Over the past 2 years, I’ve published a total of 8 introductory Amazon Web Services (AWS) courses with LinkedIn Learning. They are 4-part series called Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineer, and takes the students from “What is the Cloud?” to sitting for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Exam.
The initial 4 were recorded in 2019, and they were all updated, enhanced, and re-recorded in 2020. Since Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers’s re-release in April, 2020, there have been over 142,000 learners.
This blog post contains affiliate links to LinkedIn Learning: Online Training Courses for Creative, Technology, Business Skills. This means that if you sign up for a LinkedIn Learning subscription or purchase any of my courses, I may receive a commission. Thanks for helping me keep lights on around the house! 😄 (They also have a 30 day free trial, so you’ll be able to take my courses for free to test them out!)
What’s LinkedIn Learning?
LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform with content in 3 categories: Business, Creative, and Technology. It was formally known as Lynda.com, founded by Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin.
In 2015, LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com for $1.5 billion! In 2016, Microsoft purchased LinkedIn, and in 2017, Lynda.com was rebranded as LinkedIn Learning.
It’s available through many library systems for free, and many companies also purchase subscriptions for their employees for career development.
Nuts and Bolts of being a LinkedIn Learning Instructor
If you become a LinkedIn Instructor, you will be a contractor, working on contract to create and publish courses. You will likely have a long-term relationship with your content manager and producer. And may end up coming back to do updates or create more courses!
You will be barred from creating content in the same medium catered towards the same audience about the same topic if you work with LinkedIn Learning.
If you’re not ok with that, signing on with them may not be for you.
When you sign your contract, you’ll get the first half of your royalty advance. When your course is published, you’ll receive the other half of your royalty advance. Then, once you “pay off” the advance, you’ll begin receiving royalty payments every month.
The courses are up for as long as LinkedIn Learning wants to keep them up, and you don’t really have any control over when it’s taken down.
One of the best parts about being a LinkedIn Instructor is that they know you’ve got real life, family, and a day job. So you can create content and publish in a timeline that makes sense for you!
I assume there are many ways you can be recruited into becoming a LinkedIn Learning Instructor. In my case, a content manager reached out to me after seeing awsnewbies.com, and wanted to see if I’d be interested in creating an introductory AWS course with them.
You can also be referred by an existing LinkedIn Learning Instructor. There is also an application form for those looking to throw their name into the hat.
From the form, it seems as though English is not the only language they are dealing with, so that might be a great opportunity for anyone who creates content in other languages!
They are always looking for new instructors, so if you are a content creator and feel like expanding to another medium (paid courses), LinkedIn Learning may be a great place to start!
To see if a potential instructor and LinkedIn Learning may be a good fit, they will ask you to create a sample video lesson. This is testing more for your ability to convey information and how you teach, as opposed to your video editing or audio skills (as they have engineers to do that for you).
The Course Planning
The topic for your course will be chosen together with your content manager and producer, and will be signed off on before the contract is signed. During the course planning phase, you’ll break down the scope of the course(s) you’ll be teaching into chapters and videos.
You will create an outline of the chapters, videos, and short summaries. This is called “Table of Contents.” Each chapter will have multiple short videos (4~5 minutes), and each video will have a title and short summary.
You’ll likely realize around here whether or not you’ve over- or under-scoped, and will begin adjusting. If you think the course is going to be too long, don’t be afraid to have a chat with your producer about breaking the course into 2 separate courses!
Initially, I was going to have all 4 of my courses as 1 course, but we realized that the scope is too large. So we have 4 shorter courses, which allowed for us to begin publishing quickly. The students benefitted from bite-sized instruction without getting overwhelmed.
You’ll also plan the style of your lessons here: whether they are live action, screen capture, or slides-and-voice-over.
Most of my lessons were slides with voice-over, with a few screen capture and voice-over sprinkled in. If you’re doing coding courses, for example, you’d probably be doing screen capture and voice-over. If you’re teaching courses where you are showing someone how to create a clay pot, you’d probably be doing a live-action course.
The Course Scripting
Once your TOC is completed and approved, you move on to scripting your lessons. Generally, they look for 400 ~ 500 words per video, which they estimate will be around 4 ~ 5 minutes long.
You will likely set up a schedule of due dates for your scripts, and your producer will provide feedback/editing for your completed scripts. During this phase, you’ll probably be checking in with your producer once every week or two to discuss any blockers, issues, or questions. It’s also a great time to discuss and work through any disagreements on the direction of your courses and lessons.
The Course Slides
Once your scripts are complete, you will move on to your course slides (if your course is slides + voice-over). Your producer will send you a template, and will teach you how to source images for the slides.
You will create slides for every video, and the producer will review them.
If it doesn’t look perfect, don’t worry. The post-production team will make sure things are aligned properly before publication!
The Recording (Onsite)
Because of obvious reasons involving COVID-19, on-site recording has been paused, and all courses are being recorded remotely right now. I have no idea when on-site course recording will start again, but fingers crossed that the pandemic will calm down soon, and instructors will once again be invited to the LinkedIn campus in SoCal!
When there was onsite recording, you first began planning your trip in the later half of the course creation. You’d pick the recording dates, which may be up to a week, depending on how long your courses are. It seemed like for first-time authors, they booked you for a week just to be safe, and you may be able to go home earlier if you finish earlier.
Once the dates are picked, you’ll be filling out forms with your preferred airports, airlines, hotels, rental cars, etc. They’ll try their best to accommodate you.
There are certain things (like flights) that they book and pay on your behalf. And there are other things (like rental cars and food) that you would charge to your own credit card, and then get reimbursed later. Hotels can fall into that sometimes too, so if you have a low credit limit, or you don’t use credit cards, it might be something you want to discuss beforehand with your producer so they can make sure you’re taken care of.
Once your trip begins, KEEP ALL OF YOUR RECEIPTS! Take a photo of each and put them in a Google Drive folder, and start a Google Sheet of your purchases, reasons for the purchases, and the price! Trust me; doing this every day will make your life SO MUCH EASIER when it comes to filling out the reimbursement request!
They pay for your flights, hotel, rental car, and food (daily maximum applies). Combined with the nice weather and the beach views… It’s a pretty nice trip. 😍
The Recording (Remote)
You’ll likely be recording your LinkedIn Learning courses remotely, thanks to COVID-19. This means that LinkedIn will mail you a recording kit, and you will record your screen and audio on your own. The post-production team will then take your footages and create the course.
You’ll likely set a deadline, record your lessons, upload them, and then mail back the recording kit. You’ll have to be self-paced, and find a way to record without distractions or a lot of sound, so this might be easier said than done, especially now that your whole family and all your apartment neighbors are home.
I had to record at home once, and it was disastrous because I had construction all day and babies crying at night.
Once you’re done with the recording, the post-production team will create the final version of the course. There may be some back and forth if the QA team finds something, but mostly, I haven’t had many issues after I completed recording!
Once the post-production is complete, your course will be uploaded to LinkedIn Learning. In the process, you’ll need to provide a high-resolution profile image and a short biography for your LinkedIn Learning author page.
One thing to keep in mind is that they may not let you know when it’s published. I generally find out when I get my second royalty advance payment notification. Keep an eye out on your inbox, and when that course is published, you’ll receive a payment notification!
LinkedIn Learning Payments and Royalties
Do you actually get paid? Is it financially worth it to become a LinkedIn Learning Instructor? That’s probably the most pressing question you have as you consider branching out to technical instruction.
And unfortunately, the answer is: It depends…
It depends on how popular your course gets (which can definitely be influenced by the quality, but also whether you’re filling a need at the right time), and how much your students feel inclined to share it around. You want to create quality content that people want to recommend to their friends and colleagues.
There are some logistics-based things I can tell you though. First off, you are paid in royalties. This means that every month, you are paid a certain percentage of revenue that your courses generate for LinkedIn. The number on the paycheck? That will depend wildly.
(My 4 courses have been up for 1 to 1.5 years. Collectively, the recent royalty paychecks have been more than my highest salaried income as a full-time SysAdmin in NYC. But please consider this with a huge caveat that I have 4 courses, and people will have varying results in terms of income.)
Update: As of June, 2021, I’ve made over $100,000 in royalty from LinkedIn Learning courses. Milage will depend on your courses, style, and audience base, but just wanted to throw it out there that these kinds of income are possible, even as first-time course creators!
You have the option of receiving a Royalty Advance, which is kind of like pay-day loans without interest. You get them before you actually generate income for LinkedIn, and you “pay it off” as your courses make them money.
If you decide to accept the Royalty Advance, you get paid twice: half when you sign the documents, and the other half when your course is published. And that’s probably how you’ll find out that your course is published on the platform!
Merits vs Demerits of Publishing on LinkedIn Learning
Here are some of my high-level analyses of merits vs demerits of publishing courses on LinkedIn Learning vs Self-Publishing.
These are obviously opinions, and should be taken with a grain of salt. And my experience is not indicative of your potential experience.
- You have a producer guiding your course creation from start to finish. BUT sometimes, your producers don’t have your best interest in mind. If you don’t mesh well with your producer, you may have a difficult time producing your course. (But don’t worry- you can ping your content manager and have a chat!)
- You have a post-production team that does all the editing and publishing for you. This means you can focus on scripting, creating, and recording the course, and then you’re done! If you’ve done any video publishing in the past, you’d know recording is just the first fraction of creating videos… And the editing is the time consuming part! If you self-publish, you’ll have to either do the post-production yourself, or hire someone to do it for you. Having a post-production team is a huge benefit to working with LinkedIn Learning.
- You get a royalty advance, which means that you have income before you even begin. BUT that also means you won’t have income for the first few months while you pay it off. I believe you can also choose to forego your royalty advance to receive monthly checks immediately. This is up to you and how you stay motivated!
- You receive a royalty percentage instead of being able to keep majority of the sales income when you work with LinkedIn Learning. BUT you don’t have to market your courses or find your own students. This allows you to enjoy purely passive income once the course is online. You also don’t have to troubleshoot or pay platform fees, which are pain points of hosting your own courses.
- You benefit from LinkedIn Learning’s large audience base, which is likely to be much bigger than your own potential audience base. Because of the sheer size of the database of courses, they are able to offer courses for cheap AND have subscription models. It’ll be difficult for you to mimic their volume, which usually means that you’ll have to raise prices AND spend time and money on marketing (not to mention the monthly platform fees).
- For better or for worse, you’ll get a level of legitimacy from being associated with LinkedIn Learning. My Technical Writing and Technical Instruction career took off after my courses were published. Kind of like how when you write a book, you’re suddenly a “Published Author,” once you publish a course, you’re a “LinkedIn Learning Instructor.” That’s pretty cool! Also, I credit my courses to helping me become an AWS Community Hero in fall of 2020!
- If you are creating a technical or career advancement course, your students can potentially get reimbursed by their company for continuing education. Many times, companies, libraries, and schools already pay for LinkedIn Learning subscriptions. You can be sure that a lot of people who are in need of your content can access it without breaking the bank!
TL;DR: So… What’s my Verdict?
I am personally very glad I became a LinkedIn Learning Instructor.
Having these courses in my portfolio began my technical writing and technical instructor career.
I had the opportunity to work for and with amazing people I would otherwise not have been able to even converse with. I became an AWS Community Hero in fall of 2020, which is a tremendous honor. It probably would not have happened had I not authored these courses.
While there are obviously no income guarantees, the monthly checks I receive from LinkedIn Learning allowed me to quit my full-time job and try out freelance consulting. Now, I’m focusing my energy on taking care of my health and attempting to get into remission. Because LinkedIn Learning deals with the marketing and platform operations, I can sit back, relax, and focus on life!
In short, my life completely changed from becoming a LinkedIn Learning Instructor. And who knows! I may be at it again, if I find something else I want to share with the world!