Is it possible to make a good living teaching on Udemy? How to be successful on Udemy?
Go back to 2016, this was a question I asked myself as I built my first course on the Udemy platform. I had done my research and felt confident about creating a helpful and valuable course, but that question remained… is it possible to make a good living on Udemy?
The short answer is yes, and in this article, you’ll see how. I haven’t written this to brag about my success, rather show you what’s possible.
From showing you how I started selling my courses, what worked, what didn’t, and why I recommend Udemy to a course creator like you, I will talk about my Udemy journey from the last few years, including:
- What is Udemy?
- How does Udemy work?
- How do course sales work on Udemy?
- How does the Udemy Instructor Revenue Share System work?
- How did I start teaching on Udemy?
- My first sales on Udemy
- My revenue on my first year on Udemy
- My total revenue (until today) on Udemy
- What is my overall Udemy strategy?
- Why did my strategy work on Udemy?
- What is the best way to be successful on Udemy?
The bottom line is that yes it’s possible to be successful and make a good living on Udemy, and you may find it’s much easier than you think!
What is Udemy?
If you’re reading an article like this, I imagine you’ve already heard of Udemy.
If not, here’s a quick overview:
- 40 million students
- 56k instructors
- 155k courses
- 480 million enrollments
- 115 million minutes watched
- More than 65 languages
- Over 7000 enterprise customers
If you’re looking to build a successful career in the online education space, Udemy is a platform you need to look into!
How does Udemy work?
The best way to explain Udemy is to say it’s like Amazon for online courses.
It houses just about every type of course in every type of industry you can imagine, breaking down the barrier to entry and letting people around the globe access valuable online training.
Anyone can sign up to take a course, and anyone can sign up to become an instructor.
It’s free to do so, and Udemy has made it simple and seamless by providing a clear step-by-step course-building process. With a series of training resources and explainer videos, you can have your course set up in just a few hours. Including:
- A great-looking landing page
- SEO optimized course and marketing material
- Functional course ready for your students
AND… instant access to tens of millions of potential people ready to buy your course!
How do course sales work on Udemy?
Udemy’s main goal is to provide affordable and highly valuable courses to its customers. Although some cost hundreds of dollars (and you, as the course creator, have the ability to price your course accordingly), Udemy regularly experiments with a series of sales.
Historically, this often includes access to hundreds of courses for just $10 each.
They’ve had huge success with this strategy and is the main reason for its growth.
Some course creators worry about this, but you shouldn’t. If you have a product on Amazon and they decide to include it in one of their “deals” or “promotions”, it’s a good thing. The same applies to Udemy. The more exposure your courses get, the better.
How does the Udemy Instructor Revenue Share System work?
As an Udemy course creator, you can create promotional coupons and bring students to you. This means if someone from your email list or social media buys one of your courses, you keep 97% of the sale price.
Whereas if someone finds you through the Udemy marketplace, you receive 37% of the sale (in addition to this, Udemy also has an affiliate program for course creators, meaning you can earn an extra 15% on any affiliate-related sales).
How did I start teaching on Udemy?
I plan to share a lot with you here, so if you’d like more details on how I got started with Udemy, you may like to read my article: How I Made $1.615.000 Selling Online Courses (So Far).
To overview my story, I first thought about joining Udemy in 2014 when the platform was still relatively new. At the time, I was a student (and still am) and had taken several courses to improve my software development skills.
At the time, I remember taking this one course and thinking I could do better.
It was okay, but I knew I could provide a more in-depth and practical course.
For the first time, I found myself frustrated on Udemy. I needed a more advanced software development course, but I just couldn’t find one that ticked all my boxes. Before long, my frustration transformed into excitement because I saw a gap in the marketplace.
At the same time, I grew tired and burned out from my job as a corporate software developer. So, in February 2016, I quit my job and decided to create my first Udemy course! I won’t try and kid you and say I had it all figured out. I felt terrified and as though I jumped into the void.
But I knew I had a great course in me.
In fact, I knew I had several of them!
I already had a successful software development blog, so this felt like a natural progression. I learned a lot in the coming months. Some wins. Lots of mistakes. But before long, I recorded my first course (it had about 30 lessons), published it on Udemy, and the rest, as they say, is history.
My first sales on Udemy
To begin with, I sent some traffic from my blog to Udemy, and to my surprise, I made some instant sales. In fact, at the end of my first month, I generated almost $300 in sales.
Not huge, but it was a start. And because I had no idea what to expect, I considered this a success. But I was also realistic because this was not enough for me to make a living in Belgium. Still, this validated my idea and proved I could do this.
So I re-recorded my first course because, honestly, my first attempt wasn’t very good. I took the feedback I received and transformed it from start to finish, creating more and more courses on the back of this.
Each week built new momentum, and before long I was one of those Udemy course-creators making a good living on the platform.
My revenue on my first year on Udemy
I made $30.793 within the first twelve months on Udemy.
As you can see, toward the summer of 2017 I began to build momentum. This was largely through organic traffic, too, meaning I made just 37% per sale. Also, notice that revenue of almost $4000 that I made in November 2016 – that was my first Udemy Black Friday experience — that showed me how powerful Udemy’s promotions can be!
Each month, more students found me as Udemy introduced my courses to more people via their “suggested courses” feature. This was all largely passive income, too. Other than answering a few questions each week, I didn’t have to do much as the momentum continued to build.
For some, $30,000 in one year is a lot. For others, it isn’t. All I can say is that this was just the beginning for me, and in the time since life has gotten rather exciting.
My total revenue (until today) on Udemy
If we fast-forward to the summer of 2021, you can see how Udemy has had a huge impact on my finances.
Over the last few years, I’ve continued to add new courses and improve existing ones, leading to $437.219 (so far). It’s a machine that continues to go from strength to strength, generating over $100k over the last twelve months.
I should also note that Udemy isn’t the only way I share my online courses. This is just one of my income streams. Yet it’s an important one because it’s Udemy that kickstarted many of the others.
So, with all this in mind, you may be wondering… how did I do it?
What is my overall Udemy strategy?
I’ve focused on the software development space on Udemy, specializing in a technology called Angular. When I first started, I was a nobody on the platform and there were some established courses with A LOT of social proof.
This was a problem. The way the platform works, a course with greater social proof and momentum gets shown to more people (which generates even more social proof and momentum).
I needed to hack this somehow, so instead of trying to compete with one large mega-course that covered everything, I niched down and created several smaller but in-depth courses covering specific subtopics.
As a student, this is what I was looking for.
And I figured there were other people like me.
Turns out I was right…
By drilling down into my topic and creating practical courses that taught developers how to create an application from A to Z, I created lots of small (but super in-depth) courses that lasted 4 to 10 hours each.
I filmed myself building a program and literally explained everything I did step-by-step: what I was doing, why I did it, why I didn’t do something else, and so on…
This strategy of niching down worked, not only making me money on the platform but creating more and more social proof until Udemy started to place me in front of more and more people.
Why did my strategy work on Udemy?
Niching down as I have done is uncommon on Udemy. Most people try to create an all-encompassing mega course. It’s hard to stand out this way. Whereas my strategy provides a few important benefits that most people miss out on:
1: Students often prefer a more in-depth explanation.
This may not be the case if you have a “beginners” course, but people that have advanced usually want to go deep into a specific topic. They don’t want to learn a little about a lot. They want to become a master at something.
2: Students want to focus on something practical
Instead of just learning about how something works, people crave to see it and do it themselves. The way I showed my students how to create something step-by-step, they were able to take the journey with me. They were able to replicate this on their own.
3: More courses means more money
Having one large course often sells at the same prices as a smaller, specific one on Udemy. With my strategy, students had greater reason to buy several of my courses for $10 to $15 each. In total, many students end up investing $100+ into my courses, which adds up over time.
4: More courses means more momentum
I currently have 17 active courses on Udemy, and many of my students buy 10+ courses. As already mentioned, this generates greater social proof, which Udemy’s algorithm loves. The more courses I have, the more likely I am to feature in “Frequently Bought Together” results and other promotions, searches, and features.
On Udemy, momentum builds momentum.
5: It’s the less traveled road
Most course creators on Udemy try to focus all their attention on one mega-course and hope it brings them the success they desire. The fact I have lots of smaller courses sets me apart from other creators.
I’m not saying my strategy would work for everyone, but it’s worked for me and it’s an approach more people could find success with on Udemy (and other platforms).
What is the best way to be successful on Udemy?
As successful as my strategy has been, the most common way to build success on Udemy is with a large masterclass course that consists of 15 to 30 hours of material. These courses, over time, generate not only more revenue, but students, reviews, and social proof.
So, if your course category lacks one of these mega-courses, you may like to focus on creating the best one that gives your students everything they need.
However, if you face the problem I did where there are several well-established courses (which is most categories, I’m afraid to say), you may find niching down like I did a better approach.
This comes down to you figuring out a few key elements:
- Who your ideal student is and what they need
- What your market/category is, and what already exists
- Why you can bring something different (and what this looks like)
Once you get clear on this, you can create a course (or series of courses) that not only provides value but help you stand out. Achieve this and you too can have the kind of success I have. If not more!!
So, to summarize my journey on Udemy so far, these are my key takeaways to :
Build an audience via a blog and then send them to Udemy.
Your first course will be far from perfect, so don’t invest too much time in it. Create it. Publish it. Learn from it!
If you’re in a crowded category, consider creating a series of smaller, in-depth courses that focus on multiple subtopics.
Commit to the long term and choose a topic you like A LOT.
Always be on the lookout for new topics and record new courses as soon as you can.
This is what worked for me, although it only scratches the surface. I’ve learned so many lessons over the last few years, and although Udemy isn’t the only platform I use that generates income, it has played a massive role in my overall growth.
So… Is it possible to make a good living teaching on Udemy?
Yes. Absolutely, My story is proof, and I’m not the only one. If you have the right idea and can bring value to your students, you can make a good living on Udemy!
I hope my story has inspired you to take the next step.
If you would like to hear more about my full story as an online course creator (besides Udemy), you can check out this post: How I Made $1.615.000 Selling Online Courses (So Far)
And if you are looking for an online course platform to host your online courses for free, check out my platform onlinecoursehost.com.
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- The Course Creator Academy Guides: Learn everything that you need to know to become a successful online course creator
- The Course Creator Academy Facebook Group: Public community for interacting with other like-minded online course creators and with our course experts team.
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