Skillshare often run free promotions for accessing their whole catalogue of 21,000 classes, which they call “Skillshare Premium”.
The best offer I ever saw was for 3 months free premium, which was available in January 2018. I think they knew that many people like to make New Year’s Resolutions to learn new skills, so they offered three months free access to their whole catalogue in order to capture the avalanche of people seeking self-improvement in the New Year.
Unfortunately, that offer didn’t last. If you go to the Skillshare website at the time of writing, they’ll offer you just one free month as an incentive to sign up…
However, as Skillshare teachers, we can offer you a special link where you get 2 free months of Skillshare Premium. 🙂 That’s double what you’re offered on the Skillshare homepage!
If you don’t want the 2-month premium trial, here’s how to get a 100% free Skillshare account which you can use with free premium class access links and also watch all the 100% free Skillshare classes…
… and here are several options for getting a totally free premium account, from becoming a teaching assistant to winning a year of premium membership as a prize to getting a scholarship, there are many options!
Skillshare made a significant tweak to their search algorithm recently. We believe the change was made around the beginning of June 2018.
The first reports of the change in a negative sense came on June 3rd, by David who reported in our Facebook discussion group that his premium minutes had “plummeted” since 1st June.
Interestingly, I’d made a post on June 1st asking if anyone had seen their premium minutes increase over previous days. I proposed that a new Skillshare promotion was driving more signups and premium minutes. Not many people agreed that they were seeing more minutes, and it was mentioned that the new promotion may be targetted to specific demographics. In hindsight, perhaps this was an early indication of the SEO change, because, unlike David, I’ve seen my premium minutes increase.
Changes Reported By Skillshare Teachers…
So what information do we have? Well, David said that some of his most popular classes can no longer be found by searching for them (“many of my bestselling courses that had previously appeared top, or near the top, for their particular keyword phrases have suddenly disappeared without a trace – i.e. I am unable to find them with a direct search for the title of the course“).
Mark replied and agreed that he was seeing the same thing, “our courses have disappeared out of search“.
Sergey also agreed, “Yes I seen this happened as well all my best selling classes no longer showing up only newer classes are”.
Linday saw the same thing… “If you type in graphic design you do not come to one of my classes until 50+ rows. I used to have two in the top 10 (older class) so it looks to be an algorithm change that pushes older class lower (except their top teacher and their produced classes).”
“Up until the 1st June my Beginner’s Guide to Merch By Amazon course was top of the search results (as it has been for over a year, ever since I released it) and was getting new students every day. Now, the course is ranked 224 for the key search term, Merch By Amazon, and is actually ranked directly below a class with ZERO students called “Hand Made Creations Part 3 Amazing Fish”.
Subsequently, Mark made a new post, proposing that Skillshare search was “broken” and including a response from a Skillshare community manager…
First, I’d like to confirm that I’ve double checked and your class is open and viewable to students.
We are constantly making updates to our search algorithm, which may affect where your class appears on Skillshare. This algorithm is machine-learning based and takes into consideration a variety of factors, such as current trending popularity, course topic, category, and length.
Let me know if you have any additional questions about this.”
In response, I noted that, “because of their business model, new classes are constantly required by Skillshare. This search change seems to be weighted towards new (or popular) classes, even to the extent of sometimes beating classes with titles matching the search terms. It’s interesting to note that, in their reply, Skillshare actually listed the factor “popularity” before “course topic” for determining result positions!”
I totally understand giving priority to new classes (and to a lesser extent “popular classes”), BUT at the moment it appears the topic does not even feature in the algorithm, which is ridiculous.
For example, I could sort of understand if my Merch By Amazon class was listed last of all of the Merch By Amazon classes because it is the oldest (although I would not agree with that policy). However, coming below classes that have ZERO students and nothing in the slightest to do with the search query (apart from 4 letters in a different word within the title), just because the class is new, makes the Search function a complete farce.”
So what do we have here?
Firstly, there was a definite search algorithm change recently at Skillshare.
Secondly, that algorithm change reduced the visibility of some, but not all, classes which were previously ranking well.
Thirdly, while the age of a class may play a role in the demotion of some classes, and it does make sense that Skillshare, who charge members monthly, should promote new classes over old ones, age is not the only factor, because there are still old classes ranking well.
Fourthly, while the popularity of a class may play a role, David said that his “Merch By Amazon” for beginners had ranked well for over a year, “and was getting new students every day“. So, it was presumably a “popular” class, getting clicks from the results pages, new video views, new students, reviews and premium minutes. If not, why would David say, “I am losing quite a bit of money each day as a result” (of the algorithm change)?
So, if it’s not the age of a class, or the popularity of a class, what changed?
It’s hard to say. let’s dig deeper…
One interesting insight is a search Sergey ran. He searched for his own name, and only one class was immediately shown at the top of the results, followed by other teacher’s classes…
When I checked, I found a block of twenty-eight of his classes near the end of the search results!
That sounds much more like a ranking penalty has been applied to those classes than a SEO algorithm tweak.
But, if Skillshare have started giving out “shadow bans”, where teachers aren’t removed from the platform, but their classes are almost impossible to find in the search results, why would one of Sergey’s classes rank at the top of the same search? Having 28/29 classes rank badly, and one rank well, makes very little sense to me. Furthermore, David, Mark and Lindsay produce great classes and I would struggle to ever see them getting a demotion.
It’s also interesting to note that, in the past, Skillshare did a “sweep” of their catalogue of classes and outright deleted many classes. There was no chance to edit a class to make it compliant. If it was gone, it was gone. I expect Skillshare was swamped with customer support tickets after taking such action, so it does make a lot of sense that, if they did another sweep, they’d institute a kind of “shadow ban” which the likes of Instagram use to suppress accounts who break their rules. When a shadowban happens, the account holder is not informed, so they’re much less likely to complain and thereby start a long dialogue exchange taking up a lot of community manager’s time. However, while this is an attractive idea, it doesn’t explain why quality teachers would see their classes demoted.
Asking Some Questions…
Why does a search for “Sergey Kasimov” return 373 results?
Why does a search for another teacher, “Alex Genadinik”, return 265 results? Neither teacher has that number of classes.
Why does a search for “Social Media Marketing Masterclass” return 3434 results, but “Social Media Masterclass” returns only 1593?
The answer is that, unlike most search engines, Skillshare uses the “OR” principle when searching their database. They return results for “Sergey OR Kasimov”, “Alex OR Genadinik”, and “Social OR Media OR Marketing OR Masterclass”, hence the huge number of results for that phrase! Almost all other search engines will narrow search results by using “AND” instead of “OR”, so you get fewer results with more complex search terms.
Not only do Skillshare use the “OR” functionality, they go further… they will truncate keywords to about four letters, so “Merch by Amazon” can return results by classes containing, “Amazing Fish”!
Could it be that Skillshare recently made their search algorithm more lenient? Classes which used to rank well are now ranking less well because Skillshare are simply returning a bigger pool of results…? Have they sacrificed a degree of precision in the search results in favour of more results?
It certainly seems so.
What do you think…? Please leave a comment below, and share this post if you think others will enjoy it! Thanks! 🙂
If you search Skillshare for “watercolor”, there are 899 results at the time of writing this blog post!
That’s a lot to sort through! You could narrow them down by which ones are free to take (31) compared to premium (868), how many are over an hour long (145) compared to less than 15 minutes (89). I’m not sure what watercoloring concept can be taught in under 15 minutes, but with classes being as short as 10 minutes on Skillshare, it’s possible to take a few classes in your lunch-break if that’s something you’d like to do! 🙂
If you want new classes, you can check out the 39 watercolor classes released this month, or just the 18 released this week!
Alternatively, you could go for the classes Skillshare ranks as best in their search results.
The top search-result class has 5,454 students and is only 10 minutes long. It’s actually a totally free class called “Watercolor: Basic Techniques” by Sandra Bowers.
However, to get the most from Skillshare, you will probably want to access their premium catalogue, which makes up about 90% of all classes on the platform. Premium classes are ones that generate revenue for the teacher when they’re watched by premium members, which means they’re generally of better quality. Premium membership costs $96 per year, or $15 per month, but you can get two months for just 99 cents by following this link.
Some of the best longer, Premium watercolour classes on Skillshare are by Ana Victoria Calderon…
Her beginners class is called, “Modern Watercolor Techniques: Beginner’s Level“. Clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, and with nearly 20,000 students, this class should give you a really good foundation in painting with watercolours.
Ana describes the class as teaching…
“both basic watercolor techniques and fun new ways to use your paints mixed with other mediums and house hold supplies, such as salt and bleach. I will give you an in depth look into my favorite art supplies and how to use them properly. Watercolor can be intimidating, but I promise I will make it easy and fun with these tips and tricks. You will be amazed with the results you can obtain with my simple direction!”
She must be doing a good job, because the reviews are excellent. Of 1,853 reviews, 1,839 are positive, a whopping 99.2%! Some feedback includes..
“As the title says, it has exercises for the beginner that I think are going to come on handy!” Enhoe Paola
“This class is awesome. The teacher makes a detailed explanation of her amazing techniques and shares unique secrets! Can’t wait to see what else I can learn from her here :)” Elizabeth Martinez
“I wanted to get a fresh perspective of watercolor and I had always dismissed it. I liked the title of this class “Modern Watercolor”. I respect those who can paint landscapes but landscapes aren’t how I want to express myself. I loved the video production, the atmosphere in the instructors room, and the demeanor of the the instructor. Not only were the instructions clear but the projects were beautiful and doable. I couldn’t wait to get back to the next instruction. I can’t wait to take more classes from Ana. High quality class.” Danine Robertus
People seem to like the class project which is to, “paint a fun, starry night, galaxy or universe watercolor painting using transparencies, gradients, detail, pulse, precision and mixed media“. One of the 413 submitted projects is this beautiful nebula…
Ana has other popular watercolouring classes on Skillshare, such as, “Watercolor and mixed media“, which is 2 hours 45 minutes long, with nearly 6,000 students and 470 positive reviews.
This class shows you…
“how to achieve great results painting in negative space, using either your pulse and precision skills, or masking fluid, as well as techniques for using white paint (ink or acrylics) over you watercolors.
I also demonstrate a variety of paintings I have created and explain why and how I used certain techniques.
I addition, we will dive into experimental watercolor even more, using different mediums and household supplies, including masking fluid, acetone (nail polish remover), thick grain salt… to name a few!
By the end of this class you will be able to complete an AMAZING watercolor illustration, using the various techniques we have learned. You will also begin to train your watercolor brain to think in layers and sections.”
A third class by Ana is called “Watercolor textures” which lasts for 2 hours 3 minutes, with 5,630 students and 436 positive reviews…
In this class, Ana teaches how to create…
“AMAZING watercolor paintings using these simple tools and applying them to your ideas and a final work of art in mind.
We begin by practicing our textures is this really fun activity I like to call texture swatches. Through this activity I will bring you into my creative process and experience how I come up with new ideas.
I will also show you examples of fantastic artists I admire and analyze how they apply textures into their works of art.
By the time we get to our final project you will be a pro at textures and will have the confidence to jump into a final illustration with full commitment. Our final project will be painting an animal and/or the environment surrounding it. I promise you’ll make something beautiful! :D”
“a BUNCH of different watercolor sets I am eager to share with you today. We will compare and review different brands, including quality, vibrance, lightfastness, transparency level, grain, presentation and pricing. My goal is for you to discover new types of paints and figure out which is the best brand for you!
We will go over pan sets, watercolor tubes, liquid watercolors, metallics and even neons!
Your final project will be creating a watercolor guide of your own. The project gallery for this class will end up being an awesome library of every type of watercolors if we all work together 😀 So feel free to share information with the rest of the class, this will be a great place to go back to.”
Important notes and tips…
Note, in the past, Skillshare counted anyone who signed up for your class as a “student”, whether they were free students or premium students and it was easy to pad your student numbers. Now it’s much harder to inflate the student numbers because people have to watch half of a class to be counted as a student. So classes which are older may have higher student numbers than those which are newer. Also, classes which are longer will have fewer students than those which are shorter. That’s just something to bear in mind when choosing which classes to watch.
One thing Skillshare doesn’t do on the search results pages is show the reviews a class got. You can’t tell whether a class got a lot of positive reviews, a lot of negative ones, or a mix. Only when you visit a class landing page can you see the details.
Another way to narrow down which classes to watch is to consider using a tighter search term. Do you want to paint watercolor flowers, learn about different watercolor brushes, or get started with some easy watercolor projects? By including more keywords in your searches, you can get a smaller list of possible classes, but those classes will be more likely to teach exactly what you’d like to know.
One other tip is to consider taking a quick class by a teacher you’re interested in learning from, rather than start with a class over two hours long. If you enjoy learning from the teacher’s short class, then you can check out their profile for the other classes they teach. Similarly, if you don’t like a particular teacher, it’s better to find that out after a 10 minute class than a two hour marathon! 🙂 Sandra actually uses this technique from a teacher’s point of view. The “Watercolor: Basic Techniques” class is only 10-minutes long, but is actually taken from her “Watercolor Florals: Orchids” premium class which is 1 hour and 16 minutes long. Sandra is effectively offering the first 10 minutes of that class for free, hoping that you’ll then take the premium class, which will earn her some revenue. By contrast, all of Ana’s classes are over 2 hours long, so there’s no way to take a quick class by her, although you could just watch the first ten minutes of any of her classes and see if you like them.
This post was most recently updated on March 22nd, 2018
How To Get A Free Skillshare Account
Watch our video describing, step-by-step, how to create a free account at Skillshare.
Why would you want to do that?
Well, they don’t publicise it much, but Skillshare have about 18,000 classes in total, of which about 1,500 are totally free to watch, all you have to do is get a free account.
When you go through the sign-up process, Skillshare will naturally offer you a premium account, where you get access to all 18,000 classes. However, if you stop the sign-up process at a specific point, you’ve created a free account and can take the free classes. In the video I also show you how to find the free classes.
Teachers on Skillshare can create “free access links” to their premium classes, which you can use with your free Skillshare account, so if you see a premium class you’d really like to take, it may be worth asking the teacher if you can have a free access link.
Alternatively, you can visit our Free Skillshare Classes group on Facebook where we post several free links each day to Skillshare premium classes.
Finally, you may also be interested in the different ways we found to get a Premium Skillshare account for free, or how to get access to premium classes for free. 🙂
In our Skillshare review for 2018, we look at whether a Skillshare membership makes sense from the point of view of a student and a teacher…
Not many people know you can get a 100% free Skillshare account by going through the signup process, but not entering credit card details (watch our walkthrough video, here). With the free account, you can take any of the thousands of free classes at Skillshare, and redeem free access links to premium classes given out by teachers.
Getting a free account may make sense to you, or you could take advantage of the current “3 months for 99c” offer to become an immediate premium member which unlocks access to the full catalogue of 18,000 classes on Skillshare.
Teachers can earn money publishing their classes at Skillshare, which can be as short at 10 minutes, providing they teach a skill. In return, teachers earn a share of the Skillshare royalty pool, which is equivalent to roughly 5 cents per premium minute. It’s a great way to get started teaching online.
Note, you don’t have to be a premium member to teach on Skillshare, so getting a free account would also let you start teaching on Skillshare.
My recommendation is to sign up, either as a free Skillshare member, or taking the premium trial for just 99c, and see if you like the platform as a student or a teacher.
Good luck! 🙂
PS, there are legitimate ways to get a free, premium Skillshare account. If you’re interested in those, click here.
This post was most recently updated on January 3rd, 2018
In 2016, Skillshare paid teachers per premium enrollment in their classes, which was effectively paying teachers about $1.50 per student up-front.
In 2017, Skillshare switched to paying teachers per minute watched, effectively paying teachers only what their classes were worth based on view-time.
(learn more about the changes to Skillshare in 2017, here. We also suggested ways to adapt to the payment change, here.).
The payment system change made sense, for Skillshare.
Unfortunately, Skillshare had “trained” its teachers to create short, bite-sized classes of about 20 minutes in length, with 10 minutes being the minimum.
A class which was 20 minutes long, could only generate 20 “premium minutes”, maximum. Skillshare estimated that they’d pay 5c to 10c per premium minute. For the first few months they struggled to pay 5c, which meant a 20-minute class would only earn one dollar, even if it was watched fully. Of course, not all classes were watched in full, so teachers of bite-sized classes were looking at a 50% pay-cut. In fact, earnings falls of 70% were reported in our Skillshare Mastermind Group.
So, back in January, I thought it may be a good idea to look at the other way you can earn money at Skillshare. You can refer people to Skillshare’s Premium Trial, and earn $10 for each person who starts the trial.
Unlike the royalties program, Skillshare actually made it easier to earn money via premium referrals. They changed the trial from, “3 months for $0.99”, to a 1-month free trial. Subsequently, they changed it again, to a 2-month free trial. Human psychology tells you that people are much more likely to start a free trial than one which charges them… even if the difference is only 99 cents!
We started to drive free traffic to the Skillshare premium referral program from different sources such as blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook group posts, Instagram posts and Twitter tweets.
Could we improve on the 7 referrals, and $70, we got in January?
Here’s the data…
As you can see, 7 referrals in January had jumped to 22 in April and May, and 21 in June. July has just finished, and we set a personal record of 23 referrals, worth $230.
By comparison, a premium member would have to watch 76 HOURS of our premium content to generate the same $230.
Referring people to the premium trial at Skillshare is, in our opinion, much easier than earnings premium minutes as a teacher.
Here’s a graph of how our royalty earnings shrank as our referral earnings grew…
If you’d like to know more about how the Skillshare Premium Referral program works, and our specific tactics for generating hundreds of dollars per month from referring new trial members using only free traffic, please watch our new Skillshare class. (you can get a 2-month free trial of premium which unlocks our class and the other 18,000 on the platform!)
Here’s the video intro from the class…
Update, Jan 2018:
We have just added up our total for premium referrals in 2017, and it came to 360 referrals worth $3,600. We have been paid for each month except December. Here’s the full breakdown…
You can see how we’ve managed to double the level from the summer, which was roughly 20 per month, to about 40 per month currently. September was our record, with 54 premium referrals worth $540, or about 10,000 premium minutes!
We’ve just created a Skillshare review for 2018, looking at how useful Skillshare is to teachers and students in 2018.
This post was most recently updated on September 6th, 2017
Do you remember the Skillshare “New Teacher Bonus“?
In 2016 someone wanting to teach at Skillshare could get a cash bonus of up to $200. All they had to do was create a new class in a specific category along with a few other minor requirements such as post a project in the “Teaching A Great Skillshare Class” class and provide a comment or piece of feedback on a fellow participant’s project in the same class. In addition to the cash prize, new teachers who met the conditions would also get a year of Skillshare Premium for free.
Since then the $200 cash bonus for specific categories was dropped and the reward became $100 cash across all categories. Skillshare then changed the bonus cash to a “guaranteed $100“, meaning they only “topped up” what you earned in your first month to a maximum of $100.
Other requirements were also added, such as referring a premium member and getting 10 premium signups in your new class. Finally, the requirement of being invited was added.
Many people were unhappy that a successful new teacher who earned $100 in their first month wouldn’t get a bonus under the “guaranteed $100” system.
The New “New Teacher Bonus”…
Now it appears that the offer has been changed. Instead of a “guaranteed $100”, Skillshare will “match your royalties” up to $100…
So, in the past, $5 would be “topped up” to $100, costing Skillshare $95. Now $5 will be “matched” by $5, saving Skillshare $90.
On the other hand, in the past, someone earning $100 or more in royalties would earn nothing extra from the “guarantee” offer, but would now get an extra $100 from the “match” offer, costing Skillshare an extra $100.
I think this probably saves Skillshare money overall. I can imagine many more people earn less than $50 in their first month, than those who earn more than $50, which is the point at which Skillshare would pay out more under the new system.
However, I do like the idea. It rewards those who do well and earn money, rather than preferentially rewarding those who earn less. It will also stop people who were cheating the system by earning $1 and getting it topped up to $100.
The “matched royalty bonus” described above is only for people who are invited. What if you’re not invited to teach on Skillshare?
Well, you could contact them and ask for an invite. 🙂
Alternatively, you could take part in the “non-invite offer”, known as the “VIP New Teacher Challenge”, which has similar requirements to fulfil, but instead of rewarding you with a “matched bonus payment”, you’d get a “year of premium” for free.
It seems that Skillshare have separated out the cash payment part of the original “New Teacher Bonus” from the bonus year of premium into two different offers. There’s now a “matched royalty bonus” offer, by invitation only, and a “free year of Premium” offer, which is open to everyone.
Thoughts…? Please leave a comment.
To join Skillshare and get 2 months-Premium for free, click here.
One question which sometimes comes up is, “how can I watch premium Skillshare courses for free“?
I’ve decided to tackle that question in this blog post. 🙂
First, let’s get some basic terminology sorted out.
There are “100% free” classes on Skillshare, which you only need a free account to watch. Roughly 10% of Skillshare’s catalogue are “100% free” classes, which means about 1,600 of the total 16,000 classes will be “100% free” to watch with a free account.
The remaining 90% are “premium” classes which usually require a premium membership to watch. Teachers only get paid for premium members watching their premium classes, which is why most of the Skillshare catalogue is premium. While it’s not as easy to watch premium classes for free, there are several ways to do it!
Look for “free access links”
Free access links are also known as free enrollment links and free coupons. For every premium course, the teacher has the option to create free access links and give them away. If you can get one of these links, you can watch a premium course with your free account.
Why would teachers give away free access to a premium course? Well, there are a few different reasons, but mainly it’s to build awareness of their content on Skillshare. To be successful on the platform, it’s necessary to build a “following” of people who want to know about your courses. One way to build that following is to offer free access to your class. If the person taking the class likes it enough, they may take a free trial of premium. Referring people to the premium free trial earns the teacher a $10 bounty, but also means that teacher will have someone likely to take their future premium classes.
Here’s an example of us offering free access to one of our premium Skillshare classes… (if you want to access the class, click here)
The best place to find fresh, free access links is probably our dedicated Skillshare promotional group on Facebook.
(There are other similar groups on Facebook, but most accept both Skillshare and Udemy free coupons. You’ll need to check before clicking the link that it leads to Skillshare if that’s the link you want).
If you want free access to a specific class, it may be worthwhile trying to contact the teacher online, via social media or their own website to get a link. If the teacher doesn’t know how to create a free link, send them to this page where we explain how to create a free link for a premium class. 🙂
Take up Skillshare’s offer of a “free trial of premium”
A premium trial lasts for two months and will unlock all 16,000 classes on the platform. While this is an easy way to access all classes, it’s not possible if you don’t have a credit card because the free trial requires you to input your card details. Note, unless you cancel your membership within the two months, you will be charged after the trial expires. To start a free trial and access all 16,000 Skillshare courses for 2-months, including all of ours, click here.
Look for “contests” and “challenges” run by Skillshare
Some of Skillshare’s contest offer a year of premium as a prize. In the past, qualifying for a year of premium was as simple as signing up for a free account and creating a class. Nowadays there are more restrictions, such as referring a premium member and getting your class watched for a specific number of premium minutes. However, as long as you track the requirements and complete them, this is a great way to get a whole year of premium membership for free.
If you’re willing to put in time and be helpful on the Skillshare website, you could apply to be a “Teacher’s Assistant”. The “TA” program at Skillshare comes with a complimentary premium membership.
“As a Skillshare TA, you’ll partner with Skillshare’s Community team to help make Skillshare the most engaging and rewarding place to learn. In exchange, you’ll get a free Premium Membership, special recognition as a TA, and first access to all the cool new things happening here at Skillshare.”
Another option to access premium Skillshare classes for free, or at a reduced price, is to take advantage of the scholarships Skillshare offer. At the moment, there are three types of scholarships available.
The first is a pool of $100,000-worth of premium scholarships available in conjunction with Mailchimp, which presumably means Skillshare and Mailchimp together are offering 1,000 year-long premium accounts.
– A small business owner, working at a small business or as a solopreneur. A small business is defined as having between 2 and 150 employees.
– First-time Skillshare premium member (you have never purchased a premium Skillshare membership before)
– 13 years of age or older
– Create a Skillshare account (email address only)
The second is a student scholarship with a 50% price reduction.
“To celebrate 500,000 class enrollments, Skillshare is offering $500,000 in Scholarships to eligible students around the world.”
Scholarships will be given out based on financial need and potential for making a creative impact on the world. Eligible students will receive a 50% discount on a year of Premium Membership with unlimited video access. Scholarships are awarded on the 1st of each month, and selected applicants will be notified via email.
So there you go… that’s quite a few ways to watch either individual premium courses on Skillshare for free, or to get access to the whole 16,000+ database of Skillshare courses for a period of time. These methods are all totally legitimate and within Skillshare’s Terms of Service. We teach on Skillshare and do not condone any attempts to watch premium Skillshare content without the permission of the content creator and the Skillshare platform.
Wow, there have been some enormous changes at Skillshare in the first weeks of 2017 which massively change the platform. Let’s look at them…
The Payment Model Change
Skillshare used to pay teachers “per premium enrollment”. When a premium member enrolled in a teacher’s premium class, that counted as one premium enrollment. The amount paid for a premium enrollment varied between $1 and $2, but was usually around $1.50. Skillshare announced in December that they were going to change the model and start paying teachers based on “premium minutes” from January 1st. Any time spent by premium members watching premium classes would count as premium minutes. They stated that the expected payment would be between five and ten cents per premium minute.
On 16th February teachers got paid for the first time under the new model. A quick calculation showed that the earnings per premium minute (EPPM) was only 5.5 cents, at the bottom end of predictions. Based on self-reporting in our Skillshare Mastermind Facebook group of 2,000 teachers, most teachers saw a decline in the earnings of about half, with some reporting as much as an 85% loss, and only one reporting a gain.
While it’s possible that new students taking classes in January drove down the value of the EPPM, it seems unlikely that it will rebound enough to assuage the unhappiness of teachers who will have to adjust to a lower earning environment at Skillshare.
The “Enrollments” change
In addition to removing the concept of enrollments from the teachers payment calculation, Skillshare removed the actual “enroll” button from their UI completely. They first did this for premium members, who could simply start watching any part of any of the 14,000 classes in Skillshare’s catalogue without “enrolling”.
Confusion was caused when the “enroll for free” button also disappeared. Teachers were used to giving out free enrollment links for their premium classes to build their student numbers, and lots of people has free Skillshare accounts, which could take all the free classes on Skillshare (about 1,000 of the 14,000 classes on Skillshare are free classes), and could enroll in premium classes using free enrollment links.
Unfortunately, the current Skillshare system seems to be bugged. Anyone who is signed in with a free account and clicks on a free enrollment link for a premium class cannot take that class. However, a workaround has been found. If you click the free enrollment link whilst signed OUT of your free account, then log in after clicking the free enrollment link, it works and the class is added to the list of those you can watch with your free account.
The “Free Accounts” change
Skillshare announced that free accounts would no longer be able to post reviews, discussions or projects for any classes. Perhaps free accounts were being used to “game” the system and boost classes of unethical teachers, or perhaps this was just seen as giving free account holders more reasons to upgrade to premium.
The “Followers” change
In the past, when someone clicked the button to enroll in your class, they automatically became a follower of yours. This was important to teachers because several months ago Skillshare added the ability for teachers to email their followers collectively from the teacher’s profile page. However, this system of gaining followers changed with the removal of the buttons. For a short time, people who watched a few seconds of your class lessons automatically were added as new followers. Skillshare then added “follow” buttons to the class pages, and students will now only become a new follower if they click a follower button. While this puts the decision whether or not to follow a teacher in the hands of the students, it makes it much harder for new Skillshare teachers to build a following.
The “Student Count” change
Similar to the follower change, students who just start watching a lesson of your class are not immediately counted as a class student. Instead, it’s necessary for the person watching the class to take a specific, undisclosed, percentage before they’re counted in the total number of class students. One consequence of this is that it makes it much harder for teachers to reach the required 25 students per class for it to start to trend. However, it seems that Skillshare are moving away from trending as a discovery mechanic in favour of more personalised recommendations, so the impact of this change may not be as large as if it had been made a few months ago.
In the image, below, the newest classes are shown in reverse chronological order. The most recent dozen don’t have a student between them, and it’s only when you get to the 33rd most recent class where you find more than 5 students!
The “Category” change
Skillshare moved from having several categories, each with sub-categories, to just four main categories (Creative, Business, Technology and Lifestyle), with more sub-categories. Teachers now have to choose a category, a sub-category and up to seven skills (tags) when they create a class. While this change was seen as generally positive, some teachers were dismayed, such as those who create “Crafts” classes and now find them listed under “Lifestyle” as a sub-category when perhaps it should’ve been under “Creative”. Previously Crafts was a main category.
A lot of this information had to be deduced by teachers, until Skillshare published three blog posts in one day… the same day they paid teachers under the new system for the first time.
In this blog post we’ll look at the current payment calculation, including why it was considered to be inadequate, the new earnings calculation, whether a teacher can expect to earn more or less in 2017, and a method I’ve created to maximise Skillshare earnings in 2017.
On December 15th 2016, Skillshare dropped a bombshell on its teachers. As from January 1st 2017, which was about two weeks away, the mechanism by which teachers payments are calculated would change. This announcement set off a huge amount of debate, discussion and conjecture in our Skillshare Mastermind Facebook Group, as you can see from this activity chart..
First, let’s start with an earnings overview, for people who aren’t familiar with Skillshare.
Skillshare’s Current Payment Model
Skillshare operated on a membership model. In exchange for a monthly payment ($12/month, or $96/year), members are designated as “Premium” and can access all classes on the Skillshare site, currently numbering about 12,000, of which most are only available to Premium members.
Teachers create the classes, and are currently paid according to a revenue share split. Skillshare totals up the revenue from Premium members each month, retains 50% for staff costs, website costs, coding and marketing, and pays the rest to teachers. Individual teachers earn a percentage of the teacher royalty pool based on the number of premium enrollments in their premium classes in a month. For example, if Skillshare earned $200,000 from membership payments in a specific month, the payment to teachers would be $100,000. If there were 100,000 premium enrollments in premium classes in the month, each premium enrollment would be worth a dollar. A teacher who gained 1,000 premium enrollments in that month would earn $1,000.
While this system is quite simple, it’s not predictable. If we use the same example, but there were just 50,000 premium enrollments in the month, each premium enrollment would be worth $2, and each teacher would’ve earned double! It’s easy to see that potential teachers could be put off teaching on Skillshare due to the unpredictable payment system.
Why would Skillshare change this sytem?
Skillshare showcases new classes that “trend” well on highly visible pages within the website. They calculate which new classes are best using a trending algorithm which takes account of reviews, enrollments and project submissions for each class. Recently, Skillshare changed their trending algorithm quite dramatically (see our explanatory class, here), to take account of the percentage of students who complete a class. We called this the “Class Completion Modifier” (CCP). We believe that the old trending score is multiplied by the percentage of students completing the class to derive a new trending score. Skillshare haven’t publically revealed this information, but we’ve deduced it by recording how well classes with different attributes trend.
One consequence of changing the algorithm was that short classes are rewarded and long classes are penalised, due to it being much easier to complete a short class than a long one. With the minimum class length being 10-minutes, it was certain that teachers would switch to short classes, with the more enterprising ones creating a “series” of short classes to maximise their income from enrollments.
It’s likely that Skillshare saw the creation of a series of multiple short classes as a way of “gaming” their payment system. What’s interesting is how they reacted. They didn’t just increase the minimum class length to 20 or 30 minutes, they did something more dramatic.
How the new payment model works at Skillshare.
From Jan 1st 2017, Skillshare will still split the membership revenue pool with teachers, but teachers will earn based on “premium minutes watched” in the month, as a percentage of total premium minutes watched. So, the “per enrollment” payment is being replaced with a “per minute watched” payment. Whereas the old “per enrollment” payment was between $1 and $2, and averaged about $1.50, the guidance from Skillshare is that the “per minute watched” payment will be between $0.05 and $0.10 per premium minute. Skillshare say that the only way to opt-out of the new payment calculation is to email them to have your content removed from the site.
Will teachers earn less?
This is an interesting question, and it largely depends on what kind of classes the teacher was teaching, and how good they were.
Teachers who created poor classes, and accrue few “minutes watched”, will see their earnings tumble. While bad classes may have generated enrollments, they’re not as likely to generate many “minutes watched” before the student abandons the class. This group of teachers will likely lose most of their income under the new payment calculation.
Teachers who taught short classes (10-15 minutes) will earn less, because even if a premium member watches a class completely, and using $0.10 per premium minute for the calculation, a class under 15 minutes won’t earn the same as an old premium enrollment worth $1.50. Of course, not all students watch 100% of a class, so the actual earnings will be significantly less.
Teachers who put good, long classes on Skillshare may benefit. Under the old system, a 2-hour class would only earn $1.50 from a premium enrollment. However, under the new system, a 2-hour class watched to completion would earn 120 (minutes) * $0.10 (value per premium minute) = $12, an eight-fold increase.
Should I create long classes?
Teachers immediately started debating whether or not to create long classes, and, if so, how long? Are “bite-sized” classes dead now? There was talk of a “sweet spot”, where a class would be short enough to trend, but long enough to earn decent money. We don’t think the sweet spot exists. In fact, we called it the “sweet spot trap“. Why? Well, if a class is 30 minutes, it could be too long to trend well and too short to earn significant payment. Classes of 30-40 minutes could “fall between two stools” and neither trend well nor earn much money.
If you have a loyal, fanatical audience on Skillshare or social media, and rarely release classes, it’s possible that your audience would watch all of your new 40-minute class and it would therefore both trend and earn you some money. In that case, 40-minutes could be called a “sweet spot”, but we think most teachers probably don’t have the benefit of a large, loyal fanbase.
Bear in mind, if your students on Skillshare are used to receiving a certain type of class from you, whether that’s short, medium or long classes, live demonstrations or slide voice-overs, and if that’s your teaching style, you may not want to change, even if you earn less revenue after the payment model changes. By changing your teaching style or class length you may alienate existing students, and that will negatively impact your earnings.
The “Jupiter Model”.
In the few days since the announcement was made, we’ve read all the comments posted to our Skillshare Mastermind Facebook Group, along with our experience of teaching on Skillshare for a year, and have come up with a model for class content organisation we think will do well in 2017. We called it the Jupiter Model.
How it works is that a teacher would create multiple short classes teaching specific skills, such as explaining which watercolouring brushes to use, or how to set up a canvas. These short, 10-minute classes, would trend well and gain students who would then be encouraged to take a much longer (2 hour), “masterclass” on how to create the perfect watercolour from scratch. In this manner, the teacher would have one main, long, money-making class (Jupiter) and many short, specific classes (moons) driving traffic to the main class. The main class wouldn’t trend well, due to its length, but that would be OK because students would find it via the multiple small classes which would trend well. The small classes wouldn’t earn much money individually, but that would be OK because they’d drive students to the money-making class. By creating both short and long classes, you’d optimise for the new payment method at Skillshare.
Quality is everything.
Of course, the Jupiter Model requires the short and long classes to be of top-quality. A student won’t watch the short classes unless they’re good, and they certainly won’t take the masterclass unless the short classes are of value to them. However, assuming that the teacher is offering quality classes, we believe the Jupiter Model is the best way for Skillshare teachers to organise their content under the present trending algorithm, and the upcoming payment calculation.
For Udemy Instructors
One repercussion of this change is that it will become much more attractive for Udemy instructors to put their courses on Skillshare. Generally, Udemy courses are much longer than Skillshare classes. Previously, Udemy instructors were either putting their full courses on Skillshare, but only earning $1.50 per student, or they were chopping up their courses into multiple Skillshare classes to earn a “fairer” payment for their work. As from January 1st, courses of multiple hours will be rewarded pro ratafor minutes watched and therefore will be rewarded more fairly. There will likely be many experienced Udemy instructors beating a path to Skillshare in the New Year. However, they will still need to be able to get visibility for their classes on Skillshare, which is not easy, and long classes are unlikely to trend well.
Skillshare Earnings Data
Let’s talk numbers! (grab come coffee, and feel free to check my maths!)
Our new class currently has 72 premium students and 962 minutes watched.
Under the current system, 72 students are worth $108 (at $1.5 per premium enrollment).
Under the new system, 962 minutes watched are worth $96.20 at $0.10 per premium minute, a 12% loss. At $0.05, the minutes are only worth $48.10, which would be a huge loss.
1: The premium minutes are updated daily, so they may not reflect the 14 students who joined today, according to Skillshare’s timestamps. Deducting 14 from the 72 gives 58 students, worth $87 at $1.5 per premium enrollment, in which case $96.20 is actually a 10% gain. However, $48.10 would still be a huge loss!
2: Students may watch the class over the next few days or weeks, which would affect the “minutes watched”, but not the “enrollments”, so these numbers may be a little bit biased towards the enrollment earnings.
I would guess this class has high engagement relative to others, but it looks like it will roughly match the old system for earnings under the best payment for premium minutes, and could be a lot worse if premium minutes are only worth $0.05.
Classes with lower engagement will do worse at $0.10, and considerably worse at $0.05. The only options to make more money are to…
1: carry the high engagement through longer classes, which risks those classes trending badly if they’re not watched to completion
2: use the “Jupiter Model” of multiple short classes feeding into a much longer one.
This data has resulted in some teachers speculating that anything from 75% to 90% of teachers will earn less under the new model. If that’s true, and the teachers are still paid 50% of the “royalty pool” collectively, it means the other 10% to 25% of teachers will do very, very well!
Frequently Asked Questions
Some teachers have questions about the new model, some of which have been answered, and some haven’t. I’ll reprint them here for your convenience:
Q1: What about playing classes back at 0.5x or 2x speed?
A1: Changing the playback speed will change the earnings. Someone playing back a class at 2x speed (double speed) will earn the teacher half of the “normal playback speed” minutes watched, and 0.5x will earn double the normal minutes.
Q2: Will “minutes watched” include viewing a class via the app, even after downloading it to view offline?
Q3: Will re-watching a class earn more “minutes viewed”?
A3: Unanswered. [update: the answer is yes] “If a student were to re-watch your class multiple times, the additional minutes-watched would indeed be counted towards your payment.”
Q4: Will a premium student watching a free class count as “premium minutes”?
A4: Unanswered. [update: the answer is no] “Only minutes watched in Premium classes by students with a Premium Membership will count towards royalty payments. Minutes watched in a free class or by a free member through a free enrollment link will not count.”
Q5: Is there a minimum requirement for “minutes viewed” in a month to get paid?
A5: Yes, the minimum is 30 minutes, and it doesn’t carry over to subsequent months. You must gain over 30 minutes in a month to be paid.
Q6: When does the change to the teacher payments model happen?
A6: The new system begins Jan 1st 2017, and the first payment using the new calculation will happen on February 16th, for “premium minutes watched” in January.
Q7: Can you opt-out of the new payment model?
A7: You can email Skillshare and have your content removed from the site if you wish, otherwise you are deemed to have accepted the new payment calculation.