- Jasmine Katatikarn is a tech artist manager at Amazon and runs an e-learning business on the side.
- Her company, the Academy of Animated Art, sells courses teaching industrial software for up to $736.
- She spends three to four hours a week part-time and earns an average of $17,700 a month.
This essay is based on an interview with Jasmine Katatikarn, a tech artist manager for Amazon who also runs an e-learning business, the Academy of Animated Artas a side hustle in New York City. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I work 40 hours a week at Amazon as a Tech Artist Manager, a role I’ve held since January, and I run a business on the side. My side hustle, the Academy of Animated Art, helps people gain the skills they need to become 3D light artists and get jobs in the animation industry. 3D lighting is the lighting process in animation films, games, visual effects, commercials, etc. For example, if you have a scene with a haunted house, the lighting will help create that spooky atmosphere by adding shadows and dim lighting.
My online courses range from $244 to $736 each and teach industry software like Maya and Nuke, which are widely used in the film industry – movies like The Avengers and Frozen were made with Maya.
My best selling product is the Lighting Bundle, which combines seven core classes and workshops into one package. The primary additional benefit of the package is personal, professional feedback on the students’ work via the Academy’s community channel. After graduating from the Academy of Animated Art, my students were hired by companies like Disney and Sony. More than 5,700 students have completed all of our paid programs to date, and most join us when they are just starting out in the industry.
Money was never the main reason I started my part-time job
I have had an entrepreneurial side since I was a child. It’s my passion and I love to create something from nothing. One of the other reasons I started the Academy is because it’s very difficult to succeed as a light artist if you’re not already in the industry.
I started my part-time job in May 2012. The idea of teaching others my craft came to me while I was working full-time as a 3D lighting artist on films like Ice Age and Rio at major studios like Nickelodeon and Blue Sky Studios.
Based on January-October 2022 sales, I averaged $17,700 per month in sales. My best month was June when I made more than $30,000 in sales. We recently launched our diversity program, where I work with leading studios to make animation accessible to children from different backgrounds, and this has generated additional revenue.
What drives me is the impact the academy has on our students: it transforms their professional and creative lives. Many of them come from creative industries – from traditional lighting artists to photographers, video editors and engineers – but we also have students from different backgrounds, such as: B. Healthcare professionals. Few things beat the feeling of receiving a message from a student who has landed a dream job thanks to the academy.
The challenges I faced when starting my side business were setting aside enough time and figuring out the best format for teaching
I had to decide whether the classes should be live or pre-recorded, figure out the curriculum and decide if there was even a market for my niche, which is very small.
To create the courses, I (or a teacher I work with) do extensive research on the curriculum and create the 3D models and scenes we need to teach the skills. The teachers are usually contacts within my network or connections through my contacts. Sometimes it’s alumni who are part of our community. We also record, edit and create supplementary material.
Creating a course can take anywhere from three months to a year depending on the course and other time commitments in my full-time job. I set up all my courses on Teachable and sell them through the platform.
The first thing I did after completing my first course was posting about it on LinkedIn and Reddit. When the first student signed up it was so exciting and gave me proof that there were people who wanted to buy the course.
In the beginning, I pre-taped lectures that came out on Sundays with assignments due the following Monday so students could get feedback and ask questions. Today, we use a similar open enrollment format, allowing students to join the course at any time and submit assignments at their own pace.
When I founded the academy, I had to invest more time
The Lighting Bundle was set up within two years. Although it takes a lot of work up front, in the long run it is less intense and sustainable to build a business that will bring a great income and allow me to work in other areas like my full time job.
It took me six years with a one year break to scale to six digits and then multiple six digits. In the first five years, however, I was very casual about my part-time job. I didn’t promote it much and even paused the academy after the fifth year because I wasn’t sure if I would continue working on it.
After this one year hiatus I brought it back due to high demand. By sixth year, I decided to focus on taking the Academy to the next level financially and seriously growing sales with Facebook Ads, SEO, podcast speaking engagements, and more.
Today, when I hire external teachers to create course content, I can keep my time commitment to three to four hours a week. I spend the rest of my time with management and mentoring.
Product creation takes more than three to four hours a week when I personally create the curriculum and videos – in this case it takes me closer to 10 to 15 hours a week to work on my side job, with one to two hours a night on weekdays and five hours on weekends. This creation phase takes place on average once a year for two to three months.
Often we think the goal is to quit your job to work full-time at your side job—and I thought so, too. But now I see everything I do as an extension of myself and an opportunity, not a duty. I love my full time job and I love my business so I keep them both. They help me to organize my working life in such a way that it suits me perfectly.
For others interested in starting and scaling an online side business, I would recommend developing a Minimum Viable Product so you can test your idea first
To find this idea, look at things you’re already good at, whether you’ve learned skills at your job or have a hobby you love. Then you can iterate your offering instead of creating the “perfect” product or service for the first release, which only leads to overwhelm and stress.
Next, build a profitable business before scaling it. Especially if you’re doing it on the side, you need to be very focused and working on the tasks that impact your business the most: course creation, marketing, and sales.
I took my business to the next level when I was able to reinvest my side income from the business into a team that has helped me continue to grow. I currently have three part-time employees: one person who works on our SEO and content creation, one who helps manage our social media channels, and a business coach who helps me grow my business.
Ask yourself, “How can I make this easy and fun?” Instead of thinking, “This is going to be hard, but I can do it.” A part-time job should be fun. This is a great way to strengthen yourself after a long day at work and motivate you to work on it.