I finally did it! After months of brainstorming, creating, and submitting for review, my first Udemy course is live. If you know anything about online marketing, you've probably heard that Udemy courses can be a great way to build your online brand and make some cash. In fact, some Udemy creators are making thousands a month with this business!
But is it realistic to hang all of your income hopes on an Udemy course? Like anything else, I like to diversify and have all kinds of options for creating revenue. With that, I'd like to share some of the challenges and successes that I realized with my experience. Maybe you'll learn some things that can help you!
1. You need to have the right equipment.
Depending on the type of course you do, there will be different requirements. I did a course that was mostly screen captures of the work I was doing on my computer, with a brief video at the beginning to introduce myself. I used the following tools to get the quality that Udemy requires:
- Windows Desktop running Chrome browser
- SnagIt software to capture small screen captures and audio
- Camtasia software to edit, format, and export video into a usable format for Udemy
- Canon Rebel DSLR camera to capture live video (with Cowboy lighting kit for good lighting)
- Rode Podcaster Mic to capture audio (with pop filter)
I also used the services of a professional on Fiverr to create my intro animation.
2. You need to have patience and be able to communicate.
My test video (which is required to submit before you ever finish or submit the final, complete course), came back with great feedback, so I figured that I was good to go. I kept all my recording and editing settings the same, then submitted my entire course for review.
Unfortunately, it took 5 tries to have them approve my final video because of one lecture. My "talking head" intro (which they recommend, even for courses that are mostly screen grabs), kept getting rejected. The screen resolution (while excellent) wasn't the correct size for their video player. It kept showing black bars on the top and sides.
As it turned out, my Canon DSLR was capturing video at the wrong size. I was able to edit it to make it work, but not without much stress and tears. It was certainly a case of "try, try, again" and -- if I had to do it over again -- I would have simply re-recorded that 2 minutes of video in a different format.
3. The Udemy Facebook group can (but will not always) be helpful.
Once you sign up to be an Udemy instructor, you'll get access to their "exclusive" Facebook group. This is where you can ask questions, get updates to the platform, and see what others are working on. As a fan of Facebook groups, I was very excited to join, Soon after joining, however, there was a massive pricing change for Udemy, and most of the posts revolved around complaints of this nature.
There was an excellent opportunity to promote your course in the group, however, which I'll talk about next.
4. Pricing can be confusing.
When I started making my course, pricing was open to whatever you wanted it to be. If you felt your course was worth $300, you could price it at that. If you thought it was worth $20, that was OK, too. The problem came with coupons. Instructors were deeply discounting those $300 courses to infer that they were giving students a great deal, but it wasn't providing a consistent experience for students.
I understand the pricing changes that Udemy made, and while I support them, I jumped into the game the week of these changes (which led to a little chaos). I priced my course at $30, and then offered some 50% off coupons in the early weeks to my readers and fans.
5. Free codes have their place. (Don't expect miracles.)
I also took advantage of the Udemy Facebook group, which allows you to post a "free" coupon code one time to encourage other instructors to view your course, and potentially review. Upon opening my code to 100 students, I found they were claimed in minutes. I submitted a new code with 300 uses, and they were snatched up, as well. (I got in trouble for doing this, however, as I didn't realize you could only advertise one free code to the group. Since the first offering went so fast, and you cannot extend uses for a code, I was forced to do a second offering, which I learned was not allowed to be advertised to the group. They were kind about it, but lesson learned.)
Out of the 400 codes that were claimed, only about 10 students have even looked at or used the course in any way. 4 left reviews. I think that it was a good way to boost enrollment numbers, so that you rank higher on the Udemy site, but not anything else. As it turns out, many people collect free codes, redeeming them for courses, and never follow through.
6. Udemy is not a way to get rich quick.
I did not get rich with my first month on Udemy. In fact, I would say that I just earned back my time and frustration in making the course.
Why is this? I have a couple of theories. First, the pricing change at just the moment I released the course stopped a lot of momentum that Udemy had. I think it will recover, as the courses there can be excellent. It will be hard to compete with other platforms that allow you to charge more, however, especially for the serious marketer with a big audience.
Second, I picked a very niche topic. Since my course covered social media marketing and strategy specific to the Shareist scheduling platform, which has a small but growing fanbase, I have a much smaller pool of interested students than someone who chooses to teach Buffer or HootSuite. But I do have the ONLY course as of right now that covers it. So, if interest in Shareist grows, my course will have the most engaged students and the honor of being "first" to market.
7. A note on affiliates:
I love the Udemy affiliate program -- from an affiliate perspective. I have made quite a nice chunk of change from promoting Udemy courses, especially during their sales promotions. My how to become a web developer article is one of my most popular on the 1099Mom site, and it is a direct funnel to affiliate sign ups that does quite well!
But from an instructor perspective, it is a bit disappointing. You are supposed to be able to create a code and, when people use it, you would get the lion's share of the income for that course sale. The code is an identifier to Udemy that you brought in that customer, and so you would get the large percentage of the revenue (97%). But since many people have affiliate trackers on their computers when redeeming the code, the affiliate ends up getting 50% of the revenue -- even after the code. And you get what's left after this and Udemy's cut. It's disappointing, to say the least.
(Confused? Yes, it's confusing. See the current pricing structure for more details. It's baffling if your'e not in the know.)
One workaround that I've seen is to sign up as an Udemy affiliate. If you qualify (which most bloggers and marketers with websites will), you can use your promo code AND your affiliate link when sharing your course. Then you're guaranteed to always get the most from each sale, no matter if that person is a new customer or not.
8. I would use Udemy again, but with one caveat.
So, is this something I would recommend for others? It depends. I would not create Udemy courses with the thought of being an Udemy superstar. I believe those days are over.
I would use Udemy as part of a strategic marketing plan, like I do. Currently, I have a subset of social media clients and prospects who want to use Shareist, but are unsure of the intricacies of it. They need training, but don't want to pay the $1200 I charge for a full 8-session, mentoring plan. While the Udemy course cannot replace my personal guidance and interaction, it can be a tool to get those with a limited budget who would never hire me as a consultant to buy the course and get familiar with Shareist. It meets a market need that I didn't have a solution in place for previously.
Udemy should be thought of as a tool for a well-rounded marketing plan, but not a business in itself. Like any other marketing platform, unless it is created by and owned by you, there is not guarantee that you can sustain success over the long term.
Do you have an Udemy course that you've created and would like to share? Leave the URL (no affiliate links, please) in the comments!