Income Report from Teaching on Udemy, StackCommerce, Teachable, Thinkific and Skillshare 2014 – 2019

How much money is it possible to make teaching online? How much have I made and what platforms are worth teaching on? These are the questions I’ll answer today. I love making money online. I’m so grateful to be a full-time online entrepreneur and teaching video courses.

The number one thing I’ve done to earn money online, although now I’m just becoming a full-time YouTuber and I’m not teaching courses online anymore. I’m just giving every week thing away for free. That said if you want a business teaching video courses and giving free previews out is a really good way to do it.

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Now the number one platform I’ve earned money on is Udemy. $661,410 earned directly on my first Udemy profile. I started teaching on Udemy in 2014. My first course got rejected because I took the video file and chopped it up from a YouTube webinar that I did for free and tried to put it on Udemy. The audio quality was bad and it got rejected.

I then made a 30-minute course with new equipment and screen capture recording software and I’ve got videos coming out consistently. I’ll show you exactly how to do this if you’re looking to get started. I then got a free course approved and then I got a new Facebook ads course I made approved and none of my courses sold at first. At the beginning of 2014, there wasn’t a lot of traffic on Udemy.

However, as the traffic on Udemy picked up and as I got my course, I just gave my course out for free. I was so frustrated with selling and I thought, “Well, this is dumb. I might as well just give it out for free“. Ironically giving the course out for free got me some students and some reviews. It made it easier to sell. Udemy started selling it and featuring it in sales.

It rose to become the number one Facebook ads course on Udemy at which point I went full-time in December 2014. I focused on making 2 videos a day on Udemy me 7 days a week. I averaged over the next two years. Over 3 videos a day uploaded and over 2,500 videos to Udemy between December 2014 and June 2016. I became a top 10 instructor on the Udemy platform with over 2 million in sales. And I also made as you can see the income $661,410 myself before Udemy made a series of bad decisions in 2016 including changing this pricing system, which killed the sales and instructors were outraged over. At the same time that Udemy did that, they also issued me a mysterious final suspension despite no existing policy violations on my account. They just told me all the sudden that you’re done with the platform. They picked a couple of arbitrary things. They tried to say were policy violations where they were ridiculous like 70 of my reviews appeared to come from bad sources out of 10,000 reviews and less than 1% were problematic.

That was one of the reasons they cited. They also cited I had improper co-instructor relationships despite I had videos in every course I was teaching. There’s no way anyone can make a reasonable argument on either of those two points that it was anything except a bad decision on Udemy’s part or done out of fear.

There’s only 1 way you can look at it in positively is, it has given me the chance to build my Platform on it. What you want to know about Udemy is that many of the other top instructors remain in fear of being banned all the time. And while I earned a lot of money on Udemy also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the amount of money I got paid on Udemy. And if I had to do it all over again in the same circumstances, I would not spend any money and time promoting any of my courses on Udemy.

I would instead go through the ones I’m going to talk to you about the other platforms. I would promote my platform. Because there’s a lot more opportunity to earn money on your platform. On Udemy, all you need to do to market your course is giveaway some free coupons and then if Udemy doesn’t do everything else for you and just give you the money, it’s not worth trying to push your course up to the top because you’re losing money the whole time. If I would have promoted my platform on Udemy, I would have probably made millions of dollars more over the next several years than on Udemy and never had the opportunity to get banned and lose everything either.

Now, on Udemy, there’s a lot of potentials but at the same time, there are a lot of massive downsides. So I consistently advise instructors to put your courses up there but just don’t put any effort into promoting them outside of doing free coupons.

Then I’ve got a free coupon page on my website also which you can take benefit from by clicking here on free courses. It can be tough to find a good free course coupon page but if you want to take courses or you want to put your courses up there, I’ve got my link. I intend to make the best unique course coupon page in the world. I pay someone every day to update it and get rid of coupons that don’t work. Thus, it’s a marketing tool for you. Now the rest of this we won’t go on and on about Udemy anymore but I did talk about it the most because it has more income than all the other platforms.

The second most I’ve earned is from teaching on my platforms. Now, that’s not easy to see here because technically there are 3 of these different bars that represent my platforms.

First, it’s Teachable. Teachable is a platform founded by disgruntled Udemy instructors who made a platform where you can host your courses on your website. If you want to be a full-time entrepreneur online, I highly recommend you to host your courses. Do not go all-in on Udemy as I did and lose everything with one email set for no good reason. Make sure you build your platform that when you promote yourself, always drive people to your platform because you have control over that. And you need control so you can build relationships best with your existing students. Students should take courses with you and a place where they can email you, get in contact with you, order services from you and help support your business without anyone else getting in the way.

That’s the second most I’ve made is the combination of Teachable, the University of Jerry Banfield and Uthena. That’s the platform that I’ve just launched and the logo is ironically similar to the Udemy logo and starts with the same thing. It does sound similar. It’s named after the goddess Athena so we just launched Uthena and the income is about $15,000 or so on Uthena today. Thus, if you combine these all together and then you get an amount that is close or about what StackCommerce is and that is with almost no promotion of my platform.

You can earn a lot more money sending people to your self-hosted platform versus others. Now, I technically earned the most on teachable. However, I had a lot of courses up there and I sold those on my Website. And when I got banned from Udemy, I switched over to using Teachable through my website.

Now I did not like the Teachable interface. I found it very frustrating and limiting and thus I switched over to Thinkifc and Thinkific has done the best in terms of conversion. I’ve sold the most high priced courses on Thinkific and for some reason, I still got so distracted. I hardly can be bothered to promote my online course platform. For years I got into other things but on Thinkific, I made $46,188 selling courses with very little effort. All I did was put a few YouTube videos to promote them over to Thinkific. Thinkific has some really powerful features. If you want a link to join Thinkific, it can help me earn with that.

And Thinkific features allow outstanding integrations like with Facebook ads tracking, Google Ads tracking, and Email marketing. Some of the things I was frustrated with on Teachable are done well on Thinkific. We now use Thinkific for hosting on Uthena and we’re in the process of getting investor funding to allow us to build our platform on a new theme instead of just using Thinkific for hosting. To build something better for instructors than Udemy that has the benefits of StackCommerce, Skillshare, and BitDegree. Thus, self-hosting is the way forward for me. Self-hosting is by far better than having a complete dependence on any 1 third party marketplace. And self-hosting allows for the most freedom, creativity, and flexibility.

Next, we get into StackCommerce. $153,781 earned of StackCommerce. Now StackCommerce out of all these is the winner for the most income with the least effort. That means I’ve put my courses up on StackCommerce. I’ve done almost nothing except put the courses up on StackCommerce and they’ve done all the rest. StackCommerce is a platform that has this basic business model. You put the courses up and StackCommerce is actually hosted through an enterprise teachable solution. The clever things Stackcommerce does is distribute the courses into individual publisher stores. For example, you get a website like that has a lot of visitors who want to make money struggles with things like ad blocking and what CNN does is, they have an account on Stack commerce and they get their StackCommerce store on a subdomain.

Same thing with Entrepreneur. It’s a StackCommerce hosted store. Then what happens is websites like Entrepreneur will write an article that pitches a set of video courses and then that sells to the other Entrepreneur store which is hosted on StackCommerce.

That means when we upload our courses, it has a potential for outstanding distribution and sales on to established websites. StackCommerce has started to boom since the Udemy affiliate program has dived. A lot of the sales I got on Udemy were because Udemy had good affiliate program commissions and big websites were sending a huge amount of traffic to Udemy. And then what Udemy did is, Udemy slashed affiliate commissions down from 50% which is where it was at when I was on Udemy. I was using their affiliate program to sell my courses and sell other people’s courses. Udemy slashed the earnings down to 12% to 20%, which makes it not very worthwhile affiliate program for a lot of publishers.

What publishers are doing now is switching to StackCommerce because instead of promoting a lot of other potential offers including Udemy course, I mean why would you promote a Udemy course when you’ve got a lot of traffic that you’d only earn 20% on it most with a 7-day cookie. When instead on StackCommerce, they’re giving publishers 80% of the sales.

That means if you sell a $10 course on Udemy via the affiliate link, you get $2. If you sell it on your StackCommerce store, you get $8 and StackCommerce is continuing to grow. If you want to be an instructor on StackCommerce, you can go and apply to be a vendor on StackCommerce and get your courses on there. I’ve referred several friends to StackCommerce who have made thousands and some of them 10’s of thousands of dollars simply uploading their courses to StackCommerce. Now the one challenge with StackCommerce is that you’re completely dependent on them. You can’t do anything at all if you want to sell your courses. There’s no point in opening your StackCommerce store either.

I opened my own and I was not able to even sell one of my courses in my StackCommerce store. The stores did not convert that well for me but StackCommerce has such a high publisher percentage that even if they don’t convert as good, they send so many people there and they still convert.

StackCommerce does well-selling course bundles and StackCommerce does great with taking courses. For example, I have courses on StackCommerce that have been there for 4 years that are still selling and making money every month. Whereas on websites like Udemy or your self-hosting, lots of times if you don’t keep promoting the course it won’t keep selling at all pretty quickly. The big downside of StackCommerce though is that StackCommerce often takes a while to get a course up. Whereas on a website like Udemy, your self-hosting or Skillshare, you can publish the course and get it out to students right away. I put a bunch of new courses up and it often takes months to get these courses included in bundles and available for sales. Thus on StackCommerce, If you can use evergreen courses, this can be good. Whereas, if the stuff you’re uploading is dated, it fades out of date quickly. StackCommerce is one of the things they struggle with is by the time they get courses out there, they’re already outdated and within a year of selling a bundle often there’s a lot of courses that are way outdated in the bundle and students get mad, want refunds, etc.

Thus, we’ve covered the top sources of income. I’ll cover 2 more very quickly here. First BitDegree earned me $4 and I think it might be up to $8 now. BitDegree was supposed to be in what I read a Udemy competitor received millions of dollars in funding from a cryptocurrency ICO launch and appears to have completely botched it and be on the way out after having done almost nothing. So BitDegree from what I see appears to have failed. The one big assumption with BitDegree is that people wanted to buy courses with cryptocurrencies which I think they do.

The thing is you need to be able to stick around longer and endure there as a business. It doesn’t seem like currently a lot of people want to buy video courses with cryptocurrency. However, for the long term, I do see this as possible. What BitDegree did is added PayPal and Stripe payments to BitDegree which makes it like a version of Udemy that’s not as good and doesn’t have as many courses. Then you wonder, “Well, why would I use this instead of something else?” So, BitDegree had very disappointing uploading. I uploaded a bunch of courses on BitDegree with almost no sales and not worth your time.

Then Skillshare, we’re running win the award for the most disappointing lowest return platform as an instructor. For the amount of time and energy I’ve put into Skillshare versus the return, the number of earnings is pathetic. I’ve spent money advertising Skillshare and brought a bunch of students to my profile. Over $10,000 of what I’ve earned is referring people directly to join Skillshare and referring thousands of people to join Skillshare because Skillshare is a great deal for students. There are 29K+ courses that you can take on Skillshare for something like $15 a month or $96 a year. And the majority of those courses from what I can see are also on Udemy, which means you can take 20K+ Udemy courses for $15 a month on Skillshare or you could go spend $200,000 to take them on Udemy.

Skillshare is just terrible for instructors though because there’s almost no organic promotion. Skillshare has set their URL’s up in a way that does a poor job getting people to find courses and take the course just from Google search. Whereas, Udemy a great job with the search engine ranking. Often the same course would be on Skillshare and practically the only hope of getting someone on Skillshare is having someone go find the course somewhere else and come to Skillshare because it’s a better deal. On Skillshare, lots of topics that might make hundreds or thousands a month somewhere else like you’re on Udemy or your self hosting on StackCommerce. Many of these subjects will make you $10, $20 or $50 a month on Skillshare.

I’ve also had the most annoying interactions with the Skillshare trust and safety team. They took my whole profile down because of an inaccurate mistaken DMCA complaint. They took my profile down within 24 hours of the complaint. It took them a month to put my profile back up and they withheld my earnings that they were going to pay me also. On top of that, they made these arbitrary policies on courses that you could put on your self-hosting or Udemy. Skillshare doesn’t allow you to put these up and then they change the policies without doing a good job letting you know. Then you get a strike on your account. I talked to an instructor who was banned from Skillshare because he was encouraged on Udemy to put the courses up in one format. On Skillshare, that format was not allowed and they had changed that. He got banned for just putting up a couple of his courses on in a row on Skillshare. He got a couple of strikes and they took his whole account down.

I haven’t invested any effort in BitDegree to earn $8 although is pretty low. The Skillshare is disappointing with the amount of traffic and the amount of investor funding they had. You do get about 6 cents a minute when students watch your course on Skillshare. It only gives instructors about 30% or less of the total subscription fees. Then considering you have to get people to watch your course. You don’t get anything from people just browsing Skillshare and taking a look at your course.

Whereas, on Udemy a lot of people will just buy your course and not even watch it. Same thing on your self-hosting. It’s amazing to watch someone pay $200 for a course on your self-hosting and then not even watch it. That’s what’s cool about your self hosting man. On Skillshare, if you don’t get minutes watch you get nothing.

Thus, my suggested approach for successful business teaching is to use all of the platforms that are the top earners. Definitely, do upload your courses to Udemy. In fact, one of the reasons I won’t teach online anymore is because I can’t put my courses on Udemy at least. I could probably create a new profile get away with it. But without doing that, there’s no point in me trying to even sell video courses without being on the current top marketplace and then just using the rest of these when I might as well just put everything out there for free. Thus, I do encourage you if you want to teach video courses, put them on Udemy, StackCommerce, your self-hosting setup, and you might as well just try putting them on Skillshare. You might get lucky and be able to make a few hundred dollars a month on courses you just uploaded and did nothing else.

And I also suggest putting your courses up on Uthena because we’ve got a system that compliments all of these others really well. We pay you based on how many courses you have in a bundle. If you’ve got 90 courses, put them in bundles and we’ll just keep giving you payments every time the bundle sells. The beauty of Uthena is we currently are offering $20 advances for every one of your courses you let us upload which no other platforms doing that. Thus, I suggest if you make one video course, make it platform-neutral. Put it up on every platform and then focus all your promotion efforts to sell on your self-hosting, which I recommend with Thinkific.

If you’d like to join the best mastermind for teaching online, I trust you to go to the Partner Program. We have a mastermind with group coaching calls every week with some top instructors online and we also have many other well-rounded talents in our partner group giving us the chance to connect. You also get a one on one call with me every week or every month depending on which option and we’ve got a private Facebook group for members. This group has been really helpful for me and it continues to be every week which is why I feel so good telling you about it.

Also, as a full-time YouTuber, this group is a primary way I earn my money online now and I give all my content away for free instead of locking it up behind paywalls like Udemy, Skillshare or StackCommerce. I just put everything I know straight out there for free and then this group helps me afford to do that without needing to charge for my courses. The ideal business model and teach online is having everything out for free and then just selling higher-priced products that are related primarily to services, for example, this partner group has one on one calls with me and group calls. That’s much more than just buying a video course. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin.

And I trust if you haven’t already, you will join us as a subscriber on YouTube with 3 new videos a day coming out which you can see by hitting those notifications icons. You can also watch on Facebook if you like with a follow and put see first in your newsfeed. Thank you very much for reading all of this. I love you. You’re awesome and I’m excited to continue our journey together online.

Jerry Banfield