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Striking It Rich on No-Budget Instructional Videos

Scott Allen has made more than $1.8 million selling computer programming instruction videos online
Striking It Rich on No-Budget Instructional Videos
Photograph by Getty Images

Writing technical books is hardly anyone’s idea of a get-rich-quick scheme. Most titles take loads of work and, if you’re lucky, bring in tens of thousands of dollars in royalties. Putting those same insights into an online instructional video, on the other hand, can be surprisingly lucrative. Take software developer Scott Allen, whose series of two dozen how-to videos on coding and programing have already earned more than $1.8 million in royalties and fees since 2008. “Every three months a big check comes in,” says Allen, who projects his video earnings for 2013 at $1 million. “The last one was for over $200,000.”

Allen, who lives in Maryland, sells his videos through Pluralsight, a Utah-based company that began offering online training for Web and IT professionals in 2008. He shoots the videos on his own and spends 10 to 20 hours making each one. Instead of classroom lecture-style instruction, the videos focus on a computer screen as Allen walks viewers through various tasks. “Quite frankly, I think delivering this type of material, it comes across much better in the video than in a book,” he says. “With videos, you can show the evolution of a program. You can show what doesn’t work and what does work.”