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1 Million. Ask me anything. (And I'm NOT one of Udemy's Favorites)

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Our approach is much different than most on here-- Our business on Udemy has diminished over the last few years, but, we're still very grateful for the partnership.

 

My company, Framework Television, has evolved from a Udemy seller to independent publisher to fledgling educational digital television network.  

 

Not the normal Udemy path.

 

I started on Udemy because of cancer.

 

Strange but true.  I had been flying around the world as a technical trainer, teaching the first generation of mobile developers and multi-media web developers.  I had a great client base-- Lockheed, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Boeing and even the US House of Representatives were all my training clients.  I was making buckets of money and having a great time.  It was the life.  First class seats on planes, great hotels, and great people.

 

Then one day nine years ago, I was about to start a course for the FAA.  I was about to begin teaching and realized my muscles were so fatigued; I couldn't get out of the chair.

 

They brought me to the ER, and the eventual diagnosis was colon cancer.

 

I was 35 years old.

 

What they don't tell you about fighting cancer is that (for me at least) it was not so debilitating that you can't do anything, but, I wasn't able to travel and continue working.  So there was a lot of Price is Right and a lot of web surfing.

 

One day in my web surfing, I discovered Udemy.  And I thought to myself, "I can do this better than these people!  Maybe this is a chance to make some extra coin."

 

All in the same week I finished my chemotherapy regime, completed my first Udemy course and traveled to my first post-cancer training client in Minneapolis.  I finished posting the last lessons of Javascript for Beginners on Udemy from the Embassy Suites.

 

To my surprise, the course made money.

 

Suddenly it was making lots of money.  I was lucky.

 

So I made another course.  Then another.  Soon I had to hire an assistant.  Then he had to work full time.  

 

So years later (and two paradigm shifts later) here I am.  I've had a #1 computer book on Amazon.  I've authored dozens of courses myself and published dozens of courses authored by others.  Now I'm on the adventure of my life starting a streaming video network teaching people coding, digital design, and game development.  It all started with Udemy.  And we're still there.  

 

So a few recommendations for those just starting out:

 

1) Focus on quality.  You're not going to do well trying to find the shortest path between you and making a buck.  We've continually improved quality over the years in an attempt to better engage, better explain and create a better degree of success.

 

It's amazing that when you provide actual quality, you don't worry about the review system much.

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.21.20 PM.png

 

2)  Video lectures are not enough.  Students learn better if you provide a multi-modal education.  Add worksheets, labs, even a written version of the lectures.  We now include the equivalent of an entire book with our courses as well as exercises, additional practice, etc.

 

3) Learn production.  Sorry, if I have to watch another Powerpoint presentation masquerading as a course I'm going to scream.  Differentiate yourself and create something worth watching.  We know why you use PowerPoint-- It's easy.  I can read the PowerPoint slides, thank you.  Reading them to me does not make a course.  (Argue all you want.  PowerPoint makes bad courses and makes you lazy).

 

Here's a screenshot from one of our courses:Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 1.28.25 PM.png

We're shooting against a green screen.  Everything else -- lower thirds, animated backgrounds, etc, we learned in Udemy courses.  You'd be surprised what you can learn here.

 

It matters.

 

Production matters because your audience isn't comparing your work to other online courses... They're comparing it to other media.  Video games, movies, TV Shows, are all your competition for eyeballs.  Can you engage as they can?  Do everything you can to engage your audience.

 

If they're not watching your snooze-fest, it's your fault.  Not theirs.

 

4) Work as you've never worked before.  I love every minute of the work we do.  I cannot be more excited to take the 30-minute train ride to our studio each day.  I work 12-14 hours on many days.  I've created a team of folks that I love.  

 

This is my passion.

 

5) Be an expert.  I cringe whenever I hear the word niche.  When someone is seeking a niche, they're looking for a way to make money-- not teaching what they are passionate about.  We don't need another Facebook ads instructor who wants to do it because it's lucrative.  Of those of us who've made it to the million dollar mark I guarantee most of us are experts teaching what we're passionate about.  

 

The opportunities always lose in the end, because there is a shiner quarter somewhere.

 

6) If you don't like it, quit.  Today.  There is no imperative to make a course.  It's even worse to make a lousy course and hate the process.  If you don't like it, quit.  Life is short and, in the end, you should spend time doing what you're passionate about.

 

That's all for now.  Ask me anything.

 

-Mark

 

Question

Congrats Mark, what a great achievement!

 

It's an AMA, so here I go with the tough questions:

1) How long did it take you to get there?

2) You have over a quarter million students, are they all paid? It seems that ~$4 per student is a low number, that would mean most of them aren't repeat buyers? Any free coupons?

3) I see you have almost 7,000 reviews. How do you explain the low review to student count ratio? Do you think that has any impact on your sales?

4) You said your Udemy review has been dwindling. What do you attribute this to, what and when was your peak revenue and your monthly revenue now?

 

Thanks for the inspiration
Stephane

Answer

Thanks.  I don't mind tough questions.  Not sure how some of these are helpful to you or help you sell more courses, but, here goes...

 

1) About 8 years.

2) I actually have over 375,000 students across different accounts.  I have other accounts generating revenue as well.  This was just the first one to reach a major milestone like this.  For a period a few years back when I worked closely with Udemy they systematically gave away one of my courses as a way to entice people into buying.  They don't do that anymore as their strategy has changed.

I have no idea how many are repeat buyers.  It seems like we have a significant number based on names I notice again and again, but, since Udemy doesn't provide a convenient way to track that, we have more constructive metrics to focus on.

3) We've never focused on trying to get students to review courses.  Before the algorithm changes in 2016(15?)  the number of reviews wasn't a huge factor.  Now Udemy has made the number of reviews a major factor in search.  (The unintended consequence was wide-spread cheating).  We had plenty of reviews for social proof.

Our current strategy focuses more on reviews and class participation.

4) We used to do over $25k a month up to $45K a month.  Now we do under $5K some months.  Our courses used to be featured by Udemy and supported with advertising.  The competition used to be a lot less.  Now that support goes to others.  (Yes, I'm a bit bitter about the way in which we were unceremoniously dropped, but, life goes on).  We are still participating and still trying to grow on the platform.  In fact, last month, with the help of friends we had a pretty good launch in a healthy category... We'll see what happens.

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Ambassador Jacob

That's a great inspiration and thanks for that