How to Make Money as a YouTuber by Creating Courses: TubeTalk 199 with Jess Catorc

Generating revenue from your content is one of the biggest goals for most YouTubers. But how do you monetize beyond AdSense or brand deals? If you've asked yourself that question, we have a solution for you on this week's TubeTalk

Let's be honest. Running a YouTube channel takes a lot of work, a lot of effort, and can actually cost you money. You have equipment to buy, you have business trips that you need to get to, plus all sorts of other expenses. What can you do to generate revenue beyond the brand deals, beyond the affiliate links, and beyond YouTube AdSense?

My guest on this episode of TubeTalk is Jess Catorc from Teachable, who's got an amazing option that we should all be exploring. In this podcast you will learn:

  • How to create courses for your YouTube audience
  • How to make the most of your expertise and skills via selling an online course
  • To take advantage of your considerable content creations skills
  • Why creating and selling an online course could be a major revenue stream
  • Why you don't need to be a teacher or educator to create a course - entertainment works too!

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How to Make Money as a YouTuber by Creating Courses: Full Transcript

Liron Segev: Jess, welcome to TubeTalk.

Jess Catorc: Thanks so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Liron Segev: Let's start with the beginning. What do you do? What is for people who don't know?

Jess Catorc: Teachable is an online course hosting platform, so it's really a platform that allows anyone to sell courses, accept students, enroll students, and share their knowledge. I lead partnerships on the Teachable team, but I've also created courses myself. I've kind of been on both sides of the aisle.

I'm really excited to talk about courses because it's crazy to see just how much this industry has grown and how people are not just becoming course creators, but they're incorporating this concept of sharing their knowledge and diversifying what they're doing in their business with their existing model.

Liron Segev: This is why I love this because one of the common questions that we get is about monetization. As you know, content creators on YouTube, they get monetized based on ad revenue. Maybe they'll do some brand deals, but they've got the skills. We know how to shoot, we know how to edit, we know how to cut scenes, we know how to produce an outline for a shot list for the way that we produce content. Surely, there's a different way that we can take the same skills and then rehome that elsewhere.

Jess Catorc: The nice thing is that I'm not here to say like everyone needs to stop doing brand deals and stop monetize with the way that you're currently doing it.

The nice thing with courses is that you can do it in addition. Really, the whole concept of it is you're diversifying your income because we know when we're searching for brand deals that you're constantly looking for the next deal, you're constantly looking for the next package that you're going to be able to offer, or you're reliant on the algorithm to show your videos, or even for YouTube to determine if your video is ad-friendly or not.

Sometimes videos get demonetized for the wrong reasons and then they put it back up again. Really, this is just creating like a holistic approach to your business that you don't just rely on one or two streams of income, you have more and you're also giving value to your audience.

Liron Segev: You're speaking our language because everything you've just mentioned is pretty hard-hitting. The algorithm makes a change, views take a dive, ad revenue takes a dive. You're constantly on the hunt for that next brand deal, as opposed to just being able to have something that's more reliable, something that you can actually base some prediction on. Is this where a course would maybe come into play?

Jess Catorc: Yeah, absolutely. The other thing with YouTube, and I'm a huge fan of YouTube as a platform, but it is no different to any other social platform, which is that you also don't have direct access to your audience.

I have a friend who had quite a large following on YouTube, and for some reason, something happened where she deleted her account and she lost her entire channel. There was absolutely no way for her to get it back. It's nice too, in addition to what you're doing on YouTube, when you incorporate courses, you're also growing an email list, so you have direct access to your audience. You can even contact them with your new videos. It just expands what you're currently doing.

When it comes to courses, the nice thing is that you can really give a clear cut outcome to your audience. You can say like, "In this course, I'm going to show you how to do X", and you can deliver on a set outcome or a transformation. It's really great for building a relationship with your audience too because you're helping them get to an outcome or to overcome a pain point that they currently have, in addition to the videos that you're currently releasing on your channel.

Liron Segev: Trying to build my relationship with my community, but on the other platforms, I may not have a way to press the button and send my subscribers a message. I don't have that at all. At best, I can rely on YouTube notifications, which are, let's be honest, not as reliable as they need to be. Mailing lists are always a priority. We've been teaching mailing lists for a long time. They just need it to happen.

Let's move to the course itself. Now you convinced me. I have an opportunity. I have my YouTube channel, that doesn't stop, but I'm doing this in addition to that. The first question that comes to mind is, can anyone create a course? In other words, if my channel maybe isn't a teaching channel, I don't teach how to get more views on YouTube, I don't teach a specific skill, I am more of entertainment, can I convert that into a course? Can I think along those lines?

Jess Catorc: Absolutely. The interesting thing is even people who have channels where they're teaching a specific topic or a specific thing, we all have very different skills or unique skill sets. For example, let's say that you are a travel blogger and you're like, "I'm not really showing people how to travel. I'm just documenting my journey and people love following me in the process."

There are a lot of skills that you are consciously or unconsciously or subconsciously using, which is like you're great at video, you're great at maybe traveling on a budget, or maybe you're great at taking beautiful Instagram photos.

What I would say though is rather than just kind of picking a topic that you think people will want a course on, open up the conversation with your audience. I would say this even if you are 99% sure you know what your topic is going to be. It's so important to validate that before you go in and spend all this time creating your videos and marketing your course. Some things that you can do is you can look at certain videos if you're getting more engagement when you're discussing certain topics or there's certain things that people seem to engage with more.

Other things that you can do is just like hop on the phone in a Zoom call with people or do a survey and ask people like, "You follow my channel. You seem to really enjoy the videos I'm making, but I'm curious, is there anything that you're currently struggling with that you think I might be able to help you with, or something you've seen me do that you would love to learn how to do yourself?"

It's the best way because you're taking the guesswork out. Also, you want to have people along for the journey. I don't know if you followed the Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star series but it's such a great example of the power of taking your audience along for the journey before you launch a product. The very first point is deciding on what do people want to know. It's like they feel like they're a part of creating that course with you, and then when you launch, it's like they feel like they've already been there.

Liron Segev: And they've helped you craft it, so of course they're going to jump on that because it's a part of their journey too now.

Jess Catorc: Yes.

Liron Segev: I also love the point that you made, even though you're a travel blogger, you don't have to think of a course to do with the travel per se, but you may be able to work things around it, like how to travel on a budget. Maybe you're really good at that. Maybe that's what your audience wants to know. Your course is related to your YouTube channel, but it isn't the top five places to visit in Cancun, for example.

Jess Catorc: Exactly.

Liron Segev: Okay. I like it. Now I have a topic. I have an idea that I want to do, but then I kind of asked myself the question, "Why would someone pay for a course when I'm giving them all this amazing value on my channel for free?"

Jess Catorc: Yes. This is probably the most common thought or the common thing that holds people back, which is like, "I'm already delivering all this value. Why would people ... " They're worried that people will be upset that they're now asking for money for a product.

Now, what I would say is if anyone has ever tried to learn a new skill on the internet for free by Googling and YouTubing, what you'll find is that when you're looking for a solution to a pain point, there's a very specific outcome that you're looking for. A lot of the times, when you try to learn it yourself or you're looking at someone's channel and they have millions, not millions, hundreds of videos on their channel, the thing is that you have to sort through all the different videos.

You have to figure out what order you learn the skill in. You maybe learn too much or it's overwhelming. The value and why people purchase and invest in online courses is they want the shortcut to an outcome. Even if you have a channel and you're showing people all these different skills, when you're selling your course, and this is actually going to tie into when you come up with your topic, it's important that you have a very clear outcome.

For example, if your course was how to live your best life, that's a very vague, very big outcome or transformation. It's going to be very hard to deliver on that, but if you get very specific on what you're going to be providing people in this course, it's going to be a lot easier for people to justify investing in it because they know exactly one, what they're going to learn, what they can expect at the end of it, but also they know that they're going to learn it in the shortest amount of time.

Liron Segev: Yes, yes, yes. Even though YouTube clips are very short, they're a little bit all over the place because the creator needs to cover so many topics, and realistically, there's no way to deep dive into every single one of those just by putting out on your channel. Maybe you're left a little bit frustrated, saying, "Look, I kind of get it, but I really wish there was more." This is when a course kind of fills in that gap beautifully.

Jess Catorc: Exactly. There's so many great YouTubers that are incorporating courses in that. I've followed some people's channels for years and I've gotten so much free value, but then they share like, "Oh, I have a course on this specific topic", or, for example, if there's like a baker who has a baking channel and they have a course on a specific decoration skill, like decorating your cakes so it looks like a beach or something like that, and you're like, "I want to learn that specific thing." It's easy to be like, "Okay. Of course I'm going to learn it from the course."

Liron Segev: Because they've built in some trust with you over the years anyway because you've been watching them and they'd been delivering all this amazing value, giving them money for something, it just makes sense. You're supporting them. Plus, you know you're going to get something out of it, as you have up until that point.

Jess Catorc: Yeah, and actually you bring up a really great point, which is that if you are a YouTuber and you are already delivering value upfront, you actually have a bit of an advantage to people who are maybe just starting out from scratch because you have established this relationship with your audience and you've already proven that you can provide value, you can help them with whatever it is that they're looking for because they're seeing your videos.

It's a lot easier to take them to the next step of, "Okay. They also have products that I can dive deeper into this topic."

Liron Segev: Which makes a trust relationship. You build on that, and then it's an easier sell. Do you find that there's a fine line between giving everything away for free and then asking for money because then people get upset, or do you not find that to be an issue?

Jess Catorc: It really depends on I think how you position it. You give a lot of content, but I think really what people are looking for is the guidance, the step by step plan of like, "This is what I do here. This is how long it should take. This is what I should do in this order."

I think really when it comes to creating the content, you can show people what to do. You can tell them what to do, and that might be enough for a segment of your audience. That video might be all that they needed but there's always going to be a group of people that want more or they might even like a community to learn about that.

Liron Segev: Okay. Then I suppose in your course you go deeper dives. You maybe have more tips. You have a downloadable PDF to save you a whole bunch of time for trying to work the stuff on your own. It does kind of make sense transferring them from the free to the paid, but you show them lots of value on the paid. How do I know how much to charge for a course? Some of them are free, some of them are $5, and some of them are $1,000, if not more.

Jess Catorc: Yeah. Pricing is one of those things that I think makes a lot of people even a little bit uncomfortable because it's this like, "I have to charge for this. Who am I to be charging this amount of money?" Now, this is just based on our data, what we see our top-performing creators do. I really would encourage people to use the premium pricing model. What I mean by that is the average price of our top 10 selling instructors on Teachable is around $272.

I'm not in any way saying that everyone should charge $272. What I am saying though is you want to look at similar products or courses or offerings that your audience may be purchasing or that are in your niche and see what the average prices and then be on the higher end of that.

Now, this isn't just to charge more money for the sake of it, but there is a thing for like perception of value. I think if people undercharge what they're offering, no matter how amazing your course is, a lot of the times you'll find that people ... We see this all the time when people buy things that are on sale or like $10 online products and then we just don't follow through because it wasn't much of an investment. You want to use some type of premium pricing so your audience values the product that you're offering, but also that you know that they're going to be engaged and they're actually going to go through the content.

Liron Segev: Yeah. That's key because if you put in $1 into something, you'll probably never sign in and use it, but if you spend $300 into something, you got to make sure that you complete the entire thing. It's a big investment. You want to get value out of your $300.

Jess Catorc: Yeah. It really brings up also a larger point, which is that there's this huge focus I find in this industry where people are focused on the marketing and getting new students and really just like the outward-facing marketing, but one of my favorite quotes, and I don't know who said this, but I'm not claiming that it is mine, which was that, "Happy students don't recommend your products. Successful ones do."

Liron Segev: Ooh, I like that.

Jess Catorc: It really encapsulates all of this because you see a lot of people who have really big course launches the first time because they have great marketing and they did a really great job like selling the course, but then it doesn't necessarily continue like that. That is why it is so important not just to have a great idea and have really flashy videos, but ensuring that your students are going through it, they're really actually getting results because those are going to be your biggest advocates after.

Liron Segev: I've spoken to a lot of people who have said, "I have got my course and the good news is most people don't even take the entire thing and I'm still getting all this money." That is so the wrong attitude to have because first of all, they're never going to advocate for your course. They're never going to sell you, and word of mouth is the best tool, as we know, to sell a course.

Also, you can never come up with course number two or number three or number four because they haven't even finished your first one. They didn't find enough value. I know with my kids' school, like a teacher will say, "Hey, free lessons after school if you want to catch up before the exams." Nobody signs up. $50 a lesson, there's a queue and a waiting list.

Jess Catorc: That's so funny.

Liron Segev: It's weird. Same person, same instructor, but one you've placed value and people want that value. Don't undervalue that. Do you see that? Do you see like really successful, really amazing courses which wow, should have been priced a lot higher?

Jess Catorc: Rule of thumb, I think most people probably could be charging more for their courses because I think naturally we, especially if we're new to this world, we tend to undercharge because that feels safer. You don't want to just charge a lot of money for the sake of it. It's really just looking at the value and the outcome that you're providing people, looking at the average prices for similar products, and then using that to decide what you're going to charge. There are so many things that you can look at for what is the value that I'm providing.

Are people going to save money because they've done my course? Is it going to add value to their life? What would that be deemed as for value? There's so many ways to look at it, but a lot of people definitely do undercharge when really they don't have to.

Liron Segev: They don't need to. People would pay more, but of course, they're not going to own up to that. If you're charging me much less, of course I'm going to take that. A word that you used earlier which I want to go back to is transformation. I think a successful course is a course that takes you from point A to point B. How do I know that my person is going to sign up for this course and I know that by the time they leave, I am confident that they're going to feel that something has changed, they have won?

Jess Catorc: Such a good question. Two things. The first thing I would say is when it comes to coming up with your curriculum, we always say like creating a course outline. Start with the transformation or the outcome. Really, a transformation needs to be, like you were saying, it needs to be specific. We need to know when we have hit this transformation. Feeling great is too big of a transformation. Feeling more confident at dinner parties and talking to new people, boom, this is something that we can deliver on.

Now working backwards, you want to think through like, what does someone need to do step by step to get to the desired outcome that your course provides? Then from there, that's when you can add in your sections and the lectures and the videos. That's kind of like the overarching idea.

When it comes to your videos, I encourage people to always answer three questions, which is, what the person is about to learn, why is it important ... Now, this is key and a lot of people miss this step. They just think that if they go in right into the tutorial or right into the how-to that people are going to learn, but you really want to ensure that the people watching the video are engaged and they understand why this is important. You have to sell them on the idea of like, "Look, we're going to cover this and this is why you should be excited that you're about to learn this topic." Then you show them how to do it.

Liron Segev: And then the how, so the what, why, and how.

Jess Catorc: Yes. You can rinse and repeat every single video. It should follow that. Now as far as do you know if people are going to hit this outcome, it's really tough, especially if you're teaching a topic that you are really close to or you are really knowledgeable in, because sometimes we overestimate or underestimate what people actually need to learn.

What I would encourage doing is a beta launch. A beta launch is really just like a teaser or like a test run of your course where you offer it at a lower price point or offer it for free, but I think you can definitely charge a lower price point with the understanding that this launch is your first launch. You're really going to be working with the students. You're going to be getting their feedback. You're going to be seeing where they're stumbling, where they're struggling, what can be improved.

Honestly, I would recommend this even if you were like launching your fifth course because we can never anticipate what people might be struggling with until you actually go through that launch, and then you can adjust your content accordingly.

Liron Segev: Okay. This is great. A little closed group, definitely not just friends and family because they'll tell you what you want to hear. You want to open it up to the community just to get that real feedback. That is vital, vital, vital. Do we create the entire course outline like right off the bat or do you find that maybe it's better to create module one, two, and three and then build it as the course is developing?

Jess Catorc: Great question. My answer is like each to their own and you know which ways that you work best, but what I have found and just looking at what a lot of our top instructors are doing is you want to first validate the idea. I would definitely have your outline, clear on what your outline is and the topics you want to talk about, but something that people have been doing lately, and I think this is a really interesting idea, is running live courses so you can like teach the content live and get feedback. This is especially great if you're doing a beta launch, but it depends on your personality.

If you're launching a course and you say, "Hey, the start date is going to be in two weeks", and you have no content, but you're confident that if you pre-sell this, enough people buy, you'll be able just to like whip out those videos and you're great. Not everyone is like that.

Liron Segev: That's way too much pressure, way too much pressure.

Jess Catorc: Yes, but that's why I think it's important to do a beta launch because you don't have to create all of your content up front. You can create the outline. You can teach it live, like doing like a Zoom call and teach it and then get feedback. Then once you know that people are interested because they have invested in this course already, they're going through it, then you feel confident to record the videos and do it like that.

Liron Segev: And open it up.

Jess Catorc: Yeah, yeah. You just have to be really confident in you know what your talking points are, you know that maybe you've taught this topic in person so you know how to deliver on the outcome. Yeah.

Liron Segev: That actually leads to an interesting question. We've got a lot of people who attend events. We speak on stages and we teach the stuff. Is this still a good opportunity? Could we still package everything that we teach on a stage in front of a large group of people, but package it into something that's consumable, maybe something that we charge for and people can do it at their leisure when they get back to their homes and they're in front of their computers and they can get that rich, rich value, as opposed to a keynote speech for 45 minutes?

Jess Catorc: Oh, absolutely. There are some people that I know that their entire sales process is they don't even really do email marketing. It's just from the stage. That is how they sell and enroll people in their courses.

Yeah. I think really like the interesting thing is when you're doing a 45-minute keynote or you're doing a workshop at a conference, that's great, but you have to take really quick notes. You might have further questions. It is a great way to get people interested in the topic, to show that you can provide some type of value because you know what you're talking about, but then the course is really the way that you can go deeper on the concepts, if you want to have like some type of community where you're answering questions.

I've also seen, depending on who your listeners are, but some people might have conferences that they hold themselves. I've actually seen people record their conferences, and I've actually purchased a few courses, record their conference, break up the videos, and provide that as a course. It's like you're there live, but it's the recorded sessions. Those do very well as well.

Liron Segev: You repackage what you've already shot, what you've already filmed. It's available to you. It's your content. Why not reuse it somewhere else?

Jess Catorc: Yeah, exactly.

Liron Segev: I think one other big thing that's holding people back is this whole notion of failing. I've spent this effort, I spent this time, I've launched the course, and then crickets. Nobody's buying anything. Is there anything we can do to prevent that oh my gosh moment?

Jess Catorc: Yeah. Actually, there's two things. The first thing is leading up to your launch, you shouldn't be wondering if there is interest in your course topic. This goes back to what we discussed earlier about validating your topic, having people engaged, even doing like behind the scenes videos as you're creating your content and getting people to vote on like which video cover do you like the best or image cover do you like the best, and getting people excited so they know that when you launch your course, it's not a surprise.

The other thing though is that it's hard to really predict how a launch is going to go. In fact, it's impossible. What I would say though, and this is even if you hit your goals, let's say you had a crazy big goal that you wanted to enroll, like so many students, and you hit that, I would say for every single person listening that launches a course or any product, at the end of that sequence, email everyone that didn't join and ask them why.

You want to make it clear that you're not going to be selling to them. You're like, "This is just so I can better understand my audience and understand why you thought it wasn't the right fit for you."

I've even personally done this, and you'll find that the responses are very interesting. You'll have people that say, "Oh, I didn't know that the cart was closing. Can I still join?" You'll have people that say, "It was too expensive for me." People that just say, "It wasn't for me." If you can hop on the phone with them as well, I would highly encourage that because sometimes you'll find that the way that we see ourselves is different to how the public sees us.

What I mean by that is if your course was on organization, like organizing your home, and on your sales page you say like, "Is your life a hot mess? Are you all over the place? This course is going to help you with A, B, and C", your target audience might not perceive their reality and their life like that. They might read that and be like, "I'm a little bit messy, but I'm not all over the place."

Even though the outcome that you're providing, the transformation, is for them, it is exactly what they are looking for, the language that you're using, the way that you're communicating the value, isn't resonating. That's why it's so important to speak to the people and like hop on the phone and just get them to describe how are they feeling now. "What do you feel about this problem? What is the pain point? How would you describe this in your own words?"

Maybe you start to see a trend in certain words that people are using or how they're describing it. Even if it isn't like proper grammar, but you see that everyone is describing it in the same way, using that on your sales page, you're going to resonate with more people. Then you can relaunch the same product but just using those tweaks.

Liron Segev: Oh, so it's okay to relaunch something that wasn't as successful as you wanted it to be? You can give another spin and do a second launch?

Jess Catorc: Absolutely. People launch the same course every single year or they'll do launches every couple of months. It's just like the thing is that you're selling or you're providing an outcome, and some people who might be a good fit for it might not realize it, so there's absolutely no problem in relaunching a course. In fact, I think it's very standard to do that. It's always improving. You're always tweaking. You're copying the way that you're positioning yourself.

Liron Segev: And the same question, could you launch the exact same course because maybe it's seasonal and you might want to have a January one and then you might want to have a June one or might want to have one towards the end of the year? Another little push for the course, but it's the exact same course. Is that okay to do?

Jess Catorc: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think creating genuine scarcity is very important because for some reason, it's human nature to procrastinate. When we know something is available all the time, we always just kind of wait to actually take action on it. I might be projecting, but it's important to have scarcity so people have a reason to make a decision. It's not to force people to join your course. It's for them to take action on a certain date, whether that is a yes or it's a no or a not now, but you want to give them some type of deadline.

Liron Segev: As we're kind of wrapping up, the one thing that we kept on mentioning is people that have already got an audience, people that have already got a YouTube channel, people that are already speaking on stage, that really have some sort of a presence out there. Could you still create a course and be successful even if you don't have an existing audience?

Jess Catorc: Absolutely. What I would say though is for someone starting from scratch, it's so important to build a community. Now, it does not need to be a large community. We've had people who've had a couple of hundred people in their audience and they've been able to sell their course to them because those are people that are actually interested in the topic. They built that relationship with them.

What I would say is if you are starting from scratch, you don't have a course yet, I would maybe start to offer free content. Maybe you're doing like free videos or free streams or you have a checklist you provide to grow your email list. I would start there and then start talking to your audience as you're growing it to understand their pain points and the course that you could provide. I would say I would hold off spending hours and investing money in creating a course when you have no audience because, as we talked about, you might find that the people you end up attracting might want a different transformation or a different product.

Liron Segev: Okay. Again, I suppose it's your market research. If people are not interested and they're not finding what you are saying, they're not downloading your PDF, they're not joining your mailing list, having a course about those exact same things is kind of pointless. But if they are joining and they are interested and they are reaching out with questions, okay, now you have a nibble. Now you can start growing that and growing that and growing that to the point where people want that course from you because they've been coming along for the ride up until that point.

Jess Catorc: Yes.

Liron Segev: Okay, so love all these points. If people want more information, can they reach out to you? How do they get ahold of the website?

Jess Catorc: Thank you. Yeah. We're at Teachable. You can find we have an Everything is Teachable podcast. If you want to get in contact with us, if you have any questions, we have an incredible support team at

Really, I'd love anyone listening that ends up launching a course to even if you tag us on Instagram and let us know you launched or you came up with your idea just because we love sharing what people are up to. Even if it seems like a small win for you, we're probably like more excited than you are. Please do keep me posted and let us know what you get up to.

Liron Segev: Thank you very much for spending some time. This has been amazing. I know so many people are really, really interested. They're just not sure what the next step is, and I think you've just given us some really amazing practical advice, which is what I always like, practical, real things that you can do today to know what your next step is. That has been amazing. Thank you very much.

Jess Catorc: Thanks so much for having me. Appreciate it.

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