How to Start an Online Courses Business: Learn from Udemy

udemy online learning platform
Want to start an online courses business? Learn from Udemy
Online courses continue to be a trend. With more people go to the Internet to find out about anything and share them on social media, online courses business – in the eyes of online entrepreneurs – will always be a lucrative online business idea. Let’s explore deeper about the online courses business model using Udemy as a success story.

A bit about online courses

Online courses enable you to learn from anywhere, anytime – especially when they are not as formal as taking online courses from online universities. The courses we are talking here are those helping you to get knowledge about one particular subject you want to master, such as this popular free course from Udemy, An Entrepreneur’s Checklist by Steve Blank, Serial Entrepreneur.

Of course, there are plenty of “premium” or “paid” online courses available, typically focusing on specialised topics, such as this popular online course, Raising Money for Startups by Startup University.

What is Udemy?

Udemy is one of the most popular online course websites enabling anyone to teach and learn online. You can access hundreds of online courses – both free and paid – on almost any subjects you can think of. It is well known as a place to get experts insight for free. But not only free courses, Udemy also offer paid courses from well-known educational organizations and experts. You can get a good one-page intro to Udemy from this Udemy wiki.

Udemy has been featured by big time publications, such as The New York Times, TechCrunch, Fast Company, and many more, and has been touted as a platform offering great classroom-like learning experience.

Udemy offers a self-serving online learning platform – meaning, if you are an online course creator, you can build your course right from the inside of your Udemy account using the available tools – very straightforward, with no technical skills required. You can add everything – documents, videos, slideshows, etc. and package them as a course.

Regarding promotion, you – as an online instructor – can integrate your course with Facebook, as well as partnering with affiliate marketers to promote your online courses.

If you are a learner, you can just choose the courses you are interested in and sign-up to access them. Plain and simple.

How to generate revenues from online courses business?

So, how to make money from online courses website like Udemy? Well, as what Udemy offers is a free-to-use web-based platform, the site is making money by taking 30 percent of instructors’ paid courses revenue. It is justifiable, as the tools are powerful, and the exposure to your courses is great, via direct visits to Udemy, search engines and social media.

Alternatively, if you want to go all-out offering free online courses only, you can incorporate ad-supported courses, making money from ad impressions and/or ad clicks.

Key success factors

The monetization model is pretty simple. What’s more complex is on how to build a powerful learning platform that is simple enough for non-techie instructors and learners to use – and get the words out about it. Moreover, the ability to integrate your online courses site with Facebook and other popular social sites also detrimental to your success.

Here’s another one: Just like any online business ideas, yours are most likely not original; there are those who have done what you are going to do – so, the best practice is for you to make it better and/or go niche.

How to make the platform better? Well, you could offer something that can answer the needs of instructors and learners alike. While that is not easy, going niche is – in my opinion – a more feasible strategy.

You could offer niche online courses – for example, you can start a food and beverage online courses website, focusing on courses like how to make a better truffle, how to start a restaurant business, and so on.


Like what I mentioned above, to enhance your chance for success, you need to observe, imitate and modify. You need to learn how Udemy and other platforms work, inside and out. Only by doing so you can see what aspects you can improve.

Remember, doing the above is just part of the story. Having a better platform built and assuming you will get a definite success is a misconception; “just built it and they will come” is simply misleading.

You need to buzz your online courses business to the right influencers and audiences; you need to attract business evangelists. Doing so, you can leverage your resources to focus on value adding activities.

Enjoy, have fun and good luck in starting an online courses business!

Ivan Widjaya
Start an online course business