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Jo Kelly isn’t your average acting teacher. 

In fact, she doesn’t use the term “teacher” at all; “I do the opposite of teaching people how to act” she says. “I help people not act.”

Through experiential exercises, Jo coaches mainly actors and artists of all kinds, as well as non artist “seekers” on how to find inner freedom and become their most authentic selves. In this way, actors can stop acting and start being. “I like to call myself a midwife more than a coach, because I help people come back to their truth and get reborn,” she explains. 

She believes that the success of an actor lies in their fulfillment and ability to devote themselves to their character. “When the character is defended fully, the story and audience is impacted,” she says. 

In her unique style of guiding performing artists, she helps them to tap into their childlike curiosity, wonder, and play. The result? They give truthful, alive, and raw performances. 

In 2016, Jo transitioned from in-person coaching to develop an online business via Thinkific. Since, she’s created three consecutive learning journeys and has served over 8,000 people. Her members have had incredible success since working with Jo, and have landed roles in some of the biggest studios in the game like Netflix, HBO, Disney, Showtime, ABC Studios, and more. 


Here’s how she built an online business doing what she’s passionate about:

Skip ahead:

  1. She did her research

Jo had an unusual path into acting. 

Born in Belgium, she got her MBA and then specialized in human resource management and systemic psychology. Afterwards, she did corporate coaching. “The corporate world never felt like my cup of tea,” she shares. “I decided to drop everything, move to Paris, and start over.”

Part of this starting over was trying her hand at acting, which she fell in love with. She was passionate, hardworking, and put all of her time and money into learning how to be the best actor she could be. 

Despite her dedication to the craft, she says she was a good actress but not a great actress. Like many actors, she had stage fright. “Most of my acting colleagues were suffering from the same thing,” she says. “We were all so passionate, but when it came time to act, we were afraid.”

She became curious about what was blocking her and others from becoming great actors. “My curiosity became an obsession,” she says. “I wanted to know why actors who are so devoted and passionate shrink when it’s time to act.”

For the next several years, she investigated why so many actors felt blocked. Her research led to the conclusion that when kids play, they’re free. Whereas when adults play, they’ve lost their freedom due to societal conditioning. “When I discovered that, I spent the rest of my time really helping actors unlearn their conditioning so that they could show up and be themselves with that childlike energy that they used to have,” explains Jo.

  1. She began coaching

Jo’s experiential research led her to explore different somatic tools and practices, which she then tried on other people via group and private coaching back in early 2000. A few years later, she named her business To Be Or Not To Act. 

Soon, she realized that those she coached were lacking accountability. “No matter how devoted the people I worked with were, they weren’t able to show up everyday. Even if we met three times a week, the accountability wasn’t there in-between sessions. People would drop the ball easily when they weren’t with me,” explains Jo.

She decided that online courses would help people to be more consistent with their practice. She refers to her online courses as “journeys,” and the first journey she takes people through is The Reset: From Resistance to Freedom—which she developed in 2014. “I started designing The Reset so that I could hold people’s hands through a 33-day journey,” she explains.
“Since it’s online, people can do it on their own time and manage their own schedule.”

It’s Jo’s belief that we are born with a true essence, and then societal conditioning asks us to behave, think, and feel a certain way. According to her, the purpose of The Reset is for people to move through daily somatic exercises that help to remove their conditioning and return to their natural instincts. Each day in The Reset, Jo offers pre-recorded exercises. She also provides two Q&A sessions, two sessions of group work via pods, and one semi-Q&A where she answers recurring questions in a private Facebook group.

Having the flexibility of an online journey allows Jo’s members to do the sessions at any point in time; when they wake up, before they go to bed, or whenever they have spare time throughout the day. “The best part is that they can make the sessions fit into their lives,” she explains. 

  1. She built an online business that gave her a flexible lifestyle

When Jo first launched her online Reset journey, she had each daily session on her website. A couple of years later, she switched to Thinkific after being recommended to the platform by her coach. “You guys know what you’re doing, and I don’t,” she laughs. 

Since moving into the online coaching space, Jo’s life has changed. At the time of the interview, she was calling from the hospital, where she was with her daughter. “Eight years ago, my daughter was born with a genetic specification, which means that she needs hospital care every month,” she shares.

“Thinkific enables me to be a mom and take care of my life while keeping a business running—even while I’m in the hospital as my daughter gets her monthly transfusions,” she continues. “Working online lets me care for my daughter in the way that I want to and be home at all times for her. It allows me to travel for hospital needs, while still being able to have a career I’m passionate about without it being stressful.”

  1. She created subsequent journeys

Once people complete The Reset, they have the option to go into a three-month journey called The Purposeful Actor. This journey offers a weekly three-hour session for 12 weeks. “The students here are a little more on their own in terms of accountability and showing up for themselves. They still have some practices to do everyday, but they can’t rely on my energy to do it; they have to come up with their own purpose, which is the point.” Jo shares.

Jo also offers Q&A sessions throughout The Purposeful Actor journey, which happen every three weeks. Then, once people have completed that Purpose journey, they have the opportunity to join a yearly membership called BAMF Actors In Action, which stands for Bad-Ass Mother F***king Actors In Action. “I created this membership because people who had finished the two journeys wanted to continue practicing on this path,” she says.

The membership has been running for four years, and it includes one content session a month, group work via weekly pods, a monthly Q&A session with Jo, and a six-hour summit every three months. “The membership helps people determine how they’re going to go out into the world and do what they’re meant to be doing, connect with the industry, create their own content, and raise the bar on their instrument,” she explains. 

  1. She coached artists of all kinds

According to Jo, most of her clients in her journeys are actors. However, there are also other types of artists, like writers, dancers, storytellers, and singers, as well regular people who “want to move through their conditioning,” such as mothers and professionals like pro athletes, TV hosts, and therapists. “Freedom is a concern to anyone who wants to be fully expressed,” she says.

Since the journeys are offered in English, they attract people from around the world. “We have people from all continents, but mostly America, Europe, and Australia,” she shares.

Most of her audience is between the ages of 20-50. She also has some people in their third stage of life join, and it’s not uncommon for her to welcome those in their 70s and 80s into her journeys.


  1. She let her clients do the talking

When it comes to marketing her journeys, Jo says the word has spread mostly via word of mouth.

On the home page of her website, she’s embedded a video testimonial reel. This adds social proof and adds credibility to her work. Plus, website visitors can sign up for her email newsletter on her site. To collect email addresses, she offers a couple of free workshops as lead magnets: Stop Trying To Be A Good Actor So You Have A Chance At Being Great as well as The Instinctive Actor. Not only do these trainings help her capture her audience’s data, they also give people a taste of coaching style. 

She also posts on her Instagram page—which has over 10,500 followers—and gets external press by being interviewed on people’s podcasts, blogs, and magazines. 

  1. She chose value-packed pricing

Jo tries to make her journeys affordable for people, especially since actors tend to have a fluctuating income. “If you went to an acting studio once a week, you’d pay around $300-$400. Mostly, you sit and watch other people do scenes and sometimes, you get a turn,” she says. 

“These online journeys are a much cheaper alternative,” continues Jo. “The value of our journeys are 10x what we sell them for.”

The Reset is priced under $1,000 USD, The Purposeful Actor is $1,250 USD, and the membership costs $270 USD per month.

  1. She stayed in her zone of genius

Despite being the CEO of To Be Or Not To Act, Jo is firm in wanting to only spend time in her zone of genius—which is coaching and creating content. She doesn’t feel tech-savvy, and would much rather stay “in flow” doing what she does best. “The rest of the tasks of running a business I’m not interested in because it’s not my area of genius,” she says. 

Jo attributes her success to hiring a coach early on. When it was time to create evergreen journeys, she took a risk and bought a $20K course to learn how to do so. “It was a big stretch, and I had to borrow half of the money. But I’m glad that I did it,” she shares. 

She believes that it’s possible that anyone can create a successful online course business. However, she warns people that it’s not easy.

“It takes commitment and determination, and you have to be really passionate about what you do. For me, it’s all I’ve ever done since changing careers in my twenties, and it’s all I’ll ever do. This passion makes it so that when it gets tough, I stick with it.”

  1. She created from the heart

She advises online creators to be realistic about the hard work they’ll have to put into building an online business—and recommends that they only do it if the topic they’re teaching is close to their heart.

“The danger now is that when you go on social media, everyone is a coach and everyone is selling you how possible it is to make millions in two minutes, and that’s just not true,” says Jo. “It is true that if you have something dear to your heart, you can reach an audience that is bigger than your neighborhood. But it takes legwork, and it takes falling and getting back up again. It takes getting coached and putting in your time and money until your structure is built.”

Like Jo, when you build a business from your heart, it gives you the stamina to stick with it—even through the hard times.

“An online business isn’t just a job opportunity to make money. It has to be built from your core—from what you’re meant to be doing. Otherwise you will drop the ball because it will feel too hard.” she shares. 

“If you’re on purpose, you’ll be ready to tackle the challenges. If you’re out there for a quick money grab, you won’t be able to take them on. My advice is to apply what is very dear to your heart. You have to be the best at what you do because there’s a high level of competition. You have to trust what you do.”

  1. She remained in integrity with her craft

When asked about online course trends we may see in 2024, Jo thinks there will continue to be an excess of online programs. She says that the main differentiator between the “McDonald’s” courses and the “gourmet” courses will be those that are created with integrity. 

“When there’s an excess of things, there will be two kinds of online work. There will be McDonald’s style courses and then there will be the reliable, gourmet courses. Everyone is going to have a program to do this or that with your life that won’t come from a place of integrity, and then there will be those who have been going at it for a long time,” she says.

In order to create the gourmet style of course, her recommendation is to come back to the heart. 

“There is incredible potential for anyone who is grounded in their heart wanting to serve others,” she continues. “The people who will need what you have to offer will find you.”

“I’m grateful to Thinkific which enables us to connect as humans for what matters to us. It’s incredible.”

Looking to launch your own online course business? Sign up for Thinkific today—for free!