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15 Valuable Skills You Can Learn (for Free) to Be a Better Freelancer

by Nathan Mizrachi
freelancing, money & life

15 Valuable Skills You Can Learn (for Free) to Be a Better Freelancer Nathan on CreativeLive

Thanks to widely available free tools and courses available online, there are tons of skills you can learn to compliment what you already do as a freelancer, not to mention the possibility of creating new opportunities to make a living.

Especially because so many projects have room for overlap—for example, web design and copywriting, or coding for Android and graphic design—there is so much potential to increase your earnings and marketability by mastering additional skills to compliment the ones you already rely on to pay your rent or travel the world.

Here are fifteen immensely valuable top skills for freelancers, that you can learn completely free and will unlock a world of new possibilities for your business.

1. Coding.

There are over three million different apps available in the Google and Apple stores, and someone has to come up with the code to make them all work. Why can’t it be you? You can become an Android developer for free with this course designed by Google, and you can learn any number of useful coding languages on Codecademy, also for free. Treehouse is another incredible online resource for picking up these skills.

2. Translating.

Presumably you’re fluent in at least one language. An unheralded way to diversify your skill set is to learn a second language and find work as a translator. Are you monolingual? No te preocupes (that means don’t worry in Spanish)! Duolingo is a handy free app that will teach you other languages in just a matter of weeks.

Or if you’re gregarious enough, you can arrange Skype chats with people fluent in the language you want to learn, meet up with foreign travelers visiting your city on Couchsurfing, and learn language the way it was meant to be learned: by speaking and listening to someone.

3. Graphic Design.

Even if you think you completely suck at drawing or other visual arts, maybe you’ve just never been given the right tools to become a good artist. Countless accomplished graphic designers were self-taught and simply spent hours learning the fundamentals of graphic design.

15 Valuable Skills You Can Learn (for Free) to Be a Better Freelancer Nathan on CreativeLive Graphic Design

There’s an unlimited number of graphic design gigs out there, and apps such as GIMP or Pixlr or websites such as Canva will let you master graphic design without paying a cent.

4. Website Building.

Someone, somewhere needs help building their website, and they’ll pay you pretty well if you know what you’re doing. Either from free coding classes or by learning while using WordPress, it’s easier than ever to learn how to design a website from scratch, without paying for the privilege to learn how to do it. There are also tons of low cost options for online classes and other resources that can accelerate your learning.

5. Blog Writing.

Fancy yourself a writer but have never picked up a pen? That’s fine—most of the content online these days is crap, so you should have no problem getting writing gigs. Kidding, only kidding! The best way to become a good writer is to write.

No one will pay you at first, but if you practice enough it will only be a matter of time before you have the writing skills necessary to create blog posts or copywrite for other clients. WordPress, Blogger or Medium are just three of many free platforms to hone your craft.

6. ESL Teaching.

You’re reading this article, so it’s fair to bet that you’re fluent in English. While English as a Second Language (ESL) schools abroad usually require that their instructors be accredited to teach (something that unfortunately costs money), you can certainly find people willing to pay you reasonable rates for English tutoring via Skype or Google Hangout.

7. Understanding & Interpreting Analytics.

Thank Google for this awesome crash course in SEO and all things related to Google Analytics. This free course is worth more than its virtual weight in gold. Better yet, you can join forums populated by fellow learners and analytics alike on Google+, allowing you to learn one of the most marketable skills from the people who’ve created it.

8. Photography.

15 Valuable Skills You Can Learn (for Free) to Be a Better Freelancer Nathan on CreativeLive Photography

I’m assuming that if you don’t already own even a basic point-and-shoot digital camera, you probably have a smartphone that can take decent pictures. Everyone has the potential to take portrait-level photographs with an iPhone—it’s just a matter of practicing enough and developing an eye for what looks good and what doesn’t.

Check out this tutorial on editing photos from your iPhone and get some inspiration from what people are doing on Flickr. Then, when you have a photography portfolio set up, you can offer samples to clients who need photography work done and win the job. This is a particularly valuable add-on service if you’re already creating content of some kind for a client.

9. Wikipedia Contributor.

Have you ever tried writing a Wikipedia article before? Their content moderators are tough, but that’s a good thing, because the more rigorous it is to publish an article on Wikipedia, the more that other people are willing to pay someone else to do it for them. With a lot of patience, you can learn the ropes from other Wikipedians and then make a living writing Wikipedia pages. I’m guessing you’ll probably learn a lot of random facts that way.

10. Proofreader/Editor.

With this free online copy of the immortal The Elements of Style in hand, you can master the art of proofreading and editing other people’s work. Getting paid to be a grammar buff is actually pretty cool, when you think about it!

11. Social Media.

Probably the one thing on this list you would have to train the least for would be to manage the social media campaigns for a company. If you have an eye for creating and curating compelling content, your skills can be directly applied with managing social channels. In case you’re uncertain of what it takes to become a social media guru, here’s a free guide to help you along.

12. Product Description Copywriter.

The gazillions of items sold daily on Amazon, eBay, and other eCommerce websites need someone with the gift of gab to make the killer pitch they can’t make themselves. Learning how to write killer product descriptions requires nothing more than time.

15 Valuable Skills You Can Learn (for Free) to Be a Better Freelancer Product Description Copywriting

If you look at any of the best-selling items in any category on Amazon, it won’t take you long to notice what they have in common: great sales copy. Take note and practice until you can sell yourself as effectively as this dude sold fake iPhone stash cases.

13. Resume Writing

There’s something about resumes that scare people. In reality, it’s just another version of sales copywriting. To learn how to write a good resume all you have to do is check out LinkedIn and search for the most successful person you personally know. Get inspiration from their page, and once you tweak your own resume to perfection, you should have no problem doing the same for others.

14. User Testing.

You can make $30/hr for testing out apps and websites, without having to learn any extra skills. You’ll need a certain type of smartphone or a laptop in order to do it, but other than that you pretty much just need to show up, do whatever is asked of you, and collect your money.

15. Pay Lip Service.

If all else fails and you just can’t think of any other way to make some extra money, you can literally be paid for lip service. Don’t worry, it’s not as dirty as it sounds.

Whether your just starting your freelance business, or looking to grow an existing one, download our free eBook, The Essential Guide to Launching a Freelance Career.

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Nathan Mizrachi

A few years ago Nathan Mizrachi quit his job and flew off to Europe, where–among other things–he walked the Camino de Santiago, fell in love in Paris, learned that Balkan winters are as bad as Boston ones, and was deported from the UK. He enjoys reading, cooking, and convincing people that not everyone needs to quit their job and travel the world. He also finds writing about himself in the third person to be slightly obnoxious.