The Skillshare Experiment – Is it Actually Good for Artists?

Is Skillshare a better place to earn and learn as a creator than Youtube? Here is the beginning of my experiment to find out if Skillshare is a viable revenue stream for artists.

I have been doing a lot of deep investigation into various ways I can expand my source of revenue as an artist.

(let’s be real, with this crazy pandemic, economic recession, and people losing their jobs, I know more than ever how important it is to never base my income from one source)

Thankfully, I’ve been in the self-entrepreneur/going-freaking-crazy-starting-a-business game for almost 3 years at this point, and I’ve done well with creating revenue sources from places like Youtube ad revenue, affiliate marketing, Redbubble (although very small in comparison), and direct sales from my fitness accountability business.

Yep, I have been growing my health business for almost 5 years now and it’s been sending me a steady stream of income week after week. But, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

But, most recently, I have started dipping my toes in course creation – aka teaching others how I do art – more specifically, how I make art with acrylics.

Teaching online courses has taught me a few things

which include:

  1. Marketing contributes 80% of the course success (I made up the 80%, but the energy and shear will it takes for getting your courses in front of eyeballs is absurdly higher than the actual course creation process). #ugh
  2. The type of people I attract can either be “suck-every-last-ounce-of-free-out-of-you” or your biggest fans ever who will look for any excuse to throw money at you. I’ve seen both, and the emotional rollercoaster is quite exhausting sometimes.
  3. How often I question my art and it’s value based on how other people’s readiness to buy the tutorial or the art itself. As much as I hate to admit it, I question myself ALOT. (hey, I’m not perfect). Read more about art imposter syndrome and how to dropkick it in the face.
  4. Did I mention I’ve found myself marketing more and in general not making as much art? Cause, yes, that is happening. And the pent-up creative energy in my post-partum mama body is real.

For a while, I had been using Youtube to grow my art brand (which I always recommend any new artist to do) and as a means to get traffic to my paid stuff. Which, had it’s ups and downs (like I mentioned in point #2 above).

Don’t get me wrong. I do not ever want to judge someone for not paying for something I offer. That’s just not right or completely fair to them.

But, I knew I needed a change of pace from my normal business practice of uploading full-length painting tutorials on Youtube:

  • one because I am still super new at the whole selling art courses thing…
  • but two, I need more feedback and confidence in my teaching style from people who have a little bit of skin in the game – aka, people who are putting down some money (whether it be $1 or $150) to access any of my stuff. Those are the people that I live to serve because they are ambitiously eager to learn and will take the time to sit down and consume my content the way it was supposed to be.

Enter Skillshare.

Better known as “paid Youtube” on the internet streets, Skillshare definitely made me curious as to it’s power to grow one’s art brand and business potential.

Unlike Youtube, most of Skillshare’s customer base are paying to access the course library within; and while I know there is a segment of customers using the free trial for Skillshare, this is still leagues above Youtube.

And from my initial research, it seems Skillshare presents lots of potential advantages for students (which makes me glad to hear), but “meh”-level data on the actual benefits for the course creator. It seems course creators either are doing really well on the platform or doing poorly. I have seen many videos either putting down Skillshare for how little it pays for its artists and other videos where the exact opposite is said. *scratches head*

Is a poor creator experience a mark on their teaching style? Was their teaching topic just not that popular? Are they just relying on Skillshare to make them money and no other means? I had so many questions and very little answers….

and thus, I have decided to conduct an experiment to really see if I can benefit as a course creator/teacher within the Skillshare platform and compare that to my earnings/market potential from my Youtube channel.

After all, both platforms require the same amount of work from me in terms of planning, filming, and editing; but one can be accessed completely for free (youtube) while the other has some sort of “paywall” (skillshare).

As a way to keep my accountable, I will be documenting my findings here on my blog, giving my impressions, maybe throwing screenshots in here and there, and try to get as close to an “apples-to-apples” comparison as I can to Youtube.

And I will come back to this post and add to it as I proceed with this experiment, either through linking to more blog posts with updates or just keep adding to this one (which might make for a super long post, but mmm Google loves a good long post).

So to kick things off, here are the current stats of both my Skillshare and Youtube channel.

Youtube Stats (June 2020)

  • Audience size: 38,639 (as of June 25th)
  • Number of Videos: 117 videos
  • Watch Time hours: 3.8K/month
  • Approximate earnings/month: $100-140 (CPM~$5-$6)
  • Videos are promoted through my blog posts, Pinterest, and emails

Skillshare Stats (June 2020)

  • Audience size: 169 total students, 57 followers (as of June 25th)
  • Number of Videos: 6 classes
  • Watch Time hours: 4,196 minutes watched (total)
  • Approximate earnings (total): $136 (~$0.03/minute)
  • 7 reviews
  • New classes are not heavily promoted

Youtube Content Plan

  • Upload art reviews
  • speed paintings
  • general tutorial-style vlog content (basically showing creation process steps without going into full detail)

Skillshare Content Plan

  • Upload detailed step-by-step painting tutorials
  • short, bite-sized lessons (15 min-1 hour)
  • Plug my website within the lessons for lead generation
  • Promote new classes on Instagram & Pinterest (and maybe Youtube)

My hypothesis: Skillshare = Better, More Engaged Students

I am not quite sure what to expect. I know I won’t become a stinking rich millionaire with either platform, but what I do know is the power of traffic sources and finding more ways for people to discover me, and how I can better help them with their art skills. My hypothesis (because science) is that Skillshare will get me more engaged students who see my content and premium courses as valuable sources of education and means for improving their work, and is a better alternative to Youtube for me as an artist.

and in the next few months (and perhaps year), I will be deep diving into the Skillshare world and master the platform. Every month, I will compare the stats and see my progress. It’ll be hard but I think I will see great returns – meaning more people I can help.

So with that being said, I will be working on posting an in-depth tutorial on Skillshare in the next week or two (in time for July) and will keep my stats eyes peeled and finger-tips at the ready with updates.

Here is to learning and experimenting 🙂

Skillshare Vs Youtube Update (September 2020)

Since the beginning of my experiment in June, I went on to add one extra course into Skillshare and proceeded to share and promote it via my private artist Facebook group as well as created a few photo (and video oooh-la-la) pins on Pinterest. I still have not promoted the new class to my email list or on my Youtube channel; a big reason for the semi-anonymity is to see how far Skillshare takes me without leveraging my big audience (plus, I still am not quite ready to fully introduce my Skillshare stuff….yet).

Ever since that happened, I did see an increase in Skillshare earnings….in fact, I saw quite a growth in both minutes watched AND students. I would also like to believe it was this increase in students that also led to an increase in purchases for my other premium courses I offer on Teachable, but I will need to do a bit more digging to see if that is true.

but, here are the stats, the delicious, lovely bits of progress:

Back in June, we had 169 students, 4,196 premium minutes watched, 7 reviews, and about $136 in earnings. Since then, my students and watch time more than doubled in size, with 10 more reviews thrown in from previous students in the classes. This is certainly positive news. And with that, I also saw an extra $149 in earnings, which is….ok.

Based on my minutes watched chart, I had about 1400 minutes watched in the month of August, which just so happened to be the same month I launched my newest class. This uptick is very much to be expected. My monthly students however was not as high as July. Interesting. This probably means I had fewer students who watched more premium minutes- aka more engaged students. I am starting to like my chances here.

And comparing my earnings from June, I am definitely seeing an increase in monthly earnings, coming in at $71.83 vs the $30.64 I started with. Not too shabby. And the earnings growth still seems to be on track for September (probably around $60-$80 earned if I took a guess).

So I am definitely seeing traction and increased monthly earnings. So far, Skillshare is really looking to be a promising platform to find engaged students for introductory level courses.

as for Youtube, I am still seeing a steady growth of subscribers, despite the fact I have not posted for a few months. Considering how the month of September is usually the kick start into my Halloween tutorials (which have been in circulation for a couple of years and gained traction), I am noticing an uptick in watch time hours and earnings, in the order of $10-$20 more).

Youtube Stats (September 2020)

  • Audience size: 43,100 subscribers (as of October 13)
  • Number of Videos: 117 videos
  • Watch Time hours: 3,983.2 hours/month
  • Approximate earnings/month: $140 (approximate CPM: $6.50)

Skillshare Stats (September 2020)

  • Audience size: 303 total students, 92 followers (as of October 13)
  • Number of Videos: 7 classes
  • Watch Time hours: 8,753 minutes watched (total), 1,250 premium minutes watched for month of September
  • Approximate earnings (total): $285, earnings for month of September: $71.83 (~$0.06/minute)
  • 17 reviews

So, as of now, Youtube is still the bigger earner, BUT not by much. Considering I have 40K subscribers vs 303 total students on Skillshare and the monthly earnings gap is slowly closing, this makes me think that Skillshare will eventually surpass Youtube earnings in much less time than Youtube. But of course, there will be more updates as I start releasing a new class to Skillshare in the near future.

What is your experience with course creation? Have you considered or tried skillshare? Comment below and share.

The Skillshare Experiment – Is it Actually Good for Artists?

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