Online programs like MasterClass and the many MasterClass alternatives have given creative professionals access to knowledge to advance their skills – something that previous generations of professionals couldn’t even dream of doing.
From creative philosophies and business practices to software tutorials and technique guides, there are numerous online courses and instructional platforms for professionals looking to upgrade their skills within a particular creative field.
MasterClass is one of the best-known platforms.
But is it the only one that’s available? Far from it.
And, there are good reasons why professionals may look for a MasterClass alternative free or paid.
Let’s do a brief MasterClass review, and look at some of the top alternatives that offer online courses for creatives.
This post contains some affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase the products I recommend.
MasterClass: A Well-Known Platform for Creative Professionals
MasterClass targets creatives and is well recognised both for its branding and its instructors ― celebrity professionals who are leaders in their respective fields and at the pinnacle of their careers.
Let’s go deeper into the pricing and the pros and cons of this platform.
- $90 per course
- Unlimited classes for $15/month (billed annually)
Pros of MasterClass for Creatives
When you combine excellent video production with advice from stellar professionals, you get some excellent courses as a result.
Course-makers do riff on their given topic at times, but they provide real insights and draw from their personal experience. For example, writing instructors like Aaron Sorkin and Malcolm Gladwell, and moviemakers like Martin Scorsese often draw case studies from their previous work experience.
MasterClass is also known for producing high-quality video lessons and has an easy-to-use app that provides a great user experience. The platform regularly publishes new courses, and old ones are sometimes taken down. Each class usually includes 25 videos that are 5-10 minutes long.
MasterClass courses are popular with people who are looking for overarching information. Creatives, including writers, will be particularly interested in courses like these:
- Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking: Covers everything from finding a story to the logistics of shooting in her masterclass series
- Steve Martin Teaches Comedy: A master class in the skills of act development, troubleshooting issues like nerves and hecklers, and offers a couple of workshop sessions
- Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers: Dives into Brown’s process for researching and writing thriller novels
- Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting: Goes into how to develop characters, incorporate research, and write scenes and captivating dialogues
- Bobbie Brown Teaches Makeup and Beauty: Details a brief history of beauty and goes into different applications
Cons of MasterClass for Creatives
It’s certainly not a replacement for an in-class or hands-on experience or a setting where an instructor offers individualized guidance. The price of this learning platform makes it a more expensive online learning option (although it is much lesser than a master’s degree or an MFA tuition).
Finally, MasterClass is designed to appeal to a broad audience. This comes across both in its course offerings and in the class material – whether it is a writing class by Aaron Sorkin or Malcolm Gladwell, or a negotiation class by Chris Voss.
Many courses touch on their subjects only in general (even if insightful) terms. So, those who want to sharpen technical skills or want in-depth explanations sometimes may find the content to be too surface-level.
So, are MasterClass classes worth it?
Ultimately, what you get out of it will depend on how much you want to invest in it, and what kind of learner you are.
The online classes are worth every penny if you want to get an insider view from the world’s leading experts like Aaron Sorkin, chef Gordon Ramsay, and Malcolm Gladwell – but only in a creative discipline.
If you want something that doesn’t cost as much or you desire more technical instruction, you may find that a MasterClass alternative with free tuition or more detailed instruction is better for you.
Here are some of the best such alternatives available today.
MasterClass Alternatives With Free Tuition and Detailed Instruction
One or more of these platforms may give you something beyond what MasterClass offers.
1. Udemy: Crowd-Sourced Learning for Everyone
Udemy is a crowd-sourced online learning platform. All the online courses are self-paced, and you get a permanent all-access pass to any you purchase. Some instructors offer the equivalent of office hours through discussion groups on a separate chat platform, but the real content lies in the courses.
Since anyone can create a class on Udemy, the platform has amassed an extensive catalog of online courses.
These are hardly limited to or even focused only on creative fields, but there are plenty of courses related to writing, art, composing music, and singing. Everything from how to put on mascara to ways of managing people is covered.
Some of the popular courses for creatives include:
- The Ultimate Drawing Course – Beginner to Advanced by Quinton and Jaysen Batchelor: Covers the building blocks of drawing and art broadly
- Complete Blender Creator – Learn 3D Modeling for Beginners by Rick Davidson and his team: Serves as a technical introduction to Blender
- #1 Sourdough Bread Baking 101 by Teresa L. Greenway: The first of a multi-part series on sourdough bread
- Mastering Architecture and Real Estate Photography by Charlie Borland: An advanced course to learn commercial photography
- Music Theory Comprehensive Complete by Jason Allen: A three-part course bundle to learn the theory behind music composition
As is the case with other crowd-sourced Udemy alternatives, the quality of the coaching varies. Some courses aren't worth your time, but others offer excellent content on niche topics (e.g., YouTube analytics, Clickfunnels, and sales funnels, or even automation marketing to make more Facebook friends on auto-pilot). To help you identify which courses are worth doing, there is a 5-star rating system. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee in the event that you’re dissatisfied with any course.
- Udemy lets instructors determine whether they want to charge for their courses. There’s a good mixture of paid and free online courses
- Paid courses start at $19.99 and go up before discounts or sales are taken into consideration ― and there are frequent sales
- Instructors often set up a course as a free offering and, then, change it to a paid one once the class has gotten enough reviews
- Extensive catalog of online courses
- Free and affordably priced courses
- You get lifetime access to all courses you buy
- An easy-to-understand course rating system
- Many courses on Udemy are short and offer only basic information
- Free courses often try to upsell students to paid offerings
- Low-quality video captioning and language support for courses
- Minimal vetting for class material
For any topic on Udemy – from social media to private equity – you will have to wade through several courses to find good ones. But, the platform has some options that make it a solid choice if you want a paid or free MasterClass alternative.
2. CreativeLive: Practical Courses to Complement MasterClass
CreativeLive is a MasterClass alternative that might seem like a direct competitor but is a nice complement for the premier online learning platform. Like MasterClass, CreativeLive has top-notch videos from accomplished people in a range of fields. There aren’t any crowd-uploaded courses here, so you know every option is a quality program.
CreativeLive has a distinct advantage over MasterClass in its course selection. This platform boasts over 1,500 class options, and many are categorized into those related to business, skill, or software within a field. For example, you’ll find everything from technique guides and genre-specific classes to software how-tos and business aids within the Photo & Video category.
Some of the top CreativeLive courses are:
- Adobe Photoshop CC Bootcamp by Blake Rudis: Detailed, easy-to-understand explanations to learn how to use Photoshop CC’s features
- How to Make a Living Selling What You Make by Megan Auman: A business course for crafters and other creatives
- Posing 101 by Lindsay Adler: Covers classic poses, special challenges and how to shoot portraits
- Workflow, Time Management and Productivity for Creatives by Lisa Congdon: Examines how creatives can increase their productivity
- Craft Photography Fundamentals by Candice Stringham: Looks at how to best showcase crafts for better sales
How do these courses differ from MasterClass offerings?
The answer lies in their instructors and the subject matter. While CreativeLive’s instructors are all accomplished folks, they aren’t celebrities like those at MasterClass.
As for content, the courses on CreativeLive tend to be much more pragmatic, while MasterClass favors the theoretical. It’s this latter consideration that makes the two platforms complementary to each other.
Also, many of these courses have lessons lasting over 30 minutes. This may be a challenge for some learners but preferable for others.
- A few courses on CreativeLive are offered for free at certain times, which allows customers to get a feel for it without investing anything but time
- Individual ones can be purchased for anywhere from $29 to $199 (before sales)
- The Creator Pass subscription is an all-access pass to all of the platform's courses. This costs $39 if billed monthly or $149 for a yearly subscription
- Large selection of 1,500-plus courses
- Professionally produced lessons
- Instructors are accomplished people
- Pragmatic lessons
- Affordable annual subscription
- Many lessons are longer (over 30 minutes)
- Free courses are limited and are only offered at pre-set times
- Individual courses are expensive
- No certificates for course completions
CreativeLive’s practical courses complement the more theoretical MasterClass programs well if you have the time for longer lessons.
3. Khan Academy: Free Online Learning for School-Age Children
Khan Academy is a unique platform that appeals to grade-school teachers and students. But, creatives may find it of limited use.
It offers a range of courses that largely focus on school-grade subjects, and it favors the STEM subjects. Arts & Humanities is just a small category that’s surrounded by Math, Math by Grade, Science & Engineering, Computing, and the like. Moreover, the lessons offered within Arts & Humanities target school-age students (especially high school students).
Teachers and schools make extensive use of this solution because it teaches the school curriculum and has built-in assessments.
A few online classes that may interest creatives are:
- Sal Chats with Entrepreneurs by Sal Khan: Covers interviews with well-known entrepreneurs like Elon Musk
- The Art of Storytelling by Pixar in a Box: Gives an overview of developing stories’ worlds, characters, plots and more
- Art History: Covers the basics of art history for students who want to deepen their appreciation
- Intro to HTML/CSS – Making Webpages: Shows how to customize website design
- All courses are free. And, you can begin a class without registering
- All courses are free
- Generally high-quality lessons
- Multi-language support through subtitles
- Machine-graded assessments
- Limited offerings in creative categories
- Courses are designed for school-age students
- Mobile app only plays videos (no assessment)
This is a completely free MasterClass alternative, but it’s mainly for primary and secondary students. Creatives will find only a few relevant courses.
4. Coursera: Accredited Certificates and Degrees From Universities
What Khan Academy seeks to do for primary and secondary education, Coursera does for post-secondary schools. It lets you access a wide selection of self-paced and timed (4-12 weeks) courses from reputed colleges and schools.
You can access over 3,900 courses and specializations on Coursera. Specializations consist of a series of lessons followed by a capstone project.
These courses and specializations run the gamut from computer science to art history, but they tend a little toward the math and science side of academia.
Creatives will find an adequate, albeit not infinite, selection of relevant programs. Some of the popular creative programs on Coursera are:
- Photography Basics and Beyond by Michigan State University: A five-course specialization to learn the basics of photography followed by a capstone project
- Creative Writing Specialization from Wesleyan University: A specialization that goes through plot, character, setting, and style followed by a capstone project
- Fundamentals of Graphic Design by Calarts: An introduction to the concepts of graphic design
- Graphic Design Specialization by Calarts: A more comprehensive five-course specialization in graphic design
Coursera is one of the rare platforms that let you access accredited courses and degree programs in partnership with accredited colleges and universities. These are particularly useful to people who don’t merely want personal enrichment but are looking for a credential to help them land a job in a given field.
- Many of the courses on Coursera can be audited for free, but others require a fee
- Most certificates and degrees are priced at $49
- High-quality courses from accredited colleges and universities
- Decent selection of lessons in creative subjects
- Many courses can be audited for free
- Accredited certificates and degrees for professionals who need a credential
- Certificates export to LinkedIn for instant profile updates
- Timed classes can’t be completed at your own pace
- Lengthier courses consistent with college or university classes
- Certificates and degrees aren’t free
- Few class offerings from smaller educational institutions
Coursera can serve as a free MasterClass alternative. And, its paid-for certificates and degrees make it an especially useful service for those who want an accredited credential on their resume.
5. LinkedIn Learning: Open-Source Courses With Certificates
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda) is another open-source platform with a wide variety of video classes. As is the case with other crowd-sourced platforms, the quality of classes on LinkedIn Learning varies. Some are well-done, but others leave much to be desired.
LinkedIn Learning gives you access to an enormous catalog of over 14,000 classes that are taught by professionals (they may or may not be accomplished ones). These courses cover many subjects that creatives will be interested in, as well as plenty of irrelevant ones too.
Learning Paths provide some guidance on course selection. As far as the available selection goes, Udemy has the most similar setup.
Some courses that creatives may want to take include:
- HTML Essential Training by James Williamson: An introduction to reading and using HTML pages
- Creativity Bootcamp by Stefan Mumaw: Approaches creativity as a skill that you can learn and develop
- Deke’s Techniques by Deke McClelland: A long and technical lesson to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
- InDesign Secrets by David Blatner and Ann-Marie Concepcion: A technical course to learn InDesign software
- One-month free trial
- After the trial period, users must pay a subscription of $29.99 per month if billed monthly or $19.99 per month if billed annually. This includes an all-access pass to all classes and perks that are included in LinkedIn Premium
- Enormous selection of 15,000-plus courses
- One-month free trial
- Certificates for course completion
- Perks of LinkedIn Premium are also included
- Quality of courses varies
- Only paid access after the initial trial
- Professionals aren’t necessarily accomplished
- Lots of emails in your inbox
LinkedIn Learning is a possible MasterClass alternative for those who are active on LinkedIn. Most, however, will find that another paid or free MasterClass alternative serves them better.
6. Skillshare: Slideshow-Style Courses in Varying Quality
The courses you can access on Skillshare are diverse, and there are more than 25,000 of them. But, the slide format doesn’t lend itself to art or music production tutorials nearly as well as a video does. Many of the classes offer little value, but you may find a narrowly focused course that covers a specific topic you’re interested in.
Some popular courses include:
- Animation for Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg: Helps you learn the process of creating an animated video step by step
- Odd Bodies: Illustrating Expressive, Stylized People by Tom Foresse: An intermediate-level course to learn how to draw people uniquely
- Logotype Masterclass by Jessica Hische: A practically focused course on how to create logos with Adobe Illustrator
- Productivity Masterclass: Create a Custom System That Works by Thomas Frank: Learn how professional creatives can increase their production
- Many of the courses are free to access
- A subscription of $15 per month or $99 per year gives you an all-access pass to all courses and lets you download as many as you like
- Expansive catalog of 25,000-plus courses
- Many courses are free to access
- A subscription allows you to download courses
- Numerous low-quality courses
- High-quality courses are often still short
- Amateurs make many classes
Skillshare may be a suitable MasterClass alternative to access a single course on a unique niche (like the course on buying and tasting wine smarter by Gary Vaynerchuk). For most situations, though, there’s a better option.
7. The Great Courses: College-Level Classes Without Work
Initially called Learning Management Systems and now The Learning Company, this platform has been around since the time of courses on VHS tape. Today, courses are available on CD, on DVD or via streaming online.
This is a college-level online education platform meant for non-credit enjoyment. Today, new courses and a large backlog of older (but still relevant) courses are available to stream online.
Some popular courses include:
- How to Draw by David Brody: An introduction to the history, materials, and techniques of drawing
- National Geographic Masters of Photography: An advanced photography course that covers technical aspects as well as genres
- Write Great Fiction by James Hynes: An overview of how to plan, write and revise a novel
- Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon: A detailed look at how to write effectively at the sentence level
- Writing Creative Nonfiction by Tilar J. Mazzeo: Explores the growing field of creative nonfiction and how to approach a subject in an engaging manner
The courses are available in multiple formats. Apart from videos, many of the courses are available on Audible (only audio). Notably, The Great Courses and The Great Courses Plus are offered by the same company but available through different websites.
- Video courses can be purchased individually, usually for a couple of hundred dollars, or students can sign up for a subscription
- Subscriptions are priced at $19.99 per month or $30 per quarter and come with an initial free trial
- Large selection of relevant courses from decades in the educational space
- Well-taught courses from professors and well-known institutions (e.g., National Geographic)
- Integration with AppleTV, Chromecast, FireTV, Echo and more
- The subscription model is affordable compared to other high-quality online learning sites
- Individual courses are expensive, often costing several hundred dollars
- Subscription and individual purchases aren’t on the same website
- Courses can’t be downloaded to a device
This is a good Masterclass alternative if you’re looking for college-level information but don’t want to put effort into a class. The material is comparable to that of Coursera, but the effort required is much less because there aren’t any certificates to earn.
Find Your Online Learning Platform
MasterClass is a world-class online learning platform, but it’s far from the only one. Depending on what you’re looking for, other alternatives may be more suitable.
In summary, try:
- Udemy for budget-friendly niche subjects
- CreativeLive for creative courses
- Khan Academy for introductory material
- Coursera for official college-level materials
- LinkedIn Learning for resume-building certificates
- Skillshare for diverse niches and hobbies, on a budget
- Great Courses for college-level material and historical courses
So, why not try one or a few out, and begin advancing your creative skills right away?
Join over 15,000 writers today
You'll get a free book of practical writing prompts.