I’ll be honest, when I set out to create Décorography I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into. It’s so much more work than I ever imagined to create each and every class. The other thing I didn’t know when I started was how much I would love it.
I thought it’d be fun to take you behind the scenes and show you what it takes to create a Décorography class. I want you to know the time and effort that goes into each class, because it equates to time and effort you don’t have to spend to figure this stuff out. I’m doing the research, synthesis, and extrapolation for you and distilling it down to the most basic elements you need to be successful in your home.
My goal with every class I produce is to remove the guesswork and fear from a particular decorating topic. I want you to end each class feeling prepared, excited, and confident.
Creating content for Décorography has given my work purpose and stability. I know what I need to do each month and why I am doing it. If you run your own business I am sure you can relate and I hope you’ve achieved the same purpose and stability in your work.
Although I love it, it still feels like I do 4,157 tasks each month to ready a new class for release. I break them up into 5 key phases that every class goes through. Classes tend to spend the most time in the ideation phase – waiting for their day in the sun – or in the followup phase – where the class and students get ongoing loving. The creation, production, and promotion phases are much shorter, but very intense and focused.
Phase 1 – Ideation
The ideation phase is ongoing all the time. I always think of new class ideas. I’ve trained myself to start a notebook in Evernote for each new class idea. That gives me a place to put any inspiration or tidbits I find for that class. I find creating the notebook let’s me release my mind from thinking about all the possibilities, because each month I need to stay focused on the upcoming class.
Once I know which class is next, I flesh out the class concept.
- What are the main topics I want to cover?
- What challenges have I encountered or heard from others about this topic that should be addressed?
- What articles, classes, etc. have I created in the past on this topic?
With the overall concept clear, I start brainstorming. This takes it a level deeper to pull out everything I already know about the topic, advice I typically give, how I view the topic and solutions differently, examples from my own homes, and how I teach the concepts. This is also when I identify any gaps. I try to answer these three things:
- What do I already know about the topic?
- What is my standard advice for the topic?
- What do I not know in this space?
That leads me into research to fill in the gaps. On some topics the research is limited to verification of my ideas and how to best relate them. In other cases, the research is more extensive to really pull together all the best advice on a topic and then present it in an easy to understand way.
Phase 2 – Creation
This is the phase with tons of moving parts. Not only do I create video lessons for each class, but I also create cheat sheets and worksheets. I work hard to make sure everything works together, references each other, and ultimately helps make the material clear and actionable.
The next step is creating the class outline. I start by breaking out how many videos I want to create and what the big idea is for each video. Then, I further outline the different sections of the video that contribute to the big idea. I use a writing application called Scrivener to do this.
Worksheets & Visuals
Before I write the script for the class or begin filming, I like to create the worksheets, cheat sheets, and any presentation visuals for the class. I make notes in my outline where I think worksheets or cheat sheets would be helpful. I’ve found by creating the worksheets first, I really get clear on my message before creating the class.
I also want to plan out all the visuals for the class. This includes diagrams and images I will use in the presentation. It also includes any props I plan to use in the video segments.
Once all the worksheets, cheat sheets, and props are ready, then I write the class script. Sometimes I write a complete script (especially for screencast-style classes where I am not on camera) and sometimes I just make notes on the outline and go off-the-cuff (I prefer this when I am in front of the camera).
Phase 3 – Production
When the script is ready, I move into the production phase. This is all usually done in one week. It’s my most intense week of the process. There’s a lot of work to do and I have to be in top shape (I can’t be sick on video or in audio recordings – surprisingly hard during winter).
I start with a table read of my script or outline. I know that probably sounds silly since I am doing it by myself. But I do catch a million and one tiny mistakes and better ways to say things when I go through this process. I also time myself, so I know approximately what the finished length of each video will be.
Recording the final class is always a bit of a challenge. With kids home part-time and two dogs who will bark if anyone comes to the door, I have to be flexible on my recording times. Add into the mix Minnesota winters where quality daylight is unpredictable, and you can see why sometimes this is the most stressful part of the whole process. Because of this, I try to be ready to record 2-3 weeks in advance of the class release. That gives me a buffer to move the recording date or re-record sections.
Voiceover & Videography
Recording the classes is a mix of voiceover work and videography. For some classes, I present images and text on the screen while I talk over them. These are easier to record, because I don’t have to be on camera. For the straight to video shots, there’s a bit more coordination…and lighting, makeup, and nerves. Because my members have requested it, I am trying to add more of me on camera to every class. I recently released Everyday Flower Arranging which is 100% straight to camera.
The last step in the production process is editing the videos. This probably takes the longest. A 20-minute video takes about three times that to edit, so at least an hour. Despite how long it takes, editing is one of my favorite parts. I am not sure why, but I just love it. If I had to say any part of this process was a hobby, it’s the editing. I take my time because I enjoy it, although it is very weird to hear my own voice on camera (over and over again).
Phase 4 – Class Release
When the class is ready, I release it to the members on the first Wednesday of every month. That involves creating a new webpage for the class, uploading the videos, creating an audio version, uploading all the worksheets and cheat sheets, and writing the copy to introduce the class.
When it’s ready, it looks like this in the members area:
I send an email on the first Wednesday of every month letting the members know there is a new class for them. This is one of my favorite emails to send.
Phase 5 – Follow-up
A class is never done for me. I love answering member comments and questions. The only thing better than that is seeing the progress they are making in their homes. So once the class is released, I continue to be involved with it in the comments and forum.
After the class is released, I almost immediately go back to the ideation phase to start working on the next class. That’s also when I do follow-up on the current class. The week the class is released I pay extra close attention to the class page to reply to any questions or comments that member’s leave.
In between classes I interact with members in the forums. Every member is invited to start their own Decorating Diary to share their home progress, ask for feedback, and pose questions. I dive in as often as I can to answer questions and share my support. It’s so fun to see everyone’s projects evolve.
The other members are always willing to help and offer suggestions. We all have different experience levels and experiences and collectively there isn’t a single decorating challenge we can’t solve. There’s also this awesome sense of community formed by a group that has taken all the same classes and has a shared vocabulary and plan for working on their homes.
Through the forums and member feedback, I actively collect success stories. I love hearing how Décorography classes have helped someone decorate their home or see their home a different way. But what I really love are the stories that will inspire and help other members and non-members to show them what is possible in their home.
Bonnie’s living room transformation and Petra’s charming staircase will help fellow members, help attract new members, and they will touch many, many people that will never be members. But at the end of the day whoever reads those stories will be inspired by what they too could accomplish decorating for themselves.
That’s why I do this.