Udemy as a Business, Part 1: Frank Kane

People have different motivations and expectations when they start teaching on Udemy. Whatever their ultimate goals, instructors on Udemy can control their own destiny to a large extent through hard work and ongoing commitment. In several cases, that has led to full-blown businesses being launched off-platform.

We recently did email Q&As with a few of our most successful Udemy instructors to see what they expected to achieve when they first joined our platform and how they went about building their businesses. If you want to meet these instructors and pick up more expert advice on reaching your goals as an instructor, come join us in July at Udemy LIVE!

First up, meet instructor Frank Kane!

What milestone/event made you realize your Udemy success could be extended offline as a business?
The magic number I had in my head was $10,000 per month in revenue, and when I started with Udemy it seemed like a pipe dream. I had never done online courses before Udemy, and my only training experience was occasional corporate training for new hires and stuff like that.

Once I surpassed that goal, it was both a surprise and a good problem to have. It told me online education was worth doubling down on, and it was time to pivot my own business to focus on it. It felt good, too, since I was teaching valuable skills to tens of thousands of people around the world at a very affordable cost. Nothing I’ve done in my entire career has had so much of a positive impact on the world.

How did you approach the challenge of building your Udemy-related business and what does it look like now?
It was easier for me because I was already self-employed, running my own software business (Sundog Software) for about three years before dipping my toe in the Udemy waters. All the really challenging parts of launching your own business were already behind me, such as figuring out taxes, insurance, corporate structure, marketing, how to build a website, etc.

I hired a teaching assistant to help with Q&A on my courses after about a year because it was cutting into my ability to create new courses. I built a website to promote my courses and collect an email list shortly after deciding to focus on Udemy, and I’ve also been partnering with other instructors. There’s really no shortage of opportunities once you’ve built a name for yourself on a platform like Udemy.

Describe briefly how you manage/split your time and efforts between your offline activities and Udemy content.
Although I work with several different publishers, Udemy is by far my bread and butter and leveraging my audience on Udemy is my top priority. I spend over half of my time developing new courses with Udemy students  in mind. Your time is the one thing you can’t make more of, and I’m very vigilant about spending it on activities that will generate the most long-term income.

Any advice for other instructors who hope to translate Udemy success into a full-blown business, as you’ve done?
For someone about to quit their “day job,” my best advice is to see if your city offers a business incubation program that can help you get established. Here in Orlando, there are several to choose from, and they’re a great resource. But don’t quit prematurely! You should be seeing steady income from Udemy that can pay your bills before turning in your notice.

As for getting to that point, the values I learned while working at Amazon have served me well: always focus on the customer. Approach your courses from the standpoint of what students need to learn and how they want to learn it. Your job is to give valuable skills to your students, not talk about things that interest you. It’s not about you; it’s about them! Sometimes you need to invest the time and effort to truly become an expert in what you’re teaching before you can teach it well.

Of course, there needs to be an intersection between your interests, talents, and what you teach. Choosing the right course topics is hugely important, and sometimes you need to stretch yourself to deliver what your students need.

Finding the right teaching assistants is also critical to scaling your efforts. I got really lucky and hired the perfect person on the first try, but you need to keep an eye on how well your TA reflects your own values, knowledge, and attitude toward students. Remember, the student experience comes first, and your TA is an important part of that.