Those who get into online teaching and course creation have, among other goals, the primary goal of making money. You may be looking for some extra income, wanting to leave your day job entirely, or want to make money following your passion. The big question is: How can you become good enough and popular enough on Udemy or other platforms to do that? Who are the top Udemy instructors?
One way is to learn from people who have achieved strong financial results by teaching on Udemy. This is not so easy to do – Udemy has over 25,000 instructors and 85,000 courses covering over 1000 topics as of September 2018. So how do they do it?
To gain some insights into how to achieve financial success on Udemy, we looked at five leading instructors that have over 100,000 students. In the article, we provide their tips and advice for success. For diversity, we have chosen leaders in a variety of topic areas.
John Purcell’s “Java Tutorial for Complete Beginners” is free to enroll. It is the most enrolled course on Udemy with some 940,000 students. Purcell has achieved over 1.3 million students enrolled in over 12 courses and gathered over 100,000 reviews. His course topics are all programming language and software development topics.
John started out teaching via Skype one to one lessons (perhaps you are doing the same – inspiring isn’t it?). Once the demand for his courses grew, he launched his Cave of Programming business via his own website to help promote his video courses on Udemy, John attributes his success teaching as a Udemy instructor to a high demand topic as well as spending time on becoming an excellent teacher.
John’s primary piece of advice for getting started was expressed in his own words:
“I’m fortunate to be working in an area of high demand, but I’ve also always spent a lot of time thinking about how to teach people.”
John suggests that you create a free course to just get going and to most importantly start learning how to teach. DO this over and over until you are good at it.
(It also doesn’t hurt to choose a topic that is in huge demand!)
Rob Percival is a math teacher turned web developer. He has over 1 million students for 41 courses and has gathered 175,000 reviews. His “The Complete Web Developer 2.0” course has earned him the most money and fame.
Rob spent three months working full time to develop his first 30-hour course on web development. He posted his first online course in 2014 for $199 and only sold 1 in the first day. What did he do? You guessed it – he made it free to try for two weeks. After that 4000 people signed up. So don’t despair if you don’t have success at first!
When he switched the course back to full price, he emailed many of his existing business customers with a course link. In the first month, he earned $15,000, $10,000 of which was from his existing customers. Now there’s a course marketing strategy!
Rob has three pieces of advice for would-be creators of successful online courses:
- Figure out what topics are in demand by looking at which courses are selling well already.
- Make sure your own version stands out among the crowd
- Tackle a big topic (i.e. web development)
Rob’s first web development course fit these three criteria. The feedback for the course was that it was fun — it didn’t go into a load of detail about server information and other “boring” topics that users didn’t need. Rather it focused on what software developers needed to build things – that translates into giving them what they needed to “earn money”. It’s a great example of knowing your audience and what they need – have you read our blog which talks about identifying your audience?
Other reviews of Rob’s original course give more clues as to why it is so popular:
I recommend you learn this course and earn money fast.
I learned fast and I learnt well. Perhaps the best Web Developer course in budget online. The course is well in budget and at the same time the quality of course is top class. The same course on other MOOC sites may cost a lot of thousands. Thanks Rob and thanks Udemy for bringing out developers out of us.
Rob is a great teacher and he taught the concepts of web development with so much ease and at swift pace. I am really thankful to him because prior to the course, I visited many sites which offer online courses but could not grasp a single thing.
Rob summed up what these reviews reflect in his own words:
“I think people want a lot of value for their money when buying an online course,” he says. “Find something you can extend to something big to get people excited and change their lives a little bit, rather than learn a new skill. Anything that can help people start a new career or earn money is always good as well!”
Phil Ebiner has produced over 80 courses on a variety of topics from design to Udemy course creation to beer brewing. He has been launching online courses for many years and has accumulated over 730,000 students. Phil himself loves learning new skills and teaching, so he combined both passions on the Udemy platform and built a career out of it.
One key to Phil’s success is that he sells his online courses on multiple platforms as well as his own website. He has therefore developed multiple income streams, a larger student following, and credibility as an instructor, no matter what the topic.
He also keeps his courses current with frequent updates. For example, his best-selling class “Photography Masterclass” took a LOT of time to create, but is still frequently updated.
Being a lover of learning and teaching himself, Phil suggests that you stick with creating an online course only if you are having fun doing it. If you are having fun, you’ll make money. If you are doing it JUST for the money, you probably won’t make much and thous not becomming one of the top Udemy instructors.
While the top-earning spots on Udemy are mostly taken by tech/web related instructors, ranking just a little behind those instructors is Dr. Chad Neuman. He is a designer/developer and avid photographer and surely one of the top Udemy instructors. Dr. Neumann has about 325,000 students and 11 courses on Udemy. His most enrolled course with over 177,000 students is Photoshop Beginners Mastery: Zero to Hero in Photoshop.
Make your students successful. Chad says on his website, “Many of my students have become full-time, award-winning designers, writers, web managers, and creative specialists.”
As with most other top instructors, Dr. Neumann also created his own online school and website called Good Creative Academy to sell his courses. On there he has lots of student testimonials and facts to support his expertise.
All his courses are priced in the affordable range of about $10.99 – $49.99 and therefore reflect good value.
Finally, Dr. Neuman responds to just about every negative critique or suggestion for change that students leave. This holds tremendous value in that he can improve his courses and encourage dissatisfied people from not engaging in or reviewing further courses.
Lastly, we decided to feature a successful instructor who teaches in a very different category. Vanessa Van Edwards is a case study in how to make money in a niche. Her niche is “Personal Development”, and within that category, “Influence”.
Vanessa has about 190,000 students from just 8 Udemy courses. Her most popular course is “7 Scientifically Proven Steps to Increase your Influence” with 127,000 enrollments. She is also highly successful outside of Udemy, having used the platform to launch her path to success.
Vanessa’s course is a great example of creating courses in a niche topic area, but one that attracts a wide audience. If you look at her reviews, you will see that students are motivated to take her course for all kinds of reasons and solutions. She also created a huge audience with this first course that has propelled her to achieve three bestselling courses.
Vanessa has been at course creation since 2012 and thus has several words of wisdom:
1. Make your course complete-able
How do you do that? Have just one goal for what you want users to take away from the course. Not three goals as you often see, but just one. This makes it much more digestible and provides a kind of “light at the end of the tunnel” for the student, which encourages them to complete the course. It also makes it much easier to create the course.
For example, Vanessa makes clear from the start in her course description the one goal students will achieve from taking her most popular class. “I am going to help you increase your influence” she says. She goes on to say, “My goal is to make you more memorable, influential and charismatic”. Who wouldn’t want that?
Why is it so important that students complete your course? Vanessa advises that your goal should be to create a virtuous sales cycle. First, you create the course, then you sell it, BUT then people have to actually complete the course, review it and hopefully take another one of your courses and recommend it to friends. Course completion gives you a very valuable positive word of mouth and testimonials that you can use for marketing. As Vanessa says, “Don’t just make a course that ‘sells’, make a course that customers RAVE about”.
2. Leverage the Udemy platform
When she was first starting out, Vanessa used Udemy’s pre-existing audience to tap into a new audience to help build up her existing business and to build a reputation in her industry. In Vanessa’s case, it was her speaking and blogging business. Compared to Facebook and Google ads, or a viral marketing campaign, hosting a course on Udemy is a relatively inexpensive way to market and advertise your business and skills.
3. Do NOT talk over slides
Turn on your camera. As a body language and behavioral expert, Vanessa highly recommends doing your courses in person.
4. Learning activities are critical
Don’t just give information in your course. Inspire students to take the information and do something with it. Ask yourself, how can you get them to adopt the information beyond written homework?
Remember many people who are watching your Udemy courses may not have a pen and paper – they are often watching while commuting or sitting in bed or watching it while doing something else like working or cooking. So think of other activities, such as a self-audit or online activity.
5. Use your first course as an “anchor” for subsequent courses
Give the first lesson for free to help people get started. Vanessa believes that getting started is the hardest part for people, so help them do that.
It is clear from these top Udemy instructors’ advice that there are many keys to financial success on Udemy – choosing a hugely popular topic, excelling in a niche, having fun with your course, being interactive, encouraging course completion and more.
However, it should be noted that ALL of these instructors maintain course ratings at about 4.5 or higher and have thousands of reviews. So whatever you do, make sure it results in great reviews. If it doesn’t, then you may want to take down your course and rework it until it reflects a lot of what these experts recommend.
*Top Udemy instructors statistics valid as of 10/30/18. Subject to change.