AA 031: How to Sell Courses on Udemy with Tom Corson-Knowles

sell courses on udemy

A great way to repurpose your content and diversify your income is to sell products.  In this episode Tom Corson-Knowles shares how to sell courses on Udemy.  Tom earns at least $3000/month in additional income by selling 7 courses on Udemy to 37,000 students.

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In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • Why authors should consider selling courses on Udemy.
  • How to find a profitable topic to teach on Udemy.
  • The step-by-step system to create your first product on Udemy.
  • And more!

Resource:  http://udemyfasttrack.com/

About Tom Corson-Knowles

tom corson-knowlesTom Corson-Knowles is an entrepreneur, blogger and international bestselling author of more than 20 books. He started his first business at age 13, manufacturing SAD lamps out of his father’s garage. By the time he graduated from Indiana University Kelley School of Business at age 22, he was earning a full-time income from his first successful business, which he started in his dorm room.

Tom is the founder of EbookPublishingSchool.com, a free video training program for any writer or author who wants to learn how to successfully write, publish and market their own books online.

You can learn more about Tom and TCK Publishing at www.TCKPublishing.com

Enjoy the podcast!  It’s my hope that these episodes are bringing you one step closer to reaching more people with your message.

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Can’t listen right now?  Read the transcript below:

SHELLEY.  Today I’m rolling out the red carpet and inviting you to join me for this expert interview with Tom Corson-Knowles. Hey Tom, how are you?

TOM.  Great, good to be here.

SHELLEY. It’s so good to have you here. I’m excited for what we’re going to talk about today. I just want to tell people a little bit about you, is that alright?

TOM. Yeah, sounds good.

SHELLEY. Awesome. Tom is an entrepreneur and blogger, and international best-selling author of more than 20 books, but the thing that’s really interesting is that he started his first business at 13, so that’s pretty cool. Manufacturing  SAD lamps out of his father’s garage. So you could have been on Shark Tank, couldn’t you have?

TOM. Maybe, I’m not sure.

SHELLEY. Maybe, I don’t know. By the time he graduated from Indiana University Kelly School of Business at 22, he was earning a full-time income from his first successful business which started in his dorm room. I like that—humble beginnings, right? He decided to share the keys to his success that he learned along his journey, and he does that in many different ways. He’s the founder of ebookpublishingschool.com; it’s a free video training program, and he’s also the founder of TCK Publishing, and he’s done a ton of things. We’re going to talk today specifically about Udemy and how to use Udemy to grow your business. I love this; it says, “Tom is often quoted as saying, ‘You can achieve all of your dreams as an author if you’re willing to master the three key areas of authorship, writing, publishing, and marketing.’” That’s all it takes, right, Tom?

TOM.  Absolutely.

SHELLEY. I’m so excited to have you on, and for this week’s Center-Stage Spotlight Training we’re going to talk all about Udemy and selling courses and trainings on Udemy. I love this because I’ve just been talking in my podcast about the importance of having an up-sell to your book, the importance of having digital products. So this is just a perfect fit, and you’ve had tons of success with it. So I’m going to have you share the specific success strategy in this interview, and I’m just excited to really dig in and have you share. So tell us just a little bit, how did you get started with Udemy and selling those trainings?

TOM. It was a really interesting story actually. I wrote my first book over ten years ago, tried for six years to get a book deal and totally failed, couldn’t get a publisher, couldn’t get an agent, complete failure. Five years ago a friend just offhand mentioned, “Why don’t you just self-publish on Kindle.” So I did my research, read every book I could find on the subject, every blog post I could find, published my books, and did really well. Within the first 12 months I had my first $12,000 dollar month from just Kindle e-book royalties.

SHELLEY. That’s so awesome.

TOM. I was doing so well with that, and I was doing a lot of social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter that I had a lot of friends and authors, and people who wanted to be authors, ask me, how did I do all that? I ended up, I got inundated with emails so that I was spending so much time every day in emails that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. What I loved to do was work on writing more books and so forth. My business coach at the time said, “Why don’t you just start recording some video trainings for people to answer their questions?” I started posting some videos on YouTube, and those just took off; one had 40,000 views. That was doing so well my business coach was like, “Well, since it’s been so popular, why don’t you record an entire training course for people to use on how to do it?”


TOM. That’s what I did, and I was considering; the typical thing three to five years ago when I published on Udemy, and still today, that most people do is that you create a video training course and you sell it online, but then you have to create your own website, you have to have your own membership plugins, the shopping carts, affiliate management, all these tools and software, you need a web person to do that for you or learn to do it yourself. For me it seemed too complicated, not my strengths, and I was looking for a much simpler way. So when I checked out Udemy, it was a perfect fit. Right away I saw the metaphor between Udemy and Amazon. They’re both massive platforms with millions of people that have credit cards in the system, who are looking for information. Once you have your content on that platform, then Udemy or Amazon will help you promote and market your product, your course, your book, as long as they know that it’s really good quality, so you need really good reviews, and they need to know there is some momentum behind this. You need to do some initial promotion; if you just published a book on Amazon and don’t tell anyone about it, it’s unlikely you’ll get any sales. But if you do a launch, you really promote it, get those initial first hundred sales, Amazon or Udemy will pick up the ball from there and really push that to a much, much higher level.

SHELLEY. Yeah, and I love it because I think that authors can really wrap their minds around it because it’s very similar to Amazon, like you said; I love that parallel. Reviews make a lot of impact as well as your initial launch efforts. I think this is a really smart thing for authors to consider to diversify their income. Now, if somebody is really thinking, “OK, I’m a nonfiction author, I write on these topics, how do I even get started?” Is there even a few steps that you’d recommend when they’re considering putting up a training on Udemy?

TOM. I think the first thing that people have to get comfortable with is just recording videos. I know when I first started out, I was terrified of being on camera; I was stuttering and just awful, just horrible at it. Just like anything in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. So, what I did, and this is like six or seven years ago, I bought a little flip cam video and when I would go on my walk or my runs for the day, I would record a video and just talk about whatever was on my mind, personal development, writing, whatever it was. Then I started to post some of those videos on YouTube, and you can go back to my YouTube channel and see some of my earliest videos; most of them are recorded on flip-cam; they’re terrible. It just shows you proof that you don’t have to be a perfect speaker when you start out; the key is to really get practice. So I recommend, and a system that I’ve used for my students that works really, really well, is that you should take some of the most frequently asked questions you get in your area of expertise—questions from readers, on your blog, or even questions that maybe no one’s asking yet because no one really knows who you are yet because you’re just starting out, just questions that you know people might ask about your topic of expertise. So write down this list, and what you want to do is work out up to 30 questions, and then get your recorder, whether that’s a laptop with a webcam, smart phone, iPhone, iPad. Video cameras are everywhere, you don’t have to go out and buy a professional one.

SHELLEY. Right, my iPhone.

TOM. Then what you want to do is each day record and answer one question each day. Then post them and publish them to YouTube. The reason you want to publish them publicly, and you can use a fake channel or a different channel than your main channel if you’re really that shy about it, but you’re going to get some viewers and you’re going to get some responses and comments. You want that kind of feedback to improve; really, any area of life, the more feedback you get the faster you’re going to improve. So record one video a day, for 30 days of the most frequent questions that you get, and then when you’re done with that, you’ll be at a whole new level. All that shyness and anxiety will transform into you being comfortable on camera and being yourself. Once you’re at that stage, then I say go ahead and create your course. A big mistake I see people make is that the first video they try and record, they sell that in their course and it’s just really obvious that they’re not comfortable on camera, stuttering, they’re repeating things many times, and it’s just not the good quality experience you want your customers, your viewers, your students, to get.

SHELLEY. I love that, and it can give a bad first impression to people if you’re just doing it. I love that system that you gave, because there are so many authors that are afraid of video, especially of talking head videos. I’m a speaker so I’m more comfortable, but I did something last year: I turned 40 years old last year, and I did a 40 day video challenge where I recorded a video every day, and it really helped me to improve. Then I got onto Periscope, I did 100 in a row, and then I’ve just been doing several a week now, but I have improved so much that even for me, as a speaker, feeling that comes more naturally to me, anything that you practice you improve on. So I think that’s brilliant, but also you can use those videos to market your current books and to bring them back to your options on your site. People are going to be searching for those questions. You’re actually producing a ton of marketing material at the same time, which is awesome, and getting feedback, so I love that. If somebody is thinking about what topic, how do I know if this topic will actually sell on their platform? Are there any tips that you have for choosing a topic?

TOM. It’s very similar to doing market research on Amazon, the market for it is going to be very obvious. If you go on Amazon and search for weight loss, it’s obvious there’s a market for it, there’s so many books; you see it in magazines and books, on TV, it’s a big market. Something more niche like astral projection, I know there’s a market for it, I know there’s still people in the market making six figures, seven figures, maybe even more, so there’s a market for it, but it’s a much smaller market for it. A smaller market is both good and bad. A smaller market is good because they’re probably not on Udemy yet, or if they are, they’re not doing very well, similar to Amazon. So if you comb that platform and create the best product available on that platform, do a good job launching it and getting that initial attraction, then anyone coming on that platform needing that area of expertise will automatically go to you, so that will make it easier to get customers in that sense. In a tough market like weight loss, now there’s over a million books on weight loss on Amazon, so how do you stand out in the crowd there? You have to sell thousands of books during your launch to get to the top.

SHELLEY. To get that momentum.

TOM. So there’s blessings and curses to being a smaller market. But if you’re an author, and you’re already making money, and that’s your field of expertise, then you’re definitely going to be able to make money selling that information through Udemy.

SHELLEY. Or if you’ve already built a tribe and you already have an email list of subscribers that want more from you, it’s just a no-brainer to take it to the next step. I’m on your page on Udemy, and you have seven courses right now?

TOM. I do. I’m co-instructor for one of them; six I created myself.

SHELLEY. Awesome, so six you created and one you did with someone else. So tell us a little bit about your success. It’s nice to know that you’re giving us these tips, but there’s a reason that I’ve asked you to talk about this, so tell us just a little bit about the success that you’ve had.

TOM. It’s been awesome. Ever since the first month, I think I’ve done at least $3,000 a month on Udemy, minimum, and it’s got much higher than that. That was about three years ago; Udemy has grown, I think, 6-9 times since then, it’s grown so much. So, the potential now for revenue is much, much higher. They have over 10 million students now, so that’s pretty impressive. I’ve had over 37,000 students in my courses. That’s 37,000 people that paid to watch me teach them about something. It’s not like on YouTube, if you have 37,000 subscribers.

SHELLEY. It’s different.

TOM. It’s totally different, right? There’s tons of reviews and feedback. I know you’re big into personal development Shelley, and I am too, and one of my mentors is Jim Rohn. He said, “Set a goal to become a millionaire, and you want to know why to set that goal? The reason is for who it will make you become to achieve it.” What I love about Udemy and sharing your information through video courses is that not only do you get to make great income, but the person you become when you record those first thirty videos, and you go from totally shy and overly anxious on camera to just totally being yourself and being able to fully express yourself. To be able to change people’s lives with the information that you share in a really deep way, because you don’t get the same thing with a book. I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of books, but it’s rare that you get the email from the reader that you changed their life; it happens, but it’s much rarer. With a video course you really get to have a much more in-depth impact. I’ve had people say, “Tom, you’ve been in my home every day for the last month.”

SHELLEY. Kind of freaky, but . . .

TOM. It’s just kind of cool the kind of impact that you can have from this—the level of growth that you will get and the feedback that you will get as well. The video course again you’ll get much more feedback than you will for a book. 37,000 students and I’ve probably sold ten times that many books at least, and I get way more feedback from my video course students than my readers. I think it’s just because video is so much more interactive; they get to see you, hear your voice, your tonality, and really get to know you on a much deeper level. I think that’s a real blessing as well.

SHELLEY. It is. So, you guys, Tom has done this and done it successfully. Do you have a book or course where you teach people how to do this yet?

TOM. I don’t, but a friend of mine, Scott, has a course that’s really good, so we’ll link that on the show notes. He has a really good course that walks you through everything you need to know on Udemy, and really some advanced marketing stuff as well.

SHELLEY. That’s good, because I know there is so much potential for authors and I just want them to think bigger, think more than just a book, think outside just the book, and I think this is a perfect platform. It eliminates the tech barriers: you don’t have to build a website, it eliminates so many of the things that keep people  from creating digital products, and it allows you to have another income stream, and then like you said, just to impact people’s lives in a deeper way. As we’re getting ready to wind down a little bit, what are some of the top mistakes you would recommend people to avoid if they end up selling a video course or putting a course on Udemy?

TOM. The big one, like I mentioned, is selling your first video. So make sure you do those thirty days of frequently asked questions, make sure you record those first so that you get to be just yourself on camera. The second big mistake a lot of people make is that they just release the course and don’t do any marketing or promotion. It’s really important: there’s so many people on Udemy, over 10 million people with their credit cards on file, and you want to reach those people, but you can’t reach them without proving to Udemy that they deserve to know about it. So as soon as you launch your course on Udemy and release it, you want to do as much promotion as possible, just like you would with a book launch, to really get your first 50, 100, or more students in a course, and engage, leaving reviews, leaving comments. Build that community first, and then Udemy will say, “Wow, this is a great community, people love this course, now we’re going to promote it to more people.” Those are the big mistakes people will make.

SHELLEY. Awesome, I think those are really key tips. It’s just interesting, I guess I hadn’t thought of it before, of just the parallels there are with Amazon and Udemy, but I think that’s really helpful for authors to see that. The importance of that initial launch, the marketing is still important, and as we close down, I always like to end these trainings with a Take Action Tip, so what kind of Take Action Tip would you recommend to our listeners today?

TOM. Start recording your first video today, right now.


TOM. Video phone, turn on your cell phone, iPhone, iPad, whatever, and just start talking, doesn’t matter it could be complete gibberish. Do that every day for thirty days and I guarantee that it will transform not just your business but your personal communication with friends, family, strangers, public speaking; it’s one of those huge gifts I gave myself in personal development. I’ve seen few things transform people so quickly than just doing that. When you get people out in front of the room to do public speaking, it’s the same thing, but you don’t have to leave your house, you just do it on camera.

SHELLEY. I love that. I so agree with you, and I love that tip. So, you guys, get out your cell phones, your smart phones, your iPads, or whatever you have, start recording and get better! It’s a skill, just like writing; writing is a skill, but speaking and communication, whether it’s communicating in writing or communicating face to face, those are some of the basic skills we need to really succeed. So I love that. Tom, if people want to connect with you and find out more about you ,where is the best place they can do that?

TOM. You can go to ebookpublishingschool.com, and there I’ve got a free video training course where I talk about writing and publishing books. You can also check out the blog at TCKPublishing.com, and there’s tons of great information there as well. Also, my podcast show is the Publishing Profits Podcast where every week I interview best-selling authors, attorneys, literary agents, marketers, publishers, to talk about what’s working right now in the industry.

SHELLEY.  Awesome. So, you guys definitely hook up with Tom; he has a lot to share and to offer. I just enjoyed getting to know you better, Tom, and I know that our paths will continue to cross in other ways, but thank you guys so much for joining us in this episode. I know you have tons of options and tons of ways that you can be spending your time. We appreciate you being here, and I’ll see you next time.

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10 thoughts on “AA 031: How to Sell Courses on Udemy with Tom Corson-Knowles

  1. Great show Shelley! Really good insights and practical tips. Tom mentioned that his friend Scott has a Udemy course to teach people. I don’t see the link on the show notes. Is there a link available?
    Thanks, Laura

  2. Very informative! Your interview has inspired me and given me the push I needed to get started on Udemy, something I have been considering for a good while. Thank you!