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Udemy as a Business, Part 2: Jonathan Levi

Welcome to Part 2 of our series on Udemy as a business. Today, we chat with Jonathan Levi, who has extended his original “super learner” concept to now offer seven Udemy courses (with almost 60,000 students) in support of his off-line ventures as an entrepreneur, investor, lifehacker, and more.

(Missed Part 1 with instructor Frank Kane? Here it is!)

What milestone made you realize your Udemy success could be extended offline as a business?
I think we were at about 40,000 students when I realized I could probably launch a pretty successful podcast. That was leading up to January 2015. We launched the podcast, and it steadily grew, which prompted us to branch out even further into books, audiobooks, and, ultimately, premium courses hosted on our own website. Keep in mind that all during this time, we did continue to launch additional courses on Udemy and still continue to do so to this day.

Describe the process for building your Udemy-related business and what it looks like now.
We took it one step at a time. We amassed a loyal audience on Udemy and put in effort to build the relationship through our private Facebook group. This helped a great deal when we launched our podcast. The podcast also gave us an outlet for sending out free content using educational announcements, which was an approved way to encourage people to engage with us even more off of Udemy. Not long after, we began collecting emails through the podcast, which allows us to keep in contact with our users. Without that means of communication, we simply wouldn’t have been able to launch our premium products, books, or anything else.

Describe briefly how you manage your time and efforts between your offline activities and Udemy content?
At this point, Udemy is very hands-off for us. We leave the marketing to Udemy’s fantastic team (and network of affiliates), so we can focus on building our own business. Once every couple of months, we’ll do a promotion to market our Udemy courses to our existing student base. The beauty of Udemy, though, is that we do really, really well without even marketing. Our courses consistently remain in the top of search results, which leads to great revenues through Udemy, and, in turn, provides a steady funnel of users flowing to our other content (both free and paid). We do create courses and answer questions on Udemy, but even with that, I would say that we are now spending something like 80% of our company efforts on non-Udemy projects. This is not to say that Udemy isn’t a HUGE part of our business, but rather, a testament to how well Udemy just “handles it all” and markets our courses without us needing to worry. Additionally, we have outsourced a lot of our service and support, so we have both a staff member and students themselves answering questions and providing support to our community.

Any advice for other instructors who hope to translate Udemy success into a full-blown business, as you’ve done?
My advice is and always has been the same: Build high-quality products that people actually want. Invest in product quality—not just video and sound but also high-quality, life-changing content. Make sure you’re scratching a real itch for your users. From there, it’s just a matter of methodically and deliberately building an ecosystem of products that shepherd the user towards better and more valuable products that continue to serve them and their needs. This is a matter we discuss at length in our “Branding You” course on Udemy and one that will soon be taught in greater depth in the upcoming “Branding You MasterClass.” See what I did there? 😉