With over 200,000 online courses and more than 800 million course enrollments, Udemy is a big name in online learning. Its user base has quadrupled in the span of just five years, from just over 200 million course enrollments in 2019.
But are these courses actually making money? How much do Udemy instructors make, and does it make sense for you to sell courses on Udemy?
To answer these questions, we did a deep dive into the Udemy economy. We analyzed hundreds of thousands of courses on the platform and their enrollments to understand the course creators’ earnings, trends, and more.
And now, it’s time to share what we discovered.
Our Key Findings
- The average instructor earning on Udemy is $3,306 per year.
- A majority of instructors (75%) make less than $1,000 a year on Udemy. And only 1% of instructors make a full-time income (>$50K/year).
- The top 1% of instructors make up more than 50% of all Udemy earnings, while the bottom 50% of instructors earn less than 1%.
- Courses with less than 100 enrollments have 253K hours of video training content, which would cost over $500 million to produce.
- The average earning for instructors joining Udemy since 2020 is $2.1K, while it is $5.4K for those joining before 2020.
- Only 50% of Udemy courses created since 2020 have more than 100 enrollments, while the same number is 85% for the courses created before 2020.
- Almost 90% of courses aren’t included in Udemy Business, and their average yearly earning is three times less than those included in the business catalog.
- Development courses earn $2,339/year on average, while it is just around $300 for Lifestyle courses, revealing a significant earnings gap between categories.
How Much Do Udemy Instructors Make?
This is one of the most common questions asked about Udemy. The short answer is that, on average, an online course creator earns $3,306 per year on Udemy.
But we wanted to dig deeper. How many Udemy instructors make a full-time income? How is the earning distributed between instructors? Does the platform have a “creator middle class”?
Unfortunately, our research found that only 1% of Udemy instructors earn a full-time income (>$50K/year), and only 4% would cross the US poverty line ($14.5K/year). The majority of instructors (75%) make less than $1,000 a year.
But a select few, the 1% of the 1%, do make a million dollars a year.
This disparity is also demonstrated by the distribution of the Udemy instructor earnings. While the top 1% of instructors get a lion’s share of over 50% of the earnings, the bottom 50% of instructors have a 1% share in overall earnings.
What this means is that the majority of instructors are making very little money on Udemy, while a select few at the top are making a lot. There is no middle class on Udemy, and the platform heavily favors the top 1%.
Now, the course creators may not have profited, but did they lose anything?
Time and money.
There are over 73K courses that have less than 100 students, meaning they never made any real money from Udemy.
However, these courses have almost 253K hours of video training content. Based on our estimation, creating this content from scratch would cost upwards of $500 million.
So, in a way, these creators are losing money by investing their time and not getting paid for it.
Can New Instructors Make Money on Udemy?
Next, we wanted to find out if new instructors can make money on Udemy. We compared the earnings of instructors who joined the platform before 2020 with those who joined after.
We chose 2020 because it was a watershed moment for the eLearning industry, and Udemy is no exception.
The number of instructors on the Udemy marketplace nearly tripled from 25K in 2019 to 70K by 2022, indicating an average of 14.6K new instructors annually since 2020, compared to 7.2K in 2019.
This is also reflected in the number of new courses being created on the platform; the number of new courses on the platform tripled from around 70K in 2019 to 200K in 2022.
However, most of these new instructors aren’t experiencing Udemy success.
The average Udemy earnings are down to just $2.1K/year for the new instructors, compared to $5.4K/year for instructors who joined before 2020.
In fact, 50% of Udemy courses created since 2020 have less than 100 lifetime enrollments, while the same number is 85% for courses created before 2020.
Several potential reasons can explain this decline, and a big one is that enrollments and revenue aren’t keeping pace with the number of courses being created.
While the number of new courses on the platform increased by 181% between 2019 and 2022, Udemy’s revenue increased by only 128% during the same period.
However, another big factor has been Udemy’s declining revenue share. The payouts as a percentage of revenue have decreased from 40% in 2019 to 31% in 2022.
As a result, the instructor payouts increased by just 76% during this period.
Udemy is more competitive now than ever, and it’s sharing less revenue with the instructors, so it’s far more difficult to succeed as a new instructor.
Udemy’s Changed Focus: Is It Even a Fair Game?
Udemy started out primarily as a course marketplace for customers, but it has experienced a significant shift in focus in recent years.
In 2019, Udemy Business, the B2B vertical, accounted for just 18% of the platform’s overall revenue. But by 2022, that figure jumped to an impressive 50%.
Udemy has set ambitious goals for the future, with plans to further increase Udemy Business’ contribution to 60% by 2024 and 75% in the long term.
Despite the significant contribution of Udemy Business to the platform’s overall revenue, the majority of instructors aren’t benefiting from it.
In fact, almost 90% of courses aren’t even included in the business catalog, and those make significantly less than the ones that are included.
Courses included in Udemy Business earn an average of $2,795 per year, over two and a half times more than those not included in the business catalog. For the latter, it is just $963 per year.
Imagine the scenario where 90% of courses don’t have a share in 75% of the platform revenue. The chance of success for these courses will be extremely slim.
Moreover, there’s a great discrepancy between the categories when it comes to inclusion in the business catalog.
While 19% and 15% of courses in the Development and IT & Software categories are a part of Udemy Business, the same number for courses from categories like Music, Health & Fitness, and Lifestyle is between 1% and 2%.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. These categories aren’t the most in-demand learning topics for business customers.
However, this influences the average category earnings in a big way. While the average course earning in the Development category is $2,339, and IT & Software is $1,494, the average for the Music, Health & Fitness, and Lifestyle categories is just about $350.
In fact, there is a 93% correlation between average course earnings for a category and the percentage of courses from it included in Udemy Business.
So, in the non-tech and business categories, instructors don’t even get a fair shot at success because Udemy’s B2B focus isn’t helping them.
In general, as well, Udemy’s stronger focus on the business segment means that it is no longer about connecting learners and instructors.
It is becoming more of a B2B training company, which will make it an even more exclusive club and further limit the success of new instructors.
Probably, Udemy should get more selective in accepting new instructors on the platform. And maybe it’s time to start paying instructors a fixed fee, as well, for creating courses.
Expert Opinions on Udemy Earnings
Nick Loper, Founder of Side Hustle Nation
I imagine the stats are consistent with most marketplaces — where a minority of the sellers make the majority of the income. The instructors I see having the most success on Udemy are:
1. the “serial course creators” who are constantly publishing new material and really know how to drive student sign-ups.
2. those who use the platform as a “top of the funnel” entry point into their broader brand and ecosystem.
Still, if you don’t have an audience of your own and can create a quality course that people are looking for, you can tap into Udemy’s broad existing student base.
Vasco Cavalheiro, Founder of OnlineCourseHost.com
I think if your course is on a business-friendly topic, then trying to get your courses included in the Udemy For Business catalog should be your top priority. My UFB revenue has grown substantially in the last few years, and my marketplace revenue has decreased even though my courses are ranking higher than ever on the platform.
My UFB revenue is now more than 3 times my marketplace revenue. This wasn’t the case before, initially, the UFB revenue was very small, less than 10%. UFB is invite-only, so the key to getting there seems to be the first creator to publish a long (ideally 10+ hours) course on a brand-new topic.
Trying to make a course on an existing topic that already is saturated with courses hoping to get to the UFB catalog is a very long shot (I tried it, and didn’t work), so I recommend focusing as much as possible on new topics and trends, and on business-friendly topics more than ever.
It is clear that making money on Udemy is an uphill task for new instructors. And it’s near impossible for those outside of the tech and business categories.
So, if you’re a new course creator, we suggest that you should think beyond Udemy and focus on building your own audience and selling courses directly. It applies to the existing instructors, too, as it’s important to diversify your income.
We have put together an epic guide on selling online courses from your own website, and you should check it out.
That brings us to the end of our analysis. We hope that our insights into “how much money can you make on Udemy” have been helpful.
And now we’d like to hear from you: What’s your #1 takeaway from this study? Or maybe you have a question. Either way, leave a comment below right now.
For this analysis, we pulled data from Udemy’s platform between February and mid-April of 2023. To ensure accuracy, we excluded any courses published in 2023 since these may not have had sufficient time to accumulate enrollments.
- We first calculated an average yearly enrollment number for each course based on its lifetime enrollments and the duration for which it has been live on Udemy.
- We then estimated the average earnings per enrollment based on Udemy’s FY21 financial reports. We divided the total instructor payouts by total enrollments to arrive at the $ per enrollment number.
These two figures were then combined to arrive at the average yearly earnings for each course.