The proliferation of online education isn’t just a huge advancement in education, it’s a huge advancement for the freelance movement and the way we work at large. So much of freelancing, of having a more fluid career, is being able to reskill; to learn new things, not just early in life, but in the middle of life or whenever you need to. Online learning has made that possible. That being said, school is school whether it’s in the classroom or the on the web. You still need to take the time and make the effort to learn whatever subject you’re learning. The notion of “going back to school” can still be long and tedious even though you can do it from your living room. It’s no easier to get a sociology degree now than it was before. The difference is that the notion of “going back to school” has more than one meaning now. It doesn’t have to mean getting a whole new degree. It can mean taking a few classes, or doing a bootcamp, or opening an app consistently. It’s still not easy, but there are plenty of online learning options that offer a quicker and more practical experience than college.


In many ways, online learning was birthed by coding. The methods and structures of coding lend themselves to learning online and coding schools (bootcamps as they’re often called) have kind of mastered the process of teaching people new stuff very fast.


Skillcrush offers classes shorter than most. They say you can complete them in 3-months, although that’s only the average amount of time they say it takes. Skillcrush lets you learn flexibly, so you can log on and learn whenever you want, or not. If you have a busy week then there’s no pressure to keep up. You can hop back in when you’re free. In fact, you have lifetime access to the course you bought so you can re-watch it whenever you like. The classes are pre-recorded, but the instructors of those classes are available for “digital office hours” so you can get assistance when needed. Every course costs $549 and can be paid monthly if you prefer. They do have a free coding camp that teaches basics like HTML and WordPress as well as a blog which offers more free educational resources like webinars and instructional articles.


Thinkful's courses range from UX design to Data Science. They offer both full-time and part-time (or flex) courses. The curriculum not only includes technical learning but career-based learning like networking and interviewing skills. Thinkful sets itself apart by providing students with one-on-one mentorship, organized peer groups, and academic/career coaching that will help you transition from class to job. Courses range from $5,000 to $18,000 and are offered in a variety of payment plans.

Thinkful hosts events in many cities across the countries, and works with companies in those same cities to get graduates hired. They also have a blog featuring articles that align with each of their course disciplines. If you want to apply to any of their courses, you have to make a request to chat with a member of their team via their website. In this chat they ask you what you’re looking for, and they inform you when the course you want is available.


The Flatiron School offers immersive on-campus, and online, programs in things like software engineering, data science, and cybersecurity. They have campuses in NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, and Denver. Flatiron School’s courses aim to launch students into fulfilling careers in a variety of IT & programming professions through curricula that are continually market tested, ensuring the stuff students are learning is the stuff businesses actually want. Flatiron’s courses don’t only offer instructors, but personal career coaches to make sure you’re staying on track. Their classes aren’t only pre-recorded lectures, but include test-driven labs and portfolio projects. If the Flatiron School’s program sounds more official than others, that’s because it is. Their courses are closer to a collegiate experience and come with a heftier price-tag. Most cost $17,000. You can choose to take a course full-time (which you may complete in four or five months) or a course part-time (which you may complete in eight or nine months).


One of the most fulfilling and valuable things one can learn is a new language; and you don’t need to be going on vacation to learn it. Not only does a second language have vast benefits to your brain function, but it can open up a plethora of job opportunities.


Babbel wastes no time getting you up to speed on your language goals. Upon downloading, you can take an optional three-minute placement test to see where your skills fall. Once it designates your level, you can complete most of Babbel’s conversation-based lessons, which it offers in 14 different languages, all of which are 10 to 15 minutes. Babbel focuses less on nailing grammar or conjugation than other programs. Instead, Babbel emphasizes dialogue and the ability to carry out real-world conversations. Their lessons cover common scenarios in which you might need this language and their advanced speech recognition software facilitates this practical focus (you won’t have to repeat yourself all the time).

You can test out the first lesson of every course for free, but there are a few different subscription options worth considering. The three-month subscription costs $26.85, or about $8.95 per month, and the 12-month package costs $83.40 (about $6.95 per month). Good news for students: Right now, the app is offering kids in grades K-12 and college students three free months of access to its app and platform, meaning they won't fall behind on their German lessons outside of the classroom.


Busuu’s initial placement test wants to get to know you really well. It asks you about your goals like, "Do you want to be able to order a meal at a restaurant in your new language, or make small-talk with locals?" Maybe you want to feel independent and understand signs and take public transportation, or perhaps you want to be able to listen to the local radio, or watch television. Once you settle on your top priority, Busuu will help you reach that goal. It generates a study plan to help you based on the number of days you’d like to spend learning each week, and how much time you can dedicate to lessons on those days. From there, you’ll access a variety of Busuu’s lessons, including dialogue lessons with recitations and fill-in-the-blanks, and word-order exercises that help you structure sentences. Busuu also offers feedback from native speakers to help perfect your technique. The app also has an offline mode, so you can even practice on a transcontinental flight.

You can access a decent chunk of content for Busuu’s 12 languages at no cost, including flashcard-based vocabulary lessons and reading comprehension exercises, complete with word banks and question-and-answer sessions. In order to create the study plan you’ll need to subscribe to one of their paid plans. The Premium plan will costs $9.99 for a single month or about $3 per month for a year, or about $2.70 per month for two years. Premium Plus costs $13.99 for a single month, $3.33 per month for a year’s subscription, and $2.87 per month for two years.


Pimsleur is an app that offers 51 languages to learn, but delivers the information in what is basically the form of a podcast. Essentially, you'll choose the language you want to learn and begin a 30-minute auditory lesson (which are downloadable and Alexa-compatible). The app also has a driving mode, so you can improve your skills during long commutes without looking at a screen. Their features also include more interactive content like reading lessons, roleplaying challenges, and digital flashcards. Pimsleur probably feels the most like a traditional language course out of these three apps.

You get a seven-day free trial. An audio-only subscription costs $15 a month, while a premium subscription, which includes the 12 top selling languages, is $20 a month.


You may have thought “well not everything can be taught online, some stuff I actually need to go back to school for.” Think again. These sites teach everything from drawing to gardening to engineering. You won’t necessarily get a degree, but you only need the skills to get more work.


If you own a phone you’ve probably seen ads for Masterclass. The whole gimmick is “learning from the masters.” Are these people literally masters? That’s not for us to say, but they’ve certainly made a ton of money from what they do and that’s one component of mastery. Plus, it’s fun to have Gordon Ramsey curse at you or Steve Martin mock you or Anna Wintour say stuff without sunglasses. Masterclass courses have a very high production value, so if nothing else, the whole experience is entertaining. Plus, a Masterclass subscription, which costs $15/month, comes with every course they offer.

Masterclass’ library has exploded in the last couple years featuring courses from Mexican cooking techniques to the art of sleep to negotiating like an FBI agent. What’s cool is that each class is designed specifically for that instructor and that topic. No two classes look the same aesthetically, the music is different, the pacing is different, and the structure of the workbook is different. The “masters” are very opinionated and don’t do too much beating around the bush.


“Learning is fun when it’s hands-on,” is the approach that Instructables takes. This website is designed specifically to showcase projects where people build physical items, including food. You’ll learn fundamental engineering and even advanced electronics. From turning old linens into ropes and old coins into rings, all the way to creating drones or coding a 3D game, there’s plenty to discover. Projects are mostly submitted by users and hobbyists, so available topics often lean toward pop culture, such as creating props and costumes for characters of popular video games. That also means all guides are totally free.


For graphic artists, artistic hobbyists, or professional doodlers, Drawspace offers full courses and individual lessons to help you master different drawing techniques. You can learn the basics of drawing and painting as well as advanced techniques like drawing people or cityscapes. They even offer hyper-specific techniques such as creating art with tea bags or creating brand new colors. You can take classes individually or choose to be guided with a pre-made course plan. They even offer non-practical courses like “life as a visual artist,” “how to get past artist’s block,” and “how to teach art to others.”  Many of Drawspace’s lessons are free, but to have access to the ones that are not, you’re required to subscribe. Fortunately, access to basically all of the courses costs only $9.50/month.

Freelancing successfully requires access to quick, practical, affordable skill building. This is now available in spades, so go learn something.