We’re now a few months deep into quarantine life. You’ve baked dozens of cookies, cleaned the bathroom with a q-tip, and created a matching set of costumes for your pets. All worthwhile activities, and there’s no harm in using this time to relax and embrace your free time.
But if you’re feeling like you want to channel some of this energy into something a bit more practical, you’re in luck. There are many individuals and organizations out there offering digital courses and lessons for free or reduced costs during the pandemic.
Taking advantage of these deals now could prove useful in the future—any new skills you pick up now may help you land new jobs and clients when things return to a more normal pace.
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the best discounted or free digital courses for writers. They’re arranged into different skill sets, so you can pick and choose what you want to learn.
If we’ve missed any good ones, add them in the comments below!
Become a pro direct copywriter
Direct sales copywriting (also known as direct response copywriting) is one of the most in-demand skill sets for freelance writers. It differs from blogging or other types of long-form copy, because you need to use words, language, and style to sell a product or service.
There are many tricks and strategies that the best in the industry are happy to share—and you can find those methods outlined in some of these courses:
If you’re new to copywriting, this long-form piece of content is a great place to start.
CXL’s enormous write-up covers all of the basics of creating excellent conversion-focused copy, and that’s only just the beginning. They also offer additional email courses that feature worksheets and templates to help you put your skills into practice.
Honeycopy’s course has the best title on this list: “How to write words that sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.”
With a headline like that, you know you’re in for a course that won’t bore you to tears. The program packs a punch: with just 10,000 words, you’ll be able to finish this one up in a single day.
Price: $375 (25% off during Covid)
Jacob McMillen is one of the leading voices on direct copywriting, and he’s offering his top-rated course, humbly labeled “The Best Copywriting Course on the Internet,” for 25% off. This course not only teaches you how to create copy that sells, but also gives advice on landing high-paying clients and managing your own freelance business. There’s also a money-back guarantee, making this a low-risk investment.
Master Search Engine Optimisation
Becoming a pro at search engine optimization (SEO) is a little bit like being a magician. Once you crack the code, you can alter the way you write copy to help it rise to the almighty first page on Google. When courting clients who want to increase organic traffic to their website, you’ll need to demonstrate your SEO chops—and these courses will help you do just that.
Price: Free to $295
MOZ has been playing the SEO game for a long time now, and they’ve distilled their big takeaways into a number of courses that are quite affordable. Their SEO Fundamentals course is only $49, or you can spend a bit more to learn in-depth SEO strategies like keyword research and backlinking. Their lessons are straightforward and easy to understand, even if you didn’t know what SEO stands for until just a moment ago.
Craig Campbell’s course is the perfect starter-pack for freelance writers looking to untangle this complex concept. Using written word and videos, his free lesson plan takes you through the fundamentals of SEO, including how to apply it to your everyday writing. By signing up, you have access to all of the lesson materials for six months. Bonus tip: Join his email mailing list for even more free SEO education.
Price: $99 (often discounted)
If you already know some of the basics of SEO and want to take things a step further, this course from Udemy is for you. Here you’ll dive into some of the more technical sides of SEO (including some basic HTML skills), which you can then apply to your existing knowledge of writing with search engines in mind. Udemy frequently has coupon codes and flash sales which can bring the price of this course down to as low as $14.
Learn Email Marketing skills
Don’t believe the hype—email marketing is far from dead, and there are many companies out there looking to hire email copywriters. If you like writing punchy, conversational copy, and you have a knack for sales, then this could be the perfect upskill opportunity for you.
Beyond that, you can use the tricks and tips you pick up with one of these email marketing courses to start your own EDM strategy. It’s one of the best ways to communicate consistently with a captive audience, generate leads, and build your profile.
This isn’t technically a course—just a really fantastic collection of resources that will teach you a lot about how to master email marketing. Growth Tools offer some of the best free tools around—for starters, check out Drip Scripts, their amazing library of email marketing templates; ListGoal, their simple tool for keeping an eye on your email list size; or try their 30-day Drip Email Sequence challenge. This is the perfect resource if you are more of a self-taught learner.
Price: Free to start, $497 for full course
If your main goal is to earn money through your email marketing efforts, this is one of the best options around. Clickminded offers an extensive, interactive course (with quizzes and videos along the way) to help you wrap your head around some of the most effective strategies for selling via email marketing. You’ll even get a mini course on chatbots as part of the enrollment fee.
Price: $94.99 (often discounted)
You can learn all of the smart email marketing strategies in the world, but they won’t mean much if you don’t have any subscribers on your platform. That’s where this course from Udemy comes in. Here, you’ll learn tools and tactics to help you grow your email following, and you’ll get advice on how to design the best email capture forms for your website. Get ready to watch your email list grow.
Learn Creative Writing skills
Here’s something to look forward to: It’s almost a guarantee that we’re about to have some excellent new novels to read in the coming months. Lots of people are using the time during Covid to finally sit down and write that novel—and there’s no reason you can’t join their ranks.
Like any craft, creative writing takes practice, dedication, and research. So here are some of the best low-cost or free creative writing courses online.
The team of editors at Invisible Ink Editing have put together a long-form guide to writing a book from scratch. Their article covers everything from the habits writers need to develop, to the most important elements of a fiction novel, to the editing process (of course). It’s a completely free read, and it will get you started on the right path to turning your idea into a full-fledged novel.
Margaret Atwood’s Masterclass
Price: $15 a month for access to all Masterclasses
Masterclass has some of the best creative writing courses, taught by some of the most prominent writers alive today. The course from Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and countless other beloved novels, is one of the site’s top courses. For a $15/month fee (billed annually), you can access this course, along with others from the likes of James Patterson, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Sedaris.
The beauty of Joanna Penn’s course on writing nonfiction is that it not only teaches you how to write the book you’re thinking of, but also how to market and sell it. Penn is a leading voice among creative writers, and her expertise is invaluable. With over 16 hours of material that you’ll have access to for as long as you like on any device, this course is worth the cost of enrollment.
Courses to teach you design and UX skills
If you’re looking for a way to improve your offering as a freelance writer, but you don’t want to end up drowning in word counts, consider upskilling in design and user experience (UX).
Design and UX go hand in hand with content strategy, so knowing how to manage the basics of WordPress, design visuals in Photoshop, or write a few lines of code can go a long way toward making you more valuable to your clients.
There’s an intersection between design and writing, and it’s known as UX Writing. This course teaches the basics of how your writing can improve the user experience of any website. You’ll learn about how to craft perfect “microcopy”, build your own tone of voice and style guidelines, and create custom user journeys. All of this stuff comes in handy when creating content strategies or helping businesses design fantastic new websites.
Imagine if you could bolt on new services like logo creation, infographic design, or image editing to your freelance writing services. After taking a course like this one, you’ll at least have the basics down to begin expanding your services in that direction. This free online course is taught by a faculty member at CALARTS, and you can complete the course at your own pace.
Around 35% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. It’s by far the leader in content management systems, and as a content creator, it pays (literally) to know your way around the platform.
Though WordPress is more user-friendly than some other CMS platforms, it’s still easy to get confused, especially if you haven’t used it much before. With Kadenze’s course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of using WordPress to design beautiful, functional websites. Your freelance writing clients will thank you later.
Courses to help you grow your business
Maybe it’s not just your writing that you want to improve, but your overall business offering. There are literally hundreds of courses out there to help you with this—whether you want to develop some new marketing strategies, improve your financial practices, or just make a name for yourself.
Here are three courses that might fit the bill:
Price: $95 (often discounted)
If you’re a wordsmith with number-phobia, you’re not alone. The hardest part of running your own business is often the accounting and finance side of things, and as a freelancer, you’re pretty much on your own. Taking this course will simplify important tasks like forecasting your business income and filing your taxes. This might sound like scary stuff, but once you have an expert explain it to you, it’s a lot less intimidating.
If you don’t market your business, it’s bound to fizzle out. But where (and how) to start? If you want a good overview on the basics of marketing, Angela Arnold has four complementary courses for you:
- Marketing foundations
- Social media – paid and organic
- SEO and content marketing
- Copy and conversion optimization
Along with these topics, she provides lots and lots of downloadable goodies, including templates, guidebooks, and even a marketing strategy outline.
Dayana Mayfield’s Outreach Wins System
One of the top questions freelancers ask is, “Where do I find my clients?” While it’s possible to maintain a healthy client base on referrals alone, it’s not always the best strategy for freelancers just starting out. Dayana Mayfield has developed a system for targeting new leads through emails, and her course shows you exactly how it’s done. You’ll receive email templates you can start using to court your own clients, and eventually start finding bigger-ticket leads to grow your income.