Years ago, when I was unhappy doing copywriting and struggling to find fulfillment in my work, I stumbled across two course sites that changed my life.
One was Skillcrush and the other was Skillshare. I enrolled in Skillcrush and bought a subscription to Skillshare, and within 6 months, had transitioned from copywriter to web designer. Sure, I already had experience consulting on websites and I know how to fit the pieces together, but these two course sites were the missing pieces in my puzzle that I needed to start a creative career.
These two sites, and the others that are on today’s list, can help you piece together your creative calling. In this post, I’m sharing the best course sites and subscriptions for creatives based on my own experience, and also a few others’ recommendations.
This list is geared primarily towards the arts since I know the world of the creative business owner. And because you can’t run a creative business without marketing know-how, many of the sites featured on this best-of list include both art and business classes.
So whether you’re just looking for some hobby courses to craft for fun, or you would like to transition from that boring corporate job into something suitably you, this roundup can help you do just that!
Pre PS – I’m getting to the list first so you can find out where to learn new creative skills, but read to the bottom to hear a little more on why I think community is a must for creatives.
This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a commission when you purchase through our links. Thanks!
Skillshare for Binge-Watching Creative Classes
Skillshare comes at the top of my list because it’s one subscription I can’t do without. First of all, it’s relatively inexpensive: For less than the cost of a premium Netflix subscription, you get unlimited access to tens of thousands of courses to boost your creative career.
Skillshare courses are grouped broadly into three categories: Those for learning how to create better, for building your creative career, and for thriving as a creative entrepreneur. Topics cover everything from lettering to watercolors, marketing to social media marketing, and illustration to web design. There’s something for everyone in the creative fields.
One important thing about Skillshare is that their classes are project-based, so you’re encouraged to learn news skills and apply them immediately. This helps you build a portfolio of work you’re proud of… and you can also connect with the creative community. Plus, be sure to check out Skillshare live sessions and teacher challenges to push yourself further.
And if you’re thinking about starting your own creative career as a teacher, Skillshare is the ideal place to start because unlike the other sites on this list, it encourages everyone to start teaching.
Many niche-famous artists started their teaching careers on Skillshare, including Teela Cunningham (lettering artist), Bonnie Christine (pattern designer & creative mentor), and Peggy Dean (illustrator and educator). A few other of my favorite artist-teachers include Cat Coquillette and Liz Kholer Brown.
If you’re interested in checking out Skillshare, you can get two free weeks with my special link.
Pros: Thousands of courses on all topics of design and marketing, some really great teachers, unlimited subscription. You just need to do a little sifting.
You’ll Love: Binge-watching new classes and gobbling up skills… you might like it so much that you’ll end up publishing your own courses there, too!
Domestika for Interesting Topics from Professionals
Have you seen their Facebook ads everywhere? They’re filling up my feed with sleek, colorful videos! So after Domestika’s relentless campaigns (and a FB group member’s recommendation), I finally clicked into an ad and was shocked at the quality of their instructors, the variety of subjects available, and the professional class production!
Never mind the fact that Domestika lessons are mostly in Spanish… it’s a chance to brush up on my 3rd Language, anyways 😉 These classes are worth it.
Domestika is headquartered in San Francisco but they work remotely with creatives around the world, and you can find instruction in several languages. All classes have subtitles, so it’s not so difficult to follow along.
Some of the Domestika instructors do teach on other marketplaces, too, but I’ve found the Domestika class quality to be higher than many other sites. That’s because Domestika only takes on professionals with a solid work record and approved course topics. This helps keep their classes unique and high-level.
Domestika classes are project-based (like Skillshare classes), but it’s a pay-per-course platform instead of a buffet. They do often run discounts on courses and bundles, and if you’ve clicked through their ads, they won’t let you forget what you’ve looked at!
Pros: Great course quality, interesting topics, and professional teachers
You’ll Love: Discovering interesting specialities within design disciplines, and practicing your high school second language again
Creative Live for On-Demand and Live Workshops
Creative Live classes are often one-off master classes taught by well-known names and industry professionals. Instructors teach on dozens of topics within the categories of photo & video, money & life, art & design, craft & maker, and music & audio. At any time, click the “Streaming Now” button at the top to start watching.
While you can get a weekly schedule and watch each masterclass LIVE FOR FREE, after it airs, the class goes into the membership vault and you can only access it with a monthly or yearly subscription. Current monthly plans are $39/mo and yearly plans are $300, billed annually. A subscription gives you unlimited access to their catalog of 1,500+ courses.
However, as 2020 is *different*, Creative Live has introduced Creative Live TV, a free way to watch 24/7 streaming courses! While its pricing is higher than some other learning platforms on this list, Creative Live is currently offering deep discounts on their subscriptions. You can check out their courses and take advantage of them here.
Best for: learning from your favorite heroes, watching classes for free (live), high quality instructors
You’ll Love: Being able to join a class live, or catching the replay on-demand
Brit + Co Courses
I love the Brit + Co blog, and its new class offerings are great for those who are looking for classes by creative female entrepreneurs. Think colorful, fun classes from well-known creatives in a bite-sized format. Classes range on topics from Photoshop to hand lettering, jewelry-making, and crafting.
Brit + Co knows its audience well and delivers, but if you don’t know Brit + Co yet, you should take a look around their website! Their crisp bright graphics, full of colors and patterns and smiling faces shows that you’re in a happy place for creative women. Check out their blog and podcast to get a taste of their style before you buy.
When you’re ready, you can purchase one-off courses or subscribe to unlimited learning for only $10/month.
Best for: Creative female entrepreneurs, Gen X – Z
You’ll love: the fun and friendly style of learning as taught by other female creatives
The Everygirl is another successful lifestyle blog aimed at the Gen Y – Z audience. It’s created to help young women find their confidence and navigate the waters of their early career, finances, and life. Think Goop for the younger crowd, with lots of lessons on adulting and making it in “the real world”.
I’ve taken an Everygirl course on Finance because it was part of the 2020 Genius Blogger’s Toolkit, but their other courses look promising, especially the one on creating graphics in Photoshop taught by their in-house designer.. I haven’t taken the Photoshop course, but I trust the quality of their brand and this course gets great reviews.
Try out the Photoshop course and look for more Everygirl classes in the future.
Best for: Gen X – Z who want to learn the basics of running their own business and designing their own graphics
You’ll love: Polished and professional, so you know you’re not wasting your time trying to find a good teacher
Creativebug for Arts and Crafts Courses
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Creativebug. This subscription platform specializes in arts and crafts, so here you’ll learn things like block printing, beading, crocheting, and working with acrylics. Creative Bug has a friendly atmosphere and well-filmed classes taught by professionals.
I like that Creativebug has several courses in Daily Practice to help you keep dedicated and use your new skills. I would like to take this Inktober challenge next year with illustrator Lisa Congdon. Because as every creative says, the only true way to get better at your craft is to practice, practice, practice! Creativebug also releases new classes every single day so you won’t run out of ideas!
Their monthly subscription is one of the lowest prices around and gives you unlimited access to learn at your own pace and be part of their creative community. They also have a dedicated app, gift cards, and more. Oh, and they give a portion of their sales to nonprofit arts organizations, so you are enabling others to learn as well.
Best for: Anyone who wants to explore arts and crafts
You’ll love: The easy-to-watch courses on inspiring and unique topics and a creative community to keep you motivated
The Futur: On The Design of Business and the Business of Design
If you are ready to make design your profession and you want expert-level guidance, the Futur is your best bet. The Futur has become net-famous for helping aspiring designers learn high-level skills and concepts.
Its founder, Chris Do, believes that not it’s not necessary (or practical) for everyone to invest in high-priced art school, so the classes and boot camps that he and his team teach are an alternative. They also have a great podcast to listen to while you work.
Alongside its free YouTube channel that has 700+ video and 900k+ subscribers, the Futur has paid courses on creativity, business skills, and mindset management. Because if you’ve already been trying to “make it as a creative,” you know how much mindset matters and how important it is to have someone level-headed to guide you on taking control of your journey.
It’s great that The Futur started before this whole pandemic thing, and now their education covers the broad range of foundational skills from branding, typography, and graphic design, to project management and marketing. Oh, and there’s a new one I think a lot of us could use these days on Stress Management.
If you can’t invest just yet, I also suggest binge-watching their YouTube Channel. The Futur Channel hosts insightful discussions with some of the top names in the design world, alongside their own content and mini-series design dramas featuring their own cast of designers.
Best for: Aspiring graphic and motion designers, and those who want to raise their rates or scale their existing business to an agency
You’ll love: A practical, remote design-school education without the price tag, and generous real-world examples to help you apply theory
Skillcrush for Learning Visual Design, Digital Marketing, and Coding
Not to be confused with Skillshare, Skillcrush is 3-month-long professional development track for helping females break into tech.
If they’re mainly teaching tech, why am I featuring them here? Because when I wanted to transition from copywriting to design, I enrolled in Skillcrush’s Visual Design Blueprint.
This course introduces you to the Adobe Creative Suite and gives you hands-on practice through making a brand, wireframing a website, and creating social graphics. With so much to learn, you barely skim the surface, but you will gain enough skills and build a small portfolio so you can start working with clients or take on a junior design role in a company.
Along with the great video instruction by Randall Browning, two mentors help with the practical work and advise on your projects. Other Skillcrush courses include digital marketing and coding classes.
Skillcrush has been featured in Fast Company, The New York Times, PBS and BBC for their supportive learning environment that combines great education with mentorship so you can really build a portfolio and land that new job!
A very worth it investment.
Best For: Those who want to make a career in digital design, marketing, or development
You’ll Love: The application of new skills that can help you land a real-world job and their support team of instructors
Square Stylist Courses on CSS for Squarespace
If you’re a web designer, or thinking about starting a career in web design and want to work with Squarespace, you will quickly run into one
small tremendous block: You’ll have to learn code to achieve anything “outside the box”!
Fortunately, Square Stylist teaches you how to create features your clients will love such as pop-out mega menus, moveable image blocks, interactive scrollable sections, and even hosting courses and memberships in Squarespace. And within just a year of its launch, Square Stylist became the go-to resource for other Squarespace designers.
Side Note: Did you know that you can now host a membership on Squarespace?
I’ve taken a few Squarestylist courses and even though I don’t like coding, I was able to follow along and achieve things that would otherwise have been impossible for me. (It also helped that Rache, the instructor, provides excellent support through the courses’ private Slack channels!)
If you’re not sure about coding, you can this free course on the basics of CSS in Squarespace before you invest in the dozen-or-so stylish section mini courses.
Best For: Anyone who wants to be a professional Squarespace designer, or who wants to add a few modern features to her website
You’ll Love: If you’ve been thinking of switching platforms for design freedom, but you love the ease of Squarespace, try these classes first
Adobe LiveStreams for Learning From the Pros
Adobe LiveStreams are different because they’re free (if you have a CC plan) and you get to watch creatives show the ins and outs of their process while they work. It’s like peering over the shoulders of some of the world’s top creatives in UX, UI, Branding, Graphic Design, Motion Design, and more.
It seems like there’s always something streaming, but you can also catch up on replays via the Live section on Behance. You don’t need an active CC subscription to watch live streams, either.
Livestreams are a fun way to learn, but it’s not going to give you enough practice or a structured environment to learn, as you would get with some of the other course platforms.
PS – Adobe is currently trialing a feature that would let you live stream your own creative classes. I’m not sure how this will work, but there’s a beta signup announcement on the website.
Best For: Learning pro tips from other creatives and improving your skills with Adobe CC
You’ll Love: Seeing professionals work
Course Sites I Wouldn’t Suggest for the Creative Industry:
In the buffest style of things, we have several other popular course platforms on which you can learn anything, including the well known UDemy, LinkedIn Learning, and even YouTube (included as “the school of YouTube”).
On YouTube, for example, the quality varies greatly and it’s too easy to get distracted by related videos. I mean, how many skills have you really learned from YouTube? I go there for quick tutorials, but if I find an instructor that I like, I usually see if they have a paid course elsewhere or if there’s another way to follow them.
LinkedIn bought out Lynda.com and now as LinkedIn Learning, you can find classes for professional advancement and technical skills. Yes, there are many instructors teaching things like audio editing or writing for advertising, but they’re geared towards higher-level professionals and in my experience, aren’t updated as often as I’d like.
And for UDemy, it’s like the all-you-can-eat buffet that you don’t really want to eat. Well, maybe something would be tasty? Instead of dipping your finger into many different dishes, you could join Skillshare for one low monthly fee and access several thousand creative courses, build your portfolio through interesting projects, and network with other creatives.
Though I originally included Coursera on this list because you can get a CalArts Graphic Design Certification, it isn’t the first place I would go to learn creative skills. More importantly, there is not an active, supportive community on Coursera like the other platforms. Yes, there is a community and you can interact with others in a forum-like experience, but it’s not built for helping creatives, and you won’t get the same flavor that you can find on sites built around creative community. So if you are interested in the certificate, it’s worth it, but if not, try another course site on the list.
Final Thoughts: Creative Course Sites Are Great For Fostering a Community
A big part of finding your happy place as a creative comes through surrounding yourself with other like-minded creatives. People who get you. People who undertand just how cool it is that you got a design on Gify or that you landed that first big client!
Creative communities can inspire you and support you when you need encouragement. They can help guide you when you don’t know where to go. And then can certainly help you find others to partner and network with.
Finding a spirit of fun and committment through a learning community will help you keep motivated, develop your skills, and enhance your career to do things that you’ve never even thought of doing!
That’s why the sites that I included on this list are geared towards creatives and community.
So whether it’s through Behance or Dribbble, through selling on Etsy, or through one of these course platforms on the list, I encourage you to find a creative community that you can be part of.
And, of course, practice, practice, practice until you find perfection!
Have you tried any of the course sites on this list? If so, what do you love about them most?