How 3 Top Teachers Launched Their Online Teaching Careers

From extra income to new career opportunities, there are countless reasons to teach online. Curious but unsure where to start?

Enter our Teach Challenge, a 30-day workshop where new teachers plan, film, and market their very first Skillshare class together. With weekly milestones, prizes, and one-on-one support, the Teach Challenge allows anyone with a passion to become a teacher.

To see how the Teach Challenge can jumpstart a teacher’s success on Skillshare,  we caught up with three Top Teachers who all got started on Skillshare through the Teach Challenge—illustrator Hayden Aube, surface pattern designer Mel Armstrong, and watercolorist Audrey Ko.

What made you decide to join the Teach Challenge?

"I knew that this was the kind of support I wanted in order to launch my first class."

Hayden: I wanted to create tutorials for years and after spending so much time on Skillshare myself, it seemed like the perfect place to do it.

Mel: After taking many classes on Skillshare, I was encouraged to teach by other members of Skillshare and also my social media followers who often contact me asking me about my process. I was extremely nervous at first, but after the success of my first class I realised that my skills are valuable to others and I love sharing them.

Audrey: I had launched my business only two months before joining the Teach Challenge. I have a degree in education and wanted that to be a big part of my business, so I began researching everything I could about teaching online. When I saw the Teach Challenge on Skillshare, I knew that this was the kind of support I wanted in order to launch my first class.

How did your Skillshare channel grow after completing the Teach Challenge?

"While my first month brought in $50, my second brought in $1500 and my third $5000."

Hayden: After my first month of teaching I earned $50. It wasn't going to change my life but I realized I could actually support myself in a big way if I could bring in 1000's of students like so many other classes did. That was all the incentive I needed to buckle down and create more classes. There was no secret to how I grew my audience other than by pouring as much time as I could into class creation. I made 7 in my first year. And while my first month brought in $50, my second brought in $1500 and my third $5000.

Mel: The amount I earn from my classes probably averages out to be $700+ a month, with my biggest month to date being $1800. This has been a wonderful supplement to my freelance earnings. I juggle my work with 2 young children who are not yet at school, so I only work part-time hours, mostly at night. I've gone from 0 to close to 5000 students in under 12 months and 170,000 minutes watched. I love seeing my original students return with every class I launch and I love seeing more students sign up.

Audrey: My Skillshare channel has steadily grown from one class and just a handful of followers to eight classes (working on the ninth now!) and over 1,200 followers. To date, over 125,000 minutes have been watched by more than 3,200 students. This kind of growth does not happen overnight. The first two months were slow. Like turtle slow. I barely made $20 my first month. The next month I made almost ten times my first month. And since then, it’s been growing at a steady rate.  

What role did the Teach Challenge play in your success as a teacher on Skillshare?

"I'm totally a stick-to-the-deadline kind of girl, so I really liked the deadlines to keep me on task."

Hayden: I doubt that I would have completed my first class without the Teach Challenge. From day one I was intimidated and doubtful about whether I could pull it off. But the steps were laid out so clearly and there was a community of other first-timers creating their classes alongside me. I made connections with other teachers and students within the Challenge and unintentionally built my first bit of an audience. And as any other teacher will tell you—every single viewer you get at the beginning makes a world of difference.

Mel: I don't think I could have published a class without the Teach Challenge. It really helped me plan and create a well-structured class that my students could follow and learn from. I found the Skillshare team to be extremely supportive and helpful by providing challenges along the way to keep you on track.  I continue to use the planning templates for all of my classes. 

Audrey: The Teach Challenge played a major role in my success. I’m totally a stick-to-the-deadline kind of girl, so I really liked the deadlines to keep me on task. I also appreciated the community being so supportive and encouraging. When I uploaded an outline and shared the intro video, I received positive comments from other new teachers. That gave me the extra motivation to keep going and see this class through. Finally, the prizes are awesome!

What tips would you offer someone thinking about teaching a class on Skillshare?

"Be yourself on camera. People enjoy watching someone who isn't afraid of their vulnerabilities or mistakes."

Hayden: Keep it super simple—especially for your first class. I wanted to cover everything in a single class, but not only does it create for an extra stressful first time, it doesn't actually serve the students. Most students are only looking for a specific skill or technique, not everything you know. By trimming your classes down to only what's essential you will be saving time for yourself and those who will watch your class.

Mel: Don’t think that you have nothing to teach. Everyone has a skill or ability that is unique to them. I may do a lot of things the same way as others, but I also bring a lot of uniqueness to the way I design. Be yourself on camera. I believe people enjoy watching someone who isn’t afraid of their vulnerabilities or mistakes. Lastly, plan out your class first before even thinking about filming. Ensure you have good lighting and sound - I'm still working on this one.

Audrey: Be authentic in front of the camera. I love talking head videos because you see teachers in their environment. You see their quirks. Don’t feel like you have to record in some fancy place to make these classes good. I didn’t develop a proper studio until almost eight months into my business. I recorded in my dining room for the first couple of classes. You just gotta work with what you’ve got! The Skillshare community is there with you every step of the way. Ultimately, it’s up to you to come up with the content and produce it. But you won’t be alone. So just go for it, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and questions.

Join our Teach Challenge and see how teaching on Skillshare can help you grow your income and reach your career goals!