Lockdown has been a nightmare for most of us.
The boredom and frustration of being cooped up indoors for weeks at a time have led to massive mental health issues and problems magnified to breaking point in many families.
But for others, ironically, the last two years have been the opportunity of a lifetime.
People have been able to spend more time on their hobbies, and many have taken up new activities using distance learning and online classes to take advantage of remote learning opportunities.
This is especially so with the rise of online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online learning has seen a surge of interest with online learning platforms gearing up not just for higher education, but hobbyists and, of course, students, due to school closures.
Many of these online courses have had free access – and because of this, digital learning has become the new black.
Social media has helped to spread the wide range of learning activities available, and online platforms have sprung up to promote learning online.
This phenomenon has not just been the preserve of educational institutions. People have found that they do not need traditional learning environments to use online education.
Teachers and experts alike have been sharing their knowledge and making it available, along with a wide range of resources and support.
Inevitably, this has led to many innovative and entrepreneurial types developing their hobbies into new businesses.
Let’s take the example of a photographer who has been taking great photographs for many years – but only for themselves and their family.
Through an online course, they learn of the ability to create calendars, posters and other products using their photo stock.
They discover sites where they can sell these items and research poster printing.
Finding they can easily download their photographs to create quality poster prints and wall art with custom posters and even photo books and canvas prints, they can develop a viable business.
Either locally or online they can use a frame maker to make the photographs suitable for large format printing and sell framed poster prints and even specialist items like metal prints of their photos.
Ordering is made easy by using the many online platforms that allow customers to interact and select the poster size, paper grade, canvas or metal in advance.
As the items are custom made, on-demand, there is no need to stock materials or have studio or workshop space.
The embryo business owners then explore sites where they can sell these items and research further.
Finding they can easily download their photographs to create quality poster prints and wall art, with custom posters and even photo books and canvas prints, they can develop a viable business.
Either locally or online they can use a frame maker to make the photographs suitable for large format printing and sell framed poster prints and even specialist items like metal prints.
Ordering is made easy by using online platforms that allow customers to interact and select the poster size, paper grade, canvas or metal in advance.
Other areas which are incredibly popular, and where photographers have found markets they could only have dreamt of a couple of years ago, include mobile phone covers, cutting boards, cushion covers, educational materials and calendar printing.
People love a great calendar with quality photographs of things they are interested in. Dogs, cats, and other pets are a firm favourite, along with landscapes of local areas like the Great Barrier Reef or the Gold Coast. Wild animals in the bush and aerial shots of the coastline, taken with drones, are always popular subjects as well.
The calendars can take many formats – the obvious one being a wall calendar with a grid or layout to write appointments and important dates on. Desk calendars and diaries illustrated with photographs are also great sellers.
Online shops where photographers can create mugs, cards, fridge magnets, pillowcases, and hundreds of other gifts make this a promising area to explore for any entrepreneurial snapper.
Indeed, a large number of people have found that their business has taken off way beyond their expectations in the last two years, and they find themselves having to take on staff to deal with the admin and other aspects of their growth.
It’s at this point that you need to start looking at developing leadership skills. If you were employed in a management role before the pandemic this will come easily to you, but if you are new to having team members around, you will need to develop leadership skills by taking on some leadership development courses or advice.
The hardest part of managing any business is getting the best from your staff, and communication skills and effective leadership is essential if you want to motivate others and inspire them.
Conveying your vision for the business over time, and using your emotional intelligence to create a leadership style, will not just inspire others but make them keen to develop a career within your business.
With a great team around you, the sky’s the limit, with all kinds of new technology coming to your aid.
Remote working has led to major changes in methods of grouping people together to function as a whole.
There is now a case for not even needing an office, factory, or workshop – most communication can take place online using the many interactive communication apps and programs.
Cloud computing services have changed the IT landscape forever.
It is no longer necessary to have massive storage devices with all the expense and risk that these entail.
You can now have a virtual private cloud using a database migration service or hybrid cloud storage with various cloud computing providers.
This is perfect for storing and organising things like photographs. Using cloud services like the Google cloud platform enables you to store your data in fully managed data centres within their cloud infrastructure.
The cost of cloud providers has fallen recently, with many offering very reasonable subscription deals to business and personal customers alike.
Security of your information is taken very seriously, and data cloud management ensures that companies have the resources and ability within their cloud computing infrastructure to keep your cloud data secure and easily accessible at all times.
These are exciting times for online learning and personal development.