There’s something magical about spending your days exploring interesting topics and trying to learn new skills.
For many of us, it doesn’t get better than being a full-time student. Unfortunately, our time in school inevitably comes to an end and we must enter the “real world” and get a full-time job.
Just because you’re working on your career doesn’t mean you want to stop learning.
Taking university courses or attending big-name conferences, however, come with pretty hefty price tags. And taking on a student loan while you’re still paying off your bachelor’s degree or maxing out a credit card aren’t appealing (or very smart) options.
The good news? A lack of funds doesn’t have to stop you from continuing your education. If you don’t have a few grand laying around to spend on formal training, think outside the box.
To get started, here are five ways to get better at your field or to learn brand-new skills – and they don’t cost you. It doesn’t get better than free!
1. Visit the Library
If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t been to a public library since you were a child. That’s too bad because there’s almost nothing you can’t learn at your local library.
Whether you want to become a WordPress guru or get fluent in Spanish, there are endless books and tools to help you in your journey—and you only need a library card. Everything requires self-directed learning, but that’s not impossible for most capable adults.
Even better, many library systems have digital lending options. Without ever leaving your home, you can gain access to hundreds of thousands of books via Kindle or other e-readers. Also, there’s a good chance your local branch offers free classes on many topics; just check the events calendar regularly to see what’s coming.
2. Take an Online Class
Do you need a more structured approach to learning? Then taking a class through a free online portal might be a better fit for you. There are a lot of options out there to learn new skills, but here are a few of the most reputable:
● SkillShare: Focused on creative skills, such as writing and fashion, SkillShare has 500+ free classes (and thousands more are available with a paid membership). These video classes are typically less than an hour, with many as short as a few minutes. Use the rating system to help you select the best options.
● Udemy: Most of the audio or video classes in this marketplace cost $15 or more, but there are always some free options in the mix. Much of the content here is tech- and business-related.
● Coursera and EdX: If you’d love to go back to college, but aren’t so concerned with earning a degree, try these sites. They offer online courses from top universities, including Stanford and Harvard. You can choose to study the course materials and videos for free (or pay to get a Certificate of Completion). You create an account (no application necessary) and sign up for multi-week classes in a variety of topics. There are plenty of practical options (“Creative Problem Solving”), as well as more esoteric ones (“The Science of Happiness”).
● Highbrow: If time is of the essence, why not learn something new in just five minutes a day? Highbrow delivers short lessons to your email inbox each morning. There are a several “classes” on a variety of helpful topics, from technology to productivity.
● DuoLingo: This app turns learning a new language into a game, with varying levels and points for correct answers. Choose from 22 languages and get speaking, listening, and translation lessons in bite-sized chunks that make the process easy and fun.
3. Listen to Podcasts
Turn your phone into a professor. There are thousands of Podcasts available for free (subscribe for free via iTunes, Google Play, etc.) covering almost any topic of interest. These are a smart way to make a drive time more productive and entertaining.
Experts in almost every industry now offer podcasts with masterclass-level knowledge being doled out each week for free. For example, Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy will walk you through launching a product and growing an email list. And Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income is full of advice for building an online business that makes money while you sleep.
4. Create an Exchange
Share your knowledge with others who want to learn more about your area of expertise and, in return, you can learn from them. Gather a group of like-minded professionals from a variety of fields and encourage information sharing.
Keep it informal where members are simply available to each other on an as-needed basis. Or, create structure with once-a-month instructional classes (the featured presenter/educator rotates among members until everyone has shared a formal lesson).
5. Go Back to Basics
There’s nothing wrong with using an old-fashioned bartering arrangement. Find someone who has the knowledge you want, and offer to provide him or her some amount of your product or service in exchange for one-on-one tutoring. It can take a while to find a taker, but this can be a very useful tool for gaining specific knowledge.
No matter where you are in your career, setting aside time for continued education is always a good idea. Don’t use a small budget as an excuse to stop your studying. By getting creative, you can easily find unconventional ways of learning for free.
Do you have other smart hacks for getting an education for free? Share them in the comments so others can learn about them.
Disclaimer: Maroon Oak does not endorse or recommend any specific learning institution, nor has the Company been compensated in any way for listing the names above. While the information above is believed to be accurate and recent, readers are advised to do their own fact finding. The views expressed are the author’s.
Becky Mollenkamp helps established B2Bs spread their message by writing compelling content that educates, inspires, and activates their target markets.
She also offers a 10-week mentoring program that helps freelancers develop a CEO mindset to help them level up their businesses. Learn more about Becky and her offerings at BeckyMollenkamp.com or on her social media channels.
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