Benefiting from learning AND teaching on Udemy

Creating an online course is a great way to reach a virtually limitless global audience to help them learn. It’s also a great way for instructors to extend their influence and drum up new business outside the marketplace. As a student, Sally Apokedak of Marietta, GA, has taken courses and gained skills that have allowed her to pursue her career goals; at the same time, as an instructor, Sally’s courses have raised her professional profile and brought new business opportunities her way.

Sally works as a literary agent and travels the country conducting multi-day writing workshops at conferences virtually every month of the year. It’s work she loves, but it’s time-consuming. She’s also had online courses hosted on several writers’ websites, but these were highly structured programs, limited to 10 or 20 students per class, and organized into finite two-week sessions. Sally had to price those courses fairly high to justify the time she spent interacting closely with individual students over the duration of the class. Then a student told her about Udemy, and Sally realized, “Wow, I can have a lot more students and charge a lot less,” while still giving students access to her for questions and extra help.

Novices welcome here
Despite having no experience producing video courses and being a bit intimidated, Sally deemed Udemy “the easiest site I’ve ever seen to make money on.” She took Udemy courses and relied on Udemy’s instructor group on Facebook to get advice on creating her own courses. She also watched YouTube videos to get more ideas, and while the course-creation process took her two weeks of undivided focus, learning what to do “was interesting and accessible, something I could do without tech skills and without expensive equipment.”

After publishing her first Udemy course, the next one was much easier for her to finish. And, as an unexpected bonus, “I didn’t realize how much I’d learn taking Udemy courses that I’d use in other areas.” For instance, she took a course from an instructor who sold gigs on Fiverr as a video spokesperson. Sally’s original goal was to learn how to use a green screen when shooting her Udemy lectures, but along the way, she also learned how to use Fiverr. She posted some freelance editing gigs and started making money there even before she launched her first Udemy course.

A natural fit for publishing pros
According to Sally, it’s common for people in publishing to generate income from various sources. Freelance writers will repurpose their research to sell articles on one topic to several different markets, and agents and editors often take speaking engagements or publish “how-to” books. Sally sees video-based courses as “the wave of the future” for publishing professionals wanting to marry their expertise to a new income stream. Creating a Udemy course “is faster than writing an e-book, and I’m getting a good return on my initial time investment,” she says.

15-the-make-your-podding-prose-prance-and-your-plot-dance-workshop-with-sally-apokedak-mar-21In her first year as a Udemy instructor, Sally’s courses on fiction writing and punctuation have earned her about $5,000 without any marketing efforts whatsoever. Moreover, she says half of her total income last year, came through leads she got from students who had taken her courses or from freelance gigs she’d gotten using skills she learned on Udemy. For example “I’d been trying to speak at this particular conference for three years. I’d set it as a goal for myself—the next level I wanted to get to,” Sally explains. “When they finally invited me, it was because one of my Udemy students had recommended me as a speaker.” At another conference this year, almost everyone who approached Sally said they’d taken one of her courses before opting to see her in person.

The variety of income sources and the extra exposure have been happy surprises in Sally’s Udemy experience.


Writing her own happy ending
Once she finds the time in her busy schedule, Sally plans to launch more courses (next up: how to write a novel in 60 days). Udemy courses are a key part of her long-term strategy because they give her access to new writers and their work without requiring the huge time investment that in-person conferences demand.

“I feel very grateful for Udemy because it gives us a platform that’s easy to use and Facebook pages where we can find all the help we could want,” Sally says. “If we don’t follow through and make the courses, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”