Skillshare vs Udemy: Which is better for Digital Artists?

Similar classes, different business models; which is better?

Written: 
August 8, 2021
Last Updated: 
September 17, 2021
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Skillshare and Udemy are two of the most popular e-learning platforms with millions of users and many of the exact same classes, but with very different payment models.  The ultimate question is: which one should you use, and why?
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If you're looking for digital art tutorials online, at some point you are probably going to come across both Skillshare and Udemy.

They are two of the most popular video-learning platforms with millions of users, but they each have very different approaches to providing their educational content - Skillshare is a subscription platform, and on Udemy you purchase a course for lifetime access to it.

This difference actually has pretty big ramifications.

Skillshare is much better value for money compared to Udemy, as long as you are able to filter out the low quality courses, perhaps using my Best Skillshare Classes article. Udemy has more comprehensive, advanced courses, so I would personally subscribe to Skillshare briefly, consume their best content, and then move on to Udemy when I need something more advanced.

Read on to learn more about how these two platforms compare, and for my justifications of the above advice.

What is Skillshare and what does it offer

Skillshare is a subscription e-learning platform that offers classes on many creative subjects, split into easy-to-consume portions.

Skillshare provides their members with access to thousands of classes from enthusiasts and industry experts, in topics such as oil painting, illustration, character design and more. Students can leave reviews, show their projects and use the discussion board that accompanies each class.

How much does Skillshare cost

Skillshare has a generous 1 month free trial
Skillshare's subscription fee is really competitive at $19 per month, or $99 for a year. Most other subscription services offering digital art education cost more - sometimes twice as much - as I detailed in this Skillshare alternatives article.

Unfortunately, Skillshare recently sent out an email stating that they will be phasing out the monthly subscription - depending on where you like in the world, you may only be able to subscribe annually for $99 a year.

They don't offer a refund for the monthly subscription, but they will refund the annual payment if requested within 7 days.

Skillshare also offers a generous 1 month free-trial to their premium subscription so you can check out the quality of their classes before parting with any money. I've actually written another article detailing the very best classes on Skillshare which I recommend you take a look at to get the most learning in you can during the trial.

What is Udemy and what does it offer

Udemy is one of the largest online marketplaces for video courses in all subjects.

Udemy is a much bigger platform than Skillshare, because it covers everything under the sun, not just creative subjects

While I'm most interested in their digital art classes, they also have plenty of courses on other subjects that I'm interested in exploring, like web development and internet marketing.

Interestingly, you can find a lot of Skillshare's courses on Udemy as well, but typically not the other way around - Udemy just has a much wider pool of teachers and courses, and so also attracts more students.

How much does Udemy cost

Udemy courses are available at a variety of prices, as teachers can price their courses themselves.

Udemy frequently runs sales and offers coupons which usually knock the prices right down to about $15 to $30 per course.

Because of these frequent sales and coupons, I wouldn't advise paying the full price for a course - wait a couple weeks for the inevitable sale to get it at 80% or 90% off.

If you find that your course is not working out, Udemy offers a 30-day refund policy on all purchases, as long as you haven't watched too much of the course or downloaded the content.

The Pros of Skillshare

Skillshare has gained popularity for a reason, and has some distinct advantages over Udemy:

🔹 1. Subscription Fee

The biggest selling point of Skillshare is their $19 monthly subscription fee - it's one of the cheapest subscriptions to art education out there. Only Artstation Learning is cheaper at $10 per month - and currently free for the rest of 2021 by the way.

🔹 2. Cheapest way to watch the best courses

There are some very high quality classes that are on both Skillshare and Udemy, such as Brent Eviston's figure drawing classes, and Skillshare is by far the cheaper way to watch them all, even with the annual subscription!

🔹 3. Convenient for exploration

Because Skillshare gives you full access to all their premium content as soon as you pay your monthly subscription, you can easily dip in and out of loads of courses, in all the various subjects you're interested in. It's an inexpensive way quickly to quickly explore many teachers, courses and subjects.

🔹 4.Generous 1-month free-trial

Skillshare offers a generous 1 month free-trial to it's premium content, which is perfect for doing exactly what I said above - have a good look around, investigate multiple courses and teachers and see if it's worth sticking around.

🔹 5. Useful Discussion section

Skillshare has review and discussion sections; while I was reviewing Skillshare, I found the discussion section useful as it sometimes answered questions that I thought of while watching the class.

The Cons of Skillshare

Having said that, Skillshare is definitely not a perfect platform and many people will find themselves a bit disappointed when they first try it out:

🔸  1. Hard to find the best courses

Skillshare’s biggest downfall is that it's hard to find the right classes for you, out of the many thousands they have on the platform.  

The search bar is the only decent tool they give you to find the classes you need - their browsing categories are really shallow and don’t thin the choice down much, and their filters are hard to navigate to.  After you’ve done a search, you have to try to pick a class from all the results just by judging their thumbnail, title and number of previous students.

Of course, you can watch a little of the course to check out if it will suit you, but its 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 paying for another month of Skillshare!

🔸 2. Many low-quality courses

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. Not all of the teachers on Skillshare are good at teaching, and to be honest some aren’t even that good at their subjects.  The same can also be said of Udemy though, so this is a shared issue.

🔸 3. You must have a good internet connection

You need a reliable and reasonably fast internet connection to get the most out of watching Skillshare, especially to learn art as the video having clear visuals is so important.

🔸 4. Short courses

Most Skillshare classes are 60 minutes and less, and only deal with a single topic - if you’re hoping for a longer structured course tackling many aspects of digital art, Skillshare is going to come up a bit short.  Some instructors have uploaded their videos in a comprehensive series, such as Brent, but most have sporadic content.  You’ll be building your own syllabus. Udemy has more long courses.

🔸 5. Lack of advanced content

Most Skillshare classes are aimed at beginners, and some would be appropriate for intermediate artists.  The amount of courses advanced enough for experienced artists are very few.

The Pros of Udemy

I personally think Udemy is a decent place for learning digital art - it has tons of different online courses that you can take on any topic related to art and design, from the basics of perspective drawing all the way up to advanced 3D modelling, and while it also has a ton of beginner content, it also has more intermediate and advanced content than Skillshare:

🔹 1. Purchase Once, Keep Forever

Udemy’s central advantage over Skillshare is that any course you purchase on Udemy, you get to keep forever (or I guess as long as udemy is around!).  If you are short on time to study each month, you might prefer to just buy the course outright and watch it at your own pace.

🔹 2. Superior Searching

Udemy has far superior searching, browsing and filtering compared to Skillshare - you can filter classes by topic, software etc. This makes it much easier to find the right classes quickly.

🔹 3. Reasonably Affordable

Courses on Udemy are reasonably affordable, with most costing between $15-$30 for lifetime access - quite competitive pricing, considering that nowadays it’s common to see courses priced at hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

🔹 4. Library is Constantly Growing

Udemy’s course library grows faster than Skillshares - there are always new courses being added to the site.

🔹 5. Classes Have More Reviews

Since Udemy gets a lot more traffic and students than Skillshare, courses there also typically have more written reviews so before enrolling you can get a better picture of what other students thought

🔹 6. Money Back Guarantee

Udemy has a 30 day money back guarantee if the course isn't what you expected or doesn't meet your needs (though this has some caveats, see the cons below)

🔹 7. Large Previews of the courses

You can actually preview quite a lot of each course for free before purchase, more than just the intro video you get on Skillshare.

🔹 8. Large, Comprehensive courses

Udemy has some courses that are incredibly comprehensive and in depth for the price, especially for beginners.

🔹 9. Download some courses

Some Udemy courses can be downloaded, depending on if the instructor allows it.

🔹 10. Active Discussion Boards

The Question and Answers discussion boards are much more active on Udemy, again I expect simply because they have more users

The Cons of Udemy

With that giant list of pros, you might be thinking that Udemy is near perfect!  But sadly it isn’t, and in certain circumstances Skillshare is still a better solution:

🔸 1. Low quality instructors

Just like on Skillshare, Udemy instructors are not always qualified or experienced enough to teach well, even with Udemy’s course review process screening out the lowest quality courses. Again, Skillshare has the same issue.

🔸 2. You could lose access to your courses one day

Udemy offers lifetime access to your purchased courses, but if Udemy ever goes out of business then I think it’s likely that their site and all of the courses will just disappear - I don’t know that for a fact, but it’s something to consider.

🔸 3. Silly 'sales'

Udemy’s ‘sale’ system is….. kinda stupid, and perhaps a little predatory.  The price of their courses constantly flip flop between around $15 half of the time, and around $100 for the rest of the time.  Of course, it’s just a marketing tactic to encourage you to buy each time a sale comes around.

🔸 4. Expensive for courses also on Skillshare

Generally, if a course is on both Skillshare and Udemy, Udemy is the more expensive way to watch it, especially if you have no plans to rewatch the course. Brent’s courses are a great example - if you bought all of his 11 courses from Udemy while on sale, they would cost you nearly $200, enough to subscribe to Skillshare for 2 years!

🔸 5. Refunds can be denied easily

Udemy has a great 30 day refund policy, but it isn’t guaranteed - if you watch too much of the course or download any of it, you are likely to be denied a refund.  I’ve also seen evidence online that even if you are granted a refund, it takes quite a while to actually get your money back.

My personal preferences

Personally, I tend to binge things, and this completely affects which platform I prefer.

Being self-employed and impulsive, I don’t have a particularly balanced schedule - I usually free up my time to go 100% all-in on whatever I am doing for a month or two.  For this reason, Skillshare suits me pretty well, as it gives me the opportunity to cram a load of studying into a single month for just $20.

I do think Skillshare has a lack of comprehensive, advanced content though, so I’ve gone to Udemy in the past for larger, in-depth courses that I plan to refer back to regularly.

The big outlier to this is Brent Eviston’s content since it would be so expensive for me to buy them all - it’ll be cheaper for me to subscribe to Skillshare again each time I want to watch them!

If you currently live somewhere that no longer has access to Skillshare's monthly subscription and can only subscribe annually for $99, the decision is much trickier - in that case, I would probably subscribe for 1 year on Skillshare, binge what I can and after that year just go to Udemy or another platform when I'm looking for something.

Conclusion

This comparison really comes down to whether your personal situation is more suited to ‘renting’ your educational content, or to purchasing the courses outright. Which do you have more of: spare time, or spare money?

With a subscription platform like Skillshare, you can easily try out a bunch of courses and subjects and get a taste of each without committing much money - and as long as you have plenty of time every month to watch their courses, you can devour a lot of content for a reasonable price.

On the flipside, Skillshare's subscription basically puts a time limit on you, and if you don’t have a lot of time every month to study then you might be better suited to purchasing an in-depth course on Udemy, since you can take as long as you want and re-watch it at your leisure.

In a nutshell, if you have time but little money, Skillshare will probably suit you better.  If you have extra money but little time, then Udemy is probably the smarter decision.

After all this, if you fancy checking out Skillshare I can offer you a 1 month free trial to their Premium classes.  Enjoy!

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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