All Posts by Scott Duffy

2017 Year In Review

My friend Phil Ebiner just posted his year in review.  I love this idea, and so it’s time for my look back at 2017. Here are some personal and business highlights, in no particular order.


Udemy Live 2017

This year was the second time I attended Udemy Live.

People sometimes ask, what’s the benefit of going? Are you really going to learn things there that you can’t learn from home?

My primary reason for going isn’t the sessions themselves. Oh don’t get me wrong. The sessions are good, and I love hearing from leaders in their space about what’s working now. But the primary reason I go is much more personal.

I go to Udemy Live to meet people, and deepen relationships with Udemy and with fellow instructors. And that’s why I’ll go again this year.


Last Full Year Working for Someone Else

I end 2017 with a “day job” still. A lot of people don’t know that about me, and assume I am entirely working from home on my training business. I actually run my training business during nights and weekends, while spending the week working at my client’s office.

In 2018, I will transition to working from home on my training business entirely. So a highlight of 2017 for me is starting the process of saying goodbye to traffic and meetings.


Financial Stability and Growth

I don’t talk about money much, and am not going to start any time soon. 🙂 But I don’t mind saying that this year has been a really good year in terms of making me feel free. I’ve never had to make a decision because “I can’t afford it”. Well, I still say no to a lot of things because they’re “too expensive”. But too expensive is not the same as can’t afford it.

The revenue from my online ventures has given me the freedom to make decisions for the right reasons.


Six Trips

On the personal side, my wife and I have done a bit of travelling this year. I counted six vacations or conferences this year.

  • Euro Trip – Belgium, Netherlands, France
  • San Francisco for Udemy Live
  • Puerto Rico (I hope they recover quickly)
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Memphis, Tennessee (yes, two separate trips to Tennessee! Who knew!)

Here I am in Brugge, Belgium.

While travelling is nice, being home is also nice. While I have sometimes wished to become a “full-time nomad” as you see a lot of online business people do, I’ve settled on the fact that I like having a home and not always trying to time my visa runs.


More Clarity About Who I Serve Best

As my brand grows, I get more students into my courses, and interact with more students in my Facebook group and other places. And in 2017, I feel like I’m closer to getting full clarity on who it is that I serve the best.

That might sound like a strange statement, but I believe that fully knowing who you can help best helps you attract more of them to you.

It’s absolutely impossible that any one teacher is the ideal teacher for all 7 billion humans on this planet. So perhaps there is 1 million people who you have the chance to be a rock star outstanding teacher to. If you serve those 1 million people really well, everything will be easy in life, and you will have made a significant impact.

Try to serve 7 billion people? No impact. Try to serve 1 million, significant impact.


New Business Opportunities

Is it me, or are there business opportunities everywhere online? I find myself turning down a new idea or a new business opportunity all the time now. I really think I could be successful with X if I had the time to pursue it. But I don’t have the time. It’s a wonderful feeling living in a world where you can see opportunity everywhere, but only have the time to pursue a couple of sure things.


Closer Professional Friendships and Partnerships

Phil recently did a podcast episode about a professional mastermind group I am in. This group has been going for a couple of years, but I’ve now grown really close to the mastermind members. They’re my friends. We help each other. It’s really powerful having a small group of people like this, especially when you’re working “on your own”. Being self employed can sometimes be lonely, but having good, smart people to talk to each week helps with that.

I’ve also launched a new course with my good friend Sean Kaye, and that’s another example of a strong personal friendship and business partnership. I can talk to Sean about challenges in my business, and he can share his with me. That allows us to work together with trust. Sean’s recently launched his Authority Matrix course, and it’s my pleasure to serve as a case study for him in that. It might be closed for new members by the time you read this, but it’s cool to develop these personal and professional friendships and partnerships across my business.

This is one of the reasons that going to Udemy Live is essential for me. It accelerates professional relationships.


Hero Courses

I had hoped to have my Hero Courses brand fully up and running in a bigger way, but I was able to launch a number of my courses on that website, and am making sales. Honestly, making a little bit of progress is better than no progress. I’m excited to grow Hero Courses in 2018 and even grow from there.

6 New Courses Launched

I sat down to count the number of courses that I’ve launched (or co-instructed). 8 courses! I can’t believe that. It’s been a very productive year, and I’m very happy with how that’s gone.

Azure Serverless Functions and Logic Apps –

2017 AWS Solutions Architect Associate Fast-Track to Success –

Practice Tests for 70-532 Developing MS Azure Solutions –

Microsoft Azure and Cloud Computing: The Basics –

Practice Test for 77-728: Excel 2016 Expert: Data Insights –

Practice Tests for 70-534 Architecting MS Azure Solutions –


Momentum into 2018

And finally, the really great thing about 2017 has been how it’s set me up for this year. Since I’ve tried a lot of interesting things last year – including thousands of dollars spent on advertising, and experimenting with other platforms – this has resulted in a lot more clarity as to where I’m heading.

I’m past the stage of wondering “what should I do”, and onto the stage of just having to get into the routine of getting it done.

And that was 2017.


Every Effective Way to Marketing an Online Course

  • Be recognized as an expert on the topic outside of the course platform.
  • Create a YouTube channel and create regular free videos with useful information about your topic
  • Start an email list and regularly email your readers with useful information about your topic
  • Create or join a LinkedIn group devoted to your topic (no spam, but genuine help)
  • Create or join a Facebook group devoted to your topic (no spam, but genuine help)
  • Find questions on Quora to answer (no spam, but genuine help)
  • Find questions on StackOverflow to answer (no spam, but genuine help)
  • Partner with someone who already has a following
  • Buy ads
  • Join HARO (help a reporter out) and help reporters answer their questions
  • Pinterest
  • Give free coupons only to people who have big followings (influencers) and may possibly recommend your course to their followers

Have any more ideas? Let me know!


Like Cyber Monday Sales? Want More?

  • ​“November has been awesome!!!”
  • “Craziest sale since I joined Udemy in 2012”
  • “November is marvelous”

You might find yourself saying those things, or seeing others raving, about what has happened over the last couple of days.

Black Friday (and now Cyber Monday) has always been an interesting time of year. Some of us have been saying this all year, while a few notable instructors have been saying that “it’s not possible that it can be something special”. As we can all currently see, Udemy can turn on the jets when it needs to.

The next big sale is January New Year’s sale. You may want to take some of the tips from my Udemy SEO course, apply them to your courses, and put yourself in a bit of a better position for January.

I’m going to steal Jason Dion’s quote in the Udemy Instructor Club at this point:

  • “Scott Duffy, thanks for the SEO course that I bought this weekend. I finished it this morning and spent the afternoon updating all my course descriptions, titles, etc. I think the course is a must watch for any Udemy instructor to stop and think about how they are displaying their courses to the world!”

Thank you Jason. I just saw you hit the $40,000 mark, and I’m super thrilled that you’re doing well. I have no doubt next year will be a double of this year for you.

I’ve seen a lot of nice feedback on the Udemy SEO course which I just re-recorded on Black Friday day. So to catch the freshest content (can’t get fresher than “recorded last Friday”), you should grab this now. And be prepared for January.


Why Help People?

Recently there was a question posted in a Facebook group I am in, and I thought it was worth capturing outside Facebook for posterity. I think it’s a good question.

I said:

I’ve used Quora in the past by answering questions on my topic. The internet is a big place, and there are people asking “how would I do X?”. It’s so easy to just start to provide answers to people. Not to sell them something directly. But to help them and build your authority as a smart person in that topic.

My tip is to be genuine. Just help people. Don’t try to sell. The more you help, the better you will do on Udemy. I swear!

And the question came back:

How does being known in Quora help you to sell courses? By students doing a google search for you or do you have a chance to have a link in your profile or something? I’m not familiar at all with Quora, sorry.

Which is a good question. How does helping answering questions on the Internet help you if you are not directly pitching your thing to them at that same moment.

It doesn’t have to be Quora. It can be any place where people ask questions and you can answer. Facebook, Twitter, Stack Overflow, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, basically any question and answer site.

Have a look at this:

The idea is that you put yourself as a true authority on the topic.

If someone was searching Google for TOGAF, they might stumble upon that answer. And they’d see my name with the green check mark. They might see my name a lot when it comes to that topic. And maybe in the future they see I have a course, and they think “oh that name sounds familiar!”

More directly, those platforms allow you to have a profile, and you can certainly talk about your career being an online instructor there. And Google indexes that too.

It’s about being an authority in a topic. You can anoint yourself an authority, but it’s much better if many other people see you as an authority too.

Hopefully, that’s clear.

There is benefit to being viewed as an authority on a topic. If you teach a course on the “ancient Japanese paper folding art of Origami”, then creating free YouTube videos talking about Origami, having an Origami blog, answering questions about Origami all over the web should be part of you being seen as THE Origami expert. That will lead to more course sales.


How Can Cloud Mining Ever Work?

This post is not so much about video courses, but allow me a chance to talk about something else I follow closely – Bitcoin and Crypto. In this post, I want to talk about “the dream” that is cloud mining.

If you’re not aware, there are companies that will “rent” you servers to mine bitcoin. The servers live in their data center, use their electricity, and they take care of everything. You give them money, tell them your Bitcoin address, and they’ll turn it on for you.

Let’s use Genesis Mining as an example, although there are others.

Today, I can “rent” 100 MH/s of Etherium mining for a 2 year contract, for US$2799.

Using a web based calculator, I can see that 100 MH/s is expected to profit US$129.66 per month at current rates. Or $1577 per year, or $3140 in 2 years.

So would you pay $2800 today for $3140 in 2 years?

That’s about a 5% return on investment if nothing bad happens. Given the risk of crypto-currencies, and the up and down fluctuations of prices, there is a certain level of risk to this.

5% annual return in a high-risk investment seems a bit foolish. Put that $2,800 in a low-fee stock index fund instead.


Equipment I’ve Used to Make Courses and Videos

Decided to record a video today to talk about the tools and equipment I’ve used over the years to make videos.

Note: Some links may be affiliate.

There’s some software that I commonly use:

And various bits of recording equipment.

Very little of it is required to get started. But over the last 3 years, I’ve picked up a few items to help me go faster.

Let me know if you have any questions about any of it.


How I Create Promo Videos for my Online Courses

Today I decided to re-record the promo video for my top-selling course. I do that every year, usually just before the fall Black Friday period. We’re 3 months from Black Friday, and so now’s a good time to make those landing pages and promo videos better.

First- here is the video that I just created.

So, let me tell you the 12 steps it took to make this video.

Number one, it starts with the script. I write what I want to say in a text file. Now over the years, I’ve learned how to write a promo video, and if I’d give a couple of tips about that it would be this.

  • Keep it short.
  • Focus on the outcomes for the student. Nobody wants to learn PHP, for instance, but people do want to get a high-paying web developer job or solve problems with their website without having to ask someone.
  • And ask for the sale at the end.

Number two, I import the script into my iPad using a software called Prompt Smart Pro. It’s not free, but it’s paid for itself easily for me. The cool thing about this software is that it listens for my voice, and as I talk, the script automatically advances so that the next thing to say is always on screen. The problem I had in the past with teleprompter software was it would advance at a constant speed, and so I was sometimes waiting for it to catch up, or having to talk faster to keep up.

Number three, I record the talking head using my DSLR, Canon T5i. I put the iPad in my telepromter, turn on the lights, plug in the microphone, turn on the camera, and go. I have a permanent studio in my basement so that I can record talking heads without having to do a lot of set up or tear down after.

Number four, I take the video off of the camera. I have an external hard disk (WD My Cloud) where I save all my raw videos to. Every raw video I have ever recorded lives in one directory on my external hard disk.

Number five, I clean the audio. I import the video into Audacity, do some volume adjustments (Equalization) and do some noise removal. Depending on the audio, I remove heavy breaths, remove ums and ahs, and silence any noises that shouldn’t be there. I can do this fairly quickly since I’ve done it so often.

Number six, I use editing software called Adobe After Effects to merge the original raw video, with the cleaned up audio. I trim the beginning and end, so that the talking head part of the video is “clean”. I mute the audio of the original video so that only the edited audio is playing.

Number seven, now I start adding effects to it. I created a pre-roll a year ago for my Azure courses, and I use that same pre-roll on each talking head video in the course. Note that I don’t use the pre-roll on most videos. Just on the talking heads. I will “fade to black” at the end of the video to give it a professional effect at the end.

Number eight, I usually add music to the background of my talking heads. I turn the volume of the music down to -20 decibels or lower. I don’t want the music being annoying, but I do think certain music adds energy to a short video and keeps the brains attention.

Number nine, I add a small animated name tag that I bought off Themeforest. I bought a pack of animated graphics for After Effects that I can modify to say what I wish. I have a favorite one that I use that has my name, and I can change the title to whatever is appropriate. Another thing that makes it appear professional.

Number ten, I’ll use Adobe After Effects to add text on screen where needed. Especially for promo videos. I don’t normally do this for videos inside the course. But if I want to highlight something, I’ll add some text.

Number eleven, I sometimes like to record b-roll. B-roll is this concept of recorded moving videos that play while you are talking. This is good because the viewer does not spend 2 straight minutes looking at you. Every 30-45 seconds, a short clip plays showing something relevant. I recorded the Microsoft website in a couple of places, and play that for 10 seconds or less during the promo.

Finally, number twelve, I added a couple of images like “take this course” at the end. Sometimes I like to show the “30-day money back guarantee” as a logo. But the image highlights the call to action.

That seems like a lot of work. Twelve steps. But honestly it takes me about four hours to do all of it. And by making my course seem fresh, up to date for August 2017, I think those four hours will add several thousand dollars to my income over the next 8-10 months.



Are You Working on Things That Help Your Business?

When you work for yourself, and there’s no one to tell you specifically what to do next, it’s easy to get distracted into things that are interesting but perhaps not contributing to our success.

One example of this is the lure of writing an ebook. You hear about everyone who’s written an ebook, and so you feel you have to as well. You put weeks into creating this book, formatting it, getting it published on the Kindle platform. And then what? You make $40 in the first month. And $20 in the second. Was it worth it putting in those dozens or hundreds of hours into writing that book? Was there something else you could have done in that time to advance your business?

In this video, I talk about how selective you have to be when taking on new work into your business.

Parlaying Success with Selling Digital Goods Online

parlay (noun): a cumulative series of bets in which winnings accruing from each transaction are used as a stake for a further bet.

So let’s say you have at least one digital product out there (let’s say an online course but could be anything) and you are making a steady amount of money each month from that.

Let’s say, for sake of example, that you’re making $1000 per month from selling one course on Udemy. What’s the one thing you can do to increase that to $1,500 or $2,000 per month?

a) create more free content (blog posts and YouTube videos) to drive to the paid product

b) work to improve that product, answering student questions, redoing videos, and in general make it better

c) create a new course on a related topic

d) try to get someone famous to tweet out a link to your course

I could go on, but I’ll stop. If you said (c), you win a lollipop.

One reliable way to turn one success into the next is to create something ELSE for that same audience and give them the opportunity to purchase it from you.

Beyond the “initial launch”, those few days after you email the link to your list for the first time, the ongoing effect on organic sales is also immediate and long lasting:

  1. Gives future students more than one thing to buy from you at once. You won’t believe how many students buy 2, 3, 4 or more courses from me at a time. Happens every day.
  2. Increases your authority on the topic. (You instruct one course on X? Cute. You instruct 5 courses on X? Now I’m listening to you.)
  3. Gives a student who finds you and doesn’t like your first product another option to buy from you. So let’s say they don’t like “beginners guide to X”, but you offer “intermediate guide to X”… that might catch their attention. So you get a sale you would not otherwise get.
  4. Increases the chances of being found. One more thing for Google to index. One more entry in the Udemy search results. One more thing for someone to blog about with a backlink. Also you dominate the marketplace. You’re everywhere. There are categories like music and bread making (and TOGAF) where students have virtually no choice on who to buy from. When you dominate in a category, you tend to take the air out of the room for your competitors.

Some of those might seem like minor things, but if you’re successful on a topic, you’re just on the first rung of the ladder. The way to get to the top is to move up to the second rung. And then the third.


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