After his junior year at Brigham Young University, Nick Walter, now 25, landed a great summer internship in the Seattle office of Pariveda Solutions, a Dallas-based tech consulting firm. Though he enjoyed the work and liked his clients and colleagues, he felt stifled. Used to jeans and t-shirts, he didn’t like wearing khakis and polo shirts and most of all, he says, “I hated that I had to be at this office every day for X amount of time doing what they said I had to do.”
So instead of heading down the career track he’d always expected of himself—he’d envisioned the security of a steady paycheck and benefits—he decided to go to BYU part-time for the next two years, while hiring himself out as a consultant and developing his own apps for the iPhone including seven how-two apps he wrote with a friend. One of them, called simply Weight Lifting Videos, has helped net $1,200 a month. Then he stumbled on a more lucrative possibility.
His inspiration: “I was reading the Tim Ferris book, The Four-Hour Work Week,” he recalls. “Ferris was talking about how the best business you can be in is the education business.” Walter had been out of college from April through May of this year, living on the meager income from his how-to apps and consulting work, when Apple announced it was introducing a new programming language, Swift. A light bulb went off in Walter’s head.
He could learn Swift and teach it at the same time, videotaping his progress, and sell the recordings as a course. “For the next four days all I did was dive into this programming language,” he says. “It was wake up, eat, learn, teach, eat, learn, teach, eat, sleep. . . I shut off my phone and went into my cave.” He worked in his pajamas, recording his voice and doing screen captures, making 50 short videos in just four days.
Then he uploaded them on Udemy, a four-year-old site that makes it easy to put paywalls around content. Based in San Francisco and running on $48 million in venture funding, Udemy offers 20,000 courses, including everything from yoga to photography to a dance style called Popping and Locking. Prices range from free to $895 for “How to Trade Stock Options: Profiting in Up and Down Markets.” Udemy takes a 50% cut if it attracts people to the courses. If course creators bring in people through their own marketing efforts, they keep 97% (Udemy charges a 3% credit card processing fee).
Apple released Swift on June 2. Walter submitted the class on June 5 and for 24 hours, offered it for free. There were 1,600 sign-ups that first day. “That blew me away,” he says. The next day he raised the price to $199 and netted $20,000. Within 30 days he had earned $40,000. “That was more than I’d made in the last year,” he says. It helped that Udemy sent out an email blast to 60,000 people who they thought would be interested in the course and offered it for a discounted $29. Since then the course has generated between $3,000 and $5,000 a month, he says.
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