EDUCATION IS MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER BEFORE. THE QUESTION IS, WHERE TO START?
If there’s one thing a freelancer values perhaps more than anything else, it’s education. We understand better than most that job stability is a thing of the past. The only way to keep your income stable is to remain useful, and the best way to do that is to stay educated. Honing and improving your skills is the quickest way to not only success as a freelancer, but longevity. The good news is, technology has made education more accessible than ever. With the proliferation of online learning, all that knowledge seems easily consumable, but there’s still a maddening amount of it. From sewing seminars, to business webinars, to marketing conferences, the question becomes, where to start?
That depends on what it is you want to learn. The first thing many might think is “how do I improve the work I do on a daily basis?” Educating yourself on the career you’ve chosen is certainly pragmatic. Before undertaking any sort of course you should consider what exactly it is you want to be learning. Do you want to get better at one particular skill such as Adobe Illustrator? If that’s the case then sites like Lynda and Skillshare are great options. They offer a plethora of courses on individual skills like Illustrator, or social media marketing, or pottery. The nice thing about sites like those is you can just jump into any class you want, you don’t need to take an entire course. Learning something like Illustrator also doesn’t require any kind of degree or certificate. You're learning it to simply get better at your job, not to necessarily improve your resume. That being said, there are courses that will give you a certificate for almost any topic. The difference is, those courses are generally longer, require you take tests, and are definitely going to cost money.
If you were considering improving at your chosen profession as a whole, rather than just focusing on one skill, going back to university may be in your future. Before you make that leap, there are a lot more options today than just in person college. Many colleges, probably some of the ones you’d want to go to, offer online classes, or even entirely online degree programs. There are also institutions like Future Learn, Coursera, and General Assembly which act as online learning aggregates. They are platforms used by colleges and universities to offer online degree programs, but users can take most of the programs without actually attending those colleges and university. Those platforms also offer programs of their own that they’ve developed which, while still offering a degree or certificate, tend to be shorter and cheaper than a full degree program. If going back to school makes sense to you, take time to research all your options. There are plenty that would allow you to keep working part, or even full time.
Although it may not seem as practical, taking time to learn about something you’re interested in can be incredibly useful. Freelancers are always looking a few steps ahead in their career, and one of the steps could potentially be in a different direction than they’re currently going. Investing time in learning something tangential to your career, could eventually influence your career trajectory. The way so many freelancers got their start was investing time in a side-gig totally different than their full-time job. Part of the time spent on that gig was learning and becoming better at it, especially if you knew that it would eventually become your career. If your interest is still a burgeoning one, then platforms like Iversity and Udemy might be helpful to you. Like Coursera or Future learn, their courses are more academic in nature, but every class can be taken individually and you don’t have to pay for a full course to take any of the individual classes. If you just want to get a sense of what a career in accounting, or photography, or coding might look like, then Udemy and Iversity are good choices. They don’t require very much commitment and treat the viewers like students rather than professionals; which is great for people who don’t yet know much about their topic of interest.
SHITS & GIGGLES
There are of course times when we want to learn something just for the fun of it. This could be taking a random class or reading an interesting article you see online. Learning stuff for shits and gigs doesn’t take up very much time (we do it pretty much every day without realizing) and it helps develop an important skill. To learn, to receive information, is a skill. It takes practice and continuous effort. Spending time to learn something random can help you better learn something more directly useful. This is the core idea of the freelancers’ principle of education; learning to learn. The more we build this skill the better we become at adapting to our changing world of work. A good place to go for some random knowledge is Go Highbrow. Every day they email you a 5-mintue course on topics ranging from cooking to meditation. Try to spend a little time every day learning to learn.
We’re lucky to live in a time where knowledge has become so readily available. There are even places online, including some we’ve listed , that offer courses for free. The lesson here is we no longer need to limit ourselves to one particular kind of education. As a freelancer, we can’t.