I recently wrote a (helpful, I’m told) post called 8 Things I Learned Teaching Online That Will Make You a Better Udemy Instructor. My goal was to help others starting out with online teaching, particularly on the largest online learning platform, Udemy.
Today I wanted to write about some more personal Udemy successes I stumbled onto this past year, mainly through trial and error. Hopefully by adopting one or all of these productivity hacks you’ll start to see better results over time as well regarding producing more high-quality online courses, keeping students happy and engaged, and yes, I’ll even mention the s-word… getting more sales.
I love success but hate sleaze. We artists/professors as a group tend to be big clods when it comes to marketing, but even I learned a thing or two this past year that has helped make my dream of teaching, writing, and creating art full-time an achievable reality. In other words, it’s nice to have dreams, but you also have to pay the bills. So without further ado, here are more tips so you can have a more successful year ahead on Udemy in 2016 and beyond.
I’m not going to lie. I’m a busy woman. Before I took a leave of absence from my university in August, my head was spinning. I was running a film program, chasing after rogue professors, putting out workplace fires (they even literally trained me to be the emergency person in the event of a terrorist attack!), running after my very young spirited sons, and navigating life in a foreign country with less than perfect Italian language skills. Oh, and I was teaching online. It all started out as just a hobby, one that I could only devote, say two hours a week to on Fridays if the stars and planets were aligned. I read somewhere that I should consider creating more than one course, and preferably one course a month to help gain traction. But how to do that (high quality ones that would help other people and that I could be proud of) with my busy schedule?
1.) Create More Courses (By Doing Things You Are Already Doing Anyway
Quite simply I tricked myself into making courses, some which accidentally turned out to be much more popular than I ever would have initially guessed they’d be. My second course, Web Snax: Super Simple Recipes For Easy Website Design started out as a private course for my Fall 2014 Web Design 1 university students to act as a resource they could go back to once the semester ended. Last January I created Crowdfunding Confidential: Raise Money For You and Your Cause that I ended up using as an important resource for my Spring 2015 Media, Art, and Social Activism university course. Last March one of my professors had an emergency and had to leave the country. I couldn’t take over his class so while I struggled to quickly find a replacement, I created an online course for his students which ended up being my Create Quick and Easy Unique Illustrations in Illustrator course. (I somehow made it in TWO days over Spring Break!) This past summer I redid my entire website so made screencasts while I tried to figure out the WordPress theme Divi for the first time and hence by September, Give Your WordPress Website a Makeover: Divi Theme Spotlight was born. I could go on, but you get the idea. You can see all 13 of my Udemy courses here.
2.) Create More Courses (By Using High-Quality, Existing Courses)
Not yet fully understanding the difference between what university vs. online students wanted in a learning experience last December in 2014, Web Snax, my second course had turned into a gigantic monster. I wanted to include EVERYTHING that I felt beginning web students needed and it ended up 10+ hours long! Now this is great for the most dedicated, self-starter-type online students, but for the majority it seemed overwhelming! I eventually ended up “re-branding” that course so the new description touted that it was a FULL web design foundation and “the equivalent of 11 mini courses all in one place.” This turned out to help boost sales for that particular course (I highlighted the monster aspect of it as its biggest strength) and then I started to offer sections of Web Snax to audiences who only wanted to learn specific things in a very short amount of time in the form of new, shorter, stand-alone courses. These became the free Web Design Do’s and Don’ts: Evaluate Your Website sampler course, WordPress in 1 Hour: Quick and Easy Essentials For Beginners, and the newer Divi course previously mentioned.
3.) Meanwhile Keep Your Current Students Happy By Adding Bonuses to Existing Courses
When I was making the Divi course last September, I decided that it belonged also in the Web Snax course too so I added it in as the last section. At the moment I am currently optimizing my website based on the most effective layouts backed by research for increasing conversions, clicks, and engagement. This will be a new course (no title yet!) but I plan to also add it into both the Divi and Web Snax courses as separate sections. Students LOVE bonuses so why not under-promise and over-deliver? It will increase your online teaching good karma and make for some very happy students. Happy students = happy instructors too.
4.) Just Found Some Good Advice? Bookmark That Page Right NOW! (*I’ll Wait For You…)
One thing about being super productive is that rarely does life cooperate regarding time. There are only 24 hours in the day and you need to stop and smell the roses too for your own sanity. We are bombarded in our email inboxes and on social media all the time with useful articles and other advice goodies, but no one is superhuman enough to read, digest, and act on them all immediately.
This one’s a no-brainer. If you see some good advice or just something intriguing, bookmark it and come back to it when you have time. It may even be months. That’s what I did when I had to figure out last October how to publish and launch my first Kindle book on Amazon. Which brings us to…
5.) Make Your Course Into a Book Or Vice Versa
My first book was written as a companion to my Crowdfunding Confidential course (given as a free gift to enrolled students). Yes, if you have the desire and energy, you might consider going down the Amazon self publishing route as well. I’m so glad I did and am working on my second book now, Free At Last: Live, Love, and Work Abroad As a 21st Century Global Citizen. Myself and co-author, Jacqueline Seidel plan to make a Udemy course by the same name later this year so you can also make courses from books and vice versa. Now the Amazon self-publishing landscape is even less forgiving than the online course-making and selling landscape so as with Udemy, be prepared to face a steep learning curve over there as well. Challenge accepted? OK. Great! Let’s move on then.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu
6.) Collect GOOD Promo Announcements From Other Instructors and Use Them As Templates
I was such a clod when I got started on Udemy regarding promoting my own courses. Part of me was incredulous because after all, university professors never have to market their own courses! But, we’re not in Kansas anymore are we? We are online and the rules are different. I don’t want to ramble on, at least in this post by getting into all the specifics, but I will say that I played around with my sending days and times and noted which announcements got sales and which didn’t, adjusting accordingly the next time around. When I finally started seeing success with my own promotions, I hung onto my best messages to be reused later as a sort of template. Of course I’m not suggesting becoming a spammy marketing clone with cookie-cutter emails, but marketers are… ahem… people too and there are online survival skills to be learned from them.
This blog post had some really great advice: My Formula For Success With Udemy Email Marketing
7.) Be Nice To Yourself For Crying Out Loud
Sometimes I can be TOO productive and just need to go for a walk, meditate, or goof off on Facebook. You can help me goof off on Facebook by the way by connecting with me there.
So in order to be successful with Udemy or anywhere else, you need to also get back up after trying things that didn’t work out. Innovation and failure go hand in hand so don’t fight it. By the way, it’s backed up by research that you actually can only be at your most productive if you take enough breaks from working, eat well, get enough sleep, and cultivate a relaxed and positive mindset. If you are reading this after sitting at a desk for an hour or more I implore you right now to get up, stretch, or switch gears for a few minutes.
Finally, it’s my own personal opinion that if you concentrate more on being of service to your students rather than thinking of them as customers, you will be ultimately much happier on your online teaching journey regardless of what your sales chart says. The old cliche is true, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” If you don’t love teaching online you probably should not be doing it at all.
So that’s my latest batch of tips. I hope you found them useful. If you’d like to ask me questions live or get more inspirations, please join me on Marc Isaacson’s Weekly Inspirations For Success Blabcast Thursday, January 14, 2016 or by replaying the recording.
If you have your own productivity hacks to add, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!
May 2016 be your best year yet.