There is a lure to the idea of attaching yourself to a big company with a lot of resources, using their marketing power to then generate a revenue. And that's something that Udemy promotes to course creators.
You can post a course on Udemy and make money selling it. And they have a lot of eyeballs.
All this is true. But, it comes with a huge "but".
Publishing on Udemy has perks - and money can be made. But, if you go into it blindly without knowing the limitations, you may find yourself working FAR harder to make the money you want than would otherwise be needed.
On the flip side, if you create training content and already have your own platform, you can use Udemy to promote your business and build leverage inside an established community who is actively looking for learning.
So, let's talk about the right way to make money on Udemy...
My Own Experience With Udemy
Unless you're under a rock right now, you realize that I have my OWN platform for my training courses. You happen to be on that site right now. 🙂 So, for me, Udemy was always a "value add" to my business. I don't need Udemy, but hey, let's see what I could get out of it.
So, some time ago, I published a free course on Udemy. It is the 30 Day Blog Transformation Challenge. A free course I created for the purposes of building my own list.
A couple years ago, I decided to re-publish the course on Udemy. The idea was simple...
Provide a very valuable course to the Udemy community. Maybe get some exposure on their platform. And, if people want to come on over to the Blog Marketing Academy for more, they can. So, yes, my strategic intention was to use Udemy as lead generation.
At the time, my review of their guidelines didn't include anything that would disallow that. Plus, the Challenge had a very important email component that was there way before Udemy. I felt that students wouldn't get the full value of the Challenge if they didn't have those emails. So, it made perfect sense for me to invite them - optionally - to opt-in to receive those emails.
And I'm not going to BS anybody about it...
I have made far more money because I own THIS platform than I EVER would have if the Challenge were a paid course on Udemy. But, more on that in a minute...
Fast forward a couple years later...
I get a warning letter of policy violation from Udemy. They take issue with the invitation to subscribe for the emails. That invitation was at the beginning of the course because those emails were designed to be sent as you progress through it. Well, apparently, I had to move that to the bonus lecture at the END of the course.
That kind of defeated the point of the emails, but I said "fine". So, I moved it around and sent it to the back of the course. No more emails, at least for that purpose.
About 2 weeks later, I get another warning. I'm now at "strike 1" in their policy violation setup and they've removed announcement and direct message privileges for a month. The reason:
Most of your lectures beginning with lecture 1 are promoting website subscription in an attempt to collect emails.
My first reaction: What are they talking about?
I had to verify with them, but come to find out that I had a call to action at the end of each of the course lesson videos to subscribe. They didn't like that. So, now I have to re-compile every video of the course to remove that call to action.
I wouldn't be surprised if they even ask me to remove links to related blog posts from the lessons because I ask for emails once people get to my site. But, we'll see...
So, essentially, I have to neuter this course to keep it on Udemy. I can promote my stuff in the bonus lecture and that's it.
Fine. Whatever. It is their site and they make the rules. I'll make those changes.
But, you know what?
If this doesn't make the case for owning and operating your own platform, I don't know what does.
But, let's talk specifically about Udemy...
Why Udemy Isn't Good For Business
Look, the majority of my students in THE LAB are in the business of creating training material in their respective markets. And the Lab is all about how to build and structure your own platform to do just that.
So, one could say I have a "conflict of interest" with Udemy. But, it is more than that...
You can make SO much more money with your course material outside of Udemy than if you do it inside their marketplace.
Let's break this down...
If you, as an instructor, promote your course on Udemy using your own coupon code, you get 100% of the revenue. That seems good, but then consider...
- Udemy has just used you to promote THEM.
- You're the one who brought THEM the customer.
- It is THEIR customer.
- You just lost your lifetime customer value because, once again, that is THEIR customer.
So, basically you are sacrificing the long game in order to get a few bucks in the short term.
And if sales just happen without you bringing the customer, you get 50%. Now, that seems fair since, essentially, Udemy is an affiliate. But, again, you just gave them the customer. The lifetime customer value of that person belongs to Udemy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Udemy is very coupon driven. A LOT of course sales happen because of coupon codes. Not only that, the coupons offer BIG discounts. My wife recently bought 3 courses on Udemy that were advertised as $299 courses. She got them for $10 apiece.
By nature, you're getting discount-minded students here. Udemy, of course, encourages you to opt-in for their coupon program. But, keep in mind, if Udemy brings you that student who just used a 75%-off discount code, your 50% commission just became a lot less.
The reliance on coupons with Udemy means that you're unlikely to ever sell your course at the usual price, but instead have to rely on massive discounts to make any sales.
But, the limitations go further...
Your ability to cross promote or communicate with your students is VERY limited.
- You are only allowed to send two promotions per month.
- You are only allowed to promote your own Udemy courses.
- You are not allowed to direct them anywhere outside of Udemy.
- You are not allowed to ask them to opt-in for anything.
So, essentially, they're saying you can promote on a limited basis but only if you're promoting Udemy itself.
Now, all of this makes perfect sense... if you're Udemy.
And, certainly, an argument could be made that this helps preserve the user experience. I know that if you gave course creators free reign, you'd have marketers come in there and use the system and spam the hell out of it. Marketers ruin everything sometimes. 😉
Not only that... it is THEIR site. They can do whatever they want.
But, as a course creator, do you need to play in their sandbox?
If you're truly wanting to build a business, how can you possibly do that if Udemy owns all your customers? They own the customer. They own the list. They set the rules.
All you have left to grow your revenue is to promote Udemy like crazy on your own promotional assets... or to just be a massive course creating machine and publish a TON of courses.
Either way... it'd be like driving a car in first gear down the interstate. Not very efficient.
And sure enough, a look in the Udemy Studio group for course creators shows most instructors aren't generating that much revenue. The "top dogs" in there generate a few grand per month, but we're talking the top echelon of Udemy instructors. Most don't get anywhere near that.
I can make a few grand in a month with BMA, on an insanely slow month, while I'm sitting in the RV all month and not doing anything at all. Literally, in the 90 minutes or so it took me to write this very blog post, this site generated about $280 in sales - more than most Udemy instructors make in a few months.
I provide that only as a perspective to what is possible when you build a real business outside of Udemy.
The Importance Of Owning Your Platform
It is not my intention with this post to bash Udemy. I'm actually a big fan of what they're doing.
But, I don't want people to blindly jump in bed with Udemy thinking it is going to be a ticket to riches here.
And quite frankly, this goes for any platform which you don't own.
A lot of people put a lot of work into building huge Youtube followings and then suddenly have the account shut down for one reason or the other.
Or you build up a killer Facebook page or a group, only to have it shut down after a complaint.
Point is... if you build your business on "rented land", then the landlord can just go nuts one day and shut you down. And you can't do much about it because they own the house.
So, if you're going to do the amount of work it would take to make good money on Udemy, then consider this...
- Build up your own platform instead.
- Set it up as a membership site with your courses in there.
- Put your students onto YOUR email list.
- You get 100% revenue for ALL purchases... even if they happen a year later.
- You can promote affiliate products if you want to.
- You can have cross-sells of your other products inside of one of your courses.
It is YOUR business, then.
You own it. And nobody can take it away or change the rules on you.
The Time And Place For Publishing on Udemy
In my opinion, if a person is looking to build their business (even a side business) on Udemy without a bigger strategy, they're being very short-sighted.
You need your own platform for business.
And, no, I don't mean to build your own platform just to promote your Udemy courses. That'd be a WASTE. That's what Udemy would encourage you to do because it helps bring them customers.
So, when does publishing a course on Udemy make sense in the big picture?
There's no doubt that Udemy has a lot of eyeballs. It is like Youtube for educational content. They have an incredible platform. And just like you probably know that publishing Youtube videos is a good way to promote your stuff, Udemy content works the same way.
So, I believe Udemy should be used as PART of a larger promotional game plan - with YOUR platform at the hub of that plan.
So, here's when I think Udemy makes sense:
- Publish free courses as lead magnets on Udemy and promote the hell out of your stuff on the bonus lecture of your course, as Udemy allows.
- Splinter off part of a paid course on YOUR platform and publish a portion of it on Udemy. Then, in the bonus lecture, invite them to take the next step to continue it on your own platform.
- Re-publish your paid courses on Udemy as simply another revenue stream and be happy with whatever happens, but the whole time YOUR main focus will be on your own platform, not promoting your Udemy courses.
In this way, you're using Udemy to enhance your leverage, but not BE your leverage.