$9.59 a day after 4 months. Hardly worth getting out of bed, perhaps. Or is it?

This article is for the person who’s been planted with the alluring seed that is a digital product – the passive income, the set-and-forget, the waking up to PayPal receipts, the unbridled scalability. The digital product guy who generates $1,000,000 a month, the folks who are absolutely killing it on Udemy. Gee, I’m getting light-headed just thinking about it.

If you’re still on the fence about whether you should create a digital product, I hope my upfront dose of reality makes the following statement more credible: I still think you need to start teaching online. And 2015 is the year to do it.

Why digital products? Why 2015? And is Udemy the platform that’s going to hand you an early retirement? Read on.

Why Digital Products? Why 2015? (And What You Should Know Before Starting)

The digital learning market is expected to reach $107 billion this year – that’s up from $32.1 billion in 2010. Bottom line, this ship has set sail and she’s picking up speed.

It’s true, my earnings are positively puny compared to what many are making, but the money I generate now through Udemy is not tied directly to the time I’m putting in. This is a big deal, and has been a goal of mine for several years now. Time is unquestionably my most valuable resource.  To make the point, I’d rather make $1,000 with time freedom, against $10,000 that took 40+ hour work weeks.

I try to live in the future, and every moment my income is dependent on the hours I work up a sweat on my brow, the math doesn’t work for me. My goal – naughty word alert – is to secure what’s colloquially known as **** You money, giving me the choice to deploy my time in only the most meaningful of activities. (The language may be strong, but it cuts through the fat and gets to the reality of how to earn autonomy in this world – something research has shown to be more important than money in maximising happiness. Props to Nassim Nicholas Taleb for introducing this idea to me.) Having said all this, I don’t plan to leave the course untouched. This year I’ll be pivoting by adding more content and more value, with the intention of increasing revenues.

Some advice if you’ve already been convinced to start creating your course. I think it’s vitally important to acknowledge you’re limited by where the existing market demand is. For many, the biggest appeal with this business is scale, but scale only matters if enough people are knocking at your door. Browse the top selling courses on Udemy and you’ll notice that programming shows up more often than not. When fantasizing about your target monthly income (TMI), ignore this advice at your peril. It didn’t come intuitively to me.

Although you can’t completely change what you feel confident teaching, keep in mind that you still have a certain degree of freedom in the outcome you’re proposing to people. Take my own upcoming pivot as an example. The course I launched was developed on feature/benefit-based pricing rather than outcome-based pricing. As a result I maximised my course for utility rather than lifestyle which can command higher prices.

I produced a 30 day training program targeted at many people who – as a result of feature/benefit-based selling – don’t feel they have the time to make the commitment. The course teaches business owners how to create quite a complex animation video for their business. The benefits are proven. Engage, orient, inspire and educate impatient prospects about your website. Improve for conversions, storytelling and quality – key website improvements as a recent poll confirmed with how online marketers plan to increase profits for their clients in 2015. (Out of the 13 most common objectives, the top 3 were increasing conversions, creating more engaging content and becoming better storytellers. Bingo.

But as compelling as this sounds, it’s still feature/benefit-based selling.

I could say that by 2019, 72% of web traffic will be video content on mobile – perfect grounds for short and entertaining explainers. But again, I’m talking about features/benefits. By neglecting the outcome, I’m selling the time-consuming ’30 days’ rather than the wonderful lifestyle of ‘making more money without any extra effort‘, beyond making the video. The value just doesn’t come across.

This isn’t a blanket theory, but I believe a prevalent explanation for getting less traction than I anticipated. My students have left the most wonderful reviews – “comprehensive, clear, and convincing”, “this may become one of the top courses in Udemy”, “the instructor breaks everything down in small, easy-to-understand steps”. I really am truly touched. However, the numbers don’t lie, and my completion rates are disappointing. (Though it’s worth reminding myself of the generally dismal completion rates online. In 2012 Udemy reported an average course completion rate of just 10%.)

To make sure you launch your course without my concerns, check out Udemy’s periodic ‘Hot Topics’ infographic above, which reveals the very best topics to teach right now on the platform.

Is Udemy The Platform For Me?

Udemy only launched in 2010 but already they have a few things going for them; a self-evidently strong team, an ideal location for serendipity (San Fran), a truckload of money in the bank ($46 million to date) and great timing.

At the time of writing, Udemy were ranked on Alexa as the 605th most popular website globally. That’s higher even than the stalwart competitor Lynda.com, which was founded in 1995. (1,308th globally.)

Today, most of Udemy’s traffic is generated at home. Empirically for me, from a pool of 141 countries 1 out of every 4 people who visit my page are from the United States. Combining population and wealth, the States is likely the most lucrative market but as Udemy has mentioned 50% of their students are international. It’s a huge untapped market, and fortunately one that Udemy has square in its line of sight.

Last year, Udemy raised $32 million for the primary purpose of going international. Already at the start of 2015, we’re seeing seeds of that. Just announced in February was the rollout of Pound Sterling as a default currency for UK residents. Given that prices are seen on practically every Udemy page, having students see their native currency is a significant – if perhaps implicit – symbol of trust.

2015 has every chance of being a cracking year for teaching online. If Udemy continues to make the right moves, they offer budding teachers a fast-pass into the booming online learning movement that should be carefully considered before breaking out alone.

If you have a moment, let us know in the comments whether you plan to create your first course this year. And more importantly, how you’re going to make sure you finish. Good luck!