Udemy Review: Is Udemy Worth It for Course Creators?

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Udemy is the most popular online learning platform out there and many course creators consider using it for selling their online courses.

However, it is hardly a straightforward decision to make. While there are some obvious merits of selling 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.

We’ve sold courses on Udemy in the past and know its value and shortcomings. This Udemy review aims to help you decide “Is Udemy Worth It?” by detailing the 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 course marketplace, with an extensive library of online courses and millions of students enrolled in them.

Being a marketplace, it offers creators not just a platform to host courses and receive payments but also offers them a ready audience and helps them actively market their courses.

Teaching on Udemy
Anyone can teach a course on Udemy

Owing to its large student base, lots of instructors have made successful careers selling online courses on Udemy.

For instance, instructors like Phil Ebiner and Rob Percival have made high seven-figure revenues as instructors on the platform, and there are hundreds of creators who have made a six-figure income or more.

As a creator, you can host as many free or paid courses as you want on the platform without requiring you to pay a fixed monthly fee to them, making it among the top free online course builders.

Regarding its business model, the Udemy marketplace operates by taking a share of your course revenue each time someone purchases your course.

Your revenue share as an instructor depends on how students discover your course, and it can vary between 37% and 97%:

  • You’ll keep 37% of the revenue when a student buys your course by searching on the marketplace or through paid advertisements.
  • You’ll make 97% of the course revenue when a student buys your course through an instructor’s referral link or coupon code.

In addition to the above, you have to pay a 30% fee to Google or Apple if a student buys your course through Udemy’s mobile app.

Udemy has a separate program called Udemy Business, which offers companies and organizations access to its courses. However, only certain courses that pass their quality standards, have good ratings, and teach a relevant topic can be a part of the program.

Udemy Business works on a subscription-based model, where 20% of the revenue goes to the instructor revenue pool. Individual instructors are then paid out based on their share of the total number of minutes watched by business users each month.

Udemy Business

Over time, Udemy Business has become a more significant part of the platform, contributing around 60% of Udemy’s revenue in 2023, and it’s expected to grow even more in the future.

So, Udemy has gradually shifted its focus from being a purely consumer-based learning platform to catering more towards corporate and business users, which changes the dynamics of selling courses on the platform.

What We 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 set up for new course purchases.

The platform has over 70 million students from around the world who learn from more than 75,000 instructors.

Udemy Stats at a glance
Udemy Stats at a glance

The platform has great brand recall among online learners, plus it also promotes your courses through paid advertisements and through thousands of affiliates.

There are many 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 less marketing effort.

2. Quickest Way to Get Started

Another thing we 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 and as we discussed, you don’t need to figure out as much on the marketing side.

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 to improve 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 and 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:

  • creating videos,
  • recording high-quality audio,
  • engaging students,
  • selling successfully through Udemy,
  • and much more.

On top of that, you get access to an active instructor community where you can ask questions and exchange feedback from other creators. It is also quite handy as a resource for encouraging new creators. 

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.

Udemy's Marketplace Insights Tool
Udemy’s Marketplace Insights Tool

Essentially, what Udemy is extremely good at is making it easy for new instructors to start, which also helps it consistently attract new instructor talent.

4. Provides a Great Learning Experience for Students

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 are already familiar with the platform. 

Plus, the marketplace also sets minimum standards for the quality of video and audio content that you can publish. 

Udemy's video standards
Udemy’s Video Standards

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 we 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 course creation platforms that 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 We Don’t Like About Selling Courses on Udemy

There are several articles on the internet that talk about why you shouldn’t sell courses on Udemy, and now we’ll offer our take on this issue, which is based on our own experiences as well as the experiences of clients who moved away from the platform.

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 edupreneur, you want to build a loyal audience, create a sales funnel to sell them new products, and encourage your most passionate users to promote your brand on social media.

Udemy Review Quote

But you can’t do any of this if you are selling courses on Udemy and don’t own the relationship with your students.

Furthermore, not owning student data means you’re not just leaving money on the table but also increasing the risk for your business. If, for any reason, you’re unable to sell on Udemy in the future, it could potentially mean an end to your business.

Ask Jerry Banfield, who was removed from Udemy after he had already sold courses to more than 140,000 students.

2. 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 or course pricing, 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, Udemy reduced the revenue share of instructors from 70% to 50% in 2013 and from 50% to 37% in 2021. In fact, the revenue share used to be 90% at one point.

In another instance, they introduced a rule to prohibit courses included in the Udemy Business catalog from being sold on other learning platforms.

Moreover, Udemy has a complete say over the pricing of your courses. The pricing has been going down consistently over the years, and courses are now being sold for as low as $4 in certain countries.

3. Udemy Has Become Super Competitive 

Back in the day, it was relatively easy to start making sales on Udemy, but it is harder than ever now. There are more than 75,000 instructors on the platform who sell over 220K courses.

As a result, it has become really difficult for new instructors to gain visibility and attract students. Udemy’s search algorithm also heavily favors popular courses with good ratings, making it even harder for new instructors to compete.

We did a study about Udemy instructor earnings in 2023 and found that the average earnings for the new instructors joining after 2020 is just $2.1K/year, compared to $5.4K/year for instructors who joined before 2020.

New instructor earnings on Udemy

Also, 75% of Udemy instructors make less than $1,000 a year through the platform, while only 1% make more than $50,000 per year.

These statistics show just how competitive the platform has become, making it much harder to make a decent income solely from Udemy.

4. Not Enough Demand in Non-Tech and Non-Business Categories

Another challenge with Udemy is that unless you operate in a popular category like programming, website development, and project management, 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.

Demand for Gymnastics courses on Udemy
Demand for Gymnastics courses on Udemy

Moreover, Udemy Business contributes around 60% of the overall revenue, and it’s expected to cross 75% in the long term.

This means that the earnings potential for courses in non-tech and non-business categories is even lower on the platform.

As a result, it’s important for instructors to carefully consider their course topic and target audience when creating a course on Udemy.

If you’re operating in a niche category, the only way to build an online course business is by setting up a website, building your audience, and charging them a premium price.

If you want to understand how selling courses on Udemy is different from selling on your own platform, you should read this Udemy vs Teachable guide.

Final Verdict: Is Udemy Worth It?

In this Udemy review, we discussed in detail how the platform works and the pros and cons of selling courses there. Whether you should or shouldn’t sell courses on Udemy will primarily depend on your goal and course category.

If you are looking to test the waters as a course creator or trying to get some initial feedback, selling courses on Udemy can 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. In this case, you should start your own online school and work towards that goal.

Another thing you need to consider is your course niche. If your course is in a non-tech and non-business niche, Udemy may make sense for you as a course creator.

Finally, we don’t recommend that you ever treat Udemy as your primary revenue source, irrespective of your business’s niche and stage.

We hope you found this Udemy review helpful and that it answered the question, “Is Udemy worth it for selling courses?” If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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