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In October ’14 I had all the reasons to believe in Udemy’s potential. A close friend had just seen tremendous results and I was there first hand to witness it. But somehow I wasn’t expecting much on my side. There was a lot of uncertainty.

One day, I said to myself “Just launch one course by January ’15. You can figure it out after”. That was my challenge – I had 2.5 months to launch my first course.

How It All Started

My first course was my LinkedIn Blueprint which I launched on January 6th 2015. It started off pretty well  consistently bringing me $150 per month in the first half of the year.

I launched my second course – Twitter Blueprint in April. I was expecting it to have the same success, but it somehow didn’t happen. I was still navigating around $200 per month and something had to change. Otherwise my savings would have run up and I would have had to go back to my previous corporate life.

What Happens When You Start Panicking

At the end of April ’15 I realised my strategy was not effective.

  • I was filming all my courses in a studio. The quality was great, but it was very time consuming
  • I had 2 Social Media courses and was recording a 3rd one (Facebook). The plan definitely sounded better initially
  • I didn’t have many ideas for my next courses

So I started to panic. Was this it? Was I failing? Should I start applying for jobs?

As I calmed myself down, I took a seat and wrote down all the courses that I could create. I was hesitant to approach topics such as PowerPoint or Excel – which I was really good at – because I was afraid of competition.

I finally came up with 3 ideas:

  • Resume Course
  • Interview Course
  • PowerPoint & Excel Fusion

The “AHA!” Moment

Here’s what’s great about Udemy – once you start creating courses it’s not about your previous skills. Your most important skill is knowing how to create content that is actionable and teaches students real-life skills.

I had 3 courses in the works at the beginning of June. I launched my PowerPoint & Excel course and it was an instant success. Here’s what’s even funnier: I recorded it all in screenshare. No filming. No studio. Just me in my flat speaking in front of a microphone.

Hold on, it gets better. The studio wasn’t available for me to film the promo video for that course, so I decided spontaneously to create it in PowerPoint. I did my own thing, worked on it for about 6-7 hours and launched the course.

It made me a few hundred dollars in the first few days. I was blown away – this was more than I was making in each of the previous months. That’s when I had my “AHA!” moment: I could create a course about how I created this video! I put in some more topics and I came up with my PowerPoint & Camtasia course. It was an instant success as well, bringing me some more hundreds of dollars.

This was my first $1,000+ month. I was ecstatic. This was the confirmation – I COULD do this full time.

A detailed view of my breakthrough month. The 2 PowerPoint courses were what made it happen.

A detailed view of my breakthrough month. The 2 PowerPoint courses were what made it happen.

What happens after you start believing

My PowerPoint courses are still bringing me similar levels each month without me having to update them too much. That moment gave me the confidence to pursue something I was really passionate about – an Excel course.

Creating an Excel course was out of the question up to that point – there were over 300-400 Excel courses on Udemy, how could I make any money from it? Well, it’s my second best-selling course right now. Right after my LinkedIn course.

“The LinkedIn course ?!” you ask? “I thought that was making you $150 per month”. That was in the beginning. Let me explain.

The Key To Making Money On Udemy

I truly believe it starts with creating one quality course. You need to take that step. However, for long-term success on Udemy, you have to create as many courses as possible. Once you do that, you will make more money on your older courses because:

  • You have more proof – think of an Instructor that has 2 courses vs one that has 12. Assuming the same quality and topic, which one’s course would you buy?
  • You’re more diversified – and you reach a larger audience on Udemy
  • You have more promotion power – you can send promo announcements to your entire client base sending them from one course to another. Often times, when someone enters my circle of courses for the first time, they buy 5-8 courses in one go when I send them my first promo announcement.

My $5,586 Month – January ’16

Once you get that, you’re in a rush to create as many courses as possible. Once you establish those courses on the market, you will have recurring sales. Udemy will start promoting you. You will gather a lot of proof in the form of reviews.

Once Udemy has a month where they offer a lot of discounts and the website is flooded with traffic, something like this can happen.

My January '16 earnings. Udemy pays you 30 days after the end of the month, so as to account for the 30 day refunds that might be taken away.

My January ’16 earnings. Udemy pays you 30 days after the end of the month, so as to account for the 30 day refunds that might be taken away.

This is twice the salary I was making as an analyst in a top management consulting firm. This is also passive income. Sure, I work a lot to develop my business further, but the money I make on my existing courses is 90% passive.

What If You Run Out Of Ideas?

This is where the top 1% of earners on Udemy separate themselves from the rest. Once they build a presence with their own course ideas, they start focusing on partnerships. This is also what enabled me to get to those single month results.

Partnerships are great for a few reasons:

  • You get to bundle 2 (or more) Instructors knowledge into one course
  • You can both promote to that course – At the end of the day Udemy is a money making business. If you both send traffic towards a new course, it will be more highly ranked because it will have made more money
  • You tap into someone else’s student base – Imagine this scenario: I create a course with Person B. Person B sends a promo email to his entire student base where he advertises our course. One month later, when I send my promo email, I send it to our joint course as well. All the students that were funneled into that course by him now see my courses potentially for the first time. They like what they see, so a lot of them enroll in 5-6 of them

In short, here’s the blueprint for long-term Udemy success:

  1. Start off with your course ideas
  2. Partner up with as many people as possible (maybe even from the beginning if you can convince them)
  3. Launch courses on hot topics with specialists in those particular fields

If you master the art of creating content and marketing it accordingly, then you will never have to worry about running out of ideas. It will actually be a problem of which course you choose and what you decide to invest time and money into. At the end of the day, we teach people online, but these courses can be viewed as products.

And whoever builds the best & the largest portfolio first usually wins out.