Udemy is one of the most popular online learning platforms out there with a user base of 40 million+ students. So, almost every course creator considers Udemy for selling courses at some point in their course creation journey.
However, it is hardly a straightforward decision to make. While there are some obvious merits of selling online courses with Udemy, there are quite a few demerits as well.
In fact, you’ll find a lot of different opinions on the internet on this topic and most articles take a stand one way or the other without presenting a balanced argument.
I’ve sold courses on Udemy in the past, and I am aware of the value it offers to creators as well as its shortcomings.
So, I have created this Udemy review to help you decide “Is Udemy Worth It?” by taking you through the detailed pros and cons of selling courses on the platform.
Let’s get started.
What is Udemy and How It Works?
Udemy is the world’s largest marketplace for online courses, and it hosts an extensive collection of courses priced at affordable rates.
Being a marketplace, it offers creators not just with a platform to host courses and receive payments, but also offers them a ready audience and helps them actively with marketing their courses.
Owing to its large student base, lots of instructors have made successful careers selling online courses on Udemy.
As a creator, you can host as many free or paid courses as you want on the platform without requiring to pay any fixed monthly fee to them.
In terms of business model, the way Udemy marketplace works is that you pay a share of the course revenue to the platform every time somebody buys your course.
Your share of revenue as an instructor depends on how students discover your course, and it can vary from anywhere between 25% to 97%:
- You would make 50% of the course revenue if students find your course organically by searching on Udemy or through Google Search.
- On the other hand, you would make 97% of the course revenue if you brought a student to the platform through your marketing efforts. The platform offers you something called instructor coupons, and your students must buy through one of these coupons for you to get a higher revenue share.
- Udemy also promotes your courses through paid advertising and an affiliate program, and you only get to keep 25% of the course price for purchases that happen through these channels.
In addition to the above, you’d lose an additional 30% fee of the course price to Google or Apple for in-app purchases.
Udemy also has a separate program for corporates called Udemy for Business (UFB), which works on a subscription based model and presents another opportunity for instructors.
Now, UFB revenue share model works very differently and unlike the marketplace model, your share is decided based on student engagement in your courses.
Before we start discussing the pros and cons, here are some frequently asked questions that will help you better understand the Udemy model:
Who can teach on Udemy?
Anyone can teach on Udemy given that your course doesn’t teach one of the restricted topics. Plus if your course is free, you won’t need any approval. Otherwise you’ll need to apply to become a premium instructor.
Who owns Udemy content?
The course creator retains the ownership of content on Udemy. They can list the same course on other platforms including their own website and they can remove it from the marketplace whenever they want.
What percentage does Udemy take from instructors?
Udemy charges 50% commission on all regular course sales and 75% commission on sales through ads and affiliates. One exception is when a student purchases a course through your coupon, in which case it takes just a 3% fee.
How Udemy for Business works?
Udemy for Business works very differently from Udemy’s marketplace model. It is a subscription-based program and course creators are paid based on the total number of minutes students consume within your courses.
How much does an instructor make on Udemy?
There is no one answer to this question and it depends on a number of things including your niche, your course, your marketing effort, etc. Having said that, instructors make anywhere from $0 to a six-figure income.
What I Like About Selling Courses on Udemy?
There are a few solid reasons why Udemy works well for thousands of online course creators, and why it can also work for you. So, let’s discuss all the arguments that go in favor of selling courses on Udemy.
1. Gives Access to a Large Student Base
The most significant element of Udemy’s appeal to new instructors is that it offers them access to an active community of students.
Every year, a large number of students get added to the Udemy platform with their accounts and credit card details setup for new course purchases.
Last year, more than 40 million students around the world learned on the platform from more than 50,000 instructors. Even I started my journey in the online course space and made my first dollars as a creator through Udemy.
The platform has great brand recall among online learners, plus it also promotes your courses through paid advertisements and through thousands of affiliates.
I know of a lot of new creators who are incredibly talented at teaching online courses but find it tough to market and sell their courses. So, if that description fits you, Udemy can be a great place to get started with little or no marketing effort.
2. Quickest Way to Get Started
Another thing I like about Udemy is that it’s the quickest way to start selling an online course. You don’t have to set up a website, you can set up a course reasonably quickly, and as we discussed, you don’t need to figure out much on the marketing side as well.
Udemy also handles your taxes and takes care of several optimizations that can improve your bottom line as a course creator.
For instance, it does regular optimizations for improving conversions and continuously tests new features like different prices for the same course in different geographies.
Moreover, your immediate goal could just be to get some initial feedback on your course, so that you can identify areas of improvement.
Or maybe you are sitting on the fence, and want to do a quick pilot to decide if you’re going to invest further in your online course business or not.
In all such cases, Udemy can serve as an ideal testing ground before you decide to launch your course website.
3. Offers Lots of Support Resources
Even when you’re selling through a marketplace like Udemy, there are several things to figure out before you are ready to launch your course.
But Udemy makes it pretty easy for you by offering you tons of useful support resources, which handhold you through the entire process of building and selling your first online course.
So, you get access to a neatly organized collection of articles and resources, which cover topics like ‘how to create videos’, ‘how to record high-quality audio’, ‘how to engage with students’ as well as ‘how to sell successfully through Udemy’.
On top of that, you get access to an active instructor community where you can ask questions and exchange feedback from other creators.
Udemy’s community is also quite handy as a resource for encouraging new creators and helping them network with experienced creators.
Moreover, Udemy also offers you a free tool called Marketplace Insights to help you gather data and insights on the income potential of new course topics.
Essentially, what Udemy is extremely good at is lowering the barrier to entry for new instructors, which also helps it consistently attract new instructor talent.
4. Provides a Great Learning Experience for Students
Finally, the learning experience for students is what drives long term business growth and creative satisfaction for any instructor, and Udemy does an excellent job in this regard.
The user interface for learning is slick and straightforward, and it helps that most of the students on Udemy are repeat users and already familiar with the platform.
Plus, the marketplace also sets minimum standards for the quality of video and audio content that you can publish.
In terms of learning tools, Udemy also offers several tools for providing students with assignments, quizzes, practice tests, and even industry-specific activities like coding exercises.
For facilitating interaction between instructors and students, it offers a direct messaging tool on the platform and students can even interact with each other on a native Q&A forum within the platform.
Another thing I love about Udemy is that it offers the ability to learn-on-the-go through its mobile app. The app can also be used to download courses for offline consumption, and you can even watch course videos with Chromecast or Apple TV.
That being said, the high-quality learning experience is not exclusive to Udemy, and you can offer a high-quality experience even with online course platforms like Teachable which aren’t really a marketplace.
So far, we have discussed the upside of selling online courses with Udemy, but there are also several pitfalls of building your online course business with Udemy, and we’ll talk about them next.
What I Don’t Like About Selling Courses on Udemy?
There are several articles on the internet which talk about why you shouldn’t sell courses on Udemy, and now I’ll offer my take on this issue, which is based on my own experiences as well as experiences of clients who moved away from the platform.
So, let’s talk about the demerits of selling courses on Udemy.
1. You Don’t Own the Relationship with Your Users
The biggest downside of selling courses with Udemy is that you don’t own the relationship with your customers i.e., your students in this case.
Although you can send emails to your students through the Udemy platform, it doesn’t give you any access to their email data. As a result, you can’t build a real relationship with your students.
As an infopreneur, ideally, you’d want to build a loyal audience around your business, build a sales funnel to sell them new products, and encourage your most passionate users to promote your brand on social media, etc.
But you can’t do any of this if you are selling courses on Udemy and don’t own the relationship with your students.
Moreover, without owning student data, not only are you leaving money on the table, but you are also taking too much risk in your business. So, if you are not able to sell on Udemy for any reason down the line, it puts an effective end to your business.
Ask Jerry Banfield, who was removed from Udemy, after he had already sold courses to more than 140,000 students through his different Udemy courses.
Another thing I don’t like about Udemy is that it’d also promote your competitor’s courses to your students. So if you decide to bring traffic from elsewhere to your Udemy courses, you’d be giving away a part of your audience for free to your competitors.
2. You Can’t Build Your Brand
Another issue with the Udemy model is that you don’t really get to build your own brand. So, Udemy doesn’t let you feature your logo and brand name in any prominent way within your courses.
In fact, when you upload your course, Udemy will automatically add their own branding to the bottom right corner of your course videos.
Moreover, you also can’t offer any supporting content around your courses or customize the look and feel of your course as you would on your own website. Plus, you can’t even encourage social media engagement through the Udemy platform.
For any serious course creator, a brand is going to be one of their biggest assets in the long-term, and it’s hard to imagine leaving that out of your plans, which is exactly what you’d be doing if you are solely focused on selling courses through Udemy.
3. You Don’t Control Platform Policies and Course Pricing
Another considerable drawback to building your online course business on Udemy is that they can make changes to their platform policies anytime and you don’t really have any option there.
So if tomorrow, Udemy decides to change things like instructor revenue share, course pricing, how you engage with students, etc., you should not be surprised. If you think it’s a theoretical risk, keep in mind that they have already done this several times in the past.
For instance, in 2013, Udemy reduced the revenue share of instructors from 70% to 50% overnight. In fact, the revenue share used to be 90% before that.
Recently, they announced that if your course is listed on Udemy for Business, you won’t be allowed to sell the course anywhere else.
Another notable instance I can remember is related to course pricing. In 2016, Udemy decided to cap the prices of the courses on its platform in the range of $20-$50. I was among the many instructors who were severely hit by this change.
As of today, Udemy offers $10 sale for courses throughout the year to drive sales volumes, and this puts an effective ceiling to your income potential as an Udemy instructor.
The Udemy brand is built around value-for-money courses, and most students on the Udemy marketplace are looking to buy low-priced courses, so you don’t have really an option here.
4. It Has Become Fairly Competitive
Up until a few years back, it was relatively easy to start making sales on Udemy, but today, it is harder than ever, because of ever-increasing competition.
Like any other marketplace, Udemy is also a search engine where courses are ranked on search results pages for different keywords. So unless your course ranks on the 1st page for a popular keyword, your chances of making any significant sales are slim.
And like any other marketplace, as the number and quality of competitors increase over time, it becomes harder to rank on the first page.
Today, it takes a lot more initial marketing push from your side before you get noticed by Udemy, and start ranking on the first page for any decent keyword and start generating any real sales volume.
5. Not Enough Demand in Niche Categories
Another challenge with Udemy is that unless you operate in a popular category like programming, yoga, cooking, etc., the demand may simply not be high enough.
Building a business on Udemy is primarily a volume game, and this model simply doesn’t work if you sell courses in a niche (e.g. Gymnastics) where there isn’t enough demand in the marketplace.
Moreover, in most niche categories, the paying capacity of students is usually more, so it makes little sense to sell niche courses on Udemy.
The only way to build an online course business in a niche category is to set up a website, build your audience, and charge them a premium price. And this is exactly what my experience of selling a supply chain course on Udemy taught me.
Is Udemy Worth It? – Final Verdict
In this Udemy review, we discussed in detail how the platform works and the pros and cons of selling courses there.
And we can safely say that whether or not it’ll be worthwhile for you to sell courses on Udemy will primarily depend on your goal and course category.
So, if you are looking to test the waters as a course creator or trying to get some initial feedback, selling courses on Udemy can undoubtedly be a good idea.
But if your goal is to create a stable, long-term online course business, you need an audience, and you need a brand. So, in this case, you should set up your online course website and start working towards that goal straight away.
Another thing you need to consider is your course niche. So, if you are operating in a popular category like programming, Udemy can still be an additional source of revenue for your business.
But if your course is in a niche category like supply chain, Udemy may make little sense for you as a course creator.
Finally, I don’t recommend that you ever treat Udemy as your primary revenue source, irrespective of the course category and the stage of your business.
I hope you found this Udemy review useful and I hope you were able to answer the question – “Is Udemy worth it for selling courses?” for yourself. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.