how to make money on Udemy
Project Ignite Podcast by Derek Gehl How To Make Money On Udemy With Dave Espino
00:00:00 00:00:00
  • Episode  25
  • Dave Espino


Dave Espino is an absolute authority on how to make money on Udemy, an incredible training platform that allows you to setup simple courses that generate passive income. Udemy is the perfect space to post information products in the form of courses–videos, slideshows, audio–and to start generating some serious passive income.


Transcript: How To Make Money On Udemy With Dave Espino

Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast. I’m your host, Derek Gehl. Today’s guest is a very savvy direct response marketer who over his career has sold over $140 million in information products, training courses, and coaching.
More recently, he’s turned his attention to what has become one of the largest marketplaces on the internet where other people can sell their knowledge, a marketplace that is proven to be a serious passive income generator. That platform is Udemy.
Our guest has published 35 courses on Udemy and is now a member of Udemy’s instructor council. Over the next forty five minutes, I’m going to try my darndest to have him share his secrets 
Without further ado, I’d like to welcome Dave Espino to the show.

Dave, welcome, and thank you for being here!

Thanks so much Derek, it’s so exciting to be able to share my experiences on Udemy. It’s been an awesome ride so I’m looking forward to this.

Awesome. So before we dive into Udemy, take a minute to tell us your story. You’ve been on the Internet since 1999. How did you get started and what led you to Udemy?

I actually never had any inclination to be on a computer. I was buying and selling vintage Hot Wheels Cars offline. They sold anywhere from $20 to $10,000. I was selling them out of a little antique toy store in California, and in a magazine called Toy Shop Magazine.
Then all of a sudden, I started hearing this word in the collectibles market that I had never heard before: eBay. It hit the collectibles market earlier, and a friend offered to show me what it was. He had a computer that was connected to the Internet, in 1998.
So I went to his office, and he pulled up these listings of Hot Wheels Cars, and my head exploded. I knew I had to get on. My first week on eBay I made $1,200.
I got really fired up about it. I didn’t know anything about computers or want to know anything about computers, but the profit drove me to learn more.Around then, I got hung up on Internet marketing.
I actually got the Internet Marketing Centres very first product, which was an amazing resource. I can credit my success to that course. I went on to write an eBook, which turned into a $3,000 per month passive income.
From that eBook, I was discovered by an infomercial company. They wanted to start an eBay infomercial.
A little background there, only 1 in 20 commercials make it through the test phase. So if you make it, then an infomercial lasts about 18 months on the air.
I was lucky because my infomercial was that 1 in 20, and my commercial didn’t just run 18 months–it ran for 11 years. It was a huge campaign. We refresh it every year. That’s where I started to understand the power of passive income.
It wasn’t my infomercial company, right, but I was suddenly making around $50,000 per month without really having to put any work it.
So I’ve been in love with information marketing for a long time. The infomercial ran its course, and I was caught with an interesting question: what does an unemployed infomercial start do now?
The first thing I did with my Internet marketing knowledge was start working with small business companies in my community. Started building their SEOs, video campaigns, all of that.
Even when my infomercial was running, I found myself wondering if there was a way that I could make an income off of all the information in my head.
Similar to what had happened with the infomercial–I took my knowledge on eBay, made it into a product, and it made millions. So I’m thinking, is there an easy way to do this? Skipping the extra stuff that’s necessary when you’re doing it yourself.
I was interviewing a top Internet marketer and he mentioned this site called Udemy. Offhandedly, he said there was this place where you could publish your courses and then they’d pay you for it.
I was like, well this is interesting but how do you make money on Udemy. So I uploaded a course, just to see what would happen, and Udemy came back and said, this doesn’t fit our guidelines. We can’t have lectures more than twenty minutes.
So I thought about it, and then I saw a few people on Facebook posting their income from Udemy. So I revisited it, and that’s how I got started.
Now I’ve seen Udemy grow from the end of 2013 with 2 million members, to the end of 2014 with 5 million members, and to now, where they’re stating they have 8 million members. It’s growing by the day.
By the end of the year, I think that they will have close to 12 million members, i.e. students that are buying things from the site. They’ve raised $132 million in financing, and they’re just booming.

I just want to clarify, these numbers we’re talking about–you hear that Facebook has 1.2 billion users, right? To put these numbers into perspective, Udemy is talking about people that are paying to take courses. That’s unreal. To have the ability to just set up and plug into that marketplace.
So let’s start at the beginning. Give us a crash course in Udemy, and why it matters.

Udemy considers itself a space where anyone can teach anyone anything. You need no credentials, or certification necessarily. If you know something, you can teach it.
Just yesterday I interviewed a rising star that created a course called Singing Lessons Online. She’s a vocal coach, she’s been in the business forever, and she published this course and in the first 60 days she made $4,500. If you have that course up on another site, imagine what it would take to drive that traffic.
For her, to just be able to put it up, it was an answer to one of her prayers. She’s also one of my students. So last month, she made $3,500 on that one course. That’s pretty unusual, because usually you need to have a few courses up to make that kind of money.
We often think that you need to teach a really hard skill. Business skills, programming, all of those–and those are some of the top selling lessons on Udemy.
But man, there are all kinds of courses on Udemy that all have potential to make a passive income. That’s what I love about it–you do something once, and you get paid month after month.
So this woman creates a sourdough baking course, and she gets to make money every month after that.

It comes down to, what is a course? When people hear that you have to create a course, people get stuck in their own heads about what a course has to look like–it has to be really big, or really hard. But yeah, there’s so many skills and things out there that people want to know.
Question for you: you’ve been throwing some numbers out there. So if we go back to the singing instructor, you said she was making $4,500. Is that her gross or her net sales?

That’s in her pocket.

Wow. Jumping around here, but: if I put a course out on Udemy, obviously they are not a nonprofit. How much do they take?

They have a structure that is set up so if you bring students to your course, you take 97% of the deal. If they bring you the student, like through their organic search, then its a 50/50 split.
If one of Udemy’s affiliates brings the student, then the affiliate makes 50%, and you and Udemy split the other half. So it’s a pretty fair situation, especially when you consider how much you don’t have to spend on advertising.

97% if you bring the customer, 50% if Udemy brings it in, and 25% if one of Udemy’s affiliates bring it in.
Here’s a question for you. If I send a customer and they buy my course, then Udemy has that customer. If that customer continues to buy courses on Udemy, do I get compensated for that?

No, unfortunately. If you’re the affiliate, if someone clicks through your course and then also buys someone else’s, you’ll make an affiliate amount from that. But that’s it.

Okay, so that’s a bit of a toss up. They can bring in a lot, and they allow instructors to build that platform. Have you heard any grumblings about that model?

Absolutely. And I had a similar grumbling about that when I got started too. If you opt in to their promotions program, then they do all kinds of marketing for you. There’s no promises, but some of the kinds of marketing that they do are retargeting on Facebook and other platforms. They also do email marketing, and they’ll even adjust the prices when they retarget to tempt customers into buying a course if they didn’t before.
There’s a big site-wide sale coming up this November, which is pretty much the highlight of every Udemy instructor’s year. They have a Black Friday sale that’s ten or twelve days long, and everyone just floods in and it’s an absolute joy to behold.
For the last three or four months, I’ve been preparing for that. I’ve optimized everything, made sure every course has a promotional video, everything to ensure that I capture as many people as possible.
They also have one in January, because that’s when people are setting new goals. That’s pretty much how it works.
In terms of the grumbling, we have to understand that Udemy is a different animal. When people see different, they think, bad.
But it takes a bit of acclimation to understand that it isn’t bad, it’s just different. You just have to learn to work within that new platform. And you can still sell your courses elsewhere.
I also sell my courses on, and I love it because it gives me so much flexibility and control.

When you’re putting together a course for Udemy, I assume most of them are video?


And restrictions around size and length?

Let me give you an overview. So the truth is, almost all of my courses are powerpoint presentations with voiceovers.
I did a course on how to build email lists using Aweber, and in that case, I’m actually just on the site, showing people how to navigate it. You don’t need to be on the camera yourself at all.
The entire set-up for creating these kinds of videos is essentially just a nice microphone, with a $60 webcam, and your laptop. That’s it.
That’s all it will take to teach on Udemy.


Even saying teaching is bad, because it implies that you have to be somewhere to do something. But really, you upload it once, and it does the teaching for you.

Speaking of that, once the videos are up, there’s usually still a lot of interactions with people. Do they give you a platform to answer questions and the like?

Yes, they do. Each course has a discussion panel. People can ask questions there, or they can just private message you.
I tried to make sure that I answered every question that people may have had, though.
If you build the course correctly, you won’t need to answer a lot of questions.
There’s another really exciting thing that’s just come out in conjunction with Udemy. Udemy does not have Blab, but it allows the use of Blab. So we can say, on Udemy, come visit me on Blab.IM, and I’m going to answer all of your questions live on camera.
It’s an amazing tool. And you also wind up getting a bunch of stumble traffic as well. Using all of these platforms really allows you to flush out your marketing strategy.

Let’s take a step back. Pretend I’m an absolute newbie and I’m wanting to get into this market. I would usually suggest that we do market research before launching a product.
With Udemy, how do we learn what to teach?

Well there’s a few ways. First of all, Udemy creates a quarterly list of hot topics. Where there is demand and not enough supply.
Another way is to go to Amazon and look at your particular niche, and look at the hottest topics in that area. The third way is just to check rankings on Udemy to see which courses are doing well in your niche.
And you want to be in a market that’s already hot. You don’t want to be the first. You make your course a little bit differently than the other ones, you bring something a little differentand you’re tapping into a solid market that really wants to learn about that topic.

So once we’ve created our course, and we’ve posted it–how do you make your course standout?
There will be competitors, so how do you launch your product to make it stand out.

Just like everything else, you’ll want to do on-page SEO. You’ll want to optimize everything on your site to make sure that it presses the right button.
You also need to do something with the landing page for your course. I use my favourite testimonials to supply social proof from the course. I use standard copywriting technique, and make some really nice videos for your course.
Then, you can give away review copies to influential bloggers, maybe even some affiliate deals. Only promote and market where people are likely to blog from you.
Lots of courses are always on coupon sites. But the majority of people that are going to the site are looking for a bargain. You’ve gotta present the right message to the right people at the right time.

How to make money on Udemy

I have four more questions for you:
Obviously, this platform is still in its infancy. Based on the growth you’re seeing, it’s just getting bigger and bigger. I would assume that their primary market is North America, is that correct?

You’d be surprised. I have almost 14,000 students in 142 countries.


It’s pretty worldwide. My biggest audience is in the US, but my second biggest is in Australia. And when they say you can teach anything to anyone, they mean it. That’s really exciting.
It is in its infancy, yes, but I believe that the people that get started now, I see how their incomes are through the roof. They had an early movers advantage. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s that kind of environment. You put the work in and all of a sudden you’re the one with the most reviews and the best rankings.
When I realized that, where I sit in that universe, I realized that was the place to go all in on. Because it will continue to grow. Purely from a marketing angle, it’s a great place to start.

That’s fantastic. Another question for you, from my internet marketing brain: how do I leverage Udemy to grow my external businesses and into my database?

Great question. There’s a few ways. Just like eBay and Amazon, Udemy is very careful with their user base. On your Udemy bio, you can have all of your socials and websites listed.
The one thing that is allowed is that your courses can have promotional material. The place I believe is the best way to do it is by using Blab in educational announcements, of which we have a limited amount to use, to turn people onto my other products.
I give info about my free courses, and now they’re on my list. That’s a hot ticket.
When Udemy recently announced that Blabs were fine, because with Blabs, you’re not asking for their contact info–that was the ticket.

Yes! Once you have that audience, you can refer them to outside sources which they won’t police.

And you’re face to face with your target customers. There’s no greater way to build trust. And with every Blab that you do, you’ll generate more traffic. That’s how I know 2016 is going to be ridiculous. It’s going to be so rockin’. I’m gonna just bounce back and forth between Udemy and Blab.
I’m going to build specific funnels for each of my sales categories.

Yep. I suspect that a lot of people will realize that Blab is an amazing way to pull people off of that platform.

And Blab is an amazing platform in its own right. With Blab, you get the live stream, the audio, and the video afterwards. And you can turn that into YouTube videos, into podcasts, into articles for your blog.
One Blab per week results in 92 pieces of content all in per month.  One Blab per week and you basically have your own online talk show, always driving traffic.

I’ve been on a few Blabs, and what they’ve done there is amazing. That relationship building just goes beyond any webinar by leaps and bounds.
Okay, we’re running out of time here–so I have one more question for you.
What would you say are the top mistakes that you see people make when they’re just starting out?

Definitely it’s going and making the be-all-end-all course on their topic. Right along with that is this level of perfectionism that is not necessary.
First mistake, I’m going to create the most incredible course known to man. It’ll have a hundred lectures and be fourteen hours long.
If you have that big of a goal, the likelihood of living up to that expectation is very low.
Secondly, people are expecting objective based courses. They want the answer to a question. Not everything will take fourteen hours. Oftentimes, even, a lot of people that buy courses won’t follow through with the whole thing.
These incredibly long courses are a waste of time for everyone. Create shorter courses, between one and three hours long, and then don’t be such a perfectionist. Err on the side of urgency and know that your first course won’t be perfect.
Just get it up, and learn the process. A lot of newbies make those mistakes. The third is that people don’t know how to market their course once it’s up. You need to understand or study how to market those courses.

And as far as marketing goes, does Udemy provide instructions for that?

They do provide a few tips, some of which are outdated. But there are other things that explain how instructors were successful with their marketing. I think they’re getting better with trying to share that information.
I have a course on marketing Udemy courses, and I focus entirely on finding your target market and going to the spaces where your customers communicate.
So don’t waste your time marketing everywhere, go and target where your potential customers spend time.
If you’re going to market on Facebook, make sure you have a well defined–don’t just send them straight to the course because the conversion rate will be really low.

can you make money on Udemy

Okay. To wrap up, where can people find you?

They can find me on and just type in my name, Dave Espino. They can also go to, which is my main website. You’ll find my courses and my bio on Udemy. And people are always welcome to contact me to let me know what they’re interested in and how I can help them.

Well, Dave, thank you so much for being here today and sharing so generously.

Absolutely, Derek. It’s been awesome. It’s been great to reunite after being in touch over the years.

Thank you so much.
Alright everyone, I hope you’ve been enlightened about this outstanding new platform. If you have any knowledge you want to teach or any info products, this is how you can make an income. You can also use Blab to bring people in with conjunction in Udemy.
So not only are you generating a passive income, you can also pull in other new customers.
Once again, thank you for taking part. You can head over to iTunes, please leave us a review, or you can find us on Soundcloud. You can also find the transcript and shownotes on our website, at
Now it’s time for you to go forth and be productive. Thanks everyone, and we’ll see you in our next episode.

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