Skillshare Review: Is Skillshare Worth it for Digital Artists?

Skillshare has its flaws, but I think it offers great value for money

Written: 
August 10, 2021
Last Updated: 
August 10, 2021
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Online education continues to grow rapidly year on year, and video learning platforms are leading the charge. One of the most popular ones is Skillshare, with somewhere around thirty thousand courses - if you regularly watch YouTube, you’ve probably heard them mentioned as a sponsor.  But how good is their platform?
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A while back I was thinking of releasing my own course on Skillshare, so I decided to try it out using a free trial to see what the competition was like.

At first I was struck by the sheer amount of video courses I had access to, especially for such a low monthly fee, but once I actually started using it I noticed some glaring problems - and I had to ask myself if Skillshare is really worth their subscription fee.

Despite all the sponsorships they do, it's tricky to get a clear picture of how good Skillshare is without spending money to try it out long-term.

So, I decided to revisit Skillshare recently so I could fully understand the platform; here's my short summary of using Skillshare as a student:

Skillshare's greatest advantage is how affordable it is - you get much more value for money than most other platforms.  However most Skillshare classes are beginner-focused and of variable quality, so you’ll probably waste a lot of time digging through the mediocre classes trying to find the hidden gems.

If you are considering Skillshare as a place to create courses and earn an income:

Skillshare teacher income is probably lower than most competitors, but it's a really approachable place to create your first video course  - students don't directly exchange their money for your course, so you wont feel as much pressure that your course must be 'perfect' to be able to sell it.

I’ve actually done just that, and written an article on my experiences teaching on Skillshare.

Before we get into the deeper nitty-gritty of the Skillshare review, let’s quickly make sure we all understand the basics of Skillshare so we are on the same page.


‍What is Skillshare?

Skillshare is a video e-learning platform that hosts courses in all kinds of subjects but mainly focuses on creative topics, lifestyle and entrepreneurship. In exchange for a subscription fee, you get access to their entire premium library.

As a digital artist myself, I was most interested in their art classes, and Skillshare has thousands of them in all sorts of disciplines like oil painting, digital art, 3D and much more.


How much does Skillshare cost?

Skillshare uses a subscription payment plan: you get unlimited on-demand access to all of their premium courses while you continue to pay their subscription fee, very similar to something like Netflix.

Skillshare costs $19 a month, $99 a year
Skillshare has 2 subscription plans: an annual plan that costs $99 per year, and a monthly package that costs $19 per month.

However I recently received an email from Skillshare telling me that their monthly plan is being discontinued slowly across the globe, so I understand some parts of the world, including the USA, can now only subscribe yearly.

Skillshare also offers a 1 month free trial - which I think is a pretty generous deal.

It’s enough time to try out a bunch of Skillshare’s classes in all the topics you are interested in and make sure it is a service that you want to pay for. 

When you do decide to put down some money, the subscription based payment system that Skillshare uses completely changes how you end up consuming classes.

Most other places make you pay for each course that you take, and usually it's quite pricey. Skillshares subscription is very cheap compared to other platforms, and lets you get more from the money you pay, because you can browse through any course that's on the platform as you like.

But the downside of this is you feel like you are on a time limit, racing against your subscription. You want to consume as much learning as you can before it runs out. 

You aren't incentivised to watch one course and really take it in; to take your time, practice the exercises and develop the skills the course teaches.

Instead, you will probably feel some pressure to quickly click through courses, bouncing around and exploring all of the subjects and classes that intrigue you.

Skillshare seems to be aware of the effect it's business model has on the way it's users consume the classes, and has structured much of its site toward serving quicker, easy to consume and bite-sized classes, and away from large in-depth ones.

In my opinion, Skillshares subscription makes it great for exploration and discovery, but not necessarily for in-depth skill development. 

Who teaches on Skillshare?

Anyone can teach on Skillshare, so there are plenty of self-taught creatives on there

Anyone is able to make a course on Skillshare - you don't need any sort of qualification or to be a certified teacher in any way.

In my experience, this has proven to have it’s upsides and downsides.

Of course, there are instructors on Skillshare who have had formal training in their craft and are probably accredited teachers, but it seems to me like this is the minority.

There are loads of self-taught creatives making great classes on Skillshare that just wouldn't be there if they were required to be certified in some way, and there are also classes on topics that you'd never get a qualification to teach.

For example, there are some good classes on how to use Krita, but since it's an open source and completely free piece of digital art software, it's very unlikely that any school would bother creating a teacher training course for it.

But whilst this lack of qualified teachers means there are many good classes that wouldn't be there otherwise, it also means there's an absolute mountain of teachers who are inexperienced, and to be honest provide a lower standard of teaching. 

The range of teaching quality is really large - there are some outstanding courses by engaging and captivating teachers that you can learn so much from, and then there are others that sadly just aren't up to par and dilute the quality. 

Skillshare's subscription system also indirectly affects the quality of the teachers. I made a couple of my own classes, and have them on Skillshare - I actually wouldn't feel comfortable charging people money for them (on Udemy for example) because I just don't think they are of a high enough quality, but I'm totally fine with having them on Skillshare since people can just dip in and straight out if they aren't enjoying it. 

This presents and reinforces one of Skillshare's biggest hurdles: filtering through all of the classes to find the best ones. 

What are Skillshare’s classes like?

Probably the most important factor to review - Skillshare’s classes.

Firstly, Skillshare has a lot of classes, and new ones are uploaded every day.  It doesn't have as many as its main competitor Udemy, but probably more than any other competitor.

This is both a boon and a curse - the sheer number and variety of classes means there are many great courses on Skillshare, but most of the good ones are obscured under a mountain of generic and frankly indistinguishable content.

Every class that gets uploaded to Skillshare has to be reviewed by their team, but that doesn’t mean every course on Skillshare is well-made. To be honest, not all of the teachers are good at their subject, or at teaching.

You can click through any course you fancy and easily check out its quality before committing to watching through the whole thing - and when you find a good course, then chances are that the rest of the courses by the same teacher are just as good.

Skillshare's open teaching policy means most Skillshare classes are not taught by experts, and are therefore aimed at beginners. I think some classes are appropriate for intermediate students, but the amount of courses advanced enough for experienced students is very few.

Most Skillshare classes are under 60 minutes and only focus on a single topic - if you’re seeking a structured course that tackles many aspects of a subject in depth, Skillshare is probably not going to provide it.  Some teachers have uploaded their classes in a comprehensive series, such as Brent Eviston, but most have sporadic content.  

Skillshare asks for every class to be accompanied by a project for the students to work on, but in my experience it is often missing or a very minor part of the class.

If you're hoping to just use Skillshare to learn a complex topic like digital art, you’ll have to be self-reliant in building your own syllabus out of the classes you can find and designing your own exercises - and accept you’ll probably have some gaps here and there.

You’ll also encounter the issue of choosing to work through a whole course, only to later stumble on another class on the same subject that would have fit you better. 

In a related issue, none of the courses are dated, so you can’t tell how old it is. When you are trying to learn a subject that changes over time, an up-to-date course is much more useful - for example Photoshop changes a little bit every year and social media algorithms change regularly, so both subjects are much better learnt from a modern class than an old one.

If this all makes Skillshare sound like a bit of a headache to you, then you might like to know that many of Skillshare's classes are actually available on other platforms, such as Udemy - but because of it’s subscription, Skillshare is almost always the cheapest way to watch them.

I should also mention that the majority of the courses are in English - there are some in Spanish, Russian etc, but probably not enough to justify paying for Skillshare Premium.

It might also be important to add that Skillshare classes are not accredited and don’t provide students with any sort of official certificates upon completing a class.

How is Skillshare’s user experience?

Since Skillshare’s classes are all streamed video and you can’t download them, first of all you need to have a reliable and reasonably fast internet connection to get the most out of Skillshare - especially to learn art, as clear visuals will be so important.

The search bar is really the only decent tool Skillshare gives you to find the classes you need - their browsing categories are really shallow and don’t thin the choice down much, and their search filters are awkward to find for some reason.

But here’s the really tricky bit: after you’ve done a search, you then have to try to pick a class from all the search results just by judging them from their thumbnail, title and number of previous students. 

Sometimes courses get a lot of students because the teacher is popular on social media, and because of trends as well - in my experience of watching through loads of classes to find the best ones, the number of previous students a class has is not necessarily a good indicator of quality.

Of course, you can watch a little of the course to check out if it will suit you, but it ends up being quite a laborious process to watch little bits of dozens of courses just to find the best one. Not to mention, it can also feel like lost time - each day wasted is another day closer to renewing your Skillshare subscription!

Once you enter a class, the layout is similar to YouTube - a lesson playlist on the right, video player with speed controls, subtitle etc on the left, and an about/reviews and discussion section underneath.

The reviews and discussion sections are also pretty useful in helping you filter out classes, and also sometimes answer questions that you might think of while watching the class.

Lastly, and important to the user experience, you can cancel easily from your account settings, and will be able to continue using Skillshare until the day your current subscription expires. However, if you purchased your Skillshare subscription through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, the only way you can cancel or apply for a refund is through the app store directly.

How does Skillshare compare to its competitors?

If you’re a digital artist, I compared Skillshare to plenty of digital art focused platforms in this article.

The short version of that article is that most other platforms are going to be more expensive than Skillshare for learning digital art, but if you have the extra money then look into Proko and NMA to learn drawing and painting fundamentals, Schoolism and Artstation for digital art focused tutorials and SVSLearn for a structured learning experience.

If you are not a digital artist, none of those platforms are going to appeal to you so let’s take a look at Skillshare's competitors in the wider market:


Udemy

Udemy is what most people would consider Skillshare's main competitor - many of Skillshares classes also appear on Udemy, so it makes sense the platforms are often compared.

Price

Udemy does not use a subscription model - you purchase individual courses for lifetime access to them.

Prices vary from course to course, and also whether it is currently on sale - which usually causes prices on individual courses to constantly fluctuate from around $15 up to about $80!  In my opinion, this system is a little silly, but it is what it is.

Because you get a lifetime purchase, you can take your time with the course material without worrying about a subscription running out like on Skillshare - and you can re-watch or refer back to specific parts again in the future whenever you like.

But the downside is that unless you have plenty of spare cash, you can’t just flippantly purchase a course here and there as the cost will add up very quickly - unlike Skillshare where you can bounce around between dozens of courses a day and not increase your bill at all.

As an example, Brent Eviston's fantastic Skillshare classes are also on Udemy - and would cost around $200 to purchase them all, roughly equal to 2 years of subscribing to Skillshare. 

Quality of the courses

The quality of Udemy courses varies, as anyone can become a tutor there and upload classes. They do have a review process for every course, but it doesn't seem to be strict around quality.

Udemy also has a slightly higher average skill-level for its instructors, with more intermediate and advanced content than Skillshare's beginner-focused classes.

Number of courses 

100 000, 10k+ classes on art

Udemy has a much larger catalogue of courses and range of instructors, so there is a higher chance of finding a course here for learning a specific skillset, compared to Skillshare. 

Ease of use

I find Udemy as intuitive and simple to use as Skillshare is - the browsing is actually a little better on Udemy, as it’s much easier to use filters to reduce the amount of search results into what you’re actually looking for.

There are also more reviews and more active discussion boards on Udemy than Skillshare, simply because it gets a lot more traffic and users - again, making it easier to find the better courses and avoid the bad ones.

A lot of instructors let you preview quite a lot of their course content for free before purchasing, and once purchased, some instructors will even let you download their courses. 

Udemy has a 30 day refund policy, but you may be refused if you watched too much of the course or downloaded it.

In my opinion, Udemy is best suited to purchasing one or two intermediate/advanced and comprehensive courses, in a discipline you are sure you want to develop skill in. Skillshare is a much cheaper way to explore and enjoy beginners content.

LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda)

I watched a couple of their digital art courses back when they were Lynda.com and was not very impressed with the level of instruction, but my experiences are very limited and dated - and browsing the modern courses, they certainly look much higher quality than the ones I watched - so my complaints may no longer be accurate.

Price

29.99 USD per month, $240 per year

Quality of the courses

Anyone can apply to teach on LinkedIn, but must fill out an application form and supply a sample - they only accept professionals and experts with demonstrable experience teaching online, which are much stricter requirements than Skillshare; this keeps the quality of their courses high, but the breadth of topics is much smaller than SKillshares.

Number of courses

Over 15 000 courses, around 200 on art

Ease of use

It's very similar to Skillshare really: simple, straightforward and easy to use.

Something that does stand out is their learning paths that make it even easier for you to build a syllabus, something that Skillshare sorely lacks.

Other minor information you might find important is that LinkedIn Learning also has both iOS and an Android app; their premium subscription is also not refundable according to their policies.

‍If you like the idea of subscribing for a library of classes but are worried Skillshare’s content will be too unstructured, beginner focused or low quality, then LinkedIn Learning might be able to provide exactly what you are after.


Pluralsight

Pluralsight is fairly similar to LinkedIn Learning, but with a strong emphasis on professional technical skills - IT, VFX, programming, web development etc.  I currently have no personal experience with Pluralsight, but they offer a 10-day free trial that I may test out in the future to evaluate them.

Price

$29 per month, or $299 per year; they also offer a premium subscription which is $45 per month, and $449 per year.

Quality of the courses

Pluralsight courses are higher quality than average, because you must audition to teach there, and they have a dedicated team designed to help you craft a better course, as well as a peer review process so your class will be reviewed by other experts and teachers. They also allegedly keep their courses up to date, which if true is in stark comparison to Skillshare.

Number of courses

Around 5000, around 250 of which are on art

Ease of use

Again, simple and straightforward enough to use, with both iOS and Android apps.  They also do not offer refunds on their subscriptions.

Skillshare typically offers hobbyist and amateur content in most disciplines; if you want a subscription that teaches highly technical skill sets, then I would take a look through Pluralsight’s library.


My Opinion on Skillshare 

Because of Skillshare's subscription model and open teaching policy, it’s really hard to discover the best classes amidst all the mediocre ones - but despite this, there are amazing classes on there that you would have to spend a lot of money to purchase elsewhere.

It's also so easy to fall into the trap of churning through loads of classes on your mission to consume as much as you can, glossing over the content and not really retaining much information.

I think Skillshare is incredible value for money if you are seeking beginner to intermediate level content, and have more spare time than spare money on your hands to dig through Skillshare's classes and find the best content.

If you are an artist, I actually created this Best Skillshare Classes article specifically for these reasons - to help you find the best content and make the most of your subscription fee.

The article also goes really well with Skillshare’s generous 1 month free trial - you may be able to watch what you need to without even paying a cent!

Unfortunately, with Skillshare making changes to their business model so frequently recently, I’m not sure how much longer the free trial will last; I urge you to take advantage of it while you can.

Hey, I'm Christopher

I started making digital art in 2009, and became a full-time freelance artist in 2016, able to work on my own schedule from anywhere in the world.

Now, I want to help young artists make the same journey!

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