The Freelance Creative

The 8 Best Skillshare Classes for Freelancers

Intellectual curiosity has gotten ridiculously expensive. For many, that curiosity is usually part of the reason we chose to become freelancers in the first place, but classes run by programs like Gotham Writer’s Workshop can come with costly price tags. However, those who want to improve their skills without giving up some of next month’s rent have options online. And one of the most valuable options out there is Skillshare.

Skillshare gives anyone with Internet access the ability to learn about a specific craft, expand creative boundaries, and gather the tools to become a better entrepreneur. On the platform, classes are divided into categories such as writing, design, photography, and DIY. Most classes run between one and two hours, and all are divided into roughly 10-minute videos students can watch on their own time. For each session, participants are challenged to complete a specific project, share their work, and engage with a community of students and creators.

Anyone can enroll in certain classes for free and take part in discussions, but for as low as $8 per month, users receive unlimited access to all 1,107 offerings. The site also offers scholarships and discounts for teams and organizations.

So whether you’re looking to improve your reporting skills, boost your productivity, or learn how to draft a contract, there are plenty of classes to choose from. Here are 10 of the best:

1. Freelancing for Creatives: Kickstart Your Independence

Teacher Margot Harrington has been running her own graphic design studio, Pitch Design Union, for six years, and now she’s sharing what she’s learned with the rest of us.

The 60-minute course goes over the ins and outs of what freelancers should think about when deciding to launch their own businesses. For those new to freelancing, this class is a great place to start. The videos cover everything from managing finances and working with difficult clients to balancing your schedule and building your personal brand. The class project is a simple yet important task all entrepreneurs should master: Writing an effective mission statement for your website.

2. Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth with Style

Have you ever wanted to take a class from a New Yorker columnist, but didn’t want to pay the NYU-level tuition? Fortunately, you can now that Susan Orlean teaches on Skillshare.

In under two hours, the bestselling author and seasoned journalist guides students through writing a 1,000-word profile on someone they find mysterious. Now, this isn’t exactly an opportunity to vilify Robert Durst; HBO has already covered that. Rather, the assignment is about transforming ordinary subjects into exceptional stories. As Orlean so wisely says in her introduction video to the class: “There’s no beat that I’ve ever covered except my own curiosity.”

3. Photojournalism: Making Photo Essays and Stories

As a conflict zone photographer, Ben Lowy has been shot, stabbed, and caught in bombings while reporting stories.

This class isn’t going to put you in harm’s way, but it does encourage students to choose a single location that they find interesting and compose a photo essay or story about that place. In the course videos, Lowy travels on the New York City subway, sharing best practices about what equipment to use, how to frame a shot, and how to capture the action while it’s happening.

4. Context is Key: Social Media Strategy in a Noisy World

Entrepreneur and public speaker Gary Vaynerchuk is one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the idea that people should do what they love and focus on doing it really, really well. He’s already sharing his insights with over one million Twitter followers and readers of his bestselling book, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. Now, he’s reaching thousands of new students on Skillshare. In 23 videos, Vaynerchuck teaches his class how to sell brand stories on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest.

5. The Art of the Story: Creating Visual Narratives

As the President of Sterling Brands and co-founder of SVA’s Masters in Branding program, Debbie Millman has captained redesigns for over 200 global brands like P&G, Colgate, Nestle, and Pepsi. And over the years, there is one thing that has kept Millman inspired and grounded: her love of stories.

In this class, Millman challenges students to visualize a piece of personal writing, be it an email, text, short story, poem, or quote. The source material is up to interpretation, but the goal is clear—to translate text into a visual narrative that conveys a message. As Millman says, this class is for everyone from kindergartners to PhD students—which includes freelancers who want to experiment with their own creativity.

6. Become a Better Blogger: Content Planning

You won’t find a much more comprehensive guide to blogging than this one. In 12 videos, content strategist Andrea Goulet Ford guides students through a three-month editorial calendar for their blogs. This includes defining your audience, finding inspiration, and beating writer’s block. Students even receive access to Ford’s Google spreadsheet, which they can fill in and format to suit their individual needs.

As Ford writes, starting a blog is easy; keeping up with it is hard. But maintaining one is worth the effort if freelancers want to build a loyal audience.

7. Writing Personal Essays That Get Read

Most of us are probably guilty of lying awake at 3:00 a.m. haunted by things we could’ve done differently or should’ve done better. Well, author Emily Gould wants you to stop just thinking and start writing instead.

In this class, Gould helps students share their personal stories by analyzing her three favorite essays and offering editing tips. As an incentive, Gould will select a winning essay that will be published on The Hairpin. The deadline is March 31, so get writing.

8. Contract Writing for Freelancers

The fun part of being a freelance writer is getting paid to string words together. But in order to get to do that fun stuff, you have to get through some annoying stuff like composing contracts for clients. For those who find this process daunting and a little uncomfortable (a.k.a. all of us), Margot Harrington, who also teaches the first class on this list, has you covered.

In less than an hour, she breaks down the five main components of a good contract and translates some legalese to help freelancers know what they’re signing up for. To complete the class, Harrington challenges students to write a good contract for a current project without getting burned.

Know of any other great courses that can help freelancers? Reach out to us on Twitter @TheFreelancer or @amandawalgrove.


Updated 6/28/18

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