February 19th, 2015 Business

Have you ever thought about selling a course online? If so, then chances are that you also considered using Udemy.

If you’re not familiar with Udemy, it is a program that allows you to create and sell courses. When you create a course, it is added to their course library. Visitors can then choose to purchase your course and Udemy takes a percentage of the sale.

There is more to it of course, but that’s the general overview.

I am a fan of what Udemy is doing. I think they offer people a good avenue for learning about how to create and deliver an online course.

It is not a good option for building a business around selling courses. Let me explain.

First, I understand there are some individuals on Udemy who have done well for themselves. They should be proud as selling elearning is no easy task. That said, a platform is not going to make you successful. These folks did well because of the hard work they put in creating a really great course, and then marketing it.

The reason I think you should stay away from Udemy for selling courses is not because I don’t think you can earn income from it. That’s clearly possible.

Instead, the reason why Udemy is a poor choice for anyone getting into the business of selling courses is because you give up ownership.

  • You don’t own the platform.
  • You don’t own the brand (Udemy).
  • You don’t own the visitor traffic.
  • You don’t own 100% of the revenue generated from course sales.
  • You don’t own the student accounts.
  • You don’t own the policies (for example, the refund policy).

Anyone who has started a successful business will tell you that these are red flags. The less control you have over the key business elements, the more risk you assume.

However, if you had your own site where you host and sell your courses, then you do own these things. You are building your own brand (and not Udemy’s), you don’t need to split revenues, you own all of the student data which can be leveraged for better marketing, you own the business policies, and so on. You are in control.

Why would anyone choose Udemy then? Well, they do make the process easy. Starting a business is hard as building a brand from scratch is a difficult task. Udemy also has people visiting their site who are already interested in purchasing courses, so they take care of that aspect.

If you’re not trying to build something with long-term growth potential, then Udemy might be the best option for you. They do take out some of the complexities that business owners have to manage.

On the other hand, if your goal is to sell courses and build a business that gives you full-ownership, then it’s best to use a different platform for course creation and sales.

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter


61 responses

Leave a Comment

I agree with you, but, we can not forget that, to sell courses, your (own) platform will need the following features:

Membership Site

WordPress already has good LMS extensions (as LearnDash), but, integrate with the other plugins (Ecommerce, Membership Site and Engagement) is no easy task, right? Each plugin has its application (and limitation) and its own evolution time.

Besides, you can not forget the backend, which explains much of the success of Coursera and Udemy:
A very good admin panel, that manages, very well, Revenue, Orders, Courses, Teachers and Students (Recent Orders, General Stats, Best Selling Courses by Orders, etc);
A commission system to set teacher commissions;

And 1 reason to USE Udemy: a HUGE marketplace of potential buyers for your course.

Avatar George

*potential* buyer 🙂 – Hard to build a business in all the ‘noise’ there, but you’re right, there are a lot of eyeballs on that site so can help with initial visibility.

I am looking forward to creating my own course. Here are the key things I am looking for:

– Freedom to set my own price for the course.
– Ability to make chabges to it, if needed.

Could you please suggest me a platform that allows this?

Have you heard of Eagle Face Academy? It fits all your requirements

Avatar John Doey

A recent change on Udemy’s platform also gives them exclusive rights to your content, so while you technically “own” your content you cannot place your content for sale with other platform which means you don’t really own that content – Udemy does.

This happens only when your course is placed on ‘Udemy for Business’. So when you have success with a course, they will place it on that platform, then claim exclusive rights to your content. You may opt out of UFB if you wish, but your revenue then decreases.

Pretty heavy handed if you ask me.

Avatar Mark

That is exactly the info I’ve been trying to track down. So much for Udemy. Somehow all roads seem to lead back to the gig economy sadly…

Really? It’s like saying you shouldn’t develop for iOS and distribute via the Apple App Store because you have no control over it?

Nothing prevents you from promoting your courses on your own web site and through your own social channels. As a matter of fact the majority of successful course developers on Udemy have done exactly that. They use Udemy early as a delivery platform but run their own brand and marketing through their own social channels. The Udemy avenues of marketing are only the icing on the cake.

Avatar Tom

Hi Tom-

Thanks for the comment! Your point about iOS is certainly valid, but those developers still are taking a risk since the distribution is outside their control. All we need to do is look at Facebook. They decided to make one change to their TOS and put million dollar Facebook gaming companies out of business overnight. The same risk is being assumed by those using Udemy.

I don’t think having Udemy courses is anywhere near the same risk as having an app game on FB. Apps trend like crazy, and FB is always changing their API rules. Udemy has been pretty solid and consistent for a few years now and they don’t show any signs of slowing down or going away. For anyone with no online following and no knowledge of paid advertising or digital marketing, Udemy is DEFIANTLY a great way to start out.
Even if Udemy were to shut down tomorrow, I wouldn’t regret having spent so much time putting my courses there, because I’ve gotten clients from them.

I’d agree that you shouldn’t just rely on Udemy as a source of income, but from personal experience, it is a great way to get free traffic, brand exposure and clients.

It does suck that Udemy takes such a massive percentage from each sale, but in the end, it’s still beats having to paying for traffic and online exposure.
One of my Udemy courses is raking in the top 5 of Google for a number of competitive keywords. You know how much time and money I would have had to spend to get one of my webpages to get the same PR? Me neither, but I know it’s a lot.
There is zero risk to having courses on Udemy and a lot to benefit from it. I’d never rely on it as my only source of income, but its defiantly a great way to make some extra cash on the side, and get free traffic and exposure.

Hi Brian.
Just a constructive comment – defiantly and definitely

Wish you the very best.


Avatar Will Pascoe

I actually agree with the overall business advice of not relying on any company that has total control overy our revenue from your hard work in building your courses.

We have courses on Udemy that we created and deliver and those we co-create and those we co-create and deliver with others. Both us and our partners agree that the Udemy approach has its place in our business models but will never become the major component 9and we’ve been on Udemy since the start when the rules were much different than they are today.

If you’re planning on creating and developing an online education business for the long haul it makes sense taht you are the major player or key shareholder in effect.

Avatar BAYO

This is the most sensible comment I read so far. Bayo is basically saying, “use them as a launch point, but don’t depend on them long term.” Wise philosophy.

Always keep in mind that no other business has your interest as their top priority, but rather getting you on board with them initially, then begin to change the rules slowly, insidiously gaining advantage and control until they have you at such a disadvantage so that you will take a huge hit when leaving. Sign on with them, but from day one, develop your strategy for exiting to your own platform or at least one where you have the best chance of maintaining control of your business. If you build your brand properly, so that it is strong, your customers will be loyal.

When you are in a B2B situation, such as with Udemy, you as a course developer and training provider are not their customer. You are one of many resources that they are using to deliver value to their real customers, the paying internet market of students. Udemy’s true focus is B2C. What Udemy is doing is no different than when an individual invests in stocks. The more diverse their stock portfolio, the stronger their position and the more control they gain.

Mr. Brian Gray may have things going pretty good right now, but, I would not necessarily follow his advice. As market forces change things, and make no mistake, it will, he may find himself with a huge chunk bitten out of his posterior.

Business is like war, all warfare is based on deception. History tells us that Wellington, great in so many military qualities, was especially distinguished by “the extraordinary skill with which he concealed his movements and deceived his foe.”

In Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” it says “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. This is Udemy’s goal.

Do your due diligence, stay focused and pay attention to changing rules and market forces and be ready to change with it.

Avatar Falchion

Hmm. Sounds good. Hey so how should i sell my video course on my website? I mean how do I embed the videos and make it link to the paypal and give discounts,coupons etc? I dont know

Hi Sarfraz-

LearnDash does this automatically (insert video into Lesson, give course a price, and you can sell) 🙂

Hi Justin,

I know this is a bit late but I hope I still hear from you.

I run a training company and I have over a 100 courses offered by different instructors whom we contract. Is there a chance we could use your platform to introduce these courses as well or strictly work with instructors only.?

Hope to hear from you.


Hi Levi-
I replied to your email you sent from the contact page.

Hi Levi, I was wondering how did it work out with LearnDash for multi-vendor, or did you already have the platform built custom or with another provider? Was it easy to use or did you hire a develop!r? Would you mind if I saw your site if it’s up and running? Thanks!

Avatar Margarita

Hi Justin,

I was researching using Udemy to sell courses and stumbled upon this article. I have the same question, how could I sell a course on my site for instance? I will read more about LearnDash on this site, but is there any other resources you could point me to? The whole idea of setting up ecommerce on a website and marketing sounds overwhelming at first, but I am sure there are ways to learn. Thanks for your Insight.


Avatar Ivory

With the tools mentioned in this article you’ll need to sell using WooCommerce.

Good points, Justin,
I absolutely agree that training courses sold on Udemy or any similar third party platform will not generate good profits and publishing your products there will not be a solid business. But it’s a great way to market your independent business you already have. Udemy basically collects potential customers for your high ticket back end products and services sold through your own website. All students enrolled into your training program is something like a mailing list for your business. I don’t mean you should reach out and spam these people or turn your course into an advertising of your main product. There are absolutely ethical ways to offer more value to the audience of your students and achieve an insane ROI from this marketing strategy. You definitely solve a small problem and offer more help they need.

Avatar Maksym Frantsuzov

Hey Justin!
I think your comments are interesting and to a certain point accurate!

I’m not sure about your sideways approach to selling LearnDash though… be upfront. Tell the world why LearnDash IS better than Udemy for reasons X, Y, and Z.

Even better, SHOW us, using a free LearnDash course, WHY LearnDash is better…. 🙂


Avatar Dennis

Can I sell on Udemy as well as other platforms at the same time? Or are there any restrictions?

Avatar Salim Siddiqui

I think you can sell on Udemy and other sites as well, but be sure to check the Udemy terms.

No, there are no restrictions to where else you can put your Udemy courses. You can use LearnDash and have them on Udemy (and Skillshare) all at the same time. My advice is to put your courses on as many platforms as possible. The more chances of being seen, the better.

I do thing Udemy probably is a nice way to drive traffic to your site… But well, I have found an interesting article online about this same topic, to add to all what has been discussed here. I’m not sure if Udemy’s or any other LMS site have changed their policies ever since, but I think the ideas expressed in this article are worth considering, and even eye openners: http://osherove.com/blog/2014/5/7/why-i-stopped-selling-courses-on-udemy.html

Avatar Tryphena María

Hey mate,

Any recommendation or tactics on how to drive actual students from my courses in Udemy to my new Educational Platform (using wordpress)?

Avatar Martin

I believe Udemy lets you cross-promote. You can create an ‘intro’ or ‘outro’ image for each lesson that advertises your main website.

Any restriction selling with udemy being link with learndash?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.

Very good article Justin.

I am looking at using Udemy as a way to validate a business idea, without spending a bunch of time and money creating a brand, building an audience etc.

If the course sells, then I want to take it to my own website and build the audience, brand etc.

Do you think it makes sense to use Udemy in this scenario?

Avatar Tim

Hi Tim-
Yes that can be a good way to ‘test the waters’ on a course idea. Give it a shot! Just remember that you’ll need to do some sort of marketing. Gone are the days when you can just create a course and hope people find it.

Thanks for the posting and pointing out the “red lights”. I have a straightforward queation: what is the alternative? It is good to identify problems but it is even better to suggest solutions

Avatar Cris

Find a solution where you own the system. WordPress for example and a WordPress LMS plugin. I happen to know of a good one 😉

I started with Udemy and did all the things they said to do – sold 2 courses in the past 12 months. People do not find you on Udemy. I even tried to have a conversation with them about this and received an unsatisfactory answer. I object to the control they have of your product that Jeremy has described. I set a price of each of my courses and they changed the prices. They have promotions and will drop the price to $20 without telling you. My courses are not ‘two-buck’ courses and I objected to the fact they undervalued them. The solution: WordPress website and WP course ware plugin plus a few other plugins to help. If you are going to market your courses on your own website then you might as well direct them back to your own website and have control of everything including pricing, the student accounts and all the profit.

While you have solid points as to why one shouldn’t use Udemy, you forget that Udemy already has a huge market for potential students. Course quality varies but there is something there for everyone there.

Avatar Apollo

True. Though some would contend the market is saturated so trying to differentiate from other courses is near impossible.

I am also not a fan of udemy and this article really proves it further. Going to give Learndash a try.

Looking forward to having you join the LearnDash community 🙂

Well, guys, I agree that Udemy is a great platform for the course.. but I use it only for FREE Courses to generate leads. It’s the best way to get qualified leads.

Then I allow Udemy students to join my paid courses on my membership site. No hassle, after months of struggle and spending hundreds of dollars I finally got a platform that all you need to sell and promote your courses online.

So, it’s a big yes from me that you should post your courses on Udemy (but only FREE ;)).

Thank You,
Abhay Sharma

I’ve been meaning to get my courses off of Udemy. I can’t decide whether or not I should go with a platform like Teachable or Thinkific or dump more money into another site (which I really don’t have right now) to get LearnDash or another LMS system.

What would you suggest? I’m thinking Teachable or Thinkific might be the best route for now…but I do want my own site with self-hosted courses.

Well, I think it goes without saying that I am partial to LearnDash 😉 – but on a serious note, if you prefer a hosted solution then either of the options you mentioned are worth a look. If you want more control over your course offering and business (including from a marketing standpoint) then WordPress + LearnDash will take you further.

The only thing I like about Udemy is its ecosystem. If you are not very well recognised within an industry, Udemy is perfect for you. If you are already established, try to do things independently of course. Initially, Udemy can be helpful by getting those first students for your course.

Guys, maybe you can advise me. I recently have published a free short course (art) on Teachable. I am not good in marketing, don’t have a lot of connections. That is why was thinking of trying Udemy platform.
Is it a good idea? Also would I be able to give my Udemy students link to my website or to my Teachable school?
I do appreciate any input.

Hi Justin,

I really like the way you’re engaging your audience by responding to questions.
I just recently learned about Udemy. I am an author, speaker, and trainer (live) and someone suggested I use Udemy to gain greater recognition as an expert in increasing human thriving. I have a website (already on WordPress) but I want the larger audience.
You make some very valid points.
What do you think about using Udemy for brief courses that meet the minimum time/content requirements to give people a sense of the tools I teach them to use and then let them know that the more in-depth courses are on my website? With the current TOS I can do a Bonus session that speaks about additional information and how to get it. I agree with another poster that Udemy devalues the content when they drop the price so low.
Will LearnDash allow me to set-up a platform that can be unmonitored (i.e. when I am traveling) or does it require someone to always be available for interactions?
Thank you for this helpful article.
Jeanine Joy

Good idea! I wrote about that strategy here.

The points Convenience and Availability are the two prime factors I have personally opted for Online learning. I have been learning from Edureka. Anyone here with any recommendations?

I find the title of this Article a little insulting, on top of misleading. People Googling about the worth of Udemy see the link to this page, like I sdid. While your message is specifically about selling courses of your own creation via the Udemy platform, it still casts an overall pall over the site in general and I think this tone is unfair. This article needs a new title, and a re-write that focuses specifically on your thoughts concerning the ramifications of using udemy to monetize a course YOU, the reader of this article, create.

Avatar kaibosh

The article provides valid business considerations when choosing a platform you do not control. Disagreeing does not make it insulting.

Hi, I agree that the title is somewhat misleading. Your point-of-view is for “businesses” people, but the title could set off a negative impression for “students” researching about Udemy.

Avatar mushroomsoup

Well it’s very subjective. If you already know how to build a successful brand you probably wont look at udemy. And you’ll want to create something more personal. But these platforms like udemy or bitdegree they offer you exposure and guaranteed client base. They’re pretty good if you find a niche for yourself

Avatar Dorris

Author must be kidding,

If I’ll go with your logic, none of the marketplace model makes any sense which includes Amazon.

Avatar Sumit

Amazon isn’t the same, not at all. I’d recommend becoming more familiar with the Udemy business model and then re-read the article.

Udemy – free for instructor;
LearnDash – not free for instructor.

Is not too etichal competition to attack the competition.

Avatar Catalin

If you see that as a benefit, then that’s great! Though just because something is free doesn’t make it better – that is a personal preference. The points made in this article still stand true, and mentioning these points isn’t “unethical” just because we have a product in the same industry.

very informative article about udemy. Thanks for sharing.

Should probably rephrase this as “Why Selling Courses on Udemy is Bad” or “Why Hosting Courses on Udemy is Bad”.

Don’t want people to think we should not use Udemy for purchasing courses for our own benefit.

Seems a bit misleading at first glance based on the title.

Avatar Jared

I am 100M% agree with you. Udemy is useless and most cheater platform where you are treated like nothing as a instructor. And your course don’t get any kind of privacy means anyone copy your course contents and published course on same platform Udemy sorry Chudemy :). I have published 5 courses and 2 Indian guys has copied my course and created courses on CHUDEMY (Udemy) for making extra money. I have complained Chudemy Trust & Safety Team but regret Nothing happen. Neither they have removed that cheaters courses not blocked them (Their Copyright policy is just for formality and showup only) So Udemy Trust & Safe Team SORRY SORRY SORRY I mean CHUDEMY UnTrust & Unsafe Rascals Team are a Biggest JAKAS…
Please stay away from CHUDEMY…

Avatar Lincon Denny

Udemy facilitates fraudsters. They have many course providers that say they offer certifications or PDUs or other valuable results after taking their courses that are simply defrauding those who pay for and take these courses. Buyer beware of udemy.

Avatar Ken Korando

Comments are closed.

Your course could already be online!

We offer a 15 day money-back guarantee and have a world class community to help you get your course online today!

See LearnDash in action. Online Demo

Join Our Next Webinar!

LearnDash webinars are designed to teach you how to build, grow, and scale your course-building business. Join our team in one of our next live webinars.