If you haven't already figured it out, I'm a course creation junkie! I'm absolutely fascinated by the fact that I can take what I know, turn it into a premium online course, and share it to make an impact on the lives and businesses of multiple people at once. How freaking cool, right?
Every month I get questions from writers and bloggers who are interested in launching their own online courses (which I think is absolutely awesome). One of the biggest questions I get asked is about my opinion on the different teaching platforms. In particular, these three platforms are asked about the most: Teachable, Skillshare, and Udemy.
So, in this post, I'm sharing my overall thoughts on these teaching platforms because I have experience with each one. I'll also be giving you a little update on a new one that I just started testing–Thinkific.
Yes, there are MANY other platforms out there, but these are some of the most popular, and also the ones that I have first-hand experience using for my own business.
Here are my candid thoughts on each platform:
Skillshare.com (**Updated February 2017**)
While I do have a handful of courses on Skillshare (see here www.skillshare.com/karisayers), due to some recent changes to the way Skillshare pays its teachers, I now have to rethink my use of this platform.
What I still love about Skillshare is its mission to provide affordable online classes that virtually anyone can take. However, from a teacher point-of-view it has various limitations. Here are a few key things to note about Skillshare:
- Skillshare runs on the membership model. Students pay $10 per month for access to unlimited premium class on the platform. This means you have no control over your course pricing. It's kind of an a la carte situation for students.
- Instructors were previously paid approximately $1.60 (or so) per premium student enrollment in a class, but as of January 1, 2017, teachers are being paid per minute watched. My per minute watched rate for January was $.055. This recent change has effectively cut my class income by at least 50%.
- You do not get access to your student's email addresses, however, the system does allow you to post announcements which can be automatically sent by email to all of your students.
- You get a $10 referral bonus for any first-time Skillshare students that sign-up for premium services through your referral link.
- Skillshare is an online course marketplace. This means that your course will be searchable via their directory of courses. By promoting your course, getting new sign-ups, and reviews you can boost your course and get it “trending” on Skillshare. This means more visibility and more sign-ups.
The biggest problem I now have with Skillshare is that unless you are getting thousands upon thousands of minutes viewed each month, you are now getting paid pennies for the hour of hard work you likely put into creating a class. For me to make $500 per month using this platform, I will need over 9,000 premium minutes of class time watched by students EACH month. To put this into perspective, we are 2/3 of the way into February and I only have about 750 premium minutes watched by students so far.
Still, for newbie course creators, the platform offers a good way to get your feet wet with the online course world. Skillshare continues to host a monthly challenge for new teachers that guides you to create your first course in 30 days.
I currently have one course available on Udemy, but to be perfectly honest, I'm completely unengaged with this platform. Still, it's worth mentioning because they are a big player with tons of students who purchase courses from their platform.
Like Skillshare, Udemy is also an online course marketplace. Here are a few insights about the platform:
- Students pay individually for each course they decide to enroll in.
- You have control over your course price (but there are limits to how much you can charge).
- One of my biggest issues with Udemy in the past was that they frequently discounted courses to outrageously low prices. For instance, I once set my course price at $99. They ran a 75% off discount, which meant the course sold for around $25ish dollars, and I received about $12 payment on a $99 course because you split commission 50/50 with Udemy. I heard that they've now changed their pricing model somewhat, but not sure if the extreme discounting still takes place.
- You also do not have access to the email addresses of your students. Udemy owns the email list they accumulate. But I do believe there is a message system that allows you to connect with your students from the inside of your Udemy platform.
There are plenty of course creators who enjoy publishing on Udemy and make an awesome living doing so. It's a platform that I may revisit in the future. I encourage you to explore it for yourself and see what you think.
Teachable.com or Thinkific.com (**Updated July 20**)
Teachable and Thinkific are both platforms for building your own course brand–basically on your own accord. Your courses are hosted on their platform (both of which have a user-friendly interface), but you are in full control of the design aspects in terms of color schemes, images, link placements, etc.
Here are a few tidbits you should know about these platforms:
- Teachable and Thinkific are NOT a course marketplace like Udemy and Skillshare–so people don't find your course in a digital catalog like they would on the other platforms. This means that self-promotion is ABSOLUTELY integral when using either of these platforms.
- When you create your courses on Teachable or Thinkific, you are given a business URL that looks something like this: YourBusiness.Teachable.com or YourBusiness.Thinkific.com. It's up to you whether or not you choose to use a custom domain (which falls under the paid plans for both platforms). Just know that using the URL with “.teachable.com” or “.thinkific.com” attached to it is perfectly fine as well! Plenty of people do it!
- You don't need a separate website to launch a course. You can actually use your Teachable or Thinkific website as your main website–which is what I did for a few months until I created my main website in WordPress.
- Pricing – With both platforms, you set your own pricing and it can pretty much be as much or as little as you want it to be. This is unlike Skillshare where your premium courses have no option for setting a price because they are included a la carte in the monthly membership fee that students pay.
- Payouts – On Teachable, you get paid for revenue earned in the previous month at the end of the next month. The only way around this delayed payment is to enroll in the higher premium plan that allows your payout to process faster. Thinkific, however, offers a faster payout processing time because funds go directly to you.
- Paypal or Stripe? Teachable allows Paypal payments starting with its free plan while Thinkific uses Stripe. You can add Paypal processing to your Thinkific website, but it is not available on the free version of the platform.
- Customer Service – On the free plan for Teachable, you have limited access to customer service. When Teachable first launched, it was able to better service clients simply because the client list was smaller. But as the platform grew, it seems that they have scaled back on access to trouble-shooting. They do, however, have a library of helpful questions/answers/tutorial videos that you can access. Most times when I have questions, I find the answers there. For Thinkific, I'm still new to the platform, so I haven't had to engage customer service yet…will get back to you on my experience at a later time.
- Teacher Community – Both platforms offer a Private Facebook Group for Teachers that allow us to connect with each other. Most people are very helpful inside the groups and are very encouraging towards new course creators.
- Access to your student's email addresses – Another huge plus on these two platforms is that you get access to all your students' email addresses (not just a message system like on the course marketplaces.) This means that even if you leave the platform, you have the personal contact information for your students.
***Update July 2017*** Teachable no longer offers its free plan. Access to the platform starts at $39 per month.
Teachable has restructured their plans and $39 monthly plan is now the lowest cost option on the platform. Thinkific still offers a free plan, but the lowest premium option is $49 per month (it's less for both platforms if you pay the fee annually rather than monthly).
But again, start on the free plan and move up from there.
Personally, I'm using Teachable to host my self-paced courses. I have also used Thinkific's platform previously and loved it, but with my recent rebranding project, I've decided Teachable is a better fit for me right now.
For the purposes of this particular post, just know that either one is a good option when you are looking to create a course where you have the freedom to set your own price and have control over your email list.
There are definitely advantages of publishing to course marketplaces like Skillshare and Udemy. It's possible to get extra exposure to an audience of students that you may not have reached otherwise, unfortunately, this comes at the cost of not building your own email list of students and not being able to control the pricing for your course.
I love the money-making potential and user-friendly interface of Teachable and Thinkific. The issue with using these platforms is that you are entirely responsible for marketing your classes and attracting students. However, this option also allows you to build your own email list which you have control over.
The best part of all of these platforms is that there is no exclusivity to any one platform. You can create your course once, add your lessons to Teachable or Thinkific to sell directly, and also then go and post it on Skillshare and Udemy if you like!
Doing this puts your work in front of various audiences of students. The more exposure, the better! So you have your classes available through multiple different access points! That's called leveraging your work and turning it into a multi-sourced income stream!
This is exactly what I did when I created my very first course–I posted it in multiple locations and brought in income from various sources using the same content. I encourage you to do the same if it makes sense for your business.
Which course platform are you thinking of trying first? Do you have other platforms that you love? Leave me a comment below and let me know!