How artist and educator Emily Mills uses Podia (Product + website tour)
Learn how finding the right course platform empowered Emily Mills to grow her creator business, plus a tour of her Podia website and products.
Emily Mills is a professional illustrator and the founder of Sketchnote Academy , where she teaches students sketchnoting (visual notetaking) online.
After posting her sketchnotes to Instagram, Emily’s followers started asking her to teach them how to sketchnote. She hosted several in-person workshops in 2017 — but soon realized that many potential students were missing out because of their location.
“With every in-person workshop I announced, I got more messages from people in other states and countries who were really bummed they couldn’t come,” she explains. “People still wanted it; it just wasn’t available. That’s what made me think, ‘I need to get this online.’”
Fast-forward to 2022: Emily now offers monthly workshops, online courses, workbooks, webinars, one-on-one coaching, cohort programs, and an online sketchnoting community — all hosted on Podia.
Keep reading to learn how finding the right platform empowered Emily to grow her creator business, plus a tour of her Podia website and products.
Join thousands of creators like Emily and sell digital products about your passions on Podia. It’s free to get started!
The challenge: A struggle to launch, from a lack of support
After Emily decided to take her course online, she wasn’t sure what to look for in a course platform. She tried out Teachable at first .
“I hadn’t really thought through things,” she recalls. “I went to a course platform and had a really bad experience.” The first platform was difficult to use, and Emily struggled to get her flagship workshop up and running. “I actually never launched my three-hour workshop on the platform.”
Emily had launched a free course to collect students’ email addresses and introduce them to her teaching style, but after that, she felt stuck. She had a negative experience with the platform’s customer service, including a lack of transparency around pricing — and an unfriendly reaction when Emily voiced her concerns.
Publishing her three-hour flagship workshop became overwhelming. “I just felt like there were a lot of barriers. A lot of those barriers were myself, but I just couldn’t get the course online.”
Emily knew it was time to find a new online course platform if she wanted to succeed as a creator.
“It was clear they didn’t care about me and were laser-focused on their own business and growth, so I quit the platform.” She remembers thinking, “I need to switch because this platform clearly isn’t working for me.”
Then, Emily learned about Podia.
The solution: An all-in-one platform that empowered Emily to go above and beyond
“I heard about Podia and how it was an all-in-one platform and had all these capabilities.” So Emily moved platforms — and the students from her free course moved with her!
“I switched to Podia, and so many of my audience course members switched. I think you usually feel like so many people drop when you switch, and I was just grateful that so many people didn’t drop.”
Once Emily got started with Podia, she had the tools, structure, and support to go beyond her free course and begin launching more courses and products.
“Podia is so easy to use. I have been able to produce smaller things like workshops and webinars."
“I feel like Podia’s people actually give a damn about creators instead of the vibe I got from Teachable, which was ‘Too bad, so sad, this is a better business move for us. Take it or leave it.’”
Emily started out wanting to create a single course. With Podia’s all-in-one platform, she’s been able to do so much more — and grow a successful creator business along the way.
How does Emily use Podia?
Emily uses Podia to create a beautiful, easy-to-follow experience for her students, whether they’re visiting her website for the first time, interacting in her community, or seeking a more advanced course. Her well-designed website and thoughtfully packaged products engage sketchnoters of every level while making the most of Emily’s time.
Let’s take a tour through Emily’s…
Courses (self-paced & cohort)
…all powered by Podia!
Emily’s Podia site houses all of her digital products and her community.
“Podia makes it really easy to look professional, so while I do have a background in graphic design, I think anyone can achieve this kind of look because of Podia’s really great builder.
“Anyone’s website can look professional, even if they don’t have that design background.”
Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Emily uses Podia’s website builder. Watch her explain how she structures her website to build trust, grow her audience, and make more sales — and share tips on how you can do the same:
The Podia website builder makes it easy for Emily to organize her products and give her students the information they need at every level. Her “Start Here” landing page shares the information new sketchnoters need as beginners, while more advanced students (with higher budgets) can browse all of Emily’s products on the View All Offerings page.
All in all, Emily’s Podia site gives her and her students a beautiful, easy-to-navigate home base for all of her sketchnoting products.
Courses (self-paced & cohort)
Emily offers two types of courses as part of Sketchnote Academy: Self-paced courses , which students can take on their own time, and Cohort Programs , where students work through a curriculum together over a set period.
The biggest barrier to entry for prospective sketchnoters? A lack of confidence. Emily’s free Beginner Sketchnote Drawing course gives new sketchnoters the tools they need to get started and prepares them to move on to the more advanced (paid) courses.
Each self-paced course includes evergreen content, making them more flexible for students and less time-consuming for Emily.
The Sketchnote Academy Cohort Programs are small groups of around 25 students who go through a curriculum together over one or two months. The group meets over Zoom to learn, discuss, share progress, and get feedback.
Emily has used the cohort format to host two book clubs so far. Cohort members learned to sketchnote a book summary while reading (and drawing) their way through a book together.
She used Podia’s course feature to set up the program, then linked to scheduled Zoom webinars for the cohort meetings. Emily plans to turn the book club content into a self-paced course on sketchnoting book summaries.
Webinars & workshops
At the end of the year, Emily sells the recordings of that year’s workshops as digital products. This lets students who missed the live workshop get in on the action — and Emily can repurpose existing content to sell more products without extra work.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many customers weren’t interested in a full, start-to-finish course. They wanted shorter workshops on more niche topics.
Live workshops are now less popular, and Emily is focusing on self-paced courses and evergreen content. All her digital products are hosted on Podia, making it simpler for Emily to adapt to her audience’s changing needs and give them the products they want.
Emily sells two PDF workbooks as digital downloads on her Podia site: Handwriting Practice Workbook and The Sketchnoter’s Guide to Confident Coloring . Aspiring sketchnoters can buy the workbooks on their own or can use them to supplement Emily’s courses and workshops.
The Sketchnote Academy Community is free to join and offers a place for sketchnoters to connect, collaborate, request and offer feedback, and interact with Emily.
Because Emily’s community is on the same platform as all of her digital products, it’s an excellent resource for Emily’s audience without taking a ton of extra work or time jumping between platforms.
“I hate Facebook with a fiery passion, and I never want to use it,” says Emily. “I don’t want to be on it, and I don’t want my users to be on it.” She also ran into trouble using Slack for her book club cohorts because less tech-savvy members didn’t want to learn how to access a new tool.
“I love the [Podia] community platform because it’s just one login for everybody. They can log in and look at their courses and ask me a question and get feedback all in one place, which I love.”
The Sketchnote Academy Community has six topics open to all members:
Start Here: Members can introduce themselves and learn about the community via a video welcome from Emily.
Sketchnote Academy Updates: A place for Emily to share brand announcements. “If people aren’t subscribing to my email, at least they can get the updates in the Podia community. What’s launching soon? What workshops are coming up? … The information’s out there in a really accessible place where they already are.”
Sketchnoting News: Emily and community members share about sketchnoting events, best practices, videos, and more.
Monthly Hangout: The most popular feature of the community. Once a month, Emily hosts a free workshop for community members. She picks the topic beforehand, then members can come and go as they please, ask questions, and draw together.
Show & Tell: Community members share their work and ask for feedback. Emily uses the conversations in this topic to see what her audience is struggling with, which informs her next products.
Random: A channel for everything else.
“It’s more of a passive place for questions, feedback, and very specific course groups,” Emily describes. “So for cohort groups, they’ll have their own private topic … so that they can get to know each other and feel like they’re going to a private class together. It’s just like, ‘Hey, we have access to each other, and you have access to me.’”
Finally, Emily uses her community to get input from her audience. Members can vote on upcoming workshop topics and activities through surveys and discussion threads.
(Learn more about how Emily and two other successful creators run their active online communities .)
She hasn’t advertised the service yet, but it’s available for folks who want it. Having her hourly rate listed helps Emily communicate the value of her time and turn down requests for one-on-one coaching from folks who aren’t ready to pay that much.
Finally, Emily uses Podia’s built-in email tools to communicate directly with her students and customers through broadcast emails and quick one-off messages. For marketing email campaigns and more complicated automations, she uses ConvertKit.
She includes an email capture form across her Podia site, motivating visitors to join Emily’s email list for first dibs on new programs and products.
Like having her community and digital products all in one place, Emily also loves being able to email her cohort members right from Podia. “Being able to email a group of course students or a cohort without having to go through my software and separate them out is really great.”
Grow your own creator business like Sketchnote Academy
Emily started out with an idea for one course. Now, with the right tools and support in her corner, she’s built a thriving creator business with a variety of products for sketchnoters of every level.
She’s taught thousands of students from around the world how to sketchnote — and she continues to adapt and grow every day. She also shares her knowledge as an ambassador in the Podia Creator Community .
To sum up her experience, Emily says: “Podia is very easy to use. It makes doing business easier.”