The problem with teaching classes (and getting paid) with Skillshare

I wrote this 4 years ago, on another site for a difference audience. While the figures may have changed, I stand by it. If you have an experience with Skillshare that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments and include hard numbers.

UPDATE
2 weeks after this blog posted, Skillshare decided to become less douchebaggy and changed their class minimum from earning from 100 to 25. They don’t say whether every class has to hit 25 students to make you money. Their recruiting page now mentions you can make money from their ‘royalty pool’ and being ‘compensated for new Members’ (affiliate marketing in da house). Their Learn More page actually defines the average earnings as $3500/yr and has a payment formula that no longer tells you wth their royalty pool is. Calculating your Skillshare payment will still be impossible.

Updated status: STILL A LOAD OF CRAP

Let’s get one thing straight off the bat – I love the idea of Skillshare. I love online, on-demand learning in general. This is the true educational revolution of our time. You can learn almost anything you want, online – and that is 2,500 tons of awesome.

What I have a problem with is where the money goes. If the service is free (like Khan Academy), it’s all good. If you’re getting paid then things become more complicated – and that’s where I have a major problem with Skillshare.

FYI, I’ll be referring to art & artists for the rest of this post because that’s arena I’m working with at the moment. If you’ve been wondering what my next project is, now you have a clue 😉

Some artists I know have been personally approached by Skillshare. I’ve seen artists ask their followers on Instagram or Facebook if they would be interested in Skillshare classes; I’m guessing they’ve been approached as well.

And now Skillshare is running a contest where the creator of the ‘most creative and engaging class’ wins a prize pack that’s headlined by a Wacom Cintiq. A Cintiq is the holy grail for digital artists – a high definition monitor that you can draw on. It’s pressure-sensitive so it responds to how soft or hard you draw. Here’s a video that shows it better than I can explain:

Isn’t that cool? Any digital artist who doesn’t have a Cintiq salivates at the prospect of owning one. It’s clear that they are trying to increase the amount of creative classes on their service.

Why is Skillshare making a big push to get artists to teach for them?

The reasoning is simple: demand. People want to learn how to do the things they see and are inspired by. We humans are inherently creative. We love art. And many people who see art and think to themselves I wish I could do that want to take action.

Skillshare knows this and want to shore up their artistic offerings. I’m sure they’ve done the same research I have (and probably much more); they see that the demand is there.

One on hand, this is great for artists. People want to learn and it gives artists an opportunity to add another stream of income related to their passion. But is Skillshare the right place for a teacher?

Here’s the problem with Skillshare: you’ll have no idea how much you’ll make

They are extremely ambiguous about this – here’s what it says on their become a teacher page:

How can I earn money?  Skillshare has a Partner Program where you'll have the opportunity to earn money through our royalty pool. The average teacher makes over $3,500 on Skillshare.

First off, it’s good to know how much an average teacher makes but it would be more helpful to know the timeframe too. If it’s $3500 a year one can make a decent guess at how their efforts are compensated. If it’s lifetime, then it sounds like a mediocre option.

And what in tarnation is a royalty pool? I headed over to their learn more page and found this:

Earn Money:   Skillshare revenue comes from two sources - Premium Memberships and limited advertising on our platform. Each month, we distribute at least 30% of this revenue to our Partners. The algorithm used to determine each Partner’s monthly share is based on class popularity and student success. This includes the total number of new students enrolled, new projects created, and video views completed each month across all their classes.

So let’s get this straight:

  1. Skillshare revenue comes from membership fees and advertising
  2. They distribute 30% of their revenue at minimum to all their Partners (aka teachers)
  3. They use a secret formula to figure out how much a teacher should get

Basically if you teach a class for Skillshare, you’ll make something. It won’t be nothing but it won’t be anything specifically defined either. But wait – there’s more!

A teacher has to make Skillshare $1000/mo before they can get paid

Is there a catch? Of course, and it’s a smart one – for Skillshare:

Skillshare   What is the Skillshare Partner Program 2

So you need to sign up 100 students into a class – not classes but One Single Class – before you have a chance to make a penny. This is smart on Skillshare’s part because only the teachers that produce will receive any money. It’s a total win for Skillshare, and a small win for teachers with marketing chops or big social media followings.

Skillshare’s membership costs $10/mo (or $96/yr – I’m going to stick to the monthly figure for this calculation). 100 students brings in $1000 in membership fees – so Skillshare makes a nice chunk of change before they give a teacher any of their ambiguous income. Does that sound right to you? Skillshare and their $10.75 million venture capital backers get paid LONG before a teacher does.

This brings to mind a favorite (and NSFW) Cheech & Chong skit:

Teaching for Skillshare is great for Skillshare, bad for teachers. So what are alternatives?

1. Udemy

Udemy is a much better choice than Skillshare. If a teachers promotes their own classes (with a coupon), they keep 100% of the revenue (minus a 3% processing fee). If Udemy promotes the class, the split is 50/50. That’s respectable (though I have not reviewed their complete terms of use yet).

2. Roll your own membership website

If a teacher is able to recruit 100 people, taking the time to create their own membership website would be much, much smarter in the long run – just keep that $1000/mo for yourself, build relationships with your students and create something sustainable for yourself in the long term. (See – that includes my holy grail of ‘recurring revenue’ and ‘membership websites’ :))

Do you think Skillshare is worth it? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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