13 Legit Money-Making Skills You Can Learn Online For Free

learn-skills-onlineThis post is part of an “after college” series for the launch of my upcoming free ebook “Money After College.”  You can sign up here to receive your free copy when it’s released in early May.

Last week I wrote about different things to do if you can’t find a job.  Two of my suggestions were to take a class and work on improving other skills. Here’s a list of exactly what I was talking about – courses and skills you can learn online that will help you make money at a job or on your own.  I’ve included just the good stuff – you can put these skills on a resume or even base a freelance career on them.  I didn’t include things like “learn how to get organized” or “learn how to network.” I think we already know those things are floating around on the internet anyway.

The Skills

Business development – MIT offers over 100 free courses from Sloane School of Management.  Some courses even offer assignments with solutions provided!

Programming – This is an area I’ve been interested in improving my knowledge lately.  I came across this free course on learning Python for beginners to coding.  It comes with a lengthy guide and various lessons and drills to test out.  Since there are various programming languages that are open-source, there are tons of other free resources out there, too.

Web Development – The Beginner’s Web Design Tutorial will take you all the way from simple website basics through a 3-part CSS tutorial and advanced HTML. Quackit covers some of the same material, but also includes tutorials on Javascript, PHP, SQL, and XML.  These are the basic foundations you need to know to build websites, so this tutorial should be more than enough to get you started.

Graphic Design – Ideabook.com has 36 free tutorials for all sorts of different applications of graphic design.  Psdtuts+ features an 18-part Photoshop Basix video tutorial series, so be sure to check that out to learn about one of the most popular applications in graphic design.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Given that its almost exclusively online, there are a ton of resources to learn search engine optimization.  The best guide I’ve found for beginners is SEO Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. This will take you through all the basic methodology as well as important concepts and terms to know.  Other great free online guides include SEO 101 from Search Engine Guide and Webconfs SEO Tutorial. I learned all of this, and more, from Sean Ogle’s 48 hour guide to becoming an SEO freelancer.

Languages – One of the best places to learn a language online is through downloadable Podcasts from the iTunes store.  There were at least 24 Podcasts in iTunes for the purpose of learning Spanish (not even counting Podcasts simply spoken in Spanish).  Each of these has hours of content, so it’s safe to say you could never run out of content to listen to. There were other podcasts in French, German, Chinese, Japanese, and more, too.

Aside from Podcasts, there are free websites and content out there to help learn a language.  StudySpanish.com allows you to take 50+ lessons on pronunciation, grammar, and more.

Economics – UC Berkley offers courses in both Micro and Macroeconomics as podcasts through iTunesU, as well as an introduction course.  These aren’t simply some short, introductory material.  Each course offers over 30 hours of classroom content!  If you prefer to read over a course,  MIT again offers a long list of economics courses available for free.

PR/Social Networking – Many companies actually hire employees simply to manage their social networks.  Of course, some of the best resources for learning about building and managing social networks are found online.  Mashable, which is one of the leaders in social media news and tips, offers a Twitter Guide and a Facebook Guidebook. These guidebooks will not only teach you how to use these social media platforms, they will also teach you how to use them to Optimize Your Brand on Facebook or use Twitter for customer service. These are definitely skills you can market to an employer, especially if branding and communicating constantly with customers is a big part of the job.

Law – Stanford offers podcasts that you can listen to through the iTunes store.  You can also take a Law and Society course from MIT or read selected lectures from the Supreme Court, Civil Liberties, and Civil Right course.

Mathematics – If you need to improve your math background, there’s resources out there for that, too.  One of the most useful subjects in mathematics, as it relates to jobs, is statistics.  Carnegie Mellon provides a couple statistics courses that are a great start to improving your knowledge of means, standard deviations, and confidence intervals.

Fine Arts – There are courses in fine arts out there, too.  You can find the Art of Color at MIT to take a look at the use of color in visual arts.  You can also learn about Masterpieces of Western Art in a Columbia University podcast or take in a Yale course on Roman Architecture.

Writing – Since blogging is centered around writing, it’s a natural topic for other bloggers to cover.  The best site that I’ve come across is Copy Blogger.  While it is, in fact, centered around blogging, the authors offer many great writing tips no matter the media. Check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Right Now and 5 Ways to Write Magnificent Copy to get started on Copyblogger’s great content.  If you’d like a more academic angle, MIT has many writing courses available, too.

Other Essential Software – This would be a giant list if I wanted to name all the software you can potentially learn online for free.  Microsoft Office, which is essential for just about any office job, is one that you should know.  Luckily, due to its popularity, there’s tons of free information on the web that will show you how to use any application of Microsoft Office for free. As an example, I’ll use Microsoft Access, since it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn.  I found this About.com guide to Access, which offers a start to finish guide to to build an Access database.  Microsoft offers its own Access guide, too.  The beauty of learning software (or, well, lots of things for that matter) is that Google will often answer any question that you may have about anything! Just from typing in “build a database with Access” on Google yields 243 million results.

Try this with just about any type of software you can imagine, and I’m certain you’ll get results.  Even if you don’t have the license for the software, there are many programs that offer a free trial version that you can get your hands on.

Free isn’t always best

While I love reading stuff for free, I do purchase premium content and courses for a few reasons.  These courses provide information that I can’t get for free online.  While the free content may be out there, it’s not always the easiest to sift through and fine the best free stuff.  Even some of my favorite bloggers out there have loads of free content, but some is buried within the thousands of single posts on their sites.  I’ve learned some things through Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guides, such as solid ideas in “Working for Yourself”, that I simply couldn’t have learned as completely and easily elsewhere.

But I’m okay with paying for these things, too.  Even though I have to pay for something, if I can get multiple times it’s price in value, I’m happy to throw down the money.

This isn’t a complete list of what’s out there by any means, but I hope I at least opened your eyes to what is out there that’s free.  If you have any other skills or free resources to suggest, I’ll love to add them to this post.

Thanks to these sites for some great references: Mission to Learn, Education-Portal, AdavantageEDU, and OpenCulture.

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photo by: el_monstrito

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  1. I learned SEO online for free, it just took me several years to actually learn it.

  2. SEO is great if you can figure out how to learn it! I wish I knew it well enough to boost my blog. It would be an excellent side job too, one that would definitely allow you to create your own hours.

  3. Great links. I know I will be checking out a few of them to help me out in some of my own endeavors. Thanks for posting.

  4. This is an awesome resource. I want to do at least 6 of these right now! Thank you very much, Hunter.

  5. Chris Ciolli says:

    Thanks for this useful resource. I read your piece on the Dollar Stretcher and decided to check out your site, and I’m glad I did, because while I already know how to manage baggage on airlines, you have some great tips here for a freelancer like myself.

  6. Free Education Aid has been providing helpful information on colleges in usa, universities in usa, community colleges in usa, career schools, scholarships, master degrees, bachelors degrees, online certificates programs and free education help.


  7. This are all great suggestions and it should be very helpful. With our technology now podcasts, ebooks and just a click away to be ours if we wanted to know more about it. Also for moeny making online let me share to you what I am currently on Over the last four months I have been learning from an Aussie guy named Timothy Marc on how to build a business that allows you to live a freedom lifestyle. Without a doubt, I have learned some amazing skills in business from this guy, and I am currently seeing some great profits from my own business. I know this post may raise scepticism with some of you, but if this does sound interesting to you, here is a link to my success story on is blog: http://www.freedombusinessblog.com/freedom-business-success-story-tim# and be sure check out his free audio if you like his vibe. Ask a question on the blog too and I will help you any way I can. 
    Cheers, Tim. 

  8. Hello,

    Thanks for this great article, something I will definitely dig into. I wanted to mention that http://www.coursera.org is also a great place for free courses on a myriad of subjects. You can also pay a small fee and get certified if you wish, but do not have to. They do individual courses as well as specializations. The courses are taught by professors from universities around the world.

  9. Older article but most of the links are still good. I found a lot of interesting sites to explore from this post. Thanks

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