Interview with Mr. Shani Raja
“…as an online instructor you have to really care about the results for your students, and convey to them that you’re going to take them on a fascinating journey to discover a new world under your expert guidance.” This is the motto of today`s interviewee.
He teaches online courses on Udemy where, so far, he has more than 100,000 students.
On his Udemy landing pages, the description of the courses are pretty simple. And in this way, he convinces students that they, too, will be able to write this way — equally simple.
Equally simple are some Youtube clips he exposes to the public, though he doesn’t use social media for marketing, because, “I’m not that skilled at it.”
In his relations with students, he relies on fair play and integrity, an approach that has made his students trust in the high-quality of the work he delivers to the market.
He is aware that the way he teaches writing must be unique and inspiring in order to differentiate himself from the competition. So, he puts in front of students a “clear map of the subject that saves them time and effort, and will also take them exactly to where they aspire to be”.
About his online courses, he says “reputation is everything”, and this commitment finds expression in the success of his students.
Before becoming a teacher he was a journalist; he has also previously done editing for top companies from Microsoft and IBM to PwC.
In the following interview, I would like to present you Mr. Shani Raja, an editor, writing coach and lecturer. He teaches online at Udemy, but also offline to university undergraduates. To find out more about his offerings, you can access his Website: http://elite-writing.com.
1. I would like to request you to share something about you and what’s not yet discussed before?
Well, as you may know, I spent most of my life as a journalist, writing for several big news organizations — including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the FT, Bloomberg News and Dow Jones. Now I focus on the online teaching stuff mainly. However, what many people don’t know about me is that I enjoy writing movie screenplays. One screenplay that I’m working on, with my writing partner, is in the second-draft stage, and we hope to complete it soon. It’s an unusual psychological thriller set in the criminal underworld in London.
2. How’s your experience working with Udemy and other sites where you were/are selling your courses? (I know that no one can gain success overnight, what looks overnight to people is actually countless sleepless nights bundled with a lot of hard work.)
My Udemy experience has been fantastic. Udemy is a highly professional company and the people there —they’re really smart — have treated me with great respect and encouragement. Without them, I doubt my flagship course — Writing With Flair — would have become what’s possibly the most popular online writing course ever. What’s great about Udemy is its huge reach. Its site has more than 10 million users. What’s more, it’s always growing globally at a fast rate, as well as constantly replenishing itself with new, younger users. Now, there are so many courses on Udemy that it means not everyone can be popular. I believe the main reasons for my success on Udemy (I have more than 100,000 students across my courses) are my background in top-tier journalism and the fact that I struggle hard to make sure my content is genuinely valuable for people looking to improve in this fundamental business and life skill — writing. I also teach in a way that, I think, students appreciate will take them near the top of the learning curve of the skill they want to learn, and very fast. It also helps that I can write decently, which means my landing page on Udemy converts really well. A great landing page that describes your content with passion, and that persuades readers of its power to affect their lives, is crucial.
3. What are your top 3 customer acquisition channel for your courses?
At the moment: Udemy, Udemy and Udemy.
4. Does the course promotion on Social Media bring you financial satisfaction?
I don’t use social media much to promote my courses at the moment — maybe because I’m not that skilled at it. All I have are a few You Tube videos. But I’m sure it would bring benefits if I used that, and Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, to expand my reach. I might do more social media in future.
5. What are the key factors in optimizing the Udemy and Youtube Channel for generating more profit?
I can speak only about Udemy. As I mentioned, the absolute key is having quality content out there that students will review favourably — leading to more and more interest. You want to aim for students being totally transformed by your content and, afterwards, leaving gushing reviews about how you changed their lives. I can’t stress this enough, that as an online instructor you have to really care about the results for your students, and convey to them that you’re going to take them on a fascinating journey to discover a new world under your expert guidance. Without such an ambitious kind of aspiration, it’s unlikely your content will catch fire. You want people to feel your love of the subject, and your sincerity in wanting to impart what you know to them. Students really appreciate that. When I sometimes cross-promote my courses, many students have said that they don’t have to read the description — they just trust the content will be good and buy it immediately. That’s heartwarming, and I take that responsibility extremely seriously. It means I won’t release anything into the market unless I believe it’s of a very high standard in terms of the quality of the content.
6. Any suggestions you would like to pass to the newbies in this field?
For wannabe online instructors, the first challenge is getting noticed in the massive sea of content out there. You could have the best content of all, but unless you can persuade people to try you out, there’s no hope. A good starting point is to offer some great content for free, so that people can appreciate you know what you’re talking about and can genuinely help them. And then you need to intrigue them somehow so they’ll give it a try. Also, you should make sure you offer a perspective on your subject matter that’s unique and inspiring, so that you can distinguish yourself from everybody else. I teach writing from the perspective of an accomplished journalist — and that’s different from many other writing teachers. Secondly, make sure you organise your content in a really powerful way. You need to make sure that potential students will see your course curriculum as offering something more useful than collecting bits and pieces about the subject from various online sources. You are there to give them a clear map of the subject that saves them time and effort, and will also take them exactly to where they aspire to be. You have to present yourself, sincerely of course, as an authority who can get them the results they want. But then you also have to deliver — or your students won’t forgive you. Your reputation is everything in this field, and the best reputation you can have is as a teacher who is seriously devoted to the success of your students.
7. Any Interesting Experience from your Online Business Journey you would like to share with the audience?
It sounds corny, but one of the most satisfying things as a teacher is when students reach out to you to express their gratitude. Sometimes they could be alerting me to a pretty major event — like how my courses enabled them to do something they love, such as quit their office job and become a full-time blogger. But even if it’s just to say they’ve become more confident at writing, or less confused or overwhelmed by the subject, such sentiments, expressed with heartfelt honesty and humility, can bring tears to my eyes.