Create Complementary Classes to Build an Engaged Audience

Success on Skillshare depends on building relationships with students, creating a following that supports and sustains your presence on the platform. It turns out, the best way to retain students is by continuing to offer them classes on the topics they love.

Why Complementary Classes = Success
This makes intuitive sense, but it’s also backed up by data. It’s empirically true that the most successful Skillshare channels are composed of complementary classes.

Imagine you’re a student, and you’ve just discovered the perfect illustration class for beginners. You take the class, love the teacher, learn exactly what you hoped to learn, and are hungry for more. Your first move is to check and see if that same teacher has another class you might be interested in. You’re ready for a class that takes the skills you just learned a step further, or a class that teaches you a new tool so you can explore those skills in a different medium. You’re open to the possibilities and excited to follow your new teacher’s lead! But, if none of that teacher’s other classes are on related topics, you’ll probably, reluctantly, look elsewhere. You’re really interested in illustration, and that’s what you want to pursue.

What Does a Complementary Class Catalogue Look Like?

Sometimes the classes will build on each other, helping students achieve mastery of a particular tool or skill. For example, Top Teacher Stephanie Fizer Coleman offers classes on Procreate — an iPad app for illustrators — starting with the basics, and then moving into special tools and techniques. She also offers related classes in Photoshop and has a class on Instagram for artists, giving her students guidance for how to share and promote the work they’ve created. Like many of our top teachers, Stephanie really listens to her students, and creates new classes with her Skillshare community in mind.

In other cases, a teacher’s catalogue might explore multiple aspects of a tool or topic, getting at it from different angles. For example, Top Teacher Sean Dalton offers many classes on photography, covering travel, portrait, street, iPhone, and Instagram photography (and more). His students can build a broad understanding of the photography landscape, so to speak. They can try out different styles, and find their favorite.

In all cases, the classes these teachers create are of a piece: related in logical, clear ways that allow students to see the connections, and build on their experience and skills over time. This is what keeps students coming back — excited for every new class from their favorite teachers. And it’s what keeps these teachers successful on Skillshare — growing their followings, earning steady revenue, and building positive reputations for themselves in their fields.

So, How Do You Choose Your Topics?

The best topics are related to your skills and interests — they’re things you want to teach — and they provide value to your students. Here is a handy list of questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm...

  • What would you feel comfortable teaching?
    Consider your experience and skills and make a list of all the things you could (and would want to) teach. This is a great place to start. Keep this list in mind as you ask yourself some questions about your audience.

  • Who is your ideal student?
    If you’re an illustrator interested in teaching intermediate techniques, your ideal student is someone who knows their way around illustration, and is ready to level up. If you’re a marketer interested in teaching SEO, your ideal student is someone with a website, looking to build an audience or customer-base — maybe a self-starter entrepreneur or an established business-person who simply never learned these important skills. Don’t be afraid to imagine the things your ideal students struggle with. Are they afraid to try new things? Are they busy and short on time? Do they need these skills to succeed at work, or are they pursuing their passions? The more you can dig into these specifics, the better able you’ll be to brainstorm appealing topics.

  • What do your students want to learn?  
    What are the most exciting or important aspects of your topic? What problems do you think you could solve for your students? For the SEO example above, you’re demystifying something that may feel intimidating or confusing. You’re empowering someone to jump in and learn, and enabling them to build their audience on their own. That’s important stuff!

  • What classes already exist on Skillshare — where’s your niche?
    Doing a little Skillshare research is a great way to discover what’s already on the platform in your topic area, and what’s missing, so you can fill a gap or build on an underrepresented topic.

Another great example of a successful coordinated class catalogue is that of Top Teacher Rich Armstrong. Rich is a designer, animator, and coder — three different skill sets that all come together cohesively in his class offerings. He has a website-building class, taught with an eye for design and directed toward creatives who love doing things their own way (his core audience). He offers an animation class on stop motion in After Effects that brings a hand-made feel to moving pictures, and speeds up the traditional stop motion process for his busy students who love trying new things (but don’t necessarily have a ton of free time.) Rich finds all sorts of clever ways to cater his topics to his audience while still teaching what he loves. It’s a win win!

Ready to jump in? Get started on your next class!