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Your Voice – Hear from your fellow instructors

Dan Jones – Hypnotherapists rebounds from career crisis with full-time focus on Udemy

Back in 2014, Dan Jones of West Sussex, UK, stumbled upon Udemy in a typical fashion. Hypnosis had been a personal passion of Dan’s since he was a teen watching famous British TV personality Paul McKenna. After years of practicing hypnotherapy in person, he had been offering videos about hypnosis on YouTube, had a Facebook fan page, and was running ads. However, he wasn’t gaining much traction from these efforts.

Like others before him, Dan didn’t want to pay someone else to set up his online courses if they weren’t going to perform any better. So he found Udemy, and over the past few years has gradually grown to making $2,000/month with 5,500 students across 11 courses. Hear in Dan’s own words how he was able to overcome some tough obstacles and find success with a very niche topic.

First of all, Dan, what made you decide to teach on Udemy even though you had tried other digital outlets in the past?
The main reason was that Udemy was ultimately a low-risk option. It would allow me to do most of the work myself and be in control of my content. Additionally there were no set-up costs to use Udemy, so I wouldn’t be out of pocket.

What was your initial expectation for what you could achieve teaching hypnotherapy on Udemy?
When I started, there were only two other hypnosis-related courses in the Udemy marketplace and they were very different from what I had planned (“Certificate in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy”), so I didn’t have much expectations for how things would turn out on Udemy.

What were the steps you took to launch that first course?
I didn’t really do much. The main thing was announcing it to my Facebook followers (I had about 1,000 followers) and offering them a $27 instructor coupon I created. From that I made about $500 in three days, so it was a good start.

One thousand followers is a solid base. How did you build your audience from there?
I started with friends and family and got about 200-250 followers from my regular Facebook profile to join my hypnotherapy fan page. I got another 250-300 followers from my YouTube channel by linking from my videos to that Facebook page. The rest of my followers were pretty much a mixture of folks who came through the Facebook ads I was running (targeting hypnotists) and organic growth.

Nice! So, with a good initial following and solid initial sales, what was your next step?
I decided to release two more courses—one on self-publishing and another on solution-focused therapy. These courses didn’t attract as much interest as my initial course, but I was relatively happy with the $300/month I was earning without putting in much additional effort.

You seemed relatively comfortable with things at that point, but going from three to 11 courses definitely requires some ramping up. What made you invest more in Udemy?
Things were going relatively smoothly until 2015. As someone with autism spectrum disorder, I had been on the receiving end of workplace discrimination for a number of years and that ultimately culminated in me taking a redundancy at my job. This gave me a six-month cushion to explore my options. At the time, considering I was making money every month on Udemy without even trying, I decided to invest myself 100% in my courses and see if I could do better. If not, I’d reevaluate.

In a way, the job redundancy was a blessing in disguise. I wasn’t happy with how my career was going but I felt trapped, depressed, even suicidal. Now, there was nothing stopping me from taking a chance. I gave myself a week of downtime and then plowed into Udemy 18 months after making my first course.

That’s an amazing attitude in light of your difficult circumstances. With this newfound focus, how did your approach change from when you came onto Udemy?
This time around, I did a deep dive into Udemy’s best practices and advice around instructional design, and I completed the “How to Create Your Udemy Course” course. I also learned how to use promotional announcements so I could take advantage of cross-promotional opportunities. Furthermore, I took courses on topics like photography and piano, not only because they interested me but also to better understand the student experience.

One other key takeaway I got this time was this fact: the course you’d (as an instructor) want students to take isn’t necessarily the course students themselves want to take. Through monitoring the types of questions that students were asking in the Q&A section and comments on my social pages, I found fewer people were interested in using hypnosis for treating conditions like depression or anxiety, but they were interested in learning different hypnosis styles, so I added courses on conversational hypnosis, Ericksonian hypnosis, and rapid hypnotic inductions.

How were the results for you?
I saw results pretty much instantly! In my first month of being fully invested in Udemy, my monthly revenue lifted to $800. By September 2015, I’d reached $1,500/month, which met my threshold for supporting myself as a Udemy instructor.

That’s awesome, Dan! To wrap things up, what would you say are the three pieces of guidance any instructor should follow to be successful?

  1. Create courses with substance and depth. Don’t just think you will churn out lots of courses in a part 1-2-3 format and try to get people to take a short course for $10, and then another and another, when the student feels these should all have been in a single course. It isn’t about creating an unnecessarily long course but a course that is long enough to teach everything the student expects to be covered in that course/topic and then a little bit more that perhaps they didn’t expect but has value and they are glad it was included.
  2. Establish yourselves as a subject-matter expert away from Udemy. This can be done by posting regularly to a website, social media page, or YouTube channel dedicated to your instructional area. Answering questions about your topic on sites like Quora, being active as an expert on that topic, and making it easy for people to find your course are great ways of building your reputation and letting people know about your Udemy content.
  3. Be an active instructor and make use of educational/promotional announcements. You want to show you are active in your course, that you value your students, so reply to questions in a timely manner. If you really can’t reply for a while, let students know in that you’ve read their question and give them an estimate for when you’ll be able to answer properly. Cross-promote courses with promotional announcements to make students in one course aware of your other courses and the benefits of taking them, how it fits with and enhances what they have learned in the current training. Even a small number of students can respond well to promotional announcements.