WARNING: There’s no easy answer to this question, so I’ve written a long one! 🙂
People often want to know, “How Much Can I Earn On Skillshare?“, before creating content for the platform, or uploading their existing content.
(They usually also want to know, “How Much Do Top Teachers Earn On Skillshare?“, which is an easier question to answer, and I’ve tried, below) 🙂
It’s completely natural to want to gauge how much you’ll earn in advance because the amount will then determine whether or not it’s worth the effort for you.
However, it’s very hard to estimate how much an individual can earn, but with my 3+ year experience on the platform, I can hopefully provide some clues. 🙂
Let’s start with understanding how Skillshare pay their teachers…
Skillshare’s Revenue Split
At many platforms, such as Udemy, when course sales are made teachers get a percentage of the sale depending on whether it was tagged by the teacher, an affiliate, a platform advert, via an app store etc. As a teacher, it can be hard to figure out exactly how much a sale will be worth, but you know you have to make sales to earn money.
Skillshare uses a completely different model. Instead of selling individual courses, students can pay either monthly ($15) or annually ($99) to access ALL classes on the platform. There are about 27,000 classes on Skillshare (about 26,000 premium), covering almost every topic you could wish to learn about.
click here to try Skillshare premium for two months for free!
Because the platform charges for access, teachers don’t have to worry about generating sales. They don’t have to drive clicks, or consider conversion ratios. Instead, teachers earn money when premium students watch their premium classes.
The reason I had to write “premium” twice is that you can get a 100% free account at Skillshare, which lets you watch the 1,000 totally free classes on the platform and also take any premium classes you can get a free access link for. But, free classes and free students watching premium classes using a free access coupon don’t count towards a teacher’s premium minute total.
Only premium students watching premium classes generate premium minutes.
From the revenue Skillshare generates each month from premium student subscriptions, they deduct up to 70% as business overheads (salary, advertising, promotions). The remaining 30%+ is known as the “royalty” pool.
Skillshare take the total number of premium minutes watched across all classes in the month, and divide that into the “royalty pool” to generate the value of a premium minute for the month. The pool is then distributed between all teachers who earned more than 30 premium minutes across their classes in the month.
For each teacher, the value of a premium minute is the same. So, if “teacher A” got 10,000 minutes, and a premium minute was worth 5 cents, they’d get $500. If “teacher B” got 20,000 minutes in the same month, they’d get $1,000.
The value of a premium minute changes from month to month, based on Skillshare’s revenue and the total number of premium minutes watched.
Skillshare’s “Per Premium Minute” System
Way back at the end of 2016, Skillshare announced that they were going to change how they paid their teachers. No longer would teachers earn roughly $1.50 per premium enrolment, but instead, we would be paid for premium minutes watched by premium students in our premium classes.
Of course, the change resulted in teachers immediately trying to work out whether they’d be better or worse off, under the new system. 🙂
For most teachers, the new system resulted in them earning less. The teachers who created very short classes, of 10-minutes in length, were significantly worse off, because even if a student watched the whole 10-minute class in full, the teacher would only get 50 cents (at 5 cents per premium minute). Compared to $1.50 per enrolment, teachers of 10-minute classes would get a third of what they used to get, at best. Consider that a lot of students don’t watch classes in full, and the teacher could easily be looking at 50-75% less income.
However, many teachers offering high-quality classes of several hours in length were happier with the new system because while the old system paid them $1.50 per enrolment, a student watching the whole of a 4-hour class now earned them $12! (5 cents per minute x 240 minutes). Of course, few students would watch a full 4 hours, but even an hour was worth $3, double what the old enrolment was worth.
So, as with most things in life, there were winners and losers.
Monthly Changes In The Premium Minute Value
Due to the initial interest in what a premium minute was worth, I started to track it, and called it the “earnings per premium minute” (EPPM). I seem to remember that Skillshare initially estimated the EPPM would be between 5 and 10 cents. Over two years later, we’re still waiting to see an EPPM of 7.0 or above. However, we have seen it fall to as little as 3.8 cents!
Here’s the most recent chart, reflecting the EPPM’s from the first one in January 2017 through to the most recent, February 2019….
As you can see, the EPPM has been quite volatile over the 2+ years since it was started.
I remember the concern when it debuted at just 5.5 cents when Skillshare’s estimate was 5-10 cents. The teachers whose earnings fell significantly were not impressed. However, there was worse to come when the EPPM for March was less than 5 cents (4.8 to be exact). I remember Skillshare actually raised prices immediately afterwards, from $12 per month or $96 per year, to $15 per month or $120 per year. (They have since changed the annual payment to $99, but the monthly remains at $15).
The price increase resulted in the EPPM for the next few months jumping up to 6 cents which assuaged some anger amongst teachers.
In January, February and March of 2018 you can see a fall in the EPPM. That was due to a New Year promotion on Skillshare where students could sign up for free and get a trial premium membership of three months. Not surprisingly there was a huge influx of these new premium members in the New Year which resulted in a lot more premium minutes being watched. However, the new members hadn’t paid anything, so the royalty pool stayed the same. When the royalty pool was split across all the premium minutes, each premium minute was worth a lot less in the first few months of 2018 than in previous months.
Due to the way the Skillshare payment model works, the average teacher, all else being equal, would earn minutes from the new premium members, so the reduced EPPM wouldn’t correlate to an exact fall in income. Some of the losses from the reduced EPPM will be offset by simply getting more minutes. However, the extra minutes wouldn’t totally offset the EPPM reduction because a lot of those extra minutes were generated by new trial members who hadn’t paid anything!
What’s interesting is to compare two months that are a year apart. For example, Skillshare ran the “3 months for free” premium trial at the beginning of both 2018 and 2019. When we compare the EPPM for January 2018 (3.8) and 2019 (4.4) we see that the 2019 EPPM was 0.6 cents higher. Similarly, for February 2018 (4.0) and 2019 (4.9), we see that the 2019 EPPM was 0.9c higher. That’s actually a big difference.
A teacher with 20,000 premium minutes would’ve earned $800 in February 2018, but $980 in 2019!
I’m not sure whether this means that Skillshare recruited fewer free premium trial members in 2019, they recruited the same number of trial members but they watched less minutes in aggregate, or Skillshare just took a smaller share of the revenue pot in 2019 compared to 2018!
Here’s a video of me explaining a bit about the EPPM, from its beginnings, to the most recent one in February 2019…
How To Calculate The EPPM
Teachers often ask me how they can calculate “their” EPPM. Firstly the EPPM is the same for everyone, so the quickest answer is just to check the Skillshare Mastermind group where we post the EPPM within minutes of payments being sent. 🙂
However, to calculate it yourself, take the PayPal payment amount, deduct the money for any referrals and divide the remainder by the number of premium minutes for the month.
So, for example, if you got paid $200 on June 16th, and knew you had 2 referrals and 3,500 premium minutes in May, you’d deduct $20 for 2 referrals from the $200 to give $180, then divide $180 by 3,500 premium minutes, which would give 5.1 cents per premium minute.
How Much Will I Earn On Skillshare?
OK, so now you know exactly how the Skillshare payment model works.
It should be fairly easy to see that you need to create high-quality, engaging content so that students want to watch your classes to the end.
You should also encourage any students who take your classes to “follow” you on the platform. There’s a follow button next to your name on each class’ “About” page, another one on your profile page, and also one next to your name beneath the class title, shown below…
You can send your followers an email message when you create a new class, explaining why they should take it and what they’ll learn. Building a follower list and getting your classes off to a great start will help your classes to trend on the platform, which is a mechanism for class discovery by other students. It’s like a “snowball effect” as you build momentum releasing new classes.
Tip: As well as asking your students to “follow” you, also ask for a review. In the past, reviews counted towards a class’ trending score. While I’m no longer certain that’s the case with the new Skillshare review system, it most likely is. On almost any social site, the content with the most positive feedback (views, likes, shares, re-tweets, reviews) wins! 🙂
Let’s crunch some numbers. 🙂
Let’s assume you release a class each week (which is the maximum), and each class is two hours long.
Let’s assume each student watches, on average, half your class, which is 60 minutes.
Finally, let’s assume you get 10 premium students for your first class, 20 for your second, 30 for your third and 40 for your fourth.
Class 1 would earn 10 students x 60 minutes = 600 minutes x 5c per minute = $30
Class 2 would earn 20 students x 60 minutes = 1200 minutes x 5c per minute = $60
Class 3 would earn 30 students x 60 minutes = 1800 minutes x 5c per minute = $90
Class 4 would earn 40 students x 60 minutes = 2400 minutes x 5c per minute = $120
The total for your first month would be $300.
Note, that doesn’t include any of your students who watched classes 1,2,3 or 4 who then go on to watch your other classes. Some students may watch all your classes! After all, they don’t need to pay any extra. 🙂
Of course, the “snowball” effect gets bigger as you keep releasing classes. You may also get students who find your classes via the Skillshare search engine results, and the more classes you have, the more likely your classes are to be found.
Also bear in mind that if you can bring an external audience, such as from an existing blog, social media accounts or email lists, you’ll be able to “jump start” your Skillshare presence.
If you’re starting without an external audience, and are just relying on your Skillshare content to promote itself on the platform, it could take a while to build momentum.
I’d suggest offering free enrolments to your classes. I have a page showing you how to make a free link for a premium class. When you have your free link, post it to our Skillshare Free Classes Facebook group. I’ve run it for a few years and believe it’s the largest Facebook Group dedicated to Skillshare coupons.
Skillshare Premium Referrals
An interesting way to maximise your income from Skillshare is to bring students to the platform.
If you teach on a specific niche, such as water-colouring, and you have a blog or social media on that topic, you can put classes on Skillshare and refer your visitors to Skillshare via a teacher referral link.
If any of your visitors takes a free trial of Premium, you earn $10, which is great, but presumably your visitor will then go on to watch your water-colouring classes on Skillshare.
If they like your water-colouring classes they could watch several of them and the income would start to add up! 🙂
If what you teach doesn’t match up with what Skillshare’s premium members are interested in learning, it’s going to be hard for you to make money on the platform. While Skillshare is open to everyone to teach whatever skills they like, some topics are definitely more popular with their students. If you take a look at their most popular classes, you’ll quickly see that there are repeating patterns of topics which do well. Here’s a short list:
Photography, Drawing, Painting, Fonts, Lettering, Graphic Design, Illustration, Animation.
Also, the tools used for digital creations of the above topics do well, such as teaching the Adobe suite of software, or popular apps in the same fields.
If you want to teach on a less-common topic, such as “trigonometry for beginners”, it’s important to note that your potential audience on the platform will be smaller.
Of course, if you teach on a niche topic, you’ll have less competition. Just be aware that the potential earnings will be smaller if your topic is niche, and more so if it doesn’t align with Skillshare’s popular topics.
What Skillshare Say Their Teachers Earn
Interestingly, Skillshare sometimes release statistics saying how much their teachers earn. Here’s what I could find…
“Skillshare has paid out over $5 million to teachers.” (Skillshare About page, at time of writing)
“Top teachers make $100,000+ a year.” (Skillshare Teach page, at time of writing)
“On average, first-time teachers earn $200 in their first month on Skillshare, with top teachers earning upwards of $3,000!” (Skillshare Help Center)
“Our top 100 teachers made an average of $1,300 in February.” (from March 2016 Skillshare blog post)
“An average teacher on Skillshare makes about $200 a month. Top teachers on Skillshare make up to $10K a month.” (June 2017 Skillshare blog post.)
“Evgeniya and Dominic Righini-Brand have earned over $100,000 on Skillshare.” (from September 2018 blog post)
“Peggy Dean earns $6-8k per month on Skillshare.” (from August 2016 blog post)
Note, I don’t know how Skillshare defines “top” or “average”. When they say, “top 100 teachers” it’s clear. When they say, “top teachers”, or “an average teacher”, it’s not.
I think Skillshare stopped giving out precise metrics for teachers’ earnings a long time ago. I could find claims from 2016, and some from 2017, but then it stopped.
Can I Sell My Content On Skillshare And Other Websites?
Yes, this is an important point. When you put your content on Skillshare, it doesn’t mean you can’t put it anywhere else online. Skillshare only request that if you label your content as “premium” on Skillshare, i.e. you want to monetise it, you can’t make it freely available elsewhere online. So you could sell the same course content on Udemy and from your own website if you wished.
You Need A PayPal Account
Skillshare have only ever paid their teachers via PayPal, so it’s important know that you’ll need one before you can get paid! 🙂
1: If a student watches a class in 2x speed, the class counts for half the minutes! So be sure your students aren’t tempted to increase the playback speed! 🙂
2: Minutes are counted via both the app (even when offline) and the website.
3: Minutes are published in the “teacher stats” area of the website the day after they’re watched. However, adjustments are made, so if you get 10,000-minutes in a day, don’t celebrate until you get paid!
4: Payments are made on the 16th of each month for the previous month’s premium minutes and referrals.
5: You need 30 premium minutes across all your classes to get paid. At 5c per premium minute, this means the minimum payment is $1.50, which is roughly what an old premium enrolment was worth.
If you have any questions, check out our Skillshare FAQ, which has over 50 questions and answers. If the FAQ doesn’t help, please post your questions in our Skillshare Mastermind Group and we’ll try to provide some answers! 🙂
PS, Want $50?
If you’d like to start teaching on Skillshare, and would be able to create a short class (10 minutes minimum) within 30 days, just let me know and I’ll pass your details on to Skillshare. They’ll help you through the process. To contact me, just post a comment, below. 🙂
(full disclosure: if you earn the bonus $50, Skillshare will pay me $50 too.)