Should You Use Udemy for Your Online Course?

Have you ever thought about selling your online course on a marketplace like Udemy? If so, you're not alone.

Dozens of readers have emailed me questions about online course marketplaces. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to investigate! 

While I've never built any courses on a marketplace, I know several course creators who got their start on Udemy and other platforms. In this article I'll share the skinny on whether you should use a marketplace for your online course.

What is a marketplace?

First, let’s make sure we’re clear on what a course marketplace is. A marketplace is like Amazon.com for online courses. Marketplaces are a single online destination that users can go to find and buy education on various topics. Let’s look at a few examples.

Udemy

For online entrepreneurs, Udemy is the most popular example of course marketplaces. You can find courses on just about any web-related topic. It works too--over 15 million students use Udemy.   

Look at your course next to all those other ones!

Look at your course next to all those other ones!

For course creators, Udemy provides specific guidelines on how to create your content. They've made building, marketing and selling your course fairly straightforward.

Of course, this also means you have to abide by their guidelines. For instance, when it comes to earnings you make 50% of the sales that Udemy markets, 97% of sales that you promote, and 25% of sales that come via affiliates. 

Udemy's pricing and earning guidelines

Coursera

Coursera targets their courses to the academic market, specifically higher education. If you’re a student who wants to supplement your formal education, this is the place for you. Likewise, if you’re not a student but want to take a few college-level courses, you’ll love this marketplace.

I couldn't find much information on how to go about creating a course on Coursera. Most of their partners are colleges, universities, or corporations. My guess is they have a revenue-sharing model.

Lynda.com

For years Lynda.com has been the go to resource for just-in-time technical skills or technology training. So it makes sense that LinkedIn recently acquired them in 2015.

Lynda.com’s target market is workplace professionals as well as training & development departments. Want to learn a new skill to get ahead in your career? Go see Lynda.

Lynda.com's marketplace organization

If you're interested in becoming an instructor, Lynda uses a revenue-sharing model. They handle production, pair you with a producer to assist with the content creation phase and fly you out to their office to record your course.

So that's an overview of what's out there. Now let’s look at the pros and cons of using a marketplace.

Pros and Cons of Using a Marketplace

Marketplace Pros

  • Built-in marketing engine
  • Low-cost, low-stress way to validate whether people will buy your course  
  • Way to build awareness about your course (lots of eyes will see it)
  • High quality platform and production (depending on the marketplace)

Marketplace Cons

  • Diluted marketing (competitors products appear next to your course) 
  • Sales can be undercut by site-wide promotions
  • No access to emails captured on the platform
  • Strict communication guidelines (can't promote your other products to students on the platform)
  • No control over placement of your course in the marketplace
  • Your name is aligned with the marketplace's brand instead of your own
  • Must follow pricing guidelines set by marketplace
  • Less profit than if you used an LMS platform or plugin (with same # of sales)

When to consider using a marketplace

Sheesh! That's a lot of cons. It's not all doom and gloom though. There are four use cases (that I could think of) for building your course on a marketplace:

  1. If you want to validate your course idea without investing platforms and plugins - Creating a course can be costly. You’ve got platforms and plugins to pay for, not to mention your email service provider and any tools or gear you need to create the content. If you want to eliminate half of those costs, marketplaces make sense.
  2. If you’re nervous about marketing on your own - Let’s face it, marketing scares the crap out of some people. If using a marketplace makes you feel safe enough to start, I fully support that. Starting is the most important thing.
  3. If you want to get testimonials without having to launch a website or course site of your own - Marketplaces do the work of gathering testimonials for you. You can save those testimonials and use them when you launch your course on your own site.
  4. If you just want to make online courses as supplemental income and don’t plan on building a personal brand.

When Not to Use a Marketplace

Simply put: avoid marketplaces like Udemy if you want to maximize your sales, build a brand, or grow your audience. If you’re in it for the long haul, it just makes sense to control your platform, email list and marketing.

Summary

Well, there you have it. Overall, I don’t recommend using a marketplace. There's just too many cons and not enough control to build a sustainable business. And if you are successful using a marketplace, at some point you have to ask "If I'm making this much, how much money am I losing by splitting profits?"

But if you’re battling overwhelm and feel like one of the use cases listed above fits your situation, then do the thing that’s going to get you started. That’s always the right way forward.

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