A few years ago I came across one challenging statement on a LinkedIn forum. The participants were discussing the process of online teaching – how to get started, how to scale it, what platforms to use for webinars or online lessons, etc.
They went back and forth talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using Skype and other similar applications, and then somebody posted a comment that etched into my memory and made me acutely aware of where I was and where I had to be.
The person said something like, “Limiting yourself to teaching only skype lessons is a dead-end street. You need to have something more if you would like to scale your business.”
I know a lot of online teachers who have been entertaining the idea of designing online courses, but they may lack a bit of confidence and some practical information on whether or not it’s worth the effort.
1:1 Instruction and its Long-Term Viability.
In this post I’m going to share my own experience of designing online courses through Udemy.com. The disclaimer is I haven’t been featured on any blog as the one who made the most money out of online courses or somebody who is recruiting students like there’s no tomorrow.
However, I feel like I’ve found the right niche for myself and was able to create products that got some significant traction and brought some money along the way.
Here I’m going to answer some of the logistical questions that you might be asking, like:
- How do you get started?
- What are the reservations when creating a course?
- Why choose one particular platform?
- What are the advantages of selling on a market place?
Want to test out your product? Design and sell an #online #course on @udemy. Here're my 10 tips.Click To Tweet
How do you get started?
I got started when I realized that limiting myself to private lessons via skype was a dead-end street. Even if you charge a lot per hour you’re still faced with low seasons, fewer students, and times when you would love to take a break of teaching, but you can’t because then your income is the big fat “0.”
Another inconvenience that if you want to increase your revenue, the only way to make more money is to get more students. However, that means less time, more preparation, and less quality given to each particular student.
I also felt like even though I was using textbooks to work on specific skills, it was hard to adapt them to my audience, and they were lacking some exercises that I found most effective.
What reservations did I have?
When I was just getting started with online curriculum design in 2012, there were fewer platform options available, and the ones that I particularly liked were a bit costly for a solopreneur like myself.
For example, udemy.comthat I’m currently using as a host for my online courses would charge me a monthly flat fee of almost $90 for running my courses through them.
My biggest reservation was: what if I wasn’t making $90 a month, and even if I did – would I want to give it all to Udemy for hosting my course? There was (and still is) WizIQ, but I didn’t like their interface. There were a few others, but they didn’t seem extremely user-friendly to me.
A year ago I discovered that Udemy had changed their rules and were now charging a certain fee for a student that signed up for classes through their platform (and if students signed up through my marketing efforts I got to keep 97% of the profit).
That was a totally different ball game! Such payment system was what eventually prompted me to create paid public courses, and brought in over 1k students in less than 2 months!
Design an online course on Udemy to test out your product and increase a pool or clients.Click To Tweet
Why did I choose one particular platform?
Udemy appealed to me because of its user-friendliness, modern-looking interface, and very mild, non-intrusive marketing and advertising policy. A lot of my students enjoyed the friendly interface and the “movie-theater” experience. I liked the fact that after I signed up, I was never haunted by udemy marketing team begging me to sign up.
The second choice at the time was WizIQ, but the interface wasn’t as attractive to me. They also had a few sales people who kept writing and offering “deals,” so I didn’t want to deal with them.
What benefits do I see from working with udemy?
Whenever you get started to teach online, chances are you may not have that many people running to your blog/website and sharing your content with their thousands of facebook friends.
So you need a powerful tool (a highly visited website) that will do that work for you. Some people will sign up for your course, others will go to your website, and some will become your Facebook fans or sign up for your newsletter.
A few will even contact you directly about giving them private lessons or consulting. Also once you have put together a course you can be considered a “published author” and your fees have the potential of increasing your rates because of that.
So to summarize here’s why I find creating online courses (on any platform, but on udemy in my particular case) easier:
- They are a powerful leads generating tool (people will find you thanks to it).
- They are a way for you to earn some money.
- They give you an opportunity to explore the topics that students out there really need (market research).
- They allow you to validate your idea.
2 Most Important Tips to Remember:
There are 2 tips that I can easily share with you that will help you figure out the logistics of creating an online course. And they are:
- Start small.
- Start free.
I remember a few years ago I wanted to learn how to crochet. After I got my basic patterns down I felt that I was “ready” to crochet a poncho. And it wasn’t the Barbie-doll poncho or a poncho for a two-year-old niece. No! It was a full-blown garment!
Well, after a couple of months of endless work, I hated crocheting, I hated my poncho, and I decided that knitting in general wasn’t my hobby after all.
All that to say, I know as teachers we all have areas that we can choose to create a superb online course (long and in-depth and very “helpful” to everyone out there), but the time we spend on it will wear us out. And then (if you’re a perfectionist like me) by the time you’re done you will hate what you’ve created – so, not a good strategy. So remember the two tips!
2 tips for a winning #online #course + 10 more secrets to selling on #udemy. Click To Tweet
Want to create a course? I share all my tips, templates and strategies I’ve used with other clients in this mini-course.
What makes a course successful?
The greatest thing about your course is not the quality of your videos (although those would be nice), not how cool your PDF-files look (you can improve that), but content.
This is what matters on your website, this is what matters in your course. If you just want to create another business English course because you think it will be a good sell, think twice about it and then choose the topic that you’re very passionate about, that you studied quite a bit, and that you can talk about if somebody woke you up in the middle of the night!
Here’s more advice:
#1: Choose a high-demand topic in your area of expertise and genius and narrow it down.
Let’s say you are very passionate about Business English. My first tip is look at what your competitors are putting out as their courses and see if there’s one area that is being overlooked.
Then claim it and develop a short course based on that subject. For instance, a Business English can have an area of Business correspondence as part of it. Choose that and perhaps narrow it down to “writing an impressive email for Business.”
#2: Create a dynamic title and subtitle.
If you go back to the previous title, it may sound a bit boring, bookish, and “class-roomy.” Think something different. Use action verbs. Turn the title into a call to action.
A subtitle with a list works great (as long as the list is short). For instance, “Write your hit email in minutes”, subtitle: “Learn 12 basic Business English writing strategies that will maximize your time and influence.”
#3. Choose. Your. Cover. Image. Carefully.
Use different (not corporate-looking) images. Add your branding colors.
#4: Develop the structure and create catchy titles.
There’s nothing more frustrating than wasting somebody’s time while teaching an online course. Avoid redundant lecture titles, flashy titles with no substance, but develop a clear structure with exciting content that is reflected in each title.
#5: Make it practical and somewhat personal.
I’ve taken online courses that I didn’t like. One thing that turns me off immediately is long lectures (more than 10 minutes), lots of promotional content in the course that is supposed to be focused on another subject instead of promoting somebody’s services, and too generic and impersonal (when the course is compiled of University lectures).
There is a place for University lectures (like Coursera or others), but your course should include you in the picture as well. Don’t make it mechanical and detached.
#6: Make it valuable.
The more add-on content you have the more valuable your course is going to be. Add podcasts, interviews, links to other (free) educational materials on your website, etc.
#7: Take time to interact with your online audience.
Find ways to keep contact with your many students. The initial excitement after the first group signs up dies down if it’s not fueled by you through out-of-class discussion(s) and forums.
#8: Create closed live events for your audience only.
I created a free pronunciation clean-up session for my students. Think of something you can do that will help you get to know those students a bit better.
#9: Work on creating a community.
This can be done by running a webinar for those active students in your online course. Also you can invite them to sign-up for your newsletter and get to know them better that way.
#10: Market your course.
Find another website that can advertise you at a low rate that has great traffic. I advertised my course on podcastsinenglish.com, and their website is my second traffic-generating tool. And for the price of $150 a year – I don’t think there’s a better deal.
And now about the income…
When I put LinkedEnglish out there I didn’t quite know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if people would even sign up for my course even if it was free. The course was initially much shorter and it was free.
After I had several hundreds of students in just a few days I realized that this is probably something that people liked. There are lots of other free courses on udemy, but free doesn’t mean they have that many students.
After I reached 1k I made my course “paid,” by charging $19. In the first month I made $342 gross – and my goal was $300 (i.e. sell at least one course at $10 a day).
Then I created my second course LinkedEnglish 2 that was much more in-depth and detailed. I have fewer students in that one because it’s been a paid one from the very beginning, but in the next 3 weeks I made $267.
Granted, the numbers might change if somebody wants to use their 30-day-money-back-guarantee, but this is where I am right now.
I also figured that a key to making more through online courses is creating events, webinars and adding new materials, say, every 1-3 months. That way you’ll reach different audience and connect with people on a more personal level.
I hope this post was helpful. If you liked it, please take a few seconds to share it – you’ll help me tremendously <3
The post was updated in April, 2021.
Great post Elena. I like the way you explained why you made certain decisions.
I created my first course on WizIQ early in 2013, and used this as a way to validate my idea. I was thinking about Udemy too, but didn’t like the way they heavily discount courses (my courses have a higher price point). But the way you are using it makes a lot of sense, and I have toyed with the idea of doing free/low-priced courses on Udemy for the reasons you mentioned.
Have you thought about creating a course on your platform? After my successful WizIQ experiment, I have since moved the course onto my own site, and love the advantages that this offers.
Jack, thank you for your comment. I will eventually develop a course that will be offered through my own website, and right now I’m in the process of redoing it (what I have right now is a temporary solution). So once that is up and running, I will be focusing on creating content and selling it exclusively through my website. Thanks for the idea!
Really great article, Elena! Thank you so much for candidly sharing your thought process, price points and marketing ideas.
I’m glad it was useful! I hope it will inspire you to create one of your own 🙂
Such a detailed and clear post. Thanks, Elena!
Thank you! Here’s the link to my webinar on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cey-SfLMyM
And – you’ve got a lovely website, Ana Elisa!
Thanks! It’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. I’m also looking forward to tomorrow’s webinar.
And thank you for visiting my page 🙂
Hi elena, loved the post. However, I’m still a little hesitant about publishing my courses on udemy. Why would say that it’s not a good idea to sell a course directly on my site?
Yes, you definitely can sell a course on your site, but you have to be prepared to do a LOT of research, mistakes and support. I’ve hired a person to do it because it’s too much for me, and if I were to spend all of my time figuring out how everything works I wouldn’t have any time left on marketing.
Great article and informative too. Your links to other resources are so very helpful! I just started playing around with a DIY design course so this is exactly what I needed today.
Great, Mike! Is it a graphics or an interior design course?