One dilemma that often sends freelancers into a tailspin is how to improve their skills and marketability.
At HomeWorkingClub, we’ve had an avalanche of questions on training for freelancers over the years. However, we can distil them into three basic queries:
- What skills do I need?
- Where can I learn online?
- How much does it cost?
The barriers to training tend to fall into predictable categories too. Freelancers often report problems with a lack of funds and time, and a feeling of overwhelm around what training to focus on.
There’s a massive number of opportunities for upskilling online, and many of them cost literally nothing. The trick lies in knowing where to find them.
In this guide, we uncover some of the cheapest and most convenient courses and training resources available – for both new and experienced freelancers.
- Free Training Opportunities from the Digital Giants
- Great (Free) Training Resources from Software Companies
- Free Freelance Training Resources from Upwork
- Training Options from eLearning Sites
- More Education Portals
- Freelancer Resources on HomeWorkingClub
- Summing Up
Free Training Opportunities from the Digital Giants
The world’s biggest digital companies offer a variety of courses and programmes to teach freelancers how to use their tools effectively. Whether you’re a designer or developer, teacher or writer, VA or SEO expert, you will be able to discover valuable training on these platforms.
Even better, if you’re at the beginning of your journey and money’s tight, there are plenty of low-cost or FREE options to get you started.
Here are some examples:
Facebook Blueprint offers a wealth of FREE self-guided courses and programmes to help build marketing and business skills, around Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook.
Instead of taking a generic programme, you can choose from seven portals: Small Business, Jobseekers & Students, Educators, Brands & Agencies, Charities, Community Leaders and Developers.
Finally, you can prove to prospective clients that you know your stuff by producing an official certification. Facebook Blueprint offers nine Certified Professional examination options at increasingly advanced levels of competence.
Note that while the training materials are free, you have to pay around $100-150 to take the certification exams.
If you’re an aspiring creative, it’s helpful to know about Adobe’s range of tools. They’re the industry standard for freelance photographers, videographers and graphic designers – and sometimes even writers, who are often asked to supply clients with relevant images
Adobe’s free online courses explain how to use all their products, including Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
Apple offers several training courses and certifications, spanning developing software for Macs and iOS devices and providing support for Apple hardware in business environments.
macOS Support Essentials 11 is worth a look, as it offers a relatively easy route to qualifying as an Apple Certified Support Professional. You can study all the course materials in this thick textbook, and pay to take an exam at the end if you wish.
Apple’s Deployment and Management course includes articles and guided exercises that teach you how to manage Apple devices inside an organisation.
App Development with Swift, a 12 hour course available completely free here introduces the tools, language, and design principles that make apps work seamlessly with Apple platforms. Here you explore Swift, SwiftUI and UIKit, and learn about passing data, table views, persistence and accessibility.
Google Digital Garage
Google has teamed up with tertiary providers worldwide to offer 156 free courses to help people grow their business or career skills.
You can select from individual modules or entire courses in three categories: Digital Marketing, Career Development and Data & Tech.
If you’re interested in an impressive Google certification for your resume, also be sure to check out Google’s Professional Certificates – more on those below.
Perhaps you’re interested in freelance work around video content? In that case, the YouTube Creator Academy has many Creator Resources and Learning Toolkits to help you learn how to create videos and set up and market YouTube channels.
Great (Free) Training Resources from Software Companies
It’s not just the online giants offering free training for freelancers.
There are hundreds of organisational, financial and marketing tools available online, with more coming onto the market all the time. Clients are often looking for freelancers with detailed knowledge of these apps and tools.
Fortunately, many of the companies producing the tools provide free or inexpensive videos, tutorials, and sometimes even full courses, to help people navigate their way through all the complexity. You can often become an expert in a specific tool, simply by working through all the materials provided for free.
Here are some ideas of what’s out there:
Ahrefs markets itself as the “All-in-one SEO toolset.” It’s the go-to tool for many bloggers and website owners, but it’s also very powerful and complex. Knowing how to use it properly can give you a genuinely marketable skill.
Thankfully, Ahrefs offers hundreds of hours worth of courses on SEO and marketing basics in the Ahrefs Academy – completely free – including the company’s comprehensive Blogging For Business course. There are also extra video tutorials on the company’s YouTube channel.
Email marketing is hugely popular for companies of all kinds, and many often look for freelancers to assist. If this appeals to you, some of the big-name email service providers offer some great training resources.
As we said in our guide to writing the perfect pitch, “Proofread your application TWICE before you press send” – because nothing puts prospective clients off faster than a poorly written pitch.
At HomeWorkingClub, we often point to Grammarly as a good proofreading and editing tool. But beyond that, the Grammarly blog has a wealth of articles on all things related to writing, grammar, and the English language’s quirks.
Learning to manage projects can help you with your own work, and with work you take on for clients. As such, learning to use a modern project management system is a wise use of your time as a freelancer.
Trello, a HomeWorkingClub favourite, uses online boards, lists and cards to help individuals and teams manage their projects. There’s a paid premium version, but the free version is so well featured that very few people end up needing it.
It can be challenging to learn a new system, but Trello makes it super easy by providing a comprehensive guide to get you started. It’s almost certain that you will encounter clients making heavy use of Trello, so it’s a “no brainer” to learn to use it well.
Freshbooks and Xero
No guide to training for freelancers would be complete without mentioning accounting software.
Two of the most well-known tools that cater for freelancers and solopreneurs are Freshbooks and Xero. Although these are paid tools, both offer free tutorials, webinars, case studies and blog articles on getting the most out of their systems.
Free Freelance Training Resources from Upwork
Aside from being a place to hunt for work, Upwork also provides some great training resources for freelancers.
Upwork has a host of videos, webinars, case studies and articles for freelancers and clients under its resource tab.
Some of the diverse topics covered include:
- What is a hashtag? Basics and examples of using Hashtags on Social Media.
- An introduction to Twitter Marketing Strategy.
- How to create a proposal that wins jobs.
- What is project management, and why is it in high demand?
- How to become a successful solopreneur.
Training Options from eLearning Sites
Where you once had to study at a physical campus to get an education, nowadays there’s a host of online e-learning portals offering thousands of courses – and even full degrees.
In many cases, there’s plenty of study you can do for free on these sites, sometimes only having to pay if you wish to receive a formal certificate at the end of a course.
Thanks to the work of universities around the world, as well as individual course creators and blue-chip companies, it’s possible to train online in practically any skill or discipline.
Here are some places to look for ideas:
There are over 5000 courses on Coursera (full review here), offering an enormous range of possibilities for learning. You can study anything from short courses to online degrees offered by prestigious universities.
Many of them offer the option of “auditing a course,” which essentially means you won’t receive any feedback (or a certificate), but can study for free. Alternatively, you can pay the course fee to have your assignments marked and receive your certificate.
Searching inside the Coursera categories reveals some fascinating possibilities in free training for freelancers. For example:
- A Bitcoin and cryptocurrency specialization from Princeton.
- A qualification in teaching English as a second language.
- A beginner’s course in the “science of exercise.”
- A five-week course on designing weight-loss plans.
Google Professional Certificates on Coursera
The tech industry is crying out for UX designers, IT developers and support specialists, so to meet the demand, Google has introduced their new Professional Certificates, delivered via Coursera.
These self-paced programmes include tuition in technical support, data analytics, project management, automation and design, which all lead towards working in these high-growth tech areas. In fact, Google has stated that they will treat these online qualifications with the same kudos as a full degree.
edX (read our review) partners with universities like Harvard and Cambridge, companies such as Amazon and IBM, and global organisations like the World Bank and Amnesty International, to provide training in many categories.
As with Coursera, you can often enrol in the free audit track, or pay a fee to have graded assignments and a course certificate on completion.
edX also offers a financial assistance programme to help learners who demonstrate financial need. The programme allows these students to earn verified certificates at a reduced cost.
More Education Portals
Coursera and EdX aside, many other online education communities also offer free or paid courses to students of all ages and interests.
Alison is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to making it possible for anyone to study anything, anywhere, at any time, for free online, at any subject level. They aim to be a catalyst for positive social change, creating opportunity, prosperity, and equality for everyone.
Courses are free, but you pay for certificates (3-5 learning hours) or diplomas (8-15 learning hours.)
Open Culture’s mission is to gather much of the free, high-quality cultural and educational media that’s found all over the internet and make it easy to find.
Their material includes free university courses, movies and documentaries, free audio and e-books, and thousands of MOOCs (massive open online courses), language courses and more.
Freelancer Resources on HomeWorkingClub
Of course, you can also find an enormous amount of FREE information on freelancing, blogging and working from home right here on this site. Here’s where to begin:
There are many advantages to working as a freelancer, including the flexibility and freedom you gain. However, there are downsides, too, and we don’t gloss over those at HomeWorkingClub. To get a realistic overview of life as a freelancer, check out these articles from our archives.
Get the Proven Steps to Success
Our Freelance Kickstarter Course takes you through all the steps needed to launch a new freelance business.
In the course you learn how to:
- Use your existing skills and experiences in your new freelancing life.
- Set (and attain) short-term, medium and long-term goals.
- Pitch for your first jobs on freelance platforms such as Upwork.
- Negotiate rates and handle finances.
- Manage client relationships and build repeat business.
A one-off payment of $147 gives you lifetime access to all the steps to start your freelance life.
There is so much online training for freelancers that it can be challenging to know where to begin.
We (of course!) suggest that you start right here with the fabulous resources on HomeWorkingClub. Use them to see some of the many possibilities for running a business from your home.
Whether you want to walk dogs, start a cupcake business, write for a living or learn how to self-publish your first children’s book, you’ll find an articles detailing all the pros and cons right here.
Once you’ve established which skills you already have, fill in the gaps by taking one or more courses.
Don’t wait any longer to start. Happy learning!
Lyn is the author of Culture Smart NZ (2022). A freelance writer and blogger from New Zealand, she specialises in content for lifestyle magazines, blogs, podcasts and virtual summits. You’ll find her blog on writing, farm life & talented New Zealanders at lynmcnamee.com