Training for Freelancers: Free and Cheap Options

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It really grinds my gears when people moan about a lack of opportunities in the world. The internet opens up so many options for people, and one of those is a wealth of training for freelancers – allowing anyone to boost their skills and learn new ones.

Some of this training is world-class and completely free – even training from the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook. (Details of these courses are below).

In this article, I’m going to show you where to find online training for freelancers, and demonstrate the practically limitless options you can get started on right now. So let’s begin.

Training for Freelancers: What Options are there?

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.

Let’s look at some examples. Between Coursera and edX, two of the training providers I discuss below, here are some of the courses you can study at the time of writing:


  • A full professional certification in Web development.
  • A diagramming course devised by Harvard University.
  • A wide range of writing courses from Berkeley, including business writing, essay writing, and social change journalism.

Training for Freelancers courses

On Coursera:

There’s a full review of Coursera here.

The idea of the lists above is to show you just how much variety there is in the courses available. The chances are that if there’s something you want to study, there’s a course out there that will fit the bill – and a course that will help your progress your self-employed career.

How can training for freelancers be free?

Courses at places like Coursera and edX aren’t always free! However, in most cases, there’s a way to study for little or no money.

At edX, for example, many courses give you two options; You can either study the course for free, or pay a small fee (typically $50-100) to have your work verified and receive an official “verified certificate.”

Example freelance training certificateCoursera works in a similar way, with many courses offering a paid option, or the alternative of “auditing” the course for free, which gives access to all the course materials but doesn’t end with an official certificate.

Whether or not you decide to pay out for the verified certificate option really depends on what you want to get out of the course. If you’re studying for personal development reasons, it may be perfectly adequate for you to merely study the course materials – it’s still legitimate training for freelancers!

However, having the certificate does identify you as having a qualification of sorts, especially if you opt to go for a full “specialization” in a subject (such as this “Creativity to Entrepreneurship” specialization from Coursera.)  These specializations combine a series of different courses into a training program that will really help you prove your credentials to clients, or even set you down a path of training for a completely new career.

Showing off your training achievements

Merely completing one of these courses on a free plan still means you can show off the fact that you’ve gained the knowledge. However, going for the verified certificate option gives you a way of really showcasing the achievement.

As well as the certificate, you are usually given a link that allows people to verify that you’ve completed the training. Both Coursera and edX also interface with your LinkedIn account, allowing you to show your verified training on your LinkedIn profile, complete with a link to the certificates:

Training on LinkedIn

When you decide to pay for a verified certificate, you have to show some ID to prove it’s you taking the course. The providers also use clever techniques based on your typing “fingerprint” to make sure it’s you doing the studying, and occasionally make you prove who you are via your webcam.

How good is this training?

I’ve personally completed several courses on both Coursera and edX and can vouch for the quality of them. My level of engagement has admittedly varied a bit from course to course, but that’s depended more on the subject-matter than the course quality. (For example, I found “The Psychology of Criminal Justice” surprisingly dull!)

It’s worth remembering that producing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) is now a serious business for universities – even Ivy League institutions like Harvard and Yale. So, in many cases, you’re actually watching the same lecturers that people attending those universities are watching. Not too shabby for little or no money, and from the comfort of your own home!

It’s easy to find reviews of individual courses (and often Facebook groups for the people taking them), so it’s not difficult to find out what to expect. And with options to take many of the courses for free (or at the very least sample them on a free trial basis) there’s no risk anyway.

The courses I’ve taken have used a selection of offline reading, recorded lectures, interactive online tools and video content. They’re engaging – sometimes even to the point of being fun!

Another Freelance Training Option

Another course provider worth looking at is Udemy.

Udemy Courses

Udemy is a rather different beast to Coursera and edX. There are in excess of 50,000 courses on the platform, but they’re developed by individuals instead of educational institutions. (You can also produce your own courses and sell them on Udemy, but that’s a subject for another article!)

As Udemy courses are created by individuals, the quality can vary considerably from course to course. However, it’s easy to check the online reviews of courses (and look at exactly what’s included) before committing.

Where Udemy really excels is in the variety of courses available, many of which are perfect in terms of training for freelancers. It’s easy to find courses that cover particular software packages, SEO techniques, online marketing methods, and other essential skills for modern businesses.

Here are a few examples of well-reviewed courses on Udemy that would be particularly suitable for freelancers:

What do Udemy courses cost?

While Udemy courses may not quite have the kudos of something backed by Berkeley or Princeton, they’re often great quality.

More importantly, they’re insanely inexpensive. Frequent offers mean that it’s often possible to access courses like those described above for around $15 per course.

As a fast and effective way of gaining new knowledge and learning new skills, these courses are hard to beat.

Freelance courses

Training for freelancers: Something else to look at

I’d be extremely surprised if any freelancer looked at Coursera, edX and Udemy, and didn’t find themselves feeling inspired and motivated to start learning something new. However, there is another option worth looking at.

Companies have a vested interest in helping people learn to use their platforms, and make training freely (or almost freely) available to people who want to use them in their careers.

Here’s a really great example: If you fancy describing yourself as “Apple Certified,” and you’re willing to put in the time and effort, Apple has made all of its basic training materials available online! You have to pay $65 (at the time of writing) to take the exam, but after that, you become an “Apple Certified Associate.” This sounds rather impressive on your CV! (There is, of course, further training available at a more advanced level).

Apple CertificationIt’s not just Apple.


As you can hopefully see, training for freelancers is easy to access and often COMPLETELY free.

There’s absolutely no reason to be held back by lack of money when it comes to boosting your skills. You can start on any of these courses right now! So whether you want to update your training, branch out into something a little different, or start from the ground up with training in something completely new, it’s all possible with nothing more than an Internet connection.

So, what are YOU going to start learning today?

2 thoughts on “Training for Freelancers: Free and Cheap Options”

  1. Hi Ben,

    Great articles and fun reading. Keep up the good work.
    I was wondering if you have a review for Alison which is another online eLearning platform that I tried but easily found that the certificates and diplomas are not accredited. However, the course materials are good. You will have a better perspective considering your experiences. But thanks again for the review on FutureLearn. You have described the platform exactly as I had experienced it. Likewise for edx which is recommended and as for Coursera I gave up because of the pricing.

    • Hi Jake,

      Alison is a new one for me but I’ll add it to the (long) list of things we need to take a look at!


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