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Jim talks about the launch of his online salary negotiation course, and how you can build one too.

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The announcement

I am so excited to share what may be a poorly-kept secret with my podcast audience – I have launched two courses on online learning site Udemy.com:

How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset
How to Negotiate Salary: Negotiating a Raise or Promotion

The beta launch date was on March 5, 2013 but if you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard me hint at this project before:

July: THR 196: The Dawn of Digital Learning presents my case for a trend that I’ve been following
August: THR 199: How to build your first digital product shows you the demo I was working on
December: THR 217: Have patience, when the filming schedule was pushed back
March: THR 227, How to kill procrastination and build something awesome during launch week
March: THR 228, The teacher of tomorrow and how that will affect the new economy.

This was a project 9 months in the making.

The niche: Salary Negotiation

At first I thought that one day I would finally do a “How to negotiate your salary” post for The Hopkinson Report readers. And while that is certainly a great topic for this career and lifestyle blog – or for any working professional – that’s not specifically what this blog is about.

I’ve always prided myself and showing you how I talk the talk and walk the walk. I don’t TELL you how you should work remotely or try and get to the frontpage of Google or how to build a course, I DO IT and then pass on my learnings.

So if you’re looking for advice on how to get a higher salary, head over to my other blog, SalaryTutor.com. There you can choose how you want to learn.

My book is available from Amazon, I do 1:1 salary consulting sessions if you prefer to work with a real person, you can hire me to speak to your group, you can read dozens of career articles for free, and now culminating everything I’ve learned in this area, my salary negotiation courses are now online. You can also follow my Salary Tutor accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

So today I’m going to tell you about the process.


Find your single motivating purpose

My friends over at the Internet Business Mastery podcast have made a slight change lately, and I like it. Previously focusing on making money from an internet based business so that you could have more freedom… to travel, to spend time with family, to do what you love, recently they’ve been talking more about having a purpose-driven business. I look at it as asking the question…

What were you put on this earth to do?

For Michael Jordan, it was to play basketball.
For Stevie Wonder, it was to sing and perform.
For an entrepreneur, it might take a little time to figure out.

Here are three questions to ask to help you, which come from the book The Big Leap, which I talk about here.

1) I’m at my best when I’m…
2) When I’m at my best, the exact thing I’m doing is…
3) When I’m doing that, the thing I love most about it is…

For me, I’m still in that process, but I think I was put on this earth to teach.
That’s when I light up.
That’s when I feel alive.

More specifically for this project, I want to teach the world how to negotiate their salary.

How do you reach the most people, and make money while doing so?

To do this, I want to be able to reach the most people possible with my message, earn a good income, and still be able to keep an entrepreneur’s lifestyle.

This is a matrix I created as an exercise for my business.
– My book reaches a lot of people; it’s available on Amazon and in Barnes and Nobles across the country. But right now like many authors, it’s not making me rich.
– I love doing 1:1 consulting. It pays me well on a per-hour basis, but it doesn’t scale
– I’ve experimented with live classes, but for me it reaches a smaller group of people, and when you factor in the time renting space in NYC, paying fees, and the time and effort to market each class, there’s not a huge payoff
– Speaking is a mixed bag. You can often reach lots of people, and it can pay very well at times. But getting those opportunities can be hard-fought.
– I needed something with broad appeal and the ability to bring in revenue for my business


Why digital learning?

The venn diagram I’ve been speaking about for some time is as follows:
– Traditional college costs keep soaring
– The recession + $1 trillion in debt + changing skills have altered the workforce
– Technology is now mature, with high speed internet, high definition video, and multiple devices, allowing anyone, anywhere to take classes at their own pace

Part research, part gut feeling… this is something I wanted to be part of.


Testing the market

Eric Ries has built a career talking about the Lean Startup, and in fact has his own courses over on Udemy. His talk, Build. Measure. Learn. Lean Startup SXSW 2012 has been seen by taken by more than 22,000 students.

And his advanced course, The Lean Startup (affiliate link), has been taken by more than 1,400 students.

He talks about testing an MVP, minimum viable product. Putting something out on the market quickly to see how it does. I explained how I did this in my case study, filming a quick negotiation course using just Powerpoint and a web cam.


I spent a full day creating the first module in PowerPoint and developing 10 negotiation myths. Then another 3-5 hours fine-tuning the layout and design.

From there, I put my nose to the grindstone and worked from 9pm till 3am on a Friday night, with about 2-3 hours to record everything on video, then 2 hours to edit everything, and to 30 minutes to export all the files.

The next day, I spent several hours posting everything on Udemy. All total, about 3 full days work.

What this did was two key things:
1) Allow me to get familiar with Udemy, their platform, their support, and other technology
2) See if people were interested in the subject

The result was that I got 125 students in a very short amount of time, as well as some great feedback.


Going all in

At this point I decided to push all my chips to the center of the table. I wasn’t just going to make any course. I wasn’t going to half-ass it. I wanted something that I built from the ground up, that contained everything that I had learned over the past few years studying negotiation.

In a competitive way, I wanted other teachers to look at my course and say, wow, that one is really, really well done. I wish mine was that good.

From a value standpoint, I wanted students to watch just 10 seconds of my video and get an immediate feel that this was a high-quality production, and therefore that it was worth the $199 price point that I would be charging for the advanced course.

I also won’t lie that I was enticed but what the top performing instructors were doing on Udemy, with report of the top 10 instructors earning a combined $1.65 million, and a quarter of approved teachers earn $10k or more

But mostly, I wanted something that I could proudly stand behind as my own.


Udemy upgrades their requirements

Along the way, something fortunate happened. Around December, Udemy announced that they were greatly increasing the requirements for their courses. There was an extensive 40-point UDemy High Quality Course Checklist of requirements that each course would have to adhere to, including the need for high definition video, and quality lighting and sound.

Those courses that didn’t meet the qualifications in the next 2 months weren’t deleted from the site, however, they would not be surfaced within their search and not featured on their frontpage.


This was huge for me, since I was already in the process of creating a course that met all the requirements. That meant by the time my course launched, hundreds or maybe thousands of lesser-quality courses would be hidden from students (for example, my original course with simple webcam video), or instructors that wanted to keep their course live would need to re-film their courses to meet the new requirements.

I have a theory here that when Udemy was in their launch phases, they allowed anyone and everyone to submit a course… the key was getting as many classes as possible up and running to gain traction.

Once they had momentum, I picture one of their investors telling their management team, “OK, you’ve passed the first hurdle. But in order to justify the millions in capital we’ve given you, now you have to clean up your act. No more amateur “How to knit a sweater” courses… we need to up the quality.”

Course structure

One of the major decisions I had to make was how many courses I would actually produce. Should I try to teach everything I know about negotiation in one huge course, or split it up? In the end, here’s what I decided.

1) Use a freemium model. This means that I would offer one course for free to allow students to see what I was all about, and then use that to upsell a percentage to a paid course. My reasoning?
a. This is what several instructors on the platform appeared to be doing successfully, and it has been used as a business model in everything from consumer software to iPhone games
b. I wanted to make sure that even my free course was incredibly high quality and over-delivered on value
c. My course structure fit into this nicely

2) The free course would be on the Negotiation Mindset. This is because the first step for inexperienced negotiators is to be in the right frame of mind. Since this is something that is so new to some people, this is the logical place that almost everyone should start.

3) Split the course into 3 segments. From my experience, people needing negotiation help fall into 3 distinct categories:

a. Getting a raise. People working full-time, who are looking for a raise or promotion. In this scenario, the worker is generally negotiating with their supervisor, their current salary is known to both parties, and it’s more about proving your worth based on an existing body of work.
b. Negotiating for a new job. In this scenario, the worker is generally negotiating with human resources, the salaries of both the employer and employee may be unknown, and the hiring manager is taking a gamble on how the person will work out.
c. Negotiation for freelancers. In this case, the negotiator is actually the business owner. They may be a designer, or consultant, or run their own business, and find themselves constantly pitching business and setting rates for projects. The main question to answer here is sometimes “How much do I charge?”

4) Plan for the long term. The plan was to create the free course and the raise course at the same time, see how they did, and then come out with the other 2 paid courses later in the year.



I spent a several weeks writing out the scripts for the course. As a writer, teacher, and wanna-be comedian, it was awesome scripting out the course from scratch. I treated it like a movie script, even using a script template within Microsoft Word, and adding on camera directions.

IE, “Jim is standing behind HR holding cue cards… Allison squints to read them in a robotic voice… HR notices this and whips around suddenly… Jim tosses the cards in the air and runs off camera.”



The main host of the course would be yours truly. Maybe I was cocky and maybe I was lucky, but I just assumed I could do it and didn’t do any special training or practice whatsoever.

I figured I had 5 years of podcast speaking experience, dozens of public speeches and teaching sessions under my belt, and I was pretty fearless.

The main character in the course, Allison, is played by Emily Crom. I had worked with Emily when she played the part of the job-seeker in the trailer for my book. She is a 25-year-old from Brooklyn via Minnesota, and has done a lot of Improv acting, and is now training to be a life coach.

Quite frankly, I thought she was perfect. She was amazing to work with, hysterical to hang out with, never missed a line, never complained, and was perfect for the part. And wow, she can really sing too.

The other actors also had an improv background and were fantastic as well.


Video shoot

The man behind the camera was Eric Pearson. Yes, just him. One guy. For video, lighting, sound, production, planning, set design, and keeping me on track and putting up with both my ego and micromanaging tendencies. Oh, and he builds stuff and is a musician and a photographer and it doesn’t hurt that he’s a Boston guy like me.

About Eric Michael Pearson | Eric Michael Pearson Photography


For those that haven’t done video projects before, editing is one of the most crucial roles in the project. I didn’t sweat the details on this one… Eric recommended Justin Farrar, and I knew that he did the editing for some of the most popular entrepreneurs on the internet and thus knew the style I was going for, so I just signed off on it. I’ve still never met him in person.

What I expected was fantastic editing, and I got that. But what I got as a bonus was someone that immediately understood the look and feel for my course, that helped me make key decisions on things like photos and graphics (and actually did the animations himself), someone that stepped it up to meet my deadline, was always instantly available via email and chat, and despite probably 100 bullets of minor changes and 100s of words of text, didn’t make a single typo in the entire course and never missed a change.

Justin Farrar.net


I tried a few crowdsourced websites to create the course images, but ended up not getting something I liked. So I went back to the well and tapped Brandon Werner, my former intern at Wired that has done work for me before. He nailed it in one round.

Can you see the trend here? Work with the best.

The trailer

This was actually a mistake I made, and one that I got lucky on. I forgot to script out and film a separate trailer, which is crucial to drawing in customers and can also be used on YouTube. Fortunately, there were parts of the course where I said “Welcome to the course” and introduced myself and so on, and Justin worked his magic to splice it all together.

I thought the boss laughing was one of the best scenes we did — slightly improv’ed — so I concluded with that.

We used stock music that Justin picked out from AudioJungle, and because this part of the trailer is always free, the licensing fee was very low — just $14. This was also a case where Justin made a recommendation, I told him to do something else, and when I saw MY choice, I immediately knew that it was wrong and I should have just listened to him in the first place. It has that “Apple Commercial” feel.

One thing to note is that YouTube incorrectly flagged my video for copyright infringement. Following these instructions, I had to:
1) Dispute the claim by clicking the link that says, “I believe this copyright claim is not valid”
2) Check the option that says, “I have a license or written permission from the proper rights holder to use this material”
3) State that “A license to use this royalty-free music was purchased from AudioJungle.net”

Add-ons: customizable templates to add value to your course

I think one of the most valuable items in the premium course are the customizable, downloadable templates that are included. Here is what I include:
– Document to keep track of your accomplishments (Word & Excel)
– Email template to reach out to key contacts to find your true value
– Digital portfolio to prove your worth (2 versions)
– A salary research document to achieve the highest salary, 1 Excel version and 5 Photoshop templates

So much of the job search is being memorable and having the documentation to prove your point. These templates do that.

Think about what additional downloads you could offer for your course.



From the moment it went live, the free course started going nuts. I jumped on a plane right after launch and went into the chaos of SXSW, and what was awesome was checking my iPhone from the hotel or from the conference and seeing new emails stating “John Smith is now a subscriber to your course” flooding my inbox every time I checked it.


I hit my 500th student exactly 3 weeks to the day from launch, and am on target to hit 1,000 students around April 15.

[If you were listening to my podcast and not reading the blog post, you’d be very happy right now. Just sayin’. Want to listen? Find The Hopkinson Report on iTunes.]


As an entrepreneur or someone working on a side hustle, there are lots of ways to monetize your work and spread the word. You can create an ebook, do consulting, do webinars, create a membership site and more. You need to do what’s comfortable for you.

This podcast was to introduce another method that might be just taking off, and that’s creating an online course for the world to see. You don’t have to go as crazy as I did for your first product, but check out Udemy.com and see what other instructors are doing.

I am so excited to kick this off and have you guys be a part of it. If you have any questions on launching your own course, please let me know.

Also see:
Full column for the Udemy blog: How to negotiate a raise or promotion
Guest post for DaveDelaney.com: 4 Stunning Statistics People Ignore When Job Searching and Negotiating
At least 36 additional free salary negotiation articles

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