In November I released my Udemy course, Kindle Launch Plan: $1400 in 30 Days & an Amazon Bestseller.
It’s about time I break down what I did to create the course, launch it, and ultimately earn $3525 in the first 60 days.
In this post you’ll learn:
- Why I created the course.
- Why I chose the Udemy platform.
- How I recorded the material.
- How I generated some pre-launch social proof.
- What REALLY drove sales at the beginning.
- Why this course was a success while my previous Udemy course was a flop.
- The easy little trick I use to engage with students.
- How the course is set-up to earn passive income from here on out.
- What’s next.
Why This Course?
After sharing this 5000-word behemoth of a book launch case study on Steve Scott’s site, a few people were joking in the comments that it should be a book all on its own.
After that, I helped a few friends with their launches, and they saw similar (or even greater) success. I knew Kindle was a hot topic and people were actively seeking information on how to rock their launch.
My previous course on Udemy was on the subject of hiring virtual assistants, which is not nearly as popular. I think the general interest level in a topic is one major contributing factor to the course’s success or failure.
Since I like the idea of tapping into existing marketplaces, putting “buy buttons” where your prospective customers already are, I figured I’d give it another shot. (I say “another” because I’d already created one Udemy course and seen pretty poor results from it.)
Udemy also makes it really easy for new instructors. You don’t have to worry about setting up a membership login area of your site, getting special video hosting, or deciding on a payment processor.
You outline your course, fill in the blanks essentially, and they create a nice-looking conversion-optimized sales page on your behalf. Udemy also includes bulk and individual messaging capabilities for students in your course; you don’t get their email address, but you can still communicate with them.
(In many cases, students have it set up so messages or course announcements ping their inbox anyway.)
For sales you refer as the instructor, you keep 97% of the revenue. I was happy with that, and figured any sales I didn’t refer would be incremental anyway — people I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach.
Of course, when you’re using someone else’s platform for free, there’s always going to be a cost somewhere. That cost comes into play when you are NOT the referrer of the student. When Udemy or their affiliate partners make a sale, you only earn 25-50% of the sale.
I was OK with that because I figured those would be “gravy” sales; a byproduct of being listed and discovered on their marketplace.
The other drawback to Udemy is their marketplace is heavily reliant on discounts. And not like 10-20% off, but massive 70-90% off discounts. I’ve seen $500 courses on sale for $10.
I feel like it can really cheapen your brand and your content. As an instructor, you can opt-out of these price promotions, but if you do, I wouldn’t expect to make many sales from their organic marketplace.
The alternative would be self-hosting the course, in which case I’d be responsible for ALL the marketing and technical aspects of it.
Despite all this, I reasoned that the pros outweighed the cons and I wanted to take another crack at Udemy.
Outlining the Material
The first step I had to do was to outline the content. What would the course cover?
I broke down the book launch process in roughly chronological order, and ended up with a really detailed 8-page outline in Word.
Then, I went through and identified which sections would be screen recordings and which would be “talking head” sections, with me speaking directly to the camera.
In total I had around 30 different “segments,” varying between 30 seconds and 10 minutes in length. For Udemy, the shorter your segments, the more engagement you’ll have in your course.
For the “talking head” segments, I created a rough script or bullet-points to use because I’m not the person who can just turn on the camera and talk coherently. I actually printed these out and taped them to the camera.
I call it my poor man’s teleprompter:
The downside is that creates more editing and uploading work… more on that in a moment.
Shooting the Course
For Udemy (and other online education platforms), video is the preferred delivery medium for your content.
The good news is, if you’re camera shy, that doesn’t mean you have to be in front of the classroom the whole time with your face on the screen. You can talk over a screen-capture or PowerPoint presentation if you like.
However, for the sake of variety, I wanted to have a combination of voiceover and face-on-screen videos.
Each Udemy course must have a minimum of 30 minutes of video content.
The screen recordings were a piece of cake. I actually scripted or added to my outline for many of those, and could scroll along on my iPad while doing the demo on my laptop and recording the screen.
For the screen recording, I used the Screencast-o-Matic software, which is just $15 a year for a pro license, and my Audio Technica ATR-2100 USB mic, the same one I use for the podcast. (Currently $60 on Amazon.)
I batch processed these and could knock out several in one sitting. I didn’t necessarily go in chronological order for the course, but jumped around and crossed them off my list as they were done.
Talking Head Videos
The talking head segments were another story completely. I tried a similar batch-processing method, but they were MUCH slower.
I could only record during a narrow window of the afternoon because of the natural light in our living room / recording studio, and had to change the “teleprompter” every couple of minutes.
The issue I had, and I don’t know if this was the mic’s fault or mine, was an annoying background hiss on many of the videos. I was able to remove most of it in Audacity, but it was a huge pain in the butt and added hours to my post-production time.
I was left wondering if I should have gotten a more expensive mic and if that would have turned out to be a smarter investment in the long run. Any other video pros out there? What do you use?
One of the surprising time-sucks in the recording process was actually the time it took to add each file to the editing software. I used Windows Live Movie Maker, which may not have been ideal (but the price was right), and it was REALLY slow to import and export these big movie files.
Between the equipment set-up, microphone issues, processing time, re-shooting blurry videos, and editing, it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it took an hour to produce every 5 minutes of talking head video.
Ugh. Hopefully faster next time!
In total, I ended up with around 3.5 hours of video material for the course.
Seeking Beta Testers
While I was recording and putting together the course material, I wanted to start teasing out the project to people who might be interested.
I probably could have done a better job on social media, but in my email newsletters I included a little note: “P.S. I’m working on a new Kindle-related project. If interested in free early access, let me know!”
With that message, I was able to create a list of 20-30 “hand-raisers” who would become my first students and reviewers.
Uploading to Udemy
Once I finished creating all the course material, it was time to upload to Udemy. This is a straightforward process and probably one of the biggest advantages of their platform.
One stumbling block I ran into was with my “course cover image.” I thought I was being all fancy when I found out which font the Amazon logo was written in, and used that in my image.
But it turned out that Udemy had just changed the rules and text was no longer allowed in the cover images. Seemed counter-intuitive to me, but I had to trust they had data to back that decision up, that text-free images converted better.
And actually just this month they went ahead and replaced my cover image with this one, trying to create a more standardized look across all their courses:
I kind of prefer the old one.
Naming the Course
Udemy, like Amazon, is a search engine. That means it’s important to include your target keywords in your course title. In my case, “kindle launch.”
After speaking with Rob, he also indicated that the top-selling courses also offer some concrete benefit to the user, so I added in the “result” of the course: “$1400 in 30 days and an Amazon bestseller.”
Maybe that’s a little awkwardly worded, but I’m working within the constraints of a 60-character limit.
Udemy STRONGLY encourages new instructors to upload a test video BEFORE recording your entire course. They’re checking for video and sound quality issues, and want to let you know if there’s trouble before you invest several weeks of your life creating something that isn’t up to their standards.
After you upload all your videos and hit publish, the Udemy editorial team will give your course a once-over and make suggestions (or requirements) for improvement before they make it live on the site.
In my case, I had to remove the text from my cover image and add descriptions to some of the lectures. They had a dozen other recommendations, but none that would prevent the course from going live.
Building Social Proof
One of the best parts of being a Udemy instructor is that they’ve already built an excellent conversion-optimized sales page for you. You just have to fill in your course information and gather some initial social proof.
Social proof on Udemy comes in two flavors: enrollments and reviews.
According to Scott, the magic numbers are 10+ reviews and 1000+ enrollments.
The reason these are important is they are prominently featured on the course landing pages and in Udemy’s search results:
Naturally, prospective students understand there’s safety in numbers. The more students and positive reviews you have, the more likely they are to invest in your course.
Here’s what it looks like in the search results:
Thankfully I was able to get my 10+ reviews just by giving free access to the course to my pre-launch hand-raisers, and asking them to leave a review.
I’m confident you know 10 people who’d be willing to help you out by checking out your course and leaving a nice review.
To get the enrollments, I created a free coupon code and posted it to the Udemy Studio Facebook group, a place where Udemy instructors can solicit enrollments and feedback.
Before long, someone else had posted it on a deals site and I started to get the requisite flood of enrollments. It felt a little weird to be giving the thing away for free just for the sake of numbers, but the truth is the vast majority of these freebie seekers never even looked at the course.
When your inbox gets bombarded with enrollment notifications, you know you’re on the right track:
(You’ll notice the original title of my course was “Rock Your Kindle Launch: From Zero to Amazon Bestseller.”)
Once I had my 1000+ students, I killed the freebie offer.
My Course Launch
When I was ready to go live to the world, I posted about the course on this blog, and sent out an email a few days later.
Here’s what the email looked like:
Can you spot my mistake?
The problem was, while the Udemy course got top-billing in the newsletter, I also included 2 other calls-to-action.
It would have been much smarter of me to send a dedicated announcement for the course and talk about nothing else in that email.
My other email mistake? That was the ONLY time I ever sent a broadcast message about the course. Oops. Probably could have been a little more proactive on that front.
As a result, my direct efforts only amounted for $624, or 17% of the overall launch income.
(And that includes some sales from the podcast, which I’ll discuss below.)
The single most effective marketing tactic was finding relevant affiliates.
In fact, the affiliate channel accounted for $1801, or just over 50% of the launch earnings. So what makes a good affiliate?
Someone with an audience you can help, but who doesn’t have a competing product.
With Steve, my book launch guest post had done really well. I gave him free access to the course, he thought it was well done, and sent an email promoting it to his list.
With Spencer, I knew he and Perrin were working on a book for their authority site project, so I reached out with an offer to help and gave them access to the course. They ended up crushing their launch and gave me and the course a shout-out in their super-detailed case study post here.
In each case, I created a special coupon link for their audience, and saw really strong results.
I had a few other affiliates as well, but not everyone promoted the course — and that’s OK. It’s about casting a wide net to give yourself the best opportunity and to give your affiliates the best chance to serve their audience.
I think this strategy can be utilized for courses in just about any industry.
Udemy’s affiliate program is through LinkShare, and affiliates earn 40-50% of the sale, and the instructor earns 25%.
Fueling Ongoing Sales
Just like with Amazon, it’s your job to provide the initial marketing push to get your book noticed on the platform. After that, the internal rankings algorithms and recommendation engines start to work on your behalf and you can see additional “organic” sales from Udemy’s 6 million customers.
At least that’s the idea.
The Power of the Marketplace
During the 60-day launch period, I earned $1099.70 in sales from Udemy’s efforts, or around 31% of the total earnings.
While that’s great, I was honestly hoping for more. Since the platform is so discount-driven, the majority of those sales came during promotional periods, with long gaps between enrollments when there aren’t any offers going on.
I can’t help but wonder if I would have been better off hosting the course myself, working out the technical challenges, and keeping a greater percentage of the revenue.
On the positive side, every dollar the course generates now is incremental passive income. Occasionally I’ll add new content or respond to student questions, but the course is out there as an asset for me now.
Pro Tip: If you’re wondering when to launch a course, I found early November to be a good time because it gives you a chance to pump up your reviews and enrollments right in advance of Black Friday, when Udemy traditionally runs a big marketing campaign.
Promoting Student Engagement
One thing I like to do is send every new student a personalized welcome message on the Udemy platform. I go in once a week, and it goes pretty quick because I have a template set it up using the Auto Text Expander plugin.
To see your latest enrollments, click on the number of students in your course management dashboard. It will give you a list of all your students in that course, sorted by who joined most recently.
Make sure to mention the name of your course because they may have enrolled in several courses and not recognize your name. In my case, I thank them for joining me in the course, invite them to reach out if they have any questions, and ask what their book is about. I also include a link to SideHustleNation.com in my signature.
(Udemy is pretty strict about external linking, but here’s a soft way to expose people to your brand and website that’s perfectly legal.)
This tactic shows students I’m a real person (though I’m sure many people think it’s an automated message), and I believe helps generate more positive reviews.
Participating in Group Offers
In March, I was invited to participate in a bundle deal for writers from The Write Life. How it works is several content creators pool together to offer their course/book/product at a can’t-miss deal.
Instructors only earn revenue from the bundle sales they generate, but I found it turned out to be a great channel for extra exposure. More than 300 new people have joined the course from that bundle deal and that’s 300 new people to potentially connect with and help.
A Vanity Domain for the Podcast
Because I mentioned the course several times as a “sponsor” on The Side Hustle Show, and was asked about it several times on other podcast interviews, it was important to have an easy-to-remember domain to offer up for listeners.
I registered KindleLaunchCourse.com, which I redirected to the Udemy landing page with a discount offer for podcast listeners.
Raising the Price
After I hit 50 reviews, I raised the price from $99 to $149. Knowing that most sales now are coming from Udemy itself and that most of those are going to be discounted, I reasoned that a higher sticker price would give more perceived value to potential customers.
After all, would you rather buy the $24 thing that’s regularly $99 or the $24 thing that’s regularly $149?
Some instructors take this to extremes and charge several hundreds of dollars for their courses, all in an attempt to make them look like a steal when they go on sale.
Does it work?
So What’s Next?
Now that your course is out there and “matured,” what else can you do with that asset?
Syndicate to Other Platforms
These platforms aren’t as big as Udemy, but I’ve earned a few dollars from Skillshare so far this year. It doesn’t take much effort to set up and is truly passive once your course is live.
The other channel to consider is turning your course into an Amazon book. I’ve noticed Udemy pro Alun Hill has begun to do this, and I think it’s a great way to potentially reach an even wider audience.
Share Relevant Content
As a Udemy instructor, you can send educational announcements to your students with other interesting content you find.
In my case, I send course announcements when I have content they might find relevant, especially Kindle-related stuff. For instance, I sent a note about my interview with Nick Stephenson, about building an email list from Amazon, and another about my conversation with Chandler Bolt, about his rapid book-writing process.
I think it’s a great way to drive traffic and engagement back to your site. Under the rules of the educational announcements, you can’t link to paid products, but you link to other Udemy courses with a promotional announcement. (There’s a limit to how many promotions you can send each month.)
Create Another Course
Throughout this post I’ve noted the many similarities between Udemy and Amazon, and this is the final one I’ll mention: both platforms seem to be portfolio-driven.
The more excellent material you have out there, the more likely you are to be discovered and make sales.
I have a few course ideas up my sleeve, so we’ll see if any of those get built this year.
Partner With Other Instructors
My friend Alex Genadinik is a pro at this. He’s got a dozen Udemy courses on a wide variety of marketing and business topics, but when I saw him come out with a kickboxing course, I had to find out what was going on.
He explained he’s now partnering with other experts to expand his reach on Udemy. The experts provide the content and he provides the tech and the platform. They split profits 50/50.
I think this is an interesting way to get your feet wet with course creation, and could even be used by established instructors to reach new students and ease the workload of building a new course entirely on your own.
Have you published a course on Udemy? How did it go?
Would you use their platform again?
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