Episode 389

Udemy Course Creator Frank Kane Shares How He Got Over 600,000 Students and 2 Million Dollars

Frank Kane is a LifterLMS user and founder of Sundog Education. is a highly successful education entrepreneur who has found great success on the online learning platform Udemy. He has over 600,000 students and 15 courses available on the platform, which have generated over 2.7 million in revenue.

Frank’s journey to becoming a course creator began when he was a senior manager at Amazon.com in Seattle. When he and his family decided to move to Florida, he left Amazon and started doing freelance work.

One of those gigs was in curriculum development for a company in New York City, where he created a data science course. Udemy reached out to Frank to create courses on big data topics, and he ended up creating his own course on data processing. Since then, his business has grown significantly, and he now teaches a variety of topics including data science, machine learning, and Python programming.

Frank’s success on Udemy shows the potential for growth and income that can be achieved through creating and selling online courses. His experience serves as inspiration for other entrepreneurs looking to enter the world of online education and create their own successful courses.

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett:
You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch and scale a high-value online training program, I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end. I’ve got something special for you, enjoy the show.

Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMS cast. I’m joined by a special guest. His name is Frank Kane, he’s a prolific course creator. You can find him on Udemy. You can also find him on his website, which is Sundog-education. Just do a google search for Sundog Education.

Welcome to the show, Frank.

Frank Kane:
Hey, thanks for having me.

Chris Badgett:
I love interviewing um education entrepreneurs like yourself. Uh, and I’m grateful to, you know, found out that you use our tool LifterLMS.
I wanna ask you first before we get into your story. Um Just to kind of set well, actually, kind of where you are today, I was looking at this, the stats on Udemy you had something like 500,000 students or something like that?

Frank:
That’s over 600,000. Now, last I checked just…

Chris Badgett: Okay…

Frank Kane: Juston that one platform.

Chris Badgett:
Give us some, give us some numbers, just like for Udemy like Or or just your empire, like 600,000 students. How many courses? How many years doing it? Just give us some data.

Frank Kane:
Yeah, I mean, uh I started doing this in like 2013, so it’s been a while, you know, it’s been a long a long road, as they say. Um but today I’ve got depends on how you count it, I would say like 15 courses because there’s a bunch of like, localizations of different courses and stuff that are technically their own course. But yeah, it’s really grown over time. I mean, when I started off, my first course was making like 100 bucks a month. But today it’s more like 40,000 a month in revenue. So all told, like we said, 600,000 students around the world just on Udemy and uh About 2.7 million total revenue from that platform alone.

Chris Badgett: Wow! that’s mind-blowing! Um, what’s the, what’s the genesis of you? The course creator?

Frank Kane:
Yeah, I just kind of was in the right place at the right time, you know, that’s uh kind of a common theme I think with people who end up, you know, getting lucky with something. Um so yeah, if you want to go, there’s no, like short attention span version of this story, I’m afraid. So, give me a couple of minutes.

Chris Badgett:
This is a this is a longer form podcast, go for it.

Frank Kane:
Awesome! Yeah, So where do I start? I mean, I was actually a senior manager at amazon.com in Seattle about 10 years ago actually, and, you know, I clawed my way up the corporate ladder there and did that whole corporate thing and uh, you know, it was rough, you know, it’s, it’s a challenging environment. Still is. But what really got over time with the weather. So eventually we decide you can’t take the Seattle weather anymore. Um, and I think you you came from Alaska. I think you said so. You know what I’m talking about?

Chris Badgett:
Yeah!

Frank Kane:
You know, that’s, like, two months where it’s nice there. Um, so we packed up, my family decided to move to Florida, and at the time, Amazon have these tax issues where they could not have employees outside of Seattle. Basically, so that meant that I had to leave Amazon. So I’m like, well, what do I do? Do I get a real job again? Or do I try to strike out on my own and be an entrepreneur and, well, this time as good as I need to give it a shot? Right. Uh, so I started doing some freelance work and, you know, doing some programming and stuff on the side of things like that wasn’t a lot of fun because, you know, you’re still basically trading your time for money and trading one set of bosses for a different set of bosses at the end of the day. But one of those gigs was actually doing curriculum development for a company in New York City. General Assembly was what they were called. And one thing led to another. So we put out a data science course in General Assembly where I was like making the content for that behind the scenes. And somehow, Udemy found that and they were trying to find people to come onto their platform to teach big data topics and data processing. So they reached out to me like literally just cold calling me one day and said, Hey, we’re Udemy. I’ve never heard of them at that point. It’s a long time ago. You know, we’re looking for people to create courses on big data stuff. Would you give it a try? So I’m like, Why not? How hard can it be? Alright. Turns out it’s pretty hard to make a course, especially on technical topics like that. So, like I said, I give it a shot, in that first course did not do well. It was it was making 120 bucks a month at first, but I didn’t give up, so I said, okay, we’ll put that much time into creating this course, and if I push a little bit more, it’ll get some legs. So I created the second course and I went back to Udemy and said give me some advice on creating the right topic and creating those sorts. Of course, is that resonate with your audience and I did all that.

So I was able to promote that second course to the students in my first course and it’s much, much, much better. And I made a third course and promoted that to the students of my 1st and 2nd course and you just kind of building on that like compound interest over time until you get to where I’m at right now.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. And what…what do you think? I remember I’m an old school, I might have even been on Udemy before you, but I had like a little cooking class..

Frank Kane: Yeah!

Chris Badgett:
..that I did about making the perfect omelet. Uh, it was a while ago, I think that was 2012 or 13. I’m not sure when you said you started?

Frank Kane:
I think it was 2013,

Chris Badgett:
Okay. You might have beat me. I definitely didn’t get recruited, but I put it on there and uh, I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And you know, I didn’t really try really hard to market. It wasn’t that serious.

But I was fascinated with Udemy like at the time and probably still one of the top-performing courses was the course about how to use Excel, right?

Frank Kane:
Yeah!

Chris Badgett:
So there’s like product I saw like the millions of students or whatever it was and there was obviously like product market fit. What is it about the big data niche that other people could learn from? Is this like helping people get high-paying jobs or like why does this niche really work, for online courses on Udemy and beyond?

Frank Kane:
Yeah. I mean I think it’s specific to Udemy you know different platforms have kind of what they specialize in. So skill share for example they’re more on lifestyle things. You know a cooking class would do well there for example Udemy tends to focus more on business-related topics and technical topics. So they have a big audience in places like India where people are really trying to learn technical skills so they can get an awesome job and make more money. So that’s kind of the demographic that I’m reaching there. So, topic selection is just hugely important and understanding the audience of the platform that you’re on. It’s the real key to success.

Chris Badgett:
You know, now that you say that I did put a free course on um Udemy about LifterLMS like in WordPress, and it was, it got a ton of users, like it was like, it was in the tens of thousands. I don’t know, it got up pretty high, especially because it was free.
Frank Kane: Yeah…..!

Chris Badgett:
I even hired a I hired a developer later who was like, who met me through that course, and I’m not even a real developer, I’m more of a power user and uh just did the exposure of Udemy was really cool.

What else do you like about Udemy?

Frank Kane:
Uh, they’re good people you know I mean you know being one of their top instructors I get to talk to a lot of people behind the scenes at every level..

Chris Badgett: Yeah!

Frank Kane:
… And something that impresses me with Udemy is just the quality of the employees they are. They’re all nice people. They really have the best interests of the students at heart and of the instructors. So they’re always looking for these win-win situations where everybody ends up benefiting from what they’re doing. And you know these days it’s kind of hard to find in cause it’s a stark contrast to some of the other platforms out there. So they’re just good to work with.

Chris Badgett:
One of the things I appreciated about them too was uh they actually they took one of my courses down because I wasn’t keeping it updated or something and they’re actually kind of protecting the quality or the current the current relevancy and you know they wanted to standardize all the graphics at one point. I remember that like they like how do you how do you make a learning platform that doesn’t become like a free for all. They seem to strike that balance.

Frank Kane:
Yeah, it’s It’s delicate, right? I mean, they have a huge job in front of them for, like, policy enforcement. So they have this open platform. Or basically, anybody can submit a course on anything, and there’s no standards on how you teach or what your graphic design style needs to be. There are other platforms that are like that, and as a result, they’re not very responsive to changing trends in the world. But that’s another thing. Uh, but yeah, I mean, the thing with Udemy though, is that they have their like, this two-headed beast. You know, they have the open marketplace where everybody can submit their own courses. And then they have Udemy for business, which is their curated selection of the best of the best courses that are aimed at business users. Um, and that is where they are much more picky, right? So they actually have human beings looking at individual courses saying, Hey, this is a good one. This one has good production quality. This is a topic that our customers need. Let’s promote that, and that’s close to half of their business these days, so that’s really growing for them.

Chris Badgett:
Remember ways back. They they enforce some like pricing controls in terms of how much you could charge and stuff like that. Um And some people took issue with that. Um some people completely fine with it and then there’s all the bundling and stuff like that, but um particularly around the pricing issue, what are your thoughts on courses and pricing and obviously you’ve moved a lot and I think Udemy’s cap is $50 a course? I could be wrong there. But is there, what’s your pricing on that platform?

Frank Kane:
Generally, I priced the least prices around between 25 and 50 dollars…

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Frank Kane:
…depending on the length of the course and you know how much competition there is. Um

Chris Badgett:
You ever feel like, do you ever feel like that, that you know, a lot of talk about like high, high ticket courses and all that

Frank Kane:
hmm..!

Chris Badgett:
..and I’m sure you’re delivering incredible value, helping people get great jobs and everything. But what are your thoughts around that lower end of the price market for courses?

Frank Kane:
Yeah. I mean, it’s not great, right? I mean, I would much rather sell, you know, 100.. 200 dollar courses than you know, $2005 courses or whatever works out to..
Chris Badgett: Alright!

Frank Kane:
.. um But that’s the whole way Udemy works. It’s all about volume there, right? So they’re constantly running sales people in India, for example, are getting these courses for the equivalent of, like, $4.99. So if you have, you know, hundreds of thousands of customers the math works out. But you still have to support those customers, right? So, you know, if you get someone where you only made 80 cents from the transaction after everyone takes their cut I mean, India, taxes get taken out, platform fees come out, Udemy takes their cut. So at the end of the day, you might have a student who is asking you a whole lot of questions in exchange for 80 cents. And, uh, you know, that’s that’s not cool. And that’s part of the reason why I built my own site using LifterLMS. Because they’re I have complete control over pricing or what coupons I can issue or can issue. So if the day comes where Udemy is not paying the bills for whatever reason, maybe they decide they don’t like me anymore and kick me off the platform. I’ve got that sitting there ready to go where I can offer higher ticket items and you know, maybe offer more add-ons like, you know, office hours and things like that. Or more direct communication with me as an instructor, which I just can’t do at the price points of Udemy.

Chris Badgett:
Tell us more about just the decision to, to build a WordPress LMS site yourself and uh, you know, what, what spurred it on and then why, you know, what’s your long term goal for it?

Frank Kane:
Yeah, I mean, you know, when I was looking to launch my own site and you know, I looked at all the, you know, plug and play options out there, teachable and what not. I’m like, well you don’t really have a lot of control over it there. Right. And hey, I used to make websites at amazon.com. I think I know what I’m doing. (Chris Badgett is laughing)

Frank Kane:
How hard can it be. Right. Uh, so I figured, you know, I was using WordPress for my blog already anyway, I was familiar with the whole technology stack started doing some research on different plug-ins for LMS solutions on WordPress and found you guys. And yeah, like within, I think two days I had my first course up and running on the platform, so it worked out well. But like I said, the long-term goal is mostly a hedge. I want to be able to have something ready to go in the event that disaster strikes. So, for example, we mentioned skillshare earlier. They came that close to kicking me off the platform at one point

Chris Badgett: Why?

Frank Kane:
.. due to some minor policy violation. It was because… Oh, yeah, I remember what it was. At one point, they they were giving me some advice to promote something. My own website, I think at some point at the end of the course, and I did that. But the way I did it was that I copied and pasted the same video across all of my courses saying, Hey, come visit me at sundown-education.com. And apparently reusing videos on different courses is against the rules there. So that close to getting booted because of that, but you know, fortunately, they gave me a chance to correct that and and keep me on the platform for most of my courses, but that sort of thing can happen with Udemy or any other platform to where you don’t control it, you know? So I want to make sure that I have a platform of my own where I have complete control over what’s going on just in case some outside thing happens that I need to react to.

Chris Badgett:
That’s cool. You’ve.. you’ve been a course creator for like a decade, it’s your job, as you say. Um, how do you approach your job? Like in terms of uh content creation time, instructional design time, do you do a bunch of marketing or not worry about that since you’re more kind of in Udemy’s flow? Like what’s what is the job like for a pro 10 years in?

Frank Kane:
I mean it’s it’s all about trying to figure out what the best use of your time is and trying to focus on that as much as possible, which means outsourcing all the other stuff. I mean it’s a very
a common refrain with any business owner, right? You’ve got to focus on what you’re best at and what you’re most irreplaceable at. So for me, you know, being in front of the camera, you know, being in front of a microphone, delivering this content, that’s what’s important. That’s my students are paying for. So that’s why I try to spend most of my time doing it was creating new content. Right now, I’m just, like, go into town, trying to update one of my technical courses to the latest version of that technology. And that’s what I’m doing 40 hours a week right now. The other thing that’s important to you, though. So developing the actual like coding exercise and things like that. I might farm that out to somebody on Upwork, you know, just to save me some time because that’s not something that I’m uniquely qualified to do. Marketing. I hire assistants to help with that as well. So you know, keeping regular updates on social media, sending out our newsletter, sending out promotional announcements, things like that. Someone else handles all that and also have a couple of people who are kind of the first line of defence for answering questions from students. So, you know when I get 10,000 questions and I’ll say where do I download the course materials from? Someone else deals with that instead of me. So yeah it’s all about you know focusing on what you have to do and outsourcing the rest.

Chris Badgett:
On technical topics for courses, do you have to spend a lot of time updating? Like is it like what words of wisdom do you have for somebody who teaches on like a technical topic or something that’s going to go out of date and..

Chris Badgett: ..it has a shelf life?

Frank Kane: Yeah, I’m trying to get away from that quite honestly. Um..

Chris Badgett: Yeah!

Frank Kane:
The worst ones are the IT Certification courses. So you have these worlds where they have a new certification exam every six months a new version of the exam and you’ve got to scramble to make sure that you’ve taken the exam yourself and know what’s on it and turn around and create all the content. You need to get that out before the next iteration comes out right? So Um with the number of courses I have drunk that many you know like I said 10 or 15. That’s almost a full-time job in and of itself just keeping those courses up to date. So you want to pick your battles there, right? I mean, IT certification courses can be very lucrative, but they do require a lot of ongoing maintenance. So there’s a trade-off there. These days I’m trying to focus more on evergreen topics. So my most successful course right now, which is kind of a surprise to me, is one about interview tips. You know, how can I get through a system design interview at a big technical employer? And that’s just gone gangbusters. And it’s beautiful because I’ll never have to upgrade it, you know, updated for years and years and years from now. Um, so I’m trying to do more stuff like that, You know, the next one I’m gonna do is like, how do you manage the transition from becoming an engineer to a technical manager? I’ve done that so I can talk about that. Turns out there’s a demand for that course out there so I can do that and I’ll never have to update it. So I’m really trying to focus on things that are technical but aren’t going to go out of date in a month, right, because it is a lot of work to keep up on that.

Chris Badgett:
That’s very cool! What about support? You mentioned like, you know, if somebody’s not paying that much and you you have to have a million questions or whatever. Like how do you think about the support that’s that you offer at the price point that you do? Like what how do you just how do you how do you frame it in from a customer success standpoint for your students?

Frank Kane:
I mean obviously, if someone’s having trouble, you gotta help them, right? So Um it’s just kind of the cost of doing business. Unfortunately, the vast majority of students do not ask questions. A lot of them are just hoarding courses. You nknow, that’s the reality of the matter. They’re like, I want to learn this someday. I’m gonna buy this $5 and tuck it away somewhere and they never actually look at it. So it still works out economically because there’s such a small percentage of students that actually do want some of your time that when they do, even though they only individually paid you, you know, a dollar or so there’s 100 other students who didn’t ask a question at all. So, you know, it still works out financially, but I’m not going to do things like offer, you know, one on one, you know, consulting or you know,
personal office hours or anything like that or you know, working on your project with you or things like that, it just doesn’t make sense at that price point.

Chris Badgett:
How did you learn like the skill of teaching itself, like do you have a teaching background or did you have to develop that or is it from being a manager? Or where does your instructional design ability come from to take a topic, chunk it down and make it usable by a learner?

Frank Kane:
Yeah, a lot of it does come from being in management, you know! I mean as a manager you need to teach people how to do new things. Um And for a while I was actually conducting a new employee training at Amazon for technical stuff or just introducing people to my organisation. Um But you know, I do not have a formal education background where I’ve taken courses on instructional design, but I’ve read about it, I’ve talked to people who do know what they’re talking about and learn from them, so I try to, you know, when I do have the opportunity to talk to an actual instructional designer or someone who actually does have an education degree, I soak up whatever I can from their knowledge and try to apply that we really just comes down into breaking down these topics into subsections and just trying to chunk it up into easily digestible bits, right? I mean, some of it’s just common sense. People have short attention spans, so you don’t want videos that are too long. Um, you know, people want to get a lot of value for their money, so comprehensive courses do well, but they need to be organised in such a manner where somebody is looking for a specific task or to learn a specific thing, they can find it quickly, digested quickly and go off and apply what they learned.

Chris Badgett:
What about like the content itself? Do you use things like worksheets and or you mentioned code challenges or coding exercises like what is there in there besides videos that you found effective?

Frank Kane:
Yeah! I mean, it depends on the course, right? So for the certification prep courses, obviously practise exams are hugely important. You know, they want to take what they’ve learned. They want to take a practise exam that’s as close as possible to the real thing and gain some confidence that they’re going to get through this exam successfully. Uh, for the coding exercises, though, the problem there is that there’s not really a standardised platform for doing that, right? So there’s a lot of platforms out there that are offering these sort of sandbox environments for executing python code or, you know, insert your favourite language here. But for things like big data processing or machine learning or deep learning, you need a big, expensive cluster in the cloud to really do this stuff. And no one wants to pay for that at $5 per student, right? So the economics again, at that price point, don’t work out, which is another good thing about having your own platform. You know, at some point I could build that out myself, give people access to a sandbox in the cloud and just charge more for it. But I can’t do that on a platform like Udemy.

So instead, I try to give them an environment that they can run on their home PC on their own desktop. You know, I teach them how to set up a virtual environment for running these activities in. I have a video that says, Hey, here’s your challenge. Go build this thing, give it a shot, and then the next video will be okay. Uh, compared to how I did it, here’s my solution. I’m going to walk you through it. How does that compare to what you did? You want to take this further. Here’s something else you can do with it. So you know, it is still video-based, But, you know, I give them a lecture on how to set up a development environment on their own to go and experiment and apply what they’ve learned.

Chris Badgett:
Let’s shift gears and look at, like, kind of the business side of it is there? How much of your time do you spend on like, kind of managing the business of it all in terms of, I don’t know, taxes and accounting and all that stuff you try to outsource as much as you can, Or how does that work for you?

Frank Kane:
Fortunately, the the accounting arm of Sundog Education is my wife carries. Once a month, she handles all the tax funds and you know all the accounting funds. So you know I don’t worry about that too much for the annual taxes. Obviously, that’s a little bit more work. So I get some involvement in that. And we have we have a team, right? So I actually have a C.P. A. In addition to that for actually filing everything and double-checking everything. I’ve got a lawyer for the legal stuff that we need to go through and contract reviews. But yeah I try to like I said focus as much as possible and just creating content myself. So yeah I mean the business side of its maybe 10% of my time but I try to outsource the rest of it. So it’s no more than that.

Chris Badgett:
What about work-life balance and burnout? Have you had any struggles? They’re not really because, yeah.

Frank Kane:
Absolutely! Yeah, I mean so I’m probably flirting with burnout right now quite honestly because I mean one of these situations where a new version of technology came out and I have to scramble to get a huge course updated to that new version of the technology and every day that I don’t have that out, people are complaining your courses out of date. You know I want my money back. Right?

Chris Badgett: (laughing)

Frank Kane:
..So, a lot of pressure there to get a lot of work done really quickly and you know, that’s, that’s hard. But I do try to take care of myself and you know, when this is done, I’m gonna give myself a break, you know, take a couple of weeks off, go on a cruise or something and just try to recharge a little bit because after being an amazon as a manager, you learn really quickly what your limits are and uh, and what the warning signs are when you’re gonna burn out. So I don’t want to go back there, you know, you gotta watch out.

Chris Badgett:
You mentioned, um, you know, having to update the course. I know there’s not a right answer to this about like how long, of course, should be or whatever, but just over your career for like a technical course, do they end up being about a certain length of if you were to add all the videos together to make it, or does it really vary based on the topic?

Frank Kane:
The ferry is based on the topic. So, whenever you’re gonna start doing a new course, the first thing is to look at the competing courses on the market in the marketplace that you’re on. Right? So, in a place like Udemy, where people are paying a fixed amount pretty much everything is on sale for 10 bucks or 15 bucks. If they have a choice between spending $15 on a 20-hour course versus $15 on a 2-hour course, they’re going to take a 20-hour course because they’re just more perceived value their right and even for subscription-based offerings, you know you’re getting paid by the minute consumed. At the end of the day, you know, you’re you’re being paid based on how many minutes of video people watch of your content. So again, it’s to your benefit to have long courses, because if people are watching a 20 hour course, you’re going to get a bigger piece of the pie than if it was a 2-hour course. So there’s a lot of incentives in place right now for courses to be as long as you can reasonably make them, and ultimately you’re limited by what you can do personally or what your team can do. So typically, my courses end up between 10 and 20 hours, I’d say, on average, um, some are shorter, you know, sometimes I’ll do these sponsorship deals. Um, this is kind of like a thing that started happening in the past year or so where some company will say, hey, you know, we want to get in front of your audience uh, of students, can we like pay you to create a course on our technology? And if it’s something I would have paid anyway, then sure. You know, usually, the economics of that works out to more like a 2-hour course because you know, they only have so much money they want to spend on something like that. Um, but you know, everyone wins in that case too. You know, it’s more content for me that I can, that I can sell, they get their name out there. So, um, yeah, the short answer is it depends on the course, on the audience, on the platform, on the topic anywhere from 2 to 20 hours.

Chris Badgett:
How edited is it your workflow? Is it, do you try to get it like one shot, one take or it’s heavily edited? Like where do you sit on the spectrum?

Frank Kane:
Oh, I, it’s terrible. I’m anything all over the place. But I have a shortcut, Here’s my, here’s my secret, my dog clicker here.

Chris Badgett:
Okay!

Frank Kane:
If I’m blathering about some complex technical thing and I slip up and say the wrong thing, I just hit my clicker there. So then when I go back into edit it, there’s a nice little spike in the waveform there for the audio and say I screwed up there, can zip right to it, and edit out whenever I messed up and and get right back to it. So that helps to accelerate the editing of it. Anyway, I still do my own editing because, you know, it’s tough to find someone who can do it right for you and it’s not that much work really. So as long as I can make it efficient.

Chris Badgett:
That’s cool! That is a pro tip. Um since we’re on the gear, could you just, and you’re, you’ve had a lot of experience, You know, what’s the, what are the key pieces of hardware and software that uses, of course, creator, mikes, cameras, video editing, um, key apps you use or whatever, like what, what can you not live without?

Frank Kane:
Well, the most important thing is my microphone, uh front and centre here. So especially with technical courses, a lot of what you’re doing or screencasts where you’re just, you know, showing people on your screen how to do something and you’re just this disembodied voice. So
for a typical course, I’m not on camera much at all really just for the introductory segments, you know, say, hey, I’m a real person, you should like me and you know, you know, like me, so you give me a good review. I’m not a robot. Um so it starts with the mike, this is a Shure SM7B um and it’s piped through a cloud lifter pre amp device. The thing with these dynamic mix is that they’re really, really low signal and you need something to boost them before they actually go into anything else. So from the cloud lifter, it goes to a blue icicle, which is basically the USB adapter that goes into my computer, so that’s the, that’s the chain there. Um I started off with a blue Yeti, like a lot of people do, but you know, those condensers are super sensitive so this sounds better and it doesn’t pick up as much noise, which is nice. So that’s the audio piece. Um for software I use Camtasia mostly, mostly because they had a big promotion going on back when I started for Udemy instructors. So I got it for cheap back then and I’ve been using it ever since. Um, it does the job, you know, I mean, I would like something that had maybe more modern design elements available, but hey, um, that’s not what people are paying for with my courses, They’re paying to learn technical stuff and for video depends what I’m doing. You know, it’s just like be sitting at the screen doing something, then my webcam is good enough, you know, with a green screen behind me. It’s just a Logitech Brio, which is a good, high-definition webcam, but if I’m actually like, you know, standing in front of a bookshelf or something, trying to look professional, that’s when I’ll get out my old DSLR camera and take video with that instead with all the, you know, proper lights, what not to make it look good. Um, so yeah, I think that’s pretty much everything. We got the mike, got the camera, got the software that’s pretty much all that’s required Camtasia also has a screen recording software that I use as well built-in.

Chris Badgett:
Very cool. Um, you mentioned, uh, like if there’s a long course, you know, on Udemy people, the same price, same price higher perceived value. Is something there? How else do you look at differentiation? Um, I’d imagine you have some competitors in big data, and, uh, there’s probably new people coming all the time. Like, how do you compete and stand out?
Frank Kane: ….

Chris Badgett:
..I know you have it. You have an early advantage of being there. But you still have to compete. So.

Frank Kane:
Absolutely, you know, you still have to create content that’s up to date. And, uh, you know, has hands-on activities. So if people feel like they’re actually getting a chance to apply what they’re learning, that alone can be a competitive advantage. Because so many people just get in front of a camera, you know, blather about, you know, the theory of everything, but they don’t give you a chance to practise what you’ve learned. So it takes a lot more work to develop a course that has those hands-on activities. But that’s one way that you can differentiate yourself. But the truth is, a lot of it really is a first-mover advantage on these platforms. So, uh, the trick really is finding emerging topics that have not been covered by others yet, uh, for example…

Chris Badgett:
What’s an example of that? Like if you had to pick one out of the air for today like maybe something with autonomous driving tech or something that’s newer?

Frank Kane:
Oh, no, that’s been beaten to death already. Uh, you know, an example would be..

Frank Kane:
..Amazon Web services coming out with a new exam. Right? So they actually do have a new one coming out. I forget what it’s called staying with camp too. They have a couple of new exams coming out as well, So that’s kind of the easiest ones to find. You know, big technology platform is coming out with a new certification exam. You can be the first to create a really good course about it, right? So those are probably the best opportunities. But again, those are the topics that require the most ongoing work to keep up to date. Beyond that, you know, think about you know what business users need to learn in the workplace and our people filling that need. So I mentioned earlier that the next thing on my plate is, of course, about transitioning from engineer to technical manager surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of courses out there on that. You would think there would be. But if you go and research it, there aren’t, um and that’s something that business customers of, um er explicitly asking for. So that’s another example of maybe an unexpected opportunity that people can take advantage of.

Chris Badgett:
Since you brought that up and you’re talking about working with the team and stuff too, what, uh, what are some of the management lessons that you’ve learned in terms of? I think it’s a It’s a wake-up call for a lot of people to, you know, go from technical excellence to managing teams.

Frank Kane: Yeah!

Chris Badgett: So what are some words of wisdom that you could share from your career?

Frank Kane:
In the context of, you know, making a small business around creating course is probably the most important thing is coming up with really crisp concrete definitions and expectations of the work that you’re outsourcing to freelancers, right? So, um if you go and say Okay, I want to hire someone on UpWork to help develop my curriculum or to, you know, create this graphic content for my course or whatever were to edit my videos. If you’re not super super, super specific about what you want, when you want to buy and at what price, it’s not going to go well, right? So take the time to really think that through and write it up as thoroughly as possible. You know, you might think to yourself I’m outsourcing. Think about it. I want to spend a lot of time, you know, specifying it. But you’re going to be wasting your time at the end of the day if you do not specify that out as much as possible and get really clear expectations upfront, Right? So that’s number one just having clear expectations of people. And that applies to any management situation, right? You know, people need to know what you expect of them, and, you know you need to be giving them constant feedback as to whether or not they’re meeting those expectations. So you don’t want to surprise anybody at the end of the contract and said, this isn’t what I wanted at all, you know? Well, why don’t you tell me that? You know, three weeks ago, So, um, at the end of the day, it comes down to communication, right? So, you know, communicating what you want, whether you’re getting what you want and what corrective action might need to be taken.

Chris Badgett:
Your other, uh, evergreen topic that seems to be taken off as interviewing.

Frank Kane:
Yeah!

Chris Badgett:
Which I find interesting. And it seems like a lot of your product-market fit has to do with people advancing in their careers and getting great jobs. What’s the key to a great interview?

Frank Kane:
Mhm. Oh, uh, there’s not one answer to that.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah!

Frank Kane:
Obviously, but a lot of it’s just understanding the corporate culture of the company that you’re interviewing with, you know? So, for example, if you’re interviewing at Amazon, they have a list of leadership principles that are very important to them. For example, being very customer focus, that’s like number one. So if you know that Amazon really values customer centricity, you can use out in your interview answers, right? Like if you’re giving a technical question, answer from the perspective of the customer experience that you’re trying to deliver, you know, work backwards from the customer instead of forward from the technology that you want to use. So that’s an example of how you can use that knowledge to your advantage. And you know it’s all the usual stuff like you know to make sure you’re rested, you know fully caffeinated or whatever and you know be happy smile you know don’t don’t come across as a jerk but really you know it comes down to understanding what this company is looking for and you know really appreciating that a lot of the times these company values, they’re not just talk, you know, these people who work for these companies are evaluated on how well they embody those values so they take them very very, very seriously and they’re going to be looking as to whether you embody those values as well as much as your technical excellence or your qualifications on paper. Right?

Сhris Badgett:
I love that. I was just interviewing somebody for a role and every time I, I could hear like one of our company values come through in the conversation I’m like check, check yeah yeah.

Frank Kane:
Um right!

Chris Badgett:
Brand new. You do me, instructor, you mentioned, um you know, look for emerging opportunities that haven’t really been covered yet. What other like Udemy tips do you have for somebody who’s gonna put some courses up on Udemy and they and they haven’t done it before?

Frank Kane:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean really topic selection is like number 1234 and 5 on the list. Um, but beyond that, you know, I’d say the audio quality is more important than most people realize. So you and I see a lot of people who just like stick a phone in front of their face and like, you know, hit record and hope for the best um video might come out. All right. You know, if you got good lighting, but the audio probably not. So the reality is people are gonna be listening to you more than they’re looking at you, especially because they’re gonna be watching this on the phone most of the time anyway. Right? Or even while they’re driving or like during their commute. So think about your audio quality. Think about your presentation skills, you know, like practice those if you need to you don’t wanna be worth using a lot of filler words all the time. You don’t want to be, you know, going back, I just did it. I said…

Chris Badgett: (laughing) I saw it, I didn’t know if you caught it, but you caught it. You caught yourself doing it.

Frank Kane:
Yeah, but you know, you did it again. Um yeah,

Chris Badgett: (Laughing)

Frank Kane:
It needs to just have like a good dry run of what you’re going to present ahead of time, especially if it’s something technical and complex. So don’t just turn on the camera and hope for the best practice it yourself first, make sure that you’re comfortable with the material, make sure you are, you know what you’re going to be presenting and talking about before you hit that record button.

Chris Badgett:
Last question for you Frank, many people, you know, really aspire as a course creator to end up in a, with as much many students, as much revenue, as much like freedom, like you mentioned to move and stuff like that, um that’s that’s great and you’re a shining example, but how do you know that you’re here and you, you know, you’ve got some success. How do you think about your future as a course creator? like what? What’s next or what’s the end goal from here?

Frank Kane:
Gosh, I wish I had long-term goals. You know, honestly, I find that you just don’t see the best opportunities coming ahead of time. You just have to put yourself out there and, you know, talk to new people and see what comes your way and be willing to try new things. So as far as planning ahead, I don’t really do a lot of that. Um, I do plan ahead for you know what courses I want to be creating. And as long as there’s new opportunities to create new courses, that might do well, I’ll keep on making them. But, you know, I like where I’m at. I like doing what I’m doing. I like my lifestyle, and I’m not out there to create a multi-million dollar company and sell it to some other company and go sit on a beach for the rest of my life. Beaches are kind of boring, quite honestly. So, um, I like what I’m doing. I like being productive. I like helping people. I like knowing that I’m helping people find new careers around the world. Uh, and I can do it all at home on my own schedule. I’m my own boss. What’s not to love, right? Why would I want to stop doing that? So, my long-term plan is to keep doing this as long as I can.

Chris Badgett:
One more follow-up on that is as an expert transition to well, I guess, practitioner to the manager to an educator. How do you stay current in the field?

Frank Kane:
Yeah, it’s not as hard as you might think. Technology changes quickly, but not so quickly that you can’t really keep up with it. So the reality is that just teaching this stuff forces you to stay up with it. So when I see a new emerging topic that nobody’s done before, if it’s something that I, I’m pretty sure I could pick up, then I’ll go off and learn about it. And nine times out of 10. That’s how I stay up to date. If I’m teaching a topic and something new comes up in that topic in that technology that I’m teaching, students are going to complain about it pretty quickly if I’m not covering it and it’s out of date, so I’ll go off and learn it right? So just that pressure from the customers to keep your content up to date and accurate all the time and they’ll tell you what topics they want to learn, you know, so just listening to your customers and reacting to that and learning what you need to learn to fill those customer needs. Honestly, I feel like I’m more up-to-date on technology than I was as a manager at Amazon because, at Amazon, I was just laser-focused on the technologies we were using at Amazon. But out here in the real world, you know I’m seeing all the technologies that all these students across the world are being faced with. So it’s actually a much broader and more current snapshot into the world of technology being out here on the outside.

Chris Badgett:
I love that, I love that. Another is that saying that to teach something is like true mastery or whatever. So that that makes a lot of sense. Well, that’s Frank Kane, he’s a Sundog software and Sundog education. Thanks for coming on the show, appreciate you sharing your Udemy journey, your WordPress journey and your expert journey. It’s awesome what you’ve done andyeah, I wish you all the best on the next next decade.

Frank Kane: Thanks and thanks for making LifterLMS. It’s been a joy to work with.

(Background sound)
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMS cast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. And I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action and I’ll see you in the next episode.

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