Udemy Challenge 2015: Creating and Publishing Ten Udemy Courses

Udemy Challenge 2015: Creating and Publishing Ten Udemy Courses

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The year 2015 is the year of Udemy for me. My goal is to have ten courses live by January 1st 2016. My secondary goal is to make $10,000 of my courses by the same date. Although I prefer to set goals in terms of things that I can control, I wanted to add a financial goal to this challenge to keep me focussed.

Why Udemy?

I expect that in the near future

  1. online learning will grow exponentially in the future
  2. video will be the most popular way to consume content
  3. Udemy will be the market leader in online video courses

In addition, Udemy has a very user friendly interface, easy-to-use infrastructure, an attractive profit sharing system and over 5 million students on their platform.

In this post will chronicle my journey and share everything including the good and the bad, the revenue, the challenges and the joy. I will update monthly so make sure to check back often!

As I’m writing this it’s late April, so I’ll start with a recap of the first four months and then update this live in the future.

Here’s what I started out with in January. 


None, never built a video course nor edited any audio or video in my life.

 Computer: Macbook Air (13”) Microphone:
 Rode Mircrophone (Smartlav)

Software: Screenflow

Now let’s get to the action and find out how’s it’s been going.

January: Delays

My plan was to launch my first course on Airbnb hosting by January 31st but this turned out too ambitious. I had to spend a lot of time learning how to create and edit videos and had to re-do several videos that turned out blurry or the audio wasn’t good enough.

I felt like the course wasn’t good enough yet and wanted to make improvements.

I did a lot of research on how to create good courses and how to market them on Udemy. Here’s two courses that I took that really helped me:

Udemy Course Marketing: Get More Students, Reviews & Sales – By Christine Maisel

Udemy 6 Figure Blueprint: A Tactical Guide To Udemy Success
– By Scott Britton

It’s interesting to watch a course on Udemy on how to create and market a course on Udemy, as you’ll not just learn about the content of the course but you can also watch how these instructors did their course and get some inspiration from that.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 0/10
Revenue: $0/$10.000

February: First course launched!

What I didn’t realize when I started is that after the course content is done you still need about a week or two to get the course live on the platform.

After I submitted the course, Udemy reviewed it and made suggestions to improve it. Some are mandatory, some are optional. After fixing the mandatory feedback, I submitted it again and it was approved. However, I still had to wait until the Udemy design team had designed an image for my course.

The good news is: I finally launched my first course on February 24th! Whoohoo!

I had been advised to offer the course for free after launching it to get a some students in the course and get some feedback.

I posted a free coupon in the Udemy Instructor Studio FB group and within a few days I had over 1000 students! That was exciting!

A smash in the face: Bad Reviews

The excitement faded quickly as very few people actually sent me any feedback and very few left reviews. To make matters worse, some of the reviews that I did get were terrible.

Ouch! Udemy displayed my course as six hours of video, although I only had about two hours. What happened is that I thought it would be nice to include the audio version of my book, Get Paid For Your Pad, to the course as a bonus.

Mistake I guess, the audio is over three hours and hence Udemy adds this time to the advertised video content. This was perceived as misleading by the person who left the review I think.

What bothered me was that the reviewer only took 12% of the course! In addition, he took advantage of the free pre-launch that I did so he got the course for free. So you get a course for free, watch 12% of it and then leave a 1-star review, without actually suggestions improvements. I guess this person doesn’t realize how much work goes into building a video course.

Here’s another bad review that I got.

Again, the reviewer only took a small part of the course.

This title of this review points out the one thing that I was having trouble with most. I found it really hard to appear natural on camera or even when recording screencasts. I noticed this myself, but wasn’t sure if it was just me being over-critical (which a lot of people are when creating something that they have little experience with) or if it really was that bad.

In any case, I redid some of the first videos and after replacing them I never received any negative feedback on this topic.

To quickly comment on the other remarks, sure if you listen to every single podcast episode that I’ve published and read all my blog posts, subscribe to my newsletter then you’ll eventually have most of the content for free. That will take you about 50 hours to go through. The value of a video course is the added visuals and the fact that all the information is packed into a two hour product. That way you save yourself a lot of time.

Some positive developments…and one bad one

I ended the month with zero sales. On a more positive note, I started working on my second course,. I originally didn’t think there was enough to teach on this topic, but a fellow Udemy instructor suggested it to me. She wanted to know how to recognize good hosts on Airbnb and asked if I had plans to build a course on this topic.

Another lesson I learned from past experiences is that you should never try to accomplish something all by yourself. Always seek advice and support from others.

Therefore I started a FB group and added a few other Udemy instructors to exchange experiences and ideas. This turned out to be a great decision as the group immediately became active and I learned a lot from others. More importantly, it’s great to get support from those who are in the same boat and with similar goals.

One major setback that affected my progress was an unfortunate accident on the ski slopes that resulted in a broken wrist. I had to wear a cast around my arm for 6 to 8 weeks which didn’t particularly improve my productivity.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 1/10
Revenue: $0/$10.000


First sale! A few weeks after I published my first course the day finally arrived: I made my first sale!!! I made a whopping $5 on this first sale.

Why did I only make $5, even though I listed the course at $47?

Udemy Promotions

Most of the sales will come from promotions that Udemy offers their students. As an instructor you can choose wether you want to opt-in to these promotions or not. They do general promotions where all courses are discounted to $10 or $19, but they also target specific customers with customized offers. For example, if someone checks out the course but doesn’t buy it, Udemy will then send that person a discount coupon.

In my case, someone got offered to buy my course at $10. Because it’s an “organic sale” (i.e. Udemy found the student for me) they take a 50% cut.

In my case,

Here’s an overview of my total revenue in March:

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 1/10
Revenue: $84/$10.000


In April I decided to settle down in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and focus on getting my second course published. I also met up with Rob Cubbon, a very successful Udemy instructor. He gave me some good tips and advice that was very motivating. I ended up interviewing him, you can read the interview here.

New course launched and choosing the right title

By the end of the month, I launched my second course: Airbnb: Save up to 25% on Stays by Negotiating Effectively. I initially called it “Airbnb: Travel Cheaper and Smarter,” which is why that title is still in the URL. As opposed to the title, the URL can’t be changed. The reason I changed the title, is that I learned that titles with clear user end benefits convert better than broader and vaguer descriptions of the benefits. “Travel cheaper and smarter” isn’t very concrete and specific, whereas “save 25% on your stay” is.

The issue with these type of titles though is that you don’t want to set unrealistic expectations because that will hurt student satisfaction, something that Udemy doesn’t allow. They’ve gotten stricter on this recently. It’s a little confusing because you see tons of courses with titles like “Make $10k doing X” etc. It seems Udemy doesn’t tell instructors to adjust the titles of older courses to the new policy. The title for my Airbnb hosting course, “Make $60k with your house,” probably wouldn’t be approved if I were to publish it now.

So how do you create a great title without setting unrealistic expectations? Most of the titles on Udemy reflect the results that the instructor was able to achieve, like in my Airbnb course. But that obviously doesn’t mean that the student is guaranteed to reach the same results, as that always depends on the actions the student will take and his or her situation. So the question is, what’s realistic for any student? In the end, Udemy will be the judge of that so all we can do as instructors is submit the course and see if it gets approved.

No more bad reviews!

In response to the bad reviews I was getting in March, I re-recorded a lot of the lectures for my Airbnb hosting course and as a result I didn’t get anymore bad reviews. My overall score is still down, around 4 stars, hopefully I’ll be able to get that back to >4.75 over time so it will show 5 stars.

More sales in April!

April ended up being a great month for me as I (1) launched my second course (2) didn’t get any bad reviews and (3) made more than double than what I made in March.

Here’s an overview of my April earnings.

As you can see, most of my earnings came from my own promotions as I promoted my course to my Airbnb community on my Airbnb hosting blog, Get Paid For Your Pad.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 2/10
Revenue: $262/$10.000


I went back to Holland to spend time with friends and family and I didn’t get to work much on my courses. I did however started working on my 3rd course. I decided to team up with my friend Erik. He runs a blog on travel hacking, Abroaders. I figured there would be synergy in teaming up with Erik since he already has an audience interested in the topic that we can market the course to.

My revenue went down to March levels, but hey it’s still dinner for two at a nice restaurant :).

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 2/10
Revenue: $347/$10.000

June, July & August

I’ve put June, July in August in one section because I didn’t had much time to work on my courses during this period. I joined an entrepreneurial summer program which lasted for 10 weeks and it consumed almost all of my time. I did manage to work on my 3rd course (travel hacking). It became clear that my friend and partner Erik had a lot of content so it was going to take some time to finish it.

Here are my earnings for the three months:

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 2/10
Revenue: $696/$10.000


By the time September came around, I realized I had four months left to publish eight courses. This seemed like a daunting task, as I’d only managed to publish two in the first eight months of the year. However, nothing is impossible and I still felt very committed to at least reach my main course of publishing ten courses.

I worked hard with Erik to get the third course out and we just made it. September 30th, the third course was pusblished: Travel Hacking: Fly Around The World For Cheap. We initially choose a different title to highlight the used end benefit (fly anywhere in the world for less than $150) but this title was rejected by the Udemy reviewer so we had to change it.

The course took a lot longer to build than I anticipated, but the course was starting to look like a pretty amazing resource, with 10 sections and over six hours of video content.

At the end of the month I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where I would stay for seven weeks to focus on building more courses. I also decided to start a very intense fitness program called P90X, which would take an hour or two out of each day as it’s a daily workout program.

September earning where pretty disappointing. My second course on Airbnb travel hadn’t been making any sales, so I decided to make it available for free. As a result, I got a lot of students in the course and quite a few good reviews. The course is now the No.1 free course in the category “Travel,” which is pretty cool.

Here’s my September earnings:

Pretty meager result. My Airbnb hosting course wasn’t getting many sales anymore, partly because over the summer a lot of other Airbnb courses where published. In addition, a rival course on Airbnb hosting was doing really well, being the top paid course in the Travel category.

We hadn’t started promoting the Travel Hacking course yet, so I was looking forward to seeing what we could make off that in October.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 3/10
Revenue: $730/$10.000


I spend most of October working on the finished touches of the travel hacking course. Erik happened to be in Bangkok so we actually met in person for the first time and worked on several course improvements.

With three months to go and only three courses live, I realized that I had to step on the gas to reach my goals and I decided to focus solely on creating courses for the month. I liked partnering on the Travel Hacking course with Erik, so I decided to find more people to partner with. I didn’t have to look far, as my buddy Danny Flood was staying in Bangkok as well and he just released a book on sleep hacking. I didn’t know much about sleep hacking myself, but I figured I could do a section on preventing and managing jet lags, in addition to doing the production side of the course.

Danny and I worked together on our course for about two weeks, recording all the lectures in my room at the Aloft hotel in Bangkok and I was quite content with the result.

The travel hacking course was selling quite well in October, with Erik promoting the course to his list. As a result, I enjoyed record earnings in October: almost $600, more than three times my best month so far. My Airbnb course did quite well too.

This was encouraging, even if most of the earnings came from promotions and not from organic Udemy sales. November promised to be an even better month, as Udemy does a big Black Friday promotion that month. As a result, most instructors have their highest sales in November.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 3/10
Revenue: $1325/$10.000


Two months left and still only three courses live, it was time to step on the gas. Fortunately, the sleep hacking course was ready to be launched: Sleep Hacking Masterclass: Sleep Faster and Feel Refreshed.

In addition, I had two courses in mind on topics that I was quite familiar with, so I didn’t have to spend much time on researching the content. I really wasn’t sure if there would be demand for these topics, so I decided to create MVP (minimum value product) courses and I cranked out two courses in just under a week: Hack Your Brain for Entrepreneurship and Quit the Rat Race and Conference Hacking For Entrepreneurs: Network Effect.

At the same time, I was talking to my friend Ian who was traveling with me in Asia. He’d recently quit his job and wasn’t really working on anything at the moment, so I suggested to him that we create some courses together. He was open to the idea and suggested the topic of nutrition hacks to start with as he felt confident teaching that subject. He had actually coached me earlier that year and I managed to make some good improvements based on his advice, so it seemed like a good start.

Since he already had all the content in his head, we started filming right away. Ian turned out to be very natural on camera and very good at speaking without pausing. As a result, we created the course in just a few days: Nutrition Hacks for Entrepreneurs – Get Healthy and Fit.

To both our surprise, the course immediately started selling and we soon hit the New & Noteworthy section. Not long after our course was the best selling course in the Nutrition category!

We were obviously very excited about this and it seemed ironic that the course that took the shortest amount of time to create was doing so well. This reminded me of something I had been told by another instructor on Udemy. He said that it’s hard to predict which course will end up doing well, so you just have to create a lot of courses.

November is the month of the Black Friday sales promotion and I was excited to see what the sales would be like. With the four courses that went live in November, I now had seven courses in total. Soon after the promotion started, the sales started rolling in and I was selling 20 to 30 courses a day.

November ended up being the second record month in a row, as I broke the $1000 mark for the first time with total earnings at $1048!

I liked the look of this graph!

An exciting development…

Towards the end of the month I started planning the last three courses that I’d have to make in order to reach my goal of ten. I wasn’t sure of the topics though. I looked at the Udemy hot topic list, a list Udemy publishes every so often to help instructors choose a topic that has good demand and not much supply. I noticed a link to apply to teach a hot topic course. I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, but I picked a few topics and submitted an application form on the website.

A few days later, I was contacted by one of the content managers of Udemy. He wanted to have a chat with me to discuss potential new course topics. We jumped on a call, and soon enough we decided on a the topic of freelancing. Udemy would support me during the course creation and supply me with lots of resources to help me build a great course. I was super excited about this, because with the support of Udemy it would be easier to become one of the top Udemy instructors.

I teamed up with Ian and started working on the course. Based on the new development, I decided to change course. Instead of creating another three courses and reach my goal of ten, I decided to put all my efforts into creating one really great course. The Udemy team had set the quality standards high and I obviously didn’t want to disappoint them.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 7/10
Revenue: $2378/$10.000


I spent the whole month of December working hard with Ian to meet the deadline of our new course on freelancing, which was December 31st. Udemy helped us a lot and I learned a ton about how to create high quality videos as well as the most efficient way to create a course. This was extremely exciting!

The course ended up being more work than we had originally anticipated, but with a few sleepless nights we managed to scramble it together: Earn money fast on Upwork, Fiverr and Uber.

December was a very slow month in terms of sales, which was expected as so many students loaded up on courses during the November Black Friday sales. I barely broke $100.

Progress towards my goals

Courses: 8/10
Revenue: $2479/$10.000


Looking back, I didn’t manage to reach my goals of 10 courses and $10.000 in earnings. However, I am very happy with the progress I made. I went through a tremendous learning experience. In just a year, I went from zero knowledge about recording, producing and editing videos to feeling very comfortable at it. In addition, I now have eight courses live on Udemy and I’m working with the Udemy content team at creating more courses in the future.

Last but not least, I was invited to speak on the topic of Udemy at DNX Global, one of the biggest conferences for digital nomads, which takes place March 1st and 2nd 2016.

It’s hard to be disappointed about not reaching a goal going from nothing to speaking at a conference and working with the Udemy team in just over a year.

So what’s the plan? I’m not giving up, I’m going to use all that I learned to push forward to realize my end goal, which is to be one of the top instructors on Udemy.

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