14 steps to create your first Udemy course
TLDR; Let me know if you're ready to walk those steps as I'm looking to create my next in cooperation.
If there's something that software engineering has taught me over the years, then the systemic approach would be among the TOP 5. Having rules in place and a vision in mind always makes projects easier. Especially such long-term projects as creating educational content.
After reading this article, you'll have a step-by-step guide to creating your first course at Udemy, along with some practical learnings I've obtained while going over that path myself. I'm also sharing the bonus Notion template with these steps packed into a checklist among my email subscribers.
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Pick a Theme
It is often the case for people to start thinking about creating educational content on a subject that they feel comfortable with without researching the market. Noble intention, without a doubt, but it can be very frustrating to conclude that no one is actually interested in the shared knowledge. Here are three automation tools that can help you avoid it:
- Udemy Market Insights Tool. Available for everyone in public. Gives great reports on current demand at Udemy. It also provides five underserved themes every day, so it is worth checking it once in a while;
- Google Ads Keywords Tool. It may sound like a bit of an overkill, but learning how to configure PPC ads will be helpful for future e-learning content creators. In addition, it gives you access to thousands of terms people are using to search for knowledge in your niche.
- LowFruits. Automates keyword research to capture the "low hanging fruits" — cases where there is a significant flow of traffic and not enough competition.
Review comments on TOP 5 courses in your niche
If I had to name the most critical step, this might be my champion. It takes approximately 20 to 60 minutes, but you'll learn many things about your potential students and what they want to see. To spare you some time, here are the most common things that are in demand in all themes:
- Have a good sound;
- Don't rush with the content and the narration;
- Keep the material up-to-date if you want to have your rating be >4.5
I’m looking to automate this step a little bit using Chrome extensions and open source the solution, so stay around 😉
Purchase or enter two courses in the subject
For my next Udemy courses, I'm opting for one paid and one free course. After that, you should look for the following things:
- What do people pay for these courses?
- What would you have done differently?
- Is there something that you can make your competitive edge?
- Finally, let's be honest. Do you have something new to bring to the table?
Run a survey in a thematic community
I promise you. This is the last step of the research part.
If you have an audience of potential students, run a survey using your platform or some old-style emails. Make sure that surveys are not too long. Before sending, check this video about the moms' test:
If you don't have a representative number of followers, go to Reddit and find a thematic thread there. Create a post with the poll and try to spark the conversation with people willing to talk. Here's an example of my own survey conducted in r/webscraping.
Create a course title and description with SEO in mind
Here's my template for the title:
[feature(progressive, practical, modern) list-of-keywords]
To read more about optimization for the Udemy algorithm, check this article of mine:
Here's what I've learned from reversing the Udemy rankings algorithm
*reversing — reverse engineering, or at least pretending to.
Create/Find/Purchase presentation template for course
I've found it very useful to have PowerPoint or Google Slides presentations as it's easier to record and gives you a better understanding of the order of the content. Templates often come with some styled icons and fonts. Use those in your recording and marketing materials. It gives an impression of a well-prepared, stylish material, and that's precisely how you want to impress your students. Check slidesgo.com for some free options.
Create a scenario for ten lectures
Yeah, now goes the work. You can't skip it. The goal is to do just enough. Udemy allows you to publish paid courses starting from 30 minutes of content, and ten lectures should give you just that. Then you'll begin testing the content on the learning platform or through other sources like YouTube or Medium.
I want to explain this part in more detail. It would be challenging to create eight hours of material in a single chunk unless you're very passionate about your subject. There's a high chance that your content wouldn't be appreciated despite the thorough research in the previous steps. Therefore, learning that early and improving while you still can is better.
Here are a few tips to make this part easier for you:
- First, learn some templates for video scripting. Jasper.AI gives good examples. You don't have to use their tool, but it won't hurt.
- It might be better to record the screencast and only then narrate the result.
- Don't use fancy English unless you're a native speaker. Aye, writing fancy is a jolly good task, but what makes you think you can talk that way?
Create slides for the first ten lectures
I've found it helpful to start and end lectures with some styled slides like the one on the image below. It simplifies editing and acts like a clapperboard. In addition, your students would appreciate learning patterns in videos as it would help them predict what's coming next.
The most obvious thing is that at Udemy, learners are redirected to the next video right away, without time to make notes or revert to the moment they want to understand better. A clear outro can fix that problem.
Record ten lectures
Not much to explain.
Publish your course
Unexpected, huh? We're only in the middle of the way, though. As I've said above, we're aiming to keep the wheel rolling and get first impressions on the course, or even some initial purchases would boost your motivation significantly.
The ugly truth is that you're unlikely to get either of those. So the following steps are designed to fix that.
Spread the word
It is possible even if you're not an influencer or a famous Youtuber. Here are a few places where you can market your course:
- Tell your friends and family. Ask them politely to submit reviews to your course.
- Share some free entry coupons. I believe that a hundred free students should be enough, but it's clear that some instructors are going up to thousands.
- Use Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, Telegram or whatever is meaningful for your subject. Don't spam, but don't be shy either. If you can't deal with imposter syndrome, just observe what others are advertising on the platform, and you'll see that you're not worse in any case.
- Write a post on Medium. A useful one.
Finally, one thing that was not successful for me, and I would suggest you don't do it: creating ads at Google.
Udemy has a pretty poor tracking system, and they disintegrated Google Analytics. Hence, instructors cannot configure Cost-Per-Action ads, leaving you with Cost-Per-Click. It's hard to do a living business out of CPC with Udemy because the product you're selling is quite cheap, and the audience you're obtaining from Google would be pricy (around 1$ per click for tech).
It's unbelievable how many byproducts your course can make. You might have some GitHub repo to share, a PowerPoint presentation or a PDF file that hints at the learning you're sharing but is far away from spoiling all the major points.
Give your learners something useful, and that gesture will be valued. By words, if not by money.
Create five more tutorials
What, again?! Yeah, course creation is not that passive to be labelled as a "passive income". At least, for now.
Udemy algorithm prefers courses with longer duration, and it also pushes higher recently updated courses. With this step, you can improve at both. Here's the list of ideas for additional content:
- Check if there were any updates in the tool or technology you're teaching. Represent novelty in the video if needed;
- Complement your course with some practical tutorials;
- Implement some requests from the feedback of your first students;
- You might want to repeat this step a few times if the number of students you're seeing does not meet your expectations.
The last step is more strategic than tactical. The most successful educational content creators are telling the same thing:
You’ll benefit from scale of your shared knowledge
While it is possible to create a "one-size-fits-all" course that would attract thousands of students, reality typically strikes harder. Your students would likely search for more complex knowledge that goes beyond the subject of the material. Why not satisfy those needs?
Here are a few ideas of how to grow from a single course:
- Share this course on different platforms if it is allowed by the Terms of Services of those LMS you work with.
- Create an advanced version of the course and offer it to those that have enjoyed your basic version. Go as far as offering it for free. That feedback would pay off when you market the course to a broader audience.
- Create an interactive platform or sandbox where it would be possible for your students to apply the new knowledge.
- Run an email subscription to keep in touch with your students and update the knowledge you gave them.
- Create another course by repeating the template once again.
If you've enjoyed the reading, I would love to invite you into my subscription, where I'm sharing my practical tutorials for software building and education content creation.