Discover how you can learn skills on Udemy and sell them on Upwork.
I love Udemy.
For the ones who don’t know it yet, Udemy is the biggest online course marketplace in the whole world. You can find thousands of affordable courses ($10-20) on virtually any topic.
Want to learn cooking? There’s a course for that. Want to learn Machine Learning? There’s a course for that too! You get the idea.
Udemy revolutionized the whole concept of ‘online learning‘ and made things that seemed impossible possible. They totally changed the online courses marketplace and proved that it was possible to create a win-win situation for online instructors and students even if courses were sold at a low price.
Back in the day, if you wanted to learn any topic, you had to go to college or hire a private tutor to teach you the thing. That was crazy expensive and not something that everyone could do (apart from the upper-middle class and more).
But this high availability and low pricing created a paradox. This paradox is a self-contradiction that’s at the very core of Udemy’s offer. Since you can learn anything nowadays, what should you learn? Why should you learn this specific skill in particular rather than something else?
This paradox remains unsolvable for most people. However, the good news is that I’ve (at least partially) figured it out.
In this article, I’m about to give you something very special. I’m about to give you a method to carefully select the topics and courses that you should learn on Udemy to make money on Upwork.
Enrolling in the right Udemy courses
You probably think that the research process that goes into finding the right courses is something that must begin on Udemy. After all, why wouldn’t you trust the very platform on which you’re trying to buy courses, right?
The thing is that Udemy doesn’t really know what you’re trying to achieve. The platform’s algorithm doesn’t understand your end-goal, and it doesn’t know *why* you are looking at the things you do.
The platform understands that you’re researching various topics, typing various queries, and therefore suggests courses accordingly. But these suggestions may or may not be aligned with your business goals.
And these ‘business goals’ have to be defined on Upwork, not Udemy. That’s Upwork that will show you what’s marketable, what’s not marketable and the kind of professional ‘persona’ you should embody.
The methodology I’m about to reveal will help you choose the right Udemy courses to match Upwork’s market demand, and therefore help you make a living off what you learn on Udemy.
Step 1 – Perform a job search on Upwork
The first thing you want is an overview of Upwork’s market demand. You need to discover the most in-demand skills, the most sought-after ‘personas’ and the skills you should acquire.
An Upwork ‘Persona‘ is an etiquette. It’s usually what you put in your ‘Job Title’ and it’s supposed to come with a set of skills and behaviors. For example, if you say that you’re a Data Analyst, you’re supposed to know Excel, Power BI, Python, and Data Science.
To do that, you need to put yourself in the shoes of a random Upwork freelancer. First, go to Upwork.com (you don’t need to sign up or be logged in), and perform a job search query with terms associated with your topics of interest.
For example, if you’re interested in Web Development, you could type keywords such as ‘web development‘, ‘WordPress‘, ‘python‘, etc.
Once you type ‘enter’, you’ll see a list of matching results. To make sense of these results, ask yourself these questions for each skill or topic:
- How often are gigs about this topic/skill published? Every few minutes? Hours? Days?
- What’s the level of expertise that’s usually asked? Entry-level? Intermediate? Expert?
- What’s the average hourly rate or fixed-price that clients are willing to pay for this kind of gigs?
Your table should look something like this:
The results in the table don’t have to be 100% accurate but they should reflect a general trend about each individual skill or topic.
You should then organize your skills and topics in a hierarchical manner. To do so, you’ll have to create at least two separate tables:
- One that you’ll order by hourly-rate and fixed-price in descending order (so, the most lucrative to the least lucrative).
- One that you’ll order by frequency in ascending order (published per minute, per day, per week..).
Table by hourly-rate or fixed-price in descending order
Table by frequency in ascending order:
With these two tables (or three if you need two separate ones for hourly rate and fixed-price), you’ll have an organized list of topic/skill opportunities on Upwork.
Among all these skills and topics, select the ones that are the closest to your core interests (and eventually the ones you have the most experience with).
Step 2 – Looking at the freelancer profiles
Now that you have an idea of the opportunities on Upwork, you need to check the Persona of the people who get these gigs. That’s the best way to know where you should be heading.
To do that, you should now perform a skill search using Upwork’s freelancer search feature.
I recommend using these filters:
- Only Job Success Scores over 90%
- At least $10k earned
- Native English speakers
- Located in the US (or similar)
Look at all the profiles and start taking notes. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What are the most recurrent skills between all these profiles?
- What are the most lucrative gigs that these people completed in the past? Are there any common points between them?
- What’s the average hourly and fixed-price rates of these profiles?
At first sight, would you say that it’s more profitable to be a WordPress Developer or a Ruby on Rails Developer? Would you say that it makes more sense to be a general Copywriter or an Email Copywriter? Does it make more sense to be a Facebook Ads or Google Ads Consultant? Etc.
You don’t need to be too formal with these questions. But it should give you a general sense of the most lucrative Personas and where you should be heading.
Attention – On Upwork, it’s more profitable to be ‘specialized’ than ‘general’. Always prefer being over-specialized.
Step 3 – Defining the skillset
Now that you have an idea of the Persona you’re after, you need to draft a clear ‘roadmap’ of the skills you must acquire. Let’s call that your ‘skillset’.
The skillset you need could look something like this:
Don’t miss any skill that’s fundamental to the Persona you’ve chosen for yourself. Sometimes, it’s not *obvious* what these skills are, but they’re really at the very core of the Persona’s daily life.
For example, I work in Paid Advertising. Most people think that learning how to create and run advertising campaigns is enough, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg. If I didn’t properly know how to read data (through tools such as Google Analytics) and track sales (Google Tag Manager), I would already be a dead man in my field.
The skills I’m talking about are usually the ‘boring’ part of the Persona. That’s no reason to avoid them altogether, though.
Step 4 – Finding the right courses on Udemy
If you properly followed the three previous steps, you should have a clear idea of:
- The most remunerating gigs on Upwork based on your interests.
- The kind of Persona you need to get these gigs.
- The skills you need to properly embody this persona.
It means that your goal is now to find the right Udemy courses that’ll teach you the skills and the behavior you need to have to get these gigs.
From my experience as a Udemy instructor and as a Udemy coach for instructors, it’s better to find specific courses on each skill of your Persona, rather than one big-ass general course that covers everything.
So, for example, rather than just typing ‘WordPress development‘ on Udemy, you should type queries such as:
- PHP for WordPress
- SQL for WordPress
- Theme Development for WordPress
- Plugin Development for WordPress
- Linux for WordPress
These specific queries will get you specific courses on each topic. And generally, specific courses go more in-depth and are better-maintained than general courses.
To find the best courses on each topic, ask yourself these questions:
- What are this course’s ratings? It should have at least 4.5 stars.
- How well-structured is this course? The course should have a linear and easy-to-follow structure.
- Does the course include practical projects? It should teach you through increasingly difficult projects.
- Will you need additional courses on the same topic? The course should be self-sufficient.
If you enroll in the right courses, watch all the videos carefully and do all the projects, you will acquire the skills you need very quickly.
Getting Upwork gigs
You are now ready to kick asses.
But to do so, you first need to create your own Upwork profile and have it approved. That can be a long process depending on where you’re based and on your area of expertise. Please have a look at my article on creating a successful Upwork profile as it can help you get approved faster.
There are real science and art behind applying to Upwork gigs, talking to clients and consolidating your Upwork profile over time. Don’t worry if you don’t master the whole thing at once, it’s normal. It took me years to refine tactics and methods to increase my Upwork conversion rate.
That being said, let’s see together how you could proceed if you came from Udemy and wanted to sell your skills on Upwork.
Step 1 – Starting with fixed-price gigs
I’ve discussed extensively the main pros and cons of hourly contracts and fixed-price gigs on Upwork.
Since we are just getting started and your Upwork history is basically a blank page, it means two things:
- You won’t be able to land hourly contracts. Your lack of Upwork (and general) experience will repel prospective clients from hiring you.
- You should be careful. Getting a single bad review would literally kill your profile, and you need to take small stuff that you can complete at your level.
That’s why fixed-price gigs are the ideal candidate for getting started. They generally don’t last more than a few days (a week at most) and they focus on ‘small’ tasks rather than extensive projects.
To stay in line with our main example, let’s say that we were looking for WordPress development fixed-price gigs at your level. Let’s go to Upwork and use these filters:
- Job Type: Fixed-Price
- Experience Level: Intermediate Level
- Client history: 1 to 9, 10+ Hires
- Payment Verified
- Less than 5 Proposals
- Client Location: US (or similar)
From these filters, you can guess that we are looking for ‘good‘ clients looking for someone to perform a relatively easy task.
We need to use the ‘intermediate level‘ filter to avoid clients looking for *cheap* freelancers. If you have completed all your Udemy courses A to Z, there’s no reason to say that you’re at entry-level.
Step 2 – Applying to the gigs
OK, so you’ve got the skills, you’ve got the time, and you’ve got the willingness to work hard. What now? Apply, of course!
I’ve not yet written a dedicated article on the art of applying to Upwork gigs yet, so let me explain briefly how you should proceed.
A powerful proposal is something that both catches a client’s attention (so that you can talk to him) and show that you’re both skilled and available to perform the gig.
The idea is to differentiate yourself from *all* other freelancers in *all* possible ways. Of course, you cannot win on all leaderboards at once, but you can at least win on most of them. For example, you can show that you’re the friendliest, most available and most knowledgeable guy around.
Any good proposal could be broken down into these key elements that you should include in your own proposal:
- Hook. That’s a catchy sentence that catches your client’s attention.
- Sentence Match. You should answer every point or sentence that the client has made with a matching sentence.
- Expertise. That’s your way of showing your client that you know your stuff and that you’re qualified for the gig.
- Availability and Call-to-Action. That’s to show the client that you’re available right here right now, and that he should message you asap.
Let’s take an example and image that this is the job offer that’s published:
My brand is selling health supplements online. I am looking for a copywriter to write blog articles, ad copies, and emails on a weekly basis.
Your proposal could look something like this:
Funny fact: I was actually swallowing an Omega 3 pill as I was reading your job description.
– I’m comfortable writing health supplement articles that are both enticing and SEO-optimized. I’m familiar with the topic and I have already written articles about it in the past.
– On which advertising networks will these ad copies be published? Facebook? Instagram? Google? We would need to have it match each individual network.
– I can write your weekly emails. I’ll make sure to make them both funny and instructional to read.
I have written and published over 100 articles as a copywriter. I’m very experienced and I know exactly what people want to read.
Feel free to ask me if you want to a few samples. I’m available right now to get started.
Writing your proposal in a way that shows that you’ve paid attention to what the client has written is crucial. Most freelancers copy and paste proposals without even reading (and clients hate that).
Step 3 – Closing the deal
Supposing that your proposal has been ‘accepted’ and that the client wants to talk to you.
You’re now part of the elite. You can talk to the client directly, unlike most freelancers who applied.
I find that this part is the easiest because it deals with a *human* component rather than an algorithm. The better you get at talking to humans (and closing deals), the more gigs you’ll get.
To make sure that everything goes as expected, here are my tips:
- Be friendly. The friendlier you are, the more human connection it creates. And the more human connection there’s, the less likely they’ll leave you a bad review.
- Be very responsive. The longer you take to answer your client’s messages, the more likely it’s that they’ll assign the gig to a different freelancer.
- Display your expertise. No matter what your *actual* expertise is, you need to convey the idea that you know your stuff through the whole process. Clients are less likely to give bad reviews if they perceive you as a high-value expert in your field.
- Show that you’re highly available. Showing a client that you’re available right here right now can really set you apart from all other freelancers. It’s also a very good tool to get the deal as soon as you’re talking to the client.
- Talk explicitly about goals and deadlines. Without explicit goals, you won’t know whether or not you’ve properly completed the gig. Without explicit deadlines, you won’t know whether you’re on time or late.
- Talk explicitly money-stuff. It’s very important to establish from the get-go how much you’re going to be paid and what you’re going to do in return.
- Spell out the rules. The rules about whether or not the client should give you a 5-stars have to be spelled out at the beginning of the gig. This way, the client cannot give you anyway else if you properly filled the requirements.
Beginning Upwork freelancers generally have a hard time with these items because it requires a degree of boldness that feels out of place with your actual field experience. But trust me, they’re absolutely necessary.
Step 4 – Delivering and getting paid
Now that you’ve sealed the deal, and that you’re working for your client, you don’t want to mess things up. The last thing you need is a bad review on your newly created profile.
A first, unique bad review on your profile is the best way to send it to the graveyard. As a client on Upwork, I never consider freelancers that have a unique review that happens to be bad.
As to avoid screwing up your profile, you need to acquire solid ‘project management‘ skills. These skills will help you with:
- Plan the gig’s different stages of completion. Use Upwork’s tool to set up specific milestones and deliverables based on deadlines.
- Communicate with your clients (about what you’re doing, what’s left, what he thinks about it, etc). Talk to your client on a daily basis, tell him where you’re at, what’s left and ask for feedback. Never submit a milestone without talking to your client first.
- Deliver the gig at the right time and get a 5-stars. Never end a gig unless you’re 100% certain that the client is perfectly satisfied and disposed to give you a 5-stars. Reviews are more important than money.
Also, remember that Upwork’s review system asks for a ‘public‘ and a ‘private‘ review. Both are taken into consideration when evaluating your Job Success Score, which means that you really need two 5-stars from each client – one public and one private.
I hope that this article convinced you that it was possible to learn new skills on Udemy and sell them Upwork.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a genius or find yourself to be ‘average’ in your areas of interest. There are just so many more clients out there than there are freelancers that you’re almost guaranteed to find work if you do the right things.
Remember that this whole methodology depends on two important factors:
- You need to properly learn all the skills you need to build up your ‘persona’. That means that you should only take relevant Udemy courses and complete them A-Z at a 100% completion rate.
- You need to follow the method I spelled out above to find the right gigs, talk to clients and eventually get 5-stars.
If you mess up with one or both of these elements, you may get screwed along the way. For example, you’ll take a gig that you cannot complete. Or you’ll mismanage the project’s milestones and get a bad review.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions and you can be sure that I’ll answer it.