Finding the Balance Between Creating Free Online Educational Material and Making a Living
“If you want to make a living on that platform, let me kill that dream right now… it ain’t gonna happen.”
I recently passed the 15,000 student mark on Udemy and that has put me in a reflective mood. Here is the crux of it, if you want to make a living on that platform, let me kill that dream right now… it ain’t gonna happen (exceptions listed below).
A 5-Year Journey
I’ve been creating data science content for over 5 years. I’ve made over 300 YouTube videos, created two websites with over 10k visits a month, and launched 8 classes on Udemy, here’s what I did well, where I failed and why I am still at it.
We all have an agenda in life, even when creating free online content. When I was introduced to the R programming language, statistics, and machine learning, it was love at first sight. It created such a jolt of energy that I had to funnel this new passion somewhere out of fear that my head would explode. And so it started, I made a few videos on YouTube. They were crude, badly done but viewers liked them.
They subscribed to my YouTube channel and visited my web sites. Some videos were so popular, getting 10 times more views than the rest, that I decided to monetize those topics via a more in-depth class on Udemy. And so my Udemy journey started.
It worked well. I had a handful of students paying for my classes. Things were moving along fine until I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and make videos using the Python programming language.
R users come to learn data science, Python users come to learn, well, everything under the sun. It is a much, much more competitive topic. Udemy gives you a few tools to entice students, like making some of the videos in a class freely accessible or being part of a business subscription model. Those tools helped until they introduced promotions.
About the Udemy Promotions, Really?
I am as cheap as the next person. If you tell me that a $200 class will be available for $9.99 in two days, I’m going to wait two days. And if you tell me that this rigmarole will happen every month, I will patiently wait for the $9.99 class and never pay a dime more. And apparently that is how the other 50 million students feel too.
I’m sure Udemy crunched the numbers and are still making a killing off $9.99 classes, unfortunately, that isn’t the case for teachers. Udemy will now and forever be associated as the home of the $9.99 class. So, unless you are willing to become a class factory — which entails making 1 new course every week and warning your students that you can’t afford to answer any question — you ain’t gonna make much money.
I refused to let my class be undersold so I opted out of the promotions program. This has drastically lowered my bottom line. This is also what has forced so many other teachers to write books, create live webinars and start their own teaching platforms (like I did at ViralML.com/school).
And Now, Why Do I Still Produce Content on Udemy?
Yes, I still make content. I know, crazy, right? First off, you can still make money if your classes are really good. Also, I have been experimenting with making free classes. Udemy has over 50 million students, and, if you want to share something you love to the world, well, a good portion of the world is on Udemy. So now, my big classes are hosted on Teachable through my own school at ViralML.com/School and my smaller classes and my altruistic efforts are on Udemy to benefit from the huge visibility.
On a related note, I am building a data science curriculum for children (any age really as long as you’re young at heart and curious) that will be entirely free which makes Udemy.com the obvious platform! Stay posted for more news on that front!
Thanks for listening to my rants.