From learning the literal tools of your trade or positioning yourself as the go-to expert for that new digital product, for freelancers, learning and polishing skills will keep your businesses nimble and adaptive. And luckily, there are more platforms than ever for getting the training you need. Whether you are looking to dabble in a new industry, sharpen a skill or expand your offerings, we’ve compiled some of the best resources for freelance business owners and solopreneurs to keep learning.
(And remember, leveling up your professional skills is an investment in your freelance business! Don’t forget to include training costs in your tax-deductible expenses.)
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) may be the go-to place to learn new skills online. The platform offers over 16,000 in-depth tutorials on topics as diverse as CRM systems, Excel, graphic design, sales marketing and figure drawing.
Are you trying to beef up your list of services? Want to graduate from Photoshop novice to expert? Do you want to get better at cold pitching yourself to new clients? From business prowess to creative acumen to technical chops, LinkedIn Learning tackles hard and soft skillsets for virtually any industry.
LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-based platform. (If you are already paying for LinkedIn Premium, you have unlimited access.) The site offers a 7-day free trial before prompting you to subscribe monthly ($30) or commit to a year (billed at $20 a month), however, there are other ways to access this trove of learning material for no cost.
Many universities and public libraries offer free access to LinkedIn Learning’s database of tutorials as part of their digital resources. Call your branch or look up your library’s digital collection online to see if it’s among its offerings accessible online with your library card number – you’ll find it listed under online learning or e-resources. (If your library offers the language learning platform Rosetta Stone – another great tool! – it would be housed in the same place.)
No luck at your local branch? Think outside your city. You might be eligible for a library membership elsewhere in your county or state – consider checking with the system that serves the biggest city in your county, a nearby metro area or your state’s capital.
Alison.com is another online platform offering free tutorials that go beyond digital and creative industries, including modules on elder care, safety and first aid, food safety, plumbing and carpentry.
If this type of instruction works for you, don’t overlook YouTube. The original home for free video content, you can find endless instructional videos from casual how-to’s to step-by-step series from professionals and enthusiasts in virtually every craft.
Online college-style courses
Do you miss the classroom but aren’t ready to enroll in a pricey course or program? Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have grown in popularity, meaning there are plenty of options for learning regardless of your industry or interest.
Unlike on-demand tutorials, MOOCs offer multi-week courses with platforms to interact with other students, quizzes to review material and opportunities to earn certificates of completion and even work towards certificate or diploma programs – and many are free.
Udemy, Coursera and EdX are all popular online course providers, letting you audit a range of classes you’d expect from a major university. You’ll find everything from law, history and philosophy courses as well as topics that can directly boost your freelance business, like language learning and business courses to a marketing class focused on building a personal brand. Courses are designed and lead by professors at universities across the globe.
Udemy stands out for its offerings tailored to online businesses and solopreneurs. From diving into freelancing to creating your own online courses and marketing your products online, there are courses that dive into the nitty-gritty of running and promoting a successful freelance business.
All the major platforms offer a variety of free courses with optional paid upgrades. Pricing for premium content and features ranges from $50-300 per course on EdX and Udemy to Coursera’s $400 annual fee for graded assignments, Q&A and direct-messaging and the ability to apply courses towards a professional certificate.
Likewise, Construct-Ed is industry-specific, offering over 180 courses for people interested in entering the construction field. If you are an enrolled student in high school, trade school or college, you might be eligible to use the site at no cost. Most courses are less than $50 and many are free.
Intensive trade schools for the digital age
General Assembly and CareerFoundry offer intensive training designed for tech-focused skill-building and for career changers; you’ll notice their offerings are weighted towards data science, software, web design and coding skills. General Assembly offers everything from a free Learn to Code online course for getting your feet wet to weekend workshops, and part-time or full-time classes lasting up to 12 weeks, including in-person offering in a handful of major cities.
Both companies offer a number of payment plan options. If you are a salaried employee freelancing on the side, General Assembly has part-time offerings that might qualify you for tuition assistance or reimbursement from your employer.
For manual skills and hands-on trades, online learning may only get you so far. Whether you already work in a skilled trade and have an eye on launching your own business or see an industry growing in your area and want to get a foot in the door, you likely have local resources that can help you break into your field.
Community colleges offer a treasure trove of affordable and flexible courses. Look beyond your closest campus and see what differentiates the campuses in your area, you might find a school with better class schedules or a specialized department. If your alma mater or local college has an office dedicated to career services or workforce development, take advantage of it.
Don’t overlook your county or state’s department of workforce development or a local job center. Not only can you be sure to find hiring events and job listings for your area, but you are likely to find training opportunities specific to the established or burgeoning industries in your market, including paid apprenticeships.
Any freelancer knows that you’re the future of their business is never guaranteed. By sharpening your skills, diversifying your services and staying on top of new tools and industry trends, you won’t only keep your freelance business adaptable and relevant – you’ll make yourself indispensable to current and future clients.