All the Web's a Guide. Sites to Visit for Casual Learning
As great as the proliferation of online learning has been, traditional learning sites like Skillcrush aren’t the only places one can learn on the world wide web. The internet is still a giant library, and if you know where to look, it can provide immense amounts of detailed information. For freelancers, there are plenty of educational resources in the vast annals of the web, a lot of which you don’t need to pay a dime for. These sites are places the average freelancer may not think to go, but we promise are worth a visit.
This one is a bit obvious, but magazines are always a great place to learn new things. These publications contain a lot of advice freelancers can use. They also contain more than just articles, featuring webinars, online classes, infographics, and more.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers are two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth, you get it. Accordingly, their articles are very useful for freelancers. Beyond that, they have regular webinars that require a subscription to view. Some webinars are accessible anytime but they also have weekly live interactive ones. Some topics include: Running a business, starting a business, marketing, personal growth, leadership, and social media. If you want a longer, more detailed, learning experience, try their “Start A Business” multi-lesson course. It costs $200, and once you purchase it you can access it whenever. It isn’t timed and you can take the classes in whichever order you like. They say it generally takes people between 3-6 months to complete. It is interactive, with exercises and assignments mandatory for completion.
The Harvard Business Review, as the name suggests, centers around content relevant to business owners. That being said, their articles are still very much useful for freelancers and not too niche or complex that someone less experienced wouldn’t understand. That’s just the beginning though, because for $12/month, subscribers get way more.
What they offer to subscribers are 4 databases, all of which are fantastic learning tools. The Big Idea is a series of long form “deep dive” articles on particular topics. The Visual Library is an archive of useful graphs, slides, decks, and charts that subscribers can not only view, but download. These charts range from current oil prices to the common traits successful leaders share. The Reading List is a list of articles arranged by specific concerns or skills designed to improve your skill set. Their Case Studies database are very detailed analyses of real-word events and the business solutions that solved them. Some have included Home Depot’s management crisis and the Japanese government’s handling of the Fukushima earthquake. They also have a database of webinars all of which are free, but non-subscribers can only view so many at a time.
We mention these two sites together because they’re owned by the same company and so their content is quite complementary. Their topics have a wide range and don’t give as much specific practical advice as Entrepreneur or HBR do, but they make up for that with their coverage and take on current events. Reading Fast Company & Inc is one of the best ways to stay abreast of what’s going on in the worlds of technology, economics, politics, and entrepreneurship, and to keep up with your industry's latest professional trends. As far as direct learning goes, Inc & Fast Company offer online courses on topics like Design Thinking, Finance for Entrepreneurs, and Personal Branding. Individual classes cost $79 and full courses cost as low as $199. Fast Company also hosts four different podcasts, and both brands host multiple business summits throughout the year that anyone can attend.
What’s nice about blogs as opposed to magazines is they’re often free, more focused in their subject matter, and possess less fluff. What’s not so nice is the content may not always be as polished or as consistent in its quality. Here are a few choice blogs with consistently good freelance content:
99U is owned by Adobe and acts as their main avenue for thought leadership and other advice. Unsurprisingly, many of their articles are written for those in visual fields like design, fine art, or marketing. They have two article categories, Features & Interviews. The former addresses specific tips and advice a reader can use in their career and life, often featuring the input or work of a particular professional, or group of professionals, that the blog is highlighting. This could be anything from the best ways to sit at a desk, to how to be more observant, to advice on running your own workshop. The latter section of articles are interviews with successful visual professionals about the lessons they’ve learned on their journey.
They also have a section called Guides. The guides arrange articles in such a way that if read in order, act like a mini-course on whatever topic. 99U also has a yearly conference featuring TED style presentations, workshops, classes, and networking opportunities. Many of the talks from the conference, and past conferences, are featured in a separate section on the site called 99u talks.
The muse is set apart from other blogs because it actually focuses on mentorship, coaching, and other forms of guided professional development. The muse’s blog, which they call their "advice" section, offers a large catalogue of practical actionable advice from interviewing tips to great companies currently hiring. What’s nice about the muse blog is that their articles are written by a wide variety of people and companies so you’re bound to get multiple perspectives. Muse clearly wants this content to lead you to a coaching session. You by no means have to, the blog is totally free, but a coaching session may not be a bad idea. You can also search for a coach by specialty, by career stage, by cost, by specific service, or by name directly. If you’re not sure what kind of coaching you need, you can fill out a questionnaire and they will match you with coaches.
Millo isn’t a blog as much as it is a resource. They have a plethora of articles, most are fairly basic in the information they provide, but also quite thorough and detailed. Beyond that, the entire site contains lists of links to useful freelance software, freelance marketplaces, freelance community groups, and much more. Their lists are very extensive, and include everything from “best web-hosting services” to “best places to sell products online.” They also have a podcast called "freelance to founder" which is about how to scale your freelance business.
There are plenty of other annals of easily digestible knowledge on the web. You’ve just got to know where to look.
A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU. If you have Apple products or an account, the company’s iTunesU is a collection of courses and lectures from leading universities. Part of the iTunes software, you can access courses by topic or university. In many cases, you’ll be able to get audio and video of lectures, have access to some books and materials, and even download quizzes with answer keys. Some of the educational content they have costs money, but much of it is free and comes in a huge variety of topics that you can search for in the same way you would search for a song on iTunes. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users can download the iTunesU app. Desktop users can access iTunesU from the upper right-hand corner of their iTunes Store.
Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational, web series comes a site chock full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, are around ten minutes long, and are totally free.
Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on each video. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings. Unlike many online learning sites, the topics on TED-Ed deal with more everyday practical issues and are taught in a conversational manner rather than via lecture. Some of the videos include: How One Scientist Took On the Chemical Industry, How Can We Solve the Antibiotic Resistance Crisis? Why Aren’t the Netherlands Underwater? And What It’s Like to Be a Muslim in America.
PEOPLE PER HOUR & OTHER JOB SITES
You know those sites you use to find all that freelance work? Guess what? You can learn stuff there too. Sites like People Per Hour, Freelancer, Guru, and Upwork all have blogs with free educational content. The People Per Hour blog, like many of these blogs, is used to give updates on the company, but its content is much more diverse than that. Articles like “5 jobs that will be replaced by automation” and “7 Cost efficient tips to get SEO right for your small business” can also be found. You don’t need to be a member of any of these companies to read their blog posts, but if you are a member, some of these companies will pay you to add content to their blog. One more way to get noticed by clients.
As freelancers, we understand that there’s nothing more valuable than knowledge. Get your hands on as much as you can.