Mike Wheeler is the founder of Mike Wheeler Media which provides Salesforce training, consulting and development services worldwide. Mike creates the course curriculum and provides training for users and those seeking to become certified on the Salesforce platform.
He is also a world-class online trainer and instructor with over 27,000 students, over 9 courses and over 7,600 reviews on the Udemy online training platform.
Period in full-time business
He has been doing his own business since 2001 before which he used to do technical writing, training and curriculum development. He also supplements what he does with the business with some consulting work.
Core revenue streams
One of his primary revenue streams are his online courses on the Udemy platform. He says he has had sales on the platform every single day since he started offering his courses there. He also makes money from Salesforce consulting and development engagements.
Starting out in the business
Mike had a long career in the corporate world doing technical writing for different software companies. That work led him more towards contract work, but he says he had a few stints as an employee. He would always go in at the end of a project to write manuals. That was back when the internet was still new. The contracts would typically be 6 to 9 month engagements with different companies. He would basically go where the work was.
Getting into Salesforce
Mike encountered Salesforce in 2008 when he was doing technical writing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to better rank his technical writing services on Google. He then started getting into WordPress for websites and building his own websites. While building a website for a client, he was asked for a web delete form on Salesforce and he did it but as he was offering the website development services, he realised that Salesforce was becoming more and more popular in the market, so he decided to train more on it.
One day, in 2011, while in a Barnes and Nobles book store, he came across a book on Salesforce development, read it and felt like he had what it took to go into the Salesforce platform professionally.
Mike says it’s a web-based or cloud-based platform that one can use and customize to fit any business or process. It can be used for marketing, sales and customer service. It can be used by any business, in any industry, and is customized through clicks instead of code, though a person can also use code if they want to.
Salesforce is best known for the fact that it can be customized to meet the marketing, sales and service needs of any business. For example, a business owner can use Salesforce to replace Legacy systems, spreadsheets and many other processes/systems. Mike says Salesforce was one of the pioneers of cloud computing and SaaS business.
Knowing the Salesforce business would work
After learning Salesforce, he needed to use it in practice, so while still working as a technical writer he got more involved with Salesforce related work which enabled him to build on his expertise.
Going into Salesforce training services
As he was learning Saleforce, getting certified and seeking his first job as a Salesforce developer, he started to develop an interest in sharing the value of Salesforce with anyone who was seeking it as an attainable path to a cloud-based career. For several years, he thought he would blog about Salesforce or develop his own online help system, but he realised that it would be a big time commitment and hard to monetize. He ended up developing Salesforce-based online courses and teaching on Udemy. He came across Udemy when a friend referred him to a sale Udemy was holding for their courses.
Mike really liked the Udemy business model which enables people to buy a course and keep it for life. He ended up buying more than 20 courses for everything he would be interested in learning. Naturally, he got interested in knowing whether there were any Salesforce-related courses on Udemy and discovered that there were none that were offering quality and value in terms of Salesforce Administrator Certification. With the help of his son, who is a talented videographer and film editor, he was able to put his courses together.
Mike worked for years as a technical writer and had hit the limit of what he could do there. He was going from contract to contract making $40 to $50 an hour, but that work started to go down, and he started learning Salesforce. He then got the relevant certification. The Salesforce development work he had been doing at his day job enabled him to get Saleforce-oriented work earning $80 an hour.
Mike spent 3 months getting his first Salesforce certification which included a study time of about 100 to 150 hours through consuming different learning content from Salesforce, reading books that he bought, and hands-on experience through his day job. He failed the first test and had to improve on his knowledge which enables him to pass the second time.
Training others on Salesforce
Mike says choosing to teach Salesforce to different professionals has been very effective because the type of students he deals with are motivated learners, and he gets great satisfaction from helping them achieve their career goals and earn higher income.
Starting out on Udemy
He began with recording his Sales Administrator Certification Course and it ended up being an 11 hour course taking him 3 months to create. He spent more time creating the course than it took him getting his certification. Due to his eagerness to release something, he decided to release the first section of the course as a free preview and just called it “Introduction to Salesforce Certifications and Careers”. That enabled him to get a first-hand preview of the kind of demand he would get for his course. By linking the free course to his website, interested students signed up to get updates on the full course. 6 weeks after that, Mike completed the course and had about 100 interested people signed up.
Building an email list from Udemy
Mike says it’s difficult to build an email list on Udemy because one has to direct students to their website since Udemy puts a lot of restrictions on instructors’ dealings with students outside the platform. Instructors cannot directly ask students for their email addresses.
Getting the first buying customers
The night he got an email that his course was live, the first thing he did was send emails to the email list he had built on Udemy and from his Salesforce work. There was a restriction on Udemy against sending mass emails so he ended up sending them from his gmail account. When he woke up the next morning, he had 8 sales, and by the end of the first 24 hours, he had 28 enrolments. Most of them were from his email list, and about one or two from organic sales. That got Udemy’s attention because Mike had gotten a genuine buying audience very fast, and they were very interested in knowing more about Mike and his plans on Udemy so they could support him in growing on the platform. Since then, he has had sales everyday since he launched on 30th March 2016.
Mike offered his first course for $15 because Udemy was in the process of changing their pricing structure at that time and the prices on most courses were ranging between $10 and $15. Within 24 hours, he had made about $300 with his cut per sale being about $10. Mike calls it passive income because he has to do student support while updating the courses and creating new ones. His son, who is a developer, helps him answer student questions. Udemy provides ways of having teacher assistance that helps answer student questions. He says it’s because of his great responsiveness and engagement with students that he was able to get off the ground early. The questions he gets from students also enable him to improve and update his courses.
Current state of the business
He has had students buying more than 1 course and has about 1,000 new students every 10 days. There was a time he was averaging 10 sales a day and now he has about 100 a day.
Mike has had several repeat customers especially when he releases new courses, but he does not have exact numbers because Udemy doesn’t have the necessary analytics built into their platform. A large percentage of his students come from prior courses that he has done and they always guide him on what they want to learn next which helps him create new courses.
He says if he could start out afresh, he would spend less time fighting the Udemy system and embrace it for what it is because right now it is his largest revenue stream. Despite trying out other platforms and building his own, Udemy still forms about 80% of his online teaching revenue.
If he got a do-over, he would not complicate things and just focus on what he does best for his audience. He would let Udemy play its role of marketing its platform and focus on creating his great quality courses. In terms of marketing, his students do a lot of word of mouth by sharing links to his courses with many people.
Over time, Mike has changed the quality of his courses by better structuring them to include sections like quizzes and talking head videos. He previously used to record his videos during early mornings or late nights which brought him out as tired on the videos. 6% to 7% of his students asked him to have more energy on the video lectures so Mike started to exude more energy on his videos and also shortened the length of his lectures. His son has also helped him improve his production quality by getting better gear.
Biggest breakthrough moment
He has had several, which include the day he went live and got 28 sales. He also says trying new courses that he thought would be big but which ended up not matching up some of his certification courses was a learning curve for him. That taught him to stick to motivated learners.
The other breakthrough moment was when Udemy informed him that they were launching a new product for practice test courses and wanted him to create a practice test course. He had never done one before and felt very intimidated, but when he did it, it became very successful, and it is now his second best-selling course behind the full administrator certification course. Since then he has done a practice test course for another certification course that he has.
Now, whenever he is developing a certification course, he also writes sample test questions to test students’ knowledge on the course concepts.
A day in life when launching on Udemy Vs. a day in life now
The first thing he does each day, is look into how many sales he has, to check if things are on track. He then looks at the reviews, to make sure that there are no half star reviews. He used to say thank you to every review he got, but he now doesn’t, because he has over 7,500 reviews, which demonstrate that he has a strong engagement with his audience. After that, he answers any questions from his students and answers messages from different people. He is usually either restructuring a course or recording a course.
He uses a Mac laptop, Camtasia for his screen recordings and a wide screen Dell monitor to capture his screen demos in high pixel so people can see it well. His son uses Adobe Premiere Pro, has a Mac computer and laptop, and a host of great cameras. They have all sorts of microphones and lights with a dedicated office space.
The worthwhileness of the business
He says the business has been very worthwhile because it has been much easier and profitable than the technical work he did before. Up and until his first course sale, he used to have doubts on whether the business would succeed because everything was speculative. Now, he is always enthusiastic about the future growth prospects of the business.
Tool and Resources
Camtasia – video editing software for creating tutorials and presentations directly via screencast, or via a direct recording plug-in to Microsoft PowerPoint.
Book recommendation for entrepreneurs:
1. Development with the Force.com platform: Building Business Applications in the Cloud – Jason Ouellette
2. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers – Geoffrey A. Moore
Legacy: To positively impact a lot of lives and also leave behind a platform for his kids to stand tall, rise up and accomplish great things – Mike.
Best way to connect: www.mikewheelermedia.com – Mike’s Business website
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