When the iPhone started taking over the US in 2008, Nick Walter was in Japan doing Mormon missionary work without a smartphone.
"When I got home, my dad was super nice and bought me an iPhone 4, and it was my first introduction to apps," the 25-year-old remembers. "I was like, 'These things are crazy! They can do anything!'"
Since that first introduction, Walter, who graduated from Brigham Young University with an information systems major (which includes elements of both computer science and business), learned to code and started doing freelance work building iPhone apps for local companies in Utah.
About four years later, Walter was reading "The 4-Hour Workweek" and was inspired by the idea of creating a business that wasn't super time intensive. Author Tim Ferriss recommended creating an online course, but Walter didn't know what he could possibly teach — until Apple announced its first new programming language in over a decade, called Swift.
"From the day they announced it, everyone was on an equal field trying to learn," Walter recalls. "I thought, 'Personally, I'd love to learn it just for fun and future stuff, but I have an opportunity to be one of the first people to teach it to other people. Maybe I could make a class where I'm learning as I teach.'"
Walter spent four days reading Apple's documentation of Swift, "kind of translating into English and giving some extra examples." Apple announced its release on June 2, and four days later Walter posted 50 videos, or one full course, to the online education site Udemy. It was an introduction to Swift for beginners, called Swift By Examples.
That first month, his course earned him $45,000.
Udemy charges students a set price — in this case, $99 — to access the online course as many times as they want. If these students find the course through a link sent by Walter, he gets 97% of the money. If they find the course through Udemy, he splits the money 50/50 with the company.
Not every month was quite so dramatic. Walter estimates that the following month, he earned $7,500, then $5,000 the month after that. His earnings evened out around $3,000 for a few months, until he put up his second course in September: How To Make iPhone Apps, for $199.
That month, he earned $66,000, a full year's salary for many people.
One might imagine a 25-year-old with that kind of windfall would head straight to Vegas. But Walter, who is a longtime fan of financial guru Dave Ramsey and highly recommends "The Total Money Makeover," did nothing of the sort. "I bought a 2010 Toyota Corolla," he says. "I got my full emergency fund set up, and I've just been investing the rest in mutual funds."
Today, more than 8,500 people have taken the original course on Swift, and more than 3,500 have gone through the iPhone class.
Next, Walter plans to publish a class on how to build apps for the Apple watch(he's now running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its creation) in which, he says, there's a lot of opportunity for someone who wants to create the kind of income stream that he has.
"It reminds me of when apps first came out for the iPhone," he says. "I think there's a real opportunity for people to make apps for this new watch and be the first-comer there. Someone has to be the first weather app or the first jogging app. If you can move quickly enough, you're bound to have an awesome advantage."