There's a Guy in Lisbon Who Made Nearly Half a Million Dollars Teaching a Class Online





Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
June 24 2013 12:22 PM

Get Rich Quick: Become a Teacher





How a freelance Web developer made $453,000 posting lectures online.

Victor Bastos has made close to half a million dollars teaching classes on Udemy, an online learning startup.
Victor Bastos has made close to half a million dollars teaching classes on Udemy, an online learning startup.

Courtesy of Victor Bastos

Victor Bastos was making $20,000 a year as a freelance Web developer in Lisbon, Portugal, when he started posting videos to YouTube. Already fluent in several programming languages and looking to branch into new ones, he thought making instructional videos would help him keep track of what he’d learned. “It was like an online notebook for myself,” Bastos, 33, told me. “But then I started getting a lot of subscriptions. People told me, ‘Your tutorials are great—why don’t you make a full course?’ ”

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Within a few months, Bastos got an email inviting him to do just that. The proposal came from an online-learning startup he had never heard of called Udemy. The offer: Host his course on Udemy’s Web-based platform, and he could charge students to take it and keep 70 percent of the revenues. Udemy would keep the other 30 percent.

Bastos accepted and got to work fleshing out a full curriculum. His goal: a one-stop course that would turn total rookies into professional Web developers. In a series of more than 220 video lectures, he lays out the basics of languages like JavaScript and MySQL via screenshare, narrating each step in a slow and soothing voice like a slightly sleepy Salman Khan. Bastos started out charging $49 but soon found that demand for his class was overwhelming and hiked the price tag to $199 while offering big discounts on Groupon to attract new customers. The formula has worked—so well that Bastos quit his job to devote himself to teaching on Udemy full-time. Since he began teaching “Become a Web Developer From Scratch!” in late 2011, it has drawn some 7,000 students.

Advertisement

In that time—a year and a half—Bastos has earned $452,985.70.

He is not an outlier. Udemy, launched in 2010, reports that its top 10 instructors have generated more than $5 million in revenue so far. Many others are taking in sums that would be unheard of for a high school teacher and impressive for a college professor. A class on IT certifications and training has earned its teacher $260,000 in a little less than two years. One on video, animation, and multimedia has brought in nearly $150,000 in the same period.

The focus is on technical skills, and computer classes are the biggest draw. But Udemy’s 8,000 offerings also include a smattering of courses in the humanities, social sciences, and other subject areas. A yoga instructor named Dashama has earned some $45,000 in her first 11 months.

Unlike schoolteachers and professors, Udemy instructors don’t need credentials, and you don’t have to quit your day job to get started. The Silicon Valley startup says most publish their first course within two to four weeks, then spend an average of five to 15 hours per month updating course materials and responding to students’ questions. They receive some initial support from Udemy and share tips on best practices, but they can craft their own curriculum and teach basically whatever they want.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?