you want to offer ZIA classes, there are many different kinds of art supplies, which are not cheap either. For example, when they say pencils, they might not think about graphite pencils, pastel pencils, watercolor pencils, oil-based and wax-based color pencils… and the fact that it’s nice to have them all. 😀
- Sales – This is my least favorite topic. What will be your sales tools? Will you invest in marketing (online ads, social media ads, local marketing…)? How will you build your audience? Will you use your website to build your own email list and how? People who know marketing stuff 🙂 claim that an own email list is the only sustainable way to secure customers. Do you know anything about email marketing? You can have the best product but (sadly) it will not sell itself.
- Sales Platforms – If you want to sell digital content (video classes, eBooks), you might think about the online teaching platforms, such as Teachable, Kajabi, Thinkific, Podia etc. Hosting such content on own website was a no-go for me (it might not be for you). So, which platform to choose? It’s such a difficult question and there are many aspects to consider. Do you need newsletters, membership plans, hosting for many classes or just a few, sales statistics, tax-related tools…? You will find plenty of online comparisons of their functionalities and prices. But that is just one of the possibilities and you might decide to follow a different path.
- Taxes – Sure, you might think that you know all about your local taxes or your accountant does. For those that never had experience with selling digital content abroad, this might come as a huge (unpleasant) surprise. For example, if you are a US resident who sells video classes to citizens of the EU, you have to calculate and pay VAT to each individual country where your students reside. Crazy? Yes, EU VAT is really crazy. It’s very complex and difficult to manage. I am an EU resident so different rules apply. And those rules change all the time, including the new huge changes from July 2021, so this is one topic that brings me big headache. Depending on where your business resides, this might influence the pricing policy, hence competitiveness and profitability may suffer.
- Profitability – Last, but not least. 🙂 If you are teaching for fun and relying on your full-time job for income, you might not worry about this. But if you plan on making this your primary source of income, you definitely need to put down some numbers. The above bullet points might serve as a reference for costs projections (Zoom, website, sales platforms, taxes, social contributions, marketing, equipment and supplies…) and you’ll need to figure out the income part yourself (think about your pricing policy and the nature and number of classes and students).
My Experience of Working as a Certified Zentangle Teacher
We all work in different business environments, have different goals, experiences and our little business secrets. However, I feel that sharing some of my experience might help some of you to consider your own strategies. To make it easier, I’ll just follow the same bullet points that I’ve listed above, trying to explain what I do and why. Please read this with a grain of salt. There are no one-fits-all solutions.
- Lesson Plans – After considering my strengths and weaknesses, I decided to focus on teaching how to use different supplies and techniques. I saw myself as a teacher who might offer advanced classes, rather than beginner’s content. Additionally, I was oriented on Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA) rather than the basic Zentangle method.
- Model of Teaching – I started cautiously and slowly. Having escaped from a very demanding job, I did not want to impose too many obligations on myself so I decided not to offer membership options (regular classes). That meant having more freedom, but also having no steady income source and feeling some “pressure” to come up with interesting standalone products. I focused on two streams of income – active (live online classes) and passive (video classes and eBooks).
- Social Networks – I had quite a big Instagram following even before considering becoming a CZT and I used Facebook, too. Additionally, I decided to use an alias (not to mention my name because of my job position at that time) and that’s how Zen Linea name was born. Maybe it’s worth mentioning that I never paid for any social media ads, did any cooperation, counted or celebrated numbers of followers (ever since I was stunned by the first thousand). Instead, I focused on enjoying the creative process, drawing and posting frequently and consistently. And I still spend an awful lot of time on social media. Starting the business with a big following was certainly an advantage so the same strategy might not apply to others. I have only recently started the Pinterest account, which might seem weird, but I just couldn’t do it al at once.
- Technical Knowledge – While I was counting the last months of my corporate career, I decided to learn how to build websites. Started learning from YouTube videos and still learn every day. I tackled this step by step. First I had something to start with but soon found out that I needed to automatize some processes (see Sales Platforms below). Then I spent time working on the sales platform. Only after that was finished, I dedicated more time to my own website, took care of the design (I’m sure it’s far from perfect, but remember that I’m an amateur and this is always work in progress) and lastly decided to improve SEO. That’s when I also started a blog (welcome!). For one person there’s so much to handle so I made sure that I did it in phases.
- Equipment and Supplies – At the time when I was writing the business plan, I seriously thought that I would make most income from jewelry making and only teach local live classes, so I spent most funds on jewelry-related equipment. How wrong was I…. Besides the laptop, I use two phones and a tablet, several phone stands and some high-quality lights. I invested quite a lot in art supplies when I was still working in corporation and I still buy way too many art supplies. I never want to feel bored so I always want to try and discover new techniques and supplies.
- Sales – Oh, sales… Trying to persuade anyone that my class is exactly what they need is not fun at all. I don’t like aggressive sales techniques, don’t want to dive into sales funnels, but I still need to post about my classes because otherwise they would not sell. Whenever I offer live online classes, I have this anxiety that no one will apply. I hope I’m not the only one. 😀 How I wish that there was a way to sell classes without engaging into sales activities… I try to be gentle with social media posts directed towards selling and I use special Facebook groups to announce and advertise classes.
- Sales Platforms – I started selling my first online classes through Skillshare and I still offer video classes on that platform (not totally happy with it but still keep my content there). After starting selling live online classes through my own website, I decided that I needed to rationalize the processes so I researched the sales platforms before finally decided to use Podia. It’s been more than a year so far and I’m quite happy with it. I also use it for to send newsletters and build the email list.
- Taxes – This is such a specific issue that I don’t know if it makes sense to share any of my experiences. Let me just mention, following upon the above mentioned headache, that the tax environment in Croatia and EU is very unstable, which makes it difficult to plan. I guess that it has to do with the ever-changing global business environment and the fact that so many businesses have gone online, which needs to be regulated. I often consult taxation and accounting specialists to navigate the rules, even though I come from the same background (sometimes I feel that even knowing too much is a problem). My strategic plans rely heavily on taxation rules and change with them, but that has to do with my intention to optimize it and balance it with my business and life plans.
- Profitability – I started my business with some EU funding so I had to make a profit and loss projection and some other financial forecasts. And having had 10+ years at business planning, I was well-aware that business plans often don’t get realized. I established a sole entrepreneurship since there is a favorable local model (accounting, taxation, compliance-wise) for such a business. But there are also certain limits that I have to consider because of that. Since I ran away from a demanding corporate career, my priority is not the profit. I want to have a sustainable and enjoyable career and I consciously sacrifice some earnings to get there. So each time there is a new business idea or opportunity I ask myself if it is in line with my overall values and vision before saying yes to it.
I am aware of the fact that it is difficult to draw conclusions from this kind of post because there are no universal solutions. As I mentioned several times before, your own decisions will be influenced by your goals, wishes and demands.
Managing my business model means being my own business strategist, financial and planning specialist, creative director, content consultant, web developer, designer, video producer, photographer, marketing manager, social media strategist, PR expert etc. At times it can feel exhausting and challenging. But even then I think that it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Having spent 20+ years working in finance, I can appreciate many benefits that this career provides. The key is that it had happened at the right moment in my life. It felt intuitively like the right thing to do and some life and career circumstances were also pointing at the same direction. I was truly aligned with my choice to become a business owner.
Do you feel the calling? Is it based on love and passion? Are you ready to commit and make some sacrifices along the way? I hope that this long post was informative and thought-provoking. Make sure to let me know if you have any questions or comments. And no matter what you decide, stay true to your own values.